Sunday, April 17, 2016

Practicing Production or Getting Better Through Consistency


 In the past year I've had mixed success with Malifaux. It hasn't changed my enjoyment of the game by any means, but it can be frustrating. At one point I lost 12 games in a row with Collodi. I decided that a change might be what I needed and grabbed a few Arcanists to see if a faction change would make a difference.  For the most part it did the trick. I found that I enjoyed Arcanist play style and eased into the faction much quicker than I did with Neverborn. However, I'm still not winning as much as I was hoping I would.  In today's blog I'm setting up the parameters to challenge myself based on 3 objectives: Consistency, Scheme Selection and Crew Knowledge.


This is one of the biggest parts of my plan. I'll admit to having a "TRY IT ALL" attitude and with so many new toys in Arcanists, I want to play them all. The thing is, I'm left with a faction I only know
marginally instead of intimately. So I inventoried my Masters in the Arcanists and decided which one I really enjoyed playing. It was a very tough choice between Marcus and Colette but in the end my Dark Carnival models just called to me more than the Beasts.  I'll be setting up a core crew and playing it pretty much exclusively for 30 games the only changes being a model or two to benefit from certain schemes, strats and factions.

Scheme Selection
Another major weak point for me, I always seem to choose the wrong scheme when it comes down to clutch games. So the plan is to play the same crew through them all. I want to see exactly what this crew can and can't do easily. I know that Colette has an easy time with marker based schemes, but there's not always the right schemes in the pool so I need to learn how to make the same crew more flexible and learn to refocus to Hunting Party instead of Search the Ruins when it comes up.
The second part of this section is to learn how to effectively counter my opponent's plans. Tournaments are won through differentials and the points you allow your opponent to grab can be the difference between 1st place and 5th depending on how many people are in the tournament. So I'll be attempting to devote time in learning how to deny as well as gain my own points.

Crew Knowledge
One of the biggest complaints about Malifaux tournaments is that they rarely make it to turn 5 and how it can swing the game in favor of the aggressive plan vs the attrition plan. Since it is impossible to score all 4 strategy points before turn 5, I've decided that my game play needs to be quick and to the point. The best way for that to happen is to have a clear and precise knowledge of what my crew is capable of. It goes back to consistency, but I feel that this is a significant point to make. Learning just what the strengths and weaknesses of your crew is the key to making plans for 10VP that actually work out. So I'm going to work on a core crew for Colette that I can plug and play with minimal changes between rounds. It might take me a few games to really make the core solid but I have a good starting point.

Showgirls and Oddities
So what is the magical core crew for Colette that I'm playing and why do I make the choices that I have? I'm so glad you asked:

Colette (actually Mr. Cooper because METAL)
Shell Game
Arcane Reservoir
Cabaret Coreography  

So lets break down the master and upgrade selection. The name of the game with a single master plan is flexibility. Colette brings flexibility in spades, while not dealing a lot of damage on her own, she is a force multiplier. This is a term that means she takes your threats and makes them better. Her prompt ability allows you to get more gas out of your big beaters or more scheme markers out of your runners. She's nearly impossible to neutralize as long as she has scheme markers near by, she can summon doves (monkeys) to help with activation control, and she has board control by teleporting threats across the board with Disappearing Act.

I took Shell Game for more versatility. Colette can changes cards for stones or stones for cards. Reservoir is almost an auto take in Arcanists and Cabaret allows you to summon monkeys and with the right set up, get an extra attack out of anyone near a scheme marker.

Cassandra (actually Baritone Lola)
Practiced Production

Cassandra is a fantastic henchman. Nimble makes her super mobile. Understudy allows her to grab abilities for redundancy. Southern Hospitality makes her very hard to take out and gives her nearly carte blanche to walk in and out of combat at her leisure.  Practiced Production, along with Colette's ability to do (0) interacts through Showgirls, makes any marker based schemes nearly trivial. Combine Cassandra with a Silent One and the damage potential of your crew becomes exponential.

Myranda (she's just Myranda)
Imbued Energies 

So we will continue with this theme of versatility. Since I won't be bringing a lot of beasts, Myranda loses out on her tactical actions but that's ok because she can start the game as a scheme runner with her 6 Wk and when she's in position she becomes any in-faction beast that you need for the situation AND you get to draw 4 cards. Most times she will probably become a Cerberus over other beasts but there's fringe cases she could become Cojo or a Rattler.

Miss Step
Imbued Energies

So Howard/Step is the biggest and nastiest monster in the faction. Armed with Nimble, a min 4 damage and easy to hit Decapitate Trigger, Flurry and the possiblity of gaining fast through Energies, the only thing not to like about this guy is the 12SS price tag. I'll have to make sure he stays safe until I can get him into the right position.  

Performer (Mercury)

My first minion in the game, at 5 points she brings me a Lure style attack, (0) interacts for practiced production, the possibility of Reactivating Colette and protection from getting auto points scored against me for Hunting Party.

This robot allows my performer to shoot markers 6" up the board, can tag along with the Performer and offers me another activation to along with the flying monkeys. 

That leaves me 5SS and a full cache for my double henchmen and master crew to play with. Colette can get SS back for suits (usually going to be used for summoning monkeys but there are other uses as well).

