No Joker Puns Here: Malifaux at Captaincon 2024 (Part II)

Last time, we experienced the thrills and chills of the third annual Malifaux Content Creators’ Invitational. I achieved my lifelong dream of taking a game off of Landon in real life, scored another nifty MCCI glass, and made everyone thoroughly sick of Mah Tucket.  But Saturday, the real challenge began. The Booty and Plunder open was the main event of the weekend: five rounds of GG4, with prizes for best overall, best painted, best sportsman, and the coveted IRON SCORPIUS. I always Scorpius when it’s on offer, and I felt good about my chances this time.

For the uninitiated, or perhaps forgetful, the Iron Scorpius challenge simply asks you to declare a different Master for all five rounds of the event. Booty and Plunder allowed Master hires, but there was no getting around the Scorpius – even if you hired a Master as your second, you were barred from using them again. It rewards a wide bench and deep knowledge of your faction. And as an old-school Bayou player, I was ready for it.

A room full of Wyrdos! Credit: Jesse E


Round 1: Them’s Pets

My first round was against Matt, a player I hadn’t seen around before (but one with a solid Warmachine/Hordes background). I know Matt’s going to go far in this game – Malifaux has a learning curve, but when you already have competitive wargaming skills, they are transferrable.

The Strategy here was Plant Explosives on Standard deployment. The Schemes were Sweating Bullets, Ensnare, In Your Face, Outflank and Deliver a Message.

I declared Ulix; this scheme pool favors a “bullet the center” playstyle, with the exception of Outflank, which is a really weak and rarely taken Scheme. Matt declared Professor von Schtook. I know Schtook’s keyword is famously durable (all that Armor and Hard to Wound!) but pigs are famously killy (all those free plus flips to damage and Armor Piercing triggers!) so I figured it could go either way.

I picked Ulix’s title form, Porkbelly Protector, and hired Penelope, Old Major, Merris LaCroix, Gracie, a Piglet, a Slop Hauler, a Hog Whisperer and Bo Peep. He also chose the title form, Von Schtook, Stargazer, gave him the Whisper upgrade, and hired the Research Assistant, two Students of Viscera, a Gwisin, the Valedictorian and Anna Lovelace.

Looking at his crew, he had a master and two henchmen, so I picked Sweating Bullets on Old Major. I also took In Your Face because of the sheer number of cost 8+ models to kill.

Ulix’s unpack is pretty standard-issue; I moved everyone forward with Bo Peep, then tried to use Penelope to do it again. I got off Penelope’s Herd ‘Em to make Bo Peep act, but black jokered the second Race is On, which was a bit awkward. But the Pig Factory rolled on: Merris set my two beefiest porksters on fire and Ulix Bacon Beelined a Piglet through them, giving me a free War Pig in pole position. I didn’t send the little (big) guy out too far, since I am well aware of the Valedictorian’s ability to kill anything that moves – instead, I took some shots at the Gwisin, dealing significant damage. He moved his students up, getting them in position to drop bombs on my side of the board while still threatening the middle. Schtook, Anna, and the Research Assistant hung back a bit, while the Valedictorian went right up the middle.

We played on this table, which is here hosting some green-on-green violence: Molly into McMourning. Credit: Jesse E

I’ll take that as an invitation. The War Pig rocketed at the Vally turn 2 and smashed her, at one point Red Jokering the damage. When the dust had cleared, she was dead, and I was able to finish off the Gwisin as well using Bo Peep. The Students of Viscera struck back, killing the big pig and badly wounding Bo Peep, though she was able to keep herself alive through a combination of luck, Soulstones, and self-healing.  Ulix followed up as a second-wave beater, while Gracie made for Schill.  I was able to score Sweating Bullets by engaging Schtook, and In Your Face when Ulix munched on a Student of Viscera.

Once we started grinding things out, the outcome became a foregone conclusion: without the Valedictorian, he just didn’t have the power to kill things fast enough, and the pigs snacked on Schtook and the Research Assistant in short order. Ulix went down to the second Student of Viscera – I got cocky and held his activation until too late, when I should have just attacked and used Tear Off a Bite to heal up. But it didn’t matter. Merris was able to do all the Strat running I needed, and Old Major chased Anna all the way back to his deployment zone to score the second half of In Your Face.

