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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Holy crap, 20,000 views?! Uh, also some Malifaux words...

Insane!

Just on August 29, 2016 I had finally hit the 10k views mark for this blog. I don't know what I've done after that, because I just doubled my view count in a little over two months! Um, keep up the great... work... Ryan...

Anyway, there have been a few hobby things I've done here and there including tidying up my hobby room and reorganizing my paints. I had to perform paint triage to make room for my paints and sadly had to put away a few old soldiers that are probably over a decade old. They're still here, just in the closet, as you'll have to pry my old GW Chestnut Ink from my lifeless hands. But being that I hardly ever used them it's better to put them somewhere where they don't take up precious real estate.

My often used rack, mostly Vallejo but with Secret Weapon and Reaper paints as well.

My less often used rack, mostly GW stuff as I've grown apart from the line with the new paints. P3 is hardly ever used...

I had also hit a tiny whim to get my Abominations table ready and did most of the work in a short amount of time. I even took a crappy picture:

Just look at these adorable little fuel tanks of nightmares

I actually got more of it done than in the photo, but I didn't take any pictures yet. It should only take about another hour for them to be completed. These little buggers have a lot of parts to paint, so I kept them mostly metal to knock them out. They aren't critical in my crew so I'm not putting a ton of effort into it, I'd even painted their skin using only washes because I didn't want to get bogged down.

But Ryan, didn't you say you were only going to concentrate on your commissions?

Well that's correct, you annoyingly observant reader. However I will be attending another tournament with our friends in Austin and I'd like to attend with a fully painted crew this time. I'd actually sat down and wrote out what I'd need to get done in order to be fully painted and it wasn't too much additional work. I'd have to finish my Abominations and Flesh Constructs, then paint the Ashen Core (and base the Dust Storm) as well as paint my Brutal Effigy. Not too shabby, and when I get tournament motivation I tend to get a ton of work done in that amount of time due to my arbitrary deadline. We'll see if I can manage it again!

So if this isn't so much of a hobby update, what can I talk about?

I've thought of touching on a few points about Malifaux games that may not get a lot of coverage in the forums, although it may be brought up in Podcasts but I don't listen to them often enough to know. Mainly I wanted to discuss rules interactions, efficiency, or simply general gaming concepts that could help you elevate your game to a better level. These are points that I feel helped me break through in the game and gain a lot of experience and I hope that sharing it with you random folks could help you... at the very least it gives me, a person who talks too much, a way to vent out relevant ideas!

So what's a topic I can touch up on relating to Malifaux? Well kiddos let's talk about...

No, not Shutterstock...

AP!

Or Action Points for the uninitiated. These are the bread and butter of the game, as they allow models to perform their actions to get stuff done. Understanding the elements of your action points can help you get the most out of your game.

First off, and you may already realize this, not all AP are equal. Some AP, like your master's, are probably going to be more effective overall than the rest of your crew's, which is why I get more excited about activating Leveticus than I do with a Necropunk. Some AP get more mileage out of attacking than they do with movement, while other models' AP may be more powerful doing the opposite. The nature of your AP is very fluid and changes constantly throughout the game. Even getting additional AP in your activation changes the nature of your AP as your options increase. Using AP during your first turn is a completely different beast than using it to move in your third or fourth turn.

So there are a few points I'll bring up in order to keep this short(er) and sweet:


  • The difference between Master and Minion AP
So I mentioned there being a difference between master and minion action points. The reason I say this is because inherently your master should be optimized to excel at a certain area better than another model that does something similar, as it should be because they are... well, masters.