This will be the core crew I start with. In reserves I'm keeping Silent Ones, Coryphee and December Acolytes to play around with trading in and out for various schemes and strats.

The list as it stands has plenty of Killy with whatever beast Myranda turns into and Miss Step, scheme running with Cassandra and the performer, board control with the threat of tossing any of my big hitters anywhere a scheme marker might be plus a few nimble models. First games start this week and I'll try to keep notes from game to game about how I tinker with the list as I go.

This is one of the ways I'm looking at getting my own game up to par. I'm planning on attending a Trios at NOVA and possibly Nationals, so I want to be at peak condition for these events. If you have suggestions on ways to improve this method or want to try it yourself, feel free to comment and tell me about your own experiences!
Until next time Keep Cheating Fate!
John Fox

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Negative Play or How to Suck the Fun Out of a Game 101


Fun might well be the trickiest 3 letter word in the English language. Like most other abstract concepts having fun is a relative state of being. What is fun for one person is not always so for another. Most of us got into gaming because it looked fun. For some fun is painting and making decorative bases and terrain. Others have fun building themed lists and playing story encounters. Some people are only having fun when they are headed to top results in a tournament. The truth of the matter is, all of these ways are perfectly legit ways to have fun.

Negative play is a concept that I only heard come up very recently in my years as a gamer. When I was playing Magic it was simply called being a casual player if your deck wasn't top of the line. In fact my Magic career was so bent towards competitive that if a deck wasn't fun to play against, I usually built a variation of that deck or tinkered with the one I was playing until I knew I could win vs it. I played Magic to win and only to win, no other result would do. Its probably why I eventually burned out on the game.

F is for Friends That Do Things Together
Yes I just quoted Spongebob. I understand if you quit reading from here on out. So when we play Malifaux there are generally two purposes. One is to win a game through good play and decision making. The other is to enjoy a game where you pit your wits against another. There is another camp, though. That camp wants the win through any means. They scour the game looking for loop holes and interactions that allow a victory by any means. They keep it secret and safe until a tournament comes around so that they can drop the skew list against unsuspecting and unprepared opponents. This isn't a new concept. One could say that tactics like this go back to Hannibal and his made desire to bring elephants into Europe. Are these games fun when you are on the other side of the board? Definitely not.

Recently Malifaux rats have entered the spotlight as painfully annoying. By spending the majority activating meaningless rats, turning them into rat kings, splitting them back up into ratcatchers, and then when the opponent is tapped on activations unleashing a Killjoy in your opponent's deployment zone, you basically take over the game's momentum and it is hard or nearly impossible to come back once it happens.

While this isn't cheating it is a form of power gaming that will roll a tournament if the field isn't prepared for it, and might roll it even if your opponents are prepared for it. Its not fun to play against. Generally you walk away from these games wondering how it could go so horribly wrong.

Here are my thoughts, please understand they are opinions and not shared by everyone in the community. If you play this game in a tournament, especially a large convention tournament: take a deep breath and examine how to beat the Outcast game. Tournaments are competitive environments where the object is to win without cheating. Ratbomb is obnoxious, it needs to be fixed and probably will very soon, but it is not cheating. Exploiting the best combos is going to happen and while it isn't good for the meta game, its a major part of how tournaments go. This is the same in every game that has a competitive scene.

For those of you that play Ratbomb in casual games vs your casual gamer friends, shame on you. Lists like this have no business in story encounters, casual pick up games and games vs beginning players. If you want to foster a solid community and bring the levels of play in your community up, then game play needs to be competitive but fun. Lists like this in non competitive games will definitely drive people away.

U is for Unbalanced 

So you just lost to Ratbomb or Somer Spam. The game got away from you in such a way that after turn 1 there didn't feel like much reason to continue to play. It's ok. Take a deep breath and walk away from the tables for a few minutes. Our nature is to instantly drop the U word: Unbalanced. Its a concept that is a bit misunderstood when it comes to gaming and probably needs to be cleared up. Most people think game balance means that you can bring any group of models to a tournament and have an equal chance of winning all of your games. This idea isn't just false it is actually a bit damaging for the game on the whole. Sure I can bring Ironsides and 6 fire gamin to a tournament and even if I do win it will probably be because my opponents high cards aren't in their deck.
Some Gamers are actually Dwight. No one likes this guy.

Balance is really about having a healthy game environment where one specific list isn't so dominating that it crushes  multiple tournaments with no chance of retaliation. For the most part, Malifaux is a very balanced game at least in 2nd edition. Every faction has a few top tier crews and even the bottom level crews can win games with the right set up and player behind them. When you think about balance, look at the lists that are winning in your local meta and the national meta. Is it one list over and over again, or is there a healthy amount of variation. In our local meta Gremlins and Outcasts (minus the bomb) are seen as the faction to beat, however that is based on the fact that we have some great Gremlin and Outcast players. Personally, I love playing against these guys, even when I lose because it helps me become better at the game overall.

N is for the eNd is Nigh

Ratbomb and its other variations don't spell doom for Malifaux. Wyrd has shown a quick turn around for errata when the need is called for and this will be no exception. They are great company for listening to the player base as a whole and reacting to problems in the game. If Ratbomb continues to be a problem, Wyrd will stop it by some means. Hopefully this is a means that leaves Hamelin a viable master . In the meantime, if you are playing Outcasts and suspect the rats are coming, buy a sniper and spend your first turn shooting rats in a barrel. No rats, means no out activating and they are very easy to kill. Once you become aware of what the plan is, you can learn to adjust to it. Its definitely not an easy game, but once the shock wears off it can be weathered.

