Monday, 29 February 2016

9th Age Phoney War


There is something to be said for the human condition and its inability to be every truly happy – heck, entire generations have thrown away inheritances to sit at the feet of mysterious men in the hope of discovering true bliss (which is itself nothingness, which says something in itself, but this is probably not the place for it).
I should be happy right now, but instead I find myself sulking (it being a Monday morning in the office could account for this, but I tend not to mind Mondays too much – it’s those Tuesdays you have to keep an eye on).
As the darkness of 2015 slowly gives way to (the still dark but getting gradually lighter) 2016 three things are certain:
Firstly, supporting Manchester United has never been more infuriating;
Secondly, turns out that sitting in cold water for 6th months is enough to get you an Oscar; and
Thirdly, 9th Age is well and truly upon us.
Putting aside all views on viability and the ETC vote that installed it (though one should never *not* mention the brilliance that is the lawyer’s strike in Greece that is preventing the venue from being confirmed… who negotiates between the sides if lawyers are on strike? Come to think of it... a nation with no working lawyers? Perhaps bliss is attainable after all…), it is here to party, and in the UK 2016 saw its real birth, with two sizable events kicking things off (in Sheffield and Cardiff)

So why the sulking?
Well, simply put, we don’t have the finished product, which just annoys me. I don’t like Beta testing, I don’t like kickstarters, I like finished products I can obsess about and throw too much money at (yes, my parents despair at my capitalist leanings).
Is this good in the long run? Of course, the team are working on sorting out as many balance as issues as remotely possible, great.
I’m just annoyed that, after taking part in my first full on two day event of 9th Age all my built up 9thFever (it’s a thing) has to sit around impotently until they release the new books weeks from now.
I can’t even play around with list building – what new hell is this?!
To fill in this yawning chasm in my life (hyperbole is in this year) I am going to share my reaction posts to the Sneak Peaks the team at 9thAge have been drip feeding us.

Until next time!


Saturday, 12 December 2015

Poking a toe through The Breach

As I embarked upon my Odysseyan quest to sample the delights of the various game systems on offer following the Great Schism of 2015 my first port of call in the storm of uncertainty was the peculiarly unique world of Wyrd’s Malifaux.

This is a game that I had always been intrigued by, but had little knowledge of. The sum of my knowledge, in a general sense, was an episode the fantastic podcast World’s End Radio did years ago discussing the background and fundamentals of the game. More locally I knew it as the game that current Warhammer ETC Captain #FatCraig used to play, apparently inevitably getting into and placing in the Masters, before quitting, I believe, as people do across all games, at an edition change. Even more recently, in the past 18 months or so, occasional guest author on this blog, the Panzer himself, had finally had enough of dice hating him and, leading to him throwing himself into the game full bore.

I was loosely aware of some of the models (some of which I thought was great, some of which do nothing for me) of course, and the general pseudo steampunk Western vibe. I also had a vague recollection that the background and imagery was supposed to be rather… ‘racy’
You’ll agree then, limited knowledge going in.
Which is fun really.

The below are some short thoughts following my initial exposure to this game:

So, first up, I browsed around online to see what was, as they say, what. Some cool resources on there – the PullMyFinger website has a *lot* of information, which is handy, because Wyrd’s website really doesn’t. On a related note I noticed for the first time (and I never thought I would say this) that Games Workshop’s website is really very good, allowing for easy browsing of the various models and armies on offer. With Wyrd… well, not so much. I literally have no idea what is out at all, what is only out in the old metal models, and what has been released in plastic, and end up having to resort to checking out Element Games to see what they have on sale.

[I am sure that maybe the information is all out there on Wyrd’s website… but I haven’t found it – not that I tried too hard, but then I shouldn’t have to, surely?]

One other thing I learnt from the internet is that if you go down this particular rabbit hole you have to change out the end of as many words as possible to ‘-faux’ to be taken seriously. A bizarre affectation to be sure, but is seems a small price to pay…

So, enough foreplay and into the meat of things.

The local club, South London Legion (the guys who have put on the very well received London’s Burning and London’s Calling events) is a good group of guys who play pretty much everything out there, including a small core of Malifaux addicts.

Here I managed to organise some intro games, playing three short games with a growing number of models to get a sense for the feel of the mechanics.

I liked it.

My wallet was not happy about it, but hey, that’s half the fun.

My main girl Perdita has been doing a good job of shooting things in the head so far

Cue weeks of trying to get a sense of what was out in plastic (I have no interest in metal models). Going in to a new game, I could get into things purely from a model perspective. Here I noticed the paucity of centralised information relating to the actual models around.

I did eventually find out something quite useful though. I don’t actually like most of the models out there. Other than a lot of the guild models and some of the Ten Thunders stuff, the more ‘fantastical’ stuff really doesn’t appeal to me. This meant I could more easily limit the number of models I bought, and encourage me to paint things. Win win (well perhaps less so on the last bit)!

