So today I want to have a look through the various options for scheme runners, in Ten Thunders. I’ll preface this by stating that I do not by any means consider myself to be the greatest Malifaux player out there, these are simply my thoughts on this. What exactly is a scheme runner? Well, generally speaking it’s a model who’s principle reason for being in your crew is to complete schemes, usually by interacting in some way, or being in specific positions on the board. Technically speaking, any model in your crew can do stuff towards your schemes, but when designing a crew I typically tend to have some models who I specifically include for focusing on doing scheme related things, rather than damaging/controlling the enemy. What makes a good scheme runner? Well, typically I look for at least a few of the following;
- High mobility
- Survival tools
- Scheme related abilities
- Low cost
- Additional utility
As I said, any model can technically perform duties related to the schemes, and some times the nature of the scheme pool and strategy will tend to push your hand towards particular crew selections that might differ from this, but it’s useful to have a good idea of how you intend to score your scheme VP and look at what models we have in our toolbox to excel at this. In my view, the following are the Ten Thunders models I would tend to look at, specifically for scheme running duties;
- Ten Thunders Brothers
- Shadow Effigy
You might be looking at this list thinking, wait what? THAT model? Or perhaps wondering why a particular model that you favour for schemes isn’t listed. This is, admittedly my personal views and yours may well differ. Lets go through them all and I’ll outline my thoughts about them for scheme running.
Misaki’s theme minions, these guys are a little pricier than some of the other options listed here at 6 stones, but they have a few extra things over other options.
Mobility: These guys are pretty quick with a nice Wk of 6, and as they are Last Blossom models you can potentially get very high mobility out of them with the Smoke & Shadows upgrade, which I’ll discuss in more detail later. They are also Agile, which makes them immune to disengaging strikes, which makes them much harder to lock down and prevent them doing schemes.
Survival: With only 6 wounds they can die very rapidly, but they do have very nice Df and Wp of 6 which can make them tricky for non-beaters to land hits on. They also have the One in the Crowd ability, which means that Sh attacks suffer a – flip when this model is within 3″ of another model, friendly or enemy.
Scheme Abilities: Agile is about the only thing they have here, allowing them to simply walk out of engagement, leaving them free to interact or relocate for the schemes.
Cost: At 6 stones they’re not exactly cheap, but they could be worse.
Utility: What else do they bring to the crew? Well their damage output is actually not bad. A 1/3/5 spread on their Ml5 attack isn’t fantastic, but they do get + flips to attack and damage when not near a friendly model which helps substantially. Their shooting is also reasonable. A 1/2/3 damage spread isn’t particularly impressive, but they can rapid fire, and have a baked in trigger to push 3″ on success giving them mobility while doing a bit of damage.
Smoke & Shadows deserves a mention here. This is a 1ss upgrade that can only be carried by Last Blossom models. It gives all Last Blossom minions 2 new abilities. A (2) action called Shadow Stride that needs a moderate Mask to succeed, which buried the model. At the end of the turn, it unburies within 6″ of a friendly model. They also gain a (1) action requiring any 8, which places two 50mm blocking smoke markers in base contact with the model. A trigger on a Mask allows them to then take the Shadow Stride action, at +2 Ca and a Mask. This can give the crew utility both in terms of blocking LoS to prevent ranged attacks and charges, and also significant repositioning which can be very valuable for getting models where they need to be for schemes and strat, particularly in the late game.
Overall Torakage have some good tools, but are a little pricey and often I find a bit too fragile given their cost.
Oiran are often much maligned, I suspect due to their Lure ability being unreliable compared to the Lure options available on other models, such as Beckoners and Belles. However in wave 2 they received a buff, in the form of the 0ss upgrade Hidden Agenda. Once per turn, when the model carrying the upgrade deals damage to an enemy, all friendly Oiran in LoS gain Fast and Focused +1. Put this on a beater with a spare upgrade slot and your Oiran get significantly better. I often favour putting it on Misaki, Ototo, or another similar beater that will be in combat for much of the game.
Mobility: A fairly average Wk 5, and a surprising Cg 8. However this is significantly offset by the Hidden Agenda upgrade which often means that your Oiran are fast, and 3AP makes for some significantly improved mobility.
