Friday, August 21, 2015

Theoryfaux: Are The Jokers Good for Malifaux?

Some Jokers just want to make the world burn.

I was playing a game that I wrote about recently, and started thinking about the Jokers in Malifaux. I asked myself if I thought that the jokers have an overall positive or negative effect on the game. Their rules in 2nd edition were adjusted to make them mirror images of each other when they flip out of the deck. The red counts as a fourteen of any suit and prevents the opponent from cheating when it comes out in a duel, and on a damage flip does severe + minimum damage and can a override minus flip’s “Choose the low card” rule. The black joker, by contrast, counts as a zero with no suit, stops you from cheating, and on a damage flip results in your doing no damage. So, heavy swings come to the game when you flip them out onto the battlefield. My question is, is this a good thing?
Now don’t get me wrong, the stories of a joker flip swinging a game are always entertaining, and there’s not much better than having the double negative defense flip on a model you were already writing off catch the RJ and live, to your opponents’ frustration. The trouble comes when the luck all swings in one direction, a probability whose likelihood is difficult to gauge without extensive statistics. In the previously mentioned battle report, I ended up flipping or cheating the Red Joker to about 5 duels during the game. My opponent did get three of them in return, but it can’t be denied that the Jokers decided that match for my side, and it made it rather difficult to gauge whether the strategy I’d put together was actually good or if I just got lucky. My opponent was detailing how his Amo No Zako and Hannah should have mauled their way through Francisco, denying me three points for bodyguard, and my Peacekeeper within the first couple of turns after our engagement. The trouble, really, comes from the ripple effect that the Jokers had on the rest of the match. If the Peacekeeper diedearlier, then Hannah would have been free to come get me. However, I would have moved Perdita to counter her directly, Abuela Ortega may have had more of an effect on the game, etc. etc. etc. Everything would have been different, and predicting how it would have turned out will just leave you running in circles. So, the ripple carries through the rest of the match and throws the game result into question.
The Black Joker effect can be equally devastating. You’ve crafted an amazing battle-plan. Your opponent’s fallen into your trap and you spring it, only to have Seamus’ focused flintlock shot do zero because of an untimely dose of bad luck. This is Malifaux, and as we all know, bad things happen, but do people enjoy seeing plans thrown out this easily by chance? I know I don’t, and not just when it happens to me. I hate when its obvious that one player’s deck is hosing them and I’m just going to roll to a win. Really poor black joker timing can exacerbate this even more. And, frankly, the worst thing that can ever happen is having both jokers come out on your flip, as it will typically result in A) Your action failing and B) You losing the red joker for that turn.
In terms of the actual mechanic of the game, what the Jokers do is introduce a level of chaos and unpredictability that might otherwise be lacking. By using decks instead of dice, the amount of randomness that comes into any particular action resolution is lowered. Counting cards is a thing in Malifaux. You don’t have to do it, but there is a certain benefit one can accrue by knowing that they’ve seen nine of their face cards flipped out, so it is fairly likely that they’re not going to like what comes out next time they make an attack. There is still randomness, but not as much as a d6 game has, particularly in games like Blood Bowl where you literally have a 1 in 6 chance (more or less) of failing every roll no matter how skilled you are at a particular action.  Add in the jokers, however, and the randomness level spikes. They’re still only two cards out of the 52, but in the major combat turns of the game (typically somewhere in the 2-4 range) you’re very likely to cycle through the whole deck and will thus, statistically, see them at some point. And when you do, their effect is greater than any other card in the fate deck.
How you feel about this probably says a lot about your personality and the attitude you bring to the game. If you’re fairly easy going, playing primarily for fun, or just flexible enough to adapt to the big swings on the fly, you probably are happy with the Jokers as they are. They come out like bombs, have a huge effect on the game, and can lead to amazing and fun outcomes. If you’re a planner like me, however, they can be extremely frustrating. We’re the ones that grab that black joker the first time we see it and hold it until turn 4, eating up a slot in our control hand simply to remove that statistical eff-you that’s lurking in the deck. The more control you can exert on the game, the more reliable your crew is and, ultimately, the happier you’re likely to be at the end of the game.

But then the Joker shows up, and your plan blows up anyways, and you’re just left cursing. 
Ultimately, the fact is that the Jokers are a part of Malifaux. I haven’t spoken to Justin in a while, but I doubt he’s going to errata them out of the game. So how can we control the chaos? The answer, I feel, is pretty well embodied by another article I posted previously discussing schemes that avoid interacting with the opponent. If you could execute a perfect strategy that neutralized your opponent and obtained your victory points, you would win and the jokers couldn’t do anything about it. This isn’t realistic, of course, but the more you can push your crews and strategies in this direction, the more consistent and independent of chance they will become. Ten Thunders is the first faction that comes to mind as having a lot of ways to do this, between Ten Thunders Bros., Low River Monks, and other cards that have abilities that can have huge effects on the game with very easily accomplished flips (Low-Rivers removing conditions and becoming very difficult to kill) or even without flipping a card at all (Ten Thunders Brothers blocking you from removing their scheme markers and then stretching their attack range to interact out to 4 inches on any card with the right suit). Scan your faction for examples of how to do this. All of them (well, maybe not as much the Gremlins) have something. In my current project, the Guild, my first thought is Hoffman’s stacking of constructs around himself to spike his cast up and make his spells (and any other constructs that can borrow his CA with power loop) essentially automatic. Finding all the ways to remove the influence of randomness from your crews’ outcomes is a short trip to it being consistent and, more often than not, victorious.

