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Summoning in 3e


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So, what are people's thoughts on summoning in 3e? In 2e summoning got way out of control, and I'm glad that in 3e they severely reigned it back in, but I'm thinking it wasn't reigned in enough. Anything that adds models during a game is so powerful that it's going to be nearly impossible to balance (which is why nearly every other miniatures game out there would never touch summoning mechanics with a 10ft pole). Personally I'd prefer if summoning were just removed from the game, but since that isn't likely to happen any time soon, I've been trying to think of ways to bring summoning more in line with everything else in the game. Would any (or a combination, or all of) the following work:

- Summoned models are all Insignificant
- Summoned models all come on with only 1 Health
- Summoned models are removed at the end of the turn following the one they're summoned into
- Summoning is limited to models of a certain SS cost (like 5 or less)
- Summoning a model requires you to spend a soulstone in addition to any other costs

I'm thinking that even with all the changes I mentioned above, summoning will still be excessively powerful, but I'm not sure what else can be done. Is summoning just always going to be the uber-broken power of Malifaux? Is anyone else using house rules for summoning that seem to be working for them?

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So, what are people's thoughts on killing in 3e? In 2e killing got way out of control, and I'm glad that in 3e they severely reigned it back in, but I'm thinking it wasn't reigned in enough. Anything that removes models during a game is so powerful that it's going to be nearly impossible to balance (which is why nearly every other miniatures game out there would never touch killing mechanics with a 10ft pole). Personally I'd prefer if killing were just removed from the game, but since that isn't likely to happen any time soon, I've been trying to think of ways to bring killing more in line with everything else in the game. Would any (or a combination, or all of) the following work:

- Only insignificant models can be killed
- Killed models stay in play with only 1 Health
- Killed models are returned at the end of the turn following the one they're killed
- Killing is limited to models of a certain SS cost (like 5 or less)
- Killing a model requires you to spend a soulstone in addition to any other costs

I'm thinking that even with all the changes I mentioned above, killing will still be excessively powerful, but I'm not sure what else can be done. Is killing just always going to be the uber-broken power of Malifaux? Is anyone else using house rules for killing hat seem to be working for them?

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1 hour ago, Shadowdragon said:

- Summoned models are all Insignificant
- Summoned models all come on with only 1 Health
- Summoned models are removed at the end of the turn following the one they're summoned into
- Summoning is limited to models of a certain SS cost (like 5 or less)
- Summoning a model requires you to spend a soulstone in addition to any other costs

You do realize that each of those options have been applied to different crews summoning, right?  Because if you look at the various summoning mechanics, they end up being limited by:

  • Summoning that requires one or two suits.  So de facto it costs a soul stone to perform the action.
  • Summoned models that are insignificant.  Example:  The models that summon zombies.
  • Summoned models are removed within a certain number of activations.  Example:  Asami and the Flicker mechanic.
  • Summoning is limited to models of a certain SS cost.  Summoning actions have a cap based on the TN calculation and the stat value.  Dreamer and Asami it's TN 10:mask+SS cost with a stat of 6.  The max card is 13(14).
  • Summoning has to respect the same rare limits that hiring does, a constraint that applies more severely to models that can only summon specific models.
  • Most summoning actions are in base contact.
  • Most summoning pools are much more restricted than M2E.

and then there are the summoning upgrades which apply additional limits (so that there are only X summoned models allowed in play at one time, where X depends on summoner but is almost ways 2 if it's not the crew's leader) and may include negative effects applied to the summoned models.

If you want to play a game of Malifaux without the summoning mechanic, see Henchman Hardcore.

Edit:  Seriously, the typical summoning leader master in M3E is going to be allowed to summon one model per turn, if everything works right.

If the idea of summoning makes you nervous, look at Hamelin and the rats, and then look up what the limitations imposed by Rare limits does compared to M2E.

 

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Summoning feels pretty brutal to play against!

