Saturday, 26 April 2014

Restless Dreams of Pain – The Dreamer

Bah, screw having an extended intro, this post is long enough. So in my continuing quest to paint and play ALL the Masters in Malifaux, it’s time for Dreamer!
In this game I was facing off against Paul Middlewick, who chose to bring Yan Lo out for the first time this edition.

 My original Dreamer crew

The Paint Job

Dreamer was a crew I’d intended to do the moment I acquired the coveted Nightmare Lord Chompy Bits during Gencon 2010. However it wasn’t until the 2012 Australian Malifaux GT that I found an excuse to finally bring the crew together. By then I also had a pair of Nightmare Teddies and the out of production Puppet Teddies for what should be a unique (and expensive!) crew! All those Puppet Teddies (initially used as Daydreams) encouraged me to continue with a puppet theme for the crew, adding Stitched, using flying Piglets for Night Terrors, Puppet Kade for Baby Kade and though I never used it, a puppet Sorrow for an Insidious Madness. The whole crew was based using Puppet Deck cards, in what has become my simplest (but still great looking) basing technique thus far. ;)

Oh, tiny pink piglet, whatever shall I do with you?

With the advent of M2E I’ve had to “rearrange” my proxies a little. The Puppet Teddies are now Alps and my Daydreams are the original models (based with the rest of the crew, of course!). With no access to Night Terrors for Dreamer I’m still not entirely sure what to do with my flying piglets. Maybe Terror Tots for scheme marker related objectives? An Insidious Madness or three? Honestly I haven’t decided. They remain one of my favourite proxies in this crew though, so I’m sure I’ll find an excuse to pull them out one day!

The table for today. I deployed in the bottom right. 

The Game

45SS, Flank Deployment
Strategy: Turf War
- Murder Protege
- Vendetta
- Bodyguard
- Assassinate
- Line in the Sand

Wow. I believe the only way this game could have been more about killing is if we’d flipped Close deployment! Reckoning might have also added to the killiness, but it wouldn’t have drawn our crews into the centre like Turf War does. Either way, stuff was going to die in this game.

My Dreamer crew today. 

The List

- Avatar of Imagination (Desperate Manifest)
- Restless Dreams
- Tantrum
2x Daydreams
2x Stitched Together
2x Teddys

Most of my crew-selection decisions were entirely theme-based. I wanted to use the models I’d painted specifically for this crew, so in when anything with a puppet wars deck base! Being a kill-heavy game I decided to take Restless Dreams to maximise my time with the ultra-killy Lord Chompy Bits, and Tantrum for the Ranged Expert (and hence additional chance to bump up Dreamer’s Waking). He was then supported by two Teddies for killing power and two Stitched Together, since they looked like solid models this edition.

Both Paul and I had decided to try out our respective Avatars in this game, and so thinking that Assasinate didn’t seem like a bad idea against the likes of Dreamer, I went with a Desperate Manifest. As it turned out neither upgrade had an effect on the game at all, so this is the last you’ll hear me speak of them!

The Schemes I chose were Assassinate and Murder Protégé (Izamu). On reflection, I probably shouldn’t have gone with Assassinate on a Resser Master (again), but no matter. Murder Protégé seemed an obvious choice though – Paul was going to need to get Izamu into combat and with all the killing power at my disposal, I figured I had a decent chance of taking him down.

Opponent’s List

Yan Lo
- Avatar of Seeking
- Fortify Spirit
- Reliquary
- Command the Grave
2x Ashigaru
Soulstone Porter

In all fairness to Paul, this was his first game in a month and he’d barely had a chance to read Yan Lo’s cards before the game. I don’t personally know Yan Lo well enough to see exactly where he could have improved his crew, but this was definitely a game of “let’s throw things on the table and see what they do”.

For schemes, Paul chose Assassinate and…I think Vendetta? In any case and as you’ll see, it unfortunately didn’t make any difference.


As usual, Turn 1 mostly consisted of both crews manoeuvring into position to start engaging things in Turn 2. Paul Set up a buffer of Ashigaru and the Komainu to protect his Ancestors, with Toshiro providing some close support with his buffing Aura. With the help of the Daydreams Lead Nightmare action I moved my Teddies and Stitched into flanking positions near the Turf War Marker, While Dreamer Walked up to summon a third Daydream and an Alp, to give himself Waking +2.

 Dreamer & Friends rapidly close in on the Turf War marker, while Yan Lo's crew advances cautiously.