8-1 is a strong start. I think Matt just wasn’t expecting the pig alpha strike to hit as hard as it did. Pigs are very fragile, but when they go wild, they go hog wild, and there’s basically nothing in the game that can take that on the chin. The +twist to all my damage flips, forever and ever, world without end, amen, is really strong into a crew relying on Hard to Wound to keep its expensive models alive!

Round 2: Time and Memory

I was riding high off of a strong start, but I knew Round 2 would be difficult. An 8-1 game is a wonderful thing, but my tiebreakers were extremely strong, and that meant that my Round 2 matchup would be a tough one as well.

I drew into Owen, a Capital City Crew player who I’d seen around socially but never matched into before. He was on Outcasts, which is not my favorite faction to play into, but Owen is a very chill guy and so I knew the game wouldn’t be that bad.

The Strategy was Raid the Vaults, on Corner deployment, with Power Ritual, Protected Territory, Outflank, Information Overload and Espionage. I declared Zipp; Corner deployment favors fast crews, and there’s not much faster than Infamous. Plus, his crew is really good at scooping up Scheme Markers.

Owen declared Tara, which was pretty expected – she’s incredibly fast and maneuverable as well, and she’s a summoner, which is very strong on marker-heavy pools.  Summons may not be able to contest Strategy markers, but they can “walk-interact” as well as anyone.

I went with Zipp’s original form (with the mandatory Twelve Cups of Coffee) and hired Earl Burns, two Iron Skeeters, Beau Fishbocker, the First Mate, a Flying Piglet, and Aunty Mel.  Mel is a great out-of-keyword hire for a little extra killing power, and she really appreciates being pushed up the board. And I’ve been very partial to a single Piglet lately, since it can push my own models up the board with Bowled Over and cycle a card with Showboating, plus it’s Significant – that’s a lot for 3 stones.

Owen stuck with original flavor Tara, too, rounding out the crew with Karina, the Nothing Beast, Aionus, the Midnight Stalker, Thirty-Three, a Prospector, and two Void Wretches. I mulled schemes and went with Power Ritual and Protected Territory.  Thirty-Three became Aunty Mel’s prey, since I much prefer dealing with that thing at range.

Turn 1, I did what Zipp does best, using a combination of Leap, Fly With Me, Lost in the Bayou, and Lead the Way to advance one Skeeter, Beau, Mel, and the First Mate way up the right flank. Owen sent Tara out to the left flank, kept the Prospector and Thirty-Three back, and moved Aionus, the Stalker, and the Nothing Beast to the right. The Beast saw a chance and dove on the First Mate, inflicting a bit of damage, but I managed to yank him away with Butterfly Jump and heal him with Beau.

My first mistake came early: I sent Zipp and the other Skeeter to the right flank to harass Tara. Zipp simply does not have the killing power to threaten an enemy Master unless he has hazardous terrain around to dunk his target in, and I succeeded only in wasting his activation scraping up Tara and giving her a target to summon off of. I need to remember this: Zipp’s only job is to go for the gooey center of my opponent’s crew.

Things were brighter on the right flank; I had been cycling my cards, and Aunty Mel was able to activate so far up the board that she could take a Turn 1 shot on the Nothing Beast and inflict a healthy chunk of damage. I won initiative Turn 2 and went for the kill, but I made a critical mistake. The Beast had 3 health remaining, and I had the 13 of rams, so I could have stoned for Critical Strike to guarantee the kill – but I had only two stones remaining, and my hand was stacked. Besides, he’d just spend a stone to prevent damage, and then it would live. I figured I’d take a Focused shot instead, cheat in my 13, and donk him for 5 or 6.

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted my error: the Nothing Beast isn’t a henchman anymore! I focused, but of course he flipped a 13 on defense, so I couldn’t get to a cheatable straight flip, and the thing lived.  Aionus and Karina immediately healed it up, and it would survive the rest of the game.

