Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Remodeling: The Guild

Pardon Our Dust
           As mentioned previously, the Guild was my first faction in Malifaux. Currently, I’m in the process of returning to them (and before you cry bandwagon, this process started before the good guys won everything at Gencon this year, so ease up.) I’m following the general theory of how to learn a master from the Mistakes Were Made podcast and aiming to play five games with each of them, with a side bonus to include as many of the models in the faction while I’m at it. If you want to follow my progress, I've added a link on the side to my hobby tracker spreadsheet, adapted from Bill Anderson's from back in M1E. Does that mean I’ll get to everything? Not likely, as I don’t own them all (though Vassal helps with that a bit.) Additionally, I don’t have Shifting Loyalties (yet) so it’ll be tough in the foreseeable future to include those. Hopefully I’ll manage to fix that as we get close to the date, but I can’t be sure.
            The first hurdle to overcome is the simple fact that, as my first faction, the minis I already own look kind of bad. My painting has improved significantly since then, and my Perdita crew is literally based on some yellow static grass that’s just piled on it like hay. Not exactly sharp looking, and we can do better. Additionally, I wouldn’t mind getting a bit more consistency in basing styles throughout.
            My Hoffman crew is already based on flagstones, and I don’t want to change that primarily because my metal Peacekeeper is pinned to one and I don’t want to risk breaking it by taking it off and rebasing it. The rest of the crew I want to get out of the city and into the badlands, mainly so they’ll jive with Perdita. I decided on how to do that some time ago, using Games Workshop’s Agrellan Earth special basing paint. There are a number of videos on how it works, but the basic idea is that this very thick paint will crack and break apart as it dries out, creating a kind of crumbly desert texture. I’ve seen it used for a lot of different basing styles, ranging from literally magma to frozen tundra. Inspired by the first of those, I tried to develop the magma bases by painting dark red, bright red, orange, and yellow on the base first, then adding the Agrellan Earth, letting it dry, and then picking some of the dried pieces to make it look more broken. A drybrush of black to make the earth look scorched, and we get what I put below. Not amazing, but I think it’s decent. I have some scrub that I’m going to drybrush with the black and some flame inserts I’m going to throw on to punch them up.

Going from this, I’m attempting to keep the theme similar for the Ortegas but sticking to the desert theme without the flames crawling up from underneath. So, off of the hay bale bases with pliers came the Ortegas (including my poor Nino, whose foot is long lost to the ages and will possibly need a greenstuff pegleg or something.) Onto some new spangly bases from the multipart kit that don’t have the slots to cover went some Agrellan Earth, followed by some GW Flesh Wash to bring the recesses out, followed by the minis. I’m not entirely sold on how this looks right now, and may end up switching to a more brown wash and drybrushing on some more of a sandy look (though that said, the Arizona Red Rocks thing is kind of cool also.) I’ll put up more photos as I get closer to it. I use Army Painter’s tuft basing tools right now, though I’m open to ideas if people have better ones.

Into the drying drawer, they go. Many works in progress.

Next hobby night is going to focus on getting some paint on the models. The Ortegas are all painted except for Papa, who has never gotten past primer (I’m looking to correct this.) What paint they have, however, is very flat, no shading or ink washes, just one color slapped on to get them to tabletop level. I’ve thrown some flesh wash onto Perdita and Abuela already (she has eyes and facial features rather than a flat peach color, who knew?) and will proceed to pick out details and get them looking sharp from there. I want to try and sneak red onto all the models somewhere if I can as a way of unifying them with a sort of color scheme, so look for that in the future as well.
Once I’m down with the Ortegas, I think I’ll try to get the rest of Sonnia’s people together. I’ve never been a huge fan of Sam Hopkins, but I don’t think I’d be doing them justice if I didn’t get him painted and on the board. I don’t own a Witchling Handler, but I’m curious if I could build one from the Multi-Part sprue. I feel like I have half of a Hoffman crew by only owning one of the old metal boxes. I’ll look to add in another Hunter and Watcher, as well as maybe some Wardens, in the future. The Watchers will definitely be a priority, as they’re huge for Perdita and Sonnia as well. I don’t currently own Lucius, which is kind of a crime considering my two factions are Guild and Neverbron, so I’ll have to figure out some way to get one prior to the end of this. I have all I need for a Guild McMourning painted and ready to go now, so that may see some table time while I get the others up to non-embarrassing status. And then there’s Lady Justice who…well…let’s just say there may be a surprise with her in the future, related to the good doctor’s ministrations…

