Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Ringers, Byes and the Odd Man out

I've been three tournaments for Malifaux now and thoroughly enjoyed them all. In two of them the TO was faced with the issue of an odd number of players turning up. There are really two ways to handle this.

The Bye approach

Fairly simple, one player doesn't get a game each round and instead is awards some point. The issues with this what to give them? A win? A Draw? Surely not a Loss? Malifaux has an added complication of the differential in VPs which is often used to break ties. What differential should they be given? Personally I'm really not a fan of this approach. If I've bought a ticket, travelled for a couple of hours I really would like to get the three or four games that were advertised. Now I realise its no fault of the TO, but still I'd feel a little cheated if I was forced to sit in a corner for 90 minutes while everyone else got to play.

Bring Out the Ringer!

This is the other solution, the TO lines up someone as a stand in to play in the event of an odd number of players. Often this is one of the organisers and doesn't play to take part, as such is excluded from winning anything. I do however have one major issues with this. Typically the ringer is one of the team of people organising the tournament, or a fellow club member of the TO. Because tournaments are often put on by the better Malifaux players it often transpires that the ringer is quite a good player. Excluding the first round, where its all determined randomly, the ringer is normally put up against the bottom placed player to avoid them interfering in the race for the podium. That's where the problem occurs. Certainly for game three onwards the bottom player is there for a reason, they've lost all their games. To put them up against a player who would normally be in the top half of the table if they were playing in the tournament is a little unfair. But also can't be that fun for the ringer either to basically stomp someone isn't really a game.

One solution I though of was after the first round (since this randomly allocated) the Ringer is playing with a pre-determined crew. The crew is worked out in advance with full knowledge of the schemes and strategy that will be played, but without knowing the opponents faction. Then, and here's the really kicker, is presented to their opponent BEFORE he selects his crew. If I'm right this is a win win. The bottom player gets to engineer a crew to try to counteract some of the nastier tricks the opponent might have and hopefully pull a moral boosting win out of the bag, the ringer get to play a challenging match against someone who maybe wouldn't have posed much of an issue otherwise. They find themselves in a nasty match up against a possible hard counter to their crew, which will challenge them as a player and give them some tough competition.

This is all theoretical at the moment, never actually tried it and it does assume that the ringer is an above average player in the local scene.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Tournament Write Up - Halifaux II

So another weekend, another tournament. This time it was Halifaux II in, no prizes for guessing, Halifax. So far my tournament track record isn't good. I've manage only two wins and a draw from the seven tournament games I've played, and I think the win at Sanctuary was against a player even newer to the game than me. 

Halifaux was four rounds of escalating soul stone levels. The first two were 30 & 35 stone henchman lead games with the last two 40 & 50 stones. I'm not sure how much of a fan of Henchman led games I am currently, I'm not sure the henchman are even as balance as the masters are (and see my previous post for how I don't think the masters are balanced). 

Game one versus Gremlins and I take the two Tengu and speedy Torekage planned out here. It actually works relatively well however the Gremlins were able to counter most of my stake makers in subsequent turns. Score full points on breakthrough and with the help of both Damiyo and the Super Weasel pushing him along a wk4 Railworker manged to drop power ritual in my corner and then move the entire diagonal, stopping off near the middle to help kill Burt, to not only drop a scheme in the opposite corner but also remove my opponents corner marker to deny him power ritual. In the end I won this one 7 - 3 and was quietly pleased with myself, sadly it wasn't to last.

Game two versus Gremlins, again. This time is was turf war and close deployment. My cunning plan for this one failed spectacularly due to three things. When setting up my crew I noticed the [+] to flips from Damiyo to minions was only for melee attacks, thus significantly down powering the two Thunder Archers I took. Secondly the archers seem incapable of flipping more than 5 or 6 on every attack them made, and thirdly I'd failed to read that the (2) shooting attack which they were often using and getting for free at the end of the turn due to my Blot The Skies upgrade, didn't need LOS and could therefore have targeted the three Gremlins hiding behind the large ht3 wall scoring for Turf War. My two Tengu being ripped apart in a single turn due to some perfect flipping by McTavish. The scenery didn't help either as Damiyo got boxed in so he could make a run for the deployment zone for entourage. Basically I got pummelled and lost 4 - 8.

