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Monday, June 6, 2016

6/4 Malifaux Tournament Report!

Howdy ya'll!

So on Saturday I got to attend an out-of-town tournament for Malifaux in the illustrious city of Austin! I went with my buddy Dreads, who is an astute competitor for Malifaux and is pretty known in the community for his experience, as well as Parker who plays his Colette crew damn well.

It was hosted at Dragon's Lair, which, to be honest, is the coolest damn store I've set foot in.


I know the picture doesn't do it justice. Yes, it's huge. But what it offers beats out anything I've come across. I saw people playing crazy obscure board games, having intense RPG sessions, looking for comics all while hosting a 12 player Malifaux tournament. Impressive.

An example of what else took place in the store. This is an 8 player 3000 pt each game.

It was awesome. Like the Mecca of gaming. 

But that's not even the best part. This is:

Dear lord in heaven I wish I lived in Austin

You may not understand this. You could ask my wife, she hears it from me all the time. I have been dying for a good Kebap since I moved away from Germany 12 years ago. It was what I ate religiously while I lived there, almost every day! And it was right... there... 10 feet away from the store...

I forced my companions to eat there for lunch and dinner.

Anyway, onto the tournament!

So the Houston community came out in strength to represent in Austin. Besides us three our friend Karl, who plays Ten Thunders, and Nick, who plays Outcasts, showed as well which was a pleasant surprise. We almost outnumbered the locals there. They were all super friendly. I believe almost, if not all, of them were extremely new to the game. It was mentioned that when they play a full five turn game it takes them 5 hours, and were completely flabbergasted that we can get a full game usually in under an hour.

It was basically going to be a full on shock to them when they see our playstyle...

Game 1: Jack Daw & Thoughts for new players

Leve setting up the kill

So, my first pairing was against a local (Josh I think, I don't have my notes with me). He was playing Outcasts as well. I know Outcasts very well from my side of the table, and have experienced enough to get the gist of crews I don't play, so I stuck with Leve for comfort using the latest iteration of my list that has done even better than before.

In case you're interested it's this:

Leveticus - 5 SS
  • To the Earth Return
  • Pariah of Bone
  • Desolate Soul
Ashes and Dust
  • Scramble
3x Flesh Constructs
Rotten Belle
2x Hollow Waifs

It's a doozy of a list that works in a ton of situations. I used this list for all three of my games that day.

The first game's pool wasn't that great for me. The Strategy was Reconnoiter. It was Flank Deployment. Convict Labor, of course, was in. It had Neutralize the Leader in it, which spells out doom for Leveticus, but this time I stuck with my guns and took him anyway since the last time I punked out of this scheme it cost me anyway. Inspection and Leave Your Mark were also there, but I can't remember the last one off the top of my head.

He ended up using Jack Daw, Sloth, Gluttony, 2x Guilty, a Nurse and I think 2x Crooked Men.

Let me preface the action with this: I appreciated the fact that this guy was a new player, after we played he stated he only got into this game 3 months ago. I also want to point out that this guy was very friendly, and only showed minor frustration at one point since I was clearly in control of this game, but even that moment of frustration didn't deter my opinion of him being a friendly new player. I had no indication nor any suspicion that how the game played was intentional or malicious.

This game single-handedly convinced me that Malifaux tournaments need some sort of chess clock.

To begin with, he was doing what most players do and made his crew composition based on strats/schemes, so it took him a bit. The thing is, we were given a copy of the strats/schemes for every round probably about 30-45 minutes before we started playing, so an idea should have already formed of what may be good to bring. He's new though, so we'll excuse that happily.

But we didn't get to the first initiative flip until almost 30 minutes into the round, maybe longer. Dreads was playing next to me and they were almost to round 2 of their game before we even started.

When we finally did start it was still very very slow. He took about five minutes every activation. When he was activating Jack Daw he spent a while thinking about his first AP, which ended up being a walk, then after all 3 AP were spent he spent almost 10 minutes thinking about his (0) action, which he ended up not using. So that was a 10 minute "I'm done, you're turn" moment.

The Necropunk, agonizingly waiting for his activation

So what ended up happening was he moved almost his whole crew toward the corner to his right, with Sloth and a Guilty going toward the opposite corner. Seeing this from Deployment told me he had Inspection, so I had Ashes and Dust go after the corner with most of his models and the Necropunk off to annoy the other side, with Leve and the rest in the middle to pick them off one by one. He had one Guilty going slightly toward Leve, so a Belle Lured him closer and Leve shot him off the board, making an Abomination. Ashes ended up charging a Crooked Man and killing him outright, also making an Abomination right in the middle of his models. At this point he noted that I had this in the bag, but his decisions were still getting slower by the minute.

