Sunday, October 1, 2023

Picking Through the Ashes


Malifaux has been burning and going mad, now I suppose it’s time to start picking through the ashes. Or asses. Depending on your source, that is. 

Coming later this fall, the next expansion to the Malifaux game, Ashes of Malifaux, will be launching. We’ve had previews of several of the things that are coming, though they’re a bit scattered through Waldo’s Weekly updates. I thought it might be useful to round them up in one place, so that’s what I did. Ta da! Instant content!


We’ve probably had the most intel for models coming out to the Bayou, weirdly. There’s a pair of models that interact with each other, Jebediah and the Haber-Dashers (which would be a fine band name), that are looking to lend their services to the Big Hat and Tricksy keywords. The former is an 8 cost Enforcer with a 12” stat 6 gun, Armor 2, and Ride with Me. Solid. Additionally, it has a tactical action to kick pit traps markers (or other markers, I suppose) around on the board or potentially summon the little hat robots with a ram trigger (at the cost of removing the marker). Not something you would want to rely on, but probably nice when it happens. The Haber-Dashers themselves are essentially mobile scheme markers, as they can sacrifice themselves to turn into one and/or can be treated as scheme markers by Big Hat and Tricksy models. I don’t know that I’m entirely sold on the utility at this time, as they’re fairly easily killed (though that will net you a card and force the opponent to discard a pass token.) 


And it’s the bayou, so there must be silliness of course. I don’t know what a Hoochdini is per say, though he does look like he fits well with the other Jockey models. The two orange resin models are both from the Hog Wild expansion to the Bayou Bash board game, so one assumes they’re likely more Jockeys like the ones from the Bayou starter box. Hoochdini, however, is I believe something new that we haven’t seen before. And also a gremlin on a frog, I guess? He’ll probably have leap, and I’m guessing given the name maybe a Whizz-Bang model? I guess Jebediah’s riding on something too. Must be an overall theme of the Bayou. 



Continuing with our theme of “alternative modes of transportation,” here’s some more concept art for some Resurrectionist models. The latter two originally premiered in a Through the Breach one-shot adventure named The Ferryman, wherein the at-the-time still living Kari was using the undead monster to menace the people along Malifaux’s riverfront. Her current status as a ghost could be considered a bit of a spoiler for how that worked out for her. The first model is obviously a reference to the similarly named train conductor who crashed a train and became the subject of a Grateful Dead song. They’re all concept art, and the Ferryman and Cayce are both animated transportation modes. Maybe this is the theme for the upcoming Rezzer starter box? Maybe not, given what I’ve got coming up next, but who’s to say? They look sweet, though. 


The next model up is Batsch and Amalie, a Versatile Undead Henchman (wouldn’t it be henchmen?) with the previously not seen Fungal keyword. So, if Kari and co. aren’t the starter box, maybe it’ll be something to do with these fungi undead? Somebody was watching The Last of Us for inspiration, it seems. I like the theming of the models for sure, and Endless Waltz is a fun way of showing the movement of the dance. I’m not immediately seeing a lot of power from this model at first blush, though you can shuffle some markers around. Given that they make corpse and scheme markers count as Severe Terrain and their Mushroom Cloud attack gets a bonus when the opponent is in severe terrain, maybe that’s something? Also it can hand out Distracted, which doesn’t usually rate much overall. There’s a trigger on the bonus action to give them and a friendly Oskar model Shielded+1. So, I guess there’s a model called Oskar coming too. Given the recent history of starter boxes, this model will either be an afterthought that never sees play, or a super broken thing that has to be erratad sometime next fall. Place your bets now. 


Next up, we have a Versatile beater for the Explorer’s Society. At first glimpse, I thought this felt like it was pretty vanilla. Then I remembered this is a model in the ES, which are not exactly renowned for having beaters, so this fills a hole fairly well in the faction. Min 3 reach 2 attacks are always a crowd pleaser, especially when they have decent triggers on most suits (naturally, any time I use this model it will only flip Rams.) The Seeking Bolts with the Ram trigger may be potentially more dangerous, as Moderate 4 with a blast and no concealing is nothing to turn up your nose at. The Field Repairs being Construct Only limits the utility, but the ability to semi-mulligan a bad hand once per game may be potentially useful when your deck betrays you during the critical turn. Decent model. It would be fun to pair it with the Intrepid Emissary for some stompy bot fun. Tiri might be the crew that gets the most use out of it, but for a faction that doesn’t tend to hit all that hard he’ll potentially find a home in some other crews as well. 


Finally, we have potentially the leader in the Guild starter box. Commander Bura is cheap as versatile henchmen go, with the again previously unknown Vanguard keyword. Bura puts Shielded on all Vanguard models during the start phase, and another +1 shielded on herself and two other nearby friendly models when she activates, which is solid. Her Shields Up! ability also lets her apply however many points of shielded to reduce an attack’s damage as she wants (instead of one at a time). I don’t think she’s any kind of powerhouse with her attacks, but Remember the Mission is always a good tactical action (though it will cost you an 8 to pull it off). And, finally, her Overload Bonus action is interesting, as it makes an opponent pass a simple duel or suffer damage equal to the shielded value of one of your models that is in base to base with it. There’s a trigger if they’re in B2B with presumably one of her minions, called Bracers, that pushes the TN up. I don’t think you’re going to want to rely on it, though, because obviously it’s a simple duel that they will most likely pass. If it costs them a card in exchange for your bonus action, that’s not too bad, especially as she draws you a card. Overall, she seems like a decent utility player that might have some synergy in the other crews with Shielded, but not a world changer. In other words, probably a good model for a starter box. 

