Friday, July 19, 2013

I want to set that guy on fire. But I want to do it from over here.

It was a Saturday, and one of the rare times when my friend Jon managed to make the trek up to Lincoln for a game of Malifaux with me. I had been watching a match-up of Nicodem v. Ortega crew, and when I say watching, I mean trying to keep the two players from throwing down with each other in real life (seriously, if you heard their audio track alone you’d have thought that both players were somehow managing to lose the game and draw nothing but 3’s or lower while their opponent was tabling them.) Jon’s been a Sonnia player since he got tired of having to relearn Leviticus every few months back when he was getting FAQ’d pretty regularly, so I decided to go with some Neverborn action. As Jon had played very few M2E games, I went for Jacob Lynch, who I had heretofore not had any games with and who I had been itching to get out onto the tabletop (being a long time CCG player, clearly a master that lets you customize your hand to the level he does should result in me winning automatically. Right?) We lined our crews up. I advanced with an Illuminated and some Beckoners, confident that I would be spending a good portion of the game drawing enemy models across the board to me with Lure before mauling them to death with the Hungering Darkness. And then Sonnia went, and a third of my crew blew up. On the first turn of the game.

Jon and I exchanged a “holy crap, did that just happen?” look over the board.

And thus began what, I have a feeling, will be a rather lengthy love affair between myself and the Guild’s favorite Flamethrower (which, of course, is the source of the bastardized George Carlin quote titling this post.) I’m just going to put it out there. Sonnia blows things up in M2E. Like, a lot. She ditches 2 cards or a soulstone and pushers her cast up to a 9, which essentially guarantees at least a 2 point advantage over the highest unmodified defense stats IN THE GAME. This was a decent ability in M1.5. It is incredibly strong in M2E where the new soulstone rules prevent masters from pushing their defenses over top of the casting total. This would be a pretty decent boost in and of itself, but you pair that up with her primary flame spell being range 14 now, and you have a recipe for the rapid death of any models that have the temerity to leave their deployment zone at any point in the game. Pair this up with the fact that any enemy model which dies with the burning condition within 10 inches of her (I’ll say it again, ANY enemy model that dies within 10,) can be turned into a free Witchling for the low-low cost of 2 cards from hand or one soulstone, and you’ve got some upgrades for the master that I very much favor. The burning condition is now much more ubiquitous in the crew (in that it didn’t exist when Sonnia was initially designed.) Sonnia is now able to hand out burning with a tome trigger on her spells (something else to use soulstones for? I’m not going to end many games with these left over, I have a feeling), and as another bonus gets to ignore line of site when casting at things that have burning.

Maybe this whole “bonding with Cherufe” thing isn’t so bad, after all.

 A tome trigger isn’t exactly the most reliable way to spread the gift of flame to the enemy, and this is where the rest of the crew comes into play. Witchlings in the previous edition of the game were the most efficient expenditure of points possible, bar none. This, I have to say, is no longer the case. At five stones they are still very cheap minions, but they have none of the resilience that they possessed in the previous iteration. What they’ve picked up in exchange is a Drawn to Pain trigger on masks that allows them, after they lose the resist flip on an attack but before they take damage, to push four inches directly towards the thing that attacked them. Unfortunately, their explosion now packs slightly less punch, doing only one wound. Their pistols don’t do that much damage, and they only have the disrupt magic ability if you buy it as an upgrade for one of the higher ranking members of the crew. The reason you want them is the fact that every time they damage a model on the board, they give that model the burning condition. Translation: their job is to go set things on fire so Sonnia no longer needs line of site to them and can make them explode from far away. Even in death they can accomplish this job, and as such I’ve been playing a bit fast and reckless with them, trying to get as close as possible as rapidly as possible to ensure the burning gets passed out. They also make lovely targets for dropping blasts at the enemy, obviously, though the one time I tried this in a playtest game the Witchling flipped amazingly while Sonnia flipped poor, resulting in no blast. They have retained dispel magic, which in my opinion becomes even more potent in this iteration of the game, given the focus on passing out conditions around the board. In summation, the witchlings are what they were likely intended to be from the outset, very cheap minions that set up the board for Sonnia to obliterate it.

