This blog entry finds me in an oddly reflective mood, and rather than waste the moment I thought I'd put it to use.
For those who don't know, and given how open I am about it there probably aren't many, I suffer from bipolar disorder. Most of the time, thanks to medication, you wouldn't know. But there are times when things get a little beyond my ability to control them, and the upshot is normally mood swings from misery and depression, up to moments of hyperactivity and mania, and then back again. This can be accomplished during my commute to work. It can also happen during games.
One trigger I've found has been pressure. I work in a high-pressure job and domestic circumstances aren't exactly stable. Gaming, and Malifaux in particular, has been my safety valve, my way of blowing off steam. I love playing in events, talking rubbish with like-minded people and flipping cards.
Lately though, I've been piling the pressure on myself. I've been so hell-bent on proving to myself and to others that I'm actually not just a noisy chump, that I can actually play this game. And if things go wrong, as they so often can when you're playing a game as cerebral as Malifaux whilst dealing with a condition like bipolar (no, I can't remove the condition with Rebel Yell - I've tried), that can have mood swing inducing consequences.
The revelation of today is, what on Earth have I got left to prove to anyone? Why am I pushing myself so hard?
As I sit here, I've won 4 Malifaux tournaments along with a 2nd and a 3rd place in two others. I've been ranked in the UK top 10 for over 10 months, and for probably 6 of those I had a badge next to my name telling all and sundry that I was the best Guild player in the country. I have numerous certificates and plaques for best in faction. Even as my own worst critic, it's hard to argue that I just got lucky once or twice. To have that much success would indicate that I'm not entirely terrible at this game.
So... Why am I still going all out to prove something that I've already demonstrated? I'm being an idiot. I have enough tin cups, certificates and BendyBoards glassware that I'm having to clear an additional shelf and I never thought in my wildest dreams that would ever happen.
The moment that sank in earlier this morning, it really did feel like a weight came off my shoulders. I know that if the stars align and my head's in the right place, I can put together enough good games to take a tilt at winning a tournament. I've done it. 6 times, in fact.
My proudest achievement is that, sitting in amongst the prizes for playing well, are two sportsmanship trophies. It would appear that even whilst going for the win, I can still make sure my opponents have a good time playing against me. In my local meta there are an awful lot of new players and I'm discovering that the kick I get out of showing new people the game, and helping and coaching them if they want me to, rivals those tournament-winning moments.
So that's what I'm going to be focussing on. Having fun. Enjoying myself. Playing what I want to play at that moment instead of running particular crews out of an imagined duty to do better at the next tournament. And above all else, helping as many people as possible have the same fun I've had.
It feels good to win. It feels even better to help others win.
I said in my last blog entry that I'll be playing Gremlins next year. That's true. I definitely will be. But I'll also be playing Arcanists. And Guild. Probably Outcasts. Possibly Neverborn. Maybe even 10 Thunders.
But not Ressers. I have some standards...
So after much thinking I've decided to hang up my Guild badge after the UK Nationals.
I have loved playing them this year, ever since Lady Justice carried me to my first Malifaux tournament win in January. They have taught me whole new ways of dealing damage. Few things are funnier than seeing enemy Henchmen running away from the Governor's Proxy because they know what's coming from Ama no Zako...
The rarity factor has also been great. Over here there's Paul Butler (now 10T), Paul Campbell, Aaron Bailey and me playing Guild at a high level. Players just don't get much chance to prepare for us, especially my particular brand of "wtfaux" inspired weirdness!
When the Guild are running well, they're an awesome damage dealing machine. I've won 4 tournaments this year and podiumed another twice, chiefly by going on tears and smashing the absolute living bejeezus out of whoever's in front of me.
But that's ultimately all they do. There is no control game. Card draw happens to other people. They can struggle to pull a game back if things go wrong. The biggest damage dealers can fall over in the face of a stiff breeze, despite high wound counts.
In order to become a better player and build on what I've accomplished, I feel like I need some more options. Particularly when it comes to shenanigans!
I have no doubt I'll play Guild again. They are fun. But for 2016, I'll be playing with little green men...
By the time this gets published, the #wtfaux podcast will be a thing!
