They’ll be back. And in greater numbers

Hi folks,

So today we have a super special post from Dom (Dumb Luck on the Wyrd forums, dumb_luck89 on twitter). Dom is a well known Gremlin fanatic (and has been for a long time), and is rather good at the game too, or so I’ve heard. If you have something which you’d like to talk about, but can’t bring yourself to make your own blog, why not drop me a line at the usual channels (preferably iamsssk on twitter, though you can also reach me as sssk on the wyrd forums), and maybe you can write a guest post too! Anyway, without further ado, here’s some suitably shambolic ramblings about those little green guys (thanks for writing this Dom, it’s superb).

 

“Do you think they’ll notice?” said the one creature, itching a spot on his scalp. He had been wearing this contraption for at least five minutes now and it was driving him nuts. It was itchy. It was stuffy, making his brain (or what based for one in Gremlin ecology) suffocate. The item in question was a mask that had been lashed together by string, Bayou plants and tree bark in an attempt to look like a monkey.

“Sure!” said his companion, lankier than his fellow, “It’s fool proof!” His costume was simpler. Parts of what at one point had been some kind of swamp creature were tied to his person. A scrap of skin here.A fin there. A brace of teeth tied to a piece of string hung from his neck, since they kept falling down from his face.

There was a third member of their party. He stood afoot or so away from the other two. His costume boiled down to a few branches and twigs grasped in his hands. He obviously wasn’t willing to put too much effort into this sort of thing. The other two waved at him, pointing him towards the camp in the clearing ahead of them. The variety of sounds coming from the huts made it sound like a zoo Earthside.

Only that it smelt much worse.

Two things before we get started. Thanks to Dave for giving me the chance/mistake/lapse of clear judgement (delete as appropriate) to write a post for this blog. I’d love a blog myself, but I doubt I would be able to update it regularly. I mean, there is that podcast I should be doing. And secondly, to everyone picking up the best faction in Malifaux with the dawn of Version 2, welcome aboard the bandwagon. Jump on board, grab a seat and remember I was here first. Back when Som’er was awful.

That’s where this article comes in. Gremlins have a new start. No longer are they part of those Outcasts (I mean, who’d want to be in a faction with Von Schill. Really). They’re organised. They’re accurate (most of the time). There’s more of them than ever! Right?

Well. Sort of. We all know that these extra Gremlins have been in Malifaux since the beginning. But all the other factions going into this new edition have the models to match those brand spanking new cards! Sure, you could proxy. But you know as soon as you’ve finished sculpting that last bit of wood grain into your Whiskey Golem, the official mini will be out. So this article is about working with what we’ve got – Som’er Teeth Jones, Ophelia and a bit of Zoraida (mainly the first two, since they’re what I’m mainly playing). Luckily, these basic ingredients are flaming ace and good starting points to play Gremlins from.

Right Tool For the Job

There have been a couple of good articles on other blogs written entirely about this topic but they’re not on this blog. I tend to look at how I build my crew from a pretty simple starting point, after all I do play Gremlins. It’s been scientifically proven that we’re a bit slower. No less dangerous mind.

The starting point in question is what is my Master best at. Being a tournament player, there is no point using a sub-par model if something else within my faction is better at it. Not to say that when I play, I’m just about the face beating. I like to play with what appeals to me and then work out what its best at. But if something is rubbish, then it’s pretty much the death sentence for a model regardless of what the fluff of it is.

We’re working with Som’er and Ophelia then. Where do they excel? Som’er is essentially a functional reprint (in Magic: The Gathering terms) of V1 Ophelia, with a few bells and whistles attached. He’s (reasonably) quick, he can shoot well and controls a massed gunline (gunlines are funlines haters, stop walking into them) really well through his zero action. The ‘bells and whistles’ come in the form of his upgrades, harking back to Som’er of editions past (healing, summoning etc). This means that Som’er can do a little bit of everything. He is perfectly good in killing scenarios (with the right hand, a LaCroix heavy crew could wreck house with ‘Do It Like Dis’). Unlike most ‘jack of all trades’, I’d go further and say that he’s a master of a few of his trades too. Som’er crews tend to bring a lot of bodies onto the board and then summon even more in later. As you would expect, games that involve controlling table sections become easier, as do missions that require you to drop markers. Some crews will struggle to deal with that number of bodies.

What do Som’er crews dislike then? I can think of three. Firstly Som’er crews loath models that can jump in and rip the face off any support pieces, being Lenny, Slop Haulers or Som’er himself. This can be a challenge due to the number of bodies on the board. Clever base blocking can gum up routes to your more important pieces but removal of your key pieces will reduce your gunline to little more than pest control for your foe. Secondly, Horror duels can prove to be problematic. Now that you have to test for this when shooting someone, the low willpower of the basic Gremlin becomes massive. This can be mitigated by taking the ‘Liquid Bravery’ upgrade on Som’er but it requires a spot of foresight on your behalf as the Gremlin player, knowing what the other guy will be taking. Finally, if you can’t kill or scare the Gremlins then try to lock them down in combat. Not all factions have access to models with melee ranges much longer than the normal one/two inches but if you do, putting them in a central position will do a lot to tie up the basic red shirts from laying markers.

