As someone who has been playing tabletop wargames for decades, I too have been bedazzled by the prestige of Games Workshop. Their miniatures are amazing; their games play great; and it’s easy to get excited about their new and upcoming products. So, if you said two months ago that all of that would change with one faux-French word, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Malifaux is a weird west skirmish game that uses a deck of cards instead of dice; don’t worry dear reader, the idea scared me and other wargamers at first. But as I came to play more and more of this Wyrd game, my excitement levels have grown and grown - so much so that my excitement spilled into this article. So I’ve bottled my excitement, and here are three reasons why you should be excited to play Malifaux.
No Dice, Only Fate
“My lightning claw terminators attack your commander forty six times… and wound once.”
Don’t lie, you’ve been in this situation. Maybe it was a 2+ pass from your elven union thrower in Bloodbowl, or your 104 Ork boyz only managing to kill two Space Marines; but we have all been betrayed by the fickle improbable probabilities of dice. For some this is why they come back to miniatures and wargaming, however what if there were more exciting and better ways to add player agency?
Enter the fate deck. As mentioned earlier, Malifaux uses a deck of cards to determine outcomes. This is a standard 54 deck of cards that you flip and manipulate to succeed or fail at the myriad of actions your models can perform. At first the flippant disrespect for the sanctity of dice shocked me, but as many have come to agree, it allows almost unlimited control over how you play the game. As each deck of cards only has 54 possible outcomes, the random nature of dice and bad luck can always be averted. Did you flip a 1 when you needed a 6 or higher? Cheat in a 7 from your hand. Is your opponent flipping nothing but high cards every time you attack them? They have to run out of good cards eventually.
This can go a step further with those of us able to count and memorize cards, being able to effectively guarantee that certain actions succeed without the need to cheat in cards from your hand. The level of control, consistency and the competitive ceiling is what keeps me coming back.
The Theme Flows Through Mechanics
My excitement only grew when I started to REALLY understand the rules. The way Malifaux crews are built is using keywords, like The Last Blossom ninjas, The M&SU (mining and steamfitters union), Nightmare or The Dreamer; a lucid dreaming child who’s nightmares manifest into reality. As you can see, each keyword comes with a narrative and theme and the beauty of this system is that a crew's theme carries over to their rules.
The Dreamer summons nightmares and extra models you place on the table, but only if your opponent fails willpower duels. Those ninjas can conceal themselves to vanish and reappear on the board as if nothing happened, assassinating your enemies’ models in the process. Such a varied pool of models leads to some incredibly creative design space for rules and the ability for Wyrd games to mirror the rules with the lore of the Malifaux world. When a game makes you feel like you’re one of the crew, what's not to love?
The Models are Stunning
Now I can already hear your qualms; ninjas, nightmare creatures AND steampunk robots in the same universe, doesn’t this get a little messy? Surprisingly no. The way Wyrd have designed the lore of Malifaux means every little cog in this machine fits; and what a beautifully constructed machine it is! Wyrd Games produce some of the most incredibly detailed and beautiful miniatures on the market. From four armed flaming minotaur constructs, undead zombie hunting cowboys, to the simplest of bandits; wielding guns, guitars and singing about rings of fire.
Every model is amazingly sculpted and oozing with charm. With such beautiful models and intricate lore that develops each edition, Malifaux is a must-recommend for those who have no interest in the game itself, but who just want to collect beautiful miniatures.
So whether you’re a spikey competitive skirmish gamer, who wants the utmost control over your crew, a fluffy theme based player like myself who wants narrative elements having a place in the rules; or someone wanting that next amazing centerpiece model, you should be out there enjoying Malifaux with the rest of us Mali-friends.
Looking to get your hands on some Malifaux gear? Shoot us a message via our contact form and we'll see what we can source for you from our suppliers, or you can drop by the store any Thursday night to find some players ready for a game.