Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Playing the Elite and the Hail Mary plays

Today's post is something of a reflective moment. I want to talk about why I love the fate mechanic in Malifaux and what it must take to make it as one of the Elite in this game.

I'm reflecting on three games I've had against outstanding opponents, players who are undoubtedly up there as some of the best in Australia. You'll have to forgive me waxing lyrical about these three games first, there are some points to this blog entry, but I think its important to lay the foundations, before drawing my conclusions.

Dave aka Tiny @ Cancon 2013
The first game I'll talk about was actually a Resser on Resser brawl at Cancon this year. This was my first brawl sized game and only my third game with Kirai.

In my game against Dave, he went to great lengths to accommodate my lack of knowledge, truly helping me at every turn. We're in the final turn of the game. I've played a Hail Mary and somehow broken through to Dave's deployment zone. Now most of Dave's stuff had activated and in reality it was only his Lost Love that was anywhere near close enough. Most players at this point might have conceded the breakthrough but Dave asks me how many wounds my Drowned has left, looks at his card, decides if he needs Lost Love to keep Kirai safe, then charges my Drowned. A totem taking on a pretty strong spirit. It was an eye opener for me, and now in every game I no longer relegate the lost love to the backfield, I actually consider him a reasonable brawler.

Liam aka OSOI @ Faux Pas about a month ago
Now Liam is one of our local henchmen and recently he's done some good stuff with achievement events. As we sat down he pulls out the achievements pack and offers me the chance to pick his Hoffman crew. Now I'm not going to miss an opportunity like that, he's handing me a chance to pick his crew for him, surely I can level the playing field for my fledgling Kirai crew if I can pick some weaker minions to go up against.

Well what that game showed me is even with a disadvantage, a great players finds a way. Liam turned my choices against me using tactics he rarely gets to use. He had a plan from the start, heck he even told me the details, but he still managed to execute it and wipe out four spirits in the process.

Adrian aka Rathnard @ my place yesterday
Now here's Professor Pink himself, something of a celebrity in a Faux circles. We're smashing out a game between Zoraida and Seamus, I'm listening intently and trying to keep up, I know I'm facing Australia's number one and I'm a little intimidated by his wealth of knowledge. As the mid game starts I'm hit hard by a combo involving nightmare teddy, bad juju and a couple of silurids. Meanwhile Zoraida is having fun ravening around snatching objectives and obeying the crap out of everything.

I somehow manage to keep Seamus in the game until turn 4 when Zoraida charges him. Yep you read that right, Zoraida, the queen of casting sticks it to Seamus with nothing more than a set of knitting needles.

At this point I've played a Hail Mary and charged a crooked man into Zoraida, I know, not the brightest thing to do, but then fate hands me a second chance and I manage to paralyse the Hag and reinforce my control of the centre of the board. Even then Adrian looks completely calm and suddenly silurids are bouncing into my deployment zone to level the scores.

So what are my learnings from all this reflection? Is there a point to all of this? Well yes I think there is and I'll attempt to summarise it here:

My first point has to be that unlike some other wargames, Malifaux doesn't seem to breed nearly as many douches at the top. Maybe its the fact that in our top ten here, there's quite a few who are also Henchmen, maybe its the Aussie culture, but its been my experience that these are good guys, people you enjoy every moment of your game against. I find that interesting when we as a club, go to great efforts in other systems to enforce a fair and disciplined sportsmanship system, whilst with this game, it seems largely redundant.

My second point would be that playing this quality of player is always an eye opener, you can think you know your cards off by heart, and yet somehow, they will always remind you of something you've forgotten, or some tactic you've completely overlooked or never really understood. Generally I get told about these things as I go to do something silly and these guys correct me, which says another thing about their character.

My third point and real reason for mentioning the fate mechanic at the start of this long ramble is the balance it brings and how you see an experienced player deal with a sudden change in fate. In the games I mentioned these players all suffered a burst of bad luck playing me, a black joker at the most inopportune of times, a sudden streak of low cards, or a control hand that contains nothing but ones and twos. In each instance I saw the players really step it up a gear, none of them sat their and bemoaned their luck, as some of us are prone to doing, instead you could see them analysing the situation and working a way to cheat the hand they've been dealt.

There's several lessons for me in what I'm writing here:
- Don't be afraid to go up against the best, how else are you going to get better.
- These are good guys, the arrogance I sometimes see amongst the winning circle, just isn't that prevalent in this system
- Aspire to be like these guys, I need to work on my calm, and I really need to know my rules a lot better
- I need to try out other crews and not restrict myself to one or two masters, I need to understand the mechanics of crews I struggle against, so I can find and overcome vulnerabilities, or at the very least know what those vulnerabilities are
- I need to plan more, plan and re-plan as the game develops. Don't just shuffle forward and hope for the best, I need to know what every minion's objective is, and I need to take stock at the end of each and every activation
- I need to look at the Mercs and synergies with other crews, decide if their right for a given situation, scenario, opponent or crew matchup
- I need to look at all character abilities again, stop dismissing those things I don't think I'll need, or don't play to the perceived strengths. Instead I need to look at all abilities again and look at where they work and what they work against.

