I can say that there was probably no master more reviled in Malifaux's first edition than my main girl Pandora. With the ability to make any opponent pay in blood to do anything, fighting against her felt like an inevitable loss that consisted mostly of sitting inside a Sicilian Bull. She was a fun master to learn, but felt sometimes impossible to win against.
In 2.0 she was toned down and made more balanced, but she still makes people sigh and roll their eyes, thanks to her unique play-style. That isn't to say that I've won every game I've played with her. She is beatable; in fact, she has some pretty glaring weaknesses. However, you can play smart and stack her strengths so that even a seasoned Pandora-Slapping opponent will have a tough time keeping a grip on his sanity.
The Queen of Salty Nerd Tears herself. At first glance, Pandora’s stat block looks pretty pathetic. With a Df of ****ing three, but also a powerful Wp at 7. Ten wounds also feels really bad, and a walk of 4 rounds out her terrible-at-first-glance feeling.
However, you need to keep in mind that Pandora is Neverborn, and so she's a filthy cheater that ignores most of the rules that everyone else plays by. Simply put, she can defend any opposed duel with her Wp instead of Df, because she plays mind games like no one else. With her defense successfully cheated, how does one get around her piss-poor movement? That’s a great trick called Fading Memories, which allows her to push 4 inches in any direction when she wins an opposed Wp duel against an enemy model. Note that this counts as any duel where Pandora is opposing with her own Wp... Which is damn near all of the attacks that will be sent her way, and with an effective df/wp of 7, she can dodge the majority of attacks. One neat trick is that if she dodges the first attack on a charge, she can slide out of melee range and the second attack will whiff.
Something to keep in mind is that she can't use her Wp on simple tests. Things like Slice and Dice from a Punk Zombie means that Pandy has to go find a 10 or get bopped. Pulses and blasts are likewise killer for her, so keep those soulstones handy if she catches the business end of a Wong.
While Pandora does have low wounds, I can't actually think of any game where she has taken more than 4 damage, let alone died. Most of the time, your opponents will just not bother attacking, because it simply isn't worth the risk. What I like to use her wounds for is to help soak damage from her other fragile support units, like the Sorrows. Her skill Martyr lets her redirect one point of the damage her friendly Woes suffer and apply it to herself. Considering the Sorrows only have four wounds and pitiful defensive stats, they really need that help whenever they can get it.
Pandora's bread and butter is the Misery ability. Whenever an enemy unit fails a Wp duel, simple or opposed, within 6 inches of Pandora they take one wound. This ability doesn't seem so amazing by itself, and frankly it isn't. However, it does stack, meaning that the Sorrows, which each bring an identical Misery on the table, can quickly dump 3-4 damage on a unit in single point bumps on one failed will check. This gets around Armor, Hard to Kill, Hard to Wound, Incorporeal, and nearly every other defensive trick in the book. It takes a bit of finagling and careful planning to place your Sorrows, but seeing enemy units melt like butter after you call them names is just so satisfying.
When it comes to attacks, Pandora is a little odd. She doesn't actually have any damage spreads of her own, instead making the victim of her spells apply their own damage tracks to themselves. The important thing to note, though, is that she has a Ca of 7 on her 3 inch melee attack Self Loathing, AND it is resisted by willpower. If you hit them you get to stick them with damage from Misery in addition to the actual damage presented. Self Harm is much the same way, except for shooting attacks. it has a 10 inch range which means they will most likely not be in range of Misery, and I rarely find myself using it since I want to get Pandy up in people's faces so she can fully abuse her concentric auras of pain.
Her final attack action is Incite, and this ability is deceptively powerful. It casts on a Wp 7, which means that it counts for the purposes of Fading Memory as a Wp duel. Mood Swing is a powerful tool that you can use to force the opponent to activate a model that he may have wanted to hold onto until later in the game, potentially wasting defensive skills like Regeneration, Manipulative, and Accomplice. It also has some nasty synergy with Candy's Sweets aura. And the trigger on it, Mass Hysteria, is just more of the same, and who doesn't love that?
Inflict is pretty brutal, and its one of my favorite tools to use. Often you can have Pandora slide into the middle of 3-4 enemy units just off her fading memory triggers alone. Nothing feels quite so much like stuffing defenseless hamsters into a blender as activating Inflict three times on an enemy team stuck in multiple Misery auras.
Fears Given Form: I'm listing this one first since I consider it core to Pandora. Given her 3 inch melee range and her penchant for standing in the middle of the fight, it's incredibly easy for her to catch multiple people in the effect. A Df 14 duel is really high for most models, requiring a 9 on average to beat it. Even if it doesn't go off it still drains resources and makes doing anything near Pandora really hard.
