Monday, November 28, 2016

The Ongoing Challenge of Ongoing Challenges

After a bit of a brief break for the Thanksgiving Holiday, Malifaux Musings is back and ready to tell you about all of the bad things happening in our favorite gothic steampunk Victorian western city. First, some news bits, then an announcement regarding the blog itself, and we’ll finish up with a conversation about ongoing challenges in the Through the Breach roleplaying game.
Let’s dive in, shall we?


News Briefs

-The Divergent Paths story encounters event has wrapped up. The Arcanists continued their efforts towards coercing the Self Righteous Man, netting them wins in the last two phases and ultimately the win for the model. Despite their early success, the Rezzers were nudged out of the way by the Neverborn for ultimate control of the Trickster. And last but not least, in a surprise upset, the Outcasts rallied to take the child. The results of this seem to be that the SRM is going to be a werewolf man and full member of the Order of the Chimera, the Trickster will gain some ability to summon or manipulate Nephilim on top of her Nightmare abilities, and the Inquisitive Child gets shot (Malifaux really does suck sometimes, huh kid?) and in the process of saving her, Levi implants her with tech similar to what goes into the Hollow Waifs. Does this mean she’ll be a new waif? Or an anchor point? Time will tell. Unfortunately, Aaron also revealed that there was some cheating going on with the reporting of results down the stretch, so this will affect how they design future events. Bummer.

-The UK Nationals tournament was held on the 12th to 13th of November at Battlefield Hobbies in Daventry. Organized by Old Man Mike of Malifools fame, it once again set the attendance record for Malifaux tournaments with 123 participants. In the end, victory went to the Neverborn lead by Mark Elwood, now a two-time nationals champion. This victory puts him on his way to winning the UK Tournament Triple Crown.

-The Black Friday sale is currently underway at Wyrd’s webstore. In addition to a number of prereleases from book 4, there are two limited edition crews for sale: a translucent yellow Jack Daw crew and the Wild Ones limited edition alternate McCabe crew from Gencon in translucent smoke. If you spend $150 in the store you get an alternate Guard Sergeant and Rafkin, and if you drop $300 you can get an alternate Nicodem that should look familiar if you have one of the original fate decks and an alternate sculpt of Bishop, who does not look to have skipped chest and arms day. Toss in the addition of some posters for each of the factions (Black Joker novelty mini included for buying one of these) and Wyrd has some good stuff available. Sale ends December 2nd, so get your orders in now if you want to take advantage.


And next the announcement: we’ve become an affiliate of Leodis Games! This UK based game retailer contacted us to help promote their efforts, and we’re happy to pass along the good word about their services. Their webstore offers Malifaux models as well as Guild Ball, the Batman Miniatures Game, Infinity, and many more, as well as partnering with Army Painter and other hobby companies as well. In addition, they offer some custom 3D printed scheme markers appropriate for each of the Malifaux factions that I definitely have my eye on. All Malifaux Pre-Release orders are offered at 20% off, and free postage is offered on any orders over £40. If you’re interested in giving them a look, please use this offer link  or their banner on the side of the blog and they’ll kick some shekels our way, and the best part is it doesn’t cost you anything extra! So go get somebody you love the Christmas gift of Malifaux. We and Leodis appreciate your support. 


                For the main topic of today’s post, I wanted to discuss ongoing challenges in the Through the Breach roleplaying game. One of the things I liked most about the fourth edition of Dungeons and Dragons (which was a pretty short list, tbh) was the introduction of Skill Challenges, a mechanical system for providing out-of-combat encounters representing following a trail through the wilderness, negotiating a deal with a merchant baron with a grudge against you, or disarming a death trap before your group is crushed/stabbed/poisoned to death. I liked it because, prior to this, most of the RPGs I’d ever played basically boiled down to “Roll the skill check and, if they pass, give them the clue/result they’re looking to obtain.” This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First of all, if they fail the check then you have to bend over backwards to accommodate the failure (or just scrap the adventure.) Second, very rarely in life are any complicated problems solved with a single action, and third, it doesn’t accommodate dramatically changing the challenge midstream. Skill challenges offered a solution to all of these problems, but they had their own issues.

Through the Breach has a similar mechanism in the form of the Ongoing Challenge. When I relaunched Malifaux Musings, one of my goals was to try and grant more time to the Malifaux roleplaying game. As such, I thought I’d discuss some tricks for juicing up what I think has the potential to be a very valuable part of the Fatemaster’s toolbox.

1)      Transition into them smoothly- One of the biggest issues with introducing an Ongoing Challenge is introducing them in a way that sticks out like a sore thumb. Saying “We’re going to begin an Ongoing Challenge to search the treasure room. These are the skills that are allowed, and your duration is 1 hour. Who wants to give it a try?” almost always breaks your players’ immersion. So establish a way of getting into an Ongoing Challenge that isn’t such a speed bump. Or, if you’re really good at your job, don’t even tell your players that you’ve started one. Present them the problem that needs to be solved and just poll the players for what they want to try to do to solve it. When they throw an idea at you, figure out a skill flip that would represent what they want to try and have them do it. Mark the results of the flip accordingly and then have a different player suggest another idea. If your players are savvy they’ll probably figure out what you’re doing the second or third time you start this way, but it’s better than just throwing the hard left turn at them. One thing that will make this more free-form version of the Ongoing Challenge easier for you is to…

2)      Don’t lock down the list of available skills-This is one of my major divergences from the way OC’s are presented in the Fated Guide. I don’t like the recommendation to generate a small list of skills available for players to use during challenges, because I feel like it limits player creativity and locks some party members out of contributing. If your Fated are trying to infiltrate a ball in the Governor’s Mansion, the Drudge in your party is going to have his work cut out for him to come up with ways to use social skills to contribute meaningfully. This does not, however, give you permission to turn him loose and let him throw Endurance checks at the problem unless it comes with a VERY good explanation. I understand the point of restricting the lists, particularly given that one of the criticisms of TTB is that its too slanted towards player success, but the bottom line for me is that you are playing a game, and sitting back and watching your friends flip Bewitch checks while you stand awkwardly against the wall (suddenly I’m flashing back to High School dances…) But if I can't find a way to let all my players participate in the challenge in some way, I feel like I've failed. 

