A Man And His Jokers: Malifaux at CaptainCon 2023

Longtime readers of the column (or “Togepi-heads”) will remember my last trip to CaptainCon, New England’s premier pirate-themed wargaming extravaganza.  How little I knew then!  How young and naive I was!  Malifaux Burns had just been released, and people were still adjusting to a world of Titles.  Francois had yet to be nerfed, and Kin were hosing people off the table in a hail of Gremlin lead.  It was a different time.

Once again, CaptainCon brought vicious cold to the Northeast, and us Malifaux players hunkered down in the Crowne Plaza Warwick to wait out the cold snap.  With nothing better to do, we lit a fire, poured ourselves drinks, and told tall tales.  That is, until a mysterious stranger entered our circle of light and challenged us to a wager…

Maybe I dreamed that part.  What really happened was this: three solid days of wall-to-wall wargaming with players from across the country.  Jesse Ellis of the Boring Conversation podcast hosted two tournaments: the Malifaux Content Creators’ Invitational on Friday, a three-round team tournament, and the five-round Gaining Grounds 3 tournament Booty and Plunder on Saturday and Sunday.  Jesse was determined to outdo himself from last year, and went all out.  Booty and Plunder featured an enormous prize wall, custom glassware for all podium finishes, and two new prizes: the Malifaux Cartographer award, for the person who brought the best table of terrain, and the Iron Scorpius.

The Scorpius is a Malifaux tradition, and it was featuring here for the first time: to be eligible for the Scorpius, a player must declare a different master in each of the five rounds.  Original and Title versions counted the same, so you couldn’t just pick your favorite two keywords and play them twice each.  You had to play five different crews.

I paired with my good friend Doug of Danger Planet for the MCCI, and we set forth to demolish and decimate our foes using powerful new tools from Madness of Malifaux.  The Madness crews aren’t out yet (except for Witness), so we 3D printed some proxies for Tiri of the Explorer’s Society and the Clampetts of the Bayou.  Doug converted up some standins for Harold Tull of the Guild, and we were off.

Note: I didn’t take pictures this year because I was riding too high on adrenaline and completely forgot.  I have used with permission pictures taken by others of the many random games that were happening!

I Wanna Go to the MCCI

The MCCI was a two-person team tournament, so it put a bit of a twist on the typical Malifaux tournament format.  The way it worked was that each round would have a set Scheme pool, but two tables with different deployment and Strategy.  Each team would reveal their Master picks simultaneously.  The higher-ranked team would then assign each of their players to a table, and the lower ranked team would then assign theirs.  The lower ranked team thus could set up the Master matchups they preferred, but the higher-ranked team got first pick of the table and Strategy they preferred.  This is a cool format, a bit different than the traditional 3-person team format favored by many other wargames, and it led to some really difficult decisions.  And some terrible tragedies (Spoiler alert).

For the purposes of this tournament, Jesse had made one change: the Koji/Shenlong combo proved too broken to tolerate, so he house-ruled it so that Koji’s gun only generated enemy Scheme Markers when it shot an enemy model.  Wyrd does allow TOs to make adjustments like that, but it was a little awkward, especially since there’s other stuff in Madness that’s as strong or stronger than the Koji/Shen combo.

Tiri proxies! L-r: The First Light, Parson, Kett. Credit: Me

L-R: Aua Warrior, Tiri, Oro Boro, Aua Warrior. If you’re asking whether those staffs, and Tiri’s staff, broke immediately upon making contact with a molecule of solid matter, the answer is yes. Credit: Me.

L-R: Unseelie Engine and two Ancient Constructs. These guys were pretty robust, actually. Credit: Me!

I was running Tiri, a decision I’d made before I realized just how strong she was.  But I wanted to do my teammate proud, so I forged ahead.  Could anyone stop the Nomad?  I guess this is the place to find out!

Round 1: Tragedy Strikes

Our very first round and we drew into team Badfaux Haku.  Haku himself couldn’t make it, so his friend and frequent collaborator Landon carried the banner, along with Texas’s own Andre (aka Kharnage).  I knew we’d face these two eventually… I was just hoping for more time.  Landon was running Ten Thunders, his home faction, while Andre was going pure Damian Ravencroft.  He 5-0’d his way to the top spot at the Las Vegas open with Damian, and here he was again.  Andre was on a mission to prove to Wyrd how badly they’d messed up printing Damian in his current state, and I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to stop him… the sooner they fix Witness, the better.

The shared scheme pool for this round was In Your Face, Hidden Martyrs, Sabotage, Breakthrough, and Spread them Out.  Table 1 was Covert Operation on Corner deployment, while Table 2 was Cursed Objects on Standard deployment.  I kinda wanted to play Andre, because I think if anyone has a shot into Damian it’s Tiri, but Doug had previously told me that he really wanted the Cursed Objects table.  Andre picked that table, which meant I was playing my old buddy Landon.

A moment of context here: Landon and I are good friends.  He’s a frequent Danger Planet guest, we play other games together, he offered to read my novel (what a guy!), etc.  Also, between CaptainCon 2022 and the start of CaptainCon 2023, I had lost exactly 4 games of Malifaux in person, three of which were to Landon.  (I lose more on Vassal since I play more there).  So it’s fair to say I had something to prove.

I declared Tiri, to nobody’s great surprise; he declared Youko, to same.  Youko2 is possibly the most powerful non-Madness Master in the game right now, and I know Landon loves her.  This time, though, he did something else that astonished me – he declared McCabe as a second master.

Crap.  McCabe2 is the ultimate super-solo; he draws a million cards with Know the Warrior, he’s got incredibly high defensive stats if you’re close to him, and he has a nasty melee attack that ignores all my defensive tech.  This was going to be rough.

