The tolling of bells pealed out above the commotion of construction, their discordant chimes echoing around the railroad construction site. Workers abandoned their tools, leaving their posts as Kang moved through the crowd.
‘All right mates, this ain’t a drill. Reports say a Guild patrol’s headed our way, seems like they’re looking for trouble. Everyone move out, let’s not be here when they arrive.’ Around him the workers murmured, disgruntled at the news but respectful of the people’s champion, and started to leave the construction site. Kang turned to the lithe woman next to him. ‘You sure you want to do this? We can fob them off without violence, no problem.’
Mei shook her head. ‘Not this time. Looks like this is the same group that raided the Dick & Pickle last week. I want to find out why they’re gunning for us, or at least teach them not to meddle with the Union.’ She turned to her companion. ‘You go with the workers, get them out safely. I’ll handle this.’
* * *
Constable Kathryn looked nervously at her companions. There was something oddly reassuring yet intimidating about the Death Marshals, with their long dusters and wide-brimmed hats pulled down low. Still, she thought, they were better than Criid’s lot. The Witchling Stalkers moved quietly, swaying close to the ground like some drunk feral animal. If a dog got sloshed, she reckoned that’s how it would move. They even felt wrong, their nature gnawing at the edges of her consciousness.
Ahead of her, the Judge suddenly stopped, holding up a clenched fist for them to halt. In the distance, they could hear bells clanging. ‘They know we’re coming’ the Judge growled, drawing his sword from its scabbard. Three brass barrels rotated into position with the precision click of a clockwork mechanism. He turned to them. ‘Ready your weapons, but remember why we’re here. This is meant to be a covert op, get some incriminating evidence and get out. The Lady can’t be connected to this…’
* * *
Game two of the story tree Kathryn and I devised focuses on the aftermath of the Guild’s raid on a Union-friendly bar. Since the Arcanists managed to smuggle away any incriminating evidence linking them to the M&SU, the Guild has decided to plant evidence instead to add legitimacy to its heavy-handed tactics. To quote my wife, ‘It’s not breaking the law if you’ve created the law!’
This game was a 40ss encounter, with a pre-set strategy as usual. This time, the strategy was Destroy Evidence from the story encounters list, with the Guild as the defenders and the assumption that they flipped a ram for their objective. While this sounds a bit backwards, it allows the Guild to actually plant falsified evidence while the Arcanists run around trying to destroy the already-planted incriminating documents! We also included the Forbidden Text scenery, since the scenario takes place in Arcanist territory.
Being a 40ss game, we had the option of running a master or a henchman as our leader. I did want us both to choose the same, but Kathryn was dead-set on having a henchman lead her crew (since a master such as Lady Justice wouldn’t want to be directly involved, but would send the Judge to give her plausible deniability), and I wanted to run a master (we’d set the terrain up as the partially-constructed rail line leading out of Malifaux, and so it seemed appropriate that Mei Feng would be there. Plus, I realised that the only Arcanist henchman I have is Joss, and I didn’t want to use him two games in a row). The downsides of me not collecting Arcanists back in 1.5 – I’m reliant on the plastics, and the only henchmen available are Joss and Myranda at the moment. We ended up going for more of a narrative approach, agreeing to take whichever character seemed thematically best in our eyes to lead the force.
So, the forces were:
Mei Feng with Arcane Reservoir, Seismic Claws and Vapormancy
Judge with Lead-Lined Coat, Plant Evidence
I chose Entourage (revealed) and Outflank (hidden) for my schemes, going for a ‘take back the rail yard’ approach, while Kathryn took Plant Evidence (revealed) and Cursed Object (hidden) to continue the theme of planting incriminating evidence to link the M&SU to the Arcanists.
* * *
Turn one saw the Guild win the initiative flip, with the Judge walking forward and followed by his loyal Death Marshal. In response the Steam Arachnids scuttled forward, spacing themselves out to create a Rail Walk chain for Mei Feng to use. Scenting the presence of a magic user, the Witchling Stalkers moved down one flank, followed by both Guild Guards. The Gunsmith moved forward to meet them, accompanied by Mei’s Emberling totem. Finally, Mei used Rail Walk to leap forward, preparing to meet the approaching group of witch hunters and guardsmen head-on…
Gunfire echoed around the empty workyard as a Death Marshal opened fire on a nearby Steam Arachnid, but the nimble little creature dodged the first shot. The Marshal fired again, but fate smiled on the Arachnid as I flipped the Red Joker for his defence. Seeking to avoid further fire, the mechanical spider scuttled forward, taking an Interact action to pick up the Book Marker and let me draw two cards. On the other side of the railway, unhindered by the Arcanists, a Death Marshal surreptitiously dropped a Falsified Evidence marker next to the train.
Seizing the initiative, Mei walked forward for a better angle before charging in to one of the Witchling Stalkers. The little creature dodged the first attack, but Mei’s second swipe caught it across the chest and sent it reeling backwards. Using her Tremors trigger Mei followed up with another attack, this time targeting the nearby Guild Guard. Her metal claws cut deep, inflicting moderate damage and sending the guardsman reeling backwards. Continuing her combo, Mei turned her martial skill on the second guardsman, inflicting weak damage. Finally, she used her second charge attack to slam a powerful Jackhammer Kick into the Stalker, finishing the creature off. The robed figure exploded in a gout of flame, hurting Mei, one of the guardsmen and the other Witchling Stalker.
