Well, howdy, y’all! Welcome back to our Big Hat hootenanny – the whole clan’s come by to visit, sportin’ some fresh new duds. Last time we covered big ol’ Som’er Teeth Jones and his pals. Today we’re going to be looking at some of the more distant cousins to the Jones clan, along with Som’er’s title form, Loot Monger.
Som’er Teeth Jones, Loot Monger
Som’er’s title was always a neat concept let down by execution. He traded his summons for some decent attacks and solid crew buffs, paired with an interesting “scheme marker removal” subtheme that let him both generate scheme markers and cash them in for Bayou Gremlins. The core problem was that, outside of Som’er himself, the Big Hat keyword wasn’t particularly effective at removing Scheme Markers aside from walking up to them and taking the Interact action, and the payoff for his summon mechanic was fairly middling minus a few twists here and there.
Like all Big Hat models, he’s traded Bayou Bash for Bayou Two Card. He’s also gotten a significant stat bump, going from 5/5 Df/Wp to 6/6. That by itself is solid, as 6/6 defensive stats are where you really want a Master to be, especially one who wants to get into the mix himself.
He’s still got Ransack, which lets his models that remove Scheme Markers summon Bayou Gremlins, although this time you can get Skeeters too. And he’s still got Spot the Goods, although it’s moved to Once Per Activation – a necessity, since now it triggers off of any cheat, rather than just an 8 or higher. Once Som’er is in the mix this is going to be triggering several times per turn, which means he’ll be absolutely flooding the board in Scheme Markers. And that’s a lot stronger in Gaining Grounds 4 than it would have been in GG3 (some foreshadowing there).
He’s lost “Work Together Would Ya!” but that’s fine. He has something better to do with his summons now.
Som’er’s Sack O’ Loot has gone up +1 in Stat (again, like pretty much every Big Hat attack) and its passive bonus is much better. To get the +1 damage, you no longer need to remove a scheme marker within 2″ of the target; there just needs to be one within 3″. Coupled with the new and improved Spot the Goods, this means he’s going to be a 3/4/5 pretty much whenever it counts. He’s even had his Draw out Secrets moved to his melee attack from his ranged attack, so you can generate a marker in a pinch.
Speaking of, his ranged attack is a bit weaker, losing both Draw Out Secrets and Aim For the Head, as well as its built-in crow. Aim for the Head was very strong, but this Som’er wants to be in melee a lot more than he used to, so I don’t think you’ll necessarily miss it too much.
Gremlin Raid is as it was, though I think with Jebediah and the improved Lenny it’ll be a lot stronger. His bonus, however, is very different, and very interesting. Rather than remove markers, it now “upgrades” Bayou Gremlins into various specialist minions (with the same upgrade the Som’er1 hands out to his summons). This is a very cool ability, one that really rewards you for summoning Bayou Gremlins into useful places, and all it takes is a suitless 7, so you should be able to get it off basically every turn. This also means that you should almost always hire a Bayou Gremlin or two, so you can spend turns 1 and 2 upgrading them into beefier minions that aren’t summoned.
I’ve always liked Banjonistas, though sometimes it was hard to remember why. They’ve had a bit of a glowup, and I think they’re very interesting tech choices now. Gone are Foggy Bayou Hoedown (which was honestly 90% of the reason you took them, if you ever did) and Rebel Yell (which was most of the other 10%). They’ve gained Hard to Kill, which is basically essential if you want a 5/5/5 minion with no defensive tech to see play, and they’ve traded Rebel Yell for Biting Insult. Biting Insult is a very powerful attack, since pass token generation is so strong, but a 6″ range stat 5 enemy only attack on a model this fragile is a bit of a gamble. The triggers are pretty reasonable, at least. Their Banjo Bash has changed, too, although that’s barely relevant because you never want to be doing this; at least now if you hit you can scoot out of melee.
