Friday, July 19, 2013

I want to set that guy on fire. But I want to do it from over here.

It was a Saturday, and one of the rare times when my friend Jon managed to make the trek up to Lincoln for a game of Malifaux with me. I had been watching a match-up of Nicodem v. Ortega crew, and when I say watching, I mean trying to keep the two players from throwing down with each other in real life (seriously, if you heard their audio track alone you’d have thought that both players were somehow managing to lose the game and draw nothing but 3’s or lower while their opponent was tabling them.) Jon’s been a Sonnia player since he got tired of having to relearn Leviticus every few months back when he was getting FAQ’d pretty regularly, so I decided to go with some Neverborn action. As Jon had played very few M2E games, I went for Jacob Lynch, who I had heretofore not had any games with and who I had been itching to get out onto the tabletop (being a long time CCG player, clearly a master that lets you customize your hand to the level he does should result in me winning automatically. Right?) We lined our crews up. I advanced with an Illuminated and some Beckoners, confident that I would be spending a good portion of the game drawing enemy models across the board to me with Lure before mauling them to death with the Hungering Darkness. And then Sonnia went, and a third of my crew blew up. On the first turn of the game.

Jon and I exchanged a “holy crap, did that just happen?” look over the board.

And thus began what, I have a feeling, will be a rather lengthy love affair between myself and the Guild’s favorite Flamethrower (which, of course, is the source of the bastardized George Carlin quote titling this post.) I’m just going to put it out there. Sonnia blows things up in M2E. Like, a lot. She ditches 2 cards or a soulstone and pushers her cast up to a 9, which essentially guarantees at least a 2 point advantage over the highest unmodified defense stats IN THE GAME. This was a decent ability in M1.5. It is incredibly strong in M2E where the new soulstone rules prevent masters from pushing their defenses over top of the casting total. This would be a pretty decent boost in and of itself, but you pair that up with her primary flame spell being range 14 now, and you have a recipe for the rapid death of any models that have the temerity to leave their deployment zone at any point in the game. Pair this up with the fact that any enemy model which dies with the burning condition within 10 inches of her (I’ll say it again, ANY enemy model that dies within 10,) can be turned into a free Witchling for the low-low cost of 2 cards from hand or one soulstone, and you’ve got some upgrades for the master that I very much favor. The burning condition is now much more ubiquitous in the crew (in that it didn’t exist when Sonnia was initially designed.) Sonnia is now able to hand out burning with a tome trigger on her spells (something else to use soulstones for? I’m not going to end many games with these left over, I have a feeling), and as another bonus gets to ignore line of site when casting at things that have burning.

Maybe this whole “bonding with Cherufe” thing isn’t so bad, after all.

 A tome trigger isn’t exactly the most reliable way to spread the gift of flame to the enemy, and this is where the rest of the crew comes into play. Witchlings in the previous edition of the game were the most efficient expenditure of points possible, bar none. This, I have to say, is no longer the case. At five stones they are still very cheap minions, but they have none of the resilience that they possessed in the previous iteration. What they’ve picked up in exchange is a Drawn to Pain trigger on masks that allows them, after they lose the resist flip on an attack but before they take damage, to push four inches directly towards the thing that attacked them. Unfortunately, their explosion now packs slightly less punch, doing only one wound. Their pistols don’t do that much damage, and they only have the disrupt magic ability if you buy it as an upgrade for one of the higher ranking members of the crew. The reason you want them is the fact that every time they damage a model on the board, they give that model the burning condition. Translation: their job is to go set things on fire so Sonnia no longer needs line of site to them and can make them explode from far away. Even in death they can accomplish this job, and as such I’ve been playing a bit fast and reckless with them, trying to get as close as possible as rapidly as possible to ensure the burning gets passed out. They also make lovely targets for dropping blasts at the enemy, obviously, though the one time I tried this in a playtest game the Witchling flipped amazingly while Sonnia flipped poor, resulting in no blast. They have retained dispel magic, which in my opinion becomes even more potent in this iteration of the game, given the focus on passing out conditions around the board. In summation, the witchlings are what they were likely intended to be from the outset, very cheap minions that set up the board for Sonnia to obliterate it.

