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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Terminator Genisys Mat and Novus Terrain Building

Just thought I'd share this recent purchase with you folks!

It's a 33"x22" mat for another miniatures game that works perfectly for MERCS. It's a tad smaller than usual but it's not a game that's going to change dramatically because of that, especially when they have scenarios on a 2'x2' square as well.

I also have a building from Novus Design. It's a decent footprint on the board but it's very open so movement isn't hindered drastically, just LOS. It should create some interesting approaches as it can turn very close quarters combat fast if you're near it. I think it makes a cool centerpiece and works perfectly for objectives. I plan on getting a second one that's a bit smaller so that there are two buildings in the center.

The mat itself is a cool enough design, but it's literally littered with skulls. The great thing is that it's not noticeable unless you're really close up, but it kinda takes you into a different setting. Granted, it's appropriate for Terminator, although really why are all the skulls around in that world? Do Terminators evaporate ribcages?

The road portion also seems a tad on the small side for MERCS, but that's negligible as roads vary in size anyway.

Overall I highly recommend the mat for MERCS games. It's cheap (about $24 on Amazon) and easy to transport. The dark colors will help your models and terrain stand out. Also, good luck finding mats that will fit the 3x2 size, you're more than likely putting out 2 2x2s and having to have funky deployment zones.

As for the Novus Building, I think it's perfect. Granted you're going to be doing a lot of clean up. I mean A LOT. Bits of mold are actually embedded in the model, and there's some flash but it's nothing you can't just leave alone. It is terrain, after all. The entire building is one piece so there's no assembly, but there are some walls that are a bit thin and can break if you're not careful. Really though, for it's cost it's awesome and creates a war torn battlefield with no effort on your part, you'll just have to paint it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Outcast Impressions Part 2 - Totems

Continuing on from yesterday I will discuss briefly (hopefully) on my experience and conclusions of some Outcast Totems. Generally these are associated with their respective Masters, so I'll probably discuss their main interactions with them as well as with potential crews.

First up...

  • Shang
Misaki's dedicated totem isn't that great in my opinion. His main two abilities are Rush of Magic and healing Misaki. Rush is a great ability as it lets you cycle, but 3ss is a hefty price to pay for one good ability. The healing portion is almost not worth discussing as it's another thing that almost never works on the table. Its 6" range and 1AP makes it impossible for the little guy to keep up with Misaki, considering she's moving very fast and for free at times. Healing may be viable if she's sticking to an area like Turf War, but that makes her more vulnerable just for a 1/2/3 heal.

Rush of Magic is his main selling point, and on the forums some people say they like bringing him for that. I guess you can couple it with, say Hannah's ability to draw an additional card for some pretty good cycling. But his Rush of Magic for 3ss works out like this to me:
  • If you pay a soul stone to cycle two cards, that's essentially two Rushes of Magic, making the ability sort of equal 0.5 soul stones per card cycle (one rush of magic)
  • Shang lets you Rush once a turn, bringing in that 0.5ss five times on an average game if he lives long enough, for a total of 2.5ss return
    • This doesn't make up his cost
    • For 3ss throughout the game you could have cycled a total of 6 cards over three turns compared to his 5 cards over 5 turns
      • You can also do it 2 more turns for 4 more cards, but now it's costing more than Shang and is a big chunk of your cache
    • Most tournament games will not go to turn 5, let alone any more after, so that's less return from Shang, making Soulstones more efficient and flexible
So at this point if you're thinking of using Rush of Magic it should be so that you can still cycle and have a full cache to use for other things beside card cycling, which I can understand. It's just a shame that a faction like Neverborn gets Primordial Magic, a totem that costs one less and does more along with Rush of Magic, while Misaki gets this. He's not significant so doesn't help with schemes, while the Primordial Magic does. So in terms of model cost compared to other similar models in the game he's not good at all, and he also doesn't bring anything new or good to the table for Outcasts in general.

I'd leave him at home, but mostly because I leave Misaki as well lol. Really though, if you plan on taking Misaki, you may as well shell out the extra stone for the Hodgepodge Effigy, who has a ton more synergy with her, can keep up with her, counts for schemes, and is still cheap. If you stay at one SS in your cache she can use it to buy a crow, gain her Risky Ventures ability, then after killing a model she gets a stone back and does it all over again.

  • Student of Conflict
Here's a controversial model within our group. She's overall very good, the problem is that her cost far outweighs the usefulness at times, so it's a toss up when it comes to including her. She isn't master specific for the most part so can be utilized in any Outcast crew.

Lets start with the model as it stands. Melee is crap at a 4, but damage is good for a totem at 2/3/4, but the best damage track in the world doesn't help a low initial stat. Yes, you can still hit with her, but using resources to make her hit is ill advised as you need to spend those on models that will do more damage or make more of an impact. It's not impossible to hit with her though, and I've killed a master with her once as she was the only model left and I lucked out.
  • Special note: We were discussing raw stat difference today and a very knowledgeable player pointed out that the difference between 5/6 for a stat isn't much at all on the table, and I only notice the 7 being really good as it's generally associated with something important and therefor I spend resources to make the attack happen. It's an interesting point and probably true, but I find it hard to discount a high raw stat like a Rotten Belle's Lure being CA8 against average WP not being a huge advantage

She has a few good points about her. She has a 6 speed which is always nice, but since she isn't significant you can't capitalize on it entirely for schemes, mostly for Sister placement or scheme denial.

She has the ability to teleport sister models as well, meaning this ability's worth depends on using her in a Viktoria list. Outside of using her for Vanessa, which is an expensive utility in my opinion, she can be used for movement shenanigans with the Viks. After using the Viks for a bomb you can use the Student to teleport one back to relative safety or for a better position in an upcoming turn. This helps her stretch her usefulness a bit, but I've found that it's limited as you'll be activating her later in the turn and if you move then you'll be teleporting only one of the sisters. 

Her shining ability is handing out Fast turn after turn. This is what makes her more useful in other crews. An additional AP is pretty darn handy, the main problem with it is the 3" range and the fact that it cost 2AP, soaking up her entire turn. Some notable uses can be plopping her next to Hans while he goes ham on a fool, or other similarly static models. Four stones for that advantage is somewhat debatable, but interesting enough to try out. I've used Fast as her main draw when recruiting her, but if you plan on your target being mobile then it's not nearly as easy to pull off. Being that it's her whole activation the model that is being targeted has to wait an activation before reaping the benefits, and sometimes you just don't have that time and need to act now - which is the issue I had with the Viks past turn one. I've tested out replacing her and have had mixed results. If she was just one stone cheaper I wouldn't have to think about it, but 4 stones seems to be the tipping point between useful and points heavy for me.

  • Malifaux Child
This is a pretty good little dude with lots of flexibility for a cheap price. For the price of an upgrade you get an extra activation along with the ability to copy your master's abilities to an extent. He's good enough for non-Outcasts to pay the mercenary tax and bring him in.

His attack isn't worth mentioning, and really when it comes to resilience I'll mention manipulative, but he's hardly ever a priority in targeting by the enemy. He's usually only in danger with blasts or if everything else is dead.

As for general strategies, the main one I took away from him is using focus. If you focus before using his copy ability the chances are increased dramatically in passing the target number.

He generally makes your master AP efficient by saving them from having to cast something themselves, or gives them more options when it comes to what they can cast.

For the Viks it's interesting that he can cast Sisters in Fury and benefit from the buff himself for +2 damage. It's not a game changer, but certainly a surprise for them while he's saving them from using an AP. The problem with him in their crew is that for them to benefit from his ability he has to activate first, and I almost always want the sisters to activate first to get the Alpha strike or keep up the momentum.

