I'm mythicFOX a UK Malifaux Henchman, tournament regular, film nut, and all round geek.
Also the Malifaux devil, apparently.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Welcome to Malifaux 2016

The 2016 season has kicked off in earnest now, and I'm back from a couple of great tournament weekends. The Masters invitational weekend was fantastic fun. I was eliminated by the eventual winner on day one but bounced back to win the twenty-three player open tournament on day two.

I also took fifth at the thirty-four player tournament held at the Vapnartak show in York. Both of these results carry relevant scores from a Masters 2016 qualification point of view. So overall I'm pleased with my start to the year.

As I'm a couple of events into using the new 2016 schemes now I want to use this post to talk about the way we approach them as a community.

Traditional masters event evening meal
If you want to hear what I think of the specific schemes themselves and the wider GG16 document then I'm on the recent Schemes and Stones podcast to talking about that.  In summary though I think they're an overwhelmingly positive thing for the game.

I think there's a point to be made beyond the specifics of the schemes themselves though.  It's clear reading through the new schemes how these are fixed and improved versions of the ones in the main rule book.  It's important to note the distinction here.  In 2015 we got five new strategies to be used along side and as alternatives to the existing strategies.  In my view the new schemes we've just received for 2016 are a lot closer to an errata for the existing scheme pool and should wholly replace it in almost all forms of play going forward.

<cue screaming from some players>


Scandal as Ben's portion
is bigger than Craig's.
The problems of the old scheme pool were fairly evident,  Protect Territory and a number of other schemes were auto picks, and a number of others were never takes. So while there were technically a high number of combinations of schemes, in practice most scheme pools presented relatively few real choices.  Players were really required to play the same small selection of schemes by rote.

A good number of games and a couple of events in I'm comfortable saying the 2016 schemes produces far more pools with multiple genuine choices making for more interesting games.

It also nudges crew selection in a way that slightly rebalances the meta; summoners take a hit, as do models which are technically un-killable. There schemes focus the game closer to your deployment zone, making speed less of a factor.  All positive things in my opinion.

Some of last year's black Friday haul.
It's also important that the meta game (I.E. which choices are good) is shaken up from time to time.  Without new challenges and problems to solve games become dull and players drift away.  It's important we get the meta shaken up regularly. Changing the objectives round frequently achieves this.

Does this mean if we've been using a crutch for a long time we may need to find a different one? Yes.

Does this mean we'll need to pick up some new toys if we want to stay at the cutting edge of competitive play? Sure, though frankly most of us don't need much of an excuse.

That's all I really wanted to say on the subject, I'm sure others will disagree with me.

Finally I'd like to congratulate Graham 'Blu-Tac' Bursnell on winning the title of UK Master 2015.  He's a great person and a fantastic player. Very well done mate.

The new 2015 UK Master

First and last photos in this post taken by David Brown and posted to Facebook.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

How to become a champion

This weekend I'll be joining the other fifteen qualifying players at the Masters, one of the key events in the UK Malifaux calendar. This will draw a line under the 2015 competitive season, and crown the new UK master in the process.

Competitive play is once again in the spotlight, so I want to share a few thoughts on what I think we should be aiming for as players in 2016.

There's a common misconception that the purpose of competitive play is to determine who the best players are, while that's a thing it does, that's not it's purpose. The purpose of competitive play is to encourage more people to play more Malifaux.  This is the reason the rankings system heavily rewards continuous participation.

Competitive play encourages increased participation in a range of ways; creating opportunities to play, rewarding play, showing off (advertising) the game, and by creating champions for players to follow and emulate.

The men and women I'll be stepping into that room along side on Saturday morning have earned their places among the best players of 2015 and have nothing to prove. All of them are top players worthy of winning the title. That said it's important to understand that not every champion is in the masters, and not everyone in the masters is a champion.

In my years playing the game competitively I've met many people who aspire to stand shoulder to shoulder with champions of the game. Much like many people misunderstand the purpose of competitive play, many also misunderstand how to become the such a champion. They make the mistake of believing the way to do this is win more games, more events, and ultimately be highly ranked and qualify for masters. This line of thinking can be counter productive, and detrimental to both them and the game.

In trying to win more games players can look for short cuts, looking to push the boundaries of the rules and acceptable behaviour. They're drawn to play only the most powerful options, pressing the same buttons by rote, chasing a win rate over fun, this narrows their understanding of the game, making their play brittle in a changing meta.

Over time I've come to realize that you don't improve by trying to win more games, you improve by learning to be better, and there's a big difference between the two. To ascend to the point where you're successful on the table, and respected by your opponents off it, you need to be good at game and good for the game.

It's only by improving as a rounded participant in the hobby that a player can hope to gain both the game skill and the respect of their peers necessary to be called a champion.

