Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dia de los Malifauxs

When I was putting together my monthly rotation of post subjects, it seemed natural to throw in a regular hobby article. After all, getting models painted up and looking sharp is a part of this game that doesn't always get the credit it deserves. Plus, one of the few advantages the blog has over the numerous Malifaux podcasts is that this is a visual medium. I can put pretty pictures on here! And if it really took off, maybe it would even kick me in the butt and get me to start working on my stuff. 

Of course, then I remembered I have a family, a job, and lots of other things that take away my hobby time.

So I was in a bind. Do I need to alter the schedule? Drop the hobby post? I didn't want to, because it was a good idea regardless of my lack of painting time. And then this last week an idea occurred to me: I could use the blog to highlight some of the cool Malifaux models that other hobbyists have done! I see them all the time on A Wyrd Place, Twitter, and of course the painting forums on the Malifaux site. Why don't I email people and see if they want to show their work off? 

So this is my first efforts in that direction. For the probably 0 of you paying attention, I've decided to strip and repaint my Collodi crew. The puppet master and his marionnettes have had their old, bad paint jobs knocked off and are now waiting with several other models to get primed and painted. Also, I found an attachment for my dremel to use ultra-fine drill bits, so I pinned and touched up my Arcane Effigy. He looks like this: 

I know, still needs work. Anyways, let's look at some pretty stuff, beginning with our featured artist, Haydn Dean, and his Dia de los Muertos Ortega crew. 

From the first time I saw pictures of this crew, I was in love. It combines all of the best features of this hobby: a cool and creative theme, significant conversions/greenstuff sculpting, and a beautiful paint job. Plus it brings some attention to a holiday that is huge in the latin american community but is maybe just starting to reach the mainstream attention it deserves, the festival of the dead. All of the models from Perdita's boxed set are featured here, along with a converted Abuela Ortega and an Executioner. I'll just put the models up and let them speak for themselves. 

Pretty cool stuff, eh? If you want to see more of Haydn's work, check out his website at or follow him on Instagram at @haychdee. He's making a pretty savage looking Marcus crew right now that emphasizes the more bestial, horrific side of the Arcanist master, but here's hoping we see some Domadores added to the Ortega crew at some point in the future. 

Meanwhile, here are a handful of other models/dioramas that caught my eye this week. The first is a diorama by Paul Buntman from the Iron Painter rd. 2 voting, which is full of cool stuff and can be checked out here. 

Next is one of the most Halloween appropriate models I've ever seen, a Carver with some corn stalks from railroad hobby sets by Cade Zenner. 

With The Walking Dead starting back up last Sunday, it only seems right to include a TWD themed version of Asura Rotten by Bakti Victor. 

And, finally, I'm sure I'm not the only one eager to see a painted up version of Hungering Darkness's new alternate model. Well Brian Schlottman provided one! 

If you have work you'd like to see featured in future hobby articles, please feel free to drop us a line. We have a Malifaux Musings facebook page and twitter account (@MalifauxMusings) where you can contact us. Also, if you liked this post or any of our other content, consider pledging $1 a month to tohelp us grow and expand. Thanks to our new Patreon supporters, Craig Bishell and Moritz Hampel, who are entered into the drawing for this month's raffle. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Halloween Fluff Week!

We’ve got a little bit of a potpourri post today (I have a feeling the fluff/story posts are going to be like this in the future.) We’ll run through some quick Mini-Musings, take a look at a Dreamer Trick-or-Treating crew I’ve been testing in honor of the holiday, and end with an excerpt from a longer piece of Malifaux fiction I’m working on at the moment, Shadows and Void, themed around the origin of a Death Marshall. I’m planning on turning this into a novel for NaNoWriMo in November, because I’m a masochist and I enjoy hurting myself. So look forward to hearing more about this in the future.

-The PDF of Broken Promises is available on DriveThruRPG. So…go get it? Assuming you don’t have it already. I mean, come on. You’re reading this blog. You’ve probably got it already.

-The Homefront campaign has entered Block 2. The Sandmen score 2 Strategy Points. The Order of the Chimera scores 1 Strategy Point. The Council pulls up the rear with no points. For Factions, the Gremlins receive 2 Scheme Points. The Ten Thunders, the Resurrectionists, and the Guild all receive 1 Scheme Point. The remaining Factions score 0 Scheme Points. One assumes that the Neverborn’s votes were cancelled out by the Sandmen winning, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m actually a little sad the Council isn’t doing better, as I like the story behind what they are. Hopefully Council stuff finds its way into the game at some point in the future.

-A new issue of Wyrd Chronicles has been released, with some good stuff in it. Rathnard put in an article for starting Guild on a budget, which I think will interest a lot of folks. There’s a Tactics article submitted by your humble bloggist discussing four masters who Broke Promises in the most recent book and the power increases they’ve received in exchange. And there’s a fun Through the Breach scenario where your Fated take some kids for Trick-or-Treating in Malifaux. Hint: It doesn’t turn out well. Additionally, they announced that Lady Justice won the story event based off of Gencon sales. So, eat it Rezzers. I guess. We’ll get some fluff for what happened later.

-Wyrd has announced the Get Gourd pumpkin carving contest. Carve a pumpkin with some sort of Wyrd theme. Post the picture. They’ll draw five random folks to get a Carver miniature, and they’ll vote internally on a winner to receive a Through the Breach Hannah. None of you reading this should enter, so I can win. Seriously, don’t follow this link. Don’t post pictures. I want 5 carvers and a Hannah.