Monday, September 4, 2023

Ballad for the Working Man: Musing on the Foundry Keyword

Yeah, I know, it's the Ten Thunders Poster not the Arcanist one. I don't care. 

    Labor Day seems like a good time to continue my delve into the world of the Arcanists. They are, at least nominally, supposed to be representatives of the working people of Malifaux after all. They also have a bunch of terrorists and a guy who mutates people into animals, but hey, nobody’s perfect. Also, do you like having equal rights and the right to vote for everyone in the US? Thank an Arcanist. 

I pity the fool that fights him near a scrap marker.

When looking at how I wanted to approach things, I usually try to find a pair of crews out of the gate: one that hits hard/takes a hit and one that can move well. As I mentioned before, Mei Feng is who led me into this journey in the first place, and she has a little bit of both. Her movement is primarily coming from Ride the Rails which, while letting you go a long distance, can be a little fiddly at times due to needing to use a walk action to do it rather than just your bonus action like Leap. Also, at least when I was playing them before in the 10T, they didn’t hit especially hard either. Now, that may be a bit different in the Arcanists with the addition of a soulstone wielding Neil Henry (or Mr. H as he is known in my 1988 crew, pictured above) but they’re certainly not going to be setting the world on fire like some of the uber awesome offensive crews. Where they really seemed to excel in my hands is getting to a spot and holding it. Shielded, Armored, big wounds, and getting healed by other members of the crew makes for a group of objective holders that I think will be difficult for most crews to shift. That can be quite useful for a lot of the strategies in the current Gaining Grounds like Covert Ops and Guard the Stash. 

        They’re also the crew I’ve got the most table-ready miniatures for, so that makes them an easy choice. I’ve painted up the 1988 box set and Fat Cap in various 1980s themed motifs. Gumdrop (Mei Feng) either intentionally or not is very reminiscent of Jubilee, who debuted in the X-Men in 1989 (close enough). One of the Rail Workers, Mad Mop, reminded me of the cover to Quiet Riot’s 1983 album “Metal Health” so I went with something along the same lines for him. King Cry Baby is probably supposed to be a reference to the Johnny Depp movie of a similar name, but I wanted somebody to look like Prince so I went down the Purple Rain route instead. The guy who replaces Kang (I can’t remember the name) reminded me of Guile from Street Fighter, so I went that way with him (not that I expect him to get a lot of table time, unfortunately). And Fat Cap (the metal/rail golem) reminded me of the Ninja Turtles Party Wagon, so lots of yellow, green, and orange have been deployed. I wasn’t sure what to do with the Mechanized Pork Chop at first, but after I saw it on the tabletop and realized how out of control it can get, there was really no option besides having him embody the power of 80s wrestling paragon Hulk Hogan and have my mecha porkchop unleash the power of Hogamania on an unsuspecting Malifaux world. I didn’t really come up with anything yet for Sparks, so he just has on brown overalls until I think of something better to do with him, but one of his survivor friends made a passable T-800, so the Gremlinator was born. Still trying to come up with something for the Rock Hopper as well, if people have suggestions. 

I had initially thought of Foundry as a keyword that wants to go punch people in the nose. After all, Mei and Sparks can give you fast, focused, shielded Rail Golems that land in the opponent’s face and start smashing on turn 1 potentially. But the big guy’s attacks, while having high numbers on them for damage, don’t have triggers or counter-defensive tech to help make those blows stick. I was consistently underwhelmed with its offensive output, if I’m being honest, and that’s not great when your master is focused on support rather than providing offensive output of her own. What I think I’ve realized now is that they’re going to play better going to an important spot on the battlefield, venting steam, and saying “Alright, come and move me” to the opponent. Concealing terrain really messes up a lot of crews game plans, and if they’re not constructs and they have to deal with the hazardous while trying to plink through your defenses, so much the better. Moreover, if the opponent takes the bait and goes in, that’s when Neil Henry can pop into the fray to help mop things up. And if they don’t take the bait, you’ve got your rail golem in presumably an important part of the map, holding an objective or a choke point uncontested, and you can go about scoring your VPs. 

        They do seem to struggle with Willpower, but many of those attacks will hopefully be disrupted to an extent by the concealing auras. They also don’t particularly like crews that can take your conditions away/change them, so Pandora, particularly Pandora 2, could really be a problem. That makes Neverborn stick out as a potential weakness, though the flip side of that is, if the opponent isn’t playing one of those crews we’re weak against, the faction as a whole doesn’t have a lot of anti-armor tech and would potentially struggle against us. I’ll have to give that a bit more thought. I don’t love 50/50 flips that I have no say in, so if there’s a better crew out there to handle them that may be the way to go. 


There are other options for the sticky/smashy crew in Arcanists as well. I have most of a Hoffman crew (many of the models in the 1e metal, the sculpts of which hold up in most cases. Except for Ryle. Poor, poor Ryle.) They have less mobility overall than Mei, I would say, but certainly more hitting power and potentially more staying power as well. If I wanted to lean fully into the smashy castle play style, I’d probably go that way.  

