Friday, February 28, 2014

ToMB Post 1.1: The Most Bonkers Game of Malifaux I’ve Played

For our regular Thursday game night, our gamemaster was absent with an illness and that meant it was time for some Vassalfaux. My regular sparring partner, Jon, agreed to the points values I’m able to play with this particular crew (35 at the moment.) We squared off with the newly updated M2E Vassal Module uploaded by Ratty, cracking out the Observatory map and throwing down for some Guild on Guild action.

Guild Field Drills: Reconnoiter 35SS
Flank Deployment

Hoffman-Field Repairs Upgrade, 6SS Cache
Peacekeeper-Lead Lined Coat
Schemes: Breakthrough, Plant Evidence (both hidden)

Sonnia Criid-Flamewall, Counterspell, Get Witchlings, 7 Stones
The Judge
Schemes: Breakthrough, Plant Evidence (both announced)

I asked Jon if he was aware we were playing table quarters after he announced his crew, though this is not a particularly unusual trick for him. Jon’s crews tend to be lots of hard-hitting, high point models with the thought of pummeling you down and then scoring his points later. Apparently he’d been planning a version of this crew prior to now and wanted to see how a go-big or go-home approach would work in this version of Malifaux.

I used the first turn to pass out the goodies with Hoff: Program Directive for the Watcher and Hydraulics for the Hunter, black jokering when I tried to pass on Precision Targeting. My plan was to send the Watcher and Hunter in opposite directions around the observatory while Hoff, Guardian, and Peacekeeper would try to hold the middle and absorb the enemy advance. This plan went out the window, however, when Sonnia gained a vantage point on top of the ht. 6 observatory and nuked the Watcher, effectively taking one flank away from me.

The Judge’s role was effectively to slingshot the models up the field and improve movement, meaning he had to lead the way. Since Hoff and the Peacekeeper now were on left flank duty, the Guardian had to go hold the middle on his own. Knowing how effective he was solo against the Iron Zombies I thought he could perhaps hold for a turn, and my hopes were buoyed after he charged the Judge and used Shield Bash to throw him off of the catwalk and drop him into some lava Hazardous terrain at the foot of the observatory, doing 6 between the shield hit and the lava. Jon cleverly saved the Judge from dying next turn by using Issue Orders to push him out of the lava and even earned a scheme marker for himself as a bonus. Still, I was feeling pretty good about my chances…and then Taelor went.

She'll always have the half shirt in my mind.

Taelor is frightening. I’m not sure what to do with her in this crew, to be honest, other than to either leave her alone all game or go all out and try to drop her in a turn. Between bonuses to smashing constructs and triggers to remove armor, she dropped the Guardian in a round. Her main weakness is probably speed, but I’d have to think a competent player who is paying the points for her will have found a way around this.  More thought will be required to try and find the best way of dealing with her.

Hoffman and his Peacekeeper were in the meantime rolling counterclockwise around the tower, and this gave me the opportunity to introduce Jon to the new and improved Chain Harpoon. Pulling Sonnia down from Ht. 6 was very gratifying. Discovering that I had, in doing so, brought her into range where she could block the rams from Hoff's casting of Machine Puppet was less so. I had been using stones for cards up to this point, and I effectively needed to use what I had left to try and get her down before her next activation. A combination of a mediocre opening hand for turn 3, some less than great flipping, and Sonnia having most of her stones for damage prevention meant I only got her to 8 wounds and then had to withstand the retaliatory barrage once the Austringer pulled her out of melee range. This, however, ended up being my time to show Hoff’s toughness, as 3 Flamebursts netted Hoff and The PK both still being alive and at about half wounds a piece.

At this point, both of us sort of looked at each other, did the math, and realized it was turn 4 and both of us had scheme markers to put out. Hoff’s Shakedown-Heal and their high armor meant Sonnia was unlikely to kill the two of them in time. I wasn’t confident in my ability to find rams to keep machine puppeting the Peacekeeper, so I wasn’t sure I could get her either. Sonnia went ahead and withdrew to the other side of a ht. 3 wall, leaving a Flame Wall behind to discourage pursuit. Hoff and the PK happily withdrew to the enemy deployment zone, pausing for a moment to kill the Austringer by dragging him off a catwalk with the Chain Harpoon along the way. While all this had been going on, the Hunter had been scattering scheme markers through enemy territory before trying to circle back and steal a point of Reconnoiter from Jon’s crew by chain harpooning and then pouncing on the Judge. This backfired, as the Judge is much harder to kill than I realized (literally and metaphorically) and I instead left one of my quarters contested, letting Jon end Turn 5 effectively at 10-9…if the game ended there.

Then things got weird.

I flipped a 10, and so we went on to turn 6 (Jon cursing all the while, as he hadn’t set himself up for such an occurrence.) At this point I knew I had one chance to get back in this thing. Hoff used his Machine Puppet tricks to have the Peacekeeper move quickly across the board, triggering Reposition and Repeat Program to give him an extra 2” push and Fast, before wishing him a fond bon-voyage and remaining in the enemy deployment zone. Jon seemed more interested in bracing himself than stopping me, so Peacekeeper was free to run unmolested into the midst of his scheme markers and discard them with his (0) action, knocking two of them out and contesting that quarter to let me draw into the lead. I proceeded to pat myself on the back for my ingenuity while the Hunter dispatched the Judge…until Jon flipped a 13 and we went to turn 7. Then Taelor smashed my Peacekeeper into scrap and Sonnia threw another scheme marker out. But it was ok, I was still in the lead 10-9…until he flipped another 13 and we played turn 8.

Agreeing that this thing was meant to be a draw, I went ahead and called it there.

This game was pretty bat shit. I've never even had a game go to turn 6 yet, let alone turn 8, and the lead swaps in the last couple of turns were quite dramatic. I think with more scheme runners I could have focused the Peacekeeper on wreaking havoc in the enemy crew and, if he didn’t manage to kill everything, at least maybe stall the enemy crew out to keep them from completing schemes. There were, however, things to be learned here. First of all, I need to look out for Taelor, and also for things that can strip suits from Hoffman’s actions. Most of his things need the ram that’s built into his casting to succeed, and he’s just sort of out of luck if he doesn’t have it.

I can tell that the real trick with this crew is going to be figuring out where to put the modification upgrades. I have heard that, for this type of scenario (lots of scheme markers and movement) one typical opening involves giving the Nimble upgrade to one of the Watchers and the Programmed Directive to a second one. This will be something to explore in the future, I suppose.

Update: Evidently I was cheating by including the Lead Lined Coat. *slaps self on wrist*

There, that's sorted. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ToMB 1.0 Post: Shakedown Cruise

We’re in the middle of the first month of the ToMB project, and the posts have started to flow. I’ve sat down with the Hoff and detailed some of my thoughts on his crew previously, and this month I began testing out the box set + Peacekeeper list I’ve built thus far.

