Sunday, February 27, 2022

Musings on Futility: My CaptainCon Recap

   A few weekends ago I made the trip to Captaincon to knock some of the dust off of my game, try out the Frontier crew in an acid-test environment, and participate in the Malifaux Content Creators Invitational (MCCI). I’ve never attended this particular convention before, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. The trip out was uneventful, which is generally how I like for that to go. There was enough time during a layover in Charlotte to bang out my first Musings blog entry in a while to think out-loud about some strategy ideas. When I left the airport in Rhode Island, I ran into Maeve Fox and Jeremy Clarkson while we were waiting for the hotel shuttle, so I knew I was in the right place. A short while later Jon arrived from Georgia, I acquired my badge, and we went out for some dinner with the boys from Rage Quit Wire, who I hadn’t met before. 

    That was pretty much the last time things went “according to plan” for that weekend.

My prize support for the MCCI was top-notch, though.

    I won’t belabor every round, as the whole blog would just become a string of stories about how I managed to end up doing the wrong thing either by bad decisions or bad luck the entire weekend long. I played in two tournaments, the three round MCCI and the five round 2-day Booty and Plunder tournament. Wyrd’s prize support for the event was amazing, including a personally crafted Voodoo doll for all of us who played in the MCCI. It really meant a lot (though it also left me scrambling to figure out how I was going to get the 8” long needle that came with it home without getting it confiscated by the TSA). To quickly run through the rounds: MCCI-1 I played against Jeremy and his Marcus 2 crew and lost to a crew with mobility and the ability to ignore my severe terrain markers and butterfly jump away from Jon Reichert, MCCI-2 I played a Zipp crew piloted by (no joke) a young man with two broken arms whose models got lost during their trip and who was clearly learning his crew, since he left Zipp in a place where Reichert could get him and tear him up with claws that block defense triggers. MCCI-3 I played Pete from Rage Quit. He declared Bayou, I thought “I probably don’t need my anti-armor tech” and then proceeded to get assaulted by a Mecha-Mee Maw crew with armor on almost the entire opposing force, so yeah, a loss, 1-2 record for the MCCI, and a firm middle of the pack placement. 

My voodoo doll may have gotten a little carried away with my rd. 2 opponent...

    Overnight I looked a bit closer at some of the other Frontier models and started to get an idea of what Pearl Musgrove could do, so I proxied her in for most of the games next day along with the Expert Marksman upgrade to have the option for anti-armor (you won’t get me again, Mee-Maw.) Round 1 of B+P paired me up against Kyle from Schemes and Stones, who brought Dreamer 2 and Nekima. I tried to castle up, but did it on a flank rather in the center of the board so I couldn’t really control the strategy of Turf War, thus a loss. Round 2 I faced Adam T who brought Zoraida and Pandora 2. This was in a rough place from the start as my Rough Rider was hit with No Shelter Here, messing up my unpacking order and disrupting the crew’s efforts. That plus playing a very strong opponent meant another loss. Adam ended up getting 2nd in the tournament, so I guess I don't feel too bad about that one. And last round was…more Marcus 2. This was played against a very nice fellow named Jian and, given my failures so far, I decided to try my luck with Perdita 2. Naturally, Jian brought Candy with his Marcus 2 crew (how could I have not seen that coming?) who proceeded to ruin my whole day by stunning a crew that relies significantly on triggers. Cool. I managed to get a draw in that game.

    I got pretty frustrated day 1, as I just couldn’t stop stepping on my own dick for two tournaments. That, paired with some of the worst draw luck I’ve ever seen and facing 5 neverborn masters in 3 games left me pretty tilted, and I took it out on Jian which was not cool. I did my best to apologize and set things right, but I resolved to try and lighten up day 2 and just try some stuff. I discovered some silliness with Basse v2 that I wanted to try out to boost their mobility even further, and I just wanted to try and break even on the tournament. 

The frontier crew facing down a tide of Neverborn

    Day 2 I faced a Zipp player who also seemed pretty new. He did better than the first Zipp I played (my Basse was hit by a piano, a corpse, and a dust cloud from Mancha Roja this game) but I held on for a win. And the last round I faced, you guessed it, more Marcus 2! I lost this game also, mostly due to some clutch play by the Explorers society Eagle models, but at least this time I managed to kill Marcus. Moral victory, I guess, considering how he had been stealing my lunch all weekend long. 

