I spent another Saturday in the company of Gareth and various other gamers at Common Ground Games in Stirling taking part in another excellent Malifaux tournament organised by Kai. Here is how it all happened…
Game 1: Neverborn (me) vs Outcasts (Andy Bush)
Strategy: Guard the Stash, standard deployment
Pool: Claim Jump, Eliminate the Leadership, Accusation!, Covert Breakthrough, Last Stand
Neverborn: Claim Jump, Covert Breakthrough
Outcasts: Last Stand, Accusation
Neverborn: Jakob Lynch (Cheating Bastard), Hungering Darkness (One Thousand Faces), 2 Waldgeists, Spawn Mother (Hexed Among You), Bad Juju (Eternal Fiend), McTavish, Will O’ The Wisp
Outcasts: Von Schill (Engage At Will, Survivalist, Nythera Aftermath), Hannah (I Pay Better), 2 Freikorps Librarians, Sue, Johan, Steam Trunk
I had been planning to play Pandora for this game but when Andy announced his faction as Outcasts I had a sudden doubt that I might be facing either the Viktorias (who would just carve Pandora up with no trouble) or some Freikorps (who ignore much of what I want to do with her) so I decided to go with Lynch and his Swampfiend crew. I wanted to try out the new Cheating Bastard limited upgrade as Hungering Darkness isn’t really critical to the way this crew plays and the extra support could be useful. The rest of the crew plays a tanking and area denial game as I’ve described in previous reports. I chose scheme marker based schemes as I intended to summon Gupps which are great at both Claim Jump and Covert Breakthrough; my overall plan was to sit next to the markers and gradually knock wounds out of the other crew until there were none of them left. When Andy revealed his Von Schill crew I was glad that I had avoided Pandora.
Turn 1: I set the tone for the day by flipping a Red Joker on initiative; what a waste. The Spawn Mother and Wisp combine to summon Gupps and I throw them forward aggressively. If Andy kills them early then I can start annoying him with Bad Juju; otherwise it’ll be in the right spot to start on Covert Breakthrough. Von Schill punches Johan and Hannah forward with his new Clockwork Arm, then Librarians heal both. The left Waldgeist moves up to cover Sue and Johan with its large engagement range and the right one gently pokes at Hannah. Johan smacks the nearby Waldgeist, then Lynch moves up and drops a scheme marker for McTavish who gratefully feeds it to his pet and guns down Sue. Andy reveals Last Stand.
Turn 2: Hannah Accuses her Waldgeist and the other one Slows Johan. The Spawn Mother puts down a scheme marker and lays an egg which the Wisp hatches later. Von Schill charges, throws Johan into my face, then throws the Waldgeist away and kills it with a shot; Bad Juju falls out of it. Hungering Darkness eats Johan and McTavish nearly drops the left Librarian; she hides behind the Stash marker. We both score for the Strategy; I get Claim Jump and Andy scores Last Stand and Accusation.
Turn 3: The right Librarian heals itself. I send in Hungering Darkness to try to deal with the one on the left but get both Red and Black Joker on the second attack damage flip. Hannah Accuses the Waldgeist and Makes A New Entry to heal the Librarian further. Bad Juju hurts Von Schill as I repeatedly flipped double moderate damage on negative flips against him. On the left, the Librarian Accuses the Wisp as insurance for next turn and is then killed by the combination of McTavish and the Wisp to deny Last Stand. We both score again for Guard the Stash; I score Claim Jump and Andy gets Accusation.
Turn 4: Lynch makes Von Schill Brilliant by revealing a mask for Cheating Bastard, then puts a few more wounds into the old chap. Von Schill heals with the aid of the Steam Trunk and punches Hungering Darkness away. Bad Juju smacks Hannah and the Librarian heals her. The Spawn Mother puts the damage right back on and the Waldgeist finishes her off. Everything else puts all it has into Von Schill; he survives on one wound and Paralysed. The Gupps spend the game jumping around and putting down scheme markers. We both score for Guard the Stash; and we both get the remaining point for Claim Jump and Accusation. With so little left on the table, Andy is happy to concede without playing out the final round. Neverborn win 10 – 7 (full score for me; 3 for Guard the Stash, 1 for Last Stand and 3 for Accusation for Andy).
