Malifaux story tree #3: The Great Escape

Ramos sat in his spartan quarters, his fingers steeped together and his mouth a thin line in silent contemplation. His eyes, hidden behind industrial welding goggles, stared unflinchingly into the fire in the hearth, the flames reflected in the lenses and creating miniature infernos in the glass.

He’d received word from Charles that the Guild had raided the Hollow Marsh pumping station, of all places. They’d clearly come with one thing in mind, and come prepared to boot, waving warrants and evidence papers that supposedly incriminated Joss as a suspect in the most recent Redchapel killings. Joss had broken many Guild laws, Ramos knew, and most of them on his orders, but there was no way anyone – not even the Guild – could think that Joss was responsible for that maniac Seamus’s latest murder spree. No, this was planned – probably to do with the attack on the rail yard, if Ramos was any judge. He wasn’t precisely certain what the Guild wanted Joss under lock-and-key for, but whatever it was it couldn’t be good.

At first, he’d tried the legitimate approach – assembling a rag-tag collection of local miners, steamfitters and welders and marching on the Guild offices of Little Prospect to demand the release of his associate. Usually the mere pressure of a disgruntled mob of workers and the threat of a riot was enough to pressure these small-town lawmen into submission, but not this time. It had transpired that the Judge and Lady Justice were here to personally transport Joss back to Malifaux, and their presence – along with a couple of grim-faced Death Marshals – had been enough to quell this attempt.

If there was one thing Ramos hated, it was acting in haste. Every movement should be planned, like pieces on a chess board, and considered with due forethought before acting. Tonight, however, there were few options open to him. No, he mused, there was only one option. Break Joss out of jail before the Guild whisked him away in the morning.

* * *

Lady Justice sat perfectly still, her long greatsword across her lap. Across from her, the Judge was stood at the window, looking out at the night sky. His gaze only moved when the door opened, a rough-shaven young guardsman entering the office. ‘How long until the wagon gets here?’ he asked.

‘Not ’till after dawn’, the guard replied. ‘They’ve got a few leagues to go before they get here, and there’s rumours of Neverborn operating out this way.’ He stood for a moment before taking the hint, saluting and departing through the heavy door.

The Judge turned towards Justice. ‘We should expect trouble, my lady’ he warned. ‘I expected the Union to rise to the defence of one of their own, but not with such strength. Not in this small town, anyway.’

Lady Justice nodded her agreement. ‘The man leading them, that was Viktor Ramos. Head of the Union. What’s he doing out here?’ She stared ahead in silent contemplation, before standing. ‘The sooner we can get back to Malifaux and hand this back to Criid’s lot, the better. I hear Seamus has been on the rampage again, and I want to get back on his trail before it goes cold.’

The Judge nodded his agreement.  ‘We’ve got everything ready, and the marshals are on standby. We can depart as soon as the wagon gets here.’

* * *

Game three of the story my wife and I have been playing our way through (you can read games one and two here) starts with the Guild having used the planted evidence from game two to frame Joss, arresting him at the Hollow Marsh Pumping station. Unable to arrange a caravan and armed escort in time, the Guild hole up in the little town of Little Prospect on the outskirts of Malifaux, intending to ride back to the city the next day and transfer Joss to the main enclave. With little time left, Ramos is forced to resort to uncharacteristically drastic measures, and plans a jail break to spring his right-hand man from the clutches of the law!

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The scenery set-up.

As with all the games in the campaign, we’d pre-set the strategy to lend a narrative touch to the game. This one was the Jail Break strategy from the story encounters section of the M2E rulebook, with the Guild automatically chosen as the defenders and having flipped a ram for their strategy. We flipped a 13 for deployment, which was Close Deployment.

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The improvised jail cell. If I ever get the time, I’ll have to try and make an actual cell…

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Joss behind bars!

The forces were:

Lady Justice – Vendetta
Judge – Lead-lined coat
Death Marshal
Death Marshal
Guild Guard
Guild Guard
Rifleman
Executioner – Lead-lined Coat

5ss pool

Ramos – Arcane Reservoir, Combat Mechanic, Field Generator
Joss – Imbued Energies, Open Current
Howard – Bleeding Edge Tech
Electrical Creation
Gunsmith
Metal Gamin

7ss pool

Since the whole scheme pool was available for us, we both went for pretty thematic schemes. I chose Distract and Plant Explosives (both hidden), while Kathryn took Distract and Take Prisoner (Joss), again both hidden.

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Both crews deploy.

Turn one saw the Guild take the advantage, and the Judge strode up the field to investigate the commotion around the holding area. Calling for backup, he cast Stand for Judgement to bring a nearby Death Marshal to his side. Moving quickly, the Arcanists went straight for the cell. Howard Nimble walked forward before taking the (2) interact required, his razor-sharp claws easily shearing the lock off the cell and freeing Joss.

