Banned

As many people know, as of Wednesday, I have been Banned from the WWX forums. Forever. So, I probably won’t be giving any reviews, good or bad, of their product. I am also fairly certain I won’t be playing the game as they have cut me off from the tournament rules, announcements of the locations of tournaments, and anyone that could possibly want to play, with the exception of one. Sadly, I’ve left behind a few people that I have no other way of contacting. Fortunately, I get to leave behind the pompous prick that was Romeo, same guy from battlefoam and a hundred other incidents in internet infamy.

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This year at Lock and Load, I am mostly going to be playing in the Iron Arena, but there was a specific concept that really grabbed me from the get go, and I’ve really decided that tournament is something I’m actually going to be really trying to make work. It’ll be probably the only reason I bring Cryx along with my Motley Gators all the way to Seattle, so I want to make it worthwhile, and its going to eat most of Friday.

What is Spelldraft? Well, In a nutshell you get to pick a list and caster, but don’t get any of their spells, good or bad. You get broken up into groups of 8, in which each person is given a pack of 8 cards, and you draft them one at a time, passing the pack of spells to the next person in line once you’ve got yours.

This, to me, opens up all sorts of cool combinations. Some casters are held back by their sub-par spell list, and could be a monster with the right spells in their arsenal, while others are built around signature spells that make them hum, and may become duds.

There are a pair of questions that I’ve not yet had answered in any really good way about the format that have me both terrified and curious.

1) Are the packs randomized spells, or is there some structure to them. Looking over the rules, no one mentions anywhere anything about randomization. This is an enormous factor. If its random, you can get packs with both Temporal Barrier and Iron Flesh. Arcane Shield and Purification. That means that you’re making some serious decisions about what card you pull and what card you pass on to the next players. It also means, however, that the pack could contain 2 rifts, 3 Influences, Arcane Blast, Dust to Dust and Arcantrix Bolt. While Some people may get more or less use out of all those spells, many will not. If you end up with a dead slot, and someone else has all 8 useable spells, that can be a really tricky setup to overcome. This sets up nicely into number 2.

2) is every spell going to be represented, or will there be multiple of the same spells, or will only certain versions of an effect be used? This is the one that poses the most problems when trying to plan out a list. If I know all the “superpowered” spells, the Bombs, to steal a term from the MTG drafts, are going to be cut I’ve got a pretty solid thought process on what I want. If every pod of players is going to draft the same 64 spells. with some 370+ spells, I can imagine there is a great amount of wiggle room here, That gives us nearly 7 pods of 8 to work with, without any duplication.

There are a lot of really bonkers combinations out there: Harbinger + Temporal Barrier; Terminus + Train Wreck, Reznik, Wrath of Ages + Tow. I don’ think, however, with that many spells and combinations, you can really bank on getting one spell, or even one type of spell. Take the Coven or Scaverous for instance: they both have a method to reduce their spells cost by 1. There are plenty of 2 cost nukes in the game, but even if there are 30, if they use the whole 370, thats only 8% of the field. Divide that 8% over 6 pods, and you’ve got a very slim chance of seeing even one of them. People will, no doubt end up with their favored combinations through luck, chance and skill, but I’m pretty sure I am not going to bank on that.

The list building part is pretty simple, really. Take stuff that is self sufficient, that holds its own, and can do what it needs to do with no spell support from the caster. Thankfully, Cryx has a ton of unit and solo support that works very well together without spells from the caster.
Unfortunately, that leaves our jacks to be kinda shunted to the side. I don’t think Aiakos will be legal then either. My basic list, baring some tweaks after I look into things, is this:

Bane Thralls
-UA
Bile Thralls
Bane Lord Tartarus
Nightwretch
Nightwretch
Leviathan

I have three points left over to spend on something, but its my first pass.
Everything there is just good. Nothing is chaff and there to take up only space. The Leviathan is especially key, because if the draft goes south, I still have a plan. Everything works without spells, Nightwretches could be upgraded to Ripjaws, as well. No frills, but also none of the utility I am so used to. This part seems simple to me.

Finding Points for the Withershadow in 35 Is hard!

Finding Points for the Withershadow in 35 Is hard!

where I see a problem is a clash of strategies when it comes to the draft, and therefore the army building itself. Everyone is going to be fighting to get and hold those good spells, and they aren’t going to be passed unless they have something better in their pack. If you don’t get it in the first or second pull, expect it to be shitty, or something that is undervalued, and I think that a list built on cards that are typically undervalued except by the right casters could be a real winner. Bring a caster and a pile of cheap jacks, and the Withershadow combine. Full Throttle, Superiority and other spells become your friend, and other will probably not have build for them. Bring a caster that focus’ on direct damage spells and try to leverage them through.

Putting all your eggs in one basket is risky though. Betting on a better, all around plan seems to be another way to really get the gears going. Take a caster that is suitable in Melee, that doesn’t rely on any spells to get the job done. Have them have a gun. Make sure they have Battlegroup support build into their card. Have a good feat for 35 points, and build a self sufficient army. Make sure you have at least one arc node. Grab every spell that looks the smallest bit good. This seems a really good way to hedge your bets, but I think it’ll fall to the created skew lists that take advantage of undervalued cards.

I’ve lumped the Cryx casters into several broad categories, though I am willing to entertain dissension of these categories.

