Wednesday, 14 May 2014

By My Reckoning

I've already stated that Malifaux is my new found love, and I've given strong reasons for it - an entire blog post, in fact. I've talked about how the game works, and shown off some of my models (though I've since gone back and made the bases a little more interesting) but I've never really given much comment on how I play, or specific examples of some of the neat little tricks the game encourages.

I played a game on Monday night that highlighted why I love Malifaux, and whilst you won't find a full battle report after the break, you will find a discussion of the game and examples of why I love it. 

I had prearranged a game over Facebook with Red Steel in Preston, my new and less-local-than-another gaming club (but the one I choose to frequent anyway), and my opponent and I announced our Factions (Arcanists for me, Guild for him) and generated our deployment, Strategy, and Scheme Pool (remember, in Malifaux you know the game before you 'hire your crew') and drew Reckoning (the closest thing to Kill Points that Malifaux has) and Standard Deployment, and a Scheme Pool of:
- A Line In The Sand (Place scheme markers on the centre line)
- Assassination (Kill the enemy leader)
- Protect Territory (Place scheme markers outside your deployment zone and keep them guarded)
- Plant Evidence (Place scheme markers in contact with terrain in the enemy's board-half)
- Take Prisoner (End the game in base contact with a designated model)

For an Arcanists player, this was a fairly pleasant Scheme Pool. I knew my opponent was playing Guild, so I could hazard guesses at what he would take for schemes and for his crew. He knew I was playing Arcanists, so it was a fairly safe be the would hire Sonnia Criid and her crew as they're designed to counter Arcanists with abilities like Counterspell and Magical Dampening. I also knew that both Sonnia Criid herself and the Henchman Samuel Hopkins had some powerful ranged abilities that would counter the usual Arcanists trend of being ranged. Sonnia has a pretty scary ability called 'Flameburst' that allows her to do a decent amount of fire damage and place a lot of blast markers that would rip apart my smaller models. Samuel is one of the scariest long range shooters in the game, especially if my crew was going to be hugging cover. 

With Reckoning as the Strategy, Plant Evidence in the scheme pool (so I'd need to be near cover), and with me playing Arcanists, my opponent taking a Sonnia Criid crew was a pretty safe bet. If he took Sonnia and Samuel, Assassination was also a likely scheme choice due to their high damage output and long range. So I began to look at my options to deal with her crew, but keeping in mind the scheme pool too. 

My first consideration was to hire Rasputina and a crew based around her; some Ice Gamin, an Ice Golem and a few other bits and pieces. My theory was that Rasputina has a high damage multi-blast cast similar to Sonnia, but Curse of December has a trigger that would allow it to be cast multiple times per activation. I could out-ranged-game Sonnia. This meant I would take Assassination myself, and probably A Line In The Sand, as Rasputina's crew is quite slow and couldn't be relied to run the board dropping markers. 

Then I remembered Sonnia's Counterspell, and that her Flameburst could kill multiple Ice Gamin per casting - which would earn him Reckoning points and gimp Rasputina's ability to cast through her minions. 

With Assassination still in mind, I considered Mei Feng next. She'd be able to jump the board and deliver Sonnia a swift kick to the face. Trouble was, that would leave Mei Feng up a certain creek without a paddle, practically handing my opponent the Assassination scheme on a silver platter. Her crew is also quite Soulstones heavy in cost. Yes, the Rail Workers would survive a lot of punishment, but they were slow moving, which probably meant ALitS again. 

Having decided that Mei Feng was a possible option, I next considered my other favourite master, Ramos. I'd be able to create Steam Arachnids throughout the game, allowing me to create ablative models to keep Sonnia and Samuel busy, though the sheer volume of low wound minions would make it easy for my opponent to claim Reckoning points. Risky as it would be, it just meant that I'd have to ensure that the three Reckoning points he would theoretically get would have to be countered by me really focussing on my schemes and Reckoning myself. That immediately meant I'd need some hitting power and some fast movers. Ramos' crew would be doable. 

With my master decided, I began to weigh my options for the 50ss I could spend on the crew. 

