May 202014
 

ColetteThe Thirteenth Sword

Rose knew the game was up before Cassandra said a word. There was just something about the way she was leaning in the doorway of the chorus girls’ dressing room, red dress slashed high on her thigh and sweet smoke wrapping her like gauze, with all the predatory nonchalance of a cat who knows the mouse has nowhere to run.

“Rose, darlin’,” Cassandra said, not even looking at her, just the hint of a smile as she studied her perfect nails, “change of plan. We’re doing the Box tonight, and you’re our gal.” Cassandra spread her fingers, arm outstretched, and if claws had popped out Rose would not have been surprised. “Better limber up. Oh, and Colette’s doing the swords herself.”

And she was off into the dark of the backstage corridors, the lingering smoke from her cigarette forming lips that blew a hazy kiss at Rose. It broke apart just before it reached her.

Rose drew in a long breath to steady herself. Cassandra knew. And if Cassandra knew, Colette knew. But how? She’d put it back. No-one had seen her and she’d put it back!

She felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Marlene. “Box trick, hun? With no rehearsal?” There was the whistle of air being sucked through pearly whites, and the hand gave a comforting squeeze. “Better be on your toes.”

And now the Box trick. They hadn’t done the Box in ages. Rose had understudied for Marlene, sure, but she’d never done it live on stage. Marlene was rubber-boned and double-jointed and she’d still ended up getting hurt. The Box might be an illusion but those swords certainly weren’t!

Colette was doing the swords herself. She knew. She knew for sure. Oh, this was bad. This was very, very bad.

The muffled bell rang out for places and Rose’s legs had her halfway into the wings before she knew what she was doing, lining up with all the other girls for the opening number. There was no going back. There was no getting out.

She’d betrayed her friends, and abandoned her sister, and all for nothing, and now she was going to pay for it with her life.

#

The meeting with the Guild man the previous day had been as bad as she had expected, but then it had all gotten impossibly worse.

There she was, just a young girl, a dancer and a singer, a nobody in a big city and he sat at a desk with his title in brass and wore a Guild badge. It had some motto stitched on it, but she knew it really said, “I can do whatever I like, and don’t you forget it.” She hadn’t been there ten minutes and already she felt like a criminal, statues looming over her like judges and everyone all frowns and hard faces and them in their big chairs and her on a little wicker stool that wobbled as she spoke.

“She ain’t done nothing wrong, sir,” Rose had said, although she knew it for a lie. Bless her heart, she loved her baby sister, but trouble and Lisa just always seemed to hook up. It was never anything serious, and she’d talked Lisa out of a tight spot before, but this one felt different. The Guild man wasn’t buying it. “She just made a mistake is all.”

“She made a mistake, alright.” The man leered, yellow teeth like crooked gravestones. Maybe it could be sorted, the leer said, if she could just be accommodating. She thought again about Lisa, shackled in a filthy Guild cell somewhere beneath her feet, but before she could say anything another man had come in. If the first man was a Guild man this new one was a Guild gentleman, clothes shop-clean and new and hair lawyer-black and oiled neat as you like. He spoke into the first one’s ear, who looked annoyed, like a dog whose bone had been taken away, then he got up and left without a word.

The Guild gentleman – she guessed he probably was a lawyer – had sat himself down with a nod of his head, and laid it all out for Rose. Lisa was in more than just the normal amount of trouble. He smiled coldly as he unfolded a sheet of paper and read allegation after allegation, complete fabrications of course, but all with just enough grain of truth to make it seem credible. Rose’s mind froze in panic, but still phrases like “co-conspirator”, “consorting with known agitators” and “threat to society” got through. When he casually mentioned the hanging tree Rose began to shake.

#

“Allow me to introduce the beautiful Rose!”

The crowd cheered and whooped as Colette, in a perilously short skirt and smoky stockings, gave a practiced spin with hand outstretched and Rose glided onstage in a yellow spotlight, no trace of her ragged nerves and thundering heartbeat showing through her smile. The grease lamps flared and the cymbals crashed. Rose had quickly changed out of her sky blue can-can outfit into magnificent Arabic silks, gathered at the ankles and wrists, decked all over with concealing red silk scarves. The scarves would come off in a minute as part of the act, of course, to display deep, tantalising slashes in the silk garments – nothing like a glimpse of skin to sell a magic trick to the punters. She acknowledged a few wolf-whistles with a coy cock of her head.

The light dimmed as the drums kicked up an ominous rumble. At a gesture from Colette another spotlight found the Box, being wheeled forward by two more girls.

“Legend has it,” Colette was announcing, “that the Box was invented in fourteen hundred and three, by Suilaman Beg, Prince of Baban. His favourite concubine, a peerless beauty by the name of Sirr Al-Husn, was accused by her household of the theft of a priceless gemstone.” Had Colette glanced at her just then? She had! She definitely knew! “Al-Husn admitted to stealing, but furiously denied stealing the gem. The Prince devised the Box. With this, he would find out the truth.”

The assistants spun the Box on oiled wheels. More than six feet from top to bottom, the Box was cheap birch panels painted a lurid jade, with geometric arabesques in flour paste that had been tinted to look gold. The front was hinged, and a padlock and chain hung loose.

“A trial by steel!”

Another assistant rolled out an iron rack on wheels, with thirteen identical swords. Colette snatched one up, gave it a respectful swish to let the punters see the heft of the metal. She took up another and rang the blades together just as the cymbals gave another crash, then with a fencer’s poise she plunged both into notches in the side of the Box.

The assistants opened the Box, showing the blades within, their ends jutting out matching notches in the opposite side.

“The Prince would give her lies no place to hide!”

Colette looked over at Rose, right at her this time, and she felt all the colour drain from her face.

#

The Deal was simple. Rose was no dummy, and she thought the Guild lawyer knew it, but still he made her repeat it a few times. Sometimes, when you have a dog on a leash, you just can’t resist giving it orders.

“I find evidence of smuggled soulstones in the Star Theatre. I find anything that links them to Colette – I mean, Miss du Bois. I bring it to you and you drop the charges against Lisa.” She swallowed nervously. “But what’ll happen to Miss du Bois?”

“You don’t need to worry about that.”

“Or to the theatre?”

“Not your concern.”

“But what if I can’t find anything? What if there’s nothing there?”

The man spread his hands, in a “what can I do?” gesture. “Then you have to deal with the desk sergeant again. I am sure you and he can come to some – accommodation.” He stood up. “You’ll have to be quick, though. While I’ll do what I can, it’s not unknown for paperwork to get mixed up. Before you know it the cells have been emptied and the unfortunates end up chained in the bowels of a Guild mine for the rest of their short lives.” Another cold smile as he dropped a sheaf of paper into a bin. “As far as we’re concerned they just…disappear.”

#

In theory, the Box illusion was simple, and all that guff about concubines was nonsense. The Box was as old as the hills, yes, but the Arabic frippery was just that. Rose liked her reading, and as far as she could tell it had been invented in mediaeval Denmark by a nameless Jew, who’d been ripped off by the magician he’d designed it for.

Funny the things you remember when you’re terrified, she thought, as she removed the silk scarves and showed off a few harem dance steps.

“Rose is now going to get into the Box, ladies and gentlemen,” Colette cried, “and demonstrate the unique Arabic constitutional feats that enable the truly virtuous, as the legendary Sirr Al-Husn attempted, to escape the inescapable.”

Girl goes in the Box, swords get stabbed through the Box, there’s some signs of life – maybe a hand poked out here or a curtain pulled aside to reveal a smiling face, but more and more swords go in until there’s no way the girl can possibly survive. Sometimes, you let out a little scream for effect. The Box goes quiet and there’s no sign of life. The swords come out and the padlock is undone and the girl emerges whole and unharmed. Cue the applause.

“But I warn you!”

The trick is banal, as most tricks are. A combination of cunningly-designed notches and a very limber girl who can remember the sequence of swords is all that’s needed. Even the final sword, which surely goes through the girl’s breast, because didn’t you just see her face above that notch a second ago, is done with an internal catch and a false bottom, dropping the girl a crucial few inches so that the sword passes over her head.

“Rose’s safety cannot be guaranteed. There is always a chance, no matter how small, that this trick might go wrong, so I ask those with a fragile stomach to leave the theatre, now.”

Once you get past the mechanics you realise it’s all in the performance, and Rose was one of the best.

It was performance that had gotten her into the Star last night after the doors had been locked, spinning the night watchman a lurid tale about two men, too much wine and a misunderstanding and how she needed – really, really needed – to get something she’d left backstage to defuse the entire situation before pistols were drawn over her honour. She had detailed backstories of the minor characters worked out in her head, but it turned out that all she needed to do was ask and the old watchman let her in without even waking up properly. She had felt slightly deflated and madly excited all at the same time.

She had thought it was all over when she heard voices coming from the stage and, creeping through the darkness, watched in horror as Colette and Cassandra, visibly exhausted at two o’clock in the morning, rehearsed one of the riskier prop acts that involved swapping two girls in what looked an impossible fashion. They worked in a tiny pool of candlelight, their weary voices echoing in the deserted theatre. The usual banter the chorus girls enjoyed overhearing between the two was conspicuous by its absence, and the pair said little as they fretted over tiny details in the performance, even snapping at one another from time to time, although this was always followed by some mute, micro-apology that only someone familiar with them could ever have noticed.

Rose waited for another hour, hiding in silence in the rows of seats, before the pair finally reached an unspoken agreement that the act was ready and left arm in arm down the central aisle. The main doors clicked locked behind them in the darkness, street sounds rising and fading away. She stood quickly and headed backstage.