This ferris wheel was blown up, caught in a tornado, and smashed with pianos. I can sympathize.

    So, in 8 games I played against 3 total factions, faced 5 Neverborn masters, got embarrassed by Marcus 3 different times, and only squeaked out wins against Zipp players who were inexperienced. Cool. Coolcoolcool. Not my finest hour as a Malifaux player, to be sure, but I learned a lot. Some things I picked up:

    1) Pearl Musgrove is a deceptively awesome piece of the Frontier crew. The amount of healing potential she brings is significant. She can have built in armor piercing triggers with her shotgun. The blasts can catch people by surprise (she managed to kill the Hooded Rider, Nekima, Barcus, and a Sabretooth Cerberus in the four games I brought her out.) Ironically, she almost has anti-synergy with Basse 2, since he keeps the dust markers on the board and that can be an important source of healing for the team. Still, I think she’s a must-have for most Basse games.

    2) Basse 2 can bring a crazy amount of speed to his crew. His ability to drop dust markers with a normal action and push any frontier models in the shockwave 2” takes an already fast crew and lets them get basically anywhere they want to go. That’s kind of the problem with him, though, he gives the crew more of what it already has. As Maeve put it to me, he’s a utility master in a keyword that already has utility and needs damage dealers. Also, much of his utility is keyword focused, so it's harder to splash in versatile models to make up the difference. Still, watching leaping models struggle to get their spells off due to his Wanted Posters ability is very satisfying. 

    3) Building a crew that revolves in some ways around an opponent being vulnerable to something like severe terrain which can be negated is a fool’s errand. Maybe it was my bad luck, but most of the weekend I ran into people who just flat out ignored my severe terrain and/or concealment. I’m trying to remember one single time when it came into play, and nothing is coming to me. Also, very few boards had severe terrain, and I didn’t end up on them very often. I think the same things potentially apply for building around armor, terrifying, or condition based crews. I just need to find crews that do what they do and do it well regardless of what the opponent brings. Every crew has bad match-ups, but the harder it is for an opponent to exploit, the rarer these instances of “bad luck” will occur. Or, I guess you could just play Sonnia 2, who doesn't let you ignore her pyre markers. 

    4) Lead Lined Coat is a stupid good upgrade. I’m not saying anything crazy or novel here, of course, but honestly the Laugh Off may be a more valuable part than the armor. 

    5) Rough Riders are very fragile, but they can have a deceptive amount of survivability just by not being where the enemy can get to them. I only really lost one all weekend. 

    6) Sly Six-Shots is an odd model. He did a ton of work for me in the tournament, and he survived some situations he absolutely never should have between his Flinch and Squeal abilities. On the other hand, he has no melee attacks so he can’t hold enemy models in place or prevent interacts and, if an opponent can find their way around his defensive tech, he is still DF 4. I think he’s situationally useful, but maybe not every game does he need to be on the board even in keyword.

    Ultimately, I think that the Frontier keyword has potential on the right board. You need to have severe terrain or they’re going to struggle. And, at the end of the day, they are what I would call “Pretty Good,” which means they’re not good enough to be competitive in tournament play. So, the search goes on for the right Guild crew to get me on the winning side a bit more frequently. I will say, however, that the spark has been relit for playing Malifaux after the weekend. Jon and I have been texting about different crew ideas ever since, so hopefully this will lead to some interesting stuff in the coming weeks for Malifaux Musings. 

Also, I've been posting to a new Instagram account. Just look up @MalifauxMusings for pictures of some of my models or other Malifaux thoughts and content. 

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Captain Con Prelude: Musings from a Charlotte Airport

Your intrepid bloggist is here, checking in from the Charlotte airport during my lay-over as I travel to CaptainCon. This isn’t a convention I typically attend, but the folks organizing the Malifaux events there were kind enough to invite me to the Malifaux Content Creator’s Invitational tournament. Apparently, my spotty publication record over the last several…years doesn’t disqualify me from attending, so I’m en route. By kismet, the main Malifaux tournament at the con has also been tapped to be the first qualifying tournament of the upcoming US Faux Tour season, so I can get on the “official” rankings while I’m in Rhode Island as well.

