Friday, April 19, 2013

Malifaux: Battle Night!

This past weekend I went and joined the occasional Malifaux night that Josh throws at his house. With his entire basement converted into a gaming center (complete with four 3'x3' tables full of terrain), it gives a great location for multiple people to get together and play games. I had been present to two of these nights previous: the first time was a fairly busy night, with about six people total in attendance the first night and just Darren, Josh and I the second. This night, however, had the basement crammed full with ten people!

The first round of games (only) had seven people in attendance, so we decided to break into three groups: two 1v1 games and one three-person free-for-all. We flipped cards to determine our partners (two lowest and two highest together, the rest for the three-person game) and I was matched up with a fellow named Curtis. I had been talking to him before the games started and found out that he collected Guild almost exclusively and that he did not play very often with the guys, but enjoyed coming out every once in a while for the company and good times. He was very self-deprecating about his skill with Malifaux, ensuring me he barely understood the rules, to which I laughed and told him this would be only my second game so I couldn't be much better off. With that, we both consulted our rule books and got started.

(I also apologize in advance for the lack of pictures; my phone died midway through the night so I couldn't record any evidence of the games. Next time, I'm going to take an actual camera and do things right! Promise!)

We decided on a 30SS game and declared our factions -- myself Arcanists, as usual, and he Guild -- and then flipped for location. We ended up fighting in a Large Tavern (which was odd, considering we were on a table with trees and stuff, but that's okay) and the feature was a Walk-Up Bar (where models nearby could take a healing flip but receive Slow next turn). Deployment was flipped as diagonal; neither of us really caring who chose first, we just agreed to stay on the sides of the table we were already on.

Strategies were next: I flipped a Treasure Hunt (a treasure marker is placed in the center of the board which I must retrieve and return to my deployment zone) and ended up with the treasure marker sitting in the midst of a wooded terrain feature. Curtis flipped Reconnoiter (he must control the majority of the table corners by the end of the game -- easily one of the hardest strategies).

We then set to choosing our crews. I will list them below:
Nick - Arcanists
Mei Feng (Cache of 5SS)
Emberling (Totem) - 2SS
Kang - 8SS
Willie the Demolitionist - 6SS
Rail Worker - 5SS
Fire Gamin - 4SS
Large Steampunk Arachnid - 5SS
Total: 30SS          
Curtis - Guild
Perdita Ortega (Cache of 4SS)
Witchling Stalker - 4SS
Witchling Stalker - 4SS
Witchling Stalker - 4SS
Judge - 8SS
Guild Hounds (2) - 5SS*
Watcher - 3SS
Total: 28SS
(* - Though Guild Hounds cost 3SS individually, they also refund 1SS for every two hounds in play, so they are effectively only 5SS for two hounds.)

As I'm still learning how to play and don't want to expand my horizons too quickly, I decided to stick with Mei Feng and tried fielding mostly the same team comp as before with just a few additions. The Emberling is a must but Kang returned, hoping to fare a bit better than before. I decided to branch out and give Willie the Demolitionist a try. He seems like an entertaining model and, given that Curtis' strategy was Reconnoiter, I figured his demo charges would be a good choice for some area denial.

I've also learned that, to get the most out of Mei Feng and her Railwalker ability, you need to bring at least two constructs, with a third being preferable if only to give more options (or if you get the appropriate trigger). So far I really like the Rail Worker -- they are tough and can hit fairly hard for a 5SS minion -- and I really wanted to try out the new Large Steampunk Arachnid, so I brought both of them. At that point I only had a handful of SS left so I decided to round out the list with a Fire Gamin and call it there.

Having announced our crews, we moved into choosing schemes:
Nick - Arcanists
Sabotage (House)        
Curtis - Guild
Stake a Claim (Trees)
I declared Holdout, figuring it would be easy enough to manage; given my Strategy required me to retreat back into my deployment zone for the end of the game, I would need to keep models there anyway, so it seemed an obvious choice. That being said, I knew that Curtis would need to get into my corner to achieve Reconnoiter, but I felt confident I could keep him away.