Looks Good:
Skarre II: Seems to have all the tools to fill the second, generalist option. Seas of fate, blood trade, her feat , lifetrader and a hand cannon make her a standout.
Asphyxious I: His feat refills his focus, and with some of the fantastic 2 point spells out there, he could really be killer. In addition, anything that boosts his initial threat range of 11″ to something more reasonable could see him with a significant melee threat.
Goreshade I: Free bane thralls as a feat? No rules on the back of the card to make him need specific spells, with no good spells of his own? The only way is up!
Goreshade II: His feat is great, and his weapon is good. Automnatc stationary is like sustained attack, above.
Deneghra: Her feat and stealth combine for some really good synergy without a spell list.
The Witch Coven: I really like that they can make spells cheaper every turn. With the Withershadow, Warwitches, Scarlock and Deathjack, I could turn it into a massive focus factory. They still suffer the same problems here, though, that they do everywhere else, and will die to any sort of attack. Thankfully, there is no killbox, and no reason for the girls to get close.

Looks Bad
Deneghra II: Feat is good on its own, and Dark Banishing is pretty great, but the rest of her oomph is in her spell list.
Mortenebra: Interface and Repair are good, but there is just something here that screams that she needs more from her spells than I would be able to make up.
Asphyxious II: He would be a literal Feat with legs. most of his greatness comes from Hellbound, Parasite, and Caustic Mist. No thanks.
Lich Lord Terminus: Him only being a MAT 17 Pow 16 without Malediction really hurts. Tough is good, as is the 10″ spray and Sac-pawn, but I’ll pass.

No Thanks
Lich Lord Venethrax: With a small feat to begin with, and all of his muscle tied up in some really great spells, he’s just got nothing going for him.
Scaverous: Wile his feat is an amazing spectacle, the Def 14, arm 17 caster on a medium base with no set spell list is a really dicey proposal.
Skarre I: Her feat is gangbusters, but without her Sacrificial Lamb factory and Dark Guidance, I don’t think she can cut it.

I’ve got a lot of choices to make here on out, and I’m not completely sure about any of them!

My wife got me Fallout: New Vegas shortly after it released as a gift, and I played the hell out of that game. I put over 100 hours into it, and that was before any of the DLC’s.

PS: Though its over 2 years old by now, spoilers, right?

Its a glitchy, freezy, buggy game, and if I was any other person, I’d have probably tossed it out the window by now, but I powered through it. Westside is the largest problem, in that it often slows to a crawl, if it doesn’t just outright freeze up. I’ve also encountered animals in rocks, invisible enemies, and infinite gaps in the world. But, for all its flaws, I still love the game.

FNV_Wallpaper_7_1920x1200

I had finished playing Fallout 3 some time before I picked up New Vegas, so I wanted something a little different: I turned on Hardcore mode. This unlocks a specific set of variables that makes the game decidedly different. I won’t go so far as to say that the game is harder: Food and Water is plentiful, sleep is rarely needed, and ammo does not weigh all to much; but the game definitely feels more desperate. There are popups warning about your hunger level, hydration and sleep, as well as the typical HP and Rad awareness. The biggest change, though, is the weight of the ammo. in Fallout 3 there was no need to wonder whether or not you’d use a specific ammo type, and it was light as a feather. Hardcore changes that, especially with the heavier weapons like missiles and grenade launchers.

And my new friend, the Anti-Material Rifle.

From the very beginning I wanted to play a sniper. I grabbed what rifles I could and made a go of it until I found myself an Anti-material rifle. And man does that thing roar. Sadly, I didn’t think I’d need strength as a sniper, but it turns out the the AM rifle is heavy, so for the longest time, I just dealt with a swaying set of cross hairs. It sucked, but it did make me good at timing those head shots!

I spent a ton of time and even beat the game with the sniper build, clearing every location (making sure by taking Explorer), getting very used to the way the game works. I took Boone and ED-E to up the sniper-quotient. Boone Marks out enemies in a red color, and ED-E allows me to see extremely far, upping my perception. Adding gear to increase my perception, and going to visit Dr. Usanagi to increase both Perception and Strength made it so that I was a nightmare to all the walked the wasteland. I could, and did, one-shot Deathclaws with head shots. It was glorious!

I tackled Dead Money and Honest Hearts when the game came out, but the wait I had for Old World Blues and Lonesome Road were to long, and they fell off my radar. However, a friend mentioned playing New Vegas recently, and it kindled my interest again. I picked up the game, and downloaded what I thought was the next DLC: Lonesome Road (I was wrong, and damn it, that makes me angry). I Immediately went north, Rifle in hand, and entered the Divide (I assumed it was the Grand Canyon. Maybe not?)

The divide and all it offers is a blast. I’m not going to do a walk through, though I am tempted by my predilection to do so. Instead, I am going to try to just give impressions and thoughts. Its a very cool place. The environs of a blown out canyon are cool, though they offer little in terms of a different feel. The main enemies are irradiated, trapped and insane Marked Men, who are both former Legion and NCR members. They are tough as nails, and have a pair of very aggravating traits: They tend to wear helmets, making getting head shots much more difficult, and they have the Rad Child perk, regenerating health in a land full of regeneration. If I don’t kill them right out with a head shot, its very likely that they will come and try to cave my brain in with Thermic Lances, Blades of the West and other very gruesome means.

 

Many times you have to explode undetonated nuclear weapons in order to get through to the next place. I’m not really sure how that works, though, as the explosion radius seems not to be to large. Maybe they are just small nukes.

Anyway, the whole time you’re chasing down Ulysses, another Courier, who is using a modified ED-E robot you found in order to communicate with you. He leads you through ruins and tunnels and back out again to where he’s planned to launch a nuke over to the NCR’s lifeline to the Mojave. From there, you can choose who to nuke, once you remove Ulysses as a threat.

