Monday, January 9, 2017

January 2017 Errata, Fire in the Sky, and The Other Side

News Briefs:

1)   Wyrd’s Monday preview from last week introduced an upcoming Penny Dreadful for the Through the Breach RPG titled “Fire in the Sky.” This is the first story for the role-playing game to be set earthside. The Fated journey to San Francisco, where a strange light has appeared in the skies. From the cover, you can see that this light is man-shaped, and the description mentions the Other Side, so it suggests that the Burning Man (and perhaps some members of his cult?) may be involved. As someone who may know things about things, the Ongoing Challenge from chapter 2 of this book is one you won't want to miss! 

2)   The Other Side’s kickstarter campaign has 11days left. They’ve exceeded a quarter of a million dollars at this point, and have revealed some special models/units as the campaign has progressed. Adjunct models are special figures that can be plugged into a normal fireteam to add in some special abilities, but can be removed like a normal model or picked off by enemies with accurate fire. Additionally, the creators have introduced the idea of Ally rules, allowing for the addition of some more diversity to your army. One type of ally you can hire are Syndicates, groups of unaligned forces which have restrictions on which armies can purchase them. For instance, the Court of Two syndicate is a Malifaux syndicate, and so can only be hired my Malifaux allegiances (one assumes Gibbering Hordes and/or the Burning Man.) One of the syndicates is the Guild (hurray!), who have taken a step back from running things earthside and are offering their troops to the highest bidder. The other, the Court of Two, is led by Neverborn and their ilk. The Court of Two model previewed in the update is Binh Nguyen, a spirit trained by Kirai Ankoku who has helped raise an army of ghosts to hire out. Cool stuff. Plus there are a large number of add-ons unlocked at this point, so if you have the money, backing the Kickstarter is likely going to be a pretty good deal.


Over at Leodis games, the 20% discount on preorders continues! Added to it this month: the Amo No Zako boxed set, Death Marshall Recruiters, Will o’ the Wisps, and Akaname, among others. If you’re a UK reader, go check them out!


            The January 2017 Errata document served as an introduction for several things besides just alterations to models. This was the first modification to the game headed by new Malifaux lead designer, Aaron Darland, and it introduced the way these are going to be handled going forward. Specifically, there are now plans for there to be 2 errata documents released during the year, one in January and one in midsummer. Major changes are going to be released in the January update, while the one later is meant to include small changes, many of which come up in response to things from the first errata. The FAQ documents will still be done bimonthly as before, but this allows them to make more drastic corrections without needing to do the 0 ss upgrade cards as has been done in the past.
             Many folks, of course, have some thoughts and feelings about this. The response has actually seemed pretty tame compared to what I expected, but there is a bit of (possibly understandable) salt from some people due to alterations to their favorite models and/or having to reorder cards for models you already own. The print-on-demand service from Wargame vault helps offset some of this pain, at least, but I think even the game design team would prefer not to have to do it this way if possible. This is an advantage digital games like Hearthstone have, where they can make changes on the fly without leaving people with a large number of out-of-date cards. Still, I think this is the best of some bad choices.
            As for the individual changes, they range from severe overhauls to very fine alterations. To run through some of them (and my thoughts: )

Ironsides-Added a tome to her defense, allowing her to trigger “Good shot, my turn” every time she gets hit in melee. Ironsides players love this change, and it means you had better just not fight her in melee, period.

Colette-You can still prompt 3x in a turn, but you can only prompt the same model once. So, no more running in Howard and then having her prompt him to swing over and over. I think even most Colette players are ok with this, as the card does a lot of cool stuff outside of this ability, but many players literally never have her do anything else.

Tara Crew-Many of the changes to Tara and her ilk were to clear up her bizarre hiring rules. She now has Infiltration: Void, which works like many of the 10 Thunders masters to allow her to hire anything with that trait from outside her faction. Correspondingly, Death Marshals, the Scion of the Void, Void Wretches, and the Nothing Beast all gained this trait. Since this made part of the Dead of Winter upgrade redundant, she gained a new ability on there. And, probably the nicest buff for Tara’s crew, the Nothing Beast is now a henchman, with the increased upgrade slots and soulstone use that goes with it.

