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Tabletop Game / VOR The Maelstrom

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Just another day in the Maelstrom: a bad one.

VOR The Maelstrom is a miniatures Wargame by Mike Nielsen, published in 2000 by FASA, months before it collapsed. A subscription was launched in 2010 for a new edition, but it failed, probably due to Mike Nielsen setting his goal too high.

VOR was conceived as the ultimate create-your-own-army game. Although several official armies exist and were released with many models, what made its success was the possibility to design forces with almost any model. A "scratchforce sourcebook" was expected - some beta version of it came out as PDF.

The setting of VOR is the Maelstrom, which looks like a miniature galaxy orbiting a gigantic black hole, called the Maw or Vorack. Planets that cross the dimensional threshold around the Maelstrom are doomed to end in the Maw, so everybody tries to leave their homeworld, found colonies and, maybe, someday escape the Maelstrom. Earth is trapped in 2102.

See this other wiki for complete overlook.

Not to be mistaken for the Vorkosigan Saga, which has a book called The Vor Game.

This tabletop war-game provides examples of:

  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Pharons, the real bad guys of the setting, are space-age mummies. They feast on living creatures' blood and other fluids, turn the corpses into undead slaves, and feed the living with the remains of their meals.
  • America Saves the Day: Word of God says the North American union is the only barrier to the global rampage of the Neo-Soviets. Nothing is said about Europe, save that Poland called in the G.I.'s for protection. The UN self-dissolved, it's not quite clear why. India fought a major war in the 2080s, but nothing is said afterwards. China was the first serious bulwark against Communist hordes, but it seems it has been conquered. Oh, and it is even said that America is building an escape fleet, so they will end up saving humanity.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The Pharons, when they were alive and civilized ancient Egypt.
  • A Nuclear Error: The Chinese did that. To prevent the Neo-Soviet invasion, they bombed themselves with nukes. All that did was make a lot of mutants and wasteland, the Neo-Soviets still conquered and enslaved China.
  • Arch-Enemy: The real war in the Maelstrom is between the Pharon and the Shard, every other player is just a side-story. Besides both races being the mightiest in the Maelstrom, there's other points of contention. The Pharon had turned from the path of being Benevolent Precursors to being a race of Sorcerous Overlord with a Religion of Evil, they're the ones that caused the Maw. The Maw threatens to suck the souls of the Shard into oblivion, so that's why they had to create crystal bodies for themselves. On the other the Shard blew up the Pharon's God-king and while the God-king can recreate himself, he can only do short stays in this existence because of that - the Shard are also conducting commando raids on Pharon harvest worlds to starve them. So both sides have the biggest beef, while everyone else is just trying to survive and escape the Maw.
  • Colonel Badass: Union commanders and even a general who killed a bear with a knife when he was seventeen.
  • Combo Platter Powers: What the Pyron can achieve with sorcery or ultra-tech, the Shard can pull off similar abilities with their innate energy powers albeit at lower ability. While low-end Shard are just batteries for crystalline laser guns, members of the highest tier of Shard (the Axiom)are considered Physical God that are only somewhat less powerful than the Pyron's Godking. These Axiom can do things like stop time, devolve enemies, control light and generate gravity wells, etc.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Zykhees are actually the nicest guys in the Maelstrom, but they are nocturnals and see darkness as a soothing, curing force.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Earth in the Maelstrom is slowly cooling. Global climate has changed. Multiple hazards have sprouted everywhere. Growlers, fungi and Shards probes have landed to colonize some regions. And even if that were taken care of, it's doomed to fall into the Maw anyway.
  • Energy Being: The Shard were originally energy beings of great power, but with their world transported to the Maelstrom - the Maw was directly sucking them into oblivion (Shard souls and bodies are one). So the Shard created armour made of organic Power Crystal to contain themselves.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Primordia, homeworld of the Growlers; the Growlers themselves. And the Maw. And the Pharons. And many, many other things in the Maelstrom.
  • Expanded States of America: The Union is a fusion of the USA, Canada and Mexico.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The war between the Pharon and the Shard is what's keeping the Pharon from killing and sacrificing everything in the system. That said, the Shard are just as bad as the evil Pharon. The Shard hate all carbon-based life and are instinctually oriented towards killing and torture, so they're omnicidal to the enemies that they didn't capture for torture.