Colette’s office was an on-going exercise in autobiographical art. At least that is what Colette called it. Rose just called it an all-forsaken mess. Stage directions, designs for new shoes, choreography sketches, caricatures of the girls Colette did during rehearsal, milliners’ catalogues and to-do lists so covered the walls that it was not possible to tell if they were painted or bare. The floor was worse, with bills, old posters, running orders (crossed out and re-written a dozen times), invoices (paid, unpaid and final-demand red), prop schematics, seating layouts and diary pages scattered so thick in places that the floor undulated. The edges of tables were hidden behind more scraps pinned to them in overlapping layers, forming a whispering skirt of paper, while books and ledgers piled on top formed impromptu legs for yet more tables, made of whatever had been to hand in the storeroom.

It would take a lifetime to sift through all this junk, and Rose only had a couple of hours at most. She hiked up her skirts, willed her heart to slow down and got to work.

#

Inside the Box it was as dark as a coffin, and all Rose could smell was her own fear.

She could hear the crowd, of course, and Colette’s patter, only slightly muted by the thin, rough wood. Her hand felt instinctively for the catch that would trigger the false bottom before the final sword thrust, feeling its cool metal against her damp fingers.

The first sword would come right after the word, “concubine.” She had to be ready, she had to listen out and move her hips left just in time, but her heart was beating so loud she was suddenly terrified she would miss it. She stopped breathing.

The soft scuff of footsteps. The faint ring of tempered steel. A heckle and a putdown from Colette got a big laugh from the punters.

“…concubine had lied to him!”

And there it was. She twisted left, the sword punched through the navel notch with deadly force. She felt the smooth steel at her side, and also a new rent in her silks. She hadn’t been quick enough. Or was Colette being too quick? She would know soon enough.

She stuck a hand out a curtained porthole and waved to the unseen crowd. Colette made an amusing remark at her expense, scripted of course, and when Colette’s back was momentarily turned, a move that had to be timed to the second as she couldn’t see out, she stuck up two fingers at her. That one always got a raucous laugh.

But as a bit of stagecraft it was peerless. The punters saw the girl in the Box had spirit. They liked that. They started to side with her against the magician who was sticking her full of swords, while still enjoying the magician’s patter. They started to identify with the feisty girl in the Box. It made the finale all the better for it.

The next swords came in rapid ones and twos. Rose wracked her brain to remember the contortions needed to avoid each one, her free space to move within the Box quickly becoming dangerously limited.

It was all going well. Maybe Colette didn’t know after all.

#

They glowed like fireflies in the dark cubbyhole, valuable beyond anything Rose had ever seen in her life.

Gnawing on her lip like a child, she took one ever so carefully, turning it over in her hand. The light from it glittered in the glass eyes of the metal dove paperweight on the table. On an impulse she slipped off her glove and felt the stone against her skin, cool and smooth, but with a tingle that made her want to laugh and smile and cry all at once. A genuine soulstone.

And there were so many of them. The cubbyhole was so full they had nearly spilled out when she had opened it. It had been hidden, of course, and well hidden, but the fact that the papers on that part of wall had been re-pinned over and over again had been a subtle clue to its existence.

So many of them.

Surely Colette wouldn’t miss just one?

She could take it to that lawyer, and get Lisa out of jail, and Colette would never know it had been Rose…

…who had betrayed her. The thought made her sick to her stomach.

She glanced around guiltily, saw the dove’s glittering eyes staring at her. It felt like it was judging her. She nearly laughed – her conscience pricked by a paperweight!

“Shut up,” she whispered to the dove, turning it to face away. “What do you know about it all?”

Colette, who had taken in Rose only a few months ago, off the street with nowhere to live and a singing voice that hit all the notes except the right ones and all the dancing ability of a three-legged dog. Who had given her a chance to work hard, train harder, practice till her throat was hoarse and her ankles ached all night long, and earn her own way in the world for the first time in her life. A chance Rose had grabbed with both hands and never looked back. If there was one thing she’d learned at the Star Theatre, it was that the girls stuck together, they watched each others backs.

“They’ll shut it all down, won’t they?” she said to the dove. “The Guild, I mean. Arrest everyone. Just because they can. And I don’t even know if I can trust them about Lisa.”

She had sat there, on the chair in the office, with the single stone glowing in her hand, and thought of Lisa, who would never survive the mines, and the desk sergeant, who knew that no-one got nothing for free.

So she put it back with the others, concealed the cubbyhole once more, turned the stupid dove back to face the chair and left.

#

Rose screamed, right on cue. The sword hadn’t cut her, of course, but it left a shocked silence in the crowd’s noise into which Colette could throw the ending of her Arabian tale.

“Sirr Al-Husn did not survive the Box,” she said, in a low voice that always had the punters leaning forward in their seats. “When the last sword was drawn out and the door opened she fell forward, into the Prince’s arms, her life-blood running free. With her dying breath she told him she had not stolen the gemstone. Finally, as she passed over Death’s door, he believed her, but why had she confessed to stealing something from him? What had she stolen? The only thing of his she had ever stolen, she said, was his heart.”

#

When the Guild building opened in the morning, Rose was first in line. The desk sergeant remembered her with a leer, and she sat on the same wicker stool as last time while he thumbed through a leather-bound ledger.

There was a look of dissatisfaction on his face when he closed it with a thud, quickly replaced by a malicious sneer. “Wouldn’t you know it, I fink there’s been a bit of a paperwork mixup. Ain’t got no-one in the cells by that name, luv,” he said, laughing. “Guild never ‘eard of her. Looks like your sister just up and disappeared!”

#

The thirteenth sword was the last, and Rose heard the ring of its blade as Colette drew it from the iron stand.

The curtain before Rose’s face was pulled aside for the first and last time in the act. She was supposed to put on a pained, fearful expression, but right now that was not stretching her acting abilities at all.

The chest notch was the last one. Stay where she was and the sword would pierce her heart. She touched the metal catch for the thousandth time.

Colette leaned forward, looking Rose in the eye, and that was when she knew for sure.

“Do you know what you did wrong?” Colette whispered, and flicked the curtain closed before Rose could answer.

Her heart raced ahead of the thundering drums of the orchestra. She stabbed at the false-bottom release-

Nothing happened.

Oh, lord, no!

Again.

Nothing.

Again!

Nothing.

She couldn’t drop any lower. Her limbs were contorted beyond the point of pain already.

The thirteenth sword was going to kill her. Right through the heart.

She heard the swoosh of the blade.

There would be an uproar! An outcry! Screams and fainting!

It would make for great theatre, and Colette would have avenged her would-be betrayer.

A whisper at the curtain. Colette, so quiet she almost missed it. “You didn’t come to me, darlin’.”

The catch moved in her sweat-slicked fingers, and a strange but familiar glow lit the inside of the Box. The false-bottom opened and Rose fell – and kept falling.

She screamed, but before the scream escaped her lips she hit something solid, but soft, and it knocked the air from her in a gasp.

Cassandra stood over her. Rose was lying on a pile of old canvas under the trapdoor in the stage. From above she heard the crowd gasp as the thirteenth sword was rammed home – into an empty Box.

“How?” she tried to get to her feet, but her arms and legs were quaking and untrustworthy. “There’s no trapdoor in the Box. How can I be here?”

Cassandra held out a hand. “A little something Colette and I have been working on. Stage magic is not the only kind we do around here. C’mon. Trick’s not over yet, hun. You don’t want to miss the finale.”

She led Rose out a sidedoor into a space under the wings, and from there into the side-aisle, where they could see the stage. Colette was removing swords from the Box in a dazzling array of flourishes, tossing each one expertly back onto the iron rack.

Rose swallowed hard. “But, you know about what I did? I thought you were going to – I mean…”

“Y’all got a lot to learn about how it’s done around here. We look out for one another. Should have known that by now. Should have come to us.” She frowned, arms folded. “You’d make a decent sneak thief, though. Gotta give you that. Might need to let you in on some of the real action.” She cocked her head at Rose’s evident confusion, shrugged. “Might need to let you in on the doves, too. Now, pay attention, hun. Trick’s not over.”

Cassandra leaned back against the wall. “You make something disappear, you have to bring it back.”

And as Colette flung open the door to the Box and Lisa stepped out, unharmed and blinking in complete amazement, to thunderous applause, Rose knew the game was only just beginning.

 

 

 

Aug 072013
 

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It only took three years, but I have finally played as Neverborn :-)

Was it the first, irrevocable step on the path to the dark side? Of course not. I was just getting down with my very bad self.

I swapped a painted Steel Legion squad for 40k for a Zoraida crew with Barry “Henchman and Interview Ninja” Kelly and arranged a game with Dave “Gremlins Totally Are a Real Faction” Hamilton.

We went for 50ss, as that seems to the be the M2E norm (Norm!), and it turned out we both fancied trying the Story Encounters. Dave set out a nifty Gremlin village, and we flipped and got Sabotage for the Strategy.

As Attacker, I had to secretly pick a terrain piece in Daves table half. During the game I could plant Scheme Marker on any terrain with a (2) Interact action, and at the end I got 3VP if I had one on the chosen terrain piece and +1VP if I had any more. Daves crew could remove them at the cost of a (2) Interact action.

As Defender, Dave had to kill off all my Masters and Henchmen.

