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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tail Feathers Review

He's on my tail... this time literally

Hey-oooooo internet!

So last night Kristy and I got to try out my latest game, Tail Feathers!

This is a beautiful game made by Plaid Hat Games that takes place in the Mice and Mystics world, one that is reminiscent of Mouse Guard. In Tail Feathers you control a force of military mice that are just hell bent on wrecking that pretty tree of yours in the name of cuteness. The way they go about this destruction involves ground forces scurrying on branches and missions as well as piloting small birds that take to the skies to wreak havoc on each other. On the surface this is a cute game that appears to be a re-skinned take on pilot games like X-Wing and D&D Attack Wing, but once you dive deep into the cheese wheel you can see that it's got so much more going for it.

This battle is about to get... bird pun here

Before we got into this game we watched a video describing how to play the game. I highly suggest it because although it's a board game it is heavily influenced by wargame and dogfight mechanics, something that may not always be your cup of tea. Even for me it seemed tough to read through, not due to the instructions being terrible or anything, but because I already had preconceptions of how wargames work and it's like relearning how to ride a bike but you're given a unicycle.

I felt that I got the gist of how the game operates from it and set up the board using the first scenario, which is just a pitched battle with the single goal being to destroy each others' nests. We eliminated almost all the optional rules so that we could get a grip on the core concepts and introduce these rules bit by bit into future games. It's already a bit much to take in with just the core rules, but if you've played any wargames it is actually not difficult to go through, just difficult to put all together for your first turn. After the first turn though we went through it with ease.

In a nutshell the game consists of several phases. The first one involves selecting a mission that your ground forces will take part in. These missions range from infiltrating the enemy tree, shooting down birds in the sky, attacking other missions to keep them from succeeding and even a decoy mission meant to draw resources from your opponent. Once selected you place them close to the center of the board and dedicate a few ground forces to ensure that the mission succeeds.

The next phase involves activating your models. Tail Feathers uses an alternating activation system like Malifaux, with the exception being that if you have a unit with multiple models they all activate at once. This is where the bulk of the game takes place. You'll move around ground units on tree branches to prepare to shoot from them when enemies are in range, or move them close to the trunk to prepare for a possible invasion. Your birds and their pilots are moving around using templates (similar to X-Wing) and are a huge influence on the battlefield. These big guys are capable of attacking missions, ground units and other birds. 

The last phases involve resolving your missions and end of turn cleanup. Once you're done with all of that you restart from the beginning until you have a winner.

This turned into an epic chase to save the nest

At first it felt a bit overwhelming for me to grasp everything just from reading. Although I am a fan of having Intro and Advanced rules sets to introduce new players into a game, I hate the format for how it orders things in a rulebook. This tends to force you to flip back and forth throughout the book even when they are related rules. Tail Feathers tends to do a better job of this but it still made it hard for me to wrap my head around. It's a personal issue I believe as some people can learn the game faster that way, I just prefer to have everything in the order you should be experiencing it on the table. If a rule is involved with movement it should be in the movement section, but because mechanics like the Death Spiral are in optional advanced rules they are not together with the normal movement section. Although the format works to introduce players this makes it annoying to reference in future games sometimes. Like I said earlier, though, Tail Feathers does this much better than some rules I've read, like almost any game made by Fantasy Flight Games. FFG makes some of the most entertaining games, but man their rules love to hide important bits in random places. I'd say that Tail Feathers is definitely easier to learn by diving in rather than trying to understand every rule through reading before you play, and the video we watched helped that out immensely.

So now that I've gotten that bit out of the way, what are some good points? Well for starters this game is dripping with theme. And it's not just superficial to me either, some mechanics are simply brilliant as a game implementation and I get the impression that those mechanics were created to convey the theme rather than the other way around. Take falling leaves, for example. It's an advanced rule, and one we hadn't included yet in our game, but it is a very cool mechanic. The whole game revolves around your home tree, and what cooler way is there for mice to travel from tree to tree other than cutting off leaves and using them to float over the battlefield? The only other cooler way would be to hijack a bird and joust with him, but all the cool rats took those. Well this game took a concept that sounds like two kids are talking about what would be a cool game and made it functional with the tools they include.

This theme permeates the entirety of the game, and although it can be judged as form over function it really is the opposite. In recent discussions it has come up that a game, when wiped away of all its aesthetics, it should function as a fun game still. This game is a good example of aesthetics elevating the gameplay. Yes, the mechanics function well enough without all the shine added and would still be a very deep game without it, but cute little birds and mice fighting over trees while collecting berries and cheese makes it that much better, unlike using wood blocks and meeples or something.

The other great thing about this game is its depth and layers. In our game there was only one true goal, which was to destroy the other nest. How we went about it, though, is what made this a game that was very tense and filled with measures and counter measures. Kristy decided to go for the jugular from the start and chose the Siege mission, which if successful allows for a few of her ground mice to pop up directly on another tree. I decided to start withering away her flyers as soon as possible by using the Patrol mission, which if successful allows you to attack any flyer you want - which was important as she had three flyers to my two. On turn one she was immediately pushing the pace as my home tree was invaded, and the risk I took didn't pay off as it failed to injure my target, and I felt the pressure from the start. From that point I was desperately trying to fend off the birds from getting close by colliding with them and initiating Death Spirals, and ground forces couldn't be dedicated to missions as they needed to defend the home nest. My birds also had to try to stop missions from succeeding by swooping in attacking them, and it ended up being a wasted effort as Kristy used a decoy perfectly.

It felt like you had to stretch your resources to cover as many of your bases as possible, and you can never have enough coverage. This created way more tension than I've felt in an X-Wing game, because there were so many approaches you had to consider. If you considered the three main approaches - Birds, Ground, and Missions - it always felt like you only had enough to deal with two of the three at any time, which is a great thing. There may be some players who suffer from analysis paralysis when confronted with all the options you have, and Kristy was definitely getting a headache from all the decisions you had to consider. I would think that once you get through a few games the better options become more clear, or at least you develop a style you like that doesn't need to engage every option, so that your playing can become more streamlined and easier to think about.

Things are not looking good for these vermin

A lot of the gaps in gameplay get filled with the advanced rules set. Using leaves for transportation solves the issue of moving your models to other trees outside of a mission, and this adds a further wrinkle in what you dedicate your resources to during the turn (do I attack the mission or the rats on a leaf?). Dropped feathers help defend the model from additional ranged attacks, which is something desperately needed as I found ranged attacks to be very powerful and flexible. Action cards are probably a huge addition we need to add next, as they can possibly help balance the scales if things don't go your way.

So, enough glowing about, what are the issues?

For starters there are the flyers. They are beautiful models, and the pilots fit very well with each bird. But the tilting that's necessary for their movement can be cumbersome throughout the game. A few times they came off their stand and had to be reattached, and while tilting them you have to be very careful. When you're getting in a tight bunch there's a guarantee that you won't be able to place them perfectly where they should be, and god forbid you do a Death Spiral in the middle of a bunch of models and stuff.

The movement templates can also get in the way when you move through several other flyers. This issue happens in X-Wing, but in that game there are a few elegant solutions for placing the template accurately. But because they are on round bases it's a little tougher to get around, and they will definitely not be perfectly placed all the time. It's going to be tough to get exactly movements when you're flying between a lot of other models, and you'll have to hope your wings don't tip over other flyers. Between that, physically tilting the model, Death Spirals, etc., you're definitely going to have to be okay with models not being perfectly undisturbed. I don't see this becoming a tournament game or anything, so usually you're playing with friends who don't accuse you of cheating because when a model fell over you weren't facing exactly northeast by 2 degrees or something.

Another issue I had was with a few components. The tokens and templates printed on thick board were excellent and numerous, that's a good thing. The card stock they used for the mission cards is ridiculously thin. I dropped one on the floor and it took me a bit to be able to pick it back up again. These are cards you'll be using every turn of the game, I wish they printed them on the thick board instead. Other components were used with that same stock and it is terrible.

Also they only give you enough for a small two player game, If you're wanting to expand they give you the extra cards that are compatible with models from their other game, Mice and Mystics. As far as I can tell these are all ground units, meaning you are pretty limited on your bird and pilot options. If you're looking for a more grand scale of battle, or even just go beyond the one ground unit you have for one of the factions, you'll not be able to do so out of the box and will definitely have to buy something else. Since there aren't any released expansions for Tail Feathers yet your variety is limited to ground units, and buying another core set doesn't help as your heroes are unique and can't be duplicated from what I can tell.

I can't say anything about other flaws as I've only gotten one game under my belt. These flaws, however, do not detract from how excellent this game is and how much potential it has. It's definitely a brain bender as it gives you plenty of strategy to muck about in. It takes this strategy and wraps it in a clever aesthetic under the guise of a wargame. In our game Kristy didn't let up the pressure and ended up destroying my nest with hers untouched and we both had a blast with it. I highly suggest giving it a try!

