Monday, 6 June 2016

Overactive RPG Vision

I don't know if this happens with anybody else but hear me out: When I walk out of a cinema after enjoying a film I really enjoyed watching, I get this sense of still being in the film. Say for example: Limitless, the film about a guy who pops a tic-tac and suddenly his brain starts working at it's maximum potential. I enjoyed the film and I walked out with the clarity of my memory being fairly okay following wild daydreams of the day I could learn the Violin in under a week and a fleeting moment of perceptive clarity of my surroundings. The film stayed briefly with me and started getting inside my head for 30 or so minutes afterwards. 
The same can be said for games. When I was playing a lot of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, I would walk around a shopping center and start plotting out climbing paths in my mind, I would go to London and start scanning the city sky line for routes I could climb.

Now I'm very much aware that I can't handle a solitary chin-up, let alone hang by my finger tips 200 meters in the air with my next move being that "wtf are you doing mate?" of leaping upward and catching a ledge the size of a finger nail without the hint of falling. I know this but with playing a game like Prince of Persia or the latest Nathan Drake epic, I see the world in a different way altered by these experiences.

Tabletop Roleplaying games have effected me in much the same way only instead of the world, I'm seeing many decisions in film making being told in an RPG sense. Guardians of the Galaxy is my primary example of this. 
Peter Quill is first introduced (after the backstory introduction) stealing a mysterious orb, using a knowledge check followed by a successful thief check he obtains it but alas! He is caught by guards, Quill then crit-fails a convince check ("Starlord, man") and through a series of quick thinking and lucky rolls escapes the guards and avoiding huge damage to his ship.

I see the whole movie like this, a series of player interactions, skill checks and obvious nat 20s and crit-fails. Arguments at the table, players following others because.. well they have to right?
 and the GM allowing certain players to do silly stuff that would get them killed. You saw what happened to Drax when he tried to solo Ronan, he got his clock cleaned but because the GM didn't want the player to create another character, made sure that Drax didn't die. When Groot sacrificed himself, the GM decided that the player made such a great unique character with game breaking flaws that he was given an out.

This undeniably is easier to do in team movies with multiple characters. X-men, Guardians, Avengers, easy to RPG-ify. What about my second favorite film of all time: Versus? For the all of you that don't have a clue what this movie is or about: Criminals are in a forest shooting zombies then ends with a climatic battle between brothers that fight every 500 years because the same group is reincarnated to meet, for reasons. If you don't mind Japanese B-Movies, it's a fantastic film and the reason I have stills of the film tattoo'd on my arms. 
The intro involves two orange clad criminals running through the woods, sprinting at high speeds, falling and rolling but continuing on until they reach a road. The two argue for a while until a small convoy of two cars and a bike appears. Without going into the whole plot, a 2-player RPG could easily be built around this premise and with the writing the way it is, you could easily see the movie being ripped from an RPG session.

Almost all films or series I happen to watch nowadays have this RPG film wrapped over them due to my near-constant day dreaming of new story lines and events. Being that the whole point of role-playing is story driven decisions with random elements thrown in to create tension, this isn't exactly a difficult endeavor. It's a lot harder to equate say Yahtzee or Texas Hold 'Em Poker to real life or film situations for instance but in my mind it makes for story inspiration and a (sometimes) imaginary look behind the scenes of how certain elements in films play out.

A montage is pretty much the GM going "Whilst you wait for the BBEG to arrive, this happens" surely?
Schwarzenegger never running out of ammo and taking down a whole army is little more than a high level character and a tired GM right?
Sean Bean always dying is a player with a horrid losing streak maybe?
Jason Statham is a min/maxer who never role plays but rather "Roll"plays is clear as day.

Maintain that childlike imagination and have fun out there

Monday, 30 May 2016

Pay No Attention to that Man Rolling Dice Behind the Curtain

Slowly getting to grips with my new found obsession with mastering games (that obsession helped greatly by it being a whole lot easier on the wallet) has given me a much more meaningful insight on how much time and effort goes into role-playing games and their gods controlling them. Home brewing my current AMP game that's soon coming to a close has been an amazing contrast of laugh-out-loud highlights and "the f*** you doing Joden?". 

My first session, in my head, was the tutorial which is a horrible horrible way to start any campaign, short or ongoing. I love Get Backers and so based the story of my two players as:
You're both in heavy debt with the owner of this cafe and to pay him back, you do mercenary work that involves returning stolen goods to their rightful owners.

Their first task in "Player timeline" was securing a briefcase from a building that didn't have security! And they were even told to wear the Harry Potter invisibility cape in the form of the MIGHTY HI-VIS(tm)! 

Blazing into a cafe where helpful Tommy Chong was there to point them in the right direction to then have them casually walk into the basement level of the CCTV-less government building had the hint of a good idea behind it but lacked any real substance.

You see, as my first ever GM'd session, I was so utterly terrified that my players would be unable to unearth the secrets of what my story was telling. So afraid I was, I made two characters that by primary, secondary and tertiary roles (& beyond) was there purely to say:

"Oh yeah THAT building. The briefcase you're looking for is going to be in the basement. It just so turns out that I know exactly what they do there, where they would place stolen cases, when the building was erected and how good the security is there DESPITE not knowing dick about it until just the second you asked me about it...."

As I said, brown-pants-ingly timorous (Timorous Joden? Was 'afraid' too arduous to write?).

Learning my lesson pretty darn quick, I rested on my laurels and decided to let an adventure book do the meat and potatoes of the writing allowing myself more freedom with fleshing out NPCs and giving them noticeable traits, body language and outrageous accents!
Adding pinches of my own world I had originally intended to connect the basically random plots of "Find the Zero Patient Tumor epicenter" & "Escort Fireboy in an RV" worked in my favor and really built the existing characters up from the shells they were in the first session.

Having a bit more of an idea of what to do I then once again faced the bright burning light of running a session without leaning on pre-written material. It went better this time although instead of telling my players exactly what they should be doing, I instead went with sticking them onto some rails and gave them no options whatsoever instead...

Ahh, the Bliss of Hindsight. At the time I thought I as being right clever with interesting encounters and events, unknowingly tying them together with precisely one way to proceed. I'm still learning, give me a break...

How to improve myself as a GM? Well for starters I need to smash the training wheels. Assumptions that my utter brilliance will prevent players from ever leaving the room they currently occupy must be quashed if I ever want to have meaningful sessions that aren't predicated on "Stuff happens, stuff happens SUPER INTERESTING BOSS BATTLE, then stuff happens". Letting my players loose and making their own choices in how to alter the world they stand in is better than my current flaw of answering the question "How do I get the players to go where I want them to?" with a character who's only characteristic is that he's got a bad Jamaican accent and freezes time whilst BAMF'ing the players with no save or reaction to the next story location.

The other flaw I have right now as a GM is being a little TOO loose with the rules. AMP's two-skill combo system is fantastic as a narrative tool but when it comes to fair and challenging combat, my players have learnt that having nothing in a stat isn't a detriment since making another stat make sense is as easy as slightly changing what they want to do. My Gf for example has absolutely no Fighting skill but still rolls huge numbers because being an amateur surgeon who primarily uses needles in combat, she uses Medicine checks mixed with Marksmanship to make attacks. My friend uses Intimidate instead of the normal Speed+Intuition as his Initiative roll in combat which results in him getting hit first but only after he makes the first attack being that his intimidation stat is through the roof. I let it happen because the game outright tells you to (as in if it makes sense, use it). It does smell slightly of BS when instead of using one's actual fighting prowess in a brawl, a player instead remembers their days at medical college and how good they are at origami and be just as good, if not better at killing a man as the guy who been street fighting their whole lives. It's still fun and my players are awesome enough to only slightly abuse it but it's still a little funky in my own view. 