I had a set crew of:-

Zoraida (Hex Bag, Crystal Ball, Animal Form) 7ss cache
Voodoo Doll
3 x Silurids
Bad Juju (Nexus of Power, Eternal)
Waldgeist

I had to proxy the Waldgeist, and make two tree Markers, right before the game. I made these in 10 mins:

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The sharp-eyed will spot that there is a 40k Chaos Spawn pretending to be a spiky bush. I think the trees looked pretty good though.

Dave took:-

Som’er (Liquid Bravery, Family Tree and Encouragement) 7ss cache
2 Skeeters
Rami
Francois
Pere Ravage
Slop Hauler
4 x Bayou Gremlins

I flipped for Schemes and got Make Them Suffer (which sounded very Neverborn-y) and also took the Neverborn Faction scheme (Exterminate). For Make Them Suffer I had to kill every Minion and Peon Dave had… Okay. Perhaps a tricky one. For the Neverborn Scheme I had to have more Masters or Henchmen in my crew than Dave had. That should be doable, especially with a Henchman who cannot die!

Dave picked Vendetta on Jazz Hands Silurid, and the Gremlin Faction Scheme (Fight Another Day), for which he had to end the game with at least four models with no wounds on any of them. Tough, but doable with the Slop Hauler.

I had a plan. I could get Bad Juju well up the table with some Zoraida trickery, and he is phenomenally survivable with those Upgrades. The plan was to dump Bad Juju in a passel o’ Gremlins and see what done happened.

Turn 1

Rami tried to take out a Silurid with a Focused Shot with the double damage trigger, but Black Jokered the damage flip! The Black Joker would go on to plague Somer the whole game.

The Waldgeist double walked and dropped a pair of 50mm Tree markers between it and the Gremlins.

I did the Zoraida movement trick. The Doll used Hem on Bad Juju, and Zoraida interacted with the Doll to push Bad Juju 12″ up the table, getting cover behind the trees.

The Silurids all Leapt, and moved behind huts out of Line of Sight.

Francois moved up and managed to charge Jazz Hands Silurid, killing him for 3VPs on Turn 1. Ouch. Bad Juju replied by totally killing that douche Francois.

Pere Ravage moved up into a scary position, and the other Gremlins moved up. Som’er made two more and Sloppy healed them up.

Turn 2

I won Initiative and opted to repeat the Bad Juju trick. He pushed past Pere Ravage and got into melee with the outskirts of the Gremlin mob.

Som’er tried to Charge him and Black Jokered the Horror duel!

Bad Juju then killed a Gremlin (so he could walk away from him) and walked right into the middle of the crowd, locking most of them in melee. He did his (0) Action and passed a bit of Slow and some wounds around with that.

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While the multitude of Gremlins wailed on Bad Juju for the rest of the Turn (and Bad Juju judiciously applied soulstones for Damage Reduction flips, which also let him heal 2 wds at the same time, thanks to Nexus of Power), the middle Silurid charged Pere Ravage, hit him once and then Leapt away out of Line of Sight.

Pere Ravage had Squee’d away from the Silurid into Severe Terrain, and could not get the movement he needed to charge my Waldgeist, so he moved up and detonated, putting no wounds on the hiding Silurid and 3 on the Waldgeist, and enough on himself to die. The Kin were getting thinned out nicely!

Rami moved back and took a brace of shots at Bad Juju with the double damage trigger, but again Hard to Wound and the Nexus of Power kept the damage amazingly low. I was running low on soulstones though, so I decided to keep him alive this Turn, but let him die next Turn. He would come back on full wounds anyway!

The Waldgeist moved up into base contact with my chosen terrain piece and remade the forest between itself and the Gremlin/ Bad Juju stramash.

On my right, my other Silurid took advantage of Rami moving away and jumped up into contact with another hut, and planted a Marker on it. Could I tempt a Gremlin or two over this side of the table and away from my true target?

The Voodoo Doll, having nothing to do, double walked up the table. A low wall in the middle of the table kept it completely safe from Gremlin shooting, being only Ht1.

Turn 3

Som’er managed to charge into melee with Bad Juju, but despite landing a few hits he failed to kill him.

Bad Juju activated and killed a Gremlin and the Slop Hauler. No more healing for the Gremlins! His (0) Action managed to kill off a Skeeter. The Gremlins tore into him again and he finally went down later in the Turn. What really helped the Gremlins was two things; the +2Wp aura from the Skeeters and Bayou Two Card, which let them cheat off the top of the Fate Deck every time they failed a Horror duel. It meant Dave rarely had to use a card from his hand, and I think only one model failed and was allowed to stay failed without cheating (the Skeeter that Juju killed off).

Rami focused a shot on the Silurid over my right, and got the double damage trigger again, killing the poor swamp thing in a single hit. The backwash of damage killed Rami, however. Kin all gone.

Zoraida turned into a raven and flew forward, getting in range of the Gremlins. She tried Obeying a Gremlin, but it simply slapped its brother for 1Dg. Nothing much doing, then, but I had got her into the action, which is what the Raven upgrade seemed to be ideal for.

A Gremlin moved off to the right of the table, clearly heading to deactivate the Marker the dead Silurid had placed.

My last remaining Silurid Leapt out of cover and planted another decoy Marker in a hut. Note to self: always keep 5s in hand for Leap. It makes Silurids awesome.

With Bad Juju gone the remaining Gremlins started moving around the Waldgeist’s forest, but that only brought them into its 4″ melee reach. Rather than killing them, though, the Waldgeist planted the real Marker on my chosen terrain piece.

Turn 4

The Waldgeist reached out and killed two Gremlins with two hits. They were only on two Wds each, but suddenly there were a lot fewer drunken, green hooligans around.

Som’er moved and aimed a shot at the Waldgeist, managing to kill it. The forest vanished, Bad Juju popped out, and Somer shot him as well.

I should have Activated Bad Juju, but did Zoraida instead, who completely fluffed three spells on the Gremlins. Pah!

Then a Gremlin took a lucky shot and killed Bad Juju with the Red Joker. I had a sad :-(

But the shot killed the Gremlin who fired it, so happy times. Another Gremlin deactivated the decoy Marker on my right.

I Leapt my last remaining Silurid forward and Charged Somer, doing a little damage. Dave cleverly had a Skeeter charge Som’er and used his super-Squee trigger to push out of melee and towards Zoraida.

Last of all he moved a Gremlin very close to my real Sabotage Marker. He would be able to deactivate it next Turn…

I used the Voodoo Doll to put Hem on him :-)

Turn 5

Som’er blasted away at Zoraida, doing Weak damage with the first hit and missing with the second, despite smart use of Focus and Soulstones to get around cover and Zoraida’s defensive abilities.

Zoraida replied by having the Hem’d Gremlin run away 10. Hem is brilliant! The Sabotage Marker was safe.

My last Silurid killed off one of the three remaining Gremlins in the middle of the table. A Gremlin shot at him twice, and I tried to cheat down but couldnt get the Silurid to die. I wanted him to die so that Bad Juju would pop out and get me my Exterminate Scheme, but I just couldnt manage it.

We flipped at the end of the Turn and the game ended. I revealed my choice of terrain for the Sabotage Strategy.

Result: I had 4VP from the Strategy, with a Sabotage Marker on my chosen terrain piece for 3VP and another marker on another terrain piece for +1VP. Dave had 3VP from Vendetta, and neither of us had any VP from any of our other Schemes. Who says Strategies dont win you the game?! Win for Zoraida 4VP to 3VP.

This was a very fun game, and very close. I felt like Zoraidas crew out the box was extremely solid, and the addition of the Waldgeist gave me some very helpful board control, not to mention another Bad Juju-summoning piece. I dictated the flow of the game (if you ignore stupidly handing out 3VP on Turn 1!) and the huge melee let me position my other models to go for the Strategy.

If we played it again I am sure Dave would focus all his fire on Bad Juju on Turn 1 (and, if possible 2) before he ploughs into their gunline and shuts down their shooting. That said, it would be hard to stop him just popping back up again and doing the same thing. Spreading the Gremlins out would help, but that also detracts from their synergies with Somer and the Slop Hauler. The Pigapult could have been handy. A nice conundrum with lots of options and alternatives but no easy answers, which is perfect Malifaux.

The reduced game length of five Turns really focuses the mind. I am planning on the game ending on Turn 5, and it means that no longer can I have models pick fights and then just hope to get them into a scoring position later in the game. I find that I need to have a plan for them. It does not need to be a detailed plan (eg. move up on flank, plant a Marker, hide), but I cannot afford to go off-mission at any point.

I am still getting the hang of using the very different Soulstones. I completely forgot in this game that I could use them to draw cards, but it did not matter as I had a plan for my soulstones anyway (Damage Reduction flips on Bad Juju). Damage Reduction flips and drawing cards seem to be the best uses of the new Soulstones, with using them on Defense flips a close third. That ability to give the attacker a negative flip on damage is crucial, but you still need to work out if you are better using the same stone to reduce damage.

I really enjoyed the imbalanced Strategy, which harks right back to v1, and I intend to explore the Story Encounters in much more detail. Shindig looks hilarious, and tense. Would love to try that with some randomly-controlled Malifaux Citizens milling about :-)

Still really enjoying M2E. Next up I will try and find horrible combinations using Zoraida as a Gremlin Master. Should be fun!

 Posted by at 11:44 am
Jul 302013
 

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(Bit of a blast from the past – this tournament report was written in January!)

