A Damn Expensive Hobby…Or Is It? – Part 4 – Malifaux

As it’s just undergone a major overhaul we’ll have a look at Malifaux…

Though in the case of ‘Skirmish’ scale games it’s more difficult to make direct comparisons with Games Workshops current systems it’s worth noting that in the past they actually did a number of games with smaller model counts. They had Necromunda and Mordheim amongst others and they had a number of rule-sets for their systems geared towards low points values including rules for campaigns involving Warbands in Warhammer Fantasy and Combat Patrol for 40K (which some people locally still play, actually).

Though these systems were half heartedly supported (if at all) some of them were a lot of fun and even fairly well balanced (broadly speaking, that is) and if we ignore skirmish type games in this series then we’re going to bypass a significant number of quality systems, characterful models and also a group of games that generally have a low buy in. Therefore despite their lack of a direct comparative system we can still compare skirmish games to Games Workshop systems in the areas of game balance, model quality, background material and the relative cost of starting a system. Whether your using five models or a hundred and five certain concepts cross-over…concepts such as “Is this fun?” for example…

Rule-set and Game-play.

The rulebook itself is laid out well with each section in a logical order as well as having some fairly self explanatory diagrams in each section in order to further illustrate the rules discussed in that entry. There’s artwork and small bits of background material throughout with some appropriate stories relating to each faction before their section in the book

For those of you not aware of the fact, Malifaux uses a deck of cards rather than dice which gives the system a unique feel. A standard 54 card deck (you need a Red and a Black Joker) can be used though you’ll need to convert the playing card suits to the ones that Malifaux uses (there’s a conversion chart in the rulebook for those people not using an ‘official’ Malifaux deck). This is obviously a significant difference from most systems and is very different from how Games Workshop generates it’s random values but it’s something you’ll quickly get used to…flipping a ‘1’ is exactly as annoying as rolling a ‘1’ given the same ‘trying to hit something’ situation.

The actual game mechanics are fairly simple and Malifaux 2nd Edition has made significant improvement in the rule-set. Each model has a number of ‘Action Points’ that can be spent on either generic Actions (Walk, Charge, etc.) or specific Attack or Tactical Actions from their stat card. Each action has a starting value to which the value of the card is added (Sh for shooting, Ml for Melee and Ca for casting) and in the case of spells and such there will be a target number (TN) to reach. These attacks are defended against by flipping a card and adding it to the value of either Defence (Df) or Willpower (WP) depending on the type of attack. Rather helpfully all these stats are included on the models card in the section appropriate for the ability.

The difference between your value and that of your opponent (if you equal or beat it, that is) decides how many cards you flip for damage and whether you pick the highest (a ‘positive’ flip) or the lowest (a ‘negative’ flip) and the value of the card will relate to either a Weak, Moderate or Severe set of damage from the attack or in some cases you’ll simply have some condition inflicted upon you. This is the only aspect of the system that people have trouble with as it’s quite different from the method used by most game systems but becomes second nature after a turn or two.

As the first wave of Beta testing was very intensive system balance is spot-on and the models not covered in the first wave are currently being beta tested as we speak and I expect the result of that to be just as well balanced. As certain models have synergy with one another your selection will have an impact on the effectiveness of your force but generally the deciding factor is player skill.

Model Quality.

There are very few models in the range that I don’t like but that’s generally a matter of personal taste rather than an issue with the models themselves. Wyrd Games are currently in the process of updating all their crews to new plastic versions with the current plan being to release two each month. If your interested in looking at the new plastics or even some of the old metal models then there’s an extensive selection of unboxing articles here which cover many of the old starter sets and all the new plastic ones amongst other things…there’s also some assembly notes in there.

Some of the models do admittedly have a few twiddly bits on them to assemble but as your dealing with such a small model count it’s not that significant an issue as it would be assembling thirty identical ones with the same problem. The new plastics also lack any of the issues sometimes encountered with the use of resin and have none of the issues we’ve come to expect from the now notorious ‘Finecast’ material recently introduced by Games Workshop. The poses are also very dynamic and characterful though this can occasional create issues with transportation…

Good luck transporting this guy in a standard carrying case slot…

…though I suppose this is a small price to pay for such dynamic models…


Considering the number of genres covered in the system the background actually manages to make this melting pot of steam-punk, cowboys, ninjas, horror and comedy gremlins seem entirely plausible. There are a number of decent background stories in the original four books for version 1.5 and this quality is continued in the new Malifaux 2nd Edition in which each of the factions gets an appropriate story at the start of the section and each unit entry gets a bit of history of it’s own. The 2nd edition book is self contained so you don’t need to buy the others to understand what’s going on but being as they’re now obsolete from a rules point of view you might be able to pick them up cheap. They also periodically release a free to download magazine called ‘Wyrd Chronicles’ that contains additional background material and an interesting article or two though it’s release schedule is somewhat random. It can be downloaded from this page should you be interested.