At this point the TO announced that there was only 20 minutes left in the round, WE HADN'T EVEN FINISHED THE FIRST ROUND. These rounds were 2 hours long each. Really. Now, I know my crew inside and out, so imagine that an hour and forty minutes have gone by, and each of my activations took less than a minute each at max since I was rushing to get something done. That's how slow it was.

Flesh Constructs making their slow... and ceaseless advance

Once that announcement came my mood had instantly shifted. I was very patient, and when you're playing sometimes the time flies by and you don't notice by how much. But once I realized we spent the better part of 2 hours for essentially one player it sunk in how this can negatively affect me.

You see, at that point I had to keep in mind the fact that now this game is definitely ending turn two no matter what. So I now was put in a position that forced me to score as much as possible in one turn. This also meant that there's no damn way I'll get even close to full points, which can affect your differential and in essence your place in the tournament.

Sloth, a fitting model for the game

So with turn 2 I placed enough markers to score Convict Labor. I knew I couldn't get Leave Your Mark, so I attempted to deny his Convict Labor and Inspection. Due to my frustration at the game I was rushing and didn't stop to think of the best way to deny it and he ended up getting a point from Convict anyway. Due to the fact that I only had two turns to get a whole game's actions in we ended up in a draw 2-2.

I felt pretty livid, I did my best to contain my frustration. Due to something completely out of my control I ended up doing the worst of the Houston players in the first round. It was probably the first time I didn't say "Good Game" after, even while shaking hands, which for me is pretty telling as no matter what I try to be friendly.

His crew was painted pretty well, though - especially his Jack Daw

When I say out of my control, I really mean it. Yes, you can report to the Judge/TO in the game as to speed things up, you can politely inform the player to move a bit quicker. No matter what, even with a friendly demeanor, you still don't win. The situation is fragile, as calling a judge can be seen as accusations of deliberate Slow Playing, which for some players like this one is simply not true. When you talk with the player you can be seen as trying to rush them, or in the case of any actual deliberate slow players they can just ignore you. Any report will be retaliated with a case of unsportsmanlike conduct, and some tourneys have prizes for sportsmanship.

This brought a sour taste to my mouth, one that I hadn't seen since my days of Warhammer. I once played at Bayou Battles, an annual Warhammer Fantasy (maybe also 40k) tournament with huge attendance and great displays of hobby craftsmanship, although my last one was a terrible experience both from an organizational and player experience. On an unrelated note they decided that year that each Army Composition would be reviewed for allowance, not based on any scoring system like Swedish Comp or rules, simply by the reviewer looking at the list and deeming if it's allowed or not. They denied my entire group's lists based on their perceptions of OP and only allowed us to play severely neutered lists in order to enter. When we arrived it turned out that several others had lists extremely similar to ours, which we find later that they were friendly with some judges. That coincidence may be chance, but under no circumstances should a list be banned for one player and allowed for another.

But in a related anecdote this incident reminded me of an actually intentional slow play. I had to play him in two consecutive years at this tournament, and although I don't know him personally he was nicknamed "Sloth" for his play style, and even came to the tournament with a shirt stating his nickname. Both years I ended up losing due to not finishing out a whole game, and the last one resulted in me not having lunch since we didn't have time, which is more of a travesty.

After having played Warmachine and seeing how their Chess Clock works in tournament play I am completely convinced all games should do so. Friendly games don't need one. But in tourney play it is impartial, fair, and completely eliminates any arguments of time as well as encourages fast action. I know that Malifaux is different due to alternating activations, but if Guild Ball can make a format Malifaux should at least attempt it. As of right now with the 2016 tournament scenarios a savvy and shrewd player can tell if the game is going their way turn one and slow it down to their advantage. A lot of schemes, especially the easy ones, depend on scoring turn after turn, with the end of game ones being very difficult to score early on. Seeing how a Draw in the first round can position you to potentially play an easier opponent while maintaining no negative differential is shady but possible.