Game three and the masters came out to play. Still not had any practise with Yan Lo and I still don't think Miskai can really hang with the tournament crews so it was Mei Feng for me. I was facing the Neverborn Dreamer, a master I've never seen before. In reconnoiter I really shouldn't have bother with the Scheme at all, Dreamer just kept summoning in more in and more stuff. Where is the balance in a crew that appears to be easily able to summon two more crew members each turn? Pretty much from turn two I'd lost this one with the Dreamer summoning in minions to bog down my models and secure table quarters. I didn't score for a single turn on the strategy. I did manage two points for killing the Widow Weaver with Mei Feng for murder protege and Mei Feng survived the entire game, but I did give up two vps by forgetting to soul stone prevent damage on Damiyo in the final turn killing him off a protect territory marker. In the end I lost this 8 - 3 against another master I personally think is on a higher power level than mine. 

Game four and I'm facing Gremlins, again! This time is was the clock that caused the most issues with me only getting to the end of turn three. I scored protect territory fairly easily and managed two turn of squatters rights but the pool selection for the other scheme was terrible (Plant Explosives, Make the Sufer and Distact) so I'd taken make them suffer but couldn't get either of my Henchmen or Mei Feng into the minions. I tried to kill the sow, but in the end it was the burning condition from Mei Feng which finished it off and I didn't realise I could kill the pigs this produced for murder protege, still it would only have been one more point. I think if this game had been a longer game in the garrison I'd have won it since my heavy hitters had taken out most if his henchmen and enforcers and were all baring down in the Bayou Gremlins, but it wasn't to be and I lost again, this time 5 - 7

Overall another pretty dismal performance, I wouldn't say my losses were close, in most cases I just couldn't compete with the opponents crews which reinforces my belief that Mei Feng and Misaki just aren't tournament masters, not if I ever want to get a couple of win, let alone threaten the podium. There was some learning from the games and I think against future Gremlin faction games I'm tempted to take a Katanaka Sniper so that if I'm deploying second I can see where the slop hauler is and shot it first turn. However it would require severe damage flip to kill in a single shot so I'm not sure, even with a focus, it can reliably do this. 

Loosing the faith a little more with Ten Thunders as I contiue to struggle against almost all other crews, don't want to swap to another faction but it does look like if I want any success in 2015 Adepticon I might have to. I'll definitely stick to them for the remainder of 2014, I've got one tournament book, another one possible and the GT this year, I'd love to actually win a few more games to give me a bit of an ego lift but we'll have to seen.

Oh one final note, if you don't already I'd recommend the Before We Begin podcast. It a really good format and episode ten features yours truly give his views and limit experience of tournament and how to prepare for them, more from a new player than from any position of knowledge you understand.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Power Scale, Counters and balance


Having come from a game where power creep was a thing and there were, due to an appalling lack of internal balance and in my mind play testing, a clear hierarchy of armies in terms of their power, I've been interested recently by a lot of tweets, blogs and podcasts in the last couple of weeks discussing relative faction power and "brokeness".

First off, Malifaux is a significantly more balanced game than anything GW has produced. It works well at the casual level and so far, touch wood, appears to work well in tournaments. Although I'm very much aware I've never really troubled the top table players where all the filth and broken combos might be hiding.

That said all is not equal in the world of Malifaux in my mind and there is definitely a couple of tiers of power. There is one main reason which make a master powerful, synergy. From what I've found the main thing to concentrate on is playing your game, executing your plan whilst watching out for opportunities to maybe throw a spanner in the opponents plans. Some masters and crew combine together to make a fairly awesome strategy if they get going. Examples I've seen include
  • Hoffman powerball of death
  • Ramos spider spam
  • McMourning poison bomb
  • Rasputina's spell assault 
  • Nicodem's summoning machine
There are obviously others. It basically when a crew are all pulling in the same direction. Generating the resource that the master or other crew members use to execute the power used to further the plan.

Another trick which makes crews powerful is an defencive ability which prevents the opponent from playing their game. Crews which can bring a lot of armour, incorporeal or hard to wound can really throw a spanner in the works.

One comment I've heard made is that all these synergies have a counter. Sometime it taking out a key member of the crew, which isn't always the master. Sometime its another ability which counters the powerful one. However with most events running fixed faction I don't agree with this. Given you don't know which master your opponent is playing against you (unless they only own a single one and you happened to spot it on his tray or an earlier game) you won't know which counters you need to take.

