Sunday, August 1, 2021

Exit Light, Enter Night


 

       We continue with our trip through the new title system taking a look at a couple of new nocturnal themed masters (who, again, were summoners who now don’t really summon). 


And yes, I know titling my post about Dreamer with a line from Enter Sandman is hacky. You know what? I don’t need your negativity. It’s the 30 year anniversary of the Black Album this year, so shut up internal monologue critic. 


Anyways. 


***


Dreamer has been one of the masters who changed the most from original concept to final execution. Anybody else remember the 1e version that started with the whole crew buried and only Dreamer on the board? I do! In M2E he transitioned to being a summoner, and after M3E he added an element of clockwork orange street hooligan. Don’t judge him, if fish monsters suddenly fell out of the sky in your hometown and started eating your neighbors and your dad, you’d probably have some trauma to deal with as well. He’s gone from mythical figure to enforcer of the Neverborn after the coup that supplanted Lillith, and Nytmare (his Tyrant buddy) has also started branching out to invading and influencing the conflict on Earth (I see you, Sandmen.) So they’ve come a long way together, but Dreamer is now learning that sometimes that has a cost…


The OG Dreamer is a standard summoner in the early M3E tradition (IE cost 10M+ the value of the minion(s). It's worth keeping in mind that he is one of the few allowed to summon multiple models with his action, which isn’t nothing). His summoning upgrade gives the model Stunned and Buries it, but doesn’t impose any damage or other negative consequences on it. While buried, these summoned models are able to Unbury adjacent to an enemy model that fails a WP duel, a nice bit of flavor that also lets your summons appear theoretically anywhere an enemy model is sitting on the board. Beyond that, he can support his new nightmare friends by a free action to hand out Shielded and a small push to models in an aura around him and can apply Adversary to an enemy model and Focused to a friendly model at ranged, ensuring that a bad time is likely about to be had in that vicinity (also potentially triggering a model to Unbury, given that it attacks WP.) The front of his card consists primarily of defensive tech, as Dreamer is Incorporeal, blocks free actions, can pass attacks off on nearby nightmares, and also has Serene Countenance. His defensive stats are ok but not great, and he has only 7 wounds, so this makes sense, as he would be very brittle without all those abilities. His only other ability is Vivid Nightmares, which makes no sense if all you look at is his card. It forces you to select half of the cards you’ve removed from the game and put them into his discard pile during the Start phase. That wouldn’t make much sense unless you pair it with the Nightmare keyword ability, Lucid Dreams, as this allows any of the other Nightmare models to spend their Free action to reveal 3 cards from the top of the deck, pick one to remove from the game, and discard the other 2. In doing so, the crew gains the ability to stack their deck or set things up for Stitched Together shenanigans. Assuming you aren’t doing the latter, you’ll probably favor taking low cards out to stack the overall probability of having good flips. 


New Dreamer is having some trouble getting restful sleep (getting older is tough, kiddo, let me tell you) and is titled “Insomniac”. His new rules for this iteration are…odd. He’s actually slightly more vulnerable despite going up to 10 wounds, as he isn’t incorporeal anymore and isn’t Protected. On the other hand, any time there’s 5 cards removed from the game you can bury him and swap his control hand with those buried cards (meaning you now want to remove high cards with Lucid Dreaming instead). You then start discarding 2 cards that have been removed from the game at the start of every friendly activation until there are no more cards removed, at which point he unburies within 2” of any nightmare. This potentially gives him some significant mobility, since I think the optimum way to play him will be similar to how one runs Zoraida, ie cheating far more aggressively than you would in other crews until your hand is empty, then swapping the dreck you have left for the (presumably) good cards you’ve been removing via Lucid Dreams. I assume you can pull off the bury every turn in this manner and swap your hand out while doing it, which is pretty solid. The back of his card doesn’t immediately inspire me, however. A 10” Slow and Adversary is pretty good, but it only does damage on a trigger and even then, it isn’t very much. Peer Into Dreams is an attack Wyrd highlighted in the reveal, and it is very unique in that there aren’t mechanisms to remove cards out of your opponent’s deck from the game elsewhere in Malifaux. I’m suspicious, however, that this is going to be more a “feels bad” for the opponent than something that causes actual damage in the game. It’s stat 5 versus WP, which is mediocre. A 10” range is decent, but still probably leaves Dreamer vulnerable to counterattack unless you can get him buried. And it doesn’t do anything that can score you VPs directly. The trigger abilities are potentially stronger, letting you remove the card from the opponent’s hand or allowing you to summon Lord Chompy Bits next to the target. The summon requires you to target a non-minion, though, which increases the likelihood the action will fail. I think it’s one of those abilities that jumps out at you when you see it, but will hose you if you try to build your gameplan around it. Lead Nightmares lets you push a model 3” and has an odd sort of trigger to let you Bury-Hop your model onto an enemy within 2” at the end of the move. It is potentially disruptive and could help you hide a model, but you’re letting your opponent control when your model unburies, which always makes me unhappy. And Waking Nightmare is a 4” scheme marker drop as a bonus action. Good, but not a reason to play this model. 

