Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Breaking Lynch, Wave 2

Apologies for the delay in posts. Real life being what it is, and my local Malifaux scene consisting entirely of me, there’s been a bit of a gap since last I posted. I have, however, managed to get some games in during the intervening period using Vassal, which I’ve come to enjoy quite a lot. Additionally, the Wave 2 Beta files are out and have been updated a couple of times, bringing us all the models that we owned prior to the switch over to second edition as well as some new toys for the gremlins and a new Ten Thunders and outcast master. The rules are obviously still in flux and subject to change, but I thought I’d take a moment to return to Malifaux’s favorite drug dealer and take a look at what new stuff may support the Lynch Mob on the tabletop. So, without further ado…

Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

First of all, I guess I can say that I was wrong about Illuminated with the last post. They’re very good. I played a Squatter’s Rights game where one sat on the center marker and withstood wave after wave of summoned punk zombies from Nicodem and survived. They’re good, I was in error. Stop throwing things at me, please.

Ok, with that out of the way, the three models added in with this update to round out the Honeypot crew are Mr. Graves, Mr. Tannen, and The Depleted. Of the three, I think the one I like the best is Graves. Maybe I just have a thing for large, follicularly challenged men, but he’s always been one of my favorites since the crew came out, and it was thus very disappointing that he fell into the same category as a lot of underused Neverborn minions in 1.5, i.e. “this is good, but there’s so many overpowered things in faction that you will never have points for it.” The core of Mr. Graves has remained the same, in that he’s a bruiser who can throw his weight around, reposition models in the enemy’s crew, and be relatively tough. Armor 1 and Hard to Kill make him not-trivial to remove. He has his fence post for clubbing the enemy and the ability to do a lot of repositioning with his “Show you the door,” where you can throw an enemy model 4” and follow along into base to base, getting a free melee swing with a ram trigger. The playtest game I’ve played with him ended up going in my favor in part because, at one point, I had gotten close enough to Nicodem to throw him out through a doorway and away from his corpse counters, slowing a summoning engine that had been grinding my crew down prior to that point. His zero action is marginal, but it’s the only one you’ve got so you may as well try to turn it on and catch the 5 or higher of tomes you need to make charges difficult for your opponent. He’s solid, and he can use a different attack trigger to attempt to tank for his counterpart Mr. Tannen if you include both of them.

Unfortunately, as it stands, I don’t think Tannen is worth including. His main gimmick is the cooler passive ability that forces models that want to cheat fate when they’re near him to ditch an extra card first. He can redraw your hand to catch up with your opponent if you’re a bit reckless with cheating fate early in the turn. Unfortunately, his utility dips a bit from there. Bore to Tears drops the opponent’s walk and charge by 2, which is underwhelming given that the ten inch range likely means the enemy model will be near to where they’re trying to walk by the time you can cast it at them anyways. Leave it to Luck is a 0 that penalizes any tome cards you flip and buffs any mask cards, which I can’t really see myself doing unless I can find a way to look ahead at the deck and/or rearrange it to optimize the ability. Aaaand, that’s about it. His melee attack isn’t impressive, he doesn’t have any interaction with scheme markers, he’s just kind of there dampening your opponent’s ability to cheat fate. He has very little survivability outside of Manipulative (which Graves can turn back on for the rest of the turn.) He has some interesting synergy with the Neverborn Fears Given Form upgrade, but throwing more points onto an already expensive, fragile model doesn’t seem like an optimal solution. This is a model I would give more consideration at 5 soulstones (but would still have hesitation,) but at 7 it just isn’t that impressive. I always hesitate when it comes to models that don’t help you win so much as make it hard for your opponent to win. If you deny your opponent all of his victory points, you can still end up in a draw without scoring any of your own. As such, a model like Tannen that is purely designed for causing an opponent grief is going to be the first thing cut when it comes time to make room in the crew, even if I was wanting to play him. Hopefully we’ll see some improvement here in forthcoming waves.

Last is The Depleted. Prior to the release of the version 1.5 The Drowned I would probably have just dismissed The Depleted, as they seem to be built around being a nuisance model with AoE damage when they die and bonuses to disengaging strikes when in melee. This is what I thought of the Drowned after first read (along with most of the Malifaux world, I hasten to point out.) In the end, however, we discovered that this kind of cheap blocking model that imposes a cost on the opponent to remove, in the form of a high resilience model that will require more than 1 AP to remove, and killing them means you get caught in a blast, take 2 damage, and become Briliant for the rest of the turn. They’re basically walking Brilliance Bombs. At 4 stones each they’re quite cheap and the bonus to disengaging strikes as well as some unpleasant triggers on their melee means that the opponent will have a hard time just ignoring/walking away from them once engaged. I forsee them moving up board quickly to go squat on the parts of the board that are going to be the biggest problem for the opponent, daring them to remove them.  I wish that their push ability let them push towards models with the Darkened trait as well as Brilliance, and I was really hoping they would be significant when they were within range of Hungering Darkness (as they used to be,) but I’ll be interested to see what they can do on the table top.

