The atmosphere in the Dick & Pickle was good tonight, Joss mused, as he sat by the bar and drank his ale. It was still early enough in the evening so you could hear yourself think, but late enough in the day that the regulars had finished their shifts and started to filter in. He nodded a silent greeting to a pair of Rail Workers as they entered, before his eye was caught by the red-haired beauty behind them. She sauntered over to the bar, unslinging a giant hammer from her back as she sat down to order a drink.
‘Put it on my tab’ Joss said as he smoothly (in his mind, at least) slid over to sit next to her. He held out his metal fist, and she took it. ‘The name’s Joss. Don’t think I’ve seen you around here before, miss….?’
‘Johanna’ she stated, simply, with a slight smirk. Joss smiled himself, but before he could flirt any further a loud voice rang out behind him.
‘Guild marshals, Guild inspection! You know the drill, people – weapons down, hands where we can see them. Everyone stay nice and calm.’ Two Guardsmen entered with their pistols drawn, a Rifleman next to them scanning the patrons through his scope. Joss sighed, pushing his bar stool back to stand. ‘You know where you are?’ he asked. ‘This is a Union bar. You don’t want to do this, officers.’
‘I think they do’ replied a voice that Joss recognized only too well. ‘Judge’, he responded by way of greeting. ‘What’s happened to warrant the attention of Justice’s favourite lap dog?’
The grim marshal stood tall, flanked by two deputies. Unlike the Guardsmen these three emanated power and confidence without even having to draw their weapons, and nearby drinkers backed away from the trio.
‘That’s none of your business’, the Judge warned. ‘Disperse by order of the Guild.’
Next to him, Joss saw Johanna stand up, one hand slowly reaching for her hammer. What I do to impress a lady, he thought to himself. ‘Sorry Judge’ he replied, ‘but I don’t think that’s going to happen tonight.’
* * *
At my wife’s idea, I’ve been writing up a story tree flowchart for five linked story games of Malifaux for us to play. The idea was to have each game tell a part of a larger story, where the results of each game directly affect the next game as the narrative leads our crews down different paths. Yes, this has resulted in a total of 29 different scenarios, of which we’ll only be using five. Yes, it did take a long time. However, I’m sure it’ll be great fun – so without further ado, this is the first game in the story!
After a tip-off about incriminating evidence linking the Arcanists to the M&SU, the Guild storms a union-friendly pub on a Friday night. The Arcanists must rush to protect the evidence before the Guild can confiscate it, all the while keeping up the ‘peaceful’ façade of the Union and – ideally – not trashing their favourite bar too much, either!
For the duration of the campaign, Kathryn will be playing the Guild, while I’ll be playing the Arcanists. This game was a small 30ss game, limited to Henchmen-led forces and with some pre-set features.
The strategy was Search from the story encounter list, with Shindig as well. I had to be the defender, and we assumed that I’d flipped a ram for my victory condition. We also went for the saloon scenery rules to re-create the bar atmosphere. As far as schemes went, I took Distract and Cursed Object (both hidden), while Kathryn took Distract and Spring the Trap – again, both hidden. Flipping standard deployment, we chose our forces…
Judge – lead-lined coat, plant evidence
Joss – Bleeding Edge Tech
Turn one began with the crews spreading out, wary of opening fire on each other. One of Kathryn’s Death Marshals double walked and almost reached the ram marker, while the Rail Workers spread out on the same flank to cover the crow marker. Joss moved towards my right flank, accompanied by the Performer and Gunsmith and opposed by the Judge and another Death Marshal.
Taking the initiative and skirting around the Shindig rules, the Guild marshal grabbed the Gunsmith, locking him away inside his enchanted coffin. In retaliation, Johanna knocked over a pitcher of wine to Distract the marshal, revealing one of my schemes. Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, the second Death Marshal picked up the ram marker, while the Guardsmen continued to move down the centre through the abandoned tables. Affixing her best puppy-dog eyes and helpless-little-southern-belle accent, the Performer launched herself at the Judge, clinging onto his arm. ‘Help, help sir! I was just here working my shift, trying to earn enough scrip to help support my fiancé, and I saw my boss smuggling in illicit hooch! You’ve got to stop him, sir!’ The Judge tried to shrug her off, but she doggedly continued to Distract him.
