Tuesday, 18 February 2014

089 - Tale of Malifaux Bloggers - Part 1

Going forwards, I'm going to be loosely structuring each of my #ToMB posts into three broad sections: Collecting, Modelling/Painting, and Gaming.


The #ToMB guidelines state that every month each participant will allow themselves a budget of $25 with which to expand their model pools, but thankfully the first month's budget is a bit larger to get everybody started. With an initial Month 1 budget of $60 which I can spend on a crew box to get me on my way, I headed to the Wyrd web-store to see what was available. The only sensible place to start a Misaki crew from is, of course, The Thunder boxed set. Into the shopping cart it goes.

Coming in at $35, the box contains Misaki herself, her totem Shang the kitsune, Ototo the Angry Henchman and three deadly ninja minions, the Torakage. These six models on their own would be perfectly fine enough by themselves to play a small game of up to 35 soulstones, however with a "standard sized" Malifaux game being 50 soulstones on each side I would need a little more if I wanted to play the size of game that most people are used to.

So, with $25 left in the budget I decided that I would stick with the plan I have in my head to only build and paint plastic models (whether I can stick to this throughout the whole of #ToMB remains to be seen - the Ten Thunders plastic range isn't fully fleshed out yet) and grab some Thunder Archers. As a nice mid-range shooter, I figure these guys can support the rest of the crew, with the key ability on the Archers being that they can shoot into melee without having to randomise to see if they hit their friends. With most of those friends, and crucially Misaki herself, wanting to be close to the action, this could be very useful indeed.

The Archers cost $21, so that more or less accounts for my Month 1 allowance. I get to keep the remaining unspent $4 aside, which I can carry forwards to add to my meagre Month 2 allowance which is going to drop to only $25 next month.

I should point out that because these boxed sets were ordered directly from the Wyrd webstore, they came with an "M2E" sticker on the front, and 2nd edition stat cards inside. Boxed sets bought from UK retailers could potentially be from older stock including 1st edition cards i.e. not compatible with the new rules. If you end up with one of these older boxes, you can find up-to-date stat cards in the Ten Thunders "Arsenal deck", which also includes the Ten Thunders generic Upgrade cards. Indeed, you might want to grab the Arsenal deck anyway so that you have access to these Upgrades, and this is exactly what I did. I also picked up an Outcast Arsenal deck in case I wanted to expand the crew in that direction as well (because, as a Dual-faction master, Misaki can lead crews from either the Ten Thunders or Outcasts factions).

The only other things I needed in order to play my first game with the crew would be a Rulebook and a Fate Deck. I already have a the former, and a sizeable collection of the latter, so I didn't need to factor those into my purchase plans.


I was eager to get started working on the new models as soon as they hit my doormat, so in a flagrant breach of the #ToMB guidelines I started assembly before the official start date. So sue me...!

Before I show them off in their grey plastic glory, some musings on the kits themselves:
  • The Thunder boxed set was (alongside Mei Feng's Rail Crew and Jakob Lynch's Dark Debts Crew), Wyrd's first attempt at making plastic boxed crews, and it shows.
  • The kit is *awful* to assemble. I consider myself  a skilled modeller. I have steady hands, a razor sharp knife, and a lot of modelling experience (no, not that kind...), but I struggled to assemble these figures. I would hate for a true beginner to the game to be faced with this kit as their first experience of Malifaux, as I honestly believe it has the potential put people off the game before they even get started.
  • Many of the pieces are attached to the sprue using chunky joins that don't clearly differentiate between where the sprue ends and the model starts. My advice for others assembling this box is to be conservative and cut off closer to the sprue than you think you need to. You can always carefully trim off the excess afterwards to get the correct fit.
  • The pieces of the six models are spread all over the sprue, and it comes with no instructions. Although the pieces of each model are labelled A-F for The Thunder, and A-C for the Archers, I found this picture incredibly useful as a reference. Thanks to whomever created it!
  • While the recent new M2E plastics have been accused of having fiddly bits, the Misaki boxed set takes it to the extreme. Chains, spears and arrows are modelled at true scale, and protrude from the model at all angles. This means you get arrows that are thinner than the average sewing pin, that you have to cut from the sprue without them breaking. Good luck with that... I had to make several repair jobs to damaged pieces, some of which had been knocked off the sprue in transit before I even opened it.
  • The Ten Thunder Archers are probably the worst offenders. Their heads come in 4 pieces, three of which fit ambiguously in sockets, all need to be glued simultaneously, and are too small for adult fingers to properly manipulate. I spent around an hour just gluing together the three heads correctly.
Despite all that moaning, the final result is (almost) worth the headache, because the finished models are very nice indeed. And I should stress again, that the more recent M2E plastics are much easier to work with in my experience. The Misaki crew is a very challenging modelling project, but as long as a player is warned about that going in, and accepts that challenge, I suppose it's acceptable.

