Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Reconnoiter in the Badlands

Monday night is Red Steel Gaming in Preston, and once again, I had received a challenge of a game of Malifaux, against the same opponent who had taken Sonnia Criid in the previous report. So we agreed on a time, drew up our game and prepared for a dust up!

...well, at 50ss it was technically a scrap, but hey!

My opponent, James, declared himself as Guild again, and I responded by informing him that, as usual, I would be playing Arcanists. This time I drew the cards for our game and got:

- Reconnoiter (Control table quarters)
- Close Deployment (only 12" apart rather than the usual 24")
And a Scheme Pool of:
- A Line In The Sand (Scheme Markers [SM] on the centreline)
- Breakthrough! (SM within 6" of the opponent's deployment zone)
- Assassination (Slay the enemy leader)
- Make Them Suffer (Kill at least two non-Peons per turn)
- Frame For Murder (Have one of your models killed, hopefully by a Master or Henchman)

This scheme pool stumped me, especially since I had one rule for this game - I was not allowed to take Ramos again. I really wanted to use a different Master as I feel I'm quite comfortable with the Old Man, and wanted to try and build up some ideas with my other Masters. In fact, contrary to my usual style of "Look at the mission, pick a Master", I kind of just jumped straight in with "Damnit, I'm taking Mei Feng". 

This was because my Rasputina Crew is short of a few models I want (yeah, I could easily run her still, I just really want to add a Snow Storm or some December Acolytes); I'd only just finished painting my Colette crew and hadn't had chance to study her rules properly; and to this day I've yet to properly look at Marcus' rules. I don't have Kaeris (yet!) and I'm not a fan of proxying models myself (though curiously fine with opponents doing it) so Ironsides would have to wait until she eventually gets a plastic release. 

So anyway, Mei Feng.

I jumped onto the Malifaux Crew Creator on the Malifaux website and drafted a few lists before eventually settling on:

Mei Feng -- 7 Pool
 +Arcane Reservoir [2]
 +Seismic Claws [1]
 +Vapormancy [1]

Emberling [3]
Kang [9]
 +People's Challenge [2]
Metal Gamin [4]
Rail Golem [11]
 +Imbued Protection [2]
Rail Worker [5]
Willie [6]

I expected my opponent to run Sonnia Criid again. After all, I was playing Arcanists, and with Make Them Suffer and Assassination in the Scheme Pool, she seemed fairly logical what with her blasts and Samael's devastating shooting prowess. Straight off then, Willie was in.

Seriously... look how crazy this boy is!

I love the model for Willie, it's an awesome sculpt that really captures the batshit crazy nature of the guy. Yes, he is running along pushing a barrel-load if dynamite (some of which is lit!) whilst smoking a cigar. I've had the model for a while but he's never seen play. He has the Foundry characteristic, so I really wanted to get him in. Assuming Sonnia Criid was going to be around, his immunity to blast effects seemed pretty useful, and having a Sh attack that could ignore LoS meant I could run him around (as he's nippy too!) lobbing Demolition Charges over buildings (with surprising accuracy!). 

Keeping with the Foundry theme (I have no qualms mixing the different 'themes' in a crew, by the way, I just fancied seeing if I could write a crew I was happy with all with Foundry), I decided that a Rail Golem would give me some more beat stick. It'd be hard to kill (especially with Imbued Protection) and would be able to lay the smack down whilst being fast enough to get close to Sonnia, perhaps for a Locomotion fuelled Assassination).

Kang was a natural choice, and it decided that People's Challenge would be worth taking. I could lump him into combat, Taunt people to keep their attention on him, and then using his 'You Can Try..." Df trigger, nuke some more in combat. Let me put it this way. Kang is nails hard. He is a tank.

So, Kang and a Rail Golem: how about a Metal Gamin for its Protection of Metal ability? With Imbued Protection, the Rail Golem could be Df 7, and, alongside the Rail Worker, would be a vital jump point for Mei Feng's Railwalker action. 

The Emberling was also a natural choice. Being able to drift through scenery and drop scrap markers for Mei Feng to Railwalk to is genius, and the fact that it's NOT Insignificant would be a big help.

Finally, I decided that, if I were to be taking Sonnia on, I needed all the punch I could get. I can't remember the last game I played without Arcane Reservoir, but I'm sure it must have been horrible. That was in. Seismic Claws meant Mei Feng could go hell for metal in the enemy lines, able to swap attacks and trigger whole new ones. I've often enjoyed charging an enemy, killing it on the second AP, triggering the target swap trigger of Tiger Claws, hitting them, throwing in a free Jackhammer Kick, only to then trigger a Vent Steam action thanks to Vapormancy. Yeah. That's Mei Feng. That left me with enough Soulstones spare to make up the full pool of seven. 

