Monday, May 6, 2013

Thoughts On Second Edition and It's Reception Amongst the Community

I’m sure the majority of readers have heard some mention of the big announcement from late last week that Malifaux will be receiving an update to a 2nd edition, which is going to involve significant changes to the game we all know and love. Mike Marshall has done a fine job of rounding up all the information Wyrd has made available through numerous podcast outlets on his blog, so I won’t feel the need to go through it all again here. I have to say that I was initially surprised to see the level of change that was coming to the game, as I was expecting more or less a pass-through and clean-up of the rules and a general rebalancing of some of the minions and masters considered to need an adjustment with any edition change. Instead, the game appears to be changing significantly, with complete rewrites to most models’ stats and significant alterations to the core rules of the game.

This was, understandably, a bit of a surprise.

The game is changing in some very exciting ways. An alteration in the way soulstones work will take a step to improve a potential imbalance between masters that directly interact with enemy models as opposed to those which play a support role. The current mechanism of burning a soulstone to add an additional card to your flip will be replaced by allowing a soulstone user to add positive twists to their flips and/or by using them to add a suit to their casting. I can imagine that Resurectionist crews will be thrilled with that second change, if they continue to have the same reliance on crows for their spells that they currently possess. They are also adding an ability to burn stones before your draw phase to draw an additional 2 cards before discarding back to your original hand size, thus improving your crew’s ability to utilize them if your master dies.

Perhaps the biggest change comes from the alteration to remove many of the abilities from most masters and minions and transferring them to “upgrades” which are purchased through soulstones while hiring the crew. Beyond general alterations to the characters themselves (one mention was made towards adding an ability to Seamus allowing him to bury himself and then spring from the shadows to attack enemy models) many of the abilities we associate with masters will be purchased individually, allowing for a greater degree of customization. I’m intrigued by this idea, as it allows for one to set the masters up to possess only the abilities you think will be needed for a particular game/crew/strategy and will increase the diversity of matchups when paired against the same master in multiple games. This upgrade system will also be available to a lesser extent for minions and what are newly going to be classified as “henchmen,” named minions that can potentially lead small crews on their own like The Judge.

The game is also going to see an increased focus on schemes. All strategies will be shared, but the individual diversity in games will come from scheme selection rather than each player flipping their own strategy, and this will be reflected by an increase in points for the schemes themselves. To ensure the diversity of the games, players will assemble a pool of schemes from which players will pick at the beginning of the game, which should prevent players from taking only Kidnap when using the Neverborn or the ever-present bodyguard/hold out combination. This is another change that I’ll have to see in person to judge. I’m initially somewhat put off by the reduction in importance of the strategy to be worth only ½ the points available from schemes, but I suppose it’s possible that this just represents a bias introduced by playing Malifaux Classic for several years. Still, I’ll be curious to see if accomplishing strategies ends up being devalued compared to both players pushing for schemes, and whether the increase in points from the schemes themselves will actually lead to people leaving their schemes hidden, as the game designers have postulated. I do, however, enjoy the idea of the schemes relying on placement of so-called “Scheme Markers,” generic objective markers placed by minions which can be used either as intended or as a bluff to throw off the opponent, particularly when one of the schemes is essentially “lure enemy models to your scheme markers and blow them up.”

There are a number of other alterations to the core  game as well, not the least of which is the alteration to the avatar manifestation rules, which I think sound like a rather elegant solution to the various balance problems presented by their previous incarnations. Essentially, all avatar manifestation will require building a manifestation “stack” by flipping a card every turn (cheatable) and adding its numerical value until reaching a certain target number, at which point the avatar will automatically appear. The avatars will have their effect on the game, and every time they are damaged a card will be removed from the pool until it runs out, at which point the avatar will be removed and the master will return in their original state. Obviously I don’t know enough yet to comment on this change, but I think that the general consensus that avatars didn’t quite live up to the potential people expected of them means that this change could end up being very positive for the game.

