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Old 03-01-2016, 11:38 PM   #1
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Miniature Games Wankery Thread: Malifaux

Originally Posted by Loki
The game shop I work at is starting Warhammer 40k. Any advice for someone looking to start? Should I cry away my money?
It was then that I realized that Loki was lost to us, for he has chosen to walk a fel path no sane man can follow. We can do naught but pray that when the time comes his tears are sufficient lube.

Also, it's 2016. If you want to get into a hobby that sits slightly above "Erotic Furry Star Trek fanfiction" in nerd acceptability you can do better than Games Workshop these days*.

Some of you (read: on one) may remember a thread I made a few years back for Warmachine, which is one of the largest mainstream-ish miniature games to last in the shadow of the GW juggernaut. Since then several other games have begun to rise in prominence or otherwise come into their own, especially now that there's blood in the water. Want to re-enact the battle of Yavin? There's a game for that. Want to play Ghost in the Shell as reimagined by Spaniards? There's a game for that too. Do you like superheroes? Sorry, Wizkids is concentrated AIDS: try that Batman game instead.

But hey, given how well received the first thread was received, I'd like to talk about my current jam:

What the hell have you gotten into this time?

Malifaux is a 28mm skirmish game set in a Victorian steampunk wild west alternate-past-parallel-dimension where Jack the Ripper and his army of undead prostitutes seeks to add to his harem by "stealing away" the working girls of a casino run by a hapless gambler simultaneously in thrall to the Yakuza and an ancient malevolent entity that gets high by consuming the essence of casino patrons who get high off of said entity's essence.

the fuck

In media res, bitches. Stepping back...

Malifaux takes place in an alternate timeline where magic existed for realsies, but as of the late 1700s that power was beginning to fade and causing no small amount of angst amongst the various wizards whose traditions and spellbooks would be about as useful as a Communist Economics degree after the Berlin Wall fell. Desperate to find a new source of power, mages across the world gathered in the southwest US to enact the greatest spell ever cast in human history, a spell which would tear the veil separating two worlds asunder. A couple minor snafus that killed several thousand people later, they had themselves a Great Breach. On the other side of the Breach they found an ancient city, relatively intact but eerily uninhabited, with shop names like "death surgeon" or "mechanical magics". The nature of human desperation and/or greed being what it is, no one thought any of this was suspicious in the slightest.

This city, the scholars would soon discover, was named Malifaux.

And so, a boomtown sprung up overnight as settlers from all around flocked to the magical goldrush. Miners in the hills surrounding the city soon dug up gems that radiated power, power which could be tapped by even the bumblefuckest mage back on Earth to perform wondrous feats of magic unheard of for centuries. These gems soon received the name "soulstones" for their unsettling ability to recharge themselves when left in the proximity of a dying person**, and everyone was sure that the good times were back.

ahahahahahahaaha no

10 years after opening the Breach, sounds of fighting and slaughter from the Malifaux side crossed over as the portal inexplicably began to shrink. Just before it closed a mutilated body was hurled through, with one word carved into its chest.


Cutoff from its metaphorical dealer, nations across the world got into hobo knife fights with each other in the hopes of securing what stocks of remaining soulstones they could. Into this clusterfuck stepped a society of mages that realized that he who controls the soulstone controls the universe...of Earth.

They called themselves the Guild, and if you guessed that they let the power go to their heads you are correct. Welcome to a steampunk setting that has actual "punk" in it.

100 years (some say to the day) that the Breach closed, it suddenly reopened. The city was, once again, as eerily pristine as it had been when it was discovered over 110 years ago. The Guild moved in to secure the city, but this time someone involved was actually genre savvy and chose to use settlers that no one would actually miss: most new settlers in Malifaux can look forward to a (short) life of indentured servitude while working in the soulstone mines alongside Bowling Ball Bag Bob, hiding out on this side of the Breach to avoid doing time for abuse of a corpse. The Guild in turn keeps this motley assortment of the bottom feeders of humanity in line, ensuring that the soulstones are delivered and their coffers filled.