 Malifaux in its current state continues to be a fantastic game to play. Even the fun of Guild Ball doesn't distract me too much from the game. Sure there's some games that I walk away feeling like I was just blindsided, but on retrospection I usually find that there were ways I could have played better. A good friend of mine often says most games are lost at scheme selection. That, however, is a story for another day. Please feel free to start a discussion about this, but keep it calm and respectful.

Until next time Keep Cheating Fate,
John Fox

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ressurecting A Blog

So I thought I would start my return to the blogging world with a bit of a sheepish apology. As it does, life got in the way and once its teeth were sunk in it didn't let go. I ended up with a new job, new house, new town. That's how the world goes, though, and the good news is I've played a LOT of Malifaux to make up for my lack of Blogging. Since last year I have switched over to running mainly Arcanists and I thought I'd start off with a bit of a Tourney Report from the Mid Winter Ball Tourney last month at Atomic Empire in Durham, NC.

I went in pretty excited. It was my second tourney with my new faction and I felt like I was in good shape. I've managed to go 1-2 every tournament beforehand so I was determined to increase my ratio this time around. My son packed up his dirty gremlin cheaters and I brought my Arcanists.

Round 1 or Joss makes Bacon
vs Jeff Barnes
Strat: Turf War
Schemes: Convict Labor, Show of Force, Leave Your Mark, Frame For Murder, and Honestly Can't Remember but Wasn't Important Anyway Scheme

I took
Spider vonSpider Guy (Ramos) Arcing Screen, Draw More Cards and Heal All Spiders Upgrades
Mad Ax (Joss) Healing Spiders and Shock the Monkey Upgrades
Howard Shwarzaspider Imbued Energies (Duh)
Shooty McSlowguy (Acolyte)
Freddie Mercury (Performer)
Reactivate Spider who is too large for his base

My opponent brought:
Ulix with dirty gremlin upgrades
Old Major With more dirty gremlin upgrades
Lenny with still more upgrades
Gracie with the cheater saddle
Merris Kaboom LaCroix
Cheatiest Model in the Game (slop hauler)

I gotta say this was a very fun game. Jeff had only just started playing recently and I had helped coach him just a week before on his Ulix crew, so I was very impressed when he played a super solid game. (wasn't thanks to me really, he got some great advice from our resident Gremlin Guru Alex)
My plan: So I was a bit of a dummy. I really thought Gracie would come over and splatter Howard all over the field, so I put Frame For Murder on him. Yeah.....Howard lived. I had tons of upgrades so I took Show of Force. I figured Joss could kill Gracie and Lenny to weed out his upgrades. Plus, the Acolyte and Performer could pull them out of the middle to deny points. This...actually worked.

What neither of us took into account was that the middle of the board was crowded with terrain. Too crowded for big 50mm and 40mm bases. There were so many models it was like Walmart after church on a Sunday. Jeff summoned a warpig, and I killed it. He summoned lots of piglets, I killed them. Luckily for me, Gracie and Ole Major got stuck behind his own wall of pigs, unluckily for me Howard and the Axeman spent most of their time killing piglets instead of the good models.
My acolyte pulled Merris forward and killed her, denying him Show of Force (I guessed right that he had chosen this one) then pulled Lenny forward before dying to burning.
Performer basically screwed around with the slop hauler for most of the game, accomplishing...really nothing honestly.
I was scratching my head as to my opponent's last scheme until a piglet got free and dropped a scheme marker in the last turn for Leave Your Mark.

Result 6-6 Tie.
It was a knock down drag out in which many piglets and many spiders died, but not much else. Jeff and I joked and cut up the whole game, which makes Malifaux so much more fun. In reality, I should have gone for Convict or LEave your mark with a spider instead of trying to get Howard killed, but lets be honest how often is it that Howard doesn't die?

Round 2 or Perdita is my Nemesis
Vs Patrick Healy

Strategy: Head hunter
Schemes: convict labor, show of force, mark for death, and 2 others I can't remember

I took:
Magic Man (Mr Cooper) with All the Monkeys!, Draw Even More Cards, and Shell Game upgrades
Creepy Clown (Lola) with All Teh Markers upgrade
Miss Howard with Imbued Energies (I mean did you expect anything else??)
Sad Kitty (Cerberus) guessed it! Imbued Energies
Bearded Lady (thin Lizzy)
Shooty McSlowguy again

He took:
Perdita with all her kill you now upgrades
Papa Kaboom
2 Latigo de something or others
2 Cheaty Birdguy (Austringer)

My plan: So Patrick is a fantastic player and has beaten me in two tournaments in a row. Also Perdita is basically my worst nightmare, especially since the middle of the board was WIDE OPEN. Yes that's WIDE OPEN. There were 2 hidey spots and a tree. My goal was to try and kill her as fast as possible. It didn't work. This game started with me losing Miss Step on the top of turn 2 and everyone else shortly after. Cooper hung around just because he can vanish to a marker with ease. I picked up 3 headhunter points and that was it. Really not much to write up about it except that I HATE Perdita. I lost 8-3.
My thoughts on this match, I should have brought Ramos and just stuffed spiders down his throat while I scored points. Forcing Perdita to choose between ignoring cover or armor is probably the smartest move. Patrick was a great sport and even put up with me whining.
Enough crying, on to round 3.