Honestly, there isn’t much new, but there is a ton of content. 25 new locations filled with Marked Man and the other new bad guy: Tunnelers. These tunnelers are one of the things that really left me aching to find a secondary weapon to my AM rifle. Tunnelers, well, tunnel, and you can’t target them below the ground. They pop up close to you and do some serious damage, especially for one used to wearing light armor and crouching. Most often they would 2 or 3 shot me and I wouldn’t have time to get more than a single shot out. Add on the fact that they’ll actively swarm you with clusters of 2-3 of them, and you’ve just got a recipe for dead sniper.

Thankfully, one of the first Marked Men I killed had a Plasma Defender on him. I love energy weapons, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I’d been working up my Energy weapons, so it seemed a good fit. Thankfully, it did everything I wanted. With the extremely fast rate of fire and the low AP usage in V.A.T.S, I was able to pretty regularly overcome the Tunnelers I did face.

The hardest part of the whole mission, though, was completely optional. You end up sending a nuke to land just outside of Hopeville, the first area. If you go back there, it ends up being overrun with Irradiated Deathclaws that are extremely aware of their surroundings and are overly durable to anything but a AM rifle round to the head. While I enjoyed clearing the area, it was a brutal slogfest that didn’t end up giving me a whole lot more than I’d started out with.

In the specific instance of the Irradiated Deathclaws, being a sniper was a significant disadvantage. However, most often, the habits of wandering around in crouch mode as well as having a sniper rifle at the ready most times made the Marked Men and many of the normal Deathclaws trivial. In one spectacular instance, I exit into the wasteland from the top of a building. Thanks to my perception being so high and ED-E’s help, I can see there are enemies all around. Because I am at the top of the building, I have height advantage on every one of them. Though it took me almost an hour real time, I cleared every one of them out without needing to leave the roof of the building. It was glorious!

Courier

When I get to the end of the DLC, I wanted to see what the discussion would be with Ulysses, even though I was positive I wouldn’t save it. The discussion is interesting, but wasn’t anything I could live without. So the end battle was, as many of my battles, anti-climatic. I reloaded and then shot Ulysses twice in the back of the head from very far away, and then dealt with the many, man Marked Men that come to his aid. It took me a few tries, though. Ulysses is extremely hard to kill if you don’t drop a shell into his Noggin at least once. You a neat weapon from it, Old Glory, an old eagle-headed flagpole, and his duster and mask, which both are pretty good. You also can open up new areas on the map depending on who you nuke, and the legion camp I bombed was pretty neat.

I enjoyed the experience Thoroughly, and I look forward to playing Old World Blues. Makes me happy they are doing Fallout: Boston. At least that’s what the rumors are!

When it comes to Pen and Paper RPG’s there seems to be a sliding scale that is used to describe how a player approaches both their character and the game. On one end of this imaginary scale is the powergamer who is actively pursuing the game to its highest numerical end. They completely disregard of the personality of the character, having only the barest of bones to role play with: generally race, class and sex. On the other end stands the Complete Roleplayer, giving up every numerical advantage they can to have their character as close to the vision of the player as they can.

Neither end can really comprehend the other, as they are as antithetical to one another as the shadow is to light. Many times these two extremes, whether both are in the same group or not, will tear at any player in the center. These centrists represent the backbone of RPGs, the traditional player who wants nothing more than to have both an  effective character in combat and also while having a reasonably developed personality.

As the years have worn on, this central player has more and more disappeared, replaced by the two extremes. I’ve played D&D since I was around 12. I started in AD&D, moved to AD&D 2e, playing that for a very long time. After 3.0 came out, I did eventually grab the game, and grew to love 3.5. With the advent of 4e, I reflected on the fun that 3.0/3.5 had brought, and decided to run with 4e and see where it took us. I’ve also played Vampire, Gamma World, d20 Modern, Silver Age Sentinels, and the IKRPG. I dabbled a little in Savage Worlds and Exalted. Every game I played had its own dynamic, but they invariably contained people further along the spectrum towards either Personalities or Powergamers or both. lately, however, I have seen harder and harder stance towards one or the other, with little thought given to meeting in the middle. During these games, these two sides almost always would clash, causing player tension, which is the death of any game.

freaks-and-geeks-dd-700x466

What really causes the divide is that there is a significant mental difference between the two perspectives starting points in playing the game. Powercentric players seek out and create a powerful character, placing a personality and character attributes around the core of the powerful character like a shell. It can be a very detailed and pretty shell with layers of color and different patterns, but it is still, ultimately, a shell. Personalitycentric players will seek to create a character and then fill out that character with abilities that match it. While its pretty and gorgeous on the outside, with the most fantastic styling, excruciating precise details and deep roots to the center, the core can be very rotten. The rules and abilities that they pick are based on color, not on taste. Its a very basic difference that is hard to describe, and even harder to acknowledge, as they are  simply incomprehensible to the other.

D&D has always been the poster child for the powercentric because it enables a massive selection of choices that inevitably devolve into combat choices. Even the most character driven player becomes wary of the danger and finality of combat, and combat effectiveness becomes the focus of almost every character. When the figurative life of the character you have built through your mental power, given breath through your force of personality, and become attached to through shared experience is in jeopardy, players almost always start crunching numbers to make sure their emotional investment sticks around, because numbers are the only defense you have against death in that game.