Brewmaster-Drinking contest was rewritten for clarity. Still works the same way.

Black Blood Shaman-They removed the weird “Black Blood Condition” versus “Black Blood Ability” stuff the model previously had and just made it the ability. This has some effects on the game mechanically but mostly just clarifies weirdness.

Francisco and Papa-Their respective buff abilities now go away when they leave play or activate. This is specifically targeted at the “Papa in a box” type Sonnia builds which, if I’m being honest, always felt a little exploitive. Don’t have a problem with this change.

Guild Austringers-Lost a bit of their sting by taking away the enhanced range while focusing. You’ll now have to get them a bit closer to the action (while still leaving them completely hidden from sight, but it’s something to keep in mind.) This one stings a bit, but may have been necessary from a balance perspective.

Lenny-No longer gives +Rams to masters. This is a big change, and hurts Ophelia, Som’er, and to a lesser extent Ma Tucket crews (as was pointed out on the Malifools, Lenny had a hard time keeping up with Ma.) Probably necessary, but I can see how Gremlins players might be stinging. On the other hand, your Francois can still just explode anything it meets up with.

Rooster Riders-Can no longer Reckless. These guys were, from what I’ve heard, one of the few legitimate NPEs in Malifaux, so softening them up was a good change.

Rotten Belles-Lure's Ca and their wounds reduced to 7. Outrageous! How could they…ok Cast 8 was probably necessary. The reduced wounds actually doesn’t do all that much to reduce their toughness, since people hitting them will probably do weak damage and, if you do the math, this doesn’t change the number of times a Wk 2 or 3 model has to hit them to kill them.

Daydreams: Lucid Dreaming rewritten to only apply to one cast. Basically an effort to curtail summoning Dreamer, who has also inspired some salt from opponents in major tournaments.

Guardian- Reduced to 7 cost and gained a point of weak damage on the sword. Maybe can give Franc a run for his money in the “Auto-include protection model” slot? They’re still not fast so you’ll have to give them a nudge to get up the board with quick crews, but I've dusted mine off.

Lucius-  I’ll just copy-paste Aaron’s description: “The Austringers sent Lucius a fruit basket with a nice card, and now he doesn't hate them as much. Gained +Mask to Defense (Re: Surprisingly Loyal upgrade). Devil's Deal reduced to 2 damage. Elite Training works on Melee attack and Horror flips of Minions, Mimics, and Guardsmen. Commanding Presence works on all friendly models, range reduced to 12”, TN dropped. Governor's Authority lasts until this model's next Activation. Guild Intelligence made a (0), lost its TN, and now works with all friendly models. TN of Issue Command lowered, Triggers changed around. “ Basically, all his stuff that was interesting but not quite that good got a little nudge. Hopefully this brings him out of the “This is the worst master in the game” slot, at least. The scribe also got a nice little boost, becoming a minion and gaining some nice new actions.

Misaki- Deadly Dance changed to a 0 action, making the defensive Misaki build much more viable. Downburst was reworded and given a trigger to allow you to make some attacks after landing.

Montresor-Choking Death now triggers when model activates. Gained a couple of wounds and a point of damage. Wyrd really wants this model to work, as this is only the most recent in a string of buffs. Will this do the job? Who knows, I don’t play outcasts.

Union Miners-Gained a couple of buffs to their attacks and a common-sense rewording to their false claims ability (now you don’t have to discard a scheme marker if one has already been removed from play.) These guys always seemed like they should be decent to me, and yet you never see them. Hopefully this will change that.

As stated above, all the new versions of these cards are available on Wyrd’s site to print off (and these print-offs are tournament legal, per Gaining Grounds 2017.) If you need a real card, you can use Wargame Vaults' print on demand service. How do you feel about the changes? Was your favorite model nerfed? Are you excited to get something on the table that got a buff? Still wondering how Malifaux Raptors+Practiced Production somehow escaped the cuddle bat (like a certain Malifaux Musings author)? Let me know in the comments below. Otherwise, see you next week!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

News Briefs and Treacherous Allies Team Tournament Report

We’ll have a few quick news bits, then dive into a tournament report from Raliegh, NC on 12/17/16, the first team tournament featuring your two esteemed bloggers working as a team!

