Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Don’t Kirai for me Argentina…

Well it seems that after getting my blog up to date with Catchup week I’ve now dug myself into yet another hole with another 4 Masters played and in need of an article! Rather than dedicate another week to posting about these Masters (thus cutting into my painting time) I might just try and get through them in the time I have and see how I go. Anyway, first off the block is Kirai!

The Master
Kirai was a very nasty Master back in 1st edition Malifaux. As one of the releases in the aptly named “Rising Powers” expansion to Malifaux, she was considered well and truly above the power level of her fellow Resurrectionist Masters. Perhaps not as horribly broken as the original Hamelin or Dreamer crews but in my experience, still very tough to deal within. It’s mostly for that reason that I’ve steered clear of using Kirai. After all, Masters near the top of the power curve never really interested me as much as ones I could feel more challenged by.

To add to that, I’ve never liked Kirai’s background. As far as I can see, some shmuck kills her boyfriend and she then mopes around Malifaux for two books, crying about how unfair it all is and unwillingly being egged on by some malevolent spirit to seek vengeance against those who wronged her (which seems to be everybody). Now in the real world I’d completely understand and sympathise with Kirai and the serious emotional baggage she carries around. But this is the fantasy world of Malifaux, where monsters are very real and people regularly die in increasingly gruesome and disturbing ways. In that world, Kirai getting all mopey about some boyfriend getting shot just makes her look like a whiney crybaby. By comparison, I bring your attention to Zephyr – the desperate merc in the Twisting Fates story “A Great Adventure”.  Her son is brutally murdered by who knows what kind of horror and her husband hanged for the crime, but does she collapse in a heap cry like a baby? Hell no. She picks up a pistol then proceeds to hire her services out to any who’ll pay to acquire the funds necessary to bring her family back from the freaking dead. Unlike Kirai, she’s a god damn bad ass.

Fortunately the new art for Kirai gives me some hope that she’ll soon grow a backbone and aspire to be as awesome as Zephyr. Still, when it came to playing her for the Rainbow Challenge I was pretty ambivalent about her.
 See? She looks much more like a bad ass in the new art. ;)

The Paint Job
In a sense, Kirai’s is a very demoralising crew to paint. Kirai, Ikiryo and 5 Seishin total 7 models – as many minis as most other crews and that’s before you’ve spent a soulstone on her crew proper! But even after maybe half a dozen models to fill out her crew, you still need Gaki, Shikome and whatever other spirit minions you might need for her summons. In my case, it came to 16 models, although it could have easily exceeded 20 if I didn’t already have painted models for some of her summons (eg. Night Terrors, Shikome, Hanged, Drowned). I guess I should have expected this kind of model count for a summoning Master. However having mostly steered away from Ressers as a Faction, this was my first time actually painting a crew for one!

Anyway, despite my gripe about the model count, I’ll admit I did enjoy painting Kirai’s crew. The Yellow/Purple colour scheme originated from my Jakob Lynch crew, and I dare say it turned out even better with Kirai. As usual I didn’t manage to get the bases fully done before playing, but with the flowers it’s at least not bare! My only regret with this crew is that I didn’t manage to come up with a unique theme of some kind. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but after the likes of Adventure Time McCabe, Cake Time Mei Feng or Tea Time McMourning, it does feel like a bit of a let down.

6 models plus Master, 0SS. God damn it...

The Game
45SS, Corner Deployment
Strategy: Squatters Rights
- Line in the Sand
- Breakthrough
- Assassinate
- Vendetta
- Power Ritual

Kirai's crew for the day. I'm still trying to figure out a good base colour for Izamu. :P

The List
- Absorb Spirit 1
- Swirling Aether 2
- Unforgiven 2
Datsue Ba
- Spirit Whispers 1
Izamu the Armor 1
- Spirit Becon
Lost Love
2x Necropunks

This felt like an uncomfortably small crew when I was putting it together, although I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with both Datsue Ba and Izamu effectively filling up half my crew allowance. The theory with the crew was to start with a solid core of Kirai, Datsue Ba and Izamu, then use all three to summon an arse-load of Seishin and by extension, some bigger spirits to bolster the crew’s hitting (and Interacting) power. The Necropunks were there, of course, for some mobility and scheme-planting adventures.