In Turn 2 Pauls Ashigaru Braced to prevent any easy Charges from my Teddies while I moved my Alp into melee with the Ashigaru (mostly to waste an activation) and I moved my Stitched and Daydreams up, the former with the help of Lead Nightmare. I fired the first shot, so to speak, by moving my third daydream into within 4” of an Ashigaru (giving him -1Wp) and using the Attacks from a nearby Stitched to deal some damage and draw/discard some cards. Paul responded by activating Yan Lo, then using Lightning Jump to swap the Alp into melee with Izamu and then swap the activated Stitched into combat with Toshiro. Izamu beat the Alp into a pulp with one swing and then walked into melee with one of my Teddies. This proved to be his undoing – between a failed Wp duel from Gobble you up and a Flurry my Teddy managed 4 attacks onto Izamu, hitting with them all and doing enough damage to destroy him. Dreamer then activated and seeing an opportunity, moved up to Yan Lo, cast a Daydream and dealt some damage to an Ashigaru with Surrounded by Nightmares. This brought him to Waking 4, summoning Chompy who promptly placed himself right next to Yan Lo! Unfortunately Chompy failed to hit, but a follow-up charge from my second Teddy managed to deal some damage, setting poor Yan up for a grim turn 3…

 Yan Lo discusses spiritual enlightenment with two monsters and a child. 

In Turn 3 Paul claimed initiative but Yan Lo failed to Lightning Jump out of melee (I cheated a Red Joker to prevent exactly that). That sealed his fate, as Lord Chompy Bits made up for his poor performance last turn and with a little help from his Onslaught trigger, tore Yan Lo to shreds before using (0) Sleep my Child to bring Dreamer back. After that, with Yan Lo and Izamu out of the picture it was a foregone conclusion for poor Paul. A Komainu managed to put slow on one of my Teddies (which was promptly removed with an Empty Night/Just a Dream trigger from Dreamer) and Toshiro finished off the Stitched Together he was engaged with. Aside from that, three Disturbing Whispers Auras from my daydreams (for -3Wp) allowed me to get maximum use out of Gobble you Up (Teddy) and a Game of Chance (Stitched Together). This allowed me to kill off both Ashigaru and Komainu, leaving just Toshiro and a Soul Porter to deal with almost my entire crew.

We called the game at that point.

Toshiro considers whether negotiaion would be the best approach in this situation. 

Post-game Thoughts

I’ve been trying to figure out how to discuss Dreamer and actually, there’s so much to him that it’s difficult to really summarise how he plays in just a few sentences. So instead, I’ll try and peel him back and deal with him piece by piece. Here goes…

Dreamer the Supporter

I think the most basic facet of Dreamer is his role as a Support Master. His Pleasant Dreams ability allows friendly models in 6” to heal 3 damage when they activate, which in itself is great in a faction that’s normally not too resilient. Hell, together with regenerate a Teddy will heal 5 wounds when it activates, which is no small feat. His Twist Reality attack can also help with this, with either a “push friendly nightmares” or paralyse trigger to deal with troublesome enemy models. The Paralyse only works on Wp 4 models, but with the Daydreams, the Widow Weaver and Insidious Madness all able to reduce the Wp of enemy models, it’s actually much more effective than you’d initially think.

Then there’s Dreamers Tactical Action, Empty Night. Holy crap, this is an amazing support tool! It will only work on friendly nightmares or minions, but it’s honestly like having all the best support spells in one awesome package! Depending on the trigger, it can give the target model Fast, a 6” push and free melee attack, a heal effect or condition removal and another Empty Night action. The 6” push and melee attack is like having a souped up (albeit more limited) version of Obey, but I’m a particular fan of the condition removal, especially considering it lets you cast Empty Night again! I’ve always found condition removal to be an invaluable tool for any crew, so for Dreamer to get it is a massive bonus as far as I’m concerned.

Dreamer and Lord Chompy Bits

The second facet to Dreamer’s playstyle is his ability to summon Lord Chompy Bits – the melee centric, high damage half of Dreamer! This is where probably the most important aspect of his playstyle comes in – the Waking Condition. Basically as his Waking Condition increases the healing effect from Pleasant Dreams is reduced (So Waking +1 reduces the Heal aura by -1, or 2 wounds on activation). However once you get to Waking +4 then you immediately bury Dreamer and summon Lord Chompy Bits onto the table! Increasing the Waking condition is generally done through Dreamer’s summoning spell, Daydreaming, to summon Daydreams or Alps (as per below). In addition there’s the first of his Limited upgrades, Restless Dreams, which increases his waking condition every time he deal damage with his Twist Reality Sh attack and I found greatly improves Dreamers ability to get Chompy out quickly.

In my own game I found that between Restless Dreams and the Tantrum upgrade (giving Dreamer Ranged Expert for another Sh attack) it was not overly hard to bring Dreamer’s Waking condition high enough to ensure Chompy makes an appearance every turn after the first. For instance in this game Dreamer spent turns 1 and 2 bringing Waking up to +4 (not hard given the effective 8 AP you have available), at which point Chompy arrived (with slow) and did his thing. In turn 3 Chompy activated first, then (0) sacrificed himself to bring out Dreamer (letting Chompy die will bring Dreamer out with Slow, which is not ideal). Restless Dreams doesn’t let you gain Waking from Sh actions if Chompy has already activated, but 1-2 summons from Daydreaming was more than enough to put Dreamer within Striking distance of Summoning Chompy in Turn 4.

