Friday, February 28, 2014

ToMB Post 1.1: The Most Bonkers Game of Malifaux I’ve Played

For our regular Thursday game night, our gamemaster was absent with an illness and that meant it was time for some Vassalfaux. My regular sparring partner, Jon, agreed to the points values I’m able to play with this particular crew (35 at the moment.) We squared off with the newly updated M2E Vassal Module uploaded by Ratty, cracking out the Observatory map and throwing down for some Guild on Guild action.

Guild Field Drills: Reconnoiter 35SS
Flank Deployment

Hoffman-Field Repairs Upgrade, 6SS Cache
Peacekeeper-Lead Lined Coat
Schemes: Breakthrough, Plant Evidence (both hidden)

Sonnia Criid-Flamewall, Counterspell, Get Witchlings, 7 Stones
The Judge
Schemes: Breakthrough, Plant Evidence (both announced)

I asked Jon if he was aware we were playing table quarters after he announced his crew, though this is not a particularly unusual trick for him. Jon’s crews tend to be lots of hard-hitting, high point models with the thought of pummeling you down and then scoring his points later. Apparently he’d been planning a version of this crew prior to now and wanted to see how a go-big or go-home approach would work in this version of Malifaux.

I used the first turn to pass out the goodies with Hoff: Program Directive for the Watcher and Hydraulics for the Hunter, black jokering when I tried to pass on Precision Targeting. My plan was to send the Watcher and Hunter in opposite directions around the observatory while Hoff, Guardian, and Peacekeeper would try to hold the middle and absorb the enemy advance. This plan went out the window, however, when Sonnia gained a vantage point on top of the ht. 6 observatory and nuked the Watcher, effectively taking one flank away from me.

The Judge’s role was effectively to slingshot the models up the field and improve movement, meaning he had to lead the way. Since Hoff and the Peacekeeper now were on left flank duty, the Guardian had to go hold the middle on his own. Knowing how effective he was solo against the Iron Zombies I thought he could perhaps hold for a turn, and my hopes were buoyed after he charged the Judge and used Shield Bash to throw him off of the catwalk and drop him into some lava Hazardous terrain at the foot of the observatory, doing 6 between the shield hit and the lava. Jon cleverly saved the Judge from dying next turn by using Issue Orders to push him out of the lava and even earned a scheme marker for himself as a bonus. Still, I was feeling pretty good about my chances…and then Taelor went.

She'll always have the half shirt in my mind.

Taelor is frightening. I’m not sure what to do with her in this crew, to be honest, other than to either leave her alone all game or go all out and try to drop her in a turn. Between bonuses to smashing constructs and triggers to remove armor, she dropped the Guardian in a round. Her main weakness is probably speed, but I’d have to think a competent player who is paying the points for her will have found a way around this.  More thought will be required to try and find the best way of dealing with her.

Hoffman and his Peacekeeper were in the meantime rolling counterclockwise around the tower, and this gave me the opportunity to introduce Jon to the new and improved Chain Harpoon. Pulling Sonnia down from Ht. 6 was very gratifying. Discovering that I had, in doing so, brought her into range where she could block the rams from Hoff's casting of Machine Puppet was less so. I had been using stones for cards up to this point, and I effectively needed to use what I had left to try and get her down before her next activation. A combination of a mediocre opening hand for turn 3, some less than great flipping, and Sonnia having most of her stones for damage prevention meant I only got her to 8 wounds and then had to withstand the retaliatory barrage once the Austringer pulled her out of melee range. This, however, ended up being my time to show Hoff’s toughness, as 3 Flamebursts netted Hoff and The PK both still being alive and at about half wounds a piece.

At this point, both of us sort of looked at each other, did the math, and realized it was turn 4 and both of us had scheme markers to put out. Hoff’s Shakedown-Heal and their high armor meant Sonnia was unlikely to kill the two of them in time. I wasn’t confident in my ability to find rams to keep machine puppeting the Peacekeeper, so I wasn’t sure I could get her either. Sonnia went ahead and withdrew to the other side of a ht. 3 wall, leaving a Flame Wall behind to discourage pursuit. Hoff and the PK happily withdrew to the enemy deployment zone, pausing for a moment to kill the Austringer by dragging him off a catwalk with the Chain Harpoon along the way. While all this had been going on, the Hunter had been scattering scheme markers through enemy territory before trying to circle back and steal a point of Reconnoiter from Jon’s crew by chain harpooning and then pouncing on the Judge. This backfired, as the Judge is much harder to kill than I realized (literally and metaphorically) and I instead left one of my quarters contested, letting Jon end Turn 5 effectively at 10-9…if the game ended there.

Then things got weird.

I flipped a 10, and so we went on to turn 6 (Jon cursing all the while, as he hadn’t set himself up for such an occurrence.) At this point I knew I had one chance to get back in this thing. Hoff used his Machine Puppet tricks to have the Peacekeeper move quickly across the board, triggering Reposition and Repeat Program to give him an extra 2” push and Fast, before wishing him a fond bon-voyage and remaining in the enemy deployment zone. Jon seemed more interested in bracing himself than stopping me, so Peacekeeper was free to run unmolested into the midst of his scheme markers and discard them with his (0) action, knocking two of them out and contesting that quarter to let me draw into the lead. I proceeded to pat myself on the back for my ingenuity while the Hunter dispatched the Judge…until Jon flipped a 13 and we went to turn 7. Then Taelor smashed my Peacekeeper into scrap and Sonnia threw another scheme marker out. But it was ok, I was still in the lead 10-9…until he flipped another 13 and we played turn 8.

Agreeing that this thing was meant to be a draw, I went ahead and called it there.

This game was pretty bat shit. I've never even had a game go to turn 6 yet, let alone turn 8, and the lead swaps in the last couple of turns were quite dramatic. I think with more scheme runners I could have focused the Peacekeeper on wreaking havoc in the enemy crew and, if he didn’t manage to kill everything, at least maybe stall the enemy crew out to keep them from completing schemes. There were, however, things to be learned here. First of all, I need to look out for Taelor, and also for things that can strip suits from Hoffman’s actions. Most of his things need the ram that’s built into his casting to succeed, and he’s just sort of out of luck if he doesn’t have it.

I can tell that the real trick with this crew is going to be figuring out where to put the modification upgrades. I have heard that, for this type of scenario (lots of scheme markers and movement) one typical opening involves giving the Nimble upgrade to one of the Watchers and the Programmed Directive to a second one. This will be something to explore in the future, I suppose.

Update: Evidently I was cheating by including the Lead Lined Coat. *slaps self on wrist*

There, that's sorted.