Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Misaki Switch

Just a couple of quick mini-muses today, as it’s been a bit since I trashed Tara and got the most pageviews and comments of any blog post I’ve ever done (this is an unfortunate message that you’re sending me, internet world.) Fortunately today’s work is going to be somewhat more positive.

One of the significant differences between the previous iteration of the game and current Malifaux was the introduction of the upgrade system as a means of adding complexity to crew selection and allow people who are playing the same masters to come up with completely different looking and feeling crews on the tabletop. The promise of this comes in the form of very different upgrade packages, particularly upgrade cards with the “Limited” designation. I think the general consensus is that the success of this effort has been mixed. On one hand, there are masters who very clearly have a couple of different modes of action depending on their upgrade suite. Seamus jumps out as probably the marquis example, as selecting between his two limited upgrades (I’m at work, so can’t look the names up at the moment) results in a master who either focuses on terrifying and more of the ranged aspect or transforms nto a full-on melee beast by adding the Bag o’ Tricks (discussed well on the most recent Cheated Fates Radio). On the other hand, other masters don’t really seem to have this. I like Sonnia, but in my opinion there are only a handful of upgrades that are worth taking on her, and I don’t think any of them significantly alter what you’re doing with her on the board (namely, standing back and blowing enemy models right the hell up.) When I was doing crew construction for the game mentioned in my last post, it occurred to me that Misaki seems to me to be a fine example of the upgrade system working the way it is supposed to work, giving you an ability to build two very distinctly flavored crews depending on which of her two limited upgrades you attach during the pre-game.

The “Typical” Build

This crew is the much more aggressive of the two builds, and it seems to be the one that I see most often in discussions of how to play Misaki, namely an attack oriented, aggressive build focused around attacking with Misaki and tearing up the enemy crew. The reasons for this are pretty obvious, as Misaki’s high combat rating, long melee range, and good defenses (particularly after burning out her soulstone reserve) make her very well suited either for minion sniping or going after Assassination targets. The upgrade you use for this is the Stalking Bisento, giving her the ability to, as a 0 action, attach the “Stalked” condition to any model in line of site. The now unfortunately “stalked” model triggers a move from Misaki every time they take a walk action and, on subsequent turns, will allow Misaki to use her Bisento attack action as a 0 action against it. This makes an already very aggressive master even more dangerous. I enjoyed Mike Marshall’s discussion of how to run versions of this on this week’s Malifools podcast, particularly the combination of recalled training and utilizing Misaki to go attack the enemy leaders and basically just tie them up during the game, freeing the rest of the crew to go claim objectives, kill enemy minions, and do other things that generally result in winning the game. Currently, my agro Misaki build looks a little something like this:

50SS Aggressive Build

Misaki-Stalking Bisento, Recalled Training, Misdirection, 3(ish) SS
Torekage x2
Ototo (or Yamaziko, your henchman of choice can be here)-Smoke and Shadows, Recalled Training
Ten Thunders Archer
Dawn Serpent

This crew has a couple of effective hitters outside of the master. Ototo and the Dawn Serpent can chew through most of what your opponent brings for minions. The archer can back up either Misaki or the other hitters since they can fire into melee. Dawn Serpent is one I haven’t had a chance to use and could be subbed out for Ronin, particularly if you think you’re going to be up against an armor heavy crew.

The Switch Build

On the other hand, it occurred to me that you could build a very effective defensive build with Misaki by utilizing the other limited upgrade, Disguise. This upgrade makes it so that Misaki can’t be made the target of a charge action. I would pair this particular upgrade with another, Untouchable, which lets her use the defensive stance action without discarding a card. This becomes particularly rude when you activate her Deadly Dance ability, leaving you in a situation where you can engage enemy models with 1” melee ranges while denying them the ability to hit you back, since you can dance away before they can make a strike against you. Thus, you now have traded some of her melee ability to create a soft control model that is extremely difficult to get away from and could potentially be very disruptive to the enemy force. I went on to build a theory-faux crew to go with this that is much more objective oriented than the previous:

50SS Misaki In Disguise…with Glasses

Misaki-Untouchable, Disguised, Misdirection, 6(ish)SS
Yamaziko-Smoke and Shadows, Recalled Training
3x Torekage
2x Oiran
Monk of the Low River