When you look at the true champions of our game; Joel Henry, Mike Marshall, Greg Piskosz, and David Brown, these aren't the people winning the most games or events.  These are the people who win without bending rules, who are always fun to play against, and who go above and beyond for the community and hobby we all love.

That's not to say victory isn't sweet, playing to win isn't noble, or success shouldn't be rewarded. These are worthy things, but being a champion takes more than martial prowess. it takes statesmanship.

So no matter if we're inside or outside the masters this weekend, and regardless of where we each aim to be this time next year; let's all aspire to be both better at and better for Malifaux in the 2016 Season.

Let's all aim to be champions.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Not turning it up to 11

Envy: the double threat of Gatling-guns
and sinister organ music.
A short post about an idea that's come up a few times under various guises of late, so I thought it would be worth talking about it in more detail.  It connects to a common misconception around what makes a good Malifaux crew.

In most tabletop games you're confronted with a single objective to complete whilst also contesting the field with the enemy. A lot of games are even narrower, consisting solely of killing the enemy.

In the average game of Malifaux however you'll be confronted by a range of objectives you need to complete, whilst also combating the opponents crew.  The creates the need to  range of specialisms in each crew in order to complete each objective effectively.

If you're playing; Turf War, with the Breakthrough and Deliver the Message schemes you're going to need models with very different specialisms to complete the different objectives in front of you.

That is to say a good Malifaux crew needs to balance a range of roles to perform optimally.

This is where I see a common mistake made by a lot of players; they think that because their model/crew does something very well that doing more of it is automatically a good thing to do. In fact most things you can do rapidly peak in effectiveness, and pushing them further becomes highly resource intensive for a diminishing level of gain.

As an example;

A lot of times I see new players with Ramos encouraged to add a Mechanical Rider to the crew for more summoning. Ramos will already efficiently summon two Steam Arachnids a turn on average. Spending more soulstones to boost that by 0.8 models per turn doesn't achieve anything. If you can't win Reconnoiter while summoning 2 models/turn you aren't going to win it by summoning 2.8 models/turn.

Spending those stones in increasing other key areas of the crew; improving objective running and hitting power will be far more effective over the long haul.

I refer to this sort of approach as 'turning it up to 11', and it's bad practice.

A lot of the time the skill here becomes figuring out where you're investing into particular types of activity beyond it's peak in effectiveness. This is something that players learn with experience, but here are a few symptoms of this issue;

1) Spending more than 25ss on your masters core plus things which do the same key thing as your master.

2) Hiring a model just to copy / repeat the same action another model in the crew has.

3) Hiring more than two of any one model (or more three of if it costs 3ss or less).

4) Hiring models you're planning to summon copies of (unless needed to enable the summoning).

There are going to be times where the above things are appropriate, but if you find you're doing them most of the time, then maybe it's time for a rethink.

Anyway, that's my thought on that subject. I'm next in action at the Masters, where I'll be drinking tea and crashing out on day one.

EDIT: I penned (flailed into the keyboard) this post before recently recording with the Arcane Reservoir podcast, so you may hear me make some of the same points on there.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Frozen Pool: Post Mortem

A very quick post-event update from my last blog post; Frozen Pool.

I had a great time at the Troubleshooters event; winning Best Painted, and finishing top as Arcanist in sixth place, out of twenty-four players. Not bad considering 'Tina really doesn't like small games and pools.

All my opponents were great fun to play, and I don't think I've ever laughed as much during a game as did in my final round against Karl.

The venue, Battlefield Hobbies, has only been open a few weeks and is already comfortably the best I've been to in England.  If you get a chance to attend and event there I'd highly recommend it.

On the table the only game I lost was fairly unfavorable to begin with; Pandora in Turf War, with terrain, schemes, and corner deployment basically funneling my whole crew into her auras and pulses. That being said I did make a few errors and my opponent, newcomer Marcus, played very well. He's actually one of the most promising new players I've played in a long time.

Officially though I'm blaming that loss on some fiend stealing my tea before the round and replacing it with coffee, bleh. In other words I was basically poisoned.

Pool wise; The Soulstone Miner and a couple of upgrades probably should be replaced with two mole-men in future otherwise I'm fairly happy with it.

One key piece of feedback I did got on my pool ahead of the event was on the lack of December Acolytes. So I thought I'd address that quickly;

The Acolyte is a great model, significantly ahead of the power curve at it's cost.  The issue I had including it in my pool was firstly that Raspy is enough shooting for a 45ss list, adding much more is almost certainly too much. Secondly 7ss was a difficult amount to fit around the other models I wanted in the list.  Finally in all the situations where I felt I'd want the Acolyte for advanced deployment the Soulstone Miner does the same job for 1ss less.

Note here that I'm only talking about this list/pool.  Acolytes are generally speaking great. My point is this; it's not enough to be great, you must also fit into and serve a purpose in the pool/crew to make the cut. Cassandra is great, but she didn't make it into the list either.