I played him on a strange-looking board with a cemetery along one side, fenced off by a fence with a couple of gates.  Landon got to pick deployment zones and forced me into the corner of the cemetery, which really screwed with my unpack; instead of being able to charge up the board I had to kind of serpentine through the gate to access most of the table.

Landon paired Youko and her daughter Chiyo with McCabe, his dog Luna, a Kunoichi, a Huckster, Fuhatsu and a Terracotta Warrior, as well as six Soulstones.

I was running Tiri, Oro Boro, the Iron Matron, Kett, the First Light, Parson, an Ancient Construct, Jin Baccara and four Soulstones.  I decided to take Sabotage on a statue on his side of the board, and Hidden Martyrs on Oro Boro and Jin Baccara.  I figured he’d kill the annoying little totem at some point, and if he looked like he was avoiding doing that I’d pop out Jin and dangle him invitingly.

The game started a bit messily, as my unpack made it hard to reach the markers.  He was sending Chiyo down one flank – pretty much guaranteeing a point on the far Covert Ops marker at the cost of having Chiyo not do much else, which is honestly fine, since she’s free anyways.  I realized quickly that this was going to be difficult; Tiri’s preferred playstyle is a devastating bottom-of-turn-1 alpha strike, but with Youko’s pass tokens I wasn’t able to do that, because he just saved McCabe’s activation (and McCabe would mess up the Matron if she tried anything).

I played cagey and stacked my hand, willing him to come to me.  And he did, turn 2, sending McCabe right up the middle to kill my Ancient Construct.  I made him have it, but he had it – two 13s from his hand killed my poor robot dead, ignoring his Armor and Shielded like it was nothing.  Still, with my hand stacked and his spent, I could kill McCabe now, right?

Wrong.  He had the other two 13s.  I wasted a whole turn ineffectively making attacks on him.  He cheated all his flips and drew a card each time with Know the Warrior.

That was pretty much the game, sadly.  I had wasted a key turn doing not much while losing a 9-stone robot, and I was forced to pop Jin out of hiding just to let myself score a point.  I spent turn 3 killing Fuhatsu and getting the hell away from McCabe’s doom bubble, but at that point, the damage was done.  Landon revealed Martyrs after I killed his Kunoichi, and his other Martyr (the Huckster) was too maneuverable to pin down and kill.  He also scored Sabotage pretty easily on me, again with that Huckster.  I never got close to killing Youko or McCabe, though I did kill Chiyo and Luna out of spite.  Sabotage proved to be a mistake for me; it’s far too easy for him to deny, and with the sheer number of Pass Tokens he can have, he could easily just run Youko over end of turn and there was nothing I could do about it.  Have I mentioned how much of a mistake I think Pass Token generation is?

Landon’s a great opponent who had a brilliant read on my schemes, and he definitely earned the win.  But it was not an auspicious start to my tournament, and I was not thrilled to keep a lifetime RLWAL% (real-life wins against Landon) at 0.00.  At least Doug joined me in defeat, being utterly crushed by Damian, and so we sojourned into the loser’s bracket together.

Round 2 – Redemption Beckons?

Round two, we faced Malifaux University, represented here by a father-and-son team.  These guys are great.  I wasn’t able to play the son, Daegen, last year, because he had broken both arms and also lost all his models, which is a hell of a couple of things to happen to someone, but he appeared before me this year hale and hearty and well-equipped with toy soldiers.

The scheme pool for this round was Public Demonstration, Secret Meetup, Vendetta, Leave Your Mark, Hidden Martyrs.  Table 1 was Guard the Stash on Wedge deployment, while Table 2 was Carve a Path on Flank deployment.

Doug and I debated and decided that he would take Table 2, so I took Table 1.  That squared me off with Daegen, who had declared Bayou.  I took Tiri and played a list somewhat similar to last time; I dropped Kett, since you don’t really need him on Wedge Deployment, and took a Hopeful Prospect instead, along with Flush With Cash on the Matron to keep her from being whisked off by Zipp.

Daegen opted for Zipp, Earl Burns, Mancha Roja the Gremlin luchador, two Wrastlers to follow their leader, Gluttony, and a second-master hire of the Brewmaster, Moonshiner.  I felt a little bad about that – he apparently didn’t realize that the Brewmaster had been nerfed until midway through Round 1.  Had I known that he didn’t know, I would have corrected him at hiring, so I felt a little bad, but also anyone who was OOK hiring un-nerfed Brewmaster, Moonshiner was being at least a bit nefarious.  So maybe I don’t have to feel too bad.

I declared Vendetta from Parson against Gluttony, because I wanted to roast him anyways to stop him dealing 4 damage at a pop to my Matron, and Leave Your Mark because my plan involved dominating the middle of the table.  Daegen deployed his Masters, Mancha and Gluttony up the center, with the Wrastlers along one flank.

The Matron slingshotted (slungshot?) forward, while my Hopeful Prospect crept up, hoping to blast a Wrastler off the table and grow up into a big strong robot.  Daegen played a big cagey, so I just sent the Matron into Earl and Zipp, killing the former and carving a big chunk out of the latter.  I could have killed Gluttony, but I wanted both Vendetta points, so I let him sit.  Turn 2 was a big inflection point – Zipp, mangled, ran off in search of safer prey, while the Matron threw some cards at Mancha and left him very low on health.  The Brewmaster spread some poison around, but I was able to use Parson to strip it and heal my Matron, then charged him forward to score Vendetta.  Jin popped out of a Wrastler, as the little fellow was getting uncomfortably close to my Prospect, and charged the other one, injuring but not killing it… but Zipp then spent his activation pile-driving poor Jin into the ground and finished him off with the last attack.  Late in Turn 2, my Prospect managed to draw a bead on a badly damaged Mancha and finish him off with a Focused shot, successfully achieving Robothood and fulfilling my goal for him.  The rest of the middle was just cleanup; Parson finished off Gluttony, while the Matron pinned Brewmaster between a Strategy Marker and Terrain to stop him Butterfly Jumping away and cut him in half.

