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,



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  2. Hi! I'm a huge neverborn fan! And The only nightmare miniature I'm missing is the nightmare Teddy (Long One). I'm wondering if you can change it, sell o give it! PLZZ.

    I'm from Venezuela.

    1. Hi Regulo! Sorry, but for the time being I'm not planning to sell my Nightmare Teddies. Best of luck finding one though. :)