I’m not sure this crew could really kill anything (at all), but I have to think it would be damned annoying to the opposing crew and quite good at objective based scenarios. I like using Yamaziko’s Brace Yari ability to fend off opposing chargers. The Torekage can get a ton of movement out of burying for Smoke and Shadows first turn and then either popping out of Misaki or Yamaziko at the end of the turn, leaving them free to walk out of melee and not be subjected to disengaging strikes. I’m not amazed with the Monk of the Low River, but being able to remove conditions is huge and he’s cheap and resilient, so he matches fairly well with the crew. It’s a very passive crew, to be sure, but I’d be interested to see how it would actually do on the tabletop. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Raw Deal, Card Access, and My Concerns About Tara

To begin with, today marks a rebranding of my Malifaux blog to reflect my new job and location in the eastern part of these United States. I’ve accepted a position as a postdoctorate student in Blacksburg, VA (before you ask, no, I don’t know what a Hokie is) and as such this place could hardly be considered “Midwestern” anymore. Therefore, to keep the alliteration intact, the committee (me) have voted to rechristen the site Midatlantic Malifaux Musings. Even though I Blacksburg isn’t on the coast.

What do you want from me? This isn’t a geography blog.

Anyways, what better way to start things off than with a quick battle report that led to some further musings on my part. My Gencon order arrived promptly last week (thanks to EricJ for leaking that the webstore was open on his twitter, I snuck my order through the gate almost as soon as it became available to do so.) Thus armed with shiny new cards, a rulebook, and knowledge that I was moving at the end of the week, I went back to the old game store for one last Malifaux hurrah on the way out the door. I played Nick, who hadn’t done a lot of Beta M2E playing, so I thought this was a fine opportunity to try out some of the Misaki stuff I’d looked at but not had a chance to play. I was even more excited when he broke out Outcast Tara, as it would give me an opportunity to see the new hotness in person.

Misaki vs. Tara, 40SS Reckoning
Misaki-Stalking Bisento, Misdirection, 6SS
Ototo-Thundering Upgrade
Yamaziko-Smoke and Shadows
Schemes: Vendetta (Ototo on Nothing Beast) and Bodyguard (Yamaziko)

Nothing Beast
3xVoid Wretches
Some upgrade cards and soulstones (your guess is as good as mine, I wasn’t paying attention)

Schemes: Entourage and Vendetta (Void Wretch on Archer)

The game started out with me advancing in a turtle cluster that was shielded by some terrain and some Misaki deployed Smoke Bombs while the Tara crew came at us in two groups, the NB, Tara, and Karina on one side and the wretches and Taelor from the other. Misaki buried herself after the smoke bombs and popped out in the midst of the Taelor/Void Wretch pack of dudes. I had a plan here, despite how suicidal this appeared.

Tara starts the second turn pinging off of Misaki to make her whole crew fast, pitching three cards. Misaki discovered how difficult it is to kill incorporeal things but dropped one Void Wretch, damaged Taelor, and repositioned a bit. Taelor came up at this point and attempted to smoosh her, only to discover that while Nick thought it was funny that I was voluntary going to let him discard cards with the Misdirection upgrade, it was less funny when I was SSing in masks to make Taelor beat on her own models instead (more on this later.) On the other hand, Yamaziko was getting hit a bunch by the rest of Nick’s crew walking politely up and taking one attack, as brace Yari is a very good ability, particularly when the opponent has no blasts to force you not to castle up. The Nothing Beast came up and did some damage, allowing me to charge Ototo into him and score 1 for Vendetta. Alas, my rush of victory was short lived as the NB then proceeded to bury him in response. Karina rubbed salt in the wound by setting him on fire.

Somewhere in the void, Ototo got angry.

Misaki was feeling slightly outnumbered next turn, so I went ahead and killed the Nothing Beast to get Ototo back on the board and even the odds. She popped another Void Wretch, I believe, to score from Reckoning this turn. Taelor introduced the Torekage to her hammer with a red joker damage flip, and Tara killed Yamaziko scoring for Nick. I now saw another concern with Tara, as Nick was unable at this point to use her “make everything fast” ability, as it would have sped up my whole crew as well. Ototo came out and was in angry mode, smashing hard into Taelor.

I discovered that Ototo’s laugh off ability has the side-effect of also allowing you to flip 12+ cards whenever Tara attempts to bury him, so long as you laugh like a jackass while flipping the cards (I’m sure it’s in an errata somewhere, as this is how it worked the rest of the game.) The remaining Void Wretch peeled off to go eat my archer. Between turn 4 and 5 this would score 3 for Nick from Vendetta. However, Misaki and the enraged Ototo proceeded to mulch the rest of the Tara crew, leading to a 5-4 win in my final game of Malifaux in the old stomping grounds over one of the area’s best players, albeit one who had not really played any M2E.

Shut up. It counts.