Out of the rest of Lynch’s factions, there are a handful of things that jumped out as having some synergy with his crew. Out of the Neverborn, the Mysterious Effigy seems like a good way to get a version of Lynch’s upgrades into the crew without having to use an upgrade slot for them. It allows models within 3” of it to cheat face down and, with its 0 action, can give back a poor man’s version of the Squeal trigger to Lynch. Not a lot of the models outside of the effigy immediately jump out from the Neverborn as having specific syngergy, but I do like Tuco if only to provide one of the things the crew doesn’t have access to otherwise, From the Shadows. Plus, if you pair him up with Graves you have a nice little block of Black Blood and repositioning effects to perform some area denial. They can hold some Squatter Markers together and throw people out of the center of the board in Stake a Claim.

The Ten Thunders, once again, provide some indirect synergy that comes through Lynch’s ability to prevent discards. One thing I noticed was a trick off of two of Yan Lo’s ancestors with the War Eternal Trigger. It requires a tome on the attack flip, but with Lynch’s Ace abilities can allow you to, if you were going to do minimum damage anyways, cheat in an ace, draw a card for cheating, and then pick the ace back up for a little card advantage bonus. Not a game winner by any stretch, but sort of a neat little trick that may help out with deck cycling. I am more interested, however, in some of the models introduced with the new Ten Thunders master Shen Long. Sensei Yu is intriguing with Lynch. While he isn’t especially killy (although an attack that doesn’t allow defensive triggers is pretty decent), his tactical actions all have a built-in trigger to grant himself focused+1, which he can use in the traditional manner for positive attack and damage flips or can be reduced to throw down scheme markers. Yu also can do some nice repositioning tricks on your crew or the opponent’s in the process of generating this focus. What jumped out at me was the ability to ditch two cards (Aces, naturally) and use a 0 action off of the crew leader’s stat card. Lynch has some nice 0 actions, and I'm a big fan of being able to Mulligan twice in the same turn, so I’m very interested to see what Yu can do with these. Along a similar line of reasoning, the Monk of the High River can discard up to four cards to do a 1 AP melee attack per discard. I get the feeling that, unlike when I’m using him as Neverborn, there’s going to be a high incentive for Ten Thunders Lynch to hold some of those aces through multiple turns to exploit these and previous discard-based abilities.

 So, lots of ideas paired up with a little bit of actual playtest experience is all I can throw out this time. My Vassal opponent is probably a little tired of Lynch (or at least Nexus of Power on Hungering Darkness) but I’ll have to see what I can do to get more testing time in with the new stuff. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a quick public service announcement. When painting, if you find your bottle of Vallejo paint has clogged up in the nozzle with dried product, do not attempt to clear the clog by squeezing harder.

It can only end in sorrow. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Vassalfaux, anyone?

Given that we live in the future now, moving to a new area where no one seems to play Malifaux doesn't necessarily have to mean game over for me. I’m going to start demoing and trying to stir up interest, but I want to get in some 2nd Edition Malifaux action now. NOW DAMMIT! But what am I to do about this situation?

This is where we learn to play Malifaux using Vassal.

My friend Jon from back in the 402 and I hooked up through Skype and decided to learn how to make this crazy thing go. Now that I’m sitting here typing this, it occurs to me that I should probably have taken screen shots of the game as it went along, Whoops. Aaaanyway, I had installed it the day before and attempted to figure out how it worked (where are the tokens? Why are all of the windows stretched out to the least useful size possible when you turn first turn them on?) and then walked Jon through the installation process. The program is available from Wyrd at this page. You need to pull down the program itself as well as the Malifaux 1.31 module. For the record, this module is designed for Malifaux 1.5 Edition post-release of the Ten Thunders crews, but it still works fine for M2E other than the fact that some of the various models aren't sorted appropriately under the tokens tab (Lucius is a Henchman, The Judge is a minion, and so on.) It took about an hour to get through all the installation issues (he didn't have an up-to-date version of Java) but then we were up and running. One immediate benefit of playing through this medium was made apparent, as Jon elected to try out Rasputina for the first time despite the fact that none of the models he had purchased at Gencon were even assembled, let alone painted. Since I had just published my break-down of Jacob Lynch, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and take him out for a spin. So, without further ado, the battle report.