One key thing about summoning is that it takes a lot of resources, and it tends to be stapled to resource-light crews. The crews are also generally inefficient in a number of ways. So that leaves several weaknesses that you can exploit, but aren't necessarily obvious the first time you face them:

  • Summoners use the high cards from their hand to summon. That means that their opponents (on an average turn) will have one more high card to use for duels. Early game, this can make a big difference to the pressure you're putting out.
  • Over time, summoning crews have access to far more actions. Early on, they generally have less actions at their disposal than their opponents (and/or those actions are inefficient). Their master is spending (at least) one of their ap to summon, while your master could be using that AP to beat their faces in.
  • This effect combines - you're spending more actions killing important stuff/doing important stuff, and you have higher quality resources to do it (at least in the early game)

In general, summoners are weak early and strong later in the game. Try to gain a decisive advantage early on, and remember that on average your hand quality will be a bit better than theirs (for most crews, not like Asami's nonsense with her Emissary).

As a concrete example, compare Molly and Kirai. Early on, Kirai is getting her board setup. Molly on the other hand is dominating the board for the first two turns. First several times I played against Kirai with molly, I got stomped. Eventually I learned how to press my early advantage and think it has been a good while since I've been beaten by Kirai.

Some summoners in particular (like Dreamer) are possibly overpowered, but I blame the crew as much as I blame the summoning mechanic.

 

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14 hours ago, Shadowdragon said:

So, what are people's thoughts on summoning in 3e? In 2e summoning got way out of control, and I'm glad that in 3e they severely reigned it back in, but I'm thinking it wasn't reigned in enough.

Summoning is very powerful, not doubt about it, but I'm not sure it's hugely problematic as such. In this edition Wyrd made a ton of individual restrictions to summoning which certainly helped. There are top-level Masters who don't Summon out there so it isn't game-breaking as such.

14 hours ago, Shadowdragon said:

(which is why nearly every other miniatures game out there would never touch summoning mechanics with a 10ft pole).

There are lots of minis game with some kind of summoning mechanics but they are usually much more limited than in Malifaux. I mean, there are games without summoning like Moonstone or Blood Bowl or Infinity but many, many others do have summoning (the big GW games, Eden, ArcWorlde, Pulp City, Twisted, Hell Dorado, etc etc).

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Summoning is pretty powerful, but I don't think summoners are sitting alone in the top tier. Dreamer is certainly one of the dominant masters right now. Sandeep and Asami are very good. I don't think we're in an environment where masters like that are outshining the rest of the field (well, Dreamer is the best Neverborn master). I don't worry too much about running up against one of these guys compares to some of the other non-summoners in a game like was true with Nico in M2e. I am not more concerned about Sandeep than I am Colette when facing Arcanists for example. So it doesn't feel overpowered from that sense and that is my completely unscientific gauge. 

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I think the issue with the summoners isn't the summons them selves but the card advantage backed in to a lot of summoning crews 

Dreamer, Sandeep, Asarmi and Dashal are all top tier summoners, but it's the card advantage these crews also have that takes them to that level along side summoning. Kirai for example only realy has whisper as card advantages and while she's a very good master she's not as powerful as the above mentioned in terms of summoning and so has to be more aggressive with her summons than the above mentioned ones 

 

In addition Sandeep and dashal card advantage is one two models that can go down to the right kind of pressure, Sandeep without kandara or dashal without his totem drop off fairly quickly 

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When done right summoning can be really powerful and potentially oppressive, just like heavy damage dealing crews (remember the broken Shenlong cries? The first time you played a good Jack Daw player?) and just like control crews (these are generally harder to master IMO so we haven't quite seen them in their true oppressive nature - yet).

Summoning has its counters just like most things, generally as a summoner there are components that keep the ball rolling. Key models that are integral to getting them to work at their maximum.

Most summoners have a drawback and it is exploited these that is required to be successful against them, focus on figuring those out before suggesting the mechanic is broken. Is it strong? Yes. Does it put additional pressure on resources? Moe often that not.