Here's the crew, with the notable absence of its Master. As you can see, I've decided to go with a slate rock basing scheme - the plan is that it will will be decorated in autumn foliage after painting. I had a lot of fun gluing the rocks into different configurations, and the dynamic poses of the models made for some great action shots.


I've never been a fan of the posing on Misaki herself - if you want to make your mark on the model, the high kicking leg means that people find themselves having to justify the ridiculous pose, and there's only so many variations of "Misaki high-kicking something behind her" out there. My original plan for the crew was to do something similar to Matt Spooner, who perfectly depicted her in the theme of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, leaping between bamboo shoots. I didn't want to be derivative though, so came up with a plan to dissect the model and reassemble it in a new pose.

Although this might seem daunting, working in plastic makes this easier than it sounds. I cut off her right leg at the hip joint, spun it around, and re-positioned her knee. I was going to model her with the Bisento in both arms held like a spear, but I had to cut it in half in order to rotate the arms into forward positions, and at that point it seemed more natural to leave her with two weapons. The blade on the raised weapon is taken from an old Warhammer Empire Halbardier I had in my bits box. A bit of greenstuff work to fill in the gaps, and she was good to go.

I'm really pleased with the final model - I actually didn't need to move or remove her feet at all, but they've still come out looking like she's gracefully tip-toeing around her stalked prey.

Painting will commence through the rest of February and early March, and hopefully I'll have some more colourful pictures to show off next month.


Nothing to report as yet.

I'll get the initial crew test driven in the coming weeks, and have some feedback on their performance to report for next time. It would be nice if I could only put painted models on the tabletop, so it's possible that my initial games with Misaki will be on Vassal until I can get some models completed and off my painting table. My resolve on this point is likely to waver though.

That's it for Month 1. Don't forget to check back on the 17th March to see how I get on, and to tell me off for failing to get even half of this stuff painted!

Tale of Malifaux Bloggers is a group project in which a small group of players document the process of collecting, painting and playing with their new Malifaux crews over a period of several months. For further information, check out Episode 10 of Chasing Bacon or the introductory post on Play it Like Beatdown . A list of participants can be found on the Wyrd forum thread

Monday, 3 February 2014

088 - Tale of Malifaux Bloggers - Part 0

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts charting my progress as a contributor to the Tale of Malifaux Bloggers. Otherwise known as #ToMB (formerly #SecretStuff), the aim of the project is to get a crowd of bloggers and other miscreants to keep a running diary of the process of starting a new crew over a period of six months or so. We all have a different Master in mind, and we all have a monthly budget - it's going to be a lot of fun!

I've decided that the time is ripe for some ninja action, and I've opted to begin a Misaki crew.

Misaki is the leader of the Ten Thunders organisation in Malifaux, where she is responsible for ensuring the wishes of her father, the Oyabun who remains Earthside, are carried out to the letter. Few are privy to the detail of the Ten Thunders' overall ambitions, but it is becoming apparent that they have infiltrated their agents into all the other factions of Malifaux and are poised to take a major role in upcoming events.