But there are, inevitably, people for whom the puzzle of creating a powerful character is the original draw, for whom the the death of the enemy is not enough, and nothing but their total numerical annihilation will suffice. These are the people who strove to hear M. Bison yell “Perfect!” at the end of a match. They hunt down every complex interaction and every written rule that they can glean an edge from. They hunt down every +1 and each additional die that they can add to their characters sheet. They are little more than the complex number generators of a video game wrapped in paper.  I find that there is no joy, no fun, in those characters. There is only the hollow victory before you need to get the next level, the next feat or ability that will allow you to do more numbers. When all your game decisions are made for you because they are factually the best  its much harder to create a character that is believable, especially after the first. When every character you play has the same basic core, there is nothing new about it, no matter the color of the shell.

wanderingmonsters-large

As another extreme, if you take a personality player and have them make a character who has a fully fleshed out life, has a family, a job, and a solid roof above his head. What reason does this character have to be in the game? what reason could possibly make him leave his comfortable life? each of his four children are painstakingly detailed, as well as his boss and his family tree. The layout of the house he lives in includes rooms for the kids, the stables and the cook. Maybe the character is a loner, someone who just likes it better on their own, without the interference of people of lesser skill. He’s been a hardened veteran of countless countless battles, and has no trust of the world. Neither of these characters is part of the world, they are either above it or contained by it. They could have the strongest rules set to back them or none at all, but they are as useful as a heap of used diapers.

I try to stay in the center, as Building my character to be powerful gives me a sense of accomplishment, but that accomplishment means nothing if I stare at my belly button between combats. I’ve taken a character’s bare bones idea and fleshed it out to be the best that concept can be. My most personally powerful character was a complete accident, one that a friend of mine had to unfortunately suffer through DMing as he was an unstoppable force of Magic. Now, I do have to say that I only played in an Epic Level 3.5 game once, and man was it insane, but I tend to stay between 1 and 15, so my power curve is a little shorter than most. Endrus “Hammer” Tolsien was a Human Mage (enchanter) that didn’t have a single offensive damage spell. What he had was Spell focus and a build created to make his enchantments extremely robust. Hold, Charm person, Charm Monster, Mass Hold, Slow, Haste, the list goes on and on. What really made him bonkers was that he was super-effective against anything alive and enchantable, but was also extremely good at buffing the party to take on things that were not. Oh, and he used a Maul, in combat if necessary, and I took feats and abilities to make it so he was good at it, because it was in his story and background I had written for it. No other game would allow me the freedom to create a character so detailed and rich and full of story that I have ever played. And that is the beauty of RPG’s: They are small scale acting studios with a game behind them. 

None of it all matters, though, when the understanding of the core of the game flies out the window. When the Personality player creates something that is so detrimental to the group that it is divisive, when the Power player creates a character who’s very essence nullifies the rest of the groups existence, or when the middle creates a character that wants to stay home and do nothing. Everyone can be equally guilty at making the game  no fun for anyone other than themselves. 

What really is at the heart is that the game is a group game, set up between more than a single person. While you want to create the character that fits you the most, always keep in mind that there are other people at the table as well, including the GM, that are there to have fun. If your character, by their simple existence, is making someone else not have fun, you’re doing it wrong. You can build a powerful character that is the bane of the strongest monster without nullifying the DM, and you can create a dark character without having him be forced to come along for the ride. When creating a character you have to keep in mind that the whole game is based around going on adventures, and that the personality you create, bare or obese, needs to be able to go out on these adventures with others, and that these others need to have as equal a spotlight as you. I’m as guilty as anyone else is about breaking these rules, but I try hard to keep these in mind, letting other speak, kill monsters, and take the spotlight.

If you can’t you should probably go find a video game to play, because playing by yourself will be just as satisfying. I’ve heard Neverwinter Nights and Baldurs Gate are very, very good.

Well, Yellows, Actually.

I’ve been trying, with limited success, to photograph some of my miniatures that I’ve  recently finished painting, and I have not been having much success. I want the background to be a static bacdrop, and I’ve really been wanting to not have my disasterous painting table in the background. This has been resulting in some pretty frustrating times and desperate measures. I gone through two different Milk Jug Lightboxes, and both are really failing at what I wanted to accomplish: Simple, good and quick pictures. I have been taking vast mountains of pictures and burning hours trying to figure out how to get picture of my models that isn’t either bright yellow, washed out, or covered in shadows.

I’ve been trying different apps on my phone, and even dug out my wifes camera. nothing seems to help get the yellow out of the picture without also darkening the deep shadows and colors to disgusting blobs. While I’ve figured out that its the white balance, I’ve yet to take a good picture that dosen’t need manual touchups, and that really bothers me. I want to have the skill to do this right, and having to rely on GIMP to make my pictures even usable is a real drag. However, I’ve gotten some good pictures out of it through GIMP. Remember those shitty, yellow pictures from the Revenant Crew Article? 

Now?

Much better. I’m still trying different techniques to try and get the photos right without touch up, but I’m just not seeing it.

But, I can now get on with my Deneghra and Slayer Unit spotlights. Oh! and the bane Spartans are nearing completion.

WWX still hasn’t gotten me my repair parts that will enable me to start caring about painting their models. Its sad and a little lame at this point. They keep touting that they are dropping some 120 models in some sort of Record time, and that its a lot of work.
I know. Shut up, I just don’t care. I hate to sound like that guy, but its just a pile of excuses and denial at this point.

The Drake II kickstarter, has come and past, and while I am a little sad that the game isn’t what I would have liked, I did save some 100+ bucks on it. The Shi army ascetic is amazing. Its not at all something I’d have pegged to be my style, but man that would have been cool to paint. Its downfall: Linear Dice. I just can’t get behind a miniatures game rules that has linear progression anymore, without having some sort of compensating huge draw. Games with cards have a good, if aggravating, way around it by thinning the pool of numbers as your turn wears on.  This game was based on a single die roll, and I only had three hours. No go for me.