The game ended in an 8-2 win for me, as Daegen scored one Strategy point and one point on Hidden Martyrs.  I felt like I had run up the score a bit, but I wasn’t really sure going in how hard a fastball to pitch, and that Moonshiner hire made me a little tense. Doug won his game pretty handily, so we were officially 1 and 1.

On to Round 3!

Round 3 – A Third Thing Happens

In Round 3 we faced the Capital City Crew, Geoff and Owen.  These guys are great, very keen players in one of America’s most active Malifaux metas, and I knew we were in for some good games.

The scheme pool for this round was Assassinate, Spread them Out, Load ‘Em Up, Set The Trap, Breakthrough.  Table 1 was Carve a Path on Corner deployment, while Table 2 was Cursed Objects on Wedge deployment.  Doug wanted Cursed Objects, so I took the Carve table.  Tiri is fast, especially with Kett, so I knew I could push the carts if I needed to.  This board looked a bit like an industrial zone, with pipes and shipping containers scattered around.  No real big patches of Severe terrain, or Concealment, just lots of Blocking.  This quickly became relevant, as I matched into Geoff and he declared Nephilim.

I haven’t played against Nekima in ages, but I could see the appeal – Tiri’s card quality doesn’t matter much if the Matron can’t cheat (Mature Nephilim have Combat Finesse, so you can’t cheat melee attacks against them).  To my surprise, Geoff went for Nekima’s Title form, Broodmother, and included the new Returned/Nephilim Henchman Athorak.  That was a bit of spicy tech, and I was eager to see what an old crew can do with new tricks.  I hired the same crew as in Round 1 and picked Assassinate (as Nekima’s not that hard to kill, and you really wanna do it) and Breakthrough.

Geoff dropped Nekima with Ancient Pact, her Totem the Blood Hunter, Hayreddin, Athorak, a Black Blood Shaman, a Mature Nephilim, and I believe two Terror Tots (Geoff, correct me if I’m wrong here).  The reason I can’t remember exactly is that he threw the growth engine into overdrive, almost immediately getting a second Mature.  His first Mature, one Young, and the Shaman drove a Carve marker up one flank, while Athorak and Hayreddin held down the other.

I struck hard and fast, with the Iron Matron charging at Athorak and knocking him to his Hard to Kill.  Geoff struck back hard with Hayreddin, but the combination of Armor, Shielded, Cruel Disappointment and Soulstones had him come up short – when the dust cleared, Hayreddin had dealt 3 damage to himself between Necrotic Decay and Blood for Blood, plus 2 more damage from Parson’s Reflective Glass, and dealt only 2 total damage to the Matron.  (We later learned that Reflective Glass wouldn’t have triggered, so both the Matron and Hayreddin should have had two more health, for a net of 3 to him and 0 to her – I do not think it would have made a difference, though).

We fought for initiative turn 2 but Geoff won with Ancient Pacts.  He activated Athorak to heal up past Hard to Kill, but the poor guy wasn’t able to do much to the Matron, and when she activated she finished off Hayreddin and Athorak both.  Geoff promptly sent Nekima over to finish off the Matron, along with a freshly grown Mature, and managed to do it, but spending that many AP to kill an already-activated Henchman after she’s already taken 17 stones worth of models off the board is a bitter pill.  I moved the rest of my crew up in formation around the Ancient Construct, ready to weather the alpha, and pulled off a cheeky unbury with Jin that both sent his hired Mature back to his deployment zone and kicked his Carve marker back over the Centerline to deny a point.

Having dropped the Matron, he focused on the Construct, but the thing just would not go down.  I happily cheated away much of my hand to keep it alive, dropping healing on it from both Parson and the First Light.  Nekima almost killed it, but she couldn’t finish the job, and the Construct killed her in return – I thought about letting her live to score both halves of Assassinate, but that was way too risky with how much healing she can do, so I cheated in my Red Joker to put her in the dirt.  With her gone, there weren’t any new Tots coming, and Tiri started using Earthquake to whittle away at the ones he already had.  I left the Matures alone, knowing I wouldn’t be able to do much to them, and just focused on killing everything else and kicking cans.  The game ended remarkably low-scoring – Jin was able to dash into Geoff’s deployment zone for a cheeky Breakthrough point, and I got one on Assassinate and two for the Strategy, while he was stuck at one Strategy point only.  With Nekima dead, he wasn’t able to drop enough Corpse Markers on my side of the board for Load ’em Up, and he just never had enough spare AP to score Spread Them Out.

This was a grindier game than most I’ve played with Tiri, but in the end card quality won the day; I was able to punch through his defenses by just cheating high, and Bygone’s damage output is pretty impressive.

Wrapping Up

Sadly, Doug had lost to Geoff’s partner Owen, so we ended up in sixth place overall.  I felt ok about how Tiri performed, though I would kicking myself all weekend over that loss to Landon.  I decided to hang up my Bygone spurs after this.  The crew is strong, really really strong, but in a way that feels very boring.  You draw a ton of cards and then you make a ton of hyper-efficient attack actions.  There’s not that much flex to the lists and the games tend to play out similarly.  I’ll revisit Tiri once she’s inevitably nerfed, but for now, I decided to audible into Bayou.

Musical Intermission

As is traditional at these sorts of events, we wrapped up Friday with some karaoke.  With windchill it was approximately 10 degrees Kelvin, but the sports bar was warm, at least.  I sang Hell by the Squirrel Nut Zippers and boogied down.