He's not useful for Von Schill, at least not over the Steam Trunk, and should definitely never be used with Leveticus. It's an interesting note that with Misaki he gets access to her Downburst ability, but this is something I have never tried yet. Definitely worth taking over Shang.

It's worth noting that he has access to a small heal. Nothing fancy, but it requires a suit being flipped. I tend to use it when I have a leftover AP and someone could use a heal, but I've also had Hannah copy the ability for a good heal with a held card for his own activation for some okay healing that kept her alive. Just something to think about.

  • Hollow Waif
If you're using Leveticus you're using these, don't think about it too much.

They operate like anyone figures they do, keep them safe and within LOS of the anchor, as this is a mistake I've done and lost Leveticus this way. The only thing of note that isn't always discussed is that they have a DF 6, which is pretty good. Her trigger is by no means worth spending resources on unless convenient. 

  • Steam Trunk
It's good for Von Schill, and I think it's his best option especially when taking the upgrade to give out two (0)s. My main problems I had with it are its speed 4 and 4" range along with with activation issues. For people ahead of the the trunk in need of his abilities he had to activate first to double walk and hand out his (0)s, but the reason why they are in need for something like a heal is because they're about to die and therefor need to activate first. He seemed to never get past that and his abilities were never useful, although on paper you'd think it's easier. Due to his speed the crew tended to be too far out for him.

I probably need more practice with him, but it seems like not only a unique totem but one that could be a lot of use for Von Schill. If you're looking for a more overt crew enhancement however the Student is one more stone and can hand out fast for the entirety of the game.

Well, that's it for Totems I have experience with! If I'm way off base let me know, I'm sure I've got some bad thoughts on this stuff and it's probably the reason why I don't do all too well with Malifaux!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Outcast Impressions Part 1 - Masters

So as a "quick" (meaning long winded) post I thought I'd share my impressions of some Outcast models and interactions after having used them consistently for the last year or more. This will most likely include models outside the faction that can be used as an Outcast in general and relies heavily on actual game experience rather than the faction as a whole, as I don't think I can comment on models I haven't used as of yet. I want to keep this more of an opinion piece rather than an overview, as any summaries can be obtained through either cards or PullMyFinger. I will do my best to avoid rambling but can't promise anything.

As a disclaimer I'd like to say that I am by no means a Malifaux Master, I am amateur at best and all comments should be taken with a grain of salt.


I'll start with talking about the Masters I have experience with, some more than others.

  • Misaki
There are a lot of issues I have with her. She is probably my most disappointing Master as she was my first and probably the one I was most excited to use. On paper she looked fine enough, even when you know that she operates as a solo artist. 

Lets start with her best attribute: offense. Her damage track is minion level at 2/4/6. At that point she is already starting off really bad, as more often than not you're hitting minimum damage. She has no way of buffing that damage to respectable levels. I understand her trigger is where the hurt comes in, but to be a consistent model you must have decent power in raw stats alone, and that is where the other Masters outshine her. Her Melee 7 is great, as that's a stat I most often relate to being reliable.

The Assassinate trigger sounds boss at first, then you have to start thinking of ways of getting the opponent's control hand down. And that's where you start putting in more moving parts and making a Rube Goldberg machine. You can make it work, but the amount of effort and AP you place in that machine takes away from the efficiency of the rest of your crew. Some people work around this by activating her last and hiding her, but at that point you're relying on your opponent exhausting his resources for you, which is something you can't rely on without expending the effort and AP, and thus going back to the machine. In cases where players decide to go after smaller targets to capitalize on the ability, a savvy player may just let the minion die if the resources are more important, or if the loss isn't affecting their VP strategy. This isn't even mentioning the fact that by attempting to hit the trigger you are either out of Soulstones or you're expending a high crow from your hand and a soulstone, both are situations you don't want to be in. Blowing through SS just to get the chance to trigger doesn't work well in real situations from my experience as a lot of her arguments for her are done in a vacuum and rarely seen accomplished well on the table. If you're starting with a low SS pool planning on utilizing the trigger then you lose a lot of versatility that comes with SS and relying a whole lot on her abilities alone.

Her upgrades available as an Outcast present more problems. To capitalize on her offense I usually went with Stalking Bisento. But this prevents use of the Disguise upgrade. So her whole "hit and run" build is neutered by this. Sure, you have the Next Target trigger, which is cool. But you're usually wanting to hit all your attacks on this target, so with your 2" melee range you're ending your activation about 6" away, so that target is needing to be close by some LOS blocking terrain to prevent retaliation, and that retaliation is coming from a whole crew if you're operating on the fact that you want her activating last, giving plenty of opportunity for the opponent to combine efforts. Sure, people argue that she just hits one, moves, hits another, moves, etc. but that is not efficient damage as it is always better to get rid of a single model rather than ping everyone for small amounts of damage. Depending on Next Target to hide her means you're depending on dense, LOS blocking terrain on the table to aid you, or relying on your crew to pack on the damage that Misaki starts doling out. It's a lot of moving parts when you can just pick a master who evaporates a target, something that Outcasts definitely have. And don't mention using her for marker placement, it would burn every Outcast's soul.

The argument that she can hit a model and move to another is also very dependent on your opponent's actions, and a good plan never depends on the opponent walking into it. This is why certain schemes always outperform others, as Schemes like Frame for Murder can be negated by just not killing (hard to do for me, but doable) potential suckers, which I've seen done by savvy players easily enough.

So the other upgrades are so-so, with exceptions like Cutpurse being pretty bad to use in my opinion. You can't make her dip into so many uses like Cutpurse forces you to do, you have to be focused in specialization when it comes to being a Master like Misaki. Her abilities aren't good enough on their own that you can dip around in utility, she does one thing and tries to do it well.

You can build a Disguise Misaki, on the other hand, with Survivalist and I guess Untouchable, but you're just making a harder to hit/kill Master, whose offensive abilities are now on their own as is on her card - unremarkable. And why did you build her that way? So she can stay around longer? Disguise isn't that hard to get around, either with shooting - and Bulletproof 1 isn't that great - or melee efficient models ganging up on her. She can dance away, but that's negated with 3" melees, base to base contact with 2" melees, and the fact that it costs a card every time, which is super resource intensive. She's Origami, she folds under pressure. She will die an inglorious death to focused up models, or burning, or any number of other things. Not to mention you can just ignore her

I've seen builds for her that focus on an amazing turn for her, such as Scout the Field, Oathkeeper and Stalking Bisento. I think this is one of her better builds, but still doesn't make her that great compared to other masters. She moves up once for free essentially, okay got that. She gets 1 extra AP once per game, always good. But Stalking Bisento's (0) action always annoyed me as an Outcast. I usually did it during her first activation, telegraphing what I planned on killing. If you ever got to use it for the attack then you couldn't use it that same turn once you killed something. If you used it during the turn you planned on swinging with then you didn't benefit from the extra attack. Sure, positives are always good especially when coupled with her high Melee stat, but you were almost always getting half of your ability's use, never all of it. When you did get all of it you had to use two separate turns. This is why she's better in Ten Thunders as Sensei Yu can Stalk for her, but that's a whole other conversation where I talk about the fact that you're hiring a 9SS model just for her (0) action...

