When considering the differences between Malifaux and other miniature games I used to think that the biggest differences were the activation sequences or the hidden objectives or even the card flips. I've been playing on and off for over a year now and I've come to a different conclusion. The biggest difference in Malifaux and other games (specifically Warmahordes) is by far crew building.
Allow me to explain.
I am a very competitive player. No matter how hard I try to be casual about games, I always find myself
drawn into playing hard and playing to the absolute best of my ability. To put it simply, I hate losing. This proclivity has translated from Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer both 40k and Fantasy, Mage Knight, Dice Masters and Warmahordes. I'd spend hours at a time tinkering with a deck or a list, making a small change and then playing, then going back and changing again until what I brought to the table was as perfect as I could get it.
Truth is, while it makes you a better player, its exhausting and a bit consuming. Working a full time job and being a father doesn't leave much time for constant game playing. Also, I found that after a while you don't play for fun anymore, you are just playing to win. Every game is a tournament game or a practice game.
Then Malifaux came along.
In the movie, The Prestige, it is explained that every magic act has 3 parts. Setting up for a game of Malifaux is no different. There are three pieces of the puzzle that you must consider before you begin. Unlike most games, where you come with a full set of lists ready to go, Malifaux requires some at the table decisions. Allow me to borrow the concepts of the magic act to explain the process.
In Malifaux you have options at every step of set up for the game. The first thing to consider is the faction you are going to play. As Malifaux doesn't reward sticking to a single faction the way that other games do, this could be a problem for you or it might not be. Personally, I have Neverborn and Ressers. I don't plan on buying any other faction Also, as this year I focus on Neverborn, the choice is pretty easy for me.
The second thing to do is consider your opponent's choice of Faction. Is he playing Arcanists? That could mean Rasputina or Marcus, probably a good idea to leave Pandora or Zoraida in the bag. Is she playing Guild? Beware Sonnia and her blasts or Perdita's ability to shoot you right off the board in open spaces. This part isn't much different from other games. Generally you have an idea what your opponent might play against you, especially in Warmachine where you are presented with 2-3 lists your opponent could be running.
Here's where it gets a bit tricky. After factions are declared, Strategies and Schemes are revealed. Now you have to look at your pool of models and decide which ones will be strongest for the objectives you can pick. Once again, I'll look at things from a Neverborn perspective. Pandora enjoys Turf War, which allows her to play in tight groups and benefit from her Misery Aura. Jakob Lynch is a good choice for Reckoning, as any model that gets Brilliance on it can be gobbled up by Hungering Darkness. Zoraida is a great choice for Reconnoiter as she usually brings her leaping lizards to maneuver around the board and can often paralyze or slow down multiple models to keep them in check.
Scheme wise, what can you take? Break Through, Power Ritual and Outflank will require you to have models that can move effectively. Models with abilities like Leap are perfect for this kind of thing.
Protect Territory, A Line in the Sand, and Spring the Trap are great with models that can get extra AP (Lucius crew comes to mind for Neverborn). Of course, Murder Protege and Assassinate call for models that excel at killing.
So far, I've talked about the models you can take to help you win your objectives, but sometimes that's not enough. There is another part of the puzzle that you have to take into account: the person across the table from you. They have carefully planned out all of their models to win their objectives as well. They want those 10 VP as badly as you do and they have 50SS to make it happen.
The good news is, you know the Strategy and the 5 Schemes they have access to. You can put a few resources into foiling their plans.
The first answer is simple, remove their models. Models who are not on the table anymore, can't achieve objectives. While you shouldn't set your entire list to laying waste to your opponent's crew, a dedicated assassin isn't always a bad choice. Just the threat of a damage dealing model can control a side of the board and force your opponent to rethink their plans.
Tar pit models are another way to slow down your opponent's plan. These are models that are difficult to kill
with large engagement ranges that can force enemy models to waste AP and cards trying to move away. Waldgeists from Neverborn are a perfect example of this type of model. They can Germinate to lay down terrain and when they sit in it, they have a 4" engagement. This will force models to either go the long way around, wasting WK actions or try and slog past.
Clean up models are my term for anything that removes Scheme Markers. Anyone who has played against
Ramos and his mechanical spiders knows the pain of trying to score A Line In the Sand with those annoying buggers on the table. Using a single AP to remove their score is very strong, this can be the trickiest strategy to use though, as you are spending your model's AP as well. AP that could be used to score your own points. Make sure the timing is right. Early game removal of a marker could just result in another marker being dropped and you play tag for the rest of the game. Getting those markers out of the way on Turn 4 is a lot harder to counter.
Putting It All Together
You have decided your faction, objectives, and crew for the game. You've pulled the pieces for your bag or tray, however you carry your models. The stage is set, the board is full of tiny houses, trees and fences. Your opponent has 2 Schemes (probably hidden) on his side of the board and the opening whistle of the dueling music from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is playing in your head. Its time to play a game of Malifaux.
Here are the last pieces of advice that I have learned from my short time playing the game:
Focus on winning VP first, and denying VP second. Remember each model has a limited amount of AP each game, use them wisely. Sometimes dropping a scheme marker is more important than getting the last two damage on an enemy.
Have a plan, spend sometime before you begin to decide where you are going and what you are going to do when you get there.
Learn from mistakes you make, don't get frustrated. Instead, figure out what you could have done better and remember it for next time.
Lastly, have fun! This game has a lot of moving parts and can get complicated, but never forget to enjoy yourselves.
Until next time, keep Cheating Fate-- John Fox