Monday, August 29, 2016

10,000 Views! 100 Posts! Terrain! Frostgrave! Words! Emotions!

MERCS Shantyville

First off, this blog has finally hit 10,000 views! Thanks to everyone who stops by for a hobby fix. I know there are blogs out there who hit this probably monthly, but it's still a pretty cool milestone for a little ol' gamer like me. This is also my 100th post. This blog has always been something I did to simply track my hobby progress, it's an added bonus to hit achievements like this.

Anyway, lots of progress in terms of terrain. First off my buddy Mike and I had a hobby build day on Saturday. With his extensive know how and my good looks/charm we managed to get this thing built:

So much awesome...

Now when I say "we" I mean almost entirely "he," as this is his forte and I have little to no experience working with wood. We had been discussing doing something of a build last week and the topic of folding boards came up. A folding board is something I've wanted for about five years, ever since I first read about a build in the Privateer Press forums. I can't find the original link, but below is a picture of it:

I don't know who made it, but it's pretty spectacular

In that example he made the fold pretty seamless. The entire board is made up of Hirst Arts molds, which made it extremely heavy. It is semi-bare with more or less cosmetic elevation changes to add interest, but a Warmachine table is generally pretty void of terrain by necessity.

Not having much experience with wood working has kept my grand plans at bay, but Mike volunteered to put his knowledge to work. On Saturday we got a few materials and he went to town on the dead trees.

He had kept this idea as a prototype for future folding tables, trying to see if there were any snags or problems he'd come across. It seemed to go pretty smoothly and he had it done in about 4 hours time, which included going to buy materials and me distracting him as much as possible.

This thing turned out pretty sweet and is pretty heavy, which is something that comes with the territory. It's super strong, and I have no worries about carrying it around and falling apart or anything.

We made a 3x3 board, which is a good size to have as it's the most common size for the games we play. Also keeping it 3x3 lowers the weight to a minimum, as this thing is pretty heavy as it is and can take up the whole back seat of my car. It shouldn't have a problem for my trunk, though, I just have too many items in there to store this in right now.

I plan on making a Frostgrave inspired board with this and I am super excited. I'm picturing a frozen dockside city, complete with several elevations and resin water effects. I've spent a long time thinking about what I'd build on a folding table and I used to almost always picture a canal city, inspired by Carnevale boards (that game has such a cool aesthetic!), and a frozen version of that seems appropriate. It's most likely going to be composed mostly of pink insulation foam for all the layers and to keep it light. I also plan on using paint rather than flock for the snow effects. This keeps is much less messy and shouldn't rub off as much. Using an airbrush for snow drift effects and stippling on white should do the trick, and if need be I can add some extra stuff. If I can find an appropriate model it would be cool to have a sunken boat frozen in the water as well. This board can work for Frostgrave, Malifaux, and any other Fantasy based game or RPG easily so it works well as a prototype. Also shaping and sculpting stonework with pink foam is very easy so it keeps the barrier low on building skills.

Also I spent a bit of time punching out more cardboard from my Battle Systems Kickstarter and made another building. I quickly set up a MERCS table using the Shanty Town bits on my 2x3 mat from the Terminator game.

I'm still pretty over the moon about this terrain set. It works so well on so many levels - I quickly put this together with no real idea of what I wanted to make, I'd just put walls and stuff together bit by bit.

Also notice the Tail Feathers board game in the background, just got that one last week!

This stuff easily fills up a MERCS board, maybe a bit much for some but I don't see how it can cause much of a problem in a game. A few things here and there would make it more playable, like eliminating the railings in a few spots, but overall it's playable as it is.

I just love the visual interest it provides, not to mention this all packs away very quickly and is the opposite of heavy. I know that this is one of those things that should you see being played will instantly draw your attention. Terrain like this is what got me interested in the hobby in the first place, as to me the hobby has always been visuals above all other aspects. 

Another thing I had done over the weekend was get my Frostgrave warband together to figure out what I'd need to paint to finish it. I haven't seen some of these models in years as I had painted them over 6-7 years ago. They are still pretty interesting to look at and it's always stimulating to take a glance back and see how you've improved on painting over time. I've figured out that I only have to paint the apprentice and a warhound to have a finished warband, so one day I'll need to get to it. We have four or five players getting ready to jump in on this campaign, it's going to be a fun ride!

Anyway that's what I've been up to, until next time keep calm and paint on!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Battle Systems Terrain Review!!!

MERCS bounding down the street


So last year in September I pitched in for my first Kickstarter, the amazing terrain from Battle Systems with a post apocalyptic theme. I was floored with their City Block and took the plunge almost immediately. Then they revealed the Shanty Town add on and I was in even further. It was a perfect offering for what I've been looking for in terms of modern/futuristic terrain for several games, most notably MERCS, but also for The Walking Dead Kickstarter that should be coming in soon.

My first attempt at a simple building

I eagerly opened the 20lb box for all the cardboard goodness. I was pretty amazed at how much fit into such a small package, there's plenty of terrain just in the core boxes alone. Then there's all the free stuff, the add ons and scatter terrain they fit on almost all the sheets. It's definitely got value, but most importantly it's an easy way to have great looking terrain for any board without the time and skill needed to devote to either scratch-built or unpainted terrain.

More coverage with experimentation

I began by making very simple builds just to see how the various pieces worked. I didn't pop out a good portion of the pieces as I didn't want to have tons of stuff not built and have to rummage around later to find them. There are so many things that add even more realism to the board like furniture scatter terrain, different types of stairs and crates, and even dilapidated walkways. I hardly touched the Shanty Town stuff as I wanted to make more complex buildings and walkways with it.

I opted to try filling out the regular street mat as it seemed to be the easier one to quickly fill out. It doesn't require as many floor tiles as they are printed on the mat, and the squares provided a quick guide toward my build. The greatest part about this mat is that you can build so many different layouts, an incredible testament to the creators' planning. You can make the floor parts into pavement using their roof squares, you can use a floor panel to cover the roads to make bigger interiors, and if you have enough stuff you can make the entire mat as an internal building! I really want to make a cool mansion using the walkways, as an entirely interior MERCS game seems really unique (not to mention other games, like Zombicide or Walking Dead, to make a Resident Evil type of board!).

Full coverage of the 2x2 mat

Here you can see I added quite a bit more stuff, including a wrecked-out building on the bottom left and a small type of outpost at the top. I probably spent a few hours building it at most, but this included opening, studying and popping out the terrain - I anticipate getting very quick at building these in the future.

So much awesome, it's better than anything I could make and much faster

It's like Legos for terrain and it can get dizzying with the amount of options you have. Once you get into it your imagination runs wild with the possibilities. I kept everything fairly standard, but I already see myself making some really cool stuff now that I know how it works all together. 

The fences provide quick ways of LOS blocking while pieces like the Park Bench and Barricades add tons of flavor you don't normally see on a board

I got a total of 3 different mats, a regular City one, a mat that looks like a Desert landscape and one that is a transition between the two. If I include my Deadzone 2x2 mat I can make a 4x4 table if needed and definitely can fit these on my 3x3 mats. The sets go extremely well together, as their different visuals create a lot of interest together while having several qualities shared between the two.

Air Condition Units provide easy cover on roofs while adding in a realistic touch

Although I don't have any pictures of it I did create a house using their Suburban House add on that fits well enough in games like Malifaux as it has a certain aesthetic that can fit in on Western boards (as long as you don't include the garage). I wasn't fond of it when it was first revealed during the project run, but an image of a fully built house on the desert mat had me sold.

This is an incredible build by the creators to show its versatility, the house easily fits into Malifaux

 Waiting almost a full year for this stuff has been agonizing, but regular updates and nearly daily responses to the comments section gave me full confidence on receiving their product. I had already researched their previous Kickstarter projects and saw that they had a great reputation already built. They always had timely updates, responded to almost every individual question and put out their stuff in a timely fashion - something that not many Kickstarters are able to achieve. This time was no exception and arrived within a few weeks of the projected delivery date. Delays are always expected but this one exceeded my expectations.

These stairs are not only impressive visually but provide great function as you can stand miniatures on every step

I may be performing MERCS demos in October and plan on building up a few layouts for them. This stuff makes it easy to transport and build on arrival with some planning. I'm able to transport this stuff in a small container should I need to, and I'm pretty sure I'm able to get more efficient with it in the future.

