Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Wrap-Up Post

It’s the end of the year. This is a point in time where we look back on things. Reflect. It’s weird that we do that, right? I mean, all we did was go around the sun. But, anyways, that’s what we do, and that’s what we’re going to do in today’s post. Whether you like it or not! Why am I being so aggressive? Have the voices finally gotten to me? Maybe you’re being too aggressive! MAYBE IT’S YOUR PROBLEM!
*gloved hand rests on my shoulder*
Pandora: Calm down, dear. It’s just a Malifaux Musings intro. Nothing to get so worked up over.
Ah, of course. Yes. Nothing to get worked up over. It’ll all be fine. Let’s just talk about 2017, shall we?
*Pandora smiles, while quietly closing her puzzle box behind me*


               The last half of this year brought me the objective of focusing on a faction. I have a terminal case of Magpie Syndrome, which I’ve mentioned before, and it takes a conscious effort of will to force myself to sit with one crew/master/faction for long enough to actually become good at it. To counter this, I used my platform on facebook to post a poll and pass the burden off to you: what do you want me to play? I composed a list of masters I’ve owned for a while but haven’t actually gotten onto the table. The Facebook universe, of course, pointed out to me that polls allow you to add your own choices to the list. Suddenly, I discovered that the public had added Parker Barrows who I don’t own and Collodi who I didn’t particularly like. Well, I guess that made the choice clear, and yet I knew I was going to start cutting if I had to play Collodi over and over again. I didn’t get him. I knew it was going to be hard. And I knew there were other things I would rather play more. Thankfully, Jon volunteered to run Parker and the solution appeared: we would alternate our games, and I would focus on the Neverborn faction as a whole.
Well, the reality is that this isn’t exactly the same as focusing long enough to get good at something. My first couple of games with Collodi  were…painful. I didn’t understand what his role was in the crew. I tried putting Hinamatsu out onto the board and I totally boned her activations and placement, ending in more failure. I was about to wrap up the Collodi experiment entirely after the first few games out of sheer frustration. And then, somehow, getting my ass-kicked by Alex Schmid taught me how he’s supposed to work.
I thought, initially, that Collodi’s purpose on the board was force multiplier/debuff spreader/support piece. I was wrong. Collodi’s role on the board is to murder things. He doesn’t look like it, since his main attack only does 2/3/4. Don’t let that fool you. He’s a machine gunner, and his job is to get pushed into position to shoot whatever model from the opponent’s crew goes too far forward until it dies. That’s it. He has an aura that lets things take a couple points of damage to gain fast. He does have the ability to put personal puppet on things and use My Will at clutch moments to score VP. But that’s not why he’s there. He’s there to kill things. That’s his job, period, and he’s very good at it.
There is a bubble in the crew, but this isn’t a bubble crew. The Marionettes can feel free to run all over the place, and honestly that’s what they should be doing because they’re very cheap activations and, if there are no schemes to accomplish, they should be running around being obnoxious. It takes way too much AP for the opponent to kill them off, but there’s so many of them that they can’t be ignored. The effigies are good at their job, but the Shadow only really needs to do it for the first couple of turns to keep the crew safe on early days and then he can wander off to go do what he needs to do. The Arcane Effigy should be amazing on paper, but mine has literally never done anything in any game. I treat him like an umbrella: every time you remember to bring it you won’t need it, and the first time you forget it’s going to be a downpour. Hinamatsu needs to stay in there until it’s time to attack, because gaining Fast on her is just silly (5 AP on my beater? Sure, I’ll take that.) But it isn’t the most important thing, and she can go do her job without it (I think she’s almost better as a Linebacker, but then again I’m starting to look at most beaters that way.)
The Brutal Effigy is the most important model in the crew beyond Collodi. If the opponent can kill it, they bloody well should, because Collodi can be absurdly reckless with the knowledge that his attacks can heal him back without a whole lot of effort. Also, his little pop-gun is pretty useful to push Collodi up the board. That’s the other thing I didn’t think about, because I never think of these types of tricks. Collodi’s Mask trigger on defense lets him push 3” on resolution, so you either 1) Miss the shot and get a free push or 2) Get hit for, most likely, 1 damage, and then push. I often miss these sorts of things because, honestly, they feel “game”-y and I don’t like them. I wish they weren’t in Malifaux, and it’s one of the things about the Collodi crew that I still don’t find to be “fun.” It’s effective, because every AP you spend on walking is one you don’t have for machine-gunning. But, at the same time, I wish it didn’t have to be there to play the crew to the best of its abilities. Sigh. I’m griping, I know, but this stuff irritates me.


As for the rest of the faction, I dipped a toe into a lot of crews. I’m really intrigued by Dreamer, mostly because the idea of using Empty Night to push a Bultungin for 2 free attacks sounds amazing and because I haven’t played a summoner before. Plus, I have a feeling that the Dreamer is currently falling into the category of “nobody plays this master anymore because of the nerfs, despite the fact that the nerfs really didn’t hurt him that much.” I really feel like he’s stronger than he looks, and I want to find out in person. Also, I think Serena Bowman is really a lot better than people give her credit. She’s expensive, and the question of whether those points could be used better is real, but I want to try it out for myself. A Mature Nephilim that counts as a Nightmare and can be led around by the crew sounds pretty ok.
As an aside, I’m also learning a lot of that last lesson: Go play the models on the board, because the internet is wrong a lot (this blog included). Malifaux is a very complex game with a whole lot of different models that do a whole lot of different things, and nobody can possibly understand how all of this stuff works together. Most peoples’ opinions of models comes from secondhand opinions rather than firsthand experience. The Mysterious Emissary, I’ve always thought, was a very good model that I liked a lot. And yet, somehow, every podcaster and online opinion I listened to for a long while said “It’s the worst. It’s anti-synergy. The summons are unreliable. Don’t take it.” So, you know, I kept quietly trying it every now and then, but I let it sit aside and assumed I was wrong. Thankfully, I started listening to the Max Value podcast and interacting with Alex on Facebook and twitter, and I realized that “Oh, yes, actually this model’s really good. You just have to be flexible with what you expect and assume that any summons or hungry land markers you get off of it are a bonus.” So, yeah, I guess the lesson is “use the online opinions as opinions, not truth. Only use your own experiences to make your final conclusions.”
Anyway, back to the wrap-up. I also tried Titania with Barbaros a couple of games. Interstingly, Titania didn’t do a damned thing in either game I used her, while Barbaros was the MVP of both games. Go figure. I think that guy is a lot better model than he gets credit for, and I want to play him more. If he was, like, one stone cheaper he’d be in every crew, I think. If we somehow end up playing in the future, expect to see Barbaros, because he’s most likely going to be there. I tried Pandora’s summoning list and it was ok, but the reality is that I didn’t play it as well as I could have and, coincidentally, ran into a hot pile of Charm Warders making my summons die almost immediately. Also, I was sort of looking at the Sorrows as the real purpose of the upgrade, but a recent episode of Max Value pointed out that the Poltergeist is really the gem of that list. I’m excited to give it a try and make people sad. Sad, sad, sad. Beyond that, I only got the one game with Lillith against Alex, and that sort of underscored that I need to play her more, and stick to gameplans. I think she’s a good defensive model, but she’s brittle. She’s a lot like the rest of the faction in that regard, really. Also, I need to stop thinking of Tangled Shadows as an offensive ability. It looks like one. It has the ability to target enemy models. But her low Ca for that action means that, in truth, that spell is much more reliable and, therefore, much more effective, when used to move your stuff around rather than to snatch enemy models to you. Don’t fall into that trap. She’s much better at rooting things, disrupting the enemy with terrain, and acting as an ambush predator to pick off enemies that are exposed.


