Something special

Hi folks,

Today it’s a bit of a special post, to celebrate this blog’s 2 month birthday (though I missed by a few days). I’m going to tell you a story which is very special to me, so dim the lights, pull up a comfy chair in front of the fire, make some tea/cocoa, and I shall begin…

Once upon a time, there a were a pair of brothers, age 10 and 12(ish) respectively. These brothers went to a car boot sale on the hunt for some fun toys to play with, and returned with a big box of mono-pose figures labeled “Warhammer 40,000”. This spawned many long hours of awful painting and failure to follow any proper rules, in battles which could last for days, ranging across the whole house.

Skip on 4-5 years, and the older brother shifts into the sleazy world of magic the gathering, never to be seen again, while the younger one shifts from futuristic tabletop battling, to fantasy tabletop battling. Thus follow years of playing maybe 10 games of warhammer fantasy per year (generally in school/uni holidays). At the end of his time at University though, his regular gaming friends are scattered across the (United) kingdom, and move away from playing games on the top of a table, instead preferring “sports” and other nonesense.

The younger brother is left facing the abyss. His gaming friends have vanished, the shop for playing warhammer in his new city is full of 12 year olds and power gamers. Surely this is the end for his tabletop gaming fun?

*screen fades to black… grandad goes to make another cup of tea before continuing the story*

No, wait! *screen fades back up* what’s this? A tabletop game, played on a board? This sounds like an ideal way to ease his boardgaming friends into a subtle bit of table topping.

And so the younger brother purchases this game… this “puppet wars”, paints up the figures, and plays some games with his boardgamer friends (note: this is classic puppet wars, not unstitched).

There are 2 masters, a zombie boss, and a ninja cowgirl. The boy (now a “man”…if sorts) had never been a fan of undead factions, so liked to use the ninja cowgirl, however he heard rumour of an expansion to this game, in which you get 2 new masters. An odd monster type lady, and a beasty bloke.

He picks up this expansion, and almost immediately falls for the beasty bloke, with tricksy shenanigans and “stuffed animals”.

Then, the man hears of some other game, a tabletop version of puppet wars, with tons of masters and minions to use, which also uses this interesting card mechanic. He also hears of some local folks who play this game (via that lovely Malifools podcast… check it out), and so looks into it further.

After much trawling through models, he decides to give it a go. On tge strength of tge models, there are 4 masters which interest him. The ninja cowgirl from puppet wars, a proper cowgirl (six-shooter in hand), some crazy samurai sisters, and the beasty bloke from puppet wars.

After much eBay searching, he finds a crew, consisting of the beasty bloke (the mighty Marcus of course), a 3 headed tiger, some nondescript woman, some tiny cats, a bunny, some weird moley-people and…. WOW THERE! What is this!? A giant monster snake!? That’s pretty cool! All of this going for about £30 including postage. Needless to say, impulse takes over, and he purchases this beasty crew.

He meets up with this local set of gamers, and uses the Marcus for a few months. The man loves the cinematic feel of nature being unleashed with the monster snake being a particular favorite. Sadly however, it quickly becomes clear that the crew is… very difficult to use well (for a noob at least). By this time Mei has arrived on the scene, and who can resist a ninja mechanic?

…and thus Marcus became relegated to the bottom of the box, he was rarely let out, and when he did make it to the tabletop, most of his beasts (especially the awesome big monster snake) were left alone in the dark, while he led machines and people people with guns to (usually) defeat. Nature’s wrath it seems, is more of a tickling sensation.

*screen fades to black…. grandad needs a toilet break after the extra cup of tea*

But wait! what’s this? Wyrd are testing a second edition of this “Malifaux”? In a heartbeat, the enthusiasm for beasty man returns, and as soon as possible, he’s back on the table with all of his beasts. There is much rejoicing as he topples the mighty, who had smashed him into the bottom of a box. Beasty man wins many games, backed up by his trusty animals, and even the big monster snake makes its return to the field.

Indeed, the big monster snake does more than just return to the field. In a rocky style montage, it has become a true powerhouse, able to achieve everything it failed to do before, and more.

