Howdy, y’all! Last week, Wyrd graced us with an unexpected surprise: a full rework of the Big Hat keyword! Let’s take a look at what’s changed with the Bayou’s biggest, orneriest, hootenanny-throwing-est family, the Joneses!
Note: In the time since I started writing this, Wyrd also released Gaining Grounds Season 4, so I’ll have to do a hot take there, too. One at a time.
Keeping Up With the Joneses
Som’er Teeth Jones is one of the oldest Malifaux masters, and certainly the first Gremlin. Way back in first edition, when Gremlins were just weird looking Outcasts, he was there, swillin’ hooch and slappin’ iron. He is, if not the leader of the Bayou faction, at least its highest profile protagonist, and he’s proven that being dumb, drunk, and rowdy is no barrier to success on the battlefield as long as your hat is big enough.
Of course, time hasn’t been kind to poor Som’er. He started out third edition strong enough, but two successive waves of nerfs ground him down, and his summoning game became a lot weaker once GG2 put a damper on summoned models’ ability to contribute to the Strategy. Som’er’s crew has been burdened with the Bayou Bash keyword ability, a cumulative +1 to duels taken during one’s activation for each nearby Big Hat model (to a maximum of +2). The problem with this is that Big Hat models tended to be given crappy stats to compensate, which would be average-or-below with a +1 and slightly-above-average on a +2. That meant that you had to cluster up to get anything done. Worse, Big Hat models aren’t particularly durable; once you started losing models, the rest of them rapidly went downhill.
Big Hat has pretty comfortably been the game’s worst keyword for a couple of years now, and so Wyrd decided they were ready for a rework. Rather than fix individual models, which would result in competitive lists fielding only those models, they just went back to the drawing board. Everyone got changed!
This is a big keyword, so I’ll be splitting my reaction in two. And we will start with the irreplaceable, irrepressible, eternal Bayou Gremlin.
These guys have been the backbone of the Bayou since the earliest days of first edition. Cheap, crappy, and endlessly entertaining, Bayou Gremlins have had a pretty wild ride; they were everpresent in Second Edition as cheap, three-AP schemers (yup, they weren’t Insignificant then!), but in Third Edition they mostly exist as summoning fodder for Som’er, with the occasional cameo from another Bayou model’s Demise.
Their front of card has changed in two fairly significant ways, both of which are broadly generalizable for the entire rest of the keyword. First, they’ve traded Bayou Bash for the new keyword ability, Bayou Two Card. This lets them Cheat Fate once per activation with the top card of your deck – but if you do, you must declare triggers. This is way better than Bayou Bash, since a free cheat on a flip you were failing anyways is sometimes as good as drawing a card. Mandatory triggers are a bit of a theme in Bayou, and it’s true there are some you don’t want to hit, but it’s almost always going to be worth it to do this if it’s that or miss (or get hit).
Second, their Demise (Expendable) has been upgraded to Demise (Cannon Fodder). In addition to drawing you a card, Cannon Fodder prevents your opponent from gaining activation control by killing your little dorks. Activation control is super powerful in this game, and it’s one big reason people don’t bring horde lists, so a rule like this is mandatory to make a gremlin horde viable – though I have to say, it’s a bit worrying that it gives you the card and costs your opponent the token. Summoning five of these guys off of one AP with Som’er is a huge play, and traditionally, giving your opponent some activation control was the downside – now, there’s really no downside, and you can bury them in green bodies.
On the back of the card, both of the Bayou Gremlin’s attacks have gained a point of stat to compensate for the lack of Bayou Bash, though it’s still not like you’re taking them for their attack actions. They’ve also gained a trigger on their melee attack to remove Scheme Markers, which is interesting, but ultimately not going to be relevant too often – because, as I said, their attacks kinda suck.
Bayou Gremlins’ job has traditionally been to be annoying for a while and then die, and these ones are way better at that than their predecessors. A good omen for the crew as a whole.