So lets take an aspect that is used with AP as an example - attacking. This is probably the most common use of AP in the game outside of movement. If you have a master who excels in an area of combat, let's say Melee, then it is right to assume they should be better at it than the average melee-dedicated model. This can be represented by a bump in the Ml stat, say from 6 to 7, or the damage track being better, or its triggers and upgrades being better, etc. One of my favorite melee models is Ashes and Dust because he has a Ml stat of 7 (master levels) and a minimum damage of 3. However Viktoria of Ashes/Blood (counting as one master really) are significantly better than that once you account for their abilities and upgrades. An attack from Ashes and Dust will most likely hurt you for 3 damage, and doesn't ignore defensive abilities like Armor. Meanwhile Viktorias can consistently have a minimum damage of 5 that ignore almost all defensive measures outside of the irregular kind, not mentioning they'll have positives for attack, damage, can increase their Ml stat, etc. The point spent on an attack is better coming from a master dedicated to melee than the enforcer.

This is an obvious point, and of course it's not hard and fast. Misaki as an Outcast is a dedicated melee master and I'd rather rely on Ashes and Dust to get the job done honestly. But it is a good guide when you're analyzing your crew's efficiency - in fact, with that Misaki example it helps put into context as to why she's not a good master when compared to others; because I have models in the crew that are actually better than her in melee it's a good way to see where she stands in terms of power level. Sure, other factors take a part, like how she's more mobile and can charge while engaged, but in the end she needs to put the hurt on someone and her minimum damage and resource draining to ensure it happens trumps it. Heck, Ashes has the same amount of AP as her as well and can put 9 damage on an enemy easily without many resources, while you can probably rely on Misaki doing around 6 or so, while technically having the same type of speed and melee ranges but Ashes takes a hit much better.

I bring up the point of master AP being intrinsically more valuable than non-master AP because it ties in with a ton of factors associated with the weight of AP - Obey masters are essentially turning Master AP into Minion AP and thus watering down their potential actions, while crews like Sandeep are turning minion AP into master AP and making theirs better.

Granted, again, it's not hard and fast, and sometimes if you have the option to Obey or something similar it may be more powerful in the situation than something else. In that vein, though, if you are trying to reliably use extra AP from your minions then perhaps you should look for other minions that do so. If you like using Obey to make key models move outside of their activation, look for minions that push, or grant them Fast, or Lure, etc. There's a reason why masters like Lucius and Zoraida are bottom of the totem pole, or why Perdita shouldn't concentrate on Obeying everyone else, it's because their AP should be more valuable.

If you find that your master is a really good shooter, then try to maximize all of their AP so that they're only spending it on shooting, rather than having to use 1 AP to move into position. If they're great at melee, try to find ways that keep them protected on the way in and getting them there faster. Identify elements that could stop your master from doing their thing, like Paralyze crews or Defense 7. If they're Casters then be aware of models like Sue that can effectively shut down your AP spending, or identify models that are susceptible to Ca attack actions like models with Incorporeal - such as Nix.

You want your master spending their AP in what should be their comfort zone - every time I've had to spend AP that isn't in their wheelhouse, like Interact actions or moving to get in LOS, I make sure to ask myself if it's the best way to spend their AP at this time. Maybe there's another model that can activate first that may prevent the Master from having to attack that target, or maybe there's a way to move the target so the Master doesn't have to spend AP to move.

On the other side of the coin, know your minion's capabilities as well. I try to bring specialists to the table, models that excel in one area over others if they attempted the same actions. Although a Necropunk can kill things in certain situations, I bring him because of his mobility - his AP gets him further across the board than other 5ss models on average, and with his 2AP he's able to lay down a scheme marker, Leap with his (0) action 6 inches away, and lay down yet another marker. A Freikorpsmann can only lay down one marker unless he gains fast, and his walk is only a 5 (unimpeded, but technically so is the Necropunk's!). I bring Flesh Constructs because they have over twice the amount of wounds than other models in their price range, and they also bring along Hard to Wound and Reactivate! They specialize in just sticking around, and their AP is rather flexible because they're doing their job just by surviving. Johan has a high Ml stat, minimum damage 3, great triggers, can heal (although not optimal) and can remove conditions - not a lot of 6ss models can say the same, and that's not mentioning if she is attacking a Tyrant or Construct, has Finish the Job, oh goodness Johan is amazing...