I’m gonna be honest, I don’t get Insomniac Dreamer. It’s going to be hard for the opponent to pin his crew down, and the potential to blink in and out will help to offset how fragile the rest of his Keyword can be. I don’t feel like Peer Into Dreams is going to work as well as people want it to work, or at least not as consistently, and outside of that he’s a good support master but not great. Put that up against the previous Summoning iteration and, well, let’s just say I have a strong feeling which will be on tables more frequently. I could be wrong, and likely am. But if you’ll pardon the pun, I think it’s safe to sleep on this master. 


***


Von Schtook is another master who has felt the nerf bat’s sting, particularly recently. Well, his Undergraduates may have gotten it worse than him, but what’re you gonna do? The life of an academic certainly has its challenges. Apparently Anna Lovelace’s influence has inspired the good Professor to come up out of the sewer from time to time and indulge his hobby…which is astronomy? Weird, but I guess it takes all kinds to run the world. Or reanimate it. Whatever, let’s just get on to the reviews. 

Trying to compete with original Von Schtook is gonna be an uphill fight, as I think he’s one of the better all-around masters in the game even after the last Errata. Plus he looks like he’d be played by current day Mark Hamill, which is worth a lot of points in my book. Front of card he has an ability to shut off upgrades on enemy models within 6” of him, which is already pretty good. He has a built in trigger to reduce damage he takes on attacks when the opponent doesn’t declare a trigger. He can scheme off of his crew killing enemy models with 10” of him. He can’t be stunned. All pretty solid. His Gruesome Lecture attack does “ok” damage, but more importantly gives you the potential to hand out Injured with a Blast (though at least they took the blast off of his weak damage to reduce the abuse somewhat.) Administrative Review gives him some offensive and/or defensive condition removal. His Peer Review is a unique summoning mechanic wherein he attaches an upgrade to a friendly model which allows them to summon a new minion of equal or lesser cost when they kill an enemy. It's funky in practice and can feel at times like a "win more" ability, but he can spread the upgrades out over the course of the game and potentially get a nice bonus to doing what the crew wants to do anyways, kill enemy models. He can do some more scheming with Grade Assignment. Really, other than not being terribly mobile, he’s good at most things you want a master to do in Malifaux.

 


Stargazer Von Schtook still has a lot of crew enhancement paired with some damage and negative conditions, but in a somewhat different toolbox. He picked up Hard to Wound somewhere along the line (I guess you spend enough time around dead folks and it’s bound to happen eventually.) Head in the Clouds is a deceptively important ability, as the Resurrectionist faction tends to have pretty low willpower across the board, so imposing a – on attacks that target WP in an aura around him could be huge in certain match-ups. His Lessons Learned ability is interesting and unique as well, as it grants a + to all duels in a model’s activation after it fails a duel. This suggests to me intentionally cheating down some kind of throw-away free action with a TN to give yourself a + to all your attacks in a turn, which is interesting. He’s still got the keyword ability so crazy card drawing is possible, though his attacks don’t have the multiple built-in suits anymore to truly enable it. Speaking of attacks, one of them involves a zombie with a telescope in place of its head. So, that’s a thing. I've got to question whether that’s really an effective mount for a telescope. Sure, it has mobility advantages, but you need them to be steady to bring things into proper focus…you know what? I’m off topic. The 1/3/4 damage spread + stunned is fairly meh, but if you target someone who is already stunned it ratchets up to 3/5/6. That’s pretty nasty. There’s also a fairly amusing trigger called Protect Me that summons a Mindless Zombie into b2b with the target of the attack and makes it so no enemy attack actions can target Von Schtook until the MZ is killed. He can make enemy models insignificant as a Free Action, which is potentially quite strong. And then there’s the actual Astronomy bits. His Study of Anatomy attack lets him resolve a number of different effects on targets based on their creature type, ranging from condition removal to damage to healing. It’s very situational, which would normally be a problem except for the ability I skipped on the front of his card, Shade of Delios, which allows friendly Transmortis models to treat enemies within 3” of a scheme marker as having any traits they want. How do we get the scheme markers into place you say? Why, by using his Light of Illios attack action, that lets him drop a scheme marker within 6” of him that triggers a Shockwave which can potentially hurt enemies (though it only requires a TN 11 WP duel, so don’t count on it) and heal friendly models. The combination of these two abilities (named for Malifaux’s 2 moons btw #loreflex) mean that Von Schtook’s Study of Anatomy ability can actually do any of the options listed, which gives a lot of flexibility and is generally cool and good. Plus Delios lets the Students to pretend that they killed the right type of model to trigger their specific abilities, which is gravy. Not necessary per say, but who doesn’t like a little gravy from time to time?