Speaking of Phiasco and I’s crew building challenges, we played a sort of “wrap-up” game with them on Vassal. This all started back in August with a game between Collodi and Parker, and this was our chance to match them up again and see what we’ve learned.

               We’ve been steadily working through the Gaining Grounds Jan-Mar rotation, and were now up to Standard Deployment-Ply for Information. The scheme pool was Surround Them, Dig Their Graves, Set Up, Recover Evidence, and Public Demonstration. My crew was Collodi with Fated, Strum, and Aether Connection. 4xMarionette, Hinamatsu w/ 1000 Faces, Mysterious Emissary-Conflux of Music, Arcane, Brutal, and Shadow Effigies. Phiasco had Parker with Black Market and Crate of Dynamite, Hannah, 1 Wokou Raider, 2 Librarians, 2 Ronin, and 1 Malifaux Child. I deployed on the right side of our board because I thought it would take away the most of Phiasco’s access to blocking terrain. Everybody was inside the Collodi 6” bubble to start with. Parker’s crew was mostly together, outside of one of the Librarians who was sitting in the upper right corner, presumably to work on Surround Them.

               Turn 1 had the usual assortment of jostling, prepping, and positioning. I saw that the Parker crew was likely going to have to squeeze through some choke points to get to me, so I used the fast M.E. to jump up and clog the one he initially moved towards with a Hungry Land marker. Shadow Emissary buff was spread through the crew to protect them from shooting (though, in retrospect, this was really unnecessary against the crew Phiasco brought.) Hinamatsu sort of cagily redeployed himself to block the surrounding Librarian. At the end of the turn I sent Collodi up to go take some shots at Hannah. She’s pretty resilient to Collodi’s damage (is there an effigy buff to get around armor? Cuz that’d be neat…) but I did manage to use Obey to make her walk through a Hungry Land marker, which was cute.

Hungry Land Markers are annoying.

               Turn 2 Jon won initiative and used a Librarian to heal Hannah and counter-punch at Collodi. She got one shot before I pushed back out of her way. Meanwhile the Emissary moved to go block the other path, forcing Phiasco’s crew to walk through the forests or risk getting chomped. I moved a Marionette to go Ply Hannah for information, which seemed to make her mad, as she then turned around and dropped a Red Joker damage smash that pummeled Marionettes, Shadow Effigies, and the Mysterious Emissary. Realizing how tough of a nut Hannah was going to be to crack, Collodi changed targets to kill a Wokou Raider for Dig Their Graves, using an incidental scheme marker one of the puppets threw down earlier. Phiasco had moved his Ronin to try and either set up an easy kill on a Marionette or had sniffed out my Surround Them and wanted to stop him from going after it. Hinamatsu soaked up some Fast and snatched the Ronin out of the way, knocking him down to her Hard to Kill but falling short of killing her. Parker moved in behind to also cut off the Surround Them and get in a better position to smoke Hinamatsu. The Librarian shuffled down to take advantage of the opening from Hinamatsu’s repositioning. Figuring that he wasn’t going to get another chance for it, he revealed Public Demonstration at the end of the turn to at least score 1 off of it from the Ronin and Hinamatsu.

Really, really annoying. =

               Turn 3 Jon won initiative again and activated the Ronin, stabbing Hinamatsu for a big chunk of damage and then sacrifices it to keep me from killing it for Dig. Parker used his ability to nudge the Librarian along towards completing Surround Them, but Hinamatsu ran her down and killed her first. Collodi used My Will to instruct the Brutal Effigy to ply the other Ronin in the crew for information and then killed him for Dig Their Graves. The Mysterious Emmisary shifted one of his Hungry Land markers so he could walk into it and engage Hannah in melee, as well as creating a running lane for another of my Marionettes to move to the bottom left corner of the board for Surround. Another Marionette ran up and plied Parker, ensuring I scored the strat again this turn.
               Phiasco went ahead and called it at this point, as he wasn’t sure he would be able to score anymore VPs. Assuming worst-case scenario for me, the game was likely going to end something like 6-3, but we were pretty confident I would end up with the win.
               At this time, I’m starting to get Collodi and understand what he does to be effective. As I said, using the triggers for pushes is a pet peeve, and I don’t think the crew will do particularly well in games where the board is very spread out or where the enemy has a lot of armor. That armor problem could be a real bugbear, actually, so I’m going to have to figure out a way around that at some point.
               Phiasco's thoughts on Parker seem to be that he does a number of interesting things, but it’s too hard to get them to work. There’s an expression some Magic: The Gathering players use where you ask what a card asks of you to make it work. All of the TNs, suits, and resources required to do Parker’s stuff makes him kind of sub-optimal. He might be better in single-master environments where his versatility is an asset rather than making him a Jack-of-All-Trades and Master-of-None, but right now he’s not sure how much he’s going to go forward with him. For now, we’ve suspended our “First I play Collodi, then you play Parker” rule. We’ll see how much we see of each crew going forward.


               Lastly, I’d like to say a word about Malifaux Musings itself. It’s been a bit of an up-and-down ride for me in Malifaux this year. It’s undoubtedly been a year of growth. If you google “Malifaux blog,” we’re the first thing that comes up, and I’m pretty proud of that. Also, I’ve had the good fortune to be tapped regularly by Wyrd to write for their bimonthly ezine, Wyrd Chronicles. I’ve written a couple of Through the Breach adventures and a few tactical articles, most of which I’m quite proud of. I’m actually getting a little bit of money for my gaming, rather than it just being a drain on my family’s finances every month, which makes me happy. I also managed to put together a draft of half of a novel about my Death Marshal character, Thaddeus Burns. I’d hoped to get more done, but novels are hard.
               On the other hand, I had thought to tap into the massive popularity surge the blog picks up annually when Gencon is rolling around to launch a Patreon campaign. Inspired by a couple of other content creators, I thought that I would ask for only a dollar from the people who read the blog on a regular basis (much like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast) and would offer a monthly raffle of Wyrd stuff as an incentive to get people to chip in. This is what Kyle (aka Khyodee) does for Schemes and Stones, and he has been quite successful with it. Imagine my surprise, then, when we barely got off the ground. At most we had half a dozen patrons, and that number has actually started to shrink! Needless to say, I’m a little bit stumped. $1 doesn’t seem like that much to me, but maybe I’m not offering the sort of content people are specifically looking for. I’ll be putting up some polls in the New Year to try and correct this. But, in any case, for the time being I’ve suspended the raffle (as I couldn’t rationalize continuing it when it was costing me money every month).

               2017 was a tough one for a lot of us, as most of you know. On a personal level, my wife is finishing up her nursing degree. A member of my family had a medical emergency and moved in to live with us. Money’s been tight. Science funding is getting scarcer and scarcer, which has left me evaluating just exactly what I want to do for my career in the immediate future. And, of course, an authoritarian government has seized control, cracking down on a number of groups and individuals we all hold dear (I’m referring to the new Governor-General, of course. Who did you think I meant?). There’s been a lot of struggle, but I’m grateful for gaming and Malifaux specifically for a respite from it. I’m hoping that 2018 is going to be a year of growth, when I’m able to participate more frequently in tournament events and where I can keep Malifaux Musings expanding towards our goal of becoming the best Malifaux resource on the web. I hope you’ll come along with us. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Malifaux Musings 2017 Christmas Special: I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas!

Your humble bloggist has been somewhat slack at the wheel of late. Life's been kind of nuts these last several weeks. Hopefully we'll get back on track for 2018. To make up for it, I threw in a little extra this time. In addition to the standard Mini-Musings, we've got an article on 5 tips to improve combats in the Through the Breach RPG, followed by a Story Encounter themed around a...non-traditional Christmas story. 


