Sunday, October 3, 2021

Ortega Family Values: Looking at the new Perdita

 I’ve been looking at Guild more, recently. If nothing else, they’re considered to be on the lower end of the totem pole power wise, so at least I won’t be coming in last while playing broken crews. Moreover, if there’s a definitive hole in my swing when it comes to general Malifaux play, it’s in the killing/combat part of the game. I don’t have a good feel for what it takes to kill a particular model in any situation, so I need to practice that. And the Guild are combat focused, so that seems like a good place to start.

Speaking of starting, I thought I would start by looking back to where I started in Malifaux, with Perdita and the Family crew. Her new title, Nephilim Hunter, gives her the ability to summon the low cost Ortega minions. Normally this wouldn’t be something to get excited over, as the Pistoleros are, well, not great. That’s being generous, frankly. The summoning upgrade she attaches gives them a +1 to their duels when they’re within 2” of another family model, which lets them reach the lofty heights of “average”. They’re not good models at all, and like many people in the Malifaux community, I wrote this new Perdita off the first time I saw it. Something stuck with me, though. I’ve always wanted to play the Ortegas. They were the first crew I ever bought. The family of gunslinging monster hunters is very cool thematically, and I wanted to get them back out. So I kept thinking about it, turning it over in my head, until it finally clicked for me. 

I was sitting in the bleachers at my step-daughter’s volleyball game, waiting for them to warm up, when I read and saw that they get to add in a suit to their duels also. Huh, so that meant they had built in triggers. That might be cool, so let’s look at the triggers. Which is, of course, when I realized that the triggers on the Pistoleros’ attacks, Grudge, puts out Adversary: Family. Now that was interesting. Some cheap, disposable models to throw adversary at the enemy (or at least force some cheating to create hand pressure). Plus, the Family can be pretty squishy, so adding some more ablative wounds to screen and protect the important ones is a good thing. The summoning upgrades feel like a little bit of a double edged blessing, and I’m going to have to do some fiddling to understand the best way to employ them. They’re unique, so you have to put them in the right places at the right time. Ironically, if you have one whose effect when they come into play (removing scheme markers, ending a condition, etc.) are particularly useful, the smart thing for an opponent to do would be to leave the Pistolero alive so you can’t resummon it. That’s a little bit funky and I’ll have to see it in action before I know if it’s a real problem or just one I’ve made up in my head. And they always have Reckles to get a cheap, Fast model. So there’s potential there. I’m guessing you might get them up to grow into a Monster Hunter maybe once in five games at best, so I won’t be counting on that, but if you can get one their stat lines will be pretty impressive with the built in +1s. 

Dita herself shifts gears from killer to leader in this incarnation. The 6” bubble the Ortegas usually want to sit in will have her stationed in the middle to take the most of her Head of the Ortegas ability. Man of the clan have the “Ortega Family Values” trigger on one or more of their attacks, allowing another family member to either draw a card or concentrate. Dita changes this from a choice to getting both bonuses. Moreover, every Ortega has A Por El, which lets you discard a card to let a lower cost Ortega take an action out of turn. If that is a concentrate action and you’re within 6” or Perdita, that’s another card drawn. That’s potentially a lot of card cycling, and I’m very intrigued by that. I think that she’ll spend most of her AP summoning and doing her Trick Shot action to push models, hand out stunned to enemies, and trigger more Family Values. Her gun doesn’t have Critical Strike anymore, so you have just the 2/4/5 damage track of most Ortegas, which isn’t impressive but will do in a pinch. And she’s got a 12” pulse that doesn’t require LoS to hand out shielded, again helping to shore up some of the squishiness. Likely she and Francisco will have Lead Lined Coat (though I’m curious to see if it would be better elsewhere, since she won’t be needing to be in the thick of it) so they’ll be pretty resilient. 

I don’t know if it’s actually any good or not, but having a tailored hand and some resilience seems like it would go a long way with this crew. Phiasco and I set up a game and played through turn one, and I drew/cycled about a dozen cards. I already have some parts of it where I think I can do better next time. There may be something there, and I’m tentatively optimistic. I’ll keep you updated with how it goes. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Other Side of Gencon, 2021 Edition


We’re a matter of days from the greatest four days in gaming, Gencon. Excitingly, Wyrd miniatures will be taking a great step forward at the show, offering a significant number of new models and options for one of their games, which is very exciting to me. The options are going to increase significantly, bringing new models and new tactical options that should refresh it and give it new life.

Oh yeah, and Malifaux is gonna have some new stuff coming out too. 

I love The Other Side. It’s a great game that marries the scale of an army game with the action economy of a skirmish game. I like the armies that are in it, and I like the way it plays on the tabletop. So I’m excited for all of the new stuff that will be coming for it and thought I’d compile it here. Before I get to that, though, if you’re going to the show you know that Wyrd’s selection of tournaments and play events is more limited this year than in the past due, of course, to COVID 19 safety concerns. There will be, however, a selection of quick play timeslots when anyone ca come in and use the terrain to play a pick-up game. I intend to spend a good amount of my time there with a couple of Malifaux crews, trying out the new master titles, and with my ToS King’s Empire Force (likely with some Guild reinforcements, naturally). If you’re interested in a game, hit me up on Facebook or just look for me in person. I’m happy to get in some reps.


First of all, we know that Sonnia Criid is the Guild commander. She is a ranged damage master that provides a good amount of damage through blasts and some terrain control through the ability to drop pyre markers that block off a whopping 120mm diameter circle of terrain. Interesting that she seems to have more fire magic at her command on this side of the Breach, since the lore says that magic is weaker on Earth than on Malifaux. You almost have to assume that means she’s pulling her punches in Malifaux, and who knows what she’s truly capable of now. 