I’ve picked up Fallout: New Vegas again, and I’m really enjoying my AM rifle sniper. Its just awesome to be able to reach out and touch someone from that far away. Its buggy as hell, and its murder sometimes to fight trios of Deathclaws, but I love this game so very much, despite its shabby self.

I am trudging away on my Bane Spartans. I’m really happy at how they are coming along, and though its a 10 man unit, its not wearing me down like many have before. Could be because I am going much slower now with writing twice a week, a baby, and a thousand other projects.

I did a segment with my buddy Bill from Gamers Lounge a couple Fridays back, inspired by my WWX gripe and whine session on their forums. I really enjoyed it, and had a lot of fun blathering about what I like and don’t like. I wasn’t used to skype at the start, and eventually calmed down and stopped interrupting him like a dumb ass.

I’m hoping to line up a Warmachine playdate here for late march. Going to see if I can break out Deneghra’s current list (maybe bane Knights, this time, if they are finished) and see what I can chop through. I’ve not really played her a ton since the MKI battlebox, and its nice to get a really powerful spellslinger on the board.

I bought my tickets and am stoked about going to Lock and Load at the start of June. I get to spend my moms birthday back home again, which matters a lot to me. Lock and Load is great, but If it kept falling on that weekend, I was gonna go bonkers.

I am considering going through each and every one of the casters that is coming up for Vengance here and doing a solid look at them, and how I see them from the Skorne and Cryx angles. it’d be a lot of work, but worth it, I’d think. I’ll also probably hit the Cryx releases when the time comes. That’ll keep me busy for a while, right?

I’ve also got my first commission minis on board, and I am really looking forward to painting a set of models I’m not normally going to get to paint.

I’m also have a great desire to take pictures of all my painted stuff. Johnwebb on the PP forums has started a retrospective of his cryx painting, and I kinda want to wander down the same path. We’ll see.

 

 

I know that there are some large number of people out there who are getting disappointed or aggravated with Soda Pop and Relic Knights. The story has been one of unending problems and repeated broken deadlines. They are trying, now, to get our hearts back by offering a free model to all backers: Candy Heart. They are currently running a poll for which of the two versions of the model you’d like to see go into production. They will then give all backers $15, and they can buy Candy, or whatever they like.

But I’m here to look at the rule book today. The small, digital download that’s available to anyone, right here. Now a days, this is one of my “must haves” for a miniatures game. If I wasn’t involved in Malifaux and Warmachine, I probably wouldn’t get involved today. The ability to judge a game before you buy it is crucial. This is especially true in a genre that generally has $50+ rule books, and $100+ starter boxes. You want to know what your getting into before you get bit in the ass.
I learned from WWX, boys and girls.

Now:
Relic Knights: Darkspace Calamity
The first, and core, book in the series of expansions doubtful to come in the Relic Knights franchise. With over a year of kickstarter blues, it had better be good. Thankfully, like other online books, its fairly to the point. Its simply the rules, and not a whole lot more. its 32 pages of reference, rules, and scenarios. All the pictures are reference images, and there isn’t a single fluff image. Its good to keep down the documents overall image count, as people inevitably print the book out.

It jumps right into the game, as it should, starting with the definitions, and its all standard stuff here: Models, units, cards and their associated descriptions, the Deck, Terrain and measuring tape. Where this diverges though is the Dashboard and the Objects. the game gives a rules point for objects, and lists them as anything on the playing board: Terrain, markers, models… everything. Its something that I’m surprised games hadn’t come to define yet, honestly. The Dashboard is where some of the most intriguing parts of Relic Knights shine, making a kind of mobile initiative order I really dig how this works, and it goes right into the Key Concepts, including the dashboard.

 

They include a diagram of the dashboard, because its a complicated concept.

Dashboard

From left to right: The Active slot is the card of the model you’re activating next. The Ready que is your intended order of activation after this model, provided your opponent or you do nothing to mess with it. Then you have your Idle Section, where all models that aren’t either active or ready lie. The dead, discard, and Draw piles are fairly self explanatory. The linked slot is a model that’s been dragged from the Idle pool to here because of its connection to the currently active model.  Only models with the Linked rule can do this, which is not how we play tested this. we had all Cyphers linked, and that was really, really powerful.

I really like this system because it creates an interesting dynamic in the game. The game, instead of focusing everywhere all at once, tends to focus on single “battleground” areas as each player tries to activate only relevant models. There is no benefit in this game to having units that are not immediately important activate. I really think that a lot of the dynamic of the game is going to come in when one person is applying pressure and taking the initiative, and the other person trying to resist the pressure and take the initiative back. Its chancy to let the opponent activate two models, uncontested, in a row that are trying to achieve his goals while you try and activate something across the board.

The Rule book then covers movement, and its really appropriate. One of two unique movement rules of the game is that no model, token or marker of any type may be assisted in standing. If the model can’t fit, it does not commit! The game is going to focus a heavy amount on movement and maneuvering. with unlimited ranges, and no random-chance attacks, if your vulnerable, you are definitely going to get smashed.