      If you're not as liberal with ongoing challenges as I am, then perhaps a good compromise is to let your players with skills that are not on the list use other suggestions to help their friends indirectly. One example I often use is the example of an Academic searching a library for a specific tome with clues to a mystery the Fated need to solve. There are a narrow set of skills that can be of use here, and that Drudge from the previous Ball is again likely to not be very useful. However, if he wants to use Labor as a reflection of his just grabbing piles of books to haul them en masse through the library, let him. Don’t give them a success for it, but maybe give the Academic a + to his flips as a result. The Performer could also use some skills to brew a hot pot of coffee that could negate some failures that might come later in the challenge. Let your players be creative!

3)      Change the Rules-As written, most ongoing challenges are pretty static. You define the problem, list the skills, TN, and number of successes you need, and go from there. These are fine for smaller challenges, but can get pretty tedious if you have something major that requires, say, 12 successes to achieve. This is why you need to throw in something to shake it up partway through. One of the most common of these is to have something occur between each duration. Maybe while searching the library, the academic discovers a magical animated-book trap that the party has to deal with before continuing with the search. Maybe at the party the group bumps into one of their political rivals and now needs to deflect them before they can sabotage their efforts. In the Nythera Penny Dreadful there is an OC where the Fated have to get out of dodge while two Malifaux Masters duke it out around them. In between durations of this, a stray fireball might come flying down out of the sky at them or spirits might appear and attack. That certainly broke up the monotony!

Furthermore, don’t be afraid to change which skills the party needs as the challenge progresses. Maybe something one of your players tries now opens a new method of success and allows a whole different set of skills to be used! One example might be that the Fated are at the bottom of a mine which suddenly starts to collapse. At first they might need to use Labor and other physical type skills to get out of the way of falling debris and get to the lift to the surface. Then, once there, they discover that the lift is broken, so the party can either try to repair it quickly with Artefacting to carry them out or start climbing. Then, perhaps the mine shafts start to physically shift, so there may be some engineering or intellect related skills to find the right path in the midst of the confusion!

Taken to an extreme, you can even have an Ongoing challenge be the entire game session. I recently started running a group through the original Penny Dreadful “In Defense of Innocence” and had the party try to swing a town’s mayoral election in a particular direction. As presented, it was simply a group of encounters which, if completed successfully by the party, would move a certain number of votes from one pile to another. I decided to restructure it into a Large Ongoing Challenge (Win the Election) which would be broken down into smaller challenges by the players (Get the dry cleaner on your side, Free the playhouse from debt, etc.) For each of the smaller challenges there would be a small list of skills and a certain number of successes needed. Depending on the outcome, I transferred a number of successes or failures onto the larger overarching challenge. Throw in a few unexpected complications (holy crap, the incumbent mayor just came by while we were trying to sabotage the play, what do we do?) and you’ve got a whole game session full of adventure ready to go.

4)      Let them fail, and make it hurt-Now we all know that the dirty secret of game mastering is that, sometimes, we will cut a player a break to keep the game moving. If the players don’t flip well enough on perception to spot the murderer sneaking off into the alley, your group doesn’t give chase and all the effort you put into creating a dynamic ongoing challenge for the Dirty Harry style backstreet pursuit goes to waste. That sucks for you, and it sucks for the players because they don’t get to have the fun they would have experienced by doing the challenge. So, from time to time, we’ll nudge things to give the group a better chance to succeed for the sake of the story.

I used to do this a lot more than I am now. I wanted my story to go a certain way and I would nudge things in the direction however I had to in order to get that outcome. Then, about 8 years ago, I joined an online game in a Gothic Horror D&D setting called Ravenloft with a DM who is, charitably, kind of a bastard. In his game the dice land where they land, and the consequences of that happen regardless of whatever “story” he had in mind, especially if a player put themselves in the wrong position by making bad choices for their character. Characters have been driven irrevocably mad. They’ve been cursed and become evil. Once I had the villain throw my character’s son off of a cliff in front of me! To quote probably the craziest example, one of our players chased some bandits who had robbed us into the mists, resulting in his magically being transported somewhere random in the world. This random place turned out to be the middle of the ocean, whereupon he was viciously eaten by sharks and died! No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.

At first you might think that these outcomes were cruel. However, what I came to realize is that, because I knew the threats to our characters and their world were real, it made it so much more memorable than most other games of which I’ve been a part. The gamemaster wasn't being unfair, he was simply letting us experience real consequences for our characters' actions. I’ve since adapted this for my own games, and found the same results. The same is true for how you design ongoing challenges. Failure needs to be an option for the game, and the consequences for failing should be real. Don’t kill the whole game session if the party doesn’t find the clue you’ve hidden, but don’t let them off the hook for missing it either. Maybe by the time they get on the killer’s trail, their friend they had hoped to save has already been murdered or even reanimated as an undead creature. If this is a favorite Fatemaster Character they've known and learned to love, that's going to be remembered. This lets the party see that the game has real stakes, and makes it more memorable when they “beat you” and save their friends the next time.

                I hope these tips have helped you with some ideas regarding upgrading your ongoing challenge. If you have any good stories from your games or tips for other Fatemasters, feel free to share them in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Is something new coming for Malifaux?

No, this is not a post about some kind of redesign of the rules, before you start panicking. I personally have no reason to think they would need to move on to a Malifaux 2.5 or 3, as the game works fine as is. Also, let me start out by saying very clearly that I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. Yes, my name has occasionally shown up in the front of some of the books as a playtester, but that has no bearing on this post. If I had heard something, I wouldn’t be able to write this since I’d be under NDA (and if I suddenly clam up about anything coming in the future, I guess you’ll know why.)
Ok, with disclaimers out of the way, I’ve had a thought recently that something new may be coming down the pipe with the next book. One of the interesting promises that the upgrade system brought to Malifaux with the introduction of M2E was the possibility to modify characters in the future by releasing an upgrade that might significantly change the way they play. Wyrd have dipped a toe into this water with the release of the pseudo-errata Upgrade cards that are designed to bring less used models into active play. But, they’ve never really gone whole-hog on this idea. They’ve not released upgrades to previously released masters, and everything that’s been brought out were for the most part balance changes rather than changes to the way the masters play. I would have probably just left it at that, but of late I’ve found myself wondering if maybe something along these lines is on the way.
Why? The answer is in the fluff, mostly in the dramatic changes that we can see happening with several of the masters in Ripples of Fate. Sonnia has released Cherufe from herself, losing the iron mask and, in the process, apparently getting very badly burned (and turning to Doc McMourning for assistance.) Molly has stopped living as a waif on the streets and gotten back her old job as a reporter with the Malifaux Gazette. The Dreamer is projecting himself as an older version with a penchant for smashing things with a cricket bat. Von Schill lost a leg and has replaced it with a steam prosthetic. There are more examples, but I think I get my point across: things are changing for the characters in Malifaux in pretty significant ways. At first I thought these changes might stay relegated to the storyline, and I wasn’t really crazy about that. It bugged me that the models weren’t going to match up with the books anymore. And then, I saw this:

Time for a bit of the old ultra-violence.

