The main game I’ve been playing for the last five years is Malifaux, a tightly-balanced skirmish game set in an alternate Earth dripping with overtones of the wild west, Victorian horror, steampunk, and all sorts of other influences. It’s a bit of a mishmash but it manages to pull it off – after a while ninjas battling undead cowboys or hillbilly gremlins seems pretty normal.
Call to Arms is the annual convention held by the Wellington Warlords at St. Patrick’s College in Kilbirnie, Wellington. This is the second year that a Malifaux tournament was held there, and I was hoping to improve a bit on my nightmare run last year – bottom of the table with zero wins!
I took along my Gremlins, as usual, with a few new models painted up to try out: two warpigs, three stuffed piglets and a Gremlin taxidermist.
There were ten of us competing plus one organising and umpiring (thanks Simon!), a pretty good turn out for a Wellington event. We even had Hayden and Peter come down from Auckland which was great.
Scheme pool: Line in the Sand, Distract, Plant Explosives, Vendetta, Protect Territory
First game was against a local player, Liam, and his Lucius crew. He took what seemed to be a pretty standard crew – two death marshals, a hunter, a lawyer, a doppelganger, and Francisco. I had Som’er, one skeeter, two bayou gremlins, a warpig, a hog whisperer, two stuffed piglets, Burt and Gracie.
The terrain had a fairly open centre with plenty of cover around it. My plan was to use Burt and Gracie to collect heads for me (they’re quite reliable like that), the stuffed piglets to cause a bit of mayhem and to drop scheme markers thanks to the hog whisperer’s The Crispiest of Bacon ability for Plant Explosives, and somewhere along the line to distract a few enemies. I didn’t think this would be a problem due to the nature of strategy requiring us to be near each other from the get-go.
We both led with some scheming – I had Burt put a marker down to make Liam assume I had taken Protect Territory – I think this had the desired effect and led him to not worry about my scheme markers later on. He had declared Line in the Sand and one of his death marshals started to drop markers for that on his right flank.
The clash started soon with Burt being pulled into combat with the hunter, who had declared Vendetta against him. This soon became the centre of the melee, with Gracie and then Francisco committing themselves into the combat. I claimed the hunter’s head for my first VP, and was trying to keep Burt alive to deny Liam’s second Venetta VP by passing off his attacks onto Gracie. This was going well until Francisco drew the red joker for damage, so then I sent in the warpig to become the new damage soak who managed to keep him alive for the rest of the game.
I had taken Pig Feed on Som’er so I used him to get some extra mileage out of the warpig and the stuffed piglets. I found stuffed piglets to be great at ruining plans – people just don’t want to touch them, and because they’re peons they don’t drop head markers. I was able to move them into position easily and had Som’er shoot one, this dropped a scheme marker thanks to the nearby hog whisperer. This plus a scheme marker dropped by a sacrificial gremlin gave me all three VPs for Plant Explosives.
The last few activations was spent desperately trying to remove Liam’s scheme markers he’d dropped for A Line in the Sand – he placed a total of five or six during the game but I managed to get the total down below four by the last turn. Phew!
In the end, 6-4 to me. I was very pleased with the ability to drop scheme markers easily with the combo of the hog whisperer and stuffed piglets, that worked better than I had hoped though I could tell it was going to be hard to keep the whisperer alive. Burt and Gracie were their usual reliable selves and it was good to finally see some use out of Burt’s Slippery ability. Plus I really liked Som’er’s Pig Feed upgrade and can see I’ll be taking it more often.
Strategy: Turf War
Scheme Pool: Line in the Sand, Distract, Make them Suffer, Assassinate, Take Prisoner
Second game had me paired up against Hayden, a Wellington stalwart who had recently moved to Auckland. He plays Ten Thunders and recently picked up Brewmaster, before the tournament I had encouraged him to use him instead of his usual choice of McCabe or Shenlong because I wanted to see how he played.
We played over a very open board, and with Assassinate and Make them Suffer in the mix I chose to use Ophelia. I took her, one Young Lacroix, a slop hauler, a warpig, a hog whisperer, a convict gunslinger, Burt, and Gracie. He took the Brewmaster, Wesley, Fingers, Ama No Zako, Toshiro, and two komainu. I thought this played into my hands with a lot of minions and minion summoning, however I did my usual and forgot that Make them Suffer only applies if masters or henchmen do the killing, and I’d only taken Ophelia! She was going to be very busy.
I sent the warpig and hog whisperer up one flank which worked out very well – he managed to kill a komainu on turn two, then next turn killed Wesley and rebounded off him into Ama No Zako. He kept slowing her which really helped negate her effectiveness, however he did get distracted later in the game which gained Hayden a VP.