Anyway, this build is good enough, except for the fact that it can't stand up to anything remotely good. Master on Master, she won't kill them. They will most likely be taking minimum damage then preventing it, and 2 damage is easily prevented entirely. If you are banking on the fact that Stalking gives the positive, thus making straight damage flips, then you also have to hold onto high cards for damage to get that severe, meaning less cards to hit with, meaning that master can hold his own. It's constantly a robbing Peter for Paul situation. And using it to hit low level minions seems like such a waste.

I can think of a few Outcast models that hit harder than her and more consistently, and they aren't even all masters.

That's all just with her hitting power, let's talk about list composition. She has the ability to infiltrate Last Blossom models, which sounds awesome at first but lackluster in practice. Her best choice is Yamaziko, who is actually a model I love. Minimum 3 damage, very good defensively with her Brace Yari action, only 7SS and a 3" melee makes her very good for utility. She breaks to a stiff breeze, but she's usually either on her own running schemes with Nimble or being guarded by a beefcake.

Now the other options: Ototo (don't do it... just don't), Torakage (models I've reeaaaally tried to make work), and Oiran (the crap version of Lure girls). Ugh.

Ototo has WP4, which can be problems right there. His potential isn't reached until he's halfway dead, at which point you should have just gotten a model who is great from the get go, and is slow as molasses. Great looking model, though. Just wait till he's buried by a Death Marshall or something. The average player usually comes to the conclusion that he's not that great, and I've used him enough to see this myself early on and never let him back out of the box.

I've heard people say Torakage hit like trucks, which makes me go "Whaaaaa...." as their minimum damage is 1. Sure, their severe is great, but whenever I think of consistently hitting severe I think you're spending high cards on damage or lucking out on the flips. Their positives ability is good, but not enough on their own to not need resources as they are Melee 5 which usually garners a negative flip on damage, just canceling out. Those are resources that Misaki needed as explained earlier. And these resources are all in the context of offense, not mentioning needing these cards for defense, or casts, or suits, etc. If you're taking Smoke and Shadows then you're taking more than one Torakage, which is more than one than you should anyway. They're too expensive for scheme running, they're too expensive and not good for damage dealing, they're just underperforming. Not to mention that the 1AP used for smoke, which can help for their bury, makes them forced to only use 1AP for their use if that makes sense. Like, if you're using Smoke/Shadows for mobility to run schemes, then that means they pop out, pop a marker then smoke again. Okay, that whole time they're within 6" of an ally, usually close enough to get killed before they activate. And if they don't die, then all they did was pop a scheme. That upgrade slot and 1SS could have been put to better use if you just bought a cheaper scheme runner. And for 6SS you could have bought a better damage dealer. 

Oiran aren't good Lure models, just compare them to the others. The points could be spent focusing on other aspects.

The common understanding is that her list composition is independent of her model herself. I disagree, as you'll want to set her up for success with her crew by trying to drain their resources and running the schemes to let her do what she wants. Unfortunately her Outcast model selection does nothing for this, and has led me to believe that she's better in Ten Thunders, where her selection is more robust for her style and her upgrades are better in my opinion. Granted, I still think she's not that great there either.

  • Von Schill
I really don't like this guy. And I wanted to, so bad.

My whole thing is that you really should specialize in this game, and if you dip into other areas then your ability should be good enough to do so. Von Schill's models do just the opposite, being mediocre in all things. This does not lead to versatility to me. This leads to failing at all things.

He does do one thing very well compared to the other masters - he sticks around much easier... just to suck longer.

If you see what the community loves about his crew you'll see a trend. People love the Trappers. But that's because they specialize in shooting. They love Hannah, but she specializes in denial and dabbles in force multiplication through her copy ability with no loss in efficiency. People love the Librarian, but for reasons I don't as I've found healing in this game to be inefficient.

VS's shooting is probably his best area in my opinion, with a minimum damage of 3 and range of 12". This helps as his Sh 6 will result in negative damage almost all the time. It ignores Hard to Wound which helps a lot more against certain model match ups. 

His Melee I find is significantly weaker. Most people would spout out about his damage potential, which can be high, but there's a huge disconnect between potential and his on table consistency. Critical strike without a built in Ram amounts to resource intensive for consistency. And you have to choose between damage dealing or utilizing his other trigger to lower DF, which is good by itself but is relying on the long run of dealing damage to the model. He lacks the ability to put down heavy models himself in melee, which is a huge deal as the most efficient way to do it is in one activation -something he'd have a tough time doing himself. This is why I think ranged is the way to go with him, if you are planning on focusing damage from several sources to one model to take it down then it's better to do so with ranged attacks, as there are less repercussions and you can do it from a much wider berth.

I will admit that of all my Masters I own Von Schill is the one I'm least experienced with, but he was the worst performing I've ever used by far. Although he can tank, any dedicated damage based crew can just as easily take him off the board as they do against anyone else.

His crew composition, however, is usually not bad as the Freikorps have access to some good choices, which I'll discuss in a later post.

I plan on trying him out more, but I know for a fact there are better choices out there.

  • The Viktorias
Now we're getting into the masters I'm very experienced with. The Viktorias are why I think less of Misaki and Von Schill. Misaki prides herself on melee damage, where the Viks do it harder, faster, and more efficiently than she does, and operates about the same way she does as they are also somewhat solo artists. Ashes has a similar gun to Von Schill, at least statistically without any special abilities, but the Viks' melee definitely outshines VS. They may not have the same staying power, but I guarantee you if you put them up against each other they'd eat him for breakfast, and they can use his crews as well just for insult.

So lets get into the main talking points for the Viks. Offense is the name of their game. Most people know them by that, and it's obvious. What's best about the Viks is their AP efficiency though, mostly in their attacks, but some in a few more subtle ways.

Lets get one thing out of the way: I think their abilities to have sisters swoop in or out to make attacks is a TRAP. Some people rate this ability very highly and I don't like it one bit.

First of all, to capitalize on the ability you have to recruit more sisters. This means Vanessa and the Student of Conflict. Some even go so far as to get the Howling Wolf Tattoo to make another model a sister... for a turn. So we've already got a Rube Goldberg machine going with list building alone. I'm not a fan of Vanessa, as there are plenty of other models that are worth taking over her, and I'm actually partial to the Student myself, but she's pretty pricey for a totem.

So, in theory, Viktoria of Ashes can use this 2AP (that right there is a turn off) ability to make sisters within 6" or something to be placed in base contact with the target and all of them take swings. Sounds pretty nifty, right? There's a potential of 5 swings with positives to damage flips and unicorns and cotton candy and stuff. Well, that's the theory.

In reality, it's hard enough to try to get all the sisters in range, not to mention someone having to discard the upgrade which took up a precious slot to make one of them a sister. So more than likely you won't be getting 5 swings initially. 

Let's say you're smart and didn't take Howling Wolf Tattoo. That's 4 sisters now who can swing, cool, that's still a lot. And you don't have to waste an upgrade slot for it. Well, one of those guys swinging is Vanessa. who is probably no longer on the Ley Line bonus, and has a melee 5 and 2/3/4, which isn't that great, but hey you got a free swing for 2AP. The other one? A Student with a melee 4 with 2/3/4, which isn't bad for a totem but bad when you're spending 2AP and hoping for change. But hey, it was free. Most likely these will miss short of some bad defense, but hey, it was free.

Then you can chain activate Viktoria of Blood and do the same thing again. Although, again, most of those free attacks aren't worth the full use of her AP, but hey, they were free.