I like Stargazer Von Schtook, and I like the OG version too. I honestly don’t know which is better in what situations, though, as they’re both kind of generalists. OG is better at range, where Stargazer can potentially do some damage up close, I guess. The Injured blasts were pretty sweet, but now that he doesn’t blast on weak not quite as devastating as they used to be. I don’t know. This may come down to personal preference/playstyle. Stargazer feels pretty viable, though, so I’ll expect to see him get some run, as the whole Transmortis keyword is just so good that it may not really matter who is leading them. 


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Ghosts and Demons




We’re hot and heavy into Gencon preview mode, so I’ve got a little bit of catch-up to do. The nice thing about this for your humble bloggist is that it makes it easy to come up with content on a weekly basis. The hard part, of course, is that they’re starting with masters I haven’t played very much. So, as per usual, take my comments with a grain of salt, but let’s take a look at two of them today. 

There’s a pretty obvious pair we can join up, in that there are two characters representing Japanese women who summon monsters from elements of their folklore. Kirai has moved up from the chronically sad apprentice of Nicodem who summoned ghosts and cut herself so she could feel something again to the boss of a spirit-powered Earthside cult and Resurrectionist vigilante helping Molly take vengeance on those who would prey on the weak. Similarly, Asami Tanaka started out as a grieving and half-mad summoner of Oni (demons), but with a little tutelage from Yan Lo and (apparently) a brief break from the pocket demon trying to corrupt/gaslight her, she’s come into her own and has learned to stabilize her otherwise typically temporary “children”. Also, both of their new versions have fallen into the pattern I mentioned last time (namely “hey, let’s press pause on the whole ‘summoning’ thing”). Let’s dive in and look at how they’ve diverged. 


***


Kirai Ankoku was undeniably one of the strongest masters in the early days of M3E, as can be said for essentially all summoners. With a Df of 4 and no built-in defensive tech outside of the keyword-wide Vengeance ability and a card intensive “Protected (Urami)” she was not a master you necessarily wanted to throw into the thick of the fight, though if you did you could benefit from her 4” Life Leech to regain some wounds. She could also trade her wounds to keep Adversary on enemy models at the end of the turn. These two abilities hint at the general theme of this model, namely managing the resource of Kirai’s life to empower herself and the crew. Nothing embodies this as well as her Blood and Wind summoning Tactical Action. After the standard summoning math (TN=10+the model’s cost and the appropriate suit) she can drop any Urami minion and attach a Vengeance upgrade to them. This gave them Slow but also let them build in a Crow to empower triggers on their attacks. Critically, however, it also made them deal 1 damage to Kirai at the start of their activation. As such, you have to play a very delicate balancing act with her to avoid her crew literally killing her. There is a lot of healing in her crew to help top her back off and avoid this, but it’s a real threat and it encourages you to treat her minions as disposable missiles (which, frankly, you want to do in GG2 anyways.)  In between summons, her spirit barrage gives some reliable offensive output (gotta love shooting that ignores friendly fire). She’s got a couple of tactical actions that support her crew by healing and yanking them out of trouble, which is good. Her melee attack is alright and has an execute trigger to surprise people but, again, we don’t really want her in melee, so I’d call that situationally useful.



Envoy of the Court Kirai is a very different kettle of fish. Her defense gets bumped up to a mediocre 5 as part of an effort to move her closer to the action to work as a mid-range enhancer for the crew. The magic range for her is 8”, as she projects 3 auras that help the Urami by letting her distribute healing from one Urami model to a different one, grants them a built-in Crow on their attacks, and inflicts a – flip on WP duels and actions targeting Kirai that come from enemies with Adversary. That last one is a little weird at first glance, but makes more sense after you pair it with another ability, “Join Us.” Essentially, after a Urami model moves through the space of an enemy model as a result of one of their actions (more on this later), the enemy model must make a TN 13 WP flip or Kirai gets to summon a 4 soulstone or less model (ok, I lied, she still has some summoning. Bear with me.) Any given enemy model can only be used to do this once per turn, so you can’t just pick on a low WP model to chain out tons and tons of little minions, but critically they only get the generic summoning upgrade rather than the Vengeance one, so they don’t slowly peck away at her life once they’re on the board. This encourages you to call out a bunch of little cheap dudes, particularly since she has a tactical action called Swirling Spirits that lets her push any number of Urami models inside her bubble up to 5”, ignoring intervening models or terrain. That could, potentially, result in a lot of new little guys if the enemy clumps up on her. Gaki and Seishin are the only models that currently can be summoned by this but, you know, I got a funny feeling those other little dudes that come with Kirai in the ToS starter box are gonna fall under that line too. We’ll see what the right choice is after we get their stats, but that should at least give her some options. These summons come in Slow unless they’re Mindless, but otherwise suffer no penalties and are at full health. Moreover, her Sundering attack action, a 12” cast with no gun symbol and stat 6, deals +1 additional damage per minion engaging the target. For an enemy model on a 50mm base, that could be a significant boost. She has a second attack which is a free action to give out Adversary (Urami) which also targets WP (more – flips) and can then let her summon Ikiryo with a mask trigger and an additional cast. Finally, if that’s not enough, she can heal a Urami within 8” for 2 and make them emit a 3” concealing aura until the end of the turn for a little icing on the cake.