Survival: While only Df 5, they do have a rather good Wp 6. However they have 2 abilities that can really improve their survivability. Firstly, they are Disguised, meaning that they cannot be the target of a charge action. Against melee heavy crews this can make them very frustrating to kill, particularly if you position well. They also come with Reading the Stone, which means that the first time they take the Defensive Stance action, they gain an additional Defensive +1. This can keep them alive, or drain resource from your enemy trying to kill them, and combines particularly well with Shen Long as he can allow them to take the Defensive Stance action as a (0). Also worth mentioning is the No Witnesses trigger on their melee attack. It requires a tome to get off, but puts a condition on the target that means they may not declare Showgirl models as the target of an attack action. And Oiran are Showgirls. This can be worth committing a tome for, if it will result in more VP.
Scheme Abilities: Nothing specific, but as mentioned being Fast thanks to Hidden Agenda can allow them to get into position rapidly, or interact, walk, and interact again.
Cost: At 5ss they’re pretty cheap, and their upgrade is 0ss.
Utility: Their damage output is nothing to write home about, but they do have Lure, which forces a target model to move it’s Wk towards them. It does however need a Crow to cast, but has a good Ca 8 vs Wp and an 18″ range. You won’t be using it a lot, but with Focus +1 from Hidden Agenda they have a slightly better chance of flipping the Crow they require, and it can sometimes be worth committing a crow from your hand if moving an enemy model can deny VP to your opponent, score VP for you, or else just significantly disadvantage the opposing crew. Worth remembering. They also have Appealing, which gives friendly living models in aura 4 +1 Wp, which can be very useful against crews that favour Wp based shenanigans. Finally, they are Last Blossoms models so can take advantage of Smoke & Shadows, as mentioned in the Torakage entry.
Overall I actually rather like a pair of Oiran, plus Hidden Agenda on one of my beaters as a good scheme running setup. Particularly good for things like Inspection, Leave your Mark, Public Demonstration and so on. I’m particularly fond of them when going against Neverborn or Resurrectionists for the +1 Wp bubble.
Ten Thunders Brothers
These guys are considered pretty much the gold standard in scheme minions for Ten Thunders, and with pretty good reason. They have an impressive tool set!
Mobility: Wk 5 and Cg 5 is nothing to write home about, however their (0) action can place them within 3″ which helps a lot. I’ll discuss their (0) in more detail later.
Survival: Df 6 is solid, and Wp 5 is okay. 6 wounds is fairly typical for this kind of model. However, they have several options to further improve this. First their Df trigger, Bend As The Willow. This is on a Tome, and gives them Defensive +1 after resolving which can make them very difficult to shift. Additionally they have the Expert Defence ability which grants them +1 Df when they have the Defensive condition, putting them up to an impressive Df 7! Their (0) has two options to improve their survivability; Crab Style will grant them Armour +1, and Mongoose Style allows them to heal 2 damage. Overall they can be very difficult to kill, though serious beaters will still destroy them.
Scheme Abilities: Protect Our Holdings means that friendly scheme markers in aura 5 may not be discarded by the actions or abilities of enemy models, which can significantly improve your chances of completing certain schemes.
Cost: At 5ss, they’re pretty cheap. Especially given their huge tool set!
Utility: They’re extremely survivable, and they aren’t too bad in combat either. Ml 5 and a 1/3/5 damage spread is not bad, and they have triggers on a Ram for + flip to damage, and a Mask lets them place the target into base contact with themselves, and give it slow. Their (0) action is where the real utility comes in. It’s Ca 5 with a TN of 6, meaning anything other than the black joker succeeds. They have a trigger on every suit. Tomes gives them Armour +1, Crows gives them an impressive 4″ Ml which can let them engage a LOT of models, Rams gives them either draw a card then discard a card, or heal 2 damage, and finally Masks lets them place within 3″. Overall rather impressive.
A lot has been said about how good these guys are by many more people than me, and it’s hard to argue. Their only real issue is a slight lack of mobility, but that is offset by the Mask trigger on their (0), and you can use any low Mask from your hand to ensure you get this.
These guys are probably what most people think of, when thinking of scheme runners in Ten Thunders. Dirt cheap, and with lots of scheme related goodness.
Mobility: Wk 5 and Cg 6 isn’t terribly impressive, but they do have Flight which makes dealing with terrain pretty easy for them. They also have The Shooting Star ability, which allows the Tengu to place into base contact with a friendly scheme marker within 5″ at the start of their turn. With this, a pair of Tengu can leapfrog their way up the board, leaving a trail of scheme markers in their wake
Survival: Well… it’s not great Df 4 and Wp 4 and only 5 wounds means that any serious effort will kill them pretty easily. They do have Regeneration +1 which can help keep them alive, bust mostly you’ll want to try and hide them. Beware ranged models, particularly snipers, picking them off early from across the board to prevent them doing their thing.