Despite his impressive size, Lord Chompy Bits is actually something of a glass cannon. Despite being summoned to the table (giving him slow), Chompy he can put out a huge amount of damage thanks to his two great melee attacks and a variety of strong, damage-focused triggers, not the least of which is Onslaught (ie. extra attacks!). Restless Dreams also gives Chompy Melee Expert, which helps counter his Slow when summoned and further boosts his damage potential.

Of course, the downside of being a glass cannon is the "Glass" bit. Chompy may heal 1 wound every time he kills a model, but he still only has Df 5 and starts on 7/10 wounds. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Dreamer can keep summoning him, again and again throughout the match so long as he can keep hitting that Waking +4. So while he might die relatively easily, so long as Dreamer lives then it will really only slow the Chompy Pain-Train down. 

My Alps and Daydreams, ready for summoning. 

Dreamer the Summoner
Finally, there is Dreamer’s summoning. At his simplest he can use his Daydreaming action to summon Daydreams with ease, and Alps with the Slumbering Trigger. It’s a very useful spell, but adding his second Limited upgfrade, Dreams of Pain, gives him the Manifest Nightmares action to summon almost any Nightmare Minion or Enforcer in the game, although they start on 1 wound. At 5 SS the upgrade itself is quite expensive, but given that you can summon the likes of Copellius, Lilitu or Lelu, and without the use of a corpse, it seems like a pretty strong trick to have.

Teddy is the only Nightmare that’s out of reach for this spell (requiring a 15 Masks to summon), although one of my former (and likely future) opponents John Metzakis actually pointed out that even Teddy becomes a possible summon if you combine him with Mr Tannen’s Leave it to Luck action(+2 to Masks flipped or cheated in duels). You still need a 13 of Masks or Red Joker to pull off, which is only likely to happen maybe once per game, but John found that the +2 was still great for making the other possible summons much easier to bring out with Daydreaming.

As above, each successful cast also increases Dreamers Waking condition by 1. This actually becomes pretty important since the healing from Pleasant Dreams is pretty important in bringing those summoned models back from the brink of death. So with this style of play it definitely becomes a balance between summoning the models you want, and keeping the Waking condition low enough (with some help from (0) Tucked in to reduce the Waking) to ensure the summoned models get some decent healing.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to try Dreamer out in his summoning form, aside from throwing out a few Daydreams and Alps of course. It’s something I wouldn’t mind rectifying one day, provided I get the chance of course!

Dreamer’s Crew

First of all, it would be remiss of me not to discuss Dreamer’s Totems – the Daydreams. Frankly, these are amazing models. In this game I got the most use out of their Lead Nightmare action to push friendly Nightmares around. Like I’ve said many times before, I do love push effects and this one added a huge amount to the crews mobility. Then there’s the -1Wp to enemy models with it’s Disturbing Whispers aura. Neverborn are already a pretty Wp-attack centric faction, and it certainly proved strong in my game against Paul, with both the Stotched and especially Teddy (with Smell Fear) benefitting from a flock of Daydreams neutering the enemy’s Wp. The final trick with Daydreams comes from their ability to sacrifice themselves (with (1) Lucid Nightmares) to add a mask to Dreamer’s Ca actions. I never used this myself, although I’m guessing it becomes far more useful when you’re focussing on Dreamer’s Summoning.

The Daydream’s big weakness is how easy they are to kill. Almost any model should be able to take one down on the charge (or even with a single attack) and while Dreamer can keep summoning these back, they’re still costing him an AP to do so. In fact if I was to play against the Dreamer, the Daydreams would definitely be high priority targets. They just offer too much to Dreamer’s crew to ignore and at worst, you can keep Dreamer himself occupied replacing the lost Daydreams instead of supporting his crew or bringing out larger, scarier Nightmares.

One of the things I’ve noticed with the Neverborn is that their crews tend toward having a lot of synergy specific to certain model types, and Dreamer is certainly no exception. Both he and his Daydreams have support tricks that target nightmares, so it just seems logical to prioritise those models above any others. That said, at some point I hope to take a closer look at possible non-nightmares that might work with Dreamer. Surely there’s got to be a few around! 

Teddy. Need I say more?

Aside from Dreamer and his Daydreams, my crew basically consisted of Teddies and Stitched Togethers. I can only assume that power of Teddy is obvious to all – he’s the consummate high-damage killing machine. His Weaknesses have always been his limited mobility and a vulnerability to non-damaging attacks (Lure and Paralyse, for instance), however Dreamer seems to cover both of those quite well, being ableto both move Teddy around, help heal him up and remove debilitating conditions. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with either Teddy’s performance, and I can imagine at least one being a mainstay of Dreamer’s crew.