Until next time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cowboys v. Monks: Squatter's Rights 50SS

Friday night I was in my bed, having ushered the three kids to their room after watching part of The Dark Knight with my younger step-daughter (before you get on me, I warned her it was violent and to let me know if anything bothered her, earning me a "Come on, Adam, I'm almost nine now" look.) Jen was working until midnight and I'm getting old, so I went to bed by myself. An hour or so later, I was nudged awake by my darling wife and asked to come downstairs. I zombie shuffled obediently after her, and my old friend from the Omaha/Lincoln area Jon was there!

If you want to see comedy, surprise somebody after waking them up at 1AM and then watch them try to put together full sentences.

We hung out over the weekend, played some board games (Firefly is fun), and on Saturday Night drug out the old TerraClips terrain and my Mats by Mars to throw down for some Malifaux action, thus inspiring this battle report.

50SS Squatter's Rights
Guild (Perdita) vs. Ten Thunders (Shen Long)

The Good Guys square off with the gray armies of the Thunders

Perdita-Trick Shooting, 7SS
Francisco-Wade In
Enslaved Neph.
(Bodyguard-Francisco, Make Them Suffer)

Shenlong- some upgrades (I don't know Shenlong, and when Jon starts doing the Shen Shpiel on his activation, my eyes kind of glaze over. Sorry.) 2SS
Sensei Yu-Wandering River, Disciple
Amo No Zako
Maybe Some Other Stuff
(Line in the Sand, Make Them Suffer)

I wanted to get my big impressive arch/wall assembled and out onto the board, and in doing so may have basically added the main determining feature of the board. We tilted it diagonally and had the Squatter's Rights tokens running through the doorway. On a podcast I don't remember (please tell me which, if you know), I had heard a pretty solid gameplan to push the Ortegas (including the newly inducted Peacekeeper Ortega) to the squat tokens and push Nino up to the far right flank so he could see down the line and use spotter. The terrain plus the two fifty millimeter markers in the enemy crew was going to make it tough to lock him out of all the strategy points, but I knew how quick we were and planned to get through the door and lock down what I could with the Peacekeeper and Frank. Perdita was going to be back a bit, as Assassinate and Deliver the Message were in he pool. I had wanted to include Brutal Effigy, Hunters, and/or dogs but Make Them Suffer pretty much nixed front-line minions for this game. I was informed after the game that Jon hadn't really tailored his list to the scenario, but rather just wanted to get these models on the board and see what they could do.

Things pretty much went according to plan from the jump, with the Thunders shifting around and dropping some scheme markers and the Ortegas hauling ass up to go jump on the squat markers and hunker down. Tactically, I think we both had pretty good strategies, though my decision to jump out and try to delete scheme markers near Hannah with the Peacekeeper proved somewhat questionable since she deleted suits off of his cast and made it impossible. Jon's trick of the game involved Yu floating scheme markers into position, at which point Hannah would copy the Performer's Seduction spell and blow the markers up to pass out negative flips for Amo to exploit.

Unfortunately, the Jokers basically decided this one for me. We figured that on turn 4 we had seen six of them already, and I think I had caught four of those. The Peacekeeper should have been dead on turn two from the double negative defense flips, but kept hanging on from Red Jokers coming out or his hard to wound/armor combination. The whole combat bogged down on the archway, with the Ortegas scoring for the strategy and the Thunders being more or less locked down. Any damage I did to Amo or Hannah would be immediately healed away by Shenlong after I did it, so I had to drop them in one activation with companion if I was going to kill them and never quite pulled it off. PK was reduced to scrap turn 3 by Hannah, but Perdita and Franc still managed to lock down the archway through to turn four. One of the more important activations was when Jon sent his performer to go get a second squat marker on the left side of the board (Nino couldn't see her, as his view was blocked by 50mm bases) but my Austringer one-shotted her with a timely Red Joker damage flip before she could get it. I managed to score one for Frame for Murder when Perdita got a shot off at a peasant (Jon happily let it die so he could resummon it, do an interact, and net a soulstone) but otherwise I was playing cagey since I didn't know until turn five what Jon's hidden scheme was. Nino's job was to lock out interacts, so he did that but accomplished very little else due to the wall. Abuela did even less, and has me wondering if she looks impressive on the card but is perhaps not as good as I thought. I should have, in retrospect, used "Enfrentate a Mi" to hop out of combat with Amo and kill peasants/performers for Make Them Suffer points, but I did manage to keep him alive for Bodyguard despite being in melee with Amo No Zako from turn 2 forward.

I think the tactics of the game were sound, but I have a hard time gauging the combat results due to the Jokers swinging things all over the place. I didn't catch all of them, but I caught more than Jon and often in critical moments. At the same time, I made some very poor plays at points (Flurrying on a defensive Amo when Hannah was right there, etc.) which I'm going to chalk up to the late hour and helped out the enemy. So, I'm happy with the game, but not overwhelmed with my crew's performance. Knocking Amo or Hannah down to their last handful of wounds and then watching it all get healed back was fairly disheartening. The terrain wall really hurt Nino, and in Squatter's Rights he's invaluable for locking down the markers, so I'll give him a pass on this one. Abuela, on the other hand, did a whole pile of nothing, making this two games in a row. I might give her a rest for a little while and see what else can use those seven points.

At turn five it was 8 to 1. Jon had a few things he could do on subsequent turns (we flipped high enough to keep going) to get some points on the board, but we were both tired and didn't think it would be enough to get the win even with some unlikely flip results, so we called it. Chalk another one up for the good guys.

And, of course, the remodeling efforts have continued. The redrock basing is growing on me, though it sill needs highlights. I like the gray hat on Nino a lot, and Perdita's silver bling pants and hat. Skin tones are still not quite where I love them, but it'll do for now. Also, gotta live your height 1 effigy being almost as tall as your height 2 master.

Who you tryin' to get crazy with, ese? Don't you know we're loco?

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.