Som’er Teeth Jones
And here he is. The big cheese himself. The bossman. Daddy Jones…
Som’er is the Bayou’s premier summoner; Ulix’s growth mechanic is weird and doesn’t count. Som’er likes to summon Joneses of various flavors, and often sacrifice them (for, as the Magic players say, value). So what’s changed?
Nothing statwise. Like all other Big Hat models he’s traded Bayou Bash for Bayou Two Card (I will not keep mentioning this, but assume it is universally true) and has lost his existing Bayou Two Card aura, which is now redundant. He’s traded Pig-Eating Grin, which let you pitch cards to make attacks when a nearby model died, and gained “I’m an ‘Expert’ Shot!” which lets his models take damage to make attacks when he misses with a ranged attack. On balance, this is probably better, because it costs you a much less significant resource and is easier to trigger. Plus there are some very scary melee attacks in this keyword.
His attacks have also increased in Stat by 1 each (again, consider this to be a blanket change that I won’t keep calling out), but his gun has gotten much nastier, gaining the Coordinated Attack and “Loot ‘Em!” triggers. The former is obviously fine, it’s a free attack, but the latter is really great: it lets you draw up to two cards based on the number of Big Hat models near the target. Since you’ll often be able to shoot into melee without penalty (of which more in a minute), this is just two free cards as long as you have a decent Tome – it’s a better Good for a Laugh, and that trigger is great.
Somer has lost some juice – he can’t blow up Gremlins for damage anymore, and his bonus action, which gave him a draw when a nearby non-Insignificant model died, is gone, replaced with Foul-Mouthed Motivation. That’s a great action, so no complaints, and here it has a unique mask trigger to deal 2 damage to a model near the target. Unresistable 2 damage from a Tactical action is, uh, really strong, so I can see myself stoning or cheating for this trigger a lot.
The biggest change is his summoning. It still summons any number of Big Hat minions (which, yes, include his Skeeters), but now instead of summoning the models within 6″, you have to target an enemy and summon them within 2″ of the target. That’s a huge change, and it’ll allow you to toss Bayou Gremlins and Good Ol’ Boys right into the thick of things. He’s also gotten slightly better at it – before, you capped out at 9ss worth of models if you had the Red Joker in hand, but now that gets you 11ss worth. Two soulstones may not seem like a lot, but since Som’er can summon models in any combination he wants, that unlocks a dizzying array of possibilities. Even setting the Joker aside, you can summon five Bayou Gremlins at once. Or two Banjonistas. Or a Skeeter and a Crier. Or…
The possibilities are endless. And the Summon Upgrade you get is even better. The old version gave summoned models a bonus action to gain poison and heal – not super useful on crappy 2 health Bayou Gremlins. The new version lets you ignore your summoned models for Friendly Fire and gives them a bonus action to remove a Scheme Marker within 2″, making Insignificant Bayou Gremlins among the best summonable anti-schemers going (since you can summon them and immediately start eating markers).
New Som’er is great. He’s going to bury the board in bodies, and if you kill them, he draws cards and doesn’t even give up activation control. Good luck slogging through five Bayou Gremlins per turn.
Som’er’s totems got even harder to hit at +1 df, though oddly they didn’t get a stat bump to compensate them for the loss of Bayou Bash. They lost Annoying (which was, to be fair, a pretty crappy Tactical Action) but picked up two very nasty new ones, including a Bonus Action for the first time. Infuse Larvae lets them actually remove enemy Scheme Markers despite being Insignificant, and even get a Skeeter or Gremlin in the bargain. And Blood Meal lets you teleport to a nearby Bayou Gremlin (say, one you just summoned) and turn him into a Scheme Marker.
Taken together, this makes Skeeters surprisingly strong schemers, especially since they’re summonable (and Df 7 means they’re not that easy to remove for crews that can’t target Wp).
Good ol’ Lenny’s been a faction staple since First Edition, just like his pa. He’s gone up in cost by one soulstone, but gained a point of health to compensate. He’s lost Bodyguard and Ruthless but gained Flurry, giving him the potential to inflict absolutely crippling damage, especially paired with his Grit (Frantic). His Gremlin General ability has changed, too, no longer providing +1 to duels outside of a model’s activation but now adding a mask to all Bayou Two Card cheats (which effectively lets you take a decent trigger in the event that your forced trigger would be unfortunate).