Hoffman ToMB Round 1:
-Field Repairs

I’ve started painting, having worked through Hoff himself and the Peacekeeper. I wanted to do more than just have a typical metal-style paintjob on the constructs, so I’ve been trying to keep an eye out for various paint techniques to add some more color on. Additionally, one of the issues with Guild is how heterogeneous they are as a model line. Cowboys and robots don’t necessarily mix together all that well aesthetically (though it sounds like a cool idea for a graphic novel.) As such, I was looking to use that splash of color to improve the homogeneity of the crew. Since the guild’s primary color is red, I wanted to use this as the splash color and make an effort to add it in wherever possible on the models to tie everything together.

For the Hoff, this tie in was going to be with his vest. I was a little concerned initially that there was too much fuzz from priming under non-optimal conditions (I’ve since replaced that can of primer) and I’ve had troubles recently with my flesh tones not turning out the way I’ve liked. Also, I was planning on making his shirt white, which again has been an issue for me in the past. To address this, I decided to take the advice that most people tend to give me, thinning my paint out as much as I can. This ended up being kind of a mixed result, as the watery paint now started running everywhere and there were a couple of instances of me freaking out and blotting the ink up with my paper towel to keep it in the right areas. Thankfully, I eventually go the ratios right, and I’m very pleased with the outcome.

The metal is just the boltgun metal from GW with their Nuln Oil black ink wash applied liberally to age it and cut down on the sheen. I really love the current line of GW inks (heresy, I know.) The Flesh Wash, with more flesh tone painted over the top, turned out just the way I wanted. The Carroburg Crimson did a decent job with getting the vest halfway between being too bright and too dark. This is possibly the best model I’ve done up to this point, and I’m really happy with it.

The Peacekeeper was next. As a general idea on the constructs’ paint schemes I was planning on sort of emulating a Warmachine Jack scheme, with the body and parts of the hands painted with the color and the limbs made from the metal. Again, the metal was the Boltgun with Nuln Oil liberally applied. This will be the general plan on the rest of the constructs as well.

I’m fairly happy with how he came out. If I get ambitious, I may try to freehand a Guild ram symbol on its shoulder ala the artwork in the M2E rulebook and maybe some tick marks on the speargun, but otherwise I think he’s done. There’s still a lot of metal here for my taste, but that may just be the cost of doing business in a Hoff crew.

Now, I had planned to have a test game for this first post, but plans fell through and we weren’t able to get together. Not wanting to completely waste my time, I sat down on Vassal and pulled out the rules for playing a Solitaire game against the Iron Zombies that came with my University of Transmortis scenario pack. If you haven’t looked too closely at these, it essentially is a strategy version of the M1E Breakthrough scheme, with a card flip occurring after each activation of your models to determine what the Iron Zombies do. When you flip the corresponding suit to one of them they appear in base to base with one of your models if they aren’t deployed yet or, if they are, walk up to the nearest model and attack with the dissectors.

The Enemy

I knew it wasn’t going to be a particularly informative game from an interaction standpoint, and I’ve got slightly more points in this crew than what the scenario writers recommended, but all I was really looking for out of this game was a shakedown cruise for the crew to learn how they worked and start to spot the synergies and capabilities of the models. I started the crew off with the Peacekeeper, Hoff, and the Guardian together, the Hunter within Modification range, and the Watcher off in the distance from the rest. I interpreted the solitaire rules to be that I made a choice on where to deploy the Iron Zombies when they came out, so  the Watcher was essentially just going to fly across the board unmolested and score. I threw the extra armor mod onto the Peacekeeper and gave the Precision Targetting to the Hunter, with the theory that he could use the ram to pull the zombies out of a scrum and relocate them. The Guardian was going to be passing defensive to the Keeper and generally just taking hits for the Hoff.

Turn two saw us moved up slightly and clumped together, bogging down in the mid-board. To alleviate this, I planned to essentially use the Peacekeeper’s activation to clear out any nearby zombies, deploy any new Iron Zombies away from him, and then use Hoff to Machine Puppet the thing for walk actions to roll across the board as quickly as possible. In my plan, The Guardian was going to be sacrificing himself to let the others get away, hopefully lasting long enough so that the Iron Zombies wouldn’t be able to catch up to the Peacekeeper by the end of the turn. This is when revelation number one occurred during the game, as the Guardian didn’t just die heroically, he fended the enemy off and received very few wounds in return. The students have an ML of 6 on their Dissector attacks, but the Guardian has an equally stout DF6. Pair that with his Protect spell granting himself Defensive + 2 (I realized partway through the game he could give it to himself, rather than just the other nearby models as I had originally misinterpreted it) and he’s basically a shield wall that is not going away. And, if you do come at him with more than he can handle, he can use the Shield Bash trigger to toss enemy models 4” away from him and give them a condition that prevents them charging.

The Hunter had gotten tied up in this mess as well and wasn’t quite going to be able to get away clean even with its Prowl 3” push. This is when the second realization clicked for me, as I was looking around for movement tricks in the crew and realized, duh, that my models have chain spears and you can shoot your own models with them. With the prevalence of armor on the field you’re going to mostly be doing just one damage with this, and it lets you use a legit 8” push to drag your models together. This was a very pleasant realization, as I now was able to drag the Hunter in with the rest of the nucleus and, more importantly, this opened up a whole new avenue of tactical movement to the crew that I hadn’t considered.

So at the end of Turn 4 I was set up for 4 points scored, with the Guardian tanking the entire Iron Zombie crew on the other side of the board more-or-less effortlessly. I wanted to get another idea of the toughness of the crew, so I picked up the Valedictorian and put him in front of the Peacekeeper, Student of Steel in front of the Hunter, and Student of Viscera in front of Hoffman, essentially putting the worst-case scenario on the board and seeing how well they could hang on through it. The answer: pretty darn well. The Valedictorian didn’t live through 6 Peacekeeper attacks, The Hunter managed to withstand the double positive flip on damage from the Steel student, and Hoff managed to fend off the Viscera student with only a couple points of damage (stealing the armor 3 from the Peacekeeper helped.)

So to analyze the result: Hoff’s crew is a brick. If you go after the nucleus you had better have some kind of ace up your sleeve, because you’re more than likely not going to do that much damage and some serious pummeling is coming back your way. I didn’t have much need to use Hoffman’s other tactical actions outside of healing some damage the Peacekeeper accrued during the game, but Machine Puppet unsurprisingly seems to be the meat and potatoes of the crew’s operations. Also, the Iron Zombies scenario is close but not quite in place to actually be challenging. At the beginning, when we were getting locked in on my side of the board, I was getting a little nervous how I was going to get out of this mess. Ultimately, however, they couldn’t really do any significant damage to this crew. Perhaps this would be less the case if you were going to use them against a different crew with less armor or, perhaps, if I had randomized which models the Iron Zombies attacked when they appeared. I also think the instructions should allow the zombies to charge if they’re in range. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

ToMB Week 0: Musing on the Tale of Malifaux Bloggers

A number of members of the Malifaux amateur reporting community (bloggers) have joined together into a project based on the White Dwarf Tale of Four Gamers articles, wherein several Warhammer Fantasy players built armies from the ground up, doing a series of stories on learning how the armies played, detailing the progress of their painting and assembly, and gradually scaling up from a starter army to a full sized force. With the release of Wave 2 and, moreover, it not being particularly long since the release of M2E in general, it was suggested by the organizers of the Tale ofMalifaux Bloggers (ToMB) that it would perhaps be a good time for the blogosphere (I feel dirty writing that) to focus on starting new Malifaux crews as a guide to those precious souls coming Through the Breach to join us.