I Like Big Booty (and Plunder)

The main event of the weekend, so to speak, was Booty and Plunder, a five-round GG3 tournament.  This year improved on last year with the addition of an Iron Scorpius – a traditional challenge at Malifaux tournaments.  The Scorpius goes to the highest-ranked player who played a different Master every round.  This doesn’t affect hired masters – if you hire a second master, you can double up.  If you’re, you know, the sort of person who does that sort of thing.

I had been toying with an Explorer’s Society Scorpius, but I was growing disenchanted with Tiri and so decided to try Bayou.  It was a calculated risk, since Andre was still out there and I think Tiri is a much stronger matchup into Damian than anything Bayou can do, but I was willing to give it the old college try.

Round 1: Big Boom

My first round opponent was Clay Perce, a Bayou player who favors Mah Tucket.  I considered Zipp, but as I was Scorpiusing this time, I decided to save him for a later round.  So I reached into my bag and pulled out… Wong.

I have barely touched Wong at all in Third Edition.  I played a lot of him in Second, but he played totally differently then.  I mean, he was still all about explosions, but you know, in a different way.

The Strategy for this mission was Guard the Stash on Standard deployment.  The Schemes were Assassinate, Set The Trap, Spread Them Out, Hidden Martyrs, and Load ‘Em Up. 

I have to make Clay’s list from memory, since the game has completely vanished from my app.  I think he ran Mah1 with Twelve Cups of Coffee on her, The Little Lass, Trixiebelle, Big Brain Brin, two Bushwhackers, Judd and Honey, a Test Subject, and a Soulstone Miner.

Into that I took Wong, Olivia Bernard, Alphonse, Sammy LaCroix, Bo Peep, two Swine-Cursed, and a Bokor.  No upgrades, which was maybe wrong, but I am not super familiar with this crew.  I took Assassinate, because Mah is not hard to kill and always mixes things up, and Spread Them Out with a plan to score it using Wong’s Launch Into Space.

Clay dropped quite a few Pit Traps in annoying spots, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  This was the same table I’d played into Daegen’s Zipp on, which meant it had a nice open middle… perfect for Shockwaves.  I unpacked slowly; my opening hand was dreck, and throughout the entire game I forgot about Sammy’s Petty Illusions ability and never drew a card off it (in my defense, I never play this crew!).  Worse, Wong Black Jokered his bonus action The Glow on turn 1, both denying me a ton of Glowy and aoe healing and also keeping me from drawing.  It was real bad, folks.

As I was figuring out what to do about this, Judd and Honey unleashed on me and did a ton of annoying chip damage, incidentally Staggering Alphonse as well.  At least my Bokor had a good activation and healed up my whole crew, leaving just a little scattering of damage left even after all the self-blasting I had done.  I used Alphonse to Toss a Fast Swine-Cursed up a flank with Sammy to deal with the Bushwhackers, and also Tossed Wong right up the middle.  This is about where things started to go wrong for my opponent: he activated Trixiebelle, ready to use her reverse-Lure to push Wong into some Pit Traps, but enemies can’t declare triggers against Wong.  Ever!  I cannot be accused of gotcha-ing Clay, either, because we had just talked about this.  Trixie didn’t do much, and Wong was in prime position to start dropping shockwaves.  He pinged Trixie for a couple points, but otherwise just started stacking Glowy on both of our crews.  The only other real action was the Swine-Cursed getting his mitts on a Bushwhacker and pounding her into the dirt like a fence post.  Those guys are scary.

Turn 2 was where the rubber hit the road.  Mah dove in on Alphonse, but the combination of Infused Body and Soulstone use meant that she didn’t do too much.  He dug some pit traps, but Alphonse was able to remove them all with Demolitionist.  Mah did manage to shout Wong into a Pit Trap, damaging and Injuring him, but I was in no hurry to activate him – I had Soulstones, I had healing, and I could move other models over to remove the trap.  Sammy managed to bury the other Bushwhacker with Glimpse the Void while the two Swine-cursed menaced Mah Tucket and Big Brain Brin, but they didn’t do much until Wong activated.

Finally, the pit trap was clear (courtesy of Bo Peep) and Clay’s models were nicely bunched.  So then I started blasting.

Wong used The Glow to spread out lots of Glowy to friend and foe alike, cashed in a little for cards, and then just started Fzzzap!-ing.  Three actions and six Shockwave markers later, I had stacked 9 Glowy on my own crew, brought Mah down to just three health remaining, killed Trixie, killed the Test Subject, and mained Brin.  The double-Shockwave, and the fact that one of them can emanate from a friendly model and become TN fifteen, means that no matter how good your opponent’s hand is they’re gonna start failing duels.  And the longer you pass duels before you start failing, the more the eventual failure hurts.  Clay scored Guard with his Soulstone Miner, but I was pretty easily able to score Guard and Assassinate and he wasn’t left with much.

Tables and nerds, awaiting each other. Credit: Nathan Hoyle.

Ill Omens let him win initiative Turn 3, and Mah went right after Wong… but just because you can’t declare triggers against him doesn’t mean he can’t declare them against you.  She got a respectable three-damage hit in, which he stoned down to 1, and then he declared Quick Getaway and made his escape.  Clay looked at the board – Wong free and clear, Alphonse poised to turn Mah into a smear on the ground, and the rest of my crew Fast and loaded with Glowy – and decided to pack it in.  He’d taken Set the Trap, which he just didn’t have models left to score, and Assassinate, which just wasn’t going to happen with how much healing I had.

Clay’s a great opponent, and we talked turkey after the battle.  Wong is a rare sight and a lot of people aren’t really ready for what his crew can do.  He’s not the strongest – a big part of the problem is that he’s particularly bad into card-draw-heavy crews, who happen to be very strong right now, since they can afford to just cheat every relevant Fzzzap! flip forever – but if you don’t have the tools to deal with him, he can and will ruin your day.  Very few masters can deal quite as much damage in a single activation as Wong can, and his crew of fairly ordinary-looking models are all a lot scarier when they’re Fast and indestructible due to Infused Body.