His Whack’n Stick is much as it was, with a minor trigger variation we’ll get to later. Whacked Piglet has, amusingly, gone up +2 stat, making it among the most accurate ranged attacks in the game, and can now choose to ignore LOS and Friendly Fire in exchange for a -2 penalty, which is… sometimes correct, since that also gets around Cover and Concealment! He’s traded the Knock Aside and Shove Aside triggers, so now it’s his melee attacks that can generate more melee attacks, which… makes sense, really? Shove Aside on a ranged attack was always pretty weird design.
Finally, Random Bout of Brilliance now has a TN, and its effects are triggers rather than a weird “look at the suit of a flipped card, but we swear it’s not a trigger.” It also lets you look at the top card of each Fate Deck, which means it actually does something all the time now.
This version of Lenny is much more offensively geared than the last one. I worry a little about his durability – his defensive stats are very bad, and 10ss is a lot – but once he gets into combat, he’ll mess things up bad, and an 11hp Hard to Wound Henchman is reasonably hard to take down if you’re willing to spend stones on him. And Grit (Frantic) means he can really pay for opponents failing to kill him.
Georgy and Olaf
There were rumors that G&O might be getting the big promotion to Henchman, but I guess they didn’t pan out. That was probably inevitable given their Crit Strike gun, but it’s still a little sad. They’ve also lost a point of Wp, and “Who Runs Gremlin-Town?” is now Keyword-locked to Big Hat minions.
The only other change (besides the general ones) is that they now have Break Stuff as a second Bonus Action, which lets them remove a Scheme Marker and is sometimes worth a 3″ push or a Focus. I still think that overall this would be a pretty big nerf (losing access to Soulstones when you have a Crit Strike gun is pretty rough), except that Big Hat minions are way better now, so pulsing focus to them is worth more. Still, I wouldn’t blame anyone who wanted to shelve G&O for a bit; they got kinda smacked in the face.
Hoo boy, this guy. Old Cranky has had kind of a weird ride. In Second Edition he was a generic Bayou totem any Master could hire; in Third he was kind of a weird, crappy Enforcer for Som’er. He’s still weird, and still an Enforcer, but far from crappy. This guy might be a problem, folks.
He’s gained two Wp and a point of health, making him more durable in a lot of situations, though he’s no longer Expendable (makes sense – there’s only one Cranky!). He’s also lost Shouted Orders, which makes it much harder to get an unreasonable amount of Focus out fast (which, by the way, is an argument for running Georgy and Olaf now).
What he’s gained, though, is kind of insane. “You Can Handle It, Sonny!” is a massive 8″ bubble (not even an aura – it ignores LOS!) which gives all of your Big Hat models a form of super-Protected. They can pitch a card to redirect an attack to a nearby Bayou Gremlin or Skeeter, and by nearby I mean within four inches. That is huge for this type of effect, and there’s no real restrictions on its use; Old Cranky doesn’t need LOS to attacker, target, or meatshield, and there’s no limit on uses per activation or per turn. All it costs is a card, which coincidentally is what Bayou Gremlins give you when they die, which is what they do when you hit them. The first time an opponent takes a shot at a vulnerable model, you pitch a card to send it to a Bayou Gremlin, they hit and kill the Gremlin, and then you draw a new card and make them pitch a pass token, they’re gonna feel like the biggest idiot in the world.
But what can you do? Cranky even protects himself! This guy is kinda nuts, and removing him is going to be Job #1 for all opponents.
The other changes almost don’t matter. He lost his crappy, unsuited Obey and gained a version of Molly’s Disturbing Story that doesn’t do irreducible damage. He also has a funny little bonus that lets other models carry him around, but mostly, he’s just sitting there making it impossible for your opponent to target anyone but a Bayou Gremlin. And that’s gonna suck to deal with.
That’s all for now – this rework is so substantial I’m splitting it into two parts. Check back soon for a look at the other half of the Big Hat keyword and overall thoughts!
Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.