From the big thumb to the dainty pinky finger of the faction (although I’m not sure what Zoraida was thinking of when she came up with that), Ophelia.  Ophelia has shifted from being the singular star of the faction to a more specialised role. The biggest change you’ll notice in her crews from the first edition is the numbers. Whereas before she’d run a horde of basic Gremlins due to her gunline buffing abilities, she has traded those for a set of abilities more suited to her in the fluff. Ophelia now has a smattering of abilities via her upgrades that buff her native group of Kin. I say a smattering, as her main role (as far as I see it) is closest to that of Lady Justice of The Guild. She barrels into the enemy and rips them to shreds. Although unlike Justice, she’ll be a bullets distance away. So she is our choice for Reckoning but much like Som’er, this isn’t to say this is our only role for little Ophelia. Like Som’er, she could effectively do most of the missions (although Som’er is a better choice for boar control due to the reasons listed above). I think a lot of the time, some players tend to pigeon hole killy models because of the objective driven nature of the game. You hear them say “I don’t need to kill models! I just need to do objectives!”. What’s the ultimate way to prevent the foe completing objectives? That’s right. Remove them altogether. You don’t always need to remove everything. Just enough to grab those VPs – which funnily enough, Ophelia is great at.

I’m aware I’ve just criticised the pigeon holing of models whilst just spending time doing that myself, but shh.

 

What are the weaknesses of Ophelia then?  She’s quick and hits like a ton of bricks. If any faults can be found within the crew, it’s the Kin she brings with her. For a Master that is so well suited for Reckoning, her totems – the Young LaCroix – offer easy pickings for people on the hunt for VP. Even with Tiny, they die so quickly. You could easily not take them but then Ophelia is losing out on recycling her guns as smoothly. It is worth keeping in mind that her upgrades only drop after their attack action is used. You can use the supporting actions (debatably more useful) without the upgrades falling off. Or in the case of her best gun (My Threatening Gun) it never falls off when you fire. Ever. So you could play without the Young and manage just fine, but you’ll still be losing something in the process. The same problem with stats goes for the named Kin too. Although they are the faction’s elite (I’m currently making air quotes as I’m writing this), their stats don’t quite rival those of the beatsticks in other factions. Their Df is universally a measly four across the board, making them easy to hit. Shooting values are generally hovering around five meaning they’ll struggle to make combat totals high enough to reach those mighty damage values. Should they be higher though? Course not! They’re Gremlins! The best way I can see to mitigate this issue is using the Dumb Luck ability to the fullest (aided by either farming rams in your hand or dragging Lenny along), so even if you are just beating your foe then you’ll still be hitting your target for lots. Combining this with the zero action of Ophelia’s upgrades to gain a free action on your Kin can only mean good things for you as the Gremlin player. The action your Kin of choice will be using will be at a negative flip but by spending it on passive actions such as Focus (to better your next shot) negates this downside. Your game then becomes one of damage mitigation, of which Gremlins have several ways of doing this – be it healing via Slop Haulers or Rami or built in armour such as Lenny’s aura or Raphael’s armour (the latter two of which stack, making Raphael a durable Dumb Luck abuser).

But what is the Job Exactly?

In a somewhat reverse manner, let’s consider how scenarios are now constructed in regards to building a crew. We now have less choice over the schemes. The knock on effect of this within crew selection is that we might have a very aggressive strategy paired with a pair of schemes that require markers or interaction. Before (if you had been careful with your scheme usage) you could streamline the schemes, taking ones that matched the strategy. You no longer have this luxury. What does this mean for crew selection? Having a crew that is good at completing one thing is now less desirable. Set crews could effectively become a thing of the past, replaced instead by crews that function in parts tailored to the situation in question. Joel Henry wrote an article on this very topic actually.

On a similar note, what should you focus on when it comes to earning VPS – strategy or scheme? What’s better – a gradual drip of points or whatever unique scoring method the schemes in question have? I’ll always remember a Vassal game with Brewmaster. I had dragged a Beckoner across the board, walloped her with Francois and netted a whole load of VP. I then got stuck in a false sense of security and proceeded to lose the game on the strategy, thinking that those single VPs every turn weren’t a big deal. But they add up.

What does this mean for crew selection? Well, just like those old White Dwarf army doctor articles you’ll be wanting a bit of everything. Taking that Reckoning with non-face beating schemes example from earlier, you’ll need your Francois’ and Lenny’s to earn those steady VPs. But those weedier Bayou Gremlins will be needed to top those VPs by dropping schemes.

Hm. Sounds awfully obvious and dull in reality. I always hated how those White Dwarf articles seemed to harp on having a bit of everything.

But you see the logic there and it links back to picking the right Master for the right job. This applies to the other models in the crew too. Instead of picking a whole crew to do a job, you’re looking at list construction at a more intimate level – either in blocks of models or via a model by model basis. If anything, this means that good listing building will be a more prized skill. You’ll either need the right combination of models to accomplish a task or have a force where each model can multitask.

Let’s Take this Back to Gremlins Then

With the last couples of paragraphs of nonsense in mind, I would use the Master as the starting point after looking as the scenario as a whole. What they bring to the table – be it Ophelia’s raw damage or Som’ers’ weight of numbers – will affect how the rest of the crew plays the game. The tailoring for the mission comes in then, attempting to strike a balance between the strengths of my leader and the requirements of the mission at hand.

Personally, I think this is an exciting change for the game. Despite how often people touted that the previous edition was meant to be played with a full faction in your carrying case, let’s be honest – how many times did we see the same models being used across several scenarios (looking at you, Collodi and Schill)? How many people in events used just the one master, just because they were better than everything else in the faction? The Ophelia list I used became fairly standardised by the end of V1, with a few changes here depending on match up. Call it new edition naivety, but I’m not sure if I could play this version of the game like that.

Hm. Pretty sure I lost my original point somewhere. Whatever.

 

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