"Hamelin is broken".
This statement has been repeated so often that it has become a "fact "in the Malifaux community, to the point where many players have admitted being reluctant to buy a Hamelin crew because of the negative reaction they would get from their gaming group. The term NPE is used fairly liberally on the Wyrd forum to describe playing against him, which for the uninitiated means "Negative Play Experience".
I've played against Hamelin quite a few times in the last year or so and until yesterday I disagreed with the prevailing opinion. I played once against former tournament-regular "MagicPockets", which was an incredibly tight game where my Pandora gave Hamelin a real run for his money. Several times I've played against local player Serigala, also usually resulting in very close matchups. And more recently I've played against club-mate James, who's relatively new to Malifaux and using Hamelin (his only master) to great effect.
Normally I enjoy playing against Hamelin. He's always a challenging master to face, and I like to test myself. I figure the only way to improve as a player is to put yourself through challenging situations. On the whole, my record against him has been middling. I've probably lost more than I've won, but when I've lost I haven't felt demoralised, because it's either been a close fight, or I've made a mistake that led directly to my loss.
Yesterday night I played a 35ss game against James, and for the first time I came away fully understanding what people mean when they say NPE.
Let's set the scene:
Strategy: Shared A Line in the Sand
My crew: Dreamer, Chompy, 2 Daydreams, Lelu, Lilitu, Tuco, Coppelius, 6 soulstones
Assassinate Hamelin, Stake a Claim
James' crew: Hamelin, Nix, 2 Ratcatchers, 7 Rats
Bodyguard Hamelin, Eye for an Eye.
Notes on crew selection:
1) My thinking was this - the only way I was going to win the game was to take out Hamelin. Go straight for the jugular. If Hamelin stayed alive, there would be too many significant models for me to conrest the dynamite. James almost always chooses Bodyguard, so by taking Assassinate I'd be 4VPs up just for killing Hamelin once. Due to the way his resurrection works, you place a *new* Hamelin on the table at the end of the turn he's killed (if you have a Stolen), so the you get points for assassinating the original Hamelin model, and likewise the *original* Hamelin model isn't still on the table at the end for Bodyguard. I planned to drop Chompy, Copellius and Lelu onto Hamelin, take him out quickly, and then work on the rat catchers before finishing off the insignificant rats.
2) Note that James (in his inexperience) chose Eye for an Eye without realising that it was a bad scheme for Hamelin to take, due to the proliferation of rats, and he didn't end up achieving it, so he set himself up with a 2VP handicap from the start.
3) Note that I'd taken a master usually considered one of the most powerful in the game. Along with the twins (considered to be among the most powerful minions) and Tuco (considered to be almost an auto-take in many Neverborn crews these days due to him being off-the-scales good for his cost). My crew was a *powerful powerful crew* on paper.
Notes on the game:
1) I executed my plan perfectly. While the Dreamer waited in a safe position, Tuco stepped up and killed the Stolen that Hamelin had summoned on Turn 1. Tuco is a pain in the ass and a great distraction, so as expected James expended some considerable effort to killing him, including burning *ALL* of his high cards.
2) James had only the Black Joker and a 3 in his hand for two turns, because I refrained from cheating. Meanwhile, I spent 3 turns trying to sculpt a nice hand ready for when I would strike with everything.
3) In killing Tuco with the rats, we discovered that the Black Blood ability HELPS the rats, because every time they wound him, they take a Wound in return, and return as FRESH rats to attack him again. And again. And again.
4) I dropped Lelu near the second Stolen, who ran out of his reach.
5) I launched Chompy in on turn 3, with a decent hand and two AP. Coppelius also landed, and Lelu was positioned to kill the second Stolen.
6) Knowing that even with the Stolen, I'd still be able to score for Assassinate (and deprive Bodyguard) I attacked with Chompy. The first attack did 5 damage. On the second attack I flipped the black joker and did no more.
7) Hamelin retaliated and managed to flip a lucky Red Joker on the damage flip. Chompy died in a single hit. Hamelin used his remaining AP to put a big dent in Coppelius
8) Coppelius then paralyzed Hamelin.
9) The rats attacked Coppelius. They had to take Terrifying -> 13 tests each time, but Coppelius has an ability which causes 3 Wounds every time a model loses a Morale duel. Much like Tuco, causing the rats to flee actually *helped* them reposition, as every time one failed the Terrifying check it died, respawned (Hamelin's aura still being effective while paralyzed) and just tried again. And again. And again. Coppelius died.
10) Lelu and Lilitu (who also had Black Blood) and the Dreamer, then died as the Rat Catchers used "Kill All Rats" to get another 14-20 activations out of the vermin.
I was completely tabled in Turn 3. I'd managed to kill a rat early on (by luring it towards me before killing it), but James still finished with around 7 more rats than he started with, and no casualties. Hamelin had 1 wound remaining.
I'd launched an attack at Hamelin that what was probably only a 50/50 chance of success, but it had completely bounced off, and my entire crew was then dead by the end of that same turn.
I feel as though there was nothing I could have done differently.
I should say that this isn't a rant against James, who I have no issue with. He used the only master and crew he has available to him. Until yesterday I was only half-heartedly behind the campaign to get Hamelin nerfed, because I enjoyed playing against him nevertheless.
I don't think I will enjoy playing against Hamelin in future.
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