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Selection of Malifaux Podcasts

Just a brief post this time, but I thought I’d go through some of the podcasts regarding Malifaux that I listen to regularly. I’ve been a podcast listener more or less since the media form was released to the public. For the uninitiated, podcasts are recordings people can do from their computers that are then distributed over the internet for people to download and listen to at their leisure. Imagine being able to dial up your favorite radio show, have the newest episodes delivered to your phone or other audio device, and listen to them at leisure. The most common distributor is probably itunes, but aggregators like Podbean or various other podfeeds available from the Google Marketplace or Apple Store can be used to acquire whatever podcasts might interest you. I have a job where I can listen to a large number of them during the course of a day as well as when I work out, and its one of the ways I stay abreast of what’s going on in top-level Malifaux play (since I have limited opportunities to actually play the game anymore.)

Cheated Fates Radio and Through the Breach are the old men of the Malifaux podcasting world, referring to their longevity rather than calling them old codgers, of course. Both are on a less than weekly schedule, with TTB casting roughly every other week and CFR being more sparse. Joe from CFR was actually the TO for the Gencon tournaments this year, so its fair to say that he has a finger on the pulse of competitive Malifaux in the US. TTB alternates between discussion of the roleplaying game of the same name and the miniature game. If you’re looking for someone to be a schill for Wyrd, this is the wrong show, as TTB doesn’t shy away from pointing out when they don’t agree with something Wyrd is doing or don’t like some of the models or rules. Also, as an added bonus, TTB occasionally features two people from my old play area in Lincoln, NE, Victoria and Nick Hrenda. So that’s fun for me, I guess.


There’s been a new renaissance of Malifaux Pods coming from the Western US. The start came from Dan’s Before We Begin podcast, which is probably my favorite show right now. BWB focuses on looking at the set-up phases of a Malifaux Game, walking through individual masters and crews and looking at how experienced players would go about hiring a crew and selecting schemes. Once you get past the obvious bias for Rezzers and the unhealthy obsession with Crooligans (I kid, I kid,) it provides some of the best strategy analysis made widely available today. They’re approaching the end of Season 1 now where they meet the goal of having one episode per master (with one for each faction with dual-faction masters) and will look to move on to an as yet slightly changed format in Season 2. As a note: Dan appears to be having technical problems at the moment, and his very regular weekly schedule has been disrupted. Look for this to change in the near future.
Growing out of the success of Before We Begin, Mistakes Were Made and Schemes and Stones have also been successfully added to the Malifaux “Podcast-o-sphere” (Copyright Adam Rogers 2015). MWM tends to be a bit more of a free-flowing discussion of how some tournament and fun games the hosts have played recently have gone, with a focus on strategy and turn-by-turn break down. Their particular unique gimmick stems from a goal that some of the hosts are attempting to complete wherein they play X number of games with each master they own as a way of really learning how they play. Schemes and Stones has rapidly risen to one of my favorites since its debut, as the show focuses on a smaller scale break-down (most shows clock in somewhere between an hour and a half to two hours) of an individual master, flowing through a very specific set of questions to give you a top level view of how they play and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The show has been very regular thus-far and provides good strategy from knowledgeable players about individual masters throughout the whole game rather than the detailed breakdown of the set-up from BWB.
Others receiving votes are the WydPlace podcast, hosted by Crissy Dubois of Califaux fame. It’s the official podcast of the massive Facebook group of the same name and features content from all parts of the hobby from gaming to painting to fluff. They seem to be on a bit of a pod-fade at the moment, but hopefully they’ll come back soon. Schoolof Faux has similarly not been released in quite some time, having grown from the ashes of the old Malifools show that was considered by most to be the gold standard in Malifaux podcasts prior to Mike Marshall’s decision to shut it down. Hosted by “Mr. Formerly 300” Joel Henry and Matt Spooner, you can get Malifaux information from one of the top Malifaux players in the world…and Matt Spooner. Their format is focused around bite-sized segments themed around various classes from the school. Hopefully it Joel and Matt will start publishing again as well. Similarly outgrown from the Malifools is Fools Daily, which sometimes covers Malifaux and other times covers other minis games. Those who were fans of the Malifools but don't necessarily care about other games may want to keep a subscription, just to hear Mike and Conrad prattle on about whatever comes to mind like the good old days. 

I’m sure there are other casts I’ve skipped as well, but these are the ones I’m most familiar with. If I skipped you, my apologies.

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!