Coming with her are two new units: the Guild Mage and the Gatling Gunner. The mages offer an interesting sort of disruption by forcing opponents to discard to perform morale actions near them (recall that the interact action required to score points in most games is a morale action.) They’re pretty soft, though, with an armor of 6, so survivability is somewhat limited. To correct for this, they have soulstone defenses, the ability to discard a card to prevent wounds. I don’t know that I’d count on that to keep them alive under a sustained assault, but if you’ve got the resources it can keep them alive to do their job. I think they’ll do better paired with Abysinnia’s forces than the King’s Empire, as they have access to more card draw. That may be true of the Guild across the board, frankly. 

Gatling Gunners are, unsurprisingly, strong looking ranged support models. They do more damage the closer you get to them, but can at least try and put some damage on infantry that’s up to 20” away. They also can punish units that resolve the rush order near them, simulating the effect on the battlefield that this type of weaponry had when introduced to our world, as well. I think they’ll do better if they’re kept back and screened, as they are fairly squishy, but I’m interested to see them in action and find out what they can do. 

I feel like, where the Guild may be ok standing on their own, the Court of Two models will shine more as support to either the Cult of the Burning Man or the Gibbering Hordes. Neither Kirai, the Gwisin, or the Enslaved Spirits scream “damage potential” to me, though the Gwisin’s ethereal viscera could get nasty on later turns and the Champion Binh Nguyen is no slouch. Kirai’s Spirit Anchor action lets her spread reinforcement tokens around to nearby units, which are important to her and her CoT models to get to glory but also very helpful for allied units. The Horde, specifically, has a number of units that benefit from reinforcements, not the least of whom is their Titan. And anybody who tries to mess with her or the Gwisin has to deal with their Revenge ability, which hits you back with a strength 2 attack that can’t be cheated every time you hit them (note, NOT every time you wound them.) My KE gunlines are not looking forward to that interaction, I can tell you. When she gets to glory, she also gains the ability to summon, which is very rare in ToS. 

The Gwisin are unique, in that they don’t have to stay near each other on the battlefield. As mentioned, they have an attack that gets stronger as the game goes on. If they get into Glory they can pass out Shaken or Pinned tokens. If you can get there early you could potentially help cult units get into glory as well, though that feels inefficient. More likely you’ll want to counteract what the enemy is doing.

The Enslaved Spirits don’t offer a lot in the way of combat ability. Their utility comes from two fronts. For one, they can be removed through the champion ability by units that are 5” away rather than 3, which gives you a little more flexibility in maneuvering them. Second, their lethal curses ability lets them throw out Shaken tokens at the start of the game, so they can boost the cult up and then hurt the enemy later. In Glory they’re even nastier with this, as they have a built in trigger to strip Reinforcement tokens off their target when they hit, before doing the penetration flip. Very rude. 

As a bonus, we also learned that the Gibbering Hordes are getting a nice new treat, The Other Side’s first Nightmare Edition box. Yeah, sure, it’s a Malifaux boxed set too, but let’s focus on us :P. The Deepest Depths boxed set represents the Gibbering Hordes’ Storm Siren commander and comes with models that count as Egg Clutches and Morphlings. They’re on the same sized bases as Malifaux, so you can swap the models back and forth between the games no problem. They’ll be a good start for anyone looking to get into the game, though I wouldn’t say you’re going to have much of a fighting force without picking up some more units. The Gibbering Hordes Allegiance Box would be a better option in the long run, but this box will give you some style that’ll make your force stand out.  

Sunday, August 29, 2021

TItular Musings


        We’ve got 3 more reveals left to go prior to Gencon (which hardly seems possible) so there are ostensibly 6 masters still to see beyond what Wyrd may be showing us through the Waldo’s Weekly articles. This means there will still be some reveals left (assuming they don’t just do a full drop beforehand) but also means we’ve seen a significant chunk and, I think, we can start to draw some extrapolations to what Malifaux may start to look like as a game in the new environment. 
This would be simpler, of course, if this was a situation akin to a set rotation in a CCG. That’s not the case here. Your standard edition version of Som’er Teeth Jones you’ve been playing since M3E came out will still be just as legal after September 16th as it was back in the day. But let’s be real. Unless you’re the kind of person who bets on the “Don’t Pass” line, plays aggro red after a block rotation in MtG:A, and fills out your March Madness bracket picking all chalk (IE: people who don’t like fun), you’re going to want to try out some of these new shiny toys on the tabletop. And here’s the thing, you’re not alone. At least for a while, you’re likely to see more of the new versions of masters than the old versions. So, if there are trends in these new Title masters, it’s a relatively safe bet that trend will be defining for the meta once this book drops. It’s worth it to take some time to muse on these, and that’s what we’re going to do here. But let’s keep in mind a couple of things: 1) we don’t really know how these new masters are going to work, just what we’ve seen in the reveals and people’s opinions. We’re living very much in the realm of theory-faux here and 2) I’m an idiot who thought Illuminated were crap at the start of M2E, so no one should take anything I say too seriously. 
That about cover it? Cool, let’s get to the analysis.

Thank you for being a friend.

76 zombies led the big parade, with 110 crooligans close at hand...

I started by looking at the masters and breaking them up into 3 categories: Damage Dealers, Crew Enhancers, and Enemy Controllers. In some cases this break-down wasn’t perfect (new McCabe, for instance, could be argued to enhance his crew and do pretty good damage) but I tried to make this as clean as I could. People can argue with where I have them slotted in, which is why I’m not going to go master-by-master through this, but I think the trends are clear: the masters are shifting away from killing to enhancing their crews. It’s fairly stark, actually. I have 13 of the original versions of the masters we’ve seen primarily focused on dealing damage, and exactly the same number in the crew enhancement category in their new versions. By enhancement I mean increasing movement, optimizing attacks, giving out free attacks to the crew, etc. That means a couple of things. For one, alpha striking the enemy’s master will do a lot less to completely neuter the enemy crew. They’ll be far more likely to be built with good beaters outside of the master. Second, tying them to their keywords potentially could serve as an even stronger encouragement for players to stay within their keyword to capitalize on this synergy. 
The numbers of control masters are roughly the same and they aren’t the majority in the original or new pool, which is probably for the best. Control tends to be a bit of a negative play experience (NPE) and, since games of Malifaux take a lot more time than a quick game like a CCG, that NPE gets stretched out over a longer period of time. Also, the complexity and diversity of crews makes it all but impossible to play true hard control crews effectively But it’ll still be a healthy chunk of the pool, and that’s actually tied pretty closely to the next paragraph. 