        The crew I’m looking at as a compliment to the Foundry gang is Chimera, who have far more mobility while still being able to do some hitting of their own. I think they’d be better suited to driving the markers in Carve a Path (which can also be a rough time for foundry, since they remove the scrap markers we need for Rail Riding.) I’ve always loved the models, and the first set of beasts I painted up on my own were some of the better early painting work I’d ever done. Sadly, I sold them off for a little extra cash and to down-size my collection a bit back in the grad school days, but that just means I can repaint an even better version today. For the record, I prefer old man Marcus to his current F*ck Boy iteration, but I guess he’s mostly played as a beast-man these days, so it doesn’t really matter. The other option I have for the highly mobile crew is Showgirl. My collection is a bit less complete there, but I think I have most of the keyword through the 1e metal box, some of the alternate sculpts, and a Dark Carnival Coryphée boxed set. They’ll be a bit of a hodge-podge visually, but they could at least be fielded if the Chimera stuff doesn’t work out the way I’m wanting. I bought the Avatar boxed set back in the day, so I’d even have decoy marker models. More recent stuff like Dorian Crowe and the guy from the Explorers society would be missing, though. I have no idea how effective they are, though I do recall somebody on a podcast talking about using them (especially the latter guy) to have an unexpected offensive punch in a keyword where folks don’t generally see it coming. 

        Oh well, one thing at a time. I need to finish painting up my Foundry, then maybe actually get them on the board to see how they play in this new faction. I’ll go get to that now. Talk to you next time. Happy Labor Day. 

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Malifaux Blogger Returns! Joins the Arcanist Faction! Wyrd players everywhere declare "Meh!"

Extra, extra, read all about it. Crusty old Malifaux blogger dusts off blog for…like…the 20th time? 

Ok, not much of a headline there. Certainly not news by any stretch of the imagination. 

A few things have happened recently to bring me back to everyone’s favorite western Victorian gothic horror steampunk miniatures game. I got in a couple of tournaments including getting invited to CaptainCon and getting rolled in the content creator’s open (I know, I was surprised too. Not about getting rolled, mind you, but the fact that they invited me.) I’ve become more active in the Iowa tournament scene, run by our TO Doug (no, not the Texas guy. The podcaster. No, not that podcaster. Check him out on TikTok, btw, as he’s doing the lord’s work and recording assembly videos for Malifaux models, including some of my Nightmare Edition models that I never got around to putting together.) The most recent of these was actually a charity fundraiser for kid’s cancer treatment, which is really awesome and gave me a chance to play some of those nightmare models, the 1988 Mei Feng crew, in 6 games. I lost most of them, but hey, that’s what these tests are for. Also, I have a friend learning to play the game, and am working on getting another person involved. So, the time is right to start back again, and potentially a good time to try a new faction. I liked Mei (specifically Foreman Mei) but I can see right away that the Arcanist version of her is probably better in…most ways. Plus, as it happens they just pushed an errata that reigned in the witness keyword and the starter boxf, as they were just bonkers and needed to get hit with all the nerf bats. So, for the first time in my Malifaux career, I am joining the rebels and standing up for the working man/beast man/burning man or lady. I thought it would be interesting to track that process on the blog, so here we are. 

An intro for any new people who may be seeing this post and reading my blog for the first time. I’m Adam. I go by AgentRock on forums/discord. I’ve been a Malifaux player since first edition when I bought a Perdita crew and my friend Jon Goulbourne (aka Phiasco, the sensei of the Wandering River Style) picked up Marcus. 10 Thunders didn’t exist yet, so he hadn’t begun his lifelong commitment to them at that point. I was a playtester for a long time, particularly during 2nd edition Malifaux. I was a Kickstarter patron for Through the Breach, the Malifaux Roleplaying Game. I have a King’s Empire army for The Other Side (which I still say is a better tournament game than Malifaux, so I’m hoping that it can pull itself out of the ashes sometime in the future.) And I started Malifaux Musings over 10 years ago. At one point in time I was on Patreon, but then I discovered that nobody wants to pay money to read stuff. Go figure. Malifaux Musing’s mission (yay alliteration) has always been more of a place to ramble about topics related to Wyrd’s world and the games played within them. I won’t claim to be particularly good at them, mind you. I would maybe put myself in the range of low-mid tier player, going by the Student of Conflict ranking system at least. But hopefully I can spark some thought about the game that will help people get better, or at least enjoy themselves more. 

Anyways, back to starting the Arcanists, or really for starting any new faction. I’ve got a bit of a head start here, as I’ve been collecting Malifaux stuff for a long time and, if you do that long enough, eventually you end up with some pretty good-sized chunks of factions besides the one you play. In my time in the game, I’ve only really actively played Guild, Ten Thunders, and Neverborn, but I can field most of the factions (except Bayou, because they’re not my jam and never will be. Sorry.) That said, if I was in the market for a new faction and starting from scratch, some of the same techniques I’ve used to put together my collection could work for you. So, my top XXX tips for starting a new faction.

1) Find a crew you like.
Ok, that’s pretty obvious, but it’s still pretty important. This is not a terribly forgiving game to newcomers, if we’re being honest. There’s a good chance you’re going to spend some time early in your Malifaux career losing, and maybe not even keeping it close. You can check tournament reports and the like to find out what the strong crews are, but it’s still going to take you a while to learn to play them well. If you don’t love your crew that can really increase your chances of washing out. Some people might like the aesthetics or theme of a crew. Some, particularly those coming to Faux from other wargames, may have a particular playstyle that appeals to them that they want to emulate. Some may just like the models (Teddy has sold sooooo many people into this game.) But whatever the reason, find a crew that speaks to you to start with, and you’ll have a much higher likelihood of sticking with the game. 