Seeing the destruction of the holding cell Justice was quick to respond, moving forward to investigate. Drawing her sword she prepared to charge into the fray, but fate really conspired against her as she flipped the Black Joker for her terrifying test against Howard, resulting in the Guild’s juggernaut being paralyzed and unable to intervene. Seeing this disastrous turn of events, a nearby Death Marshal leapt forward with Pine Box in hand, ready to contain Howard before he could retaliate. A desperate struggle began between the two, with both Kathryn and I cheating in 13’s from our hands in an attempt to win the duel. Bracing himself with his many legs, Howard managed to avoid being thrown in the box. Seeing the struggle and the carnage, the Executioner walked towards the escaped prisoner, intent on preventing his escape at any cost…

With the destruction of the jail, the rest of the Arcanists started to advance to help evacuate Joss from the approaching Guild forces. A hastily-assembled Electrical Creation floated forward, its tentacles brushing against the Judge and sending a numbing electric shock through his body. Ramos followed it, using his arcane Magnetism to pull himself forward and destroy his creation. The creature exploded, catching the nearby Judge – though his lead-lined coat prevented some of the damage. Crushing a soulstone, Ramos attempted to Summon the Swarm, creating two Steam Arachnids from the wreckage of the Electrical Creation. Summoning an Arcing Screen around him to protect his allies, he sent a blast of Electrical Fire at the nearby Death Marshal, the lawman managing to dodge the worst of the attack and only suffering weak damage.

Attempting to cover their retreat, the Arcanists set about delaying tactics. Joss revealed one of my schemes as he Distracted the Executioner, before attempting to attack the man with his Arc Axe. The Executioner displayed surprising agility for a man of his size, however, as Kathryn flipped the Red Joker and he dodged the attack. Following Joss’s lead, the Gunsmith walked into melee to Distract the nearby Death Marshal.

Slow to respond, the newly-created Spiders moved sluggishly – one scuttling into base-to-base contact with the Judge, and the other dropping down a scheme marker for the Arcanists. Following suit, the Metal Gamin moved forward towards Joss before dropping down a scheme marker of its own. What were the Arcanists up to?

The Guild’s flanking force approached from the left. Seeing Ramos in the open, they took the opportunity and opened fire. The first Guardsman’s shot missed Ramos, who used a concentrated magnetic blast of Repulsion to push the man away. Taking sight down his scope, the Rifleman put his superior training and experience to good use, hitting Ramos with a solid shot and causing severe damage with a double Critical Strike trigger! Following his example, the second Guild Guard walked forward and opened fire, her shot hitting Ramos but only doing weak damage. After the volley finished and the smoke cleared, Ramos was still standing but had lost five of his ten wounds!

At the end of turn 1, I revealed my second scheme (Plant Explosives), scoring the maximum three victory points and removing all my scheme markers. With the cell in ruins, explosions going off all over the place and two of the Guild Distracted from the breakout, things seemed to be going well for the Arcanists. However, Joss was still stuck in melee with the Executioner, and Justice had recovered in time for turn two…

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The table at the end of turn 1.

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A swirling melee erupts around the ruins of the jail cell.

The Guild took the initiative again, moving quickly to salvage the situation. The Executioner revealed one of their schemes by applying Distract to Joss, before attacking Howard to try and neutralize the threat before he could respond. His claws hit the man-machine, but only a glancing blow. Following the masked man’s lead, the Death Marshal Distracted Howard before attempting to box him, but Langston resisted the enchanted coffin.

Suddenly on the back foot, Ramos used his Magnetism to move towards his nearby Steam Arachnid, before letting loose a blast of Electrical Fire to destroy the small creature. Using the remaining parts, he cast Combat Mechanic to heal himself back to full wounds before activating his Arcing Screen again. Joss, meanwhile, summoned the Imbued Energies and discarded the upgrade, casting Open Current before using the burst of speed in an attempt to escape from the Executioner. The Guild’s enforcer was determined, though, and it took all three of Joss’s AP before he could get away from the claw-handed man.

Seeking to finish what she’d attempted last turn, Lady Justice charged into Howard. Her razor-sharp greatsword hit true, slicing into Howard for moderate damage, though he managed to dodge the second attack. Attempting to dispel Joss’s Open Current, she used Restore Natural Order, flipping a 12 of rams to successfully cast it. However, it wasn’t to help her as Howard attacked back with a Flurry of blows, damaging her twice before the final blow hit home – with the help of the Red Joker in my hand – to do a horrific 10 damage, removing Justice from the game. Scuttling backwards and somehow avoiding disengaging strikes from both the Death Marshal and the Executioner, Langston retreated backwards to cover Joss’s escape.