It’s gonna get crowded on the boards

Yeeeaahh, I'm gonna need you to build some more pylons.

The Other Coast folks pointed this out in their cast, and I think it’s worth repeating: there’s gonna be a lot of markers getting dropped on boards with these new masters. Whether it’s Geodes, Portals, Pyres, Coffins, or what-have-you, a lot of these masters are gonna be dropping markers on the board that will affect movement. 9 masters we’ve seen so far fit this description, as compared to a scant handful at most previously. This creates a bit of interesting tension with all of the movement tricks these new masters bring along as well, as we’re going to have to be careful not to push our crews into flames/sludge/etc. There’s going to be a lot of hazardous terrain out there, and precise movement will be critical to overcoming it. On a related note, I think models that can remove these markers are going to suddenly be worth a lot more than they were previously, so get those Sandworms painted, folks. 

The New Face of Summoning

Rosie the Riveter ain't got shit on her.

Obviously, it’s not a surprise that the masters who were formerly associated with summoning are, for the most part, not doing it anymore (that’s sort of the point of the title system, after all, to give you something new and different to play.) But, the masters we’ve seen so far all have a bit of a common theme in the way they have gained the ability to summon new models. All 5 of them (Ophelia, Perdita, Anya, Toni, and Kirai)(I’m not counting McMourning, 3 corpse counters for a Flesh Golem is not summoning as far as I’m concerned) have had the wide open “summon any minion from your keyword” clipped down to summoning relatively low SS models with very few options, often just one. Anya and Toni (and their crews) can summon Drudges. Dita can call her Pistoleros (with special upgrades attached to make that not a complete waste of an AP). Ophelia technically can only trigger her kin to summon back her totems, but those have some offensive potential (as opposed to Reva’s totems, which essentially just exist to be sacrificed.) The point is there’s only going to be a little bit of summoning, and it’s going to be very low soulstone disposable models. The question I have is whether this is just because adding summoning to keywords which were not built with that in mind is really difficult, or if this is going to be the model for summoners going forward? I can see either being true, to be honest, given how much trouble summoning has caused in the game historically. This new world of summoning certainly fits with the most recent Gaining Grounds rules, and it lowers the barrier to entry by not forcing you to buy a whole keyword to play them optimally. We probably won’t really know for sure until the next book comes out, but it makes sense to me. 

A whole new world

Don't you dare close your eyes. Because they'll stab you.

I know one of the harder parts of the M2E to M3E transition was that many of these masters are sacred cows and they carry an expectation that this master works this way because that’s always the way it’s been. Well, this book gave the designers the opportunity to kill some of those sacred cows and give the masters a new coat of paint. Both Viktorias on one big base? Check. Yan Lo not doing the slow-grow in power? Check. Marcus as an angry werewolf leading the charge? Check check. It’s an awesome refresh for the characters we’ve known and have basically played with in the same general form for nearly a decade, and it actually makes me interested to see what they do with this in the future. I wonder if, for future books, masters that are struggling might get a new title without having to do a full overhaul of every master in the game? Maybe particular titles/versions get rotated out or replaced over time? This opens up a lot of possibilities, and I really hope Wyrd takes the opportunity to run with it and really go wild. 

For now, I’m anxious to get this book in my hands. I’ll be curious to see how much of a difference this makes for crews as a whole, rather than just the master. And, of course, I’ll be curious to see how many things I’m wrong about in this article. But mostly I’m just excited to see these new masters in action. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Hobby and Painting Digression

     In lieu of some actual written content, I thought I'd share with you some pictures of my collection and some painting I've been doing recently. I have some half-baked thoughts on the title system that I'll muse on next weekend, but for of half-competently painted models?

        I set up a kind of diorama with all my models in a storage space, along with some terrain. They look like this. You can't really tell what they all are and it isn't terribly well lit but, well, there they are.

        Of course, there's some more space to fill, but this is a fairly good representation of my collection so far. 

        Zooming in, here are a few things I painted recently. I'm working towards a Frontier keyword crew, so here's some shots of my Sandworm and a rough Rider. 

        I wanted to do the Rough Rider with some native warpaint on it. Hopefully it's not based on real patterns rather than movie garbage, but it's tough to sort the two out online. And of course I needed to do a Sandworm. You know, for reasons.  The color is alright. The seams aren't. I've really gotta learn some greenstuff skills to patch those things in the future. 

        I also did these two Kentauroi when I thought I was going to give McMourning a try. I mostly wanted to try out GW's contrast paints. Results are...ok. They're a good way to quickly get some paint on something. 

        And last, just a shot of my pride and joy. Probably the best mini I've ever painted. 

        It's not a new model. I just like how it turned out. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Hot Malifaux Summer

        Reveal season is continuing apace faster than I’m following along with them. Wyrd has done a really cool thing by integrating all the content creators in the process this time (and I’m really kicking myself for letting the blog lapse, as it would have been cool to participate). You can see what masters and models have been revealed here, which saves me the burden of having to comment on them all. Win/win. Potentially more importantly we’ve learned what product is coming at Gencon and what may be triggering some of these new faces our masters will be showing us in the future. The reason, quite simply, is that Malifaux is on fire.

Such a rad cover design.

