Monday, August 3, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Ortegas

Needs More Nephilim
Several years ago, when Malifaux was just something I had heard mentioned in a 40k podcast as “a decent side-game,” I needed to have my tonsils removed. I was in my late 20s, and anyone who’s had a tonsillectomy as an adult knows that this is an incredibly unpleasant experience, involving several weeks of sitting at home under the influence of very potent painkillers and eating a primarily liquid diet. One of the things that got me through this unpleasantness was the fourth book of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, “Wizard and Glass.” The pain medication I was taking came in cough syrup form and ran out every two to four hours, so nights consisted of waking up periodically with my throat on fire, slamming down some more meds, and choking down as much water as I could while I read Roland’s tale of love and loss. The gunslinger archetype in a fantasy setting, as you could imagine, holds a very special place in my heart.
Not surprisingly, when I started playing Malifaux I was drawn immediately to the Guild’s own Gunslinger, Perdita. Her first edition model is still my favorite sculpt to this day, despite also being one of the simplest. I love the Weird West aesthetic of the crew. I love that they essentially live on a survivalist compound in the middle of the Badlands, cut off from the city, giving the Nephilim a fat middle-finger and daring them to drive them out. Finally, I’ve enjoyed watching Perdita develop in the fluff from a pretty simple concept to a character that I think knows a bit more about what’s really going on behind the scenes than most people in Malifaux and realizes that maybe, just maybe, the monsters she and her family have been hunting this whole time might not really be the bad-guys they’ve been billed as since humans arrived through the breach.
You can imagine my frustration, then, that as 1st edition moved along it became increasingly apparent that the Ortegas were not a crew that could compete on a top level. Her stats were strong and the dreaded Ortega Alpha-Strike was a thing of legend when you could pull it off, but they simply lacked the tools to win against top tier crews.  Specifically, they didn’t have the positioning tricks of the Arcanists and Neverborn and didn’t have the overwhelming offensive ability that let Sonnia overcome some of these deficiencies. I had thus left them behind, mostly, towards the end of M1E and when the edition change happened, I elected to play other crews first to avoid the issues some others were experiencing adapting to old models that had very new and very different abilities than we remembered.
Of late, however, I’ve started to hear some rumblings that perhaps the Ortegas have started to creep into the realm of “Oh good lord, not them again,” for some on the Wyrd forums. Not to the extent that Leveticus is currently enjoying, mind you, but enough to intrigue me. As such, I cracked out my old models (cringing all the while at their paint and basing,) and stat cards and looked to set up some test games to put them through their paces. Two games later, I’ve made some observations (or musings, as the blog’s title might suggest) and thought I’d share them with you.

The Good: My Crew’s Core

I immediately pegged four members of the core crew that I will almost always take and one “Ortega” who will be joining as an honorary member in most games: Perdita, Francisco, The Judge, Abuela Ortega, and the Enslaved Nephilim. One of the most important things I observed with this group was action point (AP) economy. The Ortegas are typically not a crew where you are going to out-activate your opponent by spamming lots of weaker models (though, that said, I’d be curious to try a pack of Latigo Pistoleros to see if they could really frustrate an opponent in a strategy like Interference.) Ortegas are not cheap, with most of the family weighing in as 7-point enforcers before up-grades. What they do well, however, is extend their action points beyond themselves to make sure that they are spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. Perdita’s totem the Enslaved Nephilim, Abuela Ortega, and Perdita herself have movement tricks that can help with positioning on a turn. Additionally, they all have an obey effect that can let them pass AP from themselves to another model that might be in a more effective or important position on the board. And when you add in The Judge (who, with Abuela’s Shotgun Wedding ability, can count as a distant Ortega cousin) you add in more movement and AP economy tricks to shift the crew around and pass out melee attack actions to others in the crew.
The core itself functions as a fatal four-way of movement, shooting, and some melee that support each other up the board to take the fight to the enemy. Perdita does most everything well, and will be the star of the team. Francisco is probably too good for his points, functioning as a tank and melee beater at a svelte 9 points (don’t take him without Wade In,) leading to my referring to him as “The Guild’s Wolverine” since he started out on one team but has essentially been added to everyone else’s. I’ve been putting Rapid Fire on Abuela since she very rarely takes any walk actions (the rest of the crew can shove her along as a (0)) and that shotgun has the potential to do a whole pile of damage if it hits. The Judge functions basically as a point-guard in this set-up by passing his AP to others, though he is very much capable of dealing out punishment on his own and can combo in some attack chains with his series of blades and/or bullets attacks.
Weaknesses of the crew were also evident, however. For one, they are very card-hungry. When you don’t have as many AP to spend as your opponent, it becomes important to make sure those actions pay off. It’s possible I’ve spent too much time playing Lynch and will have to retrain myself when its alright to let certain duels fail and keep high cards for later. I hadn’t built in any special card manipulation, so I have a feeling I’ll be trying to at least throw in the Brutal Effigy to get a splash of this in future games. Most turns I found myself with my hand either empty or holding a pitiful pair of threes for which I had no use. In some cases, you could offset some of this with Perdita’s “Hero’s Gamble” (0) action. However, if you needed some of the (0)’s from her upgrades to ignore cover or armor, this may not be available and isn’t guaranteed to actually improve your control hand anyways. I’m open to suggestions as to other ways to improve this. Also, the Ortegas (with one notable exception) are fairly brittle. Even with the infamous Francisco “El Mejor” bonus, Perdita is fairly killable. Df and WP 9 are tough to overcome, but once you do she only has 10 wounds and her soulstones to mitigate damage. This became especially apparent when I parked her next to Santiago against a Rasputina crew and proceeded to watch half of her wounds fall off from blast damage, and then knocked off another three wounds from an exploding Ice Golem. Abuela has no defenses besides “Matriarch,” and that just involves passing a point of damage off to a different family member. The other, non-Francisco, Ortegas have little in the way of defense at all, making them very expensive glass cannons for the most part.