-To no one's great surprise, the Sandmen won the Homefront event for The Other Side. As an aside, if you're trying to bet on who's going to win a worldwide event for Wyrd, just figure out where the Neverborn fans, particularly the Dreamer fans, are going and bet that way. It's a thing. Along with it, the Gremlins managed to pull out the victory Malifaux side, so the Nightmare box will be themed around them at Gencon this year. What could it be? Well, my family and I were watching the aforementioned unorthodox Christmas movie last night, and I might have some ideas...

If Phoebe Cates is included in the boxed set, that'd move a lot of units all by itself.

-In other TOS news, an image was released of the Guild models that will be joining their Syndicate for the game, including a familiar face. Looks like Nytemare isn't the only Malifaux resident with an interest in how the war is going Earthside.

-Iron Painter has moved into the fifth and final round. The theme is Snowpocalypse. Best of luck to all the competitors. 

5 Ways To Improve Your Through the Breach Combats!

Through the Breach doesn't always get the love that it deserves, and I'm going to do my best over the next year or so to try and correct that. To start, I thought I'd mention a few tips I use to make combats better for my groups. Enjoy!

1)     Include more variety!
One of the things that I see newer referees for RPGs do is line up a series of encounters where the party faces, essentially, a squad of guardsmen, followed by another squad with a few more guardsmen, followed by even more guardsmen, this time with a boss of some sort. While this horde of faceless minions works great for action movies, if you don’t do something to break up the monotony it can get stale pretty fast. Repetition leads to dull, bored players most of the time. Mix your encounters up. Throw in some other stuff. Maybe that second encounter is with a team of riflemen, and the third features a Riotbreaker or a Peacekeeper. Adding in varieties of opponents helps to offset the monotony and keep your players engaged figuring out what is coming for them next.  

2)     Describe the action!

Way too often, I see combats turn into players and fatemasters quoting numbers at each other. If your players’ attacks keep turning into “I shoot my gun at him. I do three damage,” it falls on the Fatemaster to spice it up. After they tell you how much damage they did, describe the action back to him. “You drive the edge of your saber along his side, gashing his ribcage,” is much more exciting than “you hit him with your sword for two.” If you do it well and are gently encouraging to your players, you’ll notice them start to do it on their own. The critical table helps a lot with this, as they tell you A) where you hit and B) the effect it causes when dealing crit damage, but you can always punch up the narration from there. And the absolute best way of using this I’ve found comes from the Dungeons and Dragons podcast Critical Role. Expert DM Matthew Mercer hands narrative control over to his players when one of them kills the last enemy in a combat or the main villain of an adventure by letting them describe how their character delivers the final blow. The positive effect of this “how do you want to do this” technique is to add some personalization to the action and to give your players a chance to add some characterization to their Fated, by showing if they’re quick, efficient killers or brutal, sadistic monsters that take pleasure in dealing out the gore.

3)     Location, location, location!

This one probably doesn’t need as much explanation to the miniature gamers that make up the vast majority of the Through the Breach playing population, but the terrain in which a combat occurs can make a huge difference in increasing its memorability. A fight against Jacob Lynch’s Hungering Darkness is going to be scary, but it’s made that much more intimidating if it happens in a storm sewer on the edge of a rushing torrent of sludge headed out to one of Malifaux’s rivers (especially when he starts compelling your drug-addled minds to jump in for a swim.) Bandits running down your wagon is a pretty standard wild-west encounter, but the most memorable versions of it usually involve the stagecoach driver getting shot and killed, causing the horses to run out of control while your characters try desperately to fend off their attackers and stop the carriage from going over a cliff. How much more epic is the final struggle of the Lord of the Rings between Frodo and Gollum that it happens on the lip of a giant pool of magma? The knowledge that one wrong step could lead to certain doom will always ratchet up the tension!

4)     Don’t be afraid to be cruel but fair!

For people that are new to roleplaying games, the first time you take the helm and serve as Fatemaster you’ll be tempted to go one of two ways: crush your players underneath the weight of your killer encounters or try and protect them by fudging dice rolls and shifting things in their favor. The former is just you being a hateful kid frying ants with a magnifying glass, and will likely end with you not having any more players. The latter is harder to do in this game, since everything happens off of the same fate deck and no actions get resolved behind your Fatemaster’s Screen, but you can always nudge down the damage on an attack or a creature’s acting value to help your Fated out in a pinch. And I’m here to tell you: don’t. Don’t do it. If the encounter is fair and things are just not going in your players’ favor, let them struggle. Let them fail. Besides creating D&D and, more indirectly, roleplaying in general, the thing that E. Gary Gygax is most famous for is being an absolute killer Dungeon Master. You’re not the players’ friend when you take your seat at the head of the table, you’re the referee. And, trust me, they will remember the game more fondly if it feels like they had to overcome real challenges to succeed. The best DM I ever played with was an absolute bastard who once had a possessed NPC throw my character’s five your old child OFF OF A CLIFF IN FRONT OF ME, and believe it or not that isn’t the worst thing I’ve seen him do during a game!
               Now, to temper that message somewhat, I don’t like that DM because I’m some kind of masochist who enjoys being punished at the RPG table (I enjoy that sort of thing in an entirely different context…I’ve said too much.) I like him because the stakes feel real. His monsters are REAL monsters, who REALLY have evil intentions and will cause the characters REAL harm if given the opportunity. If you screw up, there will be no grey-bearded wizard flying down from the sky on a deus ex machina to bail you out. You’ll deal with the consequences, no matter how dire they turn out to be. However, his games are not inherently unfair. Challenging? Yes. But not unfair. Just as often, we’ve mopped up his encounters faster than he’s expected because we rolled well or did something he didn't expect.
                 In Through the Breach this can be a real issue, as the damage system and low numbers of wounds for both Fated and Fatemaster characters can make combat very swingy. A Red Joker for damage at the right time can spell disaster for a character who was otherwise succeeding valiantly, and as a Fatemaster it is up to you to recover from it. Red Joker for damage, followed by a 13 on the critical table? That character’s in bad shape. Sometimes you get unlucky. That’s combat for you. I promise you, however, even if they never tell you this to your face (and possibly curse you for being such a jerk), they will appreciate a game more where they feel real danger than one where it feels like they’re always buckled into their seatbelts with an airbag ready to deploy in case of emergency.

5)     Run with your players’ ideas.

This one ties in a bit with the previous entry, but it’s really about working with your players rather than against them. The real magic of an RPG comes from the interplay between the encounters you create and the ideas your players devise on their own. All of the best stories from tabletops come when the characters wander off the route you had charted for them and come up with something you never anticipated. At the base level, playing a roleplaying game is very much like participating in an improvised theater scene. Learning the basics, particularly learning to “Yes, and…” or “No, but…” the other players’ ideas can increase the enjoyment a hundred fold. If your players ask a question like “Is there any rope nearby?” it probably means they had a creative idea they want to try out, and they need you to give them permission to put it into action. In those circumstances, even if I had absolutely no intention for there to be any rope handy when I wrote the encounter, if I can rationalize it for the setting where the combat is occurring, I try to do it. IE: You’re in the middle of a Knotwood forest. Sorry. There’s no rope…but maybe you can use a vine?
Of course, the standard caveats apply. If it doesn’t really fit with the theme of what you’re trying to create in your game to allow someone to use a Mind Control Magia to force a Cerberus to shove its heads up its butt (you can laugh, but watch a game with comedian Brian Posehn and you’ll probably hear something equally silly before the game is over), then maybe you’ll have to step in and do something to discourage it. Maybe the creature just gets stuck trying to twist and contort in an odd shape for a round, until it shakes it off and realizes how ridiculous its being and goes back to mauling you to death. But, again, don’t just say “No.” Work with your players. They’re as much a part of creating that vaunted story and theme as you are, possibly moreso (they do outnumber you, after all.) If they’re trying to play one kind of game and you’re trying to play another, then maybe you need to find your way to some kind of middle ground.
Hopefully, these tips will help people improve their Through the Breach combats, and help you create memorable games your players will be talking about afterwards.


