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.