The “Bad”: Ortegas I Use At Most Occasionally

Not all Ortegas are created equal. I want for Santiago to be good, if only so I can use my Santana model on the tabletop, but I just don’t see it. He still gets stronger when he gets below half wounds, but he doesn’t get any tougher. Hard to Kill really only ends up functioning as a speed-bump on the way to death, as his defense isn’t impressive and 9 wounds is very killable. Maybe it’s that I remember the powerhouse he used to be, but he seems too easy to take down without a compensatory excess of damage output to make him worth the risk. I'm sure others have gotten good use out of him, but it just hasn't happened for me.
Nino is probably my favorite out of the “other Ortegas” pile, with his ability to block interacts and shoot long-range across the board providing some strong utility. I like the built in + flip on his gun and the ability to use his built in ram to either improve the attack result or trigger critical strike. However, if you’re playing a scenario (my word for strategy+scheme combinations) where Interact actions won’t be required, his limited damage output will make him much less efficient, as happened when I played Reckoning with Assassinate, Frame for Murder, and Make Them Suffer in the scheme pool. I wonder some times if the damage spread on his gun wasn't built with his old decapitate trigger in mind, only to have it knocked off at some point in play testing, because it seems to fall short of what other sniper-types in the game can do. Additionally, some crews that rely on scheme markers have a way of getting around his interference, such as the Gremlins’ Trixie Bell and Ten Thunders' Shenlong/Sensei Yu Wandering River Style which let them do the interacts in one place and then relocate the scheme markers to another. I have a suspicion that I will, in more games than not, end up with Nino not actually being able to use Spotter as intended.
Papa Loco is one I will confess I haven’t used before (my Papa from the original boxed set is still sitting in a box looking sad in his unpainted-after-5-years state.) He can do a lot of damage and, probably more importantly, can hand out potential damage boosts to other crewmembers. Plus he explodes and kills things around him, which is always good for a chuckle. What I mostly see him used for is a piece in a combo gimmick, typically handing out his damage buff to someone in the backfield every turn or prior to being thrown in a pine box to prevent the condition falling off. I don’t know how to feel about that, honestly, as I tend to shy away from combos that can be disrupted by knocking out one piece unexpectedly, for instance by the Death Marshal getting sniped to let him out. Also, I’ve never liked models that can end up hurting you more than your opponent, and a well-placed sniper could really cause you some headaches early in the game by blowing up Papa in the middle of your crew. I’ll probably get him some table time before I draw a final conclusion, but for right now he’s a “maybe.”

The Ugly: My Play Experience Thus Far

As I said, I’ve played two games with this crew in 2e. The first was against a Ten Thunders crew in a scenario that was evenly split between scheme markers and killing (I remember the scenario was the one with the informant that moves after crews score, but not much else.) My opponent leaned pretty hard on the scheme marker side of things, using a Shen Long-Shadow Effigy method of completing Line in the Sand by essentially just walking in a place where I never had a chance to disrupt it, and his offense suffered a bit for it. He and I are old sparring partners and I think he was used to me bringing slightly softer crews than this in our previous games, as I shot a good sized chunk of his crew to death and stole the strategy away from him before he could score from it, leaving him without much in the way of counterpunch with which to hit back. Francisco and Perdita can be a pretty stiff wall of resistance for an unprepared opponent that can’t punch through their defenses. Thus, I won this game despite some initial card flip mishaps that had me cursing my deck out over Skype.
Perhaps that game made me somewhat overconfident for the next one, as the aforementioned Rasputina kill-fest scenario (Reckoning, Assassinate, and Make them Suffer for both players) saw me walking out of cover to try and force my way through ice mirrors and push the fight to a thoroughly entrenched Rasputina. The score ended up 5-4, so it wasn't a blow out or anything, but this one ended up with most of the core hitting the showers early.Things may have turned out differently had I done a better job of keeping Perdita out of blast range, but in the end I had only Francisco and the Enslaved Nephilim left alive while Rasputina was still sitting in her bunker only slightly wounded. Lesson learned: the core can be tough but they aren’t invincible and will fall fairly quickly if they go up against someone who can get around their various defenses. I would probably have been better served playing the Ortegas as area denial in this game, sitting back on Protect Territory (which was in the pool) and making the Ice Mirrors walk into our range rather than walking into Rasputina’s. Highlights of this game included the Judge killing himself by pulling an ice gamin into melee (away from a paralyzed Francisco) and killing himself by stabbing it with a red joker damage flip while having only one wound remaining. Sometimes a model just isn’t meant to live.

In future games, I intend to diversify and see what Perdita can do without some of the “core” along with her. He’s a crutch, but I doubt I’m going to ditch Francisco any time soon. He's just too good. The other pieces are probably expendable, however. I’d like to try out Peacekeepers and/or Hunters to take advantage of the drag from their harpoon guns and the Peacekeeper’s ability to destroy scheme markers en masse (plus I wouldn’t mind having an additional big-scary to draw attention away from ‘Dita.) Plus I could see this being a smart move when facing Ressers to deny them some corpse markers. Also, I should probably try out the Papa Loco/Death Marshal thing at least once, if only because Death Marshals are pretty strong in-and-of themselves and the ability to box an opponents’ key pieces and take them out of play with one activation is tough to undersell. Plus, I’ve got a Miss Terious and Santana, who I suppose could fill in as Death Marshal proxies in a pinch to keep crew’s look intact. Whatever I end up doing, I'm committed to at least three more games with Dita before I switch masters (the Mistakes Were Made podcast inspired this) and I want to really see what the Guild has to offer rather than continuing my Magpieing. 

That said, here's some pictures of Neverborn I painted :P. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Conniving and Scheming: How to score points without involving your opponent

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. This is due in large part to the Terror Tot that seems to have invaded my home. She’s cute, but don’t let her fool you. Behind those Disney Princess eyes beats the heart of a Neverborn creature, hell-bent on never letting me sleep a whole night or do anything Malifaux related. She has finally grown to the point that she’s busy learning how to flip masks for sprint on her own, and I’ve managed to tear myself away for a moment to write about some strategy musings I’ve had recently.

Truly, the face of pure evil.

One thing that has occurred to me as I’ve been playing more M2E comes from an old lesson from another miniatures game: Blood Bowl. In Blood Bowl, unlike Malifaux, interactions between models are resolved with a d6 roll. A 1 always fails. A 6 always succeeds. As such, no matter how much you stack the odds in your favor on a particular roll, there is still always a small chance with each roll that it will come up a one, and this chance is the same every time you roll the dice (despite what the gambler’s fallacy might tell you.) This can critically ruin whatever you’re trying to do in the game, as a botched roll almost always ends your turn and lets your opponent start moving their team, often while your formation is left wide-open and vulnerable to counter-attack. You will never find a more superstitious and frightened creature than the average blood bowl player, many of whom are convinced that Nuffle (god of Blood Bowl) is somehow out to get their team personally. My friend Jon and I both firmly believe that the goal line of many Blood Bowl pitches has an invisible string stretched across at ankle height, because everybody knows that if you try and sprint for that extra square of movement you need to get into the end zone and score, more often than not you’re going to roll a one and your player’s going to fall down and pitch the ball into the crowd, with hilarity ensuing.

