Games I Like – Malifaux – Got to play my first game today!

Well now that I’ve gotten a day off from Christmas (that’s right…. Christmas for me means many hours in the car and not a lot of sleep… enjoy it while it lasts you teenagers out there!) I actually had a chance to do some hobbying today. A buddy of mine wanted to try out some Malifaux so I packed up my Guild force and my assembled Pandora starter along with my old Helldorado table and scenery (very fitting for Malifaux) and headed over to his gaming lair to give the game a shot.

After giving him an overview of the ‘duel’ system of using the cards (which I’ll get to in a minute) we played a quick 25 Soulstone game. Now as we were just learning the rules we decided to ignore Strategies and Schemes for the first game as well as Special Terrain and Events. Instead, we just played until we were comfortable calling it to get ahold of the rules.

My list was…

-Sonnia Criid (Master)
-2 Witchling Stalkers (8 SSs)
-The Executioner (7 SSs)
-Sammael Hopkins (8 SSs)

That’s a 23 SSs list putting a total of six Soulstones in my Pool at the beginning of the game.

My opponent took…

-Pandora (Master)
-3 Sorrows (9 SSs)
-Baby Kade (6 SSs)
-Candy (8 SSs)

So he also had a 23 Soulstone list with a 7 Stone Cache.

The basic mechanic in the game is a Duel. There are simple duels (against a Target Number… like Terrifying or Harmless) and Opposed Duels where you attack the other player (such as a model shooting another model…. resisting a spell, etc.). Once this simple mechanic became comfortable we found we were able to play quite quickly. You also activate triggers and sometimes require certain suits of cards to activate spells and abilities succesfully.

A Simple Duel means you take your relevant statistic (lets say Willpower) and flip a card. The total of the card you flip and your statistic must beat (not equal) the target number. So if I were going to try to attack Baby Kade with his Harmless skill with Sonnia I’d flip a card and add my Willpower of 7. If it beats 12 I’d be able to make the attack, otherwise the action is lost. If I don’t beat it I still have a couple options… I could spend a soulstone to flip an additional card and add it to the total or I could ‘Cheat Fate’ and swap the card I’ve flipped for one in my control hand.

An Opposed Duel means my opponent and I are both flipping a card and adding our stats. Lets say now that I’ve overcome Harmless on Baby Kade I’m going to try to shoot him with Sonnia’s pistol. I’d flip my top card and my opponent would flip his. He’d add Kade’s Defence to the Total and I’d add Sonnia’s Combat skill for her Pistol. The loser of this flip would then have one opportunity to Cheat Fate. Then the Winner would have one chance to do this as well. If Sonnia won she would then check her Combat total and then do a Damage Flip.

So there’s the basics of Duels.

With that covered we decided to set up some simple terrain and then play!


As neither of us had much of an idea what we were doing we pretty much lined up and went after each other. It became obvious how vastly different our factions were after the first couple turns.

The Guild list operated pretty simply overall. My guys can mostly fight in combat… they all have guns except the Executioner and Sonnia is really good at shooting fireballs. On the flipside Lillith has tons of aura effects that cause damage when my guys are forced to make Willpower tests… but only one real ‘direct damage’ ability where she causes my models to attack themselves. This made the learning curve pretty steep for my buddy as he took the first couple turns figuring this out.

Once he got the hang of it Baby Kade made a mess of my Executioner!


We ended the game after Sonnia tossed some Severe Damage fireballs into a group of the Neverborn that were able to chain to hit all but one of his Woes and killed everything it hit. We did a few things wrong in hindsight, but the Duel mechanic is the only thing you really need to ‘memorize’ to start to get the hang of the game and I recommend reading that section a couple times prior to your first encounter and then just jumping in.

So here’s my notes on my first game…

1) The Guild are pretty flexible. With two of my models being dedicated (Executioner for Melee and Sam for Ranged) and the Witchlings being able to do either I had lots of options dealing with the Neverborn. It was also nice that all but two of my models ignore severe terrain so I could just zip after the evil spirits. They were a nice simple force to learn the game with.

2) The Neverborn are pretty rules intensive. My buddy was actually really hooked on the idea of a force that indirectly attacks the enemy as its unique and hard for some models to circumvent, but it definitely had a steep learning curve. Learning the interactions of all the special rules took some time and even at the end we’d overlooked a ton which would have helped him in the game. I don’t think I’d recommend these guys as a starting force unless you’re willing to do some pretty intensive rules memorization or you may be discouraged by them the first few times out.

3) I really like the Card mechanic! Using playing cards as a random number generator and the suits for the ‘trigger’ effects and as requirements for certain spells and actions was a very fresh idea and quite intuitive. We got the hang of it really quickly and it was really versatile.

4) The scale of the game is right up my alley. I like skirmish games a lot as they allow me to paint a dozen or so models without getting bored and then head off to another faction. I’m already eyeing my Neverborn with new excitement after having played against them as their offensive abilities are really sneaky and interesting. They’re going to be fun to play!

So there’s my first-game impressions of Malifaux. My hobby engine is pretty revved from even just this short encounter so expect to see more about the game in the coming weeks.


~ by Achilles on December 28, 2009.

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