Saturday, August 22, 2020

That Fauxin' Feeling


Confession time: I spent a long time getting Malifaux Musings to become a top source for Malifaux news in M2E. I was hustling. I listened to every Malifaux podcast that was out there, good or bad. I made friends with members of Wyrd’s staff. I playtested many of the books for their games. I even wrote a couple of Through the Breach adventures for Wyrd Chronicles back in the day. I was Mister Malifaux. I won’t pretend like much of it wasn’t selfish interests. I tried to get a Patreon going (apparently blogs don’t draw in much in the way of patrons) and enjoyed the small amount of additional income I could bring in from writing from time to time as a freelancer. I had a fantasy that maybe I could even someday make a living from it. There's a job application from me in their files somewhere, believe it or not. It wasn’t something I necessarily was building around, but it was fun to imagine working for them. 

            Then the M3E thing happened. It was a good thing for the game, but not a good time for being a Malifaux blogger. I was really getting into TOS, and the M3E leak pretty much was like Malifaux running up behind the new game and shoving it face down in the mud. It has never really seemed to recover. Plus it meant that M2E Malifaux was effectively dead and buried from the minute the leak occurred, which meant a year of NDA playtesting and no new Malifaux stuff to write about anymore. There was a lot of turnover on the Wyrd staff, and a lot of the folks I knew left. Not that I don’t like Matt and Kyle, the current designers (there's another guy, but I don't remember his name). They’ve been nothing but friendly to me, and Kyle was my editor during my brief time freelancing for Wyrd. I just miss Mason and Aaron, and I guess I’m set in my ways. Old Man Rogers is what my wife calls me, and I guess in a lot of ways I live up to the moniker. Speaking of my wife, my life was going through a lot of changes at that time too, as I was moving from the academic world to the bio-tech industry. This was a good thing (no more sweating about how we’re going to buy groceries for my family on a weekly basis is tough to argue with) but made it harder to stay in the Malifaux Musings game. Also, the Malifaux playing group in the area I moved to were, well, let’s say “very competitive”. This was not a group to experiment with something wacky against, as they would wipe the floor with you. 

            I was playing the Ten Thunders, you see, and was doing so in a point in time when they clearly needed to be tuned down, but it hadn’t happened yet. When I declared Ten Thunders in one tournament game, my opponent looked at me with a disgusted expression and said "Must be nice." I liked Shenlong, McCabe, and Yan Lo, and I liked all the cool versatile stuff in 10T. All of those things, of course, would eventually be vilified (rightly so) and so I felt like crap when I played them, and the people I was playing against made sure to let me know about it regularly as well (usually while playing Soulstone Miners and various other “balanced” things, it should be noted.)

So, yeah, I kinda fell out of love with Malifaux for the first time since I started back in 2010. I walked away. Didn’t paint models anymore. Didn’t write for the blog. Didn’t even play Malifaux or really any Wyrd games for a year. I needed a break. I needed time to get away from the negativity for a while. I needed time for the GG1 and the 2020 Errata to knock things down to a level playing field (or at least to what people are more likely to consider to be a level playing field.) Over time things started to get better. I’d catch a Third Floor Wars podcast that piqued my interest. I ran a vassal league for The Other Side, though it faded a bit towards the end. Was even planning on going to Adepticon and some local conventions to try and get back in the game.

Which was obviously right when COVID-19 kicked in and fucked everything up.

Now, this is turning into a sob story about me, so let me pull a 180 real quick. This is a game and a blog about it, not life-or-death stuff. I live outside Cedar Rapids, IA, so the derecho storm that just came through and flattened half of it helped to underscore what's really important in life. Also, this isn’t meant to be a “Grand Reopening” post either. Lord knows I’ve done enough of those over the years. It’s more to discuss the things that helped me find my way back. The first of which was when I quit taking the game so damned seriously. I have a real job now, so I don’t have to hustle to keep up with every change and little bit of news that comes along to try and grow the blog. No more sitting around and trying to force myself to come up with topics, or kicking myself when I’m late with a post. This is going to be a project I do for fun, when I feel like I have something to share.

Also, I don’t play competitive Malifaux anymore. That's an official announcement. I’ll play in tournaments, because that’s a good way to get in multiple games, but I’m not going to go aiming for podiums or anything to the expense of enjoying the games I’m playing. The best competitive result I had in M3E was in a tournament in Des Moines where I came in second with an undefeated record. Going into the last round, I had to leave for a moment and do some deep breathing to calm myself down, because my heart was racing to a near panic-attack level as I wanted desperately not to screw up in the last round. This is not a formula for an enjoyable afternoon, and it reminded me of something. I once heard an anecdote of an amateur golfer out for a lesson with the country club pro. The amateur walked up to the tee, set his ball, lined up the shot, and promptly shanked his drive. The amateur was furious, cursing himself out for such a bad shot, when the pro put his hand on his shoulder and said “Calm down, man. You’re not good enough at this game to get this mad.” I don’t play enough to be a champion at Malifaux, and I don’t know that I really want to. This game takes a lot out of you. Everything you do is a decision that can end up cascading into a win or a loss, and you can go crazy trying to analyze everything to make just the right move. Not to mention the fact that I have 3 kids, a wife, and a job that takes up most of my personal bandwidth. I just don’t have the time to be the best at this game, and I needed to realize that and give myself permission to just play for fun again. So, that’s what I’m gonna do. If a crew seems fun or I like the theme, I’m going to try it. I’m not holding myself to one faction either like I did for the first year of M3E. If it looks cool, I want to try it. Time to let the inner Magpie fly. And if I play something that happens to be broken and you don’t like it, I will kindly nod and respect your opinion, while inwardly reminding myself that I don’t give a crap about your opinion or your bad attitude. Like T-Swift, I will chose to simply shake it off.