-Once again, I’d like to thank our Patreon supporters, Richard Nave, CobaltUnicorn, Kevin Tapper, John Spencer, and our newest patron Moritz Hampel. We’re halfway to our next goal, unlocking a Malifaux Musings Twitch channel for streaming games played over Vassal. And remember, if you’re signed up as a patron for even $1, you get an entry in our monthly raffle to win some kind of cool Malifaux limited models. This month’s raffle is an older Miss model from Gencon, Miss Terious, an alt Ortega themed Death Marshal. Additionally, I’ll be throwing in a Halloween surprise, some miniature Jack-o-Lanterns to be used on the bases of your models. And I mean, come on, it’s a $1. You’ve got a dollar, right? Just follow the link, throw us some shekels, and let’s see what we can build this thing into.


Dreamer Goes Trick or Treating

               So I mentioned above the Tactics article I wrote for this month’s Wyrd Chronicles, and one of the issues I ran into with my plan was this: I was going to write about the Dreamer (or, more properly, his patron Nytemare) and how he had screwed over Lillith in the Neverborn story from Book 5. The idea was that I would then talk about the upgrades and models from the book that boosted their power level, ostensibly as a reward for breaking their promises. Here was the thing: it’s obvious what Dreamer got in Book 5. Growing up and Sleep Cycles lets you play him as a melee master that swaps back and forth between the little Clockwork Orange wannabe and LCB. But when it came to models, there wasn’t a ton that jumped out and screamed “this is specifically of use for Dreamer.” Serena Bowman was there, of course, and she has some synergies with him, but I was a little lost on what exactly she was supposed to do. Give models Nightmare and Black Blood? Ok…why wouldn’t you just have Lelu and Lillitu? But then I heard the Arcane Reservoir podcast episode discussing the Neverborn and, specifically, heard them gush about how solid the Bultungins seem to be for their cost. This tends to be a bit of a blindspot for me: I can see the super awesome high-costed models and can picture their role, but I miss at times how effective low-cost stuff can be. And then it hit me: Bultungins get a free (2) ap attack when they get pushed into melee range by another model’s actions. What crew has a lot of those? Well, Dreamer has Empty Night and Daydreams have Lead Nightmares, but Bultungins aren’t that...except when you have Serena, and she gives them an upgrade so they count as one. And thus, this crew list was born.

50 SS Neverborn Crew
Dreamer + 4 Pool
- Growing Up (1)
- Sleep Cycles (2)
- On Wings Of Darkness (1)

Daydream (2)
Daydream (2)
Lilitu (7)
- On Dreaming Wings (2)
Serena Bowman (7)
Doppleganger (7)
Bultungin (5)
-Warped Reality (1)
Bultungin (5)
-Warped Reality (1)
Bultungin (5)

So the main theory here is to use the numerous pushes, pulls, lures, etc. that are available in the base crew to lead the Bultungins (little kids) around the neighborhood so they can trick people (smash them with big axes.) I wanted to test Growing Up, so I included it even though the summoning upgrade is probably better. It makes sense with the theme as well, as we know that Dreamer has developed a fondness for going around and smashing pumpkins with his new cricket bat. From the Shadows on the Bultungins can be used to get them up into an early strike/surprise position, but I don’t know that it’s really necessary. Plus, the benefit of leaving them close by is that you can target them with Serena’s “The Things I’ve Seen…” and give them Black Blood (while hopefully also triggering to put Black Blood on other stuff, like the Dreamer himself.) That would be your Treats that your crew is handing out to the other whenever they get hit.
I played this with Jon’s Parker crew on Vassal a few nights ago using a version of Gaining Grounds 2018…from several weeks ago. We set the game up then, and only just finished it Tuesday, so of course many of the schemes had changed (and one no longer existed.) So I’ll not belabor the details of the game (and this is certainly not because I lost. You’d be a fool to think so.) I was kind of surprised in game which parts of the crew worked and which parts didn’t. Fortunate draws let me hit Serena’s trigger so that, by the time combat started in earnest, I had made two of the Bultungins, the Dreamer, and the Doppleganger have Black Blood. This let her serve as a reasonably effective force multiplier later on in the game. Also, using the Daydreams and Dreamers’ pushes to throw the Bultungins into combat worked surprisingly well. What I needed to do was A) Equip the Dreamer upgrade to give him accomplice and B) Remember to use Accomplice when possible (IE with the Daydreams.) At one point I left a Freikorps Librarian on 2 wounds from a Savage Mauling attack but forgot to Accomplice and finish him, and that Librarian’s heals would plague me the rest of the way. Even better, Dreamer’s Empty Night lets you push, attack, then triggers the Savage Mauling as well! That’s pretty spicy! On the other hand, Dreamer’s LCB shenanigans really didn’t end up doing what I wanted at all. I’m not that experienced with him, so in my head I thought I’d be floating up to Waking +4 and popping out the big guy every turn or something. I only really could do it 2 out of the five turns, and he didn’t do as much damage as I was hoping when he was out there. On the other hand, the cricket bat+summoning+ranged attack+Empty Night made for a pretty versatile, solid all-around master, which I also didn’t expect.
               There are a few changes I’ll probably try out with this crew.  Obviously, working in the Accomplice upgrade will be important. I think the Summoning version of Dreamer may almost be better at this after all, as Dreamer was kind of stuck between wanting to support his crew and wanting to get stuck in every turn. I think a more focused crew could actually be pretty solid.


As stated above, this is an excerpt from a story I’m writing about the recruitment, training, and eventual early missions of a Death Marshall named Burns from the early days of the second Breach. I hope you enjoy. As a reminder, one of the perks of being a $5 or higher patron on Patreon is access to early drafts of my fiction as I’m working on them.