When compared to other companies such as Games Workshop or Privateer Press the amount of material available is inevitably going to be of significantly smaller quantities. However Wyrd’s upcoming ‘Through the Breach’ RPG system contains vast amounts of background material on the world of Malifaux and how the world works in this alternate reality and this will hopefully fill in some of the gaps. As is to be expected Malifaux can’t compete with the quantity of background material but in my opinion at least it competes quite well in the area of quality of said material.


I’d like to purchase a Space Marine please…..

A skirmish level game using a small quantity of models is inevitably going to be cheaper to start than one that requires hundreds but as we’re talking about the relative costs for starting each new system covered in these articles then we obviously need to mention it.

The rule-book for Malifaux retails at around the £25-£30 mark depending on where you purchase it and the Crew Starter Boxes are about the same. Each crew box contains all the models, stat cards and upgrade cards necessary to play a game though you’ll need an opponent with his (or her) own starter set and each of you will need a deck of cards (about £4.50). Rather helpfully all the models that gained new rules in Wave 1 have had cards released for them in what they refer to as ‘Arsenal Boxes’ so you can buy a box for your faction that will enable you to use even an existing crew not yet re-released in your games. Ones for Wave 2 (everything else not covered already) will be released early next year after the 2nd lot of Beta testing is done and those will get their own Arsenal Boxes also.

If your comparing it to Games Workshops (now unsupported) skirmish games from the past it was probably equivalent in price and is equivalent to other companies own skirmish systems. When comparing it to starting up any of Games Workshops current systems then it’s obviously cheaper by a massive margin indeed.

My own conclusion would inevitably have contained a lot of mentions of zombie hookers so I’ve left the conclusion this week to another author as an alternate viewpoint to my own though if he actually agrees with me I suppose that’ll be a bonus, lol. As usual any alternate opinions gathered for these articles are completely unedited as that would defeat the object of calling them alternate now wouldn’t it…

“For my money there are few systems that come close to Malifaux on rules. A light fast skirmish game with depth to build on; tactics and crew configurations, I would stand it next to the likes of Warmachine and Warhammer and it could hold its own. It’s cards and triggers while complex at first are in fact the depth to what I feel is one of the most streamline and innovative systems currently available. With the move to Malifaux 2E I think this has only improved.

Malifaux has always had exquisite models, maybe not always to everyone taste but quality none the less. Also the sheer range of factions and archetypes present in Malifaux means there’s usually a little something for everybody. (See previous posts from GMort on undead hooker love.)

The new plastic miniatures Wyrd have released so far have taken Malifaux’s miniatures to a whole new level surpassed by none in my opinion and equalled by very few. Games Workshop is one of the companies that from time to time can equal the quality of Wyrd, but this is becoming rarer and rarer. Also factor in the cost of £25 for a Malifux crew of seven or so models all of which are stunning to £20 odd for five Dire Avengers – great models but in serious need of some love.

I mentioned earlier that Malifaux has moved to a new edition, much like 40k has done recently and even the last fantasy rules switch wasn’t too long ago. For both these momentous occasions in the games histories arrived GW dropped them on us from a great height with a great smug smile. As evidenced by the people jumping from the good ship Warhammer the fans didn’t like this. Wyrd as a company do it right giving beta rules to the customers to test and break to strengthen their system, allowing those who will vote later with their wallets to voice their opinions giving them the game they want not the one they were just given.”

– Citizen Williams

He mentioned zombie hookers…that means I’m allowed to show a picture of some…

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.

My Facebook page also has regular posts on various things (not just Malifaux though I write about it a lot) and for more of my barely coherent rantings feel free to check out my blog here.

Or drop me an e-mail at [email protected]

You may also like...