Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Magpie Musings

So I haven’t played a game of Malifaux in a couple of weeks and, for the most part, have been painting only a handful of models. Time has been tough to come by, and when I get it I’ve had other things to do with it besides move little models around and flip cards. I’ve got some thoughts regarding the Wave 2 playtest models, but I don’t feel extraordinarily confident in discussing them when I haven’t gotten to test most of them out yet. However, one thing that has started to jump out to me is that there are, frankly, too many things I want to play right now.

I’ve been using Lynch quite a bit recently, as evidenced by the last two blog posts I’ve put up. Not a huge surprise, given that I love the crew and wish to do my part to see them succeed, but now I’m stuck trying to figure out what I’m going to focus on moving forward. My first faction in Malifaux was The Guild. I was drawn in by Perdita initially (the fact that I was reading The Gunslinger from the Dark Tower series at the time had a lot to do with this.) As such, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Guildies and always will. That said, that soft spot grew a bit callused towards the end of 1st edition as it became painfully apparent that it was much more difficult to succeed on a competitive level with the Guild than with any of the other factions during that era of the game, particularly Perdita who, after people realized how to get around her high defenses, was just too straight-forward of a crew to get the job done. Now, the new look Guild of 2.0 gets around this by, while still being a very blunt, very strong implement for dishing out damage on the board, adding in a ton of synergy with scheme markers as well. Models like the Austringers and Guild Guards make the faction much more capable of directly throwing down friendly and/or removing enemy scheme markers. Many of them have “Finish the Job,” again giving you the ability to get those markers down on the board when your models meet their sudden but (let’s face it, a lot of them are pretty much stormtroopers) inevitable end. They are still very direct, but they’re directly focused on the things that win you games, scheme and objective completion, and when it’s time to kill whoever is in the way they are still the smashiest of the factions and can dish out the hurt like no one else.

McMourning is probably the best example of this. His injection lets him move pieces around and throw out scheme markers, and the upgrade that lets him steal enemy scheme markers at the end of the game to make them count for his crew is just brilliant. Meanwhile, he can slice people up with his scalpels and burn you out for your full poison total all at once, making him a very potent finisher for almost any model in the game. After I defended my dissertation and got my PhD, I picked up the crew sort of out of a sense of irony for the fact that I was now officially joining the ranks of the mad science community. The fact that he was now a member of the Guild helped as well, of course, given my previous predilections. Plus, I was amused by the thought of using members of the Dead Justice crew box to represent McMourning’s somewhat poorly disguised undead helpers, dressed up to look like their “official” guild counterparts. Eventually I want to pick up some Guild Autopsies to further this them by using them either as themselves or as (again poorly disguised) Guild Guards. Basically, I was planning on using him as a Guild character exclusively, even going so far as to snatch poor minion Hamelin’s Nix model as a proxy Zombie Chihuahua, painting him up to look like my min-pin Rico (anyone who’s been around Rico while he’s asleep after eating something that doesn’t agree with him will know where the Horrible Odor ability comes from.) It was when I painted up the Flesh Golem on a lark, however, that my thoughts started to drift towards the Ressers. I had played a game against Nicodem over Vassal, which was probably my first game ever against a dedicated Resser master that was re-summoning things as quickly as I could kill them, and saw the power of that first hand.  Now, McMourning’s not the best character for this kind of crew…until the Wave 2 beta introduced the Spare Parts upgrade which lets any Resser master summon the Autopsies and Rogue Necromancies off corpse counters on the board. There’s a very good chance that I’ll be giving that a try sometime soon, giving this already pretty good at schemes master the added ability to create waves of dead minions to lead the way forward.

And once we open up the Resser door, there’s a couple of others I like sitting back there as well. I’ve not gotten a chance to see the new Seamus in action, but I love what they’ve done with him. The back-alley killer idea, with him leaping from the shadows around the board to ambush and kill who or whatever is exposed and vulnerable in the enemy crew, is so amazing and thematic for him. Seamus is definitely one of the winners of the M1E to M2E transition, and I’ve wanted to give him a try, if only to cackle and do evil, evil things to my opponents legally. Also, Kirai was the first of the Asian themed masters I picked up and tried in old Malifaux. Something about that character spoke to me. She moved quickly. Her crew was very thematic. There were lots of moving parts (I often said that I played every game where I used Kirai incorrectly, even if I won the game) which I like from the “here’s a puzzle that I’m trying to sort out” standpoint. I haven’t exactly focused on what they’ve done with her in this iteration of the game, but I’m sure at some point I’ll want to get her out on the tabletop and see what she can do.

