Saturday, August 19, 2023

Malifaux Blogger Returns! Joins the Arcanist Faction! Wyrd players everywhere declare "Meh!"

Extra, extra, read all about it. Crusty old Malifaux blogger dusts off blog for…like…the 20th time? 

Ok, not much of a headline there. Certainly not news by any stretch of the imagination. 

A few things have happened recently to bring me back to everyone’s favorite western Victorian gothic horror steampunk miniatures game. I got in a couple of tournaments including getting invited to CaptainCon and getting rolled in the content creator’s open (I know, I was surprised too. Not about getting rolled, mind you, but the fact that they invited me.) I’ve become more active in the Iowa tournament scene, run by our TO Doug (no, not the Texas guy. The podcaster. No, not that podcaster. Check him out on TikTok, btw, as he’s doing the lord’s work and recording assembly videos for Malifaux models, including some of my Nightmare Edition models that I never got around to putting together.) The most recent of these was actually a charity fundraiser for kid’s cancer treatment, which is really awesome and gave me a chance to play some of those nightmare models, the 1988 Mei Feng crew, in 6 games. I lost most of them, but hey, that’s what these tests are for. Also, I have a friend learning to play the game, and am working on getting another person involved. So, the time is right to start back again, and potentially a good time to try a new faction. I liked Mei (specifically Foreman Mei) but I can see right away that the Arcanist version of her is probably better in…most ways. Plus, as it happens they just pushed an errata that reigned in the witness keyword and the starter boxf, as they were just bonkers and needed to get hit with all the nerf bats. So, for the first time in my Malifaux career, I am joining the rebels and standing up for the working man/beast man/burning man or lady. I thought it would be interesting to track that process on the blog, so here we are. 

An intro for any new people who may be seeing this post and reading my blog for the first time. I’m Adam. I go by AgentRock on forums/discord. I’ve been a Malifaux player since first edition when I bought a Perdita crew and my friend Jon Goulbourne (aka Phiasco, the sensei of the Wandering River Style) picked up Marcus. 10 Thunders didn’t exist yet, so he hadn’t begun his lifelong commitment to them at that point. I was a playtester for a long time, particularly during 2nd edition Malifaux. I was a Kickstarter patron for Through the Breach, the Malifaux Roleplaying Game. I have a King’s Empire army for The Other Side (which I still say is a better tournament game than Malifaux, so I’m hoping that it can pull itself out of the ashes sometime in the future.) And I started Malifaux Musings over 10 years ago. At one point in time I was on Patreon, but then I discovered that nobody wants to pay money to read stuff. Go figure. Malifaux Musing’s mission (yay alliteration) has always been more of a place to ramble about topics related to Wyrd’s world and the games played within them. I won’t claim to be particularly good at them, mind you. I would maybe put myself in the range of low-mid tier player, going by the Student of Conflict ranking system at least. But hopefully I can spark some thought about the game that will help people get better, or at least enjoy themselves more. 

Anyways, back to starting the Arcanists, or really for starting any new faction. I’ve got a bit of a head start here, as I’ve been collecting Malifaux stuff for a long time and, if you do that long enough, eventually you end up with some pretty good-sized chunks of factions besides the one you play. In my time in the game, I’ve only really actively played Guild, Ten Thunders, and Neverborn, but I can field most of the factions (except Bayou, because they’re not my jam and never will be. Sorry.) That said, if I was in the market for a new faction and starting from scratch, some of the same techniques I’ve used to put together my collection could work for you. So, my top XXX tips for starting a new faction.

1) Find a crew you like.
Ok, that’s pretty obvious, but it’s still pretty important. This is not a terribly forgiving game to newcomers, if we’re being honest. There’s a good chance you’re going to spend some time early in your Malifaux career losing, and maybe not even keeping it close. You can check tournament reports and the like to find out what the strong crews are, but it’s still going to take you a while to learn to play them well. If you don’t love your crew that can really increase your chances of washing out. Some people might like the aesthetics or theme of a crew. Some, particularly those coming to Faux from other wargames, may have a particular playstyle that appeals to them that they want to emulate. Some may just like the models (Teddy has sold sooooo many people into this game.) But whatever the reason, find a crew that speaks to you to start with, and you’ll have a much higher likelihood of sticking with the game. 

