Sunday, March 16, 2014

ToMB Month 1 Wrap-Up

We’re rolling up on March 17th, which means now is the time for recapping month 1 of ToMB and creating the post that serves as the real summary for new players to utilize when starting their own Malifaux Tales. As previously stated, I am utilizing the Guild’s construct master, C. Hoffman. I purchased the starter box and the Peacekeeper to make my month 1 crew, and have played three games over Vassal with them to start learning how the crew works. Let’s discuss what we’ve learned to start with, and then we’ll talk about the game reports.


Hoffman’s abilities, unsurprisingly, revolve around his interactions with Guild constructs. Rather than build them from the ground up like Ramos, however, Hoffman’s specialty is in modifying existing constructs and assimilating qualities from them to augment himself. In a way, he kind of reminds me of playing Collodi, as the bread and butter activation with him on an average turn tends to consist of A) setting up the appropriate modifications/buffs onto your constructs or B) machine puppeting your constructs to attack/move/interact. He has a respectable melee attack, though with no charge you’re probably not going to be using it unless something has gone wrong and you’re fighting on your own. One of his assets I got a lot of unexpected mileage from is Hoff’s WP of 6, as the Power Loop trait shared with whichever model Hoffman is using as his ride that in turn can utilize this above average stat, which is very helpful when squaring off with things that require terror checks. Perhaps more importantly, this crew passes out a lot of buffs to boost Df flips, but not as many for WP resists, so at times I found Hoff’s shared WP to be an invaluable asset.

Hoffman’s upgrades are where you can do a bit of fiddling with the crew you’re trying to build. The two I’ve tried out are “Field Mechanic” and “Arcanist Assets.” The main use for Field Mechanic, obviously, is the ability to pass modification upgrades to the other constructs in the crew. These can hand out a variety of traits to the crew, including Armor+1, Nimble+1, the ability to make interact actions as a (0), and the ability to pitch the modification for a +Rams to Ml and Sh actions for that turn. A typical open with Hoffman typically involved trying to flip these modifications onto as many models as possible to set up for the strategy, usually with the (0) Shakedown to spit out the scrap counter required for either Hydraulics or Improvised Plating. In the box set crew, “Targeting Systems” is possibly the least useful, as the only real use is to spike value of the Peacekeeper and the Hunter’s Critical Hit triggers. Usually you’ll want to put other Mods on these models, but there are other constructs that will get more mileage from this in the future. However, these are also where a lot of healing comes into the crew, as the zero action “Frantic Repairs” from Arcanist Assets allows you to strip a modification from a construct, drop a scrap counter, and heal the model. This scrap can then be used for another action from Field Mechanic, Improvised Repairs, that gives all models within 3” of the scrap counter another healing flip. This preponderance of healing ended up being a sort of unexpected theme in the crew, as several of the other constructs also have heal actions of some variety (and I discovered, to my detriment, how much trouble you're in when the enemy prevents this healing.) I haven’t tried out the other upgrades (OSA and Remote Mines,) as I haven’t typically seen great results from AoE spells with flat TN’s to resist in the past and rarely feel that I would rather have Hoffman take an action personally rather than let him use Machine Puppet. The Tap Power trait will maybe be more useful when I get to including a totem for him, but I also don’t like stealing an AP from my minions, as they have all proven to be pretty useful thus far. Maybe this will change in the future (Hoff’s avatar, for one thing, is a much more melee oriented model.)

Hoff needs to stay with his crew. He doesn’t have the ability to accomplish much on his own and is very, very vulnerable when he can’t use the Defense trigger to borrow the armor value from nearby constructs, making him vulnerable to WP attacks and Blasts or other forms of indirect damage. I’ve typically used the Soulstones in the crew for hand crafting, but this may be due to only having him in real danger of physical harm in one of the three test games I’ve played.


He is the heavy hitter of the crew, and effectively fills the role of Henchman in this build. For the points you pay, you get an Armor+2 (+3 with Patchwork) Hard to Wound, Terrifying 12 (Living) model that can move relatively quickly with Hoffman’s machine puppet to aid it and can do a pile of damage to enemy models. He comes with a chain spear with the 8” drag trigger, which can be either a nasty surprise for your opponent or can be applied to reposition friendly models in a hurry as well. All of this makes for a very, very nasty model that is somewhere between difficult and impossible to remove and which can really make you pay for coming within 10” of him. The Override Edict (0) power also lets you destroy enemy scheme markers, giving him disruption of enemy scoring. I like him a lot, but he does cost a pile of points. It’s occurred to me that I could fit two of Hoff’s mid-range constructs in for the points I spend on this guy. As more models become available, I’ll need to try going without him to increase my AP in future games.


