‘Good, Sophie’ Sandeep nodded as he walked past his students, the air inside the dilapidated building crackling with magical energy. Each of his students was focused on conjuring and controlling a sphere of raw magical energy, the power coursing and writhing as the mages fought to keep them under control. ‘Focus, Nathaniel’ Sandeep warned as he passed another student, the young man visibly trembling as his hands encased the crackling sphere. ‘You need to remain calm. Magic is too volatile to use with such emotions as stress, or fear, or worry, or anger.’ He paused for a moment, involuntarily remembering the times he had unleashed Banasuva in anger, before banishing the thoughts. ‘To master control over the energies in Malifaux, one must…’
Sandeep felt it too late as the very fabric of reality suddenly twisted and broke apart in the classroom, shattering into a myriad of dimensions that tugged at the very edges of sanity. It was all over in a millisecond as Sandeep and his pupils found themselves sprawled on an unfamiliar cobbled street. Rising to his feet, Sandeep looked around as his students helped each other up. He opened his mind, letting his self soar over the ruined buildings around them. There was no sign of the source of their sudden teleportation, but he saw a scattering of Neverborn creatures – Silurids, animated dolls and the writing forms of Insidious Madnesses. Amongst them was a bent and haggard figure, looking as confused as he was. She looked up suddenly with bright, alert eyes quite at odds with her frail body, her gaze piercing the veil as she saw Sandeep. In an instant he called his mind back to his body, finding the reassuring weight of his gada in one hand. Turning to the students around him, he was pleased to see that some of the more experienced mages already had a slight nimbus of magic energy playing around their hands. ‘Ready yourselves, my friends. It seems your practical exam will be taking place sooner than I had planned.’
* * *
The Divergent Paths story encounters were all interesting, but it was this particular Trickster game that most intrigued me. You build a 60 soulstone crew rather than the usual 50, but then your opponent gets to veto two non-master models to be removed from the crew! This ensures a very different kind of crew selection to normal, especially given that you score VP by killing enemy models near the centre of the board. Confident in the knowledge that Izaak would definitely veto any of my usual choices such as Cassandra or the Arcane Emissary, I opted instead to go for a crew of mid-costed models with lots of duplicates. Turns out, he had the same idea in mind…
Sandeep – Arcane Reservoir, To Command Another Plane, Unaligned Sage
3 Liberated Spellcasters
3 Oxfordian Mages – Temporary Shielding
Zorida – Animal Shape, Hex Bag, Tarot Reading
2 Bayou Gators
Iggy -Enraged Tantrum
2 Wicked Dolls
Scheme pool: Convict Labour, Hunting Party, Exhaust Their Forces, Detonate the Charges, Mark for Death.
For my two vetoes, I chose both Waldgeists. I had neglected to take anything that could reliably cut through armour, and the idea of having to potentially spend between 4-8 ap putting down each one filled me with dread. In turn, Izaak vetoed one of my Oxfordian Mages and the Freikorps Librarian. I had kind of expected the latter to be knocked out of the crew, but figured at seven soulstones it was worth a shot!
Being blind deployment, everything ended up rather close together. I lucked out somewhat with a huge clump of tome cards in one area, with only the one mask card on the fringe of the group – perhaps unsurprisingly, I deployed Sandeep and all his mages there. The Metal Gamin and the Wind Gamin were left out on the flanks, while the Arcane Effigy was placed in the board corner behind all the Mages. Zorida went in the ruins, while the Gators and Gupps deployed in between her and the assembled Arcanists.
As is always the case with blind deployment, the action began early. One of the Gupps Leapt forward to engage a Liberated Spellcaster, wasting no time in marking her for death before attacking her. But the mage disappeared in a whirl of magical energy as she used Sandeep’s Beacon to take The Path To Salvation, disappearing over the other side of the wall before dropping a scheme marker and hurling a bolt of energy at the nearby Wicked Doll. Following on from her example, one of the Oxfordian Mages sent a flurry of bolts into the diminutive creature, the magical energies shredding its burlap body.
Nearby, one of Zorida’s Will O’ Wisps exerted its sinister energies over a nearby Spellcaster, the man’s eyes glazing over as he felt compelled to follow the trail of lights leading him away from his colleagues. As the man stumbled blindly forward, Iggy took advantage and sent bolts of fire hurtling towards him, the fiery magics setting his heavy cape on fire. Hoping to press the advantage, Iggy tried to Incite the mage, but surely not as he flipped the black joker… Nope! In a hilarious twist of fate I too flipped the black joker, and the Mage was successfully incited.
Seeing his student in trouble, Sandeep pulled the man back to safety with The Mind Among The Senses before summoning an Ice Gamin with Commands In Wind, placing the frosty creature right in the middle of the mages so as to benefit most of them from the [+] flip.
On the other side of the field, my lone Metal Gamin found itself cornered by another pack of Gupps and a vicious Bayou Gator. Both swampfiends charged the Metal Gamin, but after the barrage of attacks the diminutive metal creature stood unharmed! It managed to walk away from both, before dropping another scheme marker near them. Zorida narrowed her eyes, putting two and two together to make the obvious conclusion, and used Obey to move the Gator and the Gupps away from the scheme marker. Seeing his opportunity, the Wind Gamin fluttered in close to drop a scheme marker near Zorida, while my final Liberated Spellcaster completed the trifecta by placing a third near an Insidious Madness before finishing off a nearby Will O’ Wisp. At the end of the turn, I revealed Plant Explosives to score three VP.
The Gupps and the Gator charged back in to continue their assault on the Metal Gamin, but the little creature’s luck held true again as it took a grand total of one wound from the five attacks! Meanwhile, the remaining Wicked Doll used Over The Needle to Poison the wounded Liberated Spellcaster before hitting the trigger to jump into base contact. Seeing an opportunity, the Ice Gamin walked over and Interacted with the Doll to Exhaust it, revealing my second scheme in the process. Sandeep, meanwhile, took it upon himself to lead from the front and moved around to where he could see Iggy before unleashing his Arcane Storm, twin bolts of blue energy hitting the woe and taking him out of the game.
The third turn started with my brave Metal Gamin standing his ground and taking the Defensive Stance action twice in an attempt to weather a third round of attacks. Determined to take him out, the Gator attacked again, taking him down to one wound. The Gupps finally managed to land the finishing blow, flipping the right suit to hit their trigger and evolving into a full Silurid! The remaining set of Gupps Leapt into the Arcanists in an attempt to take out a marked Spellcaster, but the mage dodged their attacks before unleashing a storm of magical energy to take them out of the game. The remaining Spellcaster blasted the Insidious Madness off the board. The Wind Gamin attempted to fly away from Zorida, but the old crone was more dangerous than she looked, and held the little creature in place – just as her other Gator moved in to attack, killing the marked Gamin. Unfortunately, though, thanks to To The Sky the little creature was buried rather than being killed, and didn’t score any VP from Mark For Death for the Neverborn.
At that point, with the Arcanists in the lead by 7vp to 1 and with so few models left, my opponent conceded the game. Pictures are courtesy of him too, since he’s far better at remembering to take regular photos than I am!
I really enjoyed this scenario, even if I did feel quite bad during the game itself as it quickly became evident that my crew selection was all but perfect to deal with Izaak’s. The ideal of vetoing is really interesting, and forces you to build a very different crew to normal. I would not be averse to giving this scenario a go again sometime, it’s great fun and really makes you think about your crew in a different way :)