As a result, one of the first lessons any new player has to learn is to do the actions that involve no dice rolls first on your turn, and then subsequently weigh probability of failure versus importance of the action to decide who goes after that. This way, when (not if) you botch a roll later on in the turn, while your action is now over, you’ve covered yourself by moving other players into position under the assumption that you were going to have a turnover at some point. The second lesson, tied to the first, is that any time you can find a way to get the job done with fewer dice rolls, so much the better.
What does this have to do with Malifaux? Well the analogy isn’t perfect, as this is a game where you have much greater control of probability through cheating fate and having a larger range of outcomes from the deck than a six sided die. But there’s a reason one of the catch phrases for Malifaux is Bad Things Happen. We’ve all seen the games where the deck is just against you and there’s nothing you can do about it. You look at the board, the ace-through-five straight you’ve drawn in your control hand, and you realize that most of your crew is about to get their skulls caved in. In these situations your only hope is to scrape enough VPs with the survivors to eke out a win. But how can you do that? The answer lies in one of the criteria you should be considering when you look at your scheme pool for a given game: which of these schemes can I accomplish without the fate deck’s help? Assume you have two opponents in each game: the mook on the other side of the table and the fate deck. If it all goes wrong, which of these schemes can I achieve despite the misfortune? Towards this end, I’ve broken down all the possible schemes into three groups:

Fate Independent Schemes
Distract, Protect Territory, Breakthrough, Plant Evidence, Deliver a Message, Take Prisoner, Power Ritual

This group of schemes represents those which require little to no card flipping to accomplish, typically because they require little to no duels with your opponent. Protect Territory, Power Ritual, Breakthrough, and Plant Evidence can literally be done without touching the deck, as they just involve dropping scheme markers in certain points on the board which, if you’ve built your crew correctly to accomplish them, should be relatively simple. Deliver a Message and Take Prisoner do involve your crew moving in on the opponents, but both are then completed either with an interact action or simply keeping them engaged to the end of the game. You shouldn’t be trying Deliver if you don’t have someone with an extra movement trick or AP to let you get in close and accomplish it in one activation, so it again requires very little card-help to achieve, and Take Prisoner can literally be finished by ignoring the target model until the last turn and then sprinting something next to it. Distract could be considered on the border between this group and the next, but the key point is that neither you nor your opponent flip any cards to either give the Distract Condition or eliminate it. If you commit to this scheme from the outset, it should be doable without your Black Joker having anything to say.

Fate Influenced Schemes
Cursed Object, Outflank, A Line in the Sand, Entourage, Plant Explosives, Spring the Trap, Frame for Murder,

To be honest, the distinction between these and the Fate Independent schemes may be somewhat gray and could vary based on your experience level, your opponent’s experience, and both crews’ makeup. These are relatively independent of the fate deck as well, but they do have a possibility for chance to intervene on one side’s behalf. Cursed Object is kind of a counterpart to the just-discussed distract, but the key difference is that the condition comes off with a Walk duel by the opponent rather than an interact. If their cards are being kind they can get rid of it pretty easily and prevent you from scoring. Outflank, LitS, and Entourage don’t so much require deck flips to set-up, but they do need you to keep models alive in potentially vulnerable positions to accomplish them. The right builds can do them pretty readily, and frankly Breakthrough or Protect Territory could just as easily fall into this group with these three, but I split them up just because of what I perceive as the relative danger to the models involved. Your stuff is going to be on the center line for LitS and Outflank where the majority of the action tends to happen, and depending on your master you may have to play them a bit cagier than usual if you want them to survive to the end of the game in a position to break for the opponents deployment zone. Plant Explosives and its bastard cousin Spring the Trap both require very little card flipping to accomplish as written, but you again have to keep an eye out for the possibility of deck hosing, either with your scheme droppers getting popped early/en route to the enemy or paradoxically by an errant damage flip on the enemy master killing them off before you have a chance to score it. I very nearly had a perfectly executed Spring the Trap ruined by my opponent killing one of my models to release Killjoy, who then attempted to Chain-Hook the enemy master out of the blast zone.

Fate Dependent Schemes
Bodyguard, Assassinate, Vendetta, Make them Suffer, Murder Protégé,
To no great surprise, the schemes that involve killing enemy models or keeping your own models alive are the most fate dependent in the game. Of this list, Vendetta is probably the least subject to the deck’s whim, as you can at least set yourself up to get one point by having the correct model attack the target. The others are completely up to the deck and your opponents’ read of which schemes you’ve taken. The minute you ask to see your opponent’s cards or, worse, ask which is the most expensive, they’re going to suspect you’re on Murder Protégé and will likely take steps to stop you. Make them Suffer is almost infamous for the silliness people do to avoid it by taking one cheap minion who then hides in the backfield. Masters are some of the hardest models to take down in the game (on average), so Assassinate is always tricky, especially for an opponent cagey enough to keep you off of it by not committing their master to combat. Bodyguard technically can be accomplished with no card flips by keeping the henchman/enforcer hidden all game, but that isn’t usually practical given the expense of these models. As such, you most likely will need to at least put them at some kind of risk during the game. One of the trickier ways people use to accomplish this scheme involves models that bury instead of dying and can come back later, IE Bad Juju, Hungering Darkness, and Big Jake from the current playtest documents. These are good choices for the scheme, but the first two can be countered by the opponent not killing the correct models to spring the bodyguard target onto the board. Sometimes this is easier said than done and there is always the option for you to kill your own model to get them back, but that level of fiddliness is enough to make me uncomfortable. In tournaments there’s an even worse disadvantage to bodyguard: its reliant on your opponents’ pace of play. Bodyguard doesn’t score until turn 4, and you can’t get full points unless the game goes to conclusion.

Now, that isn’t to say you should never take these schemes. Sometimes the strategy or you and your opponent’s crews will dictate that Assassinate or Murder Protégé are the right choice. If you have tricks like a long-distance Lure from a Rotten Belle, you can get at least partial points by simply targeting the appropriate model from across the board with something relatively innocuous. And, quite frankly, the easiest way to ensure that you’re going to accomplish your schemes and strats is for the opponent’s models not to be on the board anymore, so there’s something to be said for scoring scheme points on the way to tabling your opponent, particularly given the shorter 5 turn time-frame in the M2E game. But still, there’s something to be said for just leaving your opponent and your fate deck out of scoring for the game. There’s a reason people loved Collette in first edition: in most scenarios she could accomplish a full set of scheme points by the second to third turns of the game without ever performing an attack flip. If you can go into the turn 3 break with your scheme points locked up without your opponent having a say in it, you’re well on your way to a win. 

Now, I've got to get back to the Terror Tot, before she starts sprouting any Obsidian Talons. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

ToMB Month 1 Wrap-Up

We’re rolling up on March 17th, which means now is the time for recapping month 1 of ToMB and creating the post that serves as the real summary for new players to utilize when starting their own Malifaux Tales. As previously stated, I am utilizing the Guild’s construct master, C. Hoffman. I purchased the starter box and the Peacekeeper to make my month 1 crew, and have played three games over Vassal with them to start learning how the crew works. Let’s discuss what we’ve learned to start with, and then we’ll talk about the game reports.