Well, maybe not literally, though one master from each of the factions may now have an active desire to change that fact. The Burning Man is coming back, you see, and some members of the Malifaux cast of characters are feeling a bit, hmm, let’s say inspired by his incendiary presence. Nellie Cochrane starts using her propaganda to inspire chaos rather than control. Reva is…well she’s still pretty much a crazy cult leader, but now she’s traded her horse for more burning focus. Kaeris trades her metal wings in for some straight up flames. Parker Barrows appears to be Undead and animated by flames, which is pretty rad. Misaki is fractured, which means…well I’m not sure. She looks older in the picture, I guess. No obvious burning going on there. Maxine’s luck in Malifaux has apparently not changed, as she looks to be pretty mad now and has the keyword Monomaniacal. Euripides looks potentially even more violent. And Ulix is riding a flaming pig steed. It’ll be interesting to see these things in play, but I’m already absolutely in love with this idea thematically. The only way it would be cooler would be if they seceded from their old factions and formed a new one together, but that would be pretty tough to do from a game stand-point. From my perspective, I’m excited about the return of the “Some kind of big event happened in Malifaux, here’s how all our characters are dealing with it” storytelling style of the good old days. You remember don’t you? Back when a meteor fell out of the sky and gave everybody avatar powers? Ah, good times. Good times. It’s one of the most defining characteristics of this game (lore driving mechanics) and a very welcome return. Also, kudos to not going the obvious route and having Sonnia Criid inspired by the Burning Man since, you know, she’s already into fire and stuff. Then again, the BM (ooo, that’s an unfortunate acronym) is at least 50% Cherufe, who already possessed her once. Maybe this is an awkward ex situation? Or maybe Sonnia’s busy on earth and, for once, not in the wrong place at the right time?


With the article, we received another reveal of how all these models are going to be sold to us. After all, there are quite a few masters in Malifaux, and releasing a new package for each of them would be quite a lot of SKU bloat for stores, something that Wyrd specifically was trying to avoid with M3E. The reason for this may not be obvious to folks who don’t have a background in store operations or supply chains, but every piece of inventory you keep on a shelf is an opportunity cost the store incurs for the entire time its there. Modern retail is built on the idea of “just-in-time” supply lines (for better or worse) and, to maximize profit, its best for a game store to avoid taking up shelf space with tons of items for the same game. And, frankly, we can all think of a model that we always find hanging on the shelf for years, costing the store owners money. So, Wyrd has an incentive to cut down the number of boxes they’re going to be putting out. 

If you’ve been paying attention to the releases (you have, haven’t you?) you’ll notice each of the masters has a new model that shares a keyword with it and a different master. This is not a coincidence. The retail model for these is to sell a boxed set that contains 2 of the new masters as well as the new model they share. Now, this means you’ll have to buy a new master for a faction you potentially don’t play when you buy your new one. In some ways, this is a stroke of genius, because it lets you have a free sampling of this new faction which could maybe lead to players branching out, trying new factions, and eventually buying more models (which is of course the goal.) This does, however, lead to you paying for a model you potentially don’t want, which could leave a sour taste in some players’ mouths. I anticipate the trade forums and ebay lighting up with a lot of individual masters for sale in the weeks after each of these box sets comes out, but I think it’s a clever marketing move all the same. The individual bit sellers are going to make a killing. 

As an example, Reva and Kaeris are going to be sold together in a boxed set called “Embrace the Ember” along with their new friend, Deacon Hillcrest, who we’re told is analogous to one of the Cult’s Doomseekers in ToS. I don’t know much about Kaeris so I won’t weigh in on her, but I’ll chat a bit about Reva. Since she’s got no horse, her move has dropped significantly to 5. In exchange, she’s gained a better ability to manipulate Burning. I know when I have played Reva, I’ve typically had only one of the corpse candles alive at any given point outside the first turn, as I’m usually blowing them up or using them for various purposes. Luminary Reva, on the other hand, can kill a Revenant model within 2” of her to reduce the damage of any attack on her to 0. That’s some serious damage reduction, and a good reason to keep at least one if not both near her at all times. She can heal or damage a model for 1 the first time they gain a point of burning during an activation. She has a free action to concentrate Burning from several models down to one single model, which I imagine will often be followed by her Immolate attack, which makes you reduce the burning from a model to 0 and then take damage for each point of burning taken off. Oh yeah, and if that kills you, her built in trigger lets you summon a Lampad out of them. And she can push a Pyre maker 4” and use a crow trigger to place two friendly models in B2B with it after the push. That would be cooler if it weren’t a trigger, but could provide some interesting mobility tricks to her and/or her crew. Also I guess the pyre markers do damage if they pass through someone during the push, but 2 damage after a failed TN 12 MV duel isn’t exactly what I’d call “reliable.” 

Her new firebrand preacher (tehe) is a 7 stone enforcer who loves him some Burning, both having it and spreading it. Fittingly for a CotBM looney, he has a WP of 4 which makes him pretty vulnerable to attacks from that avenue and a DF of 5 which is nothing to write home about. He can offset this somewhat, however, through Manipulative, the Revenant ability to gain Shield along with Burning, and Blaze of Glory, the Wildfire keyword ability to trade points of Burning for positive flips. Dude’s gonna set up shop in a pyre marker and never leave, is what I’m saying. His melee attack (why are you in melee range of him, he’s standing in a bloody pyre marker?!?) and his ranged attacks do pretty forgettable damage, but give Burning to the target. Translocation ritual is a more utility oriented attack action that lets him teleport people to within 1” of a pyre marker and within 6” of where they start (some of that classic Cult flavor). And he has a self-heal that, you guessed it, gives him Burning. Oh, right, and enemy models can’t reduce their Burning value within 6” of him. 