I signed up, as I think this is a great idea, and the first question was who exactly to play. The general plan is that we get $60 of “money” to start out a new crew, either buying it in real life or using it as an approximation for beginning with a crew we had already purchased and haven’t worked with yet. As it happens, I have a couple such crews. My wife did a pretty impressive job of painting a Collette crew, considering it was some of the first models she had ever done, but I don’t like mixing paint styles in the same crew and Jen isn’t really interested in learning the game. Similarly, I own a Dreamer and Nightmare Lord Chompy Bits that have sat in my paint drawer forever (not that I have anything against them, it’s just that the model is intimidating enough that I’m not sure what exactly to do with it.) I discounted them as well, however, as I’ve used a number of the non-Dreamer models before in other Neverborn crews, so I’m not sure it really would honor the spirit of the endeavor. Not to mention the fact that Nightmare LCB sells on E-Bay for about $200 on the right day, so I’d just about have enough budget for him at the end of the project if I started saving now.

Fortunately I have a third option, and I think it’s a good one. A few years ago a friend I had tried to lure into the game decided he wanted out and sold me his models. One of those crews was C. Hoffman, and I think that he’s going to be my subject for the project. I’ve only gotten him out on the table once in 1.5 Malifaux. I wasn’t involved in playtesting him. His models aren’t painted (mostly.) I didn’t even do a lot of Theoryfauxing with him. Plus, when I’m done, that will leave Lucius as the only Guild master I’m missing. So wins all around for working with the Hoff.

Wave 2 Hoffman Theoryfaux

Well, first of all, the link to the Wave 2 models’ finalversions is released and available to the public on Wyrd’s newly designed website. His main themes have always been his interaction with and modification of the constructs in his crew, with Hoff’s newly discovered abilities upon coming through the breach giving him unparalleled mental ability to assimilate constructs via the magic of Malifaux. Previously, Hoffman would tend to clump all the constructs together into a group that would shuttle him across the board, forming a group that was alternately described as the Hoffman-ball or the Death Star by certain folk. This theme is still in place, but with a few new twists. One of these comes in the form of the “Power Loop” condition which he acquires and can pass on to other models in his crew when he activates, allowing everything with the condition to use a different model’s Df, Wp, Ca, Sh, or Ml in place of its own when performing duels. His Ca can go up by two points if two constructs are within four inches of him, and he has a defense trigger that lets him use the Armor value of constructs around him when he takes damage. So, without even flipping his stat card over to the attacks and tactical actions, you can see that Hoff wants to be in the midst of one or more constructs during the majority of the game. Luckily, his Magnetic ability lets him push into base to base with them when they take walk actions that start within 3” of him, meaning you aren’t going to use his AP for walking unless things have gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Now, what are you going to do while you’re running around with all these constructs? Well, he keeps a version of his previous ability, named Machine Puppet, wherein he can make a nearby construct take a 1 AP action, typically attacks. The range has been extended out to 6”, however, so this opens up the options a bit and gives him some good flexibility both for offense and spreading scheme markers. Additionally he has gained what I think is his coolest option, Update Hardware, which comes from his Field Mechanic limited upgrade. Hoff is able to use this to attach a set of Upgrades known as Modifications to constructs around him, giving them Armor+1, letting them drop scheme markers with fewer AP, giving them Nimble, or giving them a ram to their attacks (typically this results in bigger damage or nastier conditions from all and sundry Guild constructs.) I like this. I have a feeling that figuring out how to spread the upgrades around for the greatest amount of effectiveness (you can only attach the Modifications to one model at a time) and, moreover, how to spend Hoff’s AP during the turn, will be the greatest challenge with learning this crew, particularly as Hoffman will be my first true support master in either version of the game. I’ll get into more strategy breakdown as we go along.

So, where are we beginning? I suppose we need to do some math first to determine how much we’ll have available to buy with this first month’s budget. Well, the Constructs of Order box set is listed on Wyrd’s web store at $37.00, so that seems an obvious place to start. This will give me a real mixed bag of constructs, as it contains a Watcher, a Guardian, and a Hunter along with the Hoff, and leaves me with $23 to spend. So, now, hmm, what to do with that last bit of cash?

As if there was ever a question.

Ok, look. I know the thing costs $25 and that leaves me $2 over. I don’t care, and this is my article so you can deal with it. Hoffman needs his ride. A Hoffman crew with no Peacekeeper is like a Seamus crew with no Belles: you can do it, but it just isn’t right. I’ll deduct the remaining two from next month’s budget and we’ll call it square.

Obviously, at first glance, I’m concerned with this crew’s ability to score any points that don’t involve smashing things. They’re right at 30 points with what I have here, so in a 30SS game I’m only going to have Hoff’s 3SS cache (does he need them? I guess we’ll find out. He’s the only one in this crew that can use them, after all.) The Watcher is built much more for supporting ranged attacks in M2E, so its main use will be objective running in this group. I imagine that, at least early on, we’ll see an M2E version of the old-school bread-and-butter Hoff-ball (so many hyphens!) with the Peacekeeper, Hoff, and the Guardian rolling together in a clump and smashing faces with the Hunter harrying flanks and the Watcher…doing Watcher-y stuff. I note that the Watcher has a Wk of 6 and Hoff no longer has a size requirement for Magnetism, so a Watcher with the Nimble upgrade could give the main man some real speed when necessary.

Anyway, this is turning into a stream-of-consciousness rant, so it’s time to bring this thing to a close until I get some table time or some painting done. Until next time!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wave 2 Beta Wrap-Up: The Neverborn

The Neverborn are probably “my” faction, in that I’ve played them the most since the change-over (though somehow the Ten Thunders have managed to sneak in there as well. I guess that’s sort of what they do.) As such, I followed the faction’s progress through the Beta process much closer than any of the others, and I had some pretty strong opinions going into this on what worked and what didn’t. It’s possible that’s a good thing, as I got probably the least amount of forum feedback on this topic than the other two I’d polled previously. It may be my imagination, but the Neverborn faction forum has always seemed a little slow compared to the others, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised at the apathy. But still, I was surprised to only have 3 responses as I wrote this. Is it because the Wave 2 Models were unremarkable? Most of the non-Collodi minions and enforcers didn’t see a ton of change after a certain point in the process, so have we been “done” for a while now, and that’s why there wasn’t a big rush of opinions?

Is it because we're too busy hiding under your beds?

Let’s take a look at the Neverborn models and then I’ll discuss this a bit more at the end. As with the previous articles, this is going to focus on the faction as a whole, looking for models with general utility rather than those with a specific focus towards certain crews.