Talking about fear, I'm also super afraid to get my players killed. My Gf's character rolled low to defend vs a high roll against a truck full of machine gun nutcases (I prefer to let the dice fall as they may and then do what the character would do in the given scenario) and she took double her hit points in damage which by AMP's game rules means that character is DEAD but since it was only halfway through my intended campaign arch; instead of being SUPER DEAD, she instead lay on the floor and the NPC teacher of science performed kitchen drawer surgery enough to get my Gf's character conscience and heal up unaided.

Luckily, the players I game with aren't using this to munchkin through the campaign knowing they're immortal and are instead doing the honorable thing of doing what they feel their player characters would do which is a huge boon as a GM in my mind, but still a pretty big failing on my part if they were that type of player.

With the next session looming, I hope to hell I learn from these experiences. Negatives aside though, it is so very rewarding being a game master and creating worlds and characters. Being able to have a laugh with friends and creating "Remember that time when" moments is pure and simple joy and I'm so glad I took the leap to do it.

Make those characters in your head come to life and have fun out there.

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Cards Against Humanity Effect

I once went to a gaming cafe for an MMO meet-up and after the thrill of getting 40-odd strangers together with nothing more than a guild in common with each other we all sort of settled down into our cliques and waited the day out. One group called out that familiar "Who wants to play Cards Against Humanity!?" to which quarter of the room joined in with what was a fuster-cluck of a game where half of the 10 players couldn't hear what was going on and completely dis-regarded the end game in favor of getting those shining moments.

You know the moments right? The moments that you will share later on in geeky discussions as part of a round table of funny memories. The moments you share out whenever you talk about your favorite games with like-minded people. Cards Against Humanity is built around this factor, its the whole game. A certain black card comes down and suddenly you're back to the day you first slapped down the greatest white card ever and the whole table gasped in "I shouldn't laugh but I am" horror and for those glorious 15 seconds, you were the worst human being in the room.

Now, I hate Cards Against Humanity but I can respect it's effect. I hate it because it is a game without end and it's very much a game that's waiting for the card combos that get highlighted whenever other groups play it. "Winning the game" doesn't matter as much as "What's the most horrible &/or funniest random white card I have". I've played MTG multiplayer games that went on for 6 hours where no one was winning or progressing to end-game, I've played Apocalypse 40K games that lasted FOREVER and quite frankly, I've done my time. Playing a game that doesn't end simply stops being fun for me and it dilutes the simple joy of tabletop gaming.

What I can respect though is the Cards Against Humanity effect, where a game becomes more than just a decent way to spend time. RPGs are ruthless in this regard, as are most tabletop games where special moments are collected in one's mind and are brought forward by geeky discussions and continue to multiply with each proceeding game.
A Munchkin game where my friend ended up with 3 arms that were holding a total of three one-handed weapons and another 2 handed weapon (Due to the "Cheating" card) and absolutely wreaking everything in his path with no way to screw him over.
Take Malifaux, where the Red Joker absolutely saved or ruined a game, those times where a Black joker has occurred only to turn into the Red Joker because the attack still got through or how a certain upgrade made one model an absolute beast against a certain opposing model. 
My recent games of AMP where my friend's character "Dr Chaos" in a chase scene I lovingly crafted as a finale to a session was ended by him dumping all resources into an attack then crit'ed that MOFO rendering the THREE trucks Two-Dimensional by sheer power of Force Blast. A fine way to end a day of critical fails and subsequent dice shaming.
My Gf's character "Dr Hu" (Yes, jokes were made) in the session before that rained down hot death in a basement brawl. She managed to roll really high steamrolling my difficulty modifiers thus enabling her to stab a needle directly into a clones brain via eardrum. Next turn managing to tear said needle from this guys ear, ripping through another clone's jugular and ending the needle stabbed into a third clone's face.

(Pro-tip, if my Gf ever has free reign to do anything without consequence, don't piss her off.)

It's these stories that stay in our mind and proliferate in our discussions of gaming memories with friends and strangers alike. These creations of nothing more than our own imaginations getting a jump-start from rule sets and game designers; something you don't get in such magnitude from video games or movies. It's a great thing that stimulates the mind when you get together again with friends old and new. This is what, in my mind, makes C.A.H such a resounding force of getting complete strangers to get together, that simple joy of sitting down and creating "happy" memories.

That and generally allowing everyone to be an awful person without consequence or blame. "What would Grandma find disturbing, yet oddly charming?"  "Big Black Dick" What? It's Cards against Humanity!

Don't let the demons get out and have fun out there.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Where I explain why I'm such a Hipster

A friend asked me a question the other day: 
"Why are you so against playing Pathfinder?" 
He asked assuming that I'm a hipster who avoids popular media (Kind of true). My answer was thus:

"I'm not against Pathfinder (or D&D etc etc) if there's a game running and I can make it I'm in. The thing is, is that I Know that Pathfinder is good. I want to experience other systems and find out if they are as good, or if I'm being hopeful, better."

This is true for most of the media preferences I consume (As in RPGs, Anime, Fantasy novels and some games, depending on price naturally), I will find myself walking into a shop and literally judging a book by it's cover. 

...and by that I mean reading over the synopsis.

As shallow as it is (and it is) if you want to get me to buy your product you need to hit 3 criteria:
1./ A reasonable price
2./ Some well-done artwork
3./ An excellently worded synopsis without going all 'buy this buzz-words'

Some of my favorite books and anime I've found by this process, where they hit those 3 points and I've picked them up. If I had looked up reviews of "Speed Grapher" or Scott Lynch's "The Lies of Locke Lamora" beforehand, I might have not gave them a second glance. This is because I enjoy the risk of trying something out without the hands of preview chapters, PDFs or Netflix tainting my view of it. If I've put down £20-£30 on something, I'm at the very least going to complete the experience rather than the Netflix problem of having no reason to continue if the first 10 minutes didn't capture me. 

For example: Paranoia Agent, an anime I had no knowledge of before buying has THE SLOWEST START to an anime I've ever witnessed, the opening is weird and if not for putting down £30-ish quid I would have left it early on.  I continued to watch though, through the box set and suddenly the anime opened up and the preceding story made a lot more sense and foreshadowed following events and I was struck with the euphoric moment of "I'm so glad I kept watching!". 
Had I stuck to watching the well-known and popular titles, I would watch them saying that yeah, they're okay; I wouldn't have that fist bump moment because the hype surrounding it has peaked to the point of hating it or loving it because of it's over-exposure before even viewing it.

Undertale I've never played nor wish to at this point. I KNOW it's an amazing game and the internet has done a fine job of making sure everybody knows about the last boss or the opening scene or the scenes in-between ("Don't you dare kill Goat Mum"). With so much attention, it's now impossible to go into Undertale blind unless you simply do not have internet access.

This of course extends to tabletop miniatures as well, with the caveat that people in my area need to be playing the game for me to invest a lot of time into into it. With 40k I could have gone Space Marines and won more games but again, I knew they were good, I wanted to see if the other factions were any good as well. Try being a modern 40k player without consulting MEQ stats (Marine equivalent) for every single model choice you make and understand that I didn't foresee it being fun to play the faction that everyone assumes the opposing player is playing. In my whole time playing 40k I only faced Eldar and Orcs once, every other time it was Marines, it's boring. 