You Take The Grey Skies Out Of My Way

It’s a New Year, but 2013 does not properly swing into gear until Malifaux has been committed. And what better way to do it than a 25ss Fixed List Tournament using the beta version of the Gaining Grounds format Wyrd produced only a few weeks ago? Barry Kelly, local Henchman, G3 member and Malimaniac, clearly thought so and he organised the heck out of it.

My Best Friend Told Me What You Did Last Night
                                                                                      
Well, whatever it was it wasn’t modelling or painting! Having picked up the plastic Misaki and Mei Feng box sets, as well as a Rail Golem and Willie, I have only partially assembled some of them and not painted any of them. Same goes for the Seamus boxset. Playing with painted minis is so 2012.

Cause You’re My Lady, I’m Your Fool

It had to be Molly. I wanted to try Molly and six Crooligans, but while it would be fun for one game, having to play all three games with only 2 different types of model would be Dull Street, Dullsville, DU11 VLE. So in the end I decided to see how Molly was with Seamus:-

»Seamus (4ss Cache)
»Molly (9ss)
»Necrotic Machine (2ss)
»Rotten Belle (4ss)
»Rotten Belle (4ss)
»Crooligan (4ss)

Game 1

Game 1 was against eventual podium finisher and top bloke Greg. We played Shared Land Grab, where VPs were gained every Turn after the first depending on who controlled the most table quarters.

»Zoraida
»Collodi
»Five Marrionettes
»Voodoo Doll
»Two Wicked Dolls

Greg picked Bodyguard (Zoraida) and Hold Out. I flipped for my Schemes and got Kill Protégé (Collodi) and Death After Death. Yikes. With nothing on the enemy side dropping Corpse tokens, Death After Death is very hard.

Gregs entire crew, bar Zoraida, were Constructs, meaning that none of my Wp-based Spells or abilities were going to be of any use. Seamus was going to have to shoot his way through this one on his tod!

With Collodi being so survivable, I figured I had more chance killing Zoraida to deny Bodyguard than killing Collodi to score Kill Protégé. I also figured there was little point trying to pin down Collodi’s Marrionette huddle, so I targeted the two Wicked Dolls for extermination to avoid them scoring a table quarter. Seamus got close and then used his No Escape to good effect, charging one of them and killing the Doll with his Bag of Tools. The other Wicked Doll, now Insignificant, vanished to midtable and had a go at Molly, but died to her Twisted Mind Trigger! Meanwhile Collodi had sprung into action and arrived midtable in a whirlwind of Fast Dolls, killing off a Crooligan and locking a Belle in melee. I should have done Mist and Defensive Stance on the Crooligan, but it has been so long since I played I completely forgot about taking defensive actions like these.

I did manage to secure +1VP for controlling more table quarters at the end of Turn 2.

I succeeded in Luring Zoraida out into the open, and was closing on her with both Molly and Seamus. Seamus got a good hit on her with his pistol (no cover and a Focused Shot being the main factors here) and used No Escape, but the game ended there during Turn 3. Zoraida controlled more table quarters and got +1VP.

Result: Seamus got 0VP for Schemes and 1VP for the Strategy. Zoraida got 4VP for Schemes and 1VP for the Strategy. 5-1 win for Zoraida.

There was a chance I could have killed Zoraida on the Charge, but it was a long shot, and she would probably have gotten away. I would have gotten Molly into the end zone, but the end result would have been the same. Playing against an all Construct crew with this lot is an uphill struggle, but it was still a fun game and Greg was scrupulously fair with his explanations of complex interactions.

Game 2

I don’t want to miss it when you hit that high

After a lunchbreak consisting of beer and a chat in the pub about 40k 6th edition, the next game was with Gordon in Shared Treasure Hunt. Gordon was fielding one of the many Perdita armies there on the day:-

»Perdita
»Santiago
»Francisco
»Nino
»Papa Loco

They might be Stubborn as all heck, but they were Living! Yay! That, and Stubborn won’t save your bacon against Terrifying 14 when you’re at -3Wp :-)

For Schemes I flipped Eye For An Eye and Steal Relic. It was only later, around Turn 2 or so, I realised that Steal Relic was impossible to accomplish against Perdita, who is Immune to Wp duels as the Defender. Ho, hum.

Gordon picked Bodyguard on Perdita, and did not declare Stake a Claim.

With some silly Wk bonuses from Molly and Seamus, I had both Belles in contact with the Treasure on Turn 1, and everything else moved up to support them, with Seamus getting in range of what were surely going to soon be two Corpse counters!

On Turn 2 the Belles were duly shot up, and Seamus managed to one-shot Francisco and then get into melee with Santiago, shutting him down as he failed twice to disengage. Then the Necrotic Machine ran up and dropped a whole can of Uncertain Phil on the be-pistolled one. Molly picked up the Treasure and summoned Mdme Sybelle in Papa Loco’s face. Perdita fired away at Molly, but did little damage. Papa Loco swatted Sybelle with a stick of dynamite, killing the Crooligan with the blast. At the end of the Turn, Molly earned +1VP from carrying the Treasure.

On Turn 3 Sybelle flurried and killed off Papa Loco. The blast nearly killed Nino, but left both him and Sybelle alive. Seamus summoned a Belle and final activation was called. He shot Perdita and killed her and then Drained Souls on Sybelle and the new Belle, leaving just him and Molly.

Result: Seamus had 2 VP for Eye For An Eye and 1VP from the Strategy (I suppose I should have had another one for Turn 3 as well, but hey. Perdita ended up with no VPs from Strategy or Scheme. Win for Seamus/ Molly.

The game went as well as I could have hoped, to be honest. The Ortegas had to choose between standing back and shooting anyone who picked up the Treasure and hoping to get their Schemes, or going for it. Bodyguard was better suited to the former plan, I reckon. The use of Lure might have ruined that plan, however (especially if Molly boosts the Wk of the enemy model, as Imbue Vigor has no Rst!). The combination of Seamus and Molly proved quite a solid one, here, their summoning complementing each other and Seamus Trail of Fear debuffing Wp so that Uncertain Phil could do his worst.

Game 3

Come on baby, let’s not fight

Shared King of The Hill with Mark, also known as “Juju is happy where he is, thanks”.

This game was scored by whoever had the most models completely within 8″ of the centre of the table, with the model in the dead centre counting as two. +1VP to the player with the most.

Mark had gone for Zoraida’s boxset, bringing:-

»Zoraida
»Three Silurid
»Bad Juju

The good news was that the Silurid were Living and had Wp4! The bad news was that Bad Juju was Immune to Influence. Damn his swampy, steadfast ways.

I got Army of the Dead and Hold Out, and Mark chose Steal Relic (Seamus) and Bodyguard.

On Turn 1 Bad Juju appeared in the middle of the Hill. I had no way of moving him off short of killing him. I shot him up with Seamus on the first couple of Turns but with his Regeneration it was going to take a long time to kill him off. I suspect I am not the first Resser player to wonder where all the guns went ;-)

The pack of Silurids came Leaping forward, as expected. Zoraida unexpectedly flew forward late on Turn 1 and landed right next to Seamus.

On Turn 2, things went badly for Zoraida. I won initiative and Seamus put up his Trail of Fear (shooting Juju again). Zoraida activated and flipped the Black Joker for Terrifying, resulting in her Falling Back to the left of the board. The Necrotic Machine advanced and took out a Silurid (and itself) with Uncertain Phil. The remaining two Silurids leapt forward and killed off a Belle. Molly then Revealed Philip (both Silurids on an effective Wp of 1, now!), causing one Silurid to Fall Back to the right of the board. Seamus got +1VP for the Strategy.

On Turn 3 Zoraida and one Silurid did nothing much but Rally. Zoraida Obeyed a Belle to whack the Crooligan, and tried to Bewitch Seamus twice, but failed. I had a plan with Seamus, which I totally botched. I was planning to cast Undead Psychosis on my own model. If you get an extra Crow in the cast, you can affect one additional model within 3, with no Resist. I was planning to give Bad Juju some Undead willies this way, and force him to move off the centre of the Hill. Stupidly, I used the card I needed for Undead Psychosis to summon Mdme Sybelle when I could have simply moved a Belle up and into range for the spell :-( Seamus tried to cast Undead Psychosis three times anyway, but failed to get the extra Crow every time. Bleh. Juju shifted a little and whacked Sybelle and Sybelle whacked him back. Molly killed off the Silurid who had not run away.

On Turn 4 Zoraida flew up and burned soulstones better than Seamus could, netting her Steal Relic. In reply Seamus hit her with his Bag of Tools and made her Insignificant. Should have done that on Turn 2, Seamus. Silly man. Sybelle flurried on Juju and did some damage and then Juju killed her. The last Silurid leapt back into the middle of the table and attacked the last Belle. On its last hit I was about to cheat in a low card for Df(*) when the end of the game was called, and we ended it there.

Zoraida made her endgame move, finishing within the 8″ radius of the Hill. She then flipped to see if she died from the Excessive Bleeding trigger  and she lived! To be fair, she only needed a 3+ to live.

Result: Seamus got 2VP from Hold Out and +1VP from the Strategy. Zoraida got 4VP for Bodyguard and Steal Relic and none for the Strategy. Win for Zoraida.

Quite a close game, but even with that incredibly unlucky Black Joker for Mark I was never really in control and I am pretty sure Mark was wondering what I was doing at times. As was I :-)

(* I was going to let the Belle die, which would have given her a Slow to Die strike. Juju was on 2Wd and there was a fair chance I could have killed him off with that hit. Not only would I have gained +1VP for the Strategy I would have got Army of the Dead, as well!)