2) Find somebody who can show you how to play the crew.
Again, not rocket science, but an important step. Malifaux is a game of synergies between models. There are few crews where you play the Super Friends list (IE a crew consisting of individual models that are good on their own rather than crews built within a keyword with lots of synergy), and sometimes the interactions between models aren’t terribly intuitive. Finding an experienced Malifaux player to show you the ropes is always a good start for the absolute newby, but also looking for resources that know your faction/crew of choice and can give you some tips and tricks that can possibly accelerate your transition from teeth kickee to teeth kicker can be a big help. Also, there’s tons of great content creators out there. Podcasts. Youtube. You name it. I’ll try and highlight some of the better ones IMO in future episodes, but there’s usually enough info to get you started out there if you look hard enough. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that, because you heard a podcast about a crew, now you know how to play it. I wish it was that simple, but the reality is mastery comes with reps and learning all the little interactions and corner cases that you need to be successful. That’s the best and worst part of the game, IMO, and it’s the thing that really makes it stand out. Phiasco has always been an inspiration to me in this regard, as he is the most immune to group-think person I’ve ever met. If something is hot in the meta, there’s a good chance he hates it because it doesn’t fit with the way he likes to play. And, meanwhile, he’s out here playing Shen Long lists that never attack you at any point in the game and beating you. 

Anyways, I’ve digressed.

3) Look for deals. 
Now, you may be independently wealthy. If that’s the case, you can probably afford to buy whatever models you want. Go ahead and skip further down in the article, ok?

*checks that they’re gone*

Alright, now that we got rid of those rich assholes (see, look, I’m an Arcanist already) let’s talk about how we can expand our model collection on a budget. The most efficient way I’ve found to do this requires a little bit of patience, vigilance, and opportunism, but can work out in the long run. You see, Malifaux’s been around for over a decade at this point and has gone through several editions. The result of this is that there’s been several models which have gone out of print. They’re often pewter if you go back to 1e stuff, and usually the sculpts aren’t as cool as the new stuff (though not always. I’ll maintain that the best Perdita ever is still the metal one from the first boxed set, for instance.) But, people are usually selling the blisters for pretty cheap on ebay or other secondary miniature selling websites. Also, periodically people decide this really isn’t the game for them and bail out, listing their collections at pretty significant discounts through things like facebook marketplace. This really ticked up during the stagnant years of the transition to M3E and the pandemic. Snatch that shit up! I have most of the Rezzer faction painted from one former player, and it only cost me a couple hundred bucks. Even if you don’t need the models, you might get something you can trade later for models you do. Also, if you want to try and get other people into the game, it’s a lot easier if you can start them off by lending them a crew or two to whet their appetite with before they lay down their own money. Or, hell, maybe you’ll find something you like to play that you didn’t expect. Weirder things have happened. 
Now, the only trouble with this method is that usually the old stuff doesn’t come with stat cards. There are a couple of options to fix this. One, the M3E Malifaux Crew Builder app has all the stat cards on it already. For tournaments it’s a completely legal way to play, if admittedly not the speediest. Alternatively, you can order cards to be printed on demand from Wargame Vault. It’s usually best to do when you have several you need so you can lump them together and save on shipping, but it’s usually pretty cost effective. So, when this is all said and done, you’ll have yourself a crew of models, your stat cards, and the app to play games. And your crew may actually be pretty unique compared to what you’ll run into, as you’ll likely have different sculpts than most. Obviously this doesn’t work with models that are new to M3E, but hopefully it can lighten the lift for your wallet to get into the game. 

4) Build a crew and play!
Get the M3E crewbuilder app. It’s free and it has all the cards in it, so why wouldn’t you? I mentioned that already, but it’s also a great resource for playing the game either in person or over the internet using tabletop emulators like Vassal. Put yourself together a crew, find an opponent, and play your first game. I often find that, for new players, the Henchman Hardcore variant mode can be a good way to get your feet wet with the mechanics of the game without having to deal with all the complexity of a full, master-led crew. If you wan to dive in the deep end, however, don’t let me stop you. The main thing to learning the game (and a new faction) is to get them on the table and play. And play. And then play some more. Then play again. A good rule of thumb is that, when you can get 5 reps at least, you’ll be in a good position to play the crew and have a good “feel” for what they can do. When you find yourself not looking at the stat cards anymore, you’ve probably mastered it. And also, don’t be afraid to play some models the meta doesn’t think are good. I often scratch my head at the things Dixon from the Rage Quit Wire podcast likes (Obsidian Statue? Seriously??) but he’s got the reps and I don’t, and you never know when there’s some hidden synergy you’re not seeing. I’m particularly bad at the theory-faux side of the game (IE looking at the stat cards and intuiting how effective it will be in action). I famously thought Illuminated were bad at the start of 2nd Edition when they were arguably one of the best minions in the Ten Thunders. And with a game as complex as Malifaux, it’s easy for a good model to fall through the cracks and be ignored in favor of the online meta’s current flavor of the week. 

I think that’s enough for now. More posts to come, hopefully. Next time we’ll look at my current hodgepodge collection of Arcanists and make some game plans for how to fill in the gaps. 

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Musings on Futility: My CaptainCon Recap

   A few weekends ago I made the trip to Captaincon to knock some of the dust off of my game, try out the Frontier crew in an acid-test environment, and participate in the Malifaux Content Creators Invitational (MCCI). I’ve never attended this particular convention before, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. The trip out was uneventful, which is generally how I like for that to go. There was enough time during a layover in Charlotte to bang out my first Musings blog entry in a while to think out-loud about some strategy ideas. When I left the airport in Rhode Island, I ran into Maeve Fox and Jeremy Clarkson while we were waiting for the hotel shuttle, so I knew I was in the right place. A short while later Jon arrived from Georgia, I acquired my badge, and we went out for some dinner with the boys from Rage Quit Wire, who I hadn’t met before. 

