Important Stuff

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

User Content Wednesday - Welcome to Malifaux: A 40k defectors guide

A looooong time ago, 40k for the New Professional had a different URL.  There was lots of great content including a very cool series about the interchange of ideas between IRL and the games we play.  Then Google ate everything without any explanation and he was never able to retrieve it.   It was a pretty sad day.  The House of Paincakes flag was flown at half mast.  But not the US flag since that'd be a little extreme.

Anyway, as you can imagine the wind kind of left the Kennedy's sails even with the registration of a new domain and for a fresh start.  What follows was always one of my favorite posts that was miraculously saved by Google Reader.  I hope re-posting this article, in some small way, puts some of the aforementioned wind back in the aforementioned sails of the aforementioned Kennedy.

Note:  Kennedy, I have a ton of your old stuff bunged away, so let me klnow if you need it.

So, a comment by SinSynn really sparked the idea for this post. After reading his comment about how he might "defect" partially, I had the thought that there are probably loads of you out there who might really like some information about how to actually start up in Malifaux. There's some stuff about it out there, but nothing terribly cohesive. Thus, I have taken it upon myself to write up something that might approach a guide to Malifaux.

I'll be starting really basic and moving forward from there, so feel free to skip ahead when you read something you already know.

An obvious first place to start is the basic premise. Malifaux is set in a steam punk wild west horror setting. Yeah, sounds weird at first, but it all fits, bizarre as that sounds. The game uses cards instead of dice to determine the effects. Typically, you engage in duels, where one of your piece's characteristics + the value of a card flip is pitted against one of your opponent's piece's characteristics + the value of a card flip. The difference in the result determines your victory (and the degree of success).

So, an example: Your Death Marshall (a zombie hunting law enforcement officer) wants to shoot at a Rotten Belle (a zombie hooker). Your Death Marshall has a CB of 5 (it's basically your ballistic skill). He flips an 8. His total is 13 to hit. The Belle has a defense value of 3. The Belle flips a 9. Her total is a 12. Thus, the Death Marshall is currently hitting.

This is where the next big thing comes in. In most duels, you get a chance to Cheat Fate (play a card out of your hand to replace the one you flipped). So, in my example, if the player with the Belle had a high card in his hand, he could cheat it in so the Death Marshall wouldn't hit.

Those are the true basics. If anyone is really interested, I'll be more than glad to post more about how duels work, Twists of Fate and various other more complicated gameplay issues that can really become tactical issues. With what I just posted, I mainly wanted to show that the game isn't really that much different (in some ways) than other wargames you may have played.

Now, I'd like to embark on the actuall things you'll need for a game of Malifaux. First, you'll of course want some models, you'll also want the Rules Manual (which is a condensed version of the rules with recent FAQ and errata changes incorporated, it's $15), a deck (either a regular Malifaux deck that runs $7.50ish, the plastic Puppet Deck that is like $10ish or a cheapo pack of regular playing cards will work, although regular playing cards are going to require reference to a chart in the book, as Wyrd has changed the basic suits), something to keep track of how many Soulstones you have (dice or beads or any small thing will work) and some terrain. Most of that is self-explanatory. What is not self-explanatory is the factions and starter boxes. Thus, here is where I shall spend quite a bit of time.

There are 5 basic factions: Guild, Resurrectionists, Arcanists, Neverborn and Outcasts. In the Guild, Resurrectionists, Arcanists and Neverborn factions, most of the pieces play well together, and you can use basically anything you like together with more or less synergy. The Outcasts become a bit more complicated, but I'll save that for a moment.

When you play a game of Malifaux, you declare base faction first before deploying terrain and deciding on mission. It is only after that when you actually pick the pieces that will make up your crew. Thus, the game rewards you for having lots of pieces within one particular faction. That way, you can tailor your list to the task at hand. This was, for me, the biggest stumbling block coming from 40k. You typically cannot make a "take all comers" list and be done. You have to consider the impact each mission will have on your crew and whether or not you can complete it.

Now, much like Warmachine, the starter boxes are playable straight out of the box. Each starter box comes equiped with a Master (your leader, typically a powerful piece) and several minions that work fairly well with that Master. Boxes range from 4-7 miniatures and from 15 to 25ish points. Theoretically the "Starter box level" is 25 points, but several boxes are a few point shy of that. Regardless, for your first few games a starter box vs. another starter box is balanced enough.

If I were going to make a recommendation for those new to the game, I would say this: Pick a faction where you like the models for several of the different boxes and then buy one or two boxes. One box will get you started. Two boxes will let you expand a little past that and give you a few options. Either way, the initial buy in will be around $60-$80. Not bad, especially considering that you can realistically play at the 25 point level for quite a while.

[Note: To fully "flesh out" any particular crew will run you maybe $50-$75 more, depending on the crew. Some will be much more or much less. I will point out which crews are generally more expensive further on.]

Ok, so here's where I'll go through and explain each of the factions (basically) followed by a description of the Masters/Henchmen within that faction, the level of difficulty and expense of each.