So, as alluded to previously, I watched Gremlins with my kids yesterday. I like to throw in something Christmassy to honor the season (here’s a link to my version of the three ghosts from A Christmas Carol. I’m still particularly proud of the Ghost of Christmas Present.) This year I decided to try something new: a story encounter. 

               Is it fair or balanced? Probably not. Have I playtested it? Nope! Does it make sense that these Gremlins aren’t friendly to models from the Gremlin faction? Definitely not. But here it is anyways. If it’s chaotic, that’s sort of the point, right? Hope some people have fun with it.


It’s Holiday time in Malifaux, but some mysterious creatures from the Three Kingdoms have gotten loose. Stop them before they spread havoc throughout the city!

Special: After both crews have deployed, both players take turns (staring with the player who deployed first) placing 6 30MM Mogwai markers on the board. Mogwai markers must be placed within a piece of terrain on the board, and may not be deployed within 6” of either player's deployment zone or another Mogwai marker. Any model may make a (1) Interact Action to push a Mogwai marker 4”. Any push performed by a Mogwai marker stops if it comes in contact with a model or impassable terrain.

At the end of turns 1 and 2, after both players shuffle their discard piles back into their decks, players take turn activating the Mogwai markers. Select a marker and flip a card from the fate deck, resolving them as described below.

Ram: Yum, Yum!-Push the Mogwai marker 4” towards the nearest scheme marker. If the                    Mogwai marker ends the push in contact with the scheme marker, remove it.
Crows: Bright Light!-Push the Mogwai marker 4” away from the nearest model.
Masks:-It's singing. It does that sometimes.-The model nearest to the Mogwai marker draws                 a card.
Tome: Don’t get it wet!-Immediately place 3 Mogwai markers within 4” of the Mogwai                       marker that was activated.
Joker: You let him listen to the Aethervox?!?-Make a Sh: 4 / Rst Df/ Damage 2/3/4 attack on               the nearest model.

At the end of turn 3, players take turns (starting with the player who won initiative) placing a Gremlins! special model on a 30mm base in base contact with each Mogwai marker on the board and then removing the Mogwai marker. Gremlins! special models have the following stat line and do not count as friendly to any model other than Gremlins! special models. Any duels performed by the Gremlins! special model are performed by the player activating the model, and any resist flips are performed by the owner of the model doing the resisting. 


Df 5 Wp 4 Wd 4 Wk 5 Cg 7 Ht 1
Reckless: At the beginning of this model’s activation, it can suffer 1 damage to gain one additional General AP.
Unimpeded: This model ignores penalties for severe terrain when moving.

Attack Actions:
(1) Scratching Claws: Ml 5/ Rst: Df/ Rg: (Claw) 1: Target suffers 2/3/4 damage.
Triggers: Mask-Maniacal Cackle- After resolving, this model immediately takes this action again on the same target or another legal target.
Ram-Yum, yum! : After resolving, push this model 4” towards the nearest scheme marker. If it ends in base-to-base with the scheme marker, discard it and heal 2 damage.
Crow-Where’d it get a gun?!? : After resolving, the closest model that isn’t the original target of this action suffers 2/3/4 damage. 
Tactical Actions:
(2) Time for dress-up!! (Ca 6. / TN: 10) Gremlins! special models within Aura 6 are treated as having the Disguised and Manipulative 12 abilities.
Triggers: Mask: They’re watching Snow White. They love it! - Gremlins! special models within Aura 3 cannot be the target of actions from enemy models and cannot be pushed, buried, or placed.

At the end of every turn (including turn 3) players take turns activating Gremlins! special models, starting with the player that won initiative, until all Gremlins! special models have activated once.

Victory Points

At the end of every turn after the second, if a crew has no Gremlins! special models on their half of the board, that crew scores one victory point.


Merry Christmas, to those that celebrate. Happy Holidays to the rest. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Atomic Empire 12/2/2017 Tournament Report

I travelled south to Durham for the Treacherous Ties Tournament hosted by Sassylady, admin of the Southeastern Malifaux Players group, last weekend. The planning for this tournament had been going on for a while, as Phiasco and I played in it last year, took second, and had a lovely time. I don’t get to go to all that many tourneys, but I’d set aside time for this one. We were going to play Ten Thunders as we had done previously. I’d painted Gwynneth Maddox, a Terracotta Warrior, and a Ten Thunders Brother to take them out for a spin. Our team name was Sex, Drugs, and Malifaux because were basically just trying to cram as many Illuminated into a list where Maddox was spreading the Brilliance around. I was even going to blacken my eyes in and wear a suit, to cosplay as Lynch. It was gonna be great.
So, of course, the tournament format changed the day before.
Too many partners flaked out at the last second, so Dawn changed it to a standard single-faction individual tournament. Then, they changed strats and schemes to 2018, so I could go ahead and toss any of the thought I’d put into pre-building crews in the dumper as well. And, of course, when I asked Phiasco if he was ready to redesign his stuff on the fly for the tournament, he texted back “Yep, I should be good to go for next weekend.” Because he had his days mixed up. So I was going to be there by myself…

But on the plus side, at least the weather was super dreary...

I considered skipping, as Atomic Empire is three and a half hours away and my main reasons for attending were now gone, but I’d been chatting with Dawn about the tournament, had set aside the time, and had made a plan. My wife said “Don’t you need to go for your Malifaux blog?” So, with that permission, I rolled out of the sack at 6:15 to make the drive to Durham and play Malifaux. I figured that it would, at the least, be a good end to the all-Neverborn fall season I’d been undertaking.

Round 1 was played on a carnival board. It was standard deployment supply wagon with the scheme pool Guarded Treasure, Dig Their Graves, Undercover Entourage, Search the Ruins, and Take one for the Team. I played against Kemp, who brought the Brewmaster, a Whiskey Golem, Thunders Emissary, Wesley, some Akaname, and a Tanuki. I thought the action might concentrate in one area, so I brought Titannia with Pact, Behold, and Audience, Barbaros with Thousand Faces, the Mysterious Emissary with Titannia’s conflux, Doppelganger, a Young Nephilim (cheap bigger based model to push the cart), and a couple of Changelings. We set up on opposite flanks and pushed our carts more or less unopposed into the other side of the board. Combat was joined as the Whiskey Golem, who I had underestimated in terms of sheer killing power, stomped over and punched my Emissary to death. Titannia went in to hold him up, but the rapid healing ability of the golem in a brew crew meant he could outlast her. Thankfully, I was able to reroute Barbaros to go finish him off and start holding points. I was using a combination of Changeling and Dopp plus Changeling and Barbaros to score a couple of points for Guarded Treasure, while scooping up a handful of the Scheme Markers that Titannia had dropped while fighting the golem for Dig Their Graves. Finally, it came down to Chiaki tossing my wagon back over the center line while I tried to find a way to get a Changeling to do something meaningful to score me another scheme point on the last turn. He couldn’t get free to drop a marker for Barbaros to pick up Guarded Treasure. He couldn’t get close enough to an Akaname to kill him with his own attack. I was beginning to think a draw was inevitable, but Kemp pointed out that I could hop the Changeling within 3” of the Thunders Emissary and copy his attack to blast the Akaname, killing him for Dig Their Graves and scoring me the point to win 6-5.

Round 2 I played against Alex Schmid. You may know him from his Youtube videos, here. Or, you might have known him from this.