This podcast won’t be me spouting opinions. I have Twitter for that, as I’m well aware that the only person who agrees with me is me. And even that’s only some of the time…
No, this show will be about Malifaux events. I love these days out, flipping cards and having a laugh with good friends. The best part about them is that everyone talks to everyone and there is always interest in how things go from those who can’t make it, and that's what I want to share with the world.
Each event will be an episode of itself. I’m hoping to convince at least one co-host to join me per episode, and that will probably be whoever is travelling in the same car. For that episode we’ll cover our games, what we played, who we took, and how we got on. There may be some deep tactical insight, but that depends very much on how things go on the day as I plan to do most, if not all, of the recording either travelling to and from events or at the event itself.
Alongside the progress coverage I hope to mix in interviews as the day goes on. Funny stories, interesting crews, maybe a Master you don’t see very often. And hopefully some painting advice from those who’ve got particularly awesome-looking crews.
As you’ve probably learned by now, this show will be reliant on me getting people to talk into a mic / voice recorder / phone and talk about Malifaux. That’s not normally a problem. We play a game that features zombie hookers, leaping mutant catfish, grannies in steam-powered wheelchairs and walking tributes to Johnny Cash. We should be talking about it because it’s awesome!
I think what I’m trying to say is, please don’t be afraid to grab me if you have something you want to talk about! This is an ambitious idea but if it works, it will allow potentially anyone at an event to have their say over the airwaves. It doesn’t bother me what level you play, whether you consider yourself a ‘name’ (I hate all this 'celebrity' rubbish at the best of times!) or even if you just want to sing the praises of a particular model. If it’s interesting, I’ll quite cheerfully slap it in the ‘cast.
The plan is to try the format out at a few events, put a few shows out and see if it works. If it does, great. If it doesn’t, oh well. It’s a gamble but not an overly expensive gamble so I’m happy to take the risk.
So. Thanks for reading, and hopefully you’ll give us a listen once the shows hit the Internet!
So my first event of the year was at the Grid, a games store in Doncaster. It was their first ever Malifaux tournament and I have to say I left very impressed. Organisation was excellent, there was a bar doing hot food and all the cold Pepsi Max I could drink, plenty of tables with some great terrain on, and some space to chill out between games.
I will be back!
The tournament itself was my first with the Guild. I was a bit embarrassed by the fact I didn't have a single model that was actually painted - it's a matter of pride normally that my crews are done and finished - but I was hell-bent on getting the Guild to the table so pushed ahead.
For my Master I used Lady Justice all day. To me she's the epitome of the Guild theory that if it's dead, it can't cause you any problems. There is basically a 14" bubble around her (5" walk, 7" charge, 2" range on her sword) that nobody should go near lightly, because she hits like a train and will survive most counter-attacks. With that said, there is a lot of finesse involved in making sure she's in the right place at the right time, and with ready access to buffs that make her life easier and longer.
These game reports won't be the most in depth ever - it was a while ago now, and unfortunately most of the crew choices and scheme selection have been lost somewhere in the addled mess that is my mind - but I can remember the key points from my perspective.
My first game was a great fella called Brad, using Outcasts led by von Schill. To be fair to Brad I'm not sure the draw could have been less kind to him - this was his third or fourth game of Malifaux ever against someone who's at a tournament most weekends, and I know Outcasts and von Schill inside and out.
The strategy was Turf War, which in theory is normally von Schill's strongest as he can hand out his Legend To Live Up To buff to the Freikorps to keep them in the fight. A Master like Justice on the other side of the table can flip that on its head - you know exactly where von Schill will be, and whilst he's not easy to take out, a melee Master with their mind set on assassinating him can put him down.
And so the game proved. I used 2 Hunters to drag Freikorps models out of position and apply Slow to stop them getting back to where they needed to be. This cleared the lane for Justice to come in from the flank, kill a Strongarm Suit in turn 2 and then leave von Schill, healing all burned, on his Hard to Kill by the end of turn 3. 10-4 win all told.
After the game we had a good long chat, and an impromptu training session on the virtues of Oathkeeper and how the Strongarm and von Schill can charge over anything in their path. It seemed to work - Brad finished the event with a win and a draw and crews laden with Oathkeepers - which made me feel a lot better about the end result! I try to help out newer players as much as I can - I don't pretend to be the world's greatest teacher but I've seen most of what the tournament scene can throw at you. If there's anything I know that can help, I'll gladly pass it on.