Andy is a solidly competent player and I feel he gets better each time we play; it is always a pleasure to do so. Things went more or less to plan from my side. The game was arguably won by things that don’t really merit much mention in the flow of the report itself though. The two summoned Gupps pretty much scored me 6 VP for my schemes by Leaping to places that were hard for Andy to get to and putting down scheme markers. The Cheating Bastard upgrade is also hard to rate by reading the flow of what happened but I would say that being able cheat last with almost my whole crew for most duels had a massive impact on hand control; for me it is very definitely worth consideration if you don’t need either of Lynch’s other (admittedly also excellent) limited upgrades.
Game 2: Neverborn (me) vs Guild (Lewis Philips)
Strategy: Reckoning, corner deployment
Pool: Claim Jump, Frame For Murder, Leave Your Mark, Mark For Death, A Quick Murder
Neverborn: Frame For Murder (Nekima), A Quick Murder
Guild: Frame For Murder (Thalarian Queller), A Quick Murder
Neverborn: Lilith (Beckon Malifaux, The Land Consumes), Nekima (One Thousand Faces), Doppelganger, 3 Waldgeists, Lilitu, Cherub
Guild: Sonnia Criid (Counterspell Aura, Cherufe’s Imprint, No More Masks), Dr Grimwell (Debt To The Guild, Disrupt Magic), Thalarian Queller, Malifaux Child, Witchling Thrall, Witchling Stalker, Brutal Emissary (Conflux Of Incineration)
On a board like this I felt that I had to use Lilith just to generate some cover for me to hide behind; I also had some ideas about using her to Tangle Shadows Lewis’s crew into me one at a time to kill off at my leisure. I added The Land Consumes simply because I wanted to try it in a tournament game rather than because I felt that it would actually be particularly valuable. The Waldgeists allow me some measure of activation control while generally being quite resource intensive to deal with, and Nekima was there just to hurt stuff quickly. Lilitu in theory gives me a bit more positional control with her Lure, and the Doppelganger can either copy that or Nekima’s giant death sword. I took a risk with the Cherub that it would generally not be high enough priority to be worth killing, but I really like the bow for controlling heavy hitters. Lewis, as expected, put Sonnia down. When he explained what the Thalarian Queller did to armour I realised that the crew would make quite short work of the Waldgeists (and Lewis cleverly put Frame For Murder on it, knowing that I would have to deal with it somehow). Considering how ‘killy’ the game was set up to be, I went all in and took A Quick Murder and Frame For Murder on Nekima. For the latter, I figured I was likely to lose her and might as well try to get some points out of it. I wanted to play cagily until Sonnia got in range, then just down her throat as quickly as possible. Lilith would have to put her Illusory Forest somewhere midfield if I was to have any chance of surviving the opening barrage with enough to counter-punch effectively.
Turn 1: Dr Grimwell pushes Sonnia toward me. The Child puts a Flame Wall into the middle of the board. Our advances are cagey; I don’t want to give Sonnia too much of a target and Lewis (presumably) doesn’t want to let me rush Sonnia too easily. Eventually, Sonnia gets forward enough to see a Waldgeist in hard cover; she Soulstones to get a straight attack flip then (of course) flips the Red Joker on a negative damage flip, badly hurting that Waldgeist and allowing Lewis to splash blast over parts of my crew I thought were rather safer. She follows up with a minimum damage shot that kills the Waldgeist with Burning at the end of the turn. Lilith Tangles Shadows to bring the Thrall into the middle of my crew and Nekima kills it. I should have cast Illusory Forest before doing that as Disrupt Magic meant that I didn’t have the blocking terrain I wanted; against a player of Lewis’s calibre that alone could have ultimately cost me the game.
