Monday, February 3, 2014

Wave 2 Beta Wrap-Up: The Guild

There seems to have been some positive response to the first in this series of articles, so I’m going to do the best I can to get through the remaining factions prior to the release of the final Wave 2 cards. I set this goal for a couple of reasons, partially because I really want to take a tour through the cards and create a quick resource for those that weren’t involved in the Beta to get up to speed with their faction (or for use as a scouting resource for opposing factions,) and also because I signed up for the Tale of Malifaux Bloggers project, which kicks off on the 17th. More details on this as I get closer to the date. For now, however, time to take a look at the wave 2 models for everybody’s favorite fascists, The Guild.

As before, these are the models that jumped out at me as being noteworthy as of the final Beta update on 1/21st. I am likely wrong in more than one place, and I am also certain some kind souls will come along to inform me of this fact immediately after reading this. To give you an idea of my prognostication ability, I went into last night’s Super Bowl thinking that the ESPN commentators were trying really hard to convince everybody of how good Seattle was, so the Broncos were going to win the thing going away. And, yeah, that didn’t work out. So just assume that most of my predictions of the future are wrong, and you'll be fine.

Guardian- I kind of feel that all the constructs are slightly undertuned in terms of their general stat blocks due to Hoffman’s Power Loop ability. None of them particularly stand out, but since he can theoretically link all their best stats together, perhaps this is a good thing. It does, however, potentially limit their broad-base appeal. The Guardian’s ability to soak wounds from the model it protects is mostly gone, replaced by the ability to hand out Defensive +2 for a (0) and potentially heal the target with a ram trigger. I’ve learned not to underestimate the potency of Defensive in M2E, but I still have to wonder about whether this model is worth 8 points in a faction that is already cluttered with high-point models.

Abuela Ortega-Shotgun wedding used to be included to let non-family models join into the companion chain shenanigans, but perhaps its best utility now is to give you one more model that can prevent interact actions whenever Nino can see them. Granny has a pretty nasty auto-trigger on her shotgun that puts its damage output on par with Seamus’s flintlock, which is kind of fun. The rest of the crew can use their (0) actions to scoot her around on the board, which is also fun, or at least fun to imagine. When exactly the Ortegas turned into the Clampett family, I’m not sure. She has a friendly only obey as well. Could be an interesting model on the table, particularly to Ortega crews.

Guild Hounds-It seemed like these guys were in the beta updates almost weekly, and not often with positive changes. The big issue with them was how to keep them useful without making them very tempting to spam. 3 stone significant models (as long as they’re in pairs) is dangerous territory. The game doesn’t want to end up with dog-pound Guild crews flooding the board. The designers finally just had to make them Rare 4, which I would have thought would mean they could be tuned back up a bit, but that hasn’t really happened yet. It’s possible they may have gotten pushed too far down at this point, but we’ll see as time goes on.

Guard Sergeant-The fat man apparently got a demotion since M1E, but has picked up some interesting abilities. Namely, he can now shift friendly scheme markers up to 4” with a (0), opening up some new ways to get Plant Explosives or any similar schemes done. He also hands out some decent buffs to friendly guardsmen models that are around him. Given that Lucius and McCabe both like Guardsmen, and a number of Guardsmen models have simply become better for any crew to take (or remained strong, in the case of Austringers,) this could lead to him getting included a bit more often in crews.

Hunter-For a while there, Hunters were one of the best models in faction. They’ve since seen some down-grades and been made Rare 2, but still have some strong potential. Their Prowl ability adds some nice mobility at the end of the turn to either get that last bit of movement or perhaps duck out of melee range of things they attacked. They also have the ability to pounce 3” onto a model as a (0) and debuff their melee, with a crow trigger for a free attack. The chain harpoon is always nice for repositioning enemy models and passes out slow. I wish they would have gotten unimpeded, as I think it would have fit better with the overall theme of the model and would have added some movement flexibility. Still pretty good, but we’ll see how much play they get outside of Hoffman now that the full faction is there to compete for the points.

Lawyer-Guild Lawyers in M1E were overcosted and undereffective on the board, and it’s good to see that the designers have made efforts to reverse these two characteristics this time around. They have Lucius’ Highest Authority ability to hand out negative flips to attacks and can buff friendly models against horror tests in a 6” aura. I’m not blown away by the special damages ability, but I like Objection! to hand out slow and paralyzed. Pretty decent mid-cost support model.

Watcher-Watchers apparently spent too much time haning out with Nicodem’s M1E Vultures, as they learned how to allow friendly leader’s to draw line of sight off of them with a (2) action. Additionally, they disrupt the opponent’s ability to utilize cover, so obviously their greatest utility will be in ranged crews. I could see Perdita fielding them, or perhaps a Sonnia crew that doesn’t want to rely on burning to negate LoS.

Witchling Handler-These guys are an interesting mix of attack and support. They have some general buffs for friendly models and even more powerful ones for Witchlings, which is always nice. They give Witchlings a speed boost for starting next to them. They have a very limited version of Sonnia’s summoning on a melee trigger, which is situational at best but could make for an unpleasant surprise for the enemy. Also, their (0) to allow friendly models to hand out burning is always a strong addition to a Sonnia crew. A pretty good model that is very good in a Sonnia Criid crew. Which brings us to her counterpart in the Death Marshals...