 “I want you to join the Death Marshalls.”
Sometimes, I wonder if my answer would have changed if I could see the hell hiding behind those words. The Death Marshalls. It sounds ridiculous when you say the name out loud, like something from one of those cheap adventure novels they sell in the shops. I have a hard time imagining Lady Justice or the Judge ever saying it, let alone thinking it up in the first place. I would come to find out soon enough, however, that the ridiculous name fit exactly with the mission to which I would soon dedicate my life. Death Marshall. A law enforcement officer for the dead. Only a hole of a city like Malifaux could need something like that.
Of course, at the time the name meant nothing to me. The grim faced coffin-slingers with which the average Malifaux citizen is today familiar had yet to make their appearance in the streets in those early days. Most of them were like Vinton, a man in a relatively fine looking duster with a shiny new gun and a shinier, newer badge pinned to his chest. I almost laughed in his face, but reminded myself that this was my only ticket out of this cell. I tried to play it coy, but we both knew my answer before I ever gave it. All it took was a nod of ascent, a word from Vinton to the Guardsman posted at the end of the hall, and I was out and freed. There wasn’t even any paperwork to sign, and for the Guild that is really saying something. 
What happened after that? Sometimes I’m not sure I remember it rightly. Other times it’s all I can do to drive the memories out of my head. Imagine the worst physical exertion you’ve ever experienced, coinciding with mental stress designed to push you to your limits before shoving you so far past them you forget they were ever there in the first place. It was Hell, if Hell gave you the option to quit at any time, so long as you were alright with being executed. 
We drilled our bodies to the point that they were an interconnected series of scar tissue and hard, lean, whipcord muscle. We drilled our senses until we could spot the tiniest signs of necromantic magic, even while being shot at. And our minds...well a Death Marshall’s mind has to be a fortress, since the gift of necromantic magic also tends to come with an ability to warp people’s perceptions or fill them with terror beyond the mortal ken. We were subjected to constant mental assault, often when we were in the middle of some other exercise, and never with warning. Some of the magics they used on us would earn an average citizen a bullet just for talking about them. It was constant. It was unrelenting. It was torture dressed up as education.
Many who went into the academy sane came out broken and cold, and those were the Marshalls who graduated. In our first weeks, our instructors encouraged us not to fraternize with our fellow recruits. I didn’t understand why, thought it was just some BS to keep us focused on our training. A young woman named Winters hit it off with me after the first day when she deflected my fumbling attempt at a wristlock and left me on my back with a knot the size of a potato growing from my forehead. She was a no-nonsense, balls to the wall soldier, one of the toughest people I’ve ever known. I watched her reset her own dislocated shoulder in the middle of a hand-to-hand combat drill and then go on to win the damned thing. She was one of the early guardsmen, first through the Breach when it reopened and, unlike many of her peers, actually still cared about keeping the people of the city safe. She should have been exactly what the recruiters were looking for, but they could see something I missed.
She cared TOO much. It turned out she had been pregnant once, years prior. It was going to be a daughter if she hadn’t been stillborn. It was the sort of entirely mundane trauma that makes up the background of most people, but Death Marshalls can’t be most people. Our instructors filled our minds with images of failure: innocents murdered, children stolen, friends and family members lost as a result of our actions. It went on for months, and the rest of us didn’t see it eating away at her until it was too late. One morning they played reveille and she didn’t leave her bunk. The instructors went into the dorms to find her clinging to her mattress, a picture of some little girl she’d found and decided was hers clutched in one clawed hand. She had convinced herself that it was her fault these phantoms in her mind kept dying, and unless she hid herself away it would keep happening. She thought she had even gotten her daughter killed, though how she could have come to that conclusion I’ll never understand. As we stood in the drillfield listening to her howling shrieks, we knew it was too late for her before the instructors hauled her bodily out the door, two men dragging her by the arms. We didn’t even resent them for it when they took her behind the barracks and we heard the pistol shot.
Frankly, it was the least they could do.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Misery and Woe: A Pandora Tactica

It’s the strategy article this week, and it’s going to be an extra-long one. Why? Because you asked for it! Or, specifically, because one of our patrons asked for it. Patreon user CobalttheUnicorn requested an in-depth tactica for Pandora, so that’s what we’re going to do. Hopefully your recovery is going well, Cobalt. We at Malifaux Musings wish you the best, and let’s get on with the misery!


The Mistress of Sorrow, Pandora carries a mysterious puzzle-box which contains one of Malifaux’s Tyrants, Despair, who grants her power while slowly corrupting her mind. She can use it to release some of her minions, spirits called Sorrows that inflect negative emotions on those around them. Her own powers amplify this, prying the insecurities, fears, and mental derangement from the depths of an enemy’s mind and using it to drive them mad. In 1st edition Malifaux, Pandora was probably the poster child for “This is why everyone hates Neverborn,” as she could chain together unlimited strings of her Incite action, giving her nearly unlimited movement on any given turn, and would take advantage of the way Terrifying used to work to essentially sweep enemy models off the board without letting them react in any meaningful way. It’s somewhat fitting that a master like Pandora would be a negative play experience, using her Misery ability on opponents, but a slightly reduced version was necessary in M2E to improve game balance.
There are a number of short stories featuring Pandora in the Malifaux canon, too many to mention here. One of my favorites is The Malifaux Orphanage for Sick Children from Storm of Shadows, which describes Iggy’s transformation from a normal (albeit troubled) young boy to become a Woe like Candy and Kade. She’s conspicuously absent from the action in Book 5, which may tell more about her allegiance in the Neverborn Civil War than is immediately apparent.