I felt good about notching a solid win with a dark horse master – my bench was still deep.  And it would be tested right away.

Round 2: Whacking Off

My second round was into Geoff again, who had stuck with Purple.  I assured him I wasn’t running Tiri and we got ready for a great game with a minimum of salt.

The Strategy here was Covert Operation on Corner deployment.  The Schemes were Catch and Release, Set The Trap, In Your Face, Secret Meetup, and Public Demonstration.  Our table was an odd one – a sort of ruined village, with a few huts scattered around and two big train tracks with climable train cars.  Corner Covert is an odd mission, since you have to be hypermobile to move between the markers, but it’s Mah Tucket’s bread and butter.  Soulstone Miners are brutally good in this strategy, especially with Pass Tokens to let them pop up in relative safety.  I hadn’t wanted to declare Mah this early, since she’s very strong and I wanted to save her for a clutch late game (maybe even against Landon), but Geoff is good enough that if I tried to stunt on him with a lower-tier master he’d just beat me, so Mah it was.

Geoff picked Zoraida1 and went for a compact, elite crew: Zoraida with Ancient Pact, Vasilisa, Hinamatsu, the Kurgan, a Mature Nephilim, and a Silurid.  Those types of crews can work on Covert, since you really only need to control one marker at a time, but it’s a gamble – especially since Zoraida doesn’t have a Totem that can claim markers and doesn’t really want to be that far forward herself.

I went in the opposite direction: all Whackers, all the time.  I fielded three Bushwhackers, two Soulstone Miners, Brin, Trixiebelle, and Mah Tucket with Twelve Cups of Coffee, along with the Little Lass.

Geoff deployed so as to threaten the right-hand corner, so I mostly refused that flank.  One of my Bushwhackers deployed atop one of the trains to get a good view of the battlefield, the other hung out near the left-hand corner, and the third stayed almost in my deployment zone, but with a good field of fire on the approach land he’d have to take.  The table didn’t have that many long sight lines between the trains and the buildings, but I was hoping that it had enough.

I took Secret Meetup on Hinamatsu, Brin, and a building in the center of the board, which I expected him to try to contest since it was near two Strategy Markers; I also took In Your Face, since he had four juicy targets and Mah herself is a good at killin’.

He unpacked much they way I expected: using a Burn Out obey on the Mature and an Ensorcel obey on Hinmatsu to rocket them towards opposite corners, the Mature right and the puppet left.  Vasilisa made herself a Red Cap from the scrap Zoraida’s totem left behind, then moseyed up towards the middle, while the Silurid went for Hinamatsu.  I unpacked straight out of my deployment zone and went hard into pit traps, digging four new ones to litter the board with garbage for Geoff to deal with.  I also used Big Brain Brin’s Pulling the Strings to make a Soulstone Miner bury itself, then unburied it on its own activation and charged Hinamatsu.  The goal was just to put a bit of damage on her, but more importantly I had a Soulstone Miner near one of the Covert markers and eligible to score turn 2.

Of course, Turn 2 would matter a lot, and though Geoff had Ancient Pact, I had double Ill Omens.  I cheated to win, knowing Zoraida was just going to wheel my hand away, and immediately popped the other miner out.  The first attack hit with a high mask and threw Hinamatsu into a Pit Trap; I then charged her and hit with a focused Armor Piercing swing.  Geoff stoned to prevent damage, but Hinamatsu was pretty banged up now.  He activated her before she died and walked out of the pit trap, taking a second damage and injured, and tried to dice my Bushwhacker.  His first hit cut for a solid 4, but he’d cheated to make the hit happen, so the Bushwhacker scampered away and Hinamatsu’s Onslaught trigger fizzled.  He discarded a card to flurry and whacked my Miner, but those things have armor and he didn’t hit the Armor Piercing trigger, so the offensive wasn’t all that scary.  The second Miner revved up, threw Hinamatsu back into a pit trap, and buzzsawed her into wooden fragments… first blood to me.

Meanwhile, Clay’s Mah faces off against Chris O’Brien’s Nekima. A lot of Nekima this weekend! Credit: Clay Perce

Second blood followed soon after; the damaged Bushwhacker scooched forward into just within 6″ of his Silurid and popped an opportunistic shot at it, which resulted in a Red Joker on the -twist damage flip and a dead swamp frog.

That was really bad for Geoff, since now he had nothing near my crew for Zoraida to act through using Eyes in the Night.  He was able to use Obey to force one of my Miners to drop a Scheme Marker for Set the Trap, but his Mature was way out of position and forced to camp there or give up a Strategy point.  He sent the Kurgan forward to arc spells through, but that just let me score In Your Face by bashing its brains out with Mah Tucket (to be fair, luring it into a Pit Trap helped).  His Mature eventually swept in towards my crew, but I was able to just run away from it – it had been so far in the corner that even a full turn of movement couldn’t put it anywhere useful.  Vasilisa was able to summon a Stitched Together that effectively tarpitted my models in the center for a while, but the Soulstone Miners were able to cross the board effortlessly; one popped up in the far corner on Turn 4 to score it on Turn 5, while the other popped up next to the Mature to lock it in combat and finish off the Red Cap.

Eventually Mah Tucket bashed Zoraida’s brains in, but it didn’t really matter; I couldn’t get Brin into Geoff’s deployment zone for the second In Your Face point and I’d missed out on the first Secret Meetup point after the miners chopped Hinamatsu into woodchips, but I managed to score all four Strategy points while holding Geoff to two.  I’d also denied both halves of his Secret Meetup by accident, the first by popping his Silurid, the second by running the Little Lass up to Forage away his scheme marker.  The end result was 6-3 – and combined with my 8-1 Round 1 score, that had me flying high in the rankings.