Also as pointed out elsewhere all of the summoners have negative effects given to their summons and are also limited to summons. Kirai gets hurt by hers plus they have slow, Dreamers come in buried so you need to force a failed WP duel to get them out, Asami has the flicker mechanic, Somer's come in insignificant unless you spend additional resources to get the trigger needed so one does not gain the summon upgrade, Dashel's gain slow, as well as needing a friendly/enemy scheme marker. 

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The combination of pushing for models to be more durable in M3E and allowing summoning was a dangerous one.  It makes summoning very, very AP efficient, as summoned models are a huge drain on AP to get rid of.  There's quite a few summoning masters that are huge problems.  However, others like Kirai and Asami, although strong, aren't as big a deal.  I want to talk about something that pisses me off massively though: Totems.

Like, lets look at two of the strongest Summoners, Dreamer and Sandeep.  Their totems are RIDICULOUS.  Dreamer gets a model that would be a reasonable hire at 8 stones, for free.  Sandeep gets Banasuva, which is easily again worth its 7 stones.  This very strongly counteracts the drawback, which should be "dive on the summoner".  Summoning crews should have to devote resources to protecting a weaker, more fragile master.  However Dreamer and Sandeep are both unconditional summoners, bringing things in at full health, and both get totems that more than make up for the weakness of the master (Sandeep isn't actually that weak, honestly).  

If we look at the more balanced summoners like Kirai or Daschel, we see that their totems are nothing of the sort.  Both are weak, and on top of the general weakness of the master, creates a guide for play - dive of the damn master, and force them to devote resources to protecting them (or in Daschel's case, kill the fragile totem).  Those resources will counteract the gains of summoning, and you can get a win, especially if you do kill the master.   Even Asami, although strong, doesn't get a big boost from her totem so fels fairer.  

I'm not sure what the solution is, but there's got to be one.  Dreamer is way, way, way above the curve.  Sandeep isn't quite as bad, but is still oppressive and nigh immortal.  Maybe make Chompy start buried and have unburying nightmares cost dreamer health (like bump his health to 8 or 9, then make him lose 2 when a nightmare unburies).    

 

Oh and So'mer is broken too, but that's a different saga.  And Von Schtook.  Actually, of the 8 full summoners in Malifaux, 4 are busted, 1 is very strong, and 1 got whacked to death by a nerf bat in GG0 (Tara RIP)

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8 "Full" Summoners (in no particular order):

  1. Sandeep
  2. Dreamer
  3. Kirai
  4. Daschel
  5. Asami
  6. Von Schtook
  7. So'mer
  8. Tara

Then you have the not "Full" Summoners I guess we'll call them:

  • Plague who summons mostly without actions or summoning cards
  • Sooey who summons with non-master actions & without summoning cards
  • Witch Hunters who burn/replace/summon
  • Amalgam's not often hit kill/replace/summon without summoning cards
  • I think we count Retainers and their Relequary/Resummon thing, maybe?

Aside from one off individual models that summon mindless zombies, which there are plenty, that's really the summoning crews, right?

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To be one of those nitpickers, Lynch technically LOOKS like a summoning master down to having a summoning upgrade, but I wasn't counting him because in reality his summoning action is so convoluted that it's not worth using for summoning.  It's really a "nuke your model for 3-5 damage.  Also, I get a derpy little nothing model if I kill you."  Nevertheless, he'll come up.  IMHO, not in the same category just because his action is clearly weighted around doing tons of damage more than it is around summoning the way Sandeep does.  