-First, a couple of weeks ago Aaron Daarland released a plan to alter the rate at which Malifaux Errata would be released in the future, and brought out the January 2017 Errata. These changes included changes that players have been asking for (in some cases) for a while now. Austringers getting their ranges reduced I assume most players are ok with seeing, as well as Rotten Belles having their cast brought down into only very good ranges rather than ridiculous. Daydreams got a little softening as well. Some other models got buffed. Go check out the file. I’m not a great crunch guy, but I might go through and write up a more in-depth breakdown later.

-Shortly thereafter the new Gaining Grounds 2017 document dropped. Schemes were shuffled some rules changed. I’ll probably save an in-depth breakdown for its own post, but you can go check it out here.


And now, on to the tournament report!
A few weeks prior, Jon had asked me if I wanted to team up with him for the Treacherous Allies tournament at Atomic Empire games store in Durham, NC. This was part of the program organized by the Southeastern Malifaux Players Group of some renown, which is led by the lovely and, of course, sassy Sasslady herself, Dawn McCormack Plunge.

Photographic Proof

If you’re in the area and can go check it out, Atomic Empire is worth the trip. I’m a bit of a bumpkin, but its easily the biggest game store I’ve ever visited. They have snacks. They have a bar. They have more games than you’ve ever seen. Go check it out.
The format for Treacherous Allies was, as I understand it, fairly standard for doubles tournaments. Each player on a team builds a crew with a master and 35SS each round from the same faction. Your models are considered friendly to each other. It’s not balanced and it’s not meant to be. Weird stuff happens in these types of games (more on this later.) You pick who is going first and second in your team every round and alternate activations. So, if one team has players A and B and the other has players 1 and 2, you could go A,1,B,2 in one round and could switch it up to B,2,A,1 in the next. So, basically you have a 70SS crew with two masters and two brains trying to pilot it. What could go wrong!?!
We decided to go with Ten Thunders as they are Jon’s jam and I know Lynch fairly well. Our team was team “Let Me Know When You’re Finished Ten Thundering,” after a sentiment expressed by one of Jon’s opponents after much bewildering tossing of upgrades and various Asian themed nonsense. Dawn was of course thrilled to have to read it out every round. The general themes that came into our games every round revolved around our two halves complimenting each other rather than directly synergizing. Basically, McCabe was there to make something like the Dawn Serpent have reactivate with a super cool sword and the Terracotta Warrior buffing it to protect it from damage. Meanwhile, Lynch would be doing Lynch things, and Promises was there to make Hungering Darkness and any other Enforcers with upgrades we brought in work even better. And Jon's side would have Sensei Yu so he could use Lynch's Mulligan, giving both crews the ability to use it.

Rd. 1 Interference/Flank Deployment/Search the Ruins, Leave your Mark, Exhaust their Forces, Detonate the Charges, and Convict Labor.

Battle in the Bayou: Moments after a very ill-fated charge action.