I think Deacon is maybe not that necessary for Kaeris and her crew (who I don’t think really struggle to put out Burning), is going to be a utility player for classic Reva, but will be absolutely required for Luminary Reva. One of the oddities of the Revenant keyword is that it interacts with Burning but doesn’t have many ways to directly put it on the enemy. Deacon fixes that, which is why it’s troubling that he seems a bit fragile at first blush. I always have a hard time parsing out how effective defensive tech will be, so I’ll have to see him on the tabletop to know if he’s going to stick around for the game. You can, of course, dedicate a Shieldbearer to protect him, but that’s now 13 stones you’ve dedicated to spreading Burning around the crew, which may not be the most efficient thing ever. Of course, later on Reva may have some summoned Lampads to take over the job, so it may be alright if he burns out early. New Reva is interesting to me. She’s perhaps a bit more suited to defensive games than her mounted version since she loses so much speed. At first blush I like the classic version a bit more, but I do like the idea of spreading more and more flame around the battlefield. With all the movement tricks these new masters have, restricting that movement with pyre markers may be quite useful. Also, I’m itchy to paint that lamp in her hand with some green flame (points at the banner at the top of the blog.) 

And for those keeping count, that’s 19 uses of the words Burn or Burning in the article. Hot girl summer, indeed. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Exit Light, Enter Night


       We continue with our trip through the new title system taking a look at a couple of new nocturnal themed masters (who, again, were summoners who now don’t really summon). 

And yes, I know titling my post about Dreamer with a line from Enter Sandman is hacky. You know what? I don’t need your negativity. It’s the 30 year anniversary of the Black Album this year, so shut up internal monologue critic. 



Dreamer has been one of the masters who changed the most from original concept to final execution. Anybody else remember the 1e version that started with the whole crew buried and only Dreamer on the board? I do! In M2E he transitioned to being a summoner, and after M3E he added an element of clockwork orange street hooligan. Don’t judge him, if fish monsters suddenly fell out of the sky in your hometown and started eating your neighbors and your dad, you’d probably have some trauma to deal with as well. He’s gone from mythical figure to enforcer of the Neverborn after the coup that supplanted Lillith, and Nytmare (his Tyrant buddy) has also started branching out to invading and influencing the conflict on Earth (I see you, Sandmen.) So they’ve come a long way together, but Dreamer is now learning that sometimes that has a cost…

The OG Dreamer is a standard summoner in the early M3E tradition (IE cost 10M+ the value of the minion(s). It's worth keeping in mind that he is one of the few allowed to summon multiple models with his action, which isn’t nothing). His summoning upgrade gives the model Stunned and Buries it, but doesn’t impose any damage or other negative consequences on it. While buried, these summoned models are able to Unbury adjacent to an enemy model that fails a WP duel, a nice bit of flavor that also lets your summons appear theoretically anywhere an enemy model is sitting on the board. Beyond that, he can support his new nightmare friends by a free action to hand out Shielded and a small push to models in an aura around him and can apply Adversary to an enemy model and Focused to a friendly model at ranged, ensuring that a bad time is likely about to be had in that vicinity (also potentially triggering a model to Unbury, given that it attacks WP.) The front of his card consists primarily of defensive tech, as Dreamer is Incorporeal, blocks free actions, can pass attacks off on nearby nightmares, and also has Serene Countenance. His defensive stats are ok but not great, and he has only 7 wounds, so this makes sense, as he would be very brittle without all those abilities. His only other ability is Vivid Nightmares, which makes no sense if all you look at is his card. It forces you to select half of the cards you’ve removed from the game and put them into his discard pile during the Start phase. That wouldn’t make much sense unless you pair it with the Nightmare keyword ability, Lucid Dreams, as this allows any of the other Nightmare models to spend their Free action to reveal 3 cards from the top of the deck, pick one to remove from the game, and discard the other 2. In doing so, the crew gains the ability to stack their deck or set things up for Stitched Together shenanigans. Assuming you aren’t doing the latter, you’ll probably favor taking low cards out to stack the overall probability of having good flips. 

New Dreamer is having some trouble getting restful sleep (getting older is tough, kiddo, let me tell you) and is titled “Insomniac”. His new rules for this iteration are…odd. He’s actually slightly more vulnerable despite going up to 10 wounds, as he isn’t incorporeal anymore and isn’t Protected. On the other hand, any time there’s 5 cards removed from the game you can bury him and swap his control hand with those buried cards (meaning you now want to remove high cards with Lucid Dreaming instead). You then start discarding 2 cards that have been removed from the game at the start of every friendly activation until there are no more cards removed, at which point he unburies within 2” of any nightmare. This potentially gives him some significant mobility, since I think the optimum way to play him will be similar to how one runs Zoraida, ie cheating far more aggressively than you would in other crews until your hand is empty, then swapping the dreck you have left for the (presumably) good cards you’ve been removing via Lucid Dreams. I assume you can pull off the bury every turn in this manner and swap your hand out while doing it, which is pretty solid. The back of his card doesn’t immediately inspire me, however. A 10” Slow and Adversary is pretty good, but it only does damage on a trigger and even then, it isn’t very much. Peer Into Dreams is an attack Wyrd highlighted in the reveal, and it is very unique in that there aren’t mechanisms to remove cards out of your opponent’s deck from the game elsewhere in Malifaux. I’m suspicious, however, that this is going to be more a “feels bad” for the opponent than something that causes actual damage in the game. It’s stat 5 versus WP, which is mediocre. A 10” range is decent, but still probably leaves Dreamer vulnerable to counterattack unless you can get him buried. And it doesn’t do anything that can score you VPs directly. The trigger abilities are potentially stronger, letting you remove the card from the opponent’s hand or allowing you to summon Lord Chompy Bits next to the target. The summon requires you to target a non-minion, though, which increases the likelihood the action will fail. I think it’s one of those abilities that jumps out at you when you see it, but will hose you if you try to build your gameplan around it. Lead Nightmares lets you push a model 3” and has an odd sort of trigger to let you Bury-Hop your model onto an enemy within 2” at the end of the move. It is potentially disruptive and could help you hide a model, but you’re letting your opponent control when your model unburies, which always makes me unhappy. And Waking Nightmare is a 4” scheme marker drop as a bonus action. Good, but not a reason to play this model. 

