Master Spotlight: Parker Barrows
by Alex Vian · Published · Updated
Hello again! It’s been awhile since I sat down and wrote anything, including a battle report, game report, or anything of the sort. Whether it was speed-playing (and speed-painting) to prepare for the Renegade Open (where I finished in the middle of the table in the face of a slowly played first round and an unfortunate mistake by yours truly in the third round) or hosting the ever-improving Lecture Notes from the Breach podcast over at Midwest Wargaming, I’ve just been to busy with my extracurriculars to get things written down.
Referenced many times throughout my battle reports has been my previous quest to prepare an all-comers list for the newest Outcasts master. Accordingly, I’m now well over 30 games with Parker Barrows, and I’m going to break down both the Master himself and the best models to include in a crew with him, including the nearest thing to an All-Comers list you can build for him.
To get in the proper Parker mindset, you need to dial up the wayback jukebox before proceeding.
Parker Barrows himself brings incomparable flexibility to the game of Malifaux. His signature ability is undoubtedly the ability to discard upgrades for positive effects (plus a soul stone), then reattach any of his restricted upgrades. There was a taste of this mechanic from the Ten Thunders’ Shen Long, but Parker’s is less limited and more powerful, albeit, slightly more costly, than Shen Long’s stance-swapping condition shenanigans.
Parker Barrows’s limited upgrades include an obey to have an ally model take an interact and an obey to have an enemy take a shot, and both provide bulletproof and a trigger which occurs when an upgrade is discarded—which happens often with Parker. If you get a mask on the obey action, you’ll get a trigger which allows Parker to use the 0 action on his card immediately.
His restricted upgrades include a tactical action to force an enemy to give you one of their precious soulstones (this upgrade can also be discarded for a free walk action at either the beginning or end of his turn), the ability to toss out hazardous terrain (a.k.a soft cover), an upgrade that turns a scheme marker into a 3 damage box of dynamite, and the ability to just shoot everyone engaged in a melee (sorry, tarpits!).
In addition to his restricted and limited upgrades, Parker gets great usage out of starting the game with Oathkeeper, as discarding it allows him to immediately recover a soulstone to use to add an upgrade later in the turn. On a key turn, you can easily give Parker “fast” (via Oathkeeper), 4 AP (because fast), two 0 actions (an obey on one of his fellow bandits and then adding on Stick Up) and an extra walk action (via Stick Up) to retreat him to safety. That’s 7 things on a key turn – be it attacks, moving your units into key positions, or accomplishing a scheme all on your lonesome!
Parker’s ability to discard upgrades for extra damage also means you can really capitalize on a severe damage flip to one-shot an opponent’s key model, making him a bit of a ranged assassin in a pinch, though he does a great job at mowing through your opponent’s minions with his built-in positive twist to attacks. In one game, however, I managed to one-round the notoriously difficult to kill Freikorps leader Von Schill with Parker Barrows without the assistance of a Red Joker. Use of this trigger can leave you upgrade-shy on the next turn, but if you’re killing an important enough model, this is obviously worth it, as you can just load back up on upgrades over the next few turns.
Obviously, Parker has great synergy with bandits, though as a new keyword, there aren’t that many bandits in the game. The complete bandit roster, outside of Parker himself, is Mad Dog Brackett, Bandido, Dead Bandit, and the Wokou Raider. Luckily, Parker is going to bring a few bandits along so you can maximize both Parker and his bandits during your game.
Surprisingly, Parker isn’t as resource-dependent as you’d think, in terms of soulstone cache or cards, though he can certainly become so if you push for certain objectives. His ability to draw a card when an enemy dies within 6″ of him (and keep that card, if a bandit killed that enemy!) helps him hold onto his cards, and the positive twists on attacks available to his crew mean that often, aside from equipping upgrades and the odd initiative reflip or defensive stone use, Parker crews aren’t very demanding on soulstone counts. At the end of his activation, the ability to pitch cards to steal your enemy’s scheme markers allows for a great use for poor non-Masks (due to defensive triggers on his Bandidos) and black jokers.