Coppelius and Alps-I’m lumping them together, because I can’t really see hiring Alps on their own. They need someone to trigger slow, and Coppelius does that while also summoning more of them so they can work in groups. He makes more alps through a relatively easy summon spell requiring the Plucked Eyeball condition, which he gets from his melee attack. He’s lost mobility and a significant amount of complexity from his first edition form, which can make separating old bias somewhat tricky when gauging his strength. Ultimately, I think he’ll do well in Dreamer crews and can perhaps play a role in others, but I’m just not bowled over by what Coppelius brings to the table.

Lelu and Lillitu-These two also deserved to be spoken of together, although they are not required to be paired up the way they used to be. They are still interlinked, but importantly they don’t start taking wounds when their counterpart is off of the board. Their “Same oppressive force” trait allows healing and conditions to be passed between them. This is a double edged sword, albeit with one edge sharper than the other. The healing being passed is always strong, and just being able to pass Focus or Defensive to both for the cost of 1 AP is pretty good, to say nothing of the specific conditions they both can generate. However, you have to beware of negative conditions like Burning or Poison, which will also be shared unless you discard two cards. I could really see McMourning or Sonnia being tricky match-ups in this regard. Of the two, Lillitu is probably the best on her own, with Lelu needing some help to push enemies into his threat range so he can pounce. They are both a bit fragile, as many Neverborn models are, but their Regeneration (remember it passes between the two of them) and individual healing abilities helps to offset some of this. 14 points for the pair of them is pretty expensive, though, and any 7 soulstone model in the Neverborn is going to have to be compared to the Illuminated. I don’t think these two come out ahead in that comparison.

Insidious Madness-In the right crew, these guys could be seriously frightening. There’s a reason they had to be reduced to Rare 3, and that reason’s name is Pandora. Wk7 and incorporeal means they’re pretty speedy for objective running or getting into position to cause problems. They do this by spreading WP debuffs, both through their 4 inch aura requiring you to discard if you’re going to cheat fate on a WP duel and the “I Can Hear Them” condition they place on enemies with their attack. Considering how many Neverborn models attack WP, I see them being potentially quite useful in the future.

Black Blood Shaman-The shaman is essentially two of Lillith’s upgrades given legs and the ability to walk around and play the game on their own, letting you run Nephilim grow lists without her. This benefits Lillith by freeing up her Upgrade slots, but also greatly improves the ability to use Nephilim in non-Lillith crews. This is frankly a great choice on the part of the designers. Given the fact that Lynch is not particularly dependent on Brilliance anymore to function and Zoraida isn’t really anchored to any particular crew, the Shaman lets them get in on grow list action as well. It even gives you an additional means of letting your tots mature as well, using his “Blood Feast” spell that lets you sacrifice corpse counters to for the grow effect.The Shaman can even stab the non-Nephilim models you bring at the beginning of the game to give them Black Blood, keeping them safe from collateral damage.  It’s still a little “combo”-y for my tastes, but bravo to Justin for putting this into the faction.

Stitched Together-These guys were the poster children for how over-powered Book 2 was and frankly don’t get enough blame for the “Neverfilth” reputation the faction picked up from that point on. As such, you had to expect a dip in power for them. The M2E Stitched Together are no longer the no-brainer auto-includes they used to be. Their old “Does Not Die” ability is replaced by the Hard to Kill/Reactivate mechanism that has been used on some previous models, and I think is a good compromise. Gamble your life actually requires gambling now (probably fitting), as the flips are no longer cheatable and ignore all positive or negative twist on the duel. The Stitched have a CA of 6 for the attack which, considering it targets defense, is going to give you advantage most of the time, but it still will blow up in your face more often than previously. Possibly more interesting is their “Game of Chance” spell that lets the winner of a CA vs. WP duel draw two cards and pitch one. In certain crews (Lynch or Pandora come to mind) these may actually be more desirable than the gamble ability (especially if you have a high crow to trigger either “Heads I Win” or “Tails You Lose,” which are also my favorite trigger names ever.) Plus they retain their creepy fog ability and (thank god) no longer require a suit to cast it. I think the Stitched are a good example of the compromises necessary to bring an overpowered M1E model down to the level of a balanced M2E minion. And, on a personal note, they were probably the part of the Beta I campaigned the hardest for changes that actually ended up in the game. I was one voice among many, but it was still cool to be a part of bringing a model to their final shape.

Tuco-A model that brings reliable ranged to the Neverborn is always going to deserve attention. The thing about Tuco is, you’re going to want to deploy him via From the Shadows downfield, and you’re wrong to do so. Maybe M1E Tuco could pull this off, but M2E Tuco is going to die fast if used in this manner. This Tuco needs to be used for area control, deploying him to a vital spot on the board and letting him dig in with Defensive, shooting at people that come nearby and/or making them walk away with his (0) action. This leads him to feel underpowered, again, in large part because of how strong he was previously. I think, however, that once we learn how to not get him killed on the first turn of the game, Tuco’s going to be quite good at this role in Neverborn crews.

The Depleted-These models frankly felt a little lost at the beginning of the beta, and I was happy to see them shape up into their final form. The Depleted are a tarpit model. With Hard to Kill and Hard to Wound, it’s going to be tough to push the 8 damage onto them to kill them off. That combined with the fact that they explode when they die would seem to make them low priority targets and would suggest that the best course of action is to ignore them. This is tough to do once the Depleted get to grips with you, however, as they get a +twist to disengaging strikes, so they’re going to keep you nearby once you are engaged unless you find a way around them. For four stones, I think they can do a pretty good job of causing your opponent headaches. The only question is going to be whether or not it’s worth spending points on models that are insignificant and can’t score you VPs. I see a lot of them being “Frame for Murder” targets.

Iggy-Iggy’s always been a bit weird, in that he’s the only model in the Neverborn that interacts with burning. In a Woe heavy crew, his ability to depress the willpower of the models around him will come in handy, and adding another Incite to a Pandora/Candy crew adds some utility and makes it more likely to let you control one of your opponent’s models, but this is still kind of a corner case. In the meantime, the burning just sort of feels stuck on, or more accurately is a leftover from the fluff that doesn’t really help it synergize with the rest of the faction.

Hooded Rider-The hooded rider doesn’t feel particularly inspired compared to, say, the Mechanical, and doesn’t exactly reflect anything that particularly says “Neverborn” to me. His attack has a relatively standard critical-strike style trigger that uses his masks, but also can use a different trigger to discard counters from around itself. The second trigger might have the most potential to swing a game and makes him an attractive choice when your opponent declares Arcanist or Resurectionist. His Revel in Reclamation (0) action will add some good mobility to the crew, with a potential to move 18” in a turn and bring another model along for 6 of them. His big, last turn of the game ability, Judgement Day, doesn’t seem particularly interesting, letting him make an attack on everything in melee range (3”), but I’ve already said not to judge these models based on these abilities so it doesn’t really factor into my assessment. For 12 stones, I think the Rider is going to draw a lot of attention and get shot to death if you aren’t careful with him. There are probably more efficient ways to spend your points when building a crew.

