Monday, 23 September 2013

Terrain: Cheap and easy hedges

I'm going to be running the Malifaux tournament at Vapnartak this year (the one that I fluked my way to winning last year) and so I'm building terrain.  Lots of terrain...

I'm doing a few different boards, and just a bunch of general terrain that we can spread over other tables.  I need to build stuff relatively quickly and also cheaply.  First up: some hedges.

These are easy.  You will need the following:

-Pan scourers, the flat cheap ones without any foam on them.  99p for 8.
-Something to mount them on.  I used wide (about 1") lolly sticks I got on eBay as they're quick and easy.  Plasitcard, MDF etc will also work.
-Sand and gravel for basing
-Green flock (not static grass)
-PVA glue
-Hot glue gun (optional but makes it easier).
-Spray primer.  I used Army Painter Leather Brown primer for mine.


-Cut the scourers in half length wise.
-Fold them over so you've got about a 1" high piece of hedge (which will be about 0.5" thick)
-Using the hot glue gun glue the folded halves together.  The glue gun helps a lot here as you get loads of glue for not much money, it holds well and more importantly it dries within a minute or so.  You could also use PVA but you'd need to weight the folded hedge down with some books while it dried.  Superglue would also work I guess.
-Cut the lolly stick to the length you want.  It's basically taking the rounded ends off.  I actually cut mine with scissors.
-Hot glue gun the hedges to the lolly stick.
-PVA glue sand, gravel etc to the base to add texture.  I also found adding some glue and sand to the ends on the hedge helped close up and cover any gaps in the fold.  Let this dry before moving on to the next stage.
-Spray prime the whole lot.  I used brown to prime mine to save me some time.
-Paint the base whatever colour you want.  Mine is just drybrushed with GW Snakebite Leather + Vallejo Light Sand.
-Give the hedge a generous coat of PVA then dip it in the green flock.  Let this dry.  It takes ages so leave it overnight.
-(Optional) Give the flock a coat of thinned PVA just to seal it all on.  You might not need this part really.  The PVA I've got is pretty thin anyway so I just slapped some on neat.

And there we have it:

This is about a 6" section made.  You can just see a Hanged poking his ghostly head over the top to give you an idea of scale.  I'd probably call these Ht2, blocking, soft cover, climbable (so it costs 2" of movement to cross one) when characterising the terrain.

You can see in the above picture I split one and added a little fence to it (made from coffee stirrers).  To make the hedges more ragged on top and attacked them with a pair of scissors.  You could do this with all the hedge sections for a rougher look but I would say if you're going to do that, rather than folding the scourers in half, cut it half and glue the two halves together.  It will be easier to cut the top of them that way.

16 x 6" sections all done.  Total build time for all of it was probably a couple of hours at most.  Per section they probably cost about 10p each and look fairly decent.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Malifaux: Odds of drawing a certain card

I've been playing Magic a bit recently and one of the things that I've been looking through is the odds of the drawing a certain card from your deck.  Magic is bit different from Malifaux in that you don't re-shuffle your hand every turn, but the general principal is the same.

On the surface it seems quite simple.  I've got 12 face cards in my deck (11-13 of each suit), plus the red joker meaning I have a 13/54 chance of getting one on a single card draw.  That's true but, once you draw a single card the odds tilt slightly in one direction or another so it turn's out that working out these odds was more complicated than I thought.

Turns out this is something called a hypogeometric distribution and involves factorials and other stuff I distantly remember from A-level maths.

For those lazy people like me, you can get Excel (other spreadsheet software is available) to work out for you using this formula.  I think this is right, feel free to correct me if not and note I'm using Excel 2010 here.  Earlier versions just had HYPOGEOMDIST function which is more or less the same:

=HYPOGEOM.DIST(number_cards_we_want, hand size, successes in population, total population, FALSE)

The FALSE bit here is to calculate the probability density function which gives us the result of exactly 1 severe.  Changing that to TRUE would give us up the number of severe cards which could also include 0.