Round 3 or Gremlins again this time with Less Bacon
Vs Brad... (First time player, and I sadly don't remember his name but he's an awesome guy)

Strategy: Squatter's Rights.
Schemes: convict labor, search ruins, Occupy Territory, and once again its been too long to remember

I took:
Magic Man again with pretty much same set up
Sad Clown and all the productions that had been practiced
Myranda otherwise known as kitty delivery system
2 Shooty McSlowguys (sensing a theme)
Freddie Mercury and Thin Lizzy made a reappearance
Scheme Tosser Bot (Mannequin)
and a lone monkey

He took
Perdita Jr
Green Frank
the Other Papa Loco
Drunken Nino
and a few young lacroix

My plan: Drop Shooty on a marker with From the Shadows, get Myranda to the other extreme side of the board. it was corner deploy so there was a very long center line. I took search ruins and occupy. The board was full of severe terrain so I figured I had plenty of time. Ophelia blew an acolyte out of the water turn 1, Rami killed Mercury turn 1 as well. I may have panicked a bit.
So I just claimed a few markers, used the remaining acolyte to get Pere and Francois stuck in severe terrain, dropped markers and on the last turn, used Disappearing act to get Thin Lizzy and the remaining acolyte vaulted into Occupy range.
My opponent was pretty new to the game and, knowing I wasn't going to go home with the cup, I spent the better part of the game coaching him when he needed help and offering pointers on how to play Ophelia. My son plays her all the time, so I know how to receive a butt kicking from the Kin. It was a good game and Brad was a great sport. I brought home a 9-6 victory and beat my old 1-2 standing with a 1-1-1.

The tourney was a lot of fun, we had 19 people and everyone had a blast. Our local Gremlin Guru, Alex Schmidt came in first place but the Greensboro team won the Store Trophy. Coming up next week is our first anniversary tournament and I've added a few models to my arsenal and a new master. I'll give you a hint: It's Marcus.

Until next time, and it will be a regular blog again, Keep Cheating Fate!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Putting Plans Into Action or Tournament Time is Nigh

With my first tournament coming up in just a few days I thought I'd do something different. Even though several of the people who are playing this weekend read my blog, I'm going to give a run down of the Strategies and Scheme Pools of the tournament and which lists I will very likely be taking. This blog is all about learning, and I think being able to look at my thoughts before going into the tournament and my thoughts afterward (next week's blog) will be beneficial. I have spent all week painting and basing models to get ready for this weekend and realized that I'm coming close to having the whole faction. Now I just have to put them all in action and see how the games play out. Keep in mind, my commitment the first half of this year is to 3 masters: Zoraida, Pandora and Lynch.

Round 1
Strategy: Interference
Scheme Pool: A Line in the Sand, Breakthrough, Bodyguard, Entourage, Plant Evidence

So first of all lets look at the Strategy. Interference says specifically: Divide the table into four Quarters. At the end of each turn after the first, a crew earns 1 VP if it controls two or more table Quarters. To control a table Quarter, the crew must have the most unengaged non-Peom models within the table Quarter. These models cannot be within 6" of the center of the table.

There are two ways I can approach this strategy. I can bring tons of guys and try to spam the table as much as possible. This could be accomplished with Terror Tots at 4SS but precludes taking some of my best available models at high point costs. The other option is to try to be as killy as possible and eliminate my opponents models as quickly as I can, giving me the advantage. This plan has its merits and flaws, being that the deck can work against you and if you don't kill a model it will be engaged and not gaining you points. also, putting models out there could end up with them being killed off and also not doing anything for you.

My first thought is that I want Waldgeists, Silurids and Zoraida here. I can use Hexed Among You to set my Geists in my opponent's side of the table and hole up certain parts of the table. They would also be in convenient spots to drop Breakthrough markers. Bringing those means a heavy swampfiend list so bad juju will be coming to the party. He's fun for this scenario as well because just when your opponent thinks they have killed a model to open up control of that side of the board, Juju comes out and smacks them down.

Schemes are a bit trickier to decide on here. Bodyguard is a good one to take with Bad Juju, as he is very hard to permanently get rid of. There's going to be a lot of movement to control board state, so ALitS, Plant Evidence and Breakthrough are all solid choices. ALitS can be very tough to keep though as its the most obvious scheme when you start dropping markers on the centerline.  Tentatively I would say Breakthrough and Bodyguard are going to be my choices here with Hexed Among You placing models in my opponent's side of the board to begin with.
Tentative List:

    Hexed Among You
    Tarot Reading
    Animal Shape

Bad Juju
Eternal Fiend

2X Waldgeist
Voodoo Doll

This list allows me to drop scheme markers, Utilize the voodoo doll and Nurse combo to lock things down. Lure models around the board and Zoraida gets some mobility with Animal Shape.

Round 2
Strategy: Headhunter
Scheme Pool: A Line in the Sand, Distract, Protect Territory, Take Prisoner, Deliver A Message.

