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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lessons on Malifaux

Killjoy meets Chuck Norris

A few Saturdays ago I got to play Malifaux all day with the guys from the Pearland area at Montag's, a great little store with some of the best player support I've experienced. As with every game I've played I learned from my huge mistakes and am going in a direction I want to go in to improve my abilities.

First up, I played against Marcus with my Viktoria crew. I don't remember what he brought other than Hans, Killjoy, a suped up Marcus, Myranda, and a Raptor. I brought the usual crew I've been playing with a small change:

  • Viktoria of Ashes
    • Sisters in Spirit
    • Sisters in Fury
    • Synchronized Slaying
  • Student of Conflict
  • Viktoria of Blood
    • Mark of Shez'uul (of course)
    • Scramble
  • Killjoy
    • Oathkeeper
  • Convict Gunslinger
    • Oathkeeper
  • 2x Ronin

I don't remember all of the schemes, but the Strategy was the new one in Gaining Grounds that is like Turf War that moves. Assassinate, Spring the Trap and something or another were up.

Like a textbook noob I just can't seem to get over the fact that I can slingshot Blood so damn far, and have done it first turn every game. I mean Assassinate was on the table as well as Frame for Murder, so why not? Essentially what I have done is use the Student to make Blood fast for the turn, then Ashes walks 5, sisters in spirit to teleport blood about 7 inches closer and then use sisters in fury as the last AP. This activates a chain for Blood, who walks 6 inches and charges 9 with a 2" reach. This effectively gives her an almost 24" threat range, which in standard deployment means charging into their deployment zone! With 3AP for melees, as well as a trigger to attach anyone in range, a minimum 5 damage that ignores pretty much everything short of Von Schill's version of HtK, on paper it looks like a sweet deal. But as I've learned throughout all my games it's a trick that works once, and only on people who haven't seen it before.

The group I'm currently playing with are seasoned veterans of Malifaux, having walked its blood soaked streets since M1E. They constantly play each other and see this coming a mile away. He deploys Marcus 3" away from the edge of his corner to start the Power Ritual and effectively ensuring I don't throw Blood at him and if I do it will fail.

I know all of this, yet I can't get past the want to use it. Blood is like a hammer in my hands, everything looks like a nail. So I try to slingshot my way to Hans, seeing as how his shooting has already popped off Blood's Mark of Shez'uul, but I'm about 1" short of being able to hit and thus kill him, so I slingshot to the Raptor thingy right next to him. I kill it and bring Killjoy on the table, who I only manage to hit once and do 5 damage to it. During Killjoy's activation Blood dies, however I choose to hold my own Killjoy back. Because of this his Killjoy is directly next to Hans with no other model in sight. With Hans' speed he will be the only target in Killjoy's sights for a while to come. Unfortunately he flips a black joker to wound Hans and continues on his merry way.

The game goes on and I end up losing 3-10 or something like that.

The lesson I learned? Just because I can doesn't mean I should.

The second game I played was against a nasty Pandora crew. From what I remember he had Pandora, Candy, a doppleganger, two Insidious Madness(es), and primordial Magic. I took the same exact list as before being that I don't have very many options as of now. Essentially what he did was paralyze up to 5 of my models a turn, the remaining models he dictated who activated first and last, and the one who activates last takes 3-6 damage. It was a frustrating game to say the least, with Turf War as the strategy I was forced to sit in the middle to do nothing. The schemes were Power Ritual, Assassinate, and others I can't remember. I almost killed Pandora with Ashes' pistol but came up 3 short. Blood drooled the whole game, although she killed a few of those tree thingies he brought and hit Pandora once for 5 damage. The convict gunslinger turned out to be a pretty solid choice, although he took several turns to kill Candy. Killjoy didn't do anything but die.

I also realized that Ronin aren't as good as I thought they would be. I've always noticed that they don't do very much even though on paper they look good. The only times I see them succeed is when they attack armored models. However due to their average speed they can't really be used for running objectives such as power ritual or breakthrough, and their defensive abilities actually hinder this effectively further by soaking up AP. I guess they could protect territory well, but there are other models who do so much better in their fields. Take the convict gunslinger for example; for one point more you get a shooting 6 attack that triggers additional attacks or slow, both always useful. Ronin shoot at 4, and their melee - their strength - is only an average 5 stat. Both have flurry, but ronin do not have movement abilities to position themselves for the flurry in CC. Also, they only have a 1" engagement zone. Sure their trigger for +flips on damage is great, but it isn't a built in trigger. Their built in trigger gives a 4" push, which I guess is great combined with their disguised ability. But if it were me I'd be shooting them anyway! The convicts also have a 2" engagement with their same shooting ability. With flurry they could be getting up to 6 attacks (although unlikely). Plus their shots get innate +flips! For one more point! For two they get oathkeeper - essentially fast for a turn to position for flurry! For one point less you can get the Friekorpsman, who is all around better. They are just situationally good, and you need to get models who are good for creating their situations in which they excel (if that makes sense).