Sam Hopkins, however, has not blown me away in the playtests I’ve seen thus far. I think he would have been more effective at his job had he been designed to help set up more burning on the field, but instead gains a number of bonuses against burning targets similar to Sonnia, IE ignoring line of sight and doing extra damage with his attacks against them. He can purchase an upgrade which will allow him to burn a target if it is within 1” of terrain, which I think is situational at best. The model’s biggest problem is probably the lack of anything to keep him alive outside of his unimpeded, meaning he’s going to be in deep terrain when you see him on the board. I’m not ruling out using him, particularly if you’re going to need someone to load the Witchling disrupt magic upgrade onto, but I’m not blown away either, particularly when compared to the incredibly stout Francisco Ortega at the same point value. Which leaves us with an interesting quandary: I’m leaning towards building a crew that can set up Sonnia to burn things most efficiently, but I want to do so without leaning the crew so hard in that direction that they’re going to be screwed if anything happens to her. How can we add some more hitting power in that will play nice with the theme we’ve built into the crew.

This is a flammenwerfer. It werfs flammen.

Ignores blasts. Puts burning on anything it damages. 10 range. Armor 1 (2 if you buy him a lead-lined coat). And when it dies it blows up and sets things on fire. So, a bigger witchling stalker? Yes, please! I’m a bit low on melee in this crew, but it occurs to me that a wall of Witchlings backed by a Friekorps specialist and Sonnia is going to be a hell of a deterrent when it comes to models moving in close. The little guys still retain the very decent melee attacks they possessed in their old form, so melee with them is still a bit of a dicey proposition. Plus, there’s nothing stopping this crew from adding in Francisco or some other melee guy to hold the enemy combatants up, especially as he can add in some needed speed with his positioning goodness.

So, in conclusion, I’m looking forward to spending a lot of M2E time setting things on fire for fun and profit. Sonnia was never a master that jumped out of the page at me previously, but she’s definitely caught my eye now. I had actually just picked her up in a silent auction before the start of the open beta, which I now have to look at as a form of kismet.

Now, to go learn how to paint flame effects.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Nephilim House Call: Dr. McMourning v. Lilith in a Dustup and a Word About Henching

So, yet another battle report. I promise there will be other content on this blog eventually…

Standard Deployment
Strategy: Reckoning 
Scheme Pool: Line in the Sand, Bodyguard, Breakthrough, Frame for Murder, Deliver the Message
7-3 For McMourning

Guild McMourning-On the Clock, Badge of Office
Sebastian-Lead lined coat
Zombie Chihuahua
Frame for Murder: Sebastian (0)
Bodyguard (3)
Reckoning (4)

Lilith-Thirsty Mandrake and Transfixing Gaze
3x Tots
Mature Nephilim
Primordial Magic
Frame for Murder: One of the Terror Tots (3)
Line in the Sand (0)
Reckoning (0)

First off, let me throw out a plug for Lazyfaux, a web based tool that will do all the flips to generate your strategy, deployment, and scheme pool all in one go with the reference information available for you to use. This is a great resource that I used through the iPod touch to set up this game quickly. Very good stuff.

The board was set up with lots of trees and forests (wanted Lilith to feel at home, I suppose.) I had come in for a quick game of Malifaux 2E to continue my process of repeatedly slamming my head into the Pandora wall and come away unimpressed, but found that only a Lilith player who had yet to playtest much of the M2E rules was available as an opponent. Since I had taken the time to drive out, I decided this would be a good time to do some unofficial Henchmanning and run a quick demo. In retrospect, this crew may have been a bit harsh for that, as we will see shortly.