For schemes I chose Line in the Sand and Power Ritual. I can’t say I was surprised when Chris chose the same schemes, especially with a pair of Trappers selected to hold each corner!

Kirai looks on as Izamu and Ikiryo take apart Von Schill's crew. 

The Result
A combination of Ikiryo (summoned from Malevolence) and Izamu (with help from Kirai’s Swirling Spirits and Datsue Ba’s Guide Spirits for the movement) took out most of the core of Von Schill’s crew, including Lazarus and the Freikorps Librarian. The Necropunks both attempted to threaten the Trapper on one flank but were taken out by Von Schill himself. The other Trapper was killed off by two Shikome summoned by Kirai. By the end of the game, Von Schill had helped secure one flank but was tied up by Ikiryo (swapped into position for a charge by Swirling Spirits). The rest of his crew had crumbled under the weight of Izamu and the summoned Shikome, making it a very comfortable win for Kirai.

Post-game Thoughts
Well after the game, both Chris and I were very impressed with what Kirai could do! Her effect on the game (ie. summoning and swapping models around) stood in stark contrast to Von Schill, who despite helping to secure a flank never seemed to achieve that much. I’ll admit this has also gotten me to thinking about what Von Schill’s strengths really are, but that’s for another blog.

Playing a summoning Master like Kirai was an interesting experience. Sure, I’ve played Masters capable of summoning before but aside from perhaps So’mer, this was the first time I’ve used a Master for whom summoning was a major part of her playstyle. Throughout the game, Kirai’s antics allowed me to summon two Shikome, Ikiryo and an ass-load of Seishin. I didn’t actually get a single crow in my hand from turn 2 onwards so summoning any more without a Soulstone to burn proved difficult. Still, it was more than I needed to deal with Von Schill’s crew. The Shikome made themselves useful taking out a Freikorps Trapper on the flank opposite Von Schill, and Ikiryo successfully held up and killed Lazarus with some assistance from Izamu.
The one aspect I didn’t like about Kirai’s summoning is how resource intensive it seems to be. Summoning even a mid-level minion requires a high crow (or a high card and a soulstone), so it tends to suck up the best cards in your hand, denying you the chance to use them for other important duels that turn. I don’t doubt that the summoned models are worth the investment, and in fact it helped me win this game by a good margin. But nevertheless it did feel like it was restricting what the rest of my crew could do, which I wasn’t entirely comfortable with.

Ikiryo holds up Von Schill while a Trapper tries not to look too conspicuous in the background.

The other half of Kirai’s playstyle was the mobility-based tricks and in particular, her Swirling Spirits action. I’ll admit I got a lot of use out of Swirling Spirits. Between that and Datsue Ba’s (0) Guide Spirits action I was able to position Izamu far enough up to assist Ikiryo against Lazarus (wiping out a Librarian and Friekorpsman along the way), get the Shikome closer to their Friekorps Trapper target and reposition Ikiryo (who otherwise has a Wk of 2!) to charge Von Schill in the closing turns of the game. It basically allowed for some very impressive mobility for what would have otherwise been a slow crew.

Kirai’s activation in almost every turn generally consisted of (0) Call Forth to summon a Seishin, Then any combination of (1) Walk (to get into position), (1) Swirling Spirits (to swap other models around) and/or (1) Blood and Wind (to summon something IF I had the cards/soulstone). Near the end of the game she spammed Sunder Spirit for some damage vs Von Schill (and to stick Adversary on him), but otherwise she only rarely got any use out of the Actions granted by her upgrades. Honestly, the Stat card actions are where it’s all at with Kirai.