With Malifaux it's less apparent now because unless one is strictly keeping to one faction, players are likely to gather any crew they enjoy the mechanics of so a power fence isn't brought up to face that one faction that everybody plays. Luckily Malifaux doesn't have 'The one Awesome faction'; one could argue Guild, but then someone will pipe up and say Neverborn then behind that person, another player will say Outcast, then in the back an old veteran tells everyone in the room the tales of that time he faced Gremlins etc etc
But I still went in relatively blind and chose the Ice Mage because I have a fondness for Ice Magics.

D&D, Pathfinder and the RPGs everybody "knows" is at a point where anybody interested in playing a tabletop RPG knows it's good and likely wants to play it first because "I don't want to waste my time on something bad" but here's the thing: With the right GM who

knows the rules and manages them seamlessly into a story, it doesn't matter if you're throwing D6s, D20s, D100s or playing Jenga. What it well and truly boils down to with many RPGs is what you character creation options are and the mood of game you're playing. For me, I'm looking for a good time, not to narrow my options down to the global opinion that X, Y & Z RPGs are the only ones worth playing.

To go back to my friend's original question, I don't shy away from the cool kid's games and media because I hate them or have a disliking towards them necessarily. I have a un-healthy amount of love for Bleach, Fight Club is my most favorite and most watched film of all time and I really enjoy the current Marvel Cinematic universe. My point was to my friend was that I don't want to simply find the mass majority thing that the world has agreed on is the best ever awesomesauce and add to the pile, I want to find the stuff that people haven't necessarily found or maybe have skimmed over due to the other brands hype. Hell, I'm not even doing that really, what I like doing is taking a risk on the unknown and finding out for myself if it's worth my time and something I enjoy. Again, some of my favorite books and anime were found by me skimming a synopsis and dropping some pocket money on them, I wouldn't be playing AMP right now if not for randomly picking it up next to Feng Shui 2. It's the simple joy of Discovery.

Make sure life is exciting and have fun out there.

Monday, 9 May 2016

AMP: Year One - First Impressions

Despite what the past *counts* 32, blimey 32? My oh My....
Despite what the past 32 posts concerning Malifaux may lead you to believe (and rightfully so) I did originally mean this blog to encompass all my tabletop gaming; due to absolutely foreseen circumstances however, I found Malifaux a lot more fun to talk about than my latest Magic the Gathering modern deck (3-colour Clues), what new card rotations have happened in my Commander Blink deck (Less tax, more actual Blink) or games of Cards Against Humanity ("Bees?..." being the most useful white card in the whole box).

I've been interested in running or playing tabletop RPGs for the last couple of years but finding a group was always the problem in actually playing a darn game.
I'd pick up a system that seemed interesting, read the book cover-to-cover learning the mechanics, create a character or two, write a campaign and think to myself "Yeah, it looks like I got the start of a good game here".I would then run into the once, future and assumed-always brick wall and continue the thought with "Shame I 'aint got anyone who wants to play it".

 is a thing, D&D is what everybody on and off planet earth thinks about when a lone soul utters the phrase "Wanna play an RPG?" Newborn babies have an instinctual 'I know that name' when it comes to D&D. Aliens planning on visiting earth know about Dungeons & Dragons, it's a force to be reckoned with. I myself have played one intro game and a one-shot encounter where I had a bunch of fun playing Might Guy from Naruto disguised as a 1st level Monk and I enjoyed it.

Trouble is, I'm one of those hipsters who wants to play just about anything else.

Trouble Trouble is, to strangers or friends-of-friends-of-mates who want to play an RPG, what they really mean is: They want to play D&D 3.5/Pathfinder; so when I roll up with "Anima: Beyond Fantasy", "OVA: The Anime Roleplaying Game" or "Legend of the Wulin" to try out, I get the stink eye and then told elaborate stories of their previous combos or misadventures in Path-D&D-Finder 3.5.
Shadowrun also gets love at my local but that's beside the point...

Not learning my lesson obviously, I still pick up RPG systems based purely on art and how good the synopsis is at one of my kinda-local gaming retailers. The latest RPG that I assumed would get the backhand because it's not Dee-undee was AMP: Year One, a supers RPG with a fancy "duel-skill combo" D20 system and a greater emphasis on the human side of supers rather than being the Hero/super Villian. What makes AMP different from my other books is that I've found players who have a lot of fun playing it. Playing a system rather than talking about it in theory sounds better for me for a First Impression. 

My love of X-men back in my youth never really went away, my loathing of graphic novel prices was just stronger. AMP re-lit that love being that it's setting is very much about normal people gaining powers and how they and the world around them react to it.
The book goes into great detail about the hows and whys of these newly discovered powers that random people are getting and for the first time, I got really involved in the story and setting AMP was putting forward. Too often with other RPGs, I really enjoy the mechanics of the game but rarely the setting or story told alongside it; With Year One (and my love of Marvel's Merry Mutants) however, it's story gripped me and really got the creative juices going in how I could run a RPG in this world. Very impressed.

The character creation is just the right balance for point buy games for me, not so simple as to throw a handful of numbers on the page and add dice to them, not so crunchy as to require a member of MENSA in mathematics in order to make a character a well-rounded one.
The super powers are vast but not an all-you-can-imagine range. Super-Sense, Speed, Strength are the typical ones and there are also Teleportation (Either willed or via Portals) and even a degree of Time control powers (You can stop it but can't travel through time for instance). You have control animal powers, absorption abilities, bolts of energy and enhancing powers alongside some nice non-combat ones such as memory manipulation, dream walking, future sight etc etc. It's vast enough that with the ability to choose up to 3 to combo off of each other it always makes for a fun, well-rounded character but not always the character you want or envisioned. This isn't necessarily a bad thing when lined up with the setting in my mind.
Odds are, if the everyday Joe were to gain random powers one day, they wouldn't become Dr. Strange, odds are they'll have the ability to talk to plants (Also a power in AMP). Remember, it's not a super hero game in the strictest sense, it's about what would happen if a normal person were able to use portals or read minds, what they would do with such power and how regular non-powered people would react to them. So a campaign featuring a nutcase who asks plants for details of a crime scene can exist and not feel out of place when they are standing next to the 8ft tall Speedster Hulk and the
other nutcase who talks to bees and who can fly...

 The day-to-day skills are generalized without being rather ridiculous, It's what you would expect with some common sense vague-ness but this is where the duel-skill combo check comes into play. For example: "Crafts" is a skill that allows one to build/take apart objects, something mundane on it's on but when paired with "Stealth" one can create hidden traps, with "Performance" one can build theatrical props, with "Beast Handling" one can design a muzzle or a cage fit for the chosen animal.
hen a character is jumping between rooftops during a chase scene, it's not a simple Athletics check, it's an Athletics + Speed check simulating maintaining a fast pace and using that momentum to jump.
Want to intimidate someone? How are you intimidating them? With your strength? Intimidate + Might for example.
With your knowledge of Cheese? Intimidate + Knowledge (Specialty: Dairy Products).
In a world full of RPGs trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to adding dice to a number, it's a system that allows greater ease when describing an event to a GM and so long as that same GM puts a rein on it, some interesting ways of dealing with situations occurs. One of my players has a doctor who uses acupuncture needles, she has no fighting stat because, well she's a doctor so when forced into combat she asked if instead of using a fighting skill combo, she would be allowed to use "Marksmanship" + "Medicine" combo instead to simulate accurately hitting pressure points to take down her opponent. It made sense in my mind so I allowed it. 