But the counterargument is that this is including the Viks' attacks, so I'm not considering the fact that they are also popping damage with their impressive stats. True, but it's 2AP! On a single target! If you're relying on the Viks for the damage then why are you bring in these other yahoos? Because it's free? Well it sure is a lot of set up to make it happen. If you do it right you'll probably kill the guy in the first round of swings and it might be a bit overkill. But let's say everyone is going to deal weak damage for argument's sake, and yes I know there's a positive to damage. So the Viks do 3 each, that's 6, and the Student and Vanessa do 2 each, that's 10 total. That's enough to kill most models with base damage. If you used Vik of Ashes' third AP to put on Sisters in Fury for +2 damage that's a lot better, for a total of 18 damage, yaay you're cooking with gas. That's well over what's necessary to kill almost every model there is, leaving at least one of those swings unnecessary. Which is ok, because you'll probably miss with the Student anyway.

This is, of course, if you're all within 6" of the target, and the stars aligned, and it's the winter solstice, etc. and you're not slow or something. I agree, that's a lot of damage coming from 2AP. What I'm arguing about is it's tabletop viability as well as its true efficiency.

I don't think that it should never be used, I think it has its place. But I see a lot of people online building toward this ability by hiring sisters and stuff, and it's misplaced. I think of it as more of the obscure tools in their kit that you should use entirely with only Viktoria of Blood in mind.

Viktoria of Blood shouldn't ever be the one using this ability unless for some awful reason she and Ashes needed to be pushed out 6" for the win. Maybe they're in the middle during Interference or Turf War. But the problem is that if you're going for a single target and trying to murder it Blood is much better off just swinging away, as her minimum damage is usually 5 after the buff and ignores darn near everything. With her 2AP and free swing that's 15 damage done easily. She doesn't need anyone else's help, she gotten almost as much damage as the Rube Golberg version did with all weak and the same AP usage (technically). What's better is that her 15 damage is true damage, while the others still get affected by armor and stuff. So that previous 18 damage from the other example is actually lowered to 15 if they guy has armor 1, and 12 for armor 2 and so on. Plus simply swinging is more flexible, as if she kills the target she can move or swing at something else with her remaining AP. If the target died from one swing in the previous example, everyone else's swings are wasted and so is the second spent AP.

The main way I see this ability being used is getting as many swings from Viktoria of Blood as possible. If a target has moved within 6" of Ashes and Blood and has several defensive abilities like incorporeal, then first using Sisters in Fury before using Dragon's Bite Ashes gets a minimum 5 damage swing as well as Blood, who ignores the buffs. Then Blood chain activates and swings for more. This is good if, say, you had two big targets with these buffs on. But even then, the Whirlwind trigger takes care of this, and because the sisters end up being close together they actually lose some buffs.

Well, I ended up talking about that trap spell a lot longer than I thought. Essentially, I find the ability redundant and unnecessary.

So... back to their AP efficiency...

Ashes has a few staple upgrades that help with efficiency. The best combination I've found - and is commonly what most other Vik players use - is Sisters in Spirit, Fury and Synchronized Slaying. Fury adds a devastating 2 damage to sisters' Melee damage, almost doubling their damage output, so essentially that saves AP by having to swing less often. Spirit teleports and saves AP from the target's movement. Synchronized Slaying doesn't necessarily save AP, as it actually helps the opponent out-activate you, but the important thing is it lets you get an Alpha strike. If you effectively use the chain activation and end up with two dead models on their side, then you've basically caught up on the activation numbers, but you just end up with the same amount of models - that probably doesn't make sense. 

Let's say they have 8 models and you have 8 models. If you have initiative and activate Ashes first for buffs and teleports, then chain Blood into two models, you're down to 6 remaining activations. If you killed those two models, your opponent is also down to 6 remaining activations. The difference is that you now have 8 models to their 6 and they don't currently out activate you. The great thing is generally I get more than 2 models dead with my Viks!

So basically the set up usually requires Ashes to act as a supporting role to deliver Blood, who is the most efficient when it comes to dealing damage. She acts as a model who essentially "transfers" the AP she uses to Blood so that she delivers her attacks that bypass most defenses. If Spirit essentially saves 1AP of movement for blood but it takes 1AP from Ashes I guess I'd make more sense that way.

Blood's upgrades are extremely efficient. Mark of She'zuul is a must have, as it limits the amount of necessary attacks from her to take her target down. With her 5 minimum damage after Fury and the ability to ignore everything she can kill almost anything in 3 hits. Her melee 7 stat ensures that she can easily hit most targets. She has an innate positive flip to attacks, something Misaki has to buy an upgrade and use a (0) for. She has two flexible (0)s, one being a positive flip to damage, and the other increasing her melee to 8 (and all other sisters within 2" get the +1 melee too), which is an underrated ability when you're going against someone like Lilith with a high defense. I find the damage buff to be more useful, as Blood is generally more than 6" away from Ashes after charging, and the negative gets canceled out this way should you need to cheat.

Most of their efficiency is printed on their card rather than their upgrades. Misaki and Von Schill wish they had this much awesome.

Now Blood's second upgrade is pretty flexible. A popular one to use is Oathkeeper, but I don't think it's necessary unless you're really trying to spread the Viks out too thin for just one good swing. I used to exclusively use Scramble, giving her a lot of flexibility toward her target range. I have recently switched over to Tally Sheet, however, as this not only increases my control hand significantly (on average I draw 3 extra cards) this also ensures that Blood gets a positive flip for Defense and Willpower duels, which she will get a lot of being a huge target in the middle of the table after wiping out a lot of stuff. Those extra cards help keep her alive, coupled with damage prevention and having a higher Defense between the two sisters.

A lot of people feel like she's a tactical nuke, and will die soon after her spree. I've found a semi-consistent way around this with my recent lists however and have included Hannah with Ancient Tomes. At first I used her because she was a sweet model. I found a way to use her with the Viks by utilizing her 50mm base to block LOS to them by having Blood hug the back of her base, which eliminates most lanes of fire. I didn't like Ancient Tomes at first, seeing how it can be resource intensive and isn't an efficient offensive option to me for a situation-useful bury. I coupled the bury with her ability to copy the Freikorpsmann's (0) action to add a ram in and make it more useful, and in a pinch you can buy the ram. But what I've discovered is that it's actually very useful defensively and much more consistent. If you explode the Viks in the first activation and gather a lot of cards from Tally Sheet while using stones to prevent damage as much as possible for one activation from the opponent you can use Hannah to bury Blood and keep her safe for the rest of the turn. This, of course, means that should Hannah die she gets unburied, but it takes a few resources and activations to take her down and that's a lot fewer ways to take Blood down. After that you should be able to get at least another shot or two in with Blood. I've only really utilized this new tactic once but it worked beautifully. Granted, I lost that game, but it was due to the fact that I left Ashes out in the open and my opponent was a government built machine meant only for Malifaux killing.

Essentially what I'm getting at is that the Viks are much more effective and efficient at killing than Misaki or Von Schill. That's a given, and everyone has already come to that conclusion. But if you're comparing other traits, are those two any better? Mobility? Viks have that, Misaki doesn't become more efficient at it outside of Stalking prey, but she doesn't get to control the direction she walks when she does, not to mention it costed a card to do so. Von Schill is slow compared to them. Survivability? Misaki is just as squishy as them, and Von Schill beats them. But what's the point of living longer if he's not really that exceptional past that? Crew support? Misaki doesn't have it either. Von Schill does it better, but pretty much Freikorps only, and I've found most Freikorps models to be lackluster, but I will hand that one to him. Most of them will still die easily enough however.

I know that there are other Masters in Outcasts that excel in other areas over these two, but for what they do they do it best. In my mind I feel that with the existence of the Viks there is no Scheme Pool that they can do better than Misaki or Von Schill from a master specific point of view. It just takes a more delicate hand to use them.