Next up was a match against Mike Taylor on table 2, Lady Justice vs a Neverborn-flavoured Jakob Lynch in Reckoning. The last time Mike and I played, he hurled Misaki into the middle of my Leveticus crew, was unlucky to flip a Black Joker on a horror duel with her next turn, and duly given a 10-0 working over. Safe to say he was keen to avenge that particular couple of hours!
The board itself was a swamp board covered in severe terrain that would slow movement, with some decking and walkways. It looked awesome, but if we weren't careful, there wasn't going to be a lot of movement.
Thankfully the Guild has plentiful access to Unimpeded. Lady Justice carried the relevant upgrades, I took a Death Marshal, there were 2 Watchers on the table, and Pale Rider appeared too. None of those 5 models were in the least bit bothered by the terrain! I also had two Henchmen, the Judge and Francisco Ortega, who combined to catapult Justice 10" up the board turn 1 before she'd activated, and resulted in Hungering Darkness being dead turn 2 and Lynch on one wound as she was there so fast. The continued threat of Justice also forced Mike to bring models across to deal with her and the two Henchmen, meaning he couldn't do what he needed to do in terms of schemes.
In the meantime Pale Rider earned 6 VPs in 2 activations; scheme marker, 0 action for scheme marker, move, Plant Evidence achieved. Scheme marker, 0 action for scheme marker, move, Breakthrough achieved.
7-3 win to the Guild.
So last game was up on the lofty heights of table 1, playing Squatters Rights against Mark Elwood. We were both sufficiently far ahead on VP differential that the winner would almost certainly win the tournament, something that would put Mark at the top of the pile as the UK number 1 and give me my first ever podium. Safe to say, we both had a fair bit riding on this one!
Mark declared Neverborn, and I was 95% sure that meant summoning Dreamer. So I took a crew with as many activations as I could, with the intention of spreading out, flipping markers and making the most of the Distract scheme. Whilst Mark's reputation preceded him as a Dreamer player, mine probably preceded me as an over-aggressive nutter who would go all out for the kills. I was pretty sure the last thing he was going to expect from me was a scheme that meant I couldn't kill models in order to score!
Justice took the field with Judge, Pale Rider, 3 Guild Hounds, 2 Watchers (going for unannounced Breakthrough) and an Austringer. That gave me a ridiculous reach across the board, and very little trouble getting models up to the Squat markers early and flipping them over.
The game itself was one of the most tight and tactical games I've ever played in. There was a lot of bait-and-switch going on with Guild Hounds, pulling them in and out with Judge and the Austringer to maximise enemy Distracts and minimise it ending up on my own models, as Mark played the same game with Insidious Madness and Daydreams.
Flying Watchers managed to avoid the attention of Coppelius and Stitched Together. Justice annihilated a Silurid early doors, then kept Dreamer's mobility down by acting as a Chompy deterrent - when Mark wanted to use Chompy to move Dreamer around, Justice went in and splattered the big fella around a wide area, which penned him back in a thin corridor in Mark's half of the table.
Pale Rider didn't accomplish a huge amount, but the threat of him meant Mark couldn't risk moving a Nekima / Doppelgänger tag team off the flank. If he had done, the Rider had a clear route to the backfield for scheme markers, and his shotgun has a 12" range and gets nastier as the game goes on.
When the dust settled I got a 9-8 win, which meant I placed first! Have to be honest, I was more than a bit happy - this was my 23rd Malifaux event and my previous best placing was 4th which I'd hit 5 times. To finally get on the podium, never mind take the event out, felt amazing.
The keys to the victory from my perspective were the unexpected speed of the Guild. They're often categorised as being slow and unwieldy but the crews I was taking were anything but. Hunters, Guild Hounds, Watchers and pushes meant I had no issue getting around. Running rings around a Neverborn crew on a swamp table was a particular highlight!
Lady Justice herself was also a very pleasant surprise. I knew the big sword had the capacity to hurt people, and regularly taking swings with a 6/7/9 damage track (Critical Strike - Ram built in, SoulStone for a Ram, cheat a Ram, +3 damage) certainly lived up to billing in that respect! I always took the Last Stand upgrade which gave her Unimpeded, and that in combination with Blindfighter (she doesn't need line of sight to charge) meant there were very few places on any board for the opposing crew to hide from her.