Of all the articles so far, I think this is the one where I skipped the most models during the assessment. A lot of them may have strength in particular crews or under certain circumstances, but some others were just kind of blah. The Spawn Mother/Gupp combination is something I’ve never really cared for, as it takes too long to set up and doesn’t pay off with quality models in the end. Iggy came pretty close to not getting written up either, until someone finally responded with a comment regarding him on the forum thread.  Going back to proofread, I can see that a lot of my commentary comes off more negative than I really intended as well. While I think the Neverborn get some great models out of Wave 2, I have to wonder whether the relative “nerfing” that some things received kind of puts a damper on the enthusiasm of some readers when it came to this. Plus, the fact that Neverborn strength tends to be a bit less intuitive, since it relies on subterfuge and speed rather than direct strength, makes it all the more likely that there are things here we just haven't found yet. So buck up, Neverborn fans! The future is bright! Some of these minions and enforcers are really good!

Plus we get Nekima, so we'll still get complaints that we're totally broken!

Next up on the article list is the Outcasts, who I again did not get a lot of time to playtest during the beta. Any feedback from forumfolks or in the comments section here would be most appreciated.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Wave 2 Beta Wrap-Up: Gremlins

Everybody’s favorite green little nasties, the Gremlins, are next up on the list of factions to receive a thorough blogging from me. I’ve previously discussed the Ten Thunders, The Guild, and The Arcanists under this format. Once again, the forums have come through in a big way to point me towards the minions and enforcers that have general, cross faction appeal rather than being only useful for a particular crew. As per usual, we’re skipping over the Masters and Henchmen for the time being. Let’s not futz around anymore and get down to business.

The Sow- I don’t want to know why the Sow is three headed. I just don’t. Her melee damage spread is a very respectable 3/5/6 so she’s going to rip things up when she’s in melee. She also can summon piglets with a 5 or higher of crows as a (0) by discarding enemy scheme markers through her “Birth” ability, and similarly spawns some piglets from Farrowing when she dies. A respectable melee beater with some summoning that conjures up…unpleasant mental images.

Rooster Rider- This one definitely drew a lot of attention from the forum folks. With Wk7, Cg7, Reckless,  and Gremlin movement tricks the Rooster Rider is crazy fast. It also has the Warpig’s ability to charge as a (1) and the Stampede trigger from their melee attack, with a gremlin’s Rusty Rifle ranged attack. Their only Achilles Heel is the Rampage ability, which makes them charge the closest legal target if they’re knocked to 2 wounds or less. Makes it pretty Gremlin-y, but worth the 6 stones for what it can do.

Stuffed Pigs and the Taxidermist-These two need to be discussed together, so I thought I’d lump them up. The Taxidermist doesn’t exactly work the way it used to, namely with turning piglets into the stuffed variety as a means of arming the Pigapault. I get the sense there was some discontent over this notion, which has left some of my forum responders not liking the Taxidermist much while others swore by him. Now, his summoning comes off of a (0) action and uses Corpse Markers, which of course will be plentiful in a Gremlin crew but won’t be clumped in your deployment zone with the ‘Pult.  The Piglets themselves all have the Bacon Bomb action, in which you flip a suit to determine the range and damage of the blast when the pigs go up. It triggers automatically if they die, and the Taxdiermist can set them all of if he dies. The flip can’t be cheated, so you’re subject to the vagaries of the deck on your bacon bombardiers unless you can stack it in some way (one suggestion coming later on.) The Taxidermist is actually not too bad in melee and generates corpse counters off of successful melee attacks. Combo units like this aren’t really my thing, but they could be potent under the right circumstances.

Bayou Bushwacker-The Bushwhacker’s (0) action lets you generate some mobile cover within 3” around her as the crew moves up the board, which has some obvious benefits both for her and potentially other gremlins that can hide behind her. She has a pretty good statline for a gremlin, and her ability to take bonus shots whenever a gremlin misses with a ranged attack is interesting.  With no defenses she’s a bit fragile, but this may be a model to keep an eye on.

Burt Jebson-I’m not sure what to make of this Burt. 7 points is a lot for a gremlin, which tend to be relatively fragile as a general rule and thus value quantity over quality. Slippery and Hard To Kill will give him some survivability, but 7 wounds and 5 defense aren’t exactly impressive. Moreover, I’m not really sure what he’s supposed to do for you on the board. He has decent damage on his melee attack with Crit strike, and he does have Trigger Crazy to possibly spam off a lot of shots, but still, I’m not that impressed. Crackerjack timing could be useful for clumping models up for things like the Pigapault, Pere Ravage, or the blast from his gun’s severe damage I suppose, though having to spend a (1) for that seems a little impractical. Maybe I’m just not seeing it, but he’s a pass for me as of now.

Gracie-Gracie is a pretty decent tank, particularly for fragile gremlins. Armor 2, Hard To Kill, and healing from Eat your fill and her bite attack are going to make bringing Gracie down pretty tough. 10 Stones is a lot to pay for her, though, so that may limit her utility.

Merris Lacroix-Another star from the Wave 2 Beta is the wannabe Kaeris, Merris Lacroix. His (her?) Gremlin Cunning ability lets you draw 2 cards and then put 3 back on your deck, which is good both for the extra card cycling but also for knowing what suits are coming on subsequent flips (perhaps for setting off Bacon Bombs?) The Bombs Away! ability lets you throw some scheme markers down, which is helpful when paired with his flight ability and gremlin reckless movement. Definitely useful.

Wild Boar-When I read this model’s rules, my first thought was how disruptive they could be by deploying them downfield with From the Shadows and just letting them go nuts with Rampage. Problem is, the boar isn’t tough enough to have much of a chance to survive for long like this and are a bit too expensive to be used as expendable fodder. I think they would have been more interesting if built with one of these strategies in mind, but for now seem to be just a mid-range beater outside of Ulix crews.

Lucky Effigy-Unlike most of the others, this Effigy’s attack actually has a pretty good damage spread, though this is offset by an ML value of 3. Its (0) buff for the crew’s master lets it offset some of the damage done by the various Dumb Luck abilities by having them heal a point of damage when they flip a ram (because god knows a point of damage was too much for Ophelia to pay for her absurd damage output.) It’s “Hit Me!” ability forces models to pass a WP test to attack something other than the effigy, which lets it follow the master or some other important unit around and act as a funny sort of tank. It’s a fairly interesting model that could be pretty disruptive.

Glowin’ Varmint- As has been said about Gremlins since the very beginning of the game, I don’t know if these guys are any good, but they look fun. Their main spellcasting attack can trigger blasts that do damage or pulses that heal everything  nearby. Tinkerin’ with the Unknown creates an interesting sort of interaction with the opponent while giving you something to do with the bad cards in your hand. It allows you to place a control card face down on their stat card and, if the varmint survives to the end of the turn, lets you discard it and get some kind of effect ranging from damage pulses on a crow to healing pulses on a ram. As I said, an interesting sort of interaction with you potentially bluffing your opponents or setting you up for that last little nudge on a turn, but the question will be how exactly you’re going to keep them alive long enough to trigger them.

