Malifaux is a little different to other wargames. For one, there are no dice. It uses cards, pretty much the same an ordinary deck of cards, as the random element. This would be like rolling a 13 sided die apart from one crucial difference – you can cheat the flip with a card from your hand.
The second big difference is the game setting. Because Wyrd had an interesting line of miniatures before the game was launched they had a lot to incorporate. The resultant merging of Victorian, steam punk, gothic horror and old west seems implausible. Somehow Wyrd have managed to weave all if these elements into a cohesive game background. The world of Malifaux is the result.
The third selling point is its small scale. Games have at most about ten miniatures per side. These ‘crews’ are centred around a powerful Master (or two) and each model acts autonimosly.
Anyway, enough of the background – what does the game play like.
Steve and I played a Warmachine game on Tuesday night and documented (lots of photographs and notes) it for an upcoming battle report for the Uplink magazine. Afterwards we decided to play a 25 soulstone game of Malifaux. Soulstones are used like points to select your crew. The Master is free and will have a soulstone cache which can be used in the game. Unspent soulstones from the force selection are added to this cache.
The game was to be a ‘battle box’ game with Steve using Ortegas, a gunslinging Guild crew, and me fielding another Guild crew lead by Lady Justice. My crew have a decent ranged ability, but Lady Justice is a melee monster so getting her up close to the enemy is a priority. I think a little narrative-style battle report is called for.
Since the opening of the Hollow Marsh Pumping Station smaller pumps like this one had fallen into disuse. Somehow everything seemed to rot and decay quicker in Malifaux. Seems fitting that this is were the Ortegas will meet some justice. Sell-swords, or sell-guns in their cases, should never be trusted. They take the Guild script willingly, but then blatantly cooperate with the Union, The last three times they had been sent after Union prey they had failed to deliver. To Lady Justice this reeked of treachery. The relationship between the Guild and the Ortegas has succumbed to the same rot and decay as everything else here.
The Ortegas spread out on the far side of the small pumping station. As they quickly moved forward towards Lady Justice’s crew she realised this would not be as straightforward as hoped. The terrain was very open, suiting the Ortegas well. Nino Ortega loved to snipe his quarry from afar. Lady Justice shouted to The Judge to engage the Ortegas directly and bring a Death Marshal with him for cover. He never questioned her orders, but even with unseeing eyes she could see his reluctance. Despite this he ran straight towards them. With the decoy in place she ran to join the other two Death Marshals who were moving up the left flank around the pump. She heard the sound of their Peacemakers opening up and and then a violent explosion that seemed to silence them.
As she rounded the back of the building she saw a Death Marshal hunkered at the corner firing at an unseen target. The other Death Marshal was grappling with the insane Papa Ortega. Only a madman would consider dynamite a melee weapon!. She didn’t break stride and charged straight into the old man, cutting him down with her greatsword. As he fell he instinctively lit up ever pieve of dynamite he held. Jady Justice was thrown back in the blast and the Death Marshal taking cover at the wall was badly bloodied. The Marshal who had been engaged with the madman was destroyed. Out of the corner of her eye she saw her prey, Perdita Ortega, the leader of the Ortegas. Perdita had leveled her guns in this direction.
In the centre things were not faring much better. The Judge charged Nino, but not before the sniper had taken out his accompanying Death Marshal. Nino was slippery in melee and the Judge failed to fell him. Francisco, Nino’s old cousin charged in to aid him. He struck the Judge down, but he just managed to strike Nino as he fell. Nino went down too.
Now was Lady Justice’s chance. Perdita looked to be within striking distance so she charged at full speed into the gunslinger. The initial blow was monstrous and rocked Perdita backwards. Lady Justice cursed as the second swing failed to connect and the Ortega Master shot point blank towards her. Miraculously the shot missed. She didn’t take long to count her blessings and swung again at Perdita. The greatsword connected with its target again. She wouldn’t be getting up any time soon after a blow like that. It’ll be a while before the Ortegas cooperate with the Union again.
So that’s it. Malifaux is a nice skirmish level game that reminds me a lot of Inquisitor (which is the game that go be back into wargaming). Each character has a role to play on the battlefield and it seems that Malifaux would be well suited to narrative driven campaign play.