Base Abilities

Outside of her Willpower of 7, Pandora sports one of the least impressive stat lines of any master in Malifaux. Df of 3 is just pitiful. 10 Wounds is average (possibly slightly below, as Wd totals on Masters have started to bloat as the game’s gotten older). Wk and Cg 4 is pretty sad, too. But, as is often the case with the Neverborn, it’s what’s below the surface that counts.
Her abilities are what really define her playstyle. Misery creates a 6” aura around her where, any time an enemy model fails a WP duel, they then take 1 point of damage. This “death-by-a-thousand-cuts” ability is significant because it counts as a separate damage source than the action that initially triggered the WP duel and, as such, the damage isn’t reduced by Armor (as Armor can’t reduce damage below 1) and gets around Hard to Kill (as the initial action’s resolution would do the damage to put the enemy model on 1 Wd, and then Misery finishes them off.) This becomes more significant when you add in other models with overlapping Misery bubbles, as we’ll mention later, but it can add up more quickly than you would think. Because of Misery’s limited range, many Pandora builds revolve around bringing enemies within short to medium range to maximize the number of failed WP duels over the course of the game.
Her next two abilities work hand in hand in many cases. Expose Fears allows Pandora to resist with her WP instead of her DF in any opposed duel. Thus, her sad DF of 3 is much less significant, as any attacks your opponent throws your way will let you use the better stat. However, any Simple Duel will still require the use of DF, so watch out for those in the enemy crew. Additionally, she considers the duel to be a WP and, thus, succeeding at resisting an attack triggers the next ability: Fading Memory. Whenever she wins an opposed WP duel against an enemy model, Pandora immediately pushes up to 4” in any direction. So, if an enemy charges her and misses the first attack, you can push out of basically any model’s engagement range to prevent the rest of the attacks. If she’s getting shot, she can use the ability to get out of LoS or at least behind some cover for any subsequent attacks. Basically, if an opponent is going to come at the Queen, they’d best not miss. Her final ability is Martyr, and it doesn’t come up quite as often. It lets her pull a point of damage onto herself if it would affect a friendly Woe within her 6” bubble. She isn’t exactly overflowing with excess wounds and her crews typically don’t feature an excess of healing, but this can end up being a lifesaver for weaker Woes like her Sorrows.
All of these abilities combine to create a master who is very interested in getting to medium-short range, pulling as many enemies as possible within her sphere of influence, and inflicting Misery upon them (literally and figuratively.) Expose Fears and Fading Memory make her hard to hit, but brittle. Thankfully FM isn’t a trigger, so it can’t be negated by abilities like the Executioner’s Certain Death ability, but if an opponent can hit her she’s going to snap and break quickly.
Pandora’s two main Attack Actions are Self Loathing and Self Harm, both of which cause a target that fails a WP duel to inflict the damage of a melee or shooting attack on themselves after they fail (plus one additional point for Misery.) Self Loathing is slightly better with a Ca of 7 as opposed to Self Harm’s 6, which is of course off-set by the latter’s longer range. On the base card you’re stuck with the damage track of the target’s attacks but, with an upgrade, you can at least ensure that you have a 2/3/4 available in-case theirs is worse. Her (0) action Incite is one of her main mobility tricks, as it is an opposed Wp duel and succeeding at it counts for Fading Memory to give her an upfield push. Additionally, it places the condition Mood Swing on the opponent, allowing you to select that model to activate whenever it is able to do so, in place of the model your opponent chooses to activate. Being able to dictate your opponent’s activation order to them is very powerful, and can allow you to get away with leaving the Doppleganger at home from time to time, as forcing a sub-optimal model to activate first will often be even better than being able to cheat to go first. If you can flip a Tome for the Mass Hysteria trigger, you can immediately take the action again, giving you more mobility. Finally, she has a (1) Tactical Action called Inflict which forces all enemy models in a 4” pulse to succeed on a TN 14 WP duel or suffer 1 damage (plus 1 for Misery.) This one isn't utilized as frequently, but can be put to good use against clumps of low WP models to, at least, drain some cards from their hands.