    That was pretty much the last time things went “according to plan” for that weekend.

My prize support for the MCCI was top-notch, though.

    I won’t belabor every round, as the whole blog would just become a string of stories about how I managed to end up doing the wrong thing either by bad decisions or bad luck the entire weekend long. I played in two tournaments, the three round MCCI and the five round 2-day Booty and Plunder tournament. Wyrd’s prize support for the event was amazing, including a personally crafted Voodoo doll for all of us who played in the MCCI. It really meant a lot (though it also left me scrambling to figure out how I was going to get the 8” long needle that came with it home without getting it confiscated by the TSA). To quickly run through the rounds: MCCI-1 I played against Jeremy and his Marcus 2 crew and lost to a crew with mobility and the ability to ignore my severe terrain markers and butterfly jump away from Jon Reichert, MCCI-2 I played a Zipp crew piloted by (no joke) a young man with two broken arms whose models got lost during their trip and who was clearly learning his crew, since he left Zipp in a place where Reichert could get him and tear him up with claws that block defense triggers. MCCI-3 I played Pete from Rage Quit. He declared Bayou, I thought “I probably don’t need my anti-armor tech” and then proceeded to get assaulted by a Mecha-Mee Maw crew with armor on almost the entire opposing force, so yeah, a loss, 1-2 record for the MCCI, and a firm middle of the pack placement. 

My voodoo doll may have gotten a little carried away with my rd. 2 opponent...

    Overnight I looked a bit closer at some of the other Frontier models and started to get an idea of what Pearl Musgrove could do, so I proxied her in for most of the games next day along with the Expert Marksman upgrade to have the option for anti-armor (you won’t get me again, Mee-Maw.) Round 1 of B+P paired me up against Kyle from Schemes and Stones, who brought Dreamer 2 and Nekima. I tried to castle up, but did it on a flank rather in the center of the board so I couldn’t really control the strategy of Turf War, thus a loss. Round 2 I faced Adam T who brought Zoraida and Pandora 2. This was in a rough place from the start as my Rough Rider was hit with No Shelter Here, messing up my unpacking order and disrupting the crew’s efforts. That plus playing a very strong opponent meant another loss. Adam ended up getting 2nd in the tournament, so I guess I don't feel too bad about that one. And last round was…more Marcus 2. This was played against a very nice fellow named Jian and, given my failures so far, I decided to try my luck with Perdita 2. Naturally, Jian brought Candy with his Marcus 2 crew (how could I have not seen that coming?) who proceeded to ruin my whole day by stunning a crew that relies significantly on triggers. Cool. I managed to get a draw in that game.

    I got pretty frustrated day 1, as I just couldn’t stop stepping on my own dick for two tournaments. That, paired with some of the worst draw luck I’ve ever seen and facing 5 neverborn masters in 3 games left me pretty tilted, and I took it out on Jian which was not cool. I did my best to apologize and set things right, but I resolved to try and lighten up day 2 and just try some stuff. I discovered some silliness with Basse v2 that I wanted to try out to boost their mobility even further, and I just wanted to try and break even on the tournament. 

The frontier crew facing down a tide of Neverborn

    Day 2 I faced a Zipp player who also seemed pretty new. He did better than the first Zipp I played (my Basse was hit by a piano, a corpse, and a dust cloud from Mancha Roja this game) but I held on for a win. And the last round I faced, you guessed it, more Marcus 2! I lost this game also, mostly due to some clutch play by the Explorers society Eagle models, but at least this time I managed to kill Marcus. Moral victory, I guess, considering how he had been stealing my lunch all weekend long. 

This ferris wheel was blown up, caught in a tornado, and smashed with pianos. I can sympathize.

    So, in 8 games I played against 3 total factions, faced 5 Neverborn masters, got embarrassed by Marcus 3 different times, and only squeaked out wins against Zipp players who were inexperienced. Cool. Coolcoolcool. Not my finest hour as a Malifaux player, to be sure, but I learned a lot. Some things I picked up:

    1) Pearl Musgrove is a deceptively awesome piece of the Frontier crew. The amount of healing potential she brings is significant. She can have built in armor piercing triggers with her shotgun. The blasts can catch people by surprise (she managed to kill the Hooded Rider, Nekima, Barcus, and a Sabretooth Cerberus in the four games I brought her out.) Ironically, she almost has anti-synergy with Basse 2, since he keeps the dust markers on the board and that can be an important source of healing for the team. Still, I think she’s a must-have for most Basse games.

    2) Basse 2 can bring a crazy amount of speed to his crew. His ability to drop dust markers with a normal action and push any frontier models in the shockwave 2” takes an already fast crew and lets them get basically anywhere they want to go. That’s kind of the problem with him, though, he gives the crew more of what it already has. As Maeve put it to me, he’s a utility master in a keyword that already has utility and needs damage dealers. Also, much of his utility is keyword focused, so it's harder to splash in versatile models to make up the difference. Still, watching leaping models struggle to get their spells off due to his Wanted Posters ability is very satisfying. 

    3) Building a crew that revolves in some ways around an opponent being vulnerable to something like severe terrain which can be negated is a fool’s errand. Maybe it was my bad luck, but most of the weekend I ran into people who just flat out ignored my severe terrain and/or concealment. I’m trying to remember one single time when it came into play, and nothing is coming to me. Also, very few boards had severe terrain, and I didn’t end up on them very often. I think the same things potentially apply for building around armor, terrifying, or condition based crews. I just need to find crews that do what they do and do it well regardless of what the opponent brings. Every crew has bad match-ups, but the harder it is for an opponent to exploit, the rarer these instances of “bad luck” will occur. Or, I guess you could just play Sonnia 2, who doesn't let you ignore her pyre markers. 