I want to point out again that this is in no way a jab at my opponent, in fact I feel terrible how I acted as my anger was definitely evident. I had informed him in the friendliest way I could that I was frustrated at the pace, and how it prevented me from obtaining a win that we both agreed would have gone to me. He even apologized to me before we ate lunch, and I appreciate that.

But this goes to a few points players can do to prevent this from occurring due to their actions. I know Dreads and Mike Guy discussed this at length in a Podcast (Flippin Jokers).

  • Know your models
    • Reading your cards repeatedly helps reinforce your knowledge of each model's abilities and how they interact with each other. This makes it possible to have less time spent in game looking at your cards for possibilities, and every moment spent looking at your cards is time wasted for both players.
  • Practice with your models
    • Simply reading your cards does not equate to knowing them fully. Seeing them on the table is what solidifies your knowledge, especially with players like me whose memory depends on actual hands on experience. Also making lists that have repeated minions can help out as well, as each repeat is a model you are getting to know twice as well.
  • Use the same crew over and over
    • This goes with practicing your models. Make a list that you think will be effective for most matchups and pools, then exclusively use that crew for multiple games. I'd say about 10 games will make you comfortable with the interactions and model abilities. Once you're comfortable you can then adjust for taste, but I'd recommend only one model swap at a time unless you're really seeing something significant needing change. This allows for you to adjust to your new strategy by introducing only one new element, and it shows you how changing that one variable can affect your game. By practicing it over and over you can see how a model's true benefit comes through. Using it only once won't show you all the dimensions your models are capable of. If I only used Ashes and Dust once and saw it get demolished in one game before it did anything I may jump to the conclusion that it's not worth the stones and dismiss it from lists completely. But after 10 games if I see it do terribly it's a much better conclusion. Often though after ten games you'll see it's worth it. This goes for every model and master. In our podcast we actually think it takes probably closer to 20 games minimum before your list is completely mastered, but for testing purposes you can lower that to 10. Once you're swapping out a model every game you're actually keeping that testing consistent by having your other models getting their 11th game in with one new one, next game you have their 12th game in, with one having two games and one new. Keep that up and your master has tons of games, a few key models have close to 20, and your crew will be shaping up to be very formidable.
Doing this will not only speed your game up significantly, it will make you a much better player. A large chunk of what makes you good at a game is simply knowing your crew inside and out. You gather the tools necessary to tackle several situations every game, and at a certain point you will be able to recognize an instance in a game where you know what needs to be done to handle it. See a lot of armor? What have you done before to mitigate that? Apply as necessary.

By making yourself commit to knowing your side of the table you're speeding things up and becoming better. If your opponent is doing the same then you're having a full, great game and can concentrate on other things that need attention like matchups and schemes, to a point where eventually you'll know how to dictate the pace and set the tempo to where your opponent is reacting to you rather than you being reactionary.

Overall, if you're new to the game and are interested in playing competitively or at least in tournaments, practicing will be a great service to both yourself and your opponents.

To summarize the game I didn't learn much new about Jack Daw, as I hardly had any interactions with him. From what I've gathered playing 3 games against him, he really needs a crew that capitalizes on his debuffs. He doesn't need more help debuffing, so a Freikorps crew with him as a master seems more viable than having his starter box set the tone of the crew. Having just one of his debuffs on a model is all that's needed for one of his crew to go to town on them, and it acts as a force multiplier since all models benefit from the debuff against the target.

I did learn to not depend on just Leveticus to eliminate Sloth. His defensive trigger is too damaging for me to divert shots on, as he can end his entire activation from just one cheated card for defense.

Game 2: Molly

The Board State around Turn 3

This game was set against Molly, he brought Sybil, 2x Guild Autopsies, Bete Noir, Killjoy and maybe some other stuff, I'm not sure. I had never played against Molly before but I knew she can be a pain as her summoning is excellent. I am very familiar with Killjoy, and know that Bete Noir can pop up out of nowhere. He did decide to start those two buried, which is perfect for me as that allows me to out activate him early on, as well as dictate where those two appear fairly well.

The strategy was Extraction, one of my favorites as it's essentially Turf War. It works to my advantage as I have both staying power, numbers and can kill a model a turn with Leve. Once that marker starts moving toward my board edge it's usually a cinch for me and allows me to dictate the place where the action is. The schemes were Convict Labor, Set Up, Hunting Party, and others I can't remember - I've really got to remember to bring my notes with me when I post these. I took Convict Labor, which I always do, and Set Up, as the others were terrible for me.