*psst* he's the name at the top

So, yeah, an uphill fight, to say the least. First thing I did was start setting my models out while he was still list building, which is a rookie mistake. We were on a swamp board with lots of open terrain, and I joked about how that would be critical to all the shooting our two Neverborn crews were going to do. Because, again, I’m dumb.
The strat was Ours! in Flank deployment. I don’t remember the scheme pool, because it didn’t matter what schemes were in there, because I got housed so hard. He played Collodi with Fated and Strum, a Changeling, Mysterious Emissary, Freikorps Trapper, Brutal, Shadow, and Arcane effigies, and some Marionettes. I had Lillith with Beckon and Wings, Dopp, Nekima, Graves, 2 Depleted, and Changeling. I had intended on using the Depleted to tie things up for Hold their Forces and for Tangled Shadows bait. I was having a grand time pushing things around by copying Graves’ show you the door ability, when I learned what happens when you push into range of a pair of Changelings standing next to Trappers. Hint, it doesn’t end well. I thought my best chance was to try and pull Collodi out of his crew and send my beaters into his backline to try and smash them up while he wasn't there to buff them. Unfortunately, that left Lillith to deal with Collodi on her own, which she doesn’t do well with a WP of 5. Nekima and Graves got tangled up in a pile of Marionettes who would then push out of range to let the snipers shoot Nekima to death. It was basically a shit-show. I called it after t3 because I was obviously not going to get anywhere. For a little extra salt, in Alex’s battle report he said I seemed like a newer player, which I think he meant to be kind. To be fair, that’s definitely how I played. Feels bad, man.
We chatted afterwards for a while (turned out we had some time on our hands, haha *kill myself.*) and he’s a nice guy. He gave me some Collodi tips that I’ve since put to good use. We’re facebook pals now. You should go chat with him and listen to his Youtube videos or listen when he makes guest appearances on Max Value. You might learn something (without having to get pummeled 10-1 first.)
All Lynch wanted was to take his friends for a nice night of dealing drugs at the fair, but then...rats!

Aaaanyways, Rd. 3 was next. Knowing I was well outside any shot at winning anything for this tournament, I decided to have some fun and get my Gwynneth on the table (I did take the time to paint her, after all.) For this game we were playing corner deployment Symbols of Authority with Punish the Weak, Dig Their Graves, Inescapable Trap, Take Prisoner, and Vendetta. I knew my opponent was playing Hamelin, and Plague Pits basically meant “Get your scheme points, cuz you’re not getting anything from the strat.” He had…Hamelin stuff. It was basically a theme crew with no Benny Wolcomb. I don’t remember. They all kinda die and recycle anyways outside of the master. Clint was my opponent’s name, and he was playing Hamelin for the first time (to be fair, I've never played against him, so we were on equal footing). I took Lynch with Cheating Bastard (!) and Wings, Huggy with Malifaux Provides, Maddox with Thousand Faces, a couple Illuminated and a couple changelings. We set up across a carnival from each other and deployed our Symbol markers in triangles with the point aimed towards the opponent.
I was, basically, hoping to bait him forward into the kill zone and take his crew down there while sending Illuminated and Changelings to go run strat. Against Hamelin I figured there would be no shortage of easy things to kill for Dig Their Graves and Punish the Weak, so I took those schemes. Cheating Bastard would hopefully help me spit out scheme markers to help complete the former scheme. It…kinda worked. They flooded forward into the kill zone conveniently, but Nix managed to jam me up by blocking pulse effects (like Gwynneth's Come Play at My Table). Also, he doesn’t take conditions, so no making him Brilliant to deal with him. Basically, I was not going to be killing that stupid dog. I did, however, pick off a bunch of his weaker stuff to get the job done from a killing standpoint (though, Hamelin obeying Gwynneth to remove the Symbols marker she was defending was a bit of a low point.) I did realize that I could turn 1000 faces into Fears Given Form and walk Maddox into the middle of a cluster of stuff to make Hamelin sad, but he responded by Obeying me to walk back out. Sad face. Unfortunately, my attempts at running around the flanks were foiled by Wretches throwing rats at me, tying my dudes up and preventing me from scoring. Worse, I cottoned on to the fact that my opponent was setting up for a Vendetta on one of my Illuminated and building Blight through the roof on him to get it done. Thankfully, I managed to get that Illuminated out of there and save him from being killed by a small child. I scored six from the schemes and 1 from the strat for still having markers left at the end of the game. I managed to hold my opponent to three VPs, so I won 7-4.

2-1 isn’t a terrible record, but with a diff of -5 I only ended up at 6th out of the 11 people present. Still, a day playing Malifaux is better than most other days, so I had a good time. Also, I picked up some pointers on how to play Collodi properly and made a new Malifriend, so that was a good use of time. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

November Hobby Round-Up

It's time for what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite parts of this blog, the chance to showcase some premium artwork of Malifaux models from around the world. 


 The third round of Iron Painter has come and gone, and we're on to round four. There were a number of great entries, including this one submitted to us by Bozydar Nowicki of KPR Miniature Painting Studio. The theme was Stranger Things, and there were some awesome takes on that. You can follow the link here to the voting thread to check out people's submissions. Round four has started, with the theme "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." Hopefully we'll see the creativity really continue to take off!


My efforts so far have consisted of working on my LE Barbaros, after having gained an appreciation for him in a test game of the new Titania (will probably discuss that more in the next strategy blog post.) He looks like this now. Not entirely done, and realized later that his torso is supposed to be skin, not metal. Not sure if I'm going to fix that or just assume he has really, really tight-fitting armor.

Next weekend is the Southeastern Malifaux Players Group's holiday tournament, Treacherous Allies. Phiasco and I had a blast at it last year, so I'm going again. This year's tourney is going to include a cosplay award, which I may even take a stab at. But, I have to get my proxy for Gwynneth Maddox ready. I built her from the TTB multi-part kit, but gotta get some paint on her so she can go hand out all the tasty, tasty drugs (the first one's free, you know.)

And in case I didn't totally spill the beans there, I also have these two mooks and a third Illuminated to get some paint on for the tourney as well. Could be a busy week at my painting table. Or not. It also could be a slow and boring week, because I'm too busy elsewhere. We'll just see.

Now, from people who are better painters than I am, let's take a look at some more stuff. First of all, Havok100 actually sent videos of the three Guild masters he's painted, the original femme fatales, Sonnia, Perdita, and Lady J.

Next up, Maciej Bonclawek has some Kentauroi that are ready to ride.

For an interesting conversion theme, Wiezman Painting Studio has done up a full Tara crew in the theme of Cthulhu mythos. Here's a pic of the man himself. Follow the link to check out more.

And, like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, we'll finish off this Thanksgiving feast of painting with a little holiday cheer, a Christmas card from Pandora and pals by James Molini.

Seasons Greetings!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Whisper and Void Excerpt: Battle in a Graveyard


-There's a new Penny Dreadful for sale on Drive Thru RPG, Jurassic Faux. If you needed some dinosaurs running around and causing trouble in your version of Malifaux. Plus, I'm sure there are some Fae in here, also. Here's the synopsis. 

The University of Malifaux is launching an expedition into the Wildlands, the primordial forest that sprang up around the ruins of Nythera when Titania was released from her prison. The purpose of the expedition is to gather biological samples for further research, but one of the professors has his eye on a specific prize: the fabled Malisaurus Rex.

Unfortunately, the Wildlands are more dangerous that the University expected, and the Malisaurus Rex is very, very hungry...

Jurassic Faux is a challenging One Shot adventure for the Through the Breach roleplaying game. It requires the Core Rules to play.

-A patch for the Bad Things Happen app was pushed out on the 13th. It fixes a ton of the known issues. I'm not going to copy and paste the whole list here. Go ahead and check it out.