Bayou Gator-Gators are cheap and mean, to put it bluntly, and were a subject of controversy that led to them being made into peons to try and reduce their value. A 5 stone model with melee expert is scary, and with a good attack like the gators have makes for some serious damage potential. They also have a (3) AP Ml attack that, with a crow, can trigger paralyze. Combine that with the Ambush ability to push 3” and set up for charges and they can get to grips and do 3 attacks relatively simply. They have no defenses, really, so they’re going to die, but they’re going to do a scary amount of damage before they go. Also, nice to see some more swampfiends in the game. If I hadn’t already committed to Hoffman (and if I didn’t already have the models,) I’d be tempted to use Zoraida for the upcoming ToMB project and go swamp heavy. These guys would be an important part of it.

Old Cranky-Any model that has the words “Add 1 soulstone to the crew’s pool” on an ability is going to get my attention. The funny thing is, most of the Gremlin masters I’m familiar with need their totems, so I’m not sure who will realistically be able to switch to this generic. However a totem that boosts the defense and WP of the friendly models around them seems pretty good for Gremlins. I’m reminded of Killa Kans with Kustom Force Fields in Ork armies (from some game we don’t talk about) in that the defense it adds to the army aren’t incredible, but all it has to do is help a few more members of your horde get to where they need to be to be effective. Card cycling as a (0) always makes me happy. His gun is like Granny Ortegas, letting you do blasts or switch to a Seamus-like damage level against a single target. And all of this is only 4 stones. I’ll be interested to see who or what finds a place for him.

Phew, so that’s the Gremlins out of the way. No offense green guys, but I was worried about this one. If there’s one of these articles I expect to get wrong, it’s this one, if only because of my inexperience with the faction. Feel free to set me straight in the comments here or elsewhere.

Now time to move on to the other natives of Malifaux for the next article, The Neverborn. Feel free to share your suggestions on this newthread on the Wyrd forums or in the comments here.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wave 2 Beta Wrap-Up: Arcanists

I began by taking a look at the Ten Thunders and then moved on to the Guild. The new files drop on the 10th, so as of this writing I have 5 days to get the rest of these things knocked out. There will be five articles to go after this one, so I’m still on track to make it through this series at one article per day. I assure you, no one is more surprised about this fact than me.

This particular article is one of the three remaining factions I don’t really play, so this presented a problem for me. My read on models and their competitive viability is always a bit shaky anyways, and that’s within factions I know well. How would I know whether the Wave 2 Arcanists were good for the faction when I don’t even really know what they’re doing now with only Wave 1? Answer: pass the buck!

Here you go.

I posted a thread to the Wyrd boards looking for feedback on what models I should be writing about in this article. The response was great and really helped point me in the right direction while reading. Probably the biggest benefit was just the reassurance that things I saw which looked strong were, in fact, strong. It was so useful, I’ll likely be doing it for the upcoming articles in the series as well. But, without anymore preamble, let’s dive in and see what jumped out from the Arcanists in Wave 2.

As previously, the point is to take a look at the models that are going to have broad appeal rather than being specifically strong in a particular crew. Because they typically are more complex and deserve more than a short blurb, Henchmen, Masters, and Totems are excluded from this.

Oxfordian Mage: As of now, I believe this is the only model with the Academic type, which is relevant as these models get a +tomes to duels when within 3” of each other that they need for triggers on their casts. They’re also one of, if not the only model with furious casting in M2E, so there’s not a lot of mystery to what they’re supposed to do. They seem like nice cheap ranged damage models, but are a bit slow and fragile. Also, fun fact, the Oxford in their name is Oxford, Mississippi, not Oxford, England. 

Coming to an Arcanist crew near you.

Coryphee and Duet-The designers made a pretty strong choice this time by making the individual Coryphee quite strong on their own, thus incentivizing you to keep them separate rather than immediately pairing into the duet. With armor 2 and +to df and wp flips they’re going to be hard to put down. They push 4” after their melee attacks with a trigger, so they’re still pretty speedy. Interestingly, they gave them puppet in addition to showgirl this time around, so the coryph√©e can be ran with Collodi (a cool idea) although they are specifically only able to form the duet in arcanist crews. With the mobility remaining more or less the same and many of the attack options duplicated in the duet, one imagines the choice between when to combine and get one model with swift rather than 2 individual activations will be situational (reckoning comes to mind as a time when you will want them together.) It may be a choice of letting one of them take a hit first and then combining them for mutual protection. 

Performers-As Collette’s shtick this time around revolves around using scheme markers, it isn’t really a shock that performers are good at putting them out and interacting with them. “Don’t Mind Me” is always good, and their seduction ability allows them to discard any scheme markers (not just friendly ones) as a cost for passing out debuffs to the enemy. Pretty good objective runners for 5 points, though not exceptionally speedy.  

Mannequin-They are solid as ever with Armor 3, cheap at only 4 stones, and can do some interesting moving tricks if you have other showgirls in your crew. Their magician’s assistant ability lets friendly models place scheme markers 6” away from them, which makes for some interesting utility for things like Plant Explosives. Plus they gained Puppet, so they also get to join Collodi's Marionette show. 

Gunsmiths-The first post on the forum thread read simply “Gun. Smiths.” The rest of the thread backed up this initial support, and it’s not hard to see why. Their main attack has a different trigger for each suit that lets you alternately ignore armor, h2w, and h2k; boosts the damage; adds blasts; or prevents the damage being reduced from soulstones. Normally I don’t like these options, but they have a (0) action that lets you pitch a card and add that suit to all your final duel totals. If you are a crew that hands out burning, you can use their other (0), The Hard Way, that gives you a double positive twist to all duels against models with burning. If you attack them, they have a tome trigger to give the attacker burning or a ram trigger to give the gunsmith fast. A very strong ranged model, and one we should probably expect to see fielded quite a bit in the coming months.

Plus they look like this guy.

Mechanical Rider-The Mechanical Rider is widely considered to be the best of the riders, and plays in nicely with some of the Arcanists' themes of focusing on strategy rather than being focused on offensive power. Its attack triggers either allow you to draw cards or drop scheme markers off of a successful attack, up to a maximum of 2. Moreover, she can summon 4ss or less arcanist constructs as a (0) action once the rider has two tomes. Given how powerful summoning is in this edition of the game, it seems like the Mechanical Rider has some good potential.

Silent One-The thing that jumped out at me initially was the Frozen Statue trigger from their defense. It gives them a condition that reduces all damage the Silent One suffers to 1 and is not considered engaged for purposes of Ice Mirror of Shattered Mirror. I sort of picture an interesting combo where they get attacked by their own crew to trigger this, then Raspy uses her as the focus for her blasts to chain out and hit enemy models, letting you dish out damage without having to win duels. For more general crews, I could see them being decent for objective holding strategies like Reconnoiter or Turf War. They also have a good casting attack for range with some decent triggers and healing with their (0) action, though the trigger is only useful in frozen heart crews.