The impression of Stitched Together is they seem to be the foot-soldiers of Dreamers crew. They’re a mid-costed minion and seems to be great all-rounders, with decent resilience, some nice tricks and a very good damage output. Both his attack actions (we’re ignoring Hooks for now!) are high risk, since they’re often as likely to hurt you as they are your opponent. It seems that if you want to use his Gambling attacks, you'll usually want a high enough card on hand to cheat in should the Stitched look like losing. Still, as with all things you can limit the risk by targeting models with a low Df or Wp, and the -1Wp Aura from the Daydreams can certainly help you win the Game of Chance Duels! In fact, the extra cards from Game of Chance gives you a better chance of having a good card on hand for Gamble your Life. Neverborn aren't quite as good at reducing an enemies Df as they are with Wp, so having that internal synergy for the Stitched is definitely handy. Aside from the risk/reward aspect the Stitched are also pretty slow. However again, the Daydreams with their Lead Nightmare action helps a lot with this.

 A WiP Chompy meets his young protege...

Final Impressions

One of the things about this Rainbow Challenge of mine is that while I get a good idea of how each Master works, playing just one game with each of them isn’t likely to give me the “complete picture”, so to speak, of how that Master plays. This game with Dreamer was a good example of that. On one hand, I got a good appreciation of the balance between the two halves of Dreamer’s playstyle (ie. Support/Summoning vs Chompy) and how central his Waking condition was to that. However a lot of my focus was on just one half of Dreamer’s playstyle – Lord Chompy Bits. I certainly enjoyed stomping around with Lord Chompy Bits but unfortunately, it meant that I couldn’t get a feel for Dreamer’s more extreme summoning through his Dreams of Pain upgrade. One of the things I said I might do this year is to play both factions for each Dual Faction Master. Whether I have time to do that is another matter but if I’m being fair, I really should be playing Masters with multiple distinct playstyles, like Dreamer’s, as well.

Anyway as it turns out, Dreamer does almost everything I like in Malifaux, and then a few things I didn’t know I liked, but it turns out I do anyway! ;) He’s got push effects, condition removal, an obey effect and can be very fast in his own right. Then there’s the summoning and by extention, activation control. Oh and he can bring in a massive Beat-stick in the shape of Lord Chompy Bits when he feels like it! About the only things Dreamer seems to be missing are scheme marker manipulation (which is admittedly rare for the Neverborn) and a way to push enemy models around. Still he’s got enough other tricks to make him a very fun and interesting Master to play.

I also loved the fact that Dreamer can switch between two different playstyles depending on which limited upgrade you choose. In this game it seemed silly NOT to go with Restless Dreams for the added killing power with Chompy, but I would certainly like to get more into his summoning/support side one day with Dreams of Pain. That will probably require either repainting or buying alternatives for the Nightmares I’d want to summon, so it might be a while before I get around to that!

So I’ve discussed all these positives about Dreamer but if I’m being honest, I do have one negative. And that’s his crew selection. I said before that Dreamer really prefers to have a crew full of Nightmares and while he certainly works well with them, I worry that this limits his scope for variety. Dreamer might have all the tricks you could possibly want, but there’s only a small selection of nightmares he’ll be doing it with. On one hand it’s kind of nice to know that you won’t need to paint too many models to have everything you could possibly want for Dreamer, but I can’t help wondering if I’d eventually get bored of his crew as a result? Needless to say I’m comparing this with my experience with Zoraida – a Master I played for a good year and a half and who works with almost anything you put in her crew. That kind of variety is hard to compete with, so perhaps I’m being unfair on Dreamer? Food for thought I suppose.

Till next time,


Monday, 7 April 2014

Let's Look for Treasure! Lucas McCabe

The alternative title for this blog post probably could have been “Adventure Time!”, but I figured that was just too cool and modern in geek culture. Better to go with an obscure South Park reference, don my hipster glasses and smugly say “you've probably never heard of it”. Even though, actually, you probably have if you're around 30+. :P

Anyway, in my continuing unofficial “lets play all the Guild” sub-chapter of the Rainbow Challenge, it’s time I pulled out Lucas McCabe! Lucas was one of those Masters I’d never paid much attention to until now. I knew he had some kind of support mechanic and the idea that he handed out his upgrades as a part of that seemed pretty cool. So is he good? Yeah probably, but it’d certainly be nice to see that for myself!

The Paint Job

When I first heard of the Guild in Malifaux, the first thing that came to my mind were the old Dungeons and Dragons Guilds that tended to pop up in cities – the Thieves Guild, Mages Guild and of course, the economically improbable Adventurers Guild. “Relic Hunter” is pretty much just a synonym for Adventurer so for me, it was clear that my McCabe needed to look like he was ready to explore dungeons, fight monsters and of course, carry all his Phat Lewt around!

