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

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Ortega Family Values: Looking at the new Perdita

 I’ve been looking at Guild more, recently. If nothing else, they’re considered to be on the lower end of the totem pole power wise, so at least I won’t be coming in last while playing broken crews. Moreover, if there’s a definitive hole in my swing when it comes to general Malifaux play, it’s in the killing/combat part of the game. I don’t have a good feel for what it takes to kill a particular model in any situation, so I need to practice that. And the Guild are combat focused, so that seems like a good place to start.

Speaking of starting, I thought I would start by looking back to where I started in Malifaux, with Perdita and the Family crew. Her new title, Nephilim Hunter, gives her the ability to summon the low cost Ortega minions. Normally this wouldn’t be something to get excited over, as the Pistoleros are, well, not great. That’s being generous, frankly. The summoning upgrade she attaches gives them a +1 to their duels when they’re within 2” of another family model, which lets them reach the lofty heights of “average”. They’re not good models at all, and like many people in the Malifaux community, I wrote this new Perdita off the first time I saw it. Something stuck with me, though. I’ve always wanted to play the Ortegas. They were the first crew I ever bought. The family of gunslinging monster hunters is very cool thematically, and I wanted to get them back out. So I kept thinking about it, turning it over in my head, until it finally clicked for me. 

I was sitting in the bleachers at my step-daughter’s volleyball game, waiting for them to warm up, when I read and saw that they get to add in a suit to their duels also. Huh, so that meant they had built in triggers. That might be cool, so let’s look at the triggers. Which is, of course, when I realized that the triggers on the Pistoleros’ attacks, Grudge, puts out Adversary: Family. Now that was interesting. Some cheap, disposable models to throw adversary at the enemy (or at least force some cheating to create hand pressure). Plus, the Family can be pretty squishy, so adding some more ablative wounds to screen and protect the important ones is a good thing. The summoning upgrades feel like a little bit of a double edged blessing, and I’m going to have to do some fiddling to understand the best way to employ them. They’re unique, so you have to put them in the right places at the right time. Ironically, if you have one whose effect when they come into play (removing scheme markers, ending a condition, etc.) are particularly useful, the smart thing for an opponent to do would be to leave the Pistolero alive so you can’t resummon it. That’s a little bit funky and I’ll have to see it in action before I know if it’s a real problem or just one I’ve made up in my head. And they always have Reckles to get a cheap, Fast model. So there’s potential there. I’m guessing you might get them up to grow into a Monster Hunter maybe once in five games at best, so I won’t be counting on that, but if you can get one their stat lines will be pretty impressive with the built in +1s. 

Dita herself shifts gears from killer to leader in this incarnation. The 6” bubble the Ortegas usually want to sit in will have her stationed in the middle to take the most of her Head of the Ortegas ability. Man of the clan have the “Ortega Family Values” trigger on one or more of their attacks, allowing another family member to either draw a card or concentrate. Dita changes this from a choice to getting both bonuses. Moreover, every Ortega has A Por El, which lets you discard a card to let a lower cost Ortega take an action out of turn. If that is a concentrate action and you’re within 6” or Perdita, that’s another card drawn. That’s potentially a lot of card cycling, and I’m very intrigued by that. I think that she’ll spend most of her AP summoning and doing her Trick Shot action to push models, hand out stunned to enemies, and trigger more Family Values. Her gun doesn’t have Critical Strike anymore, so you have just the 2/4/5 damage track of most Ortegas, which isn’t impressive but will do in a pinch. And she’s got a 12” pulse that doesn’t require LoS to hand out shielded, again helping to shore up some of the squishiness. Likely she and Francisco will have Lead Lined Coat (though I’m curious to see if it would be better elsewhere, since she won’t be needing to be in the thick of it) so they’ll be pretty resilient. 

