FIRST IMPRESSIONS: YOUKO HAMASAKI

Youko HamasakiOur first look at a new master has hit; say hello to Youko Hamasaki of the Qi and Gong!

Youko was described as a master who could manipulate the enemy’s hand, generate pass tokens and gain soulstones. Her crew was teased as having heavy access to lures, and a new leverage mechanic that worked off your opponent’s revealed schemes. She was far and away the master I was most excited to see in M3E. And while her crew is still a mystery, the time for speculation on Youko has passed. Emerging from the shadows, she’s ready for her introduction to Malifaux.

Leverage

Gives its controller a Pass Token at the start of the Turn, provided that the opponent has one or more revealed Schemes. Models with Leverage can discard a Pass Token when performing a duel to gain a positive flip to that duel.

We already know Pass Tokens can be spent to pass an activation; otherwise they add to initiative. This was great news for Ten Thunders who notoriously get out activated in M2E. Our costs are high, and we play elite crews (barring McCabe hound spam). It’s still unknown if that maintains itself in M3E, but with the introduction of Leverage, we might be looking at Qi and Gong to carry that concept at least. Leverage is looking to dial pass tokens up to 11, and I’m all on board.

The flavor of the mechanic is nice and simple. Leverage is doing exactly that: leveraging your opponent’s scheming to gain access to a new resource. Each Qi and Gong model has Leverage, so if you have 7 of them on the table, that’s 7 pass tokens you’ll generate a turn (in addition to any you normally generate). Even if you never use all these tokens, getting bonuses to your initiative can be pivotal.

I’m curious as to how effective the models will be and how much Leverage factors. What I don’t want to see is that you must generate pass tokens to make up for sub-standard stats. Because you have zero control over this ability, what happens if your opponent picks schemes (or is skilled enough) to not reveal until turn 4? Then they just finish up turn 5 and you get one hit from the Leverage ability. Does the crew function well without getting access to Leverage at all? Time will tell as we get more information, but I am optimistic.

Passive Aggression

Youko Hamasaki’s duel-less ability list is quite impressive. Informants and Calm Demeanor allow for card control while Disguised and Serene Countenance give some defense.

Informants lets you look at the top card of either fate deck when an enemy activates near her. Then you can put that card on the bottom. This is a potent ability that, as Waldo points out, can streamline your deck or ruin your opponent’s day when you bury that red joker. The thing I like the most about this is that you know what you, or your opponent’s, next flip is.

This is extremely valuable information especially when it comes to the mind game aspect of Malifaux. Imagine they activate their model and you look at the top card; then put it back. Was that a low card? A mid card? They may choose to no longer do a critical action because they know you must have left a low card up top. Or focus to bypass it, thus losing the AP they would have had if you had done nothing.

Calm Demeanor reinforces this concept. It’s a simple ability: you discard a card, I draw a card. But its simplicity is deceptive, as there is a lot of nuance to be found. One of the cool interactions comes from the new hand size rules. If your opponent draws over their hand limit they immediately discard down, which lets you draw a card if Youko is nearby. I love the idea of my opponent second guessing his own card draw because it might let me do the same.

Noteworthy… both passives require you to be within 6” of an enemy.  That makes her health pool of 10 a concern and is where Disguised and Serene Countenance come into play (and one of her attacks, discussed below).

Disguised prevents the charge and Serene Countenance gives a very Yin (the Penangalan!) type defense, but only vs the attack flip. Still, needing to focus greatly impacts the ability to engage Youko on even terms. Though I am quite worried about ranged threats. They don’t mind sitting and focusing for one. Snipers for two. Positioning, as always, will be key.

This does raise an interesting thought: with the change to soulstones maybe we take one less model and max out her cache. This plays into her desire for pass tokens and gives you the stones to deal with damage or get critical suits.

Not Just Another Pretty Face

We get a look at four actions and I’m going to focus on her survival one first.

Riddles in the Dark is an interesting ability that plays havoc on your opponent’s thought processes. It hands out Distracted +X, equal to the disparity in players’ hands (max +2). Yours or theirs. The big thing here is that Distracted puts the model on negatives to attacks and damage flips; it’s the opposite of Focused. If you can manipulate your hand (and/or your opponent’s), you have a potent tool for keeping Youko not only alive, but very frustrating to deal with. They don’t want your hand to be much different in size from theirs to keep this ability in check. That means until Youko activates, your opponent has a lot to keep in mind.

Another thing: Focused can only be lowered by one now. This means a Distracted model cannot get on straights to hit Youko unless they have a different way to get it (like it’s built in to their attack). That makes Riddles in the Dark a potent tool in keeping her alive.

Moving to her more control abilities we have Backroom Dealings and Blackmail. Both of which are amazing.

Backroom Dealings is a bonus action that lets you look at your opponent’s control hand with a couple of triggers: one to deal damage on suits revealed and one to force discards for each unrevealed scheme. I love this. It’s a mechanic that can help push against the “don’t reveal schemes” mentality. Now if you do, you risk losing 1-2 cards at random every turn. Which conveniently enables her Riddles in the Dark. Not to mention if it happens to a model within 6, Youko draws 1-2 cards as well.

The other trigger is cute and flavorful, but pales compared to Shady Dealings. Risking It All feels fun, and if you need to try to push a couple more points of damage onto an enemy, it’s wonderful. But until schemes are revealed Shady Dealings is the money maker.

Blackmail is another discard ability and is my favorite kind of ability: it asks your opponent a hard question. Do you pitch cards and keep me from getting pass tokens (potentially enabling Riddles and/or giving me card draw?) or do you not pitch any, give me pass tokens, and potentially an obey with the “We Own You” trigger? This is a devastatingly cruel choice to ask. We don’t know if the trigger is baked in. If it’s not, that would be reason to max her cache out.

Youko’s last two actions are a “generic” attack and an amazing mid-turn ability.

Exotic Weapons is described as average damage with a fun trigger that can make it deal +1 damage (and ignore armor). The attack is forgettable to me, you should probably be Riddling and Blackmailing with Youko. It does give her a disengaging strike however, which shouldn’t be discounted.

Information Network on the other hand is brilliant. This ability just does so much for everything Youko is doing. Your opponent and you are matched for cards somehow? Draw a couple of cards then do Riddles on a key model. Out of cards and need to buff your hand? Take a few actions to refill. Don’t want to lose that severe you peeked at with Informants to a duel? Done, draw it instead. Quite possibly the best part about Information Network though, is that it’s a fantastic “filler” ability. Realistically you won’t be using it often. You have too much else to do. But when you do use it, it’s going to be worth its weight in gold.

The Qi and Gone

Bad pun attempts aside, Youko Hamasaki is a fantastic looking master that has a plethora of amazing abilities and incredible interactions that are designed to do one thing: ask your opponent bad questions that there is no right answer to.

Whether it’s neutering models, ruining hands, or just playing a ton of mind games on how to activate and react, Youko’s set to make her presence felt in M3E.

One response to “FIRST IMPRESSIONS: YOUKO HAMASAKI

  1. Pingback: First Impressions: M3E Rules | Third Floor Wars

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