  • Leveticus
And so I saved the old man for last. He is currently my go-to Master and there are plenty of reasons why.

First off his upgrade that increases his hiring pool makes him extremely flexible in composition. Where all the other Outcast masters are pretty static in their pools, generating pretty stable compositions, Leve can hire more than any other master out there leading to more dynamic and synergistic crews. He is the master I have the most consistent success with but I'm having the toughest learning curve with.

When it comes to AP efficiency he's got quite a bit. His main ability in this area is Channel, allowing him to get positives in attack and damage for an action by hurting himself for 2 damage. This usually leads to doing it for 3 attacks and almost killing himself (before killing himself), and if translated into the equivalent of focus actions that's 3 additional AP. His attacks also ignore a lot of defensive abilities, which essentially increases his damage output when faced with armor, Silent Ones, Riders, etc. as well as damage prevention with a trigger. If you get his upgrades he usually has a trigger for 3 of the 4 suits, so there's always an add on to his damage. My favorite one reduces the target's wounds by half rounding up, so that's saving some AP by having to attack less times to kill something. Generally the understanding is that he should be able to kill almost any model in one activation. This can be devastating to an opponent when they see a big model go down so easily and makes for some great mind games to those who aren't expecting it. 

His attacks are very effective as they are Casting 7 against WP. This is crucial, as WP stats tend to run lower than DF ones and bypass a lot of defensive triggers. Coupled with his Channel he tends to always hit and have straight flips for damage. I've found that having 7s for any stat is the turning point from good to great, whether it's melee, shooting or otherwise, as no matter how many positives you get you are still capped out if both players cheat in 13s. I'd rather have a +1 to a stat over a positive flip, and a lot of people equate positives to increasing their stats for some reason when that is far from the truth. I'll give any opponent 52 positive flips when playing me! But seriously having 4 positive flips still fails against someone with a higher stat and a 13 in hand. Raw stats and money over everything. That's why I think Von Schill lacks, because he has 6s for most stats and abilities which is on par with exceptional minions.

In terms of movement efficiency that comes with his Waifs, so instead of having to spend AP on movement he just keeps popping up around the battlefield where he's most needed. Granted there are some caveats, but generally this isn't too hard to achieve if you're playing smart.

He's most vulnerable while buried if the opponent starts popping Waifs or killing anchors, but he should almost always have 2-3 options of coming back out. Killing him is extremely tough compared to almost every Master out there.

Then there's the summoning. It should be treated as a happy byproduct to his attacks, although some - and sometimes I - treat it as a main ability. Should he kill something he can pop out an Abomination, which is generally more efficient than summoning itself as you're getting it as a result of an attack so it's like 2 actions in one, but it's less reliable as you'll need to kill targets to get it. Some people use From Ash to summon more Abominations, but it's much more inefficient as it uses an AP and requires a scrap marker to bring one lousy model back, when you should be concentrating on killing. Abominations aren't game breakers, you shouldn't revolve your strategy around it, and the same effect can be done by buying or using a crow. This is made a lot easier if the opponent brings tons of squishy stuff, like Hamelin.

I believe he is the Outcasts' most competitive Master, even in Gaining Grounds 2016's format (Neutralize the Leader be damned). This is not only because he kills so well - the Viks can kill even better technically - but mostly because of his crew selection. He has a model for everything. Sustainability? Flesh Constructs. Scheme running? Ashes and Dust, Necropunks, Crooligans... Control? Rotten Belles. More summoning and table quarter denial? Mechanical Rider. Plus all the good models in the Outcasts like Trappers and the Hodgepodge Effigy. One can say his main limit is in making sure he has Anchor models, but being that they have to be 6ss or higher this ends up being pretty flexible, as they can go from Flesh Constructs to Aionus depending on your needs and flavor. His crew composition tends to be very good and is top tier in my - and several others' - opinion. 

Well, that's it for now. It was a lot lot lot lot lot longer than I thought it would be, but I plan on revisiting Outcast topics periodically and thought that it would be interesting to give my thoughts on them as a player, particularly from a practical point of view rather than the typical overview. I apologize that it's so long and that it tended to ramble on, but let me know if you have any comments, questions or contrary arguments to my thoughts!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Malifaux Tournament 3/19/16, WIPs, Relic Knights

Howdy folks!

So I hadn't done much the last few weeks in regards to painting, but I have been trying. On Saturday I attended another local Malifaux tournament, but I hadn't planned on going originally so I didn't prepare mentally like I usually do. This was especially daunting as I was using a new list, including Ashes and Dust, and didn't know how the interactions would go in a real world environment. The list was as follows:

  • Leveticus
    • Desolate Soul
    • Pariah of Iron
    • To the Earth Return
  • Hollow Waif x2
  • Ashes and Dust
    • Scramble
  • Mechanical Rider
    • Oath Keeper
  • Freikorps Trapper
  • Freikorpsmann
  • Hodgepodge Effigy
I do want to note that I preferred to swap the Freikorpsmann for a Necropunk, however I did not have the model in time. I made the swap as it was equal in points and he can technically run schemes, but not nearly as well as the Necropunk can.

A pick of 3/4 tables, the one at the end that's hard to see was my favorite

A pic of all the players, including some weirdo in the white shirt

So knowing that I'd be playing this list for the fist time I didn't feel too much pressure to do well, although as always I still want to win and will try my hardest. I also decided to try going Mono-Master throughout the whole tournament and used the exact same list all three games.

Round 1 against Rasputina

So my first round was against Doug's Rasputina crew, a crew he's very familiar with. I loved the table set up, it was very balanced and interesting. The PlastCraft Post-Apocalyptic terrain looked really good, and that was one of the sets I was least impressed with when the pictures came out. I never thought I'd ever want the set, but after seeing it in person it made me think twice, although I have one of the Malifaux Swamp buildings (the big one) and it turned me completely off the line when I tried building it twice.

The deployment was standard and the strategy was Interference, perfect for this version of Leveticus. I saw that the terrain wasn't too compromising on LOS and cover for Leve either. He deployed first and put almost everything in one corner while Miranda and a Wendigo were at the opposite side. I deployed in three areas, the right had Ashes and a Waif, the middle had the Trapper and the Freikorpsmann, the left side had the Mech Rider, Waif and Leve toward the center. I figured Ashes could deal with the right easily enough on his own, the Trapper can lend a hand if I held his activation off until he pops into LOS, and worst case scenario Leve can pop out for next turn there. The middle was going to be left alone, as I didn't want to lose models for the strategy if within 6" of the center, but if a scheme marker could be placed there early on it could bait some models to come into the center to deny the scheme, and if they don't then that's a good placement for Convict Labor. The left was where I thought the bulk of the action was going to take place as the Ice Golem, Silent One, Snow Storm, Ice Gamin, and Rasputina were all there.

Overall the game went very smooth for me, as I got to set the tempo early on and made him reactionary from the get go. I picked Convict Labor and Covert Breakthrough (I think), while he had Leave Your Mark and a Quick Murder - all hidden of course. At the start of turn one I moved my Freikorpsmann out early to bait a lot of his attacks to him rather than anything else, as I didn't really need him to run schemes necessarily. I made it where it was just out of range where it required additional moves on his part for Rasputina to attack him. He moved his Ice Golem in range to do so but failed to kill the Freikorpsmann by one wound. With him in range I got one shot from Leve off on him taking him down by half wounds, setting it up for a kill next turn. I've found it's really hard for Leve to get 2 shots off on first turn, so knocking a big model down is a good alternative if you can get the range. On the other end he moved his Wendigo into LOS for the Trapper - which he didn't notice was there - and got shot down to low wounds. Ashes and Dust then charged it for the kill and managed to poop out an Abomination, who just went forward to try and tie up Miranda. Miranda killed the A-bomb and the Mech rider just walked up the other side to anchor.