Turn 2: I cheat initiative with the Doppelganger after Lewis very kindly reminds me that I can do that (shows how often I use it). Lilith tries to Tangle Shadows to get the Emissary since I have the 13 of masks in hand, but it turns out that Lewis has the Red Joker; I suppose I should be glad to draw it from his hand. She does put an Illusory Forest slightly more than 4″ ahead of Sonnia so she’ll have to walk twice to get me. The Emissary retaliates by putting some burning on Lilith so a Waldgeist walks over and interacts to remove it. The Thalarian Queller gives Dr Grimwell Enchanted Weapons; I sense that this will not bode well for my Waldgeists. He does indeed charge one (using Soulstones to get round Perfect Camouflage) and kills it. It seems fitting to use a saw to kill a tree. The Cherub moves into cover and shoots the Queller to push it through my Illusory Forest, then Lilitu Lures him in further. The Child fires a Flame Burst and gets double severe damage on a negative flip to spread yet more damage around. Nekima smites the Queller and gives Lewis 3VP for Frame For Murder and Sonnia finally advances into the Forest and zaps Lilitu somewhat ineffectually.
Turn 3: Nekima charges Sonnia and leaves her on one wound. Somewhat to my surprise, Dr Grimwell activates and gently tickles the last Waldgeist; I was expecting Sonnia to activate and stab Nekima to heal. I’m happy to take the stroke of luck so Lilith disengages from Dr Grimwell and stabs Sonnia to death. The Emissary gets some temporary revenge by putting her in a box and puts Burning on the Waldgeist which has one wound remaining at this point. The Cherub shoots the Stalker and Lilitu puts out the Burning from the Waldgeist.
Turn 4: Nekima hurts the Emissary. The Stalker charges the Cherub, dies to Black Blood and explodes, finishing off the Cherub in a hilarious mutual death pact. The Doppelganger copies Nekima’s sword and leaves the Emissary on a single wound; it misses in return. Lilith falls back into reality and kills the Emissary (scoring 2VP for A Quick Murder in the process) then Tangle Shadows Dr Grimwell away from my very poorly looking Waldgeist. He fails to land a hit on Nekima, the Lilitu Lures the Malifaux Child on some Consuming Land that Lilith left in an earlier turn. I score for Reckoning.
Turn 5: Nekima cuts Dr Grimwell into tiny pieces, then Malifaux Child activates and is eaten by the Consuming Land marker she’s standing on. To add insult to injury, we didn’t remember about that until after flipping some amazing cards from the Child who cut down Lilitu and killed the Waldgeist with Black Blood… but I suppose that was just a dream of what could have been. I score again for Reckoning and she’s the last Guild piece. Neverborn win 4 – 3 (2 for Reckoning, 2 for A Quick Murder for me; 3 for Frame For Murder for Lewis).
Wow, what a game! Lewis is a highly skilled player of course, and always runs me very hard. But that game was especially interesting as we first met when I was playing Guild and he was playing Neverborn so we knew each other’s factions really well. Almost every activation from the middle of turn 1 onwards felt like it could be the one that made the difference between a win and a loss. I think that Lewis made a couple of important activation order mistakes, notably activating Dr Grimwell instead of Sonnia after she’d survived Nekima’s attentions in turn 3, and that cost him the game in a match this tight. I could have positioned much better throughout; the Doppelganger was just messing around not achieving much for a depressingly long period in the game and if I’d pushed the Stalker more cleverly after shooting it with the Cherub I could probably have killed it without the loss of my totem.