Because this is a miniature wargame, some people are clearly not happy with this state of affairs and are ready to fight about it. The Arcanists--a motley collection of mages, union workers, and other useful idiots brave proletariat--work to undermine the Guild's control and dip their own hands into the soulstone river of wealth. An eclectic brotherhood of necromancers (of varying levels of individual sanity) calling themselves the "Resurrectionists" seek to perfect their macabre art when they aren't having slapfights over dibs on graveyards. The Ten Thunders (a crime syndicate from the Mysterious Orient™) are seeking to stake their own claim on this new world, and have inserted agents into the other major players to ensure their plans come to fruition. The Neverborn--the native inhabitants who have evolved to survive magical Chernobyl and are about as friendly and welcoming as you might expect--want all these assholes to get off their lawn. And last but not least are the Gremlins, who play banjos and use catapults to launch live pigs at their enemies.

In the midst of this shitshow ominous events are beginning to unfold. The Tyrants--former mortals from the days of Old Malifaux who ascended to godlike power and were subsequently sealed away after predictably letting said power go to their heads--have begun to move to reclaim what was lost during their millennia of imprisonment. But there are other things waking in the deepest dark, things that may very well be to the Tyrants what the Tyrants are to ordinary mortals.

This is Malifaux, and Bad Things Happen.

So tell us why you like this game Edgy McEdgelord

A couple things.

PokerFate Deck

Instead of dice, each player in Malifaux uses a standard 54 card poker deck with 4 suits of 13 cards each (Aces worth 1, face cards worth 11-13) and two jokers representing a critical success (red) and failure (black) respectively. To resolve certain actions you flip a card from the top of your deck: simple actions may only ask you to beat a target number, whereas actions targeting an opponent will require both of you to flip cards and compare the totals. Pretty basic so far, but there are a couple wrinkles.

The first is the control hand, a hand of 6 cards that both players draw at the beginning of each turn. When performing actions you can "cheat fate" (the game's terminology) by placing a card from your hand down to replace a card that you flipped from your deck. This gives you some control over actions you really need to succeed, but the same is true for your opponent: since options to draw cards outside of the beginning of the turn are scarce managing your hand is a careful balancing act.

The second is triggers (the good kind, not the Tumblr kind), and it's time for a picture to break up the TL;DR:

Under the Huntin' Tools and Custom Collier Revolver actions you'll notice some icons with additional rules text: these are card suits (Malifaux uses its own suits of Rams/Tomes/Crows/Masks, but there is a conversion guide if you use a regular deck). If your final duel total (base stat + card) contains the suit in question, you can declare the appropriate trigger for additional effects. Some abilities have the suit built in (Huntin' Tools has the Ram built in for the Critical Strike trigger), but many do not: you can trigger these more reliably with the right cards in hand, but then comes the hard choices between saving your cards for a devastating trigger or using them to bail one of your other models out of certain doom.

All in all, a neat system with a resource management angle that can be refreshing if you have tired of rolling a bucket of dice for a mob of orks in order to kill one space marine.

Scenario and army building

When you sit down to play a game, you flip three cards: the first card determines the main Strategy (an objective that both players are seeking to accomplish) while the next two cards are used to generate a set of 5 Schemes (4 random + 1 fixed, varying from standard wargame objectives like "kill shit" to occupying parts of the board to taking prisoners to literally flash-mobbing your enemy's leaders with a bunch of random minions). Before the beginning of the game both players select two of the available Schemes to pursue in addition to the Strategy. The player who scores the most points from the Strategy and their Schemes wins the game. Many Schemes can also start hidden, allowing you to mindgame your opponent about what you're really after if you play it right.

What's interesting about this is that both players build their crews (lists) after flipping for the Strats and Schemes. One of the great bugbears of wargame balance are magic bullet/counterpick/specialist/etc. models, which may be awesome in their area of expertise but are deadweight the rest of the time. Knowing in advance whether or not these models will be useful actually lets you take them in appropriate situations without feeling like you're gimping yourself. In a larger scale game (40k or even Warmachine) it might be too unwieldy to have all these models around, but in Malifaux a "large" crew is anything over 10 models and you can fit the entirety of most factions inside a small carrying case with room to spare. It also helps that for many Schemes killing models is only a means to an end, not the end itself: this means that models can have uses outside of the narrow "good at killing/tarpitting" axis.