So what am I gonna do? Well, one of my goals for 2020 was to have a whole painted faction, the Ten Thunders. I don’t honestly know if I’m gonna make it (took almost 6 months off of painting, after all) but I’m going to give it my best shot. It helped that the Gencon limited editions were all Thunders models that I needed (plus Miss Guided is a superior model to Fuhatsu IMO) so I’m starting from there. Plus, I think I’m going to maybe try to get games in with the models as I’m painting them so I can have a “Here’s the thing I painted, here’s my impression of how it plays on the table” type post. I think that’s got some cool synergies. Right now, I have:

-Honeypot Crew-Most of the keyword built and painted. Needs Kitty, might paint the new Lynch and HD from the just released boxset.

-Last Blossom-Just the boxed set, and needs a lot of work to bring it up to the level of painting for the rest of my models

-Wastrel-Complete. Hurray!

-Yan Lo-Some of the Ancestors need touching up. Don’t own the Daimyo so need to find a cheap one of those to work on. Also, his minions that can pick up the reliquary upgrades and be used to resummon them without losing a model haven’t been released. I have a proxy, but that doesn’t count.

-Monks-Shenlong, Yu, Peasants done. Rest of the monks still need to get painted.

-Qi and Gong-Owned, partially assembled, unpainted.

-Foundry-Bought Gencon alt boxed set. Haven’t assembled.

-Oni-Boxed set and some Oni bought but not built. Haven’t been able to find Jorogumo anywhere.

-Versatiles-Yasunori, Emissary, Lone Swordsman, One Samurai built and painted. Fuhatsu, Tanuki, and Dawn Serpent built and primed.


So, as you can see, I have a lot of work to do. I’ll try to sprinkle in some non-Thunders content from time to time, but there will probably still be a lot of it. Sorry if that’s not what you’re looking for.

As for playing games, my wife bought a 6x4 folding table (surprisingly hard to find. She had to have it shipped from the Czech Republic, believe it or not) so I can play games at home. I’m trying to introduce more players from my local area so I don’t have to drive 1+ hours for a game. We got in a demo game recently, and it was cool to push plastic models around again on a board (and I lost the demo game, so the mediocrity of my play remains consistent as well.) I’ll still probably be playing a lot of Vassal as well. That’s just the reality of the world we live in these days, after all. When the conventions come back I’ll still travel to play in them, but I wouldn’t count on getting on the US Faux Tour anytime soon.

So, this was rambly as all hell and very stream of consciousness. Thanks for sticking with it to the end (if you did. If you didn’t, I love you anyways.) I promise it’ll be more focused next time. Also, I’m working on cross-posting these with TFW, so that’ll hopefully help spread the word. Malifaux Musings is coming back, with its usual questionable advice and mediocre play results. I hope to edu-tane you.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Franky Awards

Truly Malifaux's Most Prestigious Award

            The Golden Globes were last week, and Oscar season is right around the corner, so in the spirit of the times I thought I’d bring back an old premise from an MM article from a long time ago, the Malifaux awards show. When I did it before, however, I had a bunch of general categories, tracked a bunch of stuff with the competitive scene, yadda yadda. I’m not as tapped into everything at the moment, and I think most people consider the competitive scene to still be evolving, particularly given that a large number of the new models haven’t been released yet. So, I thought I’d come at it from a different angle this time.
            If you played against a Guild crew in 2nd edition, you almost certainly played against Francisco. As in, he was in every single Guild crew, regardless of what they were trying to do. All of them. Playing against Nellie? She’s bringing Francisco. Sonnia Criid? Francisco with a puritan hat. Hoffman? Cyber-Francisco. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of that in 2E in general. As described (frequently) on the Wyrd boards, most crews were an all-star team with different leaders in charge, but Frank was the poster boy for this sort of thing.
            Obviously there’s a lot less of that these days, from the keyword system and the out of keyword (OOK) tax. But versatile models still exist, and some models are proving to be good enough that crews are consistently hiring them even with the tax. And so, in the spirit of models that have the potential to show up in many of the games we play against particular masters, I’m pleased to present to you the first (and likely last) Franky awards!