After the third test game, my frequent sparring partner Jon was heard to state “That damn Guardian seems like he’s the MVP of every game.” When you first look at his stat card, the reasons for this may or may not become immediately apparent (I’ll confess I didn’t quite spot them straight away.) Fittingly for a model hauling around that big shield, his defensive stats are quite stout (6 each Df and Wp, and Armor 1 with the Grinding Halt trigger.) He’s immune to horror duels (constructs take more of them than you think.) He has a 3” melee range on his flat balde, making him pretty good at taking a position in melee and saying “Nope, you’re not going anywhere.” His Shield Bash has a trigger to throw enemy models 4” and prevent them from charging you back, granting some decent positioning. And then there’s the (0) action.

Oh, that beautiful, beautiful (0) action.

Protect gives a friendly model Defensive +2 until the Guardian’s next activation. This. Is. HUGE. One of the pleasant changes with M2E was the increase in power of the Defensive action (as it is now no longer possible to stack a massive duel result, making your flip meaningless.) Getting to flip three cards for defense resists is very strong. Plus it has a trigger on a ram to throw in a healing flip for the protected model, or a mask trigger to let him pop up next to the model he’s protecting. The real revelation here came when I realized that it says Target Friendly Model on the action, not target Other friendly model, meaning he can cast it on himself. Paired with his high defensive stats, this makes him a secondary brick wall in the crew that can play area denial by getting to important places on the board and simply refusing to move. He’s proven to be good enough that I’m looking seriously at including him in non-Hoffman Guild crews.


I’ve confessed a couple of times to the fact that I may be using this minion wrong. At 7 stones you expect a lot out of these guys, and on paper they have some interesting tools to get things done. They have the same chain spear-drag for repositioning as the Peacekeeper. They get a positive flip for attacks on models that haven’t activated yet, so you’ll either want to activate him early to take advantage of this or send him after lower priority targets that your opponent is likely to wait on. He’s decently mobile, with a free 3” push at the end of every turn (that, if you’re like me, you will forget 2 out of every 5 turns per game, on average) and can jump into melee with “Pounce on Chest” to close the gap and potentially get a free attack with a high crow, which doesn’t tend to be an important suit for this crew. There’s an interesting potential for a 1-2 punch with Wardens that I’ll be looking to exploit down the line, as one wants to attack things which haven’t activated yet and the other gets bonuses against things that have, but I’ve still yet to have a game where I’ve said “There you go, now I get it, that’s what Hunters are for.” Their survivability is not great, so it’s likely you’ll need them to be prowling flanks and attacking soft targets to be successful. His main role seems to be that of mobile chain spear platform, with pretty good melee to finish off whatever you’ve drug out of position. Still, Joel Henry keeps going on and on about how awesome they are, so maybe I just haven’t glommed onto them yet.

These guys get modified on the first turn pretty much every game. They’re your objective grabbers, and they’re good at what they do with a little tweaking. I know a popular start to most Scheme Marker heavy scenarios is to use Hoff to give one of them Nimble and a second one Programmed Directive, effectively giving them both a pair of Wk 6 Flight movements followed by an interact on every turn. Unfortunately, their tactical actions and attacks haven’t proven to be particularly synergistic with the rest of the crew thus far, as they mostly interact with Ranged attacks by negating cover and/or granting line of sight to the crew’s master, neither of which have proven particularly useful thus far. I can see a scenario where they could light up a hiding model to let them get hit with a chain spear or Warden’s Restraint Claw, but it’s too bad they don’t have a way of doing some damage on their own. Also, they're a bit fragile, though no more than what you expect from 4 stone models, so you'll need to take care of them on the board to keep the enemy from blowing them up.

General Conclusions

At the end of month 1, some things about the crew turned out to be as expected and others have fooled me. The main thrust of the offensive potential comes from the old school Hoff-ball of the master, Peacekeeper, and Guardian. The Guardian can make the Peacekeeper nigh-unkillable, and with a potential 6 attacks due to Machine Puppet and the Fast trigger there isn’t much that will survive against them in close combat. The Watcher is a good objective runner and not much else. What I didn’t expect was how much healing they have, and thus how sturdy and resistant this crew is. The only thing missing, frankly, is condition removal (something that ended up biting me hard in the battle report below) to make them nearly unstoppable in traditional combat.

So, at the end of month 1, I’ve gotten three games in and the crew is painted. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the paint job came out on all of these models. It’s a relatively quick and simple paint scheme. The red is a dark red paint with a lighter done over top and the Carroburg Crimson Citadel wash applied, followed by the brighter red highlights. The metal is a thicker drybrush of the Boltgun Metal from Citadel, followed by a heavy wash of Nuln oil, and then application of the Typhus Corruption and Riza Rust technical effects paints to make them look dingier and rustier. This group was actually also my first attempts at sculpting with greenstuff, as I got tired of paying for base inserts and decided to try my hand at making my own. They’re nothing fancy (I just followed this tutorial,) but they get the job done and I think they look pretty good.

I’ve also started tracking my progress through the project using Bill Anderson’s Google Drive spreadsheet. You can follow along with me here.

