Monday, 24 February 2014

An Introduction to...Malifaux

Name - Malifaux 2nd Edition
Manufacturer - Wyrd Games
Type - Tabletop Miniatures Skirmish Game.
No. of Players - 2 (More players are possible but the game is designed for 2)
Age Range - 14+. The rule-set is moderately easy to learn. The models are multi-piece and contain some quite small parts.
Rulebook - 284 pages, Full colour. Purchased separately from starter sets and models. A smaller A3, 120 page version of the book is also available minus the background material.

What You Need to Start.
A rulebook*, two starter sets (one each), two Fate Decks (one each) a measuring tape* and a playing area of at least 3' x 3' with something to use as terrain...unless your happy for the guy with the most shooty force to win...

* One each would be better though.

Extras Needed - The starter sets come with stat and upgrade cards for the included models. Additional starter sets and crew expansions are entirely up to you.
Area Needed -  3' by 3'**

** A 'sidebar' area is useful for dead models, stat cards and whatever your having as refreshments while you play...

Time Needed - A starter set game can be done in an hour or two depending on experience. The first couple of games will need a bit more time allocated to them as is to be expected when learning.

Initial Costs.
The full rulebook costs around £25.50 with the smaller one costing around £10, starter sets for each faction range from £25 to around the £31.50 mark and include stat cards and appropriate upgrade cards. If your not using two packs of 'normal' playing cards then you'll need a Fate Deck per player at £4.55 each. Therefore if you don't mind sharing a rulebook, two of you can get started for £70 to £80. This presumes access to basic war-gaming gear such as measuring tapes and a playing area and terrain for it. If your starting from scratch then the price obviously increases.

 A few of the many starter sets currently available.

For the starting player I'd recommend using the basic version of the official Fate Decks as they're by far the most user friendly to start the game with though you can save yourself about £10 if you already have two normal decks of cards complete with Jokers...However I honestly wouldn't if it was me...

Mantic Games do a modular building scenery set at a very reasonable price if your looking for buildings for a gaming table for around the £20-25 mark though they're not very 'Steampunk'. Micro Art Studio and Terraclips do more appropriate buildings and board sets respectively. Trees, Hills and the like are available from pretty much every hobby store on the planet and price and quality vary too wildly for me to give you an estimate of their cost I'm afraid.

The above costs are courtesy of my FLGS Titan Games so may vary based on your location.

Models require assembly, some preparation and painting so you can also add basic hobbying tools (cutters, a scalpel, files and glue), a can of undercoat and some paints to those costs if your new to the hobby.

Expansions - There are no expansions available for M2E yet though there are a number of crew expansions boxes should you need some more cannon fodder.

The above is a small example of some of the crew expansions available.

A Brief Overview.
The rulebook itself is laid out well with each section in a logical order as well as having some fairly self explanatory diagrams in each section in order to further illustrate the rules discussed in that entry. There's artwork and small bits of background material throughout with some appropriate stories relating to each faction before their section in the book

For those of you not aware of the fact, Malifaux uses a deck of cards rather than dice which gives the system a unique feel. A standard 54 card deck (you need a Red and a Black Joker) can be used though you'll need to convert the playing card suits to the ones that Malifaux uses (there's a conversion chart in the rulebook for those people not using an 'official' Malifaux deck).

This is obviously a significant difference from most systems and is very different from how most game systems generate their random values but it's something you'll quickly get used to...flipping a '1' is exactly as annoying as rolling a '1' given the same 'trying to hit something' situation. The actual game mechanics are fairly simple and Malifaux 2nd Edition has made significant improvement in the rule-set.

Malifaux used the term 'soulstones' rather than 'points' but the basic effect is the same. First you select a faction, then a Master (or a Mistress I suppose as there are plenty of female bosses in Malifaux) and then you select models for your crew and each has a soulstone cost as do your upgrades. Any left over from your agreed upon game value (35 or 50 are common ones) can be used for various in-game effects though there is a limit to the number your allowed to keep (seven normally).

Each model has a number of 'Action Points' that can be spent on either generic Actions (Walk, Charge, etc.) or specific Attack or Tactical Actions from their stat card. Each action has a starting value to which the value of the card is added (Sh for shooting, Ml for Melee and Ca for casting) and in the case of spells and such there will be a target number (TN) to reach. These attacks are defended against by flipping a card and adding it to the value of either Defence (Df) or Willpower (WP) depending on the type of attack. Rather helpfully all these stats are included on the models card in the section appropriate for the ability.

The difference between your value and that of your opponent (if you equal or beat it, that is) decides how many cards you flip for damage and whether you pick the highest (a 'positive' flip) or the lowest (a 'negative' flip) and the value of the card will relate to either a Weak, Moderate or Severe set of damage from the attack or in some cases you'll simply have some condition inflicted upon you. This is the only aspect of the system that people have trouble with as it's quite different from the method used by most game systems but becomes second nature after a turn or two.

Certain models have access to upgrades that can be bought with your soulstone allowance that have a number of effects ranging from extra or alternate attacks through to alterations in models that can be taken by your crew and range from one to three soulstones depending on their effectiveness. Some are only usable by a certain model or model type or are limited in other respects.

The above upgrades (for example) can only be used by Seamus and 'Limited' means you can't have both...

As the first wave of Beta testing was very intensive system balance is spot-on and the models not covered in the first wave have just had their wave of beta testing completed. As certain models have synergy with one another your selection will have an impact on the effectiveness of your force but generally the deciding factor is player skill.

Considering the number of genres covered in the system the background actually manages to make this melting pot of steam-punk, cowboys, ninjas, horror and comedy gremlins seem entirely plausible. There are a number of decent background stories in the original four books for version 1.5 and this quality is continued in the new Malifaux 2nd Edition in which each of the factions gets an appropriate story at the start of the section and each unit entry gets a bit of history of it's own.

There's a link here to a considerable body of resources, some tutorials can be found here and a large selection of unboxing articles to help you decide on crew selection can be found here.

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