               The second defining factor in Pandora’s playstyle comes from her choice of Limited upgrade. She will almost always bring one of them, and will more often than not fill all three of her upgrade slots. I’ll go through three common Pandora load-outs and describe how they’re typically built and played.
               The first Limited option is The Box Opens. This upgrade lends Pandora towards what has been described by many as her “melee build,” which focuses on taking her Misery aura and adding on more and more things to make it a bubble of bad for the opponent. TBO gives her Terrifying all 13 which, given that her melee range is a respectable 3”, lets her tie up a number of models in it at once. Often this upgrade is paired with the generic Neverborn upgrade Fears Given Form which forces any model that activates inside the bearer’s engagement range to take a TN  14 DF duel or take 3 damage immediately. You do have to be careful with this one, though, as friendly models have to take the same test, so Pandora will often be running around on her own when this upgrade is equipped. You may want to pair it with something like Aether Connection to give her some added damage prevention to offset the isolation, though this may fall under the category of “a good idea for newer players, but not necessary for the more experienced.” Often, you’ll find models working to fan out and stay out of her bubble, only feeding her non-essential models or those that are able to stand up to her punishment while the rest of the crew scores VPs, so pairing it up with something like Nekima or another heavy beater to support where she can’t go is typically a good idea.
               The next, and probably most hated, option is the Voices build, or Paralyze-Dora. Most of the M2E “negative play experience” commentary from Dora comes out of this build (for more on this subject, see the April 1st episode of the High Fauxdelity podcast.) The upgrade gives her the relatively innocuous ability “There is no shelter here” that makes the damage from Misery irreducible. That’s not such a big deal. However, it also adds a crow trigger to Self Harm and Self Loathing that reduces the damage to 0 and applies the Parlayzed condition to the target instead. In order to make this trigger more reliable, you also include the Depression upgrade, which gives her a (0) action to discard a card and add the suit to all of her duels for the remainder of her activation. Thus, for a low crow, you can now paralyze 3 models a turn. Players will often pair this with Fugue State, punishing models that take Interact actions within 8” of her by forcing them to succeed at a hefty TN 15 WP duel or take a point of damage (plus one from Misery, if they’re within 6”.) This is probably the safest of the builds for her, as Paralyzed models are incapable of hitting you back, but it can be vulnerable to crews with efficient condition removal like Ten Thunders Low River Monks and Sensei Yu or, if you’re unlucky, a turn where you fail multiple duels and only get a small portion of the enemy crew locked down. It is not, however, a great way to win friends among your play group. Most folks that bring their little plastic toys want to actually play with them, not activate and pass because you keep beating them at WP duels. Definitely not a friendly thing to do to someone who is just learning the game.
               The new Limited Upgrade Pandora got from Broken Promises, Woe is Me, lets her act as a summoning master. Because we Dora players weren’t hated enough already, apparently. Ok, it’s not that bad of a summon, as it “only” lets you call in Sorrows. Moreover, it can only be done by placing the Sorrow next to an enemy model with one or more conditions, and the enemy can subsequently choose to end any of those conditions they wish. On the plus side, this upgrade gets around two of the weaknesses of the Sorrow, their slightly-too-high soulstone cost and their limited mobility. Now you can just drop the nasty little blighters in the middle of the action where you want them and call it a day. Moreover, unlike most summoners, Dora’s Sorrows come in at full health, which is not insignificant. Base contact with an enemy is where a Sorrow wants to be, as they can then pull a Wd off of that enemy model when they activate with Life Leech. And, of course, there’s the fact that Sorrows bring their own Misery aura which stacks with Pandora’s, turning those little 1 damage slaps-to-the-wrist into 2, 3, or 4 damage wallops every time the enemy fails against Incite. This is even more significant when you consider the other ability from Woe is Me, Growing Woe. Any time an enemy is killed by the Misery Aura while the upgrade is in play you can summon her totem, the Poltergeist, for free. Any time you can swing 4 AP like that, it’s a good thing, and the Poltergeist is an underrated totem that didn’t see a ton of play due to the relative ease with which it can be killed and it’s relatively high cost (who ever heard of a 5SS totem, anyways?) You’ll probably want to bring Depression with this build as well, as the summons require an additional Mask. Moreover, it gives other friendly Woes within Pandora’s LoS (read: the Sorrows you just summoned) an attack targeting WP (meaning it triggers Misery) that can force a model that fails to activate last. Good stuff. It’s still pretty early in the Broken Promises era to come to any conclusions, but the limited testing I’ve done with this so far leads me to believe I may have initially underestimated Woe is Me. There are a lot of conditions in Malifaux. I mean, a WHOLE LOT of them. this upgrade doesn’t distinguish between positive and negative conditions, either. An opponent who spends an AP to give a model Defensive or Focus has now provided you with a summoning battery. It’s possible my experience with this isn’t typical (Phiasco typically plays 10 Thunders and they’re notorious for throwing Focus around like it’s candy,) but I've had no trouble having good targets with positive conditions they don't want to remove availabe. Two of the new strategies from Gaining Grounds 2017 place beneficial conditions on models that can’t be removed by actions, even if the model WANTS to remove them. And you can always use your Incite or condition applying actions to put them out yourself in a pinch. Iggy would be pretty clutch for this (more on him later.) And we already know how potent an effect summoning can have on the game. So, to be determined, but there may be some real meat to be found in this version of Dora. Time will tell if it’s good enough to replace Voices as the go-to Limited.
               In addition to these, she has a handful of other upgrades as well. Cry for Me gives her a (1) Ca 7 attack to hand out a condition imposing a negative flip to WP duels on enemy models that fail until the end of the turn, with a double Mask trigger to place a blast marker and spread it around. This used to see a little bit of play, particularly if you thought you were going to go up against something that had a decent chance of resisting your attacks, but as more upgrades are added to the game and slots get tight I’ve seen it fall out of favor. Her other new Book 5 upgrade, Rile Them Up, has a few more interesting possibilities. It costs 2 stones, which is a little hefty, but it gives her the ability Mania to discard a card and take the Incite action an additional time using one of her general AP. I could see this being useful for games where mobility will be at a priority or, if you’re feeling feisty, where you’re going to try for a late-game Undercover Entourage run for the opponent’s deployment zone. It also adds a Mask trigger (so, built in) to Self-Harm and Loathing that lets you replace the attack’s normal damage track with 2/3/4 and makes the damage irreducible. Potentially, this could be useful for any of the Limited builds, though the most obvious synergy goes with Melee-Dora (who could have some odd hiccups killing models that don’t have good attacks for her to steal) and Woe is Me (who can use the additional Incite either to throw out some more conditions for summoning or because she had to use her (0) for Depression to gain masks.) This one may end up being scheme pool dependent, where you bring it for the aforementioned Entourage run or to give her a better shot at Master killing in Neutralize the Leadership. Still, it’s got some decent utility.

Support Models        


               Obviously, anything with Woe under its characteristics has potential to be added to her crew and used effectively. Her box set is one of the few that you can pretty much open, assemble, and run and have a relatively effective crew. Candy finds her way into a lot of Pandora crews to this day, mostly because of the potency of combining the Mood Swings condition from Incite with her Sweets ability to paralyze an enemy model. Kade falls in and out of favor, mostly due to his fragility. If you bring him and he can get a couple of his damage buffs running, his Carving Knife can dish out a horrific 5/6/8 damage track. If you can afford it, equip him with Depression instead of Dora to let him pitch a crow and make one of his triggers built in. Also, if you’re bringing Kade, bring Teddy. You wouldn’t make a sweet little baby go out without his Teddy, would you? What kind of a monster are you?

               Oh, right, the kind that plays Pandora. Never mind. Forget I asked.

