Monday, December 5, 2016

Factions of The Other Side

                Malifaux Musings has previously discussed some of the crunch/rules content known so far regarding Wyrd Miniatures’ forthcoming army-scale game, The Other Side. Late last week some information started to come out onto Wyrd’s website regarding the four factions the game will feature. And then, in this week’s Monday Preview, they released a Youtube video discussing the character and fluff of these organizations and giving us some hints into the way they will actually perform on the battlefield. So, being the fluff nuts that we are and wanting to take some educated guesses at what the mechanics may be from the glimpses we received of their faction cards, we decided to take a dive into the information we have so far. Let’s not waste any more time, as the world is literally at war.

The Story So Far…

                As we know, the current timeline of Malifaux has the date placed in 1906, which is a time of high political tension in our own history. We’re knocking on the door of the first World War at this point on Earth and, in the Malifaux timeline, things are also on the verge of armed combat. The closing of the first breach led to global tensions over the sudden loss of a steady supply of Soulstones. This tension caused the Black Powder Wars, which were ended when the Guild of Mercantilers forms and brings the whole world under its (at least indirect) control. However, not everyone is crazy about this arrangement, and the Guild’s struggles to maintain order in Malifaux once the Second Breach opens only aggravates this further. And then, as a result of his failed ascension as a Tyrant, the former Governor-General of Malifaux appears in the skies over London in a new form, The Burning Man. His arrival triggers chaos and opens a series of smaller breaches which dump Neverborn creatures onto the Earth, and plunge the world into war.

                One group that was ready and waiting for the Guild’s weakening was the United Kingdom. The chaos caused by the arrival of the Burning Man was the last sign they needed to throw off the Guild’s yoke and declare themselves independent. In preparations for this moment, the Empire had stockpiled and engineered the most powerful guns in the world, and they bring these to bear on the enemy. As such, their battlefield strategies are designed around using ranged combat to wear the enemy down from afar.

                What we can see from the allegiance card shown in the video tells us that the units of a King’s Empire army get to flip from their normal form to their Glory form after killing an enemy unit (what that means in practice, we don’t know, but it is what it is. These are previews when we don’t have the rulebook.) They get a mask trigger on melee and ranged attacks that let them push 2” after resolving the action, which is a nice way of adding mobility to what otherwise looks to be a static gunline faction. They can use their ranged attacks in melee, albeit at a reduced AV, which we can assume from the use of the same terminology in Through the Breach means Activating Value (the equivalent of Ml or Rg in Malifaux.) So, again, it avoids one of the hallmarks of “gunline” armies by making them not completely useless in melee. And finally, they can charge and use ranged attacks instead of melee. Who knows if that’s any good or not, but it would probably create some interesting tactical scenarios.
                Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast has turned me on to World War I in a way that history lessons in America never really achieved (for foreign readers, it goes along the lines of “There was a war going on in Europe for a while, then we came over and helped finish it. The end.”) That and my attraction to Imperial Guard armies in Warhammer 40k makes me think the KE might be something I’d check out in the future.

                From the faction page on Wyrd’s website, we know that the Gibbering Hordes are Neverborn from Malifaux’s oceans and rivers. More specifically, they were on the wrong side of the war with the Tyrants, and the Neverborn we’re used to like the Nephilim banished this group from the land as punishment afterwards. The Burning Man’s arrival has plucked them literally from their homes and dropped them in the middle of London (at least initially. We know the starter boxed set planned is the KE vs. GH and is called The Battle of London.) Guess they got lucky that the Burning Man didn’t show up over Tucson or the Mojave, as I imagine that would have made for a pretty short invasion. Since their initial arrival, however, other portals have opened up and dropped members of the GH around the globe.

                The GH are a melee faction, focused on getting into close combat and destroying the enemy that way. Their first special rule probably explains how they’ve managed to hang on so long after being dropped off in Earth, Endless Numbers. It lets them respawn a unit that was killed on the previous turn at the beginning of the next turn. They start in the deployment zone, don’t have any assets (upgrades?), and get to immediately move up to twice their speed. They also deploy a pair of 120mm Tide Pool tokens on the board during the Scouting phase (one assumes this is at the beginning, though whether this is done before or after units deploy would probably affect efficacy.) These pools count as difficult terrain which the GH units get to ignore. Finally, they get to flip towards Glory by having one friendly unit eat another friendly unit that starts next to them. Presumably this makes for a handy means of taking a wounded unit and getting some value out of them before the enemy destroys them.
                All in all, it feels like you took a Sillurid and crossed it with the Zerg or Tyranids. I suppose most army-scale games need something like this, and it’s fun to see a side of the Neverborn that’s different than what you get in the standard game. Close combat armies have never really been my cup of tea, however, so there’s a good chance I’ll be splitting parts of a BoL box with somebody and letting them take these guys.

                The other faction that excites me the most out of this initial group is probably Abyssinia. They are a real-world kingdom that started in part of Ethiopia. In this history, they gained access to soulstones before the rest of the world (how, we don't know yet) and, as such, have a greater knowledge of how to use them. They seem more technologically advanced than the other human factions, looking almost like a steampunk version of Wakanda from the Marvel Universe. They stretch across central Africa now, and are seeming to want to spread and bring more nations under their control.

