Saturday, September 29, 2018

Early Rumblings: Ten Thunders Tournament Report

A couple of weeks ago, I travelled to Des Moines for the 2018 season opener tournament of the Midwest Region. As part of my ongoing efforts to transition from the Neverborn faction to the Ten Thunders, I planned on trying out the new stuff. I loaded up in the morning and made the drive from Cedar Rapids to Mayhem Collectibles Inc. (a lovely store with a very large selection of Malifaux merchandise. They even stocked Through the Breach on the shelf, which was a pleasant surprise.) After going across the street for some coffee, registered, and picked up a Hinamatsu to go along with my entry fee (but, but, that’s a Neverborn model?! Join the M3E beta son. That’s all I’m sayin’.)

Round 1 looked a lot like this:

Deployment: Standard Deployment
Strategy: Guard the Stash
Schemes: Guarded Treasure, Covert Breakthrough, Hold Up Their Forces, Inescapable Trap, Take One For The Team

Guard the Stash struck me as something that Cheating Bastard Lynch could handle, so I put together a crew built around that. I was paired against Resurrectionists, so I thought I would take the base crew and add in Yamaziko for a bit more resistance to terrifying and Graves to boot people off of the markers.

My opponent (from my old game store in Lincoln, NE) brought Seamus. I often joke that Seamus has Terrifying (Me) 12, and he lived up to his reputation. Sinister Reputation is mostly brought for the reduction in Willpower, but it also gives Seamus a Ca attack versus Defense, the Hungering Darkness’s weak spot. As such, HD was dead shortly after the start of turn 2. Jacob Lynch died shortly thereafter, which left me in “hang on by my fingernails” mode. Yamaziko proved to be extremely difficult for the opponent to remove, and I ended up wishing I had brought the Lone Swordsman instead of Graves, since he has the same immunity. Even still, I managed to accidentally kill my opponent’s Take One for the Team target on the last turn for two points, lost too many models to score more than 2 from the strat, and my opponent killed the wrong Stitched Together to give me any Take One points. So I ended up losing 8-4.

The more I play CB Lynch, the more I’m beginning to have doubts about it. The baseline idea is good, but the weakness is Hungering Darkness and Lynch himself. They’re anchor points for this crew, and if they die it’s pretty much over. And the thing is, they’re not that tough. I played another game after this one over Vassal against a Lady Justice crew that went slightly better, but the opponent knew they were the weakspots and removed them surgically before I could bring her down. I’m going to try working in some more defensive tech (Misdirection, etc.) but I may need to consider that this isn’t as competitively sound as I thought.


Deployment: Flank Deployment
Strategy: Public Execution
Schemes: Eliminate The Leadership, Setup, Show of Force, Take Prisoner, Public Demonstration

The tournament was offering bonus points for going Iron Scorpius style and I knew any chance of placing was gone after a first round loss, so I decided it was time to go into playtest mode and try some stuff out. The other two crews I brought were McCabe or Misaki, and having Eliminate the Leadership in the pool crossed McCabe off the list, so it was ninja time. My opponents being Outcast didn’t tell me much, so I decided to try some of the Yolosunori style of crews as a viability check. It looked like this:

Misaki-Risk/Reward, Storm, Training
Shadow Emissary-CoT
Yasunori-Recalled Training
Charm Warder
Terracotta Warrior
Shadow Effigy

            Obviously I was going all in on the big Yas first turn charge, with Misaki as a counter-punch. My opponent was bringing Freikorps, however, which meant that Storm was pretty much useless and everyone had armor, so Yas was going to struggle. I saw first-hand how much it blunted him, as I think between doing less damage and missing a couple of his attacks meant he didn’t even kill back his points despite having a pretty sweet charge into some Freikorps mooks on the first turn followed by winning initiative and popping Recalled Training at the start of 2. I mismanaged the strategy and feel like I got a little lost in tracking all of the buffs and plus flips of the crew. With more practice, I think I can get better, but it ended up with a loss in this game through the opponent outplaying my schemes and managing to block a late-game Take Prisoner. Yas, however, didn’t blow me away. I’ll have to see him in action in some less obviously anti-him positions, but much like when I used to work with Nekima, I just don’t seem to have the touch for making these high-soulstone beaters earn back their investment during games. Maybe getting more experience in general and knowing what opponent models he’ll be effective against and which he won’t would be important here.

Deployment: Standard Deployment
Strategy: Ours
Schemes: Guarded Treasure, Dig Their Graves, Search The Ruins, Recover Evidence, Vendetta

            Now we’re in the Wooden Soon game, so there’s a sub-goal of trying to avoid finishing in last place. It’s McCabe time, which works given that I think he’s best in games where the action will be more spread-out, allowing him to surgically distribute his upgrades to provide advantages in specific quadrants. My opponent was Neverborn, but I didn’t really stress over that when putting this together, as I was now just trying new things out. Here’s what I brought.