And how does one emphasise this adventuring aspect? Why, you load them up with backpacks, weapons and especially non-descript pouches. You need a lot of those. Having a bits box from my Games Workshop days definitely helped in that regard. Most of my bits came from various Space Marine, Kroot and Bretonnian men at arms sets, and I supplemented that with some pewter backpacks from Secret Weapon Miniatures. The final element, the diamonds on each base, were acquired at a wedding where these things were spread over each table. Seeing an opportunity I “borrowed” some for my own ends, and they proved perfect for representing all that the treasure McCabe tended to chase after. Finally, Mounted McCabe got a hat to cover up his ridiculous haircut. Credit to the sculptor and all for designing an excellent set of models, but that one head is just terrible. ;)

There's a ridiculous number of "lets look at their backs!" pics today. It seemed like a good idea at the time...

In the end, I was really happy with how my McCabe crew turned out. All the extra gear adds a lot of character to the models, and I was excited enough about my chance to use those plastic diamonds that I got these guys based in very short order too!

The Game

45SS, Corner Deployment
Strategy: Reconnoiter
- Entourage
- Plant Explosives
- Bodyguard
- Breakthrough
- Line in the Sand

Lucas and his crew for the day. The crossover in basing styles within some of my crews is starting to get obvious... ;)

The List

Luca McCabe
- Badge of Speed
- Elixir of Life
- Promises
2x Wastrels
2x Guild Hounds
Witchling Stalker

Much like Sonnia, I pretty much went with just the starter box plus some Guild staples. The Guild Hounds were for Reconnoiter but work well with Luna regardless, and the Austringer and Witchling Stalker are just plain good. For upgrades I went with Badge of Speed and Elixir of Life. Reactivate from the Badge seemed too good not to take, and I decided on the Elixir to help boost the crew’s resilience. Also Promises seemed too good not to take. A positive flip to upgrade-holders for all Ml and Wp duels? How could anyone say no?!

The Schemes I chose were Breakthrough and Bodyguard (Sidir). I figured the Hounds and Luna could handle the scheme marker placement required for Breakthrough, while Bodyguard felt achievable considering McCabe’s Elixir of Life and Sidir’s own innate healing.

John's crew. Standing in for the Poltergiest is a Primordial Magic on a 50mm marker.  

Opponent’s List

- The Box Opens
- Cry For Me
- Fears Given Form
2x Sorrows
Insidious Madness

John’s been experimenting with what I initially thought was a very unusual list. After all, why use Barbaros when Bishop can do the same (push effects) and offer some Wp synergy too? As it turns out, Barbie’s Challenge action (being a Wp duel with a sizable Aura), is a fair bit more potent in a Pandy list than I’d assumed!
Other than that, John freely admitted that he took a list that wasn’t going to do well with the strategy. Pandora really isn’t a Reconnoiter kind of girl, and it wasn’t helped by John foregoing some cheap, mobile minions like Terror Tots in order to just use what he’d been experimenting with.

For Schemes, John chose Plant Explosives and Bodyguard (Doppelganger).

End of Turn 1 - John mostly beelines for the centre while I spread out a little.

In Turn 1 Luna and the Hounds advanced up the left flank, matched by the Insidious Madness and a Sorrow. The rest of our respective crews advanced toward the centre and within close support of each other. McCabe used his Badge of Speed to give the Austringer reactivate, who took a few wounds off the Insidious Madness. In turn 2 Barbaros advanced into the centre and put up his Challenge Aura. This would have made it very difficult to target anyone else in his crew but Barbie, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Wastrels and Sidir both ignored the Wp duel with Ruthless!

McCabe and Sidir finally get stuck in.

As the game continued, I was able to take out the Insidious Madness and Sorrow on the flank with the Hounds and Austringer, while the last Sorrow died from a charge by Sidir and a few attacks from McCabe. The Poltergiest’s Distraction was effectively negated by Sidir’s Promises upgrade and while Pandora managed to “kill” McCabe’s horse, not much else died over the course of the game. The Witchling Stalker removed the Pity Condition from my own models on one or two occasions and along with my Wastrels, Hounds and Austringer, claimed enough table quarters for full Reconnoiter VPs. The Hounds easily ran around the rear to achieve Breakthough and despite Barbaros’s best efforts, Sidir finished the game on enough wounds to claim 3VP for Bodyguard, for 10VP total. IIRC John scored 4VP total, 3 for Bodyguard on the Doppelganger and 1 for Plant explosives.

End of game - you can see the hounds happily spewing out scheme markers up the back. 

Post-game Thoughts
John’s decision to advance most of his crew into the centre of the board (and thus be unable to claim VPs for Reconnoiter) pretty much eliminated any chance of him winning the game. However it did allow us to get a good idea of how our respective crews worked so regardless of the end result, it was an interesting exercise. I don’t want to say too much about John’s crew, being a McCabe blog and all, but I was definitely impressed with the power of Barbie in a Pandora crew! Unfortunately it didn’t work out well for John, but I’ll get into that later…

It always feels wrong putting both McCabes in the same shot... they're supposed to be the same person!

