Saturday, August 15, 2009

Malifaux - And So It Begins...

Today I picked up the Malifaux main rule book from my LGS. Their line of miniatures is majestic and when I found out they were going to be releasing a skirmish game for their miniatures I was quite excited. So of course, after picking up the book, I swung by Henry's and we got in an initial test of the game. This post will be more review than battle report, but I'm going to count this game anyway.

The Book: The rule book itself is quite nice. The artwork carries the Malifaux style through the whole book, and where released, they have pictures of the actual miniatures next to each models' stats. It's fairly well, with fiction interspersed between sections for rules. The rules themselves are organized fairly well, and within an hour of flipping through the book we were ready to try it out.

The Rules: I'm not going to outline the rules here obviously. It's a miniatures skirmish game so there's plenty of obvious things that are a given (miniatures, tape measure, model stats, etc). I'll just note some of the key features of Malifaux itself.
* Diceless! - The game uses a standard deck of cards instead of dice. I really like this feature, but admittedly it will make the strategy more challenging to pick up. On the plus side, the mechanism for doing action checks is fairly simple, making it quick to learn.
* Alternating turn sequence - Models activate in an alternating fashion, with each player activating one model at a time. Once everything has been activated, then the turn ends and a new one begins. This is different than most games I've played, so it will take a while to get used to.
* Character based - Everything in the game has its own stat card. I'd estimate that over 50% of the models in the game are unique characters. Every model is bought individually. There are no "units" in this game which is quite refreshing.
* Over the top - This game feels a lot like Warmachine did when I first started playing back when Escalation had just come out. Everything has multiple features and its card is full of text.
* Simplicity - Despite the small skirmish feel (4-6 models on a side) and complex character cards, the core game rules are fairly streamlined simple. LOS is any straight line from anywhere on both bases. Models don't have a facing. No units means no formations. It's pretty refreshing.

The Sample: The game we played was relatively short (2 turns). Henry was playing the Ramos Arcanist box and I was playing the Pandora Neverborn box. He squashed me since we were purposefully not trying to "win" the game in order to try out various rules. It plays pretty fast with each player interacting all the time due to the activation sequence. The rules for melee and ranged attacks is uniform and the rules for casting is very similar. I really like the card mechanic as it tends to reduce the "random" element of the game to something you can plan around. Instead of orchestrating a plan that tries to overcome dice odds with more attacks, this system allows for buffering good cards into your hand to support that plan. Of course, this works defensively as well.

The Faction: Pandora of the Neverborn faction is sort of a denial shutdown group. Not much damage output, but a lot of abilities to slow down and stymie opponents. Ramos of the Arcanist faction was more of a hard hitting melee and spellcasting group. The Steamborg Executioner laid out a pile of damage on Pandora in our test game.

The Reflection: I'm very much looking forward to trying out a serious game of this. I'm not sure Pandora will be my favorite choice rules-wise, but it's hard to tell at this point. We're planning another game tomorrow and by then I should have read through the majority of the rules. I'm confident this new game will be making appearances on this blog in the future, especially as I start to paint the models.

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