               We already talked about Sorrows a bunch above, so let’s move on to other stuff to hire in. First of all, it’s the Neverborn, so I’ll just point at Nekima, the Doppleganger, and the Primordial Magic and assume you already know why you might want to bring those. Moving on.
Besides Candy and Nekima, there are a couple of other henchman options that can play well with Pandora. The Widow Weaver would be an interesting henchman to bring along if you could ensure her safety, as the Web Marker Willpower penalties can be devastating. The problem, of course, is that she can only place them within 6” of her and a stiff breeze will blow her over, taking her Webs with her. She’s not my favorite option, but if you’ve got some amazing defensive tech to keep her alive then by all means, bring her out. Barbaros is a little bit pricey, but I don’t think he gets the praise he deserves. I’ve written about how rude challenge is before, but that WP duel to target anyone but Barb is just disruptive as hell. I think he could be particularly useful in a Woe is Me build to help protect your newly summoned Sorrows. And if they fail the WP duel to target anyone else, their action fails AND they take damage. That’s just rude. Plus there’s something to be said for not entirely focusing your crew on WP attacks, as the wrong opponent will end up laughing at you since WP is, on average, higher throughout Malifaux than Defense. Opposing Nekimas, in particular, will be thrilled with your choice. So Barbaros and other DF targeting models can help broaden your focus a bit and offset some of those bad matchups.
The minion pool is actually a bit more shallow from a Pandora-oriented focus than you might think. Normally one would think Beckoners would be a natural fit, and they can be under the right circumstances, but their 7 stone cost puts them in direct competition with the enforcer Lillitu, and Lillitu’s just better in most cases. Some people don’t care for them due to their relatively low wounds, but I think Insidious Madness makes for a pretty good scheme runner that can change gears and support your offense in a pinch when necessary. If you’re playing Woe is Me Dora you can hire Guild Reporters, who have obvious synergy with Dora. It’s kind of your choice which scheme runner you prefer, and in some cases it may depend on the job you’re asking them to do, but the reporter is a stone cheaper and is better at removing enemy markers than the IM. And performers are solid mercenary hires, as Siren Song and Seduction both play well with what a Pandora crew is trying to accomplish. Not to mention we could all use a bit more "Don't Mind Me" in our lives.  
There’s a lot for Pandora to like in the Enforcer slot, by comparison. I already mentioned Lillitu, who has the Rotten Belle level Lure spell available on a sturdy enforcer’s body. Lure is especially important for melee Dora, as you need to draw models into her bubble so she can be fully effective and they’ll likely be trying to stay as far away as possible. Iggy is a workhorse enforcer that, for a measly 5 stones, gives you another source of Martyr, another (0) Incite, a Rg 12 attack to hand out Burning +2 (hurray for more conditions to use for summoning), and/or a pretty decent WP penalty on enemy models within 6 of him that haven’t activated yet. Having 2 Martyrs gives you a great deal of ability to manipulate wounds, as you can either pull 2 wounds off of a Woe and split them between Pandora and Iggy or chain one single wound down the line (IE if you can afford to put the wound on Pandora but she’s more than 6” away while Iggy is closer but on low wounds, Iggy can snatch a wound off with Martyr and then pass it on to her.) Teddy is a sentimental favorite that would see more play if he was a little faster and a little bit tougher to hit. He’s good for a themed crew and fun to use with Kade. Plus, if you’ve been playing as long as I have, you probably have at least three sculpts of him lying around. And Bishop can be an interesting Merc to hire in, as his melee attacks can target either WP or DF.
The last few books have been kind of a desert for new Pandora crew members, but the Crossroads Seven enforcer Lust is an exception. Nine stones with the merc tax is a little steep, but she brings a pretty solid suite of unpleasant abilities when combined with Pandora. Her “Now, Kiss!” Attack Action can potentially force the enemy to make 3 separate willpower duels in exchange for 1 single AP from Lust, which is some potent Misery activation on top of potentially disrupting the enemy’s plans and positioning. Pair two uses of that with her (0) action which also triggers a WP push, that’s a grand total of 7 potential damage per Misery bubble in which the targets are trapped when doing it. That can get nasty. Book 5 doesn’t have anything specifically for Dora outside of her new upgrades, but there could still be some useful tools here. One of the things you see often with most Pandora builds is a tendency by the opponent to spread out and stay away from her auras. Adding a Grootslang or two to your crew gives you a way to rapidly redeploy to counter this. I envision Pandora and team deploying in the center of the board with the two lair markers deployed in what you think will be high-traffic areas on the flanks, allowing your Groots to deploy rapidly to them and cut off the enemy’s retreat. Bultungins have interesting potential to serve as low-stone beaters and potentially to avoid shoe-horning your crew into being all WP all the time, but they’ll likely have more synergy with other masters like Titania or Collodi who can better exploit their abilities. There are a couple of mercs as well, though none immediately trip my trigger. Soulstone Prospectors have to compete with other 7 stone positioning models, and I don’t think they do well versus Lillitu. Bayou Smugglers are interesting as well, as 6SS is relatively low, can grant you some abilities to manipulate your hand, and their The Swap attack targets WP and either gives you a card or lets you screw with positioning. Don’t know if it’ll be an amazing addition at first blush, but there are possibilities here as a defensive flank holder to grab and position markers to mess up scheme completion.