Scheme Abilities: The place into base contact with a friendly scheme marker can make it very easy for a pair of these guys to litter the table with scheme markers while remaining mobile. They also have a (0) action, Still the Earth, that allows them to discard up to 2 cards, and discard one scheme marker in a 3″ pulse for each card discarded, which can seriously crap on your opponent’s plans. They also have a trigger requiring a Tome on their melee, which allows them to place a scheme marker in base contact with themselves after dealing moderate or severe damage. Not to be counted on though.
Cost: Dirt cheap at 4ss each. You’ll likely want a pair for scheme-marker-hopping shenanigans.
Utility: Not too much. Their Ml attack is pretty poor, with a 1/3/4 damage track, though they do have flay on a Mask. They also have a (1) action, Ca 5, TN 11 with a 6″ range to give the target Regeneration + 1 until the end of the turn. A Tome trigger lets them take the action again, with no triggers. Potentially a handy little bit of healing once they’ve done their scheme laying, but typically they’re too busy planting scheme markers to use this, and the short 6″ range means they often aren’t in range of the models that need it most.
I’ve not really had much success with Tengu. They’re just too easily killed, and my opponents generally are aware of their scheme running potential and kill one early. A single Tengu is far less capable.
Wait what? Yamaziko? Yes indeed. While she’s more expensive than most things in this list, and is a Henchman rather than a minion, she’s actually quite a capable scheme runner, and excels in certain situations.
Mobility: On the face of it, Wk 4 and Cg 6 is fairly poor. However she does have Nimble to make up for it, which gives her an extra AP just for walk actions. With this she can cover 12″ in a single turn, and also has the ability to interact, walk, and interact again. This makes her one of the more mobile options I find, she can really get about the board!
Survival: Her Df 4 is definitely her weak point, but her Wp is an excellent 7. Further more, she’s Stubborn, which gives enemy models a – flip to the attack flip of anything that is resisted on Wp. This means she’s extremely resilient against Wp based attacks. She also has 8 wounds which puts her significantly above most scheme runners, and finally she’s a Henchman, which means she can use soulstones, either for defence or for damage prevention. This can substantially increase her survivability if required. Her Brace Yari (0), which I will discuss below, can also make charging her an unpleasant option and may protect her. She’s weak against shooting, being only Df 4 but you can offset this with the Smoke Grenades upgrade, which for 1ss gives all attacks targeting her from further than 6″ a – flip.
Scheme Abilities: The main one is her access to nimble, which combined with her 40mm base means she can interact, walk and then interact again.
Cost: At 7ss she’s more expensive than virtually all of the other options, so consider carefully if the other things she brings to the table are useful to you.
Utility: Yamaziko’s damage spread isn’t particularly impressive at only 3/3/4, but weak damage 3 can be very useful against some models, and she’ll generally be able to easily dispatch most opposing scheme running models, which I find makes her a good flanker. She’s also got a 3″ melee range, which combined with Cg 6 and Nimble gives her an impressive 13″ threat range, and allows her to potentially engage several models to tie them up. She also has a (2) attack, Master Tactician. It’s Ca 6 and resisted on Wp, and may only target enemy leaders. Yamaziko gets a + flip to duels with enemy leaders making this quite likely to succeed. If it does, the target must discard 2 cards for each of it’s unrevealed schemes. This can potentially seriously disrupt your opponents turn if used at an opportune moment. She’s Relentless too so she is completely immune to horror duels which is a nice bonus. Finally her (0) action, Brace Yari, lasts until she is moved or pushed, and causes models that target a friendly model within 3″ of her with a charge action to take 4 damage. Also, as a Henchman she has 2 upgrade slots, and as a Last Blossom model this means she can carry Smoke & Shadows for you. As mentioned above, Smoke Grenades can increase her survivability, and depending on where you feel you will require her she could be a good carrier for The Peaceful Waters 0ss upgrade for Monks of Low River.
I like Yamaziko quite a bit as a scheme runner where I also need some utility and killing power. While expensive compared to other scheme runners, she’s cheap for a Henchman and has some useful tools. Particularly good against enemies that are likely to be heavy on Wp based attacks, but often fares poorly vs shooting heavy crews. Smoke Grenades can offset this somewhat, but you will often find you need to be careful with your positioning. She will take damage very easily in melee and a serious beater will kill her in extremely short order. She can however practically score you Convict Labour, Search the Ruins, Plant Explosives or Spring the Trap all by herself thanks to being able to interact, walk, then interact again.
Another choice that might have some people scratching their heads, I quite like Samurai with their Favor of Heaven upgrade as heavy scheme runner / flanker models.