You can see the Nothing Beast, stubbornly still alive, in the top right. Poor Aunty Mel, I let her down. Credit: Jesse E

I wasn’t losing models, but I was still falling behind, as Tara summoned a Void Hunter and the Nothing Beast successfully made an already-activated Beau fast to pull it from the void. Zipp finally got sick of chasing Tara around and beelined for Owen’s backline, picking up the Prospector, but here I ran into another problem: Thirty-Three’s Two Places at Once aura is brutal for Zipp, since Owen could use it to rescue his models after they’d been Up We Go’d or to displace Zipp when he made a Flying charge. (He doesn’t have to fly in, of course, but then he’s stuck moving around terrain and models.) I picked off the Midnight Stalker, but I wasn’t really making any headway against the Nothing Beast or Aionus.

We both revealed Power Ritual, but Owen squeaked ahead of me on primary points, and he managed to walk one of his summons back into my deployment zone to eat the Ritual marker I’d left there, so the second point was looking unlikely. He also scored Protected Territory, and here I made my last and most tragic mistake: the First Mate was free to go basically wherever he wanted, and snuck into the backline to drop a marker for Territory.  But I had gone much deeper than I had to, and Thirty-Three was yet to activate; she just walked over and denied the point.

Zipp is really good at denying points, so on Turn 5 he soared across the board, pulled one of Owen’s Strategy-scoring models away from a marker, and used Mark Territory to deny the second Protected Territory point. The First Mate also managed to claim Owen’s Vault marker, and drop a Scheme that I could score the second half of Territory with. But the damage was done: we tied on primary points, we each scored one Territory point, but he had two Ritual points and I only had one.

I was kicking myself after that loss – my failure to kill the Nothing Beast had swung the entire game, since that was basically the only thing on his half of the board that ever did any damage to my models, but even with that mistake I had thrown away a tie with the First Mate. But that’s life! I don’t run into Tara often and so I was not really wise to her tricks, but now I’ll know better for next time. Next time!

At 1-1, I was feeling kind of lukewarm, but there were four rounds left to play. I was just getting started, and I had some of my favorite Masters left in my case.

Round 3: Mowing the Lawn

Luckily, my third-round opponent was Doug Bowman, which was just the pick-me-up I needed. Doug’s from the Texas meta, and he’s a wonderful opponent; the first time I ever played him, at Gencon 2021, he ran Titania with second master Marcus and hired the Malisaurus Rex, a delightful combo. He’s also an amazingly skilled painter and terrain designer (several of the Captaincon tables were his contributions) so our game was as fun to watch as to play. I wish I had taken some pictures.

The pool was Cloak and Dagger on Wedge deployment, with Death Beds, In Your Face, Hold Up Their Forces, Take Prisoner, and Let Them Bleed in the pool. This was a pretty clear Clampetts pick for me, and Doug declared Titania. One thing was for sure – the table was going to be covered in terrain markers.

I hired the Clampetts’ Title form, Bally-Hoo Bucket, as well as Bruce, Aunty Mel, Uncle Bogg, Ser Vantes, Judd & Honey, and two Hermits. The Hermits would keep everyone safe, and their Scuttle would keep the number of Underbrush markers under control. Doug opted for Titania’s title form, Autumn Queen, and hired two Bultungin, two Autumn Knights (both with Ancient Pacts), the Gorar, a Waldgeist and the Mysterious Emissary. I made the Emissary Aunty Mel’s prey.

I knew the Knights would be insanely durable, so I decided to pick Take Prisoner on one of them (the “boy knight,” as opposed to the “girl knight”), and Death Beds on Tide Markers (obviously). I deployed in a bubble but intended to split it into two flanks. Doug obliged, sending a Bultungin out on each flank, accompanied by an Autumn Knight, with his two tree-people up the middle. The center of the board was dominated by a huge impassable clock tower, and he posted up safely behind it. Titania made the Boy Knight her Champion, which was fine by me.

Bogg accelerated Ser Vantes out on the left flank, as he is wont to do, and a Hermit accompanied him. The other Hermit went right, while the rest of my crew shimmied up the middle. I drew first blood, murdering the left-flank Bultungin dead with Vantes, and used Oh No, Ogopogo! to draw the boy knight in. What followed was, to put it bluntly, a brutal slugfest. The boy knight can do a lot of damage with a built-in Into Thorns, but the boat has Armor +2 and a ton of healing (between Mel, Bruce, and Judd). I scored Take Prisoner pretty trivially and started racking up Intel Tokens on the left side; Titania went right, and the girl knight shifted to run up the middle while the Waldgeist drifted right as well. The Mysterious Emissary took some shots at Ser Vantes, but he’s not exactly easy to hurt at Armor +2, and he can self-heal with Survival Skills (which he did, neatly killing the Gorar at the same time).