The game initially consisted of the player fanning out the crew in a line, sort of telegraphing the fact that Line in the Sand was one of her schemes. I decided to group up in the center and let the Tots sprint to try and set up for a cheap kill with the Executioner. The dog nipped at Sebastian a bunch and then farted on him to get him poisoned up (I didn’t realize until later that Catalyst just says “models,” so some of my work to poison him went to waste as Seb ticked before he could move.) Opponent helped out by sprinting her tots up into range for McM to give Fat Wolverine an injection and send him rocketing up, whereupon he charged and slaughtered the tot. Good times, good times. Lilith activated next, however, which she used to walk up and use transfixing gaze to pull the Executioner into melee. Drat. The plan this game was to have Lilith kill Sebastian (Frame for Murder) while the Executioner ran free to go gut people and survived with Bodyguard. It became apparent fast that, instead, I was going to have the opposite outcome unless I found a way to get the big man away from Mama Monster.

This is where we discover, first hand, the power of the Nurse in M2E. Since the Executioner was already in melee, she could simply walk up, dose the big guy with Hallucinogens, and then trigger him to activate with Accomplice. It was with a growing sense of awe and horror that I realized, in doing this, I had given the Executioner a damage spread along the lines of 7/8/9 when he hits double critical strike. Good lord. Two not even that impressive hits later, and Lilith is dead and the Henchman angel on my shoulder is thoroughly berating me for stomping on somebody for whom I’m supposed to be running a demo.


Ah well. Sebastian toddled off to go deal with some Tots who were laying dynamite markers, leading to one of them running away from him with sprint. Baldy did manage to finally do a bit of damage this game, as he had managed to poison one of the tots prior to their activation (at which point the Tot dies due to Catalyst+Induction.) So…that’s something I guess. The Mature Neph managed to carve some large-ish pieces out of the Executioner with a charge, but the Nurse could simply heal him back to full while McMourning counter-charged and put some hurt on the M. Neph. The doc took a moment to chop down a tot who was fleeing past him, at which point I realized I was an idiot when she revealed he had “Frame for Murder” on him. Oh well, no shut-out today. In any case, the game turned to mop-up after that, and we called it at the end of turn 3.

So to sum up. Executioner+Nurse=good. Sebastian=Well, he does make poison tick faster…so I guess that’s something. Given that I was supposed to be demoing the game, however, perhaps I shouldn’t comment on his henching abilities.

This perhaps leads to some musings on the role of “Henchman” for Wyrd, as I’ve experienced it. For the uninitiated, the Henchman Program is a means by which everyone’s favorite miniature company recruits volunteers to spearhead local tournament and event organization and promote the games in local areas. I’ve been one for three years now, and for the most part I’ve enjoyed my time. My tenure to this point is actually a point of pride for me, as completing my dissertation and cooperating with locals who have all assured me that they were interested in becoming Henchmen themselves and taking over with their own events could easily have led to me stepping back from the role. However, due in part to this being the best way for me to consistently find time to be involved in the hobby and the fact that I enjoy volunteering with Wyrd at Gencon, I’ve managed to hang in there and keep the cards under my forum name.

That said, I am not a fantastic henchman. I am not a rules encyclopedia, and when people come up to me asking for a clarification I more often than not end up having to dig out the rules manual with them and look it up. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was a competitive gamer who played in national events and came within a game of competing in the world championship for the WWE Raw Deal collectible card game (seriously.) Part of me still remembers the old days, and can get...let's go with "upset" when a run of bad luck ruins what should otherwise have been the proper strategy for the game. On a perhaps related note, I occasionally tend to hit opponents a bit harder than I mean to when running demos for them (as demonstrated above, though, in my defense, she did say afterward that she had fun. Stop judging me.) Nothing makes me happier than when an odd number of people show up to play in an event, because the single-most frustrating part of the job is that I take the effort and time to put together a tournament in which I am, then, unable to participate. It’s a personal gripe and it was something I knew about going in, but it is a thing for me nonetheless.

