Monday, October 13, 2014

Battle for Salvation - Malifaux Tournament!

The Battle for Salvation event was a fantastic getaway weekend with a great crowd of friends.  The camaraderie was everything I hoped for, from the road trip, to the gaming, to the evenings at the taverns (where I was introduced to Saki Bombs), to the fuel-up breakfasts at the diner, and more.

Here is Game #1, Saturday morning, where you can see the whiskey has already hit the table.  But it was thematic, since Mike was playing hillbilly gremlins.....

Game #1 - The whiskey is already on the table.

The Northern Virginia contingent (from the Malifaux Monday gaming group) had a strong showing, comprising 8 out of the 12 players.  We brought up the Malifaux terrain that was used at the NOVA Open to help out with the BfS logistics.  The table mats arrived after Game #1.

Mike Brandt's Gremlins.

Below is my Ramos crew, struggling against Tony Kopech's Rasputina.  The large, orange discs represent ice columns, which Tony used to good effect to block my movement and preventing me from going on the offensive and running my Schemes.

My Ramos crew, fighting in the shadow of the famous Batman Lean-to, courtesy of Bridgette Reilly and the NOVA Open Terrain Build Days.

The next photo is from Game #2, which turned out to be a precursor of the final match-up.  Mike Brandt and Tony Kopech (in the foreground) would meet again in Game #5 to compete in the champion match!

Game #2 - The table mats arrive.

Game #3.  Photo courtesy of Bob Roda.

Mr. Bob Roda ran an excellent event -- very attentive to all the needs of the players and provided consistent communication and updates for statuses and schedule changes. He made the mood warm, welcoming, and organized.

Malifaux Crew Photo Gallery

(sorry, I didn't pay enough attention to know which crew belonged to each player, for everyone anyway, so I won't credit names, since I can't do it for everybody)

A fellow Marcus player.  I look forward to adding Gupps (far right) to my own crew!

A great display board!  And nicely painted and based models to boot.

Nice swamp base!

The Warmachine Cephalyx Drudges are perfect proxies for The Drowned!
Awesome bases, too.

I really like the style and unity of this crew.
And, again, nice bases!

And finally, here is what it looks like to have my full Malifaux faction out on the gaming table, Marcus and his Beasts on the left, Ramos and his Constructs on the right.

I'm going to need to make a proper display board eventually.

My Results

My record over the course of the weekend was 2-3.  Not too stellar, but all of the games were fun and stimulating, and all of my opponents were a pleasure to play with.  Everyone offered just enough wiggle-room to make for a friendly match, without impacting the outcome of the game.  I learned a lot about other factions, masters, and crews, which was about my only gaming goal for the tournament.

As I usually do, I made blunders in most of my games, but I felt regrets for those blunders only for Games #2 and #5, so that's probably par for the course.  I really want to improve my consistency, to avoid making serious errors.  It just requires more practice (to instill patterns in my head), and I realized this weekend, listening to how much depth-of-knowledge the other players have, that I really need to study the books, too, if I'm to improve.  It's tough to make time and priority for that, though.

The appearance judging used the same rules as the NOVA Open.  Since I helped develop those rules and criteria for NOVA, it felt ironic, if not a little weird, to be judged by my own standard!  I have to admit, though, that I felt a little proud that the judges, who were unaware of my connection to the judging criteria, awarded me the highest mark on the scale.  :-)

What was especially odd, though, was that the appearance score, weighed with my 2-3 record, actually gave me sufficient points to win "best overall" (which is distinct from "best win record" -- "best overall" includes both win record and appearance score).  However, only one person can win each major award, so I was given the choice to take "best overall" or "best painted".  I felt that a 2-3 score was not deserving of "best overall", and I felt more deserving of "best painted", so I chose "best painted".

I share this behind-the-scenes tidbit, because it brought up an interesting debate regarding tournament play/awards, in general.  One of the guys in our group felt it was entirely appropriate, perhaps even obligatory, that I take "best overall".  He made the case that accepting "best overall" delivers a message and/or enforces the standard for that award, to say that the painting/hobby component is indeed a dominant component for that particular award.  Accepting the award could be motivational to people who invest more in the hobby element than the gaming element.

I felt he made a really good point, to where I second-guessed my decision and waffled a bit.  After all, the hobby component is certainly an aspect of the miniatures gaming pastime for which I've been a strong advocate, and here was a chance to legitimize it in a tournament setting.  In the end, though, I felt that the value of that message did not offset the awkwardness I would feel, if I were to accept "best overall" with only a 2-3 record.  "Best painted" was something that felt a lot more comfortable in my gut.  After all, I certainly worked a lot harder on the painting than the gaming, so it felt rewarding to be recognized for all that investment and sacrifice of time.

I didn't expect to face a minor moral dilemma at the tournament!  But I thought it was an interesting conundrum that hits at a tension point in the hobby, so I figure I would share my thought process.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Last paint session for Battle for Salvation

I've pretty much run out of time.  I "finished" Willie and Electrical Creation #3 tonight, and I stalled out after repainting the OSL on the Gamin.

This was a tough exercise in painting skin.  Too much contrast, not enough contrast, back-and-forth, back-and-forth.  I finally gave it up and called it "lesson learned". 

After posting it on the WAMP forum, Scott Radom offered the following advice:
I think it's often important to maintain "project momentum" rather than strive for perfection on each piece. I think the mini looks good and any frustration you feel didn't appear to wind up on the finished piece.

Great advice. 

I replied:
You hit it on the head, Scott -- project momentum.

