Thursday, 31 March 2011

011 - Battle Report x2 - Pandora vs Ramos/Kirai

I've had a couple of games in the last few weeks that I've not mentioned, one against Ramos and a second game against Kirai. In both cases I played Pandora.

My game against Kieran (Ramos) was the first outing for my panda Teddy, and unfortunately he didn't last long. Teddy and the Steamborg Executioner spent the first couple of turns warily eyeing each other up across the table, until I made the mistake of getting too close with Candy. The Steamborg charged her, used a trigger to throw her out of the way, and then got a second charge off against Teddy! I really underestimated his ability to get up close quickly, and he managed to shred Teddy into small pieces of fluff and stuffing within the space of a single activation, before Teddy'd had chance to eat a single enemy. Pandora was not happy about that one bit, and projected Self Loathing to force the Steamborg to slice off all his own legs (coming to the realisation that he was a massive freak of nature no doubt!).

The rest of the game was spent fending off exploding Arachnids while Ramos led from the rear. Eventually I'd thinned their ranks enough to go after the Arcanist leader, but by that point it was just Master vs Master. Pandora forced Ramos to flee with a crafty trigger, at which point the sixth turn ended and I was sadly denied the chance to pursue and finish him off. The victory points showed a level draw which I was happy with, as it had been close fought throughout.

The second game against Paul's Kirai crew leaves me with mixed feelings. Although I won decisively, with a final score of 7-1, it wasn't a particularly satisfying victory as I didn't do much of the work myself. I believe Paul may have upset his Puppet Deck somehow, because it decided this game was a great opportunity to royally screw him over and, to be honest, he didn't stand a chance.

In his defense, having more Kirai experience than the last guy that fielded them against me, Paul pulled some surprising and powerful tricks out of the bag. I was particularly upset when I sent an Onryo fleeing, only for Kirai to sacrifice it and resummon it right back where it had been standing! She also managed to infiltrate a friendly looking Seishin close to my lines and then switch it with Datsu-Ba who proceeded to flail around with her skinning knife to damage 4 models at once!

However with the cards against him this wasn't enough. For three turns out of the five we played, he didn't pick up a single card higher than a 5 in his control hand. Unable to cheat effectively, he couldn't do anything except look on in despair as I picked apart his crew with Willpower duels. My Stitched-Together, taking the field for the first time and without Paul able to cheat against him, managed to Gamble his life against a Gaki, the Datsu-Ba, and the Ikiryo, killing all 3, and earning himself model of the match for me. I'll definitely be bringing him again next time!

In the end, I hadn't lost a single model, and Kirai was left on her own, using Uncontrolled Crying and feeling quite Pitiful.

"I know how she feels" quipped Paul.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

010 - The Aethervox Ep2 Review

The Aethervox is mentioned in one of the game source books in a small piece of fluff text, which describes it as Malifaux's answer to radio, although with the caveat that listening to it carries a high risk of causing insanity brought about through subliminal messages seeping through from an unknown malevolent entity. I've not been driven mad just yet (although I imagine they all say that...!), despite the fact that I downloaded the latest edition of the Malifaux podcast named "The Aethervox" a couple of days ago and I've been listening to it in chunks on my way to and from work this week.

I have to say it's brilliantly done, and if you haven't checked it out already and would like to (and why wouldn't you?) you can find the link in my Blogroll to the right.

The creators, Ian Travis and Julian Smith, are a couple of Brits currently living in Canada and they're relative newcomers to Malifaux, describing themselves more as "enthusiasts" than experts. Just like me then! I immediately felt right at home listening to their discussions, and enjoyed the self-deprecatory humour sprinkled throughout.

This second installment is twice as long as the debut episode and packed full of interesting features. I enjoyed Ian's evocative reading of some new fiction, in which the tale of Mr Magpie's Circus is expanded. The characters that Julian has written about are very interesting, and would make an ideal and distinctive Malifaux crew if Wyrd were looking for ideas. I found the double hat-wearing Siamese twin henchman to be an inspired piece of characterisation and I look forward to hearing more fiction in future podcasts. Who knows, maybe we'll find out what makes this pair so dangerous!?

My thanks go to the guys for introducing me to Tom Waits' music, in particular the Alice album, which I love. I've always been partial to anything connected to Lewis Carroll but somehow this had passed me by, and as Julian explains, it's a perfect fit for the Neverborn too! I'm curious to see whether this Malifaux Media segment can be kept up in the future, as I think it might be challenging to come up with a book, album and film every month. I hope they manage to continue it though, as this was my favourite segment of the podcast. The Women in Malifaux section was an entertaining summary of an interesting thread on the Wyrd forums, including some painfully true observations.