The Guild: The law enforcement of Malifaux. Generally, they are the most straightforward faction. They tend to have Masters who are anti- one of the other forces in the game. Most of the pieces that work well with one Master will work just as well with another. You'll also find you need relatively fewer pieces to play compared to other factions. Generally, they like shooting.

Sonnia Criid: The anti-mage. She has lots of abilities geared towards screwing over magic users. However, she's also a capable mage herself. An easy to learn master where you'll only really "need" a few other pieces.

Lady Justice: Anti-undead. She has lots of abilities geared towards stopping Resurrectionists from making zombies. She's also a close combat monster. She's fully capable of destroying any piece in the game with only a few attacks. Again, she's easy to learn and doens't need very many additional pieces.

Perdita Ortega: The Neverborn hunter. She and her family are all about shooty. They are another quick to learn faction with relatively straightforward abilities. Again, cheap to use as you won't want that many additional pieces.

C. Hoffman: The Construct master. He needs additional pieces out of the box, as he only comes with 16 points worth :( In general, he's a bit trickier than some of the other Guild Masters. However, he's not so difficult that you couldn't start with him. Because of his low starting points total, he's a bit more expensive to play.

Lucius: The Henchman (Henchmen can lead their own crews or be added to a Master's crew). He's all about buffing the normal Guild pieces you can take, specifically Guardsmen and pieces that are part of the Elite Division. He's a bit trickier to learn and a bit more expensive (he wants lots of relatively cheap guys).

Resurrectionists: The first part of the horror element of Malifaux. Resurrectionists generally focus on... well... zombies (with some exception). Most Resurrectionists pieces work very well with each other, just like the Guild. Because some of the Masters can summon new pieces into the game, you may need extra models compared to some of the other factions. Close combat and spells are the order of the day here.

Seamus: The serial killer. Seamus is a survivable toolbox of a Master. He's the least capable summoner of the Resurrectionists, but he makes up for that with his variety of other skills. Seamus is decent at shooting, close combat and spell slinging. Where he really excells, however, is in making himself more Terrifying than he already is and scaring your opponents' models. Generally the cheapest Resurrectionist and a decently easy Master to learn.

McMourning: Dr. Frankenstein himself. While Seamus is the survivable combat Master, McMourning is very killy in combat and a decent summoner. He has a limited summoning palette to draw from, but he can pop up in your opponent's face, slicing and dicing before using pieces he's cut from other models to knit together a monstrous creation. A bit more expensive than Seamus but still relatively straightforward.

Nicodem: The Necromancer. Nicodem is physically weak, but he has spells and summoning to make up for it. He can summon just about any undead model in the game, so if you want to take advantage of that abiility you'll be spending a bit of money on him. He's of intermediate difficulty to learn due to a few tricks. Still, not a bad Master to start with.

Kirai: The Spirit master. Kirai is the only Resurrectionist who does not focus on Zombies. Instead, she uses Spirits. She's another summoning master, so again, she'll cost a bit. She's also a more difficult Master to learn. She has lots of tricks and nuance that can be lots of fun but also quite daunting for a new player. The other downside to Kirai is that her pieces don't work all that well with some of the others in the faction, so using her and another Resurrectionist can become quite expensive.

Molly: The Henchman... err... Henchwoman... Well, she's not out yet, so I have little to say here.

Arcanists: Organized crime in Malifaux, a loose syndicate of rogue mages. Generally, this faction feels a little more fractious than some of the others. The models have a disparate look, and it sometimes seems very obvious that certain pieces work best with certain Masters. Thus, while theorectically having a heavy magic focus (due to the theme), each Master plays quite differently.

Ramos: The Steampunk engineer. Ramos is another construct heavy Master (like C. Hoffman from the Guild). In fact the two can use some of each other's pieces. While Hoffman is more of a support Master, Ramos can create additional steampunk spiders on the battlefield and cast direct damage spells. Ramos isn't particularly complicated or expensive, making him a good first Master.

Marcus: The Beastmaster. Marcus can hire any beast from any faction, making him a slightly more expensive option. He likes to play a kind of hit and run guerilla warfare game with high speed minions who can't afford to be hit. He's widely considered to be quite underpowered compared to the rest of the field, so he's a little bit of a challenge to use effectively.

Rasputina: The Ice Witch. Rasuptina is the very definition of a spell slinger. She wants to hide out of sight and cast spells through her minions (think like Arc Nodes in Warmachine). She's not terribly complex, nor does she need that many pieces. However, she is one of the slowest Masters in the game. Thus, you should beware of that limitation (especially because many of the missions rely on mobility).

Colette: The Showgirl. Colette is a tricky, tricky Master. She has lots of rules and requires finesse to play correctly. She's all about movement and magic that creates movement. Not a lot of direct damage or even damage potential. That said, a full Colette crew is realistically very cheap, as you can almost actually assemble a "take all comers" list. I wouldn't recommend her to a beginner, but she's very good for a second Master.

Kaeris: The Henchwoman... who is also not out, so... Yeah.