If there is one drawback to Parker, it’s that he has little in the way of defenses, outside of a high wound count and not having much other use for soulstones. His limited upgrades give him bulletproof 1, but it isn’t rocket science to figure out that you need to get in close to a shooting list to shut them down. His values in Def and Wp are both exactly average for a Master, as well, making his defensive abilities rely heavily on other models passing traits out.
For the next segment, I’m going to break the Outcast models which I recommend bringing with Parker into a few groups: The Essentials, The Big Models, Unique Names, and Generic Minions:
Sue – The Man in Black is undoubtedly the MVP of the entire Outcasts faction at 8 soul stones, and it’s no different in a Parker Barrows crew. I’ve never left him at home with Parker Barrows, and never have I wished I had. An 8 Soulstone Enforcer with a positive twist on attacks who is immune to horror duels and can one-shot a totem would be good enough, before you add on his 0-action flexibility and the ability to draw a card at the end of his activation. Sue is the first Outcast I put in every list, with either Oathkeeper or Return Fire as an upgrade on him, depending on the strategy and schemes.
Dead Outlaw – These minions are clutch, and any Parker list should bring at least one. It’s a great target for Parker’s 0-action obeys from his limited Highwayman upgrade, as the Dead Bandit’s cursed collier pistol is full of fantastic triggers on the attack. Likewise, great use can be had by Parker and the Bandido’s triggers causing enemy scheme markers to drop on the attack, as an injured Dead Bandit can gobble those up to heal back up. A tandem of Parker slightly behind a Dead Bandit (which also seems incredibly lore-appropriate for how Parker would use a gun-toting zombie) can have a minion absorb a lot of hits for the fragile Parker.
Big Models here means high soulstone cost, henchmen, or big based models. It’s not a great line in the sand, but it’s how I group these models in my mind. For Parker, the inclusion of any of these models is purely situational, based on the terrain, scheme pool, and strategy. Occasionally, you’ll find yourself taking none of these models
Mad Dog Brackett – First we’ll cover the Bandit Henchman, whose synergy with Parker is very clear from the get go, and who comes in Parker’s box. Like most other bandits, he is Bulletproof 1. He totes around a fantastic shotgun, with blasts and pushes available. Also clutch for Mad Dog is his 0-action, which allows him to place a marker which removes cover on Sh attacks for models within 3 inches as he uses his shotgun to temporarily remove an area of cover from the board (though if he uses it again, the previous marker goes away, so it’s not perfect if you’re looking for realism in your Steampunk/Demon/Magic/Undead skirmish game). He gets an upgrade that gives him Hard to Kill and which he can discard at any time to gain +1 focus. As a henchman, you can soulstone to protect him as well, though I generally do not. Mad Dog Brackett drops friendly scheme markers upon killing enemy models instead of dropping enemy ones on a tomes trigger. This does make certain strategies even easier for Parker than they were already. A reliable choice in any Parker crew, I’ve found he’s particularly helpful against other Outcasts, Ten Thunders, and Gremlins lists. A great choice for Henchman Hardcore, as well, with a 4 soulstone cache when he’s leading a crew.
Envy – The Crossroads 7’s organist has clear synergy with Parker and the scheme markers that will be dropping all over the place. He patiently waits for his new friends to drop scheme markers near enemies by shooting them, then opens up with his gatling guns and mows those enemies down. Manipulative as well, Envy pairs well with several other models who are often chosen that would prefer to go early in the turn, such as Sue and occasionally Parker himself. In addition, Envy can pass around focus as a 0 action – either giving it to himself or your other primary damage dealers. Envy is great at strategies and schemes where the enemy is going to be rewarded by clumping up, either through his tome-blast triggers on his gatling guns doing damage outright, or the mask trigger on his guns causing your enemies to kill each other for you!