Oh, what, you didn’t know about the attacks? Let me help! Later on they go more in depth, but here is the low down:
there are no random factors in the game, outside from your drawn hand. I feel that this is much better execution of a card mechanic than Malifaux: Malifaux rewards card counting in order to make sure you have your opponent on a bad foot. Relic Knights does not.

this is a sample attack, pulled from the rule book:

Weapon Example

You’ll see that there is simply a cost, and then effect. You must pay 2 blue and one green Esper from your hand, and the action succeeded. Notice, as well, that there isn’t a range. All ranges in this game are based completely on LOS, so make sure you move to the right spots. You’ll also notice that there are additional costs, called presses. if you pay 2 more blue (in addition to the two you started with, not an easy feat) you get +2 damage. If you Pay 2 more green, you increase the charge by +2. All of this adds up to a game where if you can see a model, and you have the right cards in your hand, your ability just works. To alleviate that, there are defensive abilities with the same structure, so if your opponent has the ability to defend against something, its just going to be defended.

Right, back to movement!
Another key aspect of movement is that larger bases can move through smaller bases and smaller object as if they do not exists, though they cannot stop atop them. This is a very cool aspect of the game that, while not necessary, is pretty interesting for the 80mm Relic Knights. The rule book goes on to define the different types of movement types, and then starts to cover LOS. Relic Knights uses a concept I’ve not seen before, and that is the LOS window.

LOS window

Its a simple concept covering the whole of the area between the models edges, as seen above. all of the cover and to hit modifiers are based on this window. Most games use this, in practice, but don’t cover it in the rules as explicitly. They then have two pages of terrain examples, which wile confusing to read, make sense in the context of the rules and the diagrams.

page 10, about a third of the way through, introduces us to the Esper Affinity and the Esper deck. Outside of two rather cryptic messages, this is our first look.Each faction is tied to an Esper color, called affinity, and they don’t all make perfect sense. I do like that I get to play the chaos Faction, this time around. I so very often play the Lawful types.  The deck contains cards of every color pairing, as long with dead cards (void) and All cards (wild) these are what you draw, 5 at a time, to determine your hand, and if you can activate your abilities or not.

Esper Affinities

The next section is on model abilities and Esper actions. While the abilities work pretty much as you’d expect, the held Esper is essentially “double wildcard” Esper, allowing you to spend it as any two Esper you desire, but only on the model holding it. You attain held Esper by sacrificing your action earlier, so while it can be a real boon, its not perfect.

It then goes into Markers, Tokens, and AOE’s, all of which are vastly different from other games I’ve played.

Markers are boosts and objectives, and are counted as models for almost all purposes.

Tokens are flat notations of where an Zone, Item or important location is. Its not considered a model.

AOE’s are persistent effects that extend from the edge of the base in all directions. When placed, the Token for an AOE must be within the LOS of the model creating it, is considered part of the AOE, and covers 3″ from every edge of the token.

Thats the last of the basic rules, and then the book jumps, after 13 pages, to playing the game. it goes over setting the battlefield, the cards and the ready que, and also touches on deployment.

The dashboard is used to control the turn, with the ready que model moving to active, and that models turn resolving.

Models get an initial move, an action, and a follow up move (I told you this game would focus on moving!) Both moves are defined on the front of the card, and the actions are self explanatory.  A player also has the option to refocus, which takes place of the models whole turn, but allows the active player to draw five cards, and the model gains a held Esper. Once the models turn is complete, it moves to the idle pile. The player then moves the ready que over, and can choose a card to fill the newly opened rightmost spot. This means that you can keep activating the same 4 dudes over and over again, and I really see this as the main means of applying pressure.

the rule book then goes into describing what action types and troop types their are, but its all fairly typical nothing that really stands out. Formation is a strange beast, and one that I am well used to abusing from MKI Warmachine, but that is what it is.

Applying damage to squads deserves a special mention here, because its not how I am used to resolving these effects. When a unit is targeted, every model in LOS and within 6″ of the targeted model can be killed by spillover damage. I think that is going to make keeping units alive a real chore.

the final area of interest today is Terrain. I don’t see anything completely out of the ordinary here, with difficult terrain, Cover, and open ground and it vagaries pretty clearly delineated. They did decide to go with assigning an amount of armor bonus to the terrain, with dense woods granting 1 armor, all the way up to bunkers granting 4.

The book then ends on the victory conditions, scenarios, and abilities list. I’ll hit scenarios later this month, but I wanted to make it through the book here today.

Overall, I really like how the game shapes up. Its different – with tons of movement and with very little to measure outside of the movement of a model. I really can’t impress enough upon anyone that I find that this is the best way to use cards as a resource in a miniatures game. Drawing them is hard enough, having the right model to use the right ability at the right time is downright blasted hard, and THEN having to hit some number, either a defense or an activation number even if you have the required numbers is a pain. This system of having your powers simple activate if you pay for them is refreshing and interesting. The ability to move through other models and objects on the field is another really interesting aspect of the game. I don’t think it will have a ton of affect on the game, but it will indeed have enough that I’ll enjoy the rule.

While its taken them forever and a Tuesday to get these models out the door, and we are not even there yet, I’d really encourage those of you who have backed the kickstarter not to give up. Its an interesting enough concept that I think it’ll really grab hold in many places. It might not rival Privateer or GW, but It might give some of the other fringe games a run for their money!

I’ve decided to do a new type of Irregular article. Instead of showing off the models that I’ve painted and just be “hey, lookie!” I am going to, in addition to showing of the models, kinda breakdown the model, the game system its in, and what role it brings, or does not bring, to the table. Some of these, like the one I am bringing you now, will be deep and thorough because I’ve played the system for so long. Others, like the WWX and Relic Knights, will be more expectation based!

This one is higher on my priority list, because they just performed like a horrid stinking mess in my last game, and I really want to just work out why they are worse, what they do, and why its no good for almost every list I can think of.
However, I’ll try to be both positive and critical, when the needs warrant it.