Mobility: With Wk 4 and Cg 6, Samurai are not fast. However, the Favor of Heaven 0ss upgrade grants them +2 Wk and +1 Cg. This puts them to Wk 6 and Cg 7, which is far more impressive! Their (2) tactical action, Run Through, can also give them some surprising extra mobility. It allows the model to push up to 4″ in any direction, perform a (1) Ml attack action, then after resolving the attack push another 3″ in any direction. This can often get them out of tight spots, or let you get to a model your opponent thought was safe.
Survival: Df 5 is pretty average, and their Wp 4 is poor so you will need to keep them away from Wp attacking models. They have only 6 wounds, but Armour +2 can make them very hard to kill unless enemy models have a way of ignoring armour. They also have Stand Ground, which allows them to take the Defensive Stance action without discarding a card, which can be a big help if you need to try and keep them alive.
Scheme Abilities: None, these guys are mostly about mobility, durability and killing power.
Cost: At 8ss, they are the most expensive thing in this list. Their upgrade is 0ss at least!
Utility: This is where the Samurai shines. Their damage output is impressive, with a 2/3/5 damage spread on their melee attack, which also ignores armour. Further they have Critical Strike on a Ram, for +1 damage bumping it to an impressive 3/4/6. A crow trigger grants them a + flip to damage. They also have a potentially potent Sh attack from their Shoulder Gatling, with a great 14″ range. It’s only Sh 5 but gains an awesome +++ flip to the attack. Yes, that’s right. You’ll be flipping 4 cards. This means they can readily target models in cover, or that force – flips to attacks, and still have an excellent chance of hitting. Further more, a Ram trigger allows them to take the action again after damaging, against a different target. And this can happen as often as you can flip or cheat Rams. The damage spread is only 2/3/4 but they can put out a lot of fire potentially. The big downside is that if they miss, they suffer 4 damage that cannot be reduced, which will near kill them even from full health. Be very careful about when you use this. Finally they have Reading the Wind which means that the first time the model takes the Focus action during it’s activation, it gains an additional Focused + 1. Between this, and their Stand Ground ability, they combine very well with Shen Long, who can let them do either Focus or Defensive Stance as (0) actions. His healing also goes a long way with their Armour +2.
All of this means that they will likely slaughter any opposing scheme running models they encounter, and can be quite difficult to kill. They aren’t an auto pick for the role, but depending on crew composition they can be extremely good flanking scheme runners, and have excellent damage output once they’ve done what’s needed for the schemes.
Last on my list is this little guy. Often overlooked since he grew up to be a nice big emissary, he’s still a pretty solid little cheap scheme runner.
Mobility: Wk 5 and Cg 6 is fairly average, and he’s not got any particular movement tricks himself.
Survival: The little guy is surprisingly tough to kill. He’s only got 4 wounds, but he’s Df 6 and Wp 5 with Armour + 1 and Hard to Kill, which means that your opponent will have to commit fairly significant resource to kill him, and may simply feel it’s not worth the bother.
Scheme Abilities: This is where he makes up his worth as a scheme runner, thanks to Remember the Mission. It’s a (1) tactical action that requires a fairly high card to get off, that puts a condition on a friendly minion that allows them to place a scheme marker in base contact at the end of their activation. As this is not an interact, it allows you to even place scheme markers when engaged, or in 4″ of another friendly scheme marker. This can make schemes like Detonate the Charges, and Set Up almost trivial to accomplish. Not to be used every turn, but worth keeping in mind as it can really change the course of a game.
Cost: At 4ss he’s nice and cheap, and makes a good option to fill out the last few stones in a crew.
Utility: His melee attack is accurate, being Ml 7 but only ever does 1 damage. Potentially handy for finishing off those Hard to Kill models, but not exactly a combat powerhouse. His (0) action does give your leader a nice survivability boost, granting a condition that can be ended when your leader is the target of an attack, giving the enemy – flips to the duel. He also has Accomplice so you can activate him early, get the (0) off, and still activate another critical model.
Overall he’s a great way to fill out those last few stones in a crew that you don’t have another good use for, can happily spend most of the game wandering around doing scheme things, and can give your leader a nice little survival boost. I don’t often take him, but I rarely regret it when I do.
And that’s the lot. There are a few options I’ve not really covered here, most notably the new Wandering River Monks, partly because I’ve not really had a chance to try them out yet, and partly because I have a feeling that they’re just a little too expensive and a little too fragile for what they bring. Doubtless I’ll give them a try and some point, and I’d be curious to hear other people’s thoughts on them.