Although each faction has a general trend, Resurrectionist will be undead, hard to wound and probably summon for example that's not always the case. Take Guild, will you be facing the high armour and constructs of Hoffman? the melee power of Lady J or the ranged firepower of the Family? Without knowing this you really can't plan against them or take the required counters that people are always going about or you'll end up taking a handful of each defence and fail to stop the chosen tactic of the enemy as it overwhelms your small defence. So I'm not a fan of this "every synergy crew can be beaten by counters" argument. It's true provided you know you're facing that master. In a tournament you've no idea which master from the declared faction you are going to face. I've been caught out by not taking the Hard Worker upgrade to then face lots of armour or hard to wound, similarly the opposite of tacking it and realising there isn't anything in the opponents crew it works against.

So once again you're back to playing your own game primarily. This is where the weaker Masters suffer, they don't have a real 'thing' to do. Take Misaki, she doesn't really have a trick other than being able to hit quite hard (and others hit harder). The rest of the crew don't augment or improve her ability and she doesn't work to improve them. The same could be said for Mei Feng. Yes she likes to rail walk off her constructs but there no real synergy. I've not managed or seen a real burning crew with her when run as Ten Thunders as you can't lay the burning down quickly, I think its viable if she's being played as Arcanist as they seem to have more burning orientated crew.

Now I'm not sure that the other Ten Thunders fair much better, but I've not played a lot with them. Yan Lo is a resser and so can do attrition fairly well but he doesn't really have a lot of summoning. Never used McCabe or Shen Long, they do look slightly more synergy orientated, but its hard to tell.

So I think there is definitely a power curve in Malifaux, I think the game structure does mean that one of the top power crew can be beaten either by luckily taking enough counters in your blind crew creation stage or possibly by focusing solely on you game and scoring points and just hoping that the opponent doesn't get their mechanisms rolling at full power. I think I need to get more play time with Yan Lo and Shen Long (I now have proxies for him and Sensi) if I want to be able to compete with the big boys as I don't think Misiki can hang at all and Mei Feng is a struggle. But I'm more than happy to hear other's opinions since, after all, I've only been playing this for 4 months so could easily have missed some moment of clarity.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Thoughts on Halifaux - Stake a Claim strategy


So the next Malifaux tournament I'm off to is Halifaux. This tournament is a little different as there are varying soul stone levels in each of the games. I'm going to try to plan ahead a little as some of these encounters are quite different. 

The first round is 30 soul stone, standard deployment and stake a claim strategy. We obviously don't know the schemes being run but already this round introduces some interesting questions. With only 30 stones the crews are going to be small, but stake a claim also requires people to get into the enemy zone quickly. As it's not scheme markers your dropping a lot of other crews scheme markers tricks don't work, but also given that the action removes all markers within 6" of the model and then places one a move of 6" away from the last marker will mean its removed, see FAQ for confirmation that a 6" move still puts a model within 6" of its starting point. This pretty much neutralises all chance of a Ten Thunder model placing a marker in two consecutive turns. The only pushes available to us are to either push 6" or push the models Wk value. Given that almost nothing in the faction has a walk higher than 6 it means only masters can be pushed, then walk, then place a marker. So do i dedicate my master to simply place markers in the opponents zone? 


Misaki with Kamaitachi totem in toe would effectectively place a marker per turn and little else. Give her disguise to prevent people charging her to tie her up and she can place a new marker each turn at more than 6" away from the last one. If she gets well ahead of the other crew she can opt to break off and attack.

 

Another option might be to simply take two Tengu, fly then into the opponents half and drop a markers. The tricky bit is the marker in the second turn. Using the first Tengu to drop a scheme marker and then the second one teleports to it and then flys 10" allows it to place a marker in turn two, but makes the 2nd placement for turn three very hard. Leaving my master and a few more points to try to prevent their marker runners getting into my deployment zone in turn one. Out activating the crew and leave Mei Feng or Misaki till last to kill the model is one option, unless its a master of course in which case I'm screwed.