-We don't actually know what's going to be sale on Black Friday, yet, which is odd. We do know one thing that will be there, however, and that's the alternate Rasputina box featured in the image above. I like it a lot. Don't know if I'll be able to pick it up, but it's very cool. Plus, the Krampus counts as a Snowstorm, making it so you don't have to buy another box to have this key critical piece for Raspy crews.

-I've been plugging away at my novel (you can follow my progress on the NaNoWriMo page here.) As I've been working on it, I've been letting my Pandora (the music app, not the master) wander through some new inspiration music and pulling pieces out into a Spotify playlist. It's called Malifaux Musings. Follow the link and, if you have a song that you think really embodies the spirit of Malifaux, it'd be cool if we all built this together. 

-Speaking of doing things together, what little forward momentum we had on the Patreon account has kind of stalled. The page is here, and I'd like you to really consider chipping in and helping out. I'm not asking for a lot. If you have an extra dollar a month, I'd love to have it to help expand Malifaux Musings. As always, I appreciate the hell out of everybody who has contributed so far. 


Whisper and Void

A Death Marshals Story

By: Adam Rogers

Author’s note: This section occurs between chapter 1, detailing Burns’ recruitment and training, and chapter 3 when his recruiter teaches him the magic to use his casket. 

Chapter 2

Vinton wasn’t the worst of the lot, not by a long stretch. He wasn’t easy, mind you. I couldn’t tell you how many of my bones he ended up breaking, but I’m sure he’d tell you every one of them was a lesson. He had the very annoying habit of letting you know, every time you failed, how easily avoidable your discomfort should have been. “Oh, you didn’t notice that rune scribed in the door frame? Hmm, if you had, perhaps your arm wouldn’t currently be on fire. Let that be a lesson to you: the enemy will never face you on your terms. They will lay traps. They will stab you in the back. They will try every underhanded, sidewinding trick a man’s ever pulled on another man before they stand and face you, for you are Justice come to end them. Now, quit your belly-aching, put yourself out, and reset to position one.” The difference between Vinton and the others was that you got the impression, from time to time, that he actually wanted you to succeed rather than just gaining grim amusement from your suffering.
               He came to us one hot summer evening when we were dragging ourselves back to our barracks and the sweet oblivion of the four hours they allotted for us to sleep. He pulled a half-dozen cadets out of line, myself among them, and took us towards a horse cart resting on the drillfield grounds. “You lot have a job tomorrow morning. Do it well, and you’ll get double food ration in the evening. How does that sound?”
               The beige, flavorless gruel that served as our “rations” weren’t quite the enticement we had hoped for, but all of us knew better than to turn down an instructor. We reluctantly nodded, but a cadet with more attitude than sense stepped forward anyways. “What’s the job?” he asked, disregarding the warning looks everyone else was shooting him.
               Vinton smiled. “Nothing too difficult or dangerous, Burns. You’re just going on bag duty.”