In regards to fast moving beat-sticks, nothing compares to Howard Langston (or Miss Step, the GenCon alt mini). Being 'Terrifying (Living) 12' meant that every time anyone targeted her (I really wanted to use the Miss Step model) they would have to take a test or end their activation immediately. This would hopefully mean my opponent had to burn some cards from his hand to cheat any poor tests. She's also 'Nimble', meaning she gets an extra AP to walk, allowing her to cross the board quickly (or make a walk, then charge) with a particularly potent combat attack (4/5/6 damage) with an Decapitate trigger that would slay the target outright unless my opponent burnt two cards or a precious soulstone. I also immediately decided to five her 'Imbued Protection' to raise her defence to an astronomical 6, making her very hard to hit, and this could be discarded to prevent two damage. 

Next, I would need some ways to generate scrap markers for Ramos to use. The only way I had to get them currently was waiting for my own crew to die, as my opponent had no constructs, nothing that would drop them. Not ideal. Joss is another beat-stick character that would ignore the Hard To Kill rule of the inevitable Death Marshalls, and his Creative Salvage rule meant that anything he killed could drop scrap markers. He was hired. Secondly, an Electrical Creation - and I'll explain why later. 

28 Soulstones spent meant I had 22 left. Perfect. In a Ramos crew, there's a wonderful little (slightly obvious) trick that I really enjoy doing. Rail Golems are great beat sticks too - their Locomotion ability means that with enough tomes cards he can walk and melee repeatedly without spending activation point as long as they have enough Burning on them. A Rail Golem gains a Burning every time it activates, and the Brass Arachnid (Ramos' totem) allows it to reactivate a second time during the turn. 

This left me with 7 Soulstones. The Arcane Reservoir upgrade (2ss) would increase my crews hand size to 7, and additional cards is always incredibly useful, especially when I need high Tomes cards for Ramos' summoning and any Tomes for Locomotion; and Ramos' Field Generator upgrade for 2ss seemed like a good investment too, as it would allow me to throw up an Arcing Field to give friendly constructs within a 6" aura + to their defence flips. This left me with three Soulstones to add to the Soulstone  Pool for use during the game. 

This meant my crew roster read as follows:

Ramos - Arcane Reservoir; Field Generator (4ss)
Joss (10ss)
Brass Arachnid (4ss)
Electric Creation (4ss)
Rail Golem (11ss)
Miss Step - Imbued Protection (14ss)
+3 Soulstones to the Soulstone Pool
TOTAL: 50ss

With crews hired, we set up the terrain and then revealed our crews. 

Sure enough, I was up against Sonnia Criid, Samuel Hopkins, the Purifying Flame, 3 Witchling Stalkers, and 2 Death Marshalls. I revealed both of my chosen schemes, Protect Territory and Plant Evidence. I figured that I could summon loads of Steam Arachnids and start dropping Scheme markers which would count for both schemes as long as I kept non-peons within 2", and the marker was dropped touching scenery. By revealing them, I gave myself the chance to earn the additional VP. 

I deployed first, bunching my crew up in the centre of my deployment zone near some fences and buildings. My opponents set up Sonnia and her crew similarly in a wood on the outskirts of town, and I won the initiative flip.

Remember I mentioned the Electrical Creation earlier? Here's why I hired it. I activated the Electrical Creation (it's Half Life rule dropped it to two wounds remaining) then double walked it 8" forward. After a Witchling Stalker made a run for it across the front of the saloon, Ramos activated next. First off, his zero AP ability, Magnetism. This dragged him 6" towards the Electrical Creation and dealt 2 damage to it, killing it. Ramos has gained a 6" move and a scrap marker for zero AP. Beautiful. His first AP is then spent to summon the swarm. As I had 11 Tomes in my hand, I burnt a Soulstone to give myself another Tomes to the cast value (now 8TT, needing a total of 19TTT to be succesful). I then flipped the 12 of Tomes - no need to even cheat! With his remaining two AP, Ramos vaulted a fence and threw up an Arcing Screen. 

The game continued with our forces both congregating in the centre of the board, and my Brass Arachnid reactivating the Rail Golem (now at Burning +2). My opponent pulled his Purifying Flame forwards, gave it Everburning (so it would not lose it's Burning condition).

Turn 2 ramped things up. After a tense duel for initiative, my opponent activated Sonnia and proceeded to target the Purifying Flame with Flameburst. When you target a friendly model, you can choose to not resist it. This meant he could easily cheat the results up to severe for 5 damage and THREE 4 damage blasts! Even more annoyingly, the 5 damage would not kill the Purifying Flame as it halves all damage due to being Incorporeal. Needless to say, I did everything I could to stop it happening, and was fortunate when I only lost two Steam Arachnids (and hey, more scrap markers!) - this meant he had gained his VP from Reckoning this turn. 

