Monday, November 10, 2014

Malifaux: First Encounters, First Impressions

Oof, nearly two months without a post. That's apt to change over the coming months, as I have finally taken the plunge and signed up for the annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. My hope is that by the conclusion of the contest in March, my current unpainted collections will all be painted up, and I'll be sure to share my progress along the way.

I've been priming my painting pump (not to mention sharpening my terraining scythe) of late by working towards a grand goal for this holiday weekend: hosting a bunch of Malifaux games! Two of my oldest and dearest friends were flying in, and grand plans were laid out to take the plunge into this new game. (We played many a game of Necromunda and Mordheim back in the day, and Malifaux seemed to scratch a very similar itch.)

The friends showed up Thursday night and we got to playing on Friday. Here, then, are some pictures from our many games (we each played three - two two-player scenarios a piece, plus an "all in" three-player scenario), followed by my thoughts on the game in general, and what I would recommend to new players like myself.

The board setup from our first game. Terrain consisted of Dave Graffam paper buildings and Zuzzy "Wounded City" rubber mat, with the 4x4 table marked off to the 3x3 area required by the game.

Another game's setup - the second session, I believe. Malifaux takes place in a sort of alternate steampunk history, so I decided to pick up a set of train tracks to add to the table. I'll be dirtying them up for future games.

My crew are from the Outsiders faction and consist of "the Viktorias" - a mercenary and her extra-dimenstional doppelganger who became like sisters. That's one great thing about the Malifaux setting, the many different colorful characters populating it that you get to play with.

This hellish contraption is called a "Peacekeeper" - ha! Seriously bad news, but Taelor (there in the foreground) stood toe-to-toe with it for several rounds before succumbing. The Viktorias got their revenge, though...

The Peacekeeper eventually fell to a coordinated attack, and I managed to pull a draw in my first game - although it would've been a loss had my opponent not neglected one of his Schemes (another fun aspect of the game).

This shot is from the three-way game, in which C. Hoffman's constructs duked it out with a local Gremlin tribe while my Outcasts snuck in and made off with the treasure. I love playing mercenaries!

A shot from the last game I played, Outcasts versus Gremlins. We found that each game had a distinctly different flavor, with some being very much about careful positioning and others devolving pretty quickly into out-and-out slugfests. Each faction definitely has some very carefully balanced strengths and weaknesses, and part of the fun of the game is discovering your own as well as your opponent's.

Leaving off with a nice little cinematic shot: my Student of Conflict facing down a Guild Hunter. One of the Viktorias bounded in and got her to safety on the next turn, if memory serves.

So what's the final verdict?

We loved Malifaux! I've got a second crew on the painting table already (Perdita Ortega and family), and hope to use it and my original crew to demo games for folks in my own community; my friends are likewise going to carry the gospel back to their town. I'm also planning some new terrain projects, both in terms of expanding my "urban" set-up that we used in this weekend's games as well as creating some new boards (the Latigo clan will need some arid land and adobe buildings to defend, after all).

Because of our Necromunda/Mordheim backgrounds, we dove in with the Campaign rules as presented in Volume 5 of Wyrd Chronicles from the get-go, and those proved very successful. I almost lost my leader, Viktoria of Ashes, after one game, but successfully pulled off a "deal with the devil" that earned her Black Blood (think the creatures' acidic blood in Aliens) and Flight. Triumph! As it was, I came out ahead on Campaign points (yet somehow last in total Soulstone value), and very satisfied with my crew - although I am going to go with the alternate sculpts for the Viktorias and third-party proxy for Taelor that I like better than the sculpts I have.

Game play proved deep and satisfying without getting too bogged down in mechanics (once we got over the initial learning curve, of course), and rules questions were few and far between and easily resolved (the index never failed!). The card mechanic was lot of fun and definitely provided an interesting and engrossing alternative to dice rolling.

Did we have any criticisms? Sure. Few to none of our beefs were with the game proper, however. Rather, there was some frustration with the game's product support.

See, Malifaux is currently in its Second Edition, and is still rolling out new product. The switch to 2E has also seen a switch to finely-detailed plastic kits replacing the old metal sculpts. So there are a lot of the old packs still floating around. And because the game uses stat cards to track models during the game, you can run into the problem of getting a set with old cards, like my friend Alex did with his Gremlins.

Fortunately, I had purchased the full rulebook, which includes copies of stat cards for all the major models in release at the time of publishing. There is, however, a truncated "table reference" volume that lacks those stats - if I had bought that book, we would've been SOL! Furthermore, my friend Tim and I had both bought some supplementary card decks feeling they were somewhat peripheral, only to find out that they were tremendously useful!

So if you're looking to get into Malifaux, here's the "boxed set" assortment I would recommend picking up to make sure your bases are covered:

Malifaux 2E Rules Manual

Two copies of the Strategies & Schemes Deck 

  • (This was invaluable, not just for remembering Victory Point objectives, but also because it came with a handy Quick Refernce card!)

Two "2E" boxed sets of your choice - the buy-in cost for this game is so low compared to 40K or WarmaHordes, it's quite easy to put together two or more crews

A set of dry erase pens to mark your cards - they're laminated, and have spaces to track wounds for this very purpose

ETA: Bah, I knew I was forgetting something--counters! This, in my opinion, is where the game could really use a boxed set in the GW mold, as it makes use of quite a few counters over the course of play but doesn't actually provide any. Fortunately, I had some proxy counters on hand for our weekend, but I'm looking at some third-party sources for the "real deal" and I'm liking what Counter Attack is offering. The "condition quadrant" markers in particular are quite swanky.

Optional

Two Fate decks

  • (You can use a standard poker deck to play, but the Fate decks looked nice and already had suits and card values converted, saving a bit of mental math during the heat of battle.) 

Arsenal deck(s) (example)

  • (These are decks for each faction that provide 2E stat cards for every model in the faction; there are currently two "waves" of releases, so make sure you get both to cover all your bases. If you're buying the latest kits, you probably don't need these, but if you're using older models that came with 1E or 1.5E cards, this purchase is mandatory.)

5 comments:

  1. You can't make me get Malifaux!

    (Actually you probably can if you keep posting these...yikes.)

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    1. I'll run a demo for you once I get the Latigo clan painted up. In the meantime, we need to have our inaugural Warmachine/Hordes showdown... :D

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  2. Awesome--both that you finally gave the world some more mini-posting, and that you got into Malifaux. The crews are awesome...as cool as Perdita is I don't think I could ever play her when Ophelia exists. If I lived in a world where my "Convince wife to try new minis game" effect was off cooldown, though, I'd go with the Rail Crew; something about a Rail Golem sold me -immediately-.

    Hope there'll be some more battle reports in the future, and the buying guide's definitely useful in case Christmas sets Stacey down the path to greater game hunger.

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    Replies
    1. That's the thing--the game is almost set up in a way that you have to get more than one crew, because there are just too many cool options out there. The Gremlins were absolutely kick-ass and were a hoot to play against. There was this whole back-and-forth sequence that played out at one point that I could swear ran like an action movie storyboard.

      (The "drunken ninja gremlin" set that's coming out soon is a real hoot, too.)

      You will definitely love this game. It pushes pretty much all the right buttons for how you like to play and what you're looking for in a game, I think.

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    2. Added an extra item to my "boxed set" list, BTW.

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