Cat for scale

One of the main reasons why I love this stuff is how easily you're able to add elevation into your games with it. Elevation is one of those things that gets ignored when building tables, as in a lot of rules sets it may not be elegantly handled and creates issues while playing (I'm looking at you, Malifaux!). However is a lot of modern to futuristic games, notably shooters, elevation is key to creating an interesting game. A simple slight adjustment to floor levels alone creates visual interest, but also can change how you approach movement in a game. Interiors are another point of contention for gaming, but I love going into buildings for shoot outs as it creates a whole different dynamic to how you attack. One minute you're safe, another a model pops out to shoot you point blank range! And with this stuff you're able to access every single level with ease. This was something I found lacking with TerraClips, a similar product I've talked about a while back, where although you're able to create multi level stuff it's not exactly locked in place and stable. This stuff stays in place very well and is very strong, I have full confidence in my models being on the roof.

Cat for lulz

I hardly touched any scatter items that were included as I concentrated on items that added the most bulk on a table. The ones I did build were pretty incredible in their design considering they're all made on two dimensions. I was particularly surprised at items like the dumpsters and the park bench, they help create a more lived in space for such a small item. My only minor issue with the dumpsters and the big crate are that you will have to use glue if you want their lids to stay on, which I'll eventually do. It's not major at all, and some will want to keep the lids off, but for someone like me who's not planning on keeping them that modular will have to add more work into it. For the most part, however, you're not going to need glue at all. The stairs are really snug when put together, something I worried about when I first saw them. The stairs that came with the TerraClips system were a nightmare for me, as their fit was not good at all and kept coming apart while I was building them. These ones not only look better but fit so well that I just leave them in the box without any glue and have full confidence that they will never come apart.

If you're familiar with making card terrain at all then you'll realize that using a marker or pen on the edges will help enhance the look of the terrain significantly. I had purchased some decent artist markers in preparation of the build for this reason. I've mostly used black and brown, with some maroon and blue for some parts. This greatly improves the look and hides the fact that it's all made of cardboard for the most part. A lot of the parts like walls actually match their edges well enough that it's not entirely necessary to use the markers on. I'm sure that you can make them look even better with it, but I didn't find it to be distracting on the walls or lighter pieces of terrain like the AC Units. On some scatter it was completely necessary to elevate the terrain, like the lookout post (not pictured), crate or the park bench. You'll mostly find that on the darker pieces you'll want to use your marker, as the lightly colored card edges will stand out most with those.

Some decent lanes of fire for the FCC House 9

Of course I had to pose some miniatures on this stuff, it just begs for it.

I love this stuff!

Overall I expected this stuff to be the bee's knees, and it did not disappoint. It should be available for retail purchase on their web store by the end of September, I highly recommend getting some yourself if, like me, you find your terrain priorities getting pushed to the back burner due to time and other hobby needs (like thousands of unpainted minis!). They come from the UK, so shipping may be an issue, but it's one of the few times I find it worth the extra price. Soon they'll have another Kickstarter for their Sci-Fi line, I'm sure it will fit in nicely with the Urban sets. Once I build more layouts I'll post more pics!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

First Game with Parker Barrows

Reach for the sky!

So last night, after much anticipation, I finally got my first game with Parker Barrows in using the list I mentioned earlier.

With Corner Deployment the strategy was Guard the Stash. Convict Labor was on the table as always, along with Search the Ruins, Headhunter, Mark for Death and something else.

I had a blast, and actually found the list to be very viable - something I did not expect. I did, however, learn quite a few things about how Parker and the list operates on the table, including some mistakes I've made in both interpreting his abilities and seeing their effects.

Travis used his new Asami crew, including a Henchman who locks down my defensive triggers and summons like the Jorogumo that cause heart palpitations.

So I'll list everything I've discovered after this game:
  • As anticipated this crew is very resource intensive. Masks, especially high ones, are like gold for them and need to be carefully planned out on which models receive this precious suit. In opening hands where I had at least two moderate masks I saw my crew operating better throughout the turn, but when I had crap cards for two turns I saw how bad things can swing.
  • Although Parker has the potential to regain several resources like cards and stones the actual mileage will be less than ideal. Certain requirements need to be met to sustain his resources, and game plans being changed will definitely affect his ability to recall those resources. He draws cards easily enough as long as he stays in the thick of things, but regaining soul stones is much tougher and you only reliably gain one from discarding an upgrade.
  • His scheme marker manipulation isn't as prevalent as you would think, especially with his end of turn pulse to turn enemy markers into friendly ones. The pulse range is too short at 4", so unless you're really close to your target you won't want to use Drop It triggers as you'll only be helping the enemy.
  • His upgrade cycle should be very limited, maybe dropping one at most a turn to be immediately replaced.
  • He actually prefers to be around 4 inches away from targets. Being out of melee gives him options on targets. Being within 6 gives the option to use Drop It triggers and fuel your upgrade cycle. The space between your target is wide enough for your Hail of Bullets markers as well.
  • His (0) to give a friendly model an attack is priceless, and I made sure to exploit it every turn. Mad Dog was a great target for this and stacked on a ton of damage out of his activation. Because Mad Dog was constantly being engaged he'd get his out of turn attack to either push enemies back or stack on lots of burning/damage. Because opponents will anticipate the fact that it's the master's activation they'll hold on to resources during this out of place attack, leaving Mad Dog to pile on damage. And he piles it on fast.
  • I don't like discarding upgrades for damage with Parker. Sure, I used it once to wipe Mr. Graves off the board in one attack, but it left me extremely vulnerable for the remainder of the game. Several instances would come up where because I dumped my upgrades all at once I was not able to get him back up to par.
  • Highwayman is the upgrade that worked best, simply for the (0) that gives another attack. Coordinated Heist worked as well, the Scout move was still very effective even in Corner deployment. I used it to shoot into combats as well, but I didn't realize you have to discard the upgrade to do so, so its effectiveness will be somewhat less useful for me in the future. He was definitely viable without any generic upgrades, and now the only one I consider is Oathkeeper to make him really work for a turn.
  • Mad Dog put 6 burning on someone in one turn and did the most damage all game, he's actually super dangerous in melee since he's essentially getting 4 attacks from 2 AP.
  • Crate of Dynamite was not used at all. I'm definitely taking that one off now and replacing it with Oathkeeper, or maybe even Scramble for Mad Dog. Its use, already known to me as limited, was never needed over another AP use. I'd have rather shot for 3 damage and a push than put the damage in the opponent's hands. And this wouldn't have been improved by giving the upgrade to Parker, he's already pretty starved for AP in terms of his options. If I take it off I still have the option of putting it on Parker mid game. Mad Dog with 4 shots from Oathkeeper seems much better than explosions.
  • Bandidos are AMAZING. I love them. Now I'm really hard pressed to ever use Dead Bandits over them. Had it not been for his Henchman shutting down my defensive triggers they would have done even better. Their keep away game is incredible. Moving out of activation saved them numerous times, and had the unexpected bonus of setting my schemes up by freeing their AP. So many games I've wished my model could move one more time to place a scheme in their activation, now I get that flexibility for the cost of a mask. They were also damaging very well throughout the game. Most of the time I was using their Run and Gun, and with a focused shot and no loss of movement I was able to wither down most models, but more importantly eliminate key flank models with a severe card. Bulletproof has its place at times and saved them from Katanaka Snipers. Truly incredible models, I may be keeping 6 of them in my list.
  • Doc Mitchell needs to be better protected. I lost him in turn three and he could have been a lot of use. He is definitely a key piece for me, and now - when I used to be on the fence for him - I'm sure he's needed.

The Freikorpsmann was a proxy, I need to build more Bandidos!

Overall it was a great learning experience. I definitely like the crew, and Parker near Mad Dog can be a brutal combination. Until next time keep 'Fauxing it up!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Malifaux: Parker's Crew Tactica

In this entry I'll go over my thoughts on Parker Barrows' thematic crew members and possible combinations with their master.

Let's start with the Henchman, shall we?

Mad Dog Brackett

This guy stood out to me on first sight as a potential must have. After much thought I've reigned back my enthusiasm, but he still has quite a bit of power and handy synergies with Parker. A 9ss Henchman (with a 4 cache if you use him as a leader) with a few cool abilities and damage output makes him definitely viable, but stuck in competition with the multitude of other beaters in Outcasts.

Bulletproof 1 is nothing to be stoked about, it's the least beneficial of all the defensive abilities as it's highly situational.

His ability Life of Crime is also very situational, turning enemy scheme markers into friendly ones within 2" at the end of the game may be good. It's not something you bank on when you put him in your crews. Never forget it though, it could win you the game.

Loot their Corpses is very good for the crew, as it drops a friendly scheme marker in contact with something he kills. It's like Finish the Job, except the opposite. A handy ability to have, but again not something you always count on. It has synergy with the multiple scheme manipulation abilities in the crew, notably Crate of Dynamite or Parker's (0) upgrade attachment ability. Also, it's a handy way of placing scheme markers where you need them without choosing between AP spent on killing and AP spent on schemin'. AP efficient to say the least, just make sure you're not placing them near other markers for schemes like Convict Labor. A great backup for something like Set Up.