Sam Hopkins, however, has not blown me away in the playtests I’ve seen thus far. I think he would have been more effective at his job had he been designed to help set up more burning on the field, but instead gains a number of bonuses against burning targets similar to Sonnia, IE ignoring line of sight and doing extra damage with his attacks against them. He can purchase an upgrade which will allow him to burn a target if it is within 1” of terrain, which I think is situational at best. The model’s biggest problem is probably the lack of anything to keep him alive outside of his unimpeded, meaning he’s going to be in deep terrain when you see him on the board. I’m not ruling out using him, particularly if you’re going to need someone to load the Witchling disrupt magic upgrade onto, but I’m not blown away either, particularly when compared to the incredibly stout Francisco Ortega at the same point value. Which leaves us with an interesting quandary: I’m leaning towards building a crew that can set up Sonnia to burn things most efficiently, but I want to do so without leaning the crew so hard in that direction that they’re going to be screwed if anything happens to her. How can we add some more hitting power in that will play nice with the theme we’ve built into the crew.

This is a flammenwerfer. It werfs flammen.

Ignores blasts. Puts burning on anything it damages. 10 range. Armor 1 (2 if you buy him a lead-lined coat). And when it dies it blows up and sets things on fire. So, a bigger witchling stalker? Yes, please! I’m a bit low on melee in this crew, but it occurs to me that a wall of Witchlings backed by a Friekorps specialist and Sonnia is going to be a hell of a deterrent when it comes to models moving in close. The little guys still retain the very decent melee attacks they possessed in their old form, so melee with them is still a bit of a dicey proposition. Plus, there’s nothing stopping this crew from adding in Francisco or some other melee guy to hold the enemy combatants up, especially as he can add in some needed speed with his positioning goodness.

So, in conclusion, I’m looking forward to spending a lot of M2E time setting things on fire for fun and profit. Sonnia was never a master that jumped out of the page at me previously, but she’s definitely caught my eye now. I had actually just picked her up in a silent auction before the start of the open beta, which I now have to look at as a form of kismet.

Now, to go learn how to paint flame effects.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Nephilim House Call: Dr. McMourning v. Lilith in a Dustup and a Word About Henching

So, yet another battle report. I promise there will be other content on this blog eventually…

Standard Deployment
Strategy: Reckoning 
Scheme Pool: Line in the Sand, Bodyguard, Breakthrough, Frame for Murder, Deliver the Message
7-3 For McMourning

Guild McMourning-On the Clock, Badge of Office
Sebastian-Lead lined coat
Zombie Chihuahua
Frame for Murder: Sebastian (0)
Bodyguard (3)
Reckoning (4)

Lilith-Thirsty Mandrake and Transfixing Gaze
3x Tots
Mature Nephilim
Primordial Magic
Frame for Murder: One of the Terror Tots (3)
Line in the Sand (0)
Reckoning (0)

First off, let me throw out a plug for Lazyfaux, a web based tool that will do all the flips to generate your strategy, deployment, and scheme pool all in one go with the reference information available for you to use. This is a great resource that I used through the iPod touch to set up this game quickly. Very good stuff.

The board was set up with lots of trees and forests (wanted Lilith to feel at home, I suppose.) I had come in for a quick game of Malifaux 2E to continue my process of repeatedly slamming my head into the Pandora wall and come away unimpressed, but found that only a Lilith player who had yet to playtest much of the M2E rules was available as an opponent. Since I had taken the time to drive out, I decided this would be a good time to do some unofficial Henchmanning and run a quick demo. In retrospect, this crew may have been a bit harsh for that, as we will see shortly.

The game initially consisted of the player fanning out the crew in a line, sort of telegraphing the fact that Line in the Sand was one of her schemes. I decided to group up in the center and let the Tots sprint to try and set up for a cheap kill with the Executioner. The dog nipped at Sebastian a bunch and then farted on him to get him poisoned up (I didn’t realize until later that Catalyst just says “models,” so some of my work to poison him went to waste as Seb ticked before he could move.) Opponent helped out by sprinting her tots up into range for McM to give Fat Wolverine an injection and send him rocketing up, whereupon he charged and slaughtered the tot. Good times, good times. Lilith activated next, however, which she used to walk up and use transfixing gaze to pull the Executioner into melee. Drat. The plan this game was to have Lilith kill Sebastian (Frame for Murder) while the Executioner ran free to go gut people and survived with Bodyguard. It became apparent fast that, instead, I was going to have the opposite outcome unless I found a way to get the big man away from Mama Monster.