The reaction from most of the community has been surprisingly positive, all things considered. I’ve lived through edition changes in RPGs and and MMOs like WoW before, so I expected a certain level of “sky is falling” panic and resistance to change, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how receptive much of the community has been to the changes. However, there have been those who don’t concur, and one of them concerns me quite a bit. Bill Anderson, host of the Gamer’s Lounge podcast and writer of the Dead Tau Project blog, has been vocally opposed to many of the announced changes, due in large part to his perception that the change to Malifaux 2 is going to introduce a reduction in complexity in the game, among other things. He has discussed what he can of these concerns on his blog, and apparently feels strongly enough about it and has made this opinion so clearly known that he has become persona non-grata amongst Wyrd employees. I have a great deal of respect for Bill and his knowledge of game systems. I enjoy listening to the Gamer’s Lounge (I’m going to use the present tense, though the departure of two of their co-hosts today and Bill’s own statements regarding his diminishing motivation to continue makes me wonder if this will be the case for much longer) and have appreciated the length they’ve gone to disprove a number of the generally held misconceptions amongst the community (Ressers are underpowered, Nekima is unplayable in her current form, etc.) However, there can be no doubt that this group of players isn’t shy about letting people know when they disagree with them and aren’t always politic when stating their opinion. The fact that this dispute seems to have moved into the personal realm and the fact that I’m not privy to any of the details behind what occurred during the playtest process to create this rift between Wyrd and someone who has, historically, been one of their strongest supporters, makes it difficult to know how much of this feud is influencing Bill’s negative opinion. Still, it is enough to raise a level of concern.

However, from what I have heard thus far, I can say that my overall reaction to the details has been positive. Malifaux is my game of choice, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. There can be no doubt that I have lost potential players in my group due to the complexity in the game and the perceived high entry point for new players, so a reduction in this complexity, with the capability to add some of it back through upgrades, may be exactly the change that the game needs to continue to thrive going into the future. A number of the changes sound positive (McMourning as a Resser sounds like two tons of fun), and I’m looking forward to finding out what the future of Malifaux has to offer. I’ve intentionally not discussed some of the faction changes so I can save them for a future blog entry. Edition changes in other games always result in turnover from members of the old player base who don’t care to make the jump, but assuming the Wyrd Staff have done their job (and given the popularity of Book 4, I’m willing to extend them the benefit of the doubt) the game will hopefully draw in more players than it loses and continue to thrive. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lillith vs. Misaki Round 2: Lillith's Revenge

I played the second round of the campaign today. Misaki and company were paired up once again to face Lillith and her hordes of Nephilim, this time with big sister along to help out.

25 point individual strategies
Misaki-Treasure Hunt
Same crew as before, but with ranged expert on the archer
Schemes-Eye for an Eye and Holdout

Lillith-Escape and Survive…again
Nekima-with bond
3xTerror Tots, one of which had acquired slow from the last game
4 Soulstones + 4 more for not taking any schemes

