Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Playing the Elite and the Hail Mary plays

Today's post is something of a reflective moment. I want to talk about why I love the fate mechanic in Malifaux and what it must take to make it as one of the Elite in this game.

I'm reflecting on three games I've had against outstanding opponents, players who are undoubtedly up there as some of the best in Australia. You'll have to forgive me waxing lyrical about these three games first, there are some points to this blog entry, but I think its important to lay the foundations, before drawing my conclusions.

Dave aka Tiny @ Cancon 2013
The first game I'll talk about was actually a Resser on Resser brawl at Cancon this year. This was my first brawl sized game and only my third game with Kirai.

In my game against Dave, he went to great lengths to accommodate my lack of knowledge, truly helping me at every turn. We're in the final turn of the game. I've played a Hail Mary and somehow broken through to Dave's deployment zone. Now most of Dave's stuff had activated and in reality it was only his Lost Love that was anywhere near close enough. Most players at this point might have conceded the breakthrough but Dave asks me how many wounds my Drowned has left, looks at his card, decides if he needs Lost Love to keep Kirai safe, then charges my Drowned. A totem taking on a pretty strong spirit. It was an eye opener for me, and now in every game I no longer relegate the lost love to the backfield, I actually consider him a reasonable brawler.

Liam aka OSOI @ Faux Pas about a month ago
Now Liam is one of our local henchmen and recently he's done some good stuff with achievement events. As we sat down he pulls out the achievements pack and offers me the chance to pick his Hoffman crew. Now I'm not going to miss an opportunity like that, he's handing me a chance to pick his crew for him, surely I can level the playing field for my fledgling Kirai crew if I can pick some weaker minions to go up against.

Well what that game showed me is even with a disadvantage, a great players finds a way. Liam turned my choices against me using tactics he rarely gets to use. He had a plan from the start, heck he even told me the details, but he still managed to execute it and wipe out four spirits in the process.

Adrian aka Rathnard @ my place yesterday
Now here's Professor Pink himself, something of a celebrity in a Faux circles. We're smashing out a game between Zoraida and Seamus, I'm listening intently and trying to keep up, I know I'm facing Australia's number one and I'm a little intimidated by his wealth of knowledge. As the mid game starts I'm hit hard by a combo involving nightmare teddy, bad juju and a couple of silurids. Meanwhile Zoraida is having fun ravening around snatching objectives and obeying the crap out of everything.

I somehow manage to keep Seamus in the game until turn 4 when Zoraida charges him. Yep you read that right, Zoraida, the queen of casting sticks it to Seamus with nothing more than a set of knitting needles.

At this point I've played a Hail Mary and charged a crooked man into Zoraida, I know, not the brightest thing to do, but then fate hands me a second chance and I manage to paralyse the Hag and reinforce my control of the centre of the board. Even then Adrian looks completely calm and suddenly silurids are bouncing into my deployment zone to level the scores.

So what are my learnings from all this reflection? Is there a point to all of this? Well yes I think there is and I'll attempt to summarise it here:

My first point has to be that unlike some other wargames, Malifaux doesn't seem to breed nearly as many douches at the top. Maybe its the fact that in our top ten here, there's quite a few who are also Henchmen, maybe its the Aussie culture, but its been my experience that these are good guys, people you enjoy every moment of your game against. I find that interesting when we as a club, go to great efforts in other systems to enforce a fair and disciplined sportsmanship system, whilst with this game, it seems largely redundant.

My second point would be that playing this quality of player is always an eye opener, you can think you know your cards off by heart, and yet somehow, they will always remind you of something you've forgotten, or some tactic you've completely overlooked or never really understood. Generally I get told about these things as I go to do something silly and these guys correct me, which says another thing about their character.

My third point and real reason for mentioning the fate mechanic at the start of this long ramble is the balance it brings and how you see an experienced player deal with a sudden change in fate. In the games I mentioned these players all suffered a burst of bad luck playing me, a black joker at the most inopportune of times, a sudden streak of low cards, or a control hand that contains nothing but ones and twos. In each instance I saw the players really step it up a gear, none of them sat their and bemoaned their luck, as some of us are prone to doing, instead you could see them analysing the situation and working a way to cheat the hand they've been dealt.

There's several lessons for me in what I'm writing here:
- Don't be afraid to go up against the best, how else are you going to get better.
- These are good guys, the arrogance I sometimes see amongst the winning circle, just isn't that prevalent in this system
- Aspire to be like these guys, I need to work on my calm, and I really need to know my rules a lot better
- I need to try out other crews and not restrict myself to one or two masters, I need to understand the mechanics of crews I struggle against, so I can find and overcome vulnerabilities, or at the very least know what those vulnerabilities are
- I need to plan more, plan and re-plan as the game develops. Don't just shuffle forward and hope for the best, I need to know what every minion's objective is, and I need to take stock at the end of each and every activation
- I need to look at the Mercs and synergies with other crews, decide if their right for a given situation, scenario, opponent or crew matchup
- I need to look at all character abilities again, stop dismissing those things I don't think I'll need, or don't play to the perceived strengths. Instead I need to look at all abilities again and look at where they work and what they work against.

So in short, no small order! And as I've hinted some small changes for this Aspiring Resser and this blog, or should that be Gullible Guildsman, Timid Thunderer, Oppressed Outcast, Neverborn Newcomer or Assistant Arcanist.

Time will tell.

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