As promised, this post isn’t going to be about Marcus!… obviously it’ll still have references to him (I’m not totally mad), but it’s not specifically about him. It’s about soulstones: the mystical resource which makes Malifaux tick. They’re said to be invaluable, maybe worth more than a man’s life. It’s no wonder, therefore, that I got roundly ridiculed for using 4 soulstones to kill a single Bayou Gremlin (one of the cheapest models in the game). However I believe my soulstone expenditure was well worth it, and hopefully this post will explain why.
Disclaimer: it was only while writing the paragraph referring to a 3 “soulstone” Gremlin that I noticed we usually abbreviate “soulstone” to SS, by which point it was too late to change. Be prepared for some long-hand prose…
There’s a lot you can do with a soulstone. You can pay people to join your crew, you can buy yourself some tasty equipment, or you can just use their raw power to help you out. It’s this last option which today’s post is going to focus on; what you CAN use soulstones for, and what I DO use soulstones for. Soulstones can only be used during the game by Masters and Henchmen (there might be the occasional other model which can use them), and therefore you often have to think very hard about whether you can use a card from your hand (which another model might want) or whether to use one of your limited cache of soulstones.
First up, soulstones can be used to give your master or a henchman a positive flip on an attack or casting duel. Obviously this gives you a better chance of hitting your opponent or successfully casting a spell. However it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll succeed, and this is usually where I have to think long and hard about whether to use a card from my hand, or risk a soulstone. For the most part, I prefer to use my hand, and will only use this if my hand is full of really bad cards, or if I’m on negative flips to hit, I’ll use a stone to get back up to straight flips (so I can cheat from my hand). In the case of the aforementioned Bayou Gremlin, I had 4 cards in my hand, and the highest was a 5… assistance was required.
Soulstones can be used for simple duels (where you’re just trying to reach a target number). Most regularly I find these are horror duels, but they could be other things too. Generally here I follow the same logic as above, though I may be more willing to use a stone for simple duels, as generally the value you need to reach is smaller than in opposed duels.
Next up we have one which I almost always forget. If you’re being targeted and need to defend an opposed duel (usually if someone is hitting you or casting a spell) you can spend a stone to get a positive flip to your defense, and a negative flip to the damage if they do hit you. I’m quite a “cup half empty” kind of guy, so I use this (if I remember) to do damage limitation. I assume that the attack will hit, but just try to put it on as many negatives as possible (by minimising the difference in the duel and adding the extra negative), so chances are I’ll only suffer weak damage. Once I’ve spent the stone for this, I’ll rarely even consider using a card from my hand (it’s too resource intensive). Plus, there’s always the off chance that you might flip high enough that the attack either misses, or (often a better result) the opponent has to use one of those prized face cards (11+) to hit you.
Damage prevention is the final defensive use for soulstones. When your master or henchman has been hit, you can discard a stone to stop 1/2/3 damage from it. I’ll do this every now and then if someone deals out more damage than I was expecting. Usually this will be with Myranda, to ensure she lives long enough to transform into a new beast (on full wounds). Generally it’s a last-ditch solution though.
Now we get to where the vast majority of my soulstones get spent. I reckon over my time playing M2e (since the start of the open beta) I’ve probably spent 80-90% of my soulstones in this section… even taking into account the Gremlin incident.
The first use, and definitely the one which I use the most (by a “country mile” – British term meaning long long long long long long long way) is adding a suit to attacks/spells/abilities/defense. Lots of things require you to have a certain suit to succeed, or to get the added effect of a certain trigger. In the case of Marcus’ crew, everyone (well, Marcus, Myranda, Cerberus, and Jackalope… and maybe Waldgeist occasionally) want low-ish (5-7) masks to cast things. Obviously it’s unlikely that I’ll get many masks in my hand (particularly as I use them virtually every turn) so I’ll often save the actual mask cards (usually for the Cerberus) and have Marcus and Myranda just use soulstones to get the suit, meaning that most of the deck will successfully cast the spell.
An old favorite use for soulstones is re-flipping your initiative card. If you’ve set something cunning up but really need to go first, this gives you a second chance at going first (though remember that your opponent could re-flip too). I generally don’t bother with this if my opponent has a 10 or higher for their initiative, unless I’m desperate to activate first, or if I’m feeling sneaky and want my opponent to think that I’m desperate to activate first.
The final use is one which I’m using more and more, though I frequently forget it exists. It’s the ability to draw 2 extra cards at the start of the turn, and then discard 2 cards. There is absolutely nothing bad about this at all. Either you get 2 good cards in your hand, and 2 bad cards go in the discard pile (so won’t be flipped this turn), or you draw 2 more bad cards, in which case your deck is now heavily weighted towards good cards, and you can spend the turn top-decking like a Mickleburgh. Generally I’ll do this if I have nothing higher than a 9 in my hand, though obviously it’s quite an “in the moment” thing.
What I tend to use soulstones for…
Generally I don’t spend soulstones on the defensive abilities unless it’s part of a cunning trap. This isn’t because Marcus has a good defense naturally (he doesn’t particularly), but because he’s fast enough that if he’s being attacked, it’s usually because I want him to be attacked. Since I received the new book, I’ve used damage prevention once, and that was because I killed a Gremlin (Pere perhaps?) who blew up when he died. Similarly, I’ll rarely use stones for positive flips to attack, because I’ll generally only launch an attack if I have the cards in my hand to back it up.
So finally we return to the curious incident of the Gremlin in the night-time. Why was it fine to spend 4 soulstones, Marcus’ full activation AND Myranda’s full activation, killing a 3 soulstone Gremlin? Well, I had taken “make them suffer” and promptly totally forgot what the scheme required. We got to turn 4, and I suddenly remembered, however I had an awful hand of cards. So off went Marcus to bag a Gremlin. I had 6 stones still in my cache, and no real danger nearby, so I thought it was worth a soulstone to get a victory point. 2 soulstones and Marcus’ activation later, the gremlin still stood. So Myranda walked up and used a stone to get a mask, and a stone for a positive flip to cast a spell to allow Marcus to make another attack. It succeeded (only just), Marcus killed the Gremlin, I got a victory point. In the end I won by 2 VP, but it was a close run thing. The moral of the story? You get no VP for having stones left over at the end of a game. VP are everything in this game, so if one is about to get away, and won’t be available in future turns, do everything you can to bag it (within reason).
EDIT: The other day I played 2 30ss games. They’re insanely intense compared with the 50ss games I’ve normally been playing. Generally masters are much more important in them (being a larger force proportionally). Therefore I found Marcus right in the thick of it a lot of the time, using a lot more stones for defensive abilities than at the 50ss level (with none spare for Gremlin bashing). I would be very interested to hear other people’s thoughts on the difference between stone use at different game sizes.
Until next time.
Dave/sssk (iamsssk on twitter)