Friday, 11 February 2011

002 - Malifaux? What's that then?

You may be wondering what on Earth this "Malifaux" thing is all about, so let me explain. Assuming you're already familiar with miniature war-games in general, here's what I believe marks out Malifaux as special:

1) Unique Setting
The game is set in a fully fleshed out alternate history Earth, in which magic, once common, is on the wane. Around the end of the 19th century, a portal opens to the world of Malifaux; a world where magic can be fueled through the use of "Soulstone", and various characters and factions travel through the Breach in search of power and wealth. So far, so Mordheim!
The characters and factions here, though, are varied, fresh and more imaginative than anything I've seen in other games. Starting with a strong Old West vibe, Malifaux adds to the mix a healthy dose of Necromancy, (including the oft-touted zombie hookers!), a dollop of Gothic Horror (possessed blade wielding children and a Frankenstein-esque doctor), and finishes with sprinkles of Steampunk, Victorian science and Manga. It's an eclectic melting stew of genres and it's incredibly characterful. Wyrd themselves coined the word “Steamvictoriohorrorwestpunk” to describe it.

2) Card Based Mechanics
There isn't a single dice to be seen in this game. Everything is driven by the Fate Deck, essentially a regular deck of cards but with themed suits. Both players have their own deck from which they flip cards throughout the game. Most actions in the game involve a "Duel", basically flipping a card and adding the value to one of your characteristics. The total is compared to a target number or to a total similarly generated by your opponent. Beat the target number and the action succeeds.
The simple foundation allows a surprising degree of modification. Negative flips (flip 2 and take the lowest), cheating (replace the flipped card with one from your hand of 6 "control" cards) and Black/Red Jokers (think miscast or irresistible force) give further tactical considerations and give the players a constant stream of important choices to make.

3) Simple Core Rules
The basic rules are very straight forward. Crews are usually made up if between 5 and 10 figures. Each model can make 2 actions in it's turn, whether that be walk, attack, or one of the unique actions listed in it's special rules.
Models activate alternately (you move one, I move one) which allows players to react to opponents moves in a way that GW games lack. Things can happen fast, and Activation order becomes a key tactical consideration.

4) Complex Special Rules
While the basics may be simple, each model has somewhere between 5 and 20 special rules. Knowing how your crew works, and looking for combos and synergies between different models is the key to winning and, to my newbie's eye, seems to give the game endless depth. I'm hoping that there will be many hidden layers in this game to uncover. The only concern I have is that with so many special rules at play, it's very easy to forget one or two in the heat of battle, as I've already discovered.

5) Small Supportive Company
Malifaux is produced by Wyrd, a relatively young company based in Georgia, USA. With the game being so new, it's still evolving, and Wyrd appear to be very supportive in offering up to date errata, free updates to cards if the rules change, and an active presence on the official forums, answering rules queries and such. The level of interaction with the hobbyist is, in my experience, relatively unprecedented.

All in all, I hope the above has made you curious enough to give the game a shot! In my next post I'll be showing off some of the Malifaux models that I've recently painted, and explaining how I went about selecting my starting crew.