Hello, Mali-folks! It’s been a minute since I last favored you with my wit and wisdom, but never fear; today, we will be taking a break from our regularly scheduled sharing of my objectively correct opinions to instead talk about my many and various glories & triumphs.
We have fun here, don’t we, Gentle Reader? We have a good time.
Anyways, December 2 of this year marked an important milestone. No, not the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Pablo Escobar (gone from the charts but not from our hearts). Not the 53rd birthday of the EPA (happy birthday! Thanks for all the clean air and water!). No, it was something much more significant: my first in-person Malifaux tournament since my son was born.
I traveled down to Haven Games & Hobbies in Enfield Connecticut with my friend Danger Planet Doug in order to kick some ass and flip some cards. I’ve played on Vassal these past few months, but it really isn’t the same when you don’t get the tactile experience of physically touching models and flipping those fate decks. Plus, I got to show off some stuff I’d gotten painted over Baby Break.
The event was called Stocking Full of Soulstones, and we had a decent-sized turnout. Three games of Malifaux in a day is a lot, but Haven’s a great store and we had a really good group of players here. After dithering for a bit, I decided day of to bring Bayou instead of Explorer’s Society, as I’ll be playing Brown in the MWS championship (ongoing as I write this) and needed the practice. The tournament organizers applied the Singles and Limited (2) modifiers to this format, meaning that you could not hire a second Master, and out of keyword hiring was also restricted: players could hire two Versatile models of cost 9 or less, or one Versatile model of cost 10 or more, or one out-of-keyword model.
My intention was to play Wong all day, although I left myself the flexibility to declare someone else if I really had to.
Round 1: This Always Happens
Wouldn’t you know it, Round 1 I paired into Doug. Isn’t that how it always goes? You drive for hours to get to an event and end up paired R1 with the guy you carpooled with.
Doug’s a great player, and more importantly, I knew he was planning to play Seamus all day. I hate playing against Seamus. Same problem I have against Leveticus: the matchup is so binary. He’s trying to do a specific thing; either he succeeds and probably wins, or he fails, and you probably win. It’s very stressful and it warps crew creation. I do not love either master design, and it doesn’t help that both of them have pretty creepy and unpleasant lore, too (a holdover from the days of 1E, when Bad Things Happen was more of a promise than a motto.
Nevertheless, I always like playing Doug, so I knew this would be fun. The strategy was Raid the Vaults on Wedge deployment, and the Schemes were:
- Information Overload
- Let Them Bleed
- In Your Face
- Death Beds
I decided to declare Angler, since this pool favored an aggressive bubble that could move upfield killing things and staying alive. My crew was:
The Clampetts, Bally-hoo Bucket
Big Brain Brin
A pretty standard Brin Clampetts list with 6 soulstones to spare, though with no Bo Peep (she’s a bit of a liability against Seamus and not necessary on Wedge deployment) and with a Hermits (Seamus can one-shot them with a Severe, but it’s tougher for him if I can keep them in cover, and being able to no-sell a crucial hit on one of my key models matters).
Dead Doxy 2
White Rabbit Co.
Low on stones, but that’s how Doug likes to play. No real surprises here aside from the lack of Grave Spirit’s Touch on the Doxies but dropping them let him squeeze in another Belle.
I took Let Them Bleed and Death Beds on Tide Markers. I didn’t have to worry about anything this game but killing.
I moved up in a very tight, very cagey bubble, using Bogg to move the slow-as-molasses Vantes into position. Doug deployed in a tight wedge at the top of his deployment zone, and I took advantage of that – my second activation of the game was to walk the Bucket forward, drop a Tide Marker shockwave right on his Gwisin, then use Oh No, Ogopogo! with the mask trigger to kidnap it 8″ away, then charge it and flip it around behind me with Caught in the Motor. That left his ghost badly damaged and dangerously out of position, and I was able to clean it up pretty easily. First blood to me, and more importantly, his annoying Take the Hit guy was gone.
Seamus made his play late in turn 1, zapping forward and using Terrorize to push the Hermits out of position before taking a shot at Auntie Mel. He had the cards, but not the focus, and at a negative flip she was able to stone to keep damage minimal. He Dazed her into his melee range to take a free attack, but Seamus’s melee attack doesn’t do that much damage, and though I burned through plenty of stones she survived with 4 health left. I even had Bruce left to heal her.