Do you know who else was flying high?  That’s right.  Icarus.

Round 3: I Hate This Game

Dread it. Run from it. Damian arrives all the same. And now he’s here.

Round three I drew into Andre, one of the better players in the US, running Damian2.  The strategy was Cursed Objects on Wedge deployment, and the Scheme pool was In Your Face, Breakthrough, Hidden Martyrs, Sabotage, and Vendetta.  I agonized over how to handle this and eventually came up with a plan:

  1. The Clampetts have an aura that nullifies Damian’s aura, allowing me to spend Soulstones and draw cards.
  2. I could hire Ophelia as a second master and just make use of her four attacks per turn and good starts to chunk damage into Damian.
  3. God, I hope this works.

I ended up taking The Clampetts, Bally-Hoo Bucket, Bruce, Aunty Mel, Uncle Bogg, a Hermit, and Ophelia 1 with 12 Cups of Coffee.  Andre went with Damian, Unbound, the Puzzle Box, Miya Murakami, Bellaventine Thorpe, Lohith, and Marco Bonatti.  He spread his support staff out in the back while Damian and Lohith took point; I juggled auras to make sure I could 1) take the hit on everything relevant so it couldn’t be dragged out of formation and murdered by Chains of the Tyrant and 2) keep everyone who cares about Soulstones in the boat’s Eye of the Hurricane aura.

At least my turn 1 hand was great- several severes, including a couple of 13s, and the Red Joker.  I pushed forward cautiously, since on Wedge deployment I didn’t need to scream out of the starting gate.  Once Andre moved Damian up, Ophelia took a couple of focused potshots at him – I was able to Severe him twice, but as he had double-stacked Shielded from the box and spent Soulstones each time, he only took 4 damage.  Finally, it was time to make the plan happen.

We played every piece of terrain here with “fire” on it as “on fire.” So any move through it, or action taken on it, would cause the model so acting to gain Burning +1. At point a Kaeris2 player and a Reva2 player faced each other on this table. It was chaos. Credit: Jim Dyson

I started off by luring Damian forward using the Bucket’s Drawn to the Seas.  That done, I tagged him for 3 damage with Oh No, Ogopogo! and charged him, planning to flip him around into Uncle Bogg’s Natural Musk aura using the Clampetts’ melee attack.  That would mean that even with the Focus he’d stacked on himself with the Box, he wouldn’t be able to be at a straight flip for damage.  I had the 13 to force through the hit, too.  All I had to do then was beat him up a bit with Aunty Mel and then fight for initiative next round to finish the job.

I Black Jokered the attack flip on the melee attack.  Whoops.

Damian activated, used Chains to pull my Hermits up (I had to Take the Hit – because Chains can pull through units, he could have yanked the boat past himself and pulled everyone else out of the aura), and then attacked them three times, getting built in blasts on each attack due to his config.  I spent all seven soulstones and thus was left with Ophelia and the boat at half health, Bogg at about half health, and Mel and the Hermits dead.  Also Damian healed up to 12 health remaining.

I obviously conceded.  There was no point to playing it out.

This is really stupid, guys.  Damian isn’t remotely reasonable or balanced – he’s so much better than the next-best thing in the game that it’s like playing with a hand behind your back.  Yeah, I got Black Jokered, but Damian had drawn 10 cards so far that turn (8 activations and 2 built-in Surges on Miya).  He had all the 13s he needed.  I was lucky to have a 13 in hand – if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t matter if I Black Jokered or not.

It’s not clever or fun anymore, it’s just demoralizing to lose into this.  At least Games Workshop nerfed Votann quickly – Damian’s been in the wild for six months.  We do not need any more data to know that he’s completely broken.  Fix him now.

Round 4: Never Mind, This Game Rules

Losing that way felt pretty crappy, and it wasn’t a great way to end the day.  I figured I wouldn’t beat Damian, which is one reason I went for the Scorpius, but Landon was going for Scorpius too.  I just had to hope that he’d lose too and then I’d have a better 4-1 record.

Fortunately, my fourth round opponent was Jim Dyson, aka Diceman87, one of the most positive players in the entire community and always a joy to play.  I’ve played Jim twice before: once as part of a Malifaux content creator snake draft, and once at NoVa.  I’m 2-0 so far, but the first game had us both playing masters outside of our comfort zone and the second game I was playing Nexus2 with second-master McCabe, i.e. something that eventually got nerfed.  This was the first time we played each other with Bayou, which meant we were both on our home turf.  Jim’s a really, really good player, which tends to catch off-guard people who buy into his modest and genial facade; he took a game off Landon in the MCCI, which I couldn’t do.

The strategy was Carve a Path on Flank deployment, with Leave Your Mark, Breakthrough, Assassinate, Secret Meetup, and Catch and Release in the Scheme pool.  I deliberated for a while on this, because I knew I wanted to save Zipp for Round 5, and eventually picked Ulix.  I’ve always been a big fan of his Title, Porkbelly Protector, and I think it was a reasonably good fit for this pool – pigs are fast enough to score Breakthrough and the crew can bully the center hard for Leave Your Mark.  We were playing on the weird cemetery table where Landon had beaten me, so I was keen on revisiting the site of my defeat in order to redeem myself.

