Mailfaux – A Review

Malifaux

Well actually it should technically be Malifaux 2nd edition – a review but who wants to get bogged down in semantics? So this review has probably been a long time coming, especially as I can’t resist a skirmish game and it must be said that with so many great games out there we did sort of let the 1st edition rules pass us by. That said good things come to those who wait and when Phil dropped the rule book off to me I wasn’t disappointed.

rules

So for those of you that don’t know, Malifaux is a skirmish game designed by Wyrd Miniatures for 32mm scale models. If you are anything like me then I am sure you are saying nothing new there (because I know I did). However that reaction was short-lived. The game, like many others, is based on an alternative version of Earth and is heavily focused on magic, but describes itself as a collection of Gothic, Steampunk and Victorian Horror with a dose of the Wild west thrown in. Now I’m sure you will agree that is quite a combination and makes for a game with a fairly unique feel.

With this mish-mash of genres the game has a really diverse background and brings with it some very unique factions and given Wyrd almost unlimited possibilities when designing the characters for each. This has resulted in some great miniatures and some really likeable characters that I am looking forward to collecting.

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Perhaps likeable is the wrong word…Mal img 2 Mal img 3 Mal img 4

For Malifaux 2.0, Wyrd has increased the number of factions so there are now 7 to choose from and with each one being very different. It means there is almost definitely a faction for every brand of mayhem. Wyrd have also been clever as there are different groups within each faction meaning that you can even take the same faction in several different directions.

With such an original background to get excited about I was initially surprised when the premise of the game was quite so standard. A city in ruins begins to be repopulated and opposing factions are fighting for territory and resources (in this case Soulstones). For any Mordheim player (or for that matter any skirmish gamer), this is nothing new. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that is a bad thing. There is a simple reason why so many games use this formula…because it is fun and it works. What Wyrd have done well with Malifaux is thinking up a variety of scenarios to play, including a lot of character driven stories, that will keep things fresh. And I must say some of them sound quite cinematic, which I always like.

So onto the book itself, I am pleased to say that my first impressions were positive. The print quality is pretty good and the book doesn’t feel cheap, which is one of my biggest gripes with some other gaming around, especially when you consider the price you are expected to pay for them. Considering the variety of styles Malifaux incorporates, most of the artwork has done a really good job of capturing the feel of the Malifaux universe and life through the breach.

The book is set out in a logical way which makes sense to read, taking you first on a journey through the background. There are a lot of great stories, setting the scene for each faction and some of their main characters which helped me decide which faction was for me. It also gives you all the profiles and rules you need for each faction so there is no need to buy a separate army book which is always a win. But it’s a two-edged sword as background can be sacrificed on the altar of page limits.

Wyrd have split the Malifaux rules into 3 parts, starting with the basics then going into more depth on the game’s core mechanics and then working examples of all elements of a turn within the game. Examples are well explained and although more diagrams could be useful, it seems that Wyrd have fine-tuned their explanations since version 1 as most of them are very clear. This methodical approach will hopefully prevent a lot of aimless flicking through the book for the one rule you really need but can’t find.

The game has some quite unique game mechanics that make it feel different to others with the biggest difference being that Malifaux doesn’t use any dice. At all. Instead you use a fate deck based on a standard poker deck, and if I’m honest I am not 100% sure of how I feel about this. Call it naivety or delusion but I always feel as if I have some influence over a random dice roll whereas with a card deck you know you will only ever score four 13’s and you are quite likely to score four 1’s. It certainly is an interesting way of ensuring a levelling the playing field, that is unless you want to cheat fate. Once I had read the rules I was interested to see that Wyrd have added a way to cheat fate by allowing you to have a small hand of fate cards you can choose to play instead of drawing from the main fate deck.

fate

The rules seem to work well and make for a very enjoyable game or short campaign, especially if you play one of the character driven story lines but there does seem to be one factor that other skirmish games may do better and that is character development. Malifaux hasn’t completely neglected this as they have included some faction specific upgrades that can be purchased for characters. Whilst this does help to slightly improve your characters I’m not entirely sure it will be enough to really get you attached to you heroes as they develop new skills or issues which is something that Mordheim, for example, really excels at. This could only really prove to be a real issue in long-term campaigns and certainly doesn’t stop it being really enjoyable for one-off games, or short campaigns and it is definitely a game I can’t wait to play more.