Now, again, this could still be nothing. But it strikes me as odd that there’s Wyrd art coming along to represent these physical changes to the characters. I once asked Erik if they were ever going to sell Carver miniatures and/or add him to the game, and his response was "We probably wouldn't put this much time into designing it if we weren't going to bring it out someday" (although it should be noted that conversation happened well before the release of M2E, so it wasn't exactly a QUICK turnaround either.) 
So basically, it strikes me as odd that they would put all this time, love, and effort into the design without then reflecting it in the miniatures game in some way. One of the issues Malifaux has accrued as it's aged is model bloat. No matter how much new hottness they release, you can still only fit between 6 and, say, 10 of them into a Malifaux crew at a time. This causes two problems. One is the difficulty in knowing everything there is to know to prepare yourself for a game with an unknown master or crew. The other is that there are so many models in this game that some honestly good ones can’t get onto the board because the only things people play are those that are A) Broken (in a good way) or B) Widely accepted by the player base as the “best” model at a given point value. If Wyrd keeps cranking out a new master per faction plus a whole panel of minions, enforcers, and henchmen ala what came with Ripples, this “problem” will only become more exacerbated. And besides this, we LOVE the old characters! One of the best parts of M2E coming out was having the opportunity to go back to those old favorites, dust them off, and play them in new and interesting ways. So, is there a way to do that again?
I’m curious if Wyrd is going to try and tap into this in some way. Now, they could always just release “Dreamer, Petulent Adolescent” as a whole new master, but that would probably suck. I have enough faith in Wyrd to think they wouldn’t go that route. Instead, I think it would be great for them to release a new suite of upgrade cards for the old masters, henchmen, and some other models to change the way they play in new and interesting ways. Now, I’m well aware that Wyrd is a miniatures company, and they don’t make money off of books the way they do for their models, but that’s where the physical changes the characters are experiencing could come into play. Release a new Dreamer boxed set with the new, cricket bat swinging version along with his upgrade cards and a reshuffle of the included models ala what they did with the Gencon McCabe Nightmare Edition box. Include an suite of upgrades to make the melee/Lord Chompy Bits summoning version better than the hide in the back and summon all game long version. Watch the money roll in. Oh, and please, please let the old models still count as the new ones so the rest of us destitute folk can get away with just buying an upgrade box, but feel free to release a Sonnia Criid “From the Ashes” boxed set with Witchling Thralls in it, or something. I think this would be a great inclusion to Malifaux's product line, would still let them sell some new models, and could breathe some new life into old models and crews.
Or, more likely, I’m totally wrong. But boy, it sure seems to me like something new must be coming. Feel free to don your tinfoil hats and speculate with me.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Divergent Paths p4 and Vassal M2e v2.2

We’re in the last legs of the Malifaux Divergent Paths event, and all in all things seem to be improving for our wayward newcomers. There were some real surprises this week in who won, and I imagine a couple of factions may be scrambling a bit to secure a hold on models they thought were thoroughly under their control. Phase 4 scenarios can be found here.

I would watch the hell out of a Malifaux based police procedural. Or "Better Call Amina." Just saying.
                The Self-Righteous Man is free! Well, more or less. He’s been cleared of his charges, due in part to the timely intercession of M&SU Lawyer Amina Naidu on his side. Now he’s been recruited to Ridley and is studying magic with Sandeep, having gained an interest in the Court Procedure magic used to bind his werewolf spirit. This week’s scenario features a similar idea to the Trickster’s Period 2 Scenario, with a series of Tome markers being scattered on the board. Models walk to the markers, pick them up and, unless they flip a crow to indicate it’s a worthless book, then try to deliver it to the SRM in the middle of the board. So, get your interacting Don’t Mind Me models ready. Additionally, the library puts a “Shh” condition on models that take Cast actions which will gradually do damage to them, meaning you’d probably better find some alternatives or some condition removal (why the librarians are cool with gunfire and swordfights is beyond me.) The Arcanists’ win in week 1 and 3 mean they’re likely at an advantage to end up with the SRM, but I would imagine the Guild could make a good run at it in week 4 and steal him. I’m pretty interested to see how the model turns out as, again, I love the Court Procedure magic style.

I was a little skeptical of the new Dreamer when I first read about it, but this art is turning me around. And, it makes me wonder about things that may be coming in the future...

                The Trickster was making a new friend this week as well, though the Dreamer isn’t quite as wholesome a friend as the Arcanist lawyer. On the other hand, he can wave his hand and create painkillers out of thin air for her, so I guess I can’t blame her. After going on a little pumpkin-smashing expedition, Nytemare imbued her with a bit of his power as a fail-safe incase Titania decides to off The Dreamer. For this week’s scenario, she’s decided to take some of those reality warping powers out for a spin, calling some Malifaux folks together for a fight with a crew that might not be ENTIRELY real. You hire a crew of 60SS, but then your opponent gets to pick two of your non-master models to REMOVE BEFORE THE GAME. You do the same for them, of course, but wow, that is intense! And as if that wasn’t chaotic enough, throw in blind deployment on top of it. Wowzers. The objective is to kill models near the Trickster in the center of the board every turn, and it’s going to be an interesting one. I think it will be key to build a crew of independent, strong models for this one. If your crew needs to have a lot of synergies to function, you’re going to struggle here. Also, you’re almost certainly going to end up playing at less than 50SS unless you build a crew with no models that cost more than 5SS. Gremlins and other spam type lists might be interesting for this, as well as a summoner master to replace your losses. Your mileage may vary. In any case, I imagine the Resurrectionists will be pretty interested in making sure they win this week with her to ensure the Neverborn don’t steal her away (and get the Ancestor trait tagged onto her as well.)

