User Content Wednesday – Welcome to Malifaux: A 40k defectors guide

A looooong time ago, 40k for the New Professional had a different URL.  There was lots of great content including a very cool series about the interchange of ideas between IRL and the games we play.  Then Google ate everything without any explanation and he was never able to retrieve it.   It was a pretty sad day.  The House of Paincakes flag was flown at half mast.  But not the US flag since that’d be a little extreme.

Anyway, as you can imagine the wind kind of left the Kennedy’s sails even with the registration of a new domain and for a fresh start.  What follows was always one of my favorite posts that was miraculously saved by Google Reader.  I hope re-posting this article, in some small way, puts some of the aforementioned wind back in the aforementioned sails of the aforementioned Kennedy.

Note:  Kennedy, I have a ton of your old stuff bunged away, so let me klnow if you need it.

So, a comment by SinSynn really sparked the idea for this post.
After reading his comment about how he might “defect” partially, I had
the thought that there are probably loads of you out there who might
really like some information about how to actually start up in Malifaux.
There’s some stuff about it out there, but nothing terribly cohesive.
Thus, I have taken it upon myself to write up something that might
approach a guide to Malifaux.
I’ll be starting
really basic and moving forward from there, so feel free to skip ahead
when you read something you already know.
obvious first place to start is the basic premise. Malifaux is set in a
steam punk wild west horror setting. Yeah, sounds weird at first, but it
all fits, bizarre as that sounds. The game uses cards instead of dice
to determine the effects. Typically, you engage in duels, where one of
your piece’s characteristics + the value of a card flip is pitted
against one of your opponent’s piece’s characteristics + the value of a
card flip. The difference in the result determines your victory (and the
degree of success).

So, an example: Your Death
Marshall (a zombie hunting law enforcement officer) wants to shoot at a
Rotten Belle (a zombie hooker). Your Death Marshall has a CB of 5 (it’s
basically your ballistic skill). He flips an 8. His total is 13 to hit.
The Belle has a defense value of 3. The Belle flips a 9. Her total is a
12. Thus, the Death Marshall is currently hitting.
is where the next big thing comes in. In most duels, you get a chance
to Cheat Fate (play a card out of your hand to replace the one you
flipped). So, in my example, if the player with the Belle had a high
card in his hand, he could cheat it in so the Death Marshall wouldn’t
Those are the true basics. If anyone is
really interested, I’ll be more than glad to post more about how duels
work, Twists of Fate and various other more complicated gameplay issues
that can really become tactical issues. With what I just posted, I
mainly wanted to show that the game isn’t really that much different (in
some ways) than other wargames you may have played.
I’d like to embark on the actuall things you’ll need for a game of
Malifaux. First, you’ll of course want some models, you’ll also want the
Rules Manual (which is a condensed version of the rules with recent FAQ
and errata changes incorporated, it’s $15), a deck (either a regular
Malifaux deck that runs $7.50ish, the plastic Puppet Deck that is like
$10ish or a cheapo pack of regular playing cards will work, although
regular playing cards are going to require reference to a chart in the
book, as Wyrd has changed the basic suits), something to keep track of
how many Soulstones you have (dice or beads or any small thing will
work) and some terrain. Most of that is self-explanatory. What is not
self-explanatory is the factions and starter boxes. Thus, here is where I
shall spend quite a bit of time.
There are 5
basic factions: Guild, Resurrectionists, Arcanists, Neverborn and
Outcasts. In the Guild, Resurrectionists, Arcanists and Neverborn
factions, most of the pieces play well together, and you can use
basically anything you like together with more or less synergy. The
Outcasts become a bit more complicated, but I’ll save that for a moment.
you play a game of Malifaux, you declare base faction first before
deploying terrain and deciding on mission. It is only after that when
you actually pick the pieces that will make up your crew. Thus, the game
rewards you for having lots of pieces within one particular faction.