               Bag duty. It was a euphemism with which we were all familiar, as the groans elicited by Vinton’s announcement would testify. Malifaux is an old city, you see, even though our arrival in it is relatively new. Who or whatever built the place did so a long time ago and lived, worked, and died there just as we do. And when one of their own died, the city’s residents had to do something with the bodies. In one of the numerous parallels between their culture and ours, the dead of ancient Malifaux were interred in cemeteries scattered across the city, their final resting places marked with gravestones inscribed with names and dates in their own, indecipherable language. These cemeteries were sprinkled throughout the city, often in places that defied logic. More than a few of the early explorers were following what appeared to be a major thoroughfare through the heart of the city, only to discover that it dead-ended in a graveyard right where they expected to find a hub connecting several side streets. The logic of this city’s Neverborn architects never ceased to baffle.
               Normally this would just be a nuisance of navigation, but Malifaux was not a normal city. Instead, it was a city filled with people who spontaneously manifested magical abilities they didn’t know how to control, and some of them learned to manipulate the dead for their own ends. No two necromancers ever seemed to use the same methods, but the need for corpses was a recurrent theme. You can’t raise a dead body without some bodies to work on, after all. More inexperienced Rezzers had an even greater need, as they were only just learning to control their power and their early experiments often ruined the corpse without yielding anything useful. A lot of them start out working on animals, but for whatever reason they all seem to move on to people, which presents a problem. They needed a lot of raw materials for their craft, and you can’t exactly pick up a new dead body at the store when you need one. Many a burgeoning necromancer has turned to serial murder, of course, but that takes skill and craft that most don’t possess to do it undetected for long. No, it was easier if you had a supply of corpses ready to hand. Thus, we learned to keep an eye on any human corpses, making these Neverborn cemeteries too tempting a target for your average necromancer to ignore and too dangerous a threat for us to overlook.
Whenever we found one, a detachment from the Marshalls would be sent to “sanctify” the site. This process involved digging up often dozens of ancient graves, buried beneath hard-packed soil that hadn’t been disturbed in centuries. Once the body was exhumed, the heads of the bodies were removed, bagged (thus, bag duty), and shipped to a crematorium. With no intact skull, the body was ruined for most practices, which was good enough for us. If the crew doing the job was particularly dutiful, the bags were catalogued so the ashes could be returned to their proper resting place afterwards. When we farmed the work out to laborers from outside the Guild, however, they usually ended up dumping them somewhere and forgetting them. Thus, cadets were often given the job instead. If we shirked on doing it properly, we could at least be lashed afterwards.
The graveyard we were assigned was located in the western slums, tucked behind a warehouse whose broken windows glared at us like angry eye sockets while we worked. There were a dozen of us that day, muttering imprecations against our instructors and their relatives while driving our spades and pickaxes into the earth. We had abandoned our woolen uniform tops in the hot summer sun, leaving them slung over the side of the cart we’d checked out from the academy to transport our tools. It raised a few eyebrows when Elizabeth Heffron had joined us in disrobing, but none of us had much time or use for modesty anymore. This particular cemetery was about an acre and filled with easily a hundred graves, so we knew this was going to be a multiple day job. I didn’t mind the work, since it meant having a day free from the shouts of “encouragement” our instructors often chose to lather on us. Many of the others, however, would gladly have driven their picks through Vinton’s abdomen rather than digging up another wooden box.
It was midday when I first saw something out of the corner of my eyes. It was nothing but a flicker of movement at the edge of my vision, but I still reflexively spun in place, scanning near the wrought iron fence surrounding the graveyard for any sign of what had drawn my attention.
There was nothing there.
“The hell you doin’, Burns?” shouted Mobera from the grave next to mine. He flashed his wide, easy smile from his dark-skinned, sweat soaked face. It was all I could see of him at the moment, as he was currently standing in the bottom of the almost six-foot hole he’d dug. “You’re not wearing out, are you? It’s barely past noon!” The Abyssinian had taken a personal interest in giving me a hard time from the first day of our training. I never knew why, but I’d always suspected that the open secret that Vinton had recruited me personally probably had something to do with it.
“Of course not, Alton,” I shot back, “You know I only really get into a rhythm after the first six hours of work, anyways.”
He’d laughed at that. “Well, from what I can see, I could go for a bit of your ‘rhythm’ myself. Looks like about the level of effort I’d expect from a –“
“I saw something, you pain in the ass,” I cut him off. “Something on the outside of the graveyard. Felt like it was watchin’ us.”
Without another word, he hefted his massive frame up and out of the hole to stand next to me. We both scanned the perimeter slowly, the only sound coming from the other work crew and from his idly dusting his hands off on the front of his work-slacks. “I don’ know, Burns,” he finally said. “I don’t see anything. You sure you don’ got heat stroke? I know you got a delicate constitution, an’ all.”
I was about to let him know exactly where he could shove his opinion of my constitution when a shout came from the other side of the graveyard. We whirled in place, ready to find that the enemy I’d imagined was standing there waiting, only to spot another cadet waving sadly for the others to come lend a hand. They’d struck a coffin, and this one was made of marble rather than wood.
These were the bane of our existence. They were solid stone, weighed a ton, and getting them hauled out of the hole without special equipment was nearly impossible. Whenever we found one, activity ground to a halt camp-wide as everyone took the opportunity to suggest a solution. Some favored smashing through the lid with sledgehammers, though our superiors frowned on that. If a convenient tree was nearby, we could rig up a pulley and all work together to haul it out. Otherwise, it fell to the strong-men like Mobera to get a pry bar into the side and force the lid off. Given that it was in the middle of an open field with no trees, this one looked like it would require the third option.
Mobera, not one to complain (or at least knowing I’d call him on his BS if he did) grabbed a crowbar and jumped in immediately, trying to dig around the side of the coffin lid to find an edge where the tool would fit. The rest of us took the opportunity to stop for a break, relocating to the small bit of shade being cast by our cart. We passed around a waterskin, making sure the trio of cadets standing around the grave saw us doing it (and earning a few hateful glares in the process.) I had just taken a long pull from the neck and passed it off when I saw the flicker of movement again. I froze, my arm partially outstretched towards Heffron, as I saw a shimmer move stealthily from behind one granite tombstone to another about 50 yards away from me. It was creeping towards Mobera and the others.
“Hand it over, ye bastard. The hell’s your problem?” Heffron asked, snatching the partially-proffered waterskin away in irritation. “Ye look like yer passin’ a kidney stone!”
I raised a finger to shush her, which of course just led to a longer string of angry Irish brogue being sent my direction. I turned, fumbling inside the cart for the double-barreled rifle I knew was stored there, when I heard Mobera shout in triumph from inside the grave. He’d apparently gotten the lid loose. His triumphant shout was followed immediately by a scream that ended in a wet, choking gurgle. Those of us near the cart whirled in place, watching as a nearly eight-foot tall skeleton wrapped in the dry, desiccated remains of what had once been its skin forced its way from the bottom of the grave. Its right hand and the wicked black talons it ended in had impaled Mobera through the chest, lifting his two hundred pound frame into the air as easily as a mother lifting a babe. We could see the long, curled horns sprouting from its head and the torn, rotten remains of a pair of bat-like wings sprouting from its back and knew immediately what this thing had once been: a Nephilim.
Many of the natives in Malifaux can pass as humans in the dark or from a distance if you don’t look too closely. Of course, if you do get close enough to spot their nearly translucent skin or the black, spidery veins that web beneath the surface, it’s probably too late already. Others, however, take on forms from our nightmares. The Nephilim fell into the latter category. From birth they resemble demonic cherubs with black horns, claws, and cloven hooves emerging from their violet skin. They grow rapidly, sprouting wings that make them uncannily resemble a devil from one of the more graphic literary versions of hell. The largest stand nearly nine feet tall and can smash through the side of a brick building if they take a mind to it. And, much to our surprise, someone seemed to have crammed the massive frame of one of these creatures into this marble coffin at some point in the city’s distant past.
For a second, as the behemoth rose to its full height and tossed the now limp form of Mobera onto the ground next to the grave, we froze. It was only an instant, but it was long enough to let the creature haul itself over the side of the grave, moving with a speed that would have seemed impossible even when the thing was alive. A moment later it unfurled to its full size and charged another pair of cadets, slashing them to ribbons with its talons. As I pulled the rifle to my shoulder and fired a shot into the beast’s rotten shoulder, I could already see it was too late for the pair on the ground. One was trying to hold his guts inside his eviscerated torso while the other was lying senseless near the bloody remains of his severed arm.
The shot only served to get the creature’s attention. It turned towards me, dropping into a crouch and releasing a long, raspy breath that I would later realize was its attempt to bellow a challenge through the decayed remains of its vocal chords. I knew I had a chance to end this before any more harm was done. I sighted the beast’s head down the length of the rifle barrel, timing the shot so I pulled the second trigger between breaths as I’d been trained. At that range I couldn’t have missed, but the shot was fouled as something impacted me from behind, hitting me in the shoulder and sending sharp pain shooting through my back. The rifle jerked up and the second barrel discharged uselessly over the creature’s head. I feared at that moment that I had killed us all.
               With another raspy bellow, the ancient Nephilim charged. I dropped to a knee and rolled beneath the swipe of its talon as it smashed into the side of the corpse cart, reducing it to kindling. I turned, expecting to see the heads we’d collected rolling randomly across the pavement. Instead, I found a cloud of half a dozen of the nearly decayed skulls hovering in the air over the shattered remains of the vehicle and the thrashing, violent Nephilim skeleton.  The other Marshals and I watched with stunned fascination as they twisted and spun in place, shaking like dogs trying to get dry, and cast off the burlap shrouds we’d wrapped around them. It dawned on me then what must have struck me from behind. With my stomach churning, I twisted against the turf, trying to dislodge one of the heads that had latched on and was gnawing its way into the meat of my shoulder. A part of me reeled in horror, but shock helped shove that part into a corner until the present crisis was resolved. There would be time for horror later.
I rolled, using the ground as a wedge to dislodge the damned thing’s jaws from my back, and turned to see something that looked like a human’s rotted skull chattering its yellowed teeth at me from the ground. It started to rise up, hovering with magical force towards my eyes, but I brought the stock of the rifle around and smashed it into the thing’s temple. The viscous black remains of its brains spilled onto the hard-packed dirt, rendering the rest of the head inert.
I came up to a knee, watching as my fellow cadets tried to ward off the flying skulls. Heffron was closest to me, trying to extract one with a lengthened snout and sharpened, canine teeth from her thick, curly mane of hair. Her instructor had given her trouble about that hair since the first days of training, but she’d stubbornly insisted on keeping it, pointing out that Lady Justice had famously long red hair that trailed almost to her ankles. We’d pointed out that she was also a supernaturally skilled swordswoman, as opposed to a cadet who had barely fired a gun before these first few months of training, but she’d kept it anyways. As I charged forward, swinging the rifle like a club and sending the lupine abomination flying towards the smashed remains of the corpse wagon, I guessed she’d have it cropped down almost to her skull tomorrow. Assuming she survived, of course.
               “What the hell is doing all this?” she said, a slight hint of panic creeping through despite her efforts to regain her composure. I had my suspicions, but there was no time to relay them to her.
               “The ammo box,” I growled, scanning frantically for the extra rifle ammunition. Across the clearing, I watched another cadet fly bodily through the air after the skeletal Nephilim had picked him up and hurled him effortlessly. “The reloads! Where’d they land!”
               “There! By the wheel!” she shouted a moment later. I saw in an instant that the box of shells had tipped over on its side, spilling the contents across the ground. I mentally thanked whoever might be listening that they had avoided falling into a puddle from the morning rainstorms, as that would surely have ruined the powder. I sprinted forward, crouched at the waist, until I reached one of the red cylinders on the ground. I snapped the breach open on the rifle, draping it over my arm as I jammed the rounds home. A blur of motion appeared on my left and I flinched, preparing to throw the rifle into the way to block the blow I was sure was coming, only to see Heffron had grabbed a spade and was using it to smack one of the heads out of the air. The thing would have bitten through a good portion of my face if she hadn’t, and I nodded my thanks as she turned towards where the thing had landed and jabbed the blade of the shovel through the bridge of its nose.
I turned and started scanning the graveyard for who or what was controlling these creatures. There are few hard and fast rules with necromancy, but I knew whoever was doing this hadn’t had time to animate them properly. That took preparation, usually some kind of ritual, and we had only just dug these bodies out of the ground. This felt like more of a quick-and-dirty job, and I knew exactly how to end that. Unfortunately, I needed to spot the bastard to do it. With a satisfying snap, I closed the rifle’s breach and brought it up to my shoulder, scanning the graveyard from behind the pitiful cover of a wagon wheel propped up on half of its broken axle.  As I searched frantically for any sign of a target, Heffron dropped in behind me.
               “What’re ye doin’, ye daft fool?” she shouted, tugging at my shoulder, “The damned thing’s right over there! Shoot it!”
               I was irritated by the distraction, but there wasn’t time to shove her away. A sudden raspy bellow from my right told me that the Nephilim skeleton had spotted us and was preparing to charge. Heffron gave a final exasperated sigh and stood, readying her shovel like a broadsword. At best it might annoy the thing, but it might buy me another half-second to find…whatever I was looking for. I heard the pound of the thing’s heavy hooves against the ground as it came towards us, and I was preparing to turn and waste one of my shots to try and put it down, when I found my quarry. A shimmer, like a heat mirage, was crouched down behind one of the tombstones. Without stopping to think if maybe my eyes were playing tricks, I fired what could have been the last shot of my life at the image. It exploded with a red spray that turned an incredulous bearded face my direction before slumping to the side, senseless. 
               The flying skulls dropped, clattering against the ground with a horrible sound I’ll hear in my nightmares for the rest of my life. The nephilim creature gave one final, frustrated bellow before falling apart itself, its momentum carrying it all the way to the wagon wheel and sending it rolling. I closed my eyes, as many of the thing’s aged bones broke down all the way to dust from the impact.
“Jaysus, Burns,” Heffron muttered a moment later, breaking the stunned silence. “Ye coulda told me. I nearly soiled myself.” I couldn’t answer, could barely hear her over the sound of the blood pounding in my ears. With shaking hands, I lowered the rifle to the ground as Heffron walked over to the Nephilim’s skull, shattering it with a solid blow from her shovel. “That’s fer me friends, ye great bastard.”
               It was a sentiment I would come to know well.