It does have it's flaws mind you, a player and myself discussed that if allowed, Knowledge + Speed can check for everything in the game, for instance:

"Mad Mike takes aim and fires his rifle at you"
"I'll use my Knowledge + Speed to calculate the trajectory of the bullets path, rush him and with Knowledge + Speed again, attack using pressure point systems to stop his heart"
"Right *
sigh* With Mad Mike taken care of, you can now attempt to calm down the hostage"
"Using my know-how of human psychology and wanting to calm them down quickly I use Knowle..."
"Big rocks fall..."

As far as game breaking goes, it falls on the GM's shoulders as it does in many games. "Time Freeze", a power that allows a character to stop time for 10 in-game seconds can become ridiculous with other power combos (Such as "Teleporting" to, without a defense reaction allow a character to insta-gib a single opponent).
This is balanced somewhat by the Juice system, the chemical balance of adrenaline in one's own bodies that in essence 'pays' for the use of powers, stopping players from doing bonkers maneuvers more than once in most instances, although with powers that can lead to gaining Juice from energy absorption, two players can without much effort work as a team to shut down every threat you put against them outside of 
"Big rocks fall".

Give players a supers system though and they will break that system over their knee if they desire, players gonna play, so don't take this and the above check as a game breaker, just something to nip in the bud
very early. The two-skill check is great for flavoring what your checks are actually doing but sometimes, no two skills makes sense or you can't think of a combo right away, you can substitute the two-check for "Skillx1.5" which is a good fix for times it comes up.

AMP also has the standard advantages/drawbacks alongside bonus points to further customize your character, nothing out of the ordinary but I do enjoy how some combined can make for interesting archetypes. One player has a drawback that everyone recognizes him for being in jail, but with the advantage that he has a large amount of respect among the criminal underworld. So whilst he might be screwed trying to get past a security guard, he can always call in help in other ways to hack into a system or drive him somewhere.

All-in-all the power system and the way the skills are created make for fun games and something I'm really enjoying running, even if it is showing me the darker sides of my player's personality. How does one make the power "Accelerate Sickness" out to be anything else but absolutely evil, especially when the same character has been a chain smoker for all their life and have a power which can transfer disease from themselves to others?...

May your adventures be full of ass-kicking and good times, have fun out there.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Ending the Tale Early

I had high hopes for the Shifting Loyalties campaign. Even with the bad fan-fiction, it was a joy to work out my writing muscles and I do love a Slow Grow.
Things don't always go how one plans however, adding more rules to an otherwise well thought out system, at the start, sounded good. It got the creative juices flowing in terms of narrative driven game play and the potential for plain ridiculous upgrades and extras all sounded like a party in Malifaux.

Its just that it stopped being fun.

Week 1 went off without a hitch, I got two games in for a win and a loss and both of us walked away with upgrades and currency in our pockets. Week 2 was a disaster and left my crew penniless and chock-a-block full of injuries. Week 3 I missed out on because work and that's fine, it happens but then the idea of going into Week 4 with a crew that I wasn't happy with and using my teeth to climb Mt Everest in working my way back up just didn't appeal to me. Even assuming no injuries, an all-comers minion list is gimicky at best and was a struggle to make work. Despite the synergy that was everywhere: Komainu getting suits from Toshiro who gave Fast to Shadow Effigy who gave Remember the Mission to Dawn Serpent who charged into Pathfinder's Clockwork Trap victims, lots going on on paper but never as effective as it should have been. This may be me trying to play Ten Thunders like Arcanists but I can't seem to make the Thunders "work" for me when I work plays to their strengths. Let me try and get to a point.

My Toshiro led list was consistently working with Max hand size 3 in all games I've played in and out of this campaign. I needed a 6 Tomes+ for Pathfinder to set his trap, an 8 (preferably of crows) for Toshiro's 'Beam of Fast' and a 10 card for Shadow Effigie's Mission Remembering. For me, that's a lot of effects to save cards for just to make my models do more than stand and score. Sure Mei Feng likes 7s for her Rail Walking, Kaeris likes her Tomes but that that's one card for one model, so it doesn't hit me as hard; with or without the Reservior option, My personal favorite Arc Henchmen: Snowstorm can push and maneuver 'Hearts without saving cards, Firestarter doesn't need to ditch cards to get an additional Ap and Joss doesn't need to spend cards to add to the scrap pile. This isn't to poo-poo on Thunders, there's obviously something I like about them if I'm so drawn to them but as a primarily Arcanist player, I'm in another world when it comes to saving cards and summoning.

As far as strictly the campaign, whilst I love a Slow Grow, the campaign is set up where your 26ss list (after henchman cost) is your primary core for the greater part of the beginning. Whilst I don't feel like I made a junk list with Toshiro, Dawn Serpent and friends, it was a list that the scheme and strategy could easily ruin. Some model choices only come up with certain S&S and some I would never take. Shadow Effigy is a model used for throwing up markers here there and everywhere, what does the Effigy do when it isn't a marker based scheme pool? He counts as a scoring model and that's about it. Pathfinder is great at disruption but sometimes I want to hire the traps rather than save cards to ensure summoning them, it's a big investment when the only Tome in hand is a 13 and I have to use it to summon ONE 2ss model that doesn't activate.
In a Slow Grow, the only restriction was the reduced soul stone cost, one might struggle to make a 26ss list for Reconnoiter but it's possible. One certainly wouldn't make the same 26ss list for Reckoning or when Make them Suffer is in the pool though. Limited options, yes but one could tailor them to the schemes and strategys. In the campaign setting, not so much until later on. If I'm waiting until later for the game to be fun, I might as well play a 50ss game of Malifaux rather than trudge through a grind to get there.

The first question I asked: would this be an altered yarn if I took Arcanists instead? Snowstorm leading Frozen Hearts, Joss leading Constructs, Firestarter leading a flock of Fire Garmin? All good options, all great on paper but it doesn't change the static list build of the early weeks. In a game where it's a necessity to play the scheme's strengths rather than individual models, having a set list with no way to swap in and out models leads to games of un-needed stress, doubly so with the injury system making bad tables worse. It isn't something I want to do just to see a Dawn Serpent with Flurry.

So ends Shiro's mission for freedom, a sad non-starter but still a hero in his own way. Have fun out there.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Center Stage Focus - Coryphee Duet

Outside of models I've truly never used before, there are some were I have to congratulate Wyrd on the flavor and abilities of when it comes to their models. Being the mainly Arcanist player I am, the first thing to come into my head when thinking of impactful non-Masters is the Coryphee and the Duet they become.

Back when I first started Malifaux, I had a very real problem with Scheme runners with Rasputina. With little experience with the Ice Witch and at a time where not even all the masters crew boxes were released, it was hard to generate a list for Breakthrough/Plant Evidence etc etc, Frozen Heart back then just didn't have any runners.
My first inclusion were the Mole Men and for a while they were great, that is until they were attacked or, for instance, they had already dropped more than enough markers. They have a Very focused job and can't really diverge from that role, I needed something else.

As a new player I brought both Arsenal decks for Arcanists just so I knew what everything did (This also being when Crossroads wasn't released, dark times indeed) and the Coryphee appeared to be exactly what I was looking for: Fast models who were able to attack but more importantly could leave combat and not get charged in response. The Duet looked insane and rightly so for sacrificing two 7ss models. So I set about a proxy of the dancers and took them to the table.