So in short, no small order! And as I've hinted some small changes for this Aspiring Resser and this blog, or should that be Gullible Guildsman, Timid Thunderer, Oppressed Outcast, Neverborn Newcomer or Assistant Arcanist.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Malifaux Board for Beginners - Part 6 - Adding Insignificant to Progress

It feels like a while since I posted any progress on this project, real life seems to always be getting in the way. Here it is and its going to be a bit random as I've been doing bits in various areas, rather than a concentrate effort in one.

So first of all, in order to take this board to the next level, I finished off the laying of the paving style vinyl and then laid down a lot of basing sand in the gaps left by the older style brickwork.

I'm pretty happy with this has turned out, although the vinyl was a pain to cut, and I've had more than one comment about how it would have been a lot easier just to have laid the vinyl and then glued the GW movement trays on top of it. Yes it would have been easier, but I think it would have looked a lot cleaner. That for me would have been a bad thing, I wanted a real hodgepodge of materials laid down in a haphazard way.

Whilst that was drying, I knocked out my first bit of terrain for this board, a victorian beam engine that was one giant mould line. You really do appreciate how good modern kits are when you take on something that's a decade or more older. With something like 200 pieces, most of which are tiny rivets and bolts, it was a challenging afternoon but its left me with a big LOS blocking piece of terrain that i think is in character with the rest of this Arcanist den.

I've also spent some time on the outer board, where the colours of the two factions are now present. I must have had a dodgy can of spray because the little red area on one of the sidelines is mottled. Something I'll have to sand back and repaint.

I tried masking off the lines and painting those up on the Ten Thunders side with limited results, unfortunately the paint has bled under the masking tape and the lines aren't as crisp as I would have liked, more touch up work there!

I also received through the counters that will be inset into the soulstone and victory tracks, but they have languished on my pile of shame this week as I press on with the board.

And lastly the Arcanist board itself, which after receiving a heavy undercoat, is now painstakingly receiving its first coat. I'm giving each brick a 70/30 base drybrush in mecharite red and Chaos black. I'll the go at the bricks with two colours, probably adding some muted oranges to give some areas a more modern brick colour. This will then contrast with the concrete colour I'll give to the GW paving and the worn Victorian colours I'll do for the older style pavers. I'll then grime these up with oil affects and then tie it together with snow flock.

And because the nights are getting colder and I've been told to clean up my mess, I spent a good few hours this weekend taming my gaming room. It was an utter tip, but as you can see its a lot tidier....

That pile behind the WIP board is my Malifaux pile(s) of shame, there must be close to 100 models in various states of assembly.

And my paint station isn't any better. There's Lucas and crew, Izamu and some punk zombies all ready to go. If only I had more time!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Easter Equinox - Easter Faux Pas Story Encounter

Last week Krags hosted the bi-monthly co-op event we run in conjunction with Outpost South, which we have dubbed Faux Pas.

This month was our turn, and as it was Easter, our Henchman ran a special Easter story encounter, which I have to admit isn't an original encounter, more something he borrowed and used. Nonetheless it was great fun and so I thought I'd republish it here and show you what make it so entertaining:

You can read the full details of the encounter if you click on the image above.

The basic premise is that your soulstone cache and 10 choccy counters are up for grabs, the winner is the player with the most choccies and soulstones remaining at the end of the night. All you have to do is run your game strategy around collecting and minimising your use of soulstones.

A simple plan that isn't that easy to achieve. You see I think there are a few factors that are playing away in the background to make your choccy hoard simply melt away, namely:

But he's got more than me, that can't be fair can it?
It starts before even the first card is flipped, you've chosen your crew and then you realise your opponent has a larger soulstone cache. Playing Seamus I started with a humble two cache, playing Raspy my opponent started with five. Normally you know raspy is going to use some of those as the game unfolds, but as I explained earlier your natural tendency here should be to hoard. Therefore it can't possibly be fair that your opponent starts with double, or is it?

Carrying chocs is a significant task...
So picking up chocolate is a task for a significant model. I ran out canine remains and then had to wait for a second dog in the pack to get near it before I could pickup a counter. When one of my hunting pack got chocolate, I was loathe to send it running up the board with its mates, as it would have slowed the pack and risked that choccy, but at the same time, I needed the number to claim significant. In the end I played two different strategies, where it was safe, the encumbered dog followed on behind to give the scouting dog significant, and when it wasn't safe I simply traded it up for a belle using Seamus's hand canon and arise abilities.

Even so, picking up that counter takes an action so you have to work out the optimum way get into contact and get that choccy.

Don't just stand there...
As I eluded to in my last point, timing and movement are everything. Like any objective grabbing activity in Malifaux, you want to side up, grab that choc and then of course your activation is over. Next turn you've got a choice, either than choc laddened minion carries on and fights the good fight, or you run, or my case, shamble off for the hills.