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The Judge finds himself stuck outside the sheriff’s office by one of Ramos’s Steam Arachnids.

The Guardsmen and Rifleman opened fire on Ramos again, and while the Guardsmen’s shots went wild the Rifleman’s gun was steady as he Focused down the sights. However, things weren’t improving for the Guild as the Rifleman flipped the Black Joker, missing Ramos who flipped the 12 of tomes and sent the gunman flying backwards with a blast of Repulsion. The Steam Arachnid’s constant persistence managed to Distract the Judge, who – in an attempt to finish Howard and clear a path to Joss – cast Bound By Law twice, though the Arcanist managed to evade the attacks.

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The swirling melee in the centre of the board starts to dissipate as models are taken out and fall back.

Turn three saw the Guild take the offensive, with one of the Death Marshals grabbing Joss. Despite the man’s size and clockwork arm, the lawman expertly choke-slammed the Arcanist straight into his enchanted Pine Box, locking the escaped prisoner away. In an attempt to block the Executioner’s clear line of sight to Howard, the Metal Gamin strode forward to take up a defensive stance, but was easily dispatched by the Death Marshal’s pine box.

Attempting to rescue Joss for the second time, Howard charged into the Death Marshal holding him, his steam-powered claws making short work of the officer and freeing Joss once again. Howard used his Nimble to walk back towards the forest, but he wasn’t able to escape the Executioner. The man charged into him, but once again fate seemed determined to thwart the Guild as the Black Joker appeared for the first attack. The second swing looked to connect, but in an attempt to keep Howard in the game I cheated in a 12 of tomes to dodge the blow. Quickly dispatching the nearby Death Marshal, the Arcanist Gunsmith moved to come to his assistance.

The Judge attempted to cut apart the mechanical spider, and at last the Red Joker appeared, allowing him to take the Blades and Bullets trigger. He wasn’t able to finish the little creature, though, as the Rifleman and Guardsmen advanced towards the centre to assist. Seeing his mechanical creation almost torn apart by the Judge, Ramos finished the job himself, casting Electrical Fire to destroy the creature before summoning two more from the wreckage and activating his trusty Arcing Screen with a burst of steam and a fwomp of compressed energy.

Turn 4 began with the all-important initiative flip – with Howard and the Executioner still locked in combat, whoever won the chance to go first would have the upper hand. Once again the Guild won the initiative, activating the Executioner first. The giant of a man threw himself at Langston, only needing one blow to connect to finish the Arcanist. Somehow the Guild’s run of bad luck continued, though, as the Executioner missed both attacks before Howard struck back, killing him and finally freeing Joss from being stuck in melee. The henchman took the opportunity to make a break for it, fleeing back to the Arcanist deployment zone and taking cover behind an abandoned stagecoach.

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Joss takes cover behind a stagecoach.

The Guardsmen continued their assault on Ramos, with one of the Guild Guard’s shots finding its mark and wounding the Union leader. The Rifleman followed suit with a perfectly aimed shot, flipping the Red Joker for his attack just as Ramos flipped the Black Joker for his defence! The severe damage cut through even Ramos’s armour, leaving him barely standing on two wounds. Seeing this, the Judge attempted to finish him, casting Bound By Law twice, but failing to do quite enough damage to kill Ramos. Desperate to escape before a finishing shot could be brought to bear, Ramos magnetized a nearby Spider before salvaging what he could from the wreckage to repair the damage he’d suffered.

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Badly wounded, Ramos is forced to retreat.

The Gunsmith moved to help cover his boss, attacking and killing one of the Guardsmen. And with that the encounter was all but over – turn 5 saw Ramos retreat back into cover away from the Rifleman before he could take another shot, and both forces pulled back to lick their wounds and recover. Heavy casualties had been sustained on both sides, but the jail break had been a success, with a 10-3 victory for the Arcanists.

* * *

In hindsight, we definitely should have re-flipped for deployment. Close Deployment simply made it too easy for me to destroy the jail cell early on and deny victory points, which I’m sure contributed to the final score. Still, the next game looks to be much, much harder for the Arcanists, so we’ll see how that goes!

Thanks for reading, and take care,

Ben

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3 thoughts on “Malifaux story tree #3: The Great Escape

    • Thank you :)
      Luck really wasn’t with the Guild that day, sadly. I’m sure the black joker turned up more than it should have for my wife, with a particularly bad moment being when she flipped it for Justice’s Terrifying duel trying to charge Howard. I’m a big advocate of Malifaux being less luck-based than most wargames due to the cyclical nature of the deck and the control hand, but Kathryn really did struggle with a poor control hand most turns and the black joker popping up at the worst possible time.

  1. It really was. I did successfully fool Ben into thinking that I had assassinate on Ramos – so much so that he now owes me a Whisper bar.

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