You may be saying to yourself “Hey self, that sure makes it sound like new Kirai can summon things just fine and may actually end up summoning more stuff than the original version.” And you might be right, to be honest. I haven’t seen it on the table. The thing is, though, new Kirai relies on an interaction with the opponent to summon, which is at least a yellow flag for me. While there’s no range on “Join Us”, I think opponents will most likely cheat their whole hand away to stop you from summoning outside of the 8” bubble of bad as long as they’re able. Personally, I don’t trust actions that rely on my opponent to make a particular choice, as my philosophy is to assume that they will always choose to make the choice that is worst for me. Within 8” you can apply Adversary to take the choice away by imposing a – flip, but now you’re asking the crew to do 2 things to make the summon work. I don’t know that I think it’s bad, and it is very interesting design to be sure. It just sounds like you’re working kind of hard to set up an ability that, if it does succeed, just gives you some “ok” 4 stone dudes (although again, this could change if the two new guys turn out to be broken.) What is cool about it, though, is that it enables a very different summoning style for Kirai. The original version wanted to get the most value from every model she summoned, so you wanted to get the biggest, nastiest Goryo or Shikome you could since, once it was on the board, it was going to start literally draining the life out of her. You wouldn’t even look at summoning a Gaki, as the cost was just too high. New Kirai, on the other hand, will likely hire those heavy hitters in her starting crew and summon the little dudes whenever possible to give her activation control and boost up her own abilities. For what she brings to the meta-game of Malifaux, I like Envoy Kirai a lot. On the table top I’m worried your opponent is going to sit at range and peck her to death (although building for that creates interesting tension, since if they bring original Kirai she’ll have Vengeance and can penalize your snipers). I don’t think her summons are going to be as reliable, and that makes me lean in original Kirai’s direction more than the new one at first blush, but I’m prepared to be wrong. At the very least, I applaud the design team for Envoy Kirai being a very interesting take on the character.


***


Asami is, herself, inspired by the Futakuchi-onna or two-mouthed woman, a yokai or monster from Japanese folk myths about the punishment of miserly husbands who don’t feed their wives enough. That part doesn’t exactly play a ton into her backstory, but it does sort of speak to the way her keyword, Oni, are somewhat self-devouring and self-destructive. All Oni have From Beyond, a keyword that lets them give themselves flicker tokens to gain + to their flips with the understanding that, at the end of the turn, they would be sacrificed if they have 3 or more of these tokens. In this way they also embody a Japanese aesthetic called “mono-no-aware” or an acceptance of impermanence and appreciation for the beauty of temporary and imperfect things. Or, to translate it into modern terms, everything you feel when you say “Burn bright, king” to your middle-aged father when he blazes off on the crotch-rocket he just bought as part of his midlife crisis. 

Asami Tanaka originally was built to summon Oni who are, by design, very temporary. Df 6 is pretty good, and Arcane Reservoir on your summoner is always a good thing. She can do 2 damage to herself whenever an Oni ends their turn within 10 of her to remove a Flicker token from them, trading her own life for theirs effectively. If she’s close enough to support her crew’s charge, she can let them place rather than push during that charge, increasing the flexibility and unpredictability of the action significantly. Her summon follows the same math as Kirai, but the transience of her models comes not from leeching her life but because the upgrade she attaches to her summoned minions places 2 flicker tokens on them right away and makes them gain another one at the start of their activation. They can offset some of this by removing corpse or scrap tokens from the board to take some of the flicker tokens off when they summon, but the bottom line is that, even if you don’t take advantage of From Beyond for + flips, these models are on a clock from the minute they come on the board. She can use A Mother’s Love to remove another flicker token and give them Focus, which is good. She also has Reaching Tendrils to shove her own models (or the enemy crew’s models) to make sure that her summons get the most done in their brief span that they can. She also has a decent melee attack (Stat 6 2/4/6 damage) with a couple of good triggers to let her do some damage in close. As such, you generally want her a little bit closer to the action than Kirai, and it encourages you again to treat her summons as temporary. In a way, it can be more like a spell-effect she creates that goes out, does something, and then ends, rather than actually adding a model. 