Seamus wisely blipped away to avoid dying, but that just gave me breathing room to reassert my bubble. Over the course of the game, he would repeatedly take stabs at killing Mel, but I kept pouring healing into her (from Brin, Bruce, and even Mel’s own Survival Skills trigger) and kept her from going down. Meanwhile, the Bucket kidnapped one key model per turn to murder: first the Belle (which scored me Death Beds), then Sloth. Bogg and Vantes skirmished with Bete Noire, but I had a problem on my hands: I had to knock her down to 4 health to score Let Them Bleed, but her annoying defensive triggers meant that I’d have to hit her for 6 at once to get there. I ended up scooting Brin somewhat out of position to target her with a Sober Up, stoning for the Daze trigger – with Bete Stunned, she couldn’t declare her trigger and escape, and I was able to wallop her below the health threshold.
Time was called at the end of Turn 3, but I was firmly in command of the game – I’d scored the first point on both schemes, the second on Death Beds and I’d scored two Strategy points. He hadn’t been able to pick up In Your Face since Mel was still alive, but he had picked up Death Beds (declaring Strategy markers as his marker of choice) and managed to score two Strategy points as well. We shook hands and called the game to me, 5-3.
Round 2- FZZZAP!!!!
This time I was matched up against Jason, another veteran of the New England Malifaux tournament circuit. Last time I played Jason he was on Damian, but he’d reverted to his ordinary faction for this event – Ten Thunders.
The strategy was Cloak and Dagger on Standard deployment, and the Schemes were:
- Deliver a Message
- Protected Territory
- Take Prisoner
- Sweating Bullets
I declared Wong, since I really wanted to practice him in this event, and I thought his crew of Fast beaters was well-equipped for the AP-intensive Cloak and Dagger. He declared Yan Lo, a master I haven’t played against since his title was nerfed, and I was eager to see what his list looked like.
I ran what has become my go-to Wong list:
Swine Cursed 2
I had 5 stones to spare, and debated hiring another Inferiority Complex for the other Swine-Cursed, but decided 3 stones was too few to keep Bo Peep and Sammy alive. Wong can generally play stone-light since he only has one trigger he cares about (and it only takes a 6 or more of Crows) and he has so much card draw that you don’t really have to stone for cards, but Sammy and Bo are both important and fragile.
My opponent declared Yan Lo and, somewhat to my surprise, took his title form, hiring:
Yan Lo, The Spirit Walker
Chiaki, The Beacon
Izamu The Armor
Kenshiro, The Tactician
I was a little surprised not to see Manos – Divine Strike is brutal against my crew, which likes to bunch up on turn 1 – but I would have just deployed way in the back of my zone so he couldn’t tag me on the first turn. It would suck, but I’m fast enough to make it up later on. Masked Agent on Izamu was a bit spicy, and it told me he planned to rocket the armor up the field and lay waste.
I took Take Prisoner on Izamu, since he was obviously going to be right in my face, and Ensnare, because Wong is so good at it.
Wong’s turn 1 unpack is pretty straightforward: blast your own crew to smithereens to load them up on Glowy, then heal all that damage off with the Bokor. My opponent opted for an extremely aggressive play, loading Izamu with Focus +2 from Sun Quiang and angling for a turn 1 charge, pushing him forward with Chiaki, the Soul Porter, and Yan Lo himself. Jason’s a good player, but I think this was where his lack of experience against Wong was telling: you cannot just stuff Izamu down Wong’s throat, since Alphonse and Swine-Cursed are stupid durable and are more than capable of pounding even the sturdiest beater into the ground like a fence post.
He made a play for Sammy and couldn’t finish her off, since I had great cards to cheat and Soulstones to spend. I then walked up to Izamu with Alphonse and damn near twisted his head off. I could have easily killed him – I had a whole unactivated Swine-Cursed – but that would cost me two points. I just engaged him with Alphonse and left it at that.
I sent a Swine-Cursed to contest each flank, while he sent Kenshiro down one and Chiaki down the other. One Komainu ferried Yan Lo around, while the other one dove into my crew to Deliver a Message to Wong (sacrificing his life for the cause). I scored Ensnare by dropping markers near his Sun Quiang with Wong’s Launch Into Space, evening the score, and we both jockeyed for Strategy Markers. I kept Izamu alive through Turn 2 to score Take Prisoner, weathering his attacks on Sammy by spending the last of my soulstones, but I decided not to let him live to the end of the game in the hope of scoring a second point – he was too dangerous and had to go.