I don’t know if it’s actually any good or not, but having a tailored hand and some resilience seems like it would go a long way with this crew. Phiasco and I set up a game and played through turn one, and I drew/cycled about a dozen cards. I already have some parts of it where I think I can do better next time. There may be something there, and I’m tentatively optimistic. I’ll keep you updated with how it goes. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Other Side of Gencon, 2021 Edition


We’re a matter of days from the greatest four days in gaming, Gencon. Excitingly, Wyrd miniatures will be taking a great step forward at the show, offering a significant number of new models and options for one of their games, which is very exciting to me. The options are going to increase significantly, bringing new models and new tactical options that should refresh it and give it new life.

Oh yeah, and Malifaux is gonna have some new stuff coming out too. 

I love The Other Side. It’s a great game that marries the scale of an army game with the action economy of a skirmish game. I like the armies that are in it, and I like the way it plays on the tabletop. So I’m excited for all of the new stuff that will be coming for it and thought I’d compile it here. Before I get to that, though, if you’re going to the show you know that Wyrd’s selection of tournaments and play events is more limited this year than in the past due, of course, to COVID 19 safety concerns. There will be, however, a selection of quick play timeslots when anyone ca come in and use the terrain to play a pick-up game. I intend to spend a good amount of my time there with a couple of Malifaux crews, trying out the new master titles, and with my ToS King’s Empire Force (likely with some Guild reinforcements, naturally). If you’re interested in a game, hit me up on Facebook or just look for me in person. I’m happy to get in some reps.


First of all, we know that Sonnia Criid is the Guild commander. She is a ranged damage master that provides a good amount of damage through blasts and some terrain control through the ability to drop pyre markers that block off a whopping 120mm diameter circle of terrain. Interesting that she seems to have more fire magic at her command on this side of the Breach, since the lore says that magic is weaker on Earth than on Malifaux. You almost have to assume that means she’s pulling her punches in Malifaux, and who knows what she’s truly capable of now. 

Coming with her are two new units: the Guild Mage and the Gatling Gunner. The mages offer an interesting sort of disruption by forcing opponents to discard to perform morale actions near them (recall that the interact action required to score points in most games is a morale action.) They’re pretty soft, though, with an armor of 6, so survivability is somewhat limited. To correct for this, they have soulstone defenses, the ability to discard a card to prevent wounds. I don’t know that I’d count on that to keep them alive under a sustained assault, but if you’ve got the resources it can keep them alive to do their job. I think they’ll do better paired with Abysinnia’s forces than the King’s Empire, as they have access to more card draw. That may be true of the Guild across the board, frankly. 

Gatling Gunners are, unsurprisingly, strong looking ranged support models. They do more damage the closer you get to them, but can at least try and put some damage on infantry that’s up to 20” away. They also can punish units that resolve the rush order near them, simulating the effect on the battlefield that this type of weaponry had when introduced to our world, as well. I think they’ll do better if they’re kept back and screened, as they are fairly squishy, but I’m interested to see them in action and find out what they can do. 

I feel like, where the Guild may be ok standing on their own, the Court of Two models will shine more as support to either the Cult of the Burning Man or the Gibbering Hordes. Neither Kirai, the Gwisin, or the Enslaved Spirits scream “damage potential” to me, though the Gwisin’s ethereal viscera could get nasty on later turns and the Champion Binh Nguyen is no slouch. Kirai’s Spirit Anchor action lets her spread reinforcement tokens around to nearby units, which are important to her and her CoT models to get to glory but also very helpful for allied units. The Horde, specifically, has a number of units that benefit from reinforcements, not the least of whom is their Titan. And anybody who tries to mess with her or the Gwisin has to deal with their Revenge ability, which hits you back with a strength 2 attack that can’t be cheated every time you hit them (note, NOT every time you wound them.) My KE gunlines are not looking forward to that interaction, I can tell you. When she gets to glory, she also gains the ability to summon, which is very rare in ToS. 

The Gwisin are unique, in that they don’t have to stay near each other on the battlefield. As mentioned, they have an attack that gets stronger as the game goes on. If they get into Glory they can pass out Shaken or Pinned tokens. If you can get there early you could potentially help cult units get into glory as well, though that feels inefficient. More likely you’ll want to counteract what the enemy is doing.