I didn't announce my Sabotage scheme (I selected a house very near to my treasure marker) and Curtis didn't announce either of his schemes. One of them turned out to be Stake a Claim on a bunch of trees in my deployment zone but I cannot remember what the second scheme was.

I won the flip for deployment and set up everything somewhat spread out. Willie and the Fire Gamin set up on the left, the LSPA and the Rail Worker more in the middle, and Kang, Mei Feng and the Emberling a little to the right. The plan was to send Willie and the Fire Gamin to wreak havoc in a nearby corner while the rest of my forces moved towards the treasure marker. After grabbing it, I would swing some of them around to protect that other corner while retreating with the rest to complete my strategy and protect my deployment zone.

Curtis deployed most of his forces somewhat centrally, with the Guild Hounds being on my right and the Witchling Stalkers in a group on my left.

Turn One
I believe I won initiative this turn, though not a lot happened throughout the turn. It was mostly just moving our forces towards our objectives; Willie, the Fire Gamin and the Rail Worker moved forward to my left, while the LSPA, Mei Feng, Kang and the Emberling (which had Linked to Kang) pushed towards the central woods with the treasure marker. I made sure to arrange the constructs stretched from each other in order to jump between them with Railwalker, if Mei Feng needed to move about quickly.

Curtis rushed his hounds to the corner to my right, pushed the Judge and Perdita forward towards the middle and rushed his Witchling Stalkers down the edge of the table to the corner where Willie and the Fire Gamin were headed. The Watcher flew and hid behind the Bar feature.

Turn Two
Curtis won initiative and jumped right into the thick of things. He activated Perdita, moved her forward, and shot the Fire Gamin twice, easily killing it. Luckily, both Willie and the Rail Worker were out of range of the resulting blast the gamin gave off (as they explode when they die), but it was a blow I was not expecting to take so early. That being said, Curtis had left Perdita quite out in the open, something that I would not let pass me by.

Still, I focused first on my objective; I activated my LSPA, moved it up to the treasure marker and picked it up. As the marker was in the woods, and the LSPA ignores severe terrain, I figured it was the best choice for grabbing the objective.

After this, the turn was mostly just maneuvering for position. Even though the LSPA ignores severe terrain and can move just a bit faster than the Rail Worker, I wanted to hand off the treasure marker to the Rail Worker so the Arachnid could move around and harass any enemies that circled around. I also moved the Rail Worker in such a way to make him an anchor for Railwalker. The hounds took a corner to themselves, the Witchling Stalkers moved up the table edge, and the Watcher didn't move.

I activated Mei Feng and used Railwalker. It cast, and I managed to jump across the field to the Rail Worker. I forgot to use the Terminus trigger (forgot to bring up the combo sheet!), meaning I couldn't make the free Jackhammer Kick, so I was forced to spend a general action to do so. The blow hit and Mei Feng collided into Perdita for weak damage, and I managed to trigger Badass Pose for the +2 Armour. My second general action was to use Tiger's Claws on Perdita which missed. I then finished using her (0) action to pop Vent Steam, which I then used Superheat on to give Perdita a burning token.

I also moved Kang and the Emberling into a position where they would threaten the Judge if he moved too far forward, or have a clear shot to the Sabotage objective if he didn't.

Turn Three
This turn was less posturing, more punching. We flipped for initiative, and I believe Curtis won. He started by activating Perdita and taking a number of shots at Mei Feng. Curtis decided to resolve the burning token as Slow, so Perdita was reduced to two general actions for the turn. Both times, she took shots at Mei Feng, neither of which managed to get through.

Not wanting to get swarmed by Witchling Stalkers, I decided to activate Willie and had him toss another demo charge in their direction, this one closer to Perdita but far enough away to not damage Mei Feng if it detonated.

One of the Witchling Stalkers then rushed up, using both move actions to get up to Mei Feng, and then popped Disrupt Magic, meaning things would be getting a bit more difficult for her this next activation. At least with her spells -- her melee was still as strong as ever.