The Box Opens: This upgrade is also pretty core. Terrifying (All) 13 is a defensive ability that further punishes Pandora's opponents in exactly the way she wants to punish them. If you have to cheat to beat her Terrifying, that's one less card to beat her 7 Wp, and one less card to do anything else on their turn. Plus if they fail, they take damage from Misery! It's just insult piled on injury piled on more injury. Those Who Dwell Within is a useful attack with a pair of helpful triggers. Because it targets Df you can use it on those hulking brutes with high Wp, like Hannah or the Hungering Darkness. Or maybe even Zoraida if you're having a bit of a Neverborn spat.
Fugue State: This upgrade is useful in a heavy interact match, because it punishes the opponent for trying to play the game. It's a common theme for Pandy. Nullify also can cripple an opponent's ability to score, especially if they only have a handful of significant models to begin with. You can have more than one enemy unit nullified at once.
Cry For Me: This upgrade could be useful if you wanted to focus on more long range attacks, or were facing high Wp models. Pity is a nasty condition, but it's very rare that anyone can stand up to Pandy if you've placed the rest of your models correctly, even if they are resisting with a straight flip on Wp.
Voices: This one is an odd duck. It competes for the Limited slot with The Box Opens, which already puts it at a severe disadvantage. There Is No Shelter Here seems kind of awful, because the only way to reduce damage from Misery is by using soulstones, and since it is dealt in one damage increments you'd need to burn them by the handful. If I can make an opponent burn a stone for a prevention flip on a single point of Misery, I consider that a boon to me, but I've never seen it happen. The Mental Anguish trigger is powerful, and can really shut down a scary monster like your Howard Langstons of the world, but I feel that it just doesn't warrant not bringing The Box Opens every time. If you disagree, feel free to tell me in the comments!
Depression: Pandora can take this, if you'd like. Usually I prefer to pass it off to Candy or Baby Kade, who can get a whole lot more mileage out of a guaranteed suit. Especially since Pandora's (0) act Incite is so useful you want to do it twice. However, if someone else is carrying Depression, Pandora can use Melancholy, which is an INCREDIBLY useful debuff when paired with Incite. Nobody Likes Me forces the models with it to act last in a turn, and Mood Swing lets you choose to make others go first. When you can decide your opponents activation order you can wreak all kinds of havoc on their game plan and leave them scrambling to pick up the pieces.
Poltergeist: when it comes to totems, I think the poltergeist is a little lackluster. 5 stones for a model with mediocre df and wp feels bad. Combined with the fact that it really wants to be in melee range in order to abuse it's auras, it is fragile and hard to defend. Personally I find that conflicts with Pandora and Fears Given Form, because there's no way he will live long after a failed df 14 check. If for some reason you are playing Pandora without her death bubble maximization techniques, feel free to try out the Poltergeist. It will mean that you can spread out your efforts instead of focusing them into a bubble. I have heard that some people run Pandora without any Sorrows, but it doesn't seem to be worth it to me.
Primordial Magic: When Pandora is playing her death bubble game I like Primordial Magic as a cheap backup totem. The poor worm has pitiful stats, but really shocking utility. For two sides you get access to Rush of Magic, which allows you to draw and discard at the start of each turn. When you compare that to the built in functionality of burning a soulstone to draw and discard 2 cards, we can see that after four turns the primordial magic has earned its value in soulstones. If you manage to get some victory points off of the scheme marker ability, then you've made a lot of value or of a cheap model.
|What models to take with Pandora? Well, miniature versions of Pandora are a great place to start.|
Candy: Little Baby Pandora. With solid defensive stats and a fair amount of health, this henchman supports exactly the plan that Pandora wants to pursue while still adding in an extra level of depth. With Pandora's Mood Swing you can lock down an enemy unit with Sweets, and the Depression Upgrade can help you stick the Sours aura also.
Self Loathing and Wail are both average Ca, and it can't hurt to try it with her Casting Expert AP if you have the opportunity. Goody Basket is a useful skill in the context of Pandora soaking up damage from Martyr, but beware the 2 inch range! If you leave Candy there then you may have to have her deal with a Fears Given Form check, or worse, have Pandora deal with Candy's FGF. More often I find myself using the basket on Sorrows or herself, but it's a tool you should be aware of at all points in the game.