I’m gonna be honest, I don’t get Insomniac Dreamer. It’s going to be hard for the opponent to pin his crew down, and the potential to blink in and out will help to offset how fragile the rest of his Keyword can be. I don’t feel like Peer Into Dreams is going to work as well as people want it to work, or at least not as consistently, and outside of that he’s a good support master but not great. Put that up against the previous Summoning iteration and, well, let’s just say I have a strong feeling which will be on tables more frequently. I could be wrong, and likely am. But if you’ll pardon the pun, I think it’s safe to sleep on this master. 


Von Schtook is another master who has felt the nerf bat’s sting, particularly recently. Well, his Undergraduates may have gotten it worse than him, but what’re you gonna do? The life of an academic certainly has its challenges. Apparently Anna Lovelace’s influence has inspired the good Professor to come up out of the sewer from time to time and indulge his hobby…which is astronomy? Weird, but I guess it takes all kinds to run the world. Or reanimate it. Whatever, let’s just get on to the reviews. 

Trying to compete with original Von Schtook is gonna be an uphill fight, as I think he’s one of the better all-around masters in the game even after the last Errata. Plus he looks like he’d be played by current day Mark Hamill, which is worth a lot of points in my book. Front of card he has an ability to shut off upgrades on enemy models within 6” of him, which is already pretty good. He has a built in trigger to reduce damage he takes on attacks when the opponent doesn’t declare a trigger. He can scheme off of his crew killing enemy models with 10” of him. He can’t be stunned. All pretty solid. His Gruesome Lecture attack does “ok” damage, but more importantly gives you the potential to hand out Injured with a Blast (though at least they took the blast off of his weak damage to reduce the abuse somewhat.) Administrative Review gives him some offensive and/or defensive condition removal. His Peer Review is a unique summoning mechanic wherein he attaches an upgrade to a friendly model which allows them to summon a new minion of equal or lesser cost when they kill an enemy. It's funky in practice and can feel at times like a "win more" ability, but he can spread the upgrades out over the course of the game and potentially get a nice bonus to doing what the crew wants to do anyways, kill enemy models. He can do some more scheming with Grade Assignment. Really, other than not being terribly mobile, he’s good at most things you want a master to do in Malifaux.


Stargazer Von Schtook still has a lot of crew enhancement paired with some damage and negative conditions, but in a somewhat different toolbox. He picked up Hard to Wound somewhere along the line (I guess you spend enough time around dead folks and it’s bound to happen eventually.) Head in the Clouds is a deceptively important ability, as the Resurrectionist faction tends to have pretty low willpower across the board, so imposing a – on attacks that target WP in an aura around him could be huge in certain match-ups. His Lessons Learned ability is interesting and unique as well, as it grants a + to all duels in a model’s activation after it fails a duel. This suggests to me intentionally cheating down some kind of throw-away free action with a TN to give yourself a + to all your attacks in a turn, which is interesting. He’s still got the keyword ability so crazy card drawing is possible, though his attacks don’t have the multiple built-in suits anymore to truly enable it. Speaking of attacks, one of them involves a zombie with a telescope in place of its head. So, that’s a thing. I've got to question whether that’s really an effective mount for a telescope. Sure, it has mobility advantages, but you need them to be steady to bring things into proper focus…you know what? I’m off topic. The 1/3/4 damage spread + stunned is fairly meh, but if you target someone who is already stunned it ratchets up to 3/5/6. That’s pretty nasty. There’s also a fairly amusing trigger called Protect Me that summons a Mindless Zombie into b2b with the target of the attack and makes it so no enemy attack actions can target Von Schtook until the MZ is killed. He can make enemy models insignificant as a Free Action, which is potentially quite strong. And then there’s the actual Astronomy bits. His Study of Anatomy attack lets him resolve a number of different effects on targets based on their creature type, ranging from condition removal to damage to healing. It’s very situational, which would normally be a problem except for the ability I skipped on the front of his card, Shade of Delios, which allows friendly Transmortis models to treat enemies within 3” of a scheme marker as having any traits they want. How do we get the scheme markers into place you say? Why, by using his Light of Illios attack action, that lets him drop a scheme marker within 6” of him that triggers a Shockwave which can potentially hurt enemies (though it only requires a TN 11 WP duel, so don’t count on it) and heal friendly models. The combination of these two abilities (named for Malifaux’s 2 moons btw #loreflex) mean that Von Schtook’s Study of Anatomy ability can actually do any of the options listed, which gives a lot of flexibility and is generally cool and good. Plus Delios lets the Students to pretend that they killed the right type of model to trigger their specific abilities, which is gravy. Not necessary per say, but who doesn’t like a little gravy from time to time?

I like Stargazer Von Schtook, and I like the OG version too. I honestly don’t know which is better in what situations, though, as they’re both kind of generalists. OG is better at range, where Stargazer can potentially do some damage up close, I guess. The Injured blasts were pretty sweet, but now that he doesn’t blast on weak not quite as devastating as they used to be. I don’t know. This may come down to personal preference/playstyle. Stargazer feels pretty viable, though, so I’ll expect to see him get some run, as the whole Transmortis keyword is just so good that it may not really matter who is leading them. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Ghosts and Demons

We’re hot and heavy into Gencon preview mode, so I’ve got a little bit of catch-up to do. The nice thing about this for your humble bloggist is that it makes it easy to come up with content on a weekly basis. The hard part, of course, is that they’re starting with masters I haven’t played very much. So, as per usual, take my comments with a grain of salt, but let’s take a look at two of them today. 

There’s a pretty obvious pair we can join up, in that there are two characters representing Japanese women who summon monsters from elements of their folklore. Kirai has moved up from the chronically sad apprentice of Nicodem who summoned ghosts and cut herself so she could feel something again to the boss of a spirit-powered Earthside cult and Resurrectionist vigilante helping Molly take vengeance on those who would prey on the weak. Similarly, Asami Tanaka started out as a grieving and half-mad summoner of Oni (demons), but with a little tutelage from Yan Lo and (apparently) a brief break from the pocket demon trying to corrupt/gaslight her, she’s come into her own and has learned to stabilize her otherwise typically temporary “children”. Also, both of their new versions have fallen into the pattern I mentioned last time (namely “hey, let’s press pause on the whole ‘summoning’ thing”). Let’s dive in and look at how they’ve diverged. 