Conclusion

Well, bet you’re wondering what a tournament report from January is doing appearing on the blog in July. Better late than never, eh? I actually wrote this at the time, and then forgot about it. Busy, busy.

I ended up coming somewhere towards the bottom of the table on this one, but who cares, as playing Molly is always fun. I found out that adding Seamus gave me some interesting options, but I also realised just how good Avatar Seamus would be with Molly. I think after this game I went and ordered Avatar Seamus, and I have nearly finished painting him now(!). I got in one game with him (and with Yin) against Doug McMourning, and Anathema really tore McM’s crew apart.

With M2E coming, it seems that I won’t get another game with Molly until at least the public Beta second wave, which should be some time in September. I am anxious to see how she turns out, as Molly is one of the key Malifaux characters for me. Her rules being underwhelming at first glance was always part of her underdog appeal (and, in truth, they are rather underwhelming on second and third glances) so I hope Wyrd can keep her outsider feel intact. The fact that widespread Wp immunity is now gone from the game can only be a good sign for Molly and pals. The Iron Zombies in The University of Transmortis set are Horrors, so should be part of a Molly crew. Their rules are very basic and uninspiring, but they perhaps needed to be given the single-player nature of that boxset. Time will tell, but I am certain as I can be that Molly will be my first Master of choice in the second wave of the M2E Beta.

Or Colette ;)

Jul 232013
 

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Having played my first few games of the final public beta of M2E, and in a tournament setting at that, I thought I would put down some thoughts on M2E in general as well as the crews I played.

M2E

The one thing I had heard from various people with more beta experience than I was that M2E was a faster game. This seems fairly obvious just from looking at the model stat cards, which have cut down on the wall of text that characterised many v1 cards, but Wyrd have also made efforts to streamline the core rules. Not in any radical way, I am pleased to say, so it must be the simpler model cards that make the game quicker to play.

Not that my games were noticeably quicker. One of the downsides to having to learn all-new model rules and interactions is that this takes time! On the way to the event I only half-jokingly predicted that no-ones games would get past Turn 3. In the event I played two games that went to Turn 4, and I know at least one game finished on Turn 5.

What probably will take more time even once players have re-learned all their models rules is crew selection. This happens after the Factions have been declared, and after the Strategy and pool of Schemes have been determined, which makes sense, but with the addition of Upgrades crew selection becomes a mini-game in its own right. Players will no doubt develop preferences and standard crew lists for certain scenarios, as they do now, but the addition of Upgrades adds another customisation element to the pre-game, and that adds time. Theres a lot to think about before you even place a model.

My Crew

I picked Sonnia as my Master in all three games. I had other options within the Guild, but decided that I would get a feel for M2E faster if I stuck with just one Master.

I also wanted to try out various different models, so that meant a couple of Guild crews for the first two games and then some Mercenaries for the last game.

Sonnia. Now a fearsome Master when backed by the right crew, and deadly even when she isnt. With a 14 range Sonnia can be lobbing fire from Turn 1. With other models to spread Burning around she can attack from out of LOS and, with a cheap Upgrade, summon new Witchling Stalkers to the field. With another cheap Upgrade she can control the board with Flame Pillars that are arguably better than Rasputinas, as these ones can burn. She is middling in melee, but can still take her enemies with her in a mighty death blast. With her (0) spell and a Soulstone (always take 6 or 7 with her) she can boost her Ca to 9, which means that she can put her ranged attack beyond the ability of almost any model in the game to resist. This is handy if you are targeting enemy models, but can be dispensed with if you are targeting your own. If you are targeting enemy models Sonnia really needs to avoid neg flips on damage. Her Weak damage is only 2 with no blasts, and this really, really sucks. I suggest Focusing a shot for 2AP, and avoiding anything that has Hard to Wound. With her third AP she can move or set up a Flame Wall barrier.

Upgrades:

Reincarnation. For a soulstone or two cards Sonnia gets a new Witchling every time an enemy model with Burning dies. Note that it does not need to be the Burning that kills the enemy model! This is crucial. Also note the 10 range, and that it is limited to enemy models only. You will often be dealing with enemy models that are out of Sonnias LOS, so in this case remember that in M2E the summoned model is placed anywhere in your own Deployment Zone. This is brilliant, and you can use this to your advantage to bring in reserves where your opponent might least expect. A must-take Upgrade.

The Mask. A Wp resist spell with only 2 less range than her Flame Burst spell, so Sonnia is almost always going to succeed with this (particularly as against high-Wp enemies she gets plus flip on the Cast). The spell lasts until the end of the game and means that the target does not lose Burning at the end of the Turn. It means a delayed kill, and the model can always lose the Burning in other ways, so consider if just doing direct damage is a better use of Sonnias AP. Worth noting that since it targets a model with Burning, Sonnia will always ignore LOS when casting this spell. Not an essential Upgrade, but one that might combine well with Samaels Witch Hunt Upgrade.

Counterspell Aura. Not quite as powerful as v1, but still excellent against other Casting Masters. This one shuts Rasputina down very effectively  if you can get in range to use it! A situational Upgrade.

Cherufe’s Imprint. Flame Wall and a cool Jack Daw aura to boot. Flame Walls are now impassable and indestructible as well as lasting until Sonnia activates again. Whats not to like? An essential Upgrade.

Disrupt Magic. Unusual in that this Upgrade affects all Witch Hunter models in your crew, although it is costly. If you are facing Arcanists or magic-heavy enemy crews this is most likely worth it, although I havent tried it.

Badge of Office. A one-use only Upgrade that prevents Sonnia being Red Jokered to death. Meh. I might take this if I was facing a fast melee crew who could close early game despite a wall of fire (literally).

Thalarian Doctrine. The fact that this is an ability and not an Action is good, and it is only 1ss, but I would need to play it to see if it is worth it. Could get expensive in SS, and Sonnia really needs those, but could well keep Sonnia alive if that was important for Schemes etc. Sonnia might feel that the best way of keeping alive is, of course, to burn her enemies to tortured, blackened husks. Shes not wrong.

Vengeance Bullet. No better way of Assassinating someone, although the Crow trigger means that Sonnia would not get her Burning trigger. With a couple of Severes in hand, however, and a couple of SS to burn to get the Crow this could end any enemy Masters day, especially if you can put Burning on them first so Sonnia can ignore cover and LOS! They probably have Wp 6 or more anyway, so Sonnia is basically super-Focusing every Cast against them for 1AP. This could be fun against Leviticus, since he would keep coming back so you keep using him to drop Severe blasts onto the rest of his crew! Put the Purifying Flame near the enemy Master to avoid him/ her making Damage Reduction Flips, just to rub it in!

Plant Evidence. Best taken on your crew, not on Sonnia.

Witchling Stalkers. No longer the super value proposition they once were, they are still an integral part of a Sonnia crew and no less useful than before. They are less resilient than before, but their acquisition of some Fire Gamin DNA seems to have helped cement them in their new role  a dispenser of the Burning Condition. All damage these models do hands out Burning, so lets have a chat about Burning.

Burning is the new Poison. It stacks, and a model will take damage equal to its Burning Condition at the end of the Turn. Burning is then removed. So any attack that does Burning does additional damage later on, unless the fire is put out or the Burning is removed by another means.

Witchling Stalkers can shoot Burning onto enemies, hit them with it in melee and hand it out when they die. They are like clowns at a childrens party handing out balloons, except these balloons will SET YOUR KIDS ON FIRE!!! Interestingly Witchling Stalkers have 6 wounds and Sonnias Flame Burst spell does 5 damage on Severe. So, you can move a Witchling up close to the enemy (staying out of melee, but within 2 if possible). Sonnia shoots the Witchling, cheating in cards to get Severe and dropping a chain of blasts on the nearby enemy models. The Witchling survives and she does it again. If you cheat in a Tome Sonnias own attack hands out Burning to everything that takes damage, so you can really spread it around with two sets of three blast markers that are placed 2 away from the Witchling! Once the Stalker dies everything within 2 gets another Burning +1 and Sonnia can hit them all a third time, ignoring LOS and Cover to do so (and to pick out the lowest Df model). If you are going tp use a Witchling as an arc node like this, consider giving it Burning before you move it up, so that Sonnia can target it without needed LOS to it. With any luck, you took Sonnias Summoning Upgrade and you just got one or two new Stalkers to replace the one that you killed off. Last point  consider saving a low Mask for defence. If the Stalker is getting shot up and you know the Stalker is going to die anyway, that 4 push towards the attacker might be enough to catch them in the death blast. And start spreading Burning around.

Purifying Flame. I think the totem is a key model. With Spirit and Wk5 this model can appear inside the enemy crew on Turn 2, and from then on their priority is to get away from it without killing it! If they do kill it (or if Sonnia does) it hands out Burning +2 in a 2 aura, from which Sonnia and Samael can start targeting out of LOS models. Another use is as a cheap arc node for Sonnias blasts, although you would need to do Moderate damage and then follow that up with Severe in order to get two sets of blast markers off it before it dies (it only has 4 wounds).

Samael Hopkins. Samael does not hand out Burning, but he certainly does benefit from it, which means that of the crews offensive models he is best Activated last. If you managed to get Burning on a key enemy model within 12 then Samael can try and hit him three times with minimum damage 4 each time. No cover and no LOS needed. Ouch. With Cb 6 and Use Soulstones he can usually hit what he needs to. Best kill it, though, as with only 8 wounds and no defensive abilities other than Use Soulstones he can drop quickly.