This round we played against two men named Jon playing Team Spidercide (Arcanists) We were building to exploit the Strangemetal Shirt and the toughness of Illuminated and Depleted, tossing the shirt on one of them to pass out Armor +2 to everyone around them with the Black Flash reactivate from McCabe. Seemed like a pretty good game plan at the time. Our opponents were bringing Ironsides with a cadre of the Oxfordian Mages and an Ice Dancer and Ramos with Joss, Howard, and…some Howard things? I don’t remember. We took Search the Ruins for a bit of counter-play and Detonate the Charges because why not. It’s Detonate the Charges.
When I say we HAD a battle plan, what I mean is we had one for the first round of the game or so. We had also planned on tossing the Torekage the sword from McCabe so he could use it with his “Works Best Alone” + flip to dish out some hurt, before giving the designated Illuminated the Armor and Reactivate. The Illuminated did his bit, put out his bubble of armor, and the pack moved up. Ironsides, Joss with all the Oxfordian Mage buffs, and the mages themselves mean-mugged our pack of drug-addled freaks over a hill. Meanwhile, the Ice Dancer and the Torekage faced off on the side of the board.  I have to imagine that looked like a Crouching Tiger style dance-fight. Would make a cool fan film.
Where it all went wrong was when we won initiative round 2 and sent our Illuminated charging over the hill to try and get a cheap kill on Ironsides. We hurt her badly, but underestimated the damage Joss was going to do back to us, as well as the fact that one of the buffs from the Mages made him immune to Brilliance so Lynch couldn't just run up and delete him. We threw everything we had at the Arcanist firebase, but our forces withered under Joss's electrical axes and a storm of Furious Casting. Meanwhile, the Ice Dancer and Torekage mutually dropped detonate the charges markers on each other. Huggy engaged Howard and killed him before he could do too much damage, but Ramos then flooded Huggy with Spiders, effectively neutralizing him for the remaining turns (and allowing them to score for Exhaust their Forces. Whoops.) McCabe moved to stop the Joss-gernaught that was coming for us (or at least hold him at bay) but we realized we were in trouble going into turn 3, which the clock told us would be the last turn.
So, time to start being the dirty criminals our faction is. We gave up on whittling Joss down (we almost got him, but were 1 AP short and he reactivated and healed,) and instead focused on objectives. The Torekage dashed into the middle along with Lynch to throw down some quick scheme markers and to delete the now assembled Spider Swarm, which I knew could erase our scheme markers pretty readily. McCabe held on valiantly but was ultimately killed. On the last activation of the game, Sensei Yu dashed into the middle to throw down another scheme marker and complete Search the Ruins. Thankfully, our opponents didn’t figure out what we were doing to stop us and so, on the last activation of the game, we got ahead by 1 VP and stole it. This would become a theme as the day went on.

Round 2: Collect the Bounty/Standard/Occupy Their Turf, Leave Your Mark, Frame for Murder, Hunting Party, and Convict Labor

Which Huggy is the real one? Hint: not the one whose crew also contained a Doppelganger and 2 Changelings.

Our opponents were the Autumn Nightmares, a Neverborn crew played by Sam and Kevin. Our game plan was to use Beckoners to draw the enemy across the board to us, where Hungering Darkness, Lynch, and an over-clocked Dawn Serpent could score from safety. The board was not super-cooperative in this endeavor, as we had a pretty wide open graveyard board, but there was a fence and gate on the very back edge of our deployment zone we hid behind to form our base. The enemy was using Neverborn flavored Lynch with some Illuminateds and Changelings paired with Lillith, McTavish, a Doppleganger, and some Waldgeists. I brought Lynch, HD, Mr. Graves for some more movement shenanigans, a Depleted, and 2 beckoners. Jon had McCabe, the Dawn Serpent, Yu, Terracotta Warrior, and a low river monk. Our schemes were Frame for Murder on the Depleted and Hunting Party. So, basically, we had a drug war on our hands.
The enemy didn’t have a ton of ranged outside of McTavish, so we knew we had a good chance of making the plan work. A Waldgeist ended up in our DZ early between lures and Neverborn tricks and gave us a first opportunity to score a hunting party point, but McCabe hit it too hard and killed it himself. Ultimately, the game boiled down to a 2-sided fight, our right flank where McCabe and the Dawn Serpent tag-teamed with one of my Beckoners to draw Illuminated down and try to kill them, while our left side featured Graves, Lynch, HD, and the other Beckoner dealing with the other enemies. Our chump Depleted bravely (or foolishly?) ventured forth and was drawn into Lillith’s melee range by Tangled Shadows, but they gave me a bit of a scare by acting like they were going to kill him with an Illuminated rather than the Master herself. Thankfully, the enemy’s Hungering Darkness obligingly killed him off so we could score. The left flank combat was a money-maker for us in terms of hunting party and Bounties, but things got a little dicey when Lillith disengaged, hopped across the board, and nearly killed Jacob Lynch after he overextended to finish off a Lured-forward McTavish. Thankfully, Mr. Graves saw what was coming and obligingly ran forward to smash Mr. Lynch’s skull in with his fence-post, thereby denying the enemy the Bounty points. This one got a little dicey at points, but between the high-value targets we took out on the left, bounty points scored by our Huggy, and the reactivated/terracotta warrior buffed Dawn Serpent picking off Illuminated, we won relatively comfortably.

Round 3 Head Hunter/Corner Deployment/Undercover Entourage, Leave Your Mark, Quick Murder, Take Prisoner, Convict Labor.

