Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wave 2 Beta: Ten Thunders

So, last Friday the Open Beta ended and the files reverted to internal playtest, prior to being released officially so we can move on to the Avatars. I thought, in lieu of other meaningful content, that I’d do a series of articles passing through the factions' upcoming models, looking closely at the minions and enforcers with an eye to their generic utility for the faction as a whole, shying away from things related to the new masters or which is obviously pointed at facilitating a specific crew. I don't consider myself enough of an expert on any of the new stuff to really speak with any authority on them, so I'll leave that off for the time being. Also, all of this may change in a couple weeks when the files come out, but if past experience is to be believed most of the final internal changes will be more of the fine-tuning variety than major overhauls.Now, given the fact that I thought The Illuminated were just “ok” when I first reviewed them, there’s a very strong possibility I’m flat-out wrong about a lot of this. But this is my blog, and you clicked on it and read it, so frankly I think you share just as much of the blame as I do for spreading this ridiculous misinformation.

You should be ashamed of yourself. 

Wastrels: Introduced as the answer to the 1.5 Guild problem of having no cheap, fast, objective runners, Wastrels were undeniably overtuned because they were designed to fill a void. I liked them quite a lot, and not just because one of their sculpts reminded me of Alex from Clockwork Orange. Unsurprisingly, they couldn’t quite keep the same level of power in 2nd edition. Wastrels now gain Defensive+1 at the end of their activation if all they do is take walk actions. They don’t have their back alley teleportation thing anymore (apparently Seamus stole it) outside of a (2) action that lets you jump to friendly scheme markers. Their gang weapons also no longer gain positive flips, mostly to keep them from being better with McCabe’s sword than he is. Their “Bravado” ability to discard cards and gain suits for their duels (useful for the Castoffs (2) action which gives them various buffs and abilities) is nowhere near as effective outside of McCabe (they get to draw after they discard when they have an upgrade attached) or with Lynch (discard your aces, pick them back up, repeat) but could be useful in certain situations for other crews. I don’t think it was intentional design symmetry with Lynch, particularly since he's already pretty good anyways, but I like it all the same. After all, where else would you expect to find a Wastrel if not in a brothel like the Honeypot?

Chiaki: The faction had condition removal with the Low River monks already, but she packages it with an interesting utility offensive ability to force enemy models to become insignificant for a turn. She has Manipulative and incorporeal to improve her survivability. A solid mid-point value model.

Izamu: The 1.5 terror that was Izamu the Armor obviously couldn’t stay as nuts as he was after a reset, so perhaps it's no surprise that he managed to stay controversial throughout much of the beta process, with threads of malcontents griping about him all the way to the final day. I have to say, I don’t get what people were expecting. He’s tough. He hits hard. He has a self-heal on a (0) action and, if an enemy manages to kill him in melee, he gets a free swing at them, which is as close to “Slow to Die” as any model in M2E has at this point. I know much of the dispute ranged around whether to focus him on being "tanky" versus "hitty," but I think the model landed in a place where it can do both relatively well. What else are you looking for, unless of course it’s just for him to be the no-brainer beatstick he was previously? He’s still good, just not quasi-broken anymore.

Ten Thunders Brother: These are in a weird place, and I’m hoping to see some modifications before they come out. Maybe I’m missing it, but these rules don’t do anything for me. Companion isn’t as good as it used to be, and that was the main purpose for these guys previously. I'm probably underwhelmed due in large part to not liking their (0) action, due to my not generally caring for abilities which you can’t control. Maybe it’s just that I’m a control freak, but I hate being subject to the vagaries of the deck or your control hand to catch suits for an ability that is this situational. Also, I have a minor gripe that they aren’t Last Blossom anymore, which bums me out as it means they no longer have a way to be played in their original faction, the Outcasts.

Mr. Graves and Mr. Tannen-I’ve written about an earlier iteration of them previously. Since then they’ve made some good changes to make them play nicer together and to give Tannen some much better abilities (his objective is to bore the opponent’s models, not the player controlling him). “Show ya the door” makes Graves play kind of like an offensive linemen for your crew, which appeals to me on an instinctual level. Tannen can take a (1) to gain chatty, which I think was a good compromise from the discussion people were engaged in during heavy testing earlier on and improves his utility significantly. I'm looking forward to giving them some more test runs.

Shadow Effigy- Effigies changed a lot during the tests, due in large part to Collodi also undergoing a lot of fluctuation. All of them follow a general scheme of doing something good for the crew and having a powerful (0) that buffs the master. I’m interested in “Remember the Mission” as it lets minions put more scheme markers on the board without spending their own AP. This is useful for completing schemes and also for abilities like the Wastrel and the Tengu that gain mobility off of them.

Lone Swordsman-This guy follows the Ten Thunders tradition of being a stat brick. He can walk 12” or have an 11” threat range off of his charge due to “Walk the Earth” (0) action giving him a 2” push. The “You will not see another sunrise” ability is very high risk/high reward, but I can see it being a game winner under the right circumstances. Also, I just want one so I can paint him to look like Samurai Jack
Kamaitachi-Ten Thunders gains a generic totem *applause*. The model should be interesting, as a quick Google search of the name indicates it refers to three weasels blowing in a windstorm, apparently.

Their Howling Thunder ability is probably the thing that is going to raise the most eyebrows, as it effectively lets Ten Thunders models pass Recalled Training back and forth rather than discard them, at the cost of a temporary (in most cases) 2 wounds. One imagines Ototo and, say, Sidir passing it back and forth and being on positive flips for the whole game, presuming you can defend the totem (I imagine he will be a high priority target.) Could be a bit strong, and I know Justin was watching this pretty closely at the end of the testing cycle, so don’t be surprised if this sees some changes. I also like the 0 action for pushing models their walk value, as more movement is always good.

Tengu-Aha, here are the generic objective grabbers we’ve all been clamoring for. These, at first blush, remind me of M1E Night Terrors with their low cost, flight, and teleportation tricks. In a vacuum you can imagine a group of them where one moves forward, drops a marker, and the others jump off of it to gain more movement on round one. Other scheme marking tricksters like the Shadow Effigy could facilitate this further. Toss in some healing abilities and a (0) to discard enemy scheme markers, and you’ve got a pretty solid model for 4 stones. Also, in Japanese folklore they look like Skeksis (or dudes with long noses. Depends on the interpretation.) So you’ve got that to look forward to.

Ansatsu Sha- Oh, Sha. What do you say about this model? It was made Rare 2 partway through the Beta, which should probably give you an idea of how crazy strong they used to be. Ten Thunders gets a sniper model, with the always popular “Focus for longer range” rifles that we’ve come to love in this edition. Also, he has “From the Shadows.” Also, they have a + to attack flips Katana attack. Oh, and Hard to Kill. And if your leader dies in their LoS, they get reactivate. And they can hand out Slow to enemy models with a (0) action. Expect to see lots of these being proxied (if anyone has suggestions, they'd be welcome) once the rules become legal. Apparently Justin doesn’t like their name, though, so that may be different when the final cards are released. Let’s all hope that’s the only thing that changes, as these guys are awesome.

 So these are the models that jumped out at me from the first wave of beta files. Next up is going to be a pass through the Guild, so see you for that one. As usual, comments are welcome and encouraged.