Foaming at the Mouth makes me think of Francisco or Ototo. Gaining positives on Attack and Damage can be brutal, but the cost is being low on wounds, making this much less reliable of an ability. He's a squishy Henchman and high priced at 9ss. Once he gets that low he's certainly not long for this world, and given the possibility of healing he's going to want to get out of that 4 wound range fast. Your mileage is definitely going to vary on this ability, but it certainly makes him hit harder. The problem is there are so many other models who get this sort of benefit from the get go and make them much more reliable - the Convict Gunslinger gets positives to attack with a similar Sh value, Sue gets a positive with the same or better damage output for the cost of one Sh value, Johan gets positives on a whole group of models with similar damage, not to mention competing with other similarly valued Henchman in the faction that may fill the gaps of Parker's crew much better. Hannah may be a point higher, but comes with Armor, the Freikorps suit, Counter Spell, the ability to copy Ca actions, good melee capabilities with reach and Nether Flux for protection, not to mention a bigger base for blocking LOS. While Hannah is always competition no matter the master it seems like she would bring more to the table in terms of abilities, luckily that's not all he has going for him.

His Chesterfield Shotgun packs a whollop. Sh6 with a built in trigger, range 10 and a minimum 3 damage track with potential for blasts makes it a hard hitter. The trigger pushes targets 4" away further keeping in play the hit and run aspect of his crew. A push of that significant distance will always come in handy for getting models out of sticky situations.

His Burning Cigar is his melee attack with some nice catches. First of all it's a Ml6 making it pretty nice, unfortunately it's a short range and no built in triggers so you'll need to spend stones for sure, as his triggers are excellent. It doesn't do damage, it puts Burning +2 on the target instead, which actually seems much better as there isn't a chance of flipping the Black Joker for damage. His triggers coupled with this makes it much more devastating.

On a Crow he gets to make the target automatically suffer 2 damage and push up to 3" away from him, with the 2 Burning that's essentially 4 damage from one melee attack. The other trigger on a Mask lets him take another Shotgun attack as a melee 2 range, and you're still allowed further triggers from this to help push the target.

On a charge he can potentially do tons of damage as well as control. If charging his first attack should either have a high Crow in hand or buy one with a stone. A successful hit puts Burning 2 and 2 damage, and I'd push the target to just within 1" of Brackett. The second attack should buy/save a Mask, place 2 more burning and declare a shotgun attack. Hitting with that should do at least another 3 damage and push the target another 4" away. At the end of this the target takes 9 damage total, 4 from burning and 5 from attacks. Not bad at all, but to capitalize on this he'll need to attack a model that's already activated so that they don't take advantage of the fact that they may not die until the end of the turn. It can also be resource intensive if you're planning on making those hits count, as you'll be spending several cards and stones. It's probably best to simply shoot and keep him at a safe distance while pushing back the target, that way you don't waste resources and still pack on decent damage.

If he's got his positives taking place though, he's definitely someone you want to spend the resources on before he dies. Potentially doing 5 damage and a blast with his shotgun attacks will be brutal.

This brings us to Rapid Fire, a common ability among Outcast shooters. More than likely he'll be using this to its fullest extent, with a pretty reliable ability to lay down 9 damage from his shotgun. Should the target be very close he could potentially push it away 12" if he wanted to, but more than likely this will actually be 4-8" as you don't want to push them out of range.

His (0) action Blow it to Hell is pretty useful too. It requires a low ram but places a 30mm marker within 8" that takes cover away from targets in its 3" range. This will probably be used almost every turn, or at least once in a very useful location, as it doesn't go away until he uses this action again (including after he dies!). It's a great ability because it is a force multiplier - every model can take advantage of this ability. Because it's his only (0) it's not competing with any other ability like Sue does with his own (0)s. Taking away cover can be monumental with an all shooting crew, especially if the target benefits from Hard Cover. You have a target in the woods? Blow it to Hell. You have a hard cover wall right next to an objective or choke point? Blow it to Hell. Leave the marker there for effectiveness if it's in a good spot, as you'll want to minimize the amount of resources you use for the action. There are plenty of abilities in his native crew that require discards, so you can't always count on having the cards ready for him, and although Parker regains stones better than anyone you may be using them for damage prevention or other important abilities. 

This action is the main reason why I keep him in my lists (in my head, again no actual play time yet just theory). Since Parker relies so heavily on Sh actions taking away cover seems pretty important. Having a minimum damage 3 shotgun doesn't hurt either. However if I find he's not getting the mileage I want he will most likely be the first to go, as Hannah seems to fit the role of key henchman and fill gaps I have with the crew better. Not to mention models like Johan who bring utility and damage for cheap.

He has access to two model specific upgrades, one of which is Crate of Dynamite. I've already discussed this in Parker's entry, but it's also a good option to give to Mad Dog. If it's on him that's one less thing to think about during Parker's activation. Since it doesn't have triggers it's not Stone dependent. It doesn't gain a benefit for being on Parker outside of getting an extra AP, one of which I probably wouldn't want to spend on Crate over his other options. Lastly it doesn't require an opposed Duel, so simply having an 8 of any suit will work. Parker's AP seem more important than Mad Dog's so I would rather have Mad doing this ability. Also Mad Dog can go into support mode with it, never having to bring up an opposed duel during his activation, by just using Blow it to Hell and this to soak up cards. The main issue is that in order for him to keep it he's spending a stone whenever he uses it. He could always use it and let it go for Parker to pick up later. A good synergy with Mad Dog is that he can use it after killing a model, since he drops a scheme marker after the attack. If other models are setting up the markers for him it's even better. The problem is that, like stated before in Parker's entry, it's a relatively low TN for the Df duel so most likely won't do anything outside of soaking up cards. That's why I'd rather have him do it than Parker, as Parker wants to take advantage of the card soak rather than cause it. Parker can also keep him attacking with his (0) so while he's supporting he's still packing damage.

His other upgrade is specific to him alone, Lucky Poncho. Essentially this is like a character specific Hard to Kill, with the added benefit of discarding it at 1 Wd for Focused 1. Personally I don't see myself discarding it unless absolutely necessary as Parker's crew has access to a heal, but it's good to have that benefit for the same price as Survivalist - and it's also on a Henchman, not a leader. Notable synergies are with Doc Mitchell's heal and Foaming at the Mouth with its focus, this can lead to an attack with two positives on attack and damage and no cover! Boom indeed.

He has a place outside of Parker crews, one of note that springs to mind is with Leve. Cover can be Leve's downfall and Blow it to Hell can easily rectify this. The main issue is that he also has to double as an Anchor, so will require his Lucky Poncho as well making him 10ss in a crew that's already competing with other expensive models for me. A Flesh Construct acts as a better anchor for a much cheaper price, but it's still an option that can work well for Leve. Maybe then he can get Oathkeeper for some nice damage, not to mention his scheme marker dropping will also come in handy.

I don't see him being necessary for other masters. Viks and Misaki don't want him, Hamelin doesn't understand models that don't squeak, Tara's got better options for beaters, Jack Daw likes Tormented and doesn't shoot often, and Von Schill should prefer melee attacks anyway - although Von Schill seems like the best option out of everyone listed. For those masters he doesn't synergize and would completely depend on the crew composition for his benefits, although he does give them a marker option they normally don't have access to.

Doc Mitchell

The good Doctor fits in well for Parker's crew, and it's hard to not include him. For 3 stones he brings mainly healing options for the entire crew while possibly providing a buff for them.

Insignificant isn't a surprise. Drunk and Pathetic isn't a factor either, as he won't usually bother Focusing or going Defensive as he'll be busy with his AP anyway, and being immune to Poison helps him rather than hurts him. 

Doc Get Over Here is incredibly useful, allowing a discard for a 5" push toward a Bandit with 12". This helps him become efficient as he can use both his AP for his actions.

His attacks aren't what you need to pay attention to, his Ml is low with low damage output while his Sh is also low with a short range, but surprisingly high damage output. The problem with it is that he sacrifices if he uses it in LOS of Parker, so it's almost never a useable attack when compared to his tactical action.

Stitch Up is what he's there for, a Ca action needing a 6 for 1AP that gives a target model a heal of 1/2/3. With his push he will most likely be in the range of 5 for the heal so will most likely heal twice an activation. You can cheat healing flips so that is a potential 6 wounds healed, but you better have nothing else to use those severe cards on because they're almost certainly better used on other actions. The best part is his Crow trigger, which gives the target Hard to Wound +1. This is incredibly useful and will probably result in him activating early in the turn on a model that's already activated, since they keep HtW until their next activation. Every member of the crew can be healed a minimum of 2 damage and may possibly get two stacks of Hard to Wound. Absolutely spectacular. Put this on a Dead Bandit, they've got HtW 3. Imagine HtW 2 on Parker, or Mad Dog, or anyone for that matter. This is definitely something you'll get a lot of mileage out of. Just save those 6+ of Crows for him when possible.