Hodgepodge Emissary – Yes, he doesn’t have a limited upgrade like the other Outcast masters. But what the Emissary’s standard upgrade brings to Parker is outstanding – positive twists on all duels in a bubble is great, and the casting attack on the Emissary will help Parker deal with pesky incorporeal critters his bullets just pass through mostly harmlessly. Trinkets as well can give a heavy hitter reactivate on a last turn, companion activations, or a hard to kill model regenerate to turn them into a tank. The Emissary certainly has a great role in a Parker list. Great to use against Ressers, Neverborn, or other Outcasts, or any other time you suspect models with incorporeal to be around.
Aionus – Aionus seems like a great model to bring with Parker, as a bunch of fast Bandidos, Johans, and Big Jakes can be a lot of fun. But Aionus is a very card-intensive Henchman, and Parker is already a card-intensive Master (usually pitching them to steal scheme markers from your opponent.) Having said that, Aionus also brings a Casting Attack and Slow, and isn’t a particularly POOR option for Parker, though not a great one.
Taelor – For Outcasts, Taelor has one role: smashing Resurrectionists. That’s no different for a Parker crew, where her ‘Welcome to Malifaux’ action is incredibly welcome, as well as her Relic Hammer. I suppose if you expect a Shenlong or Dreamer matchup, Taelor is also welcome. TL; DR: Bring her if you expect a Summoner or a Tyrant. You’ll be sad if you didn’t.
Ashes and Dust – “A&D” is one of the Outcasts’ MVP models, as ‘the’ super scheme runner in the Game. A&D Dominates a flank on its own, and is all but impossible to kill. That said, I haven’t hired him in a Parker crew yet, and haven’t felt his loss, as I think Bandidos do an excellent job out on the flank in their own right, and I prefer the extra activations. Without the ability to summon in and catch up on Activations, A&D just seems like a ‘good stuff’ option without adding a lot to a Parker Barrows Crew.
Hans – Malifaux’s premiere sniper and ultimate Mercenary is a welcome addition to any Parker Barrows crew. Shooting upgrades off your enemies is always fun, and an incredibly long focused shot is very welcome – particularly if you can get a vantage point in your deployment zone to really break him. His errata upgrade makes him particularly clutch, though I would recommend extreme caution with burning cards to make sure that focus goes off outside of the first turn. A first turn focused shot on an enemy Henchman or Enforcer from Hans which knocks off a key upgrade is a personal favorite play of mine.
Big Jake – Big Jake is an extraordinary hire for any scheme marker heavy scheme pool, as a 5 point enforcer with Don’t Mind Me. He also counts as two models due to his size (hence ‘Big’ Jake) in strategies such as Extraction or Interference. His ability to come back from the dead didn’t often come up under the old Gaining Grounds time limits, but will almost always trigger under the 2017 time rules, allowing for a great charge on turn 5. His attacks aren’t great, but his ability to score points is unmatched in 5 soulstone models across the game.
Johan – A 6 point, self-healing Relic Hammer? Don’t mind if we do! Johan is one of the most soulstone-efficient models in the entire game of Malifaux, and that 3″ range, min damage 3 Relic Hammer is a big reason why. Very rarely is Johan not welcome in any list, let alone a Parker Barrows list.
Doc Mitchell – Parker’s kidnapped Totem, Doc Mitchell either feels like a superstar totem or a waste of soulstones, depending on your opponent. Generally, if I hire Mad Dog Brackett, I’ll hire Doc Mitchell as well, as Doc can keep Mad Dog up and firing, while also being out of sight of Parker Barrows and so able to use his gun attack. He’s also a middling option for Parker’s obey attack, as he won’t get auto-killed if he uses his hidden gun and Parker told him to make an attack. He’s at a great value for soulstones, but I still only find myself running him about 75% of the time, often choosing to forego a totem entirely. Student of Conflict and Malifaux Child don’t do much for Parker, so if you want a totem, Doc Mitchell is your man.
Pride – Early on in my Parker experimentations, I ran Pride a lot. He packs a Ca attack which can force your opponent to discard cards, a melee attack which causes slow, and Manipulative 12, as well as several passive damage abilities. He’s actually quite useful in a Parker Crew where you need to hold territory, as he takes a lot of removing before he actually is taken out.