Kirai Ankoku was undeniably one of the strongest masters in the early days of M3E, as can be said for essentially all summoners. With a Df of 4 and no built-in defensive tech outside of the keyword-wide Vengeance ability and a card intensive “Protected (Urami)” she was not a master you necessarily wanted to throw into the thick of the fight, though if you did you could benefit from her 4” Life Leech to regain some wounds. She could also trade her wounds to keep Adversary on enemy models at the end of the turn. These two abilities hint at the general theme of this model, namely managing the resource of Kirai’s life to empower herself and the crew. Nothing embodies this as well as her Blood and Wind summoning Tactical Action. After the standard summoning math (TN=10+the model’s cost and the appropriate suit) she can drop any Urami minion and attach a Vengeance upgrade to them. This gave them Slow but also let them build in a Crow to empower triggers on their attacks. Critically, however, it also made them deal 1 damage to Kirai at the start of their activation. As such, you have to play a very delicate balancing act with her to avoid her crew literally killing her. There is a lot of healing in her crew to help top her back off and avoid this, but it’s a real threat and it encourages you to treat her minions as disposable missiles (which, frankly, you want to do in GG2 anyways.)  In between summons, her spirit barrage gives some reliable offensive output (gotta love shooting that ignores friendly fire). She’s got a couple of tactical actions that support her crew by healing and yanking them out of trouble, which is good. Her melee attack is alright and has an execute trigger to surprise people but, again, we don’t really want her in melee, so I’d call that situationally useful.

Envoy of the Court Kirai is a very different kettle of fish. Her defense gets bumped up to a mediocre 5 as part of an effort to move her closer to the action to work as a mid-range enhancer for the crew. The magic range for her is 8”, as she projects 3 auras that help the Urami by letting her distribute healing from one Urami model to a different one, grants them a built-in Crow on their attacks, and inflicts a – flip on WP duels and actions targeting Kirai that come from enemies with Adversary. That last one is a little weird at first glance, but makes more sense after you pair it with another ability, “Join Us.” Essentially, after a Urami model moves through the space of an enemy model as a result of one of their actions (more on this later), the enemy model must make a TN 13 WP flip or Kirai gets to summon a 4 soulstone or less model (ok, I lied, she still has some summoning. Bear with me.) Any given enemy model can only be used to do this once per turn, so you can’t just pick on a low WP model to chain out tons and tons of little minions, but critically they only get the generic summoning upgrade rather than the Vengeance one, so they don’t slowly peck away at her life once they’re on the board. This encourages you to call out a bunch of little cheap dudes, particularly since she has a tactical action called Swirling Spirits that lets her push any number of Urami models inside her bubble up to 5”, ignoring intervening models or terrain. That could, potentially, result in a lot of new little guys if the enemy clumps up on her. Gaki and Seishin are the only models that currently can be summoned by this but, you know, I got a funny feeling those other little dudes that come with Kirai in the ToS starter box are gonna fall under that line too. We’ll see what the right choice is after we get their stats, but that should at least give her some options. These summons come in Slow unless they’re Mindless, but otherwise suffer no penalties and are at full health. Moreover, her Sundering attack action, a 12” cast with no gun symbol and stat 6, deals +1 additional damage per minion engaging the target. For an enemy model on a 50mm base, that could be a significant boost. She has a second attack which is a free action to give out Adversary (Urami) which also targets WP (more – flips) and can then let her summon Ikiryo with a mask trigger and an additional cast. Finally, if that’s not enough, she can heal a Urami within 8” for 2 and make them emit a 3” concealing aura until the end of the turn for a little icing on the cake.

You may be saying to yourself “Hey self, that sure makes it sound like new Kirai can summon things just fine and may actually end up summoning more stuff than the original version.” And you might be right, to be honest. I haven’t seen it on the table. The thing is, though, new Kirai relies on an interaction with the opponent to summon, which is at least a yellow flag for me. While there’s no range on “Join Us”, I think opponents will most likely cheat their whole hand away to stop you from summoning outside of the 8” bubble of bad as long as they’re able. Personally, I don’t trust actions that rely on my opponent to make a particular choice, as my philosophy is to assume that they will always choose to make the choice that is worst for me. Within 8” you can apply Adversary to take the choice away by imposing a – flip, but now you’re asking the crew to do 2 things to make the summon work. I don’t know that I think it’s bad, and it is very interesting design to be sure. It just sounds like you’re working kind of hard to set up an ability that, if it does succeed, just gives you some “ok” 4 stone dudes (although again, this could change if the two new guys turn out to be broken.) What is cool about it, though, is that it enables a very different summoning style for Kirai. The original version wanted to get the most value from every model she summoned, so you wanted to get the biggest, nastiest Goryo or Shikome you could since, once it was on the board, it was going to start literally draining the life out of her. You wouldn’t even look at summoning a Gaki, as the cost was just too high. New Kirai, on the other hand, will likely hire those heavy hitters in her starting crew and summon the little dudes whenever possible to give her activation control and boost up her own abilities. For what she brings to the meta-game of Malifaux, I like Envoy Kirai a lot. On the table top I’m worried your opponent is going to sit at range and peck her to death (although building for that creates interesting tension, since if they bring original Kirai she’ll have Vengeance and can penalize your snipers). I don’t think her summons are going to be as reliable, and that makes me lean in original Kirai’s direction more than the new one at first blush, but I’m prepared to be wrong. At the very least, I applaud the design team for Envoy Kirai being a very interesting take on the character.


