Having just been released to the general public I thought I would include my thoughts on the new scheme pool Gaining grounds 2016 has offered us.
Gaining Grounds I have not had much experience playing, due to most players having the base rule book and the exceptionally helpful Schemes and Strategy deck Wyrd released not having including them, it was easier and simpler to play base strategies than keep a webpage open for the GG strats.
That being said, Gaining Grounds did indeed take the default strats and make them better. Extraction is better Turf War, Interference is better Reconnoiter, Headhunter and Collect the Bounty are better versions of Reckoning and Guard the Stash is basically what your doing in Squatters Rights but with more tactical application. I hope to play more of them in the future but alas the above reasons still exist.
What caught my eye the most though was the new scheme pool and by the holey britches of Zoraida, the base schemes needed re-tailoring and from what I've seen, GG16's look pretty damn good.
First things first, taking away the 5 common schemes and replacing them with Bizarro Protect Territtory (Convict Labor), Improved Distract (Exhust their forces), Non-Master Make Them Suffer (Hunting Party), Tactical Breakthrough (Leave your Mark) and my absolute favorite because it actually forces both players to build a list around it, Upgrade Utopia (Show of Force). None of these are auto-includes in my eyes which greatly interests me as whenever Breakthrough-Protect Terri were on the table, EVERYONE chooses and reveals them. All five are fun and have their own place as strong and weak for different factions and masters. It's not easy for Rasputina to place a marker down on the enemy half of the table every turn, but for Misaki or Collette, its so so easy. Cutting LITS completely means it's no longer there for the few masters who can actually do it or (by my own fault and admission) a trap scheme when you can't do 3 of the 4 others. Replacing it with Convict Labor means Recon/Interference bubble of no-score has a purpose and can make for some really exciting choices.
The other new feature is that all schemes now are un-revealed until you score from them which is fantastic. Voiding bonus points and actually making you work for Entourage or Breakthrough is magnificent and makes for a greater range of guessing and subterfuge that Malifaux was sold on but never really had because why gimp yourself on points doing a "hidden" breakthrough when it was obvious you were doing so and revealing it is and always has been the correct choice? Making it so "Johnny 3ap" turn 5 can't lay a scheme marker-move-lay a scheme marker anymore means having actual risk when trying for it. Yes some model choices will still score it amazingly easy as they always have but at least keeping them to 2 markers rather than 1 is doable.
Having the schemes hidden and some of them remarkably similar also continues the bluffing game. What the heck is the opponent trying having so many minions near your master? Are they there for Take Prisoner? Frame for Murder? Neutralize the Leader? Set Up? Mark for Death maybe? It has to be Public Demonstration then surely? or is is all a ruse so that MUCH EASIER OUTFLANK (Inspection) can be scored? Or, oh it might be Occupy their Turf?
Having so many schemes look sinister-ly like themselves might sound convoluted but to me, it looks to be magic. Something as pointless as placing a scheme marker down can now be seen as a threat in the right scheme pool.
So much hype. But is there a downside?
The negatives to an un-revealed scheme pool are small, the excitement of actually being able to bluff a scheme in order to ensure another is something I've been looking forward to but at the same time, it's easy to look at all the interact schemes and marker schemes always being together but sod's law will occasionally have the pool being very distinct and thus the element of surprise is lost. "Neutralize the Leader" in particular basically gives the middle finger to Leviticus who will simply give the opponent 3Vp if played in that scenario, making fixed master events plain silly if you are a Levi or Dreamer player and "Set Up" being the scheme of choice almost every time for Arcanist players. Also, whilst I see it as a good thing; with greater focus on the schemes affecting crew builds sometimes being too much for a single master, players with a range of masters they play well with are going to have a better scope of winning than new players who only have one or two, which has a slim chance of dividing the player base somewhat...
Time will tell, but overall I feel these new schemes will bring about a LOT more focus on building your crew for the schemes. So many games nowadays have players safely running an all-comers list that swap out Scheme-y Runner-y for Punch your Face-y because the main four are just too easy to do for every faction. The scheme pool now has a much greater hand in making smart crew choices and leaving some masters on the shelve for some games. This might mean players with more masters have the upper hand but that will have to be seen. As the game was always intended to be this way, it should come as no surprise that more masters means more avenues of victory.
Keep your models and masters fresh and have fun out there.