That way, you can tailor your list to the task at hand. This was, for
me, the biggest stumbling block coming from 40k. You typically cannot
make a “take all comers” list and be done. You have to consider the
impact each mission will have on your crew and whether or not you can
complete it.
Now, much like Warmachine, the
starter boxes are playable straight out of the box. Each starter box
comes equiped with a Master (your leader, typically a powerful piece)
and several minions that work fairly well with that Master. Boxes range
from 4-7 miniatures and from 15 to 25ish points. Theoretically the
“Starter box level” is 25 points, but several boxes are a few point shy
of that. Regardless, for your first few games a starter box vs. another
starter box is balanced enough.
If I were going
to make a recommendation for those new to the game, I would say this:
Pick a faction where you like the models for several of the different
boxes and then buy one or two boxes. One box will get you started. Two
boxes will let you expand a little past that and give you a few options.
Either way, the initial buy in will be around $60-$80. Not bad,
especially considering that you can realistically play at the 25 point
level for quite a while.
[Note: To fully “flesh
out” any particular crew will run you maybe $50-$75 more, depending on
the crew. Some will be much more or much less. I will point out which
crews are generally more expensive further on.]
so here’s where I’ll go through and explain each of the factions
(basically) followed by a description of the Masters/Henchmen within
that faction, the level of difficulty and expense of each.
Guild: The law enforcement of Malifaux. Generally, they are the most
straightforward faction. They tend to have Masters who are anti- one of
the other forces in the game. Most of the pieces that work well with one
Master will work just as well with another. You’ll also find you need
relatively fewer pieces to play compared to other factions. Generally,
they like shooting.
Sonnia Criid: The
anti-mage. She has lots of abilities geared towards screwing over magic
users. However, she’s also a capable mage herself. An easy to learn
master where you’ll only really “need” a few other pieces.
Justice: Anti-undead. She has lots of abilities geared towards stopping
Resurrectionists from making zombies. She’s also a close combat
monster. She’s fully capable of destroying any piece in the game with
only a few attacks. Again, she’s easy to learn and doens’t need very
many additional pieces.
Perdita Ortega: The
Neverborn hunter. She and her family are all about shooty. They are
another quick to learn faction with relatively straightforward
abilities. Again, cheap to use as you won’t want that many additional
C. Hoffman: The Construct master. He
needs additional pieces out of the box, as he only comes with 16 points
worth :( In general, he’s a bit trickier than some of the other Guild
Masters. However, he’s not so difficult that you couldn’t start with
him. Because of his low starting points total, he’s a bit more expensive
to play.
Lucius: The Henchman (Henchmen can
lead their own crews or be added to a Master’s crew). He’s all about
buffing the normal Guild pieces you can take, specifically Guardsmen and
pieces that are part of the Elite Division. He’s a bit trickier to
learn and a bit more expensive (he wants lots of relatively cheap guys).
The first part of the horror element of Malifaux. Resurrectionists
generally focus on… well… zombies (with some exception). Most
Resurrectionists pieces work very well with each other, just like the
Guild. Because some of the Masters can summon new pieces into the game,
you may need extra models compared to some of the other factions. Close
combat and spells are the order of the day here.
The serial killer. Seamus is a survivable toolbox of a Master. He’s the
least capable summoner of the Resurrectionists, but he makes up for
that with his variety of other skills. Seamus is decent at shooting,
close combat and spell slinging. Where he really excells, however, is in
making himself more Terrifying than he already is and scaring your
opponents’ models. Generally the cheapest Resurrectionist and a decently
easy Master to learn.
McMourning: Dr.
Frankenstein himself. While Seamus is the survivable combat Master,
McMourning is very killy in combat and a decent summoner. He has a
limited summoning palette to draw from, but he can pop up in your
opponent’s face, slicing and dicing before using pieces he’s cut from
other models to knit together a monstrous creation. A bit more expensive
than Seamus but still relatively straightforward.
