Friday, February 17, 2017

Did the Guild Get Screwed With Gaining Grounds 2017?

Yeah, that’s right. I know how to do Click-bait titles too. Buzzfeed’s got nothing on me.

In today’s post, we’ll take a look at a conversation I had at my last tournament, suggesting that the Guild may have a rough road ahead of them in the coming year. Also, we’re announcing Malifaux Musing’s first official sponsored tournament, here in lovely Blacksburg, VA. But first, some mini-musings…


1)      The global Through the Breach event is kicking off this week! Fatemasters sign up through the website and receive access to a hidden forum, wherein the files for the game are posted and discussions can be had. For those unfamiliar with how these work, you’ll be given pre-generated characters and will play through storylines that other players are using worldwide. The characters include some gems like an artist who was “recruited” to join Professor Von Stuck’s University Transmortis, a drunken Guild Guardsman, and a construct who may have some connection to a certain puppetmaster…  Factions score points based on which characters are played the most as well as the Fatemaster's choice of a bonus point. Part 1 features the Fated working with an inventor in Malifaux city to construct a device to recreate the breaches generated by Cultists of the Burning Man, searching the city for parts and getting into some scrapes along the way. Jump in!

2)      The February Chronicles magazine is available atDriveThru RPG. Articles feature a guide to starting Neverborn on a budget, an introduction to a new Wyrd employee, a Through the Breach adventure in which characters journey into the spirit world, and a Malifaux Slasher Scenario called “Cabin in the Woods,” that sounds pretty cool!

3)      A new(ish) tool has been made available for tracking Malifaux games, called Logfaux. It’ll be useful for keeping track of your individual statistics over time, as well as giving a view of changes to the worldwide meta as a whole. Give them a look!


                Now, clickbait headlines aside, what am I on about this week? Well, going into the second round of the tournament at Fantasy Underground, there was a certain amount of debate as to what sort of crew would be best suited to complete the scenario. It was Stake a Claim, with a scheme pool full of things that required us to drop markers all over the board. I was playing Guild Mccabe, and the guy I was playing against was complaining that he had Gremlins and had hoped to play against the Guild so he could out-activate and out-scheme marker me around the board. And, as we conversed, we mentioned that this round of schemes was actually kind of rough on the Guild in general, and I was inclined initially to agree. Frame for Murder being a suited scheme is ROUGH on a faction that generally does their work at the end of a sword or the barrel of a gun, especially when one of that faction’s calling cards is their bad-ass henchmen. That, plus a general perception of there being more scheme marker-ness in this set created a hypothesis and, like any good scientist, I wanted to investigate.

                Before we get to the results, let’s start with a brief discussion of my methods. If I’m going to break this down quantitatively, I have to have some baseline assumptions. First, I have to assume that, for the purposes of this exercise, schemes that encourage killing are good for the Guild, while schemes that penalize killing and/or require fast movement AND a large amount of scheme marker placement are not good for a typical Guild crew. Is this a dramatic over-generalization? Yes. Obviously. Since getting past Book 1, Guild have had their own scheme runners, and masters like Hoffman and Nellie have no problem using nasty enforcers like the Peacekeeper and handing out their own AP to them as a way of at least denying the opponent one or two points from Frame. But, we have to start from somewhere, and I wanted to basically play to the stereotypical "Hulk Smash" style Guild Crew. Second, I have to be the one to arbitrarily determine which schemes are “Good” versus “Bad” for a typical Guild crew. Are Dig their Graves or Marked for Death good schemes for them? I had to make a judgement call for this. They do involve killing, but they also involve interact actions. As such, I broke them down to a score of “1” for good schemes, “-1” for bad schemes, and “0” for those that I didn’t rate as being particularly good or bad. These ratings are entirely arbitrary, and I have no doubt that others would disagree with some of my choices. The spreadsheet is on Google Drive here, so you can go look and tell me how wrong I am. Last but not least, I multiplied this by the odds of having any of these schemes come up in the average scheme pool. I’m not a statistician, but I think I remember enough from my undergrad stats class (it was only 1 decade ago guys, so not that long) that I did that part right. Again, would not be shocked if I was incorrect about some or all of this. I calculated the sum and mean probabilities, and that gives me my rough number. Which cannot be argued with, so don’t even try, because my logic is ironclad and inescapable.

