8 Reasons I Enjoy Malifaux (and You Should Too)

Malifaux: 40K Ruleset on Steroids

A guest article by Chris Smith a.k.a. Ozymandias.

It’s hard to remember when I first heard about Malifaux.  I remember seeing models, specifically Seamus’ Red Chapel gang, and loving the theme and aesthetic, but it wasn’t until much later that I finally took the plunge and bought my first crew: the Ortegas, an Old West family of demon hunters.

After my first couple games, I was hooked!  I still play 40K and Fantasy, but Malifaux gets me most excited to play a game.  Here are my top eight reasons why you should try it too.

1)  The Cards

Malifaux uses an old-fashioned deck of cards instead of dice.  This gives a range of 1-13 (0-14 if you include the Jokers), which turns out pretty similar to rolling 2d6.  The difference and elegance comes with hand management.  Every turn, you draw up to six cards and use these cards throughout the turn to manage your luck.  But you have to be careful, if you use the cards offensively, you may not have them when it is your turn to defend.  Managing your hand of cards is probably the most important aspect of the game and can make or break your crew.

2) The Duel

This is where the cards really come in to play.  Almost every interaction between models takes the form of a duel.  And every duel happens basically the same way: You flip a card and add the relevant stat.  Sometimes you are testing against a target number, as in a spell or terrifying check, but most of the time this is opposed by your opponent doing the exact same thing.

I love this mechanic because whether you are shooting your opponent, striking them in melee, or casting a spell, it is all pretty much the same!  So you don’t have one ruleset for shooting, another for melee, another for vehicles, another for magic, etc.  I flip a card, my opponent flips a card, and we add our relevant stats.  Also, this keeps both players active in the game because even when I am being attacked, I am still participating.

3) Alternating Activation

I absolutely hate sitting around during my opponent’s turn, waiting for him to finish beating me up.  If I have time to run off to grab a cup of coffee, something is seriously wrong.

Along with the duel, alternating activations keeps me engaged in the game constantly.  I move a model, my opponent moves a model.  Then I move on to another model, and so on.   I am constantly interacting with my opponent rather than just waiting for my turn.

4) Low Cost of Entry

With the price of some games going up (I won’t mention names, but we all know who I’m talking about), for only about $50 I can have a full Malifaux crew as well as the small rulebook.  And even the most expensive model in the range doesn’t compare to the latest resin character models from some companies.

5) Gateway Game

See above!  For my non-mini gaming friends, even if they wanted to play 40K or Fantasy, the price tag scares them away.  But I can get them to fork out $50 to try Malifaux.  Then, before you know it, they are expanding their collection, painting models for the first time, building terrain, and they are hooked.

6) The Background

Malifaux managed to pull together elements from the Old West, Victorian Horror, Dark Fairy Tales, and even Steampunk and create a compelling world for us to play in.  The genres combine in a completely unique and interesting way that makes for cinematic showdowns, epic moments, and a great narrative.

7) The Models

If you don’t like zombie courtesans, undead hunting cowboys, and demonic teddy bears, then I don’t know if we can be friends.  Enough said.

8) The Company

Finally, I wanted to end on the company itself, Wyrd Miniatures.  Rarely do we see companies so willing to engage with their fans.  They aren’t afraid to issue errata to address game imbalance, they refuse to release a product that doesn’t meet their quality standards, and most recently, they have started a summer campaign, Dead Heat, with a real prize to the winning faction.  I remember when that was the norm, rather than the exception. How refreshing.

I’d love to hear from all of you, does this make you want to start playing Malifaux? If you already play, what brought you into this game?


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

9 Responses to “8 Reasons I Enjoy Malifaux (and You Should Too)”

  1. Dave July 2, 2012 11:17 am #

    I own the starter set for Pandora but have never finished painting all the models. I wouldn’t mind trying to play again some time but it was the local players who turned me off from the game.

    Ortegas ability to have the entire party go in line kind of made things feel more like the alternating activations didn’t really mean anything as the situation was either that I moved one model and then the opponent moved everything and then I got to finish up. I understand that this is just their thing but the prevalence of it and lists that replicate that ability in our meta just made it to common for my liking.