Apparently my opponent was unaware that you get 2 stones for skipping a scheme rather than one, so she was pleased to know she gets 4 extra stones rather than 2, though I question the wisdom of not taking any schemes. We were playing on a forested board with the graveyard special terrain feature in the center, though not likely to make much of a difference given that neither of our crews had graverobbers. We deployed in our corners and set up for the game.
The first turn consisted mainly of Nekima boosting the tots to let them grow into a young neph and then moving up, with the rest of the Lillith crew repositioning as well and one of the tots sprinting to go stand on my treasure counter. Misaki was slingshotted forward to go and deal with the tot, and the archer took a couple steps up to line up a shot on Nekima, dealing a few points of damage.
Unfortunately, this would prove to be a misstep, as the next turn Nekima charged over Misaki and ate my archer. The combination of Nekima-Lillith-and the young nephilim activating together proved to be significantly more troublesome than I expected. Misaki lived through Lillith’s attacks and survived the charge of the young nephilim, but the subsequent melee expert attack hit a tie, resulting in the red joker-severe death of my master (seems fair, I suppose, since I did the same to Lillith last game.) I was pretty well hosed at this point, but thought I could maybe pull it out from schemes, particularly as Yamaziko was alive to still use my 6 remaining soulstones. She celebrated by gutting Nekima, but the battle was still going to be very uphill.
Yamaziko survived the subsequent charge from Lillith and her young, leaving her at one wound. She cast her healing spell at herself and flipped the red joker, healing back to full, and killed the young Nephilim. This, unfortunately, would prove to be the end of my good fortune in this game. I tried to walk Yamaziko out of Lillith’s melee range to go grab the treasure counter and attempt to hunker down for a strategic withdrawal, but it wasn’t to be. Lillith caught Yamaziko with the disengaging strike, killed the torekage and then finished off the old lady over the next several turns. I had at this point, however, managed to drop her below the number of remaining models she needed to get 2 points from Escape and Survive, and as such the game ended in a 0-0 tie.
With my free barter counter I flipped a 10 and purchased combat expert, applying it to Yamaziko to move her up to cb7. Obviously, the lack of schemes taken by my opponent played a role in determining the outcome of the game, but the fact that she took them meant that Lillith had a massive excess of soulstones compared to what would have been available otherwise, and she had tapped well into that excess to finish me off during the game. As such, it’s difficult to predict what would have happened. I’m not sure whether moving Misaki after the treasure counter that quickly was a good idea or not, although it will end up being required for the new version of the strategy from the updated gaining grounds, so perhaps it was good practice. In any case, it would have resulted in possibly a turn of safety before the enemy was in charge range anyways. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Misaki vs. Lillith 25SS: A funny thing happened on the way to the supply wagon depot...

Yesterday marked the first round of our campaign conducted through the local game store. Misaki and crew made their way to the game store and lined up to play against Lilith and her crew of vampire-demon Nephilim things. The organizer of the campaign wanted us to include special terrain with the games, so after flipping that I would be playing supply wagon again (opponent had Escape and Survive) we flipped and saw that we were also going to be fighting over some mysterious effigies in this game. So, between the relic counters for campaigns, the effigies, and my supply wagon, there were a number of featureless black disks sitting all over the damned board, which looked somewhat like this.

Ten Thunders Crew

Neverborn Crew
Primordial Magic
3x Terror Tots
1xYoung Nephilim

With diagonal deployment and the rules for the various markers’ placements, things ended up pretty equivalent between us on the board. I set up at the bottom right of my triangle, flanking the wagon with Misaki and Yamaziko and placing the Archer on the roof of the building in my DZ to give it good firing lines on the middle of the board. The Nephilim squad hides back behind their building in their DZ. Tuco, then, deploys from the shadows behind the building to my bottom right. We flipped for initiative, and the game began.

My opponent won initiative and basically split her crew in half, with some going clockwise around her building and Lilith and one tot going the other way with the Primordial Magic. Tuco ended up moving towards my crew pretty early in the turn and breaking the “no attack” effect from deploying from the shadows, which suggested to me that the opponent was not extraordinarily familiar with the speed of a Misaki crew, a lesson that was learned when the Mistress of the Ten Thunders moved into him and dispatched him pretty handily with an assist from Yamaziko. The tots did a lot of sprinting up towards me. I used the Torekage to throw some smoke up and get in position for a second turn flip with Misaki. The archer and Shang poised themselves up on the roof for next turn shooting.