Hoffman’s abilities, unsurprisingly, revolve around his interactions with Guild constructs. Rather than build them from the ground up like Ramos, however, Hoffman’s specialty is in modifying existing constructs and assimilating qualities from them to augment himself. In a way, he kind of reminds me of playing Collodi, as the bread and butter activation with him on an average turn tends to consist of A) setting up the appropriate modifications/buffs onto your constructs or B) machine puppeting your constructs to attack/move/interact. He has a respectable melee attack, though with no charge you’re probably not going to be using it unless something has gone wrong and you’re fighting on your own. One of his assets I got a lot of unexpected mileage from is Hoff’s WP of 6, as the Power Loop trait shared with whichever model Hoffman is using as his ride that in turn can utilize this above average stat, which is very helpful when squaring off with things that require terror checks. Perhaps more importantly, this crew passes out a lot of buffs to boost Df flips, but not as many for WP resists, so at times I found Hoff’s shared WP to be an invaluable asset.

Hoffman’s upgrades are where you can do a bit of fiddling with the crew you’re trying to build. The two I’ve tried out are “Field Mechanic” and “Arcanist Assets.” The main use for Field Mechanic, obviously, is the ability to pass modification upgrades to the other constructs in the crew. These can hand out a variety of traits to the crew, including Armor+1, Nimble+1, the ability to make interact actions as a (0), and the ability to pitch the modification for a +Rams to Ml and Sh actions for that turn. A typical open with Hoffman typically involved trying to flip these modifications onto as many models as possible to set up for the strategy, usually with the (0) Shakedown to spit out the scrap counter required for either Hydraulics or Improvised Plating. In the box set crew, “Targeting Systems” is possibly the least useful, as the only real use is to spike value of the Peacekeeper and the Hunter’s Critical Hit triggers. Usually you’ll want to put other Mods on these models, but there are other constructs that will get more mileage from this in the future. However, these are also where a lot of healing comes into the crew, as the zero action “Frantic Repairs” from Arcanist Assets allows you to strip a modification from a construct, drop a scrap counter, and heal the model. This scrap can then be used for another action from Field Mechanic, Improvised Repairs, that gives all models within 3” of the scrap counter another healing flip. This preponderance of healing ended up being a sort of unexpected theme in the crew, as several of the other constructs also have heal actions of some variety (and I discovered, to my detriment, how much trouble you're in when the enemy prevents this healing.) I haven’t tried out the other upgrades (OSA and Remote Mines,) as I haven’t typically seen great results from AoE spells with flat TN’s to resist in the past and rarely feel that I would rather have Hoffman take an action personally rather than let him use Machine Puppet. The Tap Power trait will maybe be more useful when I get to including a totem for him, but I also don’t like stealing an AP from my minions, as they have all proven to be pretty useful thus far. Maybe this will change in the future (Hoff’s avatar, for one thing, is a much more melee oriented model.)

Hoff needs to stay with his crew. He doesn’t have the ability to accomplish much on his own and is very, very vulnerable when he can’t use the Defense trigger to borrow the armor value from nearby constructs, making him vulnerable to WP attacks and Blasts or other forms of indirect damage. I’ve typically used the Soulstones in the crew for hand crafting, but this may be due to only having him in real danger of physical harm in one of the three test games I’ve played.


He is the heavy hitter of the crew, and effectively fills the role of Henchman in this build. For the points you pay, you get an Armor+2 (+3 with Patchwork) Hard to Wound, Terrifying 12 (Living) model that can move relatively quickly with Hoffman’s machine puppet to aid it and can do a pile of damage to enemy models. He comes with a chain spear with the 8” drag trigger, which can be either a nasty surprise for your opponent or can be applied to reposition friendly models in a hurry as well. All of this makes for a very, very nasty model that is somewhere between difficult and impossible to remove and which can really make you pay for coming within 10” of him. The Override Edict (0) power also lets you destroy enemy scheme markers, giving him disruption of enemy scoring. I like him a lot, but he does cost a pile of points. It’s occurred to me that I could fit two of Hoff’s mid-range constructs in for the points I spend on this guy. As more models become available, I’ll need to try going without him to increase my AP in future games.


After the third test game, my frequent sparring partner Jon was heard to state “That damn Guardian seems like he’s the MVP of every game.” When you first look at his stat card, the reasons for this may or may not become immediately apparent (I’ll confess I didn’t quite spot them straight away.) Fittingly for a model hauling around that big shield, his defensive stats are quite stout (6 each Df and Wp, and Armor 1 with the Grinding Halt trigger.) He’s immune to horror duels (constructs take more of them than you think.) He has a 3” melee range on his flat balde, making him pretty good at taking a position in melee and saying “Nope, you’re not going anywhere.” His Shield Bash has a trigger to throw enemy models 4” and prevent them from charging you back, granting some decent positioning. And then there’s the (0) action.

Oh, that beautiful, beautiful (0) action.

Protect gives a friendly model Defensive +2 until the Guardian’s next activation. This. Is. HUGE. One of the pleasant changes with M2E was the increase in power of the Defensive action (as it is now no longer possible to stack a massive duel result, making your flip meaningless.) Getting to flip three cards for defense resists is very strong. Plus it has a trigger on a ram to throw in a healing flip for the protected model, or a mask trigger to let him pop up next to the model he’s protecting. The real revelation here came when I realized that it says Target Friendly Model on the action, not target Other friendly model, meaning he can cast it on himself. Paired with his high defensive stats, this makes him a secondary brick wall in the crew that can play area denial by getting to important places on the board and simply refusing to move. He’s proven to be good enough that I’m looking seriously at including him in non-Hoffman Guild crews.


I’ve confessed a couple of times to the fact that I may be using this minion wrong. At 7 stones you expect a lot out of these guys, and on paper they have some interesting tools to get things done. They have the same chain spear-drag for repositioning as the Peacekeeper. They get a positive flip for attacks on models that haven’t activated yet, so you’ll either want to activate him early to take advantage of this or send him after lower priority targets that your opponent is likely to wait on. He’s decently mobile, with a free 3” push at the end of every turn (that, if you’re like me, you will forget 2 out of every 5 turns per game, on average) and can jump into melee with “Pounce on Chest” to close the gap and potentially get a free attack with a high crow, which doesn’t tend to be an important suit for this crew. There’s an interesting potential for a 1-2 punch with Wardens that I’ll be looking to exploit down the line, as one wants to attack things which haven’t activated yet and the other gets bonuses against things that have, but I’ve still yet to have a game where I’ve said “There you go, now I get it, that’s what Hunters are for.” Their survivability is not great, so it’s likely you’ll need them to be prowling flanks and attacking soft targets to be successful. His main role seems to be that of mobile chain spear platform, with pretty good melee to finish off whatever you’ve drug out of position. Still, Joel Henry keeps going on and on about how awesome they are, so maybe I just haven’t glommed onto them yet.