... And subsequently got them killed before turn 3 every game I had them. As a player in general I have this idea that new models exist in another dimension where opponent's will let them do exactly what they want and watch in awe as they do their home run lap. I can't fault my opponent's actions, I was playing the Coryphee dumb. I ran them in range of Anti-Armor which destroyed them quickly, if I had planned to run the pair separately, I would panic at the loss of 2 wounds and try to duet them only to have them standing out in the open. In games where I duet'ed immediately I would use them as pure scheme runners rather than assassination units so spending 14ss to be backfield doing Mole Men's job (forgetting that with their speed and 3ap, they could achieve a number of base rulebook schemes on turn 5).
I would either play too cagey or too aggressive, but as I came to learn, there is a delicate nuance of balance to the puppet's role on the field.

Fast forward to modern day, the Coryphee are released in plastic now and by budgetary reasoning, I've magnetized them to properly duet together. I know now not to run them into big nasties but rather assassinating smaller models. I almost never run them as a single unit anymore, the first turn is hopefully a double walk into a Dance Partner-Dance Together. Why not duet immediately? Summoning a fresh model that still has 2ap left to use up to 17" into the table is veritably useful, especially in dealing with well-placed From the Shadows models or taking down an early minion who safely assumed double walking was a good move. Picturing two marionettes gracefully spinning across the battlefield and effortlessly taking down a Guild Pathfinder is a thing of beauty.

I have found despite this that Rasputina still doesn't like the Duet. Not being Frozen Heart and not having much synergy in the crew leaves the puppets in the box. Mei Feng on the other hand loves them. Fast constructs that can keep up with her, that can get her out of trouble via Rail Walk and being able start or finish a fight alongside the Rail Boss is amazing. The Duet's main weakness against range becomes silly when they are within the protective Vent Steam and having another 3ap model dancing beside a master and the often 3Ap Firestarter provides fantastic opportunities for Vp gain.
With only one game with Kaeris right now I don't know if they have a place but in their one game with her they provided a means to draw an optimal hand turn one before duet'ing and acted as bodyguards to the rather frail Kaeris saving her Ap to use her burning effectively.

Judging the Duet on it's own, having Auto-everything in attack and defense paired with Agile and Disguised make the dancers impossible to pin down with melee attacks alone. Hitting them with conditions or ranged attacks is preferable but to get through Df/Wp6 with a built-in positive, it's an uphill struggle. This is not to say they are invincible, far from it but so long as I keep them away from tables that can focus anti-armor rounds, avoiding charging them into more than 2 models who can wear down those 7Wd OR being in a position where models around the Duet prevent them from escaping then I'm confident they will always make for an memorable game and an additional challenge to my opponent. It's 14ss that I don't regret spending to include them.

Dance like no one is watching and have fun out there.

Monday, 18 April 2016

A Tale of Souls and Swords - Week 2

Shiro was musing his past again, perhaps his present wasn't something he was happy with, how philosophical. Taking ground in his past life was his preferred method to gaining information and setting up a base of influence in an unknown area. Other methods were sometimes faster, other methods got you killed much faster but setting up a base of operations first before cracking heads together yielded much better results than rushing in(and being able to retreat units to a protected stronghold when jobs went south gave the men a much needed morale boost).

After the Gremlins were forced out, it was time for Shiro to extend his influence further out and that required scouting out the surrounding landscape. Summoning forth Ashigaru retainers and his faithful Komainu, a newly acquired ability he obtained from his resurrection, he sent them to scope out more of Lambs Breath Nord. They would either return with information, or never return, presumed destroyed, both results gave Shiro a clearer vision of his surroundings. He allowed his current entourage time to get adjusted with the local fauna; that was when Jack appeared.

"I... want YOU... TO hit me... AS HARD... AS you CAN!..." it screamed, twitching it's head and flexing it's monstrous claws towards Shiro. Shiro was in awe rather than angry, how such a beast got past.... a puppet, a bored dragon and a sleepy sniper.... oh; Shiro seriously needed more footmen. Summoning was arduous.
Shiro responded to this challenge by near knocking this creature's head clean off, it seemed to have the effect it was looking for. Shiro named him "Jack", short for "Jacked-up S.O.B" and left the fool where he lay, smiling in near-unconsciousness.
Later when Jack had re-awoken, it made Shiro a deal: keep finding it pain, and Jack would fight by Shiro's side.

Well, with so much pain in Shiro's future yet to come, it was a safe bet.

Pain indeed. This weeks match was brutal and left me wondering if I can still compete. Absolutely devastating.

The game in question was:
Standard Deployment Reckoning
Protect Territory
Make them Suffer
Frame for Murder

This weeks campaign bonus: Players get 2 script, up to a maximum of 6 for every scheme marker that's on the opponent's half of the table that isn't being used for scoring Vp.

My opponent brought with him:
Sebastian w/ Those Are Not Ours!
Rotten Belle
Night Terror
2x Guild Autopsy
Malifaux Child

Things went off to a good start turn one, the both of us moving into position, Shadow Effigy and Toshiro making the whole crew drop scheme markers in place for bonus script and Protect Territory. Sadly after that it all went to the bleedin' choir invisible.
It turns out, charging Illuminated into 4 models that can poison and then boost the damage of said poison turn end is a terrible idea. Rafkin and Sebastian being to blame. Toshiro joined the fray but ended up the same way, the Dawn Serpent got badly injured, badly poisoned and then got chased by Sebastian killing it turn 3 whilst turns 4 and 5 had Komainu and Effigy bite the dust too. My whole crew sans Dawn Serpent flipping injuries. It was a complete and total thrashing and one I can't blame anybody else but my lack of poison manipulation experience (I'm normally immune to it or wiping it with Chiaki/Johan/Arcane Effigy) and once again thinking a model is immortal when it is merely difficult to kill.

My first game with Illuminated was less trial by fire and more trial by 200ft drop without a parachute. Armor +1, 2 forms of healing and a decent amount of wounds made me believe the junkie was this god among men and infallible to the attacks of said peons in his wake.
Sadly whilst being very consistent with damage and having bonkers threat range, he is no Viktoria. 7ss vs 22ss is a bad match-up no matter who's at the helm. History repeats.

No matter, with my whole crew in bandages, it means my next game will be one of careful moves, knowing my opponent's models inside and out and scoring full Vp where it counts. With Week 5 closing in fast, I need to complete this bounty, and have enough script to buy Mr Yan Lo and his Soul Porter mate.

It only hurts when I laugh, regardless, have fun out there. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

A Tale of Souls and Swords - Week 1

In a previous life, Shiro was audience to a friendly rivalry between two members of his clan, the lean Stringbean and the rotund Eggplant. They requested a non-lethal battle in order to show Shiro who was greater in combat, Shiro allowed it.

The fight lasted 3 seconds.

The moment Stringbean charged, Shiro knew the battle was over. Eggplant weaved under the first katana swing, parried the counter swing with his own, throwing Stringbean off balance, before kicking his leg and slashing accurately between the armored joints of his skinnier opponent's protective gear, ending the fight quickly and efficiently in a wobbly blur of expert motion. Stringbean's sword resounded on the ground shortly followed by the thud of his own body. Eggplant resumed his previous slouch, bowed, apologized for his rudeness and returned to the cheering celebrations of his peers. 
Shiro was in awe rather than angry. Such unknown skill in his own ranks. Stringbean was allowed to live but forced the indignation of training under the tutelage of "Master Eggplant" when he recovered thereafter.

In the present, Shiro required a base of operations. Standing in his wake were the inhabitants of the bayou screeching and hollering as usual, no doubt calling to attention every guild guard in earshot. An excellent strategy; if the green ones meant to do it.
One could mistake the mindless chattering and clumsy demeanor to denote little combat experience in the gremlins but Shiro wasn't about to let this section of town slip from his hands and he made absolutely certain not to underestimate his foes. He ordered the Pathfinder to scout ahead and summoned his pet to side.