Pictured: An ugly-ass mess.

Against team Insert Winning Team Name Here (Ray and Jim) and their Arcanists, we thought we would go with a similar game-plan to what we used previously, tossing out the same crew list but with a Beckoner replaced by a Performer to pick up heads.
We faced a very well designed crew focused around a combination of Collette and Rasputina models with Hans to cause some more ranged trouble. While I went to the restroom during set-up, some genius decided to make a bunch of bubbling puddles count as hazardous terrain (thanks, Jon) so the middle of the board between two buildings became a wide-open stretch of no-man’s land filled with bubbling death puddles. We didn’t have a strong feel for which schemes to take on this one (my note sheet has several options crossed off) but we settled on Take Prisoner for the opponent’s Ice Dancer and Undercover Entourage on Sensei Yu, who can cross 21 inches with our crew build when he wants.
We screwed ourselves up from deployment in this one, I’m able to admit. The massive building we hid behind was impassable, and so our opponents were able to get into position while we were still trying to move around the damned thing to get to the battle. And as soon as we did start to peak our noses out, we discovered the horrible reality of our opponent’s crew: Collette’s prompt can be used on any friendly model. Including Rasputina. So our opponent effectively had 6 Rasputina AP to use every turn. Hoo boy. This is definitely one of those "The designers never thought of this format when playtesting" things.
Realizing the trouble we were in, we broke up our huddle of models as quick as we could and sent the Super Serpent over the hill and back to cause some disruption in the enemy. Huggy tried to move forward to do anything productive and did manage to put some wounds on…something, but was promptly killed by Hans who could ignore his cover and his incorporeal. Lynch had moved around away from the group, dashing into a position out of LoS of the enemy ranged attacks and supporting the Depleted, who had his eye on the enemy Ice Dancer. Those two would engage and dance a lovely duet for the rest of the game, making that dumb depleted the MVP of the whole damn game as he scored us 3 VPs and blocked an opponent’s Leave Your Mark. Where we got back into the game was by using Lynch and a combination of holding all the Aces in his hand with “Wanna See a Trick” (an upgrade I had severely underrated) to make the enemy’s Coryphee duet brilliant and kill them, bringing back Huggy. The super serpent and the newly spawned Huggy managed to pummel through the super Coryphee and a Wendigo with Armor of December that ran up to block us, scoring us a head and a VP. Again it came to the last activation, as Yu had to dash for the enemy corner. He couldn’t quite make it due to some (accidentally) clutch Ice Pillar placement in his path from the enemy, so we got 2 points instead of 3. However, yet again, we snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat on the last activation…almost. We ended up with a draw at the end of the most fun game of the tournament.

Our differentials weren’t high for most of the tourney, and I knew there was at least one team that went undefeated. I was very pleased, then, to find out that we had done well enough to take home 2nd place! We both got small mystery boxes, and Jon won one of the Starter Boxes from the raffle, so all-in-all, a great tournament for team Malifaux Musings! 

Dawn even managed to shame Jon into smiling for a picture...almost.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Other Side Kickstarter: Update 1