It could be possible for a model with a 6" move, such as a Torekage to make it into the oppositions half and place a claim marker in turn one. Using Toshiro the Daimyo and Kamaitachi a Torekage can be compelled to move 6" and gain fast, if you can get the mask trigger off on Toshiro's War Fan ability then the Torekage moves 16" and still has two AP to drop a marker, but now you've committed 20 SS to drop a single marker.


The final option of course is to totally ignore Stake a Claim and focus on the schemes. This obviously depends entirely on what they are.

The issue I have is that I think all the other factions can do this mission so much easier than the Ten Thunders. Listening to the latest Before We Begin podcast (an awesome podcast if you're new to Malifaux by the way as it concentrates on the crew selection process of a game) then Arcanist and Guild can perform the drops easily, and Resser seemed to be able to also. I just worry I'll face a crew who can easily spam the markers with minimal SS cost leave more models to deal with my attempts to drop them or complete schemes.

Or am I simply over thinking this?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

First Malifaux tournament - Not a Bad Thing (that's it name not my rating)

So I've just attended my first ever Malifaux tournament, Not a Bad Thing in Sunderland.

The format was four rounds over a single day play 45 soul stone games. It was either fixed faction or fixed master if you wanted to play a dual faction master and swap between his factions. There were 27 people attending making it a nice first event to attend, even if (as I'm lead to believe) 5 of the top 6 players in the country were there. I wasn't likely to face one of them beyong the first game.

Overall the event was well run, there was a nice raffle at the end so even people who didn't stood a chance of going home with something. I managed to bag a nice chocolate which my work colleagues will be benefiting from on Monday.

The room felt a little cramped, but that's probably because I've been spoilt by the massive room we use at Garrison, it wasn't too cramped as to cause issues though. The terrain was varied, it included the usual laser cut buildings, scratch built building and classic hill and woods. There were a couple of nice themed boards from the Dreamers board made of kids toys, an awesome sewer based board and board made to look like the inside of a bar. Sadly I didn't get to play on many of them as my games kept alternating between two boards, which was a shame.

From an event, running and organisation point of view I'd definitely recommend future events here. But onto the games themselves......

I'd brought with me three masters, Mei Feng, Misaki and Yan Lo, I was reluctant to use Yan Lo  as I really don't know him very well I and I suspected it might slow the games down even more. So I stuck to Misaki and Mei Feng.


Game 1 was versus Joe (Arcanists), specifically Rasputina. The game was a relatively close affair, Rasputina didn't appear to casting as heavily as in my previous game against her, favour a single attack each turn benefiting from focus (probably because most of my crew were advancing through cover). Rasputina seemed a poor choice to take deliver a message on since she was able to push easily due to an upgrade, but I think assassination would have been harder. I felt like the game wasn't slipping away until Cassandra went crazy and seemed to sweep through half my crew. There were a couple of mistake I spotted, almost immediately after making them, such as activating the poisoned Rail Worker on a single wound to hit the already activated Myranda. When I should have activated the nearby Tengu to give him regeneration +1, thus allowing him to survive the poison in the upkeep. In the end it ended 2 - 1 to Joe, but I was happy with my performance.


Game 2 was versus Paul (Guild), Paul was using Lucius a master I have no experience with. His crew featured a lot of ranged firepower so I was glad of Mei Feng's vent steam. The Crew spent the whole game in a double or triple vent steam cloud thanks to vapourmancy which shut down his shooting. This game was more a frustration about timing, we only got a couple of activation into turn three and Lucius' tricks meant he could easily get his crew to drop enough scheme markers to complete both his strategies. Whilst I messed up on selecting murder protege and was only just starting to drop my scheme markers for breakthrough. I was however solidly in control of the turf marker in the centre of the board and scoring each time for that. In the end I lost 7 - 2 but felt if the game had played on I could easily have score 7 points myself as well as removing some of his scoring scheme markers with my Tengu.