We played here – currently occupied by Kaeris2. Not sure who she’s facing! Credit: Jesse E

I beat the hell out of both Knights, but Titania kept them healthy, and the chip damage from the built-in Parry when I missed wore me down a bit. I didn’t need to kill the boy, so instead I focused on the girl, piling on her with everyone and taking her down. In return, he slapped Uncle Bogg with both knights and eventually killed him, a rare enough event that I was pretty surprised. One of the chief sources of Bogg’s survivability is his built in Tear Off a Bite, but against Champion’d Autumn Knights, that didn’t work so well.

Titania was doing her job, handing out Stunned to me and Focus to his own models and drawing cards. But Doug wasn’t investing as many AP as I was in collecting Intel tokens, and he also let me steal one, meaning I pulled ahead on Strategy points. Killing Bogg got him Death Beds, and he also scored Hold Up Their Forces (very difficult for Angler to deny, since it has so many expensive must-hire models).

The last couple of turns turned into a desperate scrum. The boy knight fled to his side of the board, which meant I had to get him back – difficult, without killing him with Ogopogo.  I also had to try to remove as many Underbrush markers as possible to deny him the second point of Death Beds. Vantes and the left-flank Hermit were scoring me Death Beds and the third Strategy point, so it really just came down to denial and Take Prisoner. In the end, I got there- I moved the Boat just far enough that it could see the boy knight and tagged him with Drawn to the Seas, an attack everyone but me forgets exists. That was enough to get him onto my side for the second half of Take Prisoner. In the end, I couldn’t deny Death Beds or Hold Up, but I had outscored Doug on Strategy points 3-2, so the game was a 7-6 victory to me.

A real nailbiter, and one that came down to the last activation. There wasn’t that much suspense on my end – I had the 13 I needed to guarantee the hit – but Doug didn’t know that! We shook hands and I relaxed a little. 2-1 isn’t a terrible start, and I was still live for the Scorpius if, as seemed likely, Landon went down to Longtin’s extremely bullshit Zoraida/Angel Eyes crew.

And that was that: Day 1 in the bag!  Time for karaoke.

No Video This Time, Sorry

Ah, I let everyone down. I went to karaoke, but I didn’t sing. I could point to the fact that I’m getting old, but the truth is I really missed my son. This is the longest I’ve been away from both him and my wife since he was born, and it’s tough! I wanted to give that little man his bath!  But I stuck it out. And besides, our regular karaoke bar was packed – I don’t know that I would have even gotten a song in edgewise.

Have a cool picture instead. I love this table! Credit: Jesse E

Round 4: Mollytime, Part 1

I woke up fresh on Sunday ready to reclaim my mojo. There was a bit of a snafu with the pairings, resulting in a delay as people were re-paired, and I ended up shuffled into Danger Planet’s own Brandon. Brandon and I go way back, but this is the first tournament game we’d played into each other. He was on Resurrectionists, which meant Seamus or Molly, who I know he favors.

The Strategy was Stuff the Ballots on Flank deployment. The Schemes were Ensnare, Take Prisoner, Deliver a Message, Hold Up Their Forces, and Power Ritual. I went with Wong – the near-permanent Fast on all of his models lets you drown your opponent in AP to vote with. Brandon picked Molly, no great surprise (though I think Seamus is quite good into Ballots).

I stuck with Wong’s original form and hired Olivia Bernard, Alphonse LeBlanc, Sammy LaCroix, a Gautreaux Bokor, two Swine-Cursed (one with Twelve Cups of Coffee), and Bo Peep. Brandon went with a surprisingly beefy Molly1 list featuring Archie, the Dead Rider, and the Rogue Necromancy, along with the Necrotic Machine, two Crooligans and a Night Terror. I picked Take Prisoner on Archie, since he tends to be off on his own, and Hold Up Their Forces, since his crew was all very expensive beaters.