This is boring, you're boring. Tell me about the factions before I decide to go play gay naked dwarves

There are seven main factions in Malifaux: the original big four (Guild/Arcanist/Neverborn/Rezzers) were associated with suits in the deck while a fifth (Outcasts) was a wild card. This has become somewhat more diluted with the addition of two other factions not tied to specific suits (Ten Thunders/Gremlins) but it's still a neat little bit of trivia and triggers for these factions will commonly involve their affiliated suit.

The Guild

Associated with the suit of Rams. The big bureaucratic power in Malifaux, containing the fan favorites of cowboys, anti-magic Gestapo, and angry Mexicans. Some masters (Lady Justice, Perdita) are beloved by the people regardless for their bravery in hunting down the things that go bump in the night, while the leader of the anti-magic Gestapo (Sonnia Criid) has yet to learn that turning random civilians who inexplicably start farting fireballs in the middle of the night into twisted inhuman abominations is bad optics. Other masters include a polio-crippled man desperately seeking a way to cure his comatose older brother (who, BTW, has been turned into a hulking monstrosity with a gatling gun for an arm), the Guild Coroner who is totally not stealing bodies to hack up for his Dr. Frankenstein bullshit, and the Governor's Secretary who is absolutely not a Neverborn infiltrator seeking to bring down the entire edifice from within.

The Guild tends to a favor a direct, no frills approach, compensating for its weaknesses in scheme running by making sure that the enemy is too full of a few extra pounds of lead to complete theirs.

The Resurrectionists

Associated with the suit of Crows. Less an organized faction and more an eclectic brotherhood of people who are well in the deep end of Fucking Around With Things Mankind Was Not Meant to Know, the Rezzers main strength is in durability and summoning. Rezzer crews generally do not start out significantly larger than anyone else's, but most of the masters have at least some summoning ability which allows them to weather attrition that would break other crews. This is good, since zombies are predictably not very good with guns and you will certainly take some casualties on the way in.

The dramatis personae of the Rezzers include the city undertaker carefully arranging graveyards around the city in preparation for his zombie coup d'etat, a mad Jack the Ripper haberdasher expy, the Guild's coroner who is totally not producing undead monstrosities while on the clock, a Japanese woman named Kirai, and an ex-investigative reporter still trying to fight the good fight and hampered only by the fact that she's 1)dead and 2)the only people who will hang out with her are also dead and have parts from at least three separate people.

The Arcanists

Associated with the suit of Tomes. Despite being in Malifaux in the first place for magic soul-eating rocks, the Guild looks down on unsanctioned magic as a threat to its power: displaying any sign of magical ability (and since Malifaux is so magic dense, that includes everyone from an impetuous anti-Guild youth to an 85 year-old pensioner) will result in the anti-magic Gestapo paying you a visit in the middle of the night. Since most people are not exactly thrilled at the prospect of having their bodies and minds warped into a servile wretch they seek protection, and the Arcanists are there to welcome them. If you're wondering why a bunch of burlesque showgirls share the same faction with a crazy "might makes right" survivalist academic beastmaster and the cannibalistic cult of an awakening Tyrant that's also the reason why. In turn, the Arcanists run their own smuggling operations to get a piece of the Malifaux pie, biding their time until they can overthrow the Guild and become power-crazed dickbags themselves.

As you might expect wizard shit is the main course on the menu of the Arcanists, with most masters in the faction demonstrating some level of magic ability. Supplementing this are the average joes working for the union that is an Arcanist front, a wide array of labor-constructs turned weapons, and a man who was grafted onto the body of a spider-centaur cyborg for shits and giggles. Arcanists tend to be on the more tricksy side of things, with combo effects that might not be immediately obvious until you get blindsided by them.

