For me, the story encounters from the base rule book and then the encounters seen in Crossroads have always been interesting for me. The thing is when you think about them in a practical sense, they are either heavily unbalanced, easily abused or just simply boring.
Maybe it's for the role-playing crowd where these story encounters better encapsulate an uneven game where one player is struggling against another with pure advantage on their side but in my meta at least, we prefer a balanced game where one player's skill is tested against another on an even field rather than putting up story related barriers. Yes, not every battle is fought on an unknown battlefield where both sides agree to not scout ahead first but you have to sacrifice making sense for having fun when it comes to tabletop skirmishes.
The majority of Crossroads is more of the same (ambient without the redundant multiple choices for defender victory), the attacker has something they want to do, the defender is either stopping it or doing their own thing in tandem. Some are needlessly complex, some are all about the summoning and some are hopeless in their simplicity but for all their negative points, some do seem to be a welcome casual distraction to the base rule book or Gaining Grounds strategies.
Everyone knows what to bring to Reckoning, everyone knows summoners in Interference are a pain but how do you construct a list for a relatively unknown strategy that as well as doing something completely different, takes you out of your comfort zone? This week, I'll be trying out a needlessly complex encounter to challenge just that.
The Assault on the Grey Lord is unique in it's premise, Two masters vs One master in a escort the markers type event. For those of you who don't own the Crossroads book or don't have it to hand, here are the rules:
It includes the special terrain "Saloon". All models lose flight due to the ceiling and includes a 3x3 space in the center of the table: an "Open Bar", that is Ht1, severe and soft terrain (leaving out dense so you can still see through it is important). This bar allows a model to spend it's activation healing so long as it's not in combat and gives out some chairs to throw around for fun.
Onto the encounter itself, after flipping for schemes, the attacker hires two masters for free (but assigns only one as the leader) and otherwise creates a normal 50ss list. The defender creates the normal 50ss list but at the end of the third turn brings in 15ss of models they could have hired at the beginning of the game (As written I imagine it's worded in such a way as to not allow you to bring back a rare 1 model that died before turn 3) from a chosen table edge. The defender deploys first within 6" of the center of the table, the attacker then deploys at whatever 4 table edges they wish within 6" of that edge, then lastly the defender places 4 serving girl markers down.
Serving girl markers in base to base with a model can be (1) interacted to be pushed 6" in any direction, if they are to be moved off the table this way, they are removed from play.
At the end of the game, the defender is awarded 1Vp for each serving girl still in play, the attacker earns 1Vp up to a maximum of 2vp for each serving girl marker that is no longer in play and 2Vp if the defending master is no longer in play (either by death or bury).
As I said, needlessly complex.
This week I will be taking the role of Yan Lo, defending his strangely forested nightclub: "The Down Lo" from kidnappers who are up to no good, who are starting to make trouble in his neighborhood, they'll get in one little fight and Yan Lo's scared because he's fighting against two monkey-fighting masters in his monday-to-friday club!... Ahem...
This is a complex undertaking, as we all know outside of special circumstances, deploying second is advantageous because you have a rough idea of where your opponent wishes to aim his scheme runners and where best to place your utility guys vs wreaking balls.
So deploying second against an opponent who is already mostly past the center line is almost certainly providing heads on plates. I need the most defensive, awkward to alpha strike list I can think of and ensure I stay alive long enough to protect those markers.
Luckily for me, Yan Lo and a bunch of Ten Thunders models are exactly that, a right pain to put down in the right circumstance. Yin with smoke grenades in soft cover might as well be invisible to any ranged threats and can stop melee chargers with her "The Fear behind the Eyes" No Escape built-in trigger. Torakage with a buddy forces focus attacks from Sh actions and have auto-focus when in melee. Armor and Hard to Kill are handy but for most of Malifaux, they are almost blank abilities without a self heal.
Who has a self heal? Izamu does, so for the first time ever I see a real need to bring along Reliquary, having the option to bring back a difficult to hit or melee Rg3 model for another crack at dying seems like an idea that actually works in this scenario. With my needing to protect markers without necessarily losing points each turn by not being next to them, my opponent will either send in melee or shoot from afar and clean house afterwards, having tough models with an extra life being there purely to stand next to markers and tank damage will be more beneficial than lasting 3 turns then watching the serving girls scatter. Lastly Chiaki because of course Chiaki.
This is so far a full 50ss list but what about the 15ss backup turn 3? What will they need to do from a (hopefully) clear edge of the board? Scheme runners seem important but I might also need to think about if things are going breast-skywards. Snipers or Archers assist against damaged targets yes but will that alone stop a markers falling off the table? Ototo with a Komainu is a great tag-team to potentially stop that from happening but alas, the 15ss backup is the hardest to plan if only because of the great unknown but making the correct choice to gain the most Vp is paramount to simply adding more scheme runners or models that won't make an impact. As this is the sole "Balancing" mechanic I'm given to even the scales against two masters, I need to use it effectively.
To say I'm going to be defensive this game is a given, I have to defend my models in order to stay in the game, defend markers from their 6" push of doom and weather the storm of 2 masters. Even a full cache isn't going to help against that so I simply need to last. Yan Lo needs to heal, Chiaki needs to rid models of both beneficial and de-buffing conditions as well as slow the opposing crew in an attempt to even out the Ap disparity.
Saying that though, rolling out 2 masters sounds amazing until you realize you only have one hand of cards, cheating fate or soul-stoning for suits for both will make for rather restrictive plays, so anything I can do to strip cards away from my opponent is going to be more important than ever; that said, a savvy opponent will simply circumvent this by playing one master who uses stones a lot and another that is soulstone lite. It's going to be an uphill battle in any case, but it's also going to be fun to fully test out the durability of what I have stated is very difficult to take down crew. I'm looking forward to it.
Keep challenging yourselves and have fun out there.