Friday, 28 June 2013


In the time I've known (well, conversed with over the interwebz) Aidan, one thing he's always championed has been Malifaux.  There had been conjecture he had just made it all up (along with his meteoric rise up the UK rankings chasing the crown of the elusive Adam Magicpockets) but lo and behold, it's a real game.

So, with my ongoing descent in to the murky waters of 'the hobby', and the prospect of more very nice looking minis to paint, I investigated further.  The nearest hobby shop to me is Worlds at War in Livingston, and after chatting to the owner on a few occasions he told me they ran a variety of demo days for games, Malifaux among them.

So, "What is Malifaux?" I hear you cry!  Or not…  Well, it's a 28mm tabletop game, now approaching it's 2nd edition, produced by Wyrd Miniatures.  It's based in an alternate Victorian/Steampunk(ish) setting in which a portal has been opened to another dimension which has enabled the harvesting of 'Soulstones', the source of magical power.  My first instinct is to refer to it as a skirmish game, and scale wise that description would possibly be accurate.  It’s played on a 3' x 3' board with small 'crews' of 4-8 figures, but it's much more than that.  The combat is only a small part of the game as a whole, with the characters themselves and Schemes and Strategies playing a significant part.  And, what's more intriguing, there are no dice involved.  Instead it uses a Fate deck.  There is a specific fate deck produced for the game but it can be easily substituted by a standard pack of playing cards (as long as it has both jokers) and these cards, along with the character attributes, are used to decide the outcome of combat.  Each player controls a 'crew'.  These belong to one of the factions in the game, The Guild, The Arcanists, The Resurrectionists, The Neverborn, Ten Thunders and Outcasts. Each crew is lead by a Master or a Henchman who has a number of minions to control.

At this point I'm going to stop myself.  I could get lost in the amount of detail in the game, but I'm supposed to be giving my impressions of the demo game I played.  I'll include links to some great sites which give an introduction to the game at the end of the piece.

So, I arrived at WaW with 3 games in full swing.  I was introduced to David Kerr-Smith, the Henchman who was running the event.  We talked about my background in gaming a little, what appealed about Malifaux and the basic premise of the game.  The game is currently in testing for the 2nd edition rules, due for official release in August, and these were what was being played today.  He introduced me to the players who were there (and I confess, I've forgotten the names, to my shame) but they were a welcoming bunch and I watched some of the games in progress for a while, chatting to the guys there.

After a brief interlude (and collecting Andrew) we set about starting our Demo game.  Andrew chose a character called Ramos, a magic user specialising in summoning steampunk arachnids.  His crew comprised of Joss, an axe wielding minion, a steampunk arachnid and an arachnid swarm.  I chose Rasputina, The Ice Witch, whose crew consisted of an Ice Golem and 3 Ice Gamins.  With Fate Decks in hand it was time to begin...

Rasputina - The Ice Witch

Ramos - The Cyber-Spider Summoner

At this point I could go in to a blow by blow account of the game we played, but I think that would probably get a little tedious and anyway, my ability to recall detail isn't that great.

We played for about 90 minutes and the demo involved an introduction to the basic movement and combat mechanics of the game.  In each game turn the players have a number of action points to use for movement, combat etc for each character/minion.  Each player moves an individual figure, taking alternate turns until every figure has spent its action points for the turn, at which point the game turn moves on.   Combat is resolved using the Fate deck, one of the more intriguing aspects of the game for me.  As I said previously, the Fate deck is essentially a renamed standard pack of cards.  The suits are Rams, Masks, Tomes and Crows with the numbers 1 to 13 and a red and a black Joker.  In each attack the relevant skill of the attacker (melee, shooting or casting) is pitted against the defence of the target.  Cards are drawn from the deck to then add to the skill to then resolve the combat.  This is where (for me) it gets interesting.  At the beginning of each game turn each player draws 6 cards from the top of the deck to hold in their hand as ‘cheat’ cards.  When the cards are flipped to resolve combat each player has, in certain circumstances, the option to cheat by replacing the flipped card with one from their hand in order to beat their opponent.  In addition to this, as the game uses cards rather than dice, you know there are a limited number of high cards so by paying attention to your opponent’s flips you can try and plan accordingly.  I must remember to check the rules regarding card counting… 

It feels quite complicated at first, and the lack of dice makes it feel unfamiliar but once you start getting to grips with the game it seems to flow quite well.  This is only scratching the surface of what goes on during a game of Malifaux though.  Once you add the Schemes and Strategies elements to the game it suggests a great depth to the game and, although it seems complicated, and more than a little daunting, it's something I look forward to finding out more about.

David was great, taking us through the turns step by step, explaining the mechanics of each action and how to resolve combat.  He also offered advice and tips on the best course of action to take in each situation, explaining all the options available and how each would work.

All in all it was an afternoon well spent, and I'm a convert.  I'm already eyeing up crews and with the 2nd edition of the rules imminent it seems an ideal time to get involved in the Malifaux community.

I'd like to thank David for a great demo game, Frank at Worlds at War for hosting and the rest of the players there for being such a friendly and welcoming bunch.


1 comment:

  1. Welcome to Malifaux! I'm glad that the demo went well. I find that Malifaux is a game that rewards playing multiple games since it gives you a chance to explore various combinations of abilities.

    The 'scene' in central Scotland is very laid back and welcoming too so any of the events are worth registering for - it's not a 'win at all costs' type mentality and most people are just there for a fun time playing with their toy soldiers.