Game 3 was versus Steve (Arcanist). Time to give Misaki a run out. Steve was using Marcus, another master I have no experience with. Basically it's a lot of beasts. I did very well at securing my objectives with Misaki escorting two Tengu down the extreme left flank of my deployment, dropping scheme markers all the way for power ritual and protect territory. However stopping Steve scoring was a different mater. The two beasts leading the charge, a Sabertooth Cereberus and Slate Ridge Mauler, were brutal and harder to shift. A red joker for damage from the Sabertooth meant that Kang went down in a single charge, which hurt me. But the Lone Swordswoman put on a good showing against Marcus, burning a lot of cards to survive his attacks then reducing him two three wound in return. Given she was out on her own and probably wouldn't survive much longer anyway I chose to call out Marcus to gain reactivate. Sadly in his turn Steve managed to get the Mauler into base to base with Marcus by bear hugging him which meant when she attached he burnt soul stones to have me attack the bear instead. A run of poor cards also meant I failed to kill the badly wounded bear at all, let alone with time for an attack on Marcus, so the Swordswoman was sacrificed. This did stop him scoring Reckoning. In the end we both maxed our schemes (Steve running power ritual and entourage) so it ended in a 7 - 7 draw.


Game 4 was versus Paul (Ten Thunders) who was using Jacob Lynch. Misaki took the stage again, although I was tempted to use Yan Lo in the last game just for giggles, I didn't want to slow the game down anymore. I did pick an oddball crew, dropping most of the models I'd used in previous games for Toshiro the Daimyo, Yamaziko and Torakage. To be honest my heart wasn't really in this game as my total lack of success had got to me a little. That said the game did highlight a couple of interesting fact. I'd not noticed that Yamiziko's sweep trigger is built in until half way though, once I realised this she managed to kill two models and maul a third in a single activation. I also noticed how good the Daimyo is. I really messed up using him, and suffered by not drawing any high cast crows in my hand two turns running to allow him to summon, but he definitely has potential. In the end Steve pretty much shut me out and I only manage to drop a single scheme marker in the final activation of the game with my lone surviving Torakage for breakthrough. Final score was 10 - 1 to Steve and was pretty much the final nail in my coffin.

I finished 26th out of 27th, so I couldn't even win the wooden spoon. It was frustrating first tournament, I remember my first 40k tournament where I won 2 of my 5 games and it gave me a real incentive to carry on. This one felt a little down heartening. I was hoping for one win from the four.

Learning's
  • 90 minutes for a game is really short! You need to think about scheme's that can score within turn 2 or 3 and don't bank of getting four points from the strategy either. Game 2 proved that despite being totally in control of the strategy I still only score two points for it. 
  • Misaki and Mei Feng really have very little synergy. They don't seem to work with their crews, just hang around with them. They can struggle against the synergy crews.
  • [+] flips on attacks are really powerful, I need to find more ways to generate them. Recalled Training is good but only last a turn. Toshiro the Daimyo sees a good way to do it.
  • Ten Thunders have no models with built in free movement (such as a leap ability) making things like deliver a message really hard. Kamaitachi can be used to move someone in, but only if the target master has activated. Not sure how to overcome this.
Conclusions
If I want any real success at tournaments I really need to get some practise in with one of the more synergy masters from Ten Thunders, which is a shame because it was the asphetic of the oriental faction which first drew me to the Ten Thunders. I think Yan Lo might be a happy mid ground.
I also need to stop being so theme driven in crew selection. Mixing Daimyo in with Rail Workers, Illuminated with Tengu etc. to get the maximum efficiency for the crew and not stick to models who's style and appearance matched my master.

I've another tournament in a month's time then it's the GT unless I choose to go to one in Sheffield or Nottingham game store, as they seem to have one a month. So I'm hoping more practise at the clubs and maybe taking on board some of the learning and I'll maybe achieve Mid-Table Obscurity next time.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Malifuax Update



So it's been a while since I posted here, and most of that time has been devoted to Malifaux. I have booked onto Caledonia Uprising for 40K in January, but that more because its a fun tournament, I just hope I've got a little 40K love back before then. However I've also registered for three Malifaux tournaments this year. The first is this coming weekend. Not a Bad Thing is being run in Sunderland, its a 45 soul stone tournament and will represent my first venture into the more competitive Malifaux scene.

What am I hoping for? well some success would be nice, I don't expect to win it but I'm hoping to at least win one of the four rounds, possibly even the infamous mid-table obscurity! I hope the players are friendly, I always found there was a little elitism or cliches in the 40K which were hard to break into. That said there are fair few York player travelling to Sunderland and indeed the other two tournament this year (I say travelling the GT in November is being held at the Garrison club so not a whole lot of travelling required for that one).