Having 'clicked' with Justice very quickly (the tournament comprised my 3rd, 4th and 5th games ever with Guild!) I decided to stick with her in the League of Extraordinary Henchmen event two weeks later...
So after thinking about it for a while, I've decided to start a new blog here to track my progress for 2015, with an entry after every event and some thoughts on crew selection, schemes and the UK tournament scene in general. Just to put that into context, I attended 20 tournaments and 2 story encounters since starting to play in March last year. If all goes to plan, there should be a lot going up!
After finishing last year in 19th place on the UK Malifaux rankings (www.malifauxrankings.com - thank you to the man, the legend, that is Mike Marshall for keeping these going!), I missed out on qualifying for the Masters event by one place. To be honest I'm pretty happy about that - although I've been playing games in general since I was 11, I've only been playing Malifaux for 9 months and it's a complete departure from the style of games I was used to.
That said, my aim is to go one better this year and qualify for the Masters. After coming so close I want in! It's being able to point to myself, a man frankly known for moments of utter bone-headed incompetence, and say that I deserve my place amongst the best players in the country. That would mean a lot to me.
The first job was to choose a faction to focus on.
I started out with Neverborn, my decision heavily influenced by being a member of the Leicester Squigs gaming club with luminaries including Joel 'Undisputed Number 1' Henry and Graham 'BluTack' Bursnell as regular opponents.
The Neverborn served me well and I still enjoy them, but I moved onto Outcasts for the last 6 months of 2014. This was for two reasons - I wanted a more damage-orientated faction to match my playstyle, and there weren't many Outcast players out there at the time. Six months later, whilst I've done pretty well with the Outcasts, I still don't feel I've 'clicked' with them entirely.
Looking at the other factions, the Guild and the Resurrectionists caught my eye. The idea of raising shambling hordes of Undead has always appealed, and Ressers as a faction, with a couple of exceptions, seem to do appallingly badly at events and I can't understand why that is. Guild are woefully under-represented, and I've identified with the models in the fluff. Whilst the evil overlords of the Guild are growing rich, the actual guys on the ground come across as trying to do their best in a deeply flawed system. Anyone with a day job knows how that feels!
And if I ever feel all imperious and superior, I can play Lucius, call everyone 'lackey' and thump them with a cane.
After playing a few games with both factions the Guild were my decision, and it's these guys that I'll be starting 2015 with. I've always been a very aggressive player, and I like to impose my game on my opponent and try to make them play on my terms. It became clear very quickly that the Guild were an awesome match for me and playstyle.
The best way I can think of to explain this, is if you encounter a problem model in an enemy crew. Neverborn will run around it or block it off with trees. Resurrectionists will hit it with nasty conditions and summon zombies in the way. Guild? Guild will kill it until it's dead. Their favourite trigger is Critical Strike for extra damage. Of their 7 Masters, Lady Justice, Perdita, Sonnia Criid, McMourning, Hoffman, Lucius and McCabe, I would argue that only the latter 3 aren't primarily focussed on destroying the enemy, and even then they tend to achieve their aims by making their crew better at doing the destroying for them. That's a very good thing for me!
Of course, smashing stuff in the face to the exclusion of all else won't win you many games of Malifaux. And there I still feel the Guild have much to offer. Guild Hounds and Watchers are fantastic, cheap scheme runners. There are a number of fantastic little tricks you can pull with the Henchmen - my current favourite is using them to propel Lady Justice 10" up the board before she's even activated, without using a single AP. And we haven't even mentioned what shenanigans you can get up to with Austringers, Hunters, Witchling Handlers and the like...
So, decision made. I'm spending the start of 2015 playing Guild. I'm not going to make any big sweeping statements that I won't use anything else for X number of months. That's not going to happen - I enjoy Lilith, Leveticus, the Viks, Seamus and others, so they'll get some table time. But my primary focus will be the 'thin red line'.
I've already attended one tournament this year, at the Grid in Doncaster, and will report on that in a separate post. There are the two League of Extraordinary Henchmen events this coming weekend, followed by Frostbite at Sanctuary in Mansfield, and that's just January! My new Guild models will be getting some serious exercise.
Hopefully this ramble will give you some idea of how I chose a faction to play with, and I'm intending later entries to actually include some useful tactical nuggets that other players can learn from.
Well. As much as I ever say anything useful...