So it might not come as a surprise that Kirai’s most useful upgrade proved to be the one that just adds triggers - Unforgiven. It allowed her to summon Shikome without slow (getting them into the fray much quicker) and added some extra damage to her Sundering action vs Von Schill. I imagine I’d have trouble justifying her other limited upgrade, Bloody Shears, over Unforgiven. I love the theme of it and Accomplice itself has some great potential for getting the jump on opposing crews, but otherwise Unforgiven’s triggers seem to add quite a lot to what Kirai already does best.
I think Absorb Spirit and Swirling Aether are take it or leave it upgrades for Kirai. I’ll admit did use one of the actions on each card at least once during the game, but for the most part it just gives her another tool she can use when the occasion suits. When it comes down to it and as I said above, most of the time her Stat card actions are what tend to be the most useful.

The Seishin were actually pretty cool little spirits for Kirai. With the crew and upgardes I took I was able to summon quite a few throughout the game. I initially expected them to prove useful for summoning bigger spirits, swapping other models around and protecting Kirai. However they were also great as expendible peons - chewing up activations, sacrificing themselves to heal other models and generally just getting in the way to prevent enemy attacks or Interact actions. So while they might primarily be Kirai’s models, I can definitely see myself taking the models (Datsue Ba) and upgrades (Spirit Whispers/Spirit Beacon) to summon them in other Resurrectionist crews.

 My two Shikome. I've never liked the original model, so given half a chance I usually use my proxy. ;)

For the rest of the crew, well I’ve no complaints! Izamu was a no-frills killing machine, which was great. The Spirit Beacon upgrade was a natural fit for him, and allowed him to summon more than a few Seishin during the game.
I’ve already touched on Datsue Ba, but she was certainly another solid inclusion. Not just for her ability to summon Seishin, but also Guide Spirits for more mobility when it was needed (like for getting Izamua up the board). Her offensive actions were also nice, although for the most part I was using Weigh Sins to hopefully get the Adversary condition on other models. The main negative was her low wound count. In this game Von Schill’s crew never had a chance to take on Datsue Ba, but I imagine she’d go down fast against any model who can get around her Incorporeal.
I think the Lost Love is almost essential, purely so that you’ve got another model with Malevolence to help get Ikiryo out. The heal is a great bonus though, especially in a crew that can mitigate damage with Incorporeal.

As much as I love their paint job, the Gaki sadly never saw action in this game.

When building a Kirai crew, I felt like I was trying to strike a balance between two competing synergies. The first is with Malevolence, which encourages you to take living and undead models to summon Ikiryo off of. Then there’s the many, many ways in which Kirai can support her Spirits which are frankly, too useful to ignore. Of course there’s no low/mid costed models with both undead and spirit to fill her crew out with, so if you try to stick with just undead spirits then your options are pretty limited. That said, in practice I didn’t find this to be an issue. So long as the nastier models are Undead Spirits (which they were in my case), at some point your opponent is going to want to attack them. So while your opponent might try to delay it, Ikiryo’s arrival is still inevitable. Even better, I found it was a pretty effective way of discouraging models like Chris’s Trappers from attacking my undead. After all, Ikriyo is definitely well equipped to take out long-ranged shooters!

So overall, Kirai was a nice Master to throw onto the table. Her mobility tricks really appeal to me and there is a definite resiliance playstyle about her, with Ikiryo making it hard for shooters to put a dent into your big (undead) hitters, plenty of healing/damage reduction options, plentiful Seishin for activation control and of course, her summoning to win the attrition war. In terms  of negatives, I’ve already talked about my feelings on summoning – this isn’t really Kirai’s fault, but more my discomfort with the resource drain summoning  seems to be. This is probably an opinion that will evolve as I play through more summoning Masters this year.
Her focus on undead and spirits seem to restrict her options for a viable crew though – it’s difficult to justify taking a non-spirit model in her crew, and her Ikriyo summoning really encourages you to preference undead spirits (eg. Izamu, Hanged, Datsue Ba etc) for your high value models. I guess when you’re building a summoning crew with such a high starting model count (as above – 7 models before you’ve even spent a SS!), having a limit to what she’d actually want to take is a relief. But like I found with Dreamer, if you’re on your way to buying just about everything anyway, it does feel a bit restrictive!

Until next time,