So after playing him in this game, McCabe comes across as a guy that does a bit of everything. He’s tough (In the Thick of it, plus his mounted/dismounted aspects) has some damage potential (Sabre), crew support (“Take This!”), enemy debuffs (slow/paralysed from his Melee/shooting attacks) and mobility (He’s on a horse!). In fact, it seems that he’s a bit of a Jack of all Trades, the Guild version if Marcus, if you will.
Unsurprisingly, McCabe’s upgrades allow him to enhance certain facets of this playstyle. Glowing Sabre and Barbs both directly improve his damage output, Strangemetal Shirt gives him some armour and both the Elixir of Life and Badge of Speed gives him some tactical actions to help out his crew. At the moment I’m a particular fan of the Badge. After all, who doesn’t like reactivating a long as said minion is worth 1AP and a ram from McCabe, of course! 

But McCabe’s most prominent aspect of his playstyle is undoubtably his crew support or more specifically, his ability to lend out his upgrades to the rest of his crew with his “Take This!” (0) action. With the exception of Barbs, all his upgrades grant a different bonus to non-Masters and in most cases, it’s well worth handing them out once he’s done using them in his own activation. I won’t go too far into what they each do (you can all read, right? ;) ), but it was definitely a tough choice picking which ones to take.
I think the Badge of Speed is the least useful to hand out – Nimble is less useful thanks to the 4” push you already get from “Take This” (which I completely forgot about this game!), although being able to Reactivate minions makes this well worth the cost anyway.
The Elixir of Life and Strangemetal Shirt both grant resilience-type buffs so they seem to compete with each other for a slot. While an Armour +1 Aura from the shirt is almost always better than getting Regenerate on a single model, the Unimpeded Aura from the Elixir of Life does make it a little more flexible.

I didn’t use the Glowing Sabre this game and to be honest, I regretted not taking it. One of the things I noticed with McCabe’s crew (or at least the one I took) is that it really lacked some good killing power. Adding some more damage dealers would have been one way to fix that, but the Glowing Sabre is actually a really good way of doing the same for much cheaper. A lot of models won’t care much for the melee attack it grants but other models, especially the Wastrels (see below), will find it to be amazing. It also lets you do some cheeky stuff like adding melee power to models your opponent might not expect, like an Austringer or Thunder Archer stuck in melee. And it’s even better if you also reactivate them with the Badge of Speed!

Holy crap - WHY DIDN"T I PAINT MINE LIKE A ZEBRA?! This is ArdentBadger's work, so full credit goes to him! :)

As it turns out, and through no deliberate planning of my own, McCabe’s crew seems to be VERY well equipped to deal with the Wp-based attacks that tend to be so prevalent with Pandora! In fact, I’d even go so far as saying that he may be the go-to guy for facing Neverborn. McCabe’s Black Sheep (ie. Sidir and Wastrels) have Ruthless, which is excellent in itself against Wp-based defences like Terrifying. And then there’s Promises. Good god, this is an amazing upgrade! I’ll admit I forgot about the positive to Ml attacks a lot of the time but the positive to Wp flips for models carrying an upgrade (including the model carrying Promises) made this fantastic for protecting the rest of the crew against Pandora’s attacks, especially when the Poltergeist got into range!

Speaking of Promises, this is actually a very good reason to hand out at least a few of McCabe’s upgrades whenever he can. Even if the target model won’t gain any real benefit from the upgrade itself, the positive flips from Promises offers a really great boost to those models. Interestingly, Promises also gives you a reason to take upgrades on as many of your enforcers and Henchmen as you can afford. It kind of runs counter to McCabe’s fondness for minions though (or at least minions he can reactivate with the Badge of Speed). So as with all things, it’s a balancing act of deciding whether to go with an elite crew to benefit from Promises, a minion horde to take advantage of Badge of Speed, or a mix of both.

Finally, while we’re still on McCabe, I want to talk about his Mobility. At the beginning of this game I was actually tempted to go with Entourage as one of my schemes. With 3x 7” walks on his horse, a (0) Dismount action and two more 5” Walks as Dismounted McCabe he has a reach of 31”, assuming he doesn’t also use Desperate Gamble to Reactivate ad sacrifice himself at the end of turn! So while he’s pretty fast when he wants to be, I think his supportive tricks mean that he’s better off sticking close to his crew, where he’s better able to buff them and add some damage output of his own. Maybe in the late game he could run off and achieve some objectives, but generally I think he's better off hanging with his crew.

Yes, Luna's carrying a pigeon. ;)

I actually feel like Sidir’s main strength was the fact that he’s a Black Sheep and can thus carry the awesome Promises Upgrade. Other than that he seems to function as a resilient, bodyguard-type Henchman – a role that’s enhanced by his By Your Side upgrade (which I didn't try in this game). His ranged and melee attack actions were both okay, but they were never anything to write home about. His Machine gun in particular felt a little underwhelming, purely because it doesn't have a way of ignoring/negating cover. I definitely liked Laugh off though – Being able to ignore enemy push of movement effects was handy against Barbaros, and I think it's stronger in practice than a lot of people might assume.