These guys are what's included in his box and have cool models to boot. They're 5ss minions with average stats but are very useful. I love that we have another option for a 5ss minion outside of Freikorpsmann, although their worth is stretched better with Parker than other masters. Their main abilities focus on Hit and Run.

Bulletproof 1 makes me cry. I'd rather have a built in suit to Df. But that would be broken.

Life of Crime was featured on Mad Dog, something I see much less use coming from these guys.

Finish the Job is always useful, one free marker should they die, and helps schemes like Set Up.

Their Df trigger is awesome and one of the main reasons to use them. With a mask, unfortunately not built in, they get to push 5" in any direction. Save your masks for these folks, with Doc's heals they may get back into tip top shape in no time.

Their attack is a mere Sh5 with an average damage track. The range is 10" so not bad, but it can also be used in melee which is excellent. Their trigger on a Tome drops an enemy scheme marker within 3", which has plenty of synergies in the crew to exploit.

Their tactical action is where they shine and costs all their AP. Run and Gun requires a discard, but it lets them push 5", perform one attack with positives to Attack and Damage, then push another 3".

The efficiency of this attack can not be understated. For two AP they get a move a push at their Wk speed, an attack with focus, and another push at a short distance. Those two AP are essentially 4 AP. This plays very well into their hit and run mentality. Engaged? Push out, shoot, push even more and now you're at least 8" away. Getting attacked? Use a mask, hopefully live, and push out. They're slippery buggers.

What about their crew synergies? I've already discussed their attack trigger, but since it's not built in I wouldn't count on it or save cards for it as there are better ways to get enemy markers out.

Coordinated Heist gives them Scout the Field. If you use several of them they get to move at the beginning of the game for free, I see that as one free AP per model for 2ss. This also makes it possible for them to get well ahead of the average model's pace. The consistent option is to walk during their activation and place a scheme marker for Convict Labor as they should be in range for it (in standard deployment at least, 6" deploy, 5" walk from Scout the Field, 5" walk for 1AP puts them at 16", close enough for the scheme). If an enemy model is close enough they can use Run and Gun, attacking models that moved at least 4" closer to them (16" away from deployment edge after push, 10" range makes them hit someone 26" away from my edge), then push safely back for a decent Alpha Strike, possibly killing weaker minions with a saved Severe card.

They definitely have their weaknesses. They are certainly squishy with no damage mitigation outside of Bulletproof. If hit with a beater they may not have a chance to use their Df trigger. Saving Masks for them keeps your control hand tight with less options. You may use a low mask to benefit from the trigger but invite a straight flip that could kill them. They are certainly dainty models. The trick I think is to keep them out of harm's way. Utilize Run and Gun to push right to the edge of their range 10, shoot then push again even further. They may not be viable models to spam entirely, but two or three could certainly hamper the enemy and harass them to effect.

Outside of a Parker crew I'm having trouble figuring out their usefulness. I guess they could help with a master that doesn't need to support them like Viktorias, although they're stingy with Masks. They're not scheme runners outside of Parker so they're competing with Freikorpsmann in other crews, and those guys are pretty useful on their own with no support.

Dead Bandits

These guys are certainly good and fill a very big gap in the Outcast 6ss tier.

Defense 6 is a notable stat, but they also have a shorter charge of 6 - which is okay, as they are better off shooting over melee.

They have Hard to Wound!!! Remember Doc Mitchell? Hard to Wound 3 (potentially)! Amazing ability to have in a 6ss minion.

Too Greedy to Die is incredible for them. If they are ever wounded this ability will trigger when an enemy marker is placed within 6" of them by another model. They heal 2 damage then the marker goes away. Due to the wording if multiple Dead Bandits are in range when the marker is dropped they will ALL heal, and the marker only goes away once. When Parker is getting his groove on you can count on these guys getting healed left and right, with Hard to Wound they'll likely stick around enough to benefit.

Stolen Goods is the opposite of Finish the Job - when they die they place an enemy scheme marker in base contact. This will trigger other Dead Bandits' Too Greedy to Die, not to mention all of Parker's abilities that target them like his (0), or Crate of Dynamite, there's a ton of synergy for an ability that's always on like this.

Their melee attack is lackluster, but it has a built in suit for all its triggers. Short ranged, good Ml stat, terrible damage track. The triggers either give the target Slow or pushes him away. Usually should only be used if caught in melee.

Shooting is their forte. A value of 6 with a built in Mask and average damage spread and range. One Mask trigger does an additional damage on models with upgrades, situational but not bad. The other mask pushes him 3". One Tome drops an enemy scheme marker, synergizing with other Dead Bandits and Parker. The last Tome is it's bread and butter, allowing the attack to ignore Armor, Hard to Wound and Hard to Kill! I wish that was built in, it makes the trigger not too reliable. But if you have the cards and the right target it can prove invaluable! The versatility that the trigger provides is its main draw.

Lastly it has a Ca attack action that goes against Wp. Short ranged with a value 6, it gives a condition that forces targets to either take 3 damage to remove or only be able to take walk/interact actions. This has synergy with Parker's Hands in the Air attack, which forces models to discard two cards or fail Tactical actions. However this is an ability that the opponent is in control of. Unless the target only has 3 wounds left the opponent has the option of utilizing the choice that best affects them, this is something I usually try to steer away from. However it does give you the option of attacking Wp, but it's got no triggers that enhance it and doesn't stack. If it stacked that would be amazing. On the upside the condition remains until the end of the game, so there's that. Probably most useful on almost dead models, especially models that are Hard to Kill. It's an option, not a key.

With Parker you can expect a lot of healing for them. He drops markers like it's bass in a DubStep song. Keep them all close to the target and they'll weather most storms. They're good targets for Coordinated Heist's ability to shoot into Melee, and can also be bodyguards for Human Shield - a good counter to a Leve shot. Overall they're a solid choice for Parker and may possibly be good enough to spam multiples of, but I will play test them to find any real weaknesses outside the obvious.

In other crews they seem to fill a decent role. They're 6ss shooters that have better staying power than average, however they usually benefit from enemy markers and no other masters utilize that, but they can be their own sources for that in enough numbers. They can prove to have an interesting place in a Leve crew, however, but Flesh Constructs fill that role much better. Their attack option to force damage or control can be useful for attrition in his lists. I also see them doing extremely well with Von Schill, notably with his Engage at Will upgrade and a Steam Trunk. Being able to heal at will makes their staying power much more emphasized, along with offering Hannah another Ca action to play with - it may even be useful for her to try using as it's a (0) action for her. It's understandable though that they are most likely optimized in a Parker crew.

Edit: I also just realized that with their built in Tome trigger they could work fairly well in a Jack Daw crew. He's able to attach upgrades onto any model, so essentially it's a force multiplier for every Dead Bandit to give them additional damage. Granted you're using Jack Daw, someone I don't particularly like, but he's effective nonetheless.


So, that's what I have for first impressions of Parker's crew. What kind of list have I thought of to try first?

Parker Barrows (6ss Cache)

  • Coordinated Heist
  • Hail of Bullets
  • Stick Up
Doc Mitchell
Mad Dog Brackett
  • Lucky Poncho
  • Crate of Dynamite
6x Bandidos

It's certainly not a great list, but this way I only have to learn 4 different models, and learn Bandidos in and out. Everyone except Parker and Doc get a Scout move turn one, more than likely placing enough markers for Convict Labor turn one. Parker will get rid of Stick up to get a free move and try to get in range of something without spending AP, attach an upgrade, and should he be in range he'll focus/attack for max damage, possibly discarding upgrades for more damage. His last AP will be spent on Hail of Bullets for board control. This leaves the crew very far forward, and the rest of the game will be a few Bandidos using Run and Gun while Parker and Mad Dog pack most of the damage. Any schemes based on markers should happen as a side effect of Parker's attacks and abilities, any that need a model to commit will take a Bandido away. Doc Mitchell's whole purpose in life is to push and heal Parker and Brackett, keeping in mind to eliminate the need to push if possible. Bracket will open up or kill models, and occasionally use the Crate if the situation arises.

Overall I know that this plan is pretty vague, and it has to be in order to be flexible around variables like board state and match up. More than likely I'll find several weaknesses, particularly in the lack of model variation as well as inefficient resource allocation or stone purchases. It's very Hit and Run and lacks any real staying power, so it all depends on getting to hit without retaliation for most of the crew. Hopefully it works out, and worst case I figure out if Bandidos are worth it over Dead Bandits.