I do, however, find the job to be on the whole extremely rewarding. Developing a positive reputation has definitely put a bit more “Friendly” into the Friendly Local Game Store than I had previously. I’m greeted when I walk through the door. Much as I often don’t know the answer, I do enjoy when players come wandering over to try and get a rules clarification or to get my opinion on crew building or mechanical synergy. It definitely makes me smile when customers in the store have questions about Wyrd products and the store owners send them my way for answers, both because I know I’m doing my part to support the company, but also because I know how much of a strain it has to be to keep said FLGS open and in business.

I really can’t overstate how amazing the environment is at Gauntlet Games, with the majority of the floor space devoted purely to gaming and a full stock of organized events and high-quality product available at all times for purchase. I’ve spent a lot of times in comic book stores that make a vague pittance towards gaming. One was literally in the basement of a building in Omaha’s Old Market with a couple of card tables and no actual product outside of what we could order direct from them. Gauntlet is actually owned by a partnership and staffed by knowledgeable, friendly people who are more than happy to just chat with you about whatever interests you. Once a year they conduct an open to the public silent auction called “Bring Out Your Lead,” wherein customers are permitted to bring in some of those models and kits that we all tend to accumulate (I might paint this someday…better pick it up…) and sell them off in the store for credit. They offer space for people to rent and store their models on site. They have an open painting area, and a library of board games which anybody can pull down and play. It’s everything that we wanted in a game store as larval geeks, even if we didn’t know it.

Gauntlet is a place that gets it, and it pleases me to no end to do what I can to support them. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fear and Loathing with the Ortega Family

I spent most of last week struggling with Pandora, trying to get my head wrapped about what she is supposed to do in games now, with limited success. Wrabbit37 expressed some views on how this should work now, and I’ve adopted some of them, including the use of the Fears Given Form upgrade on both Pandora and Candy to essentially utilize their 3” melee bubbles to create zones of area denial around them, enabling some significant control and denial for your opponents. This happens at the expense of what the old crew did, which was pound WP attacks relentlessly to get the most out of Pandora’s Misery ability and the free wounds, which is a more-or-less inevitable adjustment for the current model as her 6 CA will struggle a bit going up against WP in a lot of cases. As such (and because I received my Evil Baby Orphanage Kickstarter reward models) I refocused the crew to test out some of this new stuff.
Given that the crew utilizes Self-Loathing and Fears Given Form upgrades extensively, it seems only logical for the crew name to continue to be…


Date of Rules 6/20
SS 35
Deployment Standard
Strategy Squatter's Rights
Scheme Pool LitS, Bodyguard, Protect Territory, Make them Suffer, Breakthrough
Game Time: 2 hrs.

Master 1 Pandora
VPs Strategy 3, Bodyguard 3, Make them Suffer (Announced) 0

Master 2 Perdita
VPs Strategy 1, Bodyguard 0, Protect Territory 0

Fear and Loathing Crew
Pandora (Fears Given Form, The Box Opens)
Candy (Fears Given Form)
Primordial Magic

So I’m playing against Guild (again) who know that I’m playing Pandora (again) and I get a very strong suspicion early on that I’m going to be getting Perdita, her family, and her ancestral Aura thrown at me (again). And sure enough…

Ortegas Crew
Perdita (Ancestral Aura, Vengeance Bullet)
Francisco (Armor 1, something else)
Santiago (Destreza Master)
Enslaved Nephilim

Ah well. I guess this is me paying penance for 1e Pandora…

Plans: Given my suspicions that it would be Ortegas coming for me, I knew they wouldn't have very many minions or peons, so “Make them Suffer” seemed like a logical choice. In retrospect, it's one that is probably best not to announce, as the opponent can hide their stuff from you (as happened in game) to deny you all 3 points. Basically, I was planning on taking one flank and castling up to make the opponent come dislodge me while I scored VPs every turn for Squatter’s Rights and Bodyguard. Of course, Perdita is playing Protect Territory, so she may just as likely castle up herself and we can sit on opposite ends of the board glaring at each other. I was gambling that wasn't going to happen, I suppose.