    4) Lead Lined Coat is a stupid good upgrade. I’m not saying anything crazy or novel here, of course, but honestly the Laugh Off may be a more valuable part than the armor. 

    5) Rough Riders are very fragile, but they can have a deceptive amount of survivability just by not being where the enemy can get to them. I only really lost one all weekend. 

    6) Sly Six-Shots is an odd model. He did a ton of work for me in the tournament, and he survived some situations he absolutely never should have between his Flinch and Squeal abilities. On the other hand, he has no melee attacks so he can’t hold enemy models in place or prevent interacts and, if an opponent can find their way around his defensive tech, he is still DF 4. I think he’s situationally useful, but maybe not every game does he need to be on the board even in keyword.

    Ultimately, I think that the Frontier keyword has potential on the right board. You need to have severe terrain or they’re going to struggle. And, at the end of the day, they are what I would call “Pretty Good,” which means they’re not good enough to be competitive in tournament play. So, the search goes on for the right Guild crew to get me on the winning side a bit more frequently. I will say, however, that the spark has been relit for playing Malifaux after the weekend. Jon and I have been texting about different crew ideas ever since, so hopefully this will lead to some interesting stuff in the coming weeks for Malifaux Musings. 

Also, I've been posting to a new Instagram account. Just look up @MalifauxMusings for pictures of some of my models or other Malifaux thoughts and content. 

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Captain Con Prelude: Musings from a Charlotte Airport

Your intrepid bloggist is here, checking in from the Charlotte airport during my lay-over as I travel to CaptainCon. This isn’t a convention I typically attend, but the folks organizing the Malifaux events there were kind enough to invite me to the Malifaux Content Creator’s Invitational tournament. Apparently, my spotty publication record over the last several…years doesn’t disqualify me from attending, so I’m en route. By kismet, the main Malifaux tournament at the con has also been tapped to be the first qualifying tournament of the upcoming US Faux Tour season, so I can get on the “official” rankings while I’m in Rhode Island as well.

One problem, of course. I’m probably pretty terrible at Malifaux these days. 

I still enjoy the game, and I don’t mean to imply that I’ve somehow scaled back my participation voluntarily. COVID paired up with the nearest tournaments being an hour and a half drive away (with a healthy dash of real life obligations) has limited my reps somewhat, and so I can’t say I really expect to throw down with the heavy hitters in this thing. I’m working on setting up a partner near to home to play with, but he’s painting his crew (he plays Bayou and bought out someone's collection at a discount) and every time we try to schedule a game it seems like something messes it up. As such, I’ve only really had Vassalfaux reps in recent history, and even those have been somewhat limited. 

So, to say that I expect to podium would be an extreme exaggeration. Thankfully, I’m not on my own for the MCCI. It’s a team format tournament, so I reached out to my friend and sensei Jon Goulbourne to be my partner for this thing. He has far more tournament experience than me, having spent years during M2E and M3E trucking up and down the eastern seaboard for games (we often call him the master of the Wandering River Style). He’s got a little rust to knock off as well, but he’ll be further along than I am in any case.

To prep, we adopted a plan to try and focus on getting as many set-ups of games in as we can, and I think it’s a pretty good one to get some reps when you’re on a time crunch. Essentially, set up a game, play the first couple of turns, then re-rack and start again. Often, the opening of a game can determine how the whole thing will play out, particularly in a tournament environment where you can’t guarantee you’ll be able to play the full 5 turns anyways. Also, if you’re trying out a new crew build and want to see if the concept has legs, this is a good way to find out and look for obvious flaws. I highly recommend it.

The second part of the plan is to limit the amount I had to learn prior to the tournament. That means focusing on one master and their keyword, learning what works and what doesn’t, and taking advantage of the fact that there is a repeat in the strategies in round 2 and 3. Both of them have Turf War (itself a relatively straightforward strategy), so if I can potentially put my best foot forward in those games I can carry my weight without needing to master the full breadth of the game. I had originally planned on going with new Perdita as my master of choice, as I like the summoning and card cycling mechanics of the Monster Hunter version, but a different Guild master ended up as what I landed on. I’ve liked Basse for a long time both in game and outafter learning about Basse Reeves, the historical figure he’s based on (he's worth a Google if you're unfamiliar). I think his keyword is deceptively mobile with their Home on the Range and Rough Riders and still has some significant punching power on the tabletop. I have a personal connection to them as well (or, more specifically, to the Sandworm) that makes me want to get my own personal Graboid out for a spin. After all, Soulstone Miners are pretty solid, so who wouldn’t want a tunneling model that can also destroy markers and terrain when he pops out of the ground? 

I decided to go Guild rather than Explorers with him since I have far more access to that faction, though the Intrepid Emissary paired with the sheer number of simple duels in Frontier and Wastrel at least got me to give them a look. Plus, Lead Lined Coat is jut good. *shrug* Not much else to say about that. I don’t love Explorers’ upgrades and I don’t have as much of a feel for what versatile or off-keyword models would be good hires, so it made sense to stay with the law-and-order faction. If there’s been a hole in my game since my time playing the Ten Thunders it’s been the killing part of the game (concentrating fire, target priority, etc) so it made sense to grow my skills in this area by playing a crew that is looking to dish out pain while covering for my deficiency by using a faction that has above average offensive capabilities. That’s not to say I don’t have a fair share of tricks, too, as there are a few toolbox models in the Guild that can pull off some disruptive plays to break up the enemy’s gameplan (The Undercover Reporter, for instance) or accelerate mine (Sly Six-Shots from the Perdita Malifaux Burns box brings a more useful source of False Claim than the faction has previously had available). 