Harvester of Sorrow: Putting it All Together

Pandora is a tough but brittle master that lives off of projecting auras of sadness and badness to the enemy anywhere near her. There are three main builds defined by which of her Limited Upgrades you bring along, and all of them are effective in their own way. The Melee Pandora wants to get up close and personal and force the opponent to take incidental damage for doing the things that they want to do in an average turn anyways. Voices Pandora is going to try to paralyze models at range, and it actually says on the Voices upgrade card that your opponent’s soul takes a point of damage every time you do this. And the new Woe is Me upgrade lets her summon her small Sorrow minions and, potentially, her Poltergreist totem off of models with conditions on them. Her crew has never historically had a set of “in every Pandora crew include X” type models outside of the standard Neverborn staples of Nekima, Doppleganger, and the Primordial Magic who, in several cases, have alternatives which can even make them dispensable. But it’s really more about building a crew to exploit the area of denial that she creates by her very presence and ensure that you can run down and foil anyone who tries to fan out to escape her wrath. Pandora really isn’t as nasty of a Master as everyone thinks she is (though don’t tell people that. 1) they won’t believe you and 2) it’s more fun to keep the mystique in place) and can be fun to play if you enjoy her style. So give her a try, already! 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Malifaux Book 5: Broken Promises Review


                   I’ve already written about Broken Promises extensively from a game perspective, and I’ll be writing about it more in the future (watch for this month’s Wyrd chronicles), but one thing I haven’t done yet is break down the actual physical product that Wyrd released. So, since it’s Review Week on our new Malifaux Musings publication schedule, let’s do a review of Book 5. But first, some Mini-Musings and a word from our sponsors.



-The biggest news, of course, is the beginning of block 1 from the Homefront campaign. It will run for 2 weeks, going from October 2nd to, presumably, the 15th. I like the tie-in between Malifaux and The Other Side, but I’m not as amped for this one as I have been in the past. The reason came to me when I saw that the Syndicate and Faction forums were up, I went to go read them, and realized “Wait, there’s no point. There’s no strategy for this other than ‘play as many games as possible.’” So I’ll still be playing and reporting my games (Sandmen all the way, baby, and not just because I’m a big Metallica fan.) I just won’t probably be spending a lot of time in my faction forum.

-Iron Painter rd. 1 voting is going on as we speak, and ends on Monday. The first round’s theme was OSL, and from what I’ve seen, there’s some very cool stuff out there to check out.

-We’ve completed one month on Patreon, so it’s time for our first drawing. *reaches into raffle box* And the Miss Ery model goes to….Kevin Tapper! Kevin just joined this month, and he’s won a prize already. You’re not trying to win from out of a pool of hundreds of contributors, folks. We’re a small blog right now, so the prizes have never been easier to win. Come on down to our Patreon and sign up now, and you can get an entry for October’s drawing, a Miss Terious! This model works as an alternate Death Marshal and will fit nicely into most Guild-y crews, particularly Perdita. And if you knock the casket off, she’d probably make a pretty decent Monster Hunter proxy until the model comes out. And because it’s Halloween, I’m going to throw in an All-Hallows Eve surprise for the winner, as well. Even a $1 a month contribution earns you an entry, so come on over to our page and supportMalifaux Musings!


               The cover image on Broken Promises is something quite unique, as all of the covers for Malifaux books that I can remember have usually had some kind of action scene featuring full-body artwork of one of the models released in the product. Perhaps fittingly, since this features the first effort to go back and release new upgrades for old masters, this features a different style of cover image. It’s a collage of signature masters for each of the factions separated like a broken pane of glass, with a Guild seal at the center. The message is pretty clear: the Guild, and more specifically, the new Governor-General, is going to smash things up and make their presence felt. In response, the other factions are starting to fragment. It also gives Wyrd’s new graphic artists a chance to show their stuff. Lillith’s primal scream and McMourning’s trademark maniacal grin are really striking, and it makes for a sharp looking cover.

               The book itself weighs in at 257 pages of content, which feels like about par for previous Malifaux offerings. Each faction gets their own section with a new lore story, a special story scenario related to that short story, followed by the new content for the miniature game. The factions each received a new henchman, a selection of enforcers and minions, and the biggest change to the game, new Upgrade cards for each master. While I wouldn’t say that every single model in this book is amazing and going to find significant table time, there also don’t appear to be very many which make me say “This is a dog turd. Why would anyone play this?” This is a significant achievement, considering we’re in the 5th book of this limited-scale skirmish game. Anything new that the designers introduce has to compete with everything that’s come before and do it without introducing power creep, something with which many games can struggle. They’ve achieved this here in a number of cases by introducing models which explore regions of design where factions have previously had a weakness. As an example: the Guild previously had a reputation for strong top-end models but more lackluster low-soulstone stuff. To counter this, Broken Promises introduces a bevy of 6-stone models, all of whom perform different roles. This was done masterfully. Additionally, some models were very clearly intended to sit with masters that needed a power boost, like the Riotbreaker for Hoffman or the Cyclops and Bultungin with Titania. This was done subtly, by providing a model that is useable and effective with any crew that can hire them but which really shines when paired with the appropriate leaders. The approach varied in different factions, but the end result is the same: new options and new design space being opened up. The new models are a big win for Wyrd and, in my opinion, the most effective part of the book.

               Since the start of M2E, I’ve wanted to see them release new upgrade cards for the old masters. It was something that was promised as an option from the start and, especially where Limited upgrades are concerned, gave the Malifaux designers the ability to radically alter the way a crew works without having to release a new edition of the game or a new version of the model with redesigned or Errata’d rules. However, besides the occasional errata for severely gimped masters like Lucius or Ironsides, masters have lived with what they received at release. It’s easy to see why it took a while to try new upgrades, especially on this scale. You can’t very well just add new options for some masters but not for others unless you want a lot of community belly-aching, so you have to design for all of them at once. Much of a crew’s power runs through the master, so there’s danger that you can end up making much more drastic changes than you intended when you tweak them like this. And, tbh, Wyrd probably makes much more money off of new models than they do from decks of upgrade cards, which reduces the incentive to put them out. As such, I applaud the effort behind getting this work done.