Ressers have a lot of small summoning themes: 

  • McMorning can summon Flesh Constructs
  • Reva summons Corpse Candles
  • Forgotten Marshal summons all forgotten minions
  • Toshiro summons Ashigaru
  • Sebastian summons Canine remains
  • A bunch of models summon Mindless Zombies

I'd say it's only worth discussing the 8 main masters unless someone has a particular objection.  There's a lot of reason that single model summoning is more balanced, and doesn't really try to get out of hand (or if it does, it's a Minako Rei situation, and the model just needs nerfs).  And Lynch is more like Ulix than he is like Sandeep, like Honeypot is just not going to summon turns 1/2/3 (and when they do half the time it's a 3 soulstone model)

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4 hours ago, RisingPhoenix said:

If we look at the more balanced summoners like Kirai or Daschel, we see that their totems are nothing of the sort.  Both are weak, and on top of the general weakness of the master,

wait???? Ikiryo is weak????

She's quite strong, especially if you can get 2 activations a turn out of her! 2/3/4 IRREDUCIBLE is nothing to sneeze at. Add this to terrifying, Incorporeal & Vengeance and you've got yourself a quality beater whose also quite fast at Mv6 & Incorporeal.

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32 minutes ago, Da Git said:

wait???? Ikiryo is weak????

She's quite strong, especially if you can get 2 activations a turn out of her! 2/3/4 IRREDUCIBLE is nothing to sneeze at. Add this to terrifying, Incorporeal & Vengeance and you've got yourself a quality beater whose also quite fast at Mv6 & Incorporeal.

2/3/4 irreducible, Onslaught, and stoning for Coordinated Strike from Kirai... its a blender

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51 minutes ago, Da Git said:

wait???? Ikiryo is weak????

She's quite strong, especially if you can get 2 activations a turn out of her! 2/3/4 IRREDUCIBLE is nothing to sneeze at. Add this to terrifying, Incorporeal & Vengeance and you've got yourself a quality beater whose also quite fast at Mv6 & Incorporeal.

I personally love Ikiryo's design.  Defense 3, 6 wounds.  Despite Terrifying 11 (low) and Incorporeal, she's going to be torn through like tissue paper.  She's also incredibly dangerous as long as she's up.  Kirai can resummon her easily.  Gives her an obvious role as a fast, fragile missile thrown in to do damage.  But the way to deal with her is to kill Kirai, then Ikiryo can't come back.  She feels like an accessory to Kirai, because she is an accessory to Kirai.

Chompy, in contrast, is a 5/7 8 wound model with Terrifying 12, regeneration 2, Feed on Fear, healing on melee.  In other words, Chompy is a perfectly reasonable 8 stone beater model you get as a bonus for picking Dreamer.  If you do kill Dreamer, Chompy stays a perfectly reasonable 8 stone beater.

I'm also curious if you have anything to contribute other than random nitpicking.  Do you have anything to say about why Dreamer, Sandeep, So'mer, and VS are so far above the curve?

Edit: It's also worth noting that no one is calling the other four full summoners weak.  But if it helps you to avoid triggering any ADD tendancies and wandering off topic, just pretend I said Asami's totem or something.  

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1 hour ago, RisingPhoenix said:

 

I'm also curious if you have anything to contribute other than random nitpicking.  Do you have anything to say about why Dreamer, Sandeep, So'mer, and VS are so far above the curve?

For Dreamer at least, I think it isn't any particular factor; it is the sum of them.

A strong henchman plus good summons plus a really solid suite of hiring options (strong scheming and maneuverability, strong beaters, strong card draw, etc).

With Kirai, you can't really hire as strong a team as Dreamer can. If you could, Kirai would be even scarier than Dreamer IMO.

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10 hours ago, Jesy Blue said:

Then you have the not "Full" Summoners I guess we'll call them:

  • Plague who summons mostly without actions or summoning cards
  • Sooey who summons with non-master actions & without summoning cards
  • Witch Hunters who burn/replace/summon
  • Amalgam's not often hit kill/replace/summon without summoning cards
  • I think we count Retainers and their Relequary/Resummon thing, maybe?

As semi sumoner there is Lynch who also have a ability to change somebody into one of his minions - depleted/beckoners/illuminated.