I also wanted to say thanks to the several people came up to me at the event to tell me they enjoyed this blog, and my recent appearance on the Schemes and Stones podcast. Which was really nice of them.  It's great to know some of the things I give my time to the community for are appreciated.

I'll be back soon with some actual content, for now though I'll see y'all breach side. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Frozen Pool

Somewhat at the last minute I'll be scratching my tournament itch by attending the Troubleshooters event in Daventry next weekend.  The event is unusual as we will be playing 45ss games with a fixed master, hiring from a pool of 70ss.

I'll be playing the event with Rasputina, as she's the master I'm most practised with at the moment. Not the best choice for limited pool or small games, but it's better to play something you're practised with than pick up something you're rusty with.

I thought I'd write up a quick post to go through the pool of models I've selected to join her, and how I went about choosing these. Hopefully this will be useful playing in pool events.

Step One:  Pool Rules

First thing to get right are the rules. Most sets of rules for model pools are slightly different, so understanding how you need to build your pool is the first step to building it.  The rules for this event are as follows;
  • Pool needs to be 70ss, including upgrades.
  • You pay for each upgrade in your pool separately, so if I want to use two copies of imbued energies then I need to pay for two copies of the upgrade (2ss).
  • Models which are summoned don't come from your pool.
  • No running, no bombing, no heavy petting...

This makes any summoning, especially flexible summoning good.  Smaller games also favor summoners, so at this point I should change my mind and play Ramos, but I'm sticking to the plan.

It's also worth noting we have no info on Strategies and Schemes ahead of the event.

Step Two:  Core Crew

Given this is a fixed master event, and the pool size is lower than two complete crews we know that some models will probably wind up in every crew I play during the event. Most masters work with a fairly standard core of a crew and upgrades they'll normally take almost regardless of the objectives. So I'm going to start my pool by blocking that core out (blue in the list below)

As it's very easy to fill out a pool list full of great models, then find you can't combine them to make good crews my next step is to write a single generic 45ss list. This gives me a core I'd be happy playing in some, but not all situations;

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy new year

This is going to be obligatory end of year post.

Having taken a break from competitive Malifaux for around six months in the middle of the year, and with family commitments keeping me from playing in the nationals, I was pleased to hang on to my results and qualify for Masters on my own merits. My enthusiasm for the competitive game is back with a vengeance now though and I'm already scheming my approach to the 2016 season.  

The game is growing in the UK, which is good. While we're suffering the growing pains of any expanding game I'm please to see how well the community as a whole is handling it.  We've a lot to be proud of, but the price of safety is vigilance, and we need to be swift to handle any issues that do arise over the coming year.

My new year's resolution is to replace all the existing Malifaux metals in my case with their new plastic M2e versions by the end of the year (assuming the model's available in plastic). In addition to this, as ever, I'm looking to qualify for the 2016 UK Masters. This will probably mean finishing the year in the top 15 ranked players, a task I've achieved every year so far, but one made more difficult each year by our expanding scene and the rising quality of play.  That's a nice problem to have though.

I've not had the time I've wanted to blog this year.  So I'm going to have a bit of a rethink about what I use this space for.  I'm probably going to aim to just blog when I feel I've real content to add, not just for the sake of updating regularly. My regular hobby and general thoughts can be found on my twitter feed, if you seriously want to cyber-stalk me.

That said I do have couple of posts in mind, so watch this space. I think that's it from me for now though. So it just remains for me to wish you all happy new year, and I'll see you breach-side.

- mythicFOX

Friday, 9 October 2015

Snow in September II

Just a very quick odds and ends post to close out my Snow in September challenge, which is probably as well, given it's now over a week into October.

I've had a lot of fun painting up the crew, choosing to paint a Snow Storm rather than an Ice Golem at this stage. I also chose to use the M1.5 Wendigo over the M2e version, just because I like the little fellow;

My new Cult of December crew

A few weekends back, painted crew in hand, I made a run up to the North East for four rounds of ‘Faux in Middlesbrough.

I had a great time playing them on the day, they're quite different to the crews I normally use.  Had I not previously committed myself to using Rasputina in three of the four rounds I’m fairly confident I could have made the podium, as it is I finished seventh of twenty-four on two wins and two draws.

I’ve still a lot to learn about the Cult of December. I made a couple of key errors without which I could have won at least one if not both of my two draws. I definitely need more table time with them. That said I did complete my challenge, winning my third round game with the cult.

My cult crew also won me a VASSAL game which was uploaded to YouTube by my opponent, you can watch it here. (It's not in English but you can enable subtitles.)

Overall I'm starting to feel more competent at the table again, my instincts are coming back and my scheme selection has been much more on point recently.  I'll be getting some more practice in this weekend as I drive the team South to Norfolk tonight for the Malifolk event tomorrow.

Wish me luck,  I'll need it. :)