                So what do the numbers tell us? Well, the change isn’t as significant as I may have thought, but there is a definite shift which is not in the Guild’s favor. The biggest changes, unsurprisingly, are in the suited schemes. I counted Dig Their Graves as one that was in their favor since it involved killing and models like Phiona Gage makes them relatively doable, though if I counted them as neutral that would have made things even worse. The change from Show of Force to Frame for Murder is probably the biggest swing, as I consider Show to be in their favor, now that they have Debt and Numb to allow for some strong upgrades that will stay attached, unlike traditional universal upgrades from the other factions like Oathkeeper and Recalled Training that have to be discarded to take effect. The differences are offset slightly by the Doubles scheme shifting from Take Prisoner (neutral) changing to Eliminate the Leadership (good.) But, that change of two “good” suited schemes to two “bad” suited schemes is tough to overcome, as we'll see shortly.

                In the numbered schemes, 2016 GG had 3 that I considered “good” versus 5 “bad.” By comparison, in 2017 the ratio shifts to 5-3. Normally, one would think that would also help to offset things. The problem is, however, that there are only 4 of each numbered card in a deck, versus 13 of each suit. As such, a good or bad scheme here only contributes about + or - .15 to the sum probability, as compared to almost a full .5 for a suited scheme. Thus, it would take having 5 good numbered schemes to offset one suited bad scheme. Therefore, while I included them, they don’t make THAT much of a difference. Still, it’s a little something to help salve the pain, at least.

                How much of a difference did this new scheme pool end up making? Well, if we look at the sums, the total changes from -.81 in 2016 to -1.05 for 2017. This seems significant. The mean probability per scheme, however, doesn’t change that much (only a drop of .01 total.) This backs up our assertion above that, while there hasn't been a significant change in the NUMBER of positive versus negative schemes, the locations of those changes on the table make a big difference for the faction. 

                So what does this mean? I honestly expected that there would be no significant difference (that’s usually how these things work out.) However, I think there is a legitimate case to be made that the “typical” Guild crew (Kill ‘em All and let the Governor sort ‘em out) will struggle in Gaining Grounds 2017 more than it did in 2016. Admittedly, what this analysis doesn’t factor in is the fact that use of force in the game has a quality all its own that can’t be reflected in the math, namely the ability to block your opponent from scoring VP by, you know, blowing them the hell up. Still, I think it would be in the best interests of many Guild players who are looking to rack up as many VPs as possible to think outside the “typical” box and build crews that can run schemes. Look at Reporters, Hounds, or Watchers specifically to fill these jobs, and look for those badass enforcers to do the heavy lifting/killing of your crew. It’s going to be painful to bench Franc/Phiona/Ryle, but with Frame in the scheme pools almost every other game, they’re going to give those points up an awful lot. At least when the Peacekeeper kills your opponent’s Chump, you’ll only give up 2.


                Finally, I’d like to announce the tournament I’m hosting in late April, NRVFaux. It’s a standard 50ss Gaining Grounds 2017 tournament hosted as part of a regional convention (NRVCon) that is put on by my FGL, Fun-N-Games hobbies. It will be held April 22nd, with registration starting at 9AM and the tournament kicking off at 10. In addition to the standard tournament prizes, I’ve modeled the prize support plan off of the Southeastern Malifaux group plan I’ve seen at tournaments put on by Chris Bellamy and the always Sassy Dawn McCormack. As such, there will be raffle tickets distributed for each round you’re playing a fully painted crew that can be used to enter drawings for extra prize support after the games are finished. We’ll also have a sportsmanship award, and the usual Guilders and Mystery boxes for first and second place. Additionally, the tournament organizers are kicking in some Con-Cash, good for purchasing loot from the vendors at the convention, based on the number of attendees! I’m hoping for a nice turn-out, and if you make your way to the tournament you can even meet your favorite bloggers, Adam and Jon, in person! So come on out! And be sure to come back for our next click-bait article, “Why Donald Trump Thinks All True Americans Play Neverborn!” 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Malifaux at the Underground, 1/28th Tournament Report


-Information for how to join the Through the Breach worldwide event: A Stitch In Time, is the subject of this week's Monday Preview. There's a sign-up sheet linked on the page where you put in your name, email, and forum name in exchange for access to the forum where the files, including the pregen characters required for the campaign, are located. Fatemasters should sign up by February 26th at the latest, but the first part of the adventure goes up on the 13th (just in time for some Valentine's day gaming?) And, it contains a render of the character which won the first Nythera event, Dr. Alexei Sokolov of the Aracanists. My player tended to use his overdrive ability to pick up tables and throw them, though, but I don't know how well he can pull that off with those big swords...
Everyone's favorite French-speaking Russian


Last Saturday, Jon and I traveled south into the wilds of High Point, NC for a another tournament in the Southeastern Malifaux group, this one organized by Chris Bellamy. It was more of the standard 50SS fixed faction fair, and I posted previously about some thought experiments I did in advance as tournament prep. I was planning on running McCabe the whole time, as I have an affinity for masters that are more the point guard for their crew rather than the one scoring all the points. I’d played a couple of practice games to learn his nuances, at least as well as I could, and decided to put what I’d learned to the test.

