|Sure, Adam. Keep telling yourself that.|
So, if you’re a Malifaux player who follows the news, you know that the next rulebook will introduce the title system, a thing that was introduced as a way to iterate on the Masters without using upgrades ala 2nd edition. To touch on it briefly, when you reach the phase of game set up where you declare masters, you announce that you’re playing “Sonnia.” You reveal which version of Sonnia when you reveal the rest of the crew. So, there’s potentially a bit of a mini-game being added now, and it will be interesting to see what new complexity it adds to the early game. Really, it’s a question of whether Wyrd can thread the needle and create two competitive, competent leaders for each keyword, particularly without remaking the other models. Sounds pretty tough to me, but we’ll go one-by-one through the spoilers we receive before the book is released. And it’s summer, and she was released first, so let’s start with Sonnia (Miss Criid if you’re nasty.)
Old Sonnia has a pretty extreme df/wp split, with a 4/7. This suggests pretty strongly that she wants to stay back away from the fray (which isn’t tough, because a Mv of 4 means she’s probably better off getting transported by other models rather than spending her own AP walking.) She does have some unorthodox defensive tech between Arcane Shield +2 and Counterspell, as well as a DF/WP trigger to put burning on someone who attacks her and Smothering Flames which reduces the range of any enemy model’s non-melee action by 1” per point of Burning they have running on them. She has a meh melee attack that heals her and a built-in trigger to give them burning. Her 14” Flameburst attack is a nasty ranged shot that does 2(B)/3(B)/5(BB) and adds burning to anyone who takes damage from it. Her Scorch the Soul can do a McMourning-type “Take the total damage of your nasty condition all at once” attack that caps at 5 damage and reduces burning by up to 5 on the target and, if it kills the enemy, lets her summon a Witchling model. She has a pair of bonus tactical actions, one that puts a 3” hazardous aura around her and 1 which heals and gives focus to a friendly witchling.
New Sonnia (aka Sonnia Criid Unmasked) has apparently gotten a bit tougher physically (at the expense of her mental health) during her time possessed by Cherufe, as she’s now a 5/6 Df/Wp split. She’s also picked up a point of speed, though 5 is nothing to write home about either. She still has Arcane Shield +2 but lost Counterspell. In its place, she took a page out of Reva’s book and can reduce burning on friendly models within 8 of her to get a + on duels. The rest of the card has some unusual toolbox type abilities which make pyre markers count as Severe, lets the crew gain a soulstone when models that have Burning+2 die, and lets Witch Hunters who get pushed outside of their turn get a free melee attack (I imagine primarily through their Drawn to Pain trigger). Flameburst is still the same base attack, but it swaps the triggers for one that you’ll probably use every time (it’s built in) to replace the blast markers with Pyre markers. She has an 8” utility attack action called “Burn Them Out” that is stat 6 vs. Mv to give the target Burning +2 and pushes the target 4”. Her tactical action, Confiscated Lore, can only be done once per activation but lets her look at the top 5 cards of the opponent’s fate deck, discard any of them you want, and put the rest back in any order. There are a couple of triggers on this, one that lets her move 3” and a different one, Surge. She also has a Tactical Action to create a pyre maker and a built-in trigger to make any model within pulse 2 of the tactical action suffer 1 damage, which is an interesting way to get some unresisted damage spread on the board.
So, Old Sonnia feels to me like a standard ranged blaster. She’s all about force projection, shooting her own attacks around to blast enemy models as well as boost her companions. Her “summon” is really not reliable and is a bit of a win-more, but it’s there to potentially amplify the momentum of her destruction. She’s “traditional”. She’s very much an early m3e, non-complicated, new player friendly master. New Sonnia looks similar on paper, but I think the key to understanding this new version is the Lasting Flames trigger on Flameburst. Basically, every time she hits somebody with her 14” ranged attack she’s going to drop a Pyre marker onto the board Also, she can drop another one within 12” of her as a bonus action. She can put out a lot of these Pyre markers, is what I’m saying. Like, up to 7 of them per turn. More likely 2-3 of them, but still, over the course of the game that’s going to be an eff-load of potential pyre markers on the board, particularly since she can set herself up with Confiscated Lore to increase the odds that her attacks are successful. Also, Pyre markers don’t go away. Ever. They just stay on the board for the rest of the game. However, she’s lost a lot of her defensive abilities and can’t do as much to amplify the crew (though Burn Them Out has some nice utility.) Her best defense is to have her party on fire around her and steal their Burning. The couple of games I’ve played with Reva tell me that it’s very effective for incidental attacks or opposing individual beaters, but struggles against concentrated fire.