Nominee #1: Yasunori

            Ok, as most people will explain to you (laboriously, and at great length), the Ten Thunders have no shortage of solid models. In fact, they’re probably the faction that has the most non-themed crews going around in the current M3E environment. There are no shortage of strong candidates in the 10T for this award. But I think the model making the most frequent trips to the table for this faction is probably Yasunori.

            He’s a big point investment, which is going to be a common theme in these models, but you get a lot for him and he doesn’t ask much of your crew in return. Outside of a little bit of anti-synergy with Youko (since he relies on cards in the opponent’s hand), he goes into just about any crew and will do what he does, which is deal damage and be resistant to taking hits back. He’s mobile, adds plus flips to his attacks, and so long as you watch for enemies that negate resistance triggers, can be a real problem for the opponent to get rid of. Anything the master/crew does simply serves as a bonus, be it Shenlong stacking focus on him, Chiaki transferring a reliquary onto him, or Misaki ordering him to take a charge action out of his turn. If you’re playing against 10T, you need to be ready for Yasunori.

Nominee #2: Archie

            Not a lot of explanation necessary here. From what I understand, most Resurrectionist players consider Archie to be a 10 stone versatile model at this point. 3/4/6 damage track. Leap that’s almost automatic is invaluable for a huge beater, particularly in a faction that (generally speaking, though with some huge exceptions) aren’t as known for mobility. He heals every time he flurries from his fading ability. He’s got Ruthless, so Terrifying and Manipulative won’t work. Archie can be used to smash whatever you need smashed early on in the game and then change gears to run schemes later on. In a Yan Lo crew, throwing Manos’s reliquary onto him helps to offset his biggest weakness, his low defensive stats. Manos can probably give Archie a run for his money, actually, since he is also a mobile resilient beater and has a soul lantern to block Demise abilities, but I gave Archie the nod since he does more damage and is immune to conditions.

Nominee #3: Soulstone Miner

            Unlike the Ressurectionists, there is a number-one with a bullet obvious choice for the Arcanists. If you’ve played against a Soulstone Miner, you know the power that they represent. They can bury and then unbury anywhere on the board. That’s really all they need to have to be amazing. Whether you want to complete Breakthrough, Search the Ruins, Stake a Claim, maybe even Take Prisoner, what have you, this model is the best option for completing those schemes. Oh, and there’s always Plant Explosives or Turf War Marker flipping. They’re probably pretty good at those too. Then of course there’s the fact that they’re Armor +2 and Unimpeded. Also they blow up destructible terrain. And, of course, if they’re not scoring you VPs they can give themselves Stunned at the start of their turn and add Soulstones to your pool. Now, a model that can do all that probably costs something like 8 stones, right? Oh, no, miners cost 6. Sure. Of course. There’s a reason many of us are instantly driven to rage at the mere mention of this model. If you’re up against Arcanists, you’d better have some way in mind to deal with a soulstone miner, whether that be the ability to attack buried models, ranged Willpower duels, or something that can paralyze them. Come up with a plan for the miners. You’re gonna need it.

Nominee #4: Big Brain Brin

            Given the fact that Brin has no attacks that do any damage on his card, you may not think of him immediately as the first candidate for this award. The largest effect Brin has on the game is through card manipulation. Burning out 10 cards and then shuffling back three of them lets you prime your fate deck in a way that is unmatched in any other faction in Malifaux. And then, of course, you get to draw a card afterwards (you know, after you’ve heated the deck up and removed low cards.) You won’t need to cheat the first flip for this, almost guaranteed, because he gets to look at the top three cards of the fate deck and then return them in any order. Oh, and he has Arcane Reservoir. So, yeah, Brin has an unmatched ability to set your fate deck up for success at the beginning of the turn. It’s kind of crazy. Putting 9 points (8 if you’re Tricksy) in a corner all game long feels kind of bad, but it’s absolutely worth the expenditure to set your whole turn up in advance like that.

Nominee #5: Serena Bowman

            Of the models built from the worldwide event several years ago, Serena Bowman seems to have benefited the most from the transition to M2E. She doesn’t automatically come back to life the way she did in M2E anymore, but she has Demise: Eternal. Put that with Disguise and Feed on Fear, and Serena’s pretty tough to take down, plus she doesn’t teleport back to your deployment zone every time she’s killed the way she used to. Her ranged attack can target Df or WP and has a trigger to place models within 6” of their current location, which is pretty solid, and she can draw range for her melee attack out of other Nightmare models. That would normally only matter for when you’re playing against the Dreamer, but the prevalence of ways to summon Stitched Togethers increases the likelihood of being able to use it with other crews as well. She’s just a solid model that is annoyingly difficult to get rid of and can really make a big difference on the board, especially if you have multiple high Tomes in your hand.

            So who wins the Franky award? I’m going to leave it up to you! Vote in the poll on the Malifaux Musings Facebook page, and you can decide who goes home with the golden Franky.