Wargame Spotlight: 'Malifaux'

Skirmish based games are great for putting gorgeous minis on a table and playing with them in an hour or two. If you're looking for a skirmish game that involves magic, a rich steam-punk world and aesthetics that are just a touch offbeat, Malifaux is perfect for  you. Produced by Wyrd Games, Malifaux features an impressive array of well-sculpted minis and a rule-set widely considered engaging, innovative and fun. If you're ready to duel hosts of masters and their minions for control of powerful soulstones and the fate of the city of Malifaux, read on.

The game:

Malifaux breaks a lot of tabletop gaming conventions and includes  plenty of innovation; this is far from a traditional wargame. Most wargames place heavy emphasis on killing opponents and controlling objectives in the  terrain, but Malifaux features a wide variety of primary and secondary  objectives that don't require smashing opponents and aren't something you can take and hold. It's important that new players remember to focus on the  specifics of their objectives, not screaming, "once more unto the breach!" at their  minis.

Each army comes with a custom set of cards called a Fate deck. The  cards allow players to change certain elements of the game, even when you're in  a pinch. It's incredibly tempting to burn your Fate cards early on in the game,  especially to win a fight, but conserving these cards is more important than  winning every duel. Another thing to consider: Malifaux is not power-gamer friendly. It's quite difficult to build a truly impregnable team, and while you might score a few cheap victories more frequently with lists a tournament  player built online, the depth of the game allows for savvy player to outsmart optimized lists.

Two aspects of the game that can be difficult to get a handle on are the trigger and soulstone systems. Triggers are activated depending on certain conditions, but there can be a lot in any given game and it's easy to forget  what they are. Remembering what your miniatures can do in a given situation is  critical. Soulstones serve as a resource in Malifaux, and it's important to pay very close attention to how many you can use. While some players might want to  buff up their crews with big bads, they won't be useful if you have nothing to power them with.

The story:

The story behind Malifaux starts in 1787 when magicians on Earth scrambled to find new sources for their waning powers. Eventually, they opened the Breach, a portal to another world exuding the energy they desperately craved.  The city on the other side of the Breach was named Malifaux and was strangely devoid of any people, living or dead. Humans from Earth colonized Malifaux and  began mining soulstones, geodes that acted as receptacles for magical energy collected upon someone's death. In 1797, a blizzard struck the city causing the Breach to close. The people on the Earth side of the Breach heard sounds of battle coming through the portal, but could not enter it themselves.

A full century passed before the Breach reopened. During that time, the  remaining soulstones on Earth were fought over and an organization called the  Guild rose to power.  When the Breach did open again, Malifaux was rediscovered and again found empty. The Guild entered in force and let humans once again colonize the city.

In 1901, the present year, the Earth and Malifaux are in a state of flux. Necromancers, known as Resurrectionists are bringing the dead back to life and blighting the countryside. The Guild is a less-than-noble organization and enforces strict laws on the population. Monsters creep about in the dark and a sense of impending change is sweeping through the world.

Where to find it:

Malifaux tends to develop dedicated fan-bases wherever it sticks, so the trick is to find a tabletop store that sells Wyrd Games products. Wyrd  Games offers a list  of stores registered to sell their products, and also offers their full selection online. If you want a sneak peak at the game, check out the rules section for a free .pdf of the manual as well as the stat cards for every miniature available.

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