Misaki herself is a relatively simple Master on the face of it. She has a long stick and she pokes people with it. Very hard. The Ten Thunders faction contains a plethora of high-cost elite models, but with Wave 2 hitting our pdf-readers next week, some lower cost minions become available to round out the faction nicely.

The cool thing about Misaki (apart from her being a death dealing female ninja), and what led me to pick her over other potential Master choices, is that she ties in nicely with my plans for 2014, namely the "Year of the Rainbow". My resolution for the year is to use all seven Malifaux factions at different events over the course of 2014, and to do so in rainbow colour order. Lucky for me then, that Misaki is a dual-faction Master, meaning that when she is chosen as the crew leader she can be nominated as either Ten Thunders (Orange) or Outcasts (Yellow) - giving her a wide variety of hireable minions to choose from, and being able to pull double duty for #YotR

Recent months have seen a few people in the UK Malifaux community pick up Misaki and paint her and her crew in some exciting themes - it's going to be an interesting challenge to see what I can do to compete with their incredible themed basing.

Join me again soon for #ToMB: Part 1, where I'll be explaining my initial purchases for the crew, and getting glue all over my fingers.

Tale of Malifaux Bloggers is a group project in which a small group of players document the process of collecting, painting and playing with their new Malifaux crews over a period of several months. For further information, check out Episode 10 of Chasing Bacon or the introductory post on Play it Like Beatdown .

087 - UK Rankings Proposals

There's a discussion currently in full swing on the Wyrd forums at the moment on the subject of the Rankings system, and whether it should be changed going forwards. Brace yourself - things are about to get ramble-y!

For those not in the know, the current system ranks the tournament performance of each player in the UK by assigning a score for each event they attend. Taking first place at an event is worth 100 points (assuming the event had a turnout of at least 20 players), with second place receiving 95 points, third place receiving 90 points, etc. If there are less than 20 attendees, the maximum score for first place is reduced by 1 point for each player below 20 (so winning a 15 player event would score 95 points), and all other scores are reduced proportionally. A player's best three scores from all the tournaments they enter in a rolling 12 month period are added together to give a total score out of 300.

The potential changes that are being discussed are:

1) Increase the number of events counted in your score from a players best 3 to their best 4.
2) Increase the threshold for scoring "maximum" points from being a 20 player event, to something higher. 24, 26, 28 and 30 have all been suggested for the new threshold.

I have a suspicion that a lot of people are weighing in on this discussion without having consulted any actual data first, so I figure that looking at some numbers will help people frame the debate more clearly:

Increase the number of scoring events from 3 to 4

First, we must consider what this change is intended to achieve. The argument goes that the scores at the top of the table are pretty close together, and that moving to a system of four events would distinguish these people a little more.The top 40 of the rankings table as at time writing (29th January 2014) looks like this:

The third column of the table shows the number of events that each player has on record that are not currently contributing to their score - ie. the excess events above three.

Couple of initial observations
  • As you progress down the table from high ranks to low, the number of unscored events decreases.
  • Outside the Top 10, the vast majority of players have only 3 or 4, or less, events to their name. Even among the Top 40, players attending only 3 events in a year appears to be the most common type of player.
  • There is a very small number of people that have attended a large number of events - where I'm classing "large number" as more than 6 events.
  • The scores at the top aren't particularly grouped up, with the exception that three players are sitting at two-hundred and seventy something. One of these players has only one other tournament that could be added to their score, where the other two have 6 and 8 events to choose the best result from. Intuitively, the players with more options are at an advantage in the tie break.
Highlighted green are the players who would benefit significantly by being able to add another event to their score - because they have more events to choose their next best from. Highlighted orange are players that would benefit somewhat by adding their 4th (and only other) event to their score - this 4th event might not necessarily be a high scoring one though. Highlighted red are the players that would be disadvantaged by the fact that they have only attended three or less events in the last 12 months, so could not gain any more points than they already have.