Mccabe-Loot Bag, Promises, Badge of Speed
Lone Swordsman-Recalled Training
Shadow Emissary
Charm Warder
Ten Thunders Brother
Terracotta Warrior
Guild Hound
Guild Hound

            I faced a Titania crew with the Thorn Knight, Doppleganger, Baby Kade, Emissary, and some etc’s. I set the Lone Swordsman up with the Healing Potion and Cloak Relics and tried to send him up the board with the thought that eventually I could either follow along with McCabe and support him as he Vendetta’d the Doppleganger. Eventually, I’d swap one of the Relics out for the Sabre later on, which didn’t work out as the opponent lured the Terracotta Warrior forward and killed him before I could do the swap. What I hadn’t counted on was just how much of a pest the Swordsman is with that combination of relics. He stayed in the backfield most of the game vexing the opponent and eventually picking up Evidence markers in the backfield. McCabe meanwhile went off to the right flank and led an attack to block the opponent’s control of a quarter along with his pack of dogs, limiting the opposing crew to only a point or two for the strategy and killing the Mysterious Emissary along the way. The Shadow Emissary managed to hang on against Titania in a solo duel, shifting back and forth over the center line to keep her from denying me a quarter, and occasionally handing out Fast to the Swordsman. The Swordsman managed to earn a lot of respect from me all around in this game, as he was an all-star. The only thing he was missing was Ruthless to get around the Doppleganger’s Manipulative, so I didn’t get all 3 points from Vendetta. 2 was still fine, and I managed to pull out the win in this one.

            I like McCabe a lot. He’s the right kind of fiddly to keep me entertained, and he’s harder for the enemy to predict. Models with these upgrades attached can overperform significantly from what people expect. He does have some significant holes in his game, unfortunately, and it sucks that there’s a scheme that pretty much rules out using him. Right now he’s my favorite in faction. We’ll see if it stays that way.

            So, end of the day, I’m at 1-4 since my change over to the Thunders. Not great. Trying to learn on the fly during tournaments makes it tough to be successful, of course, and one of the crews I expected to use as an anchor point isn’t working as well as I had hoped. I’ve got some work to do, but overall I think I learned a lot. Just don’t look at my rankings.

            For the time being, I’ll keep playing games and practicing. However, for October I’m planning to take a short break from the Malifaux skirmish game and do some features on Through the Breach, including product reviews of this Summer/Fall’s releases Above the Law (the Guild sourcebook) and Northern Sedition, a Penny Dreadful continuing the story begun in Northern Aggression. See you then!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Getting the Thunder Rolling: Must-Have Models for the Ten Thunders and a Mistake-Filled Batrep

            There are some Malifaux players who come into new crews/factions with a good base of knowledge from which to build. They’re prepped and ready. They know their crew and what they can do. They’re prepared and when they play, if they make some mistakes, they do more things right than they do wrong. For top-end players, you may not even know they’re trying a new crew if they don’t tell you.
            I am not one of those players.

            As some may remember from my first efforts with Collodi, I tend to muddle about in the dark with my first games and learn by failing. It was this in mind that I went into my first game as a Ten Thunders player. I signed up for the most recent iteration of the facebook Vassal League a month or so ago. I had to forfeit the first round, as my opponent lived in Europe and I was in the midst of the move from Blacksburg to Iowa. The next round had me facing Oliver from the UK, a lovely chap who came in 2nd in the Welsh GT. He was bringing Resurrectionists, and I was pretty sure we were playing Guard the Stash, so I figured it was a good time for some Jacob Lynch-Cheating Bastard Action. A standard set-up of Mr. Lynch, HD, 2x Beckoners, and 2x Stitched Together would be joined by Mr. Graves to knock people away from Stash markers and Yin with Smoke Grenades to improve our staying power. This seemed like the correct call when my opponent revealed he was bringing Kirai. Since I don’t have what it takes to alpha-strike, I knew I would have to score early and try to endure and deny. With a Lampad coming from the other side, I figured I probably would have a chance to score set-up on it before (hopefully) killing it at the start of the next turn. And I had Lynch-Hungering Darkness-Graves-Yin to score Punish the Weak. It was gonna be tough, as I have no experience against Kirai, but I thought I had a good plan.

            Of course, then I sat down to play the game and realized it was actually Symbols of Authority, not Guard the Stash.

