A lot of the time, the question of ‘which totem should I take’ is fairly cut-and-dry. The Scales of Justice, for instance,stand head and shoulders above the others when considering Lady Justice’s playstyle. However, I’ve felt that my favourite master, C. Hoffman, has a bit more of a conundrum when considering his totem each game. So, let’s look at the available totems and why they work (or don’t work) for him.
First off, I’m going to have to discount the Governor’s Proxy – there’s nothing he can do that really supports Hoffman, whose upgrades give him a far better healing option than the Proxy can offer. For me, it comes down to either the Mechanical Attendant or the Malifaux child. Usually I’ll go for the Malifaux child, but first let’s take a look at what makes each of them a viable choice.
The Mechanical Attendant is Hoffman’s personal totem, a marvel of engineering that others would kill to get hold of and reverse engineer! He’s included in Hoffman’s Power Loop by default, and while his stats aren’t amazing it’s always nice to have another model in the loop. Despite carrying a Mauser, it’s not particularly good at offense – rather, the main two abilities the Attendant brings to the table are the Your Goggles, Sir tactical action and his Null Field ability.
The former is a nice condition removal (1) action, though it can only target Hoffman and does require a tome. I’ve never found Hoffman to have a desperate need for suits, though, so it’s not really a problem to have to use a card from your hand. It’s nice to have the option for condition removal, especially against some crews such as Kaeris or Sonnia (whose Burning damage will get past Hoffman’s Protection trigger, since it’s not really armour), and McMourning – again, whose poison can cause a whole world of problems for Hoffman and his low wound count. Null Field is just as important, if not more so, as it prevents any blasts, pulses or auras within 3″ of Hoffman – except his own. Keep the Mechanical Attendant near Charles, and he won’t have to worry about blasts. This is a major selling point, since blast damage will also go straight past Protection, since Hoffman can’t declare triggers against blast damage.
The trouble is, if your opponent isn’t running with blasts or conditions, the little guy can be a little helpless. The last time I ran him, my opponent ended up running the Dreamer, and there was little for the Attendant to do other than activate just to delay another model from having to activate! He’s worth his weight in gold if you’re up against Rasputina or Sonnia, but his strengths often don’t come up at all against certain masters.
The Malifaux Child costs 1ss more than the Attendant due to his Mercenary hiring costs, and unfortunately isn’t a construct – meaning that he can’t be in the loop, won’t count towards Hoffman’s Empower ability, and generally won’t benefit from the many, many ways Hoffman buffs constructs. However, he does have one action which is my main reason for taking him – the fanboy action Just Like You! This lets him copy a (1) ca action from the master and cast it, albeit with -3 ca and a + twist. Given how many ca actions Hoffman has this is fantastic, letting the Malifaux Child loop in models who are outside of Hoffman’s range, Machine Puppet models who are too far away and even attach additional upgrades(!). Since there’s no range on Just Like You!, I’ve had some success running the kid leading a second group separately from my master and acting as a pseudo-Hoffman for them. Given how Hoffman usually likes his constructs close to him to benefit from his abilities, this option to run the crew in two groups and still cast spells is amazing.
There’s also a little trick here that makes the Malifaux Child’s Just Like You! even better. If you use Just Like You! to copy Machine Puppet, you can use Machine Puppet on Hoffman since it simply states ‘target friendly construct’ rather than ‘target friendly non-master construct’. This then lets you take a (1) action with Hoffman, which won’t suffer the -3 ca and can make use of power loop and Empower. This helps to cast spells like OSA, which would otherwise be rather hard for the kid to cast (needing an 11+!) – instead he just puppets Hoffman who then casts it himself with his higher ca.
Personally, I find the Malifaux child to be the more versatile of the two, since he really helps to augment Hoffman’s abilities and get more ‘going on’. However, the Mechanical Attendant can be absolutely worth its weight in gold (or soulstones) thanks to how it covers some of Hoffman’s weaknesses – the trouble is that you never know exactly when!