No, not that one.

I’ve wanted this model to be good since book 3. I like the idea of a travelling preacher man that criss-crosses Malifaux and hunts down the things that go bump in the night. His first edition failed to be broadly effective because it was too much of a magic bullet for undead and spirits and really couldn’t do much when the enemy didn’t have these traits. His new False Accusation (0) is an amusing fix to this problem, as the Exorcist essentially forces the Undead characteristic onto an enemy model (2 enemy models with a trigger,) allowing his abilities to work even when facing Arcanists or fellow Guildies and creating some nice synergies with other Marshall type models (The Judge will be fast friends with him, I’m thinking.) He’s still not particularly fast or hard-hitting (though the banish trigger could lead to some nasty surprises for unprepared undead enemies,) so I’m not sure how effective he’ll be long term, but it’s a good step in the right direction.

Latigo Pistoleros-These guys were essentially a laughing stock model in M1E, relegated to the same drawer as Malifaux Children and that old paint brush that only has two bristles left that you haven’t gotten around to tossing yet. The new version are good, cheap models for a theme crew that desperately needed some affordable backup. Their rules encourage you to pair one of them off with each of your higher priced guys, providing a defense buff as long as the Pistolero hasn’t activated yet. I like the flexibility of the ram trigger to give you either a bonus to damage or your final duel total, but one has to wonder if there will ever be any rams left for them outside of flips from the deck in a crew so heavy on critical strike. Still, I think they’ll see some use if for no other reason than that the Ortegas just flat-out need cheap guys to go complete objectives and fill out their activations.

Pale Rider-As this is the first rider we’ve run into during this series of articles, let’s pause for a moment and take a look at their general theme. All of them are basically on a clock that is controlled by the game turn, ie as the game goes on, they get more powerful. This power comes in the form of them receiving +1 of their particular suit to each of their duels for the turn number -1. That sentence is atrocious, so to make it clearer, on turn 3 the Pale Rider adds 2 rams to all of his duels, 3 rams on turn 4, and 4 on turn five. Unsurprisingly, almost all of their abilities have a trigger that uses these gradually increasing suits to some devastating effect, culminating in some horrific ability that they would presumably only be able to use on the last turn of the game, as it requires five of the suit to pull off.

Ok, here’s the thing: you are never going to get to use that ability. Just ignore it when you’re reading the card. These abilities are the equivalent of the Magic: The Gathering cards like the Leviathan: they look really neat, and they make fanboys get really excited, but they’re completely impractical.

Worst. Rare. Ever

 In 90% of games when you are up against someone relatively competent, either your opponent will kill the rider before you get to that last turn (probably the most likely outcome), you’ll have tabled them and it’ll be wasted, or the tournament game will end on turn 4 and you won’t even get the chance to try it. The trouble is, these abilities are built into the cost of the model, so you’re paying soulstones for something that you’ll maybe get to use in 1 game out of 10. Not great, and it makes me wonder if they’ll build something into Leviticus’ avatar to speed these abilities along.

Ok, with that out of the way, the Pale Rider isn’t that bad outside of me being annoyed by The Last Crossing. He reduces damage from enemy attacks by the number of rams in the defense flip. On turn 3 his damage track can either be a 6/7/8 or he can heal himself a point for each ram in the duel depending on trigger. He’s unimpeded. He’s a stat brick, but I have to think that just makes it more likely your opponent will try to pounce on him fast and take him off the board. So, the Pale Rider is a fun model, but I have my questions about his competitive viability. I’ll be expecting to be told that I’m an idiot and he’s amazing momentarily.

Clockwork Traps and Guild Pathfinder-I really like what they did with the design on these. Clockwork traps are the first model in the game that don’t have activations, receiving the “Inanimate” trait. Instead, any model that moves, pushes, or is placed in their melee range gets an attack. Any model that starts their activation next to them has to pass a walk duel or gets Slow. They deploy via From the Shadows, so they’re going to be scattered through all the key positions on the board (read: Squatter’s Rights markers.) They’re Rare 4 and not particularly tough (3 wounds Armor+2), but that’s not the point. Their job is to slow the enemy down and be annoying, and I think they do a pretty good job of that. I wish they had something to prevent ranged damage, but that might be a bit too good for a 2 Soulstone model.

Unsurprisingly, since they come in the same box set, the Pathfinder works well with the traps as well. He can summon more of them with a 6 or higher of tomes (remember the Rare 4 limit, of course.) He also deploys via From the Shadows, so he can be nearby to support them or off somewhere else causing mischief. Scavenge makes for some decent card cycling, particularly since his traps will likely be dropping fairly regularly around him. His rifle has some nice triggers and doesn’t scatter onto the traps when he fires into melee, and he can relocate the traps with a 0 action. They have the potential to be a nasty little cluster of unpleasantness for the opponent to deal with, forcing him to waste AP dealing with piddly little traps and the crazy gomer defending them instead of going after the objectives. And they’re duel faction Guild/10T, so they can be used with any of the Asian crews as well. I like them and will likely be getting them painted up for action shortly.

So that’s the models that jumped out at me from the Guild. As usual, feel free to comment. Look for an article about a faction that I don’t know well at all in a couple of days, the Arcanists. I’m accepting comments from and suggestions from folks on the Wyrd threads now for that, so feel free to drop me a line and help me out.