 

Untitled

so, lets start at the top:
The statline:

SPDSTRMATRATDEFARMCMD
665413127

its a pretty sorry setup, right off the bat. Speed is average, though 6 isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and STR 6 is also pretty average for an infantry model. Their MAT is a significantly below average 5, and their RAT is significantly miserable at 4 to not consider using their guns at all. DEF 13 is solid for a Cryx infantry model, but isn’t anything to be proud of. To compare with other infantry:
Cryx, 8 (66%) ten man units have a 12 or less, 4 (33%) have 13 or higher.
Cygnar:3 (33%) at 12 or less and  6 (66%) have 13 or higher
Khador: 4 (66%) at 12 or less and 2 (33%) have 13 or higher, and
Protectorate: 4 (66%) at 12 or less, and 2 (33%) have 13 or higher. 

Honestly, this is the first time I have run those numbers, so to speak, and it interests me in a couple ways, and makes me think a little higher of def 13 on 10 man units.

ARM 12 is the armor of chumps, and they die to even pow 5 blasts on average dice. The paltry command of 7 makes a few of the rules to come even worse.

Just looking at the stats, everything cries to keep them in the case or the foam, and not on the table, but there are a couple of interesting rules that make your head start tickin’, trying to find a way to use them well.

Weapons:
P+S 9 Cutlas (melee)
Pow 10 Pistol (range 8)

Traits: Undead – This is nothing new to Cryx, and has a few really nice interactions. Immunity to fear and fleeing is the big one that affects both target selection and unit coherency. The ability to ignore terror checks in any manner means that I can commit them harder to any position that a non-fearless troop could, and still expect them to hold ground and not flee at the worst time.

Abilities:
Gang: This ability is the staple conditional MAT increaser. Originally it represented an incoherent mob of rag tag, dubious abilities that got threatening only when they ganged up on targets. Now, it is added to many units to represent team tactics, savage ferocity, or simple to keep points down. Because it Increases MAT while 2 more models of the same unit are attacking the same target, it can be tricky to use, but its generally an always on ability because you can just run a model to get a gang attack at the +2 MAT and + 2 damage that the skill grants.

Point Blank: This allows them to use their irrelevant pistols in combat as melee weapons, making them slightly more relevant. Because they use MAT and are considered melee for the attacks, it pairs up splendidly with gang. 

Deathbound: The signature ability of the Revenat crew is also their greatest hangup. The ability to return to play after being destroyed is magnificent in theory, and can be extremely useful against melee armies.

All of this comes in a 6/9 package. Its an expensive cost in an army that also sports Bane Thralls, Bloodgorgers, Satyxis Raiders and Bile thralls at 5/8, Blackbanes Ghost raiders at 6/9 and Mechanithralls, Satyxis Bloodwitches, and Cephalyx Druges at the bottom tier. The only 10 man unit more expensive is the Bane Knights. They have vengance, higher armor, higher MAT, reach, ghostly, weaponmaster, and speed 5: but reach more than nullifies that advantage. (9.5″ threat on the Pirates, 10″ on the Bane Knights).

Now, I can’t talk about a unit without its Weapon Attachment being mentioned. They are the whole reason I am even talking about this unit in the first place. The Riflemen have the exact same stat line, and the exact same rules set, with two exceptions. The first is CRA – They are allowed to make Combined Ranged Attacks with each other, in order to increase their accuracy and damage. This pulls their measly rat 4 up to 7 if they are all together, and a respectable 8 if they stand still… or just the leader of the CRA. The second difference is their pistols almost double in range to 14″. This allows them to stand in the back and take pot shots at nearby infantry and vulnerable solos. They cost a single point each to a max of three in a unit, taking the unit up all the way to 12. Sadly, the unit wants to be running or charging most turns, either to try and make the best out of Deathbound, or to try and get attacks in before they die. That tends to leave the poor riflemen out in the cold, as they can’t even stand or shoot during those turns.

So, the unit is an expensive unit in the context of Cryx with pretty terrible stats, which is par for the course in the faction. They have the benefit of being undead and having two attacks each in melee, and a small ranged weapon. The human merc pirates are 5/8 with the exact same stat line and abilities, with the exception of Undead and Deathbound. Undead is worth a point, probably, and Deathbound is probably worth something, so I get where the 6/9 cost comes from. It makes no sense in the terms of the factions infantry and their choices they have, but I’ll give them that it seems pretty logical. The Command 7 and the exact wording of Deathbound is what really gives it the nudge into poor territory. You can only be returned to the unit, on the start of the Cryx players next turn, under two conditions. The first is that you were destroyed in formation. Any RFP effects or change in formation strategies will work to stop the reincarnation. The second is that the whichever model was the leader when you were destroyed is still on the board. Every time the leader is destroyed, the models that were going to come back are removed from the game and no longer allowed to return. This gives a big target to the leader model, one that just can’t be ignored. You’d want to keep him safe, but that requires either an Ogrun Bokur to eat the shots, or a cloud model, or some other forms of shenanigans to protect him, which Cryx is in great lack of supply. The recursion, now much harder to get mileage out of that the opponent knows to destroy the quartermaster at the end of every turn (or just constantly shoot the Quartermaster. it removes at least that one model from the game every turn.), is very shaky, and that counts against the unit overall. The second strike is that the unit seems built from the ground up to be an anti mid defense infantry unit. with Gang bringing their MAT up to 7 and having two attacks, they can take out mid-ground, 14 defense units without a problem. The issue with that is that those units rarely see the game. Either the defense is so low, or the armor/wounds so high, that it doesn’t matter, or the defense is so shockingly high that there is nothing the Crew can ever hope to hit. This can be alleviated somewhat by the Veteran Leader ability of Rengrave giving out +2 to attack rolls made when you can see him. Veteran Leader, however, is a very tricky ability to get to work normally, let alone while trying to set up gang attacks.