Neverborn: The Monsters in Malifaux. The Neverborn are semi-fractious with plenty of pieces that work best with one Master or another, yet they also have enough pieces that are general purpose that they can be a relatively inexpensive faction to play. While some Neverborn like close combat, they have lots of tricks as well.

Lilith: The Mother of Monsters. A close combat expert to match Lady Justice from the Guild. Lilith is the most straightforward Neverborn Master. She like close combat and she likes other minions who like close combat. She has a few tricks, but they're all geared towards getting her and her minions into close combat. Sense a theme ;) ? She's a good place to start and not terribly expensive.

Pandora: Mistress of the Mind. Pandora doesn't really want to hurt you... she'd rather you hurt yourself! Pandora is all about mind tricks and using Willpower duels to debuff or destroy the enemy. She's one of the trickiest Masters in the game. She's also relatively cheap to run. She's not a bad pick for a secondary Master, but she's diffficult for beginners.

Zoraida: The Swamp Hag. Zoraida is a bizarre Master in some ways. She can recruit any model that has a Willpower of 4 or less. This allows her to have an enormous crew selection. Thus, she can be expensive. She doesn't have to be, however. Zoraida doesn't depend on her crew, and typically will be off on her own while her crew is elsewhere. She's a spellcaster, but it's hard to pin down a style for her. She's of intermediate difficulty to learn.

The Dreamer/Lord Chompy Bits: The child master of Nightmares and his Nightmare companion. One of the more insular Masters. He wants only Nightmare-type minions in his crew so he can play the game of hiding them off the table and them making them pop up in your line. He plays like 40k Daemons wish they could. Unfortunately, he's quite complicated. He's easily one of the most complex Masters in the game. Not terribly expensive, however.

Collodi: The Pupeteer. The Neverborn Henchman (Henchmen can lead their own crews or be added to a Master's crew). He is yet another complicated but cheap choice. He wants only Dolls (thus limiting your selection), but he requires much nuance to play. He focuses on using his dolls to pull him across the board (via the strings on his Marionettes) while he buffs the dolls so they can kill the hell out of you.

The Outcasts: The Outcasts aren't a cohesive faction. Instead, I've been told to think of them as 4 disparate smaller factions. This makes them make so much more sense. Each of those smaller factions has its own special hiring restrictions, which can make them daunting at first. Let's dive in.

The Mercenaries

The Viktorias: The Mercenary women. They like to smash things. Hard. They're good at close combat and that's what they do. They're not terribly difficult to learn. However, you will want to buy additions to the starter box almost immediately. Once you buy some of those things, tou aren't buying much else. The Viks like to have an "Elite" force with a very few, very good models.

Von Schill: The Mercenary Captain. A Henchman (Henchmen can lead their own crews or be added to a Master's crew). Von Schill is an action hero. He's the only model in the game that can lead a crew but has no spells. He's good at ranged and close combat, plus he brings with him his Friekorps, good Mercenary troopers. He works well on his own or with the Viks.

The Desolate and Soulless

Leveticus: One of the most complicated and expensive Masters in the game. Leveticus can use any Undead or Constructs from any faction. That's a lot of models. Leveticus focuses on making things dead, including himself. However, Leveticus will resurrect himself every turn, unlike your opponent's models. Very powerful but very, very difficult to learn.

The Plagued

Hamelin the Plagued: The control master. If you've ever played Magic, I'd equate Hamelin to a Blue deck. Hamelin is all about making your opponent's models unable to target him. At all. Then, he swarms you with rats. He's got a very limited crew selection (so cheapish), but a very steep learning curve.

The Bayou Gremlins

Som'er Teeth Jones: The Gremlin Master. Slightly tricky. He likes to let his cheap minions do the fighting and the dying. He'll hide out until an opportunity presents itself for him to pop out and do massive damage. In general, he's a bit trickier of a Master. Gremlins are like 40k Orks that doen't suck with a good dose of hillbilly tossed in.

Ophelia: The Gremlin Henchwoman (Henchmen can lead their own crews or be added to a Master's crew). She and her family are a parody of Perdita Ortega and the Ortega family. Thus, she's very shooty. Again, she's a Gremlin, so... think Ork level insanity. She's much easier to start with than Som'er, so she's a good introduction to Gremlins.

Alright, that was long. Very long. I'll try to simplify things a bit. In Malifaux you have 4 types of Masters (generally): Close combat Masters, Ranged combat Masters, Support casting Masters and Combat casting Masters.
Close combat Masters: Lady J, Seamus (somewhat), McMorning, Lilith, Lord Chompy Bits, the Viks, Von Schill
Ranged combat Masters: Perdita, Ophelia
Support casting Masters: C. Hoffman, Lucius, Seamus (somewhat), Nicodem, Kirai, Ramos, Marcus, Colette, the Dreamer, Collodi
Combat casting Masters: Sonnia Criid, Rasputina, Pandora, Leveticus, Hamelin, Som'er Teeth

Now, hopefully that was helpful. If not, it was just long ;) Of course, some of this (or all of this) could be wrong. But, hopefully it'll be helpful to someone.