Pictured: not a nice person. Plus, has she always been able to talk to her arm?

                Finally, the kid. Rusty Alice followed a couple of puppets she found murdering a merc back to her hideout and was going to kill her and her teddybear, but Leveticus interceded on the girl’s behalf. He’s taken over her education and put her to work salvaging scrap for him, and that’s where you come in. This board will consist of two scrapyard markers on the outer edge of the board and the kid in the middle. You need to grab the scrap and then carry it to the kid in the center of the board for VP’s. So, again, lots of maneuvering and interacting required here, and crews that form one central murderball are going to have a harder time with this. It’s kind of like an extreme version of guard the stash. Expect lots of Neverborn activity here for the reasons mentioned above for the Trickster. I particularly enjoy the boosts that the kid may end up getting from this week, as they all basically involve her finding some kind of trash that from another Malifaux model that she’s going to adapt for herself, her Teddy, or her little marionette friends.


                Coincidental though the timing might be, I thought I’d walk you through some of the changes introduced with the new Vassal module v2.2 for Malifaux 2e. Ratty released this last week, and it improves things significantly from previous versions (and is very reassuring to those of us who wondered if maybe the module was not going to be updated again.)

                First of all, the puppet art is gone! I know a lot of people liked it, but it’s kind of dated (particularly given that Wyrd has sort of left Puppet Wars behind for the time being.) I think including the M2E stuff is a fantastic improvement! Additionally, the models now start off with all their wounds added to the model rather than having to be ticked on one by one before you start playing (this isn’t necessarily required, but it was considered good etiquette by most players to do this so your opponent could see how much more hitting a model required before it fell over.)

The gang's all here.

                Second, all the models from Ripples of Fate have been added to the module. So all the new crews, models, and…stuff? I don’t know, I ran out of things to put third on the list. But the point is, it’s all there ready to go. No need to wait for the models to be released, and no more throwing out “Generic 30mm base” and renaming it. Good times.

If you look at Asami, you can get an idea of how the new movement arrows work.

                Last, some quality of life changes. You can turn all the auras off with a simple command (CTRL+Period.) If you’ve played on Vassal enough, you know why this helps. You always have that one model with a 12” aura you turned on 3 turns ago, forgot about, and now can’t figure out how to remove or what size it is. The models have been rebuilt and the appearance of the arrow changed to stop them from wiggling so much. Essentially, the token always stays in the same orientation, but when you click on a token to move it there’s an arrow that rotates to show which way it will move. Plus, the Gaining Grounds 2016 strat and scheme cards are now available to be selected (it defaults to the book strats and schemes, but there’s a Gaining Grounds 2016 option in the drop-down to go find it.)

                So Vassalfaux is back and better than ever. If you get a chance, you should go look Ratty up on the forums or A Wyrd Place and tell him thank you for all his hard work. Use it, go play those Divergent Paths games, and let’s see where these crazy newcomers end up once all is said and done. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Divergent Paths Phase 3

It’s stage three of the Divergent Paths storyline, and things have gotten kind of grim for some characters, and pretty interesting for some of the others. We'll discuss the results further down, but first a mini-game report chronicling my continued descent further into the embrace of the Whisper.

Seamus and Co. Getting Ready for a Gremlin hunt.
I got one more game in with Seamus since last week, this time actually in person! I traveled to my friend Evan (who runs a blog for some weird game called 40k. I’ve never heard of it, but if you have you should go check them out at Facing the Grey Tide.) The Rezzers have been chasing after the Trickster, and the guy I was playing against didn’t really care, so I did my bit for…Grave Spirit and country? I don’t know, whatever. I played against Ophelia in the Trickster scenario, which was a little bit like Headhunter where you picked up Corpse Counters and dropped them off with the Trickster in the middle of the board for VPs. I kind of screwed up and threw Seamus away early on to tie up the back-lines of the enemy crew, but Sybelle and Datsue Ba managed to hold the line against the enemy while my Belles and a Performer I had hired managed to go win the Strategy. Datsue is a pretty sweet hench who will likely be in many of my crews in the future, as she is versatile, brings in some more summoning, and can deal some real damage. I think I’ll throw both Seishin upgrades on her in the future, but she was very strong in this game with just the Spirit Whispers, and summoning a Seishin right up into Ophelia’s face on one turn was pretty critical. Also, the Copycat Killer is insanely strong and aggravating for its cost. It shot gremlins off the board, cancelled out an opponent’s Convict Labor marker, and then held his own against a piglet for the rest of the game. It was kind of silly. I do like the Bag o' Tools for the Scheme Marker drop and the ability to pass out peon, but I think Sinister Reputation might have been more useful in this. Punishing the Gremlins already low WP by lowering it would have been useful, although I did get some good mileage out of the Bag by throwing down Scheme Markers for Detonate the Charges. So, I managed to make sure the lady ended up staying in the employ of the Resurrectionists (much to her dismay...)

For weeks 5 and 6, the Self Righteous Man’s story took an interesting turn. He’d been rampaging in his wolfy form and killing folks until he was caught by a crew of Guild Lawyers, who used their law magic to tie away the creature in his mind and give him back some control. I was delighted to see this, as the Court Procedure school of magic is one of my favorites just because it’s one of the things that feels truly unique to Malifaux. Now, however, he’s on trial and you have to do a sort of shindig Story Encounter where you’re bribing the judge in his case. He’s been claimed by the Arcanists and the Guild on successive rounds. We’ll have to see where he ends up in the end.

The Trickster’s story got…a little dark this week. Doc McMourning killed her again and, when she reanimated, she found that he has removed her skin and given it to one of his nurses. So, that’s pretty rough. I felt a little guilty about that, particularly the discussion of the agonizing pain she is now in constantly, but thankfully the Whispers came along and told me that it’s all a part of the greater plan, so now I don’t feel bad anymore. Thanks voices in my head! Apparently she did finally escape the Doctor’s lab, claiming the skin of a guild guard of some kind and taking on her identity. This week’s scenario is kind of a modified Extraction scenario, wherein you have to bring her painkillers or perform healing flips on her to move her onto your side of the board. You score points for the strategy if she’s on your side of the board at the end of every turn after the first. This one feels the closest to one of the normal strategies, but will have you scrambling to figure out which models in your faction can perform healing flips (hint, Friekorps Librarians are mercs.) 