Upgrades:

Witch Hunt. This gives Burning +4(!) to enemy models within 1 of terrain. 12 range and it does not have a pistol icon, meaning you can use it on engaged enemy models without worrying about hitting your own guys. Not that this crew loses much sleep over hitting its own models! With the amount of terrain recommended for M2E this upgrade is not as situational as it might seem, but once your opponent gets wind of it she is going to stay in the open come what may. This crew has no easy way to push enemy models around, either (Judge, Peacekeeper, Taelor, Bishop, Johan and Killjoy being options in that regards, but all of which require a significant investment in non-Witch Hunter models). That means that you are going to have to tempt enemy models close to terrain, and of course there are ways to do that (placement of Scheme markers being one). If you are playing on a table with lots of Dense terrain (forests etc) then this is almost an essential Upgrade. I put Burning +9 on Lilith with it :-)

Vengeance Bullet. See above, although Samael would be doing damage 5/6/7 with every hit, 6/7/8 if the enemy Leader has Burning. Nas-tee.

Disrupt Magic. See above.

Lead Lined Coat. If you need Samael to live, this would be a decent investment.

Executioner. Now Rare 2! I tried two in a game, and it wasnt a very balanced crew, but it was hilarious once they got into melee. They still lack movement in your own table half (in the enemy table half they can usually find an enemy Scheme Marker to get extra movement off), but you can mitigate that with Francisco, who has an Upgrade that helps to move these fat dudes up into the action. And its not as if Francisco is a bad investment on his own account any more. Anyway  these guys excel at killing things and healing themselves back up, as always, but this time their (0) spell is going to have your opponent gritting his teeth. Save a low Crow for the spell, because when you get to use it you can, for their only (0) Action, remove one enemy Scheme Marker and make two additional attacks. Epic. Consider taking a Lead Lined Coat and, since they will probably die eventually, Plant Evidence.

Francisco. I did not get the best use out of Francisco in the one game I used him, but his Ability to give +2 Wp and +2 Df to a friendly model is great. The buff lasts the whole Turn, even if the friendly model moves away. The only downside is that you must use this ability on a model within 2 of Francisco when he starts his activation, so if the model you want to protect has moved away you cannot buff it. He also has an Upgrade (Hermanos de Armas) that allows him to take a (0) action to pull a friendly model within 5 into base contact with him, which in my opinion is essential if you are taking him. Other than that, he is a bodyguard par excellence, and is clearly designed to be a counter-charge model who can free up his own crew from melee while locking the enemy there. Couple that with the Diestro Upgrade and the rest of the crew can fire safely into the melee.

Guild Austringer. What to say about these models? They have two fantastic abilities. One is their ranged attack which, if you Focus it (hint: you should Focus it) does reasonable damage at 18 ignoring cover and LOS. Use this on Turn 1 to annoy fast enemy models trying to reach Strategy markers and the like. After Turn 1, use their (2) Action to Push one of your own models up to 2 and take a free Interact Action. Frankly, these guys would be worth it for the Push alone, but the free Interact as well is amazing. If you have Schemes that require you to drop Scheme Markers, take two of these guys.

Killjoy. I used the big guy in one game, and he popped out of a dying Witchling Stalker. That 4 push on being damaged that the Stalker has really helped get Killjoy into the action on Turn 2. Sadly, he Black Jokered at the wrong moment and failed to do anything killy, but he did tie up Seamus and his evil Totem as well as a Belle for the remainder of that game, which was good in the circumstances.

Bishop. The much-maligned  Bishop gets a big boost. He is not a beatstick, he is still a utility fighter, but his damage output has gone up and that extra AP is fantastic. He can get to where you need him, and can do some interesting things when he gets there. Being able to target Wp makes him a threat to high-Df models. He can move up and Flurry with Critical Strike built-in (min 3 damage a hit, which takes him to proper beatstick levels). With his always-on Df trigger and a Df of 6 not many enemy models want to attack him. I put him on Df Stance in two key Turns, which made him very secure. His Penetrating Blow trigger is deceptively useful  as the damage it does cannot be reduced then Spirit, Armour and Damage Reduction Flips are useless against it. I used his Knock Around trigger to fling Bête Noir towards Sonnia at the very end of the last game, which just happened to get me 3VP for the Take Prisoner Scheme! Bishop has the tools for just about any job  but dont ask him to shoot anyone ;)

A sample 50ss List:-

Sonnia (Upgrades: Reincarnation, Cherufes Imprint); 2ss
Cache: 7ss
Purifying Flame; 3ss
Samael Hopkins; 9ss
4 x Witchling Stalkers; 20ss
2 x Guild Austringers; 12ss

Drop a Witchling to pay for any mission-specific Upgrades you might need on Sonnia or Sam.

May 152013
 

At very short notice I got a 35ss game against Dave H at the club last night.

We flipped for Strategies and Dave H got Contain Power (ie. kill Seamus, bonus points to do it with your Master) and I got Turf War (more of my models in his table half than he has in mine, bonus points to get someone in his Deployment Zone).

With targeted assassination as his Strategy, Dave picked:-

McMourning (6ss cache)
Sebastian
Bête Noir
3 Necropunks
Flesh Construct
2 Dogs

He also picked Stake a Claim on a boat off to my right and McMourning’s A Piece For Me (get 5 body part counters from Master, Henchmen or Totems).
I had come with the core of my crew in mind, so the rest was just to flesh out the Ultimate Terror crew:-

Seamus (5ss cache)
Avatar
Molly
Grave Spirit
Yin
2 Rotten Belles
Crooligan

I picked Kill Protege on Bete Noir, and Breakthrough to complement my Strategy.

The table was a crowded city, with two 6” towers in the middle linked by a high bridge, lots of stairs and raised balconies, and finally some docks, running along the whole right hand side of the table.

My game plan was bunch up (to get the most from –Wp buffs) and try to keep key models alive until Seamus could Avatar on Turn 3 and get the Terror Train going, and then see how effective it was. It quickly became apparent Dave’s plan was to steam McMourning into my crew asap and kill Seamus, caution be damned.

Turn 1

I moved for position, gathering my models on my side of the large gap between the two central towers. Yin floated up on top of one of the towers, making her the closest model so that the Flesh Construct would fruitlessly try and climb the tower in the closing step. The Belles targeted the closest Necropunks with Distract, and succeeded in getting Slow on one of them. No Flurry for you next Turn, Mr Necropunk!

The Grave Spirit attached to Seamus, and it was only after that I realised it did nothing, as Seamus was not undead.

It turned out I didn’t really have to worry about Flurrying Necropunks too much, as it took Dave until Turn 5 to flip a high enough Mask to get Leap off! So everything of Dave’s moved up, with McMourning by far the closest (hidden on some steps on the right hand side of the rightmost of the two central towers.
My hand was middling this Turn, but not a single Crow. For a Molly crew this is bad news.

Turn 2

My hand had the Black Joker (which I kept for the rest of the game), two very low Crows and only one high card.

Dave got Initiative and his McMourning missile was put into effect. He had to move up through the tower to get in range of Seamus and tried his Scalpel Slinging. I knew I had to try and stop this, so cheated high on Df and stoned. Only a lucky SS flip on Seamus’ part kept him safe, and McMourning was stymied. He tried a spell on Molly, but Molly won the Wp duel from Pitiful, got the trigger and gave McMourning 2wds for his trouble, and McMourning scurried back to where he started. A big turning point in the game – had McMourning got into melee, it would all have been very different.

The Flesh Construct moved up, stopping in melee with Yin and a Rotten Belle, and passed the Anathema test from Yin. Yin and both Belles wailed on him. Molly hit the closest Necropunk, and Seamus moved over to the left (away from that horrible McMourning person) and blasted a Severe onto the same Necropunk, with only its Hard to Kill keeping it alive.

The Grave Spirit linked to Yin.

At the end of the Turn, the Flesh Construct hooked the Belle on my right, but Black Joker’d the damage.

Turn 3

I won Initiative and activated the Rotten Belle on my left. She was blocking Seamus’ path to the centre of the melee, so my thinking was I would move her up and then I could get Avatar Seamus into the fray. She moved up and walloped the Flesh Construct with her brolly.

The Flesh Construct activated and had another go at the Belle on my right. One hit got a trigger off and did a massive 6Dg, but the Black Joker struck on the next hit and the big guy missed!

Yin finished off the Flesh Construct and Bête Noir popped out (a Dog picked up the corpse counters). Dave had to cheat high to avoid the Anathema when she activated. She flurried at Yin, but only one hit got through and the Armour 2 kept the damage on Yin low.

At this point I should have used the Grave Spirit to cast Philosophy of Uncertainty on Bête Noir, all but guaranteeing 2VP for Kill Protégé. I should have, but I didn’t. Instead, the Crooligan activated and after two attempts got Mist to go off. Why? I have no idea :P

McMourning activated. Uh, oh. He moved up, Scalpel Slung into the badly wounded Belle on my right, killing her and netting a Corpse Counter. This landed him in melee with Yin, so McMourning got his first taste of Anathema (on a -2 Wp from Yin and the Crooligan!). He passed it, and then stabbed the Grave Spirit twice, getting him 2 of the 5 body parts counters he needed for his scheme (as well as healing him the 2wds he suffered earlier). The Grave Spirit died. Fortunately I remembered Seamus’ rule and drew cards for the dead totem and the dead Belle – I usually never remember to do that!