Let me know what you think!

Malifaux WIP and Tactica: Parker Barrows


So yesterday I built my "Fistful of Scrip" box I got from GenCon. I've been in anticipation of running this crew, as it not only shakes things up for Outcasts but it is looking like Parker Barrows might be a very good master, definitely one of the better ones that were released in Ripples of Fate.

The models were relatively easy to put together, and I didn't need to use the instructions as most of the pieces are pretty intuitive. No frustrating parts as far as I remember, just the usual "Why did Wyrd put a join in the middle fo the cape" nonsense. Also, so many capes. I'm honestly not looking forward to painting that many capes.

I originally planned on going all out on the bases, and even brought out all my basing materials to go all crazy on making the bases exceptional. Then I found some random Micro Art Studios bases, and decided that it was easier to just put those on lol. My short cuts know no bounds! The only issue now is that I only had 4 of those bases, so I'll have to order more before it's all complete.

So while I have this guy on the brain let's go over what makes the crew tick!

Parker Barrows

Boy this dude has a ton of information. He reminds me a lot of Shenlong, not only in the fact that he messes with upgrades, but that he has so many abilities and functions that you're only going to concentrate on one or two of them. The trick is to figure out which ability you want to focus on and capitalize. With his abilities he can go from a Control-style master in terms of dictating enemy actions, support with his ability to grant attacks/interacts/walks to his fellow crew members, or damage with straight attacks and accuracy - and within those attacks he can change styles from hit and run to stand and fight.

He's got a healthy amount of wounds and Df/Wp 6 and average walk. Nothing to complain about, but without any built in defenses like triggers or armor he's going to be squishier than at first glance.

Lets go over the abilities and attacks printed on his cards first:

  • Go through Their Pockets is going to be one that won't be hard to remember, as it can be a huge game changer if done right. You get to draw a card when an enemy is killed with Aura 6, and you discard if a Bandit didn't do the killing. This is like having Tally Sheet equipped on him all the time, except that it affects every Bandit in range. Amazing.
  • Limited Supplies helps with the Upgrade Cycle, but more importantly helps increase your Cache supply instead if you are able to use an enemy Scheme Marker within 3". More on that later.
  • A Fistful of Scrip was one of the first abilities I widened my eyes on, as being able to turn enemy markers into friendly markers at a close range seemed pretty game changing. However, it is resource intensive, as if you do it the maximum amount of times you will be dropping four cards, something I don't see myself doing in game at all. The range is also only a 4" pulse, so its use will be limited to being in the thick of things. However, should you have a pool with Set Up or a similar Scheme, then getting those markers will prove to be pretty frickin' easy with abilities like this one.
  • Six Shooters are his main attack action that can be used at a long range or melee - and thank goodness it wasn't a 1" melee. The damage is an average 2/3/5. I wish his Sh value was better than a 6, but a built in positive to the attack flip isn't terrible. He's no Leve, that's for sure. He's got three triggers and two are built in to the attack. 
    • Empty the Chamber is the damage packer, as it lets you discard upgrades for a +1 damage each. Since he's only able to attach an upgrade once a turn, this doesn't get as much mileage as you'd think. Sure, if you have the opportunity then you can pound with +3 damage for one flip, but you better make sure it's worth it. I think a good way to think of it is that you use this with a Focus for your last attack and if discarding your upgrades will guarantee a kill or set you up for one next activation then you can discard them. An 8 damage shot can be worth it if it one-shots a key model! This trigger is built in, so no need to worry about reliability of the option unless you're near Hannah.
    • Drop It! is the one you're more than likely going to use often. It's built in and it drops an enemy Scheme Marker within 3" of the target. This will prove to be very useful for both Parker and his minions, especially the Dead Bandits.
    • Hide in the Shadow is situational, as a 3" move can be helpful at times, especially if you plan on using his crew as a Hit and Run machine. However this suit is not built in, so spending a stone to get it is usually needed only to get him out of a pickle or re position to score.
  • Hands in the Air is the one I'm not banking on. It gives you the option to attack WP if you're going against a high Df character and want to control actions. It's an 8" range so semi-short, but there are ways around short range with Parker. It gives the condition Pay Up which forces models who perform Tactical actions to discard two cards every time. Very situational, but can prove to be useful against melee oriented models. This plays into his control aspect, and when coupled with his ability to move models out of their activation and the multiple sources of pushes in the crew, they can play very hit and run. However, you need to know what you're focusing on, as since it costs a precious AP you don't want to spend 1/3 of your actions dipping into something that the opponent will gladly pay 2 cards for. If you spent all your AP on it then your opponent will be forced to fail some of those actions, as three walk actions will get rid of their entire hand. 
  • The Job's Not Done Yet is a Ca action that pushes friendly models up to their walk values. Handy when needed, but there are many ways to get pushes on your models while performing another action, and with your Master's AP you want to spend them forcing your opponent to react rather than reacting yourself. However this is an ability that actually makes me wonder if using the Malifaux Child would be better than his totem, the only problem being that it is a high Ca requirement for the Child (11s for him!), but that extra AP freedom sure could be useful.
  • Five Finger I mean Discount is going to be his bread and butter every round, and I think this ability is his most crucial to get the timing right. It's a Ca that only needs a four or higher, but you definitely want that Mask to get the trigger. This is the one that lets him attach an upgrade on him, the payment being discarding either Soulstones or enemy markers within 3" of him that are equal to the value of the upgrade. Every upgrade worth reattaching is going to be a value of 1, so this is where his Drop It trigger comes into play from his attacks. You can reliably do this without markers if you ever need to, and the stone you spend is gained immediately back through Limited Supplies, but you want to try to get a net gain on stones whenever possible. A lot of his abilities, as well as other crew members, rely on buying suits or spending stones so having the additional free stones will come into play much more than usual, also they're free, that's always good. The trigger on Masks lets you take a different (0) action with no triggers, otherwise that would be a near infinite loop of total broken awesomeness I'd gladly welcome as long as my opponent didn't use it.

His upgrades are what really makes him shine, although from what I've read online a lot of people have wildly different opinions than me on which ones are worth anything. He has seven to choose from, more than any other master in the game. Sorting through them is important, as well as focusing on only a few necessary ones to your style and remembering the order/priority in which they come while playing.

I'll start with the ones I believe are important ones, although this isn't a hard and fast ranking. I group them in my head in three tiers: Ones that are necessary to purchase, ones that are important to consider switching to while playing, and ones that may need to be avoided.

  • Coordinated Heist is one that definitely needs to be considered as a purchase, as switching to it mid game is both more resource intensive and less useful at the same time. The main ability it gives is that all Bandits with 8 other than Parker gain Scout the Field. This is insane to me, and in my style is a must have. It allows you to be aggressive early on. If you have at least three bandits you're able to get Convict Labor on turn one and then some, that way you don't have to worry about it in later turns. With a shooting crew like Parker's this brings them into range much faster and saves AP. It also throws opponents off their game when they don't expect it, as now they have to contemplate being in range of attacks on their first moves. On some opponents this dictates them to hold back movement in fear of attacks while not being in range themselves, when this happens it's almost as if you've already won because you have them off balance for the entire game. You need to be careful though, some opponents love this like Rasputina or Sonnia, those who can easily out range you, or perhaps this lets Lilith get an easy turn one kill. It's still one to consider regardless, as you don't always have to go head on into the opponent's crew. If you're deploying first and don't like where things are there's nothing stopping you from moving your entire crew to one side - an old trick I used to do with my Ravenwing. If their crews are spread out, lets say in two groups on the left and right, moving your models that are in front of the weak side forward and having everyone else moving to support them behind will force the opponent to sprint with one group while cowering with another. The main benefit from this upgrade is flexibility and initiative, while giving the opportunity of an Alpha Strike.