And so ladies and gentlemen, we come to a post which has been in the pipeline for a long time, never quite ready to be unleashed until now…

*Drumroll*

I give to you…

THE RSR POST! (insert dramatic music, I recommend this, but anything dramatic will do. For full effect, listen to it for the full duration of the rest of this post)

Yup, all if that absolute rubbish you’ve just trawled through was just a terrible introduction for a post about a snake. Not just any snake though. A very handy snake, as we’ll find out.

Just for clarity, even I can’t quite remember why I became slightly obsessed with RSRs. It may have been my love of the puppet wars model, maybe it was my love of the malifaux model, maybe it was because they were always the underdog, laughed at for being rubbish. Now however, I use them because they’re fantastic in second edition (and slightly due to obsession issues). Hopefully this post will be able to at least emphasise a fraction of that awesomeness.

Background
RSRs (or “Razorspine Rattlers”, as some folks call them… incorrectly) are native snakes in Malifaux. Marcus hasn’t tinkered with them, they just are what they are (why meddle with perfection, right?). The fluff even says “he (Marcus) is rarely seen without one nearby”… so Wyrd want you to use them… lots.  In game terms they’re the defensive guys in Marcus’ crew, and they are a really handy linchpin, with abilities which synergize really well with lots of other models. I’ve only played 2 games of Malifaux second edition without any RSRs, and those were my 2 Ramos games (in which I was doing filthy spider summoning spam). RSRs follow my new “Malifaux Mantra” of “flexibility wins”, very nicely. They’re a model which can turn their hand to what you need them for at the time, most of the time.

Defence
The RSR’s stats are really rather good for their price, with high defense and number of wounds, really advertising their role as an anvil. Terrifying against living is another nice layer of defense on the RSR. It’s not really a high enough terrifying value to stop anything reliably, but it might get rid of a card from your opponent’s hand (and less cards in your opponents hand = less chance to get through the high defense value).

Movement
RSRs also have a lot of speed, though it’s hidden behind what appear to be fairly average stats. Walk 5 isn’t massive, but it’s unimpeded, so can pass quickly through areas of severe terrain your opponent thought were safe. It also has the slither ability, allowing it to move nearly double its walk AND get a free melee strike on the end. This is a MOVE but isn’t a push or a walk action, so enemies can’t do disengaging strikes against it, and you don’t need line of sight at the start of the move to hit an enemy at the end (so RSR could slither round a corner, or through some woods, and attack someone who thought they were safe). This means when battle is joined, RSR is the perfect model to shift around within the swirling melee, ensuring key models are engaged (we’ll get to why you want models engaged with RSR in a bit).

Attack
RSR has a pretty good attack, though as ever, all is not as it at first seems. The Ml is pretty average, and is really the key point which means that (for me at least) RSR isn’t a “beatstick”. The damage is pretty average, until you get to a severe damage of 6! That’s not at all bad! You also get a nice little addition of automatic +2 poison, which effectively pushes the damage into beatstick territory.

There’s also an auto-trigger on there to push 3″. This is handy for 2 things: 1- repositioning in combat to get more models in melee, and 2- chasing after those annoying models which have defensive triggers to push away. I’ve used it once to push out of melee, so that RSR didn’t take wounds from starting and ending activation in melee with the nothing beast, but even then, I pushed into melee with Tara. RSR is a model which thrives on being in melee.

Everything about RSRs attack suggests you want to make big attacks, to get to that high severe value. So how do you get there? One way to do it is to take the focus action to get a positive flip to attack and damage flips… but then you’ll only make 1 attack in your activation, which isn’t spectacular. Really you either need positive damage flips from another source, or you need to beat the enemy by enough to be able to cheat the damage. That’s difficult with an average Ml, right?… well not necessarily.

This is where synergies come in, and more specifically, this is where Marcus becomes the beastmaster everybody wants. The obvious option is Darzhee’s chaunt. Give RSR positive attack and damage flips, and it’s likely to hit, and be able to cheat the damage. That’s fine, but it also compromises RSRs defensive abilities, and what about enemies with high defense who could just cheat in to be missed?

