This weekend saw another gaming first for me as David (Sholto), Joe (Euclid) and I set off on a Malifaux road trip to York. We were travelling the 200 miles or so to take part in the Vapnartak 2014 Malifaux tournament, popularly known as VappaFaux. We drove down the previous afternoon and enjoyed a fine evening of beer and big dinners followed by copious and hilarious use of card games in our ‘luxury’ hotel room at a services on the A64. We rocked up to the venue on Sunday morning and received a very warm welcome from the locals and other traveling tournament goers.
Game 1: Ten Thunders (me) vs Ten Thunders (Matt)
Pool: Line in the Sand, Breakthrough, Spring the Trap, Bodyguard, Make Them Suffer
My Ten Thunders: Spring the Trap, Breakthrough (announced)
His Ten Thunders: Spring the Trap, Make Them Suffer
My Ten Thunders: Mei Feng (Seismic Claws), Emberling, 3 Rail Workers, 2 Illuminated, Thunder Archer, 3SS
His Ten Thunders: Misaki (Recalled Training, Misdirection, Stalking Bisento), Yamaziko (Recalled Training, Smoke and Shadows), Thunder Archer, 2 Torakage, Johan
There don’t seem to be many active Ten Thunders players in the Scotland scene so it’s not often I actually get to play against my own chosen faction. I deliberately went for Mei Feng as I thought that the temptation to play Lynch in all my games might be overwhelming. I only own a limited pool of models to choose from here so the real choices were whether to include an Oiran over a Rail Worker, and whether to take Kang rather than two others. In the end I stuck with all three Rail Workers as the Oiran is just too annoying to rely on for Lure, despite how useful it would be in the strategy, and I didn’t think that I would need increased willpower especially at the expense of bunching up. Similarly, Kang didn’t make the cut as I wasn’t expecting terrifying to be an issue, nor for there to be many constructs or undead. He’s a great beater but his speed and cost means that he wants to be in the middle of bunch of foes which isn’t likely at this game size or strategy. The Emberling is a great little runner for its cost so there was no question of it staying in my case.
Matt, for his part, asked at the start if I was any good at the game. I replied that I was OK (looking at the strength of the field here I was expecting a good hiding in a couple of games) and he pointed to the Tractor of Shame around his neck; a ‘prize’ in his group for doing worst at the last tournament. Apologies for this photo and a few more later on; I don’t really have Parkinson’s.
Turn 1: As usual almost everyone runs forward. My Archer, lacking a decent target and unwilling to advance too much, drops a scheme marker in case Misaki should come calling. The big Illuminated is Stalked by Misaki but it’s after his activation so she doesn’t get a free move this turn. Right at the end, Mei Feng launches herself forward with Rail Walker and smites the other Archer who hadn’t been so circumspect in his advance; burning takes his last wound. Incidentally, I love the Rail Walker spell and I use it in the first turn of almost every game with Mei Feng regardless of whether it is actually helpful; I think I’m stuck with the memory of my first ever encounter with Mei Feng back here in Malifaux v1.5).
Turn 2: Mei Feng charges Johan and pummels him lightly. The Torakage on my left drops smoke bombs and vanishes, then Misaki charges the stalked Illuminated but fails to kill it. My Emberling zooms into the inviting open area in the middle of board with its mind on Breakthrough points and Yamaziko slogs back toward Mei Feng but doesn’t manage to cast Master Tactician when she gets there. My Archer focuses and shoots the other Torakage which has advanced into cover nearby for slow and a few wounds. Johan flurries Mei Feng for surprisingly little effect, then both Illuminated punch Misaki for about half her wounds. The Rail Workers both sidle up and drop scheme markers near the Mistress of the Ten Thunders which I reveal to score two from Spring the Trap, then the Torakage somewhat unwisely unburies himself in the middle of the scrum. Neither of us score for the strategy.