The Neverborn

The native inhabitants of Malifaux, some of whom may or may not be either the descendants or survivors of the rise of the Tyrants and the events that turned Malifaux into the wonderful shithole it is today. The Neverborn come in all shapes, sizes, and even forms, and while most barely tolerate each other they tolerate humans even less for tromping around in their city and tinkering with things that should have been left forgotten.

The Neverborn are a relatively fragile faction, relying on speed (in contrast the Arcanists' armored constructs), tricks and willpower-affecting abilities to do what their ability to take a punch can't. Also if Seamus and his undead prostitute harem aren't edgy enough for you this is a faction that has a serial killer toddler.

Leaders of the Neverborn include the Hecate Sisters, the Governor's Secretary who is still totally not a Neverborn, a living puppet taking its revenge on humanity by turning children into marionettes, and a seven year-old boy on Earth who has unwittingly managed to enslave a Tyrant and doesn't realize that his dreams are literally warping reality in Malifaux, which means hide and go seek for the people he comes across is not fun times.


If the name wasn't a tip off, the faction full of people who don't fit in anywhere else. Sure, you get the German PMC guy who looks like Hulk Hogan and a mercenary who teams up with her doppelganger "twin" for fun and profit as relatively "normal" characters, and then you find out that the other masters include the enraged ghost of an unjustly hung man, another mercenary who's bright and chipper despite being dead and having a hole the diameter of your arm through her chest, the Pied Piper of Hamelin as a plague-spreading Tyrant, and a guy whose entire gameplan is to die several times a game.

So yeah, kind of a freakshow even by the normal standards of Malifaux.

This is the "mercenary" faction of Malifaux, in the sense that many individual Outcast models can be hired into other faction's crews. The masters themselves are all over the place, with some potentially having dramatically different options for hiring crews than the others (Leveticus--who is able to hire non-Outcast undead or construct models--has the largest individual hiring pool in the game). While this means the faction is all over the place gameplay wise, the variety of playstyles means you can keep your opponent guessing about exactly what fuckery you're going to bring to the table.

Ten Thunders

In this alternate timeline China, Japan, and Vietnam have fused into one superstate, which mostly serves as a way for the developers to tell people who bitch about the random mix of Japanese and Chinese influences to suck a bag of dicks.

A crime syndicate formed by a disgraced clan after a couple minor SHAMEFUR DISPRAYS a few hundred years ago caused their entire army to rebel against them in horror and disgust. The Ten Thunders have managed to stumble across their own Breach in the Three Kingdoms, and have been using their control over it to quietly insert their own agents into positions of power in a keikaku bullshit plan to become the true power in Malifaux.

Nearly all Ten Thunders masters are dual faction: that is, they can be played either as a TT master or with their other aligned faction. In addition, each dual-faction master has the innate ability to hire a certain subset of models from their infiltrated faction: like the Outcasts, if you're willing to embrace the diversity you can keep your opponents on your toes in regards to what they're actually facing.

The masters are:
  • Lucas McCabe (Guild): Indiana Jones 40 years earlier, and also a dick. Can hire Guild Guardsmen or his own cadre of "Black Sheep."
  • Mei Fang (Arcanists): A Street Fighter character who made a wrong turn and somehow wound up in a tabletop wargame. Can hire a cadre of rail workers and their giant Rail Golem that beats you with sections of track when it's not busy laying it.
  • Yan Lo (Rezzers): the cursed spirit of one of the clan's ancestors, hoping to turn the source of his curse into unlimited power. Gathers Chi which he uses to power up throughout the game like a DBZ character (albeit without the 30 minutes of screaming). Can hire his fellow ancestors, most of which are either bent on vengeance against the living and/or completely bugfuck insane.
  • Jakob Lynch (Neverborn): Hapless gambler who went into debt with the Thunders to save his casino, and then went into debt with an ancient Neverborn being that feeds on his patrons to save his kneecaps. The human portion has a number of hand manipulation tricks in keeping with the premise of the card-based mechanics, while the eldritch portion feeds upon models affected by its Brilliance, gaining numerous bonuses against affected enemies. His cadre are the unfortunate addicted patrons looking for their next hit.
  • Misaki (Outcasts): The Oyabun's daughter, sent ahead to pave the way. Started out working as a mercenary, but has taken her place as leader now that the Thunders are acting more overtly. She can hire ninjas and is good at hitting things with a Bisento, yay.
  • The Brewmaster (Gremlin): Old Gremlin master whose area of expertise is exactly what it says on the tin. Focuses on tying up the opposing crew in a massive drinking contest (yes, really) for most of the game. Despite being a TT master, it's implied that he doesn't so much work for them as much as randomly show up when they're trying to do sneaky ninja shit and ruin everything.
  • Shenlong: The only "pure" TT master, who is the current host of a Tyrant hiding earthside while it gathers its strength. Focuses on martial arts stances and using normally harmful conditions (poison, burning, etc.) as a resource for his abilities.