Second turn saw the young Nephilim barrel towards my Torekage, coming up just short of charge range. This was a shame, as the Torekage then flipped with Misaki (who has a 2” melee) and killed him. She was then swamped by tots who, while not really able to do much damage to her, were going to lock me in place for the thing I was afraid of from the minute I drew this opponent, a beating from Lilith. Both from reputation and my own experience, I know that Misaki won’t survive a protracted melee combat against multiple opponents, particularly when is arguably even more smashy than she is. I moved Yamaziko up to try and lend some back-up (though she failed to do anything significant this turn.) One of the tots, knowing the potential damage output of the Ten Thunders Archer,  sprinted towards him but didn’t get the mask it needed to run all the way into melee. He was then rewarded with an arrow to the face. Shang flew to the top-left corner from me to go sit on the relic marker and maybe snipe the primodial magic. And it’s at this point that Lilith did something unexpected, pushing some of us out of place with earthquake and hanging back from melee. I didn’t really understand why until the closing phase when, since I forgot to put someone in place to defend it, when the supply wagon went merrily chugging forward to the middle of the board with no protectors.

Lilith smiled a wicked smile.

She won initiative and walked up to go smash my wagon to flinders (I love that word, even if it did mean I just lost 4 vps.) She only had one AP left, and was worried about getting pecked by the archer, so she cast transposition to flop him and Misaki, leaving the archer in melee range of two tots. I’m not sure how I feel about this move, as she couldn’t have done anything particularly offensive at this point, and it did move the archer out of the way of shooting twice at Lilith, but my Torekage was right there to bail him out and it freed Misaki up for a diving charge on the Mother of Monsters. The Torekage was, admittedly, the Kill Protégé target for my opponent, so it did put him in range to take a shot at finishing him off, but still it was a mixed bag of effects. The tots didn’t manage to hurt the Torekage to any great length (I was relatively impressed with his resilience, to be honest. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, given that he is a ninja and all.) Shang went up for some totem-on-totem violence and scratched the eyes out of the P.M. And then, the big moment…diving charge from Misaki on Lilith. First attack…misses and leaves me with -2 CB. Second attack…misses. This looks very bad. Final attack I only manage to stone my way to a tie. I flip my three cards for attack…and the second card in is the red joker. Red Joker + Severe damage flip leads to 12 damage for Lilith, and that is one dead vampire lady.

Misaki dropped into a cool ninja pose.

Next turn Yamaziko uses sweep off of her Yari to drop both terror tots, and my opponent was tabled. We called it and let me spread my people out to claim as many markers as I could, and I won 6-0 after getting both my schemes and claiming the mysterious effigies. Cuz, you know, who needs strategy points, anyways?


I always feel a little off playing games against opponents who clearly don’t have the same level of experience as I do, particularly when things are going my way on flips. I don’t enjoy just stomping an opponent into the ground, and I tried to help her out whenever I could without compromising my game for the campaign’s purposes. I’ve also resolved not to injure models with no upgrades in the campaign, as my first experience in the practice game could have left me with a very gimped crew going forward.

The league member who red jokered the “injury” for one of his Death Marshals, on the other hand, may be a different story…

I did, however, screw up completely with protecting the supply wagon. What a dope. I honestly told her, after the game, that if the Red Joker + Severe hadn’t come out on that Lilith attack, there’s a better than even chance that she could have taken that game. 8 defense blooooows. Now I know how people felt trying to attack my Perdita back in the day. And, worse, Lilith drops your CB after the first miss with her vanish ability, leaving me swinging at 5CB against 8 defense with another soulstone user. After the first two attacks missed, I was almost expecting to lose Misaki at that point. I was very much baled out.

                My upgrades after the game had the highest barter card come back at a 9. As I only got to 5 guild scrip (stupid supply wagon…mumble mumble…) I can’t buy a ronin to up my model count, so I used the 9 to buy ranged expert for my archer. Should make him even more capable of shooting things very dead. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Campaign Trial Run

While I was in Omaha on Sunday, I sat down with my friend Jon Goulbourne for a quick run-through game to get an idea of how the Misaki crew I'm planning on using for the upcoming campaign will operate. We cobbled something vaguely resembling terrain onto a board, lined up, and went after it.

My Crew:

Opponent's Crew
Sonia Criid
3x Witchling Stalker
Samael Hopkins
6SS (I think)

My strategies and schemes: Supply Wagon, Stake a Claim, Kill Protege (Sam Hopkins)

Opponent's Strategies and Schemes: Treasure Hunt (Old version), Stake a Claim, Frame for Murder (Sam Hopkins)

Well, that's annoying.