New Asami (Takusen is the keyword) is, once again, very different. This one doesn’t summon at all (I promise.) Instead, she focuses on letting her crew take advantage of From Beyond while also pulling the Flicker tokens off more efficiently to let them stick around when they do so. First off, her defensive stat is slightly lower, but her willpower has climbed 2 points, leading to an overall increase in her defensive total to 12 (first of the new Title masters where we’ve seen that.) Arcane Reservoir is gone (boo) but replaced with Arcane Shield +2 which, again, increases her defensive abilities. She’s gonna need this, because she wants to stay with the Oni while they move up to do their dirty work. Her Flickering Lantern ability allows Oni who end a move within 8” of her remove one of their Flicker tokens and gain Shielded +1. Meaning 1) you want your Oni to have at least some flicker tokens on them to gain this defensive tech and 2) you can control things to make sure your Oni never flicker out at the end of the turn unless you want them to. The trade off, though, is that you may end up having to stay somewhat clustered with Asami to take full advantage of this. To offset some of this limitation, she also has Dimensional Rifts to allow Oni who end a move within 1” of her or a Rift Marker to jump to within 1” of a different Rift Marker that is within 8” of where they started (one wonders if Asami’s been reading some literature from the Cult of the Burning Man). Where do these Rift Markers come from? Well, Asami makes them with a range 8 attack action called Into the Beyond that acts like a relatively standard 2 damage shockwave attack, but leaves the Rift behind after its done. Rifts are also hazardous to the enemy crew, so Asami’s going to be  able to do a bit of battlefield control both through enhancing her crew’s mobility and penalizing the opponent’s. She can also create them as a trigger from her melee attack, which no longer has an execute trigger. As if Takusen didn’t have enough going on the front of her card, she also has a new version of Molly’s Lethe's Caress ability that, rather than doing damage, gives a model Injured +1 if it declares the same action more than once per activation. That honestly may be worse than Lethe’s, or at the very least more debilitating. Of course, there are ways to play around it, but it’s a pain and it limits your options. She can hand out more Staggered or Injured with a ranged attack action that has an odd sort of movement trick/defensive tech with a built-in trigger, Possession, that lets you bury an Oni that was within 8” of the target. They unbury at the start of the buried Oni’s next activation, so you’ve got some good control to let you hop a model around with this. Then, for a little extra spice, she’s got a Free Tactical Action to give an Oni Reactivate, at the cost of them taking 3 Flicker tokens. Normally this is a death sentence but, again, all they have to do is end a move around her to pull one off and get Shielded. 

So, obviously new Asami is a short to mid-range battlefield control master par excellence rather than a summoner. Malifaux players may not have as clear an idea of how silly some of this can get, but if you’ve played against the Cult of the Burning Man in ToS, you have alarm bells ringing in your head. This movement isn’t quite that silly, of course, but an 8” hop as a bonus to another move means you can significantly relocate the Oni who, once they get into combat, can rip a target up (and thank the gods Yasunori stopped being an Oni after he came to M3E). In the meantime, your options to hit her back are hindered by the Rifts, Chains of the Earth, and the fact that she and her crew are probably going to be Shielded.  That said, Oni are (by design) not the toughest models in the world, and once they’re gone she can’t bring them back. She isn’t that impressive on her own offensively, so she’s probably in trouble if her crew is dead or if she gets separated from them. 

Even more than with Kirai, these two versions of Asami are very different and will look very different in play. I really don’t know enough about either to say definitely which I like better. The new version may be a bit more new player friendly, both in terms of not having to buy all of the potential summons and not having to do as much mental gymnastics with Flicker, though the positioning shenanigans can be a mind-bender also. In terms of sheer power level, well, there’s a reason they’re veering away from summoning, and that’s because it’s usually really, really good. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Asami Classic remains the preferred option for tournaments as a result of this. Still, I’m curious to see the more control-oriented version in action, hopefully on my side of the table rather than stomping my face in. 


Sunday, July 4, 2021

Cause baby you’re a firework




That’s a topical reference, right? The kids listen to Katy Perry, right? What? That song came out 11 years ago? Cool, cool,...as cool as playing as Sonnia Criid. Yeah! Saved it! 


Sure, Adam. Keep telling yourself that.

So, if you’re a Malifaux player who follows the news, you know that the next rulebook will introduce the title system, a thing that was introduced as a way to iterate on the Masters without using upgrades ala 2nd edition. To touch on it briefly, when you reach the phase of game set up where you declare masters, you announce that you’re playing “Sonnia.” You reveal which version of Sonnia when you reveal the rest of the crew. So, there’s potentially a bit of a mini-game being added now, and it will be interesting to see what new complexity it adds to the early game. Really, it’s a question of whether Wyrd can thread the needle and create two competitive, competent leaders for each keyword, particularly without remaking the other models. Sounds pretty tough to me, but we’ll go one-by-one through the spoilers we receive before the book is released. And it’s summer, and she was released first, so let’s start with Sonnia (Miss Criid if you’re nasty.)