The Necromancer. Nicodem is physically weak, but he has spells and
summoning to make up for it. He can summon just about any undead model
in the game, so if you want to take advantage of that abiility you’ll be
spending a bit of money on him. He’s of intermediate difficulty to
learn due to a few tricks. Still, not a bad Master to start with.
The Spirit master. Kirai is the only Resurrectionist who does not focus
on Zombies. Instead, she uses Spirits. She’s another summoning master,
so again, she’ll cost a bit. She’s also a more difficult Master to
learn. She has lots of tricks and nuance that can be lots of fun but
also quite daunting for a new player. The other downside to Kirai is
that her pieces don’t work all that well with some of the others in the
faction, so using her and another Resurrectionist can become quite
Molly: The Henchman… err… Henchwoman… Well, she’s not out yet, so I have little to say here.
Organized crime in Malifaux, a loose syndicate of rogue mages.
Generally, this faction feels a little more fractious than some of the
others. The models have a disparate look, and it sometimes seems very
obvious that certain pieces work best with certain Masters. Thus, while
theorectically having a heavy magic focus (due to the theme), each
Master plays quite differently.
Ramos: The
Steampunk engineer. Ramos is another construct heavy Master (like C.
Hoffman from the Guild). In fact the two can use some of each other’s
pieces. While Hoffman is more of a support Master, Ramos can create
additional steampunk spiders on the battlefield and cast direct damage
spells. Ramos isn’t particularly complicated or expensive, making him a
good first Master.
Marcus: The Beastmaster.
Marcus can hire any beast from any faction, making him a slightly more
expensive option. He likes to play a kind of hit and run guerilla
warfare game with high speed minions who can’t afford to be hit. He’s
widely considered to be quite underpowered compared to the rest of the
field, so he’s a little bit of a challenge to use effectively.
The Ice Witch. Rasuptina is the very definition of a spell slinger. She
wants to hide out of sight and cast spells through her minions (think
like Arc Nodes in Warmachine). She’s not terribly complex, nor does she
need that many pieces. However, she is one of the slowest Masters in the
game. Thus, you should beware of that limitation (especially because
many of the missions rely on mobility).
The Showgirl. Colette is a tricky, tricky Master. She has lots of rules
and requires finesse to play correctly. She’s all about movement and
magic that creates movement. Not a lot of direct damage or even damage
potential. That said, a full Colette crew is realistically very cheap,
as you can almost actually assemble a “take all comers” list. I wouldn’t
recommend her to a beginner, but she’s very good for a second Master.
Kaeris: The Henchwoman… who is also not out, so… Yeah.
The Monsters in Malifaux. The Neverborn are semi-fractious with plenty
of pieces that work best with one Master or another, yet they also have
enough pieces that are general purpose that they can be a relatively
inexpensive faction to play. While some Neverborn like close combat,
they have lots of tricks as well.
Lilith: The
Mother of Monsters. A close combat expert to match Lady Justice from the
Guild. Lilith is the most straightforward Neverborn Master. She like
close combat and she likes other minions who like close combat. She has a
few tricks, but they’re all geared towards getting her and her minions
into close combat. Sense a theme 😉 ? She’s a good place to start and
not terribly expensive.
Pandora: Mistress of
the Mind. Pandora doesn’t really want to hurt you… she’d rather you
hurt yourself! Pandora is all about mind tricks and using Willpower
duels to debuff or destroy the enemy. She’s one of the trickiest Masters
in the game. She’s also relatively cheap to run. She’s not a bad pick
for a secondary Master, but she’s diffficult for beginners.
The Swamp Hag. Zoraida is a bizarre Master in some ways. She can
recruit any model that has a Willpower of 4 or less. This allows her to
have an enormous crew selection. Thus, she can be expensive. She doesn’t
have to be, however. Zoraida doesn’t depend on her crew, and typically
will be off on her own while her crew is elsewhere. She’s a spellcaster,
but it’s hard to pin down a style for her. She’s of intermediate
difficulty to learn.