Over the next few turns it pretty much went my way, I systematically killed everything and all that was left was Snow Storm, Ice Gamin  and Rasputina. I lost two Waifs and a few others along the way due to Miranda's sneakiness and stuff, I also accidentally moved the Trapper in the 6" bubble but luckily it didn't help or hurt. I also lost Leve for the first time at the end, due to my dumb assumption that my anchor didn't have to be in LOS. Luckily it didn't change anything. I ended up winning 7-3 (I think, I don't have my notes with me).

The next round I played Travis and his absolutely disgusting Colette crew. We played on a beautiful table that was not very functional. I actually gave up deploying second just to make sure I wasn't on the worse side, although it didn't help me much.

There was so much hard cover on this thing I couldn't get a shot in, and LOS was tricky at best. Not only that it was Corner Deployment and Squatter's Rights, a terrible combination. Well, not only that, the scheme pool was awful. And Travis is a Beast. It was clearly stacked against me, and the game was an exercise of my flailing about and dying miserably. Situations like Cassandra locking me in melee with Southern Hospitality on her was cruel. It was the first game I ever used Leve's melee option, and it proved why I avoided it. 

Every time I play him I beat myself in my mind, I've got to stop going into a game feeling like I've already lost and making a self fulfilling prophecy. I lost 10-3.

The third round I felt pretty flustered, as we only had 90 minute rounds and absolutely no time between rounds for some reason. We played on a really cool table with PlastCraft's wild west buildings, and I thought the set up was very fair and balanced. I ended up playing against Jack Daw with a pretty standard build using Lady Legaia, Montressor, 3 crooked men and a Hanged. If I had given it a moment's pause in hindsight I think I should have gone with the Viks on this one. For one they have a good matchup against Outcasts, so even though I knew he'd play Jack Daw the Viks can handle most of the Masters in Outcasts. The Viks don't care about Jack's negative twists at all, and with all the LOS blocking from the buildings they wouldn't have to worry much about shooting, at which they'd most likely shoot Hannah who I use just to take that. Not only that, there's no difficult terrain between the buildings, making it perfect for them.

I did tell myself to try out a Mono-Master though so I stuck to my guns anyhow. There were ups and downs for this game, Leveticus hardly got to do anything since due to the LOS lanes everything got Hard Cover against him, which is his bane really. Not only that (I'm saying that a lot) Jack Daw has WP 7, which is not good for Leve.

Essentially all the tasty targets stayed out of Leve's LOS, and I was relegated to taking pot shots at Jack and managed to only kill a Nurse. I took Convict labor and Set up (for the first time), and had to leave Montressor (my Set Up target) alone as much as possible before being able to set up the scheme. Luckily I was able to pull it off in the last turn using the Mechanical Rider and the Freikorps Trapper, but I found out I much prefer to just kill them outright. Leve had plenty of opportunities to do so, but I didn't want to risk screwing up my scheme. I had Convict Labor going perfectly though and had 5 scheme markers to choose from at all times. I mostly learned that I suck with Headhunter as a strategy. We ended up drawing 5-5.

So what major lessons did I learn?
  • Although I love Leve now, I have to factor in the table terrain. I've been told this before but when you're in a controlled Meta you tend to see the same types of boards so I never had to experience it. But these boards were cover heavy, and mostly hard cover, so it was not a good day for Leve when he's usually damaging on a negative flip now
    • On the same token, I should remember to focus more often if ever shooting against hard cover. It may not have the same pizzazz, but at least it's consistent damage over time
    • If the terrain is to dense I may have to consider Viktorias
  • I love Convict Labor, I can't see doing two other schemes at the moment over including this one
  • Ashes and Dust rocks. It's too good. I tried avoiding using him since everyone uses him, but man can that dude rock markers. I did learn that using him in the center spells the end of him, and he pretty much is relegated to just Dust Storm if that happens, but it's always a good backup to have since there are usually plenty of scrap markers lying around. There's nothing like a surprise 10" push from a melee beast like him.
  • The Trapper isn't such a good anchor. I tend to want to deploy him far up a flank for fire support and scheme placement, especially in something like Squatter's Rights
  • Ashes and Dust is also a mildly bad anchor, mostly because he wants to do his own thing and can get really far ahead of the waif. He is a good backup anchor however, and if you ever push your Waif too far you can surprise the opponent with a leftover anchor in the Dust Storm
  • Freikorpsmann aren't good at anything. Specialist models and money over everything. I can't wait to swap out this guy for a Necropunk.
  • I lost more Waifs that day than I ever have in my life. This is probably due to the shift in my anchors from being as tanky as possible to attack driven, not to mention having a Trapper as an anchor means a small base not being able to block LOS like Hannah did.
  • I may swap out the Mech Rider for now as much as it pains me. I love this model, both as a game piece and a show piece. But with this tournament running only 90 minutes a round we hardly got past turn three, let alone turn four. The riders shine most when they can go all the way. I'll definitely keep her in Interference as that summon and push with the great movement and Oathkeeper are just gold for that strategy. But for others like Headhunter I may just go for something more killy or tanky, like Flesh Constructs.
  • So far I've played Leve spread out, with Anchor points on far flanks and the middle. If I swap out for tanks and Belles I may play centralized for consistency and best ranges of fire throughout the table
  • I need to work on getting more familiar with achieving the other schemes. I've realized the value of Leave Your Mark, and may take Soulstone Miners simply for that, or utilize the Hodgepodge Effigy as a good scheme runner. A four point speed 6 minion is priceless, regardless of what else he can do.
  • I definitely kept my schemes more in mind this time around, as I resisted the temptation to go and kill as much stuff as possible over scoring efficiency

There are probably more lessons I can put down, but this post is long winded as it is.

In other news, I've done a quick test paint scheme on a Zombicide model:

I managed to do this in about 30 minutes, including primer time. I sprayed zenithal highlights and painted entirely in washes. I've still got to finish his base as I sloppily put on some grey in my haste, but I like him a lot for what he is. There are 72 models in the box. There's no way I can spend any time on these individually. I plan on fixing up the base eventually and making it look like pavement using paints only, no flock or sand. All in all it's not terrible, it looks good enough for the game.

Also theres this...

I recently discovered the Relic Knights miniature line and got bitten by the bug. I had been planning on getting Arena Rex models for the longest time, and just when I decided I was going to do it I saw these and changed my mind. 

I bought these purely for painting. I love models in an Anime style, that's why I got into Infinity before giving up on it for now lol. Not only were they cool minis, they were extremely cheap on Amazon as it's a semi-old game with little interest in comparison to other miniatures games. They had a fairly rocky Kickstarter and people complained about the quality of work in the sculpts as compared to their CAD designs. But man, they still look awesome. I can't wait to paint these bad boys up, there are a few others I haven't even built yet that just kick ass.

I got excited just thinking about painting these, as they'll be a good break from the normal paint jobs I do with Malifaux and Warmachine, although really my style for Malifaux can fit right on these bad boys, just with a different color scheme using bright pinks and yellows and stuff, maybe a splash of white. I miss painting armor panels, and in Malifaux I got to do that on Hannah and the Mech Rider, my favorite models I've done for that game. I'm really tired of cloth right now, as it's not my strongest area and Malifaux is full of it. Sometimes I need a dose of Sci-fi, which is my all time favorite genre. Anime just scratches so many itches right now.

