Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Curtain Rises: Taking a Look at Collodi


-Probably the biggest piece of news is, of course, the announcement of what will be available for purchase at Gencon this year.  There's lots of good stuff there, more than I'm going to break down here. I know that the Malifaux Musings authors (particularly Phiasco) are giving the alternate sculpt of the Hungering Darkness an appraising look (now with 100% more face tentacles!) Take a look for yourself, and then prepare your con budget now.

-The other big news was the release of the July errata for Malifaux. As Aaron had previously stated, the plan is to have two Errata updates a year, with the early one being the place for major changes to the game while the mid-year one is for smaller tweaks and adjustments. As such, there are only a handful of changes affecting the Arcanists and Gremlins. All of them could be described as "nerfs" (cuddles, according to the Forums language filter) adjusting some of the parts of the game which aren't working as intended and giving too much of a tactical advantage. Wind Gamin can die now, which needed to happen. Practiced production can't be used on Malifaux Raptors anymore, which also probably needed to happen. I don't know as much about the stuffed piglets problem, but it must have been one for them to have increased their cost. I'm told (by internet comments) that people are still going to use them for Wong, so I guess they must not have been nerfed into the ground completely. Somehow Phillip and the Nanny escaped the nerf-bat, likely with Phillip whistling innocently to himself as they faded away into the fog. 


Master of Puppets

               Earlier this week, I posted a poll to A Wyrd Place and the Southeastern Malifaux Player’s Group on Facebook, asking for a suggestion for a crew to build over a series of articles in the coming weeks ala the old “Tale of Malifaux Bloggers” series that used to be in vogue for gaming bloggists like me. I threw out a handful of masters I owned already but hadn’t given the time they deserved including Hoffman, Marcus (I got him for free from Through the Breach’s Kickstarter program and like the paint job I did for him), and Ten Thunders Misaki, among others. What I didn’t realize is that you have to select an option to close a poll’s responses to limit them to those you put into the machine, and suddenly the write-in votes took over. Parker Barrows flew to the top of the list, followed by the puppet master Collodi and Jack Daw. Over the course of the week the three masters battled it out for first place, and Parker came out on top. Unfortunately, there’s an issue with me playing Parker: I don’t own him and I don’t have money to buy him right now (more on this subject in a later post.) I could have just theory-crafted him and played him in Vassal, but I want this series to include the modeling and painting process (plus who doesn’t like to have pretty pictures of painted models to look at,) so I’m afraid I have to put Parker on hold for the time being. If you voted for him, I apologize and I assure you that I will get to that crew in the future. Don’t worry, you’ll be getting Book 5 soon and you’ll forget all about my disappointing you. At least I hope so.
               So that left me with Collodi, the second place finisher by 1 vote. I already play Neverborn, so I have a good pool of models to pull from to round out a Collodi crew. I own the metal boxed-set for the puppet master from back in the day, so you guys will get a bit of old-school-meets-new-school flavor with this one. I assembled and painted them once upon a time, but tbh I’ve gotten better as a painter since then and I feel like I should strip and restart them. That’ll depend on how much time I have available in the future, of course, but it’s a project goal. For the time being, however, let’s take a look at where Collodi started, who he is, and how people play him in Malifaux today.

From Workshop to the Stage

               The story of Malifaux is really my favorite part of it, so if you’re her for hardcore crunch and battlefield analysis, you’ll probably want to skip this bit and move on to the next section. If you’re still reading, let’s step into the way-back machine and take a look at the story of this character and his origins.
               Collodi is a construct from when humans first came through the breach from Malifaux. He was built to serve as an entertainer for children, creating puppets and putting on shows for them in the streets. And he was happy with that lot in life. Unfortunately, the Breach closed and humans were trapped earthside, and poor Collodi was left behind with no one to entertain (apparently Terror Tots aren’t that into puppet shows.) He built puppet children to watch his shows, but it just wasn’t the same. Thus, when humans returned through the second breach, Collodi rushed to them eagerly to resume his purpose. The humans didn’t understand his intentions, however, and drove him away with axes and torches, teaching the construct to hate. He returned home and determined to teach humans the loneliness he had experienced by taking away their children and using their blood to build his puppets. He now wanders Malifaux with his painted wagon, putting on shows and spiriting away victims in plain site of the world’s new human denizens.
               He was introduced in “Rising Powers,” the second book released for Malifaux 1st edition, and continued the strong tradition of literary allusions in Malifaux (Carlo Collodi being the pen name of the author who originally wrote "The Adventures of Pinochio." The puppet master has popped up from time to time in other stories over the years. One short story demonstrated one of his attempts to take over a town by infiltrating his toys into it, and another from M2E discussed his discovery of a Coryphee and adaptation for his own purposes. Probably the most recent use of him in the fluff is making a cameo in the most recent Through the Breach world event. One of the pregenerated characters was a construct built by him, and you could run into Collodi in the days of the first breach and potentially prevent him from becoming a horrible child-murderer.
So, all-in-all, there’s not a ton of fluff for Collodi in the game, and most of it is pretty one-note. It would be interesting to see him interact a bit more with some of the other masters or characters, though one assumes that he gets along pretty well with Zoraida (what with the puppets and being from the days of the first breach and all.)