The Trouble With Tara

Once upon a time, a younger version of myself played a CCG based on the WWE franchise known as Raw Deal. (Stop judging me. I got to go to Wrestlemania one year for free because my team was playing in the World Championship.) Anyway, this game involved players building 60 card decks of maneuvers, reversals, and actions cards representing a match between the two wrestlers you were basing your deck around. Each WWE Superstar had a different hand size and special ability that in some way reflected their ring presence. From the beginning, it was obvious that the cards in hand were a potent resource, as HHH effectively had no special ability outside of having a ten card hand size and was still one of the most effective characters in the game. At this point in time, nobody was really dominant, but HHH and a handful of other superstars proved themselves consistently to be strong. All of that changed, however, when the Backlash expansion came out, introducing the Right to Censor (bonus points if you’re enough of a WWE nerd to remember them) into the game and I made the fateful decision to persuade my friend Bryan Witte, who had absolutely no interest in wrestling whatsoever, to try the game.

The world of Raw Deal would literally never be the same.

Feel the Charisma

Bryan came from Magic: The Gathering. He was a blue player, and delighted in combo/denial style decks. In a way, Bryan was similar to what Eric J. described as “that guy” in one of his recent blog posts, though not necessarily for the negative connotations implied by that title. In his spare time, he liked to pick up other CCG’s that were still in their first iterations and deconstruct them to find the strategy that inevitably broke the game (you didn’t even want to try and play him at Pokemon back in the day.) This wasn’t done out of malice so much as just enjoying the intellectual challenge of trying to find the most reliable ways to win at contests that interested him. It should have been no surprise, then, that when I suggested he try this silly wrestling game since there was a denial style deck I thought would match up well with his interests, he would jump at it and eventually end up changing the game forever. Fast forward a couple of years, and Bryan had thrown out most of the cards I suggested in the first RTC deck, redesigned it and made it into an unstoppable force that would lead him to become the 2003 World Raw Deal Champion, and in doing so demonstrating to me one of the undeniable tenants of CCG’s: the power of card access.

Here’s a picture of the card he got to design for being champion. Bryan’s the dude getting punched.

The reason Bryan’s deck was so unstoppable had nothing to do with the RTC’s strong reversal cards, as countless other WWE characters had arguably as good if not stronger specifics available to them. It was all about the card access. The RTC started with a not-insignificant hand size of 8 after boosting it in the pre-game phase, but more importantly were able to, once per turn, put the cards in their hand in any order, place them on the bottom of their deck, and redraw the same number off of the top. Most people underestimated the significance of this. First of all, it let Bryan see usually about 1/5th of the deck per turn. More importantly, however, it meant that, usually by the seventh turn of the game or so, Bryan now knew where and in what order all of the cards in his deck were, giving him a HUGE advantage in the subsequent rounds. This level of card access was completely unmatched in the game, but it underscored a point that became more and more obvious as time went on: the strongest Superstarts to play as in Raw Deal invariably consisted of those that had the best card access. Whether it was the Undertaker being able to ditch 2 from his hand to grab any one card from the discard pile (an ability which got stronger as the game went on, since “damage” in Raw Deal was represented by cards milling out of your deck) or JBL’s 12 hand-size and ability to hide any 2 cards from his deck inside of his limousine before the match


card access was king. Eventually, I realized that the same principles were true for other CCG’s, as most of Bryan’s strategies to break other card games revolved around getting access to as many cards from his deck as he possibly could. Today, Malifaux is an interesting hybrid of card game and table-top miniatures strategy game, and I’ve often found that, to one degree or another, this rule also applies here. There’s a reason nearly every Neverborn crew in 1.5 used the Primordial Magic totem if able to, since it increased your card access by pushing up the maximum hand size.

And all of this, ladies and germs, is why I have some serious reservations about Tara.

Say what, now? 

For the uninitiated, Tara has a suite of abilities between herself and her crew that encourage her players to shrink their control hand every turn. Namely, she ditches three from her hand to grant fast to everybody within 6” of her and the defense stats of her Nothing Beast and Void Wretches shrink dramatically based on how many cards Tara is holding. In exchange for this, she gets massive bonuses. Fast to her whole crew for 1 AP out of a potential 7 that Tara will be using during the turn is huge. Her beasts get massive bonuses when attacking other fast things (there will be at least one fast enemy model, as you have to include one to cast it on her crew.) She can bury and unbury friendly models nearly at will with the right upgrades, giving her 1.5 Dreamer-esque mobility. Her crew hits hard; moves fast; can be pretty survivable with the incorporeal, high base defenses on her minions, and her ranged defense trigger; and can perform equally well in objective based as well as kill-y strategies. On paper, she is a very, very strong crew that has titillated a lot of the best and brightest players in the Malifaux community, and with good reason.