The Perdita player’s plan was fairly clever, in that she basically laid out a 4” equilateral triangle of scheme  markers in her half of the board for protect territory, which she could then score pretty easily assuming anyone was still alive. She misunderstood that you can’t call your leader for bodyguard, so on turn 3 she discovered that she was going to have to change plans, which ended up being a problem.

Game Synopsis

Turn 1 consisted of positioning and me remembering why we don’t put height 3 or taller terrain in deployment zones, as a vantage pointed Nino started off pecking at Teddy with a shot. 0-0

Turn 2 Santiago moved into melee with Teddy, both to get in close and to extend Nino’s disruption of Interact actions to lay over the top of both of my Squatter markers. Between Teddy and Kade we drop Santiago to his Hard to Kill. Francisco moves in with Face Me to push Santiago out to safety and take his place. Pandora tries to use the attack from the Box Opens, since it targets defense, to  minimal effect, before walking  so Candy won’t have to take the DF 14 duel from Fears given Form. Candy flips a squatter marker, moves, heals Teddy. ‘Dita drops some the three markers and flips a Squatter thing between her AP and the Nephilim (presumably he was interacing with Santiago or Francisco to do this. I don’t remember.) 0-0

Turn 3 ‘Dita Red Joker shoots the now exposed Pandora and then shoots her again. Pandora dies. Adam is sad. I console myself by killing Francisco and then flipping my second squatter marker. Santiago runs and flips another marker for the Ortegas. Teddy chases him, attempts to use Gobble You Up, and fails because it’s defended with WP and Santiago is an Ortega. Teddy walks into melee instead, accompanied by the sad Incredible Hulk hitch hiking music. Candy follows to console him (and get Santiago inside her engagement range.) End of turn I declare bodyguard on Candy. We discover that Perdita can’t be the target of bodyguard and, given that S. is going to die in a moment only Nino is a legal and/or wise target for it. As such, 2-1 is the score.

Turn 4 ‘Dita shoots some stuff. Kade offs Santiago. Teddy turns his attentions to Perdita and drops a Red Joker hug on her but doesn’t kill her. Nino tries to scramble down from terrain so he can get away from the deployment zone and score for Bodyguard. The Enslaved Neph runs away so I can’t kill it. Candy flips the enemy squatter marker to be friendly. 4-1

Turn 5 Dita relocates out of melee with Teddy. Shoots him some. Nino finishes him off. Baby team hunkers down. 6-1

Lessons Learned: This game had 3 different Red Joker damage flips, which makes judging things about what happened in the game tricky since there was a lot of flukiness. That said…frickin’ Pandora dies on turn 3?!?

 *expletive deleted*

Oh well, I had considered playing with Candy as a Henchman leading the crew, so I guess this was my chance. Teddy and Kade mauled the hell out of stuff in this game. I had underestimated the beating Kade can lay out when paired up with Teddy, especially if he hits that Sweetbreads trigger (4/5/8 damage spread? Good lord.) It’s always a little tricky to gauge what effect Candy has on the game, given that her most effective abilities rarely go off because the opponent will alter their activation order to avoid them (which is the idea behind the model) but she didn’t feel like she was all that involved in the game. The only casts she did all game were goody baskets to heal Teddy. Basically, her function in the crew outside of this was A) Don’t die and B) Flip Squatter markers. Admittedly, this won me the game, but it’s not as if no one else could have handled that job. I do think that the enemy crew being a ranged group probably played a part in this as well, as the enemy was much less likely to start in melee with me.

I have a hard time rationalizing why I would want Pandora over Lillith with the Fears Given Form and Thirsty Mandrake upgrades. You’re trading mobility, I suppose, but you have a much more balanced model who attacks at 7 and goes after defense, which is on average lower than WP. If you give her the transfixing gaze, you can pull enemies to you. Kade has Lure for some other tricky synergy. Basically you’re losing the ability to Incite into controlling models (which is huge, obviously) but that’s…kind of it, unless there’s something I’m missing here.

Aaaanyways, here’s some pictures of models I painted.