I'm getting off topic, but lessons learned? Well, I'm starting to learn how to discern the statistics in their real world applications rather than in a vacuum when not compared to other models in their points range. That is a huge lesson learned because from what I can tell from the other games I do well in that's the turning point for more successful games. The other lesson? Um, what Pandora can do is overwhelming, but I believe with proper crew preparation it can definitely be countered.

My last game was against Von Schill with Reconnoiter. Again, the same list was brought against him. He had some Friekorpsmen, Malifaux Child, 2 Convict Gunslingers, a desperate merc and Johan from what I remember. This was a classic lesson on how Malifaux works differently than other games and I was noob slayed gently. The first thing he did was put the Desperate Merc right in the middle of the table in front of Ashes, Blood and the Student. I resisted the urge to use the Blood Missile, which I take as a victory in itself and proof that I'm learning. However I shot the Merc with Ashes and killed him, giving him an easy 3 points for Frame for Murder on Turn 1. I asked him how to avoid things like that, especially since I had a feeling that he was completing that scheme, but it was going to disrupt my hard hitters and was an easy kill. He said there really wasn't much to do against it, it was going to have to die or keep holding the Viks down, but I've come to a realization since then.

This game is all about points denial as much as points accrual. If we just only focus on our objectives almost all games would be 10-10. To take the win you have to deny their points while calculating how you get yours. In this case it would have been extremely difficult to avoid killing his "sucker." My crew only knows killing. However, I didn't have to make Ashes be the one who kills him. I could have shot him with Ronin, or the Convict, and that would have denied him 1 point. If I could have figured out a way to tie him up I could deny all the points, but the problem with Frame for Murder is you don't know who the sucker is, so you could be wasting resources not killing the model when he could be bluffing and have another model as the sucker or took a different scheme altogether. Which is also why I love this frickin' game!

I also took Assassinate and Frame for murder, choosing Blood as the sucker. However, he decided to just not ever fight me and kept hopping Schill around the board disengaging from Blood and Killjoy. Blood finally caught up to him on turn 5 and killed him, but he denied me 1 point from being able to achieve Assassinate by turn 4 and 3 points by choosing not to kill Blood! Genius, I'm just so used to everyone trying to kill her I thought it would be default for it to happen.

Lessons learned? Points denial, choose your schemes wiser. I ended up tabling his whole army short of one model, but he won 6-4 without breaking a sweat.

I hate feeling like a noob, but I know it's going to take a while to stand up to these guys, and they are really really good. Of all the games I've ever played, these guys seem to be the most analytic players I've ever come across, and this says a lot if you know our hobby. I'm not blowing smoke or getting hobby star struck with only the players around me, but I do think they are some of the best Malifaux has to offer. Hopefully something sticks and I get better!

Anyway, this was sort of a rambling about the games I played a week and a half ago. My current project?

Shenlong!

I've always been curious about using Shenlong. His tech on the table seems so unique and cool! I mean, he feels like a fighting game character, able to change styles mid strike to go with the flow of the game. He also seems like an easier character to use as an all around Master to fit all the different schemes and strategies, although his abilities seem harder to master. Still, I need something different than the Masters I currently use, which are all just killing machines designed only for killing. Shenlong can probably play a whole game not attacking and win.

Unfortunately his model hasn't come out yet, and seeing how he's not on the schedule to release at minimum for the next 3 months, I decided to make a proxy for him and his crew.

Perfect!

I ordered a few models from the Bushido Miniatures line for proxies. I took this model and cut the hair off and filed him bald. The water feature is separate and I left it off. Although it looks cool, it seems to not fit to me and looks old fashioned (if that makes sense). Although Shenlong can manipulate elements I like to imagine that his control of the elements isn't as overt like a bender in Avatar. I like to think that his control is more spiritual and theoretical rather than literal, like when Bruce Lee describes becoming water and how it affects his movements rather than literally becoming water. Don't get me wrong, I also love to picture Shenlong throwing fireballs at fools and dousing them afterward so they can live with the pain! I just like to show that he doesn't have to show and tell, he can be more subtle - and maybe he only pops out the big guns when he feels he needs to, which isn't too often (fluffwise, lol).