Finally I want a play experience that feels two sided. That's been my one biggest complaint of 40K recently, against a lot of the tournament armies unless you're playing a very specific build you may as well not have turned up to some games. I'm hoping that even if I'm play in mid tier crew that I still get the feeling I'm playing the game, and not just there as a punching bag for the opposing crew and player.

Not sure yet if I'll do battle style write ups for Malifaux, I'll see what the tournaments are like.

Onto the pictures, in my usual habit I jumped into Malifaux with both feet and got lots of models and terrian too since my 40K stuff wouldn't look right. Given I'd opted for the Ten Thunders my terrian has a far eastern feel to it.


Iteration one of my board. These are Sarissa Precision buildings. Nice, detailed and lovely to build, the one drawback is you either leave them in the raw laser cut appearance (which is nice) or risk painting them.






Iteration two of the board, this time using 4Ground's shogunate range of buildings. The main reason I prefer these if they come pre painted. Malifaux is a relaively heavy terrian game so there's a number of scatter peices created from trees off E-Bay and the crate set from Bendyboards.


I've also got a number of crews, although currently on Misaki and her crew are painted. I'll leave you with some photos of these. Some of my better work but still no where near as good as some other examples of painting you'll find online with a quick Google search. Still I'm happy with them.
The crew at that present

Kamaitchi proxy (Or Super Weasel as I ensist on calling it)

Lone SwordsWOMAN proxy

Misaki

Thunder Archer

Tengu Proxy

Saturday, 16 August 2014

An outing into Malifaux





So I've totally lost faith in 40k. GW appear to be milking the cow with no regard for the quality of the product they produce. Poorly written rules which just make more questions than answers and now with the Wolves some of the worst model concepts I've ever seen. 40k as a competitive game is dead without TOs having to practically rewrite the rulebook, GW has now totally broken it.Quite frankly there are better games to play casually and since I enjoy tournaments I need to find a new game, Malifaux.

I've chosen the Ten Thunders faction, mainly because I like a lot of the visuals of the models. From what I'm starting to understand from reading blogs, listening to podcast and my experience playing them I once again appear to have picked the below par faction in a game. We've a mini league running at the Garrison and I chose Miskai.
 Unfortunately I'm using her badly. After a couple of early wins against people we weren't really taking it seriously I've pretty much lost every game of Malifaux I've played with her. I totally fluked a win against Yan Lo in the league and my only other win was against Gill, who hadn't played in over 12 months. Struggling to get to grips with her is an understatement.

Malifaux has one interesting mechanic around force selection.Unlike other games where you approach a game or tournament with a fixed roster which your stuck with though out the games. In Malifaux you hire your crew only once you know the strategy and schemes (think missions) and have met your opponent. Some time tournaments will limit you to a single master, more often you're limited to a single faction. For the GT and other tournaments I've booked onto its the later, so I want to collect three masters to use as my pool to select.


I've actually signed up for four tournaments with Malifaux in the next six months, including the GT at the end of the year, so I'd better get learning the rules. I don't expect to place very well, heck even my usual Mid Table Obscurity would be nice, my main aim between now and the GT is to get enough practise in so I don't ruin anyone else's weekend with crap or slow playing. I'm really worried of only getting to turn 3 in the allotted time, and that's not good.

Mei Feng is my second master, I've played a couple of games with her now and she seem a lot more survivable than Misaki. It might, however, be that at the same time I started with her I also found another star from the wave 2 models, Lone Swordsman (or Lone Swords-woman as my proxy is.)

I've played a couple of games with Mei and Swords-Woman and the pair have wrecked face against a couple of crews, whilst the rest of her minions rang around scoring. 

 


Because Shenlong wasn't released at GenCon like I was hoping, Yan Lo is the third master I'm trying to get ready. A lot less practise with him. He's definitely the tricksy Ten Thunders master, with his lightning dance swapping models around and his ability to build up Chi during a game to improve his abilities. Also his crew tends to be more self contained, it contains a lot less cross over from the other crews as most of his minions and members want to be ancestors so they can benefit from lots of his abilities.


I'll get some photos up of my crew and board I've build for Malifaux but as most of my loyal readers (and I suspect I might be about to loose a lot of those with the switch in games) know I'm not the world's greatest painter by any stretch of the imagination.