I do plan on using them in game, however. I've had the rules to SuperSystem 4 for a long time now. It's a Superhero game where the main deal is that you get to custom make any superhero you want. It's basically scratching the conversion itch for me, as well as how I miss making custom characters like in an RPG or in Warhammer. There's a lot of flavor in SS4, and the powers in that system can envelop virtually any hero you can think of. Just for these models alone I've thought of their power set and how they can be translated into the game. I figure it would be fun to do even if I never get a game in that system with them, but if I already have models and stats done I can probably do a demo with some friends and maybe get them into it. The rules are only $10 or so, and you can use literally any model you like for it, which just begs for good conversion work.

Also, check out that Chun-Li. How can I resist?!

An example of a sweet model, I got this bad chica too

The game actually looks really interesting too. It uses cards rather than dice like Malifaux, but it's more akin to Magic the Gathering than Malifaux and uses custom cards. It's a lot more streamlined, however it takes a lot of conventional tabletop gaming mechanics and flips it. Deployment, for example, doesn't use any zone of any kind. You just plop them where you want one after another, which reminds me of the old terrain rules for 40K which is a mind game in itself. There's also the activation queue mechanic, where you choose the models you want to activate ahead of time so that planning is crucial, especially when you can see your opponent's queue as well. 

Although I only got models I wanted purely on aesthetics it turned out I got a lot from the Cercei Speed Circuit faction, so really all I'd need to do is get a starter for another faction like Star Nebula Corsairs (totally Japanese) to get a demo going for it as well. You should check this game out, it's not very active but it seems like a fun project.

Anyway, that's it for now!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Photography Thoughts and Controversies

So today's post will be mostly musings on a topic that's very touchy for a few members of our group, and that subject is miniature photography.

One point that has been brought up numerous times is how a miniature will look great in a photograph that's semi-professionally done and look completely different when seen in real life and not up to the same quality as before.

Another sour note comes from the use of photo editing, and where the line is drawn or gets fuzzy. At what point are you misrepresenting your miniature?

Well, as a primer, I am fully in the camp of presenting your models as best as possible in the best way possible. This entails correctly utilizing lighting, framing, and photo editing to show your model in its best and truest form. What may result isn't always true to how you may see it in real life and I'm glad - I'll explain this properly in a bit.

I'll start with my set up for my photographs. If you see a backdrop on my miniature, then my set up uses a printed piece of paper with a blue backdrop on it taped to the wall, two cheap lamps from Wal-Mart using the incandescent bulbs they came with, and usually my wife's old digital camera from almost 10 years ago. If it's not using a backdrop, then it's my iPhone 5s and whatever light exists around the place. Also, while shooting I make sure to use the right settings and white balance to create the truest colors, and the only post shoot editing I use is cropping. Also, this is all from the perspective of the most amateur of amateurs, so as always take this with a grain of salt. If you're looking for a professional view of miniature photography I'm sure Google will yield several great results as taking photos is a popular subject.

I'll be going through several photos that I've saved and not necessarily shared on this blog to show you the process I go through to take photos of my minis. It's really trial and error as I'm always learning how to be better at it.

My painted Malifaux models, snapped with my phone

So the photo above was just a snapped picture I took to show a buddy all my painted models so far, but it's a good control picture. The only thing I did was crop it a bit, everything else is standard, true-to-life as a camera phone can be. Seeing as no one argues that unedited photos of your friends on Facebook seem different than real life I'd say this should work just fine. I would like to say that since I have yellow bulbs in my light fixtures then it lights everything up with yellow light, that's why real life can make a model suck.

Hannah taken without correct white balance

Now take a look at this photo of Hannah. Compared to the control photo she seems a bit more yellow, and the background looks grey or even white. Since the other colors don't easily change with different light conditions they don't look too much different, it's usually the brightest colors that stand out the most as changed. This is because I didn't have my white balance properly set on my camera, meaning I didn't "tell" my camera what white should really look like under the light conditions using two incandescent bulbs. In video class we used to do this by holding up a white sheet of paper to fill the frame and adjusting the white balance to it, as it is a true white color source in the current light conditions, telling the camera to use it as a base to adjust all other colors to and recreate a true representation of how the environment looks. Yes, it's using technology to "adjust" what is being seen, but this is being used to create a more true representation to what should be seen.

If you see the above picture and see the piece of paper I use as a backdrop you'll be shocked at how much the color has changed. Of course it would look different in real life! In real life I could spend hours getting a blue shade just right only to have it spoiled by this crappy photo telling everyone else it's grey.

Hannah with correct white balance and settings

Now this is the photo I showed everyone online. One, it's significantly better. Two, it's a much more true representation of the model, as compared to the control photo. It may not be a perfect comparison, being that I did no white balance or anything else like that in the control photo, but I feel like it's closer than the previous one. I'd say that this photo is more true-to-life than the control, but what do I know, I guess you'd have to see it yourself.

Here's another to compare it to

Below is another comparison for the same criteria, this time using the Convict Gunslinger and on my phone:

Convict Gunslinger on my phone without WB

Convict Gunslinger with my phone with WB and no other settings change

Granted, there are lines on the backdrop due to the phone being a terrible tool to use for the set up as it's too bright for the default settings, but the only thing that changed between the two photos is setting the white balance correctly. 

If you're in a room filled with crappy lights when you first hold this model in your hands it will definitely look different in real life, but that's usually because if you're trying to show off your work you're going to make the best conditions possible to show how much work you put into the model. At least that's my thought process when I take photos. I equate that to trying not to take a photo of my new paint job in a dark room using a red flashlight or something, I'm setting it up for success. Taking a good photo is simply an extension of that.

Malifaux Child... in real life

Malifaux Child taken with my camera

Here's an example of how lighting can affect your model in other ways, namely with directional lighting. In these two photos the Malifaux Child's colors are almost the same short of maybe the shirt being lighter in the second photo. The main difference is where the light comes from creating shadows that aren't painted on.

In the first photo the light is above and behind the model, creating shadows on the front of the model. This obscures a lot of detail in the torso and face. I do like the way the hair comes out though, as I feel when I have it well lit the contrast is taken away, but I chalk that up to not having varnished it when I finished and it reflects a lot of the bright light.

This does bring up a perfect example of why there is protest to some photos and why it's a legitimate claim. Some miniature photos use directional lighting to place dynamic shadows on their models that weren't painted on like that. I've seen some models with a spotlight effect that I feel isn't actually true to how it was painted and it does add an impressive effect that isn't necessarily representing the miniature as it is.

An example of this would be taking a miniature in a diorama or gaming setting, upping the contrast and making it black and white. This makes a much more dramatic photo that doesn't represent the paint well but looks cool.

There's a fine line that photographs tread, and it can really all depend on the context that you present your miniature.

My Shenlong Proxy with terrible lighting and settings (phone)

Just changing the light placement can really improve it (phone)

Here's a model I don't believe I've shown before, although I mentioned it previously in a blog entry about Shenlong. This is an example of how just moving your light sources closer can improve the photo dramatically. Because the first photo had the light too far away the camera has less light being picked up for the photo and changes colors as a result, In all fairness though this was using an app I downloaded for my phone and it may have automatically added a filter or something, it doesn't look like it's just the light alone in my opinion. But taking that away you can see the difference in the shadows on his ribs. The first photo is more dynamic but I did not paint those shadows on his midsection. 