Gaming Undergound is a gaming center similar to my old store Gauntlet Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. The store has some inventory inside, but the majority of the space is dedicated to playing areas. They also have a pretty expansive web store where I would imagine they do the majority of their sales, but it was cool to not have the whole tournament crammed in a corner like you get with some venues. Food was available all around the store, and they had a system set up to allow you to see the round timers on screens throughout. Very handy.

You know nothing, Lucas McCabe...

The first round was Headhunter and close deployment, so I immediately thought “Executioner.” His 0ss upgrade is supposed to have fixed some of the speed issues that have plagued the model since its release, and I’d had some success with it in a test game with Jon online. The scheme pool was Claim Jump, Frame for Murder, Accusation!, Mark for Death, and Last Stand. I came in with:

Mccabe with badge, saber, and promises,
Peacekeeper with Debt to the Guild (how does a Peacekeeper go into debt?)
Executioner w/ Ready to work
Brutal Effigy
2x Guild Hounds

                The enemy crew was Ulix with Old Major, Lenny, Gracie, a Slop Hauler, and some piglets. There were upgrades involved, I’m sure, but I couldn’t tell you which other than Corn Husks. The main thrust of this game was a two-front battle, his Ulix-Lenny-Gracie unit backed up with a slop hauler versus Mccabe, the Executioner, the Hunter, and my hounds; and my Peacekeeper and Effigy versus his Old Major and some piglets. The former battle didn’t work out the way I was hoping, to put it nicely. He tried to tie up the initial charge of the Executioner, but I got out and threw Fat Wolverine into the enemy to cause trouble and die gloriously for the good of the Guild. He…accomplished the second part. I had thought that, since Gracie was sort of the enabler/muscle of that team, that the right move would be to try and take her down quickly. This was incorrect. Gracie with Lenny standing next to her is a wall of armor that even the big guy couldn’t get through, and he basically bounced off and got eaten for his trouble (though he did manage to milk 2 stones and 2 cards out of the enemy while he was at it.) Making matters worse, Gracie’s an enforcer, so only 2 points from Frame. Meanwhile, the Hunter was trying to move around behind the action and murder the slop hauler, but didn’t get this done either, and the slop hauler was busy the first several turns throwing buckets at him and/or picking up heads off the ground (ironically, never doing the thing he was hired to do, heal people.)
                On the second front things were going slightly better, but only slightly. A peacekeeper is more than a match for Old Major, even when the idiot playing it keeps forgetting to hold a card in hand to keep from giving him reactivate. Some of the heads I managed to pick up in the game came from there, while the others were from piglets that sprinted off into the main fight to muck things up. Unfortunately, the corn husks made it so the enemy piglets could score claim jump three times before I could stop them, and in the main scrum we realized that the trouble with Mccabe and Marked for Death is, you know, he can be scored twice. Eff. So, we both got 4 off the strat, but I missed two scheme points for Mark and Frame while he maxed out, and I lost 8-10. Not a great start, though I was at least happy with the points my side managed to put together. Lessons learned: Executioner is still going to struggle in a lot of games, even with his new upgrade, and if Lenny is on the board he is important to the other side. There’s a reason he got nerfed, and he needs to die.

                Round 2 was standard deployment stake a claim on an Asian themed board. Fittingly for the terrain, I was throwing McCabe into a fight with Rezzer Yan Lo. Big trouble in Little Malifaux, indeed. The pool had Accusation!, Leave Your Mark, Hunting Party, Claim Jump, and Search the Ruins. So, basically, how many fast AP can you squeeze in your list? Prior to this, some other players and I had discussed how some of them had wanted to be matched up against Guild this round, as it was believed that they would not be able to do enough interactions. My response, "Oh yeah? Hold my beer..."

Mccabe-Badge of Speed, Glowing Saber, Plant Evidence
Master Queeg-Promises and Plant Evidence
Brutal Effigy
Guild Hound
Guild Hound

                The opponent was bringing in Yan, Izamu, Toshiro, Soul Porter, 2xNecropunks, a Komainu, and a Crooligan. It was pretty obvious we were going to be trying to sprint for markers, and I was going to need to use my minions to hunt down his before they could start scoring. I was confident, however, that I could use my hounds to score while doing this. That didn’t quite end up being the case, though. We spent the first turn basically waving at each other as we walked past, since we were deployed on opposite flanks and both seemed content to focus on scoring the objectives early. I juiced up the super dog with the badge and reactivate, counting on him to go get the first squat markers down. However, the dog soon found himself engaged with an enemy Komainu that slowed that process down, and I actually fell behind early. I was helped out by Luna charging into an enemy Necropunk on my side, dropping him, and then reactivating to move up field and eventually burn up his claim marker and replace it with one of mine just over the center line. The combat portion of this game was really won through a combination of the Hunter attacking a model before its turn, and then a reactivating saber-wielding Promises-buffed Warden coming in to mop up. That was scary good, and ended with him taking down Izamu, the Komainu, and a good chunk of Toshiro more-or-less solo. Another MVP vote goes to my second, non-super hound who spent the last half of the game blocking two scheme markers from scoring for Claim Jump all by himself. In the end, a combination of McCabe dashing back and forth like his hair was on fire and lobbing upgrades, some decent strategy on my part, and a fair amount of bad luck for my opponent’s flips managed to carry the day for my side, and we won 6-4.