Seamus Avatared. I had a choice to either head into the middle of the melee or try to freak out McMourning. I went for McMourning, knowing that McMourning could probably take Seamus in melee easily, if he got Initiative. I boosted Seamus’ Terrifying to 15 and moved to within 3” of McMourning.

Molly killed off Bête Noir, getting me 2VP. Amazingly, Dave had cheated in his “bring Bête back card” so she could pass her Anathema test earlier on, but managed to flip high enough to Bury her anyway and heal all her wounds!

A Necropunk activated, failed Anathema from Yin and ran away (with Yin failing the disengaging strike). The Dog activated as well, failed as well, and was kept in place with a disengaging strike. Anathema was really starting to pose a problem for a crew not used to having to deal with Terrifying.

Turn 4

I got Initiative. Yay!

I also got a crap hand of cards. Boo. I kept the Black Joker, though, and a low Crow.

Seamus went. He tried Bellowing of the Big Bastard, but McMourning was having none of that. He tried to hit McMourning, but McMourning was too quick for him. Hmm. I boosted Seamus’ Terrifying to 17 and put up his aura of -2Wp. Deal with that, pal!

McMourning activated, having to make a Terrifying test of 17 with an effective Wp of 1! Dave flipped a 1(!), and cheated in a 13. He stoned, needing only a 3 to pass. He flipped a 2!!! I laughed, but I don’t think Dave laughed so much!

To make matters worse, to rub salt in the wound, to add injury to insult Yin succeeded in her disengaging strike and I flipped the Red Joker for damage, doing 6wds to McMourning and stopping him running away! He was now surrounded by enemies and on –flips for all duels until the end of his next Activation…

Yin then Activated, cast Constrict on McMourning (giving him Slow) and hit him, for a total of 5wds.

A Necropunk attacked my remaining Belle on the left, putting 6Dg on her.

Sebastian moved up, keeping away from Molly and Anathema Yin, and Cast Bloody Harvest, with Dave cheating in the Red Joker on the cast to make the total 19! Who died? Lots of people, that’s who. The Dog died (and Bete Noir popped back out), the Necropunk died (and moved back before dying to give Sebastian his corpse – ick!) and my last Belle died. Yin, Molly and the Crooligan all took 4wds. But the Belle, with her Slow to Die, cast Lure on 1Wp Seamus, dragging him into the middle of the melee (she Bashed him for 1wd). Since this was now the end of Bloody Harvest, Sebastian had to test against Terrifying 17 on a -3Wp ( He failed, tried to run and took wounds from Yin, and his Activation was over.

Molly activated and cast her damage spell, stoning it to put 2wds on McMourning and kill him off. She then tried to do some other stuff and failed.

Bête Noir had to activate now, and on -4Wp not even the Red Joker would be enough to pass Seamus’ Terrifying. She tried to flee taking disengaging strikes from Molly, the Crooligan, Yin (who all failed) and finally Seamus, who did 4wds to her, killing her off for the last time. She used her Slow to Die to try and make Seamus Insignificant, but was out of control cards now and failed.

What do you mean, the third Necropunk? Oh, yes, the third one. It had spent the whole game heading for the Stake a Claim target, climbing up and then down a 9” high bridge tower down by the docks. It was nearly there!

Turn 5

I drew a hand with three severes and a ten. Lovely!

Seamus killed off Sebastian and my whole crew moved forward, with Molly summoning Sybelle from the ruins of a Rotten Belle and McMourning hisself!
The other Necropunk (who had run away and spent Turn 4 Rallying), finally managed to cast Leap (told you it took 5 Turns!) and got out of their way.

There was no need to finish the Turn or play Turn 6, as it was obvious that Yin could easily Float into Dave’s deployment zone and I would have max VP from the Strategy and 2VP from Breakthrough.

Result: Dave scored 2 VP for Stake a Claim. I scored 2 VP from Kill Protege, 2 VP from Breakthrough and 4 VP from Turf War. 8-2 win for Seamus!

Thoughts: This was a cracking game, with several turning points. In Turn 2, if I had not stoned high for Seamus’ defence, McMourning would have found it much easier to deal with him. In Turn 4, if McMourning hadn’t stoned so low for his Terrifying test, he would have had a good chance of killing off Seamus (Dave had the Red Joker in hand). I think I got lucky, and I would really have been on the ropes if either of those events had gone another way.

The –Wp effects of the models in this crew stack to extreme effect, and I did not even get a chance to use Yin to give Molly Anathema. She would have been on Anathema 15 with Avatar Seamus on the table, but Yin can only give Anathema to a model that has Terrifying already, and Molly has to activate to get Terrifying. This sequence of Activations never came up, as I was always Activating Yin first.

For Dave’s part, he commented that he has yet to win with McMourning, which is a bit surprising. I wouldn’t take bets on that losing streak not ending soon! Avatar McMourning would have posed all sorts of problems to me, for one.

Yin is terrific, and well worth her points. Df6, 8 Wds and –flip on all Attacks against her makes her a rare support model that is very hard to put down, and that is before you consider how Anathema protects her! Adding in Wicked is the cherry on top, as a model that is forced to Rally in the middle of your crew is almost certainly going to die due to the –flips they are on for everything. When you combine her 2” melee with Seamus’ potential 4” melee reach, that is a huge area of the table you can make a no-go area to opponents who don’t want to burn their high cards or use soulstones just to get close.

Now, I am going to have a think about whether I should replace Molly with Jack Daw, and whether that will leave me with any friends whatsoever…

 Posted by at 9:35 am
May 072013
 

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East Hench Dave Kerr-Smith came up with another format for a tournament, which is a bit like saying the sun rose in the morning. I swear DKS must climb some wild, snowy peak every month and stand naked in the wind until he brainstorms another tournament format. Or maybe he just thinks them up on his way to work, I dunno.

We had to create a 60ss pool of models, Summoned models not included. Masters weren’t included either, so you could take as many Masters as you liked, provided they were from the declared Faction. 60ss sounds like a lot, but when the TO is flipping for a Shared Strategy on the day, it is not as much as you might think. I would have liked to go with Molly, Yin and my schmexy new Seamus Avatar, but I am not sure I have 60ss worth of models for the Ressers! I could have done Outcasts, but the Masters have almost no synergy, meaning that any model in the pool would most likely be of use to one Master and no use to the others, so that would leave you making mini-pools within the 60ss allotment. Not ideal. I went Arcanists, as Ramos/ Avatar Ramos can handle most Strategies reasonably well, and I took Mei Feng for the ones that needed someone who could move like a greased banana on polished ice.

Here’s the pool:-

Ramos-
Mei Feng-
Avatar (Ramos)2
Mobile Toolkit3
Rail Golem9
Guardian7
Steampunk Arachnid3
Steampunk Arachnid3
Large Steampunk Arachnid5
Johan6
Willie6
Union Miner4
Union Miner4
Kang8
Total60

Mei Feng was a late addition to the pool (I forgot I had her!), which is why this pool is optimised for Ramos only.

The Rail Golem is a fairly obvious choice for Ramos these days. Not an autoinclude, but well worth his points and surprisingly mobile with his free charge move. Adding the Guardian to him makes him a real PITA to deal with. The two cheap SPA are in there for activation control, and so I can quickly make a Swarm if I want one. I will probably be summoning Large SPAs, but having one in the pool give me a cheap option that drops lots of scrap when it dies. Johan is there for some Union Miner-themed fun. Willie offers excellent blasts, board control and anti-Izamu abilities. The Union Miners are there in case I need to take on Lynch. Kang is there because KANG!!!

Game 1

30ss Shared King of The Hill

My opponent for the first game was Gareth, who brought:-

Perdita
Francisco
Santiago
2 x Guild Hounds
Austringer
Witchling Stalker

With a point on the table to hold that was not too far away, I decided Ramos would be ideal. Since the enemy would be unlikely to engage in melee, Avatar Ramos would suit as he could Leap around and engage them in melee, as well as churn out bigger Contructs to contest the middle. I chose:-

Ramos
Avatar
Mobile Toolkit
Rail Golem
Guardian
2 x Steampunk Arachnids

For schemes I flipped at random (yes, back to doing that!). I got Bodyguard and Frame for Murder, and Gareth chose Assassinate and Bodyguard. I took Frame for Murder on the Rail Golem, as it was a prime target, but it would likely take Perdita’s super-killyness to remove him from the game.

For the first three Turns I got Initiative and set up the Rail Golem’s Vent Steam, which frustrated the Ortegas’ attempts to shoot holes in my crew, while ensuring that I had a lock on the centre of the table for those lovely, lovely VPs. I made a Steampunk Arachnid Swarm and then foolishly threw it away to kill Francisco. Santiago gunned the Swarm down, as it was outside the steam cloud. The Witchling ran into the steam and had a go at the Rail Golem, but the Golem hammered it into the ground. The Guild Hounds were kept at bay by the Electrical Creation for a Turn, but repositioned with amazing speed and charged the Guardian. Along with Perdita’s shooting they managed to kill him off. We were both running low on models. Avatar Ramos joined the fray now, and both he and the Rail Golem charged Santiago and the Austringer. The Austringer got away, but Santiago was reduced to his Hard to Kill wound. When Perdita charged in and killed the Rail Golem, the blast took Santiago with it! In the final Turn Ramos made a Large Steampunk Arachnid to tie up Perdita and then leapt behind a wall and finished off the Austringer. The game ended with Perdita on the centre marker, shooting at Ramos, but failing to put any wounds on him.