Headhunter is a trickier strategy than it looks like at first glance. It says: Whenever a model kills or sacrifices a non-Peon model which it considers an enemy, the Acting model's controller must place a 30mm Head Marker within 3" and LoS of the killed or sacrificed model before removing it from play. Any model in base contact with a Head Marker may Make a (1) interact action with it to remove it from play. Gain a VP if you you have removed at least on Head Marker from play at the end of the turn.

My first instinct is to bring Lynch for this match up. He has the most on the table killing power of my three masters with his Darkened crew. The trick is, getting the Head Markers after the kill. I want to focus on large engagement ranges and tough models to protect the markers so that I can pick them up later. Companion becomes a fantastic ability to have in these situations but unfortunately Neverborn is light on both Companion and Accomplice. However, we do have Pandora with her Incite and Nobody Likes Me conditions. The wheels begin to turn. If I bring Candy and Pandora to Incite models that are no where near a Marker and bring Illuminated and other killy models, I can use Incite to my advantage and force my opponent to activate models when I want them to, effectively giving me control over who gets the Head Markers.  Candy also has the ability to heal things up which denies my opponent even more.

I want to kill things, so Distract isn't a good option here. Protect Territory wants me to hold models back, which means I have to split focus between killing/grabbing head markers and dropping markers/holding scheme markers. Take Prisoner is the real deal though. I simply need to be engaged with it at the end of the game, meaning I can single other models to take out and leave that one alone until the end. Deliver a Message is another fun one to take even if it requires a model's full AP for a turn. It definitely benefits from Fast and (0) movement actions. Luckily I have Teddy and Baby Kade combo to deliver a very angry bear into the enemy Master and both of them are good at murdering things. 

Tenative List:
    Fugue State

Baby Kade
2X Illuminated
    Fears Given Form
    Best Behavior

This list as all the killing power I want with some control options. (and even the control models can murder things pretty well)

Round 3
 Strategy: Collect the Bounty
Scheme Pool: A Line in the Sand,  Assassinate, Power Ritual, Breakthrough, Plant Explosives

This is the game that Lynch will shine. Collect the Bounty gives you points for each enemy non-Peon model that you kill or sacrafice during the turn. The player with the most points gets a VP.  So here I want to murder as many models as possible, which is what Lynch is quite good at doing. It should be noted that killing models too quickly can cause you to run out of points. Taking a model or two each turn while denying your opponent points is the best strategy. I'll wanna take Rising Sun upgrade as it makes the Hungering Darkness not count for points on any turn but the very last, IF it is still buried. Illuminated are good here too as they are tough to take down with Armor 1 and Regen. Stitched Together look like a good option as well as they have the potential to do lots of damage and have Hard to Kill. This is also a good time to try out Black Blood Shaman on Depleted and Iluminated though I have to be careful as a model killed by Black Blood from their own attack on my model doesn't count towards the Bounty and I lose potential VP.

Schemes for the round definitely point to Assassinate, as I am wanting to kill all the things. The rest are harder to decide on without knowing the terrain set up. Though I would probably lean toward Plant Explosives, and getting it off early as chances are models will be clumped together.

Tentative List:
Jakob Lynch
      Rising Son
       Expert Cheater
      Woke Up With a Hand
Hungering Darkness
      Fears Given Form
Hooded Rider
Black Blood Shaman
Stitched Together
The Illuminated
The Illuminated

This crew gives me lots of solid killing power and is fairly sturdy. The Hooded Rider gives me the
potential to catch up with my opponent's faster models and tow another along with him. I will have to be careful with Lynch though, as he isn't the most resilient master and Assassinate is on the table. Playing safe is the key here.

That's 3 rounds with a tentative plan to deal with each. It should be noted that any of these possible lists can change when I get to the table dependent on a couple things: terrain and my opponent's declared faction. However, I think it is beneficial to have a plan of attack going into the game as I am able to set up quickly and make informed choices based on what I already know. Granted, anyone reading who is also going to the tournament is able to see my thoughts and plans ahead of time, but this blog is for the benefit of learning and I'm willing to take that risk. After all, the bottom line of tournaments is have fun.
Next week I will be doing a breakdown of the tournament and how things went. I am arming myself with a notebook to take extensive notes. I have all my models painted and ready. My game accessories (counters, cards, and markers) are ready to go. I know my crews pretty well, and I plan on getting a good solid night's sleep before the big day.
Until next time, Keep Cheating Fate.-- John Fox.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Grain of Salt or How To Take Advice

I first started hobby gaming in 1994. I was 14 years old and was introduced to the entire world of games by my older cousin and his friends. I was the tag along kid, eager for any extra minis or magic cards they would throw my way just to get me off their backs. I didn't have rules for some of the games they played, so my friends and I would make them up in the best way we could.
At the risk of sounding like THAT old guy, you know the one, in those days we didn't have internet. Well we did, but it was mainly confined to local servers and had very limited access. The wealth of information that we have today simply wasn't available. Tournament results were learned about in monthly magazines, along with ideas for lists and various ruling questions. Otherwise, we were on our own to discover new things about the games.
Flash forward to today's world and the sheer amount of information available in seconds is purely astonishing. You can be in the middle of a game and look up a rules question on a forum as fast as your fingers can navigate the screen. Blogs, Social Media, Forums, YouTube videos and Wikis allow anyone and everyone to access not only all the information about the game but opinions as well. In the overload of information, advice and opinions how does a new player sift through it all? I'm glad you asked.