Finally, the Kid has continued to be influenced by the Neverborn. In addition to her teddy friend, she now has some marionette pals. However, she’s started to want to go find her parents (who are already in Malifaux.) The sinister toys are not so crazy about this idea, and are now going to try and find the kid’s parents and kill them off so she has to stay with them. Again, kinda dark. In this week’s story encounter, you pick a living model in your crew and attach a “possible parent” card to them. If you can kill the other crew’s “parent” you gain VPs based on the station of the model, IE 4 VPs for a master, 3 for a hench., etc. Obviously this would encourage you to hide your parent somewhere in the backfield, however the other side of the strategy is that you gain 1 point at the end of every turn where your parent is within 6” of the opponent’s deployment zone. So, definitely a kill-y game, but one where mobility will be important as well. There will be some tension between deciding between going for the steady points every turn and focusing on the kill. I’m curious to hear people’s plans for how to attack this scenario.

So, there’s two of the new models that, one could say, it will be difficult to pry away from their current influencers. The Rezzers and the Neverborn have won the Trickster and the Kid the first two weeks respectively, so as long as they maintain par there doesn’t seem to be much chance of stealing them away. However, the Self Righteous Man has been split between the Arcanists and the Guild. If I had one complaint about this event as compared to Nythera last year and Dead of Winter from back in the day, it’s that there’s no data available (that I’m aware of) for the other factions’ progress on any of these models. That makes organizing an attack sort of difficult and, in all likelihood, if someone else wins one of the two already locked up models this week they’ll just be handing an ability from their faction to the faction that’s already winning anyways. For instance, if the Rezzers win the Kid this week, Seamus gives the kid his hat. That’s nice and all, but the kid’s probably ending up with the Neverborn anyways, so why should we work to give the kid our hat? As such, if you’re from one of the three factions that hasn’t won any of the models yet, I have to think that your BEST bet is to go after the Self Righteous Man. Neither the Guild nor the Arcanists have managed a commanding lead on him (presumably. Again, we have no data.) So, Outcasts, Ten Thunders, and Gremlins, channel your inner Duran Duran, get hungry like the wolf, and go get that guy. For the other two, we'll just keep pressing our current advantages. Or do like I do, and just play games and be thankful that you got to get your cards out.

Later, folks.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Paths Diverged in a Wood

I'm a little late on this, for reasons mentioned below, but the  Divergent Paths event has started for Wyrd Miniatures. It runs through the fall, ala the Nythera event from 2015 (though without the Through the Breach component,) and chronicles the efforts by the factions to recruit three newcomers to their sides. There are story encounters the groups play to try and earn favor with them, and the factions that win the most times in the week influence the character and the story in some way on the subsequent weeks. When we reach the end, the models will be assigned to factions based on who scores the most influence over each and will be added to an upcoming Malifaux book accordingly.

In week 1 and 2, the Fancy Man was won by the Arcanists and, as such, Marcus and Co. have afflicted him with a form of Lycanthropy. The Trickster was killed and resurrected in the morgue by Malifaux's favorite doctor, who is now using her to fetch corpses for him. And, the kid has been recruited by the Neverborn after a Teddy saved her from Witch Hunters. Where things will go from here is up to us.


So, I think I made it clear that, after Gencon and the release of Ripples of Fate, I was pretty psyched for Titania. I bought the boxed set. It was first on my painting table when I got home. I may or may not have been playing test games with her several months prior. I was IN baby, declaring my allegiance to the Autumn Queen wherever I could do it.

And then nothing happened.

I don't know if it was burn-out from being involved in the testing. I don't know if it was just a post Gencon "I've been thinking and blogging about nothing but Wyrd for the last two months," fatigue. I'm certain that not having games of Malifaux to play had something to do with it as well. As such, when the Divergent Paths event started, I found myself not exactly sprinting to Vassal to get another game in with Jon. I've got the Queen painted, but I haven't done anything but prime the others. So, when I finally ended up with an evening to get in the aforementioned Vassal game, perhaps it should be no surprise that, when it came time to declare my faction, I turned on her and her Neverborn companions like a heel turn at Wrestlemania.

I didn't hit her with a chair, but I would have if necessary.
Sometimes you care about winning games and completing objectives, but sometimes you just want to watch the world burn. Nobody embodies this idea better than the Mad Hatter of Malifaux, Seamus. He's my favorite master in the game in terms of the means by which his flavor is translated to the tabletop. Back Alley is just amazingly flavorful and, oh yeah, also pretty darned good in the game. Just when you think you have your strategy set up and ready to launch, suddenly Seamus pops out of a dark corner, cackles at you, and unloads his stupid-big gun into the back of one of your minions' heads. It's beautiful, and it's oh-so-satisfying. I had previously used Sinister Reputation with him and not been overwhelmed by it (not necessarily underwhelmed either. Perhaps just whelmed.) As such, I decided to bust out the Bag o' Tools this game, particularly given that we were going to be focusing in a smaller area on the board.

Plus my Seamus has a Jack o' Lantern. Can't beat that!
A Seamus crew is typically more resilient than it should be (8 wd hard to wound Belles are just silly.) And that Lure thing is supposed to be pretty good too, or so I hear. As such, two of them are nearly an auto-include, along with their pal Sybelle. I've waxed back and forth on the cathouse madam in the past because I've felt that she doesn't carry her weight (not a fat joke) in melee. But, she does have a pretty solid ranged attack in Shriek that blasts, and I think maybe she's better in the backfield as a shotcaller for the Belles than in front mixing it up. For the rest of the crew, I wanted models that could stand up pretty well on their own, given that I often have Seamus teleporting around the board and causing trouble away from them. Towards this end, I decided to try out an idea which I'd heard online, which I call the Triangle Offense. It revolves around placing Unnerving Aura on three solid anchors that move together, forming a triangle of "Don't stand here" for the enemy. Towards this end, I put in Yin (whose main ability in the game is not dying) and the always charming Anna Lovelace, who already has her own disruptive auras and who provides some much needed card draw for the crew in the form of Rush of Magic. Toss in a nurse for flavor, and we've got a crew.