In my game, the best I can say about Sidir is that he didn't die, and that he got good use out of Promises. I didn't use him as a Bodyguard-type model though so perhaps in the future I might try and play him more to that strength.

.Sidir got the coolest backpack, yet I have no idea where it came from. :P

Luna is a champion, no doubt about it! In this game I ran him with a pair of Guild hounds, making for a very fast flanking force that could take on other isolated elements and at least in this game, help fulfill Reconnoiter and place scheme markers for Breakthrough. Mind you, running him out with a pack of his own denied me the chance to take advantage of Hunting Dog (For McCabe to shoot models he’s engaged with) and Warning Bark (which could help a Guild Hound, sure, but would be better on a more costly crew member). If it wasn't Reconnoiter I think that “close support” aspect of Luna would have proved much more useful, but it’s nice to know that he can switch between the two styles of play. 

Like many others, I originally wanted to paint the Wastrels as droogs  from A Clockwork Orange... 

I’ve heard people speak poorly of Wastrels, and in a sense I can see where they are coming from.  They aren’t particularly tough and don’t have a high damage output. So despite being only 4SS, they look like the kind of model that won’t do much before eventually dying once something half decent gives them a dirty look. That said, I found that they have A LOT of hidden versatility, to the point that I’d argue they’re support models who add far more to a crew than their stat card might suggest.

I mentioned Ruthless, before and the “cheap” Defensive +1 from Swagger combines well with their low cost to make them half-decent objective grabbers. Bravado, however, is amazing. With an upgrade attached, Bravado effectively allows them to discard and draw a new card with every duel-related action they take, which makes them particularly good at bolstering your control hand while still shooting and stabbing your opponent. Cast-offs is a spell I didn't use, but I think in this game I underestimated it. So long as it’s carrying an upgrade, at worst it’s the equivalent of three actions for 2 AP. You get to cycle a low card (with Bravado), gain a boosted attack, heal or movement effect (depending on the trigger) and the chance to heal another model. I've yet to understand why moving upgrades around with Castoffs would be worth while - maybe to throw the upgrade back toward McCabe before triggering Petrified Feather for some objective-related movement? Still, at least it's an option.

In terms of damage potential, they seem better at range than in melee but with Bravado, it’s not so hard to discard a low mask and get their triggers off. They are, however, the perfect target for McCabe’s Glowing Sabre upgrade. With Bravado they can discard a Ram for +1Dg from critical strike, bringing the damage spread up to 3/5/6 before adding any suits that are flipped/cheated in the duel! The other upgrades also help them out in the resilience and mobility department and again, with Bravado they are good targets for such upgrades. This is especially true if you’re after the Aura effect from the Elixir of Life or Strangemetal shirt, since they’re cheap enough to waste AP getting in the ideal position to help your crew with such effects.
In this game I took two Wastrels, and I think that’s a good number. You only have so many upgrades to pass onto them and in any case, you still need soulstones for something that’s a little further up the damage-scale.

...but Gentlemen Adventurers just fit better with the theme. 

Guild Hounds currently feel like a near auto-include for the Reconnoiter Strategy. 3SS minions that are actually quite fast is tough to pass up, and they served me very well in this game. Between them and Luna I was able to take the table quarters I needed and easily fulfil breakthough while the rest of Pandy’s crew was otherwise occupied. Had John taken Terror Tots or Silurid, I’m pretty confident that between the Hounds, Luna and the Austringer, I would have been able to take care of them before they caused too much trouble.

Surely I’ve talked about the Witchling Stalker and Austringer enough, right?! ;) The fact that I’ve now taken at least one of each in almost every Guild crew I’ve played should be evidence enough of their incredible utility. While I wouldn’t say they’re overpowered, what they offer to your crew definitely makes them difficult not to use!

Witchlings. Just do it. 

Final Impressions
So after giving him a run, is McCabe the sort of Master I enjoy playing? Well let’s look at the facts;
  1. I really enjoyed building/painting his crew,
  2. I compared McCabe favourably with Marcus – a Master I loved in the previous edition,
  3. McCabe has access to a push effect to move his own models around,
  4. McCabe lets me use Witchling Stalkers, who are rapidly becoming my favourite minion in the game,
  5. … and perhaps most tellingly, I’ve written more than 3000 words on my experience with him!
Actually, about the only thing he doesn’t have is the ability to push enemy models around, but no matter. The fact is, McCabe was a great Master to play. His upgrade-support mechanic was a lot of fun to use and his flexible playstyle gave me plenty of options for McCabe himself.