This is how I think of AP spending while creating a list: Identify how many elements/models in your list whose AP excels in a certain area - generally I break them down into very broad categories of scheme running, denial, melee and ranged. I make sure to have strong presences in as many of those categories as possible. This helps identify what gaps need to be filled with what type of AP, and make sure that when I play I'm spending that AP to do what they were built to do. Making your beater have to spend AP on running schemes isn't as efficient as if they had juicy targets and someone else was running schemes. I've forced this choice on opponents before, and have had that happen to me a few times. If you are able to identify those opportunities or weaknesses in your list just analyze their AP ability and lessen the gap.
  • Using AP to set up future AP
This brings up a point - just because your master is a baller with a gun doesn't mean you won't spend AP doing other things. The trick to being efficient seems to be making sure that ALL your AP are spent with a purpose, and being able to see how the game will advance over each turn is a huge part of that.

It all starts with deployment. Where you place your models at the beginning of the game are going to dictate everything that happens for the rest of the game. Placing a model in the middle of your deployment is going to take a lot less AP to get them in range to attack than it would if you deployed way back in the corner as far away as possible. This may seem obvious, but I see a lot of players who deploy without true consideration as to what the consequences will be.

Let's say you're deploying first. You don't know where the heck he's going to place his models. But you do know your crew (as you should, in and out!) and you know that in order for Johan to be effective you need to get her in the thick of things fast, so where do you put her? Well, if you put her in the center of your deployment then Johan will have an easier time reacting to enemy deployment and movement; if they're on either side Johan can still move toward them while advancing and not lose as much efficiency as if he ended up on the wrong side away from his best target.

Take a look at your terrain: are there bottlenecks, paths or is it open? If you know the average walk speed is 5 how long will it take before models meet up? Where will they meet up? Will that setting be advantageous to you?

This is related to AP, because it will largely affect how you spend your AP. An average model will only have 10AP to spend at most in a game - that is ten opportunities for that model to affect positive change. Any time you're wasting one or two AP to get in the game is 10-20% of that model's potential!

So smartly deploying your models greatly increases the weight of their AP. You can use that previous example to actually help your models avoid combats as well - I almost always deploy my Necropunk on a table edge, as it eliminates an entire side in which an enemy will approach him as well as make half the table forget about him since he's too far.

Anticipate where your targets are going to move to and try to make it where they walk into your ranges. This forsight will help you spend less AP in the future on having to move to get into range and potentially squandering a turn you could have attacked. If you manage to identify where the fight will take place, did you get there first to have an advantage?

Does placing a scheme marker here prevent you from placing it in a critical area later? 

When I play Leveticus I'm thinking of this as soon as possible. I look at the terrain, then decide where the fight needs to take place to be to my advantage. I try to steer it toward open areas lacking in cover. When I identify the location I ask how I'm going to be able to influence the opponent's movement to this spot. Usually I'll identify the shortest unobscured path to that location and deploy most of my crew right in that path. A lot of the times this isn't far from the center, but if it's going to a side I deploy almost all my models in that area to force the opponent to have to consider going my direction in order to damage me. I then place models like my Necropunk to the opposite side to force my opponent to choose where to respond, either the single model who is probably getting VP on his own or the bulk of my crew, and if they go after the lone model then my entire crew is free to do their schemes as they please (while the Necropunk runs away...). Once they decide to go toward my crew I'm using Leveticus' abilities to place him in a spot that has the most amount of firing lanes with the least amount of cover then for almost the rest of the game he never has to use an AP for moving again.

With Viktorias it is a much more direct approach - they excel in melee, and they need to get there fast. They have an extremely high threat range, so I only need to stick to an area before charging for one turn at most (sometimes I charge on first turn). In this case I'm actually looking for bottlenecks to protect my crew while keeping an open path to the master or other key models.