One problem, of course. I’m probably pretty terrible at Malifaux these days. 

I still enjoy the game, and I don’t mean to imply that I’ve somehow scaled back my participation voluntarily. COVID paired up with the nearest tournaments being an hour and a half drive away (with a healthy dash of real life obligations) has limited my reps somewhat, and so I can’t say I really expect to throw down with the heavy hitters in this thing. I’m working on setting up a partner near to home to play with, but he’s painting his crew (he plays Bayou and bought out someone's collection at a discount) and every time we try to schedule a game it seems like something messes it up. As such, I’ve only really had Vassalfaux reps in recent history, and even those have been somewhat limited. 

So, to say that I expect to podium would be an extreme exaggeration. Thankfully, I’m not on my own for the MCCI. It’s a team format tournament, so I reached out to my friend and sensei Jon Goulbourne to be my partner for this thing. He has far more tournament experience than me, having spent years during M2E and M3E trucking up and down the eastern seaboard for games (we often call him the master of the Wandering River Style). He’s got a little rust to knock off as well, but he’ll be further along than I am in any case.

To prep, we adopted a plan to try and focus on getting as many set-ups of games in as we can, and I think it’s a pretty good one to get some reps when you’re on a time crunch. Essentially, set up a game, play the first couple of turns, then re-rack and start again. Often, the opening of a game can determine how the whole thing will play out, particularly in a tournament environment where you can’t guarantee you’ll be able to play the full 5 turns anyways. Also, if you’re trying out a new crew build and want to see if the concept has legs, this is a good way to find out and look for obvious flaws. I highly recommend it.

The second part of the plan is to limit the amount I had to learn prior to the tournament. That means focusing on one master and their keyword, learning what works and what doesn’t, and taking advantage of the fact that there is a repeat in the strategies in round 2 and 3. Both of them have Turf War (itself a relatively straightforward strategy), so if I can potentially put my best foot forward in those games I can carry my weight without needing to master the full breadth of the game. I had originally planned on going with new Perdita as my master of choice, as I like the summoning and card cycling mechanics of the Monster Hunter version, but a different Guild master ended up as what I landed on. I’ve liked Basse for a long time both in game and outafter learning about Basse Reeves, the historical figure he’s based on (he's worth a Google if you're unfamiliar). I think his keyword is deceptively mobile with their Home on the Range and Rough Riders and still has some significant punching power on the tabletop. I have a personal connection to them as well (or, more specifically, to the Sandworm) that makes me want to get my own personal Graboid out for a spin. After all, Soulstone Miners are pretty solid, so who wouldn’t want a tunneling model that can also destroy markers and terrain when he pops out of the ground? 

I decided to go Guild rather than Explorers with him since I have far more access to that faction, though the Intrepid Emissary paired with the sheer number of simple duels in Frontier and Wastrel at least got me to give them a look. Plus, Lead Lined Coat is jut good. *shrug* Not much else to say about that. I don’t love Explorers’ upgrades and I don’t have as much of a feel for what versatile or off-keyword models would be good hires, so it made sense to stay with the law-and-order faction. If there’s been a hole in my game since my time playing the Ten Thunders it’s been the killing part of the game (concentrating fire, target priority, etc) so it made sense to grow my skills in this area by playing a crew that is looking to dish out pain while covering for my deficiency by using a faction that has above average offensive capabilities. That’s not to say I don’t have a fair share of tricks, too, as there are a few toolbox models in the Guild that can pull off some disruptive plays to break up the enemy’s gameplan (The Undercover Reporter, for instance) or accelerate mine (Sly Six-Shots from the Perdita Malifaux Burns box brings a more useful source of False Claim than the faction has previously had available). 

But, yeah, I’ve got no illusions that I’m going to go win this thing. Hopefully I can play some fun games, learn from my mistakes, and not end up with a wooden spoon. Check in over the weekend, as I’ll be trying to post more updates from Captain Con as it goes along.