And that concept scales. I feel it for individual models as well as for batch-painting multiple models. One thing that's becoming clearer as I press through this current batch-painting exercise is that, for an individual model, I approach the model with a subconscious goal or two, which I want to accomplish for that particular model. The goal might be the OSL effect, the skin, the edging, some particular element or two on the model, etc. So I focus on those one or few goals, in order to gain practice and experience in that focused area, and the rest of the model can be painted to a "sufficient" level.

I'm becoming a little more conscious of this habit. I wonder if I should adapt that approach as a more-conscious and deliberate choice for a while and see where it takes me.

It's interesting what deadlines will reveal to you... 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mo' Malifaux

Making progress for Battle for Salvation.  I don't think I'll finish the Rogue Necromancy.  But I'll have a good assortment of new options to add to both my Marcus and Ramos crews...

Dawn Serpent
Joss conversion.  I'm pretty pleased with this one.
Large Steampunk Arachnid
Soulstone Miner.  One of my new faves in-game.
#2 of 3 Electrical Creations.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Preparing for the Battle for Salvation

The title sounds kind of epic, doesn't it?

Battle for Salvation is a tournament coming up this weekend.  But first, a little backgrounder.

Mike Brandt, co-founder of the NOVA Open, is a big fan of Malifaux 2E.  He hosts a weekly event which we have dubbed with the exceedingly creative moniker, Monday Night Malifaux.  Hanging out with this great crowd of players (albeit way too late on a Monday night) has given me ample opportunity to practice the game and learn its depth at a pace that I’m comfortable with.  

I’m a slow learner sometimes, but I finally realize that it’s vital for me to take list-building seriously.  Not to be a serious, competitive player, mind you, but to ensure that I’m setting myself up for a fun game, i.e. a close game.  While I play to win, I don’t care whether I win or lose, as long as the game is very close and that I feel that I play smartly.  Designing a “soft list” can self-sabotage my own goal!

This lesson struck home, when I played a rematch of my Marcus crew against Mike’s Gremlins, and I acknowledged that I undermined my success by not bringing the right tools for the job, e.g. no blast weapons to combat a horde crew.  I've had similar revelations in Warhammer Fantasy in the past, but I haven't applied those lessons very well to Malifaux (or to Warhammer Fantasy, probably!).  Like I said, I’m a slow learner sometimes!

So when Mike proposed to the Monday night group that we attend en masse the Malifaux tournament at Battle for Salvation near New York City, I actually felt comfortable with the idea of participating in a tournament.  I usually view tournaments as stressful events, rather than the fun events that they're supposed to be.  However, now that I understand that I’m somewhat responsible for my own game balance, I have a different outlook on competitive events.  The disparity between "competitive" gamers and "narrative" gamers dissolves to some degree, because I now know that I need to do my part to form a level playing field.  

Malifaux's design helps, too.  Malifaux's setup allows each player to know the terrain, the deployment zones, the scenarios (Strategies & Schemes), and your opponent's faction before you build your crew.  Very few, if any, popular miniatures games structure the setup that way.  This approach places as much onus on the players to balance their game as it places on the game designers, which I think is genius.  

Now a sidebar....

In my opinion, it is impossible to balance a miniatures game.  There are just too many variables.  Tournaments attempt to achieve balance by removing some of those variables, i.e. "comp" rules to "equalize" factions, symmetrical terrain, etc.  But at the end of the day, I don't believe that the immense effort, time, and angst that is invested in supplemental design, and (if you're lucky) supplemental test-play, pays sufficient dividends in achieving a balanced format.  

Another thought on randomness.  Highly competitive players attempt to remove variables and randomness in order to control outcomes.  They strive to create a deterministic game, so that randomness minimally interferes with their strategy.  That's not a criticism; that's smart game-play at the strategic level.  However,  I've witnessed this desire at the extreme end of the spectrum, where a player complains that the game design or the tournament rules prevent them from fully achieving deterministic conditions.  That's where you'll hear some community members say, "Hey, if that's what you're looking for, just go play chess."

In my opinion, randomness and upsets and curveballs are part of life and certainly part of war (relevant if your miniatures game is a war-game -- not all of them are, mind you).  A plan or strategy, therefore, must account for the unexpected.  A mark of a good tactician is how he or she adapts the original plan to unforeseen setbacks.  The difficulty for a tournament, however, is that the "ability to adapt to random setbacks" is measurable only indirectly through final results.  The only reward for clever adaptation is winning the game.  But if the game can be won at the strategic level, where a player still has control, a player is naturally going to utilize those strategic options that he or she can control.

In sum, I'm OK with a game format that allows some randomness, because I enjoy the tactical challenge of adapting to the situation on-the-fly.  I'm OK with the pre-game strategic component, too. I just have a harder time finding the time to do it!

This sidebar discussion is rooted largely in conversations that I've been having with my friend, Steve, particularly the strategic-versus-tactical distinction replacing the competitive-versus-narrative distinction.  Steve and I hope to publicize that discussion soon as a guest segment on a podcast.

But that must wait until Battle for Salvation!

Which brings us, finally, to pictures.

Here are WIP shots of the models that I've been painting to expand my Marcus and Ramos crews.  I had less than two weeks of calendar time to work on them, which amounts to only around 8 or so painting sessions.  Here are some intermediate stages.  Only 2 or 3 more paint sessions left!

The build session consumed a weekend day.  I thought I would have these guys primed by the end.

Sculpting my own cobblestone bases out of Milliput (the two on the right).
The painting goal for Battle for Salvation.

Color-sketching proxies for Metal Gamin.   I know, the OSL is inverted.  WIP!
More color-sketching.
Making progress.