The Doppelgänger feature is a nice idea, full of cool alternative models to use as Steampunk Abominations and Desolation Engines. Not much use to me this time though I'm afraid; I don't think I'm the only person who'd be grateful for some alternative Rotten Belle sculpts (hint, hint!). This segment really needs to be listened to in conjunction with looking at pictures, and kudos to the guys, links to the models appeared on the Aethervox site after a day or so.

While on the subject of pictures, I think it'd be cool to see more pictures on the blog overall. Pictures of the crews and terrain used in the game report, especially the amazing sounding "rainbow gay pride gaming table" would add some extra flavour and let the listener really feel a part of things.

The meat of the podcast was finished off by interviewing Rathnard from the forums, who gave an exhaustive analysis of Zoraida tactics, as well as providing some ideas for players who have to face against this most tricksy of masters. I don't play Zoraida myself, but a friend at the Night Owls does, and I can see him making good use of some of the suggestions Rathnard makes. I felt that the discussion over Zoraida's tactics was pitched perfectly difficulty wise. Where some of the tactical discussion in the previous podcast was a little basic, this time I was able to keep up (as a relative newbie), without feeling like I already knew everything that was being said.

All in all, an excellent piece of work and and further improvement on the already high quality Episode 1. I highly recommend this podcast to every Malifaux player out there, and hope Ian and Julian have many more for us to enjoy.


Monday, 14 March 2011

009 - The Maths of Malifaux

The average gamer is very used to rolling dice. I would even say that most gamers develop a gut instinct for the mathematics behind the action, even if they don't view it as actually "doing maths". Forgiving the GW references, but we know that a 4+ save gives our models a 50% chance of surviving, we can feel how much better a Space Marine is at shooting than an Imperial Guardsman (2/3 vs 1/2), and we can usually quickly assess the likely result of throwing as many as 10-20 dice at a time.

By replacing dice for cards though, Malifaux puts us on the wrong foot, and it can be difficult for people to get their heads around the probabilities involved. It doesn't help that card mathematics are more complicated than dice. I'm not saying you need to be a maths genius (in fact I won't be using any techniques in this post beyond what you'll find in the average GCSE course), but it would take a very fast brain (or Rain Man!) to be able to crunch the numbers at the tabletop.

In this post I'll be:
a) Briefly explaining the maths behind the basic flips
b) Working out the probabilities of common flips and giving you the results
c) Drawing some conclusions to help build some strategies

Maths and Fate
The basic principles of card maths are easy. There are 54 cards in a Fate Deck, including Jokers, so you have a 1/54 (1.8%) chance of flipping any particular card. There are 13 cards of each suit, so if you're aiming for a trigger, your probability of flipping a specific suit is 14/54, or 25.9% (since the Red Joker can also be used as any suit you choose). If you need to flip, say, a 10 or higher to beat a duel total, your probability of success is 17/54 (31.5%). If you want both a 10+ and a specific suit, your chances plummet to 5/54 (9.3%). The general rule is that you count how many cards in the deck give you the required result, and then divide by the total number of cards, to give you the probability of success.

So far so good, hope you haven't zoned out just yet! The complication arises when you flip multiple cards together. In Malifaux, a positive flip means you flip 2 cards and take the highest. For a negative flip, you flip 2 cards and are forced to take the lowest. There are even situations where you can must make double, or even triple, positive or negative flips. If any of the flipped cards is a Joker, it wins out over the other cards, and Black Joker always takes precedence over Red Joker if you flip both.

All these rules when taken together make for some intricate combinatorics to work out the probabilities. As an example, the probability of flipping 11+ on a single negative flip is 8.2%. Any combination of two 11s, 12s or 13s works (there are 132 combinations) and any card except Black Joker, when paired with Red Joker, will also be enough to pass the duel (another 104 combinations). This means 236 out of 2862 total possible 2-card pairings will yield 10+, giving the probability 8.2%.

Bringing it all together - The Results
Hopefully I didn't leave too many people behind there! Being the maths geek that I am, I've done the heavy lifting for you and put the results into a handy reference table. Simply look for your required score in the left column (don't forget to subtract any contributing Statistic value first!) and find the probability of achieving your target score.

The below tables also summarise how much effect a positive or negative flip will have, compared to just a straight flip.