  • Futuristic Pyramid: Pharon buildings. Some of them incorporate energy-harvesting devices.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: General Vanivar said Russia had been flouted of its rights, and that they will obliterate everyone else to get them back.
  • Hit Points: Bizarrely, Growler chieftains and most other large creatures (3 Life-Force Points or more) can take a missile (Damage 2) and almost ignore it; whereas vehicles often take nasty collateral damage, up to and including instant explosion. There is a system of critical hits and misses, partly compensating for this flaw, but it still makes that a bow is just as suspectible of killing as a missile.
  • Horror Hunger: To keep their undead bodies from hardening, the Pharon need to capture animal life and render them into a lubricant to stay mobile. With no power capable of matching the Pharon in might, the next most powerful group - the Shard, do lightning raids on the lightly guarded Pharon harvest worlds to starve the Pharon.
  • Insufficiently Advanced Alien: The Mashers, space-travelling cavemen who can "mash" technology into their bodies.
  • Kryptonite Factor: The Shard are quite powerful and have actually been a roadbump for the Pharon onslaught. The Shard's bio-crystal armour gives them extra protection against light, radiation and heat-based attacks. However because of the living nature of the armor, the Shard are extremely vulnerable to the Neo-Soviet toxic spray. Shard don't get any armor rolls and take more damage.
  • Lost Technology: Many planets feature long-dead or long-departed civilizations, with according treasures. Also, the Mashers are heirs to an ancient culture that left lots of machines.
  • Made of Iron: Some Growler Razorback Chieftains, whose bones are coated in ore.
  • Magic Versus Science: Completely averted. The Pharons are far and away the most advanced species in science and technology, being eons ahead of everyone else. They are also easily the best sorcerers/wizards too and can call upon their dark god and the power of the Maw itself. So developed is their magic and superscience that the Pharons are both Magic from Technology and Magitek, with everyone else getting curbstomped by them in story-line and in-game. The Zhykees also use potent magic and have better than human technology developed thru science, though in both fields they don't hold a candle to what the Pharons have.
  • Mini-Mecha: The American Ares and Neo-Sov Ursa walkers. The Ares while significantly weaker than the Ursa, only needs one pilot and has a One-Hit Kill drill weapon in melee. The Ursa is bigger and tougher and generally carries more guns, but requires two pilots and lacks the Ares's melee power.
  • Mugging the Monster: When the Neo-Sovs brought Growlers back on Earth for study.
  • Mutagenic Food: This is the Growlers hat, they get powers based on what they eat. The Firegut Growlers can spit out fire because they eat magma, while the Razorbacks eat almost indestructible minerals near their planet's sun so they develop a near-indestructible hide that resists armor-piercing effects.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The Maw is a supernatural black hole that was created by the Pharon. It randomly teleports planets into the outer regions of the system and slowly sucks them inward to oblivion. The Maw was created when the last Pharon ruler attempted a dark ritual. It was a little more powerful than expected - killing many on the homeworld, turned the ruler into the Godking and created the Maw.
  • Physical God: The Pharon's Godking was the accidental byproduct of the Pharon ruler's ritual gone wrong. It created not only the Maw, but also a Humanoid Abomination that has many supernatural powers and cannot be permanently killed. The Shard's Axiom are a handful of the highest tier Shard and are justifiably treated as gods, as their energy manipulation powers make them only somewhat less powerful individually than the Godking.
  • The Political Officer: Neo-Sov kommanders are that, and they have the right to shoot their subordinates if they are too slow.
  • Power Armor: The Union is striving to make it standard, while the Neo-Sovs keep it for their elite squads. Both increase the wearer's strength and armor rating.
  • Power Crystal: Shard advanced technology is based on organic Power Crystal and Nano Machines. They grow crystals that act as various foci for the Shards's innate energy powers.
  • Ray Gun: The Pharons have energy weapons that can fire hundreds of times, at least, without ammo; Union testers gave up after one week.
  • Silicon-Based Life: The Shards appear to be this, although they're technically disincarnate spirits that create silicon armor, without which they would be sucked in by the Maw.
  • Soviet Superscience: The Neo-Sovs get their kick out of creating new combat mutants/cyborgs.
  • Villainous Glutton: The Bluefang Alpha Chieftain is this, and a cannibal to boot. The Whitetusk Alpha Chieftain had to beat him into submission before he stopped hunting other Growlers.