This fight won't be over in 3 seconds.

My first game on campaign road was a Squatters Rights game vs Gremlins then a second game of Reckoning right after, another faction I've been wanting to play more against.
This weeks weekly mission: After turn 2, players randomly place 4 Guild Guards down, at the end of any turn after the 2nd if there are no Guild Guards on the table, a Peacekeeper is placed in the center. Guild Guard give out 1 script, the Peacekeeper is worth 5 script but lets face it, other than an average damage spread from Lightning Bug's attack, neither of us were capable of taking down a 11Wd Armor +2 monstrosity without taking casualties in such a small game. So the pair of us avoided killing the last guard.

Toshiro was facing:
Lenny w/ I'll love it and pet it...
Slop Hauler
Burt Jebson
Lightning Bug

For an all-comers list, I liked my opponent's choices, Trixie for mobility and a ton of slap attack actions next to Lenny, almost everyone benefiting from Lenny's Rams aura as well as a small amount of summoning, the ever present Slop Hauler to heal everyone's Reckless and the offensive choices of Bug and Kurt Russell.

My List:
Toshiro w/ Command the Graves
Dawn Serpent
Shadow Effigy

My choices were more role-for-role, Komainu for his ability to tar-pit and pass out Slow, Pathfinder for Clockwork Trap disruption and sniper-esque attacks from range, Shadow Effigy for the ability to make scheme runners out of everyone and Dawn Serpent for being the greatest minion in the game (In my opinion). Toshiro ties everyone together passing out attack buffs, Fast and the very rare Focused, then summoning off of Dawn Serpent's targets. A neat little package that I desperately need to add some offensive power to in the near future.

For Squatter's Rights we were evenly matched, Lenny couldn't get any Piglet summons off but neither was Toshiro close enough to any markers. Pathfinder on the other hand was able to summon 2 Clockwork Traps but that didn't stop my opponent from laying down squat markers elsewhere. I won the game 9-7 ensuring Shiro was able to set up base in this part of Lambs Breath Nord.

For Reckoning, it was another story. We both played fairly cagey with the pair of us choosing Frame for Murder and Distract. It was a very close game but once Toshiro finished off Kurt Russell and Lenny Pig Missile'd Pathfinder (Both Frame for Murder participants) We both had the hard choice of Distract or Murder. With such a small game, it was either one or the other yet my opponent won out last turn when a summoned Komainu was unable to finish off his Slop Hauler thus getting distracted alongside an activated Toshiro and Dawn Serpent. Very well played. He won this game 7-6 but not without Lightning Bug taking an injury roll, the Gremlins proving just how distracting they can be whilst Shiro's crew were trying to evict them from his new grounds.

For my efforts, Toshiro now has Ml7 on his Katana strikes and Dawn Serpent is now immune to Slow and Paralyze, No doubt from hitting so many Gremlins around and having to duck and weave out of the way of thrown Piglets. With 5 Script taken from the dead Guild Guard's pockets, my crew is looking healthy with no injuries. Next week is going to be a slobberknocker!

The Campaign system is a great way to introduce another way to do a Slow Grow in my mind. Models increase in strength every game as well as saving Script for crew additions makes for games where sometimes you want to go for more script for later games rather than earning just one more Vp.

On the theory side of things; as with all Slow Grows, a small (or large) amount of summoning is a boon; especially when in this mode of play, models can take on severe injuries that can take them out of your arsenal completely (until re-bought). Having models that "don't exist" for the purposes of game play gives more of a reward to the risk of going up against a more killy crew.
Another thing that crossed my mind was list building itself. Assume for instance, I didn't hire Komainu and gave myself 5 Script on top of 5 Soulstones in my first game, knowing that the start of week two I can hire whoever I wanted with the 5 stone discount. It gives one more options but I felt it redundant when the first thing I would hire would be the Komainu for free anyway. 

I have my next model to think about. With 5 Script, I can afford any 10ss Ten Thunders model. I need more aggression that's for sure, The Daimyo can dish out hurt, the Pathfinder can take away a lot of wounds but no one is really completely focused on the act of murder. Tosh for one is moving into position to get his minions buffed and trying to summon or give out Fast and Pathfinder is just trying to stay alive.
With my latest purchase of Dark Debts, Illuminated appear to the best choice for a minion focused list. Other models for consideration include Kang, for his buffs to go alongside Toshiro's. Yin, the Penangalan for a more defensive model to guard Warring Turfs, Protecting Territories and generally getting in the way and Katanaka Sniper for some needed range in games where rushing into models is a bad idea.
Illuminated is likely to win this week though and it gives me spare Script leftover in order to save up for future purchases (Skills and Upgrades come to mind). Going to be fun trying to figure out how a violent junkie high on tyrant heroin is going to work with Shiro in a way that makes sense.

Enjoy my average fan-fiction and have fun out there.

Friday, 8 April 2016

A Tale of Souls and Swords, Eternally Retold

Apparently alone with nothing but a pocket of scrap and a Pathfinder (who obviously wasn't bothered being lead and accompanied by an un-dead feudal samurai) Shiro still felt the eyes of the Ten Thunders watching his every step. The Dragon and the strangely compliant Puppet riding on it's back flying high above him enforced his paranoia and were both no doubt keeping his betters updated on his whereabouts and goings on... Somehow.

No peace.

Paranoia notwithstanding, with so many successful missions, even with his accidental possession of the once head of the Katanaka Clan, Shiro (Toshiro always felt to formal) could respect the Ten Thunder's way of leadership. Shiro had first hand knowledge, he lead the same way, once.
Failure was met with harsh and all-too-often fatal retribution yet victory came with vast benefits.
Such as continuing to move and think un-aided was a good one he joked.

It took some adjustment and quick thinking but Shiro was 5% sure he was getting away with the act. If the Ten Thunders knew, they obviously found him more useful alive than dead.
Shiro looked upon his prosthetic torso and his Katana skillfully artificed to look more akin to a Bokuto and grimly smiled. Come rain, snow, magical hurricanes or what was now plain abusive heat, Shiro was going to find what it was he sought, not for the Ten Thunders but for for himself. It's not often Fate hands one a second life after all...

Welcome to Lambs Breath Nord! My first Shifting Loyalties campaign and something I'm very excited to play! It's always been a want of mine to create a narrative within the games I play but I always struggled with the implementation of doing so. Yeah I could spin a tale of the mighty Rasputina rushing towards the enemy ruins to demand a refund on the blender they sold to her but then when I get near-table wiped, it sort of ruins the story I was planning on telling.

The Silent One fell to her knees, the receipt for the blender fell from her hands and danced out of reach in the harsh wind.
"Unfortunately, we need a receipt to refund this item, please get in touch with our customer service hotline" said Leviticus.
All was lost.

Within the Shifting Loyalties rule set though, this isn't a problem and creates games where you have a past, a goal and great way to connect together all the random match-ups one gets when playing Malifaux. It also allows me to stretch out my average fan fiction muscles when I have little to go on when it comes to Malifaux fluff.

I decided on playing Ten Thunders with Toshiro, the Daimyo leading the first wave of games. His buff to minions and summoning plus giving me pseudo 3Ap in his (0) actions gave me more options than if I were to run Kang (too slow) or Ototo (just as slow). Alongside him I hired Dawn Serpent (because as a minion able to be buffed by Tosh, the Dragon is ridiculous); A Shadow Effigy for easy scheme running, a Komainu and a Pathfinder for more summoning and disruption. All minions, all the time. Giving myself no script (the campaign currency used to hire and to buy upgrades) first week might be bad but for such a solid Vp focused line-up, I was happy to earn it from scratch. Plenty of opportunity out there.