                The Other Side kickstarter campaign is up and running, and it’s going like gangbusters. They’ve funded within the first half-hour of being live, and are now creeping up on their $175k stretch goal. As such, we have a bit more information released to add to what we know of the game.
                They’re offering, at the outset, an allegiance box containing a commander, 2 units of a standard troop type, and a unit of more elite troops for each of the four Allegiances. Additionally, you receive several tactics tokens which are specific to your allegiance, a fate deck, bases, and a tape measurer. If you back at a Commander level you receive the Allegiance box, your army’s titan, a copy of the rulebook (which will now all be hardcover), and all Commander level stretch goals. From there you can move up to a double and a quadruple commander level to get the equivalent of two or four factions for a reduced price. Pretty straightforward. Additionally, there are add-ons you can pay for any of the models or accessories to be thrown into your order individually if you want to expand your forces. As it stands now, all the stat cards you receive from as a Kickstarter backer will be the sort of special-edition UV treated type Wyrd started offering for Malifaux last year, which won’t be available for sale after the Kickstarter ends. Also, one of the add-ons that were unlocked as a stretch goal are allegiance specific fate decks which have your army’s logo on the back and some pics of the models on the front. Cool.
                Additionally, the $150k stretch goal update on the website told us some more about the Gibbering Hordes specifically. They seem to be VERY oriented around terrain in general and the Tide Pools they place at the beginning of the game specifically. Their revealed commander, the Stormsiren, embodies this by placing one additional tide pool at the beginning of the game and gaining bonuses to her melee attacks when she or her targets are in contact with the pools. Which, of course, means you would never go anywhere near them, right? Well, problem is she has a Lure type effect to either pull your fireteams either to her or to a Tide Pool. The Hordes’ troops, has Adaptive Camouflage to let them flip two cards on opposed duels and choosing the best (IE a + flip.) We also get an idea of what it means to go into Glory with the Stormsiren, as she turns the Tide Pools into Hazardous terrain, gains some trigger-like effects to her attacks, gains a point of WP and AR, and gains an ability to summon more tide pools.
The Gibbering Hordes go into Glory by eating, specifically eating their own units. This strikes me as odd (I sort of wish they could do it by eating enemy units, too, but I have no idea how that would work for game balance.) There are ways around this, however, in the form of the Karkinoi units, who in addition to being the heavy hitters for the Hordes can spawn Egg Clutches which are, apparently, there to be eaten. 
Who's up for omelettes?

             It’s mentioned that the Karkinoi also get stronger when they have reinforcement tokens attached to them. But what do those tokens do? Well, at the beginning of a turn, a fireteam can spend one of these to either replace any missing models from their unit or summon a killed fireteam back into play. So, this is going to make knocking an enemy’s army off the board a lot tougher, presumably (if you’re going to shoot at a unit with a reinforcement marker, you’d better kill them all or not bother, apparently.)
So, that’s what we know so far. They’re up to about $172k at this point, so more info will be coming. In the meantime, here are links to the Allegiances video and a playthrough to give you an idea of the rules.

And since this is a mini-post, I’ll toss in a mini-plug for Leodis games. The deals are still going strong, and they have models from Knight Miniatures and other minis games. You can get a Batman v. Superman set for the Batman Miniatures game. No word yet on whether your models just automatically quit fighting if you say the word “Martha” to them during the game. Follow this link so we can get the credit, and check them out. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Factions of The Other Side

                Malifaux Musings has previously discussed some of the crunch/rules content known so far regarding Wyrd Miniatures’ forthcoming army-scale game, The Other Side. Late last week some information started to come out onto Wyrd’s website regarding the four factions the game will feature. And then, in this week’s Monday Preview, they released a Youtube video discussing the character and fluff of these organizations and giving us some hints into the way they will actually perform on the battlefield. So, being the fluff nuts that we are and wanting to take some educated guesses at what the mechanics may be from the glimpses we received of their faction cards, we decided to take a dive into the information we have so far. Let’s not waste any more time, as the world is literally at war.

The Story So Far…

                As we know, the current timeline of Malifaux has the date placed in 1906, which is a time of high political tension in our own history. We’re knocking on the door of the first World War at this point on Earth and, in the Malifaux timeline, things are also on the verge of armed combat. The closing of the first breach led to global tensions over the sudden loss of a steady supply of Soulstones. This tension caused the Black Powder Wars, which were ended when the Guild of Mercantilers forms and brings the whole world under its (at least indirect) control. However, not everyone is crazy about this arrangement, and the Guild’s struggles to maintain order in Malifaux once the Second Breach opens only aggravates this further. And then, as a result of his failed ascension as a Tyrant, the former Governor-General of Malifaux appears in the skies over London in a new form, The Burning Man. His arrival triggers chaos and opens a series of smaller breaches which dump Neverborn creatures onto the Earth, and plunge the world into war.

                One group that was ready and waiting for the Guild’s weakening was the United Kingdom. The chaos caused by the arrival of the Burning Man was the last sign they needed to throw off the Guild’s yoke and declare themselves independent. In preparations for this moment, the Empire had stockpiled and engineered the most powerful guns in the world, and they bring these to bear on the enemy. As such, their battlefield strategies are designed around using ranged combat to wear the enemy down from afar.