I found myself playing Seamus in the Divergent Paths' scenario regarding the Wolfman running around and rampaging. It was a bit like Extraction, except you scored by having scheme markers within 3" of the marker at the end of the turn, and the marker occasionally leaps at you and tries to kill you. Fun times. My crew was this:

Seamus: Red Chapel Killer, Bag O' Tools, 4SS
Sybelle: Not too banged up, Unnerving Aura
Anna Lovelace: Unnerving Aura
Yin: Unnerving Aura
Rotten Bellex2
Copycat Killer

Schemes: Covert Breakthrough, Show of Force

Jon was playing Yan Lo (who I keep trying to call Shenlong. Also, before you ask, yes he had successfully attached the beard, so he deserves the T-Shirt.) His crew had the Emissary, Terracotta Warrior, Oiran (Yan Lo was carrying her upgrade,) Lone Swordsman, a Ten Thunders Brother, and the Soul Porter. The board was the End of the Line map hosted on Before We Begin's website. It's unbalanced and I won the toss and snatched the bottom left corner. Sybelle and the Belles spent most of the game in the building, alternating between Luring and Shrieking at models outside. The Mysterious Emissary and Lone Swordsman fell victim to some early lures and Seamus Back Alleying. I had some pretty solid luck on turn two with my hand and attack flips (two "With a Flourish" triggers on the swordsman in the same turn=no hand for Jon.) In the end, I was well on my way to tabling the other crew at the end of turn 3, and we decided to call it a win there.

As I said, I enjoyed Seamus quite a bit, and I'm thinking I'll play him more in recent weeks. Sybelle as a backfield supporter worked better than I expected, but it does mean maybe she's not as good of a point on the triangle as I wanted. That said, the Triangle itself  actually did tick a few wounds, so I think there's something there. The nice thing about it is that none of the triangle points are completely vital (Sybelle might be close, though,) so I can fiddle with them. I've heard good things about using Datsue Ba to summon Seishin, who can then teleport off to Seamus wherever he is and provide him some support. Or there's always throwing in Hannah to bring the wonder twins (I know, they're sisters not twins, I don't care.) Double Rush of Magic is probably pretty good, if you're into that.

I don't know that I really did much for the Rezzers in Divergent Paths, since they seem to be going after the Trickster, but I guess I played spoiler (which is more or less what the Hatter would enjoy anyways.) I think I'll definitely give him some run in the future. Maybe through Halloween? We'll see.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

(Also belated) Gen Con

     -Gen Con-
For me this is the first thing on my calendar every year (11 years in a row and counting).  I get to hang out with friends from college and play games for 4 days?!?  Yes please.  So the expense is kinda skewed since I would be there even if I wasn't playing Malifaux.  For those of you considering Gen Con it is something you should find a way to experience even if its just once.  They did just raise their 4 day badge to $90.  The hotels within walking distance run about $200 a night or more but if your willing to commute 15 minutes most of the outlying hotels are reasonable but then you are paying for parking downtown as well.  I think there was a $50 4 day parking service offered but I defeated parking previously and again this year so I ignored the details.  I'm spoiled on downtown hotels so I will more than likely always spring to stay close.  Opposed to some conventions (the pop culture/media based ones) this one is is run on event tickets.  So if you want to do something you get a ticket and you don't have to wait on a line for hours (other then if seating matters but 45 minutes early is generally a good seat for shows) they cut tickets at capacity and then they run a separate line for generics in case there are no shows and they have room.  I think the airport isn't too far (20-30 if I remember correctly) if driving isn't feasible. It sounds like a lot of money but if you take a few friends to share a room you can split most of the expenses.  And as Adam has said previously you can always sign up to volunteer.

On to the Malifaux events!  All the events were well run by Joseph Girard aka. Cheated Fates Joe.  (Please forgive me if I misspell anyones name)

I was busy during the Enforcer brawl so I missed out.  I was going to play in the 16 man tourney but I was at BK Faux when tickets went on sale and when I got to a computer they were sold out.  I didn't want to jump in with generics and spend time waiting and end up not playing.  I wasn't in any condition to play anyway so that worked out.  Next year my job ought to be stable and I will buy tickets for all of the Malifaux as soon as they are on sale.

I did play in the henchmen hardcore.  It was kinda an on the fly thing since Adam and I had to crash it on generics.  As such I didn't take any notes but I play that format just to meet people.  Some people play it competitively but I don't think it will ever be something I take serious as the game balance was not designed with this format in mind.

So the Malifaux Open was capped at 32 but I don't think everyone showed up (as will happen at Gen Con).  I ran Jacob Lynch for all of my games (surprise I know).  I do a quick highlight reel of these 3 games and then I will jump into Tyrants.  If you want pics, Cheated Fates Joe promised me he would put some up (I assume they are on Twitter somewhere).

Round 1 - Guard the Stash;  Convict Labor, Leave Your Mark, Show of Force, Mark for Death, and Public Demonstration.  Corner Deployment.  James was my opponent and he ran an awesome McDonalds themed Molly crew.  I wish I took pictures but my phone was busy crapping itself (I finally upgraded so future blogs ought to have better quality pics).  I pulled out a win 3-2 at the end of turn 3.  I'm pretty sure I had CL, LYM and I don't think I asked what his schemes ended up being.  He also has a side project I will plug later on.

Round 2 - Turf War;  Convict Labor, Take Prisoner, Hunting Party, Search the Ruins, and Neutralize the Leader.  Standard Deployment.  I played Paul who was relatively new to this game but he knew what he was doing and put me on me heels activation 1.  He took Raspy and like a newb cake I deployed in a line on the line not in cover so he hit me with from the shadows, ice mirror, 24 points of damage to my models.  Somehow he failed to kill anything with the opening salvo and that's where it went horribly wrong for him.  I went through my whole deck turn 1 and flipped the black joker for damage twice.  I also flipped it for damage turn 2 and turn 3.  He had Raspy and laughed at his black jokers.  And despite all that I managed to win 10-5.  My Low River Monk was healing like a boss with the new upgrade and a lot of his stuff was in charge range turn one.  He only needed to park one acolyte close enough to blast me but I guess he underestimated my charge range or something.  He did play very well for having only played a few games.