    There was also the fact that every list I have ever played against has been a bad match up against mine. After 8 games I thought I would have seen some variance but there was no luck.

    Also, competitiveness played a huge part in this. The players that were over at Black Diamond Games when I was trying to get into it were all much more focused on winning than helping out noobs. This led to using of every trick against me before I even understood the tricks of my own gang. The players that were interested in helping seemed more like they simply wanted to push me out of the way and play my gang for me.

    • Reecius July 2, 2012 11:27 am #

      I don’t think Malifaux is really suited for competitive play, personally. I am hardly an expert on it though, so I could be wrong, but as you pointed out, there seems to be so many ways to exploit the rules and crazy match-ups that the game just doesn’t seem fun if you are playing to win.

    • Chris a.k.a. Ozymandias July 2, 2012 12:35 pm #

      Sorry you had a bad experience learning the game. Perdita and other crews can alter the way models activate, but that is a special rule that they have and frankly, most players I’ve seen use it sparingly (remember, if the try to alpha strike you and activate everything, you basically get to do it back to them!).

      The game can be played competitively, but the most fun I’ve had with it are through narrative style games, which the strategy and schemes really help foster. As with any game, who you play with matters the most and if you play with a bunch of d-bags, it doesn’t matter if you are playing 40k, Warmachine/Hordes, or Malifaux, you aren’t going to have a lot of fun.

  2. whitedragon July 2, 2012 12:26 pm #

    I wouldn’t write off the “competitiveness” of the game right away. Skirmish games in general are just different than “bucket of dice” games in terms of how they play. A good example is Warmachine. The game has many nuances that aren’t readily apparent until you’ve got a really good grasp on the mechanics and unit synergies. With that being said, obviously, the attitude of the community will go a long way towards shaping your enjoyment of the game.

    My advice with a game like Malifaux is to get a group of 3 or 4 folks that are all starting at the same time, and play together and learn together. That way no one gets “ahead” of the others and then starts kicking baby seals and turns everyone off. Otherwise, the only way to learn is to get your teeth kicked in several times until it starts to click.

    Now granted, my experience is limited by watching some of my group playing the game a few times, but they all seemed to enjoy it.

  3. Sean Ireland July 2, 2012 12:46 pm #

    The card mechanic is the only reason I haven’t picked it up, I just like rolling dice too much.

    • Reecius July 2, 2012 1:03 pm #

      I actually really like the cards, it gives you more control over what happens which I like. Plus you have resource management with the soulstones as well.

  4. Platuan4th July 11, 2012 7:52 pm #

    You’ve convinced me, Chris. I play now.

    Reece, SO JEALOUS everyone got a guest spot but me.

    • Reecius July 13, 2012 10:38 am #

      Then write one, buddy! I know you know your stuff. Haha, write one about how I said Valkyries and Storm Troopers woul dbe bad, and then they kicked ass every game for you at Adepticon!

  5. pSyberKorps July 20, 2012 4:28 pm #

    First off, great article Chris! **pat on the back**

    I have enjoyed Malifaux since its launch (how ever long ago that was!) back when the first Core rulebook was crazy back ordered, as were all the Crew Boxes. Wyrd makes some GREAT models that really make the game look awesome and I LOVE the conglomeration of genres, there is a look for anyone’s interest!! Yes, I find the deck/card mechanics to be a refreshing change of pace and adds quite a bit more control/strategy to the game, which is always welcome in my book! I have massed up quite a few different Crews, collecting either for their power on the table, there appearance in the display case, or their general sillyness!! (think Bayou Gremlins, lots and lots of gremlins)

    Admittedly, I have been on hiatus from the Miniatures world for quite a few months (6+?) but I am returning with the release of 6th Ed in 40k, so since I’ll be around Frontline more often, I’ll just pack a few Crews if anyone is ever up for a game!!

    ….although I think my Seamus crew is still sitting in the display cases…

Leave a Reply