Jim declared Mah Tucket, and hired two Bushwhackers, two Rooster Riders, two Soulstone Miners, Big Brain Brin and 12 Cups of Coffee on Mah.  I went with Ulix, Porkbelly Protector, his dog Penelope, a Slop Hauler, a Hog Whisperer, Old Major, Merris LaCroix, Bo Peep and Gracie.  Seeing he was on Mah, I took Assassinate for the reasons stated above, and Breakthrough because I was thinking I could just kill my way through his crew and out the other side.

you can see my pigs arrayed for porcine battle. Credit: Jim Dyson

Jim pulled one of my own tricks on me, choosing to activate first after winning initiative and taking a Focused shot with a Bushwhacker to one-shot Penelope.  I could have avoided this if I had remembered that Penelope also has From the Shadows and could have deployed out of line of sight, but… I didn’t.  He also took a crack at Merris, but she’s harder to one-shot, and she was able to both push a wagon and drop a flaming bottle on Major and Gracie to get the pig chain going.

I had a dire hand round 1, but I was able to use Tools for the Job to recycle a ram and thus summon two Piglets.  Ulix turned one of them into a War Pig and we were off to the races.  Bo is great for this crew, providing both an enhanced unpack and incidental healing (useful when you’re Stampeding and going Reckless).  Jim moved his Rooster Riders up and plopped some damage onto my pigs, but the Slop Hauler did his job and healed them up nicely.

Turn 2 the pork hit the chicken hard.  My pigs hit his line, but he was putting immense pressure on me.  A Bushwhacker drew a bead on Merris and Jim cheated the Red Joker in to guarantee a hit… only to flip the Black Joker on his straight damage flip.  In my defense, I did warn him that would happen when he cheated the Red.  Merris used her reprieve to grab a Rooster Rider and Chaos Dunk it into one of his own pit traps.  It didn’t all go my way – I had saved Gracie’s activation, but I saved it a little too long and she died before getting to heal up.  Still, with both Rooster Riders down in trade for only Gracie, I felt ok.  One Bushwhacker was pretty close to the action, engaged by Merris to keep her from shenanigans, while the other was quite far away.  The real trouble was the Strategy: I didn’t have that many non-summoned models to push the Carve markers, and I was in danger of missing a point.

Turn 3, that danger manifested – I tried to get one into Jim’s deployment zone to count for 2 points, but I forgot which zone was his and put it in the wrong space.  Mah herself dove my Master and support staff, and managed to put down the Whisperer.  Still, that put her in a rough spot.  Ulix tore into her, and though Jim spent stones as fast as his Miners could dig them up, I managed to knock her down into Assassinate range.  Ulix also healed up from Tear Off a Bite; he looks a lot more vulnerable than he is given his Df 4.

As the game ground on, the carnage continued.  The miners were both healthy, but they were far from the action, and Jim used them and the far Bushwhacker to shepherd his Strategy Markers home and score Breakthrough.  Mah made a break for it after I declared Assassinate, but I was able to chase her down with Ulix and shoot her to death, after which he just used Bacon Beeline to push my pigs where they needed to go for strategies and schemes.  The War Pig easily scored both halves of Breakthrough (guys, Reckless is really good!) and so even though I only managed three Strategy points, I capped both Schemes.  Jim got all four points on the Strategy, but his second Scheme had been Assassinate as well, and that just wasn’t happening; whatever damage he put on Ulix was almost instantly healed.

The final score was 7-6 to me, our closest and most hard-fought game, and as I told Jim afterwards it was always a pleasure to play him.  This was my favorite game of the whole weekend and one I’ll remember for a long time.  Also, Landon had borrowed some models from me to take on Damian; about fifteen minutes into the round, he handed them back with a forlorn look on his face.  I deadpanned “did it work?” but the results were clear: Andre’s reign of terror continued unabated.  That meant that Landon and I, as 3-1 Scorpius players with good records, were likely to play each other in the fifth round.  The winner would go home with the coveted Scorpius.  The loser… wouldn’t, I guess?

Round 5: The Prophecy Averted

This happens every time.  As I’ve mentioned, I am now 0-4 against Landon in in-person games.  We met at the end of tournaments all the time and he crushes me all the time.  It happened at the 2022 MCCI, it happened at the Faux Tour Invitational, it happened at the NoVa Open, and it happened again at the MCCI this year.  Could I possibly do it?  Could I break the streak?  The pool was incredibly good for Zipp: Guard The Stash on Corner deployment, with Spread Them Out, Hidden Martyrs, Load ‘Em Up, Sabotage, and Breakthrough in the pool.  I had been training for this.  I had saved my probably best Master for this.  I was…

I was playing Jeff Mitchell this round.  What?!

Yes, the way the pairings shook out, I was going to not play Landon in a tournament we were both in, for the first time ever.  Jeff runs Defective Dice, a great channel (and a friend of Danger Planet) so it was going to be a great game, but it felt a little odd to not be playing Landon.  We were both still live for the Scorpius, so if we both won our games, it would go to whomever had better tiebreakers.  The first breaker in Malifaux is overall differential (points scored minus points given up) and I went into this game at +2 over him, so if I could score a reasonable victory than Landon would have to utterly blow out Geoff Mansker to win… which I wasn’t sure he could do, since Geoff is quite good.  But I couldn’t think about that.  I had to focus on my own game.

Clay Perce’s Zipp faces off against Geoff Mansker’s Nekima2. Credit: Clay Perce.

This table was the same one I had played Daegen and Clay on, so I was quite familiar with it.  I took Captain Zipp, Earl Burns, two Iron Skeeters, Aunty Mel, the First Mate, Beau Fishbocker, and in a last minute audible, a Flying Piglet.  I’ve honestly been very impressed with these guys as three-stone significant models that can draw you a card.  Jeff declared Mei Feng and to nobody’s great surprise went with her title, Mei Feng, Foreman.  He took the Forgeling, a Metal Golem, Neil Henry (who became Aunty Mel’s Adversary) , Sparks, the Rock Hopper, a Survivor and the Mechanized Porkchop.