The deployment was usual for me, and I had to deploy first. I placed the Necropunk and A&D opposite of each other on the board edges with the rest of the crew in the center for the Strategy. He deployed his entire crew to the left side, opposite of the Necropunk, which struck me as odd but I didn't have experience with Molly so I was very cautious of the decision.

I didn't take many pictures of this game because I was pretty engrossed in it. It started off with Ashes, completely unopposed, going forward for Scheme Markers. I activated most of my center short of the Belle and Leveticus, waiting for him to put his models up further and choosing which one for Leve to shoot. He moved everyone up and had Molly summon off the Necropunk, making a Punk Zombie right in front of him. He also summoned a Necrotic Machine, which promptly died to bring out the Bete Noir. This is a ton of aggression toward my tiny little 5ss scheme runner, who did not hesitate to leap out of that mess. This left those two on their own, so I could easily avoid dealing with them for that turn and possibly turn two. I decided to have the Belle lure in a Guild Autopsy, the closest model to the center, and Leve shot him down making an Abomination for him to deal with. He summoned Killjoy from it, leaving him to be engaged by the Abomination. This little guy acted as a speed bump to prevent attacks from Killjoy, who can cut a swathe through my Flesh Constructs.

Turn two saw a ton of action. He had his Bete Noir and Punk Zombie chase after my Necropunk - he really wanted that thing dead. The problem with Necropunks is they aren't easy to kill and he proceeded to leap out of the way again, heal, and put down a scheme marker. Killjoy killed the abomination easily enough, but he did his job and prevented a charge to important stuff. Once it was gone he charged my Rotten Belle who lived from two attacks, adding yet another speed bump to his rampage.

He moved Molly over to summon off my Necropunk, who was getting surrounded by the rest of my crew over the Extraction marker. He brought in two Rotten Belles to try to get numbers over the marker, but when I got to the marker and shot them off there was no one other than my crew to claim the marker. I scored from Convict Labor and the Strategy.

Turn three was where it was the beginning of the end for him. He killed the Rotten Belle with Killjoy, but left him open for Leve to take him down to manageable levels for a Flesh Construct to finish off. He placed enough markers to get Convict Labor, and when I put the Necropunk in the middle of his crew to deny it he finally managed to kill him. It was a funny thing because he put an incredible amount of effort trying to kill that guy, but it should have been resources spent to work on my main crew. He did manage to summon a Guild Autopsy in the middle of my crew before that happened and caused WP duels for a ton of models but it wasn't anything of consequence. Since Ashes and Dust was completely ignored he went over to the middle just in case, placing a Scheme Marker around the swarm of models. In the end he moved Bete Noir to attack a Waif, but since my Flesh Constructs were placing markers every turn he walked right into Set Up, which was something I didn't see happening until then. It's good to plan, kiddos!

The scrum over the Extraction Marker

In the end he got Convict Labor and all Hunting Party points, but I had scored my maximum points and ended 9-4. Dreads pointed out to me that in my last turn I could have moved a Flesh Construct up to deny his point and increase my differential, so that's something I have to keep in mind when something like this happens again. I got overzealous trying to kill the Guild Autopsy when his presence didn't deny me anything, if I had kept that in mind I would have done a bit better. But it's a solid victory, and there isn't anything to complain about, just learning points as you should always try to take away something from a game that you can improve on.

Game 3: Pandora

Start of Turn 1, things were well in control already

So this game had me going against Neverborn. I saw my opponent playing earlier in the tournament and saw he had used Pandora twice, so I was preparing what to expect when we started. Pandora is always a frustrating master to face, and it seems near impossible for me to kill her. I used my same crew, as it seems to work on all cylinders against every opponent I've tried it on. The strategy was Collect the Bounty, a great one for Leve, with Close Deployment. Close deployment allows some interesting strategies for crews, as it eliminates first turn moves to get right into the action a lot of the times. People tend to forget that even though it's 12" up for your deployment zone it doesn't force you to go that close. I can see why he did, as he was using Sorrows with his crew and therefor being close benefits him, but you always have to keep in mind what your opponent can do when he's only 12" away. That's a range that allows dedicated shooters to reach out and wreck face without moving.

The schemes were Convict Labor, Leave Your Mark, Show of Force, and other stuff. I chose CL and LYM.