Old Sonnia has a pretty extreme df/wp split, with a 4/7. This suggests pretty strongly that she wants to stay back away from the fray (which isn’t tough, because a Mv of 4 means she’s probably better off getting transported by other models rather than spending her own AP walking.) She does have some unorthodox defensive tech between Arcane Shield +2 and Counterspell, as well as a DF/WP trigger to put burning on someone who attacks her and Smothering Flames which reduces the range of any enemy model’s non-melee action by 1” per point of Burning they have running on them. She has a meh melee attack that heals her and a built-in trigger to give them burning. Her 14” Flameburst attack is a nasty ranged shot that does 2(B)/3(B)/5(BB) and adds burning to anyone who takes damage from it. Her Scorch the Soul can do a McMourning-type “Take the total damage of your nasty condition all at once” attack that caps at 5 damage and reduces burning by up to 5 on the target and, if it kills the enemy, lets her summon a Witchling model. She has a pair of bonus tactical actions, one that puts a 3” hazardous aura around her and 1 which heals and gives focus to a friendly witchling. 







New Sonnia (aka Sonnia Criid Unmasked) has apparently gotten a bit tougher physically (at the expense of her mental health) during her time possessed by Cherufe, as she’s now a 5/6 Df/Wp split. She’s also picked up a point of speed, though 5 is nothing to write home about either. She still has Arcane Shield +2 but lost Counterspell. In its place, she took a page out of Reva’s book and can reduce burning on friendly models within 8 of her to get a + on duels. The rest of the card has some unusual toolbox type abilities which make pyre markers count as Severe, lets the crew gain a soulstone when models that have Burning+2 die, and lets Witch Hunters who get pushed outside of their turn get a free melee attack (I imagine primarily through their Drawn to Pain trigger). Flameburst is still the same base attack, but it swaps the triggers for one that you’ll probably use every time (it’s built in) to replace the blast markers with Pyre markers. She has an 8” utility attack action called “Burn Them Out” that is stat 6 vs.  Mv to give the target Burning +2 and pushes the target 4”. Her tactical action, Confiscated Lore, can only be done once per activation but lets her look at the top 5 cards of the opponent’s fate deck, discard any of them you want, and put the rest back in any order. There are a couple of triggers on this, one that lets her move 3” and a different one, Surge. She also has a Tactical Action to create a pyre maker and a built-in trigger to make any model within pulse 2 of the tactical action suffer 1 damage, which is an interesting way to get some unresisted damage spread on the board. 


So, Old Sonnia feels to me like a standard ranged blaster. She’s all about force projection, shooting her own attacks around to blast enemy models as well as boost her companions. Her “summon” is really not reliable and is a bit of a win-more, but it’s there to potentially amplify the momentum of her destruction. She’s “traditional”. She’s very much an early m3e, non-complicated, new player friendly master. New Sonnia looks similar on paper, but I think the key to understanding this new version is the Lasting Flames trigger on Flameburst. Basically, every time she hits somebody with her 14” ranged attack she’s going to drop a Pyre marker onto the board Also, she can drop another one within 12” of her as a bonus action. She can put out a lot of these Pyre markers, is what I’m saying. Like, up to 7 of them per turn. More likely 2-3 of them, but still, over the course of the game that’s going to be an eff-load of potential pyre markers on the board, particularly since she can set herself up with Confiscated Lore to increase the odds that her attacks are successful. Also, Pyre markers don’t go away. Ever. They just stay on the board for the rest of the game. However, she’s lost a lot of her defensive abilities and can’t do as much to amplify the crew (though Burn Them Out has some nice utility.) Her best defense is to have her party on fire around her and steal their Burning. The couple of games I’ve played with Reva tell me that it’s very effective for incidental attacks or opposing individual beaters, but struggles against concentrated fire. 


Thus, Unmasked Sonnia feels like more of a control master that can wall off sections of the board with fire but will be less effective at pivoting to direct crew-on-crew combat when necessary. Old Sonnia (we need to give the old ones titles too, I just realized) is for more direct combat/crew support. Thus, it’s possible that you could choose to switch between the two versions based on whether you’re in a straight up Reckoning style game or the Unmasked version for Symbols of Authority (ie more mobility/interacting type games). 


The question is, would you? I’m not sure. I think old Sonnia is maybe a good teaching master for newer players, but I have a hard time imagining more experienced players not reaching for Sonnia Unmasked. I think it’s an interesting model to be sure, and Reva is literally built on taking advantage of this flame stealing motif. Plus, Sonnia can directly drop her own pyre markers wherever she wants and put burning on her allies with Burn Them Out, rather than Reva’s mechanic of needing her corpse candles to die in specific places. This makes her ability to place pyres and burn her crew more reliable/agile, which I think is one of the things that holds Reva back. 


I’m far more interested in the new Sonnia than the old one, is my final verdict. I can see where the designers were going with the split between the two, but Unmasked’s board control just feels more powerful and interesting. 