The Dreamer/Lord Chompy
Bits: The child master of Nightmares and his Nightmare companion. One of
the more insular Masters. He wants only Nightmare-type minions in his
crew so he can play the game of hiding them off the table and them
making them pop up in your line. He plays like 40k Daemons wish they
could. Unfortunately, he’s quite complicated. He’s easily one of the
most complex Masters in the game. Not terribly expensive, however.
The Pupeteer. The Neverborn Henchman (Henchmen can lead their own crews
or be added to a Master’s crew). He is yet another complicated but
cheap choice. He wants only Dolls (thus limiting your selection), but he
requires much nuance to play. He focuses on using his dolls to pull him
across the board (via the strings on his Marionettes) while he buffs
the dolls so they can kill the hell out of you.
Outcasts: The Outcasts aren’t a cohesive faction. Instead, I’ve been
told to think of them as 4 disparate smaller factions. This makes them
make so much more sense. Each of those smaller factions has its own
special hiring restrictions, which can make them daunting at first.
Let’s dive in.
The Mercenaries
Viktorias: The Mercenary women. They like to smash things. Hard.
They’re good at close combat and that’s what they do. They’re not
terribly difficult to learn. However, you will want to buy additions to
the starter box almost immediately. Once you buy some of those things,
tou aren’t buying much else. The Viks like to have an “Elite” force with
a very few, very good models.
Von Schill: The
Mercenary Captain. A Henchman (Henchmen can lead their own crews or be
added to a Master’s crew). Von Schill is an action hero. He’s the only
model in the game that can lead a crew but has no spells. He’s good at
ranged and close combat, plus he brings with him his Friekorps, good
Mercenary troopers. He works well on his own or with the Viks.
The Desolate and Soulless
One of the most complicated and expensive Masters in the game.
Leveticus can use any Undead or Constructs from any faction. That’s a
lot of models. Leveticus focuses on making things dead, including
himself. However, Leveticus will resurrect himself every turn, unlike
your opponent’s models. Very powerful but very, very difficult to learn.
The Plagued
the Plagued: The control master. If you’ve ever played Magic, I’d
equate Hamelin to a Blue deck. Hamelin is all about making your
opponent’s models unable to target him. At all. Then, he swarms you with
rats. He’s got a very limited crew selection (so cheapish), but a very
steep learning curve.
The Bayou Gremlins
Teeth Jones: The Gremlin Master. Slightly tricky. He likes to let his
cheap minions do the fighting and the dying. He’ll hide out until an
opportunity presents itself for him to pop out and do massive damage. In
general, he’s a bit trickier of a Master. Gremlins are like 40k Orks
that doen’t suck with a good dose of hillbilly tossed in.
The Gremlin Henchwoman (Henchmen can lead their own crews or be added
to a Master’s crew). She and her family are a parody of Perdita Ortega
and the Ortega family. Thus, she’s very shooty. Again, she’s a Gremlin,
so… think Ork level insanity. She’s much easier to start with than
Som’er, so she’s a good introduction to Gremlins.
that was long. Very long. I’ll try to simplify things a bit. In
Malifaux you have 4 types of Masters (generally): Close combat Masters,
Ranged combat Masters, Support casting Masters and Combat casting
Close combat Masters: Lady J, Seamus (somewhat), McMorning, Lilith, Lord Chompy Bits, the Viks, Von Schill
Ranged combat Masters: Perdita, Ophelia
Support casting Masters: C. Hoffman, Lucius, Seamus (somewhat), Nicodem, Kirai, Ramos, Marcus, Colette, the Dreamer, Collodi
Combat casting Masters: Sonnia Criid, Rasputina, Pandora, Leveticus, Hamelin, Som’er Teeth
hopefully that was helpful. If not, it was just long 😉 Of course, some
of this (or all of this) could be wrong. But, hopefully it’ll be
helpful to someone.

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