Soulstone Miner-The main appeal of the miner is their “Surprise from Below” ability which allows them to deploy downfield at the end of any turn. This opens up some options for objective grabbing, particularly for schemes like Breakthrough where you need to get into the deployment zone (though, keep in mind, you will have to appear at least 6" away from the enemy DZ when you come onto the board.) As mentioned in James “Mythicfox” Doxy’s interview on Malibites, the fact that they’re constructs makes them synergize a bit better with some crews like Ramos, as opposed to the current champion objective grabber in the faction, the Moleman. Their soulstone generating ability is really just gravy, although I doubt many of us would argue with a model that could inflict 2 wounds to cycle 2 cards through our hand (via SS at the beginning of the turn.) Compare that to Ronin which you have to sacrifice for similar effects. 

Angelica-One of the models that utilizes all of these scheme markers thrown out by Showgirls, Angelica provides a lot of board manipulation. Her Hooked cane lets you push enemy models around, while here Give Them an Encore! gives you a 5” push for friendly non-leader models without having to attack them. The duel result and push distance are all augmented by the number of scheme markers around her, so you'll want to position her carefully when activating. She seems like she’ll thrive in a central position on the board, re-positioning things for the crew's benefit as the game goes along.

Blessed of December-Anytime you see Leap, you know it’s going to be a good thing, especially when paired with Unimpeded and a Cg of 7. These guys are going to move quickly on the board and can do some decent melee in addition to running objectives. When you throw in Frozen Heart and HtW+1, you’ve got a quick, solid model that can do whatever you ask of it in the game, but may be a bit pricy at 9 soulstones.

Fire Gamin-They’re cheap at 4 SSs and everything they do, including dying, passes out burning to enemy models. It’s a shame shame Sonnia can’t take them anymore, so let’s hope she gets an upgrade sometime in the future to get them back. They’ll be a gunsmith’s little buddy and can do some nice things like stoking the Rail Golem or just generally being a problem for enemy crews.

Slateridge Mauler-The four armed bear is tough but pretty slow, so you’re going to need to get it upfield somehow to even have a shot at earning its points back. Paired up with their good but not great melee damage spread and 8SS cost, this one seems like a pass for most crews and, since it doesn't really stand out, may get passed over even in Marcus crews.

Willie-Willie is a scary model in terms of all the blast damage he can put out, much as he was previously. However, with no way to protect himself, you’re going to have to be careful with exposing him too early or the enemy will shoot him to death before he can be effective. He's very all or nothing. I do like his ability to protect your scheme markers, though that may be a bit TOO meta, as I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've seen an opponent destroy one of my scheme markers via Interact during a game.

Arcane Effigy-The main purpose to this model is to supply some much needed status removal to the faction, and it might see use for this alone. Arcane Radiance is decent (particularly if you’re trying to get some more burning for your Gunsmiths) and you may as well do it every turn since it costs you nothing and it has no other (0)s.

General Thoughts: I really should look more at the Arcanists, if only because of how much I enjoy crews where you dance around the combat and focus instead on schemes. You have to win a flip to kill a model. You don't have to win a flip to do an interact and drop a scheme marker. The Arcanists, particularly the Showgirls, are going to excel at this. There’s going to be some debate between the Gunsmiths and the Blessed (as evidenced by the debate that broke out on the forum thread) for higher point combat models, and that’ll probably come down to the rest of the crew build for how well they’ll synergize. I'm leaning in the direction of the Blessed right now, mainly for its speed and versatility, but I certainly see why the Gunsmith is as popular as it is.

Next up, I think we’ll take a look at the newest faction, the Gremlins. Again, this is one I’m not an expert on, so I’ll be counting on you folks to point me in the right direction.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Wave 2 Beta Wrap-Up: The Guild

There seems to have been some positive response to the first in this series of articles, so I’m going to do the best I can to get through the remaining factions prior to the release of the final Wave 2 cards. I set this goal for a couple of reasons, partially because I really want to take a tour through the cards and create a quick resource for those that weren’t involved in the Beta to get up to speed with their faction (or for use as a scouting resource for opposing factions,) and also because I signed up for the Tale of Malifaux Bloggers project, which kicks off on the 17th. More details on this as I get closer to the date. For now, however, time to take a look at the wave 2 models for everybody’s favorite fascists, The Guild.

As before, these are the models that jumped out at me as being noteworthy as of the final Beta update on 1/21st. I am likely wrong in more than one place, and I am also certain some kind souls will come along to inform me of this fact immediately after reading this. To give you an idea of my prognostication ability, I went into last night’s Super Bowl thinking that the ESPN commentators were trying really hard to convince everybody of how good Seattle was, so the Broncos were going to win the thing going away. And, yeah, that didn’t work out. So just assume that most of my predictions of the future are wrong, and you'll be fine.

Guardian- I kind of feel that all the constructs are slightly undertuned in terms of their general stat blocks due to Hoffman’s Power Loop ability. None of them particularly stand out, but since he can theoretically link all their best stats together, perhaps this is a good thing. It does, however, potentially limit their broad-base appeal. The Guardian’s ability to soak wounds from the model it protects is mostly gone, replaced by the ability to hand out Defensive +2 for a (0) and potentially heal the target with a ram trigger. I’ve learned not to underestimate the potency of Defensive in M2E, but I still have to wonder about whether this model is worth 8 points in a faction that is already cluttered with high-point models.

Abuela Ortega-Shotgun wedding used to be included to let non-family models join into the companion chain shenanigans, but perhaps its best utility now is to give you one more model that can prevent interact actions whenever Nino can see them. Granny has a pretty nasty auto-trigger on her shotgun that puts its damage output on par with Seamus’s flintlock, which is kind of fun. The rest of the crew can use their (0) actions to scoot her around on the board, which is also fun, or at least fun to imagine. When exactly the Ortegas turned into the Clampett family, I’m not sure. She has a friendly only obey as well. Could be an interesting model on the table, particularly to Ortega crews.

Guild Hounds-It seemed like these guys were in the beta updates almost weekly, and not often with positive changes. The big issue with them was how to keep them useful without making them very tempting to spam. 3 stone significant models (as long as they’re in pairs) is dangerous territory. The game doesn’t want to end up with dog-pound Guild crews flooding the board. The designers finally just had to make them Rare 4, which I would have thought would mean they could be tuned back up a bit, but that hasn’t really happened yet. It’s possible they may have gotten pushed too far down at this point, but we’ll see as time goes on.

Guard Sergeant-The fat man apparently got a demotion since M1E, but has picked up some interesting abilities. Namely, he can now shift friendly scheme markers up to 4” with a (0), opening up some new ways to get Plant Explosives or any similar schemes done. He also hands out some decent buffs to friendly guardsmen models that are around him. Given that Lucius and McCabe both like Guardsmen, and a number of Guardsmen models have simply become better for any crew to take (or remained strong, in the case of Austringers,) this could lead to him getting included a bit more often in crews.