As turn three started, the Guild took a more offensive approach and pushed forward hard. One of the Guardsmen had his pistol out now, moving forward to Menace a nearby Rail Worker before Distracting him. Joss, meanwhile, took the opportunity to reveal the Arcanist’s second scheme by handing out Cursed Object to both the Judge and a nearby Death Marshal. ‘Look, officer!’ he shouted, thrusting bottles of illegal hooch into their hands. In an attempt to ditch the contraband, the Judge tried to walk away from Joss and Johanna, managing to get away from them both before the Performer pulled him back with her Siren Call, playing the part of a distraught waitress expertly and putting on a performance like it was opening night at the Star Theatre.
The second Marshal moved close to the crow marker, but another Rail Worker took the opportunity to Mingle and get closer, sending glasses crashing to the floor to Distract the lawman from the marker. The Gunsmith attempted to break out of the magical holding cell, and for a moment I thought he would as I flipped the Red Joker and my eyes lit up… only to look across the table and see that Kathryn had flipped her Red Joker too, keeping the Arcanist securely locked away! By now both crews were thoroughly Distracted, though the Arcanists had the upper hand from the Cursed Objects / illicit hooch they’d managed to palm off onto the Guild.
In an attempt to help the Gunsmith escape, the Performer used Seduction on a nearby Guild scheme marker, but the lawmen passed their WP duels with ease. The Judge tried to move away from her to detain the nearby Joss, but the Performer gamely clung on to his arm, holding him in place. A nearby Guardsman moved up to try and help, dropping a scheme marker in the process.
Shouting orders above the clamour, the Judge managed to cast Stand for Judgement on his nearby marshal. The Gunsmith attempted to break out of the pine box, but failed again by flipping the Black Joker this time (because, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt playing against Kathryn’s Death Marshals, it’s that no-one gets out of the box, ever!). On the left, the Death Marshal and Rifleman moved onto the crow marker, guns drawn to ward off the Rail Workers.
One of the Rail Workers made a move to try and stop the Guild, but he was grabbed by the Death Marshal and thrust into his enchanted pine box. ‘Back off’ the marshal growled at the other Rail Worker, as the Rifleman behind him picked up the crow marker.
In an attempt to help her Gunsmith companion escape his prison, the Performer dropped a scheme marker before casting Seduction on it, but again the Guild officers passed their willpower and resisted her charms. In retaliation, the Death Marshal forced a cup of wine into Joss’s hands, Poisoning him while the Judge tried (and failed) to get away from the Performer. Seeing Joss inebriated, Johanna slapped him back into sobriety with her Rebel Yell (and a nearby pitcher of water).
On the other side, the Death Marshal shook himself to remove Distract. The remaining Rail Worker handed a Cursed Object to the nearby Guild Guard, who poisoned him with a Sip of Wine in return.
And with that the game ended. The Judge pushed with Plant Evidence to drop a scheme marker near Joss, revealing Spring the Trap and scoring. Final score ended with 10vp for the Arcanists, and 4vp for the Guild.
* * *
The scuffle had died down with the disappearance of the Arcanist papers, Joss and his men disappearing into the night. Guild wagons rolled up outside, and Guardsmen were busy cuffing some of the regulars who’d hung around too long. They wouldn’t be in the cells long – there wasn’t enough for even the Guild to hold them, and the Union would cover the bail fees.
Toni Ironsides watched from the shadows, leaning nonchalantly against a nearby wall. The barkeeper was being led away too, frog-marched into a wagon while crates of beer were loaded onto another cart. A pity, she mused, but he knew the risks when he joined the movement. For now, there were more pressing problems to be concerned with…
* * *
Hopefully we’ll be playing one ‘chapter’ of this story each week, so I’ll be able to do a week-by-week report over the next month of how it goes! I’ll also put up the whole flowchart once we’ve finished, so you can see all the different paths it could have taken.