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Malifaux 3E: bad things happen

SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentitytrying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
This is a thread about a game where you put little toys on a table and then move them around.

Malifaux, a twisted mirror of an alternate Earth in the 1900s; a world of gothic horror, Victorian structures, steampunk constructs, and wild west gunslingers. Rife with undead amalgamations, monstrous vengeful apparitions, and other creatures that bump in the night, these near-lawless lands are still worth treading for some, as the Soulstones deep within the cavernous catacombs are worth more than the sweat and blood it takes to obtain them.

The lure of Malifaux’s valuable Soulstones has brought the powerful, the desperate, the ambitious, and the cunning to Malifaux from Earth. The Guild’s control of the Breach ensures that it remains a dominant power within Malifaux City, but it is challenged on all sides by the sabotage and magical prowess of the Arcanists and the shuffling undead that serve the foul Resurrectionists. The Outcasts, a loose collection of mercenaries and other ne’er-do-wells, sell their services to the highest bidder when not pursuing their own individual objectives, and the mysterious Ten Thunders crime syndicate works from the shadows to extend its influence throughout the city.

Not every threat to Malifaux comes from Earth, however. The ancient Neverborn will not easily surrender their lands to what they see as foreign invaders, and the Gremlins of the Bayou have become quite powerful by learning from and mimicking the humans that seized control of Malifaux City.


Disclaimer: it probably but unfortunately comes as no surprise that a lot of minis featuring women in this game are highly sexualized, and there are a few wince-inducing characters (most famously Seamus, a Jack the ripper type who zombifies his female victims). Malifaux is also supposed to be a big melting pot of a bunch of different cultures/religions/etc. but this uh... can feel a bit hamfisted at times, even if the general intent seems to be wanting to include cool/interesting stuff.

FACTIONS: (clickable)
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There were two things that convinced me I wanted to play this game:

First and foremost is the fact that it uses a deck of playing cards instead of dice. Mechanically, this is an incredible idea. You each flip a card and compare totals, with the usual advantage/disadvantage mechanics of flipping multiple cards and using the highest/lowest. HOWEVER! You have a hand of cards that you can use to "cheat fate," replacing the card you flipped with one from your hand. This is absolutely brilliant, it totally changes the feeling of helplessness when you just roll poorly: you can save the good cards in your hand for the actions you really care about. But the good stuff doesn't stop there: the suits on the cards matter. Most actions will have "triggers," additional effects that you can get if you flip (or cheat in) a card of the corresponding suit. And of course the black joker is a suitless, uncheatable critical failure while the red joker is a critical success of any suit. So good!


The other main attraction is that the game is objective based. There are five turns in a game, and each game has one of many "strategies." Players can score one point off the strategy each turn after the first, and they all involve some kind of activity like running up to and tagging pillars, or kicking things back and forth across the centerline, or trying to plant explosives on the opponent's side, etc. They're very back and forth public objectives that you fight over but which never require you to kill anything. In addition to this, each game gets a pool of five "schemes," from which each player secretly selects two. Each scheme has one point that you can score at the end of a turn, and one point you can score at the end of the game. They include things like dropping markers near enemies, getting into a fight and then running away, simple assassinations, getting units into specific areas, etc. They're all inventive and fun and introduce so much variety into the game that playing the same crews against each other can result in wildly different experiences.

The bonus third thing is that a full crew is, like, 8 to 10 models generally.


A big problem I've had is that there are so many amazing crews in the game that I've accumulated five starter boxes and I love each of them but there are so many I still want and I'm not even going to play any of them because I love my actual crew so much. One of them has a leader that can take actions through all their models, a witch of the woods whose will-o'-the-wisps lure enemies into severe terrain which then allows all the treefolk to attack them from anywhere as long as they're in the same type of terrain. There's a crew of reporters who basically don't attack, they just debuff and tie down enemy models with relentless journalism while they get to keep interacting with schemes and strategies. There's a crew of lamplighters who create streetlamps at the start of game and can light them to gain bonuses/blind enemies. There's a plague lord who creates an engine of rats, stacking blight on enemies and then exploding them into more rats. And these are the crews I haven't been playing! Never mind each of the eight factions being interesting, nearly every single crew I look at makes me go oooh, that's so cool. They are so varied creatively and mechanically that each one really feels like a completely unique experience. And, according to people who know way more about this than me, there are some crews that are considered strong but none to the point where playing something else is a suboptimal choice, which is crazy.