Thus, Unmasked Sonnia feels like more of a control master that can wall off sections of the board with fire but will be less effective at pivoting to direct crew-on-crew combat when necessary. Old Sonnia (we need to give the old ones titles too, I just realized) is for more direct combat/crew support. Thus, it’s possible that you could choose to switch between the two versions based on whether you’re in a straight up Reckoning style game or the Unmasked version for Symbols of Authority (ie more mobility/interacting type games).
The question is, would you? I’m not sure. I think old Sonnia is maybe a good teaching master for newer players, but I have a hard time imagining more experienced players not reaching for Sonnia Unmasked. I think it’s an interesting model to be sure, and Reva is literally built on taking advantage of this flame stealing motif. Plus, Sonnia can directly drop her own pyre markers wherever she wants and put burning on her allies with Burn Them Out, rather than Reva’s mechanic of needing her corpse candles to die in specific places. This makes her ability to place pyres and burn her crew more reliable/agile, which I think is one of the things that holds Reva back.
I’m far more interested in the new Sonnia than the old one, is my final verdict. I can see where the designers were going with the split between the two, but Unmasked’s board control just feels more powerful and interesting.
Oh, wait, there’s another version of Sonnia. The Other Side exists, after all, though many gamers seem to think otherwise. Sonnia is a commander from the Guild faction (technically the only one for the time being.) Interestingly, she only has 18 scrip to use to hire her force, which means you’re going to be bringing fewer troops than your opponent. As such, she needs to be able to make up for this with her own impact on the game. Her stats are pretty standard, though a 5 speed is pretty slow (which tracks, given all the versions of her from Malifaux aren’t exactly quick either.) The morale action Well-Read gives you a card draw, which the earth side factions don’t have an amazing amount of, which can be useful. It also lets you offset half of the cost to get her into Glory, so you may as well go straight to it. Which means, frankly, the front of Sonnia’s card doesn’t matter, so let’s just ignore that. First point, Draw on Ancient Runes makes her flip two cards instead of one for any duel she’s in. That’s pretty rad. Her Pyrokinesis lets her use the Penetration flip from her attack for her area flip, which means it’s far more likely she’ll be able to dish out AoE damage. Not everyone plays The Other Side, so I’ll walk through how it works. Normally, if an attack is successful that has the Area description, you flip a card and, if the card’s value is higher than the armor of the units within 3 of her, they take 1 point of damage. For Sonnia, she flips two cards for penetration (her flameburst has the Piercing characteristic, so it means you flip two cards instead of one and choose the better) and, critically, lets you add the 2 points of Strength to the card rather than relying on just the value of the card. The Flameburst attack has a very good 7 Acting Value but a not so great Str 2. This is offset by the Piercing ability, but may make it hard to actually get the main attack to land. The margin of success ability Inferno lets the area damage force all the squads within 3 of the initial target to take 2 instead of 1. Potentially you can do a lot of damage with this, though I would guess most crews will fan out when opposing her. It also requires you to spend margin on that rather than on increasing the Str of the attack versus the primary target. I’m not sure what to think about it, in other words. Additionally, she gains the Morale action Pillar of Flame. It costs a Tactics token which is kind of steep, but lets her place a 120mm Flamestrike Marker anywhere within range. Enemy Fireteams within (2) of the marker (so, that’s a pretty huge area) suffer a strength 2 hit that can’t be cheated. Additionally, if you have a 13 you don’t remove the marker when you’re resolving it, which creates some permanent hazardous terrain to add a bit of board control.