                They are represented as an elite army that uses better technology and tactics than the opponent, as opposed to sheer numbers (which triggers my “I don’t have to buy as many models to play this faction” senses.) Their faction card doesn’t give as much away as the others, but indicates that you can put two “Prototype Assets” per commander to units in your army. Are these better versions of assets, akin to Limited upgrades? We have no way of really knowing yet. They do, however, have the ability to flip to their Glory side simply by discarding two control cards at the start of a unit’s activation. Depending on how much of an upgrade this is, being able to do it directly rather than having to achieve something on the board (killing an enemy unit, eating a friendly unit, etc.) would give you a greater degree of control over the unit’s state during the game. Maybe you just spend the first turn burning your hand to flip to glory mode on as many units as possible? Of course, that would be card intensive, so you can try to get some of them back via the trigger all the units in this army have, Innovation, which lets them draw a card when they have a Tome.
                One of the more progressive elements of Malifaux, initially, was its inclusion of many strong female characters that didn’t have to be over-sexualized (although, bizarrely, the more likely a lady master is to fight in close combat with a sword, the less likely they are to be fully dressed while doing so.) In addition to being cool, Abyssinia does this in another way, by taking an African culture and making them the most technologically sophisticated on the planet. We already had hints of this in Ripples (an Abyssinian built the Infamy, Zipp’s airship.) But it’s cool to see it in play. Plus, painting a Marcus model showed me how much better dark skin looks when I paint it than light. And there’s the elites thing I pointed out above (I’m not a wealthy person. For tips on how you can help me with that, scroll to the bottom!) So I’m definitely giving the Abyssinians a close look along with the Empire.

                When a giant burning dude appears in the sky, maybe it’s not a surprise that a certain type of people might ended up deciding he’s a god. What’s unusual about this particular deific figure, however, is that worshiping him as such seems to be granting his followers magical powers, albeit at the cost of their sanity and/or their physical forms. These guys certainly duke it out with the GH for who is the scariest looking of The Other Side’s factions, looking almost reminiscent of the Illuminated and Depleted from Jacob Lynch’s crew in several cases (and giving those of us who don’t like some of the Lynch crews sculpts proxy ideas for the future.)

               Like the Abyssinians, it’s tougher to gauge what these guys do from the faction card (maybe this is a design feature, as it seems the first two simpler factions will be featured in the starter box.) When an ace falls into the discard pile (more Lynch similarities?) you can put a Panic token on one of your fireteams. What do those do? I don’t know. But if you have two of them, that’s how these guys flip to Glory mode. This seems like the ability you'll have the least control over, though if you mill through your whole deck in an average turn of The Other Side maybe I'll be proven wrong. They do, however, seem to have an interesting mobility tactic in use during the game. During scouting they place three 50mm portal markers on the board, which they can shift at the start of their turn 6” by discarding a card. Then, if a unit starts in contact with a portal or moves into contact with it, you can relocate them to a different portal anywhere else on the board. You lose the rest of that movement action, but it still provides some interesting tactical possibilities. As one example, you can present two fronts to the enemy at deployment, then bounce your whole army to one side and try to roll up an  flank. Other than that, we don’t get many hints from the video about what they do, other than that they’re chaotic and use magic and mutations to strike. So I suppose if you’re a GW Chaos player, particularly Tzeentch, these guys will probably feel right up your alley.

Final Thoughts

                Again, I want to stress that I don't know what I'm talking about here (well, more than usual.) I'm not a playtester for this game. I don't know anything about it. I'm learning along with you. Also, there were stat cards shown in the video which someone smarter and more patient than me could freeze frame and break down (though when I tried it, a lot of the terminology was different than anything in Malifaux, so I couldn't be sure what I was seeing.) As such, what I've said so far could and likely in many cases will prove to be incorrect. If nothing else, the video is worth checking out just to see the renders of all the cool models coming for the game in the future. 
               I won't lie to your Marge. When this game was announced, my first reaction was a hard no. It’s not that I don’t think it’s going to be any good. I have enough faith in Wyrd to believe that, if they’re putting the time and effort into the design that they have, they’ll come out with something top-notch. It’s just that I barely have the time or resources to support Malifaux, let alone throwing an army scale game on top of it. That said, some of the characterizations of the factions so far, as well as the materials reaffirming the commitment to The Other Side being as objective oriented as Malifaux, have led to my softening on this point. I’m still not sure if I’ll plunk down the cash for it, but I’m giving it a look. I think a lot of you will want to do so, as well.


                And where would Malifaux Musings recommend you go to buy The Other Side when it finally comes out? Why, to Leodis games, of course! They’re sort of like an online version of your friendly local gaming store, and stock Malifaux, Guild Ball, Infinity, and many more games as well as custom accessories. Right now, pre-orders for Sandeep’s Beacon of Knoweldge crew box as well as Iron Skeeters, Shastar Vidiya Guards, and Archie are 20% off! And, by following this link before making your purchase, you’ll be supporting Malifaux Musings as well. 

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