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12 hours ago, RisingPhoenix said:

Oh and So'mer is broken too, but that's a different saga.  And Von Schtook.  Actually, of the 8 full summoners in Malifaux, 4 are busted, 1 is very strong, and 1 got whacked to death by a nerf bat in GG0 (Tara RIP)

Do we actually have any statistics on this, other than random quotes from random people? I've had several games against Von Schtook, and he seems insane to me. But I've never actually seen him win any tournaments or anything. (feel free to correct me on this)

Maybe "Broken" means something differently to me. For me, a broken keyworld would be rocking every single tournament, every single time. I'm not seeing that many summoners holding that spot.

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Dreamer - what is making him currently 'above the curve'? For any summoner it is resource management and Dreamer has (IMO) a mechanic that just shouldn't be anywhere near a summoner, yup Lucid Dreaming. Being able to whittle the deck down for the most meaningful turns reduces the pressure on resources. Your hand will be better, if/when you stone for cards it will be better, your flips will be better (more likely to hit moderate damage than min, more likely to force your opponent to cheat, more likely to hit the TN). Lucid dreaming gives the crew that efficiency to keep the summoning engine for Dreamer going and keeping his models away from the resource he wants.

Now to Chompy - as you say a very solid 8ss model, he has an average defence so if you get through that terror you are already straining resources that dreamer wants. It isn't hard to pressure chompy and with a stat 6, focussed attack you will be on a straight that forces your opponents decision... stone for e neg? Take the straight damage? Stone for reduction. Yes he has options to heal, yes you can play around him to avoid as such.

This leads to the dreamer himself, some nice defensive abilities (serene/incorp) - the prevalence of focus/+ flips can negate SC easily enough, pressure him to pass it off onto his daydreams, you are eating his resources (cards to pass off/models health plus their actual in game purpose). Want to get around SC, blasts, shockwaves, obeys. He doesn't have many wounds and every instance of damage is further pressure on him.

Summoning is good, but it is made better by an ability that can be used in abundance by this crew.

Sandeep - The issue with Sandeep is the sheer ability to draw cards and keep his engine fed. I have played games where my opponent has pretty much always had his 7 card hand and cycled it to be really good. So where do you attack? You attack where its in your favour, force them to be used - if they don't then are losing resources in models and therefore you force the cards for the summon. Sometimes solidly combatting a summoner is keeping the difference in models manageable. You kill the model(s) they wanted to score with that turn and you are delaying their points.

Banasuva - Good totem, yes. A problem? No. Banasuva falls into a category that I call a bully victim. Average defence and a station that isn't master or henchman, so a stat 6 and above will hit this guy and be able to dictate their damage (using focus of course). For most capable beaters that means a mod and a min then he is gone. 

Sandeep himself, can be problematic but he is ultimately 10 wounds, df 5, there are ways to plink that shielded and at that point he is on a straight resource drain. I have had success b-lining him and taking him out.

Again summoning is good but it is hugely bolstered by the keyword.

Von Schtook - A win more summoning mechanic that you will play into if you take easy models (see bully victim idea above), but also you can use the summon mechanic to goad models. It is often going to be a loaded valedictorian and I actually think you will see a very common mistake of people launching her in then being stranded. Card draw in this crew can be crazy good or crazy minimal/to none-existent. It is an addition and usually cannot be relied upon.

Albus is one of the few 'summoners' where I wouldn't bother pressuring him directly, but due to the unique way his summoning mechanic works the resource you attack is model count and while his models are so/so tanky they drop reasonably well if you build to suit.

Somer - I actually think Somer has a much higher skill level than the above three to get him working. He is attrition game personified. In the hands of good players he can be devastating but I think very few will maximise his full potential purely because there is a lot going on. Breaking it down though what makes him so powerful? It is his crews abilities that bolster the summoning as the models he summons are generally poor BUT with the correct utilisation of the crews auras/abilities etc. they are powerful (hence IMO a higher skill level than the others). Bayou two card obviously helps as it can reduce the hand stress, likewise demise expendable.