If I push you, you might just drop that precious load...
There's nothing worse than getting your hands on an objective and someone pull s a push schinanigan on you. You've probably spent the entire last activation just getting your mits on that choccy, you done your stint in the open and your about to make for the hills when your opponent pushes you about, and in doing so that delicate morsel goes clattering into the gutter for any rogue to pickup. Keep an eye out for such trickery and remain vigilant.

It's chocolate and I'm hungry...
It calls to you on a subconscious level, promising sugary goodness and a brief moment of ecstasy. All you need to do is resist, but as some famous evil type once put it - resistance is futile.

And if it isn't calling to you, then its likely calling to your minions. Remember they're not immune and those low cards can and will come up at the most inopportune of times!s

Those are the chocolates your looking for
Lastly there's the mind games that your opponent might just try on you (because I'm guilty of trying....). You're in the middle of a duel, your crunching the math, you've come up one short of moderate damage and its such a shame because your on your last AP, and you only needed moderate damage to end this plucky minion. Your opponent reminds you you could always burn a stone, afterall only the joker is going to stop you ending my minion. And you're tempted....

This is when you should look into that smiling face and ask yourself, what's he up to? You see I worked out early on to keep an eye on my opponents pool:
- Your opponent wants you eating your pool because ultimately
those soulstones count to the victory conditions
- your opponent might be holding a choccy counter and that in
conjunction with a slow to die action gives that minion a healing flip
(see story encounter rules), which can't be good, sure they've
traded that choccy but they're still standing and who knows what
they have planned....

And there you have it, Malifaux with chocolate, what more could you possibly want.....

I should also put out a big shout out to Mr Fantasy who put together two stunning boards for the event...

Ten Thunders Hideout
The Ten Thunders have infiltrated all factions in Malifaux and the Bayou is no exception. With the infiltration and their work in the shadows complete, the Ten Thunders have turned their sights to a more permanent lair. Can this organisation tame the bayou or will the bayou be reclaimed by its denizens?

We discovered early on that the five structures on the bayou board were solar lights, which John and Justin ended up using as a form of turn counter. The light goes out, that's a turn down. It was quite cool to see the lights of this camp blink out one by one as the two Neverborn crews fought over the spoils.

Mr Magpies Circus
Mr Magpie has come to Malifaux bringing his troop of performers and misfits. To the common folk its is a wanted distraction from the drugery of their lives. To the unseen masters it is either an opportunity to hire the skills of some truly unique mercenarys or it is unwelcome competition.

Here's a link to Mr Fantasy's blog - Fire Water Portal, where you can find WIP and full pictures of these excellent tables.


Saturday, 6 April 2013

Loathesome Lackeys - Kang

I've been languishing at home, scoffing eggs and really making a nuisance of myself this week, so blog entries have been few and far between. Work on my beginners board is really taking shape, but that'll have to wait until after the weekend for an update. It just hasn't been that easy without my train ride to get these done. But now I'm back to work, this blog will go into overdrive again.

I thought it was time for another character analysis and this week I'm going to focus on the Loathesome Lackey that is Kang (The Rail Workers Champion). I've only played against this guy a couple of times but each time this one man army has walloped my zombie hoard and left me cursing the living.

Last time it happened I was left having something of a Kirk moment...

You'll just have to picture Kirk shouting Kang, not Khan....

Now that I have that out of my system. So what is it I don't like about this guy....

- Cant Keep Him Down ability means Kang is healing a number of wounds equal to the turn number, essentially he becomes more resilient as the game proceeds.
- Hard to Kill means you're not one shotting this guy
- Stubborn gives him 8 willpower in resist duels
- Ignores obscuring on markers or auras, so fog isn't going to work to sneak your boys up on him
- Workers Champion gives crew in range a positive to attack and casting against non living if he kills a non living model.
- You can Try defense trigger means he has a chance of retaliating against a missed melee attack made against him
- Melee Expert means he's doing between 9 and 18 wounds. Before jokers in Melee
- Shovel melee attack has respectable Cb, range and damage and has two triggers that can either knock back the opponent 3" or give a construct easy to wound
- Hot Coals ranged attack, although short ranged, is a pretty solid blast weapon and forces a negative flip on the defensive resist duel
- Fight with Me as a zero action means other MS&U members close enough get plus 1 CB.
- Slow to Die
- Rousing Speech spell can result in instant rallying for comrades in 6" and they gain immune to morale duels

- I see Kang usually used with a pack of rail workers all clumped together, which tends to be vulnerable to blast or drowned damage
- If you target him early in the turn, hitting again and again, until he dies, he's not coming back and the crew looses a powerful character

Lackey's current tactics
I see him played in the middle of the pack until he gets in charge range, when he's either played aggressively to push back my forces or defensively to protect a higher value target or objective.

Played with the embers or Feng he benefits from the steam cloud to shroud him from attacks until he's ready to attack.

Resser tactics
I think it comes down to the tactic I outlined before, you either hit this guy hard, again and again, until he topples or you smack him with multiple blasts. He has to be your target early on in the turn, so you can do enough damage and overcome his hard to kill ability.