But, yeah, I’ve got no illusions that I’m going to go win this thing. Hopefully I can play some fun games, learn from my mistakes, and not end up with a wooden spoon. Check in over the weekend, as I’ll be trying to post more updates from Captain Con as it goes along. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Wyrd's Unsung Hero


Wyrd has really put their best foot forward in 2021 with the reinvigoration of their product lines. Malifaux Burns has launched the title system, giving options to our new masters and putting a new enforcer in every keyword. They’ve breathed life back into The Other Side with a new starter set. They’ve brought some fantastic content to Through the Breach, including the Neverborn supplement From Nightmares. They even put out another board game, Bayou Bash, which I’ve likened to essentially playing Mario Kart with gremlins. I contend, however, that the most innovative and potentially best thing that Wyrd has put out this year is their brand new board game that releases this month, Vagrantsong. 

If you follow Wyrd’s social media presence, you’ve probably heard the buzz around this game growing. Several influential board game reviewers have given it the nod. I can say that everyone I’ve talked to about it has enjoyed playing it. It’s a game that, according to designer Kyle Rowan, has been in the works in the Wyrd studios for several years now, and so far it looks like that was time well spent. 
In Vagrantsong, the players take control of a handful of old-timey transients (you know, back when being homeless was charming rather than cripplingly depressing.) Your crew of gold-hearted miscreants were beckoned aboard a train by a strangely noodle-armed hand and inadvertently wandered into a spooky adventure. This train is haunted, you see, by a series of Haints. What’s a haint, you ask? (Ok, first you probably make an immature joke about something that rhymes with Haint. I’ll give you a minute to get it out of your system. We good now? Ok, back to the review.) The Haints are powerful ghosts, drained of their humanity and trapped on this train as it travels the world. And that’s a problem for your crew of vagrants, you see, because you’re kinda-sorta trapped on this train with them. 

If you’re gonna get out of here with your skin intact (literally) you’re going to need to restore the humanity back to these Haints and find a way to escape the ghost train. Luckily, the vagrants represent a broad pastiche of old-timey humanity, ranging from the more mundane in the form of a failed revivalist preacher, a plucky orphan and her pup, and a travelling musician, to some more eccentric characters like the Cursebearer who gets stronger the more she’s afflicted by the Haint’s villainy and the self-proclaimed Empress of America, whose can-do attitude can overcome any obstacle put in her way (or so she believes.) Opposing them are a series of bizarre spirits. Some are truly chilling like the Lady in White or the Turned Faces. Some are a bit sillier, like the one that is basically a whacky-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-man. Each brings a variety of unique challenges and obstacles for the vagrants to overcome on their way to restoring the Haints’ humanity. You do this by exploring the train, finding objects from the Haints past, and occasionally punching them in the nose (because nothing will remind you of being human like getting punched in the face, apparently.) 

Mechanically, it’s a cooperative game where you face down the Haint, who is controlled by draws of tokens from a bindle (naturally) that determine which of a series of pre-determined actions the Haint will take. One of the coolest parts of the game is the Event mechanic. A series of Events will occur when particular things occur during the game. Some of the events are helpful for your vagrants. It feels like more of them make things worse for them, but that could just be the experience of being a player. One thing is for sure, it’s always interesting whenever a new one comes out. An event can be triggered by something your characters or the Haint accomplish or at random when the right token is drawn from the bindle. They all raise the stakes and create a narrative beyond the mechanics of the scenario. The game itself operates with the vagrant assigning their 3 action tokens to move, search, fight, or take one of the special actions. When a dice roll is required, the game includes an exploding-sixes (or booming box cars) mechanic, which allows for spectacular successes that are sure to elicit a cheer from the players. Then the haint takes their turn, controlled as previously stated by drawing a token from the bindle and resolving the action as listed in the scenario booklet. Difficulty scales with the number of players, with the amount of humanity that must be restored to the Haint going up with each one. Oh yeah, and every time you knock the Haint’s health down to 0 it usually freaks out, does some kind of special action, and then refills its health until you’ve pushed it to the threshold a number of times defined by the scenario. The vagrants certainly have their work cut out for them.

I could go on and on about the mechanics, but let’s talk about the production value. This game is flat out beautiful. The board itself is a fairly simple set of three train cars connected by bridges, though each scenario typically includes a number of obstacles and terrain to set up before hand to make the game unique. The real stars of the show are the enamel figures of the vagrants and the Haints, as they’re both sturdy and attractive on the board. The art style is a good mix of cartoony and legitimately spooky (the first Haint, the Turned Faces, wig me out for whatever reason). The tokens themselves are mostly punched out from sturdy card stock. The scenario booklet is HUGE. I mean, there are a lot of scenarios in there. It plays like a choose-your-own-adventure book, so you likely won’t go through every scenario every time you play, but that also creates some interesting replay possibilities where a new crew of vagrants may follow a different track through the train based on their choices and whether they’re successful or if they all lose their humanity to a particular Haint.

In between games, your vagrants make camp somewhere on the train (I assume) and are met by a ghostly cat who offers you a choice of new skills and lets you buy some new equipment. The players can also spend some of their in-game currency to conduct a séance and get an advantage for the next game (usually a good idea). The currency is earned by completing the scenario itself, as well as through the completion of rituals, sort of side-objectives which can sometimes restore a big chunk of humanity to the Haint as well. And it’s at this point the vagrants can either save the game (write down their skills, equipment, and progress and put the game away) or continue on into the next scenario.