For example, the chance of drawing exactly 1 severe in an hand of 6 cards from a deck of 54 is 0.377 or 37% which we can find using the function in Excel =HYPOGEOM.DIST(1,6,13,54,FALSE).  Never feels like that though does it?

This number is going to be skewed in turns after the first given you're drawing less cards usually if you have some in your hand, plus the population size is then going to be slightly less.  In an extreme case you might have 5 severe cards already in your hand and only be drawing one in the draw phase in which case your odds of of drawing a severe are going to go to about 16% (=HYPOGEOMIST(1,1,8,49,FALSE).

Here's some odds you might be interested in:

Chance of drawing no severes on the first turn (=HYPOGEOM.DIST(0,6,13,54,FALSE)):  17%
Chance of drawing a joker first turn (=HYPOGEOM.DIST(1,6,2,54,FALSE)):  20%
Chance of drawing 1 of a specific rank card first turn (=HYPOGEOM.DIST(1,6,4,54,FALSE)):  32%
Chance of drawing 1 card of a specific suit first turn  (=HYPOGEOM.DIST(1,6,13,54,FALSE)):  37%
Chance of drawing 1 card of a specific suit of 8 of higher first turn (=HYPOGEOM.DIST(1,6,6,54,FALSE)):  39%

Some of these numbers seem a bit counter intuitive but the stats don't lie (or I'm doing it wrong in which case they might well be lying).

Here's our likelihood of drawing those face cards in our opening turn:

0 face cards:  17%
1 face card: 37%
2 face cards:  31%
3 face cards:  12%
4 face cards:  2%
5 face cards:  0.2%
6 face cards:  0.006%

Interesting.  You can see the most likely draw in your opening hand it to get 1 face card.

Let look then at a couple of card draw mechanics I'm been using recently:  Primordial Magic's Rush of Magic Ability and spending soulstones to draw 2 more cards.

Rush of Magic
This ability lets us draw and additional card and then discard down to our maximum hand size.  Let's see what difference this makes to the table above:

0 face cards:  13%
1 face card:  33%
2 face cards:  33%
3 face cards:  16%
4 face cards:  4%
5 face cards:  0.5%
6 face cards:  0.003%

This has improved our odds by a few percentage points.

So what happens when we use a SS to draw two more cards (so our sample size is 8):

0 face cards:  9%
1 face card:  28%
2 face cards:  33%
3 face cards:  20%
4 face cards:  6%
5 face cards:  1%
6 face cards:  0.001%

This was a bit unexpected.  We actually less likely to get just 1 face card than we were before but more likely to get multiples.

Rush of Magic and Soulstones
Let's combine them for a sample size of 9:

0 face cards:  6%
1 face card:  24%
2 face cards:  33%
3 face cards:  24%
4 face cards:  10%
5 face cards:  2%
6 face cards:  0.003%

So with the two combined we're 12% more likely to get exactly 3 face cards than with neither of them.

If you can't bothered with Excel, then has a handy online calculator for you.  One thing is clear:  card draw abilities are powerful in M2E.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Malifaux 2nd Edition Part II

Following on from my last post where I wittered about the book and cards, I'm going to talk a bit in this one about my experiences playing the game since the rulebook came out.  I played in both the closed and open betas as well but since they're not the released rules I'm not counting those.  This is a clean slate.

I've had a couple of games using Pandora as my master and I plan on using her for the first dozen or so games, and at least until the run up to my next tournament in October (Halifaux).

Pandora is good.  Really good.  She's pretty tough to put down being an effective Df7 (she defends on Wp) and slippery as she'll just push away from you if you miss.  In my first two games, she's only taken 2 Wds in total and those were from Black Blood from my own models.

Her offensive power is directly proportional to whatever she is fighting as her melee Attack spell Self Loathing does damage with the target's own weapon which is good and bad.  It'd take her less AP to kill something big and beefy like Teddy than it would to take something less powerful like a Rotten Belle.  She has a ranged version of Self Loathing called Self Harm (new in M2E) which is pretty much the same but only Ca6 and makes them shoot themselves (nice against Seamus).  Movement-wise, she's only Wk4 but getting a 4" push when she wins an opposed Wp duel means she is deceptively fast.