Follow me as Shiro sets foot into the idyllic town of Lambs Breath Nord in order to find the Black Soulstone to free himself from his Ten Thunder masters and be a free, un-dead man. I can already tell its going to be a lot of fun.

Create legend on the stage of history and have fun out there.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Season Review - Winter

Since the start of the year I've kept a record of all 50ss games I've played noting the Win/Loss, the strategy and whom I played with and against.
I would keep track of schemes chosen, Vp total, crew member selection frequency and how useful each model was to the game in question but keeping it simple seems to work better for me than updating an excel spreadsheet on the fly. Maybe someday I'll gain the ability to gather data like a BOSS and detail every Ap spent and Vp gained by every model I use but for now, I'll settle for a straightforward Win/Draw/Loss with X master.

Without further ado:

Most played Strategies:
- 1st Place - Reconnoiter - 5 Times

- 2nd Place - Squatter's Rights - 4 Times
- 3rd Place - Guard the Stash - 4 Times

Despite randomly flipping the strategy each game, my favorite strat came up 5 times in the course of 3 months, even Squatter's and Stash I find enjoyable. It's almost like telling the universe what I like playing pays off. Strange.

Most played Masters:  
- 1st Place - Rasputina - 12 Times

- 2nd Place - Mei Feng - 6 Times
- 3rd Place - Misaki - 3 Times

- Participation Award - Ironsides - Once

- Newcomer Award - Kaeris

Lady 'Tina is no surprise whatsoever this season, every game I play it's a case of really wanting to play another master but then Rasputina shows up and pushes everyone around with her Frozen Hearts getting up in everyone's faces. Ms Mei getting half of Raspy's total games is a given at this point but the Rail walker has shown me that she can rock the house just as well as Rasputina; favorites are favorites though so it'll be tough to gain the discipline of not auto-taking the Rasmus for every encounter; or going the other extreme and not taking Rasputina when I really should.
Misaki sneaked in for bronze due completely to the Growfaux leaving Ironsides with little more than a little flag saying "Everyone's A Winner!".
The last game of the month saw Kaeris wining her inaugural match and she shows a lot of promise. Not as killy as the Ice Queen, not as brutal as the Oybun Metal Worker but rather a master with a lot of ways to deal with any given situation. Watch this space.

Most games won:      
- 1st Place - 
Mei Feng - 4 games
- 2nd Place - Rasputina - 3 games
- 3rd Place - Misaki - 2 games

Mei Feng got in a trio of close game wins on the last day of the month hence her resurgence to the top of the leader board, facing Nicodem's mass summoning in non-recon/interference games will do that though (Hunting Party, hallowed be thy scheme, Coryphee Duet's will be done, on table, as it is in Malifaux). What this also means is so long as I don't play Feng simply to play her and choose my games carefully, she is a very good choice in good match-ups, dare I say, better than Rasputina. I'll be very interested to see how next the season plays out.Rassy only winning a quarter of her games is a little sad but when my local meta is full of champions of malifaux as mine is, you roll with the punches besides, if I had decided to use Rasputina for my final three games, I'm confident her score would have been better. Playing many games with experimental lists such as "Team Mega Buff" and the abysmal "Casting Gunline" and I should expect nothing less than a bad on-paper score.
Misaki fares better percentually (Is that a word? It is? Really? Nice) winning two-thirds of her games much like Mei but considering that Growfaux was all about trying out new masters and models, the results are a little skewed.

Masters played against by faction:
- Outcasts - 8 games
- Viktorias - 5 times; Jack Daw - Twice; Levi - Once
- Resurrectionists - 4 games       
- Nicodem - Twice; Yan Lo - Once; Seamus - Once

- Neverborn - 3 games
- Pandora - Once; 
Collodi - Once; Dreamer - Once
- Guild - 3 games
- Sonnia - Once; 
Lady Justice - Once; Perdita - Once
- Arcanists - 2 games      
- Rasputina - Twice

- Ten Thunders: - 2 games
- McCabe - Once; 
Mei Feng - Once
- Gremlins - 1 game
- Ulix - Once

Viktorias appear to be everyone's favorite right now in my experience, with many people either slaying with them or attempting the subtle chess game of early turn blitzkriegs. Viktorias might be top but the impression I get from many players is that they are one-trick-ponies, they either get the job done and get killed with ease; or fail to do anything and get killed with ease, which I sense frustrates more players than it intrigues. Otherwise a pretty even spread throughout. Some late games against Resurrectionists supercharged their faction to silver granting my wish to play more against them. Talking of which, I played against Yan Lo! Which got me very excited to play the old man once again. Maybe I'll pull him out of hibernation for a certain casual event starting in April.... 

Season total:- 23 games
- 9 Wins

- 1 Draw
- 13 Losses

So draws a close to this seasons games, with half of my games being lost I have to really buckle down and start taking my own advice. I'm slowly but surely getting to grips with what every master in the game does as well my own models strengths and weaknesses. Here's to closer games next season!

Continue to kick arse in a sportsmanlike fashion and have fun out there.

Monday, 28 March 2016

The Immitation of the Sow

The first official tournament I attended this year was Boarfaux, hosted by Warboar's Paradise Bar. A fantastic venue and only really cramp because of the 30+ people that attended thus contributing to their biggest Malifaux event to date. Terrain was set up wonderfully and the T.O was clear, concise and kept players up to date with amount of time remaining. Everything you want in a tournament, casual or official.

I finished in the top ten, which is rather strange because I lost 3 games out of four... oh oh wait, had the results upside-down... I actually placed 26th. A result I'm pleased with as the talent and sportsmanship of players that attended was magnificent to say the least. It also highlighted that I need more games against the Viks and to actually study their threat range but more on that later.

I opted for Arcanists and brought with me Mei Feng and Rasputina. As usual Absolute Zero Sabrina took most of the limelight but Rail Walk Rihanna got a closing game in and played very well despite the disadvantages. Only knowing the opponent's faction means that I had to take into account that almost anything could be on the opposite side of the table, so I took the all-rounder in my stable unless Arcanist or Guild were sitting across from me.

Game 1 - Rasputina Vs Dreamer - 4-2 Loss

Standard Deployment - Guard the Stash
Convict Labour, Show of Force (Mine), Leave your Mark (Opp), Search the Ruins (Mine), A Quick Murder (Opp)

Announcing Neverborn in my meta normally means Pandy, Lily or Collodi. Lynch being mainly played Thunders together with Zoraida and Lucius being panned for being sub-par or plain boring. Imagine my surprise when Dreamer hit the table.
I've played against Dreamer exactly zero times but I know his card well enough and about his particular summoning/healing mechanic. It didn't really help in the long run but at least I wasn't clueless. As it was my first game I took: 

Rasputina w/ Armor of December, Child of December and Cold Nights (6 cache)
Joss w/ Imbued Energies
Snowstorm w/ Imbued Energies
Wendigo, Arcane Effigy, 2x Hoarcat Pride, Ice Garmin.

With a flying  summoning Dreamer and armor ignoring Teddy across from me, I knew I had a tough match ahead of me. My general plan was to have Wendigo and Raspy throw out walls to slow the advance of models drawing closer to the stash markers, if I obtain 1Vp over my opponent then all I needed was full points on schemes and I was set. Rasputina easily took Teddy down but failed to do anything of consequence for the rest of the match whilst Joss tanked hits admirably. Attempting to do the same with a Hoarcat Pride and Wendigo on the other stash marker simply wasn't working. The late game saw two damaged, reactivating Stitched Togethers Gambling for life 8 times total absolutely ruining the rest of my forces and closing the game. I scored nothing for Stash and 2Vp for Show of Force to my opponent's 2 Stash Vp and 2 Quick Murder Vp. It was brutal but at least it was a close game.