As you may have noticed, some interesting points can be drawn from the tables
  1. Bear in mind that these are pure numbers from a shuffled deck and should be used as guidelines. The actual probabilities mid-game will also depend on what cards have already been flipped, and those in your control hand.
  2. You may not have realised but most of the time, a double postive flip is not twice as good as a single positive flip, and the same for negatives. If your target number is high, an extra positive flip is going to almost double your changes of success, but for low/mid-range targets, it's effect is almost negligible! For negative flips the opposite is true, that is, if your target number is high, a single negative flip will really ruin your day, whereas a double negative is pretty much no worse.
  3. If you desperately need the Red Joker to come out (scores 14), and nothing else will do, it's actually a good tactic for you to cheat down to a negative flip to increase your chance of finding it. This is rather unintuitive!
  4. Likewise, flipping extra positive cards when you don't need to (if the duel is going to be really easy) only increases your chance of finding the Black Joker. Don't do it!
  5. Hard to Wound models will get hit by Red Joker far more often than models without that trait. They'll also suffer more Black Jokers in the long run, but that's no consolation on the occasion when Teddy gets one-shotted by a Red Joker when your opponent is flipping a double negative for damage!
  6. If you're up against Hard to Wound 1, a possible tactic is cheating your duel down to give you an extra negative card. This increases your chance to flip Severe damage, but decreases your chance of inflicting Moderate. Since you're already likely to do Weak damage, it's a gamble that might pay off occasionally!
I hope all this was interesting or useful! If you have any ideas for other ways to use the numbers I've presented here I'd be glad to hear them, and any feedback at all is very welcome!

Until next time, may your flips always be high!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

008 - If You Go Down in the Woods Today...

"If you go down in the woods today,
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go down in the woods today,
You'd better go in disguise.

Today's the day that Teddy will bite your face off"

The latest addition to my Neverborn crew, Teddy was a lot of fun to paint. There isn't a lot of detail on the model, and I kept it very simple. He's painted as a panda to match the teddy carried by his best buddy Baby Kade.

I didn't like the "care-bear" heart shaped spot on his chest, so that was filled in with Green Stuff and sculpted to blend into his fur.

Another lovely model, I have a feeling this guy is going to be a permanent feature on Pandora's team!

Friday, 4 March 2011

007 - Battle Report - Pandora vs Kirai

This week's game was against Ade, another Night Owls regular and another Neverborn-phile. A man after my own heart, Ade has collected all of the Neverborn masters from the original book, and the Dreamer is next on his shopping list! Therefore I was surprised when he decided to bench his Neverborn crews in favour of his new Kirai crew. It did make sense though, in that we couldn't think of any reason why Pandora would be fighting against Zoraida or Lilith fluff-wise, and a fluffy game is always more fun!

You'll have to excuse the fact that we're playing on bare tables with the minimum of terrain. The Yorkshire Open Tournament 40k Heats were taking place downstairs, and they'd nabbed most of the club scenery!

Me: Pandora, Candy, Baby Kade, 3 Sorrows, Teddy (Ade kindly lent me his model to test him out)
Ade: Kirai, Lost Love, Datsue-Ba, Shikome, Gaki, 5 Seishin

Strategies: Shared Reconnoiter - We both would gain victory points for table quarters occupied at the end of the game

Turn 1
My forces deployed in a line, and Kirai's crew deploys in a loose mob formation on the right hand side. Winning the initiative, Kirai gives up some of her own Wds to summon Ikiryo and a second Gaki. The Sorrows link up to Pandora and Candy to form their human shields. The Ikiryo advances and uses (0)Call Spirits, which means that pretty much all of Ade's crew can advance 4" forwards. The Shikome advances on my right hand side, with one of Pandora's linked Sorrows as its target. The photos here are all end-of-turn views of the game.

Turn 2
Again winning the initiative flip, Ade activates the Ikiryo, who charges Kade. Thankfully he defends himself against the strike, which would have been nasty because Ade had flipped the Ikiryo's trigger to give her ++ on the damage. Kade isn't so lucky the second time though, and suffers 2 Wds from her next strike. Teddy isn't too pleased with this spirit beating on his little friend, so he uses (2)Flurry, discarding a low control card and mashing the Ikiryo into a pulp with his claws. Both Kirai's spell casting attempts fail, so she begins (0)Uncontrolled Crying (an overreaction if you ask me!). Pandora, seeing the threat to her pet Sorrow from the incoming Shikome, casts Self Loathing on it, cheating with a crow to get her Mental Anguish trigger off, which sends it fleeing to the table edge before clawing itself to death. (We weren't sure whether the spell effect still takes place after fleeing, can anyone clarify?). Baby Kade, seeing the oncoming pair of Gaki, and not wanting to be snacked on next turn, makes a break for it, switching over to hide near Pandora.