***



Oh, wait, there’s another version of Sonnia. The Other Side exists, after all, though many gamers seem to think otherwise. Sonnia is a commander from the Guild faction (technically the only one for the time being.) Interestingly, she only has 18 scrip to use to hire her force, which means you’re going to be bringing fewer troops than your opponent. As such, she needs to be able to make up for this with her own impact on the game. Her stats are pretty standard, though a 5 speed is pretty slow (which tracks, given all the versions of her from Malifaux aren’t exactly quick either.) The morale action Well-Read gives you a card draw, which the earth side factions don’t have an amazing amount of, which can be useful. It also lets you offset half of the cost to get her into Glory, so you may as well go straight to it. Which means, frankly, the front of Sonnia’s card doesn’t matter, so let’s just ignore that. First point, Draw on Ancient Runes makes her flip two cards instead of one for any duel she’s in. That’s pretty rad. Her Pyrokinesis lets her use the Penetration flip from her attack for her area flip, which means it’s far more likely she’ll be able to dish out AoE damage. Not everyone plays The Other Side, so I’ll walk through how it works. Normally, if an attack is successful that has the Area description, you flip a card and, if the card’s value is higher than the armor of the units within 3 of her, they take 1 point of damage. For Sonnia, she flips two cards for penetration (her flameburst has the Piercing characteristic, so it means you flip two cards instead of one and choose the better) and, critically, lets you add the 2 points of Strength to the card rather than relying on just the value of the card. The Flameburst attack has a very good 7 Acting Value but a not so great Str 2. This is offset by the Piercing ability, but may make it hard to actually get the main attack to land. The margin of success ability Inferno lets the area damage force all the squads within 3 of the initial target to take 2 instead of 1. Potentially you can do a lot of damage with this, though I would guess most crews will fan out when opposing her. It also requires you to spend margin on that rather than on increasing the Str of the attack versus the primary target. I’m not sure what to think about it, in other words. Additionally, she gains the Morale action Pillar of Flame. It costs a Tactics token which is kind of steep, but lets her place a 120mm Flamestrike Marker anywhere within range. Enemy Fireteams within (2) of the marker (so, that’s a pretty huge area) suffer a strength 2 hit that can’t be cheated. Additionally, if you have a 13 you don’t remove the marker when you’re resolving it, which creates some permanent hazardous terrain to add a bit of board control. 


I think she’s going to be more effective on low armor forces like the Hordes or Cult, particularly the former since there are going to be more fireteams clumped together to blow up. I’ll have to see her in play to see if she can offset 7 scrip worth of troops, but in the right situations she could potentially do a lot of damage to the enemy. You won’t want to leave her exposed, as her defenses are very mediocre, and anything that can flip you out of Glory will be a drain on your resources. Speaking as a King’s Empire player, the bars to clear are Margaret Belle and Kassa Okoye (sorry Chuck). Margaret will never be replaced because she’s amazing even after getting nerfed, but Kassa needs to have the Titan in play to be effective and becomes significantly less so if its ever destroyed. If you’re going to make the swap, that’ll be where it happens. I’m curious to see the rest of the Guild stuff to know whether it’s worth bringing her. If I trusted Hordes forces to be…well…a horde then that would be a strong choice, but too many of the GH armies I’ve run up against have done the kaiju thing and brought multiple titans, which she will not be as good against. Ironically, she might be better against the Cult, particularly if you can park a Flamestrike Marker to interfere with their ability to summon out of one of their portals. So, you know, she might be good at burning the Cult of the Burning Man? Why not. I don’t know, I haven’t tried her on the table. But that’s what I’ve got for you today.  


In the meantime, Sonnia's apparently already taking the fight to the Gibbering Hordes...



Sunday, June 20, 2021

In which a Resurrection occurs

 

A sad looking wooden cross rests in a cemetery on the outskirts of Malifaux City. It is weathered and pitted, having clearly been exposed to some harsh elements. It is humble, though the few points where white paint still shows would indicate that, at some point, it made someone quite proud. The grass is tramped down around it by many footsteps, though it is obvious that the crowd is long gone. Emblazoned across this sad old cross is a name: Malifaux Musings. 


Suddenly, a hand bursts forth from the soil in front of the cross. It feels around for a moment before it pulls frantically at the grass, ripping and tearing. Finally it grabs a root and gains some leverage and a head begins to emerge from the dirt, followed by broad shoulders. A man, covered in dirt, skin gray with age and decay, emerges from the ground. The man stumbles to his feet with a groan. He stretches his back and a loud crack echoes through the space, followed by another satisfied groan. He starts to stagger from the grave, but he stops, a look of puzzlement evident on his face. He reaches up to his bald dome, patting at it as if he’s looking for something. He turns back to the grave and drops to one knee, feeling around for a moment. Eventually he comes back out with a gray newsboy cap. He settles it on his head, adjusting it so it tilts jauntily forward. A card stuck into the side reads “Blogger.” He stands up, nodding in satisfaction. He pulls a pad and pen out of his pocket as he wanders into the city. 