I can see their use, I really can. I just don’t think that between their point cost and the role they play that they are generally worth taking to many games, and I’d never take them to a tournament, they’d be smashed off the table with the amount of combined arms that is hanging around in every army these days.

So, enough with the bad! Lets take a look at what support casters can give them to try and maximize their meager abilities. I like to look at units in conjunction with casters. As good as a unit may be, if there is no caster to support it, it won’t matter. So, below is my rating scale for a model/unit, respective to the caster I am talking about.
Scale:
0 – I’d never bring this unit with this warcaster, and the unit has heavy negative synergy
1 – I’d bring this only in a gimicky list centered on this model/units and its ingame ineractions.
2 – I’s consider bringing this model/unit with this warcaster, with the proper support units and as a points filler
3- When taking this caster I  debate bringing this model/unit every time
4- When taking this caster, I find it hard to leave home without this model/unit
5- This model/unit is an Auto-include for this caster.

Asphyxious I – Scything touch and Parasite make a great combo for any melee unit, and hitting at effective P+S 16/17 is no joke. (2)

Asphyxious II – Parasite still exists, and the added clouds make sure that the Revenant Crew can get to combat. However, there exists enormous anti-synergy with his feat, as they remove themselves from play when the Quartermaster is killed. (0)
Asphyxious III – The Return of Scything Touch is welcomed, but the loss of Parasite is not. Carnage Makes them hit at MAT 9, and Ashen Veil bumps their defense up to a very respectable 15. (3)

Deneghra I – What does Deneghra I not make better? Crippling Grasp and her feat makes them MAT 11 and P+S 15/16. It’ll threaten a pile of Cygnar and Ret Jacks, and makes them that much better at removing infantry.Ghost Walk mitigates their lack of pathfinder, enabling them to reach different places than they normally would. (1)

Deneghra II – Bringing along Ghost Walk like Deneghra 1, She also brings Curse of Shadows to allow movement through models and immunity to free strikes, as well as Marked for Death making their pistols an amazing rat 8 if in site of Rengrave. With very little melee assistance, though, this seems to make for a poor match. (2)

Skarre I – Skarre I is another fantastic caster able to prop up even the weakest unit. Her feat and Dark guidance makes every unit hit like gangbusters, and the pirates at MAT 7+3d6 and Pow 16/17 again, you could do a lot worse. (2)

Skarre II – I originally thought Skarre II would support the Revenants, but after a number of games, I was unable to keep the Quartermaster alive through anything, including under her feat. With no way to up damage output, and black spot being much harder to take advantage of than it seems, I was really disappointed (0)

Goreshade I – Goreshade provides less than nothing to the Revenants. No way to debuff arm, and no way to increase accuracy or surviveability, I’d leave them at home every time.   (0)

Gorhshade II – Curse of Shadows is good, and sudden death has decent synergy with their ability to come back from the dead. Occultation could allow them to get to combat safely, but that’s generally on Goreshade for safeties sake. Also, they aren’t banes. So many Strikes! (0)

Goreshade III – Scything Touch makes another appearance here, which is good, as does Occulatation, but there is serious problems with Mockery of Life, as they are once again removed from Play. The feat has some neat interactions ad they’d just come back next round. (3)

Terminus – These used to be the best thing for Terminus next to sliced bread, but the Cabin Boy/Sac Pawn interaction has been culled from the game. While they’d be really nice sac-pawn targets with returning tough, Bane Knights Vengance and better overall application trumps them unless you bring a specific build for them. (1)

The Witch Coven – Both Occulation and their feat are very good for preventing the Quartermaster from dying on the way in. Curse of Shadows is a good armor debuff, and both Veil of Mists and Ghost Walk make terrain and other models not even matter. (2)

Mortenebra – Mortenebra joins the list of casters who bring nothing to the table for the poor Revenants, with some units thats OK. With the Revenants, its not so much (0)

Venethrax – Chalk him up there with Mortenebra, Goreshade and Asphyxious II. He’s just got nothing for them. (0)

Scaverous – While some casters bring nothing, at least scaverous has a def debuff. The Feast of Worms and Icy Grip can make a poor mans Crippling Grasp, but most of the time its just not worth it (1)

Best Caster: Asphyxious III – He’s got a suite of abilities that make them easy to deliver, hard hitting and accurate, and he’s the only one of the bunch that has all three.
Worst Caster: Goreshade I – He has his own set of problems, but the Revenants don’t even try to help here.

Results: I really wish they were better, as they are some of my conceptually favorite models. However, their focus on the leader of the unit in MK II, when there are so many ways to snipe out the leader of a unit, I just don’t find them incredibly compelling, and their mediocre stats are just a sour cherry on top. An easy to remove and counter unit at an elite unit price just drives in the final nail in the coffin. Maybe they can get a Unit Attachment that allows something really, really fun, and on that Day, I’ll review them again.

 

Last Thursday I had a friend come over and we decided to throw down some Warmachine, which was awesome. I’ve not been able to do that often, as I’ve probably said a hundred times now, and I was really hankering for a new match up with a better list than the Deneghra 1 list I had on Saturday. He’d just got an Earthbreaker and really wanted to send it for another spin. We pulled out our lists and got ready to roll.

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