There are a ton of fluffy lore podcasts! They range from mediocre to decent fun, tho the first 50ish have awful sound mixing.

The rules: here they are!

There's a free app, it's made by one guy and is actually very functional and helpful. You can run games in it, build crews in it, it's got all the stat cards, a rules reference and a link to the full rules, it's an incredibly useful thing.

There's also a free Vassal module if that's your sort of thing.

These guys have several episodes, especially in the early ones, that are really good info for beginners:

Anyway I mainly wanted to make a big post about Malifaux it's very good.




  • EchoEcho ski-bap ba-dapModerator mod
    I was really considering getting into Malifaux at once point. I have the two-player starter with... wotsitcalled, the Totally Legit Surgeon guys and the blackblood ones. Also bought the Vicky box. Unfortunately that's as far as I got.

  • SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    Echo wrote: »
    I was really considering getting into Malifaux at once point. I have the two-player starter with... wotsitcalled, the Totally Legit Surgeon guys and the blackblood ones. Also bought the Vicky box. Unfortunately that's as far as I got.
    I bought my first set of models about six years ago and didn't start playing until like six months ago.

    I was lucky enough that a local guy who organizes a bunch of stuff started up a weekly thing at our FLGS and once I got a few games in I could confidently strongarm my friends into playing as well because it's rull good.

  • EchoEcho ski-bap ba-dapModerator mod
    Yeah, I've definitely been really curious about it ever since I saw Ash Barker's games on youtoob. The card system is really interesting.

  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    It’s an amazing system. It can lead to a very ‘thinky’ game but with enough randomness to keep things spicy.

  • SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    I have spent literal hours talking about how good the card system is.

    Like, the fact that you generally go through most of the deck in a turn means that your luck will generally average out, unlike with dice.

    So even if you have a terrible hand at the start of the turn, at least those bad cards are not in the deck to get flipped. Or if you miss a string of attacks, each consecutive one gets a little more likely to hit.

    And even if your opponent spends a card to make you miss, you still did some damage to them by making them use a high value card defensively rather than offensively.

    There are so many ways in which it provides opportunities for interesting decisions and subtle upsides to "flipping poorly" while still keeping the spice of randomness that rolling dice just cannot compete. So many instances of me spending focuses and target locks in X-Wing only to miss regardless because dice don't care what you did before the roll.

  • CantidoCantido Registered User regular
    I'm not about that wargame life but I'm in love with the mechanical concepts.

    3DS Friendcode 5413-1311-3767
  • SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    Cantido wrote: »
    I'm not about that wargame life but I'm in love with the mechanical concepts.
    One of the both amazing and intimidating things about the game is that you could probably play the same matchup into the same setup half a dozen times before you started to really get a handle on it.

    But the possible combinations are so varied and they all significantly impact the game that it will take many, many games before you play some that feel familiar.

    There are 4 different strategies, 13 schemes, 4 types of deployment zones, fifty something masters (each with an alternate version now), and then of course whatever terrain you want.

    Magic is the only other game I've gotten into in a big way, and one point of comparison I like to make is that new Magic sets generally have, like A Thing that's fairly different but for the most part new cards are just variations on old themes. Which is fine! I think WotC is very good at what they do. But each one of Malifaux's crews feels completely different and interesting in a way that I just don't get from Magic anymore; pretty much every single one I look up makes me go, oh, that seems so cool, I want to try doing that.

    It's a problem and my children are starving

  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    I wish I'd ever going a malifaux community.