This is where my new favourite combo comes in. Cast Feral on the target model (high Ca value, easy to cast), then domesticate. Now the target is a beast with negative flips to all duels (and Marcus still has 3AP to do whatever he wants). Now RSR’s Ml looks much better, as the enemy will struggle to get massively high (barring lucky flips/red jokers) and can’t cheat the defense. There’s another step to this plan, but we need to look at the final abilities which RSR keeps up its sleeve (why does a snake have a sleeve?) to do some really filthy tricks.

Shenanigans
So RSR’s other abilities relate to being near an RSR. They get a double positive flip to disengaging strikes, and they have wicked (disengaging strikes deal damage). This means trying to disengage from an RSR is either going to cost high cards, or you’ll be taking damage. Models with defense 5 or less don’t even have the safety blanket of a 13 meaning almost certain success. In my experience, people don’t like those odds… indeed I don’t think my RSRs have ever made a disengaging strike between them. The threat of that damage is just too much.

Instead people tend to just stand still (effectively paralysed) or attack the RSR (through terrifying and high df). This is particularly the case if you cast law of meat on them, so they can either stand still, or walk and risk damage. They don’t even have the attack option!

However I want to get some use out of my disengaging strikes, and I think I’ve figured it out (though not tested it yet)! Remember our enemy who’s become a beast and is (optionally) on negative flips? And remember how Marcus has 3AP left? Well why not alpha that enemy, and just make them walk away from RSR? They’re still an enemy, so disengaging strikes still take effect, however now RSR gets double positive to attack (note: poison doesn’t occur during disengaging strikes). If you decided not to domesticate them, you can even cheat down the defense to make absolutely sure you’re at straight flips to damage (though generally, them being on negatives, and RSR being on double positives will ensure that anyway)! The obvious issue here is that it’s card intensive (a high card to ensure feral, a mask for alpha, and a few 11+s for 6 damage), but in the right situation, it could be worth it. Of course this would work particularly well against models with nimble, or masters (3AP = 3 walks = 3 attacks).

Other Synergies
Generally I like to think of RSR as Myranda’s pet, which Marcus got her as a present (an RSR is for life, not just for Christmas). They usually hang out within 3″ of each other so that the RSR gets positive defense flips. This makes it very difficult to shift, and she can heal it too, just in case it does get hurt. As a broad generalisation, I’d say it’s not worth using a mask/soulstone to give RSR an extra attack due to the low Ml. However remember this is not a crucial partnership. If RSR needs to go 10″ one way, and Myranda needs to go 12″ the other, both are more than capable of making it on their own. However for the first few turns they do tend to hang out.

Things to look out for
Blasts will nobble RSR faster than a rubix cube, as they ignore the high defense and terrifying. Similarly the wp, though not bad, isn’t high enough to survive serious spell casters. Generally, your opponent will eventually get fed up with RSR, and will dedicate high cards and/or powerful models to kill it. The trick is to make sure that when they do so, you’re in a position to counterattack or take advantage of their positioning/resource expenditure. Don’t take frame for murder on RSR, they have a nasty tendency to accidentally survive.

Conclusion
RSR is a very good defensive model, which becomes even better at being defensive around Myranda, and can turn into a bit of a beatstick with Marcus around. In severe terrain and in melee it’s a fast model, able to get into a position to lock up enemy models with disengaging shenanigans pretty easily. It isn’t invincible, but make sure the opponent has to pay to kill it off.

Taking 2 isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Taking 3 is probably pushing it.

As a side note, I’ve taken to using RSR/acolyte/Marcus as my beatstick type models. This saves you points on hiring an expensive beatstick, and gives you good flexibility. If you do need a true beatstick, you can always turn Myranda into a Cerberus. That being said, RSR will never rival Joss or Howard for beatstickness.

So there you go, that’s the end of Marcus’ core box. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I suspect the next few focussed model reviews will be on “other stuff I tend to use”, though as I branch out into other masters, there’ll be lots of space to be flexible. If you have any suggestions of models you’d like me to chat through (preferably ones I’ve used a bit), then get in touch.

I have no idea what I’ll be talking about next time, so look forward to that…

Until next time.

Dave/sssk

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