“That’s my faction!” I insisted, but he would not be dissuaded.  Fine.  Time for some Bayou-on-Bayou violence.  I took Breakthrough, since it’s trivial to score for Skeeters, and Load ’em Up on Pianos.  He obviously took Load ’em Up on scrap markers, since that’s just what you do with Mei Feng2, but beyond that I wasn’t sure what he was on.

I unpacked fast, as this crew does, cycling my hand as I did.  One Skeeter went far to the right to claim a marker, while the rest of the crew went right up the middle.  Jeff refused the flank hard, pushing almost everything he had into the left corner via long Ride the Rails moves.  I was able to swoop forward with Zipp and abduct his Survivor, pulling him back to my lines with a You’re Comin’ With Me trigger and setting him up for the First Mate to knock down.  Survivors are tough little bastards, so the First Mate was only able to knock him to his Hard to Kill, but the little dude was at least Slow.  I also felt a little happy that I hadn’t killed him, since that would drop a Scrap Marker in the middle of my crew for Jeff’s Fast, Focused Metal Golem to jump to.

Turn 2, he went first with the Survivor, hoping to not give up an activation.  Slow and engaged as it was, it couldn’t do much, and the First Mate obligingly finished it off while the rest of my crew pushed forward towards Jeff’s abandoned deployment zone.  He left Neil Henry and the Forgeling back there, and I wasn’t going to pass up two kills – Mel easily murdered Neil (it’s really not hard for her to kill her Adversary, especially if she already has Focus stacked on her), and Zipp himself aced the Forgeling and started spreading Pianos around for Load ’em Up.  I also scooted a Skeeter into his deployment to score Breakthrough.  He didn’t commit hard with his beaters, which surprised me to say the least; instead he skirted the edge of the map, dropping Load ’em Up Scrap everywhere he could.  I knew there was no way I was ever denying the first point on that and didn’t bother trying; instead I positioned Beau near my deployment to try to make it annoying for him to split his forces between two points, since Beau can both move enemies around with Lead the Way and can stand near a point himself to deny scoring.  Earl and the Piglet took up station around the middle-right point, which he didn’t seem remotely interested in contesting, while one Skeeter just hung around the far right point stacking Focus and cycling cards with Fly With Me.  He scored Martyrs on the Survivor, with his other Martyr being the Mechanized Porkchop; I could theoretically kill it if I could abduct it with Zipp and serve it up to the First Mate or Aunty Mel, but it was going to be a heavy lift if he wanted to keep the pig safe.

Turn 3 was where the rubber was going to hit the road – I needed to deny him strategy points since I definitely wasn’t going to deny Load ‘Em Up.  I waited until he had mostly abandoned the left corner objective, leaving just the Rock Hopper behind to score, and focused on my deployment zone objective.  Zipp activated late, dropped some Pianos to secure Load ’em Up, and then charged the Rock Hopper.  A combination of high Masks I’d been holding and stones pushed the Hopper far from the marker and left Jeff controlling just one, preventing him from scoring.

Once he realized what I was doing, he tried hard to secure multiple markers for Turn 4, but I just had too much displacement.  I wasn’t really interested in killing anything anymore, just moving his stuff around.  He finally made a heavy play for the right-corner objective with the pig, Mei Feng, and the Metal Golem, but they delayed a turn trying to deal with Beau (before giving up in disgust at his high defense, 2″ engage and self-healing).  Meanwhile, I spread out to claim the maximum number of objectives, with Zipp on denial duty; he just Up We Go’d over and over to drag people off objectives.  Turn 5, Sparks made a break for it, but Aunty Mel was able to draw a bead on him and blast him off the board with a couple of straight-flips to damage.  Meanwhile, Mei Feng set up three Scrap Markers for the endgame point of Load ‘Em Up, but I had a high mask in hand and was able to push her away from them with Bowl Over on my Skeeter.  I couldn’t do everything, though, and the Mechanized Porkchop was able to engage Beau for the last Martyrs point.

In the end, it came down to Zipp’s last activation.  He needed three pianos near himself for Load ’em Up, he needed to be near a strategy marker for my fourth strategy point, and he needed to Up We Go the Rock Hopper away from another point in order to deny Jeff his second Strategy point.  I had just enough AP to do all three things, but it was going to be close.  I couldn’t quite pull it off – my high card in hand was a 12, and the Hopper flipped a 13 to resist Up We Go.  I had to contented myself by dropping some pianos around Zipp for Load ’em Up and denying Jeff on the Strategy.  The end result was 7-4 for me – I missed a point on the Strategy but was able to deny Jeff’s endgame Load ’em Up point and keep his Strategy scoring locked at 1.

The Denoument

Landon won his game 7-2, giving him a 5-point margin to my 3.  But because I had a 2-point lead on him going in, we were tied, with both of us at a net +3 margin of victory across five rounds.  We therefore went to the second tiebreaker: total points scored.  Across 5 games, Landon had scored 25 points; I had scored 28.

The spoils of victory: Glassware! Credit: Me.

That gave me second overall and, more importantly, the coveted Iron Scorpius. What a rush!  This was the first time I’d ever placed above Landon in an event, and it did not escape my notice that I had to dodge playing him to do so.  Oh well!  Next time, Landon, I will actually beat you in a game of Malifaux, face to face.


Yet more glassware, and yet more victory. This time with bonus oversized foam d6. Credit: Me.

Captaincon was a blast!  It was great to see some faces again that I hadn’t seen in ages.  We had a great turnout and the Scorpius was a really wonderful addition – last year I played 5 games of Zipp in 8 total games, this year I played six different Masters.

I doubt I’ll be at Captaincon next year, because I’ll have a 10 month old baby to deal with, but… maybe!

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