So there was my crew. I was having a hard time deciding exactly which schemes to take, but I didn't have to decide that until I saw James' crew. If he had loads of little Witchling Stalkers or other minions, Make Them Suffer and Assassination. If he had a few big things, maybe Executioners or Peacekeepers, Frame For Murder, maybe Breakthrough. I considered what he was likely to take with Sonnia the whole bus journey there, and figuring out ways to counter it. I felt pretty confident when I walked in.

We shook hands, joked a little about our previous game, clarified we'd gotten the scheme pools right and then revealed our crews. 

He had selected Lucius. Damn. 

Lucius is a Wave 2 release and an absolutely gorgeous metal sculpt (and James had painted the entire crew beautifully). I knew of the character, but hadn't ever sat down and read his rules. I had spoken in 'A Wyrd Place' about him, and had been led to believe that he was a Master to be feared. I can understand why. To say I was nervous would be a horrendous understatement. 

We flipped for deployment (he chose and went first, setting up Lucius, a Guild Sergeant, Captain Dashel, and three Guild Riflemen in a rocky outcrop on the edge of town. A Guild Lawyer crouched with three Guild Hounds in the woods on the other edge of the board.

In response, Willie and the Rail Golem crept forward in the cover of a building, ready to pounce on the Lawyer and his Hounds, whilst Mei Feng, Kang, the Rail Worker and Emberling hunkered down in the middle of town, waiting. Clearly the Arcanists had been up to something and Lucius had dispatched his elite troops and caught them in the act. 

I won the initiative flip and the game began. The Emberling drifted forward and Cooled Down to drop a Scrap Marker in case Mei Feng needed it, the Metal Gamin running up behind it. The Hounds began to make their way into the town and immediately Willie took the opportunity to lob a couple of demolition charges over the building at them. One of the pups died whimpering in a fireball, another was scorched badly but limped on. Diving through the window, the Lawyer took cover in the hut by the forest. 

Kang moved into the saloon and the Rail Worker pressed up against the side wall. The Guild Riflemen opened fire. The first took a shot at the Metal Gamin down a side alley, but it's thick hide protected it from the shot. A second rifleman took a fee focus action, darted to the side and fired at the now exposed Rail Worker but, thanks to it's metallic parts, failed to take it out of action. The Hounds charged the Metal Gamin, but had as much luck as the Rifleman had. 

Then Mei Feng took a Railwalker action leaping down the street and into the building with the lawyer, proceeding to rake at his face with her Tiger Claws. She managed to inflict some deep wounds but nothing overly serious. Finally, Mei Feng triggered her Vent Steam ability to protect her crew from shooting. 

Then Lucius activated. Casually striding across the back of the board, Lucius terrified one of his Hounds into pouncing a second time at the Metal Gamin, but again its skin held firm. He then triggered a Rifleman to take another pot shot at the Rail Worker who began bleeding heavily. 

Turn Two opened with the Emberling drifting through the saloon to drop another Scrap Marker in the alleyway as the Metal Gamin stood firm against the remaining two Hounds. The Lawyer swung back at Mei Feng but failed his first swing and triggered her Leap Aside ability, causing her to leap through the window back into the street where she failed utterly to deal any damage to a Guild Hound, but threw up a Vent Steam. The Rail Golem stomped around the corner, using its Locomotion to batter another dog into paste.

Kang leapt from the saloon's back door, throwing himself face first at Lucius himself, attempting to whack the Master in the face with his shovel. Lucius was having none of it. At the first opportunity he dropped a scheme marker and leapt across the board swapping himself with a rifleman then began to make his way south away from the fighting, activating a Rifleman as part of his Commanding Presence and finished off the Metal Gamin. He attempted to hit Mei Feng with a Hidden Sniper, fearing how close she was getting. Unfortunately for Lucius, this backfired as, when the attack failed, Mei Feng declared her Leap Aside trigger and dove into the saloon for cover.

Captain Dashel and the Guild Sergeant both tried to take Kang out of action, but he dodged the first attack, smacked the Sergeant in the face saying "You Can Try..." but did take a severe amount of damage when a Red Joker was flipped for damage and even a soulstone healing flip could only heal one. The Rail Worker then charged into a group of Guild Riflemen in an attempt to hold their attention but failed to do anything more than tear ones coat a little. In return, he was beaten to a single wound.

My opponent controlled three of the table quarters, earning him a point for Reconnoiter. I controlled one, so earned zero points. 