Baby Kade/Copycat Killer/Jack the Ripper

Candy/Student of Conflict/Lizzie Borden

Eric the Red/Desperate Mercenary

Teddy to come in the future. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fear and Loathing in the Badlands, Pandora v. Lillith 30SS

Quick game report detailing a Pandora v. Lillith game.

Rules 13/6/13
30 SS
Strategy: Squatter's Rights
Deployment: Flank
Scheme pool: Line in the sand, Distract, Breakthrough, Plant Explosives, Power Ritual

Crew 1: Pandora (Nexus, Box Opens, -Flip to WP upgrade, 4SS)
              2  Sorrow
              Primordial Magic

Strategy: 2 vp
Scheme 1 Breakthrough (announced) 1 vp
Scheme 2:Plant Explosives (announced) 0 vp

Crew 2: Lillith (Gaze, Sword upgrade, base cache)
             3 Tots
             Barbaros (Crushing upgrade thing)
             Primordial Magic

Strategy: 2 vps
Scheme 1: Breakthrough (announced) 3 vps
Scheme 2: Power Ritual 3 vps

8-3 to Lillith

Key Data from the game:
I was beaten essentially from crew construction here, as I was building a crew with the Doppleganger and Waldgeist with sorrows to try and castle the middle of the board and then break for the deployment zone at the end, figuring I could drop a marker for plant explosives and get points when the inevitable clash happened, while my opponent took the obvious synergy of breakthrough and power ritual and basically built a Tot, Barbaros, Lillith crew to scrambled for the corners with the tots while Lillith and Barbaros chopped through my crew in the center. Sprint did what it does here, with Power Ritual essentially completed at the end of the first turn. I was going to need some card help to even try to make this competitive, and I didn't get it. Barbaros and Pandora were on even card flips when she attacked him, which really didn't feel right (insert perpetual grumbling about Pandora's cast of 6 here). Barbaros stood in and weathered the whole crew for a turn, having one wound remaining but then pushing all my models off with his crash ability to slow me down from taking squatter tokens and then being saved by Lillith with Tangled Shadows to avoid Sorrow death. While I did manage to kill Lillith, she had ostensibly butchered all my sorrows, my waldgeist, and my doppleganger before I could get it done. In the end I had Pandora running but not able to drop a breakthrough marker and the Primordial Magic in the enemy deployment zone, counting for 1.

Pandora's crew needs a heavy hitter like Teddy, I think, as you really can't rely on her to kill things in any kind of timely manner. Gone are the days of just being able to trust that she's going to accomplish the things I send her to do at the beginning of the turn, which is partially me still adjusting to the new soulstone use rules and partially my continued frustration with her less than stellar CA. I was also hurt by the lack of ranged symbol on anything in Lillith's crew, as it meant using Pandora at range meant throwing the spell that needs two masks or the one that targets defense, neither of which were optimal since I was trying to play with a smaller SS pool and the Lillith crew has much higher defense than Willpower. Pair that up with an opponent who played very intelligently in managing Pandora's Terrifying by essentially ignoring her and attacking other things in Lillith's melee range and me playing on tilt for most of the game out of frustration (seriously, a hand of ace, four, four, eight, nine, and black joker on turn 2?), and you have the formula for a pretty one-sided match.

I did enjoy using the Doppelganger, though I don't know if it's really worth 7 stones. I do wish the model had instinctual, as the choice between using Mimic or her - flips ability basically means the difference between life and death for this model versus being able to actually play her as a Doppelganger and steal spells. Poor hands made the Initiative cheating essentially useless. Stealing misery loves company from a sorrow, however, made for some fun maneuverability, as I jumped up onto a tot who was guarding one of the squatter tokens and flipped it for my team, since she can do interacts while engaged.

Maybe I need to give Pandora  a break and try some of the other Neverborn masters while I gather my thoughts, as Zoraida would have undoubtedly been better at this scenario and Lillith demonstrated pretty effectively how much trouble she could cause in this one. I'm doing a lot of complaining in this when, bottom line, I was just out played in this game. A heavy swampfiend crew with Sillurids, Juju, and Big Z could have made for some amusing times, I'm thinking, and done a better job of chasing down those markers. More testing required, I suppose.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Malifaux 2nd Edition Beta Playtesting and Game Thoughts

I’ve begun playtesting Malifaux 2nd Edition, playing two games with the 6/7 rules set and one game from the most recent. I will try to keep these brief so that we aren’t here all day, and try to wrap up with some points on the matter.