These guys get modified on the first turn pretty much every game. They’re your objective grabbers, and they’re good at what they do with a little tweaking. I know a popular start to most Scheme Marker heavy scenarios is to use Hoff to give one of them Nimble and a second one Programmed Directive, effectively giving them both a pair of Wk 6 Flight movements followed by an interact on every turn. Unfortunately, their tactical actions and attacks haven’t proven to be particularly synergistic with the rest of the crew thus far, as they mostly interact with Ranged attacks by negating cover and/or granting line of sight to the crew’s master, neither of which have proven particularly useful thus far. I can see a scenario where they could light up a hiding model to let them get hit with a chain spear or Warden’s Restraint Claw, but it’s too bad they don’t have a way of doing some damage on their own. Also, they're a bit fragile, though no more than what you expect from 4 stone models, so you'll need to take care of them on the board to keep the enemy from blowing them up.

General Conclusions

At the end of month 1, some things about the crew turned out to be as expected and others have fooled me. The main thrust of the offensive potential comes from the old school Hoff-ball of the master, Peacekeeper, and Guardian. The Guardian can make the Peacekeeper nigh-unkillable, and with a potential 6 attacks due to Machine Puppet and the Fast trigger there isn’t much that will survive against them in close combat. The Watcher is a good objective runner and not much else. What I didn’t expect was how much healing they have, and thus how sturdy and resistant this crew is. The only thing missing, frankly, is condition removal (something that ended up biting me hard in the battle report below) to make them nearly unstoppable in traditional combat.

So, at the end of month 1, I’ve gotten three games in and the crew is painted. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the paint job came out on all of these models. It’s a relatively quick and simple paint scheme. The red is a dark red paint with a lighter done over top and the Carroburg Crimson Citadel wash applied, followed by the brighter red highlights. The metal is a thicker drybrush of the Boltgun Metal from Citadel, followed by a heavy wash of Nuln oil, and then application of the Typhus Corruption and Riza Rust technical effects paints to make them look dingier and rustier. This group was actually also my first attempts at sculpting with greenstuff, as I got tired of paying for base inserts and decided to try my hand at making my own. They’re nothing fancy (I just followed this tutorial,) but they get the job done and I think they look pretty good.

I’ve also started tracking my progress through the project using Bill Anderson’s Google Drive spreadsheet. You can follow along with me here.

Battle Reports

The first two games I played are posted here and here. For the end of the month, I opted to try and get a sneak preview of what is coming next month. Jon and I had both downloaded the updated M2E module for Vassal, and opted to try out one of the new interior maps.

45SS Turf War
Scheme Pool: Line in the Sand, Protect Territory, Take Prisoner, Some other things
Hoffman-Arcanist Assets, Field Mechanic
Ryle-Forgotten Memories

Nicodem- Muwahaha, some other stuff
Mortimer-Corpse Bloat

Knowing that I was up against Ressers and, likely, Nicodem, I knew I was in for a scrum. The Watcher wasn’t going to be any help for this, so I thought Protect Territory would be something it could accomplish on its own. Manueverability was going to be limited due to the walls. My plan was to use the Hunter around the outside of the Turf War bubble to grab enemy models and pull them out while the Hoff, Peacekeeper, and Guardian hold the center with Ryle providing support.

As a bonus perk, we had Ratty jump in to watch the game while he was working on grave markers.

Turn 1 saw me throwing out armor to the Peacekeeper and Precision Targeting to the Guardian because…I’m an idiot? I don’t know. It doesn’t do anything for him. Anyway, our group took position around the center of the board and prepared for the coming tide of the dead.

I liked Jon’s opening quite a bit, with him deploying a Crooligan up field to serve as bait for the “Fresh Meat” action. This helps to offset the amount of AP he has to use on generating corpse counters for Nicodem, allowing him to get the summoning engine running without slowing down progress. The Belles help out a lot with this as well. By the start of Turn 2, I was facing a pair of Hanged and some various other Undead where before there was a much smaller group. Ratty astutely pointed out "this game is just going to turn into a bloodbath in the middle." Seeing that there was no way to make him take the first move, I elected to press into the center with the Peacekeeper and try to hold them out of the scoring zone. I’m fairly sure this was the right move, but it also ended up essentially costing me the game. As soon as we were out of cover, the Hanged attacked the Peacekeeper and Ryle, knocking them to half wounds and, more significantly, blocking any healing. I could see the writing on the wall at this point, but gave it a go to try and hold out.

From here it became a battle of attrition not unlike the climax of a zombie movie, with the desperate survivors trying to hold back a horde of undead. Punk zombies flurrying with plus flips from Nicodem’s aura went against double positive defense flips on the Peacekeeper with the Guardian’s help. I also learned that Nicodem can now summon the student models from University of Transmortis, including the Student of Steel, meaning my constructs were in a lot of trouble.

I managed to hold until turn four and then switch Ryle into his place, but his base wasn’t sizeable enough to block the entrance and he didn’t have the toughness of the Peacekeeper, so the Undead mauled him. Turn Five the Guardian tried to hold the entrance, but it was too late. Hoffman didn’t survive long exposed in this way, so the game was essentially lost. Having it go to extra turns only gave Nicodem the opportunity to throw another Student of Steel to go kill my Watcher and prevent my Protect Territory from scoring. Amusingly, on Turn 7 Nicodem walked forward towards my Hunter, letting him pounce on him and “Capture” him at the end of the game. This was too little too late, however, as the game ended in a 5-9 loss for me.

This may have exposed one of the biggest flaws in the armor of this crew: preventing healing. The crew uses a ton of it, and when it's blocked out you're going to need to be a lot more careful with your constructs to keep them up and fighting. This makes the Ressers potentially a very poor matchup for Hoffman. Molly and Nicodem can both potentially summon either the Hanged and/or the Students of Steel. This was all done without him having the Decaying Aura, meaning that this could potentially have been an even worse match-up. Factor that in with it being Turf War, which is probably Nicodem’s strongest strategy, and I was likely going to be in trouble regardless of what happened. This is enough to make me consider throwing in a Witchling Stalker when facing Ressers or Outcasts (Jack Daw can hired Hanged, and there are other Outcasts with nasty conditions that would be worth removing) just to prevent my healing from being completely shut down, as it was during this game.

I wasn’t impressed with Ryle’s upgrade. He has two pretty good zero actions already, and it doesn’t seem worthwhile to use it every turn for a single reactivation on turn 3. He didn’t get much of a chance to shine here, but I can see the potential. Still, I think I’ll be better off going a different direction next month, as this crew desperately needs more activations and less points.