    What is this I don't even.
  • SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    @Darkewolfe do/did you play? I was super lucky in that one of the local guys is a big organizer of stuff and set up a Wednesday night Malifaux thing at our FLGS, and that's what enabled me to finally start playing.

    I don't want to assume that you haven't played but for anybody who's been curious, the full game is incredibly intimidating and not really recommended as a way to start, so:

    Instead, there's a mode called Henchman Hardcore, where you have a Henchman as your leader and three Enforcer/Minion models as your crew. I thiiiiiiink every Core box comes with a Master, a Henchman, and three Minions, so it's pretty easy to get something ready to go (they might be wildly imbalanced tho).

    Normally the mode just says kill each other but the recommended setup in our local scene is:
    Deployment: Wedge
    Strategy: Break the Lines
    Schemes: Vendetta and Death Beds

    This is enough stuff that you can get a feel for the various parts of the game while limiting the number of models you have to process, and is far better than attempting a full game right off the bat.

    The absolute bare minimum you'll need (besides a 3'x3' board with some terrain) are some 30mm bases (maybe some 40mm and 50mm ones), two 54 card decks of playing cards, and a way to measure inches. The app has all the scheme and strat and stat cards in it and lets you build crews and run games (tracking health/activations/conditions/etc), and the rules are available for free.

  • SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    @Arch and anyone else who tries the game out, I really super highly recommend this podcast, especially some of the early episodes:

    Most of the other ones are geared towards more experienced players, but these guys do a really good job of going over some core concepts.

    It might have more value once you have a game or two under your belt so you are familiar with the mechanics, but it's good stuff.

  • SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    Played for ten hours in a tournament yesterday, had a good time, then went over to my friends' house this morning to play some more.

    Two of them played a full game against each other, Wong vs Ophelia.


    Ophelia equips like four guns and starts blastin' while Wong throws explosions everywhere, damaging his own units to give them "glowy" and speed buffs.

    One of Ophelia's guns makes a huge mess and drops shards of glass (the blue tokens) everywhere it hits:


    I played a smaller scale game of Sparks vs Cassandra.


    Cassandra is the henchman of smuggler/showgirl Colette; she and her showgirls stack Distracted onto enemies before stabbing them. Sparks is a gremlin engineer whose crew can ride the rails between Scrap markers they create.

    The highlight of this one was I got to ramp the Mechanized Porkchop over a wall and onto a showgirl, steam vents screaming as it belly flopped her into paste:


  • SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    edited April 18
    One of my friends created an "Easter Egg Hunt" strat for funsies: at the start of the game each player secretly chooses 4 pieces of terrain that have an egg hidden in them. Models can take the interact action next to a piece of terrain to check if it has an egg hidden in it, and at the end of each round you score a point if you've found more eggs than you have points.

    The big twist is that insignificant models, which normally can't interact with strategies/schemes at all, are hyperactive "children" and can check any terrain they come into contact with for free.


    We had Mah Tucket and Ophelia (title version) bring their respective clans together for an Easter egg hunt that became violently competitive. Ophelia has 3 insignificant Young LaCroix who very rapidly started tearing through the map, quickly finding two eggs and searching right up until Mah's Bushwhackers got them in their sights.

    The Bushwhackers pumped kilos of lead into Ophelia's crew while Big Brain Brin mind controlled his cyborg monkey into searching a bunch of nearby terrain to no avail. Mah Tucket horribly holler'd the rest of the crew around to maximize their search area, also to no avail.

    Then we discovered that Ophelia could resummon the younglings all in one go, and suddenly Mah was looking outnumbered again (despite the out of keyword Hog Whisperer summoning Piglet after Piglet).

    Merris LaCroix, being able to fly around with her jetpack, managed to lock down several of Mah's egg hunters, but a few eventually managed to break through to find a single egg. Ophelia's Bo Peep rode her pig into Mah's backline but the monkey was able to tackle and slow her, preventing her from getting to the hidden eggs. Mah Tucket herself waded in at the end, engaging two of the recently resummoned younglings and sending one right back with her giant spoon.

