Ask any Malifaux player or go to any Malifaux internet community and one of the first things they will tell you is that in Malifaux terrain matters. Malifaux requires a dense amount of terrain compared to other wargames and it really needs a larger variety. Look at most Warmahordes tables and you will see a few forests, a hill and some walls. Malifaux wants buildings to climb, cover to hide behind, hazardous terrain to drag models into and dense terrain if you are playing Lilith. Learning to take advantage of the table in Malifaux will help lead you to victory.
Choosing A Battlefield
When playing a game of Malifaux the general rule is that if you took all the terrain and put it in a pile it should cover 1/3 of the board. Which means that when spread out there shouldn't be more than a four or five inches between pieces of terrain and few wide open spaces. There should be a variety of terrain as well. Don't go for the same 3 buildings, 2 walls and 2 forests. Play around and create some unique battlegrounds. Add levels of height to the board, fight on bridges and balconies. Dive behind a fountain in the square or avoid gator infested swamps. The more varied your board, the more fun your experience will be and the the more tricks you will learn to use.
*Caveat: Make sure to always go over terrain rules before each game with your opponent. Decide which qualities each piece of terrain has, so that questions don't come up in the middle of the game. Remember that some terrain pieces might have multiple terrain qualities, like dense and hard cover or hazardous and climbable.
One of the more overlooked aspects of wargaming is initial deployment. Lots of people drop their models in a line or a cluster aimed directly at their objectives or counter to an opponent's models without really giving the lay of the land consideration. Sometimes the terrain set up can lead you to an easier route or slow you down enough to deny you. If you win initiative take a look at where everything is set up before you choose your side. Perhaps there's a good vantage point for a sniper within easy reach, or if you have a model that isn't impeded by terrain you can set it up to simply move through areas your opponent will have a harder time reaching. If you know your opponents models will have a hard time getting through a mass of hazardous terrain, give them that side of the board and make them work for it.
|Cue gunfight music|
These are wide open lanes that allow a crew full of shooting actions free access to your models. It doesn't always happen in Malifaux, and if the terrain is set up properly you should be able to avoid them, but when you can't it can be a nightmare. Many starting Malifaux players, myself included, fall to Perdita and her Ortegas over and over by simply walking into the field of fire instead of going a less direct route. Shooting lists aren't always common in Malifaux but when they are things can get ugly. Use blocking terrain and dense forests to your advantage. Learn to force them to come to you instead of the other way around.
|I can see my house from here!|
Climbable terrain is a fun aspect of Malifaux that can offer you some opportunities to go after enemy models that are hiding, especially little guy like Gremlins. There are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with climbable terrain though. First off all be ware the movement penalties. If there are no stairs you lose an inch for every inch you move. Secondly, beware pushes and lures. Most snipers and shooting models are on the squishy side and a fall can bring them down with a single AP from an opponent.
|Can you imagine Lucius wading through this?|
Probably the least used but the most amusing terrain in the game, if you aren't playing with Hazardous you are cheating yourself. Go ahead, try it next game. Stick a ranged character behind a cactus bush and watch the melee guys come try to take it, or bring a Belle and lure someone right into quick sand. Hazardous terrain can do a good bit of work for you if used correctly.
|if you look closely, you can see a nephilim|
Can't See the Forest For the Trees
Dense forests usually only come in small patches in Malifaux being that its mostly urban landscape but they can also be immensely useful. If you are inside of the dense terrain you get hard cover, if you are on the other side you can't have LOS drawn to you. Incorporeal models can frustrate anyone trying to take them down by zipping through a forest to get away, the same for leaping models who can simply jump over the trees.
Soft and Hard Cover
There should always be plenty of sources of soft and hard cover on the table. From crates to walls, under bridges or behind wagons, make sure you go over with your opponent which terrain pieces represent each type of cover before the game. Just like in the shoot outs in the old westerns, using these pieces will help keep your models alive in a gun fight.
Malifaux is a fantastic game with some of the most balanced rules out there but one of the biggest things that draws people into the game is the setting. Stuck between the Old West, Steampunk and Gothic Horror the background of the game is why we pick the faction that we do and the masters that we play. Make sure that your battlefields reflect that ambiance. Your crews should fight undead in the sewers, or brave the wilds to tackle terrifying neverborn not just mill around on reused 40k hills and rocks.
If you don't have access to a lot of terrain and feel crafty, Youtube is a great source for DIY ideas for cheap and easy to make terrain. Check it out, once you get started in the hobby aspect of things its almost as addictive as playing.
Until next time, Keep Cheating Fate-- John Fox