Battle Reports

The first two games I played are posted here and here. For the end of the month, I opted to try and get a sneak preview of what is coming next month. Jon and I had both downloaded the updated M2E module for Vassal, and opted to try out one of the new interior maps.

45SS Turf War
Scheme Pool: Line in the Sand, Protect Territory, Take Prisoner, Some other things
Hoffman-Arcanist Assets, Field Mechanic
Ryle-Forgotten Memories

Nicodem- Muwahaha, some other stuff
Mortimer-Corpse Bloat

Knowing that I was up against Ressers and, likely, Nicodem, I knew I was in for a scrum. The Watcher wasn’t going to be any help for this, so I thought Protect Territory would be something it could accomplish on its own. Manueverability was going to be limited due to the walls. My plan was to use the Hunter around the outside of the Turf War bubble to grab enemy models and pull them out while the Hoff, Peacekeeper, and Guardian hold the center with Ryle providing support.

As a bonus perk, we had Ratty jump in to watch the game while he was working on grave markers.

Turn 1 saw me throwing out armor to the Peacekeeper and Precision Targeting to the Guardian because…I’m an idiot? I don’t know. It doesn’t do anything for him. Anyway, our group took position around the center of the board and prepared for the coming tide of the dead.

I liked Jon’s opening quite a bit, with him deploying a Crooligan up field to serve as bait for the “Fresh Meat” action. This helps to offset the amount of AP he has to use on generating corpse counters for Nicodem, allowing him to get the summoning engine running without slowing down progress. The Belles help out a lot with this as well. By the start of Turn 2, I was facing a pair of Hanged and some various other Undead where before there was a much smaller group. Ratty astutely pointed out "this game is just going to turn into a bloodbath in the middle." Seeing that there was no way to make him take the first move, I elected to press into the center with the Peacekeeper and try to hold them out of the scoring zone. I’m fairly sure this was the right move, but it also ended up essentially costing me the game. As soon as we were out of cover, the Hanged attacked the Peacekeeper and Ryle, knocking them to half wounds and, more significantly, blocking any healing. I could see the writing on the wall at this point, but gave it a go to try and hold out.

From here it became a battle of attrition not unlike the climax of a zombie movie, with the desperate survivors trying to hold back a horde of undead. Punk zombies flurrying with plus flips from Nicodem’s aura went against double positive defense flips on the Peacekeeper with the Guardian’s help. I also learned that Nicodem can now summon the student models from University of Transmortis, including the Student of Steel, meaning my constructs were in a lot of trouble.

I managed to hold until turn four and then switch Ryle into his place, but his base wasn’t sizeable enough to block the entrance and he didn’t have the toughness of the Peacekeeper, so the Undead mauled him. Turn Five the Guardian tried to hold the entrance, but it was too late. Hoffman didn’t survive long exposed in this way, so the game was essentially lost. Having it go to extra turns only gave Nicodem the opportunity to throw another Student of Steel to go kill my Watcher and prevent my Protect Territory from scoring. Amusingly, on Turn 7 Nicodem walked forward towards my Hunter, letting him pounce on him and “Capture” him at the end of the game. This was too little too late, however, as the game ended in a 5-9 loss for me.

This may have exposed one of the biggest flaws in the armor of this crew: preventing healing. The crew uses a ton of it, and when it's blocked out you're going to need to be a lot more careful with your constructs to keep them up and fighting. This makes the Ressers potentially a very poor matchup for Hoffman. Molly and Nicodem can both potentially summon either the Hanged and/or the Students of Steel. This was all done without him having the Decaying Aura, meaning that this could potentially have been an even worse match-up. Factor that in with it being Turf War, which is probably Nicodem’s strongest strategy, and I was likely going to be in trouble regardless of what happened. This is enough to make me consider throwing in a Witchling Stalker when facing Ressers or Outcasts (Jack Daw can hired Hanged, and there are other Outcasts with nasty conditions that would be worth removing) just to prevent my healing from being completely shut down, as it was during this game.

I wasn’t impressed with Ryle’s upgrade. He has two pretty good zero actions already, and it doesn’t seem worthwhile to use it every turn for a single reactivation on turn 3. He didn’t get much of a chance to shine here, but I can see the potential. Still, I think I’ll be better off going a different direction next month, as this crew desperately needs more activations and less points.

The addition of the Students makes for a nice bit of tech for Nicodem, as a side note. They don't have Hard to Kill as the two standard Nicodem summons do (Necropunks and Punk Zombies) so you can't guarantee an activation for them, but with armor, hard to wound, and terrifying (whatever you're attacking them with,) they're pretty tough. The only failing of the Students is that you can't know beforehand whether they'll be any use to you during the hiring phase, which Nicodem sidesteps nicely by summoning them during the game.

Anyway, that's the month one wrap-up. As usual, comments are appreciated and encouraged. See you in a couple of days for Month 2!