    In the end Mah managed to pull out a win despite having found only one egg to Ophelia's two. Merris scored one point off of Vendetta, having killed her Bushwhacker target. The monkey tackling Bo Peep triggered the first point of Catch and Release, and he was able to scamper away and earn the second point at the end of the game. Bo Peep also was my Bait and Switch target, so Mah scored a point from her being so far back on her side.

    It ended up being an extremely bloody Easter egg hunt; every pale green token here is a corpse marker:


    I think one of the brilliant things about this game is that it's so extremely complex that it's hard to completely break it. Even this weird randomly created strat led to a really fun and thematic game. Just great stuff.

    Surfpossum on
  • CalicaCalica Registered User regular
    What's the best way to try out Malifaux if you're intrigued by the concept and setting, but also strategy/skirmish games just kinda break your brain?

    Like, I have no idea what play style, if any, I would enjoy, because 2D strategy in general feels like a language I don't speak.

  • SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    @Calica Wyrd also has an RPG called Through The Breach that uses the Malifaux setting and has similar mechanics. I can't vouch for it personally because I've never tried it but it looks interesting. These guys have very strong feelings about one of its mechanics and why one easy trick fixes it.

    wrt Malifaux itself, the best approach is to start small, with a pared down gamemode. This wall of text hidden amongst the other walls of text further up the page lays out the version we use locally, and it works pretty well. Keep in mind that your first full 50ss game will take about an hour for each turn, and that's assuming you've played a few games of the smaller version. This does get down to about three hours for a full game with experience, but it is a b i g game. My first half a dozen games were pretty much just learning what my models actually do on the board.

    If that doesn't scare you off, to suggest a starting crew I generally ask people what they like to do in other games: do you like to build a big engine that generates a lot of resources? Do you like to go full aggro, just trying to murder your way through everything fast? Do you want to try and play defensively and deny your opponent points? etc. and then I go ask one of the people with a much more encyclopedic knowledge of the game about what they'd recommend. (and then I recommend the best faction, Bayou, made of redneck gremlins)

    But also pretty much every crew in the game is perfectly viable and does lots of interesting stuff, so you can preeeeeetty safely just pick something you think looks cool.

    Also the class I signed up for to get my "professional development" hours in happens to take place smack dab in the middle of Malifaux night at my FLGS so I'm jonesing, feel free to ask any and all questions

  • No-QuarterNo-Quarter Nothing To Fear But Fear ItselfRegistered User regular
    @Surfpossum I hadn't seen this till now, I OP'd the old thread, take whatever you want from there if it's still relevant.

    I haven't played Malifaux in years, but adored the game mechanics, setting, and crews.

    Sometimes you just wanna rock Jack the Ripper and his motley crew of zombie hookers.

  • -Loki--Loki- Don't pee in my mouth and tell me it's raining. Registered User regular
    edited June 5
    I'm still hanging out for the Tyant Pandora to release. Once that's out, I'll bite the bullet and buy the M3# cards I need and the rulebook.

    My biggest gripe right now is I still haven't gotten over Plastcraft going out of business. I was a huge fan of their pre-colored terrain, it made making a good looking table easy and relatively cheap. I never got around to buying their other Malifaux terrain and now it's gone forever.

    This was my Bayou board. All I painted myself was the log piles and crates.


    -Loki- on
  • SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    Got a game in while visiting my family in Texas; had some newer players learning the game so I claimed one of them since I feel pretty comfortable running intro games.

    We immediately piled into a massive scrum over the central strat marker; they were playing Dreamer, who gets to summon a bunch of nightmares and has a few big beefy units that will pounce onto anyone tackled by the nightmares. I was running Mecha Meemaw, trying out a crew with a bunch of armor and healing.

    My dudes Rode the Rails into the center, where Teddy and Lord Chompy bits proceeded to charge into them. Here's Mah Tucket getting ready to scramble into the fray:


    Followed by Bo Peep barreling in, stampeding into multiple units and healing up everyone around her:


    We only got through two turns, but it was lots of fun! Many big swings, lots of models punching each other, good times all around

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