In retaliation, one of the Guild Guard handed a Cursed Object to Mei before swinging at her. Mei crushed a soulstone to try and Leap Aside, but the constable’s blow connected, dealing weak damage and keeping Mei firmly in place. The remaining Witchling Stalker moved in too, swinging its runed blade and doing weak damage again.
As the Steam Arachnids continued to move up the field, the Performer focused her talents before attempting a Siren Call on the nearby Death Marshal. He fell for her honeyed tones, but managed to compose himself after and continued walking, moving past her towards the Judge. In an attempt to stop them joining up, one of the Steam Arachnids charged into the marshal, missing with his first strike but doing moderate damage on the second. The Emberling charged in too, managing to hit the lawman once and applying Burning +2 as the long duster caught fire.
Pressing the advantage, the second Guild Guard moved forward to swing at Mei. This time the fates were in her favour, however, as I flipped the 11 of masks and Mei deftly managed to Leap Aside. Now with a clear line of fire, the Gunsmith drew his custom revolver, firing at the Witchling Stalker. In a clever move, Kathryn cheated in a low mask to get the Drawn To Pain trigger, and the little creature pushed towards the Gunsmith, negating the blast effects of the Arcanist’s explosive ammunition.
Finally, with a whir of clockwork gears, the Soulstone Miner erupted from the ground near the remaining Book Marker. Kathryn removed the Cursed Object condition from Mei to score 1vp, and the turn ended at Guild 1, Arcanists 0.
Turn three saw the Arcanists win the initiative flip, and the Gunsmith took the opportunity to open fire again, killing the Witchling Stalker. Again, Kathryn cheated in a low mask, getting the Drawn to Pain trigger so the little creature pushed forward before it died, promptly exploding in a burst of flame and damaging the Gunsmith. The Judge, meanwhile, continued with the objective, dropping a Falsified Evidence marker and a scheme marker next to the train.
On the other side of the board, Mei continued trying to force the Guild off the evidence markers. Her first tiger claw attack missed the guardsman, but the second one finished off the first Guild Guard. Combo-ing another attack with the Tremors trigger, she finished off the second guardsman before walking towards the evidence marker.
One of Kathryn’s Death Marshals handed out Cursed Object to the Emberling before grabbing the nearby Steam Arachnid, hurling the little mechanical creature into his enchanted pine box. Attempting to slow the Guild’s progress, the Performer used her Siren Call on the Death Marshal, pulling him in close and freeing up the Emberling to take the required walk duel to ditch the cursed object. The Soulstone Miner picked up the second Book Token, while another Steam Arachnid destroyed the first Evidence Marker. The remaining Death Marshal moved away from the fray, following the Judge to secure their hold over the left-hand side of the board (now covered in Guild markers!).
Finally, at the end of the turn, one of the Death Marshals died from the Burning condition, letting the Steam Arachnid out of the pine box and dropping down another scheme marker.
The Arcanists won the initiative flip again, with the Emberling activating first to remove the Guild scheme marker next to it before walking back into melee with another Death Marshal. The Judge moved and planted another Falsified Evidence marker, using Stand for Judgement on the nearby marshal to pull him forward. Following his commander’s lead, the Death Marshal dropped down the fourth Falsified Evidence marker.
In an attempt to at least hold the lawman in place, a Steam Arachnid charged through the Incorporeal Emberling and into a Death Marshal. Moving through the red-hot Emberling must have supercharged the little creature’s furnace, as I flipped the Red Joker for damage and promptly killed the officer with the first attack!
The Gunsmith destroyed the second Evidence Marker, before moving back towards the centreline of the board. The remaining Steam Arachnids scampered forward, one of them setting itself up as a Railwalk point – which Mei promptly used, jumping onto the final Evidence Marker in the Guild’s deployment zone and destroying it. The Performer gamely destroyed a Guild scheme marker in an attempt to deny VP, while the Soulstone Miner walked back into the forest to sit on the centreline.
Seizing the initiative, the Guild went first on turn 5. The Judge continued moving up the flank, using Stand for Judgement to call the remaining Death Marshal to his side and consolidate their hold on the numerous markers. The Arcanists lined up the Soulstone Miner on one flank and the Gunsmith on the other for Outflank, with the remaining steampunk spiders and the Emberling moving into melee with the Judge and the Death Marshal. It looked to be a solid 9-8 victory for the Arcanists….
…until we flipped an 11 to see if the game would continue, taking us into turn 6! Taking advantage of the close Arcanists, the Judge and Death Marshal handed out Cursed Object with wanton abandon, leaving two spiders and the Emberling holding them. Not content with just handing out the condition, the Death Marshal grabbed hold of the spider, throwing it into his enchanted pine box before slamming the lid shut.
And so the game came to an end. The Judge pushed with his Plant Evidence upgrade to drop another scheme marker in base contact with terrain, and Kathryn ended Cursed Object on one of the Steam Arachnids. Final score – Guild: 9vp, Arcanists: 9vp
* * *
I didn’t factor draws in to my flowchart for some reason, so we decided to count this as a Guild victory (due in no small part to the sheer amount of evidence planted!). Hopefully we’ll be able to get the next game played in time for next Tuesday….