Turn 3: My Archer focuses again and ends the Torakage on the right. Johan flurries Mei Feng and I drop a soulstone and a 13 for Leap Aside, but Matt is having none of that and puts in the Red Joker to hit her anyway. Fortunately, I have a hand like a hero at this point and do the same thing again. Tragically out of Red Jokers, Matt is forced to watch as Mei Feng pushes over to Yamaziko and beats the old lady to death. Rarely has writing those words felt so right. Misaki, understandably upset at the loss of her sensei, nails her chosen Illuminated (scoring for Make Them Suffer) and the rest of my crew ineptly dog pile the surviving Torakage and kill him on the sixth attack. The Emberling scurries into the empty rear left table quarter and begins dropping scheme markers. I score for the strategy.
Turn 4: Misaki has had enough of my nonsense, casually polishing off the nearest Rail Worker (scoring another for Make Them Suffer) then pushing over to the Archer and one-shotting him too. Mei Feng returns the favour by dropping Johan and my crew implements Operation: Run Away From The Scary Ninja.
Turn 5: We didn’t bother to play out the final turn as I could easily keep running from Misaki while scoring for the strategy. My Ten Thunders win 8 – 2 (3 for Reconnoitre, 3 for Breakthrough and 2 for Spring the Trap for me; 2 for Make Them Suffer for Matt).
It was a really enjoyable game to start the day with, and finishing early meant that we had plenty of time to watch other players before taking advantage of the long lunch break to browse the rest of the convention. I believe that Matt did indeed end up with the Tractor of Shame for the drive back again. His reposing of Misaki is fantastic and I might well steal his idea if I get Misaki at some stage.
Game 2: Ten Thunders (me) vs Outcasts (Ben)
Strategy: Turf War
Pool: Line in the Sand, Frame for Murder, Vendetta, Breakthrough, Assassinate
Ten Thunders: Frame for Murder (female Illuminated), Assassinate
Outcasts: Line in the Sand(announced), Assassinate
Ten Thunders: Jakob Lynch (Endless Hunger), Hungering Darkness, 2 Rail Workers, Beckoner, 2 Illuminated, Thunder Archer, 1SS
Outcasts: Viktoria of Ashes (Oathkeeper, Sisters in Fury), Viktoria of Blood (Outkeeper, Mark of Shezull), Malifaux Child, Desperate Mercenary, 2 Freikorpsmen, 2 Ronin
I decided pretty arbitrarily to play Jakob Lynch in this game. He’s pretty hard to Assassinate which is a mark in his favour, but to be honest I picked him on the highly tactical basis that I’d played Mei Feng in my previous game. Otherwise, it’s the usual fare of Hungering Darkness (I like Endless Hunger to make him even nastier but increasingly feel like I’m in the minority on this), a Beckoner for Lure, Illuminated to take and deal damage and Rail Workers and an Archer to make use of the discarding ace trick. I like Assassinate on Viktoria because there is almost always one good opportunity to kill her as she’s so aggressive and Frame for Murder on the Illuminated was pretty much chosen on the same basis. I believe that a lot of people used the same schemes in this round.
Ben has a blog (which is excellent) in which among other interesting articles, he shows photos of his beautiful painting. I have to say that the photos do not do justice to how lovely his Hired Swords looked.
Turn 1: We all run forward. He’s got his Ronin and Freikorpsmen away out on both wings (clearly for a Line in the Sand) which should give me an edge in the centre, where I want to be anyway for the strategy. The Beckoner fails to Lure in one of the Ronin, but she has moved up far enough for Hungering Darkness to move twice and hit her. This gives her Brilliance which I duly Consume to paralyse her after a low flip on the horror duel. I find it really hard to use Consume Brilliance since my Hungering Darkness is normally surrounded by my own Brilliant models so it was quite good to get a chance to do it without paralysing half of my own crew.