The Enslaved Spirits don’t offer a lot in the way of combat ability. Their utility comes from two fronts. For one, they can be removed through the champion ability by units that are 5” away rather than 3, which gives you a little more flexibility in maneuvering them. Second, their lethal curses ability lets them throw out Shaken tokens at the start of the game, so they can boost the cult up and then hurt the enemy later. In Glory they’re even nastier with this, as they have a built in trigger to strip Reinforcement tokens off their target when they hit, before doing the penetration flip. Very rude. 

As a bonus, we also learned that the Gibbering Hordes are getting a nice new treat, The Other Side’s first Nightmare Edition box. Yeah, sure, it’s a Malifaux boxed set too, but let’s focus on us :P. The Deepest Depths boxed set represents the Gibbering Hordes’ Storm Siren commander and comes with models that count as Egg Clutches and Morphlings. They’re on the same sized bases as Malifaux, so you can swap the models back and forth between the games no problem. They’ll be a good start for anyone looking to get into the game, though I wouldn’t say you’re going to have much of a fighting force without picking up some more units. The Gibbering Hordes Allegiance Box would be a better option in the long run, but this box will give you some style that’ll make your force stand out.  

Sunday, August 29, 2021

TItular Musings


        We’ve got 3 more reveals left to go prior to Gencon (which hardly seems possible) so there are ostensibly 6 masters still to see beyond what Wyrd may be showing us through the Waldo’s Weekly articles. This means there will still be some reveals left (assuming they don’t just do a full drop beforehand) but also means we’ve seen a significant chunk and, I think, we can start to draw some extrapolations to what Malifaux may start to look like as a game in the new environment. 
This would be simpler, of course, if this was a situation akin to a set rotation in a CCG. That’s not the case here. Your standard edition version of Som’er Teeth Jones you’ve been playing since M3E came out will still be just as legal after September 16th as it was back in the day. But let’s be real. Unless you’re the kind of person who bets on the “Don’t Pass” line, plays aggro red after a block rotation in MtG:A, and fills out your March Madness bracket picking all chalk (IE: people who don’t like fun), you’re going to want to try out some of these new shiny toys on the tabletop. And here’s the thing, you’re not alone. At least for a while, you’re likely to see more of the new versions of masters than the old versions. So, if there are trends in these new Title masters, it’s a relatively safe bet that trend will be defining for the meta once this book drops. It’s worth it to take some time to muse on these, and that’s what we’re going to do here. But let’s keep in mind a couple of things: 1) we don’t really know how these new masters are going to work, just what we’ve seen in the reveals and people’s opinions. We’re living very much in the realm of theory-faux here and 2) I’m an idiot who thought Illuminated were crap at the start of M2E, so no one should take anything I say too seriously. 
That about cover it? Cool, let’s get to the analysis.

Thank you for being a friend.

76 zombies led the big parade, with 110 crooligans close at hand...

I started by looking at the masters and breaking them up into 3 categories: Damage Dealers, Crew Enhancers, and Enemy Controllers. In some cases this break-down wasn’t perfect (new McCabe, for instance, could be argued to enhance his crew and do pretty good damage) but I tried to make this as clean as I could. People can argue with where I have them slotted in, which is why I’m not going to go master-by-master through this, but I think the trends are clear: the masters are shifting away from killing to enhancing their crews. It’s fairly stark, actually. I have 13 of the original versions of the masters we’ve seen primarily focused on dealing damage, and exactly the same number in the crew enhancement category in their new versions. By enhancement I mean increasing movement, optimizing attacks, giving out free attacks to the crew, etc. That means a couple of things. For one, alpha striking the enemy’s master will do a lot less to completely neuter the enemy crew. They’ll be far more likely to be built with good beaters outside of the master. Second, tying them to their keywords potentially could serve as an even stronger encouragement for players to stay within their keyword to capitalize on this synergy. 
The numbers of control masters are roughly the same and they aren’t the majority in the original or new pool, which is probably for the best. Control tends to be a bit of a negative play experience (NPE) and, since games of Malifaux take a lot more time than a quick game like a CCG, that NPE gets stretched out over a longer period of time. Also, the complexity and diversity of crews makes it all but impossible to play true hard control crews effectively But it’ll still be a healthy chunk of the pool, and that’s actually tied pretty closely to the next paragraph. 