This is where we discover, first hand, the power of the Nurse in M2E. Since the Executioner was already in melee, she could simply walk up, dose the big guy with Hallucinogens, and then trigger him to activate with Accomplice. It was with a growing sense of awe and horror that I realized, in doing this, I had given the Executioner a damage spread along the lines of 7/8/9 when he hits double critical strike. Good lord. Two not even that impressive hits later, and Lilith is dead and the Henchman angel on my shoulder is thoroughly berating me for stomping on somebody for whom I’m supposed to be running a demo.


Ah well. Sebastian toddled off to go deal with some Tots who were laying dynamite markers, leading to one of them running away from him with sprint. Baldy did manage to finally do a bit of damage this game, as he had managed to poison one of the tots prior to their activation (at which point the Tot dies due to Catalyst+Induction.) So…that’s something I guess. The Mature Neph managed to carve some large-ish pieces out of the Executioner with a charge, but the Nurse could simply heal him back to full while McMourning counter-charged and put some hurt on the M. Neph. The doc took a moment to chop down a tot who was fleeing past him, at which point I realized I was an idiot when she revealed he had “Frame for Murder” on him. Oh well, no shut-out today. In any case, the game turned to mop-up after that, and we called it at the end of turn 3.

So to sum up. Executioner+Nurse=good. Sebastian=Well, he does make poison tick faster…so I guess that’s something. Given that I was supposed to be demoing the game, however, perhaps I shouldn’t comment on his henching abilities.

This perhaps leads to some musings on the role of “Henchman” for Wyrd, as I’ve experienced it. For the uninitiated, the Henchman Program is a means by which everyone’s favorite miniature company recruits volunteers to spearhead local tournament and event organization and promote the games in local areas. I’ve been one for three years now, and for the most part I’ve enjoyed my time. My tenure to this point is actually a point of pride for me, as completing my dissertation and cooperating with locals who have all assured me that they were interested in becoming Henchmen themselves and taking over with their own events could easily have led to me stepping back from the role. However, due in part to this being the best way for me to consistently find time to be involved in the hobby and the fact that I enjoy volunteering with Wyrd at Gencon, I’ve managed to hang in there and keep the cards under my forum name.

That said, I am not a fantastic henchman. I am not a rules encyclopedia, and when people come up to me asking for a clarification I more often than not end up having to dig out the rules manual with them and look it up. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was a competitive gamer who played in national events and came within a game of competing in the world championship for the WWE Raw Deal collectible card game (seriously.) Part of me still remembers the old days, and can get...let's go with "upset" when a run of bad luck ruins what should otherwise have been the proper strategy for the game. On a perhaps related note, I occasionally tend to hit opponents a bit harder than I mean to when running demos for them (as demonstrated above, though, in my defense, she did say afterward that she had fun. Stop judging me.) Nothing makes me happier than when an odd number of people show up to play in an event, because the single-most frustrating part of the job is that I take the effort and time to put together a tournament in which I am, then, unable to participate. It’s a personal gripe and it was something I knew about going in, but it is a thing for me nonetheless.

I do, however, find the job to be on the whole extremely rewarding. Developing a positive reputation has definitely put a bit more “Friendly” into the Friendly Local Game Store than I had previously. I’m greeted when I walk through the door. Much as I often don’t know the answer, I do enjoy when players come wandering over to try and get a rules clarification or to get my opinion on crew building or mechanical synergy. It definitely makes me smile when customers in the store have questions about Wyrd products and the store owners send them my way for answers, both because I know I’m doing my part to support the company, but also because I know how much of a strain it has to be to keep said FLGS open and in business.

I really can’t overstate how amazing the environment is at Gauntlet Games, with the majority of the floor space devoted purely to gaming and a full stock of organized events and high-quality product available at all times for purchase. I’ve spent a lot of times in comic book stores that make a vague pittance towards gaming. One was literally in the basement of a building in Omaha’s Old Market with a couple of card tables and no actual product outside of what we could order direct from them. Gauntlet is actually owned by a partnership and staffed by knowledgeable, friendly people who are more than happy to just chat with you about whatever interests you. Once a year they conduct an open to the public silent auction called “Bring Out Your Lead,” wherein customers are permitted to bring in some of those models and kits that we all tend to accumulate (I might paint this someday…better pick it up…) and sell them off in the store for credit. They offer space for people to rent and store their models on site. They have an open painting area, and a library of board games which anybody can pull down and play. It’s everything that we wanted in a game store as larval geeks, even if we didn’t know it.

Gauntlet is a place that gets it, and it pleases me to no end to do what I can to support them.