            All-in-all, the game was a comedy of errors for my side. I mean, I ran my crew well. We had revealed each other’s crews early in the week, so I didn’t think it would be right for me to change mine after I discovered the mistake. That meant I was not going to be scoring anything for Symbols most likely, but I could perhaps hunker down and limit the other crew’s ability to score any of mine. I’d have to get it with schemes to succeed. The gameplan for set-up didn’t entirely work out, as Oliver is much more cagey with his Lampad than some others and kept him hidden through all of the first turn.  I ended up scoring two from it later on when the fire ghost finally appeared, but by that point I’d been picked down enough that the Lampad couldn’t be killed. My Stitched Together were rockstars, dropping severe damage gambles left and right to keep me in business. But, ultimately, my unfamiliarity with Kirai/Ikiryo/Seishin interactions doomed me. Between Huggy and Lynch I probably wasted about 4 AP worth of actions trying to do things that were impossible (Paralyzing Ikiryo/Trying to Kill Seishin for Punish/Trying to do damage to Kirai when Seishin were nearby) and, when you’re playing a good crew piloted by a good opponent with as big a disadvantage as I put myself in with my crew selection, there was just no way to win the game. Additionally, I left Woke Up With A Hand to see if I could get by with 52 Pickup and have a bit more flexibility in when he activates, which I think was a mistake. And most inexcusable, I let Huggy die with his Recalled Training still attached. My ancestors have been shamed. In a way, I’m actually pretty proud of ONLY losing 8-4.

            So I definitely have some things to learn. But, I think the crew itself played relatively well. In a Guard the Stash game, I may even have been in a place to compete for a draw despite the in-game errors. I’ve discovered the worst situation for an opponent when inside the CB bubbles is to be winning on the initial flip with a low card, as you’re now stuck having to decide whether to cheat or risk me jumping over them with a moderate, which has to suck. My opponent, for his part, didn't seem phased by it and did what I think you have to do, cheated the important stuff and didn't sweat it otherwise. I discussed with Oliver in game that I like using Huggy as an anchor as you do in this crew, rather than the fire and forget missile that he was in Rising Sun Lynch. As Oliver points out, he’s still very vulnerable to getting ganked by casters targeting Df, but I prefer keeping him on the board for as long as I can rather than intentionally throwing him away. This crew fits well with my style. Plus, it changes things up from what an unfamiliar opponent might expect when you declare Ten Thunders, namely the alpha-striking Emissary/Yasunori combo. This is not that crew, and the things you might bring to counter that crew aren’t going to be effective against mine. So, all in all, I’m encouraged despite the failure.


            Earlier in the week, I messaged my friends in the Wandering River Dojo to ask for what models would be considered REQUIRED to add to my Ten Thunders collection. As a reminder, this is what I have now. I’m not looking for new masters at the moment, just things to add to the toolbox. Essentials, if you will. This was what they came back with.

            Number one with a bullet was the Shadow Emissary, and it’s easy to see why. The thing is a workhorse. Handing out Fast to any model with an upgrade is pretty good, since the models with the upgrades are also usually pretty good. Increased mobility. Some intermediate ranged damage. So, so, good, and that’s not even looking at the Conflux upgrades. With those, you can bring in another item from McCabe’s loot bag or give the Emissary a pseudo-Lure action with Lynch. And if you don’t want to use the Conflux, you can always give it a Recalled Training. Good stuff.

            A Teracotta Warrior and/or Ten Thunders Brother would probably go here, but I’ve got one of each of those already, so next was Yasunori. Again, no surprise there. He’s the best hitter the faction has. He’s infamous for his ability to force opponents to change their set-up to avoid his mauling their way through the center of their crew at the end of turn 1/start of turn 2. He gets a ton of attacks with his triggers, and he’s a scary model. He's bad enough that he got a nerf in the last Gaining Grounds that resulted in a collective shrug from most of the Malifaux community, followed by their continuing to use him in exactly the same way and with the same frequency they had previously. That said, everybody sees him coming, and I’ve not used him. In a way, I might be better served not using him and sticking to stuff I know. Otherwise I run the risk of opponents bringing tech to counter him, which is a problem when I don’t have the experience to counter the counters.

            As a counterpoint to Yas, Phiasco (sensei of the Dojo) suggested including the Lone Swordsman. He’s less of a point investment than Yasunori, so you don’t have to throw all your eggs in one basket when you use him. He doesn’t have Yas’s speed or multiple attacks, but he can still throw out a lot of damage. Also, one of the Thunders’ weak spots is countering armor from the opponent. It’s not really reliable, but at least the Swordsman is able to use a trigger to get through it. And I do like the ability to take a second activation in a turn to kill an opposing model or, on the last turn, perform those last-minute desperation actions to win the game.

            Last was a Charm Warder. Disguise on your master is real good. Disguise on a model that lasts the whole game if the Charm Warder dies is even better. #analysis. A + flip to Df/Wp after activation. Versatile attack that can work around defenses like Incorporeal or having a combination of high/low Df/Wp. Scheme negation. The full toolbox of abilities that this model brings is crazy at 5 stones. There’s very little reason not to bring one for most games, at least in my view.

            Those models are on the way. Next weekend I have the season opener in Des Moines, so it’s gonna be a rush to get them assembled and try to slap some paint on them. Additionally, I have the next round of the Vassal tournament against Rich D. Nave, who will have a (now-nerfed) Nicodem waiting. This will be a rematch of a game I asked for when writing the Nicodem article a while ago, so my fun with the undead continues, it seems. More on this in next week’s blog post.