               Clean-up from the assault took the rest of the afternoon. Heffron (once again properly dressed) had flagged down a carriage and made her way back to the Guild Enclave while the rest of us remained to tend to the wounded. We lost three that day, though it could have been much worse. Mobera actually survived, though the doctors ended up replacing his right arm and some of his insides with steam-powered prosthetics to repair the damage. Within an hour, Heffron returned with a trio of Death Marshalls that included Vinton to search the site for any other signs of what the necromancer had been up to. I stood to join them when they arrived, giving Mobera a comforting pat on his uninjured shoulder. I expected the three senior officers to order me to back off and leave the investigation to them, but Vinton turned and spoke to them quietly as I approached. After a moment he turned my way and gave an encouraging nod, waving me to accompany him.
               “This,” he began, “This was obviously not what I expected when I sent you here. There had been rumors, of course, but every cemetery in the city is supposedly haunted by vengeful spirits or robbed at night by some wannabe Burke and Hare types. Most of it turns out to be nothing.”
               “This wasn’t nothing,” I said, looking down at the dead Resurrectionist.
               “Quite so,” he grimly agreed. I knew it was the closest to an apology I was going to get, and I didn’t push it.
               We hadn’t bothered to move the dead necromancer’s body, other than to check that he was really deceased (namely, by separating his head from his neck) and relieve him of any weapons. It was rare but not unheard of for a Rezzer to have some kind of magical failsafe to bring him back to life sometime after his passing. Other than that, we were content to let him bake in the summer sun. None of us had much desire to stash him somewhere or cover him with a tarp. Truth be told, if a vulture had come down and started pecking at the man, we’d have offered it a swig from our flasks to help wash the meal down.
               He didn’t look like a murderer, I had to admit. Now that he was dead, he looked like a hundred other homeless men I’d passed in the streets. He had a scraggly, oily mop of salt and pepper hair with an unkempt beard to match it. His clothes were roughspun and gray, having spent too many nights sleeping on the ground or in a sewer. He had shoes, which put him ahead of some in his position, but they were falling apart and had obviously been repaired several times. In contrast, I could see from his straight, white teeth that he most likely hadn’t been living this way all his life. At some point in the not too distant past, this man had a normal existence. He’d most likely had a home to go back to at night, people that he cared about. Most do, until the voice starts to whisper to them. It always starts out small, but over time drives them to greater and greater acts of depravity until, finally, everything from their old life is left behind. When we found his hovel an hour or so later, leaning pitifully against the side of the abandoned warehouse, we found an old, yellowing picture of a young woman inside. It was stained with oily handprints from frequent handling. Was it a wife? Girlfriend? Daughter? I never found out, never even learned his name. It didn’t matter. Once they turned, once they started listening to that voice in the back of their heads, their old identity became unimportant, anyways. With any luck, the woman had just woken up one day to find him gone with no explanation. It was far more likely, however, that the voices had driven him to kill her.  
               We knew it was his home from the writing scrabbled on the walls. Most of it was nonsense phrases involving bones. The bones were calling to him. He could hear the song of bone. Soon he’d join their dance. That kind of thing. In the reports we’d file later, this led to us calling him Bone Man. The words were written into the soft, rain rotted wood with whatever he had been able to find. Chalk. A stone. Blood. He was agnostic to his medium. Any doubt whether we were in the right place disappeared when I rooted through the man’s bed roll, waving away the cloud of fleas that sprang into the air as soon as I touched it. There was a book there, an old leather-bound journal with every page covered in the Bone Man’s willowy handwriting. The script on the walls was downright sensible compared to the blasphemies recorded in that tome. I shut my eyes reflexively and slammed the book closed, knowing what this had to be.
               “Sir,” I said, holding the journal towards Vinton as he stood in the doorway. “I’ve found a grimoire.”
               Without a word he crossed the room towards me, taking the book into his own hands and nodding. Grimoires were often books, but they could be anything. The words weren’t really important, so much as the way reading them organized your mind or guided you to a particular mental state. They were a focus, a way for mortal minds to grasp and manipulate the energies of magic without a natural talent. In theory, anyone who spent enough time studying one could learn the spells contained therein, though I certainly didn’t fancy spending any time indulging in the Bone Man’s mad ramblings. Still, Vinton looked at the book with some interest.
               “Well done, Burns,” he said, “This conjurer used a number of effects we’ve never seen before. They’ll be interested in examining this back at the home office. I’d say you’ve more than earned yourself a commendation, today.” His wry smile reminded me that, of course, there are no such commendations in the Marshall service, but I took the rare compliment for what it was.
               “I’ve never heard of one that could do what he could do,” I answered, “Animating that many of them from a distance in that short of a time? And making himself invisible?”
               Vinton nodded. “He was a rare talent, no doubt about it. You and the other cadets are lucky to still be alive. I’ve heard of some powerful necromancers who could pull off some of those things, but not all at once. And I have to confess, the invisibility is a new one on me.” He sighed. “They’re learning all the time, and they seem to be getting stronger.” He shook his head, looking down at the book again. “All the more reason to study this carefully so we’ll be ready next time, eh?”
               I couldn’t muster enough false cheer to answer him, so I stood for a moment in the remains of the madman’s world, swatting idly at the fleas I knew it would take weeks of bathing to get rid of. Finally, Vinton broke the silence. “Well, in any case, time for you to get back to the cemetery and rejoin the others.” I looked at him in confusion as he gave me an innocent look. “The job’s only half done, Burns. You still have the rest of those graves to dig up. Now that you’ve started, you have to finish. A job that’s worth doing is worth doing right, you know.”
               I locked eyes with him for a moment, waiting to see if he was joking, but of course he wasn’t. With a snort of irritation I turned and tromped out the door.
               “You’ll want to hurry,” he shouted after me, “You don’t want to be caught in one of Malifaux’s cemeteries after dark. Bad things can happen!”

               No, Vinton wasn’t the worst of the lot. But he sure as hell wasn’t the best, either.