Result: Gareth – 2 VP for Bodyguard and 1 VP for the Strategy (last Turn). Me – 4 VP for both Schemes and 2 VP for the Strategy. 6VP to 3VP. Win for the Arcanists!

Never mind that, though, because DKS had bought doughnuts!!!

Game 2

30ss Shared Treasure Hunt

With everyone high on sugar from free doughnuts, the place was abuzz for Game 2. Joe was there and it was on like Donkey Kong. Joe frowned, furrowed a fine, manly brow and picked:-

Nicodem (damn!)
A Vulture
2 x Ashigaru
Toshiro the Daimyo
Drowned
Rotten Belle

This seemed like as good a time as any to pick Mei Feng. She could get near the Treasure fast, and do some damage while she was there. I picked:-

Mei Feng (told you)
Rail Golem
Willie
2 x Steampunk Arachnids
Large Steampunk Arachnid

This gave me four Constructs for Railwalker points, which should be enough, plus Willie for some board control. I flipped for Schemes and got Grudge and Assassinate. I chose one of the Ashigaru for Grudge, reckoning the Rail Golem could smush it at some point. Mei Feng might have the mobility to get to Nicodem, but if she couldn’t kill him in one go, she would be toast. The Rail Golem was the only other model that stood a chance. Joe picked Breakthrough and Nico’s special Scheme that required him to have a corpse counter in every quarter of the board.

Turn 2 was where it all kicked off. The Treasure Marker was in a medium-sized forest, limiting line of sight wonderfully so that Nicodem couldn’t just paralyse everything of mine. Willie had lobbed a couple of blast counters already, with one of them right on the Treasure. The Drowned and one Ashigaru were close to it, and so was one of my Spiders. I moved the other up and it came within 2” of the Blast counter and I flipped – a Red Joker! The Blast counter went off, doing 5 Dg in a 5” radius ? The Drowned used its Slow to Die to move forward and then died in a fiery blast of its own, putting more damage on my crew. When the dust cleared, the Drowned and the Ashigaru were dead, as were both of my wee Spiders, while the Large Arachnid, Mei Feng and Willie all took a hurting (Willie spared a little by his armour).

The rest of the game was a furious grind on the Treasure Marker. Joe had played Mei Feng before, so he gave me a few welcome reminders of her abilities (I had also printed out Ratty’s cheat sheet for her). I got several of her triggers off, and she ended up killing the other Ashigaru (flipping a Red Joker for damage – oh, yeah!) and Toshiro. I should have pulled her out, however, as Nicodem simply made a Rogue Necromancy from the remains…

The battle carried on. The Rogue Necromancy died, but Nico summoned a Flesh Construct and a Punk Zombie, who managed to kill Mei. The Rail Golem smashed the Flesh Construct away from the Treasure, helping to ensure that (if Nico killed him himself) there was little chance there would be corpse counters in all four table quarters.

The game ended with the Belle making a run for my deployment zone and failing.

Result: Joe – 0VP for Schemes and 0VP for the Strategy. Me – the same! 0VP to 0VP – a bloody, brutal draw.

Game 3

30ss Shared Slaughter

Slaughter sounded ideal for Mei Feng, but Ramos was my main dude in this tournament so I decided to go with him. He is no slouch when it comes to killing things. Although I have yet to get best use out of Electrical Fire, his exploding bomb tricks more than make up for his lack of melee.

I chose:-

Ramos
Mobile Toolkit
Rail Golem
Guardian
Kang

No Avatar this time. Original flavour Ramos – he tastes like victory. The last thing I wanted to do was summon already wounded models for my opponent to kill off! Normal Ramos is very defensive (Arcing Screen), and in Slaughter I can afford to sit back and hold a position.

My opponent was Steve who had Ressers:-

Kirai
Lost Love
Datsue-Ba
Izamu
Rotten Belle
A Seishin or two

I flipped for Schemes and got the exact two I got for Game 2. Baws tae that. I flipped again and got Exterminate (sigh) and Sabotage. Neither were likely. I had no choice but to take Exterminate on Spirits (I can tell  you right now I didn’t manage it) and I lacked the mobility for Sabotage. Steve chose Stake a Claim and Grudge on the Mobile Toolkit.

On Turn 1 I made an Electrical Creation and a Spider and stupidly realised my stupid error. Making weak models in Slaughter is a stupid thing to do! I kept the Spider hidden until Turn 4 (when I used it for a double Healing flip on the Guardian through Combat Mechanic) but decided that the Electrical Creation was worth the risk, as its blast spell wreaks havoc among Spirit crews. I didn’t use it (or Ramos) as well as I could have, but every time I summoned one I forced Steve to deal with it before it got to go pop.

The intention was to defend and force the Spirits to come to me, ideally attacking a crew with a Steam Cloud and Arcing Screen up. I deployed to defend the Stake a Claim objective on my right, and the Ramos blob only moved about 12” the whole game.

It was a cagey affair. I kept losing the Electrical Creation, which annoyingly kept giving Kirai another Seishin! Steve got 1 VP on Turn 2 for killing the sparking menace, but on Turns 3 & 4 I managed to kill more than he did, offing Datsue-Ba and Ikiryo on Turn 3, and the Lost Love and Ikiryo again on Turn 4.

I did a good job protecting the Mobile Toolkit, ensuring that the summoned Shikome and Ikiryo could not get it in melee. The Mobile Toolkit put up Arcing Screen, which hurt the Spirits more than their attacks hurt my Constructs. The Guardian took a battering, but the Spider I mentioned earlier was expended to heal it back up. The Rail Golem’s Vent Steam ensured that Izamu could not get a charge off and had to walk into melee on Turn 4 (Steve could not manage to Turn him into a spirit, so kept him back for most of the game. I am fairly sure I could have managed him had he charged in, but as a spirit? Not so sure)

Kang did very little. He got taken down to his Hard to Kill wound, but stayed alive and healed back up, only for the Shikome to Deny him his Sanzu (whatever that means), leaving him immobilised at the back of the crowd.

The game ended after four Turns.

Result: Steve – 1VP from the Strategy and 0VP from Schemes. Me – 2VP from the Strategy and 0VP from Schemes. 1VP to 2VP – a win for the Arcanists!

Then I had my doughnut from Turn 1. It was very nice.

Summary: I ended up taking 2nd place overall, and very pleased with that I was, too. Paul Campbell won the whole thing, and Dave Hamilton came in third place.

The painting prize went to Paul Andrew’s Gremlin crew, which was just incredible, and well deserved. I got some nice comments about my models, but apparently everything I had with me has won something or other in the past, so I need to get painting again if I want any more awards. Not a bad position to be in, I guess :-)

Another really enjoyable event, and many thanks to DKS for organising it and to all my opponents for some great games (and to everyone else for making it a fun way to spend a day indoors with our toys). I did miss the silliness of the Daily Achievement League. Doughnuts are no replacement for silliness, DKS. This is known.

I got a good first go with Mei Feng, getting to see how her Triggers work, and how she fares on the offense (good) and on the defense (poor). I need to get used to using Railwalker properly, and a couple more games with her should do the job.

Next up on the Malifaux painting table, however, is Avatar Seamus and my Belles. I have Yin on the way from Arcane Miniatures, so am looking forward to trying out a seriously scary crew!

 Posted by at 8:39 am
Apr 292013
 

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I am aware there hasn’t been much in the way of updates on this blog. If only something monumental with regards to the Tau had happened recently to give me something to write about! ;-)

In truth, this blog is as much about Malifaux and anything else that takes my fancy as it about 40k, and there are loads of much better blogs out there (young ones, full of vim and vinegar) that have been pulling the new codex apart far better than I could.

I have managed to get two games in. The last was a Tau mirror-match, 1750 pts, and you can see the beginnings of Turn 1 above. The first game was against Dark Eldar. In brief, I am loving the new codex, as the sheer range of options should keep us going five years or so until the next codex. Yes, the next one. As with any Tau player, eagerly anticipating a new codex is such a familiar state to be in, it feels wrong not be thinking about it at all ;-)

 Posted by at 12:49 pm
Apr 242013
 

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Just a quick photo update showing the pre-shading on the Sun Shark Bomber and, below, on the Riptide.

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Given the bulk of the Riptide I decided it would easier to do a partial assembly, paint it and then only complete the assembly once it is all done. I am using my normal Tau colour scheme of Graveyard Earth (now renamed and moved to the Base colour range), with Charred Brown. Black and white highlights, and I will add some red to tie it in with Farsight.

At the moment I have just inked all the panel lines, so nearly there. Might finish it tonight.

I have had one game with the new Codex so far (Shadowsun & infantry heavy vs Dark Eldar) and hoping to get another, bigger game soon. I am loving the new Codex, and now we can take more than one of the same weapon on Crisis Suits thanks to yesterday’s FAQ, it is only going to get better!

 Posted by at 12:40 pm
Apr 042013
 

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Finally gotten round to my Rail Crew, with some railway bases for the Rail Workers, and the same talus bases for Mei Feng and the Emberling.

I added to Mei Feng’s base, to make the shattered timbers more 3D.

The Emberling will be a fun paint. Glowing coals with the white hot body coming out, cooling to a sooty black at the very top.

As a new thing, I have attached the models with the complicated bases to bits of sprue, and will paint them and the bases separately. See how it goes. Yes, Mei Feng’s sprue does say “Made in China” :-)

I am aware this blog has been dormant for a long time, but I am still keeping busy in the hobby. It is just that much less of it is being reported on here! And I do know the new Tau are coming. I have my pre-order in :-)

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