2) Find somebody who can show you how to play the crew.
Again, not rocket science, but an important step. Malifaux is a game of synergies between models. There are few crews where you play the Super Friends list (IE a crew consisting of individual models that are good on their own rather than crews built within a keyword with lots of synergy), and sometimes the interactions between models aren’t terribly intuitive. Finding an experienced Malifaux player to show you the ropes is always a good start for the absolute newby, but also looking for resources that know your faction/crew of choice and can give you some tips and tricks that can possibly accelerate your transition from teeth kickee to teeth kicker can be a big help. Also, there’s tons of great content creators out there. Podcasts. Youtube. You name it. I’ll try and highlight some of the better ones IMO in future episodes, but there’s usually enough info to get you started out there if you look hard enough. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that, because you heard a podcast about a crew, now you know how to play it. I wish it was that simple, but the reality is mastery comes with reps and learning all the little interactions and corner cases that you need to be successful. That’s the best and worst part of the game, IMO, and it’s the thing that really makes it stand out. Phiasco has always been an inspiration to me in this regard, as he is the most immune to group-think person I’ve ever met. If something is hot in the meta, there’s a good chance he hates it because it doesn’t fit with the way he likes to play. And, meanwhile, he’s out here playing Shen Long lists that never attack you at any point in the game and beating you. 

Anyways, I’ve digressed.

3) Look for deals. 
Now, you may be independently wealthy. If that’s the case, you can probably afford to buy whatever models you want. Go ahead and skip further down in the article, ok?

*checks that they’re gone*

Alright, now that we got rid of those rich assholes (see, look, I’m an Arcanist already) let’s talk about how we can expand our model collection on a budget. The most efficient way I’ve found to do this requires a little bit of patience, vigilance, and opportunism, but can work out in the long run. You see, Malifaux’s been around for over a decade at this point and has gone through several editions. The result of this is that there’s been several models which have gone out of print. They’re often pewter if you go back to 1e stuff, and usually the sculpts aren’t as cool as the new stuff (though not always. I’ll maintain that the best Perdita ever is still the metal one from the first boxed set, for instance.) But, people are usually selling the blisters for pretty cheap on ebay or other secondary miniature selling websites. Also, periodically people decide this really isn’t the game for them and bail out, listing their collections at pretty significant discounts through things like facebook marketplace. This really ticked up during the stagnant years of the transition to M3E and the pandemic. Snatch that shit up! I have most of the Rezzer faction painted from one former player, and it only cost me a couple hundred bucks. Even if you don’t need the models, you might get something you can trade later for models you do. Also, if you want to try and get other people into the game, it’s a lot easier if you can start them off by lending them a crew or two to whet their appetite with before they lay down their own money. Or, hell, maybe you’ll find something you like to play that you didn’t expect. Weirder things have happened. 
Now, the only trouble with this method is that usually the old stuff doesn’t come with stat cards. There are a couple of options to fix this. One, the M3E Malifaux Crew Builder app has all the stat cards on it already. For tournaments it’s a completely legal way to play, if admittedly not the speediest. Alternatively, you can order cards to be printed on demand from Wargame Vault. It’s usually best to do when you have several you need so you can lump them together and save on shipping, but it’s usually pretty cost effective. So, when this is all said and done, you’ll have yourself a crew of models, your stat cards, and the app to play games. And your crew may actually be pretty unique compared to what you’ll run into, as you’ll likely have different sculpts than most. Obviously this doesn’t work with models that are new to M3E, but hopefully it can lighten the lift for your wallet to get into the game. 

4) Build a crew and play!
Get the M3E crewbuilder app. It’s free and it has all the cards in it, so why wouldn’t you? I mentioned that already, but it’s also a great resource for playing the game either in person or over the internet using tabletop emulators like Vassal. Put yourself together a crew, find an opponent, and play your first game. I often find that, for new players, the Henchman Hardcore variant mode can be a good way to get your feet wet with the mechanics of the game without having to deal with all the complexity of a full, master-led crew. If you wan to dive in the deep end, however, don’t let me stop you. The main thing to learning the game (and a new faction) is to get them on the table and play. And play. And then play some more. Then play again. A good rule of thumb is that, when you can get 5 reps at least, you’ll be in a good position to play the crew and have a good “feel” for what they can do. When you find yourself not looking at the stat cards anymore, you’ve probably mastered it. And also, don’t be afraid to play some models the meta doesn’t think are good. I often scratch my head at the things Dixon from the Rage Quit Wire podcast likes (Obsidian Statue? Seriously??) but he’s got the reps and I don’t, and you never know when there’s some hidden synergy you’re not seeing. I’m particularly bad at the theory-faux side of the game (IE looking at the stat cards and intuiting how effective it will be in action). I famously thought Illuminated were bad at the start of 2nd Edition when they were arguably one of the best minions in the Ten Thunders. And with a game as complex as Malifaux, it’s easy for a good model to fall through the cracks and be ignored in favor of the online meta’s current flavor of the week. 

I think that’s enough for now. More posts to come, hopefully. Next time we’ll look at my current hodgepodge collection of Arcanists and make some game plans for how to fill in the gaps. 

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