40SS Turf War
Vassal Streets of Blood Map
Scheme Pool: Assassinate, Breakthrough, Power Ritual, Take Prisoner, LitS

Jacob Lynch (Eternal Hunger, Woke Up With A Hand) 6SS
Hungering Darkness (Nexus of Power)
2x Beckoners
1x Illuminated
2x Terror Tots

Schemes: Assassinate, Power Ritual
Reasoning: I wasn't over the moon about this pool of schemes, if I’m being honest. I've yet to pull off a successful Take Prisoner, and Breakthrough and Power Ritual felt like they were working counter to the strategy of holding the center of the board. Also, knowing my opponent was Raspy made it seem less likely I’d be able to get Assassinate given that she was unlikely to be anywhere near where the action was happening. I elected to take advantage of the Terror Tot-Sprint-Ace of Masks trick, with the thought that the Tots could sprint up, drop their markers, then sprint back to help hold the middle. Also, knowing my opponent was trying out a new crew, I was hoping Raspy would stick her nose out somewhere I could get her for Assassinate.

Rasputina (some upgrades, 6ss)
4 Ice Gamin
Ice Golem (Ice Armor upgrade? Gives everything with frozen heart the trigger where I only get one activation if I attack them.)

Schemes: Power Ritual, Take Prisoner

I won the deployment flip and elected to pick the bottom DZ for my team, setting up most of the crew in the building on the left and putting one tot and the Illuminated in the opposite (right) corner. Jon put one of his gamin in each corner and then had the rest form up behind the central building, with Rasputina on the top. I instantly regretted giving her that vantage point, but what are you going to do? There was no DZ that didn't have a building in it, and this one gave me the best cover for advancing.

Turn 1 saw my tots dropping scheme markers in their corners and then sprinting for the other side of the board. The gamin did likewise (albeit not as quickly.) The Ice Golem chucked some of the gamin forward to threaten the turf war marker and get some force projection going. Beckoners lure one of the gamin in so HD can start to hit it. Rasputina takes advantage of this by chaining ice off of him and blasting into HD and the Beckoners with her spells. Lynch sneaks out the side door of the building, circling around to flank.

Turn 2 saw the Rasputina player win initiative and blow up her own Gamin to blast into my crew some more (Red Joker damage flip.) One Beckoner died, feeding some health to the other. Hungering Darkness used stones/nexus to resist/ignore a lot of the damage. The tot on the right flank made it nearly to the enemy deployment zone but couldn't avoid a disengaging strike from the gamin standing there and was engaged. The other tot slipped along the outside and dropped the third power ritual marker.

From there things bog down a bit. Lynch engages on the left side with the Ice Golem, exchanging blows over the next couple of turns and then winning mostly because Lynch has soulstones. The Tot that dropped the scheme marker then charged into the leftmost ice gamin to keep him away from my scheme marker. We had an amusing exchange where we discovered that Ice Gamin and Terror Tots are like matter and anti-matter, as on subsequent turns they end up killing each other while finishing off their opponent with Black Blood/Shatter. The Turf War in the center bogs down with the Beckoner getting blown up by Rasputina, HD dragging the scoring Gamin and Wendigo in and eating them, and the Illuminated walking in to hunker down with defensive stance so HD and Illuminated score while the opponent cannot. Raspy had a tough time blasting through the Illuminated’s defensive posture, so I saw firsthand how potent it can be. Jon had basically given up on trying to kill HD, as Nexus+Incorporeal was making him pretty much unstoppable. End of the game saw Lynch running up to destroy one of the Gamin’s scheme markers, HD trying to climb the building to go fight Raspy to no avail, meaning no Assassination.

Jon and I didn't know Vassal very well, I kept having to get up to kid wrangle during the game, and Jon was playing a new crew, so the game taking 4 hours to finish was not a huge surprise. I’m sure when we play again it will go much quicker. Still, I see why so many people love Vassal, and I’m glad to be able to join in with it. If anybody feels like hitting me up for a game, contact me through the blog and we can figure out a time. As far as the game went, I’m reminded of why the Hungering Darkness is so sick with Nexus of Power, and why I've started hearing some muttering from Justin Gibbs in interviews that something may have to be done there. Jon could probably have made more use of paralysis in this game to give me troubles, and Power Ritual may not have been the right scheme. I suppose the Illuminated did what I asked him to in this game, mostly by not dying, but I still wasn't blown away by his performance. More testing required, I suppose.

And now, time to wait for Wave 2 of the Beta.