Game 3: Neverborn (me) vs Resurrectionists (Greg Piskosz)
Strategy: Squatter’s Rights, flank deployment
Pool: Claim Jump, Accusation!, Frame For Murder, Hidden Trap, Search the Ruins
Neverborn: Claim Jump, Search the Ruins
Resurrectionists: Frame For Murder (Carrion Emissary), Hidden Trap
Neverborn: Pandora, (Woe Is Me, Fears Given Form), Nekima (One Thousand Faces), Barbaros (One Thousand Faces), Mr Graves, 2 Field Reporters, Insidious Madness
Resurrectionists: Reva (Decaying Aura, Litany Of The Fallen, Guises Of Death), Carrion Emissary (My Little Helper), Philip and the Nanny (Haunting Cries), Crooligan, Burt Jebsen, Asura Roten, Dead Doxy
This game seemed like a good opportunity to use Pandora with her new summoning upgrade. This also let me take a pair Field Reporters as the only out-of-faction Woes (that I can think of); Joe kindly loaned me his. In theory they should synergise nicely with Pandora as they are Manipulative and attack Willpower. The rest of the crew was quite standard; Nekima to stab things, Barbaros to annoy with Challenge (which is even better in a Pandora crew) and Mr Graves to push things around and hit them with sticks. My plan was simple: fire Pandora into the biggest clump of Resurrectionists I could find, summon a Sorrow and then spam Inflict until Greg ran out of cards. The Reporters and Insidious Madness would be on Squat marker and Claim Jump duty. I had hoped to be able to clear enough of the centre by the end of the game to get down my markers for Search The Ruins; this might seem optimistic but I am generally quite an aggressive player and can clear the board within 5 turns in a lot games. Seeing Reva and Asura Roten was very interesting as I would be able to Incite the endless swarm of Mindless Zombies, plus they (and Corpse Candles) are very easy to evaporate with Inflict if they’re standing near Pandora.
Turn 1: The Emissary uses My Little Helper, then flies up aggressively and put two sets of Shards right in my face. Fortunately it can’t get far enough to completely box me in so Mr Graves pushes Pandora along the line of Shards. The Corpse Candle moves forward so the Field Reporter on the right pushes it back again. Asura moves forward and summons the first of many Mindless Zombies. Pandora fails to Incite the Corpse Candle as it flips the Red Joker to defend. She is reduced to simply walking up, summoning a Sorrow off the Zombie and using Inflict. This does kill the Zombie and the Corpse Candle, allowing me to bring the Poltergeist into play. The Doxy pushes Reva toward me but my summons (and the Emissary) are still positioned such that Reva can’t see the corpse markers. She also drops some scheme markers that Philip eventually hoovers up for cards. Reva moves to get line of sight to the corpse markers, misses Pandora which allows her to push away (I held a 13 in hand specifically to do that, especially once I saw the Red Joker out of Greg’s deck), and instead kills the Sorrow. Nekima misses an attack on Asura. Burt takes a Squat marker and the Crooligan, Insidious Madness and other Reporter head for the corner markers.
Turn 2: Reva summons a Corpse Candle and hurts Nekima. Nekima then fails to polish off Asura, which was annoying as the Poltergeist would have give me a good opportunity to Paralyse the Emissary if I could have made it work. The Emissary puts more Shards out and turns a nearby corpse marker into a scheme marker. Pandora does kill both Asura and Emissary with Inflict since they’re on negative willpower flips due to the Poltergeist; the latter gives Greg 3VP for Frame For Murder. Burt and the Insidious Madness take Squat Markers. Mr Graves kills a Mindless Zombie who is getting in my way and allows Barbaros to walk twice and take a Squat Marker for me. The Poltergeist Slows Reva and the Reporter and Crooligan continue to achieve nothing whatsoever in their corner. We both score for Squatter’s Rights. Greg also announces and received 3 VP for Hidden Trap at this point; we only realise later that this should actually happen at the end of the game. We correct the final score but at this point I’m under the impression that I’m 7 – 1 down.