Date of rules played 6/9/13
SS Amount 40
Deployment Type Standard
Strategy Reconnoiter
Available Schemes Assassinate, Line in the Sand, Cursed Object, Breakthrough, Capture

Master 1 McMourning (Guild)
Scheme 1 Line in the Sand
Scheme 2 Cursed Object
VPs earned, Reconnoiter 1, Line in the Sand 3, Cursed Object 0

Master 2 Sonnia
Scheme 1 Line in the Sand (Hidden)
Scheme 2 Cursed Object
VPs earned, Reconnoiter 4, Line in the Sand 2, Cursed Object 0

Additional optional information:
Time it took to complete the game 90 Minutes
Crew compositions 
McMourning (The three mcmourning guild upgrades) , Sebastian (Lead-Lined Jacket), Zombie Chihuahua, 2 Nurses, Death Marshal

Thoughts on the game
Key Turn(s) in the game

Turn 2 Sonnia was whittled down nearly to nothing between McMourning and Sebastian, Sebastian's catalyst was going to finish her off, due to initiative lined it up so McMourning would push out of 6 damage blast but blast kills Sebastian, Witchling, and a Death Marshal. Was in good shape at this point and was going to weather a rapid-fire from Sam Hopkins the next turn, but a red joker damage flip kills McM and leaves me playing for schemes.

Date of rules played 6/12/13
SS Amount 40
Deployment Type Flank
Strategy Reckoning
Available Schemes Line in the Sand, Distract, Entourage, 

Master 1 Pandora 
Scheme 1 Distract (Hidden)
Scheme 2 Entourage (Revealed)
VPs earned Reckoning 0 Distract 2 Entourage 0

Master 2 Perdita 
Scheme 1 Line in the Sand
Scheme 2 Entourage (Revealed)
VPs earned, Reckoning 1, Line in the Sand 3, Entourage 3

Additional optional information:
Time it took to complete the game 2 Hours (playing against someone relatively inexperienced with M2E stuff.

Thoughts on the game
-Ancestral Aura was key for Perdita. I spent most of the game dancing around a 4 Ortega bubble, trying to lure them out or find a way to do any damage. Pandora's AOE spell on the four of them failed to do any wounds twice in a row. 
-Was playing on a board with not enough area terrain to prevent Ortega shooting advantage. Candy was getting plinked by Nino on turn one. Burned through most of our soulstones turn one, rest on turn 2. Candy dead before anything could really happen on turn2.
-Sorrows were good! Admittedly, opponent seemed more concerned about Pandora but more than once it took some fancy footwork to avoid Francisco dying when activating. 8" move is very good. Was how I put distract up.

Rules: 6/13

Deployment: Flank
Strategy: Turf War
Schemes: Bodyguard, Plant Explosives, Breakthrough, Entourage

Line in the Sand (Announced), Plant Explosives 
VPS 7 (4 from Turf War, 3 from Plant Explosives)

Somer Teeth
Line in the Sand (Announced), Bodyguard
VPs 5 (2 from Turf War, 1 from Bodyguard, 2 from Line in the Sand)

Thoughts on the game
Mcmourning-Badge, On the Clock, Plant Evidence
Francisco-Wade In, Healing
Sebastian-Lead Lined Coat
Witchling Stalker
2 Austringers

Somer with Can O' Beans, Quality Mash, Family Tree, and a soulstone cache of 6
Lenny with I'll Love It and Pet It
4 bayou gremlins
2 mosquitos
1 hog whisperer
3 piglets