The addition of the Students makes for a nice bit of tech for Nicodem, as a side note. They don't have Hard to Kill as the two standard Nicodem summons do (Necropunks and Punk Zombies) so you can't guarantee an activation for them, but with armor, hard to wound, and terrifying (whatever you're attacking them with,) they're pretty tough. The only failing of the Students is that you can't know beforehand whether they'll be any use to you during the hiring phase, which Nicodem sidesteps nicely by summoning them during the game.

Anyway, that's the month one wrap-up. As usual, comments are appreciated and encouraged. See you in a couple of days for Month 2!

Friday, February 28, 2014

ToMB Post 1.1: The Most Bonkers Game of Malifaux I’ve Played

For our regular Thursday game night, our gamemaster was absent with an illness and that meant it was time for some Vassalfaux. My regular sparring partner, Jon, agreed to the points values I’m able to play with this particular crew (35 at the moment.) We squared off with the newly updated M2E Vassal Module uploaded by Ratty, cracking out the Observatory map and throwing down for some Guild on Guild action.

Guild Field Drills: Reconnoiter 35SS
Flank Deployment

Hoffman-Field Repairs Upgrade, 6SS Cache
Peacekeeper-Lead Lined Coat
Schemes: Breakthrough, Plant Evidence (both hidden)

Sonnia Criid-Flamewall, Counterspell, Get Witchlings, 7 Stones
The Judge
Schemes: Breakthrough, Plant Evidence (both announced)

I asked Jon if he was aware we were playing table quarters after he announced his crew, though this is not a particularly unusual trick for him. Jon’s crews tend to be lots of hard-hitting, high point models with the thought of pummeling you down and then scoring his points later. Apparently he’d been planning a version of this crew prior to now and wanted to see how a go-big or go-home approach would work in this version of Malifaux.

I used the first turn to pass out the goodies with Hoff: Program Directive for the Watcher and Hydraulics for the Hunter, black jokering when I tried to pass on Precision Targeting. My plan was to send the Watcher and Hunter in opposite directions around the observatory while Hoff, Guardian, and Peacekeeper would try to hold the middle and absorb the enemy advance. This plan went out the window, however, when Sonnia gained a vantage point on top of the ht. 6 observatory and nuked the Watcher, effectively taking one flank away from me.

The Judge’s role was effectively to slingshot the models up the field and improve movement, meaning he had to lead the way. Since Hoff and the Peacekeeper now were on left flank duty, the Guardian had to go hold the middle on his own. Knowing how effective he was solo against the Iron Zombies I thought he could perhaps hold for a turn, and my hopes were buoyed after he charged the Judge and used Shield Bash to throw him off of the catwalk and drop him into some lava Hazardous terrain at the foot of the observatory, doing 6 between the shield hit and the lava. Jon cleverly saved the Judge from dying next turn by using Issue Orders to push him out of the lava and even earned a scheme marker for himself as a bonus. Still, I was feeling pretty good about my chances…and then Taelor went.

She'll always have the half shirt in my mind.

Taelor is frightening. I’m not sure what to do with her in this crew, to be honest, other than to either leave her alone all game or go all out and try to drop her in a turn. Between bonuses to smashing constructs and triggers to remove armor, she dropped the Guardian in a round. Her main weakness is probably speed, but I’d have to think a competent player who is paying the points for her will have found a way around this.  More thought will be required to try and find the best way of dealing with her.

Hoffman and his Peacekeeper were in the meantime rolling counterclockwise around the tower, and this gave me the opportunity to introduce Jon to the new and improved Chain Harpoon. Pulling Sonnia down from Ht. 6 was very gratifying. Discovering that I had, in doing so, brought her into range where she could block the rams from Hoff's casting of Machine Puppet was less so. I had been using stones for cards up to this point, and I effectively needed to use what I had left to try and get her down before her next activation. A combination of a mediocre opening hand for turn 3, some less than great flipping, and Sonnia having most of her stones for damage prevention meant I only got her to 8 wounds and then had to withstand the retaliatory barrage once the Austringer pulled her out of melee range. This, however, ended up being my time to show Hoff’s toughness, as 3 Flamebursts netted Hoff and The PK both still being alive and at about half wounds a piece.

At this point, both of us sort of looked at each other, did the math, and realized it was turn 4 and both of us had scheme markers to put out. Hoff’s Shakedown-Heal and their high armor meant Sonnia was unlikely to kill the two of them in time. I wasn’t confident in my ability to find rams to keep machine puppeting the Peacekeeper, so I wasn’t sure I could get her either. Sonnia went ahead and withdrew to the other side of a ht. 3 wall, leaving a Flame Wall behind to discourage pursuit. Hoff and the PK happily withdrew to the enemy deployment zone, pausing for a moment to kill the Austringer by dragging him off a catwalk with the Chain Harpoon along the way. While all this had been going on, the Hunter had been scattering scheme markers through enemy territory before trying to circle back and steal a point of Reconnoiter from Jon’s crew by chain harpooning and then pouncing on the Judge. This backfired, as the Judge is much harder to kill than I realized (literally and metaphorically) and I instead left one of my quarters contested, letting Jon end Turn 5 effectively at 10-9…if the game ended there.

Then things got weird.

I flipped a 10, and so we went on to turn 6 (Jon cursing all the while, as he hadn’t set himself up for such an occurrence.) At this point I knew I had one chance to get back in this thing. Hoff used his Machine Puppet tricks to have the Peacekeeper move quickly across the board, triggering Reposition and Repeat Program to give him an extra 2” push and Fast, before wishing him a fond bon-voyage and remaining in the enemy deployment zone. Jon seemed more interested in bracing himself than stopping me, so Peacekeeper was free to run unmolested into the midst of his scheme markers and discard them with his (0) action, knocking two of them out and contesting that quarter to let me draw into the lead. I proceeded to pat myself on the back for my ingenuity while the Hunter dispatched the Judge…until Jon flipped a 13 and we went to turn 7. Then Taelor smashed my Peacekeeper into scrap and Sonnia threw another scheme marker out. But it was ok, I was still in the lead 10-9…until he flipped another 13 and we played turn 8.

Agreeing that this thing was meant to be a draw, I went ahead and called it there.

This game was pretty bat shit. I've never even had a game go to turn 6 yet, let alone turn 8, and the lead swaps in the last couple of turns were quite dramatic. I think with more scheme runners I could have focused the Peacekeeper on wreaking havoc in the enemy crew and, if he didn’t manage to kill everything, at least maybe stall the enemy crew out to keep them from completing schemes. There were, however, things to be learned here. First of all, I need to look out for Taelor, and also for things that can strip suits from Hoffman’s actions. Most of his things need the ram that’s built into his casting to succeed, and he’s just sort of out of luck if he doesn’t have it.

I can tell that the real trick with this crew is going to be figuring out where to put the modification upgrades. I have heard that, for this type of scenario (lots of scheme markers and movement) one typical opening involves giving the Nimble upgrade to one of the Watchers and the Programmed Directive to a second one. This will be something to explore in the future, I suppose.