In the centre I was facing off against Brewmaster, Fingers, Toshiro and a komainu. Not a great deal happened in the first few turns, then I took out the komainu (with defensive +2) in one turn with the gunslinger in an impressive display of rapid firing – five shots in total! Brewmaster got shot to bits by Ophelia, however the next turn Hayden won the initiative flip and healed him nearly to full with Fingers – so close! At the end of the next turn he ran him out to distract Ophelia – Gracie slightly mauled him, followed by me winning the initiative finishing him off with Ophelia for the three Assassinate VPs.
I ended up winning it 7-4. Again the warpig proved its worth – if they get a good run they can really pinball around a cluster of enemies and spoil plans. I’m always worried about Ama No Zako so was happy when she got locked down. The Assassinate points make up for my mistake choosing Make them Suffer, which only rendered me one VP when Ophelia took out a summoned komainu.
Strategy: Collect the Bounty
Scheme Pool: Line in the Sand, Breakthrough, Vendetta, Distract, Spring the Trap
The final round I found myself at the top table with the only other player to get two wins, Peter from Auckland. He was also the only other Gremlin player, a fact we both derived some smug satisfaction from! We also ended up taking similar crews: I took Som’er, a skeeter, Lenny, two warpigs, Gracie, and three stuffed piglets. Peter took Zoraida, a slop hauler, a hog whisperer, two warpigs, Gracie, and the whiskey golem.
We both knew that the warpigs make for excellent additions in a Collect the Bounty game – they’re very hard-hitting but as only minions you’re only giving up a single bounty point if (when) they die. However I knew their 1AP charges were going to be cost me against Zoraida’s Obey.
I took Vendetta with one of my warpigs against Gracie – turns out I picked the wrong pig of mine to put it on! Distract I wasn’t sure why I picked it – it always runs a bit counter to a killing strategy and ended up netting me a single point. My plan on the right flank was to lure Gracie into attacking one of my warpigs (the one without Vendetta) then killing her with the other one. In the centre I was going to use the great combo of Burt and Gracie to kill his two warpigs, with the stuffed piglets for support or early bombing runs.
The opening moves saw one of my warpigs hemmed by Zoraida’s voodoo dolls. I took the risky move of charging it with that same warpig, which of course made it inflict the damage on itself. However when a warpig kills a model it can heal up by ending its activation, so as long as it actually killed the voodoo doll it’d be okay! Luckily it managed it, so ended up a lot further up the board with no wounds.
My plan against his Gracie got off to a good start – an early Zoraida-induced charge from one of my warpigs against Som’er led to him squeeling into position to get off two shots against Gracie which reduced her to three wounds. I moved my vendetta warpig into position for a charge next turn to finish her off and gain my three VPs – all looking pretty good.
In the centre things were also going pretty well too – I had blocked up his warpigs’ charge lanes with the stuffed piglets, and Lenny rode Gracie into melee and took out the slop hauler while Gracie herself mauled one of the warpigs.
Turn three everything turned to custard however! Peter won initiative and took out my vendetta warpig with Gracie – it had already taken six wounds from Zoraida’s Obeys, and a high ram was all he needed to finish it off. That led to Gracie being restored to full wounds and my Vendetta scheme being worth zero VPs because I wasn’t able to declare it. Then Lenny took a red joker to face so my centre looked like it was going to collapse as well. In the meantime the whiskey golem was quietly running around putting down scheme markers for Line in the Sand and Breakthrough.
The end came quickly, the score was 5-2 in Peter’s favour which led to him deservedly winning the tournament. I ended up on 6 TPs with a DIFF of +2, gaining me fourth place. Also the second tournament in a row in which I just missed out on the podium after losing on the top table. 🙂 Still, I was very happy with my performance, and most importantly I had three very enjoyable games against great opponents.
The day after
I’ll admit that my interest in Malifaux had been flagging of late. A number of factors led to this: I don’t love the direction that the art is going in, I find the plastic miniatures frustrating to paint, the fiction has been uninspiring since the pinnacle of Twisting Fates, and two of the new Gremlin masters seem unnecessary and rushed (Mah Tucket and Wong). However don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thought that the game itself is wonderful. It’s very well put together and balanced, and holds up extremely well to high-level competitive play. And somehow Wyrd has created a game which you can still be very good at without having to be a dick.
So I’m happy to say that this tournament has got me back into the Malifaux spirit. I have a diverse enough roster of miniatures already (just shy of 50) to field a lot of different Gremlin crews even with just two masters, especially now that I’ve got two warpigs painted up. I’ll be getting my pigapult painted up soon now, plus I’ve got a Zoraida crew box assembled and ready to base and paint if I want to branch out into a new master. Ulix is looking mighty fine too, his pig shenanigans look like a great deal of fun.
And most importantly we’ve got a really good local scene now. The tournament attracted a lot of attention, due in no small part to a lot of the players putting in a huge amount of effort in getting some really nice boards built – thanks Simon, Alastair and Jordan! We were talking with a lot of interested players throughout the day, people who had maybe bought a crew box but never played a game before, or had heard of the game but didn’t think anyone locally played it. Very promising!