I’ve stated previously that the Asian themes are not a big sell for me. It’s not a personal thing. It was just one of those situations where, when I was in school, Dragonball Z and the anime craze had suddenly made all things Japanese cool, which meant that in a pre-hipster move I didn’t want anything to do with them. As such, it never ceases to amaze me how I’ve somehow turned into a Ten Thunders player seemingly by mistake. It’s pretty much Lynch’s fault, if you want to get right down to it. He got me through the door after all (the first taste is free.) I had created a relatively novel way of making bamboo bases on the cheap using broken pieces of spaghetti, so there was that draw. I picked up Wastrels because suddenly they gave the Guild some mobility and objective grabbing ability that they were missing before, so now I had a McCabe crew and, hey, those archer things are pretty good so why not pick up one of them to back up McCabe and Lynch if I play them as the TT. And, obviously, if I’m going to play them TT I’m going to need Torekage to do it effectively, since the Tora-swap was about the best form of mobility in that version of the game short of Collodi cruising the length of the board in a turn. Next thing you know, I have the whole faction minus the Rail Crew box and Ten Thunders Brothers, I’m using Misaki in a narrative campaign, and I was lost.

I feel like the Ten Thunders kind of hit the mid-point between killiness and fiddliness between the Guild and Neverborn (although Lucius may have something to say about that, now) which are the things I love about those factions and makes them very appealing to play. I already posted some thoughts on the two forms of Misaki where she can go from hyper-aggressive killer master to elegant defensive/denial master. The recent nerf to Nexus of Power makes the question of which faction to run Lynch in no-longer academic, and I’ve mentioned before that I’m interested to see how Sensei Yu would do in this list (two mulligans per turn? Yes please.) And hey, now the rest of them are here and ready to test as well. Shenlong seems very interesting, and the addition of the Lone Samurai gives them another mid-level hitter model that can do some serious damage and is, more or less, immune to gunfire before he gets to grips with the enemy.

Of course, the reason I picked up Lynch in the first place was because I was a shameless Neverborn bandwaggoner back during the “Well, Neverborn, innit?” days of pre-book 4 M1E. The Pandora crew was amazing. The Zoraida crew was amazing. Collodi was ridiculously good. I never got them on the board, but I always had Lillith and Dreamer ideas in mind (I’m still, one day, going to paint my Lady Gaga “Mama Monster” version of Lillith. This is happening.) I loved Tuco’s craziness. I loved how ridiculous Stitched Togethers were. I fell headlong into this faction, and a lot of it was just how powerful they were on the board. I can admit this freely. I’m a guy who likes to win, and the Neverborn just won in those days. It didn’t hurt that they were all spooky monsters that were a blast to paint and field.

And this was one of the things that was actually quite frustrating in the 2.0 switch. I should not have playtested Pandora early on in the process. I see that now. Coming in with the power level she used to have in the back of my mind led to pretty unrealistic expectations for a model that, honestly, was seriously underpowered during the early stages of the Wave 1 beta process. And I just…could not…accept it. I thought it was my fault. I thought there was something there I wasn’t seeing or I was doing something wrong on the tabletop. I just didn’t realize that, in making her balanced, there was really no way around the fact that she was going to have to lose a lot of the things I liked about that master. And as such, I lost almost all of my playtest games, and I lost every single playtest game where I used Pandora. While the object of these games was not to win but rather to test the mechanics and look for things that needed to be addressed, I couldn’t help the fact that this left a pretty sour taste in my mouth, not just for her but also for the faction as a whole.

Well, that has started to balance out a bit. Playing Lynch recently had a lot to do with this, as it gave me a chance to see some of the minions I had previously dismissed running with a master I had a better grasp on. I haven’t gotten a chance to try out Zoraida, but I like the notion of running the swamp crew, particularly the Swamp Thing Bad Juju. Lillith’s combination of board control and melee has always interested me, and if anything she’s swung further in that direction with 2nd edition. And I’ve had a Nightmare Chompy bits for years sitting in a drawer and have never gotten him out to play. This seems criminal, particularly given how enchanting the idea behind that crew really is. I’m a fan of the current mechanic where, as Dreamer slides deeper into sleep his ability to summon other Nightmares increases, but he has to wake himself to let Chompy out. Very thematic and very cool.

I wish I could say that was it, but it isn’t. I keep finding myself fantasizing about Ramos crews. I’ve liked Jack Daw since he was a minion, so the fact that he’s a master now with another very thematic crew makes him tempting to get out and try. Maybe it’s just reading about him all the time (…all the time…) in the Play It Like Beatdown blog, but Marcus seems like he’d be pretty fun, with Cojo being one of if not the only model in the game that can force movement on enemy models with no flip. And who knows? If you ask me next week, maybe I’ll be wanting to try out Molly or Kaeris or even a gremlin crew (ok, maybe not that last one :P)?

So I think it’s time to admit I’ve got a problem. I’m a magpie. I’m an addict for new crews and new ideas. And I can’t stop.

Oh well, at least I’ll have plenty of crews to loan out for demo games in the future.