Then my Rail Golem activated (Burning +3 now!) and used Locomotion. Locomotion is a zero AP ability that let's the Golem walk or do a Melee attack for free as long as it can lose 1 Burning and get a 4 or more on a flip. On a tomes, you can trigger it to repeat. I did just that, walking forward to the Purifying Flame, then cheating the trigger to use Locomotion again to smack the Purifying Flame into dust (even Incorporeal couldn't save it!). With 2 AP left, the Golem charged a Witchling Stalker (declaring a Redline trigger on the first attack to regain a Burning) and then battered it to a pulp, pushing it 4" away with a trigger on the second attack to avoid the Witchling Stalker's explosive demise. 

A Death Marshall leapt out from behind cover and dropped a scheme marker next to a building in my table half. Then came Miss Step. Using her Nimble walk AP, she moved forward to the end of the fencing, then turned and charged directly into Samuel, Sonnia and a Witchling Stalker. I knew she'd be in for a world of pain, but I hoped she'd be able to pull off a few tricks first. Her first attack I directed at Samuel. I had cards in my hand that I was pretty sure would allow me to declare her trigger to kill Samuel unless my opponent discarded two cards or a Soulstone. Sure enough, I pulled off the trigger and my opponent discarded the last two cards in his hand as I had expected he would. The second attack didn't even need the trigger as, unable to cheat, my opponent had a very poor Defense flip, allowing me to cheat in the Red Joker for damage, smashing Samuel into pieces.

The real beauty of the Miss Step move was both Sonnia and the two Witchling Stalkers that activated to charge her were much less effective due to some poor Terror Test flips (and my opponent having no hand to cheat them with thanks to the Decapitate trigger). The Stalkers did eventually manage to deal some damage, but she hung around resolutely, with one wound remaining and the Burning condition. Ramos created three more Steam Arachnids, in base contact with the Death Marshall (their Latch On ability reducing it to Defense 2), then fried the Death Marshall dead with two castings of Electrical Fire. 

This death and the Witchling Stalker from the start of the turn earned me a VP for Reckoning. The surviving Steam Arachnid from turn 1 moved to the fence line and dropped a scheme marker. Sadly, the Burning condition then finished off Miss Step. 

Turn 3 saw the Arcanists wreak bloody havoc upon Sonnia's forces. Joss ploughed into the two Witchling Stalkers guarding Sonnia and hacked them apart with his Arc Axe, chalking me up a second VP for Reckoning.  Sonnia fled into a building, taking up a vantage point on the second floor, then took vengeance and burnt Joss to a crisp with a well placed Flameburst. 

Then came the moment of hilarity. The surviving Death Marshall ran up to my Rail Golem and somehow managed to stuff it into a coffin, removing it from the game until I could beat the Death Marshall at a Willpower duel to escape! The Steam Arachnids moved into position to drop scheme markers and remove the one that the Death Marshall had placed. 

Turn 4 became a mop up operation for the Arcanist forces. The Guild crew had been reduced to Sonnia and a lone Death Marshall (carrying a Rail Golem in a coffin on its back!), the Arcanists in turn had only lost Joss and Miss Step, and had gained almost half a dozen Steam Arachnids that spent the turn running around placing scheme markers. Sonnia attempted to deal some damage to Ramos, but an unfortunate Black Joker flip stopped much from happening. 

The lone Death Marshall activated last, reluctant to give me a chance to release the Rail Golem - which failed to break free - then ran across the board to drop a scheme marker.

We flipped for a turn 5, but the game ended and we counted up our VP for schemes. 

From 'Plant Evidence', I had earned 3VP, plus 1 for having revealed it (but each scheme cap at 3VP) to earn a total of 3VP.
From 'Protect Territory', I earned another 2VP, plus 1 for having revealed it at the start of the game. 
I had also claimed 2 VP from Reckoning.

My opponent had taken Assassination and, as Ramos was still alive, had not earned VP from it. He also announced that he had taken 'Protect Territory', and had placed a single marker with his Death Marshall to earn 1VP. 

Thus, our end totals:

Arcanists - 8
Guild - 2

1 comment:

  1. I think it's worth pointing out that, actually, in hindsight, Mei Feng would have been a better choice with her Vapormancy upgrade to generate LoS protection and harder minions to make Reckoning points harder to claim.

    Naturally, it was still a comfortable win, but if I were to change anything, it'd be that.