A Tale of Old Malifaux

An image inscribed on a Grecian urn? A cave painting? What could it be?

               It seems a little silly to talk about “old” Malifaux since Wyrd only passed its 10 year anniversary recently. Or course, then I went to a tournament and put my alt-metal Lillith on the board and was met with a look of “huh?” from my very young and very new to the game opponent, so maybe this is one of those “the 1990s were 20 years ago even though it seems like yesterday to you” things. So, come sit at old-man-Adam’s knee and he’ll tells ya a tale of olden days, when a model’s rules took up two 3x5 index cards (assuming you didn’t need a separate flow-chart for them) and soulstones added to your flip instead of giving a + modifier.
When Collodi was introduced he was a henchman, not a master, and could be hired into any of your Neverborn (or Leveticus) crews. Which, of course, you always did because Collodi was ridiculous in M1E. Every time one of his Marionettes took a walk action he could snap over into base to base with it, ala Hoffman, and then the Marionettes could snap automatically into B2B with him (jumping to the front of the base rather than the nearest edge to cheat for another inch of movement). They were pretty quick to begin with and he could make them Fast, which essentially meant Collodi could cross the entire board in a turn if he wanted to, and was often sprinting into the backfield for Breakthrough or something similar (remember, you picked your schemes from the full list in M1E, so it was always available). The little marionettes didn’t do a ton of damage, but his ability to hand out Fast meant that his little ball of puppets would chop through most things you would throw it at, one wound at a time. If that sounds like a bit too much, that’s because it was, particularly when you threw in that it gave you 4 cheap activations to improve your model count on top of everything else. Things would need to change before he moved to M2E.

Modern Puppetry

               The biggest alteration, obviously, was his promotion to master along with all of the M1E henchmen. So, no more soul-crushing Pandora crews that just splashed in the Collodi package for scheme running/additional misery. Second, his movement shenanigans were sharply curtailed. When he was initially published, you could probably argue that he was one of the models that made the transition from 1st to 2nd edition by getting slightly nerfed (though it’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison), but that was probably necessary and allowed the game designers to introduce some cool, thematic abilities to replace what he lost. A stat line of 5(M), 6, 9, 5, -, 2 isn’t immediately inspiring, but that’s because Collodi’s job isn’t to fly into the middle of the enemy and wreck the crew, it’s to conduct from the mid-field. Most of his abilities operate within a 6” bubble, as do many of the effigies which he would employ, so he can’t hide in the back. If he gets attacked physically he has a built in mask trigger to push away 3” after resolving, so at least you can get away from physical attacks. For stuff that attacks WP, well, we might be in trouble…
               I remember everyone being very excited about being able to hire things with Puppet from out of faction, especially since Coryphee have now been added to that club. Of course, then we read that only Arcanist crews can combine them into a duet, and we got sad again, but c’est la vie. He can apply “Personal Puppet” to a model within 6”, which allows those models to take 1 damage and then a 1 AP action every time Collodi takes damage, and/or sets them up to be sacrificed to let Collodi ignore an attack. Marionettes are the prototypical target for this, as they have an ability to ignore that 1 damage, but theoretically you could put this on an Illuminated or something like that to let you hand out free attacks, which could be handy. And, last but not least, you have Accomplice to allow for some chain activation shenanigans.

               The back of his card is what really defines him. Collodi’s main (only) attack ability is “Pull the Strings,” which does a moderate amount of damage with a built in + modifier and has a number of triggers to make opponents unhappy. The built in trigger puts Slow on the target, which is potentially quite mean in and of itself. With a crow you can perform an Obey on an enemy model which, surprisingly, is arguably the least useful of the triggers, since it still leaves the target with both AP on their turn, but could win you the game in the right situations. Finally, the meanest one of all, A New String basically combines those two triggers, letting you declare what the non-leader model does with the 1st AP on its turn. So rude, and with a 7 Ca on the ability you’re likely to be able to hit with it when you want to do so, and a Rg of 10 means he can screw with a pretty solid area of the board. His tactical actions help with manipulating your crew (are we detecting a theme, yet?) My Will is an Obey for friendly models which gives them a + to any duels while they’re performing it. Extra Thread gives you a limited summon to create replacement Marionettes or Wicked Dolls out of scrap counters, though at the cost of a moderately good card with a suit. So, from the base card, Collodi is a tactically disruptive model that can operate as either a force multiplier for your crew or an inhibitor of the opponent’s. 
                 We’ll take a look at his upgrades next time, and maybe get an idea of what models I have that can be used with him right now, versus what I’ll be needing to acquire in the future.