Key Turn(s) in the game
My witchling did very little in the game, as I underestimated the long range bayou gremlins now have and he was shot to death on the first couple turns. I did, however, enjoy the drawn to pain trigger as a means of running them into the enemy before they blow up. Nurse ended up tied up by a skeeter. Austringers owned this game, as no shooting symbols and long ranges with no LoS meant they could peck the enemy crew to death from the other end of the board, while engaged, with almost no effort. Skeeter farts are resisted with WP for some reason, and they have 7WP to resist. Legit, possibly too good. Sebastian was ok, but again I was not overwhelmed by his contributions. I was denied turning the enemy’s scheme markers into my own to accomplish Line in the Sand by getting caught by disengaging strikes from Somer and the gremlin player accidentally putting one of their markers off of the center line, meaning after I flipped it to friendly it still didn’t give me two markers. Also, Francisco tanked three piglets and the hog whisperer all on his own. Francisco is also very legit.

Malifaux 2.0 So Far
I’ve been trying to play McMourning since I just completed my own Mad Doctor’s degree and, as such, it’s a way to live vicariously in the troublesome world of Malifaux. What this is doing to me now, however, is making it so I’m playing with a very different character every week. I’m supposed to be staying out of melee with him, I’m told, and use him as a support master…yeah, that hasn’t happened so far. He doesn’t lay the beatings out like he used to, but I needed to get him up into the enemy’s face to get the mission done in both games. I think having the Badge of Office may have changed the first game with Jon’s ultimate result, as I could throw that red joker shot down to 1 and then dash up and cut Sam to pieces. I’m almost to the point of just throwing out the Poison mechanic as something I’m even going to bother with at this point, as even with catalyst I’m not seeing enough damage go by to actually make it worthwhile. That said, I haven’t really gotten the chance to see it shine yet, and Sebastian’s ability to make it tick for 3 damage a click might make a difference (it didn’t happen that way in the third game, as yet again Sebastian was pummeled to death early and stupid Lenny is immune to conditions, so no poison.) I can see the viability in the nurses and I’ve done some cool things with them, but it just hasn’t fallen together in the games I’ve played with her so far. More meaningful testing will be required before I can really make a conclusion there.

Pandora was a real mixed bag of a game. First of all, I was in the worst case scenario as I was going up against a Perdita opponent who KNEW I WAS PLAYING PANDORA. As such, I have the Ancestral Aura upgrade, which is mediocre when you don’t know who you have to play against, making the enemy Ortegas all at least a WP of 7, meaning I’m running uphill from the word go and would find myself at various points in the game failing to successfully cast anything during certain turns of the game (I did her AoE spell twice in a row hitting all four non-explosive Ortegas, along with an Incite, and the enemy failed no WP duels.) Pair that up with playing on a forested board with not a ton of area cover to protect my crew from shooting and flank deployment where the Ortegas will be shooting at us on turn one, and we have a formula for trouble. This is confirmed when Nino and Perdita are shooting Candy immediately and she is dead at the beginning of turn 2. That said, I still came within a breath of pulling this thing off, with Santiago pulling Francisco out of 2 Sorrows’ grasp that would have killed him upon activation on Turn 3. The Neverborn upgrade where they heal with soulstone use would have been pretty clutch in this game, but I put it on Candy instead of Pandora since I was unaware that auras now affect the model emitting them. Whoops, lesson learned for next time. Sorrows were a rather pleasant surprise in this game, as their Misery Loves Company gives them some impressive mobility, particularly paired with Distract. The real key to this crew seems to really be controlling enemy activations, a lesson I didn’t exactly glom onto until I was about halfway into the game. I didn’t want to be the ambush guy and take over Francisco with Candy and, so, allowed the player to finish their activation and was going to explain the rules for that afterwards. This, of course, didn’t happen since Francisco and Perdita then companion chained to kill Candy. Oh well, another lesson learned. This game was also when I discovered the real potency Francisco brings to the game, between his additional mobility granted to the crew, his difficulty in killing, and the passing out of defenses to the crew. Very, very impressive model now, and very nearly an auto-include for most Guild crews I would have to think.  

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.