I really can’t overstate how much I like this game. I’ve been burning to put a group together to do a playthrough since getting it from Gencon, but real-life concerns have delayed that. I did get a chance to play through three of the scenarios, though, and I can tell you the challenge climbs as you move along (hoo-boy, when you get to the Lady in White…well, no spoilers, but bring your warm coat.) It’s worth the investment if you can pick up a copy. I have a feeling Vagrantsong’s going to be earning a place not only as Wyrd’s best offering of the year, but maybe one of the best games released in 2021, period. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see it in the running for an Ennie next year, and I really hope it creates an opportunity for expansion packs in the future (new vagrants, new Haunts, a new mini-campaign, etc.) Wyrd deserves a hearty handshake for what they accomplished with this game. Just make sure the hand shaking yours isn’t strangely floppy, or you may find yourself climbing aboard for a ride as well.  

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Six Feet Under: Lady Justice in the Malifaux Burns Era


A not entirely unfounded opinion is that the Guild did very well in the most recent rulebook Malifaux Burns. Not exactly a shock, I suppose, given that they were considered to be somewhat under the power curve before this book came out. There were several things that jumped out at me when I read through the book the first time as potentially “good” or “dangerous.” Some I missed (Bashel is apparently pretty scary and I initially thought that, since he wasn’t a summoner, who cares). But one that tingled my spider sense was the new Lady Justice, Death Touched. And last week I asked a few questions of Matt Lewin, host of the podcast Flippin’ Wyrds (on the rare occasion they post a new episode) and he let me know this may be one of the things people can really have a bad time with, when they aren’t prepared.

The base theory is pretty simple: it’s tough to lose to a model that isn’t on the table. The crew focuses around the use of various versions of the Pine Box action, an action which is cast versus the opponent’s Sz and, if it succeeds, buries them and applies Distracted. Every turn, the buried gets a chance to escape with a WP duel against a TN of 13. If they succeed, or if the model that buried them dies, they pop back out. Lady Justice Death Touched lets the Marshals take 1 wound, drop a coffin marker within 1” of them, and then attempt the Pine Box action against a model within 1” of it, allowing some additional force projection and letting you block up parts of the board with these coffins (hello Research Mission.) Additionally, all of Lady Justice’s attacks can target these buried models, which creates some nice efficiency. The hard part of playing a melee master like Lady J is getting them to the enemy to hit them. So, you know, being able to smack things from anywhere on the board is pretty useful. Charge to a spot you need Lady J to be, hit a buried model, then continue on with her turn (potentially dropping a scheme marker you just moved into position for, for instance.) Even if her crew is having trouble getting things buried she can join in, as new Lady J has a 6” ability toss a coffin marker and bury an enemy model. And on top of that she’s HTW, Regen 2, and potentially Armor 1 with a LLC. 

Judge me next, boss mommy.

Several support models help to enhance the power of this crew. The Jury is one of the biggest ones, as her Exorcism Ritual ability does a ton of work when she activates, dealing 2 damage to every buried model. She can trigger more Pine Boxes as well with her Obey. The Brutal Emissary’s Into the Cage attack isn’t a Pine Box and doesn’t make coffin markers, but it’s a Stat 4 versus size (get in the box, Euripedes) and doesn’t have a claw symbol, meaning its unaffected by any melee specific defenses. One of my initial concerns was that the crew may be a little bit on the slow side, but the fact that the coffin markers make enemies with 1” count as Undead can help to offset that, since it lets Death Marshals gain Fast when they activate within 6”. The keyword’s new model Thirty-Three fits nicely with this, as she brings her own Pine Box, can target buried models with her Peacebringer, and has Incorporeal and Slippery to let her do a little bit of scheming on her own. 

The crew is surprisingly durable, with HtW on many models and Lady J having access to a Shockwave heal. Several models are going to have access to stat advantages versus the size of most enemies, and most crews don’t have a good answer to get them back out again. Coffin markers can close off parts of the board and making the enemies count as Undead usually gves boosts to Marshals. And the bottom line is, a model that is a problem is no longer a problem if its buried. Jedza preventing you from killing members of her crew? Bury her and there’s no more issue. Hoffman shoving pylons around that do insane amounts of irreducible damage? Not if he’s buried. Pandora screwing up your activation order…you get the idea. 

The risk is there for an NPE from this crew (negative play experience). I know that Matt said he’s 1) not lost with the crew yet and 2) the general opinion is that they would rather play a game they enjoy than play against this crew. Now, there are solutions. It’s not an unbeatable crew by any means. A crew that isn’t built around any particular individual models will do better than crews with a lynch pin you can bury. If you focus fire on the Marshal that has buried something you need back, that’s going to help. Blowing the coffin markers up can help clear out the board to help avoid the clutter and restricted movement. Etc etc etc. Not an overpowered crew by any means, but something that could really make for a bad time if you aren’t ready for it. Thus, why I thought it was worth an article. Be aware that this crew is out there. Think about what you’re going to do when you’re up against it. And thanks to Flippin’ Wyrd’s Matt for sharing some thoughts about the crew, as well as the below crew list. 

Death Touched J List (Guild)
Size: 50 - Pool: 4
  Lady Justice, Death Touched
    Lead-Lined Coat
  Scales of Justice
  Death Marshal
  Death Marshal 2
  Death Marshal Recruiter
  The Jury
  Brutal Emissary