In the midgame, it became apparent that he had Protected Territory, and Kenshiro used A New Horizon to score it – with nothing on that flank but a Swine-Cursed, there was nothing I could do to stop him. Wong spent his activations trying to Fzzzap! Sun Quiang, but he kept cheating to pass the duels, amassing a veritable pile of Glowy tokens for his trouble. This proved to be his undoing: when Sun finally failed a Fzzzap! duel on turn 4 and couldn’t cheat his way out of it, he took 8 damage all at once and vaporized into a fine mist. On the right flank, a Swine-Cursed stole Chiaki’s token and then vigorously tusked her to death.
I couldn’t take out Yan Lo or his ride, so I decided to just force the dog to bury instead using Glimpse the Void. You stack enough Injured on someone and eventually they’ll fail a TN 14 Wp duel. This proved to be a disaster, though, when I realized that Yan Lo was the only model I could feasibly score the endgame point of Ensnare on – and if I let him unbury his dog somewhere far away, he’d just zip freely away from my markers. That’s how the game ended: with my models forming a huddled scrum around a bare patch of earth, so when the dog popped out, there was nowhere to run to.
In the end I scored one point for Take Prisoner, two for Ensnare, and three for the Strategy. I have never seen someone score four points on Cloak and Dagger and it may be impossible. Jason scored one for Protected Territory, one for Deliver a Message, and two on the Strategy, for a total of 6-4. Not bad – on to the finals!
Round 3 – Your Favorite Master (Me!) and the Very Unfair, Very Rigged Election
Round three was against Jesse Ellis, host of the Boring Conversation podcast, friend of Danger Planet, and all-around great guy. Jesse’s encyclopedic knowledge of home brewing and beer tasting is matched only by his dedication to not painting his models, come on Jesse, paint your dudes!!!
The strategy here was Stuff the Ballots on Flank Deployment. The Schemes were:
- Power Ritual
- Sweating Bullets
- Hold Up Their Forces
Stuff the Ballots is cool. I really like that Strategy. I needed more practice on it, so I was glad to see it here, against a really tough opponent.
Once again, I opted for Wong, running an identical list to last time with the substitution of one Upgrade. The avalanche of AP that Wong can generate is really strong in this Strategy. I went with Twelve Cups of Coffee instead of Inferiority Complex because I wanted to trap McCabe and Rough Riders in melee, and with Twelve Cups they can’t just Ride With Me away.
-Twelve Cups of Coffee
Swine Cursed 2
Jesse declared McCabe, and I was expecting McCabe2, but was pleasantly surprised to see that ol’ Horse-Boy made an appearance instead. McCabe1 is very underplayed, but I expect to see him a lot more in GG4, which revolves much more around moving and Interacting at will. I think this was correct: McCabe2 is a frighteningly powerful killer in most matchups, but Wizz-Bang has significant damage reduction that the Timeworn Blade doesn’t ignore, which means that McCabe ends up a fairly below-average beater a lot of the time, stuck in combat with Swine-Cursed and Alphonse that he just can’t do anything against.
His list was:
Lucas McCabe Relic Hunter
With five stones to spare. I knew I’d have to find a way to deal with Desper and the Huckster or they’d just run over me – I had to hope that his having only 7 Significant models would limit his ability to stack up votes. I took Espionage, because Launch Into Space is very good at scoring it (and you can easily fake out Power Ritual when you really have Espionage on Corner/Flank deployment) and Sweating Bullets on Bo Peep.
I unpacked the way you normally do with Wong, hampered slightly by the amount of LOS-blocking terrain. I then made an insanely bone-headed decision, using Bo Peep’s last AP to move her forward (into cover, at least) rather than back out of Line of Sight. Jesse immediately punished me for it, giving Sidir an artifact to make him Fast and ferrying him up with the Rough Rider; he used Blow it to Hell to deny Bo Peep cover and then opened up on her, nearly killing her. I had to spend most of my stones to keep her alive, poor thing. This was very bad, since if I lost her then it locked me out of the first half of Sweating Bullets, and I had nobody to blame but myself.