I activated Mei Feng and started by using her Tiger's Claws against the Stalker -- the intent was to cheat in to get a combo going so she could attack Perdita. The previous round, I had forgotten her claws were Paired, but I remembered this time and flipped a good hit for moderate damage, but no combo. I tried it again, hoping to get the combo (again, to no avail) but managed to do enough damage to kill the Stalker. It detonated, as they do, and did two (2) damage to both Perdita and Mei Feng. I then followed up by using her +1 Casting Expert action to cast Seismic Punch (no longer affected by Disrupt Magic), which was resisted by Perdita -- no Two-Stroke Piston trigger for me this round!

The rest of the turn was mostly just moving. Kang rushed over and Sabotaged the building, gaining me a single VP. The Emberling moved and Linked to the Rail Worker. The Rail Worker and the LSPA met at the edge of the woods, where the spider passed the treasure marker to the Rail Worker.

The two remaining Witchling Stalkers moved up towards the corner where Willie sat and one used its pistol for some damage on the demolitionist. The Guild Hounds ran into the upstairs of the building they occupied. The Judge maneuvered across the field, headed towards the building where the Hounds were, while the Watcher flew halfway across the map

Turn Four
We flipped for initiative and I won. Wanting to put Perdita down as quickly as possible, I decided to go for broke. Activating Mei Feng, I attacked Perdita with her Tiger's Claws once again. Perdita defended but I cheated and used a Soulstone, flipped a 12 and ended with a total of 30 on my attack. There wasn't a lot that Curtis could do against that -- he had been complaining the whole game that the cards in his hand were terrible -- so the attack went through with a straight flip. Ready to cheat in a severe card if none were flipped, I turned the card and: Black Joker. Fate, you are so cruel.

Undeterred, I tried again, managing a solid hit for moderate damage, but no crazy excess like the 30 from the attack previous, and the damage was easily countered when Curtis used a Soulstone for a Damage Prevention flip. Mei Feng followed up by casting Seismic Punch, hoping to get Two-Stroke Piston for a Jackhammer Kick against Perdita, but Curtis threw down the Red Joker from his hand to successfully resist the push. Mei Feng's (0) action was to pop Iron Skin, giving her +2 Armour.

At this point, Curtis was starting to get fairly frustrated with the game; he had been having trouble flipping good cards and had nothing to cheat with in his hand, and having to use the Red Joker on defense as opposed to offense was a tough blow. Still, we soldiered on; Perdita activated and blasted away at Mei Feng thrice, finally managing to get a single hit through which dealt five (5) damage against her (thanks to Critical Hit). The armour reduced it to three (3) wounds but it was still a nasty shot reducing Mei Feng to half-health.

I activated Willie and tossed another demo charge towards the Witchling Stalkers before moving the demolitionist closer to the melee (and behind a copse of trees) in order to keep him away from the enemy models.

Curtis followed up by moving one of the Witchling Stalkers towards the melee, stepping over the demo charge. As demo charges only blow if you flip a Tome, it was a relatively safe bet he would be fine, and he was proven right when a Ram came up. The Stalker then shot at Willie again, to no avail.

I activated Kang and moved him all the way from the Sabotage building to the melee between Mei Feng and Perdita. Using his +1 Melee Expert action, I took a swing at Perdita, but did not connect.

The remaining Stalker moved and decided to shoot into the combat between the two Masters and Kang, aiming for the big man with the shovel. Curtis flipped for each model and it came up that the shot hit Mei Feng. I flipped for defense and managed to avoid the shot.

Not having much else to do on that side of the board, I decided to activate my LSPA and move him up to the Judge (who was easily within Walk range, though directly through a bunch of trees). I attacked him twice, only one of which did damage, and was fairly confident that the spider would be able to tie up the Judge for a bit.

Instead, Curtis activated the Judge, used Flurry, and took down the spider in two of the three hits. I was fairly stunned at how quickly the LSPA had been dispatched -- given the +1 Armour and fairly decent stat lines, as well as the glowing reviews most Arcanist players seem to give the model, I was expecting it to do a bit more damage than that. Of course, I did throw it directly at the Judge, one of the nastier Guild models, but still. It was very unexpected.