Game 2 - Rasputina vs Viks - 7-3 Loss

Flank Deployment - Squatters Rights
Convict Labour (Mine), Hunting Party (Both), Exhaust their Forces, Set Up, Undercover Entourage (Opp)

*NOTE: Not my game
If Outcasts are named, it's normally Viks, Levi or Daw. Knowing what Viks are like in competitive play, I assumed the Sisters were coming to play but for whatever reason this didn't click in my head and I failed to give the Sub Zero upgrade to anyone. Taking five damage to the face is slightly more tolerable when it ends the activation, prevents  Whirlwind and leaves a master that spent the turn buffed to the teeth in the clutches of frosty death. Sadly, as I don't use the upgrade nearly as much as I realistically should, I opted instead for:

Rasputina w/ Armor of December, Child of December, December's Pawn, Decoy (6 Cache)
Snowstorm w/ Imbued Protection, Decoy
Blessed of December w/ Killswitch
Wendigo, 2x Hoarcat Pride, Ronin

In hindsight, ditching the cats and Imbued Protection for a pair of Silent One and Sub Zero would have proven better in the long run but I have a weakness for the felines, something I need to plan a use for rather than starting every ARC list with "Two Hoarcat Prides with...".
The game started well enough, the Viks were being cagey for the early game which didn't help me out as my models were behind blocking terrain on brown alert waiting for the
impending beatdown. Wendigo and Hoarcat Pride took early Squat markers but then I just couldn't catch a break. Turn two my opponent brazenly puts the Viks out into the open on the last activation so turn 3 came down to Rasputina destoying her or the Viks killing Snowstorm and Ronin then tying up Rasputina. Initiative comes and he flips a face card....Kay.
I struggled for the rest of the game, the Blessed, bless her heart, failed to place enough markers for Convict Labour so tried to zero in on the Malifaux Child, needing only one hit to kill him scoring at least one point for Hunting Party, first attack wiffs and the second misses the trigger leaving the Child with wounds to spare. My opponent takes this time to walk Vik of Ashes over to my deployment and then uses the Malifaux Child to heal up to full with a top-decked 7 of Rams into a Red Joker heal. Blessed gets killed revealing Killswitch finishing off the child and at least scoring something. Final results, I only got 2 Squatter's Vp due to my crew being murderized, 1Vp for Hunting Party to my opponent's 3Vp in Squatters, 1Vp in Hunting Party (surprisingly) and full points for Entourage.

Game 3 - Rasputina vs Viks - 7-4 Win

Standard Deployment - Headhunter
Convict Labour, Take Prisoner (Opp, Silent One), Leave your Mark (Mine), Neutralize the Leader (Both), Public Demonstration

Outcasts again and again suspected the Viks and AGAIN didn't think Sub Zero was a good idea. With how much fun I found Blessed in the new Gaining Grounds schemes, I thought she would have the task of either backfield shenanigans or at least pick up some discarded heads. My list was as follows:

Rasputina w/ Arcane Reservoir, Armor of December, Child of December
Blessed of December w/ Imbued Energies
The Firestarter, Snowstorm, Silent One, Hoarcat Pride, Wendigo

With how often the Viks fail to kill important targets in one swing (which I say is outright strange) some healing was in order and after the beating I took last game, I thought it prudent to at least give the Viks a means to get distracted by some terrain hopping firethrower guy alongside a spattering of Silent One healing. In that beloved hindsight, I could have taken almost ANYONE ELSE instead of a Hoarcat Pride and Wendigo as they did nothing this game. The game once again started cagey as I was hiding and my opponent was hiding whilst getting into range. Blessed leapt up the board to start leaving marks everywhere whilst I was hoping and failing to bait out one of the sisters with a tasty hoarcat. The reckless Firestarter jumped out, gave the Vik of Blood Burning +4 then dived back behind cover only to be reminded that Viks have like 60" threat range and was beaten to a pulp by Ashes. Next turn Blood wisely flanked the Hoarcats and went straight into Snowstorm who was hanging out playing cards with Silent One. With Arcane Reservoir  and some dead lucky top decking and soulstoning, Snowstorm survived only taking 4 wounds. Silent one attacked the Vik for weak damage and got off her healing trigger then healed SS 2 wounds bringing him back to full.

Rasputina then unloaded Frozen Hell into the melee and finished off Blood leaving S'torm and 'One on a single wound each; something my opponent said afterwards that he never expected me to do, which is why he was so brazen. Ashes seeing her chance, rushes in and kills Snowstorm forgetting that Storm explodes after death, damaging Ashes and killing off Silent One, heads falling everywhere like a pinata victory. Rasputina finishes the job and pushes to pick a head up. Thus after the upkeep of final turn head collection I scored 2vp for Headhunter, 2Vp for Leave your Mark, and full Vp for Newt Leader. My opponent scored 3Vp for Headhunter but only managing to score 1Vp for Neutralize.

Game 4 - Mei Feng vs Seamus - 9-6 Loss

Flank Deployment - Reconnoiter
Convict Labour, Hunting Party (Opp), Exhaust their Forces (Mine), Covert Breakthrough (Both), Occupy their Turf

Haven't had much experience vs Seamus either, but again his gun, teleporting and belle summoning are well known. I decided on Mei Feng if only because I wanted a game with her rather than choosing the right master. Mei Feng is well documented in being bad at summoning Recon but with Breakthrough and Exhaust on the table, I presumed I could at least get 6 points. The list:

Mei Feng w/ Seismic Claws, Imbued Energies, Imbued Protection (5 cache)
Blessed of December w/ Imbued Energies
Howard Langston w/ Imbued Energies
2x Fire Garmin, 2x Hoarcat Pride

I really need to find an alternative to the cats. Either way, the game was a great back-and-forth with every turn after the first being a chess game of activation control and Reconnoiter denial. I managed to deny my opponent the first recon point but failed to grab any myself and the rest of the game his models were either exactly where they needed to be or Slow Belles were summoned to walk over the thresholds. Whilst I did a great job at Exhausting and laying scheme markers down, so was my opponent in killing my Cats and Garmin and laying his own markers. I wouldn't ever call it a close game but it was a great end to a day of Malifaux goodness.

The day as a whole was incredibly enjoyable and facing new opponents and new masters is always welcome in my casual eyes. Dreamer is an absolute blast to play against and Seamus is such a tricky bugger that you never know where a game is going to take you when he's across the table from you. Facing the Viks twice in a row was harsh but it was a arse-kicking reminder that I should learn their threat ranges and (If playing the Rasmus) bring along Sub Zero when I'm facing Outcasts. I spent the majority of the early game activating and passing the turn because of the Viks reputation rather than what was actually on the board and that obviously doesn't help me win games.

Rasputina played a healthy game of Malifaux and I was glad to bring her along to her first tournament. I feel had I not been on brown alert all game against good Vik players, she would have easily brought me more victory points. Mei Feng, despite me dropping her AGAIN into a Recon game vs Summoning, completely smashed the scheme pool and if I had more knowledge of threat ranges, could have easily gone toe-to-toe with the Viks or at least Soulstone Prevention-Leapt Aside to score more Vp than I did.

More knowledge to bring to the next event. Keep aiming for the stars and have fun out there.