Turn 3: Reva somehow fails to kill the Poltergeist, so Nekima kills her and the summoned Corpse Candle (aiming for Burt but he’s Slippery of course). Barbaros kills the last Mindless Zombie. The Doxy pushes the Poltergeist away but ends up engages with Pandora. Mr Graves drops Burt Jebsen and Pandora kills the Doxy. I take back one of the scheme markers from the Resurrectionists. I score for the Strategy and Claim Jump.
Turn 4: Nekima kills Philip and we call the game. Neverborn win 10 – 5 (full score for me; 1 for Squatter’s Rights, 1 for Hidden Trap [we agreed that I would have still given up one from this as there was a scheme marker in the corner where the Reporter and Crooligan were staring uselessly at each other] and 3 for Frame For Murder for Greg).
It was super to get a game against Greg as he’s a highly skilled player and such a gent; it had been quite a long time since we’d faced each other. Coming into the game I was concerned that Greg’s huge experience with Neverborn might give him a substantial edge over me, so I was especially glad to edge out the win. Pandora’s new upgrade, Woe Is Me, turned out to be quite effective. Sorrows and the Poltergeist are really helpful to the kind of Pandora I like to play (i.e. to get in the way while my crew does stuff to score points) but normally they’re so easy to kill on the approach that they’re not really worth hiring. Being able to summon them in place is excellent, particularly for the Poltergeist that gets summoned for free by doing things I would do anyway. The Field Reporters went less well with Pandora than I expected but I think that this is because they want to be in different parts of the board than she does (i.e. she wants to be elbows-deep in the other crew, they want to be on the edges doing scheme-related things). However, they are still highly effective scheme runners and I feel that taking them along with Woe Is Me is well worth it.
Game 4: Neverborn (me) vs Guild (Dave Laing)
Strategy: Reconnoitre, standard deployment
Pool: Claim Jump, Dig Their Graves, Leave Your Mark, Undercover Entourage, Tail ‘Em
Neverborn: Leave Your Mark, Undercover Entourage (Dreamer)
Guild: Dig Their Graves, Tail ‘Em
Neverborn: Dreamer (Dreams of Pain, Otherworldly), 2 Daydreams, Nekima (One Thousand Faces), Barbaros (One Thousand Faces), 3 Terror Tots
Guild: Nellie (Misleading Headlines, Guild Funds, Transparency), Phiona Gage (Debt To The Guild), Alison Dade (Numb To The World), 2 Guild Investigators, Monster Hunter, Prospector, Printing Press
Claiming table quarters seemed like a good opportunity to play a summoner so out came the Dreamer. I’d actually intended to try the new Sleep Cycles upgrade but forgot about it when crew building and went for Otherworldly instead (arguably this is safer anyway against a crew that can possibly put out long range fire like a Guild crew). I have tried this Dreamer / Nephilim Grow crew a few times before and it can be effective. I actually don’t need to Grow anything; just the threat of it can be a very good deterrent for moving injured models near Terror Tots. The idea was to force Dave to deal with the Nephilim while the Dreamer summoned enough models to let me win on the strategy. I picked Leave Your Mark because between the Tots and any summoned Insidious Madnesses I find that most crews don’t have the resources to deal with the scheme runners if they want to avoid being overrun by the big Nephilim. Dreamer is remarkably mobile, especially when you consider the extra movement that he can get from turning into Lord Chompy Bits for a turn or two so I also selected Undercover Entourage.
Turn 1: The Press gets us underway by Focusing and giving Nellie some Evidence. The Dreamer summons Lelu and Lilitu while the Monster Hunter Stalks Barbaros. Our movement forward is quite cagey as there is a lot of open ground in the centre and neither of us want to give up the initial alpha strike at the end of turn 1. Eventually I put a Tot in the open within 6″ of both Nekima and Barbaros in the hope that Dave will kill it there to get me a free move. Instead, Nellie pushes it and places it in the midst of her lines where it eventually dies to Burning (and sprays a little Black Blood around) and scores Dave a point for Dig Their Graves. After passing a few activations, Phiona gets to go last and puts some minor damage onto Nekima.