Update: Evidently I was cheating by including the Lead Lined Coat. *slaps self on wrist*

There, that's sorted. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ToMB 1.0 Post: Shakedown Cruise

We’re in the middle of the first month of the ToMB project, and the posts have started to flow. I’ve sat down with the Hoff and detailed some of my thoughts on his crew previously, and this month I began testing out the box set + Peacekeeper list I’ve built thus far.

Hoffman ToMB Round 1:
-Field Repairs

I’ve started painting, having worked through Hoff himself and the Peacekeeper. I wanted to do more than just have a typical metal-style paintjob on the constructs, so I’ve been trying to keep an eye out for various paint techniques to add some more color on. Additionally, one of the issues with Guild is how heterogeneous they are as a model line. Cowboys and robots don’t necessarily mix together all that well aesthetically (though it sounds like a cool idea for a graphic novel.) As such, I was looking to use that splash of color to improve the homogeneity of the crew. Since the guild’s primary color is red, I wanted to use this as the splash color and make an effort to add it in wherever possible on the models to tie everything together.

For the Hoff, this tie in was going to be with his vest. I was a little concerned initially that there was too much fuzz from priming under non-optimal conditions (I’ve since replaced that can of primer) and I’ve had troubles recently with my flesh tones not turning out the way I’ve liked. Also, I was planning on making his shirt white, which again has been an issue for me in the past. To address this, I decided to take the advice that most people tend to give me, thinning my paint out as much as I can. This ended up being kind of a mixed result, as the watery paint now started running everywhere and there were a couple of instances of me freaking out and blotting the ink up with my paper towel to keep it in the right areas. Thankfully, I eventually go the ratios right, and I’m very pleased with the outcome.

The metal is just the boltgun metal from GW with their Nuln Oil black ink wash applied liberally to age it and cut down on the sheen. I really love the current line of GW inks (heresy, I know.) The Flesh Wash, with more flesh tone painted over the top, turned out just the way I wanted. The Carroburg Crimson did a decent job with getting the vest halfway between being too bright and too dark. This is possibly the best model I’ve done up to this point, and I’m really happy with it.

The Peacekeeper was next. As a general idea on the constructs’ paint schemes I was planning on sort of emulating a Warmachine Jack scheme, with the body and parts of the hands painted with the color and the limbs made from the metal. Again, the metal was the Boltgun with Nuln Oil liberally applied. This will be the general plan on the rest of the constructs as well.

I’m fairly happy with how he came out. If I get ambitious, I may try to freehand a Guild ram symbol on its shoulder ala the artwork in the M2E rulebook and maybe some tick marks on the speargun, but otherwise I think he’s done. There’s still a lot of metal here for my taste, but that may just be the cost of doing business in a Hoff crew.

Now, I had planned to have a test game for this first post, but plans fell through and we weren’t able to get together. Not wanting to completely waste my time, I sat down on Vassal and pulled out the rules for playing a Solitaire game against the Iron Zombies that came with my University of Transmortis scenario pack. If you haven’t looked too closely at these, it essentially is a strategy version of the M1E Breakthrough scheme, with a card flip occurring after each activation of your models to determine what the Iron Zombies do. When you flip the corresponding suit to one of them they appear in base to base with one of your models if they aren’t deployed yet or, if they are, walk up to the nearest model and attack with the dissectors.

The Enemy

I knew it wasn’t going to be a particularly informative game from an interaction standpoint, and I’ve got slightly more points in this crew than what the scenario writers recommended, but all I was really looking for out of this game was a shakedown cruise for the crew to learn how they worked and start to spot the synergies and capabilities of the models. I started the crew off with the Peacekeeper, Hoff, and the Guardian together, the Hunter within Modification range, and the Watcher off in the distance from the rest. I interpreted the solitaire rules to be that I made a choice on where to deploy the Iron Zombies when they came out, so  the Watcher was essentially just going to fly across the board unmolested and score. I threw the extra armor mod onto the Peacekeeper and gave the Precision Targetting to the Hunter, with the theory that he could use the ram to pull the zombies out of a scrum and relocate them. The Guardian was going to be passing defensive to the Keeper and generally just taking hits for the Hoff.

Turn two saw us moved up slightly and clumped together, bogging down in the mid-board. To alleviate this, I planned to essentially use the Peacekeeper’s activation to clear out any nearby zombies, deploy any new Iron Zombies away from him, and then use Hoff to Machine Puppet the thing for walk actions to roll across the board as quickly as possible. In my plan, The Guardian was going to be sacrificing himself to let the others get away, hopefully lasting long enough so that the Iron Zombies wouldn’t be able to catch up to the Peacekeeper by the end of the turn. This is when revelation number one occurred during the game, as the Guardian didn’t just die heroically, he fended the enemy off and received very few wounds in return. The students have an ML of 6 on their Dissector attacks, but the Guardian has an equally stout DF6. Pair that with his Protect spell granting himself Defensive + 2 (I realized partway through the game he could give it to himself, rather than just the other nearby models as I had originally misinterpreted it) and he’s basically a shield wall that is not going away. And, if you do come at him with more than he can handle, he can use the Shield Bash trigger to toss enemy models 4” away from him and give them a condition that prevents them charging.

The Hunter had gotten tied up in this mess as well and wasn’t quite going to be able to get away clean even with its Prowl 3” push. This is when the second realization clicked for me, as I was looking around for movement tricks in the crew and realized, duh, that my models have chain spears and you can shoot your own models with them. With the prevalence of armor on the field you’re going to mostly be doing just one damage with this, and it lets you use a legit 8” push to drag your models together. This was a very pleasant realization, as I now was able to drag the Hunter in with the rest of the nucleus and, more importantly, this opened up a whole new avenue of tactical movement to the crew that I hadn’t considered.

So at the end of Turn 4 I was set up for 4 points scored, with the Guardian tanking the entire Iron Zombie crew on the other side of the board more-or-less effortlessly. I wanted to get another idea of the toughness of the crew, so I picked up the Valedictorian and put him in front of the Peacekeeper, Student of Steel in front of the Hunter, and Student of Viscera in front of Hoffman, essentially putting the worst-case scenario on the board and seeing how well they could hang on through it. The answer: pretty darn well. The Valedictorian didn’t live through 6 Peacekeeper attacks, The Hunter managed to withstand the double positive flip on damage from the Steel student, and Hoff managed to fend off the Viscera student with only a couple points of damage (stealing the armor 3 from the Peacekeeper helped.)