                What we can see from the allegiance card shown in the video tells us that the units of a King’s Empire army get to flip from their normal form to their Glory form after killing an enemy unit (what that means in practice, we don’t know, but it is what it is. These are previews when we don’t have the rulebook.) They get a mask trigger on melee and ranged attacks that let them push 2” after resolving the action, which is a nice way of adding mobility to what otherwise looks to be a static gunline faction. They can use their ranged attacks in melee, albeit at a reduced AV, which we can assume from the use of the same terminology in Through the Breach means Activating Value (the equivalent of Ml or Rg in Malifaux.) So, again, it avoids one of the hallmarks of “gunline” armies by making them not completely useless in melee. And finally, they can charge and use ranged attacks instead of melee. Who knows if that’s any good or not, but it would probably create some interesting tactical scenarios.
                Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast has turned me on to World War I in a way that history lessons in America never really achieved (for foreign readers, it goes along the lines of “There was a war going on in Europe for a while, then we came over and helped finish it. The end.”) That and my attraction to Imperial Guard armies in Warhammer 40k makes me think the KE might be something I’d check out in the future.

                From the faction page on Wyrd’s website, we know that the Gibbering Hordes are Neverborn from Malifaux’s oceans and rivers. More specifically, they were on the wrong side of the war with the Tyrants, and the Neverborn we’re used to like the Nephilim banished this group from the land as punishment afterwards. The Burning Man’s arrival has plucked them literally from their homes and dropped them in the middle of London (at least initially. We know the starter boxed set planned is the KE vs. GH and is called The Battle of London.) Guess they got lucky that the Burning Man didn’t show up over Tucson or the Mojave, as I imagine that would have made for a pretty short invasion. Since their initial arrival, however, other portals have opened up and dropped members of the GH around the globe.

                The GH are a melee faction, focused on getting into close combat and destroying the enemy that way. Their first special rule probably explains how they’ve managed to hang on so long after being dropped off in Earth, Endless Numbers. It lets them respawn a unit that was killed on the previous turn at the beginning of the next turn. They start in the deployment zone, don’t have any assets (upgrades?), and get to immediately move up to twice their speed. They also deploy a pair of 120mm Tide Pool tokens on the board during the Scouting phase (one assumes this is at the beginning, though whether this is done before or after units deploy would probably affect efficacy.) These pools count as difficult terrain which the GH units get to ignore. Finally, they get to flip towards Glory by having one friendly unit eat another friendly unit that starts next to them. Presumably this makes for a handy means of taking a wounded unit and getting some value out of them before the enemy destroys them.
                All in all, it feels like you took a Sillurid and crossed it with the Zerg or Tyranids. I suppose most army-scale games need something like this, and it’s fun to see a side of the Neverborn that’s different than what you get in the standard game. Close combat armies have never really been my cup of tea, however, so there’s a good chance I’ll be splitting parts of a BoL box with somebody and letting them take these guys.

                The other faction that excites me the most out of this initial group is probably Abyssinia. They are a real-world kingdom that started in part of Ethiopia. In this history, they gained access to soulstones before the rest of the world (how, we don't know yet) and, as such, have a greater knowledge of how to use them. They seem more technologically advanced than the other human factions, looking almost like a steampunk version of Wakanda from the Marvel Universe. They stretch across central Africa now, and are seeming to want to spread and bring more nations under their control.

                They are represented as an elite army that uses better technology and tactics than the opponent, as opposed to sheer numbers (which triggers my “I don’t have to buy as many models to play this faction” senses.) Their faction card doesn’t give as much away as the others, but indicates that you can put two “Prototype Assets” per commander to units in your army. Are these better versions of assets, akin to Limited upgrades? We have no way of really knowing yet. They do, however, have the ability to flip to their Glory side simply by discarding two control cards at the start of a unit’s activation. Depending on how much of an upgrade this is, being able to do it directly rather than having to achieve something on the board (killing an enemy unit, eating a friendly unit, etc.) would give you a greater degree of control over the unit’s state during the game. Maybe you just spend the first turn burning your hand to flip to glory mode on as many units as possible? Of course, that would be card intensive, so you can try to get some of them back via the trigger all the units in this army have, Innovation, which lets them draw a card when they have a Tome.
                One of the more progressive elements of Malifaux, initially, was its inclusion of many strong female characters that didn’t have to be over-sexualized (although, bizarrely, the more likely a lady master is to fight in close combat with a sword, the less likely they are to be fully dressed while doing so.) In addition to being cool, Abyssinia does this in another way, by taking an African culture and making them the most technologically sophisticated on the planet. We already had hints of this in Ripples (an Abyssinian built the Infamy, Zipp’s airship.) But it’s cool to see it in play. Plus, painting a Marcus model showed me how much better dark skin looks when I paint it than light. And there’s the elites thing I pointed out above (I’m not a wealthy person. For tips on how you can help me with that, scroll to the bottom!) So I’m definitely giving the Abyssinians a close look along with the Empire.