The first time I heard the word metagame was in the early 2000s while playing Magic: The Gathering. Metagame is quite simply a term used to describe the popular strategies in a community. It can mean your local LGS or even a global metagame. The meta is what is hot at the moment and represents the Thing to Beat.
In Malifaux we are strangely lucky. Every crew is pretty finely balanced to produce lists that are possibly more powerful than some but by no means dominant. It is one of the first games I have played that truly has a "Play what you want to" attitude and means it. There isn't a single Master that is considered to weak to play competitively and there are only a few that could truly be called Top Tier.
When jumping into a lot of games, if you consult the wisdom of the internet you will see statements like "Don't play X, they are terrible" or "Play Z and win, don't worry about the rest." So far, I haven't seen this attitude in Malifaux. Anything and everything has a possibility of achieving victory and player skill is the largest factor to taking home tournament prizes.
That being said, there are still some tough crews and match ups out there. The internet will give you some great tips on beating the masters you find tough, but ultimately it comes down to two very important things. Play More Games and Try New Things. Spend some time to find out what makes a crew work. Is Nicodem your problem? Remember he needs corpse tokens to pump out undead. Is Perdita the issue? Remember that she can't shoot what she can't see.

Metagaming can lead to some interesting situations. We know what a person has won with in a tournament almost as soon as the tournament is finished, if not sooner, these days. Results are posted, streamed and Tweeted in real time. Instead of the isolated communities of players from the 90s we have a global awareness of what is winning across the world. It seems easy to just latch on to what the top players are running and go with their choices, after all they did win.
There's a huge danger sign right here that should be flashing, especially in the case of Malifaux. In a game where lists are built most times at the table itself simply copying a list or strategy is locking you into a play style you may not completely understand or need. In top tier tournaments, players who are very serious about the game have an understanding that a casual player does not. Chances are they know their opponents pretty well. They know what each and every crew they are going to face is capable of and they have planned accordingly. Most lists are not just tailor made for the tournament but also for that specific game. Simply copying and pasting your crew from their tournament winning lists will not give you the cosmic key to victory.
That isn't to say that you should ignore tournament results, far from it. If you want to get better at the game, look at what has been played and ask the right questions. Why did they take a Silurid over two Gupps? Why make the choice of this limited upgrade over that one? One of the beautiful things about the internet community is that you have a good chance of being able to connect with the person who played the list themselves if you ask in the right place. Knowledge like this can definitely make your game better, but it requires much more information than a list of the models that were put on the table.

Constructive vs Negative
So there are two types of advice. There's the helpful kind that answers your questions and generally leaves you in a better understanding of how and why choices should be made, and then there's the
kind that makes you feel like you are a jerk newbie for not playing it correctly in the first place. The second type very rarely gives you reasons why or if they do it is in a backhanded or condescending manner. Beware the second type, in my opinion it is the newest form of bullying. This is the guy who probably only plays against new players because they give him easy match ups. This is the dreaded Anonymous Inferiority Complex.
Internet opinions are exactly that, opinions. The trick to opinions is that they are often given a weight that they don't fully deserve. I try very hard in this blog to stress that I'm learning the game and this blog is full of my personal observations and not hard facts about the game. I spend time asking questions, researching and am always asking for feedback. The crazy thing is that by me saying "I never take Bad Juju without Eternal Fiend and it works" I could be correct. Bad Juju might do consistent hard work for me in the games I play with Eternal Fiend and as many Swampfiends as I can jam into a list. However, in your local meta everyone might be onto the trick and have ways to counter it.This doesn't make me wrong, but it is not the best advice for your situation. So, the best thing to do is accept advice given and give it a try. If it doesn't work, then you are out a game or two, if it does then congrats! You managed to get some good advice and your game has improved.

Courage Under Fire
Don't be afraid to ask questions when you can't find the answer easily. Yes, sometimes you will get nasty comments. There are unfortunate people who feel the need to let you know how much of their time you wasted. Luckily, the Malifaux community seems to be mostly bereft of these people. I think if you go to the Wyrd Forums, Twitter or A Wyrd Place you will find that the people who play Malifaux will be willing to give you constructive and helpful advice or at the very least point you in the right direction.
On the flip side, when you are in the position to answer questions and give advice try to be constructive. It can be frustrating to see the same question asked every other day on your news feed but it does not help foster a sense of community by lashing out. Also remember that Malifaux has a ton of fiddly rules and interpretations of those rules. Some people take months or even years to fully grasp the scope of various situations that can arise during a game. Not all of us are willing to go through the rules with a fine tooth comb. By offering advice without sarcasm or condescension you have more than likely made a future Malifaux player and maybe opponent more receptive and better at the game. It could be your advice that helps shape the next Nationals winner. It will definitely foster the growth of the game, and the more people who play, the more chances that this game will continue to be supported on all levels.

Where is it all
Here's a list of good resources to use. Its not comprehensive but I will add on as I'm given more.
Wyrd Forums-
A Wyrd Place podcast-
Malifaux Most Wanted--
Mistakes Were Made--
Cheated Fates--
GMorts Chaotica--

There are many many more out there.
When trying to learn more about the game, use all your resources. Jump on the Wyrd Forums, ask in Twitter, scour PullMyFinger, read blogs (especially mine), listen to podcasts. Gather every scrap you can and then use them. Try it out, and see what you get. Even if the advice isn't the best for you it can lead to new discoveries and the next thing you know, you will be the one giving the advice.