Sorrows: These wimpy, slow, easy-to-hit, low wound models are one of the most critical pieces in your crew. If you can surround a knot of enemy units with Sorrows before having Pandora go and pound them all with willpower tests, you can delete an entire crew without appearing to break a sweat. However, playing Pandora well depends heavily on your ability to place these support units. By stacking Misery auras you multiply Pandora's damage output to ridiculous levels. The sorrows are your key to massive irreducible damage in an area, and you have to keep them safe. That means hiding behind blocking terrain, in cover, and liberally using Martyr to keep your little green friends alive. Moving them in too early will get them summarily squished, and with it your hopes of victory. Moving in too late and you'll miss your window of opportunity to set them up for a big Pandora pity party. Usually, I like to get Pandora into position in the middle of a group early, then let the opponent waste time trying to hit her 7 Wp. With the Sorrows free to move up later in the turn, it can be really nasty at the start of the next turn going first with Pandora and just murdering every sap unlucky enough to be caught in her area of influence. If you don't win initiative you may have some enemy support unit or scheme runner tagged with Mood Swing and force them to go first, buying you another activation or two in order to set up your death aura some more.
|They're great sculpts, and good practice for shading effects|
Using the Sorrows as I've described makes the Pandora crew a powerful set-them-up-and-knock-them-down strategy, although it may be slower than some other alpha strike tactics that the likes of Tara or Lady Justice can do. With care and attention you can be in the happy position of hitting your opponent with a fully charged sadness bomb.
Baby Kade: The kid with the knife is a melee assassin in a crew full of willpower stressing jerks. On paper he seems a little odd, with a low damage track and 1 inch melee, high Df, and an unreliable defensive Manipulative 11. His Lure is a little low, and while it does have good synergy with Pounce there seems to be something missing. Kade isn't a brawler, and he shouldn't be played as such. He is the second prong of the classic pincer movement, as the knife deals +2 damage on a target that's already engaged. That can further go up another +2 and apply Slow with the Sweetbreads trigger, and if you have both he is swinging for an absurd 5/6/8, a damage track unrivaled by nearly anyone besides a fully-stoked Rail Golem or a double crit strike Peacekeeper. Impressive for a Ht 1 guy, huh? Send him in second and he'll pull a Chucky on even the most durable opponents. Don't forget to bring a Depression to ensure a double crow charge attack!
|Creepy Babies make everything better. Or Worse. Definitely worse.|
Teddy: This is the gear check for your opponent's Df stats. Teddy is not a subtle unit. He eats people alive and turns them into blood fountains. Even within the context of "rip and tear" however, he has a lot of useful tricks. The Peekaboo trigger on hug can let you position enemy units inside of Pandora's death bubble, or even get them into engagement for FGF. Smell Fear is an excellent ability in a crew that focuses almost exclusively on Wp tests. The one thing I will caution you bear aficionados about: I have never had a teddy live past turn 3, and I can only think of one instance where he lived past turn 2. He is a wrecking ball. I've also never had him die without taking out more than his stones' worth of enemy models, so there's that. How you choose to play with him is your business, but I prefer charging him straight down the line so that my Sorrows and Pandora and Candy can get into position and mop up after the Teddy wreckage settles down. It feels bad losing an 11 point model, but it's worth it if you win the game because of it.
Coppelius: A mobile melee assassin, Coppelius shores up the lack of physical damage in the crew. He can go after opponent's scheme runners with his absurd 7 Wk and dismantle them handily with his claws. He can force more Wp tests once he gets into a brawl, but I would suggest holding off on that until he has a stack of eyeballs to buff his Df. His heals and ability to dump Alps onto the field is another asset that makes Coppelius one of my favorite models in the faction. For Pandora, he plays so many roles that her core crew lacks. I can highly recommend him once you've got your baseline models included in the crew.
|Tentacle-Face here is a skilled Eye Surgeon, much to your opponent's displeasure.|
Doppleganger: I don't own this model, and I haven't played with it. It does have a fair bit of utility and average defensive stats, but it is fundamentally a scheme runner. Mimic adds a lot of depth to this model, so all I can say is that it can be as useful as any other model on the board. Having an extra Goody Basket or Carving Knife, or even Teddy's Hug could be the difference between killing a model or not. Be aware that having too many options can sometimes be a bad thing, though. I want to pick up a Doppleganger and give her a spin before I make any more judgement calls, but she looks powerful, if complicated.
Terror Tots: These guys have basically no synergy with Pandora, but in a crew that is generally slow and likes to stay grouped up, the Tots might be what you need to score those schemes that require mobility. That's true for every Neverborn crew, though.
