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Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: Malifaux Second Edition

Let's take a quick look at the new edition of Malifaux. Malifaux is 28mm scale skirmish game, in an alternate fantasy setting with a mixed dose of wild west, steampunk, and gothic horror. The game just entered it's second edition.



The new rulebook clocks in at 284 pages. A twist from the first edition rulebooks is that it has a fluff section, then gives you all the rules. Then there is another fluff section before the "army book" section for each faction. This is a great improvement over the original rulebook, where it would have 1-2 pages of rules, and then interrupt them for 1-2 pages of fluff, before continuing on. 

Setting Map
 The core gameplay of Malifaux involves players taking alternating turns activating models, so Play A activates one model, then player B activates one, rather than one side doing their entire army. The game also uses a deck of cards rather dice - standard 54 playing card deck (including jokers). All attacks or interactions involving both player's models result in both players "flipping" the top card of the deck, and adding the result to the relevant stat - highest result wins.
Table of Contents
The alternating activations and constant card flipping keeps both players involved in the game with little downtime. However, the cheating mechanic is where the system really shines, and is the reason cards are used over dice. Each player has a hand of cards (starting with six and refreshed every turn). Instead of the card that they "flipped" in an action, they can choose to "cheat", replacing it with the card from their hand. This gives some limited control over key actions, as long as you're lucky enough to have the required card(s) in hand - but beware, you opponent can "cheat" too!
A brief fluff section introducing the faction
The suits on the cards often matter as well. Many abilities gain advanced effects if a particular suit is used. For example, on Seamus's melee attack, if he flips a Crow (or Spade if using a normal card deck), he gets another free attack, whereas if he flips a mask (or diamond), he can move 3-inches after the attack. This opens up another strategic element to "cheating" - sometimes you'll find yourself "cheating" your total number "down" to get a suit that benefits you.
Upgrade cards
 So, maybe you've played the 1st edition and want to know the major changes to the new edition? One of the biggest things they did was simplify down most unit's cards. Instead of a unit having dozens of abilities and attacks, they might only have 3-4 now, making it much easier to jump into the game as a new player. To counteract this, they've introduced upgrades - similar to buying wargear for a character in Warhammer, you can spend extra points to get a new skill or ability added on to a character. This also allows one to customize their units a bit.

As we all know, a good index can make or break a rulebook
 Another big change is the way the missions are played. Encounters (or missions in other game terms) are now checked each turn, rather than just at the end. So instead of getting 6 VP for controlling the objective at the end of the game, you now might get 1 VP each turn you control it, forcing you to think about the encounter all game, rather than just fighting for five turns and completing the encounter at the end.

Schemes are still in as well. Think of schemes as mini-missions, sub-objectives you can complete to additional VP. They can be revealed, becoming worth more VP, but you're opponent knows what you're doing, or kept secret, worth less VP but harder for your opponent to figure out what you're doing to stop it.


Character card
 They also changed the unit cards. Instead of the flimsy, folded piece of cardboard we used to have, they are now high quality, double sided cards the size of a playing card (thus sleeveable!). And they are a VERY nice quality card. You can purchase all the new edition cards to go with the existing models for a cheap $8, and they also come with the newer box sets. I'm sure individual cards will be available for purchase in the future.
All the actions are on the back
 There's a few other minor rules changes - premeasuring is now allowed, soulstones work different, points costs changed in some cases, etc.
Upgrade card
 I kinda gave up on Malifaux a few years ago - it was just too much for me with all the special rules to keep track of. I had about ten different crews (armies) for it, and sold off all but two. Of the two I still have, only one is painted.
My first, and currently only remaining, Malifaux crew
With the new edition, I'm looking forward to playing some more games. I think the refresh and simplification will do a lot for the game, and we have a pretty solid local crew. If you're interested in trying it out, I'd highly recommend it - it's super cheap too, with a starter box (like the figures above) being around $40, and actually makes for a good game by itself.

Be sure to watch this site for some Malifaux batreps in the future, and if you're currently playing it, or decide to try it out, post up some pics and let us know how you like it!

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