The big change is The Right Tune, a unique ability that lets you grant friendly models the ability to ignore three of the most common pieces of defensive tech in the game. There are some steep costs here – an 8 is a real card, and it’s short-ranged, Once per Turn, and turns off your triggers when you choose to use it (which is thankfully optional). But you can do it multiple times with multiple Banjonistas, which is very strong. Tag Jebediah or Georgy and Olaf with this ability twice to ignore Armor and Hard to Wound, and they’ll absolutely shred an enemy Peacekeeper.
I think I might still want to hire one of these, but I’d be much more excited to just summon them – you can get two of them for a 13 with Som’er.
Good Ol’ Boy
Big Hat’s “combat minion” has always suffered from the limitations imposed by Bayou Bash, but with the change to Bayou Two Card they’ve come into their own. They’ve lost Bring It! (sort of – their bonus action turns it back on for the turn, but that means they have to activate). They’ve also upgraded their Demise to Cannon Fodder, which as noted is very strong, though it does mean that Som’er 2 can’t upgrade into them – so beware of that.
The most interesting thing is that they’ve swapped from ranged models to melee ones. Their Bottle has gone up +2 in Stat and gained a point of damage on the Severe, though it has lost its built in +twist. Its triggers are totally different, too. Drunken Strength is gone, which is fine – they also lost Trusty Flask so it would be hard for them to make use of it. And Onslaught has turned into Frantic Attack, which is a sidegrade at worst since you’re no longer forced to attack the same target. They’ve picked up Blood Loss and Wild Flail, both of which are great triggers; Wild Flail in particular looks bad, but if your opponent cheats a high card, you can just shrug and throw in a low tome to push through a point of damage anyways. Just beware of Tomes when Bayou Two Carding! (Remember, Lenny adds a mask, so you can always pick Frantic Attack).
Their gun is the same, except that it no longer has to declare triggers and has lost Wild Shot. It’s fine. You mostly want these boys in melee anyways.
Criers have changed a lot. They’ve always been kinda weird, but with the increased focus on Scheming – and the increased ease with which you can summon Bayou Gremlins – I think they have a role. First, they’ve gone up in cost (which is bad for obvious reasons but does make their Bully ability more viable).
They now have Manipulative instead of Intimidating Authority, which is definitely a sidegrade, but they’re still not really that durable, especially at 7 stones. A single Focused shot from Angel Eyes or anyone with a Gatling Gun will end them, so you really are relying on Old Cranky’s aura to keep them safe. They’ve also lost their weird little pushing aura, and their melee attack has both not gone up in stat and lost Beautiful Clothes. Plus “Hear Ye, Hear Me!” now hands out Distracted instead of dealing damage.
The spice is with their bonus action. Their old one was basically blank text a lot of the time, but A New Declaration is really cool. You can push around a friendly model and then, if you want, achieve one of three effects by killing it. This is obviously meant to target Bayou Gremlins, since you really don’t care if they die, and the effects are all quite good: a free Scheme Marker from up to 15″ away (range + push + base width), a free Focused and Shielded on a relevant model, or a little pulse of damage. This ability is sweet and remember that with Bully you can pick your choice of trigger if you’re targeting a Bayou Gremlin. 7ss is a lot for a model this fragile, so I’d rather summon them than hire them, but they do have their uses.
I’ve always thought these guys were criminally under hired, given how powerful their healing was. They never cared too much about Bayou Bash (aside from the potential of a Stat 7 Lure) so they’re loving the keyword ability change.
In addition to the general changes, they’ve lost Food’s Up, the absolutely insane ability that let all nearby models heal 2/3/4 with no TN or resource cost (except a single health on the Hog) as a bonus action. They’ve also lost their remote-control Interact ability, which admittedly almost never triggered. In return, they’ve gained a point of health and an 8″ aura in which friendly models can treat Corpse Markers as Scheme Markers, but only for their Actions and Abilities (i.e. not for scoring). You know what creates Corpse Markers when they die? Bayou Gremlins. This creates a rather amusing loop with Som’er2.
Their melee attack has gained a point of damage on the Severe, for some reason, and now heals friendlies for a flat 2 instead of 1/2/3, bringing it in line with many similar abilities (i.e. all the wrenches you see around). Feast of Vengeance is now built in, which will matter approximately never. Their Lure traded a Distracted trigger for a Burning one, which is probably a downside, but also who cares.