In moving to a "Best 4" system, the effect would be that players in green would, generally, move up significantly, players in orange would move up a bit, and players in red would move down.

Below Rank 40 there are significantly more players who have only 2 or 3 tournaments to their name. Most of these players would remain in the same rankings order, however the gap between the "Top" players and the "Rest" would widen significantly, creating what would essentially be a two-tier system.

I'd expect the impact for "The Rest" to be:

a) Rankings become less relevant. If you are in the "lower" tier (having 1, 2 or 3 tournaments to your name) it is harder for you to make a meaningful comparison between your score and the "Top" players.

b) It is harder for newer players to break into the higher ranks. Some of the players that have recently jumped into the Top 20 would not be there under a "Best 4" system, and introducing new blood to the competitive mix is always good to keep things fresh.

These two points are why I'm unsure about this particular change - the benefits (in terms of distinguishing the "Top" players) are marginal at best, and affect only a limited number of people, whereas the *vast* majority of people for whom 4 events in a year is just too much of a stretch are disadvantaged, so my preference would be to stick with a "Best 3" system.

Increase the Threshold for Scoring Max Points from 20 to X

This second change is intended to reward attendance at an event with "many" people, and award less rankings points to an event where "fewer" people attend.

The rationale for this must presumably be: "It is harder to place higher at an event when there are more players".

What makes an event more "difficult" to win? The strength of the competition is probably the most obvious answer. Unfortunately, so many factors contribute to a measure of "strength of competition" that it's not that easy to fully analyse.

Some things we can examine though. I've seen it suggested that smaller tournaments could be easier to win due to attracting a different mix of players - with more local/casual players and less of the experienced tournament crowd. I checked this out by analysing the last 12 months of events, calculating an average score* for all the participants, and plotting that against the number of participants at the event.

As you can see, there isn't really any trend of smaller events being a pushover due to having easier opponents - the smallest events tend to have a similar average ranking score attending them as the larger ones, reflecting the willingness for people to travel a long way for an event, even more so if the event is ranked.

The number of rounds played also has an impact - it is a fact that winning 4 games in a row is necessarily harder than winning 3 games in a row. Regrettably, due to time constraints, most Malifaux events recently have run to only 3 rounds. In an ideal world, with 16 players there would be a 4th round, and with 32 players there would be a 5th round. If this recommendation was implemented, it would provide justification all by itself for larger events scoring more points than smaller.

Limited by playing time constraints (it is difficult to get 4 games, let alone 5 games, into a single day event) and with tournaments typically featuring only 3-games, we should consider the tournament "journey" for a player who goes on to win 1st place in a small tournament and in a large tournament, and we notice that the journey is pretty much identical. Their first game is against a random opponent which we would generally expect them to win, their second game will tend to be against a more difficult opponent than their first, and their third and final game will generally be against another of the top players at the event (which, by the scatter graph above, isn't actually going to be an easier opponent in a smaller event than a larger event). What is it about the three games played at the larger event that we should deem it be worth more points? It doesn't sound any more arduous or accomplished - the only difference seems to be how many people are sitting at adjacent tables.

Many people seem to think the threshold should be increased by a fair margin, and I believe the current 20 is somewhat arbitrary, so I wouldn't be opposed to edging it up slightly to 24, but anything beyond that seems rather unnecessary. Indeed, there have been only *four* events in the last 12 months with 24 or more attendees. (Having 24, 29, 33 and 39 participants), and two of those were M1E events, so going beyond that level seems to be out of step with what we've seen of attendances in 2013. Indeed, increasing the threshold to 24 would cause *seven* events between 20 and 23 attendees to no longer have counted max points. That feels somewhat on the ruthless side, and I admit that it would make it pretty much impossible to get multiple players at the top of the table on the same score. Is that all that's required? Probably.

* Players were assigned weights from 100 to 1 based on their current ranking position, and the score was the mean average of those weights. Players absent from the rankings were assumed to be local/casual players and assigned a weight of 1.