Friday, February 6, 2015

Out of Hand, or How To Use Resources


One of the more unique aspects of Malifaux is the fact that it comes with two resources that can be used in game to affect game play. When playing most miniature games you get very little chance to change the results of your attack and defense after the die have been cast. Malifaux uses 6 cards and a handful of Soul Stones to change all of that. For the new player knowing when to spend Soul Stones or Cheat cards can be daunting and confusing.
The general problem I have seen is either spending your resources like they might vanish from your hand any second, or hoarding them for the perfect "what if" instance at the end of the game. Part of the learning curve of Malifaux is being able to analyze the moment that is perfect to drop the 13 you've been hiding in your hand, or spend a Soul Stone for a positive flip on the big attack.
Lets take a brief look at what each resource does first:

Hand of Fate

Each turn you get 6 cards, 7 if you are a cheating Arcanist with an upgrade, that you can use to affect the outcome of Duels during the turn. Seeing as you probably have 5-8 models on the table each with 2 or 3 actions, 6 cards can go very fast if you try to use them on every activation. A card in your hand can substitute a card that has been flipped from the deck unless there is a negative modifier on the flip. You can use the flip to help win the duel or to get a suit for a specific trigger. This is an awesome mechanic, and one of the first things to attract me to the game. Very few games let you have so much control over winning opposed situations on the table.

Soul Stones

Soul Stones have a bit more utility than your Hand which makes them even trickier to use, and often are forgotten by newer players all together. Each Master has a cache of SS they start out with and points that are not spent when building a crew can converted to Soul Stones up to a total of 7. Soul Stones can be used by Masters and Henchmen to gain Positive Flips or to add a Suit to defensive or offensive flips, but you must declare you are using the stone before you flip a card. That's important, especially when riding that learning curve. Masters can also use a stone after being damaged by an attack to get a damage prevention flip of 1/2/3, with a Red Joker preventing it all.

Soul stones have two uses before the turn begins as well. You can spend a soul stone after you draw a new hand to draw 2 cards and then discard 2 cards. You can also use a stone to get a new initiative flip if you really want to win that first activation.

Know When To Hold 'Em
Obligatory Kenny Rogers reference

So now that we know what our resources do, when do we know the appropriate time to use them?
That is a million dollar question, and having a good grasp on exactly when to cheat or use a Soul Stone  is what separates a the best Malifaux players from everyone else. If you spend your big cards early you may find yourself in need of a high number or specific suit later in the turn that you have tossed away. Conversely, hanging onto a big card because you are worried about an attack from an opponent can cause you to miss a chance to land a big attack or ability.
The best advice is to have a plan ahead of time. Certain models need specific suits or high numbers to be successful. Summoners often need high number cards to bring in the big models and shouldn't rely on the deck to provide. Models like Bete Noir are fragile unless you have a 10+ in your hand to make sure she buries instead of dies when an opponent guns her down. Look at your models before your turn and decide where you want to use them. Will your Teddy kill a model if he lands the hit? Then its probably a good time to bring out a card to insure the attack goes through. If he won't kill the model with the hit, it might be a waste to spend that big card.
Another good question to ask when cheating for an attack is, will it change the damage flip significantly?  Sure a 13 is always better than a 10, but if it won't shift the damage up from a negative flip to a positive, there's very little reason to cheat. Also, how high does the damage jump from one level to another? If the attacking model's damage is 1/2/3 then there isn't all that much to worry about. If the attacking model's damage track is 1/4/7, that is a much more serious situation. The same goes in reverse if you are the one flipping defensively. If you can keep the flip negative, then generally it keeps your model safer as an opponent can't cheat a negative damage flip. Therefore, changing from a neutral flip to a negative warrants a possible cheat if the model is one that you A) still need around to do its job, or  B) won't survive a moderate or severe attack.

Along the same lines, does cheating give you the trigger you are trying for with the attack. Sometimes the damage of the attack isn't as important as the trigger that can drop a condition on the opposing model, saving that Mask to get a paralyze can save the day.

"Wanna place a friendly wager?"
Ultimately you don't know what your opponent has in their hand, and that makes cheating riskier, especially
when you are the one cheating first. Sometimes its appropriate to cheat the mid range cards in your hand to force your opponent to spend their larger cards. This is another tactic that comes with experience and knowing your opponent. Honestly, it probably warrants an entire blog post on its own.  Learn to gauge when your opponent is going to make their most significant actions during the turn. Its a skill you will pick up only one way; playing more games. As you become more familiar with the strategies and schemes of the game, and the models your opponent is playing, you will be better able to judge which schemes they chose and respond accordingly.

