Malifaux is a skirmish wargame set in a dark gothic horror, steampunk setting in an alternative 1900’s Earth. Factions of different world cultures battle each other along with gremlins and the undead. Malifaux is made by Wyrd Games and is currently in its third edition, known as M3E.
Malifaux is different from other skirmish wargames, in that it uses cards for tests, rather than dice. This offers a different randomization element from dice and more control over your unit’s actions.
The cards used in Malifaux are a standard fifty-four card deck. thirteen cards of four suits and two jokers. Malifaux has its own suits of Tomes, Crows, Rams, and Masks. The black joker acts as a critical failure if drawn and the red joker is the highest valued card, and always takes precedence over other cards. For tests, a card is drawn and the number is added to the stat of the trait being tested and then compared against the defensive stat of the opponent’s character, plus their card, with the highest number winning.
Some abilities let characters draw additional cards, taking the highest or lowest of the cards depending on the 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. Attacks and abilities for each character are clearly displayed on their large tarot-sized cards, which can also be triggered or selected depending on the suit of the card drawn, such as Misaki's Bisento attack, which lets them reposition three inches if a ram suit is used for the action.
Keywords are a big part of Malifaux and are used in gang building. Units that share the same keyword can be hired for their stated cost, and units that don't share keywords are hired for a higher cost. Keywords also give benefits during play, like Som'er Teeth Jones', Boyou Bash, which gives them a bonus in duels for nearby Big Hat keyword units.
Malifaux - What Do You Need To Play?
As a miniatures skirmish game, there are several components needed to play Malifaux.
- Malifaux 3e Rulebook (available digitally free here, or physical purchase)
- A deck of cards for each player (you can use a standard deck of cards, but official Malifaux decks with their custom suits are available)
- A measuring tool
- Malifaux miniatures and their unit stat cards
- Tokens (which can be anything used for tracking and marking including dice or coins)
- A three by three-foot playing surface with terrain (this can be as basic as a floor or table with some books, or as detailed as a hobby board with high-quality scenery)
If you're new to Malifaux the easiest way to start playing is with a Faction Starter Set, which we detail the contents of below. The different factions and their play styles are detail in the Factions section.
Faction Starter Boxes
Starter Boxes for different Malifaux factions are being regularly released and contain:
- Single piece sculpts of four miniatures
- Unit cards for the boxes' miniatures
- Upgrade Cards
- A themed fate deck for the faction
- A measuring widget and tokens
These starter boxes contain everything you need for one player to start with Malifaux, with the rules available for free on the Wyrd website. The single-piece miniatures just need to be attached to bases, and they're ready to play. All players need is an opponent with another starter box or their own Malifaux faction, and a battlefield to play on.
The units in the starter sets also contain the Versatile keyword, which means they can be used with any Master for their faction, making the starter boxes easy to expand from with all the different Master options.
Masters Core Boxes
Each faction has a variety of different Masters available, which come with a selection of units that share the same keyword. Keywords are used during gang building, and units that share the same keyword can be hired for their stated cost, and units that don't share keywords are hired for a higher cost.
Masters Core Boxes include the miniatures and stat cards and are great for expanding out from Starter Boxes, or for starting out in Malifaux with the addition of the Malifaux essentials.
Faction Expansion Packs
A huge selection of expansion packs are available and come in a variety of miniature numbers, from single large units to small squads. Each box has their faction symbol on the outside, and the keywords they use, including versatile for those that work with all keywords. Some are also multi-faction and multi-keyword, and all the unit cards can be downloaded for free, so you can see if they'll work well with your current force.
While the rules are available online for free, the Malifaux physical rulebook contains a detailed history and lore around Malifaux, along with some beautifully illustrated maps of the land.
Each faction also has a Faction Book which contains several short stories for the faction, full printed stat cards, and information about every unit, printed upgrade cards, and a keyword index to help you with gang building.
There are several card packs available for Malifaux, and these are all just physical cards for those that are available for free on the Malifaux Resources page.
- Fate Decks - A general Malifaux fate deck is available, along with themed fate decks for each faction that use the custom Malifaux suits.
- Faction Card Packs - These are conversation packs for previous edition Malifaux players, to allow them to convert their existing forces to Third Edition. They contain all the M3E cards for all released units for that faction.
- Gaining Grounds - A tournament and update pack. They contain cards for all units updated in that season's errata, along with schemes and strategies for that season. All the unit updates are available for free online in the errata, as well as the online cards being updated, and the schemes and strategies are available in the Gaining Ground Pack download, all of which are available here.
- General Upgrade Pack - A physical release of the cards published in each faction book, and are also available under each factions upgrades folder online.
- Guild - The main power in Malifaux. They’re a straightforward damage-dealing faction with different twists depending on the Master.
- Arcanists - An underground group of academics and magic users. A big focus on status and magic effects
- Neverborn - Monsters, demons, and evil spirits. Lots of tricks, with a focus on getting in fast and dealing close damage.
- Ten Thunders - A group of united Asian nations vying for power against the Guild. They have infiltrated most Malifaux factions, which gives their masters access to units from a different faction on top of their own, giving them a variety of playstyles.
- Resurrectionists - Necromancers and controllers of the undead. They’re durable and have access to summoning abilities.
- Outcasts - A collection of groups and individuals outside the normal factions. This variety gives them a mix of playstyles, and their mercenary nature means that other factions can hire their units, for a higher cost.
- Gremlins - Short green creatures from the swamps. Have the ability to hurt themselves for buffs.
- Explorers Society - Adventurers and pioneers, exploring the dark corners of the world. They have different playstyles, depending on the master, and also link back into other Malifaux factions.
The Malifaux products used to produce this article were provided by Wyrd Games.