Wyrd have recently released the 3rd edition of their skirmish wargame, Malifaux, known as M3E. For those unaware of Malifaux, it’s different from normal wargames because instead of dice, it uses a deck of cards for its tests mechanic. Malifaux is set in a kind of dark Victorian steampunk setting, with many cultures we know represented, with kung fu monks, samurai, alleyway thieves, and Wild West banditos. The setting also includes a lot of the supernatural, with goblins and myths and monsters of legend joining the battle.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the Malifaux mechanics, then we’ll look at a couple of crew’s that are playable out of their boxed sets and we’ll detail what you need to start playing, and also how you go about converting from 2nd edition Malifaux to the new edition.
The cards used in Malifaux are a standard 54 card deck. 13 cards of 4 suits and 2 jokers. Malifaux has its own suits of Tome, Crows, Rams and Masks. The black joker is a critical failure if drawn and the red joker is the highest valued card, and always takes president over other cards. For tests, the number of the card drawn is added to the stat of the trait being tested and compared against the defensive stat of the opponent’s character, plus their card drawn, with the highest number winning.
Some abilities let characters draw more cards, taking the highest or lowest value of the cards shown depending on if it’s a positive or negative modifier. Players also have a hand of cards that can be used during the turn to cheat fate, which allows you to replace the card drawn for the test with a card from your hand. Different abilities can also be triggered or selected depending on the suit of the card drawn.
What’s fantastic about Malifaux, is that all of the attacks and abilities your characters can do are written on their character cards. Apart from the 6 generic actions of Walk, Charge, Interact, Disengage, Concentrate and Assist, everything else you need to know about your units is in front of you. During my first few games of Malifaux, I felt like I was referring to the rulebook a lot less than I would be while learning any other wargame. Most of the rulebook visits were for timing clarification of tests and triggers.
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It was quick and simple to get into Malifaux and very easy to enjoy. The card flipping for tests is fun and gives the game as a whole a very different feel than a regular wargame. The different factions and ways to play also feel very unique, and these play into the card mechanics very well, as we’ll look at below with one of the factions we tried out.
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The 2 crew boxes we played our first few games with are the Youko and Basse crew boxes. Youko is assisted by a team of seductive geisha and her enforcer Bill Algren. When I initially started looking at the crew’s character cards, it’s immediately obvious that they don’t have a lot of offensive abilities. Only Youko and Bill have weapon attacks. This concerned me and it wasn't until I actually start playing, that you realize how powerful Youko's posse is.
Malifaux is an objectives-based game, and while you can go guns blazing at the other crew, winning objectives takes games. What Youko does is restrict your opponent’s hand, so that they have fewer cards to cheat with, making your opponent rely on the cards drawn for winning tests. What the rest of the crew do, is build up pass tokens that can either be used to make your opponent activate all of their characters before you, or used to make sure that you have the advantage during tests. The geisha can also be used to lure your opponent’s characters towards them, away from objectives. While all this control is happening, Bill has an ability that lets him smash into combat, pushing your other characters to safety and hitting his enemies hard. The crew are flimsy though, and if left out of position, or exposed to an enemy attack, they are easily taken out, which can further hamper your control options.
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Basse is a very versatile leader. The crew in his box come with options to reduce line of sight to them. Basse’s crew have some great offensive and defensive abilities. Basse himself has a Hard to Kill ability, which stops damage reducing him below 1 if he has 2 or more health, which means it will always take a minimum of 2 hits to kill him, no matter how powerful either hit is. He can heal friendly models within 6 inches with the Stoic Nod tactical action and can also summon a Sand Worm that damages the enemy and also destroys destructible terrain in a 3-inch radius.
His crew of Frontiersmen have the Backup ability that lets them discard a card to fire a retaliation shot at an enemy hitting a friendly model within 6 inches of them. They also heal an additional health whenever they’re healed, which allows Basse to keep them high on health as his Stoic Nod will heal a minimum of 2 health.
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To start playing Malifaux 3e, you don’t actually need much. The rulebook is available online for free, as are all the stat cards for every character. You can buy the printed rulebook, and the stat cards come with the crew boxes.
What you do need is a crew, and there are already several M3E crews out there. You also need a tape measure and a deck of cards. You can use a normal deck of cards, but you will need to convert the standard suits to the Malifaux suits, or you can buy the Malifaux deck of cards with its fantastic artwork. After that, it’s just some scenery. The more scenery the better as open ground is no-one’s friend in Malifaux.
Wyrd are in the process of publishing faction books for each of the available factions. These have a whole host of information about the factions, along with stat cards and other information about the different crews.
If you’re coming from Malifaux 2e, upgrade card packs are available for each faction, to bring your 2e characters directly into 3e. This also works for any of the older miniatures you like the look of. We’ve already been seeking out older boxes of the Ten Thunders and Resurecitonists for our crews.
We’re going to be covering a lot more about Malifaux, including a look at the individual factions and core boxes, as well as a detailed look at crew building with some of the top players in future articles.
Have you played any editions of Malifaux? Which faction do you play? Which master is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
The M3E products used in this article were provided by Wyrd and Goblin Gaming. You can buy your M3E products from Goblin Gaming with 20% off the RRP.