At the end of last year, Wyrd launched an official Malifaux module for Vassal, enabling everybody to play online games of Malifaux in their underpants from the comfort of their computer chair. Naturally, enthusiasm for this new way of playing the game is high, and organising a game of Malifaux is now as easy as popping onto Twitter and requesting somebody to join you in a Skype call. No need to drive to the local club or further away, and no pesky models required!
Last week I got my first look at the new toy that everybody is raving about and I have to say I'm impressed. I spectated in a game first to get the hang of what all the buttons do, and a couple of evenings later got a chance to try it out myself.
Following my game, here's the pros and cons of Vassal-faux as I see them:
a) No models required
This manifests in several ways. You can now test out new additions for your existing crews without having to buy the models first, and decide whether you really need them or not. You can try out a completely new crew every game if you like, making Vassal an ideal toybox to play about in. If you're not big on the hobby side of the game, you can even play without needing to paint a single figure.
b) Battle report friendly
Vassal allows you to save screenshots of the battlefield, making reporting on the battle afterwards so much easier. I took screenshots at the end of each turn in my game, and you'll find a short summary of the game, largely in picture form, at the end of this post. I realise you could do the same thing with a real game using a camera, but it's not nearly as easy, or as clear for the reader to follow.
Need to go to tend to an emergency? No problem! Save the game and continue another time once disaster has been averted.
Possibly the biggest pro, is that with Vassal you're not limited to playing the same bunch of local players, but can instead challenge people anywhere in the world. Yes that's right! All that international trash-talk from both sides of the pond now has an outlet!
a) No models required
Yes, this is also down as a pro, but to me, playing Malifaux (or any wargame) without figures seems a pointless endeavour. A large part of my enjoyment of the game comes from seeing scenes and conflicts playing out in front of me, and small circles with names written on them does not have the same appeal as fully painted crews on evocative terrain.
Viewing the game in 2D form takes away the players' natural ability to judge distance, potentially penalising some actions. On the flip side, there's no way of preventing your opponent pre-measuring anything they like by putting a ruler up against the screen.
c) Too many windows
With separate windows for the game board, the two fate decks, the side board and the chat window, the screen can get very cluttered. If you have two monitors you'll be fine, but for the rest of us that don't you either have to keep clicking between the various windows, or set up your screen in such a way that things are zoomed out and you can squeeze everything on. I managed the squeeze, but was frustrated to find that the configuation settings would not remember my set-up and that I'd have to resize everything afresh every time I used the program
Battle Report -Shared Supply Wagon
Me - Perdita, Nino, Santiago, Francisco, Guardian, Austringer (Stake a Claim, Assassinate)
Adam - Lady Justice + Avatar, Executioner, 3 Guild Riflemen, 5 Guild Hounds (Stake a Claim, Breakthrough)
Adam's plan was clearly to group up the dogs and run them all into my deployment zone to ensure they were significant and claim his two schemes. I figured that Justice would have to come at me, and that with concentrated effort I could take her down easily enough. My stake a claim was the cactus in the centre, close to where the Supply Wagons would both be ending up. Santiago and the accompanying Guardian had escort duties, and I was trying the Guardian for the first time after reading that they could be an effective pairing.
The pictures below show the position at the end of each turn.
My Austringer took up position hiding in my building, and Francisco moved to cover the right flank from the approaching dogs. Everything else shuffled forwards.
I advanced Santiago and the Guardian, but in my inexperience missed out on switching on the +Armour buff. Lady Justice dived in, and with a hand full of masks managed to put out at least 6 attacks through Onslaught that killed both models without breaking a sweat. So much for trying out the pair! She was also in easy striking range to take out Nino next turn. The Austringer sniped one of the Riflemen, and Francisco became embroiled in a melee with two dogs.
Lady Justice layed down the smack on Nino, but this left her exposed to Perdita who took 9 of her 12 wounds in a soulstoned fuel round of shooting. Francisco took down one of the Hounds, while another three dogs sneaked around on my left flank. At the end of the turn, the Executioner charged Perdita, but was unable to damage her.
Winning initiative, I took a chance and moved Perdita into melee with Justice. Luckily she was able to finish the job and put down Adam's master. Francisco continued to face down the remaining dog, and the Austringer also found himself facing canines in the form of three sneaky Hounds who surrounded him and prevented him escaping. The surviving Guild Rifleman fired into the melee between Perdita and the Executioner. Perdita's high defense was enough to protect her from the first shot, but the second shot hit the Executioner, and using the trigger "Two Birds..", he was able to do a splash damage onto Perdita for 3 wounds, bypassing her defense altogether!
Perdita and Francisco both finished off their melee opponents, as the Executioner and Hound finally succumbed. The Austinger fell to the very first Hound attack, and the group separated - two advanced to claim both of Adam's schemes, and the other moved to protect the now vulnerable wagon. Francisco ran back towards my deployment zone, hoping for an extra turn to be able to stop the hounds that were currently scoring Adam 4 points.
Left with a difficult choice, I activated Perdita first. The hound was protected by the Supply Wagon, so she had to move to kill it (preventing it from attacking my wagon, which was on 1 Wound), and then move to claim my Stake a Claim objective. Unfortunately this left her no spare AP to attack Adam's wagon. The Guild Rifleman stood nearby then proceeded to pull out his knife, and gut Perdita (I Black Jokered the defense flip, and she took 5 wounds!) My hand full of high cards proved useless in saving her, and she was out of Soulstones from her duels with Justice and the Executioner, so down she went - the Rifleman had killed her single handedly.
Turn 6 proved to be the last turn, so we tallied up to find that Adam had won the game 6-2.
I think my mistake was in not addressing the group of 3 Hounds earlier, but this was largely down to being activation starved. The three models (Santiago, Guardian, Nino) that I lost to Lady J early in the game were intended to tie up the centre, and without them Perdita was forced to do the job herself. rather than being able to run around doing what needed to be done. She performed admirably, but she wasn't able to track down the dogs as I'd first intended - I'd have only needed to kill two of the three to prevent them being able to claim the objective, and Francisco did a great job of holding up my right flank and stopping any dogs getting through. Oh and Guild Riflemen are filth. Nuff Said.