Is Pandora any more fun to play against in M2E?  One of the complaints you heard all the time about Pandora in M1E was that she was a negative play experience.  I played with her in M1E and there were times where it felt like that even being on Pandora's side of the table.  The good news is she's been toned down in M2E.  In my opinion, she's lost two of the major things that made her a pain:

-Auto blast marker on Project Emotions.  I could bump that up with a soulstone and drop - flips for Wp on every model under that blast.  Project Emotions is now an upgrade, the blast requires a trigger and the models under the blast only have to get to TN14 Wp duel.  Not as bad.
-Mental Anguish is now not as bad.  Mental Anguish in M1E was one of the most powerful triggers in the game.  On a crow any of Pandora's spells would cause the target to count as having failed a Morale Duel (and so things which normally ignored Morale Duels like Constructs could still be affected).  They'd then run away and waste at least one activation rallying and then another getting back in the fight.  Combine that with the ability to soulstone up to massive totals (I'd drop a high crow and then a soulstone if I really wanted it to go off), and drop a blast from Project Emotions this was absolutely horrible.  In M2E, the ability to soulstone unbeatable totals has largely gone, the trigger "only" gives Paralyzed and does no damage, is a Limited upgrade and is only on Self Loathing and Self Harm.  Better, but still good.

I don't want to go into too much detail on Pandora as I've not had enough experience to speak with any great authority (for that go and listen to Joel on Malifools Episode 58, there is a man that can play Malifaux).  I can say I like playing her and I like what I've used with her crew so far.  Kade and Teddy especially make for a really nasty tag team combo.  What I did want to talk about was a few general areas where I feel things are very different between the two editions.

Model complexity and upgrade
A major complaint about M2E was that is had dumbed down all the models.  Having played the game I don't think this is the case.  Some models are more straightforward on the card, but the upgrade system really adds to that complexity.  Having had a couple of games, I've still had those agonizing tactical choices to make when deciding which of my 5 or 6 abilities and spells to use on my master (Pandora with 3 upgrades) but with less of the brain burn with some M1E masters.  Having played Hamelin a fair bit I can say there was brain burn involved with that.  In short, in still feels like Malifaux.

The cards are the thing
The changes to the soulstone mechanic have had made a big difference.  In M1E, a master with soulstones was largely untouchable unless by another soulstone users.  Killing a master with a non-soulstone user required some degree of luck either good or bad on either side, or running them out of soulstones first.  In M2E this is not the case.  A strong hand of cards is, in my opinion, more important than a large cache of soulstones.

In M2E, soulstones can be used for:
-Re-flipping initiative (same as M1E)
-Damage prevention flips for SS users (same as M1E)
-Adding a + flip to an attack (new in M2E)
-Adding a +flip to defensive and a - flip to any damage result (new in M2E)
-Adding a suit to an attack (new in M2E)
-Drawing 2 additional cards in the draw phase (new in M2E)

In my games with Pandora, that last one is the one that has been absolutely crucial to me.  She only has one trigger that I'd want to guarantee going off:  the aforementioned Mental Anguish which is one of her upgrades and needs a crow.  I've been using her other limited upgrade so I've not required this one yet.  Drawing 2 extra cards has been vital for me though.  The Primordial Magic giving me an extra card, then adding 2 more means I'm drawing up to 9 cards before discarding down to the best 6.  This enables me to craft a strong hand for that turn when I know I'm going to need to do something epic.  For example, Teddy faces off with Tara.  My hand was 2 x 13, 2 x 11 and 2 x 10 with Teddy at Ml7 that combination of cards was really horrible.  Tara did die in Teddy's activation but in fact it was Kade that killed her after Teddy pushed her 12" into him and he pounced on her.

Anyway, drawing 2 more card has been gold for me.  In my opinion this is better than using the stones for the positive on attacks as you're getting 2 cards for 1 stone that anyone in your crew can use rather than 1 extra card.  Time will tell if this proves to be the case with other crews.