My deployment zone had a large boxcar dividing it from the center, and I deployed in a huddle behind it. Wong’s turn 1 is pretty much on rails – I dropped a million Fzzzap shockwaves on my own models to rack up a billion Glowy, then healed all the damage with a Bokor. Bo Peep let me unpack a bit, but I screwed up my positioning with her, leaving the Bokor kind of uselessly far back and Wong just out of range to Toss. That’s a portion of the unpack I really do need to practice.

we played on this table – you can see Yan Lo taking on Euripedes here now. Credit: Jesse E

I sent the Twelve Cups Swine-Cursed out right to take on the Dead Rider, while the other one went left. Twelve Cups really makes Riders sad, since they can’t do their super-special action or Ride With Me. Brandon sent his little schemers out to vote on the ballots at the edges of the board, while Archie barreled into the non-Twelve Cups Swine-Cursed.

His beaters bashed both Swine-cursed pretty badly, but didn’t kill either one (Glowy is really good at keeping them alive). He positioned the Necrotic Machine to keep the Twelve Cups Swine-Cursed in its Neurotoxins aura, to cancel its triggers, but he hadn’t realized that Twelve Cups has a third ability – Twitchy let me move my Swine-Cursed away, out of the aura, so it could activate, Heroic Intervention into the Rider and declare a couple of Tear Off a Bite attacks to heal up. Sammy, meanwhile tried to bury the Rogue Necromancy, but a lucky flip of a 10 off the top while he was empty-handed kept it on the board. Meanwhile, Alphonse and Bo Peep took control of the center of the board and crept towards his Master and his Dead Rider.

We both scored Take Prisoner (he had declared it on my non-Twelve Cups Swine-Cursed, which was engaging Archie), while I scored Hold Up Their Forces. He was able to Deliver a Message to Wong with a Crooligan, too, and we both scored the strat.

At that point, he did something kind of unexpected – he conceded. The game wasn’t over, but as he explained, it was probably going my way: that Crooligan was imminently dead, and I had beaters in the center ready to collapse his right flank. He could possibly kill one Swine-cursed, but probably not the other, and he just didn’t have the AP to keep up with me on voting. I do think the game favored me at that point, but it wasn’t a sure thing by any means – my poor positioning Turn 1 meant that I had had to take a lot of Walk actions turn 2. But it was going to be a long game either way, and Brandon wanted to be fresh for Round 5.

I’ll take it, I guess. Next time! We’ll both be on top of our games.

Round 5: Mollytime, Part 2

My last game of the con was against Rage Quit Wire’s own Pete. Pete’s a great guy, and I’d missed him at the last Captaincon – we’d played twice at Capcon 2022, both Bayou mirrors, but this time he’d switched to Gang Green as well. Green as in undead, not green as in gremlin!

The pool was Plant Explosives on Corner Deployment, with Protected Territory, Sweating Bullets, Ensnare, Death Beds, and Espionage. I declared Mah Tucket, the last Master in my case, and Pete declared… Molly again! I was happy about getting to play a full round against Forgotten, but not that excited – Molly is crazy strong in GG4, and I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I went with Mah1 with the obligatory Twelve Cups of Coffee and hired the Little Lass, two Soulstone Miners, two Bushwhackers, Big Brain Brin and Uncle Bogg, with his own Twelve Cups. Pete went with Molly1 with the Whisper and hired the Necrotic Machine, two Crooligans, Archie, Sloth, the Dead Rider, and the Valedictorian. That was a lot of beef, with three huge beaters and Sloth to give them Fast – at least Corner deployment was pretty far. I picked Sweating Bullets, since the Valedictorian was likely to spend some time in the center, and Espionage.

I deployed in a knot in my corner but sent my Bushwhackers out onto the flanks. A mistake, I think – with Ride With Me and Fast, his Dead Rider/Valedictorian Combo is blazingly quick. I probably should have kept the whackers back a bit so they could shoot unmolested – even the Valedictorian is going to think twice about diving into a scrum with Mah right there.