Burning Stones

Soul stones are the spot where most new players seem to be at a loss. The sheer number of things you can do with them can be mind boggling. Much like cards in the hand, Soul Stones should be used at key points and almost always according to plan. However, unlike cards in hand, you only get a set amount of them for the entire game. I mentioned summoner models before, and they stand out when it comes to Soul Stone usage as well as cards in hand. Many summoners require specific suits to summon a model, and Soul Stones are the best way to insure you get the suit that you want. Often you will see summoner models like Nicodem and Dreamer hit the table with all 7 Soul Stones. This is to guarantee they can flood the table with models. Conversely some models like Jakob Lynch, barely use Soul Stones. This is mainly because he can already affect his hand through abilities.
So when you have 7 Soul Stones, when do you use them and for what reason?
Well lets go through the list:
"I used a Soul Stone and all I
got was this Mindless Zombie"
Initiative Flips Out of all the uses for Soul Stones, this is probably the least utilized. Mostly the reason is because of how uncertain the results are. If you opponent flipped a 5 and you flipped a 3, then the chances of you getting a better card are pretty high.  However, the higher up the cards go, the less the odds are in your favor. Also, initiative isn't as crucial in Malifaux as it is in other miniature games. Activating a key model first can have a large impact on the turn, but generally unless that first activation can directly determine the outcome of the game, a Soul Stone is probably wasted on an extra flip. A Soul Stone should probably not be used on the first turn of the game either. There are some first turn tricks in Malifaux but precious few. The answer comes down to the situation and the impact of that first activation.

Hand Filtration You can spend a soul stone to draw 2 cards, then discard 2 cards. This is a bit more like it. Everyone's had those hands where you are staring at no card above a 9 and you just know your opponent has a Red Joker, you need more power. Once again, in order to determine when you should use a soul stone for hand filtration, you have to have a plan in place. Will you need a high powered card this turn? Is there a very specific action you need to land absolutely this turn? Then spending a Soul Stone to drop a few aces and collect 2 cards is pretty sound. If you have say, 4 cards 10+, a 5 and 4 then its probably a waste of a Soul Stone as you could very well get no gain at all.

Positive Attacks The first question to ask is, is this positive important? You must declare the Soul Stone use before you or your opponent flip any cards so the only knowledge you have to go on is the stats of the model being attacked. Is this going to be a hard model to hit? Is hitting this model with the ability or the attack a large part of your overall plan to win the game? Can your opponent respond with a Soul Stone use of their own?
Sometimes models incur a negative in order to hit them, like Zoraida's defensive ability. If you are playing a melee master and can't afford to Focus with one of your AP, then spending a Soul Stone to get a positive flip on the attack, therefore making it neutral, might be the best answer. (especially considering you will probably only get one attack on the Hag before she shuts you down) Keep in mind, attacking an enemy Master means they can respond with their own Soul Stone to get a positive flip of their own. The gamble comes down to how many Soul Stones you can afford to use versus the amount they can afford to use.
Sometimes forcing a summoning model to spend precious Soul Stones to save their skins means one less successful summon they can make.

Damage Prevention VS Positive Defensive Flip The big debate comes from using Soul Stones for a Positive flip on defense or spending a Soul Stone on damage prevention. Barring a lucky Red Joker flip, you can manage to prevent
1/2/3 damage with a Soul Stone. On one hand, Damage Prevention is reliable. You will always prevent some of the damage, assuming you don't get a Black Joker. On the other hand, a positive flip on defense could prevent all of the damage. I tend to stray into the side of damage prevention. I like reliable results, and knowing that I can keep my master alive for one more turn is a better choice to me than a positive flip where my opponent might still be able to cheat in higher. There is a caveat though, if I am pretty positive my opponent has no high cards left in their hand, the odds on a positive flip might come out better than the healing flip. Its another situation that requires judgement based on past experience and knowledge of models, opponent and the game state.


Boy, this was a long blog and truthfully, it was a hard one to write. Partly from my own lack of in depth experience playing the game (Still less than 50 games played) and also because so much of learning these things comes down to playing more games. Its hard to write down what is at some level unconscious decision making from years of playing games. I can say that more than many other aspects of the game, mastering the use of these resources will bring you towards the top levels of Malifaux play. The other thing that needs to be said is that there are very few situations that are exactly like the situation before it. Until you number of games is well into the 100s, you will come across new crew, strategy and scheme combos every game you play. Each one of those might very well back up the information here or possibly even manage to deny it. So let me sum it up:
Inigo is always there to help with a meme.

Have a Plan Each Turn
Consider the Impact of the Action You Are Spending a Resource On
Consider How Many Stones/Cards You Have Left.

I'd also like to give a big shout out to the members of the A Wyrd Place Facebook group for answering all of my badgering questions and giving me directions in which to take this article. Without them I probably couldn't have finished this article. Once again, they are an awesome gaming community and if you haven't joined up, follow the link on the side of the blog.
One last thing, if there are any other aspects of the game you'd like to see me write about, leave a comment and I'll get to it.
Until next time, Keep Cheating Fate-- John Fox

No comments:

Post a Comment