***

We’re back. Again. I think we’ve come back several times over the course of this super awesome year-and-a-half period. Obviously live events went away as we all went into lockdown. I signed into a vassal league at one point and got my butt kicked up and down. I bought the models to start playing as Dashel but, well, something about large chunks of the country burning down while the police and protestors clashed in the streets kind of took the fun out of the idea of playing the Guild's fascist cops. So, yeah, there wasn’t much Malifaux going on around Musings headquarters. 

However, I did take the opportunity to acquire some more models. I have most of the Guild and Resurrectionists faction now, prepainted. I normally don’t love using other people’s painted models, but my objective in getting them was to make sure I had crews to loan out to people if/when I start trying to build a local community in Cedar Rapids. When things finally started to open up, I was pleased to see that Doug Broman was planning on running the tournament that had been cancelled when all the lockdowns started a year ago, Faux Moines and the secret of Mackelmourning’s Thrift Shop. 



Yes, that’s what it was called. 

Since my Malifaux gaming career and potentially the blog were returning from the dead, I thought bringing Resurrectionists to the tournament was the right move. I like Reva quite a bit both thematically and (in theory) on the table, so I wanted to give her a try. Also, Von Schtook is a badass murdering scientist, and I dig that, so I brought those two crews. 

I could go through the round by round break down, but the bottom line is…uh, well, your boy kinda stunk it up. I got the wooden spoon, lost every round, didn’t play very well at all. In one game I let Von Schill attack Reva three times and kill her despite the fact that I had moved a Shield Bearer next to her to take the hits for her. And it was a lot of fun, not just to be playing a game I enjoy but to be doing it in person with people again. Vassal is really good, and we should all be really happy to have such a great tool. It's also dog crap compared to playing in person. 

I also realized some things. For one, Von Schtook’s nerf didn’t actually reign him in all that much. If you were hoping that now this master was going to be coming down form his place at the top of the faction, I’ve got bad news for you. Like many of the “nerfs,” I think that what it primarily did was take away an abusive/NPE playstyle while leaving the core of the model's theme and power in place. This is absolutely the right approach for Wyrd to take, but when I was midway through the 2nd round game with Albus and reflecting on how I basically just activated a model, pointed it where I needed it to go, and things died, I knew that there was still tons of power there for someone who had a better idea of what they were doing. The undergrads are still pretty good, even, since they can use their lead the way ability to add some movement tricks and can still get a free attack when they’re summoned. They just don’t have the abusive by your side ability, which is fine. Necropunks can probably still work just as well in Albus’ crew with all the card draw he has access to. They aren’t useful out of keyword most likely (or even probably in Levi) but they’re still just fine for Von Schtook. Albus lost some ability to make the Valedictorian into a bomb, but you bring Sloth to give her fast (and gain all the other stuff Sloth can do) and you’re still just fine. So yeah, expect to still see plenty of Transmortis going forward.

Related to the above, Anna Lovelace is the best model in the Resurrectionist faction, and I don’t even really think it’s that close. She has a solid ranged attack that ignores friendly fire. Her melee attack is vicious and heals her. She has hostile work environment and prevents you from placing models near her. She has armor. She’s tough. And she can turn corpse markers into scheme markers. I have a hard time thinking of a rezzer crew she wouldn’t improve. And the fact that she’s a stone cheaper for Transmortis just makes them even better.

And for Reva, I saw a lot of potential. I really did. The crew is very unique in the way it uses pyre markers to set themselves on fire as a resource. Reva herself is very survivable and can dish out a lot of pain. I didn’t try Draugr, but I know they’re very strong. I should like this crew more than I ended up enjoying them. But here’s the thing: it takes way more work to accomplish with them what other crews can do. I know I would get better with more reps, but it feels like I’m starting slightly behind where I would be with a more straightforward power house like Transmortis. Maybe they’re as good. Maybe they’re better. But the learning curve is a lot steeper. More testing is needed before I can be sure, but for now I'm a little disheartened with the Reva train, which sucks. I like the idea of her whole "Hey, not all undead are evil, and it's kind of shitty that you guys keep killing them" thing. 

That said, I don’t know if I’m playing Resurrectionists going forward. It was mainly for the meme and to try out some new stuff that I brought them out. I did enjoy the limited games I got in, but if I’m going to stay in Malifaux I need to be honest with myself. I don’t play enough to be excellent at this game. I’m not going to win the masters of malifaux tournament. I don’t get in the reps to expect that. What I can do, however, is try to experience as much of what Malifaux has to offer as I can, and let my curiosity about the game and the crews in it run wild. And when I learn new stuff, I can come on here and share it with all of you. So, that’s what I’m gonna do. Next time I play, it’ll probably be Basse, because I’ve always wanted to (and because I feel some sense of ownership for Sandworms being in Malifaux.) Will it be Guild? Will it be Explorers? Honestly, the fact that Mccabe is there with him makes the latter feel more likely right now, but who knows? We’ll see. But the main thing is, Malifaux is back for me at least, and I’m hoping Malifaux Musings will be back as well.