The cards you see are a Terrifying test with a - flip. You know, if you want a preview of how this game went.

                Round 3 featured the dreaded Corner Deployment Squatter’s Rights scenario. I was worried about this one going in, as the scheme pool had Frame for Murder and Neutralize the Leader, which are both bad for Guild McCabe. I tried to avoid some of this by staying away from killy Henchmen if I could help it and focusing on killing models with Enforcers. I was playing Rezzers, so I decided I’d better find room in there for a Warden to help with Terror tests, which ended up being even more important than I knew. My crew looked like this.

Mccabe-Badge, Saber
Peacekeeper-A Debt to the Guild
2x Hounds

                My opponent was bringing a fear based Seamus crew with the Hatter and Sinister Rep, Yin, Carrion Emmisary with a Conflux that didn’t really come into play as far as I could see, 2xCrooligans, a Hanged, and the Valedictorian. Show of Force is a pretty strong scheme for the Guild after book 4, as their universal upgrade (Debt) stays attached after you activate it, unlike Oathkeeper or some of the Arcanist stuff. Seeing no upgrades on anyone besides Seamus and the 0 pointer on the Emmisary, I thought this was a strong bet. Then I put Frame on the super dog, as I figured his chance of living past turn 2 was pretty minimal.

                I was in trouble from deployment on this one, as my opponent stuck me with a corner that had a good third of its space filled by a building right in the middle, forcing me to split my crew (you can see it in the picture.) I also discovered that the trouble with the super-dog strategy is that, if you flip the middle marker and then one on the outside, the opponent can just walk up and flip the middle one back next turn. Doh. Really, I made a lot of mistakes in this game, to the point that the only thing that could have saved me was if my fate deck was exceedingly kind. It was, in fact, not (again, I refer you to the picture.) Misplays like activating my Peacekeeper’s Debt to try and attack Yin when I was in view of the Hanged, so I would have to take Terrifying Tests all turn long rather than just on the first attack, were characteristic of how I played. And, to be fair, this enemy crew is a very effective, classic build for Seamus (though I was surprised there were no Belles. Apparently they were unneeded, though.)  Also, Yin couldn’t actually have Hard to Wound, obviously, but instead Mass of Viscera which is its own thing that the sabre doesn’t ignore. As such, I bogged down in melee in the middle, managed to hand free points to the opponent by killing their Frame target on turn 2 with my Hunter, and only had the Squat markers flipped for a couple of turns 3 and 4 before getting wiped off the board. Oh, and obviously the enemy chose the two schemes that I was afraid of going into this one, so he walked away with something like a 9-6 win (my Crewfaux didn’t save the final score.)

Obviously, I’d like to have done better than 1-2, but there were some take-aways I could pull from this experience. First of all, I had 20VPs scored in the tournament, which was the 5th overall in the pool. So, I wasn’t having problems scoring VPs, but rather keeping my opponent from scoring theirs. As such, I’m going to try and focus on playing defense in the future to work on my denial game. Second, I’m a little concerned for the Guild in Gaining Grounds 2017. It may just be this particular batch of scheme pools, but Frame for Murder being on a suit really hurts them. Also, I sort of feel like there are more scheme marker based schemes this time around than previously. I think I’m going to need to take a closer look at the math on this one, so look for a post on that coming at some point in the future. Moreover, it’s even worse for McCabe, as he’s sort of vulnerable to Marked for Death and really vulnerable to Neutralize the Leadership. That’s a lot of land mines in GG2017 I might have to watch for in the future when picking masters, and he’s definitely not one I’d recommend for a fixed master tournament. I did, however, have a really fun time playing him. I seem to like support masters quite a lot, so I might play some things along those lines in the future (I do like Hoffman…and many of my crews were basically Hoff crews with McCabe…hmmm…) And finally, I still had fun playing Malifaux despite getting my butt handed to me a couple of times. I’ve heard some advice given to an amateur golfer from a pro: You don’t play enough to get this mad when you do poorly. I think that definitely applies to me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it to some more events in the future and refine my skills, such as they are.