My first Tournament is a week away and I am very busy deciding what to play. The Strategies are in order: Headhunter, Interference and Collect the Bounty. Of course, what I play could change depending on which faction I'm facing down, but having that knowledge beforehand allows me to craft a preliminary game plan. To say I'm excited is an understatement.

Until next time, Keep Cheating Fate -- John Fox

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blazin' Trails or Malifaux Terrain and How to Use It

Ask any Malifaux player or go to any Malifaux internet community and one of the first things they will tell you is that in Malifaux terrain matters. Malifaux requires a dense amount of terrain compared to other wargames and it really needs a larger variety. Look at most Warmahordes tables and you will see a few forests, a hill and some walls. Malifaux wants buildings to climb, cover to hide behind, hazardous terrain to drag models into and dense terrain if you are playing Lilith. Learning to take advantage of the table in Malifaux will help lead you to victory.

Choosing A Battlefield
When playing a game of Malifaux the general rule is that if you took all the terrain and put it in a pile it should cover 1/3 of the board. Which means that when spread out there shouldn't be more than a four or five inches between pieces of terrain and few wide open spaces. There should be a variety of terrain as well. Don't go for the same 3 buildings, 2 walls and 2 forests. Play around and create some unique battlegrounds. Add levels of height to the board, fight on bridges and balconies. Dive behind a fountain in the square or avoid gator infested swamps. The more varied your board, the more fun your experience will be and the the more tricks you will learn to use.
*Caveat: Make sure to always go over terrain rules before each game with your opponent. Decide which qualities each piece of terrain has, so that questions don't come up in the middle of the game. Remember that some terrain pieces might have multiple terrain qualities, like dense and hard cover or hazardous and climbable. 
Picking Sides
One of the more overlooked aspects of wargaming is initial deployment. Lots of people drop their models in a line or a cluster aimed directly at their objectives or counter to an opponent's models without really giving the lay of the land consideration. Sometimes the terrain set up can lead you to an easier route or slow you down enough to deny you. If you win initiative take a look at where everything is set up before you choose your side. Perhaps there's a good vantage point for a sniper within easy reach, or if you have a model that isn't impeded by terrain you can set it up to simply move through areas your opponent will have a harder time reaching. If you know your opponents models will have a hard time getting through a mass of hazardous terrain, give them that side of the board and make them work for it.

Cue gunfight music
Shooting Lanes
These are wide open lanes that allow a crew full of shooting actions free access to your models. It doesn't always happen in Malifaux, and if the terrain is set up properly you should be able to avoid them, but when you can't it can be a nightmare. Many starting Malifaux players, myself included, fall to Perdita and her Ortegas over and over by simply walking into the field of fire instead of going a less direct route. Shooting lists aren't always common in Malifaux but when they are things can get ugly. Use blocking terrain and dense forests to your advantage. Learn to force them to come to you instead of the other way around.

Rising Above
I can see my house from here!

Climbable terrain is a fun aspect of Malifaux that can offer you some opportunities to go after enemy models that are hiding, especially little guy like Gremlins. There are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with climbable terrain though. First off all be ware the movement penalties. If there are no stairs you lose an inch for every inch you move. Secondly, beware pushes and lures. Most snipers and shooting models are on the squishy side and a fall can bring them down with a single AP from an opponent.

Can you imagine Lucius wading through this?
Hazardous Terrain
Probably the least used but the most amusing terrain in the game, if you aren't playing with Hazardous you are cheating yourself. Go ahead, try it next game. Stick a ranged character behind a cactus bush and watch the melee guys come try to take it, or bring a Belle and lure someone right into quick sand. Hazardous terrain can do a good bit of work for you if used correctly.

if you look closely, you can see a nephilim

Can't See the Forest For the Trees
Dense forests usually only come in small patches in Malifaux being that its mostly urban landscape but they can also be immensely useful. If you are inside of the dense terrain you get hard cover, if you are on the other side you can't have LOS drawn to you. Incorporeal models can frustrate anyone trying to take them down by zipping through a forest to get away, the same for leaping models who can simply jump over the trees.

Soft and Hard Cover
There should always be plenty of sources of soft and hard cover on the table. From crates to walls, under bridges or behind wagons, make sure you go over with your opponent which terrain pieces represent each type of cover before the game. Just like in the shoot outs in the old westerns, using these pieces will help keep your models alive in a gun fight.

Malifaux is a fantastic game with some of the most balanced rules out there but one of the biggest things that draws people into the game is the setting. Stuck between the Old West, Steampunk and Gothic Horror the background of the game is why we pick the faction that we do and the masters that we play. Make sure that your battlefields reflect that ambiance. Your crews should fight undead in the sewers, or brave the wilds to tackle terrifying neverborn not just mill around on reused 40k hills and rocks.
If you don't have access to a lot of terrain and feel crafty, Youtube is a great source for DIY ideas for cheap and easy to make terrain. Check it out, once you get started in the hobby aspect of things its almost as addictive as playing.