That said, the one thing I felt was really missing from McCabe’s crew was some genuine killing power. The Wastrels and Sidir never seemed that damaging and while McCabe has the potential to put out some hurt, I think he needs his Barbs and/or Glowing Sabre upgrade if he’s going to play the damage game. In future games then, I think I’ll be making room for a few models who can reliably deal some good damage. That, and I’ll be taking that Glowing Sabre upgrade! ;)

I’ve barely said a word about using McCabe with the 10-Thunders, although I can’t imagine he’d be a bad option. Much like his fellow Guild Masters he has very little “specific” synergy (ie. abilities/actions that only work with certain models or model types, like Nightmares or Constructs), except for what he can do with Wastrels (who are 10-T anyway). So he should be just as happy working with the likes of Illuminated, Thunder Archers, Torakage and whatever else. As a side note, if the Samurai keep their 0SS cost upgrades in the current beta, then they’ll actually combine quite well with the Promises Upgrade too!

Till next time,


Friday, 4 April 2014

State of the Challenge - March Edition

So first off, despite my best intentions I missed out on posting up an update on how the Rainbow Challenge is fared in February. As usual, time just got away from me. I’ve been trying to catch up on the battle reports after Cancon in January and by the time I had a chance to post an update on the Challenge itself, I was already halfway through the month so I figured I’d just cut my losses! Anyway, on to the update!

For those who just joined us…

So for those unfamiliar with the Rainbow Challenge, here’s what I’m trying to achieve. By the end of this year, my aim is to;
  1. Have a painted crew for every Master in Malifaux
  2. Play at least one game with every Master in Malifaux

Yes it’s crazy, and yes I have doubts about whether I could possibly finish it in time! Still, here I am, at the end of month three so let’s see how I’ve gone, shall we?

If you're Hunting for Relics, you need somewhere to store all your phat lewt right?


Well, I’m sorry to say that the gaming half of the challenge did not go so well over February, with just a single game played (Lady Justice). There were a few factors responsible – I ended up playing a few demo/henchman games and a few of my usual gaming nights were cancelled for family commitments. So not too good, but I was hoping the 10 games I’d played in January would make up for this.

Painting-wise however, February was a raging success! As Guild Month, my plan was to complete crews for Sonnia Cridd and Lucas McCabe, neither of whom I’d done more than some basic assembly at the time. As it turns out, I went in for a treatment that basically meant I had to stay away from people for a few days (radiation!), so I took advantage of the time to PAINT AS MUCH AS I COULD! It allowed me to complete no less than FOUR crews in the space of a few days – Sonnia and McCabe (as per my aim for the month), followed by my plastic Lilith crew and half of Kirai’s crew. I didn’t need to finish the Mother of Monsters for the challenge, but it was one of my Gencon purchases and I really felt it was time to actually get her finished.

The start of  Kirai's crew - I had to wait until March before I recieved the rest of them to paint.


In a sense, March was the opposite of February. I managed to fit in a respectable three games (with Sonnia, McCabe and Dreamer), but I only managed to complete one crew of my two planned Resser crews (Kirai), plus the Widow Weaver (because people keep saying she’s good…). Part of the problem is that it’s taken me a while to figure out just how I should paint the second Master Yan Lo’s crew, but it does put me behind a little on my painting, which is a pain.

I’m also not managing to base the crews to the standard I’d prefer. I’ve always been a bit lazy with my basing – usually most of my models will sit around on brown dirt bases until I want them for a tournament, in which case I break out the flock and go to town. I was hoping to get more of my crews fully based as I go along, but with the limited time I’ve had that’s proven to be a challenge.

The other unexpected challenge, I’m finding, is in keeping the blog up to date with my games played! If I only did a short report it’d be okay, but I can’t help writing 2000+ word essays on each Master as I go through them! Needless to say I’ll keep working on this. Every time I write I aim to get it below 2000 words though, which is something I’ve had little success with!

The beginnings of Rasputina's crew...approaching completion.

April - The Present

So that brings me to now – the start of April. Just as February was Guild Month and March was Resser Month, April is planned to be Arcanist Month! I’ve got Rasputina and Colette on the Assembly/Painting, plus of course Yan Lo if I can find the time to finish him off. Fortunately Rasputina should be easy – I’ve got the transparent blue boxed set and in a reflection of my excitement for her, I won’t be doing much more than assembling and basing them. Colette is a little harder. Unlike Yan Lo I’ve got a definite theme in mind, but it’s at least a dozen models to paint and I still need to find some Coryphee, which is proving to be tough.

Just a few bits and pieces to paint....

Also, thanks to some birthday presents and a few more purchases, I now have EVERY released Master in Malifaux! That brings my total to...

  • 24 Masters with complete (ie. playable) crews,
  • 9 Incomplete Masters (ie. Owned but either unassembled, unpainted or part thereof)
  • 6 Unreleased Masters

Of the unreleased crews, we know the Brewmaster is imminent but I hold out hope that most of the other 5 will be available at Gencon this year. I've got some notes on possible proxies for most of them (Mah Tucket being the toughest so far) but I'd rather not use them if I can! 

Till next time,