The Malifaux 2nd edition rule book is available at Firestorm Games priced £25.19.

– Neil

Wild West Exodus – A First Look

 wildwestexoduslogo

Howdy Stranger! Eat hot lead!

Out of the rising darkness come the heroes and villains that make up the world of Wild West Exodus. Set just after the American Civil War, Wild West Exodus combines the still raw battle scars and rivalries of the Union and  the Confederacy with a looming dark power, embodied by those known only as The Dark Council. Against this backdrop, a new wave of outlandish cybersteam technologies and spiritual attunement are transforming the conflicts between the factions and threatening to wreak havoc and tear apart the fragile peace…

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After initial setup. Dave has some great scenery from playing lots of Dead Man’s Hand, so the game looked great on a desert prairie board

One of my main purchases at Salute, the Lawmen posse I picked up, got their first run through last night courtesy of one of the club regulars, Dave. He was playing the Outlaws, and we decided to keep things fairly simple with a $500 limit on hiring our posse (spending dollars being the ‘points’ system that Wild West Exodus uses). This meant I was using Wyatt Earp as my boss, a UR30 Lawbot (this model reminds me so much of the movie West World), my light support deputy with a gatling gun (lots of bullets!), 2 long range deputies and 3 close range deputies. Dave had Jesse James and his incredibly annoying gun of death, Cole Younger, a light support bandit with a quad barreled shotgun, 3 close range and 3 long range bandits.

The game itself plays really smoothly. All either of us had done was flick through the quick start rules and glance at the full book before setting out across the prairie, and when we met in the abandoned town of “Tharsasnake in Maaboot” the lead started flying faster than a cat on a hot tin roof. Or something.

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The Lawmen and the Outlaws close each other down, at this point I’m still doing pretty well…

There ain’t no law in these parts

No laws, but some good easy to grasp game rules. The basics are straightforward, each model has a stat-line that describes how good it is at doing physical stuff like jumping, climbing and hitting people in the face with their fists (or with their handy pet snake, which we’ll get to later, yes, seriously, a snake) and how accurate they are at the all important activity of shooting their opposition across the street like the low down, good fer nothin varmint that they are. It also covers the number of actions they get each turn, how far they can move, how likely they are to turn tail and hop it and all of the other fairly standard game stuff.

The game has an alternating activations mechanic with an initiative roll at the beginning of each turn to determine who is fastest on the draw. Each activation ‘chunk’ allows you to pick between 1 and 3 models and perform their actions according to what you want them to do, whether that be move lots, move then shoot then move, or just blast away at that threatening looking cactus that said something mean about your dear old ma. All actions that require a dice roll use D10s rather than your standard D6 and this gives things more of a probability range, which is a good thing in general. Though not when you roll lots of 1’s as I did at some fairly critical moments last night…

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Lawbot UR30 surveys the scene of his impending destruction…

Influence matters in this town

The extra spice comes in the form of a concept called ‘influence’. Various models in your posse have an influence stat and this gives you a number of influence tokens each turn that you can use to re-roll a specific die. You have to nominate exactly which die you want to re-roll and you have to do it before you roll that die for the first time, but you can throw as much influence as you like at it. So, if you really, really, really want to hit that pesky hill-billy swanning across the street like he owns the place, but your weapon is only Rate Of Fire 1 (meaning you only get one roll to hit), you can assign 2 influence (assuming your posse creates that much influence each turn, of course) to your marksmanship die roll and then if the first one misses, you can re-roll, then if the second misses you can re-roll that as well. The kicker is that you have to accept the result of the re-roll, even if it’s worse. Given that there is such a thing as a critical hit (a natural 10) and these are generally good, particularly if the hill-billy in question is wearing lots of armour, you may want to re-roll even if you’ve already hit – but the cost could be that you miss completely instead.