So to analyze the result: Hoff’s crew is a brick. If you go after the nucleus you had better have some kind of ace up your sleeve, because you’re more than likely not going to do that much damage and some serious pummeling is coming back your way. I didn’t have much need to use Hoffman’s other tactical actions outside of healing some damage the Peacekeeper accrued during the game, but Machine Puppet unsurprisingly seems to be the meat and potatoes of the crew’s operations. Also, the Iron Zombies scenario is close but not quite in place to actually be challenging. At the beginning, when we were getting locked in on my side of the board, I was getting a little nervous how I was going to get out of this mess. Ultimately, however, they couldn’t really do any significant damage to this crew. Perhaps this would be less the case if you were going to use them against a different crew with less armor or, perhaps, if I had randomized which models the Iron Zombies attacked when they appeared. I also think the instructions should allow the zombies to charge if they’re in range. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

ToMB Week 0: Musing on the Tale of Malifaux Bloggers

A number of members of the Malifaux amateur reporting community (bloggers) have joined together into a project based on the White Dwarf Tale of Four Gamers articles, wherein several Warhammer Fantasy players built armies from the ground up, doing a series of stories on learning how the armies played, detailing the progress of their painting and assembly, and gradually scaling up from a starter army to a full sized force. With the release of Wave 2 and, moreover, it not being particularly long since the release of M2E in general, it was suggested by the organizers of the Tale ofMalifaux Bloggers (ToMB) that it would perhaps be a good time for the blogosphere (I feel dirty writing that) to focus on starting new Malifaux crews as a guide to those precious souls coming Through the Breach to join us.

I signed up, as I think this is a great idea, and the first question was who exactly to play. The general plan is that we get $60 of “money” to start out a new crew, either buying it in real life or using it as an approximation for beginning with a crew we had already purchased and haven’t worked with yet. As it happens, I have a couple such crews. My wife did a pretty impressive job of painting a Collette crew, considering it was some of the first models she had ever done, but I don’t like mixing paint styles in the same crew and Jen isn’t really interested in learning the game. Similarly, I own a Dreamer and Nightmare Lord Chompy Bits that have sat in my paint drawer forever (not that I have anything against them, it’s just that the model is intimidating enough that I’m not sure what exactly to do with it.) I discounted them as well, however, as I’ve used a number of the non-Dreamer models before in other Neverborn crews, so I’m not sure it really would honor the spirit of the endeavor. Not to mention the fact that Nightmare LCB sells on E-Bay for about $200 on the right day, so I’d just about have enough budget for him at the end of the project if I started saving now.

Fortunately I have a third option, and I think it’s a good one. A few years ago a friend I had tried to lure into the game decided he wanted out and sold me his models. One of those crews was C. Hoffman, and I think that he’s going to be my subject for the project. I’ve only gotten him out on the table once in 1.5 Malifaux. I wasn’t involved in playtesting him. His models aren’t painted (mostly.) I didn’t even do a lot of Theoryfauxing with him. Plus, when I’m done, that will leave Lucius as the only Guild master I’m missing. So wins all around for working with the Hoff.

Wave 2 Hoffman Theoryfaux

Well, first of all, the link to the Wave 2 models’ finalversions is released and available to the public on Wyrd’s newly designed website. His main themes have always been his interaction with and modification of the constructs in his crew, with Hoff’s newly discovered abilities upon coming through the breach giving him unparalleled mental ability to assimilate constructs via the magic of Malifaux. Previously, Hoffman would tend to clump all the constructs together into a group that would shuttle him across the board, forming a group that was alternately described as the Hoffman-ball or the Death Star by certain folk. This theme is still in place, but with a few new twists. One of these comes in the form of the “Power Loop” condition which he acquires and can pass on to other models in his crew when he activates, allowing everything with the condition to use a different model’s Df, Wp, Ca, Sh, or Ml in place of its own when performing duels. His Ca can go up by two points if two constructs are within four inches of him, and he has a defense trigger that lets him use the Armor value of constructs around him when he takes damage. So, without even flipping his stat card over to the attacks and tactical actions, you can see that Hoff wants to be in the midst of one or more constructs during the majority of the game. Luckily, his Magnetic ability lets him push into base to base with them when they take walk actions that start within 3” of him, meaning you aren’t going to use his AP for walking unless things have gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Now, what are you going to do while you’re running around with all these constructs? Well, he keeps a version of his previous ability, named Machine Puppet, wherein he can make a nearby construct take a 1 AP action, typically attacks. The range has been extended out to 6”, however, so this opens up the options a bit and gives him some good flexibility both for offense and spreading scheme markers. Additionally he has gained what I think is his coolest option, Update Hardware, which comes from his Field Mechanic limited upgrade. Hoff is able to use this to attach a set of Upgrades known as Modifications to constructs around him, giving them Armor+1, letting them drop scheme markers with fewer AP, giving them Nimble, or giving them a ram to their attacks (typically this results in bigger damage or nastier conditions from all and sundry Guild constructs.) I like this. I have a feeling that figuring out how to spread the upgrades around for the greatest amount of effectiveness (you can only attach the Modifications to one model at a time) and, moreover, how to spend Hoff’s AP during the turn, will be the greatest challenge with learning this crew, particularly as Hoffman will be my first true support master in either version of the game. I’ll get into more strategy breakdown as we go along.

So, where are we beginning? I suppose we need to do some math first to determine how much we’ll have available to buy with this first month’s budget. Well, the Constructs of Order box set is listed on Wyrd’s web store at $37.00, so that seems an obvious place to start. This will give me a real mixed bag of constructs, as it contains a Watcher, a Guardian, and a Hunter along with the Hoff, and leaves me with $23 to spend. So, now, hmm, what to do with that last bit of cash?

As if there was ever a question.

Ok, look. I know the thing costs $25 and that leaves me $2 over. I don’t care, and this is my article so you can deal with it. Hoffman needs his ride. A Hoffman crew with no Peacekeeper is like a Seamus crew with no Belles: you can do it, but it just isn’t right. I’ll deduct the remaining two from next month’s budget and we’ll call it square.

Obviously, at first glance, I’m concerned with this crew’s ability to score any points that don’t involve smashing things. They’re right at 30 points with what I have here, so in a 30SS game I’m only going to have Hoff’s 3SS cache (does he need them? I guess we’ll find out. He’s the only one in this crew that can use them, after all.) The Watcher is built much more for supporting ranged attacks in M2E, so its main use will be objective running in this group. I imagine that, at least early on, we’ll see an M2E version of the old-school bread-and-butter Hoff-ball (so many hyphens!) with the Peacekeeper, Hoff, and the Guardian rolling together in a clump and smashing faces with the Hunter harrying flanks and the Watcher…doing Watcher-y stuff. I note that the Watcher has a Wk of 6 and Hoff no longer has a size requirement for Magnetism, so a Watcher with the Nimble upgrade could give the main man some real speed when necessary.

Anyway, this is turning into a stream-of-consciousness rant, so it’s time to bring this thing to a close until I get some table time or some painting done. Until next time!