Overall, I would call their effort successful with a few stumbles. A number of masters that needed help got it in spades with these upgrade cards. We’ll have to wait and see how many of them end up being as effective in the game as they look on paper, but just the fact that people are excited to play Toni Ironsides, Mah Tucket, and Lady Justice can only be considered good things for Malifaux overall. Other masters that were already pretty good got new tools added to their toolbox. Dreamer can play a melee oriented game. Pandora can act as a limited summoner. Dr. McMourning greatly expanded his hiring pool. I think this was the best part of what was done here, and I wish we would have seen more of it. It seemed like an effort was made not to take some of the already strong crews and make them stronger, but rather give them some different choices to try. This was for the most part effective, but there were some odd glitches. Both of Collodi’s upgrades have been dismissed by every reviewer I’ve seen, as adding a melee attack when he can already use his main attack, one of the best in the game, in melee is redundant and unnecessary. The teleportation/summoning upgrade he got feels janky. Contrast this with Hamelin, who is arguably one of the strongest masters in Malifaux Gaining Grounds 2017 (if, paradoxically, one of the least played due in part to the large number of models required and the general “uck” feeling he inspires in most people.) His new Plague Pits is a flat-out strong upgrade that is going to be played often, allowing Blight become a viable main attack strategy, and doesn’t seem to cost him a whole lot (Hamelin crews usually could afford dropping an upgrade to make room for it.) Add to that the ability to work around the “no-unburying-on-turn-1” clause of Viktoria’s Soaring Dragon upgrade using the Scion of the Void, and the top 2 Outcasts seem to have the majority of the potentially negative-play-experience upgrades in the book. This feels like a mistake, and I would expect that the Soaring Dragon thing will get fixed with an errata, but that won’t be happening until January. And, look, it’s early yet. Some of these things may end up being overblown. Plague Pits may not be such a big deal, and Collodi’s Doll upgrade may actually be really good and we’re all just not seeing it. I don’t know, and I’d be the last one to stake my reputation on theory-craft (as I’m, frankly, quite bad at it.) But, the thing to remember is that these are the exceptions, not the rules. Most of the new upgrades are at least interesting, and it blows open crew design from the end-of-GG-2017 funk I think many players have felt. It’s hard to consider this aspect of the book to be anything but a win, and I applaud the effort Aaron and the other designers put into this.

               One of the highlights of most Malifaux books (for fluff nerds like me) are the stellar short-fiction offerings included to advance the story of the game world. It seemed, however, like the fluff wasn’t as big of an emphasis here as we’ve seen in other Malifaux books. Where, previously, the factions sections would have been bookended with stories that incorporated elements of each of the factions and (usually) provided the big thrust of the story developments, in Broken Promises there were just the 7 short stories for each faction. The overarching theme was two-fold: the Guild cracking down in Malifaux and the other factions trying to endure while individuals advance themselves through acts of betrayal. Most of the stories were well-written, and I liked what they offered. The McMourning focused story from the Resurrectionist section felt a little odd, in that the doctor effectively threw his Guild badge in Lady Justice’s face but will remain a dual-faction master from the game’s perspective. The Outcast story, while feeling a little bit like fanfic in terms of the need to have major-character after major-character show up for a cameo, was at least interesting from the perspective of solidifying the faction and giving them a home-base in the Outlands in the wake of the Guild outlawing mercenary work. The Gremlin story was…well, it was what you expect from Gremlins. If you like it, you were probably delighted. If you don’t, this won’t change your mind. I’d like to see the Gremlins mix it up with some of the other factions more frequently, personally, as we’ve been told since the beginning of M2E that they were going to be important in the coming wars with the Tyrants but, apparently, seem content to sit in the bayou and argue amongst themselves rather than doing anything meaningful. But the story I found to be least in keeping with the overall aesthetic was the Guild story. I get what Mason was going for here: trying to craft a comedy piece featuring the masters of the Guild in their off-hours, mingling inside their Enclave’s break room downtown. It was reminiscent of shows like the Office, with only the individual confessional-style interviews missing. But it felt tonally incongruent with the rest of the book, and I don’t think it worked. Personally, I think something could have been done to explore a member of the Guild getting screwed over in the new regime (or vice-versa) and this story would have felt more at home in an issue of Wyrd Chronicles. Plus, how does Lady Justice play poker? She can’t see what’s printed on the cards?

               The graphic design of the new book is really strong. A number of masters got the sort of touch-ups and updates that we’d previously seen for Dreamer and (if you had access to Through the Breach’s Core Rules) Von Schill, leading to tantalizing speculation on whether some of these incredible redesigns are going to be converted to alternate sculpt miniatures. One assumes the Dreamer is coming for sure, as the kid in the nightshirt feels odd to play as the Cricket-Bat wielding sociopath he’s becoming. For whatever reason, the Ten Thunders masters got a number of updates, including a very cool image of Lynch with cards flying around him and burnt-out eyes, as well as a much more lithe-looking Yan Lo and a grungier McCabe in a duster. I wonder if they’re not in line for a refresh simply because they were released as Wyrd’s first efforts at plastic and, to be honest, many of the models don’t live up to the current sculpts. The only place that the art design falls down, in my opinion, is where they’ve recycled art from previous publications for use here, as the styles don’t always match with the newer, grittier pieces. It wouldn’t be as jarring if they were consistent (IE new art in the short fiction stories, old art with the upgrades) but when they switched back and forth it was a little jarring. It was particularly weird in the Resser section, where some art of McMourning and Nicodem were resurrected (fittingly) from the 1st edition days to represent them. Weird.

               So, overall, I think the crew at Wyrd really succeeded with Broken Promises, especially from the perspective of Malifaux the Game. There are no obviously dead models coming out (arguable, but it’s my review so you can deal with my opinions) and the new upgrade cards improve the game by expanding the options available to the masters. The production for Broken Promises had a few more rough edges than I’m used to seeing in Wyrd products, but if sacrifices had to be made somewhere, I suppose some hiccups with the fiction and art can be forgiven. Broken Promises is a fine product, overall, and keeps the strong tradition of Malifaux sourcebooks going.