Hunter-For a while there, Hunters were one of the best models in faction. They’ve since seen some down-grades and been made Rare 2, but still have some strong potential. Their Prowl ability adds some nice mobility at the end of the turn to either get that last bit of movement or perhaps duck out of melee range of things they attacked. They also have the ability to pounce 3” onto a model as a (0) and debuff their melee, with a crow trigger for a free attack. The chain harpoon is always nice for repositioning enemy models and passes out slow. I wish they would have gotten unimpeded, as I think it would have fit better with the overall theme of the model and would have added some movement flexibility. Still pretty good, but we’ll see how much play they get outside of Hoffman now that the full faction is there to compete for the points.

Lawyer-Guild Lawyers in M1E were overcosted and undereffective on the board, and it’s good to see that the designers have made efforts to reverse these two characteristics this time around. They have Lucius’ Highest Authority ability to hand out negative flips to attacks and can buff friendly models against horror tests in a 6” aura. I’m not blown away by the special damages ability, but I like Objection! to hand out slow and paralyzed. Pretty decent mid-cost support model.

Watcher-Watchers apparently spent too much time haning out with Nicodem’s M1E Vultures, as they learned how to allow friendly leader’s to draw line of sight off of them with a (2) action. Additionally, they disrupt the opponent’s ability to utilize cover, so obviously their greatest utility will be in ranged crews. I could see Perdita fielding them, or perhaps a Sonnia crew that doesn’t want to rely on burning to negate LoS.

Witchling Handler-These guys are an interesting mix of attack and support. They have some general buffs for friendly models and even more powerful ones for Witchlings, which is always nice. They give Witchlings a speed boost for starting next to them. They have a very limited version of Sonnia’s summoning on a melee trigger, which is situational at best but could make for an unpleasant surprise for the enemy. Also, their (0) to allow friendly models to hand out burning is always a strong addition to a Sonnia crew. A pretty good model that is very good in a Sonnia Criid crew. Which brings us to her counterpart in the Death Marshals...

No, not that one.

I’ve wanted this model to be good since book 3. I like the idea of a travelling preacher man that criss-crosses Malifaux and hunts down the things that go bump in the night. His first edition failed to be broadly effective because it was too much of a magic bullet for undead and spirits and really couldn’t do much when the enemy didn’t have these traits. His new False Accusation (0) is an amusing fix to this problem, as the Exorcist essentially forces the Undead characteristic onto an enemy model (2 enemy models with a trigger,) allowing his abilities to work even when facing Arcanists or fellow Guildies and creating some nice synergies with other Marshall type models (The Judge will be fast friends with him, I’m thinking.) He’s still not particularly fast or hard-hitting (though the banish trigger could lead to some nasty surprises for unprepared undead enemies,) so I’m not sure how effective he’ll be long term, but it’s a good step in the right direction.

Latigo Pistoleros-These guys were essentially a laughing stock model in M1E, relegated to the same drawer as Malifaux Children and that old paint brush that only has two bristles left that you haven’t gotten around to tossing yet. The new version are good, cheap models for a theme crew that desperately needed some affordable backup. Their rules encourage you to pair one of them off with each of your higher priced guys, providing a defense buff as long as the Pistolero hasn’t activated yet. I like the flexibility of the ram trigger to give you either a bonus to damage or your final duel total, but one has to wonder if there will ever be any rams left for them outside of flips from the deck in a crew so heavy on critical strike. Still, I think they’ll see some use if for no other reason than that the Ortegas just flat-out need cheap guys to go complete objectives and fill out their activations.

Pale Rider-As this is the first rider we’ve run into during this series of articles, let’s pause for a moment and take a look at their general theme. All of them are basically on a clock that is controlled by the game turn, ie as the game goes on, they get more powerful. This power comes in the form of them receiving +1 of their particular suit to each of their duels for the turn number -1. That sentence is atrocious, so to make it clearer, on turn 3 the Pale Rider adds 2 rams to all of his duels, 3 rams on turn 4, and 4 on turn five. Unsurprisingly, almost all of their abilities have a trigger that uses these gradually increasing suits to some devastating effect, culminating in some horrific ability that they would presumably only be able to use on the last turn of the game, as it requires five of the suit to pull off.

Ok, here’s the thing: you are never going to get to use that ability. Just ignore it when you’re reading the card. These abilities are the equivalent of the Magic: The Gathering cards like the Leviathan: they look really neat, and they make fanboys get really excited, but they’re completely impractical.

Worst. Rare. Ever

 In 90% of games when you are up against someone relatively competent, either your opponent will kill the rider before you get to that last turn (probably the most likely outcome), you’ll have tabled them and it’ll be wasted, or the tournament game will end on turn 4 and you won’t even get the chance to try it. The trouble is, these abilities are built into the cost of the model, so you’re paying soulstones for something that you’ll maybe get to use in 1 game out of 10. Not great, and it makes me wonder if they’ll build something into Leviticus’ avatar to speed these abilities along.

Ok, with that out of the way, the Pale Rider isn’t that bad outside of me being annoyed by The Last Crossing. He reduces damage from enemy attacks by the number of rams in the defense flip. On turn 3 his damage track can either be a 6/7/8 or he can heal himself a point for each ram in the duel depending on trigger. He’s unimpeded. He’s a stat brick, but I have to think that just makes it more likely your opponent will try to pounce on him fast and take him off the board. So, the Pale Rider is a fun model, but I have my questions about his competitive viability. I’ll be expecting to be told that I’m an idiot and he’s amazing momentarily.

Clockwork Traps and Guild Pathfinder-I really like what they did with the design on these. Clockwork traps are the first model in the game that don’t have activations, receiving the “Inanimate” trait. Instead, any model that moves, pushes, or is placed in their melee range gets an attack. Any model that starts their activation next to them has to pass a walk duel or gets Slow. They deploy via From the Shadows, so they’re going to be scattered through all the key positions on the board (read: Squatter’s Rights markers.) They’re Rare 4 and not particularly tough (3 wounds Armor+2), but that’s not the point. Their job is to slow the enemy down and be annoying, and I think they do a pretty good job of that. I wish they had something to prevent ranged damage, but that might be a bit too good for a 2 Soulstone model.

Unsurprisingly, since they come in the same box set, the Pathfinder works well with the traps as well. He can summon more of them with a 6 or higher of tomes (remember the Rare 4 limit, of course.) He also deploys via From the Shadows, so he can be nearby to support them or off somewhere else causing mischief. Scavenge makes for some decent card cycling, particularly since his traps will likely be dropping fairly regularly around him. His rifle has some nice triggers and doesn’t scatter onto the traps when he fires into melee, and he can relocate the traps with a 0 action. They have the potential to be a nasty little cluster of unpleasantness for the opponent to deal with, forcing him to waste AP dealing with piddly little traps and the crazy gomer defending them instead of going after the objectives. And they’re duel faction Guild/10T, so they can be used with any of the Asian crews as well. I like them and will likely be getting them painted up for action shortly.

So that’s the models that jumped out at me from the Guild. As usual, feel free to comment. Look for an article about a faction that I don’t know well at all in a couple of days, the Arcanists. I’m accepting comments from and suggestions from folks on the Wyrd threads now for that, so feel free to drop me a line and help me out.