Round 3 - Reckoning;  Convict Labor, Exhaust Their Forces, Leave Your Mark, Inspection, and Covert Breakthrough.  Flank Deployment.  This happened to be a round 3 rematch from Origins against Jay.  He took Pandora.  He beat me at Origins and we officially tied here at 6-6 but Wyrds boards measure 37" (mistake made by whomever framed the boards) and when we did the final measure with the TO my extra scheme marker I dropped because I had nothing better to do ended up being a millimeter out for the win because we measured as the board being 36".  I'm happy with the result either way as the game was well played and I had fun.  More importantly placed well enough to make the cut for Tyrants.

With a little bit of work I can go track down the pics and do a more in depth report on these games upon request.

Tyrants was an 8 man qualify to play single elimination bracket.

My first opponent was John Hartigan.

The lists;
I took:
Lynch with Woke Up With a Hand, Rising Sun, and Recalled Training
Huggy with Recalled Training, and Peaceful Waters
Lone Swordsman With Recalled Training
Yin with Smoke Grenades
2 x Illuminated
Ten Thunder Brother
Low River Monk

He ran:
Pandora with Voices, Depression, Wings of Darkness
Nekima with True Mother and Rapid Growth
Primordial Magic
Stitched Together
3 x Terror Tots

Reckoning; Convict Labor, Take Prisoner, Leave Your Mark, Covert Entourage, Search the Ruins.  Flank Deployment.

With a diagonal center line Convict Labor is somewhat easy to do since there generally a corner your opponent will ignore.  I deploy where I have the option to split my force and clear a path for the scheme runner or press the center reacting to what the opponent looks to be doing.  And also with Flank leave your mark is normally very easy to do.  Conventional Neverborn wisdom is Doppleganger + Covert Entourage = profit so I kept hat in the back of my mind.  Three of the schemes use markers so I just had to wait to see where they were going and move in to mitigate VP.

With all of that the game came down to a turn 2 charge by Nekima on Lynch.  I was going to SS prevent all 3 attacks and all I would need is one of them to be a moderate and sf she flips 3 weak damages I had a chance.  I think I prevented 5, made him cheat 3 times so it cost him 6 damage (and he didn't charge within 2 so no black blood).  I managed to heal him up with the Low River Monk next activation and took out Nekima the activation after that.  Stitched can be scary but I don't fear them with Lynch's card cycle.  Later on Pandora did manage to land Paralyze on Lynch but then I just had the monk charge in and remove it. The doppelganger copied Huggys Ca tentacles and beat him to bury and Lynch got him back on the table pretty quick.  End result I took this game 9-0.  Normally Reckoning is hard to score but it just lined up where I was able to score it three times.  John believes he went in a turn too early and should've put a couple wounds on Lynch before applying Nekima.  All in all it was a pleasant, well played game.  I know the result doesn't reflect well played but that's not how I measure how the game is played.  He knew what he was doing and fate could have swung the game his way.  I tend to try to mitigate my deck as much as possible but I don't control his deck in any way.

My second Opponent was James Hanrahan.

I ran the same list (which in hindsight was a mistake).

He took:
Sandeep with Arcane Reservoir Enlightened Soul, and To Behold Another World
2 x Metal Gamin
Joss with Imbued Energies
Howard with Imbued Energies
Rail Golem with Imbued Energies

Head Hunter; Convict Labor, Show of Force, Hunting Party, Neutralize the Leader, Frame for Murder.

So while I was selecting schemes it occurred to me I had very little idea as to what Sandeep does for a crew.  I read his rules and I knew he could take academics and models could cast his spells (which I mistakenly thought was limited to academics but this wrinkle didn't impact the game in a way I couldn't manage). I read that he could summon Gamin but two things happened here I didn't account for.  I failed to make the connection that the totem is almost always worth summoning, and why would anyone summon gamin to potentially cede 3 points for hunting party?  I generally shy away for Neutralize the Leader because that requires my opponent to cooperate and play in a manner where that is feasible.  Frame for murder would be easy enough with Huggy telling Joss to kill my patsy.  Yin might have gotten me Show of Force but I was already behind not knowing what to expect and I didn't need to lose Yin when I wasn't expecting to.  I like to tar pit with him when I'm not afraid of whats attacking her but there were too many variables and Convict is generally easy if I'm not going up against summoning.  So I went with Convict and Frame on the female Illuminated.  And I need to put defense triggers on Lynch when NtL is in the pool or play him from the back.  I'm still refining the core list and its options and I'm chomping at the bit for the terracotta warriors.

So the first thing I did was run my patsy up into hard cover.  He ended up killing her with Sandeep pretty early so I didn't need to obey Joss to do it.  Huggy melted the Rail Golem.  I got lucky and had my illuminated kill Howard and only ceded him 2 points for frame.  He got to Lynch for 3 points and normally that isn't a bad thing but I need to learn to play more defensively with Lynch and not use him as another hitter.  Or at the very least change my approach.  I also failed to put a performer in the list as I intended and Thunder Brother Steve black jokered the dance of the heavens and cost me a point for Convict.  I made many mistakes in this game so I can't really pin it on Steve.  It was a well played game and I enjoyed playing James.

After the game it is natural for me to ask myself and sometimes bounce ideas off others what I can do different.  In speaking to Joe I mentioned I wonder how this game would have gone had I taken Hunting Party instead of Convict that I scored 0 on in the first time ever.  If this came across as I felt like I was cheated I didn't mean for it to.  There are masters in the first to books I haven't seen on the table yet so really this isn't too far different had I instead I played Kirai for the first time.  There was discussion about Gencon allowing the book 4 masters and Nova not allowing Book 4 with the exception of Aionus.  I don't want to stir that up here.  I came to play and have fun and if I win great and if not I get to meet new people and learn from players I haven't played before.  I'm happy with my third place finish and if fate is on my side I shall do better next year.

And now for the side project.  If you have the foam that comes in the model boxes lying around give it to someone going to Adepticon and have them come find me.  Or if you happen to be at an event in Ga or NC you can just give it to me in person.  I will forward the foam for the mystery project and I will let you in on the secret for a foam donation.

Until next time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

(super belated) Origins wrap up

I know this is very late.  I can make excuses but the bottom line is I need to do a better job writing my experiences down in a timely manner.

So without further ado...