Strategies and Schemes
M1E had 13 strategies, M2E has 5.  M2E has a 4 point VP cap for strategies from a possible 10 meaning 60% of your points are from schemes.  The strategies also all (with the possible exception of Reckoning) seem relatively easy to get points from.  Schemes are king and the pool system means you can't be guaranteed to be able to match up certain schemes with certain strats.  For example, in M1E's Beatdown strategy generally speaking you took schemes which required you to kill stuff such as Kill Protege, Grudge or Assassinate which you were doing anyway for the strategy.  In tournament play, I'd save those type of schemes to go with Beatdown.  In M2E, the scheme pool system means you can't do that.  You might be playing a kill type strat like Reckoning, but all your scheme choice require models to drop scheme markers or get to locations on the board.  It makes for a major change in the way crews are built and played.  Being able to handle the schemes seems to be the way to win games, with the strategies coming a second place to that.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Malifaux 2nd Edition Part I

Well it's finally here:  M2E.  I've had the book and my wave 1 arsenal boxes for a couple of weeks now thanks to some very kind people, and I've had a couple of games since the official release now so I thought I would share some thoughts on what I've found so far.

The Book
The book itself is excellent.  It's full colour throughout and there's plenty of new artwork (and some re-used artwork).  It's softback which I don't have a problem with but mine's only been out of the house three times and it's already a bit dog eared on the corners of the cover.  Hopefully Wyrd will release an A5 sized rules manual for M2E which will be much easier to carry around.

The rules are pretty clearly written, although coming from a position of having played M1E for such a long time it can be hard to be objective being as I am familiar with the basic concepts.  The major changes (with opinions on both sides) have been well covered on plenty of podcasts so I won't go into detail here suffice to say that after a couple of games I'm pretty happy with them.  The core rules have been cleaned up substantially and alot of the difficult semantic differences have been removed such as Attack vs attack, towards vs directly towards, within vs completely within etc.  This has made things alot clearer and easier to understand.  Most of the rules are now written on the cards rather than just a keyword referring back to the rulebook which helps during the game.  Clarity and streamlining were what the game needed.

The book includes stats for all the wave 1 models, but to play a game you're going to need...

Arsenal boxes
The stat cards have been totally re-vamped from M1E.  They're now standard playing card size so your MtG card sleeves and deck boxes will fit them.  Most people are either sleeving them or laminating them so they can be written on with dry wipe markers.  I've laminated all mine which was a major task with 5 boxes of 50-60 cards but I think it's worth it to give that extra protection.

The arsenal boxes are not required to play M2E, you could just use the rulebook.  Alternatively, the new plastic box sets include the stat card for each model and all the upgrades that are specific to that crew.  They don't however include the generic faction upgrades, they are only in the arsenal boxes.  For existing players, they're going to want these boxes for the factions you play and they're priced at about £6 RRP which is roughly the same as the retro fate deck.  For players entering the game, they could get away with just buying the new plastic crews but really I would have thought that until the model line is completely re-vamped most players will want the relevant arsenal box.

New plastics
I don't own any of the new plastics as yet, as other than Raspy I already had fully painted crews for all the other boxes.  My club mate Sam has Tara, Seamus and Justice boxes so I have seen the new models and they look really good.  The details on them is excellent.  For example, I don't like the Tara sculpt, but the detail on it, especially the face and hair is really nice.  The disco Death Marshals got a lot of flak when the art came out for them but having now seen the model they are really cool looking.

I've built a fair few Wyrd plastics in the past and I have to say they weren't all that enjoyable to build.  From what Sam has told me that has changed with the new boxes and they are much easier to build than previous kits so Wyrd are clearly learning from the experience of earlier kits.

I was not a fan of the new art style when the first few examples were released during the beta.  It has since grown on me and I think I realized the issue:  the Viks crew.  Seeing that artwork (which I still hate) coloured my judgement against much of the rest of it which I was wrong about.  Happily I still have my M1E Viks models so I'll be carrying on using those rather than the new samurai lap dancer models.  I'll more than likely be getting Zoraida and Marcus boxes once they are released in future.

I'll post some thoughts on my first few games in the next post.