Turn 2: Nekima swaps in Fears Given Form and flies into the middle of Dave’s crew. She smites the Prospector in order to Teach Them Fear; no-one gets Paralysed but it does consume a few decent cards out of Dave’s control hand. The Press feeds more Evidence to Nellie and she Slows Nekima and pushes her around with Propaganda. This allows a few attacks to come in from Phiona too. Barbaros swaps in Rapid Growth (this was a mistake; Fears Given Form would have been more useful considering that I had decided to keep the Tots safe) and rams himself down the Guild crew’s throat. He misses both attacks on the Investigator but splashes Black Blood on various models due to Alison Dade’s aura. The Monster Hunter takes advantage of his improved Stalk to Tail Barbaros. The Investigator gives Just Act Casual to Lelu, who is obliged to share it with Lilitu; Lelu ineffectually pokes him back. The Monster Hunter attacks Nekima but is hampered by Challenge and the fact that Dave has run out of cards. The Dreamer summons an Insidious Madness and Coppelius [I couldn’t find my miniature for him so Dave kindly let me use Vasalisa instead; since neither of us have ever seen it on a tournament table we agreed it would be clear] before turing into Lord Chompy Bits. The big Tyrant hurts the Monster Hunter but my positioning ins poor. I placed Lord Chompy Bits such that he wouldn’t be pushed away by Nellie on a miss but I’d have been better taking the risk and moving further up the table. I score for the Strategy and Dave scores for Tail ‘Em.
Turn 3: Nekima kills the Monster Hunter to drain more cards with Teach Them Fear; no-one ends up failing the horror duel. Nellie and Phiona combine to kill Barbaros, scoring Dig Their Graves again. Coppelius hurts the left Investigator who gives Just Act Casual to the Twins and Lord Chompy Bits. I throw various other attacks at that Investigator but he leads a charmed life, repeatedly flipping face cards for defense. The Daydreams push Lelu and Lord Chompy Bits around, then Lord Chompy Bits lightly tickles Phiona and turns back into the Dreamer. The Guild Investigator Tails Nekima, the Insidious Madness moves up to drop a scheme marker. Dave cleverly moves the Press in between the Dreamer and the nearest Daydream to stop me pushing attacks onto it and Phiona uses Debt To The Guild to hurt the little boy. We have somehow run out of time so I just try three times to disengage with the Dreamer; not surprisingly this does not work. Luckily he is just over the centreline. I score for Reconnoitre and Leave Your Mark, Dave scores again for Tail ‘Em. Neverborn win 5 – 4 (2 for Reconnoitre, 1 for Leave Your Mark and 2 for Undercover Entourage for me; 2 for Dig Their Graves and 2 for Tail ‘Em for Dave).
That was a truly great game! I’m not sure how we managed to play so slowly that we didn’t get to even start turn 4, but there was a lot going on; I had many activations and Dave’s activations were often highly complex. As always, Dave was an excellent opponent and really made me evaluate every move I made as he countered me so well. I felt that I was probably in position to win even if we had time to play the full game as I had built up a fairly large attrition advantage. My poor positioning of Lord Chompy Bits, and hence the Dreamer, could easily have ended up costing me the points for Undercover Entourage. On the other hand, I was well placed to score Leave Your Mark and Reconnoitre for the rest of the game, and probably deny Dave getting anything for the strategy.
So with four wins, I am confirmed as the overall winner of the event. Joe finally gets his blue best-in-faction badge for Arcanist after several attempts to pass Jamie, and Gareth is best Ten Thunders by default. I was particularly pleased that Dave, Lewis and Greg only lost one game each (i.e. the game against me) so I did feel that I had negotiated a challenging path to the end of the event. Thanks to Andy, Lewis, Greg and Dave for four terrific games of Malifaux, and of course thanks to Kai for running another excellent event.