This is an annual game fair held in Columbus, Ohio in mid June.  As far as cost to attend, if you are there for all 5 days the full event badge is very economical at $55.  I had my brother buy this badge for me as a birthday gift and I happen to have friends that live in Columbus so this was somewhat easy to put together at the last moment.  I think the Malifaux event tickets were between 4 and 8 dollars so this trip was relatively inexpensive for me.  Where Adepticon is focus on miniature gaming, Origins is more in the vein of what GenCon is but on a much smaller scale.  It's on my calendar for next year but it's fighting for time off work.

The Malifaux events were well run by henchmen AJ Miller and Bill Tegeler and supported by Wyrd onsite.  I played in the Enforcer Brawl, Henchman Hardcore, and the 50 SS.  They also had a story encounter on Sunday but I was driving home.

-Origins Enforcer Brawl-
Before this event I have never played this format.  So for those of you who have yet to play this format I will post the rules and give you my general thought on the games.


Each player selects one Enforcer and attaches one Upgrade to it.  The upgrade must be something the Enforcer could have attached at the start of a normal game considering it faction(s)..  (Leader only Upgrades may not be selected, for example.)  The Enforcer must be one with a Cost which may be hired (no Coryphee Duets, for example.)
The game is played on a standard table.  Each player flips a card to determine deployment order; the player who flips highest deploys first, followed by the second highest , etc., until each player has deployed their Enforcer.  If to or more players are tied they flip off amongst themselves.  Models may be deployed anywhere on the table which is more than 6' from another model.
Play proceeds for 6 rounds.  Each round, all players flip for initiative: the player who flips highest must go first, followed by the second highest, etc., until all players have gone.  Flip off amongst those who tie.  If a model receives reactivate, it receives a second activation at initiative -1.  (if multiple models Reactivate, they flip to determine who goes first).
Before the game assign a suit to each table edge.  On the player's initiative, if they have no models in play or buried, they must flip a card which may not be cheated (reflipping jokers).  The player places a new copy of the model they chose at the start of the Brawl (including it's upgrade) within 6" of the board edge corresponding to the suit flipped and then proceeds with their activation as normal.


Players have a hand of 4 instead of the usual 6.
Any Action, Ability, or Trigger with the word summon are treated as if that Action, Ability, or Trigger were not printed on the models card.  IE no summoning of any kind.
When a model is buried, it may chose to be sacrificed instead (in which case it counts as sacrificed by the model which forced it to become buried).


At the end of 6 turns the player with the highest Victory Points wins.  Players score VP in the following manner.

-3 VP for each opposing model killed or sacrificed.  A player scores 4 VP instead if the model they killed or sacrificed had a higher Soulstone Cost (including the cost of the upgrade) than their model did.
-1 VP for dealing 1 or more damage to an undamaged enemy.  A player scores 2 VP instead if the model cost more SS.
- -3VP for each time the players model is killed or sacrificed.
-there is a clause for variant scoring which was not used.

So with these rules in mind I started round 1 with the Lone Swordsman w/ Recalled Training.  I know there was another swordsman w/ RT, A lone Marshal, and I think a Rail Golem.  Since I was tied for cost with 2 other models I played cat and mouse instead of Leroy Jenkins.  Example was I had the other swordsman engage me after I had gone that turn and he reactivated off me after I reactivated off something I had killed.  I did have RT running but I was probably out of cards so I couldn't guarantee killing him so I pushed out of engagement and double walked making it impossible to hit me.  I finished that game with 10VP and the next highest was at 2.

Everybody changed models for each game.  I ran Yin w/ Smoke Grenades and Bishop w/ Oath Keeper. I finished middle of the pack the next two games but no one made up the difference from game one so I took first place.

My approach to this format was almost an equal mix of what points can I deny as well as what I could score with the focus on denial.  If I didn't have the cards in hand to ensure I would kill something I would go for first blood.  I'm thinking I might give the hooded rider a go since I play this format to meet people and have fun.  It's not something I will spend a lot of time plotting and scheming because there way too many variable you will never control.  I could show up and everyone at the table decides my model needs to die.  A far fetched scenario but what actually happens could fall somewhere on this spectrum.

Next I played in the Henchman Hardcore.  I didn't bring the key model because it was on my paint table and I forgot to pack it.  I'm fairly certain the official rules can be found on Wyrds resource page so I won't rehash that.  The list...

Yamaziko W/ Misdirection
the Lone Swordsman W/ Recalled Training
Tengu (who will be a Low River Monk now that wave 4 gives it a 0 upgrade to heal)
Kominu (who I wanted to be a Rail Worker for HTK and Implacable Assault)

The idea was to discourage charges with brace yari.  Yamaziko has a cache 6 so stoning to misdirect onto the Kominu/Rail Worker or damage prevention depending on the average incoming damage.  Im torn between the Tengu and Low River Monk because regeneration on the Swordsman ticks twice if he has a chance to reactivate but in practice order of operation tends to require the swordsman to go before I can get regeneration up so then healing is more efficient.  And having condition removal is not a bad thing either.  I think there is something here in this list and with a little practice I should win some games.

The Quick and dirty results for Avatars of Origins

I can post a skeleton battle report on any or all of these upon request.

Round :1
I played vs. Resser Tara.  I won 7-4.  I scored 3 for detonate with Yu and wandering river style. Got 2 for convict labor (because we didn't get to turn 4) and 2 for the Strat.  I denied him the strat once and he got 3 for Frame for murder (typically i will cede these 3 points, hope for 2, and not alter my game plan)  I don't think he ever told me what his other scheme was.

Round 2
I played vs. Neverborn Lilith.  I won 8-3.  I got 3 for the strat (got to turn 4) 3 for Breakthrough and 2 for Leave your Mark.  He scored 2 for the start and once for Hunting Party.(I took an anti Hunting Party list to discourage him selecting it but he felt he could get to my trap I hid with Lilith in time).

Round 3
I played outcast Von Schill.  I lost 6-7.  I tried my hand at Occupy Their Turf and it turns out if you divert resources, you are not as efficient at the start.  I score 3 for entourage and 3 for occupy.  The first time I failed to score at all on collect the bounty (i did destroy another strongarm suit with Huggy turn 1.  He really hates those things).  He got entourage with Von Schill and 4 for the strat.

All in all I enjoyed playing my opponents and would gladly play any of them again.  

Until next time.