I decided not to get silly about this and just throw into the opponent's crew while leaving Yamaziko to protect the wagon, as her big threat range makes protecting the thing pretty straight forward. Shang would circle around the board to go claim the terrain towards the back of my opponent's half. I mused that our two crews might just wave at each other as they walk past each other. That didn't end up happening...

Early on, I moved forward with the Torekage and swapped him with Misaki for the free 5 inch move. The archer and Shang moved towards the left flank. Jon split his crew up a bit, with one stalker moving towards my right to eventually head towards the claim, the Watcher flying up to go get the treasure from on top of a building in the middle of the board, and Sonnia, Sam, and the remaining stalkers going to my left to go mix it up. Misaki then went, bounced up the board, and proceeded to gut Sam Hopkins and get Sonia and the stalkers into melee with her as well. Sonia puts up inferno, swings at me a few times with her sword, and (this ends up being critical) blocks me off from the crew by dropping flamewalls behind Misaki. Second turn ends with the Torekage unburying on top of the middle terrain, in prime "swap with the archer so he can shoot the treasure counter" position.

Jon wins initiative on the third turn and picks up the counter and high-tails it with his Watcher. I forget that he loses fly and the increased movement, but don't care because putting the treasure counter on top of a building was kind of harsh anyways. The torekage swaps the archer up to the roof, and I reflect on how neat it would be to have companion to make it so the archer could fire now. Also, I remember that Sonia put up Inferno last turn, and ask how many wounds Misaki took from that because I'm a nice guy. Jon says 3, spends another turn not hitting me, recasting inferno, and blocking Yamaziko from healing Misaki. I then gleefully murder Sonia, at which point Jon says "That's fine, I'm good with mutually assured destruction."

I give him a confused puppy dog look.

He then informs me that Inferno goes off and does 6 to everything around Sonia. So that's a dead Misaki, a dead Stalker, and a dead Witchling.


Then one of the remaining witchlings climbs the building and puts the archer into melee. This also annoys me, but I manage to succeed at disengaging despite having a negative twist and plunked the witchling for 3. Later on, Yamaziko climbs to the top of the building and drops that witchling, freeing up the archer to chase down the fleeing watcher and shoot him full o' holes. Given that my Torekage was running to my claim and Jon's was well hidden behind his, we decided the game was pretty well sorted at that point. So, 8-4 victory for me.

My concern was that we were flipping for the injuries as the game went on, and the Misaki and Sonia both flipped a 10+. We didn't see what injury we were going to end up with when we were finished, but we were slightly concerned at the fact that both our masters are pretty combat intensive.

Lessons Learned: Misaki will kill things dead. Then she will die. This is the way of things, unless one plays smarter than me and doesn't throw her at the enemy's whole stupid crew.

Archers kill things dead. This is not news.

When I can get companion Ten Thunders on my Torekage as an upgrade, it will be very useful.

Don't kill Sonia when she has cast Inferno, unless you plan on getting exploded for 6.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Some previous posts

Here are a couple posts from my old blog that had to do with Malifaux.

Battle Reports from 3 Games

Report from a tournament I ran a while back

Inaugural Post: Thoughts On The Wyrd Chronicles 5 Campaign System

One of the things my lovely fiancee pointed out is that my other blog, Geekland, probably loses readers based on how niche my thoughts on Malifaux ultimately are, given that it's not a game tons of people play. I occasionally forget that this is still a bit of a sub-pocket game, given the amount of brain power I typically expend on it. As such, I thought I would organize my Malifaux stuff into it's own blogger feed, so those who look for my bi-annual thoughts that just have to get posted to Geekland don't have to slog through Malifaux info. 