Lazarus – a Big, armored shooting model who tosses out blasts and can flurry across different models? What a great choice for a model to sit on a claim marker or hold the middle for Parker! Lazarus does all of his Lazarus things in a Parker crew, though there isn’t any added synergy as he’s likely to be the only construct in your crew.
Bandidos – Parker’s thematic minions have, in my opinion, played well above their soulstone cost in most games. Hyper-mobile, they can move-shoot-move (a favorite tactic of mine harkening back to my days playing Pirates of the Cursed Seas), and then also move with a defensive trigger. They’re very hard to pin down in melee, and can throw out focused shots with a decent pistol on the wing. Their end of game scheme marker shenanigans are also usually worth at least one victory point, with particular synergy around the current always include- Claim Jump, which doesn’t remove your opponents’ extra scheme markers, just your own. I’d say that at least one of these minions should be included in most, if not all, Parker lists.
Void Wretches – A great incorporeal scheme runner, Void Wretches can do great things where there’s a lot of terrain on the flanks, or if you’re expecting to face a shooting list. That they have a chance to bury an opponent is a welcome potential bonus, but they’re excellent scheme runner choices even absent that happening.
Freikorps Trapper – Even in faction, this is one of the very best mercenary minions available. Deploying from the Shadows, this sniper has killed many a key model for me in his day, particularly if you can get him parked on top of a vantage point so that nobody can hide from him. 9/10 games, Parker will appreciate having this Trapper available to go early in the round, and he’s one of the very best targets available for high cards in your hand, particularly high Rams.
Freikorps Librarian – Yes, it’s an enforcer and not a minion. But if you don’t want to hire Doc Mitchell and want a more offensive healer, the Freikorps Librarian does a great job in that role. A flurry-casting attack can shred incorporeal models, and Armor +1 is welcome for a crew which otherwise relies very heavily on bulletproof and mobility as its sole defense.
Wokou Raiders – Wokou Raiders shred enemy models in melee, but are otherwise glass and struggle against models with armor. Given their desire to be close to those models they struggle with, I’ve generally found them overcosted for Parker, despite being Bandits. They are particularly effective at shredding Gremlins, and hiring one as an option against that faction can be quite effective. At their point cost, however, Outcasts have many better options for models that work with Parker Barrows.
Hodgepodge Effigy – A significant, mobile source of soft cover is a great way to avoid having your bandits blasted apart by enemy shooting, and it is also a great way to get extra soulstones to buy upgrades for Parker with as he kills off models late in the game.
The All-Comers List
Without further ado, the Parker Barrows All-Comers List, aka ‘Parker Barrows Sniper Swarm,’ a 50 soulstone list.
Parker Barrows + 4 Pool
– Highwayman (1)
– Stick Up (1)
– Hail of Bullets (1)
Doc Mitchell (3)
– Advanced Sight (0)
– Oath Keeper (1)
Dead Outlaw (6)
Freikorps Trapper (6)
Hodgepodge Effigy (4)
The thing I like most about this list is the number of activations and the pair of snipers. 9 models to activate is also quite nice, with none of them a Peon. The models are a bit fragile, but that’s to be expected with all of the other things they bring to the table. And no matter the opponent, you have a little bit of everything ready to go: Card discard, board control, a relic hammer, Sue’s anti-casting bubble, Upgrade discard, and great killers. The only thing your models lack is staying power, but Parker’s rarely going to win a stand-up fight. If it comes down to one of the ‘hold an area in the middle’ maps, you can either keep rolling with this list and put Parker, Sue, and the Effigy in the middle, or swap in Big Jake and another Bandido for Johan and the Hodgepodge Effigy. Either option gives you a fighting chance.
A reformed Warhammer Fantasy player based in the Twin Cities, Alex plays Malifaux, Guild Ball, X-Wing, and Armada. He also is the host of the Malifaux Tactics podcast here at Midwest Wargaming: Lecture Notes from the Breach
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