Okay, so next I'll bring up how a different background can change how a mini looks as well. Here's a pic of when I first finished my House Member for Mercs:

My Housemember in the kitchen against the table

With the brown table as a background it makes the model appear darker. Granted, this was a fast snap picture I took so I didn't make sure the light was hitting it right or anything.

Now the next picture I took in the same room, all I did was put the model in my foam tray with the foam topper as a backdrop for a quick pic:

Same lighting conditions and settings, added with black foam as a ghetto backdrop

I didn't change the settings on my phone or anything, but it's a dramatically different picture. Now that the model is the brightest part of the photo the camera compensates with the light conditions or something I guess.

How you see them "in real life"

Okay, so where am I going with this?

It seemed like a long winded explanation of how your photos can change just with a few key settings. But I was really just explaining these examples to build to a point:

Seeing models in real life can sometimes suck.

Some stores have terrible lights. I used to go to a store that used LED strips as lights. It was awful. So of course models are going to look different when you see them in front of you as opposed to when you see them online. There's a reason why artists are very careful with their lighting and placement when they present their work in a gallery, because they want you to experience their art in the best way possible.

But we as gamers don't always get this opportunity. A lot of the times we're hastily putting them on and off the table or moving them around terrain. Most people get to see your work in passing as they try to murder them with their tiny figures. We don't get the luxury of placing them in the best conditions possible when everyone gets to look at them, our only way of controlling that is through the photographs we post. And I don't plan on making it look anything worse than what I worked to have them look like when I painted them. Anyone's work can be made to look worse or better in photographs. You can take an award winning model and put it in a closet using only your phone's flash to illuminate it, I'm sure you'll lose some details and it won't look that good. So why not use the tools at your disposal to make it look as good as possible?

I guess the line we're really treading is using these tools to make it look better than it really is. I just wanted to make the distinction beforehand of how changing your settings and stuff can change the dynamics of your model. I highly doubt that many people are using Photoshop to add brush strokes or something to their models.

I argue that taking good photographs can actually make your work look worse. A lot of the pictures I show are larger than the models are themselves. This means all the tiny details are extremely visible. Every brush stroke can be seen, every mistake. If you can do this and it still looks good then more power to you. I tend to always find things I don't like about my models after taking photos of it. After all is said and done your models are mostly seen and scrutinized from arm's length most of the time.

Anyway, I guess what I'm really trying to say is I don't think people are using photography to pull a fast one on everyone, I know I don't. I don't believe that they're making award winning models out of crap just because of lighting. I think it's a tool to enhance your art and make it more presentable. A good painter can spot others' work regardless of the settings, and should be able to identify the skills necessary to pull off those tricks.

It's all subjective, really. I guess if you tread carefully and use your photos for the best intentions it should be okay. If you intend to show off your paint job then make your photos as true to life as possible. If you're using it for dramatic effect then I say all bets are off and any editing tools should be at your disposal. But the key is knowing how something as simple as changing your backdrop can change how your model appears is important, as it's not something that is used to elevate your painting skills, it just elevates how your art is received.

Let me know what you think, or if I'm just full of air!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Alps WIP and other projects...

So last night I got to work on that commission for the Dreamer crew. It turns out I didn't get much done in two hours, mostly just the black cloth and part of the bases done. Time flies when you're painting, and it took me 30 minutes just to get all my stuff set up to paint in the kitchen!

Well the only one I like so far is the right, for some reason these black colors are giving me problems when I've done them a thousand times. Maybe I'll just paint them in a different color to see if it works out better.

In other news I've been more active on a friend's Podcast (called Flippin Jokers) and we've decided to do a small painting competition between the three of us in honor of the Iron Painter. None of us want to commit to that time constraint just to be whipped by the amazing hobbyists that Wyrd attracts.

For our first round our theme is "Don't Be Fooled," where we attempt to make the model look good from only one angle, and the other angles show unpainted plastic! It's going to be quite a challenge for me, but I have an idea I hope works out. 

I got a Through the Breach Male Multi Part Kit to use for this entry, as I don't want any models I may use on the tabletop to be only partially painted.

The "modular" kit

It's an impressive array of options, and I like how they give you enough parts to make 11 different models. The problem is the models will end up static and very much looking the same as the others, with the only notable difference being their equipment. You can use these bits to create all sorts of stuff in the Wyrd scale, but it requires a lot of breaking and sculpting as well as scratch building, but I guess that's not too terrible. Better than nothing, right? Or at least better than kit bashing, which for Malifaux models seem like a nightmare as they're all customized to fit themselves and not be modular. Trust me, I'm planning on doing some Malifaux conversions and they aren't looking to easy, and one is looking to be expensive!

Let's discuss my other projects...

The Crossroads Seven

So with my winnings from the last tournament I purchased the CR7 crew, as I wasn't interested in any other Outcast crew except possibly Jack Daw, but then he's pretty exclusive with his model pool and I'd have to get a whole new crop of dudes like I did with Leve. I figured the CR7 are some awesome models and a self contained crew that can be used with any faction, like my Ten Thunders. Plus each faction's individual CR7 model has possible synergies, and one or two seem good enough to pay the merc tax at times. But mostly the gimmick of playing a rock band in Malifaux seems pretty fun, even if they aren't nearly as competitive as a traditional crew can be and are highly restrictive.

I plan on getting them built soon to at least try them on the table, and I'd need to wait until around April to get the base inserts I plan on using for them. I previously got plank bases for my Puppet Wars models that I may have shown here before. They're really good inserts from Full Borer Miniatures and he's an excellent guy to buy from. I believe he mostly does custom jobs for his projects and occasionally puts them up in his store, but he's mentioned doing a commission sculpt if needed.

Anyway, I hope this crew works like I want. As an Outcast crew you can use the Malifaux Child with them in lieu of upgrades, which gives access to another push and a terrible heal on the board. I'm thinking that 6" push in any direction will help more than say, Survivalist and I Pay Better on Wrath. Although on paper I Pay Better looks great as all of them are Mercenaries including their pseudo Master, discarding a card for focus adds up fast. With a crew desperate for their suits and can even use low cards effectively that may be an ability that never gets used. Plus the Child adds an 8th activation, which puts them in a much better position against average crews. That push seems to make them much more efficient, as that's essentially one less AP that particular model uses and moves them further than some of their walk values, It also extends the range that the ability can be used, as it usually only has Wrath as a source, meaning everyone that wants to use it has to be close to Wrath. Now he can be on one end of the board and the Child on the other, pushing everyone in the crew in a wider area. This is all on top of the fact of how effective pushes in general are in terms of schemes.


So yesterday I also got Zombicide in the mail. I can't wait to paint and play this game, it looks like loads of fun. I plan on just painting the zombie models very fast. Maybe use zenithal basecoats and wash painting, it was a lot of fun testing that technique out before. I will also try layering on the washes with different colors to provide more depth without spending a whole bunch of time on it.


I really need to get back on this project, I've only partially built my recently acquired Kezai Waza and FCC House 4 models, I didn't even open my KemVar yet, and I've really wanted to buy the Sefadu box for some reason. Only two of my FCC House 9 models are painted, and all I need is a 5 man squad! Not to mention all the terrain I have for MERCs and other modern/sci-fi games.


Speaking of terrain, I put together and started painting my Dreadstone Blight kit from GW, but I definitely ran out of steam fast for that one. I only basecoated it. Once I started drybrushing I wanted to gouge my eyes out, it takes forever to do it right. One day I'll randomly want to finish it, until then I will keep it off to the side.

Well, that's enough for now, I've typed far more than I thought I would. Until next time!