Asami is, herself, inspired by the Futakuchi-onna or two-mouthed woman, a yokai or monster from Japanese folk myths about the punishment of miserly husbands who don’t feed their wives enough. That part doesn’t exactly play a ton into her backstory, but it does sort of speak to the way her keyword, Oni, are somewhat self-devouring and self-destructive. All Oni have From Beyond, a keyword that lets them give themselves flicker tokens to gain + to their flips with the understanding that, at the end of the turn, they would be sacrificed if they have 3 or more of these tokens. In this way they also embody a Japanese aesthetic called “mono-no-aware” or an acceptance of impermanence and appreciation for the beauty of temporary and imperfect things. Or, to translate it into modern terms, everything you feel when you say “Burn bright, king” to your middle-aged father when he blazes off on the crotch-rocket he just bought as part of his midlife crisis. 

Asami Tanaka originally was built to summon Oni who are, by design, very temporary. Df 6 is pretty good, and Arcane Reservoir on your summoner is always a good thing. She can do 2 damage to herself whenever an Oni ends their turn within 10 of her to remove a Flicker token from them, trading her own life for theirs effectively. If she’s close enough to support her crew’s charge, she can let them place rather than push during that charge, increasing the flexibility and unpredictability of the action significantly. Her summon follows the same math as Kirai, but the transience of her models comes not from leeching her life but because the upgrade she attaches to her summoned minions places 2 flicker tokens on them right away and makes them gain another one at the start of their activation. They can offset some of this by removing corpse or scrap tokens from the board to take some of the flicker tokens off when they summon, but the bottom line is that, even if you don’t take advantage of From Beyond for + flips, these models are on a clock from the minute they come on the board. She can use A Mother’s Love to remove another flicker token and give them Focus, which is good. She also has Reaching Tendrils to shove her own models (or the enemy crew’s models) to make sure that her summons get the most done in their brief span that they can. She also has a decent melee attack (Stat 6 2/4/6 damage) with a couple of good triggers to let her do some damage in close. As such, you generally want her a little bit closer to the action than Kirai, and it encourages you again to treat her summons as temporary. In a way, it can be more like a spell-effect she creates that goes out, does something, and then ends, rather than actually adding a model. 

New Asami (Takusen is the keyword) is, once again, very different. This one doesn’t summon at all (I promise.) Instead, she focuses on letting her crew take advantage of From Beyond while also pulling the Flicker tokens off more efficiently to let them stick around when they do so. First off, her defensive stat is slightly lower, but her willpower has climbed 2 points, leading to an overall increase in her defensive total to 12 (first of the new Title masters where we’ve seen that.) Arcane Reservoir is gone (boo) but replaced with Arcane Shield +2 which, again, increases her defensive abilities. She’s gonna need this, because she wants to stay with the Oni while they move up to do their dirty work. Her Flickering Lantern ability allows Oni who end a move within 8” of her remove one of their Flicker tokens and gain Shielded +1. Meaning 1) you want your Oni to have at least some flicker tokens on them to gain this defensive tech and 2) you can control things to make sure your Oni never flicker out at the end of the turn unless you want them to. The trade off, though, is that you may end up having to stay somewhat clustered with Asami to take full advantage of this. To offset some of this limitation, she also has Dimensional Rifts to allow Oni who end a move within 1” of her or a Rift Marker to jump to within 1” of a different Rift Marker that is within 8” of where they started (one wonders if Asami’s been reading some literature from the Cult of the Burning Man). Where do these Rift Markers come from? Well, Asami makes them with a range 8 attack action called Into the Beyond that acts like a relatively standard 2 damage shockwave attack, but leaves the Rift behind after its done. Rifts are also hazardous to the enemy crew, so Asami’s going to be  able to do a bit of battlefield control both through enhancing her crew’s mobility and penalizing the opponent’s. She can also create them as a trigger from her melee attack, which no longer has an execute trigger. As if Takusen didn’t have enough going on the front of her card, she also has a new version of Molly’s Lethe's Caress ability that, rather than doing damage, gives a model Injured +1 if it declares the same action more than once per activation. That honestly may be worse than Lethe’s, or at the very least more debilitating. Of course, there are ways to play around it, but it’s a pain and it limits your options. She can hand out more Staggered or Injured with a ranged attack action that has an odd sort of movement trick/defensive tech with a built-in trigger, Possession, that lets you bury an Oni that was within 8” of the target. They unbury at the start of the buried Oni’s next activation, so you’ve got some good control to let you hop a model around with this. Then, for a little extra spice, she’s got a Free Tactical Action to give an Oni Reactivate, at the cost of them taking 3 Flicker tokens. Normally this is a death sentence but, again, all they have to do is end a move around her to pull one off and get Shielded. 

So, obviously new Asami is a short to mid-range battlefield control master par excellence rather than a summoner. Malifaux players may not have as clear an idea of how silly some of this can get, but if you’ve played against the Cult of the Burning Man in ToS, you have alarm bells ringing in your head. This movement isn’t quite that silly, of course, but an 8” hop as a bonus to another move means you can significantly relocate the Oni who, once they get into combat, can rip a target up (and thank the gods Yasunori stopped being an Oni after he came to M3E). In the meantime, your options to hit her back are hindered by the Rifts, Chains of the Earth, and the fact that she and her crew are probably going to be Shielded.  That said, Oni are (by design) not the toughest models in the world, and once they’re gone she can’t bring them back. She isn’t that impressive on her own offensively, so she’s probably in trouble if her crew is dead or if she gets separated from them. 

Even more than with Kirai, these two versions of Asami are very different and will look very different in play. I really don’t know enough about either to say definitely which I like better. The new version may be a bit more new player friendly, both in terms of not having to buy all of the potential summons and not having to do as much mental gymnastics with Flicker, though the positioning shenanigans can be a mind-bender also. In terms of sheer power level, well, there’s a reason they’re veering away from summoning, and that’s because it’s usually really, really good. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Asami Classic remains the preferred option for tournaments as a result of this. Still, I’m curious to see the more control-oriented version in action, hopefully on my side of the table rather than stomping my face in.