Pic unrelated, but I love the Old West table. Som’er Teeth Jones is playing into Jedza, I think: wisdom and mystic power vs. uh, not those things. Credit: Jesse E

Turn 1 he dithered in his deployment zone with the Crooligans, making Schemes for Molly to eat for cards and gaining activation control via Constructive Criticism, while giving the Valedictorian Fast. He made his move late in the turn, diving the Bushwhacker on the left flank, though I was able to force him to cheat so I could Scamper away and avoid being killed. Only temporarily – that Whacker’s days were numbered. On the other side I played cagey, not taking potshots at Archie, which was probably a mistake; without Focus it’s very hard for him to oneshot a whacker, and if I can make him cheat I can limit him to one attack. Archie is a fat sack of HP but he’s also Df 4, and Crit Strike guns can very quickly put him in the dirt.

I was able to pull the bury/unbury trick with a Soulstone Miner (Big Brain Brin can force Soulstone Miners to bury with Pulling the Strings, since it doesn’t specify a non-fast action, and so they can unbury the same turn they bury). It popped up and ate the Necrotic Machine, putting me up a piece.

I won initiative turn 2 and activated the Bushwhacker, getting the hell out of Dodge. He would still kill it, of course, but I didn’t want to give up activation control, and I wanted to make the Valedictorian waste AP. Vally did her job, but now she and the Dead Rider were way out on a flank, away from the action; he Planted an Explosive with the Rider, but otherwise didn’t do much. Bogg and Mah went up the middle, and I decided I had to go for Molly. She was in his deployment zone, so I had to get there anyways for Espionage, and he only had two Soulstones. I was able to dig a pit trap next to her and bash her into it, dealing a chunk of damage, but with her Serene Countenance my attacks were very AP-inefficient: I basically had to either Focus or spend a Soulstone every single time. On the right flank, Brin waddled up to plant a bomb, while Archie engaged my other Bushwhacker but only did minor damage (which Brin could heal). One Soulstone Miner popped up near his deployment zone and charged Molly, taking a focused swing that knocked her down further. He was out of stones now, and vulnerable.

He teleported a Crooligan over there, and though he screwed up his placement on Protected Territory, I knew he would score it soon enough. Molly had to die. Turn 3, I fought for initiative, knowing that if I won it, I’d get him. I did, and promptly bashed Molly in the head, knocking her into the pit trap again. I had to focus to get another attack, so I’d only get one more swing, but her Df was reduced and she was at literally 1 hp. I hit her and…

Black Jokered.

That was the game, folks.  He activated a Crooligan, teleported over, and killed my Soulstone Miner, the only other model in position to hit Molly. I couldn’t even pop the other one up – he’d boxed out the charge lane. Sloth could heal Molly and remove the Pit Trap, and she’d certainly kill Mah; my hand was stripped of good cards, and he had a whole second Crooligan to attack with, whose attacks I couldn’t even cheat against if he was low enough on cards. I did something then that’s pretty unexpected:

I conceded.

If it wasn’t game 8 of the weekend, I’d probably have played it out. I almost never scoop.  But at that point, victory was out of reach. A dead Molly gives me control of his deployment zone, scores me Espionage, and lets me plant all the bombs I want while clearing out his support staff.  Sure, the Rider and the Valedictorian were hanging around, but he just didn’t have the AP to score the strat and his schemes, and Uncle Bogg is extremely hard to remove. A living Molly kills my Master, locking me out of Espionage and the strat, and keeps his hand fed so his beaters can finish off my crew. The game was over as soon as I flipped that Black Joker, and we both knew it.

Pete was cool about it – he’s scooped to me in the past, he knows how it is. Jokers happen, folks! And after three years in a row of joker puns in my Captaincon article titles, it’s fitting that I finally got got by one.

Wrapping Up

Captaincon was a lot of fun this year! I reconnected with some old friends, like Trevy of Breachstorm/Tactical Tortoise. I got to flip some cards for the first time in a while. I missed my baby, of course, but my wife sent me plenty of pictures, so I didn’t have to go without.  And he was waiting for me when I got home.

One last table – I love those light effects! Credit: Jesse E

I am not going to Nova this year – one con a year is the limit until the kiddo’s in school – but that’s okay. I’m playing lots of Malifaux on Vassal these days, so if you ever want a game, hit me up! I’m in the Goonhammer discord. And I’ll be writing, too. As I speak, Ashes of Malifaux has been out for a week or so, so it’s high time I get started on my review columns. Watch this space!

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