So although I won't use the rising water, it doesn't take away from this superb miniature. He feels very powerful, the pose reminds me of Neo before he taunts Agent Smith. Don't fret! I still will showcase his mastery of the elements, just in a different manner.

I've taken a 30mm base and cut out the middle portion up to the rim. Once cut out I sanded it smooth and glued it on a blister pack. Cutting a circle around the base I trimmed it and sanded it smooth and created a hollow base. Basecoat black and add a few rocks. I've painted the rocks up and should be done sealing it soon. Why all this work? I plan on mixing some resin tonight and pouring it in the base. When I'm done with it hopefully it will look like a deep river roaring with Shenlong walking on water. I hope it doesn't look cheesy, worst case I replace it when Shenlong comes out and it will be a good exercise with resin. I'm also going to experiment with something new...

Pics to come!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Viktoria of Ashes

(A bit blurry, sorry)


Here is my finished Viktoria of Ashes for my Outcast crew. I'm pretty proud of her, mostly because it is the best face I've ever painted. The camera kind of washes it out, but it's a very subtle blend and the first time I've ever attempted painting the stubble of a shaved head. I've also never painted an eyebrow before :)

Originally I had painted the painted with a traditional brush and metallic colors. I hated how it was coming along so I just painted over it. I'm much more satisfied with this iteration of her, what I started with was bush league lol.

Due to it being plastic the sword actually has 4 edges like a square rather than two like a blade. I decided not to edge highlight it due to the odd shape and let the airbrush effect create the illusion of a two sided blade, hopefully it did the trick. I also painted on the grips on the pistols.

It was important to use airbrush on the coat rather than paint on the blending since the shape of it is so subtle. Most of the time cloaks and other similar fabrics are sculpted in a way that creates very dynamic folds, possibly due to the limitations of molds for older models. This creates an easy blocking of color for painting with a brush and it forced deep shadows and bright highlights. With 3D renders now becoming the standard, specifically with Malifaux models, much more subtle shapes can be achieved. This creates quite a challenge in painting, as any less than the best of blends make the model look cartoon-like. Also you can't go too deep in difference between shade and highlight since their values are only slightly different on the model (i.e. where the butt of the jacket is isn't much deeper in from the waist). Although definitely possible with a standard brush, airbrush makes it much easier to create these subtle blends.

Again, I utilized blacklining to create definition and contrast, mostly with thin lines of the basecoat olive on the jacket creases. When I initially came across the technique I thought its use was only in the strictest of circumstances such as armor plating and created a cartoon look. As my style progressed I've recently realized after painting Infinity figures that it has its place in other areas. Although the style is very animated and not at all realistic, I've found that my evolution of painting has gravitated toward making very vibrant and cartoony models. It's not the best, but it certainly pops off the table.

Let me know what you think!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Killjoy!

Here's my latest work, a beast of a model named Killjoy for Malifaux.





He was a challenge to paint. However, I did manage to get him done in essentially one sitting, which is unheard of in my experience. I managed to forget to green stuff the incredibly obvious seam across the entire model and didn't realize it until I started painting him, and I'm too lazy (or defeated) to fix it. Oh well, can't be perfect all the time. He still looks good for a game, and that's fine by me. I'm sure I'll get comments on the gap when he's on the table, but screw it.

I tried a new style for him since he's so different from any model I've ever painted. A lot of his texture is extremely subtle, especially on his legs and back. If i did the normal technique of layering it would have been excruciating to do it by brush and mixing, not to mention I would never get it smooth enough. So I airbrushed the skin and did a harsh dark line (almost unheard of for texture not armor like), and it created a quick and unique look. Cel-shaded video games such as Borderlands and The Walking Dead came to mind when I started dark-lining him. At first I hated it and thought I wasted so much time and effort just to ruin it with one brush stroke, but with some encouraging words from the wife I stuck with it and ended up liking it. It's not my best, but it's certainly not my worst.

Now I'm working on painting my Viktoria crew, using a similar technique to tie them all together. It should go much smoother, since they have familiar textures like armor plating (which creates easy values) and swords which are fun to show off airbrush techniques on.

In other news I've begun to dive in with my friend Reuben on making YouTube videos for tabletop gaming. It's extremely exciting, considering I haven't been able to utilize my video skills since college. It is, after all, what I got a degree in. I've figured some low cost ways to do the best videos and will attempt to make cinematic approaches on conventional battle reports and videos.