Jesse was debating moving McCabe up to take some potshots at my crew with the Netgun while I was still clustered. I can’t say for certain that this would have been wrong – it would have dangled McCabe pretty dangerously out there by himself, and he wouldn’t have been able to target Alphonse (which meant that he’d have been able to tag 2-3 models instead of everyone), but it would have really punished me for clustering. His caution may have been correct, but I still ended up slamming the Twelve Cups-carrying Swine-Cursed into him turn 1, taking advantage of the close deployment, Bo Peep’s push, and the other Swine-Cursed’s Frightening Reminder. I didn’t do that much damage, but he was in it now, and in real danger. He sent his Huckster up one flank and the Dawn Serpent up the other, while I moved mostly into the middle and sent my other Swine-Cursed out to contest the Serpent.
Turn 2, Bo Peep ran at Sidir, hoping to flip him back into my crew with Hogwash Slosh and set up him for death. Jesse had the card to make me miss, though, and Sidir pretty easily murdered Bo, taking a point off the board for me and depriving me of a key source of mobility and healing (and, in a pinch, self-damage). Seeking revenge, Alphonse ran headfirst into McCabe, and now our favorite tomb robber was in real trouble. He spent his whole activation just disengaging and running away while the Swine-Cursed vented its frustration by murdering the Corpse Curator. I used Olivia and my other Swine-Cursed to load up ballot markers with votes, while Wong and Sammy held down the center. Jesse was clearly positioning to score Outflank, and there wasn’t much I could do about it, but I did manage to bury his Rough Rider with Glimpse the Void and strand Sidir where he stood. Mv 4 ain’t much, and now he had to toddle wherever he wanted to go one step at a time. Meanwhile, slowly but surely, Desper crept towards my deployment zone… and Jesse revealed that he had Power Ritual instead of Outflank, outfoxing me once again.
Turn 3, McCabe tried to escape, but succeeded only in delaying the inevitable. Helped by a Toss from Alphonse, the Twelve Cups Swine-Cursed knocked McCabe off his horse, then murdered the dismounted version. I also managed to pop out his Rough Rider in a little niche where he couldn’t do anything, pinned in as he was by other bases and terrain. Sammy shot Sidir over and over, and between her and Wong I managed to knock him pretty low, though with Juggernaut he wasn’t out of the game yet. I wanted him dead before he murdered Olivia Bernard; sadly, I was too slow, and he shot her right through the head. I had to content myself with revenge via Gautreaux Bokor, who (it turns out) has a ranged attack. Not even a terrible one!
With Alphonse’s help, I had scored Espionage, evening the score with Jesse’s Outflank. What’s more, I was tightening the noose. His Dawn Serpent was basically stuck in the corner, since it was the only thing that could feasibly score him Power Ritual, and once the Twelve Cups Swine-Cursed finished off the Rough Rider he basically had nothing left that did damage. More importantly, I had larded up my home-side marker with votes before Olivia died, which meant that he really didn’t have enough AP to both flip it to him and score his Schemes. (He also misread Espionage, not realizing that the centerline marker is mandatory for the reveal point – sorry, Jesse).
With Desper far from the center, I at least scored the second half of Sweating Bullets, and I was able to pick up both halves of Espionage pretty easily. I even managed to cap the Strategy, using a Fast Bokor on the last turn to interact enough times to flip one of the Strategy Markers to my side. For his part, Jesse was also able to score both halves of Power Ritual but nothing for Espionage, but he did manage three Strategy points to bring the final score to 7-5.
I’d call this a successful return to the world of in-person Malifaux. I obviously didn’t play much at all in the months after my son was born, and when I did go back to the game it was mostly via Vassal, which is fun but definitely second-best compared to playing in meatspace. I really like Haven and I thought this was a very well-run event. All of my games were two-point margins, which is nice and close, and I definitely feel like they could have gone the other way.
As I’ve mentioned before in this space, the key to winning at Malifaux is knowing what your opponent’s crew can do, and I was fortunate enough in that regard to be pretty aware of what tricks my opponents had up their sleeves. Seamus is a nasty shock the first time he pulls a model off the board with an 8-damage shot, as is Yan Lo when he teleports halfway across the board and “nothing personnel, kid’s one of your models. But there’s nothing unbeatable in Malifaux.
At time of writing I’m looking to battle my way out of the group stage of the Malifaux World Series (wish me luck!). But I’m really looking forward to Captaincon this coming February, which will be my first wargaming con since baby. Let me know if you’re going – we can grab a drink and play some Faux. Or some Root. Whatever you like.