Weaknesses? Blasts/shockwaves/additional ping damage - anything where you are spreading the damage. Anything that forces the discard. 

That is my thoughts on the four 'above the curve' mentioned. All are strong because they have mechanics that maybe shouldn't be attributed to summoners?

I will mention Kirai as she is one I have the most experience with but I also think she is the most balanced summoner, why? Because she makes you balance the most - health pool and in turn crew selection to mitigate that. Cards - she doesn't have the abundance of draw like the aforementioned (you want to use that adversary as best as you possibly can). Ikiryo - is brilliant (IMO much better than Banasuva).

Dashel/Asami and Tara all can be discussed but I wanted to address the 'broken/above the curve' masters and how IMO it is surrounding abilities that makes their summoning seem too strong but how there are routes around them and keys to having success with them.

Is summoning as a mechanic broken? No. Can it become very strong if crew abilities are utilised in the right way to mitigate the weaknesses of summoning? Yes.

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1 hour ago, Cleezy said:

Von Schtook - Card draw in this crew can be crazy good or crazy minimal/to none-existent. It is an addition and usually cannot be relied upon.

The only time I played against him he never got the matching suits to draw a card a single time in 5 turns!  Not once!

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1 hour ago, Jesy Blue said:

The only time I played against him he never got the matching suits to draw a card a single time in 5 turns!  Not once!

That's pretty lucky. I've been playing him a lot lately and would say his card draw is very swingy. There are games where I seem to draw a card every activation and games where I only draw one a turn. It is pretty improbable to fail the entire game though! You can cheat on a miss to cycle cards if you want to and several models have suits built in, so it usually comes up sometimes.

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11 hours ago, RisingPhoenix said:

I'm also curious if you have anything to contribute other than random nitpicking.  Do you have anything to say about why Dreamer, Sandeep, So'mer, and VS are so far above the curve?

Wow... snide much... !

I don't have the hugest amount of play-experience so commented on what I do know and that is I'd rather have a re-summonable glass cannon who can do devasting damage and potentially activate twice a turn to a slightly less glassy-cannon (LCB, he's not that hard if you tech Ruthless and can repeatedly whack him... & every resource kept keeping him alive takes away from Dreamer) or a more support piece (Banasuva).

The only summoners I have played are Kirai and Tara. I've also played against Dashel once, but that was pre-errata.

Kirai I think is quite strong, however I believe her to be reasonably well balanced by her summoning mechanic (health) and lack of easy card draw/cycle.

Tara I believe got neutered by the errata. She's just too card hungry now that you have to hit a moderate TN (and the suit for trigger) with Aionus in addition to all the other hoops she has to jump through not to mention GG1 hit her hard too.

On to is summoning balanced? That depends on the summoner! As others have pointed out, the strongest summoners are probably Dreamer (Lucid Dreams), Sandeep (Bandara's card draw), Somer (Expendable & Survival of the Fittest), Von Schtook (Studied opponent & not needing a high card for summoning upgrade) and Asami (Arcane Resevior, Emissary's cycle & a plethora of free focus) all have ways to mitigate one of the biggest resource drains on summoners, needing specific (suited) cards.

That said, it's interesting that none of these masters are really universally dominating, so I think while some masters will inevitably OP/UP and everything in between (duh!), I don't think summoning as a stand alone mechanic is broken.

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Regards to VS card draw: I will regularly cheat in a matching suit if I'm losing (assuming its not a pivotal duel) to get rid of a low card.  Also the ability to turn corpse markers into scheme markers with a bonus action and drawing a card with no sort of duel is also nice.

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3 hours ago, Jesy Blue said:

The only time I played against him he never got the matching suits to draw a card a single time in 5 turns!  Not once!

Some days it will go that way, I have had games with very little. I have had games where every possible draw did.

@proofyeq I have done this when possible as its solid card cycling.

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