Someone on 1d4chan described Gremlins as 40k Orks + Deliverance + drunken game developer, and I see no need to reinvent the wheel on that front.

Natives of the swamps near Malifaux, Gremlins quickly began to emulate humanity after the latter crossed through the breach a second time: this was funny when they were trying to figure out the science of putting on pants, but less funny when liquor and guns got involved.

Gremlins are a brutal combination of activation superiority and explosive damage: many Gremlin models have Reckless (suffer 1 damage to gain one extra action during an activation) and Dumb Luck (deal double damage, but suffer half of what the target takes). You also have access to numerous cheap bodies, allowing you to outactivate your opponent by a significant degree if you build accordingly. All of this comes at a price, however: the amount of self-damage makes Gremlins fairly fragile (and reliant on one or two healing models that can be scalpeled out by the opponent), and some of your models are prone to doing whatever the fuck they want if your master or other support models are not there to keep a careful eye on them. To use Warmachine factions as a comparison they're a mix of Menoth and Legion, relying on synergy to reach their full potential (or at least not go full retard) along with speed and damage output to break the opponent before their weak durability becomes a factor.

Also one of their best models is a catapult that fires pigs at the enemy and one of their masters is Ulysses as an old hillbilly pig farmer. What the fuck else do you need to know?

This entire post is Talon87 levels of excessive verbiage. Please give me the short pros and cons list


  • Relatively cheap to get into: a crew box will set you back $40-50, and a couple additional unit boxes (or another crew box) will get you a standard 50 point list for around $100 or so. Each master tends to have their own preferred core, but the overall outlay for different lists with a distinct playstyle is fairly low.
  • Unique (by wargame standards) card-based resolution mechanic.
  • The nature of strategy and schemes combined with hand management makes for a lot of interesting decisions during gameplay, with there rarely being a clearcut "best" choice.

  • The setting, while interesting, can be take it or leave it: I probably wouldn't have gotten into the game if Gremlins weren't a thing.
  • Despite (or because of) being a small model-count game, requires a relatively large amount of terrain (1/3-1/2 covered on a 3'x3' board is the roughly recommended amount). Too little terrain and Guild/Gremlin gunlines can easily dominate.
  • Many early plastic sprue layouts conceived of by Satan himself. See the Austringer assembly guide below:
    Spoiler: show

    The bird's feet on each model are separate. Keep in mind that the human model is about an inch tall. Now imagine how small those feet must be. Curl into a ball and weep, and then snort plastic glue in an attempt to escape the pain.

In summary?

It's pretty good guys, assuming you're a bad enough dude to glue on Yan Lo's beard.

Spoiler: show
Unless you live in the UK, no clubs will accept you and you're stuck going to daycare a GW store

Spoiler: show
Raising lots of uncomfortable questions like "what is the nature of being?" and "what happens to the soul after being used for some fuckhead mage's rophenol spell"?
"It does not matter anymore. We cannot change the past. The future will have to do."
-Windham Khatib

Last edited by Blastoise; 03-02-2016 at 12:06 AM.
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