The cool thing about influence is that it can be used to re-roll any of your own die rolls any number of times (but you can’t influence an opponent’s die roll), including initiative, which Dave did. A lot. Because he had tonnes more influence than me, which was completely unfair! It actually kept the game really interesting as I had to be really careful with my choice of how I spent my 2 influence each turn, whereas Dave could be a little more carefree with his 4. The influence mechanic, combined with being able to group between 1-3 models each activation kept each turn different – it wasn’t a race to get to a certain model each time and you could obscure your intentions by activating a model in one group in one turn and then another in the next, it’s a nice fluid way to keep things moving and gives you lots of options when planning your turn as you only declare the group when it’s your activation.

My gatling gun attempts to cover the street with a withering hail of suprresing firepower. Then remembers this is the Wild West, not Warhammer 40K and dies.
My gatling gun attempts to cover the street with a withering hail of suppressing firepower. Then remembers this is the Wild West, not Warhammer 40K and dies.

The game itself (oh yeah, I remember, that’s what I’m supposed to be telling you about…) was great fun to play. It started off well for my Lawmen posse, with me plinking a few points of lifeblood off one of Dave’s bandits hiding behind some barrels and completely wasting another. Then it started to go bad, particularly when Dave discovered that Jesse James is, effectively, armed with an ICBM (OK, maybe my rubbish positioning had something to do with it, but… meh). One of my core ‘mechanics’ is called Forward Echelon, which basically gives my guys an armour buff when in base to base. Jesse James, however, is armed with a fiendish weapon that not only halves your armour, but also is very high power and uses a 3″ blast when it hits. This meant for some very, very messy shooting and I suddenly went from a slight numerical advantage to having three guys left as my boss attempted to call out Mr James! I did at least set him on fire and when he failed his ensuing courage test I like to think he lost some serious face running around like a little sissy-girl yelling “Sumbaaady put me outt!” What in actual fact happened was that he rolled on the ground, put the fire out and then got up and blasted my face off. Similar to what I thought, but subtly different one could argue…

Jesse James, on fire last night.
Jesse James, on fire last night.

It of course didn’t help that I was swanning across open ground with my guys as though the fact that they were huddled together would throw Dave off the scent (weirdly, that only encouraged him to shoot me, stupid bandits), and a large measure of the end result (a very clear win for Dave) was my fixation on wanting to stand in the middle of the street and call him out. Yeah, that didn’t work, he hid in buildings and behind scatter terrain and picked my guys off (or, as previously mentioned, blasted them off the face of the earth).

Trouser snakes and ICBMs

The weaponry itself is interesting and varied, with plenty of options for even your low-level bandits and deputies to pick from each activation, including Jesse James’ personal nuclear arsenal. My close combat deputies have one of the oddest options I’ve ever seen in a game, an actual snake (well, an Asp, anyway) that has a 2″ range. Er… yeah. Suffice it to say we had a good laugh about my deputies attacking Dave with their spitting trouser snakes, sadly he never got close enough to risk that threat. Next time Dave. Next time… [This sounds like a night out with Phil – Ed]

The last stand of Deputy Dawg

My last stand was a lone deputy with a rifle squatting on the ground next to an outhouse who, despite the reek of effluent in the air, was stubbornly and stupidly passing his courage rolls and trying in vain to take out any of the approaching swarm of bandits. Sadly, as expected, he didn’t make it out and the long-departed town now echoes to the sounds of descending vultures, coming to pick at the fresh corpses of Wyatt and his posse. Jesse James and his low down dirty gang flee justice once more, escaping the hangman’s noose for another day!

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Awww crap. Literally.

I definitely can’t wait to play our next game (I get now that my guys are closer range, hence the snakes I suppose?!) and am really looking forward to getting on with painting the models. I really like the 35mm scale (though it does make the 28mm scenery we were using look a little odd) and the models fit together and clean up beautifully – they are great sculpts as well. Lots of character, movement and variation such that even the deputies in my Lawmen look great.

See you around, strangers…