                When a giant burning dude appears in the sky, maybe it’s not a surprise that a certain type of people might ended up deciding he’s a god. What’s unusual about this particular deific figure, however, is that worshiping him as such seems to be granting his followers magical powers, albeit at the cost of their sanity and/or their physical forms. These guys certainly duke it out with the GH for who is the scariest looking of The Other Side’s factions, looking almost reminiscent of the Illuminated and Depleted from Jacob Lynch’s crew in several cases (and giving those of us who don’t like some of the Lynch crews sculpts proxy ideas for the future.)

               Like the Abyssinians, it’s tougher to gauge what these guys do from the faction card (maybe this is a design feature, as it seems the first two simpler factions will be featured in the starter box.) When an ace falls into the discard pile (more Lynch similarities?) you can put a Panic token on one of your fireteams. What do those do? I don’t know. But if you have two of them, that’s how these guys flip to Glory mode. This seems like the ability you'll have the least control over, though if you mill through your whole deck in an average turn of The Other Side maybe I'll be proven wrong. They do, however, seem to have an interesting mobility tactic in use during the game. During scouting they place three 50mm portal markers on the board, which they can shift at the start of their turn 6” by discarding a card. Then, if a unit starts in contact with a portal or moves into contact with it, you can relocate them to a different portal anywhere else on the board. You lose the rest of that movement action, but it still provides some interesting tactical possibilities. As one example, you can present two fronts to the enemy at deployment, then bounce your whole army to one side and try to roll up an  flank. Other than that, we don’t get many hints from the video about what they do, other than that they’re chaotic and use magic and mutations to strike. So I suppose if you’re a GW Chaos player, particularly Tzeentch, these guys will probably feel right up your alley.

Final Thoughts

                Again, I want to stress that I don't know what I'm talking about here (well, more than usual.) I'm not a playtester for this game. I don't know anything about it. I'm learning along with you. Also, there were stat cards shown in the video which someone smarter and more patient than me could freeze frame and break down (though when I tried it, a lot of the terminology was different than anything in Malifaux, so I couldn't be sure what I was seeing.) As such, what I've said so far could and likely in many cases will prove to be incorrect. If nothing else, the video is worth checking out just to see the renders of all the cool models coming for the game in the future. 
               I won't lie to your Marge. When this game was announced, my first reaction was a hard no. It’s not that I don’t think it’s going to be any good. I have enough faith in Wyrd to believe that, if they’re putting the time and effort into the design that they have, they’ll come out with something top-notch. It’s just that I barely have the time or resources to support Malifaux, let alone throwing an army scale game on top of it. That said, some of the characterizations of the factions so far, as well as the materials reaffirming the commitment to The Other Side being as objective oriented as Malifaux, have led to my softening on this point. I’m still not sure if I’ll plunk down the cash for it, but I’m giving it a look. I think a lot of you will want to do so, as well.


                And where would Malifaux Musings recommend you go to buy The Other Side when it finally comes out? Why, to Leodis games, of course! They’re sort of like an online version of your friendly local gaming store, and stock Malifaux, Guild Ball, Infinity, and many more games as well as custom accessories. Right now, pre-orders for Sandeep’s Beacon of Knoweldge crew box as well as Iron Skeeters, Shastar Vidiya Guards, and Archie are 20% off! And, by following this link before making your purchase, you’ll be supporting Malifaux Musings as well. 

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.