I’m just not buying it.

Don’t get me wrong, I bought the box set and I’ll probably play her in fun games, but I have some serious reservations about a crew whose abilities encourage players to hamstring themselves in this manner, particularly when it comes to competitive play. One of the selling points for Malifaux is the ability to take one’s fate in one’s own hand by having a hand of cards with which we can modify the card flips which determine interactions in the game. No more would be the days when your Khorne Berzerker marine squad charges a lone Imperial Guard platoon, only to roll a pack of 1’s and lose the game on the critical turn. Without this resource, we are now subject to the vagaries of the chance, and despite what Yu-Gi-Oh! may teach us, sometimes you are going to get hosed whether or not you believe in the heart of the cards.

The flip side to the strong superstars in Raw Deal were the Mankind, X-Pac, and Spike Dudley’s of the world. They had amazing cards (just like everybody else.) They drew more cards per turn than their opponents. But they started out at a disadvantage due to having a starting hand size of 2,0, and 0 respectively and, to no great surprise, these superstars were underrepresented when it came to top competitive events. The reason was simple. Even though they were burning through their deck much faster than their opponent, they started out at such a disadvantage that it was impossible to recover, particularly if those two or three cards they drew on the first couple of turns sucked.

The same principles can be applied to Malifaux, in my opinion. Everyone has seen the triple + attack flip come out with no face cards and, sometimes, nothing higher than a five. It happens. Sometimes you roll 1’s. It’s part of the game. But for Tara crews it’s going to seem like this happens a lot more often, I’m predicting, because when it does occur she will have limited resources to correct for it. Obviously, when you ditch 3 of your cards to pass out fast (half her hand, if you’re not good at fractions,) you’re going to keep the three best out of the bunch. But the bottom line is, that is now three total cards you have available to fix those bad flips during the turn, and that’s assuming you don’t then turn around and use those cards up to try and improve your minion’s defense stats (the Nothing Beast is a much less impressive defense of 6 with three cards in hand, while the Void Wretch is a very average 5.) At times in our game, Nick was forced to cheat in flips that weren’t that important simply because he knew his models were in trouble and were going to need to push up their defense just to survive.

All of this is just looking at things from your perspective, but what about your opponent? Well, it turns out he/she will know the situation you’re going to be in from the beginning of the game and, if they’re smart, use it against you. Nick chuckled as he saw me putting Misdirection on Misaki before the game, amused that I was going to give him more ways to pitch cards. That amusement went away rapidly the first time he saw me burning stones to throw masks onto her defense and leaving him with the choice of either cheating away 2/3rds of those good cards he had saved in his hand or be unable to hit Misaki while she stands in the middle of a crowd. Once the stones were gone she now became hittable at least (albeit with her now receiving + to defense flips) but now turned every Bisento attack she made where she flipped a crow into a decapitate, again forcing Nick to make hard choices or, as happened several times after Nick had cheated his hand down to 1, having no choice at all. This is an extreme example, but I think every crew will have some way of exploiting this AND SHOULD, given how potent Tara’s crew can be.

Now, caveat time, I have played a total of one game against a Tara crew and have yet to use her myself. I saw no examples of Tara battle reports after a cursory examination of the Wyrd boards. Our game ultimately turned into “Line up and run at each other,” as many playtest games do, and I have a feeling Tara crews will be much more successful playing surgically and going for objectives rather than getting into a knock-down drag out (though anybody who thinks the crew isn’t tough has never gone up against Taelor with Fast.) What I’m saying is, I am far from an expert on this crew. Moreover, Malifaux isn’t a pure CCG and good players can make up for bad cards with excellent strategy and play on the board. Would I be blown over to see a Tara crew winning tournaments at Gencon next year? No way. A few flips going the other direction and this game was Nick’s, I have no doubt. The raw power of this crew is undeniable, but the fact is that I had these reservations about Tara from the first time I saw her crew cards in Wyrd Chronicles. I still can’t shake the feeling that, when you play Tara in a tourney, a crew like this is always going to have that one game where the deck seems to turn on them and they can’t do anything about it, and the next thing you know you’ve got a loss and you’re running uphill to try and climb back into contention. Given the choice between this crew and one with better card access, like a Lynch crew with Born with a Hand and Mulligan that basically gets to draw a brand new control hand at the end of the turn, I’ll take the Lynch crew every time for competitive play and never regret the decision.

Let the comments on why I’m wrong begin!

I can hear them coming, already. 

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.