Insidious Madness: Another seasoned scheme runner, the Madness is a model that awkwardly wants to be right in the thick of things. Combined with the Sorrows, the Madness can sweep in and act as a mini Pandora, forcing some wp tests and making it hard for the opponent to cheat. I consider them useful tools, if a little unreliable and squishy. Proper timing on when to bring them in is critical; you want to make sure they can be safe from attacks while still catching enough people in their auras to make it worthwhile. Melee units that have to deal with the Madness' super-terrifying have a pretty hard time hitting it, and ranged units may have to randomize into a melee. Beware casters! One good Ca will delete your poor madness before he reveals all his awful secrets to the enemy.
Lelu and Lilitu: These guys are Woes, and they are pretty flexible ones at that. I haven't had a whole ton of experience with them, but they are useful models for their cost with decent survivability. They have so much synergy between themselves that I feel like I'd need an entire article to cover it all. Suffice to say that going with Lilitu and pumping the positive flip buff makes Lelu incredibly scary. One trick you can do is to have Lelu use his Vampiric Bite on Lilitu and have them both heal off the damage, essentially giving Lelu free healing. Lilitu's Lure is a game changer, and good lures can totally ruin an opponent's plans. Learn to love the Lure. Apart from just being all-around solid models, they don't synergize too strongly with Pandora.
Widow Weaver: This henchman has a bit of synergy with Pandora, dumping webs everywhere to make sure that people have an even harder time succeeding on willpower tests. I haven't played with her, though I very much want to. If you've had good experiences with the Weaver, tell us about them in the comments!
|It helps that the model is wonderfully bizarre|
Fears Given Form: Guess who else has a 3 inch engagement range and solid defensive stats!
That's right, it's Candy! Having Candy and Pandora standing 3.1 inches from each other means that any enemy unit you catch in between them is going to suffer. beating one Df 14 duel is hard enough, but two requires a lot of luck or all the good cards in your opponents hand. Remember to activate her before any friends you have standing within her engagement range, then walking her so the friendlies are out of harm's way. The units only suffer damage when they activate inside the bubble.
Depression: Besides giving everyone else the ability to use Melancholy, which is really, really helpful, Delight in Despair can make Candy's Wail and Goody Basket way more reliable. Most people use it to ensure Rams for multiple Goody Baskets.
Best Behavior: If I have Candy in the middle of a fight, threatening people with Sweets, Sours, and Fears Given Form, it usually isn't a good idea to have her bounce out to the deployment zone. In theory you could use it to stop someone from getting points on Breakthrough or some such. Bat Eyelashes can be useful if Candy is staring down Lady J or some other horrible kiddie diddler that wants to take her out, but you may be able to get away with a defensive stance or two. You can't take FGF, Depression, AND Best Behavior, so consider carefully what each upgrade does for you and who you are facing before you plop her on the table. This upgrade is my third choice for her two slots, just because as a henchman with good stats, she won't usually need a whole lot more help beyond soulstones to keep her up.
Turf War is where Pandora really shines. Her mechanics punish the opponent for grouping up, so you can just sit right on the Turf Marker and obliterate anyone that wanders into the radius of pain. Reckoning is likewise a strength for Pandora, since she can be so lethal. I would recommend bringing models that can help draw enemy units into the death bubble, like Beckoners, Teddy, or maybe Kade to Lure models that won't come close on their own. However, do note that Sorrows are super easy to kill. Keep them safe, or don't bring them. If there isn't a lot of good cover to hide behind, consider bringing a Stitched Together for Creepy Fog, or some other unit that can body block the Sorrows like Graves or Waldgeists. Reconnoiter is probably Pandora's weakest Strategy, simply because it goes against the natural inclination of her mechanics. Squatter's rights is iffy, but you can sweep your death bubble horizontally along the center line and leave a series of claimed markers behind you, killing all the while. Stake a Claim may require bringing in fast scheme runners like Tots and Coppelius to deal with your opponent spreading out.
In terms of Schemes Pandora and co. really excel when they don't need to split up or move around too terribly much. Keep an eye out for Assassinate, Bodyguard, Plant Evidence, Entourage, Make Them Suffer, Deliver a Message, Murder Protege, and occasionally Line in the Sand. Murder is one of Pandora's strong points, so be sure to leverage that.
There you have it: Pandora's toolbox of emotional trauma, and how to leverage it effectively.
If you think my analysis is good, comment and chime in! If you think my analysis sucks, tell me why below! Any other Masters you'd like me to do a write up on? Take a look at my Lynch article if you're looking for more ways to make your opponents cry. As always, if you want constant new content on gaming, follow Sprites and Dice's Twitter or Facebook page.