Turn 2: My Illuminated with Frame for Murder on it charges Viktoria of Ashes but misses twice; this does take out a couple of decent cards though. The Malifaux Child casts Sisters in Fury so my other Illuminated charges Viktoria of Blood. It also misses twice, but again draws out more cards from Ben’s hand. Viktoria of Ashes then moves into a lovely Whirlwind spot between the Illuminated and Hungering Darkness but obligingly fails the horror duel and ends her activation. I can’t resist an opportunity like that so a Rail Worker uses Implacable Assault and blends the poor doppelganger. I normally prefer to attack unactivated models but in this case the board position didn’t really allow me to get to any of them. The left Freikorpsman charges Hungering Darkness and helpfully fails his horror duel too. My Archer focuses and takes the Desperate Mercenary down to a single wound, then it’s time for the main show. Viktoria of Ashes uses Oathkeeper to get fast then slaughters the poor Illuminated (scoring me 3 for Frame for Murder) then charges over to get the other one; she can’t quite take that one down. Weak damage of 5 really hurts! The other Rail Worker finishes the Desperate Mercenary. The Beckoner uses Despicable Promises on the left Ronin to get her down to Hard to Kill but fails to hit Viktoria with the same; I was hoping to give her Brilliance with it. No matter; Lynch advances, Plays for Blood to end the Ronin then Plays for Blood to make Viktoria Brilliant anyway. Hungering Darkness charges over and eats her alive, then takes out the Malifaux Child for good measure after I repeatedly flipped Rams to trigger Envelop with its tasty weak damage of 4. This gives me Assassinate too. Meanwhile on the right hand side both the Ronin and the Freikorpsman advance to the centreline and drop scheme markers for a Line in the Sand. I also score on the strategy but was apparently too stunned by the events to take a photo.
Turn 3: The left Freikorpsman drops a scheme marker on the centreline, and the Rail Worker uses Implacable Assault to kill the one on the right. The Ronin charges in but can’t quite kill my Rail Worker, and then the rest of the turn is mine. The Archer focuses and shoots a few wounds off the Ronin, the Beckoner Lures her into the middle of the table and the other Rail Worker kills her. Lynch and the Hungering Darkness combine to kill the last Freikorpsman. I score on the strategy. We were going to end it there (and indeed, we didn’t actually play any more) but Ben insisted that I should count as though I’d removed enough of his scheme markers to prevent him scoring a Line in the Sand so we scored it accordingly. Ten Thunders win 10 – 0.
Ben was a total gent throughout the game, despite having terrible flips when it mattered (notably on horror duels). I felt bad for pummeling him so decisively but he took it all in good sport and never once bemoaned his luck; that’s a lesson I could afford to learn. It was a shame to remove such lovely miniatures from the game so quickly. Not enough of a shame to stop me doing it, of course.
One advantage of such a brief game was that there was a lot of time to watch other games and chat to other like-minded geeks. It’s always interesting to see the difference in perceived value of certain pieces or options held by people who play in other groups. Looking around the event there seemed to be a lot of Jakob Lynch and Ramos being used, so I suppose that they’re considered the most powerful options. Of note this time I had a very nice time talking with another Jakob Lynch player, Graham, who appears to play a very different style to me. So it was quite funny when we got paired together for the last round. We made a gentleman’s agreement not to have a ‘Lynch-off’ as Brilliance on Brilliance gets very silly, very fast.
Game 3: Ten Thunders (me) vs Neverborn (Graham)
Strategy: Stake a Claim
Pool: Line in the Sand, Protect Territory, Plant Evidence, Entourage, Assassinate
Ten Thunders: Protect Territory (announced), Line in the Sand (announced)
Neverborn: Protect Territory (announced), Plant Evidence
Ten Thunders: Mei Feng (Seismic Claws), Emberling, 3 Rail Workers, 2 Illuminated, Thunder Archer, 3SS
Neverborn: Lilith (Beckon Malifaux, Wicked Mistress, Fears Given Form), Cherub, Barbaros (Fears Given Form), Illuminated, 2 Waldgeist, Terror Tot
I’m not very good at playing Stake a Claim with the models I own as they tend toward the slow while Stake a Claim heavily favours those with movement tricks or raw speed. Protect Territory was a simple pick as it isn’t hard to find the opportunity to drop a couple of scheme markers right at the end when your opponent has (hopefully) run out of models of their own to stop you with. I didn’t really fancy any of the others too much so I went for a Line in the Sand because I expected the line of engagement to be on or near the centreline.
Funnily enough after having spoken to Graham before the game he seemed very surprised when I turned out to be playing Ten Thunders; apparently he’d expected another Neverborn master to be facing him.
Turn 1: The normal story of everyone running forward. With a slow crew like mine there is even more need to advance up the board at top speed on turn 1. The centre Waldgeist Germinates to extend the forest in the middle, Barbaros Challenges and Lilith does exactly what Graham said she would before the game: casting Roots on an Illuminated then dragging him forward to her, close to death.