A gentlemen at our FLGS (Gauntlet Games) is going to run a Malifaux Campaign using the campaign rules printed in the most recent issue of Wyrd Chronicles, allowing for your crew members to acquire injuries and upgrades as the game moves along. He's planning on running it as a one-game-per-week campaign, much like is suggested in the article, and pair us up to have us play individually and see how this thing turns out. Now, I entered the Miniatures gaming world thanks to a little game called Blood Bowl (thanks, Jon Goulbourne) and one of the hallmarks of Blood Bowl is the League system where your players grow and change as you play games and eventually your team modifies itself to become quite different than what you start. The new Malifaux campaign system contains a very similar style of game, and I love the idea of that. My concern with this system is the notion that, should things go horrifically wrong in a particular game, you can easily get left with, like, 2 models alive in your crew, no master, and a 6 SS minion to lead you the rest of the way. Now, that would take some horrifically poor luck, but it's not impossible, and the fact that a 25 SS crew is going to have a pretty low model count means you can be pretty vulnerable to things going that way in a hurry. There is, however, a mechanism built in to correct for this by giving you a refund in "Guild Scrip" or the cash to buy new minions, based on the relative sizes of your crews. I would feel better if there was a way to buy a new Master if you lose yours, but cest la vi, it's a game and we'll see what happens.

So, since this thing is firing up, it's time for me to think about who I'm going to use for this campaign. As a henchman I generally try to do what I can to improve diversity in leagues, so I tried to get a feel for what others were going to bring out for this shin dig. Two players were running a practice/warm-up game for it and were playing Neverborn on Neverborn, so that crossed my most familiar faction off of the list (drat.) Another player was leaning towards running McCabe as Guild, so there went my first love, Perdita (double drat.) No one is currently planning on playing Resurrectionists, but my biggest crew in the Ressers is Kirai and some folks pointed out to me (rightly so) that your typical Kirai crew is going to behave rather strangely in this format, since you're only going to have Kirai and the Lost Love survive most games, and boosting them up would be moderately pointless (relic hammer for Kirai! Woo!) So this leaves me with Collette, an interesting crew that I don't know that well, and....Ten Thunders.

A bit of back story. When Storm of Shadows (Malifaux Book 4) came out, I was excited by the new models but not over the moon about the Asian faction. I don't know why, exactly. It's just not one of the themes that has ever really tripped my trigger, despite the fact that I've developed (what I think is) a relatively good method of creating bamboo bases on the cheap using spaghetti. As such, early purchases for me in the book 4 era involved getting Lynch (woo Neverborn) and McCabe. Then, during the Winter organized play event, I needed to play a game with a different faction and picked up the Ten Thunders with McCabe as master to play against a Misaki led crew. And...Misaki gutted McCabe turn one, and then I spent the game playing movement tricks and blowing things right the hell up with my TT Archer...and discovered how sick the crew can be. Then, shrouded in secrecy, I went out to go purchase the Misaki boxed set and assembled it. 

If you look closely at the painted crew, you can actually see the drops of shame mixed in with the paint. 

As such, I'm going to give the 10T a run (I'm trying out all the abbreviations to see which one I like. It isn't that one.) If nothing else, I'll want to get some practice and learn all I can to prep for Gencon tournaments and what-not. My initial list will look like this:

Ten Thunders Campaign Crew 
Ten Thunders Archer

My rationalization is that, if you're playing a TT crew, you are doing so to include Torekages and do the Tore-flop, so you need at least one ninja-guy. The Archers are maybe one of my favorite parts of this crew, as they flat-out kill things dead, so one of them is going in. I want to test Shang to know whether I feel he's worth the points, so in he goes, and Yamaziko adds some much-needed healing and area-denial to the crew that should help out in missions and preventing loss to attrition during the course of the campaign. My concern is that, typically, a crew will include a hitter minion to back up Misaki, but at 25 SS you have to make some cuts, and I think this is the best way to go for a crew in a campaign format. Misaki will just have to carry the water on her own. 

I'll be updating this as the campaign moves along, to allow for reflection and analysis on my strategy and campaigns in general.