Friday, 1 March 2013

The Merits of Malifaux


Out of nowhere, he appears, the great and mysterious Incarias!

Watch as he pulls yet another opinion-laden post of of his... thin air!

These are some of the merits of Malifaux.

The Models
There is one, and only one, real reason to start Malifaux. The models are brilliant.

You will forgive my lack of appropriate pictures. Or not.
Generally speaking, Wyrd produces stunningly designed, unusually well-sculpted and adequately produced models. There are occasional hiccups with the last bit (some of their sprue desicions transferring to plastic are a bit odd), but they manage to nail the other two.

With many game companies, you see either a brilliant concept ruined by poor execution, or an absolutely stunningly sculpted mini based on a crap design. Wyrd generally avoids this. Part of this is probably the fact that theirs is a small company, and their volumes of minis are small enough that they have the time to put proper effort into each design.

Another part is the fact that Malifaux largely lacks faceless (well, except literally) mooks; every model is unique - at least to the point where I have yet to purchase duplicates of a single sculpt. When every model you produce is meant to be a character - and have character - the effort becomes more important.

The final thing that makes the models brilliant is:

The Backstory
Malifaux terms itself a character-driven skirmish game. This is important, but not really unique - heck, WarmaHordes is basically a character-driven sorta-skrimish game.

No, what is important about the backstory is the fact that it has a dark humour to it, that is entirely ingrained in every aspect of the game. There may be a serious storyline (or several) going on at all times; a battle between evil and slightly-less-evil, humanity's struggle for survival in a hostile land and the rise of an ancient Eldritch Evil (or four). But underneath all that is the fact that most of the 'evil' characters of the game are hilarious.

"I just wanna wuv you!"

Malifaux takes some of the most horrific archetypes available, and twists them until they aren't just parodies of themselves, but horrifying self-parodies. Let's just look at the original Masters from the Resurrectionists (one of the aforementioned 'evil' factions).

First, there is Nicodem, a Zombie-raising undertaker, complete with top hat and cane. He wouldn't really look out of place in a Lucky Luke comic, and if he starts measuring you up, it's probably not actually for a coffin....

Second is the city of Malifaux's coroner, McMourning. Think the love-child of Sweeney Todd and Viktor Frankenstein, with just a dash of post-Locker Jack Sparrow thrown in. The fact that his personal totem is an oversized Zombie Chihuahua is somehow very appropriate.

Third is Seamus (nick-named the Mad Hatter) who's just plain crazy. He's obviously been inspired by Jack the Ripper, and while the notion of Ladies of the Night being not only murdered brutally, but then brought back to unlife by their killer is terrifying, the Hatter himself makes it into a great big practical joke. And then he totes around an absolutely ridiculous arsenal consisting of the game's largest handgun and a bag full of asorted [I misspelled that as aorted, which considering the fact that he can trigger Slit Jugular, is somehow appropriate] junk, and occasionally turns into the Hulk (if the Hulk was triggered not by being angry, but scary).

Ah, Spidey, Spidey, Spidey. He's going to eat you now. And he's still Nicer that Seamus' Avatar.
Malifaux, in conclusion, does not take itself very seriously. It seems okay with letting its only topless female model be a hundred-year-old hag, and its scariest one a huge Teddy.

The Game
The game of Malifaux has two things going for it internally, and one externally. Internal first.

Cards. There's not a dice to be found in Malifaux (and we've even banned using them as turn counters). Playing cards are used instead. I've written about this before (here) but I'll say it again: this is a good thing.

Interaction. This one hasn't really struck me in a significant manner before, but the fact that most actions in Malifaux are either very basic and involve nothing but your own stuff, or require involvement by both players is huge. You are not, as the inactive player, passive. You actively defend yourself by generating a defending total based on stats and cards, you get to declare defensive triggers, and when your poor model is dead, it is immediately (almost always) your turn to get revenge.

No more sitting back for an entire turn hoping your opponent doesn't spot that mistake you made, or rolls too well, or has a plan you didn't anticipate. No more realizing just a little too late that you've left a firing lane to Nemo that you didn't notice when moving him, and now Lylyth will kill him dead with her shooty army of doom (no, I'm not bitter. Much).

So, I Googled "helpless". My advice is: don't.

Now, some will contest that there are other games that do this. And there are. They might even do it better. But they do not do it with nearly as much style.

Lastly, there's the external thing I mentioned. It's really not only external, though, but it seems Malifaux encourages a different type of player. The type of player that is sort of fine with the rules having holes the size of Taelor's bosom. The type of player that stops playing a Master that got just that little bit too evilly overpowered.

It's just easier to play a game of Malifaux and not really care about the outcome. Yes, my recent defeat at the hands of Believe's Ortega crew was nearly as severe as that inflicted by the above mentioned Lylyth, but it is a lot easier to swallow. Why? because my attitude going in is so different. And that attitude is most definitely influenced by the general feeling surrounding this game.

And that is why, even though we have a considerable WarmaHordes campaign going on, in which I'm just a hair's breadth from taking the lead, I'm chasing games of Malifaux. It might not be a better game than WarmaHordes, or either of the Warhammer siblings. But it is more fun.


1 comment:

  1. I agree that Malifaux is a fun game and the card aspect is refreshing in a world of dice. Another big plus for me is the alternate activation, leading to more involvment and not half-an-hour-waiting-until-you-shot-everything in other tabletop games.
    The only problem I have is the game length: Alternate activation gives lots of options (especially mid-game), which takes a lot of time... But I guess playing more games will help. I am working on my new crew, so I hope we can get a couple of games soon!