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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.


Bandidos

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.

Conclusions

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!