In any case I'm using initial AP to set up my future turn to be as advantageous as possible. Avoid throwing out your AP with no reason - I've lost games because I was careless with AP that wasn't necessary and walked them for no reason into scoring range for my opponent's schemes. All APs are precious little snowflakes.

  • Being AP efficient - when certain AP deserve resources and when they don't
So how can you maximize the potential of your AP in game?

Firstly, always count your AP toward what your goals are. Every AP I spend I think to myself about how it will affect my scoring or how it will deny theirs. Is this attack critical? Do I really need this model to be off the table? Does using my (0) action help me move into position?

If I identify that it's an important action I will spend my resources to make it happen. If not, I let it go and think of other ways I can achieve the same goal with other models without sacrificing my scoring potential.

Being AP efficient ties in with resources so well because if you are really efficient then you won't require as many resources. When I began playing I'd noticed that I'd run out of control cards extremely fast, and that was because I thought every action was just as important as the next and didn't realize how to pick and choose which ones deserve cards. 

AP efficiency is also tied into the order of how you spend your AP. Does an action improve another model's actions? If so make things more efficient by activating your support first. If holding off on that model means you're at risk for an activation then plan your defense accordingly, or weigh the benefits of waiting over acting now.

Overall if you act with efficiency in mind you may just find that you have more resources by the end of your turn than you did before. Having your models hit the correct targets with the correct abilities is a huge boon toward your efficiency.

  • AP Denial
A good point to bring up is also denying your opponent this precious resource. As stated before each AP can be broken down into about 10% of the average model, so denying them makes them much less effective every time. The benefits of conditions like Slow are easily understood, but if you can hand it out then make sure to consider your target. Although Slow affects everyone equally you'll need to make sure it's going to stop a model from doing what they're supposed to. If you anticipate a charge, give him Slow. If he was out of walk distance then you have effectively denied two attacks. If he's a shooter you've denied two shots or a focused shot. With masters it may not be as apparent as they come with an additional AP, but the weight of denying that extra attack may be compounded by the fact that they are especially good at that attack.

Having models with high defense or defensive measures can deny AP spent on attacks. Silent Ones deny additional attack damage, Flesh Constructs require additional AP for them to be taken down, and models like Hamelin, Ashes and Dust and Rusty Alyce deny charges which can deny a model's entire activation's worth of attacks. Sue's aura giving negative flips to Ca actions can deny an AP by forcing them to Focus, or miss the attack if they don't. Yamaziko's Brace Yari (also a (0) action!) denies charges for the damage it can do. Denial is a huge quality that often gets overlooked, and on the opposite end overestimated, so it is critical to understand how to deny AP. 

  • Lastly: Your (0) Actions
My last point I want to make is the coveted (0) action. I love these as they feel like they're essentially free (I guess they are). It's what makes Von Schill so fun for me even though he's not the best by far.

Models with (0) actions are always a huge factor for consideration when it comes to list building. It is a third action that takes place in an activation, and some of these actions are so critical to their play style that it can have more impact than an action that costed 1AP. 

Each (0) action has its own considerations you'll have to address to understand your timing on use as well as its effect, but most tend to be pretty beneficial. For Outcasts you have a really good option in Sue, who has two (0) actions that both greatly assist your crew. Ashes and Dust's (0) action can help with your efficiency as you may not need to use an AP to move around the board, which is the same as Leveticus as well. It is especially powerful when upgrades give your models even more actions like these and are strong contenders on which I pick for my lists.

Conclusion

So there you have it, an unorganized and probably ill explained thought on AP use in the game. This post was made on a whim, so forgive me if my thoughts seem scattered. The important thing is to look at your every action under a microscope and understand their implications as much as possible, especially before a game so that you'll know how to apply your thoughts effortlessly while playing. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your models so that you know the best match up for them, and make sure you enjoy your games!