Turn Three saw Lucius steal the initiative, covering the scrap markers near the saloon for fear of Mei Feng Rail Walking. Lucius ran for the cover of the rocks in the corner of the board, and tried to get his Guards to finish off Kang and the Rail Worker. The Rail Worker finally succumbed but Kang was having none of it, activated, healed with his "Can't Keep A Man Down" then promptly shovelled a Rifleman in the face, leaving him a broken corpse, and whomped Captain Dashel, but couldn't take him out.

Captain Dashel broke west, keeping to the edges of Kang's engagement range, and continued his fight with the hulking brute, but couldn't land a single blow on him. 

The Rail Golem then activated, and through a series of Locomotions and Momentum triggers, sprung down the street, into the rocks after Lucius and attempted to batter the Master, but simply couldn't deal enough damage. Willie moved forwards and began to clean up the Scheme Markers that the dogs had been placing on the centreline, and the Emberling moved back into the streets and began to clean up Scheme Markers too.

With the Guild controlling two quarters and the Arcanists controlling two also, we both earned the Victory Point for Reconnoiter.

Turn Four saw us fighting for initiative. James won and activated Lucius, desperately attempting to kill the Rail Golem, but failing. Then Mei Feng leapt sideways through the saloons windows, Rail Walked over to the Rail Golem (and forgot to burn a Soulstone for Tomes for the trigger... d'oh!) but managed to rake Lucius in the face with her Tigers Claws, then triggered a Jackhammer Kick, finishing him off.

The remaining Guards tried to finish off Kang, who was bruised and bloody, but both my opponent and I had what I refer to as a "Dead Man's Hand". Having saved an unused 11 Crows from Turn Three, this was my hand at the start of Turn Four.


So nothing much happened with both of us pretty much being unable to Cheat Fate, and both being bereft of Soulstones by now. Kang activated, whomped Captain Dashel, but when he failed to do much damage instead chose to run into the rocky outcrop. Captain Dashel in response also fled towards the Guild Lawyer who had been hiding in the woods, upping his defense and marking the Rail Golem with Red Tape and Fees for the past few turns. Wille attempted to blow the Lawyer sky-high with demolition charges, but again, with no cards to cheat fate, the flips just weren't allowing it.

Finally, the Emberling drifted into the saloon, cleaning up another Scheme Marker, and the remaining Rifleman took a pot shot at the Rail Golem but failed to do anything substantial.

Turn Four ended, and we had reached our time limit, thus so too did the game. Both of us controlled one table quarter this turn, and we both drew for control of the other two, so nobody earned points from Reconnoiter.

At the start of the game, my opponent had revealed his Schemes of Breakthrough and A Line In The Sand. He declared no victory points from either of those (since I had stopped him having four SM on the centreline) but in hindsight, due to Close Deployment, the one SM he had remaining would have counted for Breakthrough. With two points from Reconnoiter and one from Breakthrough, my opponent had a total of 3 VP.

I had chosen to take Assassination, and having slain Lucius on (or before) Turn 4, I had earned the full 3 VP from this scheme. I had also taken "Frame For Murder" on Kang, hoping that his suicide run into the enemy deployment zone would drag my opponent into a murderous rage. Lucius had fled like a coward rather than stand and fight, and I had been a little overzealous with keeping Kang alive. In retrospect, I should have taken "Make Them Suffer" as I could have scored a VP from this every turn, but alas, I didn't choose it, and thus earned zero VP from "Frame for Murder".

With the single VP I had earned from Reconnoiter, this took my total to 4 VP.

Guild 3VP :: Arcanists 4VP

So what would I have done differently? Firstly, as stated above, I would have taken "Make Them Suffer". I had taken "Frame For Murder" mainly for the novelty of it, and hadn't really thought about it properly. That silly decision could have cost me the game. Had I taken "Make Them Suffer" (considering he had 8 minion/peon models), I could have focussed Kang and Mei Feng better and theoretically scored all 3 possible VP from it. Alas, such is the power of hindsight.

Forgetting to burn the Soulstone on Mei Feng's Railwalk on turn 3, which meant I couldn't declare the Express Line trigger for a free attack was a mistake too. Whilst I was then able to use the Soulstone to give myself a + flip (to counteract the - that Lucius had imparted), this was not as good as getting an extra attack. The second attack wouldn't have been a - flip as Lucius had no more cards. Ah well, live and learn.

I learned that Lucius is a scary master, able to just hand out free activations almost constantly. Red Tape and the Fees condition were nasty (though on a Rail Golem that was otherwise untouched, neither particularly did much). All in all, the amount of buffs and triggers that this crew had was astonishing. Everything seemed to benefit from everything else, and I do genuinely believe that a lot of my victory was luck of the draw. What a fantastic game!

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