It’s gonna get crowded on the boards

Yeeeaahh, I'm gonna need you to build some more pylons.

The Other Coast folks pointed this out in their cast, and I think it’s worth repeating: there’s gonna be a lot of markers getting dropped on boards with these new masters. Whether it’s Geodes, Portals, Pyres, Coffins, or what-have-you, a lot of these masters are gonna be dropping markers on the board that will affect movement. 9 masters we’ve seen so far fit this description, as compared to a scant handful at most previously. This creates a bit of interesting tension with all of the movement tricks these new masters bring along as well, as we’re going to have to be careful not to push our crews into flames/sludge/etc. There’s going to be a lot of hazardous terrain out there, and precise movement will be critical to overcoming it. On a related note, I think models that can remove these markers are going to suddenly be worth a lot more than they were previously, so get those Sandworms painted, folks. 

The New Face of Summoning

Rosie the Riveter ain't got shit on her.

Obviously, it’s not a surprise that the masters who were formerly associated with summoning are, for the most part, not doing it anymore (that’s sort of the point of the title system, after all, to give you something new and different to play.) But, the masters we’ve seen so far all have a bit of a common theme in the way they have gained the ability to summon new models. All 5 of them (Ophelia, Perdita, Anya, Toni, and Kirai)(I’m not counting McMourning, 3 corpse counters for a Flesh Golem is not summoning as far as I’m concerned) have had the wide open “summon any minion from your keyword” clipped down to summoning relatively low SS models with very few options, often just one. Anya and Toni (and their crews) can summon Drudges. Dita can call her Pistoleros (with special upgrades attached to make that not a complete waste of an AP). Ophelia technically can only trigger her kin to summon back her totems, but those have some offensive potential (as opposed to Reva’s totems, which essentially just exist to be sacrificed.) The point is there’s only going to be a little bit of summoning, and it’s going to be very low soulstone disposable models. The question I have is whether this is just because adding summoning to keywords which were not built with that in mind is really difficult, or if this is going to be the model for summoners going forward? I can see either being true, to be honest, given how much trouble summoning has caused in the game historically. This new world of summoning certainly fits with the most recent Gaining Grounds rules, and it lowers the barrier to entry by not forcing you to buy a whole keyword to play them optimally. We probably won’t really know for sure until the next book comes out, but it makes sense to me. 

A whole new world

Don't you dare close your eyes. Because they'll stab you.

I know one of the harder parts of the M2E to M3E transition was that many of these masters are sacred cows and they carry an expectation that this master works this way because that’s always the way it’s been. Well, this book gave the designers the opportunity to kill some of those sacred cows and give the masters a new coat of paint. Both Viktorias on one big base? Check. Yan Lo not doing the slow-grow in power? Check. Marcus as an angry werewolf leading the charge? Check check. It’s an awesome refresh for the characters we’ve known and have basically played with in the same general form for nearly a decade, and it actually makes me interested to see what they do with this in the future. I wonder if, for future books, masters that are struggling might get a new title without having to do a full overhaul of every master in the game? Maybe particular titles/versions get rotated out or replaced over time? This opens up a lot of possibilities, and I really hope Wyrd takes the opportunity to run with it and really go wild. 

For now, I’m anxious to get this book in my hands. I’ll be curious to see how much of a difference this makes for crews as a whole, rather than just the master. And, of course, I’ll be curious to see how many things I’m wrong about in this article. But mostly I’m just excited to see these new masters in action.