Cue some more reading up (and listening to podcasts – there are a *lot* of them out there!) as I decided on what to get to get the ball rolling. My first purchase consisted of:
  • Lady Justice crew box
  • Perdita Ortega crew box
  • Sonia Criid crew box
  • Guild Austringers box
  • The Malifaux 2E book
  • Deck of Fate Cards

Bringing law, and traffic cones, to the dark streets of Malifaux

Not long after I added:
  • Abuela Ortega
  • Lone Marshall
  • Crossroads Expansion book
  • Scheme & Strategy Cards

The thinking was simple enough… get enough to get my teeth into things and to give me some flexibility

The next day (seriously, these deliveries are fast!).
Down the rabbit hole we go!

Nino the Ninja. Or something

So… the book is an interesting beast.
The rules are all pretty clearly laid out and make sense. All good.

The background (really the key to my enjoyment of things) is cool… but very short. After the succinct descriptions of the overall world, and the short summary of each faction in the game I noticed an interesting quirk of this game – the way they convey the background.

This is, of course, coming from historical bias. I am used to the stage being set in a pseudo encyclopaedic style (even if sometimes knowingly coloured by narrative bias). Even without realising it, it turns out I really like it, and am not a fan of this alternative way of doing things.

I get it, of course. Conveying the background in story form is a fantastic way for people to swiftly become immersed into the world. Furthermore, not all companies have the infrastructure to have an in-house publishing division providing this side of things. It comes down to, personally, a matter of weighting, and my position not being overly helped by my not being that interested in the subject of the stories published in the main book or the follow up book Crossroads (I haven't bought the third book yet).

Overall through, I enjoy the sense of a wider, complete, world that this game inhabits. I like the fluff of my chosen faction, the Guild – coming across as a very grimdark mixture of the law in a lawless land, riddled throughout with corruption and competing interests – it feels somehow ‘real’. As for the perceived ‘raciness’, I am not sure if it has been toned down since the first edition, but it’s not something that really comes across in the fluff. Some (or perhaps quite a few) of the models are overly sexualised but, despite understanding why some people do not like that, I personally have no issue with it.
Blind lady with a big sword. My favorite model in the game (pity I can't paint worth a damn) 

One thing became apparent when it came to assembling models… the guys over at Wyrd are sadistic. There is no acceptable reason for the models being *this* fiddly to assemble! It is madness. Small models with heads that are made of 3 parts just shouldn’t be a thing…

Malifaux is an interesting beast.

There is a large and passionate community out there for this game, as can be seen by the large number of podcasts on offer. Interestingly, however, the unique nature of the game makes it a tough subject to podcast about in a coherent way… not saying the podcasts aren’t fun or good (and am sure they get even more so the more you know about the game), but the options are so varied, and people seem agree with each other so rarely, that one can easily feel like a oarless dingy in the wilds of the Southern Ocean.
Cowboys with big birds are a thing, right?

All this makes entering this particular shark tank very confusing. There is no concrete source of information you can get to build on as a foundation, given the way in which the opposition, the strategies, the schemes, the deployment, the terrain and your available collection will all drastically affect the way you go about list construction, never mind further details of how to approach an actual game when you factor in the specifics of what your opponent has taken.

Add to this the main issue I have noticed with going into a new game and it gets confusing.

This issue I raise is what I shall, very imaginatively, call the “Numbers on a Page Conundrum”. Some people love this, the challenge of making the maths work to the best of our ability. Hearthstone seems to be the ultimate version of this. I, however, have less than any interest in this state of affairs. I like being restricted by other factors such as fluff etc.

Add to this the lack of some quartermaster-type app to easily design lists (whilst offline) and things were just getting hard.

Carrying your own coffin to battle saves a lot of time (especially if your head is on fire)

Then I decided to make things happen and just arrange some games. I ground my teeth, assembled some models and trusted that the madness would take care of itself.

I’ll go into details at a later date, but I shall summarise my initial thoughts as follows:
This is a brilliant game.

All my issues with it fade away when put against the fun of playing this game.
  • The tables look good
  • The pre-game list building is a great additional challenge
  • The thought process of selecting schemes to complement (or make up for) strategies is brilliant
  • The multiple ways of scoring points adds flexibility
  • The card management mechanic allows various approaches
  • The sheer diversity in how various models and crews operate explains the endless ramblings that create the online fan presence for this game
  • The fact a crew easily fits into my work bag

On paper a lot of the above annoy (or perhaps just confuse) me, but when it comes to the table, it’s fun. It helps, of course, having literally no idea what my opponent can do, so I get to just worry about myself!
Insert comment on typical imperialistic oppression of native races here

Right now I can honestly say that if I could play this game two or three times a week I would take it up and feel like I wanted more – something I haven’t been able to say about a game in years.

My enjoyment is enhanced by the fact I know I will not fall into the endless pit this game could easily become. I do not like most of the models in the range, so won’t be buying them. I have always also enjoyed imposing restrictions on myself in all games I play, so the challenge of trying to complete the various mad strategies against the legion of even madder possible opponents utilising a small pool of models fits seamlessly into that.

It also has had me doing some terrible painting, which twitter tells me is a good thing.
So there is that.

I shall report back on games and further thoughts in future posts.

But for now, I have to say, this crazy world of cards, gothic horror clich├ęs, murky options and, of course, fauxs is very impressive.

Have hat, will travel

Until next time