The Belle sees all

Along with Pandora he had 3 Sorrows, Mysterious Emissary, Iggy, Primordial Magic, a Changeling and two Insidious Madness(es)(i)(?). I won the flip and made him deploy first. He put Iggy and Magic toward the left, the Madnessessesss on the right and everything else in between, all on the deployment line. I did my exact usual deployment, with a small exception being the Belle behind the center on elevation to have full LOS.

So I had won initiative and got to work. Because I deployed Leveticus directly in front of the Insidious Duo I knew I had to get rid of them early on. They're his only scheme runners, and with them gone he'll have a very tough time getting what I suspected he had chosen. I spent two stones in his attacks to make sure that when he hit them he'd summon Abominations and succeeded. Not only did both of them die I also had two minions nearly 6" away from the center line unopposed, pretty much ensuring I'd be able to have Leave Your Mark done every turn.

He started moving Magic and Iggy toward my Necropunk, which I knew would not ever be enough to kill him short of any miraculous flips. He moved to the center line and placed a marker for Convict Labor. I knew not to count on the marker because with two opposing models he can easily deny the scheme.

After placing this marker I decided that from then on the only job the Necropunk has is to kill the Primordial Magic and tie up Iggy. My 5 stone model can do a fairly good job at this, and with 7ss of models that he ties up I end up with a net gain.

Turn 2 saw some significant damage. With Ashes and Dust finishing out Convict Labor and my Abominations doing Leave Your Mark as well as leaving a backup marker for CL I had the rest of my crew free to do whatever they like. This meant concentrating on getting the most points to score for Collect the Bounty while denying Pandora's mechanic. I started with Leve killing two of the sorrows, but not before Pandora started forcing WP duels on a Flesh Construct, which did tons of damage at once and brought one down to a single wound. After getting rid of those two I knew it would be a much easier time, but it was quite a shock to see a Flesh Construct almost killed in one activation, something you hardly ever see.

At the end of the turn I had scored the Strategy since he killed nothing and both of my schemes, while he didn't score at all.

Ashes getting ready to join the fight

Turn three was more of the same. The Necropunk killed the Primordial Magic using Flurry, but Iggy was ignoring him and moving past the center line which told me he had Leave Your Mark as well. Pandora did some damage and ended up getting the wounded Flesh Construct killed, while an Abomination kept denying the Changeling's abilities. My Belle lured in the Mysterious Emissary behind my lines in LOS of Leveticus, who shot him down to two wounds. Ashes charged in to finish the job and locked my strategy point. I scored 3 again this turn while he couldn't get any.

Ashes finishes off the crew

Turn four went pretty fast, as he was down to three models while I had only lost a Flesh Construct. I had the Necropunk engage Iggy and flurried him. It didn't kill him but it prevented any attempts to try to get his scheme going. Iggy responded by putting 5 burning tokens on him, but due to Hard to Kill he wasn't going anywhere anyway.

The only thing Pandora managed to do was kill the Abominations in the middle of her crew to free up the Changeling, but nothing came out of it. Ashes went in and destroyed the remaining Sorrow and Changeling. The game ended at that point as he had nothing to activate and couldn't deny my schemes at all, ending the game 9-0 in my favor.

To the Victor go the Spoils

Due to my ability to pick myself back up after that first game I ended up getting third place, which was close as Nick was only 2 VP behind me and nearly stole it from me. Dreads got first place, which was no surprise, and Karl got second with his Ten Thunders. I ended up getting a Mystery Box, which had a limited edition Gator for Gremlins and a $20 gift card at the store. The Scrip chip is my second one I've gotten, and from what I hear you'll be able to use it to purchase limited edition items from the web store. I'll be saving mine up for the Hamelin re sculpt, as I can't stand the plastic box version of him.

Overall it was very fun and great to see some enthusiastic new players to this awesome game. A few of them stuck around afterward and picked our brains as to how we play Malifaux, as it seems our Meta operates a lot differently than others. Dreads' insights offer a lot of validity to this thinking as he travels the country often to partake in various tournaments. Since I've known him he's won every small tournament outside of Houston he's participated in, often wins our local ones, and placed eighth at Adepticon with his exact same Lilith list. He would have done better, but due to a discrepancy in rules that resulted in an official FAQ immediately after Adepticon he didn't place top three. But there were tons of players in that one, so even 8th is something of an achievement.

It was a great tournament, and a lot of those players are planning on making a trip down to our next one in Houston. We'll be glad to have them!