Turn 3
The Datsue-Ba casts (0)Denial of Sanzu on Teddy, stopping him from making any movement actions. For a melee beast such as the Ted-ster, this basically shuts him down for the whole turn. Pandora spends her activation using Incite on several models, inflicting a Wd here and there, followed by a couple of failed casts (Dementia on Kirai is shifted onto one of her nearby Seishin minions). One of the Gaki then runs up and, rather impertinently, eats one of the Sorrows right in front of Pandora, healing itself to full in the process! This is somewhat of a suicide mission though and, exposed as it now is, Candy forces the Gaki to eat itself using (1)Self Loathing. Kade advances towards Kirai, intending to attack her next turn, but Ade casts (0)In the Spirit World which teleports her 18 inches away and safely next to her Lost Love. She then summons an Onryo. It seems that whenever I put one of Ade's crew down, another pops up in its place!

Turn 4
Freed from his anti-movement curse, Teddy wades into the mass of enemy models and makes mincemeat of Lost Love. Next, fancying herself a nice new furry coat, the Datsue-Ba goes to work on Teddy with her skinning knife, inflicting a few Wds but not enough to take him down. Pandora fluffs her Incite flip, meaning she is unable to do much damage this turn, but Kade kills the Seishin that had been left behind when Kirai scarpered last turn. Then, in the most insultingly hilarious move of the whole game, the surviving Gaki uses (1) Absorb on Teddy, swallowing him whole for a light snack! If there was anything I was not expecting to see this game, that was it!

Turn 5
Kirai heals herself, and then resummons Ikiryo, who speeds off to hunt down Kade and finish him off. Kade is unable to defend himself against its Razor Sharp Fingernails, and gets shredded. Next, Pandora attempts to cast a spell on Kirai. First she has to flip to get through Kirai's Pitiful ability, and the resulting WP duel causes Ade's master to flee due to another Mental Anguish trigger. I'm now starting to realise the sheer power of this trigger! Not content with that, Pandora also avenges Teddy by killing the remaining Gaki, and causes 2 Wds on the Ikiryo. The Datsue-Ba casts (1)Weigh Sins on a Sorrow, flipping severe damage, and replacing it with a new Gaki right next to Candy, just when I thought I was rid of the damn things! Candy promptly poisons it with (1)Sours, and it attempts to eat her but fails, causing only light damage.

Turn 6
Potentially the last turn in the game, we both knew that it was make or break time as far as the Strategy (and the victory) was concerned. With that in mind, Ade uses a Soulstone to reflip to make sure he gets the initiative, but his Gaki is still unable to kill Candy. I want to give Candy the "Activation of the Match" award for what she did next. (0)Incite on Gaki, dead. Move. (0)Incite on Onryo, dead. Move. (1)Self Loathing on Ikiryo, dead. You go girl!! The Datsue-Ba tries twice to repeat her Gaki-summoning trick from last turn, but is unsuccessful, and is forced to slit her own throat by Pandora, who then picks off 2 Seishin before pushing into one of the empty table quarters. Flipping to see if the game continues for a 7th turn, Ade flips a 5 which means the game ends.

Pandora and Candy both claim a quarter, and Kirai claims another, but there are no other survivors, so the game goes to the Neverborn 2-1.

Lessons Learned
  • I had a lot of fun playing Ade, and as a fellow Neverborn-aholic, he certainly knows his stuff.
  • Using strategies for the first time added an extra layer to the game, as table quarters had to be borne in the back of my mind throughout. With Reconnoiter though, it was surprising how much of the result rested wholly on the actions of the last couple of activated models. I think this was due to the game being so close fought that neither of us had much left at the end to claim quarters. If Datsue-Ba had managed to summon that Gaki, or had survived Pandora's final attacks, the result would have been different.
  • I liked the Kirai crew's mechanics and they were fun to play against. I think we mis-played the rules for Spirit a couple of times in that sometimes we forgot to halve their incoming damage, but in balance, we also allowed the Spirits to attack through terrain (believing their special move through terrain abilities meant they could also see through obstructions) which with hindsight I think was incorrect.
  • A couple of times when Ade activated his first model (after winning initiative), it was the same model that activated last in the previous turn. This created the illusion of massive speed, which took me completely by surprise, and is a tactic I may consider using in the future.
  • Teddy is a combat monster - but who didn't know that already?
  • I was more restrained in moving Pandora about this time, and it paid off. She never got stranded and (I think) never even got attacked!
  • Mental Anguish is very painful for your opponents. I almost felt bad using it on Kirai the second time! It did it's job though of taking her out of use for a full turn.
You may be happy to learn that, now that I'm more comfortable with the rules, I've decided that future battle reports are going to be a bit more summarised than the last 2 epics!

In my next post, I'm going to be doing a bit of mathematics for your viewing pleasure, and looking at the probabilities of certain card flips and how we can use these numbers to our advantage.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

006 - Madame Sybelle WIP

Just a quick work in progress shot of Madame Sybelle, to show what I'm going for on my Resurrectionist bases. My thanks go out to Ratty on the Wyrd forums for the inspiration to try something a little bit more demanding than what I'd usually do.