They’ve lost the tactical pulse they never used, and Creep Along, which they sometimes did, and gained a very cool new bonus action that pulses healing and can remove a condition. And if you Bayou Two Card it near Lenny, you even get the condition removal built in! That’s a pretty significant upgrade – condition removal really matters.
I like these guys a bit more than the old version in Big Hat, though I don’t think you hire them outside of Big Hat at all anymore. Which is fine.
The White Rabbit Co. is a bit less of a staple in Brown than in Green, since a teleporting scheme marker is a nightmare to deal with, but they’re still great here. They’ve traded their broken (as in, not functioning the way it’s supposed to, not overpowered sense) free-suits ability for Bayou Two Card, which is fine, and they’ve lost a point of stat on Needle and Thread but gained it on Beckoning Call, which is definitely a straight upgrade; Call is just flat-out the better attack action. The “Don’t Be Late!” trigger has moved to a Ram for some reason, and they have a new trigger on a Mask that lets them eat a Scheme Marker, which is of course a free Bayou Gremlin in Som’er2. Don’t forget that! Otherwise, they’re the same. Not much needed to change here and not much did.
The Family’s All Here
So, what do I think of the new Big Hat? Well, I will admit that I’m an inveterate Som’er-hater. Not because he’s bad, although he really was, but I just don’t love the aesthetic or the playstyle. But even I have to admit that the new Big Hat crew looks very cool.
Malifaux has never really had a true “horde” playstyle, partially because of how punishing losing activation control is, and partially because of how the game’s resource system encourages hiring a small number of elite models you can feed cards and AP to. This is, I think, the first “horde” crew to really look like it has a shot. It’s early days yet, so even if Big Hat ends up strong, I don’t know if good Big Hat lists will go all-in on summoning Gremlins, but you’re certainly being pushed in that direction.
Especially in GG4, I think the crew’s ability to place, eat, and generally futz with scheme markers will be a big asset. There are a lot more ways to score by dropping a marker in the right place in the new season of Gaining Grounds, and I think Big Hat are well positioned to take advantage of that.
There are, I have to say, two things that really concern me. The first is Old Cranky. The fact that he can simply no-sell any attack, on any friendly model, without even needing line of sight to the model, for the cost of one card and one well-placed Gremlin… that’s worrying, especially since the Gremlin dying gives you the card back. And Som’er can summon shitloads of Gremlins. Five at a time! It just feels like a lot of the time Cranky will be able to park himself out of LOS and keep Som’er, Lenny, and your other important models completely safe. At a bare minimum, You Can Handle It, Sonny! should be an aura, and should probably be once per activation as well. Especially once you get into melee with opponents (and can summon your swarm of ablative Gremlins right in their face), it’s going to be a nightmare to kill anything in a Big Hat crew. All you’re doing is cycling cards for them.
The second worry is Cannon Fodder. Traditionally, one of the tradeoffs of summoning a weak model is that you give your opponent activation control. You summon Bayou Gremlins, and your opponent has to waste AP killing them – almost always a lot more AP than you spent summoning them. That’s your advantage. Your disadvantage is that they are buying activation control with that AP. Deciding what to summon, and when to kill summons, is a tactical tradeoff. But Cannon Fodder upsets that math. It forces enemies to spend lots of AP just to get back to parity with you and doesn’t reward them at all for doing so – in fact, it rewards you! There’s lots of hand pressure in the Big Hat crew, but the constant drip of draw from dead Bayou Gremlins counteracts it. I understand what they were going for with Cannon Fodder, but I think it should really be a card or a Pass Token. That way, the Big Hat player has to choose between activation control and infinite resources. Trade-offs, you, see?
That said, I am kinda excited to see what these guys do on the table. Big Hat has languished for such a long time that even I am glad to see Wyrd breathing new life into one of the game’s most classic, iconic keywords. Do Syndicate next, Wyrd!