Turn 2: Lilith polishes off the first Illuminated then makes a start on the other. Since Graham said he wasn’t sure what Mei Feng could do, I showed him as she charged across the board, beat the Illuminated to death over the course of a few triggered attacks and knocked a good chunk out of the Cherub and Barbaros, forcing a solid part of his crew to take disengaging strikes if they want to do anything for good measure. Barbaros takes some pains to get out of Mei’s melee range with an interposing obstacle then kills a Rail Worker. There are a few more attacks going on but nothing of great significance as no one can seem to land a good hit anywhere; the Nephilim escape from Mei Feng. Barbaros gets slowed by the Archer. The Waldgeist does me a favour by failing a horror duel against the surviving Illuminated, which of course heals itself back up to full. The Emberling gets free of the scrum and moves into the other side of board; if I can keep it alive I’ll actually be able to drop a strategy marker. At the end of the turn Graham reveals his Plant Explosives, scoring him a tasty 3 VPs. 5 minutes later while we’re shuffling decks, we both realise that Plant Explosives wasn’t actually in the scheme pool; we amend it to an unannounced Plant Evidence instead.
Turn 3: Mei Feng charges into the pack of Nephilim but doesn’t achieve a thing. The Waldgeist and Barbaros join together to kill another Rail Worker with a cunning combination of Roots and the push from Barbaros’s melee attack; in return my Illuminated finally ends the right hand Waldgeist. There is yet more ineffectual poking going on in the midfield. Lilith has to spend a soulstone to get a positive flip just to get past the terrifying of the Illuminated (and needed it) and still fails to kill it. The Emberling drops a strategy marker so I score on the strategy.
Turn 4: Barbaros disengages from Mei Feng but it takes two attempts so he doesn’t have the AP to drop a strategy marker. The last Rail Worker, who has been chewing away at the Waldgeist since turn 2, finally kills off the beast. The Illuminated and Lilith both fail to kill each other, but I know that I’m happier with that situation than Graham. Last turn is called, so Mei Feng kills the Tot engaging her and drops a scheme marker; the Emberling and Archer both advance up the board and do the same. Graham knows he needs something clever here, and comes up with a plan. Barbaros has one wound left but does have a single soulstone for prevention. The Cherub shoots him to allow him to push (ideally back to where his unused markers intended for Plant Explosives are, back on his own side of the board); with no cards in hand Barbaros flips a 13 for defense and is missed. I ask why he didn’t just relent, and allow the take back, so Barbaros takes the hit, pushes toward the markers, and flips the Black Joker for prevention. So he dies in the middle of the board. Looking back I don’t think he was going to be able to make it anyway as he needed to take two hits but only had one soulstone to keep him alive, but the cards just said ‘no’ in the first place. I score again for the strategy. Ten Thunders win 5 – 2 (2 for Stake a Claim, 3 for Protect Territory for me; 2 for Plant Evidence for Graham).
It was a tight, fun game, but I don’t think that either of us were really playing our best. Graham seemed to be thrown off his stride after the Plant Explosives thing and didn’t really get his focus back until it was too late. The pushing Barbaros trick thing was rather clever, and it was a shame that it didn’t come off. Still, flipping the Black Joker on the critical damage prevention flip is quite fitting for Malifaux, where Bad Things Happen.
The scores are counted up and I am in first, ahead of James (MythicFOX) and Greg (Sir#67) on VP difference as we’re all on 3 wins. Of course, I’m delighted with the result, but the real great thing was getting three games of Malifaux against three new, fun opponents. I think I was favoured somewhat by the pairings in the second round as the field was hellishly strong, full of highly ranked tournament veterans who mostly seemed to end up playing each other in tight games while I scored a fluky blow-out against Ben. On the other hand, there wasn’t time for a full Swiss arrangement and I’m not going to complain about a system that gives me a nice shiny trophy to bring back home with me.
Thank you very much to Chris and anyone else who was involved in organising the event and thanks to Matt, Ben and Graham for three highly entertaining games. Finally thanks to David for driving and to him and Joe for putting up with my delirious witterings all the way home.