Until next time, Keep Cheating Fate-- John Fox

Friday, March 6, 2015

Malifaux Tourney Primer Part 2: Tools of Conflict


As the date of my first tournament looms closer and my excitement builds, I take a look at my checklist. More than just making sure your ready for the game mentally, like I discussed last time, there are plenty of other things to do in order to make a tournament go as smoothly as possible.  At its base, Malifaux tournaments require 2 things: models and cards. The truth is you actually need a bit more than that to be prepared. So here's my checklist as I count down the days to seeing just how tournament ready I am.

Measuring Tools
Not specifically Malifaux, but gives you an idea.
In almost all miniature games some sort of measuring tool is required. Malifaux is no exception. Most of the time these can be acquired cheaply at any dollar store or hardware store. There are specific ones made by hobby companies, I have a galeforce 9 measuring tape. Regardless, you will need something. There is a growing trend towards using pre measured widgets, especially for the small, standard things such as 1,2 and 3 inch engagement ranges. I have a few left over pieces from my warmachine days, but there are a few companies out there who sell them specifically for Malifaux.

Dry Erase and Tokens
Make sure you have a good dry erase marker for keeping track of wounds on your cards. I write conditions down on the cards as well, but many use tokens of some sort for various purposes: Conditions, Marking activated models, etc. These can be as simple as glass beads at the dollar store or you can get creative and make your own. Using a thick stock paper and printing some small condition tokens is an option that takes up small amounts of space with less weight too. Remember you have to drag all this stuff around so keeping things compact is always good.

Tournament Tray
This is a new trend that I approve of when heading to a shop for games. Mini games take up tons of space and everyone is bringing their cool carrying bags full of models. Depending on your LGS, the space might be limited. If you know what models you are bringing and don't want to lug around or run back to your bag between every round, a tournament tray isn't a bad idea. These can be as cheap as gluing a magnet to the bases of your model and using a cookie sheet, or some of the neat laser cut trays out there for sale. These display your well painted models for others to ogle and make it much easier for you to just grab the ones you want without digging through your bag for 30 minutes. This is especially important for Malifaux where you don't always nail down your list before you get to the table.

Scheme/Corpse/Scrap/etc Markers

Malifaux requires a lot of markers on the table. Most of these are 30MM size, though some are larger. There are cheap ways to create them, print from a template online or buy some cheap 30mm bases from your LGS. I suggest you get a bit creative though and make sure that at least your scheme
These are the ones I made, quick and easy.
markers are customized even just a little to make sure they are separate from your opponents. I have some cheap 30mm bases and glass beads that I have painted simple symbols on. Flag for scheme, Skull for corpse, Gear for Scrap, and a web for Widow Weaver's nasty web markers. I also have some 50mm bases that I have printed some lovely fiery explosions and glued them down for blast markers. Remember to look over all your cards and decide what you need before you take off. You are responsible for all the markers you need. Playing Raspy? make some quick Ice Walls. Playing waldgiests? print some quick forest themed circles off. You can even get creative and impress your opponents with neat looking accessories.
Note: I would bring 8-10 scheme markers with you, as you want to make sure you have enough. If you want to play Line in the Sand and Breakthrough you could end up short on makers and stall the game while you look for more. Caveat: you might even need more if you are worried about markers getting removed and must spam them.

Know Your Models

Might be spill over from last time, but its a good point to reinforce. Spend the time to really know what your models can do. Tournaments are time limited and spending time each turn trying to decide what your model can do is going to slow you down. Also, if you haven't played a model or are unsure about it, don't play it. Stay safe with the ones you know and you'll be more confident and do better. There have been a few times I've switched a list in other games at last minute and manage to beat myself because I spent the whole game second guessing my options.

Take Care of Yourself

Do not, and I mean do not make the mistake of practicing all night before the tournament. The last minute games might help your strategy but lets face it, you will be at your LGS from 9 or 10 in the morning until well into the afternoon. You will be on your feet most of that time and your mind will be engaged. Tournaments are fun but they are also exhausting. Get a good night's sleep, get up early and check to make sure your stuff is ready. Eat well, make sure you have lunch or money for lunch. A growling stomach can be just as distracting as being tired. Seems like common sense, but the excitement of getting to play and seeing that big prize ahead of you can sometimes blind you.

When gathering things together for Malifaux it feels like you have 3 options: Cheap, Easy, and Creative. You get to pick 2 of those. If you want easy accessories that won't take up your time you probably are going to have to pay for it, such as going online and getting the things that are pre made. This is not a bad option at all if you have it in your budget. Alternately, you can get creative and make your own. These range from the super cheap like dollar store glass beads or printing things off (though ink does start to add up) to spending the time to make awesome Ice Wall markers which will also start to add up on materials. Anyway you go is perfectly fine, though I encourage you to attempt some creative styles. The more you dabble into the hobby aspects of the game, the more rewarding it can be. Fair warning, it gets addictive.
Generally, being prepared ahead of time will leave you with less stress on tournament day and you'll be better focused and have more fun. The tournament is 3 weeks away and I'm going to be playing a few games this weekend to see what models I want to bring and how I like the Gaining Grounds strategies. I will admit I'm getting pretty excited. My son is revving up his gremlin play as well and we are trying to figure out shared custody of Zoraida. Maybe he'll just have to buy his own.
Until next time, Keep Cheating Fate-- John Fox