As all I had remaining were my Rail Worker and Emberling, I moved them forward their full distance. I was able to get within line of sight of the Watcher and tried using Shovel Faster from my Rail Worker (to give the Watcher a burning token), but Curtis cheated up the defense to stop that from happening.

In retaliation, the Watcher flew the remainder of the board and stopped in base contact with a group of trees in my deployment zone. It was very clever of him, waiting for an opening and flying the Watcher across the whole map, and left me in a tough spot: with the model in my deployment zone, he could harass me, possibly stopping me from completing my strategy, all the while denying my points for Holdout. Worse yet, the only models to deal with the threat were the Rail Worker and the Emberling, two of my weakest models; everything else was otherwise engaged with Perdita and the Stalkers. It was going to be a rough finish, it seemed.

Curtis had the Hounds remaining to activate but he just passed with both of them, keeping them planted firmly in their building.

Turn Five
An all-important turn: we flipped for initiative and I won.

Wanting to finish off Perdita as quickly as possible (which was already proving to be very difficult), I activated Mei Feng. Two attacks from her Tiger's Claws (one of which again I cheated and soulstoned up to a 30), and a Seismic Punch/Jackhammer Kick trigger-combo finally finished off the gunslinger. The push from Seismic Punch also shoved Kang closer towards one of the Stalkers, setting him up to hold that corner indefinitely.

It was at this point that Curtis conceded. We shook hands and I took the Victory.

Aftermath and Thoughts
Honestly, even though I had killed Perdita, I was still worried that Curtis might come out with a win, or at least make for a close race to the end. With his Watcher in my deployment zone, it gave him one VP for Stake a Claim and denied me two for Holdout. Beyond that, with the Judge in easy striking distance (and yet to activate in Turn Five), it would have been easy for him to rush over and take out the Rail Worker, forcing him to drop the treasure marker and denying me some VP. Compounding that, with the Watcher and the Judge in my deployment zone, I would've had to rush to contest that corner of the map or allow Curtis to earn two VP for completing part of his strategy (controlling three quarters of the map; his deployment zone, my deployment zone, and the house with the dogs). And that doesn't even take into account Curtis' second scheme, which I cannot recall. All in all, I was predicting a close run to the end, with the game most likely ending in a 3-3 draw (or perhaps even a 3-1 win in Curtis' favour, if he could retrieve the treasure marker and deny me any VP).

Long story short, I was feeling pretty on the ropes by the time Perdita finally fell. That being said, I totally understand the frustration that Curtis was feeling -- he told me after the fact that, for most of the game, he didn't have more than two cards in his hand that were higher than four -- and might have conceded myself if I saw things slipping away that badly.

On my side of things, I feel like everything went fairly well. A few of Mei Feng's triggers slipped my mind but, as I'm just learning and she has so many to begin with, I'm expecting a few slip-ups down the road. I was definitely expecting more out of my Large Steampunk Arachnid, though; I've spent a lot of time reading up on the theory of the game and, by and large, people seem to prefer the LSPA to Rail Workers. However, in my (admittedly limited) experience, the Rail Workers seem to hold their own much better than the spiders. Perhaps things will be a bit different in the next game I play!

Heading into the game, I was pretty terrified of facing Perdita. Everything I've heard and read about her tells me that she is a really powerful master who is hard to pin down and harder to put down for good. This game merely reinforced that belief; even though Perdita was serious overextended and unsupported, and I managed to engage her in melee with Mei Feng (a close-combat dynamo), it still took me a solid four turns to finish her off. Admittedly, there were some close calls -- flipping the Black Joker for damage on an attack of 30 -- but I think, in future, it will be very difficult to actually finish her off in any manner of speed. Perhaps if I had piled on her with multiple models, things would have been a bit different. As it was, I can see why people are afraid of going against Perdita.

As always, thanks for reading! This particular night had me playing a second game later in the evening, so keep an eye for that battle report in the coming days. Until next time!

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