    The second part of this upgrade lets you shoot into engagements without randomizing, although you also hit your own models at the same time. Highly situational, as you need to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs, although with low cards in your hand you can make sure you miss. Then your friendly models get pushed 5" in any direction. An interesting combination is with his Bandidos - they can use a Mask on defense to trigger their 5" push after the combat, at the same time they get pushed from this ability (since it's not a trigger), for a very long walk away from the danger. Earlier I stated that his The Job's Not Done yet ability isn't as efficient, this upgrade proves exactly that. You still get your attacks as normal, they're still reliably hitting your opponent, and your model is still getting a push away. The only benefit from the attack over this upgrade is that your model doesn't have to be in melee to trigger it, so it's a teeny bit less flexible. However another point to remember is that this upgrade lets you attack ALL models in the combat. If your friendly model is engaged with 3 enemy models, Parker gets an attack on ALL of them, so it is definitely more AP efficient. It, as I've said before, is highly situational, but something to keep in mind. As a tool in his belt if you remember that he can do this then when the situation comes you just rush in a model of yours to engage several enemies before Parker shoots them all. Heck, don't even push your model away until the end, that way you get several attacks on several models. Just save crap cards to help your model out.
  • Hail of Bullets is actually the upgrade that I'm going to focus on during my initial play tests. NOTE: I was incorrect in my thoughts for this ability, the markers touch each other forming one hazardous terrain marker and therefor doesn't trigger more than one damage flip! For a 7 of any suit he gets to place 2 50mm markers that don't touch each other or markers/models. These act as Hazardous Terrain dealing 2/3/4 whenever a model goes through it. This is a great board control action, especially against models that are close to their deaths. Placing both directly in front of a model will force them to either use precious movement to go around it safely or risk damage between 4-8 to go in the direction they want. I don't believe it will affect Flight models, but those are much fewer than average. Its trigger lets you heal for 2 by discarding the upgrade, something I'll only do in desperation. This is a great ability that unfortunately can only be used once, but if used wisely it can cause great annoyance to your opponent with its 12" range. Also it's good against high Df models as it doesn't need to hit, it only needs to touch the model. No cheats, no negatives, just straight flips with a possibility of doing 4 damage each. Huge.

    It has a second addition in that it gives a trigger to Hands in the Air that places an enemy Marker with 3" of the target. Not something I see coming in to play often, but something to keep in mind as it doesn't hurt to get more resources for Parker and company.
  • Stick Up is one that your mileage will vary on depending on your needs during the game, but it can be extremely efficient. The attack action it gives lets you have another option at attacking Wp at an 8" range, but can only be used once and on Enforcers/Henchmen/Masters. The target chooses suffering 4 damage or discarding a stone and letting me gain one. Very situational, and any time the opponent gets to choose a result they will always choose the one least beneficial to you. A smart one with stones to spare will lose the stone, or if it's a model that can heal lose the damage, or if it's a stone user will just take the damage and stone for prevention anyway. Not to mention you still have to flip for it. I learned my lesson with abilities like these from using Pride, it's not something you want to rely on.

    This upgrade's main draw is Fast Getaway, and this one's a doozy. I'm in love with it. You can discard this upgrade either at the the start or end of his activation to gain a free Walk action. Incredible! If you really need to you can discard it at the start and walk, use your (0) to gain it back, then discard it at the end to walk again!. Two move actions for free essentially, short of having to consume one of your (0) actions. When you really need to focus on attacks without spending AP on movement you can use this, move into range, shoot, then move back out. Worst case you only use it once, it's still saving you AP every time. This allows Parker to focus his AP on what matters rather than wasting a Master AP on something mundane as Walking.
  • Highwayman is a limited upgrade, one that you'll consider while attaching upgrades mid game. It gives Bulletproof, the most useless of defenses. Once a turn he draws two cards and discards one when removing a enemy marker, something that combines well with Go Through Their Pockets, cycling through many cards throughout the game. It also gives him another (0) action No Witnesses which lets another friendly model immediately make a (1) attack at the cost of the upgrade or a stone. This is an action that will most likely follow the upgrade attachment for the price of a Ram and can start eating into your cache, but it's not a bad freebie especially when given to high damage models like Sue or Mad Dog Brackett. I'm still considering if this is something I'll spend resources on mid game, it all depends on the board state really.
  • Black Market is another limited upgrade that's very similar to Highwayman. Instead of card draw it gives you a stone, and instead of an attack action it gives models an interact action. Both tie in my book in regards to importance and really depends on the board state. Should you need to stock up on stones then this is the one to use, but if you need attacks then Highwayman is better. Overall I prefer attacks, but we'll see if these get much use outside of theory, due to their requirements of either discarding them or burning a stone just to use. If you're not comfortable with spending a stone at all this one is good to keep on him to gain an extra stone a turn, making two a turn with Limited Supplies, and even more with his other options. Note that you can't have Highwayman and Black Market at the same time, something I'll more than likely forget mid game!
  • Crate of Dynamite is one that I see a lot of people focusing on online, and this is one I don't entirely agree with the community on. It has the option of going on either Parker or his henchman Mad Dog. For 1AP and range 8 it lets you target a Scheme Marker (friendly or enemy) and force all models within 3" of it to take a TN 13 Df duel or suffer 4 damage, discarding the marker then the upgrade or 1 stone. It doesn't need LOS to the marker either, giving it a bit more flexibility. It only needs an average card to work, but with its shorter range and requirement for a well placed marker this one seems extremely situational. Sure, you're dropping markers like it's out of style, but for 1 AP it's not reliable. For one, with an average defense of 5, your enemies will be passing with an 8 or higher. This may force them to use control cards occasionally, but for important models you know they're going to use it. It can be good against high defense models like Lilith since you're not flipping against them, but then again they're high defense models so for Lilith she's only needing a 6, meaning her flips are usually more than enough. In the situation where there's a lot more models around the marker it can come in handy and dump some important cards into the discard from either their deck or hand, but if you're looking for reliability this one is definitely not it. It requires less set up from Parker, as he'll drop a marker from his regular attack, but think of this: he needs the marker, so starts with a regular attack that must damage to drop - that's already a bit of a gamble as they may prevent all the damage and stop the marker. If it works, then you can drop the Crate, but they may prevent this as well with cards in their hand. With your last AP you're thinking of if you need your markers from Hail of Bullets, or your last attack to pile on damage, or anything else he can do, and if you spend it on doing this again they may just prevent it altogether, making your master do absolutely nothing. There's no point of forcing discards if you can't follow up on it, and in Parker's typical crew he's usually the most reliable on damage unless you go out of theme with someone like Ashes and Dust, or Sue. So far in my theory list I've equipped this on Mad Dog for the occasional situation, but he can't use it from Parker's (0) action as it's a tactical action and not an attack. Whenever the right situation does come up it's something that can prove useful, but it's not something you can rely on, and when Mad Dog has it he really depends on someone else setting up the marker reliably - something that can happen with Parker and company. This is one of the upgrades I am thinking about dropping first should it prove not useful. Also, it hurts your own models too.
  • Human Shield is another situational upgrade, one that you can attach later if you really need it. It gives Parker soft cover while within 2" of another model (including enemies). Useful against shooting crews, but usually you don't encounter that outside of a Guild matchup and specific masters like Leve, Raspy and Sonnia, and some shooting crews will ignore cover altogether. His second ability from the upgrade is Sorry, Friend which allows him to pass successful attacks off to another friendly model within 2", but since you have to discard the upgrade and it happens out of your activation you're likely to only be able to use this once, and it doesn't stop the damage given just the target. His crew can be rather squishy, so it's an upgrade I don't plan on utilizing even during the game due to its limited use. Keep it in mind, though, you may want to use it to pass off an important attack like from Leve onto a model who can take it like Mad Dog, but then you're letting Leve shoot Mad Dog and that can spell doom anyway. If that happened to me while I was using Leve, well I'd just shoot Mad Dog instead with my remaining shots. A smart player uses this on the last attack if possible.
So, how is he used? I've broken him down into three categories I see his use on, ranked in the order I believe he is most useful:

  1. Damage Dealer
    • This focuses on his attack options that reliably deal damage, while mitigating retaliation. His main focus is on his Six Shooters, which have a Sh6 value with a positive flip built in. You're wanting to use at least one focused shot for models with a high wound count and will reliably get rid of at least 1 to 3 upgrades depending on the situation. When it's possible you will also lay down markers to prevent avenues of approach using Hail of Bullets while tacking on reliable damage to models.
    • Hail of Bullets is a must, with Stick Up also being important. You'll need to use Stick Up so that he will only use his AP for attack actions. Use it only once if that's all you need so that your (0) upgrade attachment action can be used to keep your options open. Discard the upgrade at the beginning of his activation if he needs to get into range, or at the end to walk out of range of shots or force a charge action onto him if they want to damage him in melee. Use it for both if it's completely necessary to bob in and out, possibly to get in range of the marker when it's dropped, but this forces you to use his (0) to reattach it before his activation ends. It helps if you have either Black Market or Highwayman already attached.
    •  Use his first AP to shoot, hopefully dropping a marker. It's not a big deal to get anything outside of weak damage on this one, but it sets you up for your big damage. This should usually get 2 damage on a target.
    • Use your (0) action to attach an upgrade, buy a mask if you need to but make sure you get the trigger. Attach what you need depending on the situation, either his limited upgrades or Stick Up to set up your later turns. 
    • Use your second (0) action to get a free attack from a crew member, preferably a high minimum damage one like Mad Dog, Sue, Ashes and Dust or Rusty Alyce. Lets say it's Mad dog, who gets a 3 minimum damage with a 4" push, not too shabby. If successful this is 5 damage so far on the target. You'll more than likely need to discard a stone to keep the upgrade on.
    • His second action should either be a focus if he needs to do a ton of damage or just a regular attack. If he needs a ton of damage then his third AP is another attack, with focus he should be able to get a straight flip on damage and cheat in a severe card, dealing 5 with it. His built in trigger lets him discard upgrades, and this will dictate what you discard depending on remaining wounds and the ability to spend stones - with a probably 5 damage already on him you can either do 5 with the severe or 6-8 with the discards, doing a minimum of 10 damage with no discards or 13 with them. This is not bad at all! It does leave you in a tough spot without upgrades for next round possibly, but should it get rid of a key model then it is worth it as he's not useless without them. Don't forget to gain a stone if you discard upgrades.
    • If you don't think you can kill a model with that attack then the second AP is just a regular attack, probably doing 2 damage and dropping another marker.  That's 7 damage so far, killing most minions altogether in one activation with average cards used.
    • With your last AP you perform Hail of Bullets to place two markers in the way of the most likely target who will retaliate, either against Parker or another key model. Place them nearly base to base with him on both sides very close together. If the model goes straight forward he will hit both markers taking 4-8 damage on the way in, this can effectively kill a charge as it has to go in a straight line directly forward. Although you can't cheat the damage it will give them something to think about. If he walks forward he will take one of them, and will have to walk backwards to avoid it altogether, even if only for a little bit. Concentrate on models wanting to charge and remember the markers stay there until Parker's next activation, which can be a really long time and help him activate later in the next turn to pick his targets.
  2. Control
    • This one focuses on his control abilities, namely Hail of Bullets and Hands in the Air.
    • Use Hands in the Air 3 times to force three models to discard cards while taking tactical actions, including walks and charges. If three models were hit and all had to take multiple walks then that is a ton of card dumps. With Hail of Bullets equipped he gains the trigger to drop markers. If board control is necessary use the last AP to make markers, this will more than likely be utilized over a 3rd Hands in the Air action.
    • Stick up is used to either maximize Hands in the Air by not needing to use AP on walks, or as an attack action on elite models to control either soulstones or damage.
    • Highwayman or Black Market gives out extra actions depending on the situation, most likely using Highwayman to give out attacks since he won't be attacking
    • Highly dependent on crew actions, most likely comprising of Dead Bandits who capitalize on action control and can force models to only use Tactical actions or suffer 3 damage. Dead Bandits are probably your best bet in the crew for spamming, as they'll utilize the markers made from Hands in the Air to heal, can help control actions while tacking on damage reliably and can attack after giving the condition that forces Tactical actions if needed.
    • This style can be utilized if you plan on going against models who are tough to hit like a Pandora crew, but since it usually attacks Wp it may not be the best against her. Then you use Crate of Dynamite from Mad Dog instead to attack Df for damage and adapt accordingly. Very effective against low Wp crews but may still be better to use the damage profile of Parker instead.
  3. Support
    • Least effective option, but still an option. A list like this will likely only have three Bandidos/Dead Bandits as Scheme Runners while bringing in the usual Outcast beaters. Doc Mitchell is still a good option as a totem for healing these beaters, although the Malifaux Child can be a good option to use Parker's Ca actions to its fullest potential.
    • This option capitalizes on The Job's Not Done Yet, his (0)s, and Hands in the Air again, with a dash of everything else short of his attacks. The purpose of this build to to maximize the rest of the crew's abilities, which is probably comprised of less Bandits and more utility/damaging members like Ashes, Sue, Johan, etc. with Parker being a back line master.
    • His 18" range on The Job's Not Done Yet gives him flexibility in picking his support options. On a model with Scramble this can be a major amount of movement, coupled with a model that does major damage and sticks around. On Ashes with Scramble this means he can be moved 18" before his activation, leading to all three of his AP to do Ml7 attacks at 3 minimum damage, possibly leading to summons of Abominations. For models like Sue and Johan this makes them a mobile threat with the same damage potential at a cheaper cost, and Sue can be set up to utilize his Ring of Fire effectively while Johan is a great speed bump and large threat range. Both of these have Hard to Kill, great triggers, and dependable attacks, while Ashes can reform if he sticks to the edges. Any model considered for this role should be able to act independently and have some sort of damage/death mitigation like Hard to Kill, armor or Incorporeal. 
    • Once effective models are in range he can switch to using Hail of Bullets for board control and protection, or Coordinated Heist to take advantage of large melee ranges from Ashes and Dust or Johan. Crate of Dynamite is also an option to soak up cards from mediocre duels before unleashing your beaters. Upgrades like Stick Up are less utilized if at all as he should be well behind the front line. Always use Highwayman to get more attacks from them. Human Shield should still not be utilized, as he shouldn't be the biggest target until it's too late anyway.
    • Use Coordinated Heist for three or more Bandit minions to start off the scheme running for something like Convict Labor, although you should more than likely not have room for more than three Bandits.
    • With this build you won't capitalize on abilities like Go Through Their Pockets as much since you have less Bandits on the field, and Parker won't kill as many models himself. 
    • Hands in the Air will help keep key models safer, and if you're using Dead Bandits creates another layer of safety. It's also a good ability to use to keep Bandidos safe as they are great models for hit and run, the extra layer that can potentially prevent models walking into range doubles down on their abilities to stay out of danger.
    • Parker is still pretty flexible here, although I still see him switching to a damage dealer after turn two when beaters are in range. The great thing about The Job's Not Done Yet is that it's a push, so it can take models out of combat if they need to, making everyone potentially a hit and run model.
    • The main issues with this build depends on the match up, as you'll be fighting against Wp from Parker and he won't be making as many enemy markers as usual. This leaves Dead Bandits to have to rely on the the enemy laying the markers usually, and Crate of Dynamite less useful unless equipped with Hail of Bullets while using Hands in the Air. As stated earlier it's also more opponent dependent, because if they have the cards to spare they'll ignore this ability regardless. It also calls into question when it's most important for him to activate - if he acts too late you may not be able to support a key model, if you act to early you may leave a model defenseless if chosen as a target instead. It's also the toughest style to wrap your head around, as this makes him a pseudo-Obey master and they're not necessarily the most efficient use of AP in a crew.
There are lots of other little combos for every style available, but I tried to notate any options that stood out to me. Outcasts don't have a shortage of damage dealers in all point ranges, and the most exciting thing about Parker is that he finally gives us the option to open up their uses beyond damage dealing. He can operate as a scheme heavy Master, usually at little cost and notably almost for no AP, and can change his operation mid game if needed (but not recommended). He has the same operating procedure as Shenlong - pick an ability or two, and concentrate on those only. Luckily he can do those multiple things efficiently, but once you start to branch out you hit a diminishing return.

This is only considering his specific upgrades, mind you. He does have other options with the generic Upgrades. Survivalist is always an upgrade that requires consideration regardless of Master. It may be one to consider if you plan on being on the front line with him, as his healing flips from Doc Mitchell get positives and he receives the precious Hard to Kill ability. The issue with taking it is that he can only ever have 3 upgrades even while using his (0) ability, so it's taking away his versatility. If you ever choose to discard it the Hard to Kill most likely gets wasted all for a simple +1 damage. It may be worth it, but it closes off options.

Oathkeeper is another general upgrade worth considering. I've read online of some who use it and discard it first turn for an extra AP, probably used for movement. Stick up would be the better option for that though, since you can reattach it that same turn for another movement if needed. If you're holding on to it then just like Survivalist it limits his versatility.

The new The Bigger They Are upgrade is very very very situational, and makes sense for schemes like Show of Force, but I don't like to build to Strats/Schemes, and it yet again takes up his versatility.

I Pay Better usually goes on a Henchman, but it's wasted on most of his crew builds as Bandidos aren't Mercenaries. Situational on your crew composition. Scout the Field is redundant with Stick Up, Scramble is expensive and not useful enough to warrant an upgrade slot, The Traveler's Stone is still bad, and Tally Sheet is redundant with Go Through Their Pockets.

In my opinion, as well as for my play style, the only option I'd consider is Survivalist. I won't be using it at first, just so I can get a handle on his specific upgrades, but it is definitely one I'll consider the replacement for.

So that's a pretty lengthy summary on my thoughts for this cool master. I'll follow this up with a summary on his crew as well as its composition and thoughts for combos. So far I plan on getting some practice using a limited version of his crew to learn, but I believe I may use him for matchups against Guild, Outcasts (specifically Leve) and maybe Neverborn if there's potential matching against Lilith.

Let me know your thoughts! Did I get something wrong, did I blow your mind? Did I make you roll your eyes? Is there something I may have missed? Am I amazing? Stay tuned for my next entry on the crew, that's where I'll get more specific on Parker's abilities and how they affect individual models!