Review: Malifaux Miniature Skirmish Game from Wyrd Games

Malifaux, Wyrd Miniatures skirmish game first came to my attention at Gen Con last year. It interested me enough to interview Eric Johns from Wyrd Miniatures a few months ago about the game. Finally, last week I broke down and purchased the base rule book and gave it the once over.

Before jumping into the game mechanics, a few words about the Malifaux world. Actually, there are two worlds. The first world is very much like the American west circa 1880, with a comparable level of technology (trains, guns, cattle rustlers). However, magic permeated every facet of society, much as oil drives our modern world. A disappearing supply of magic threatened an entire way of life. As a last, desperate act to discover a new source of magical power, magicians harnessed their might and punched a hole into another dimension: the breach. The new world, called Malifaux, overflowed with magic in the form of magically empowered “soul stones.” There were no inhabitants, only remnants of great cities and forgotten secrets . Pioneers seeking wealth from the soul stone trade quickly repopulated the cities and trade thrived. One day, in the midst of a terrible storm, the breach closed. Before it closed totally, sounds of a tremendous battle made clear that something survived in Malifaux and it was hungry.

Years pass and the breach to Malifaux opens again with no warning. Eager to harvest soul stones, yet fearful of the horrors waiting on the other side, condemned criminals, fortune seekers and the hopeless cross through the breach in hopes of earning fortune, glory or freedom.  many do not return. Some enter Malifaux as free-lancers, but many belong to one of the factions.

There are five factions in Malifaux, each with a different approach to combat.

The Guild: Gatekeepers of the breach and nominally in control of Malifaux. Prefers guns to resolve disputes
Resurrectionists: Necromancers and masters of death. Corpses are just raw material.
Arcanists: Spell-casters and benders of reality
Neverborn: Nightmares made flesh. Responsible for the earlier massacre of colonists.
Outcasts: Desperate bottom-feeding caste of Malifaux. Born survivors with dangerous talents

When these factions meet, violence ensues and that is where the Malifaux skirmish rules begin. Malifaux resembles many other miniature games like the Wizards of the Coast miniature game or Warhammer. Each model comes with statistics (the base book has many stat cards for each faction miniature) and players use these stats to fight a battle. Of course, each model has special abilities and attacks unique to it and the relevant faction.

Mustered units each have a cost (in soul stones,) so a small “scrap” army is 1-45 soul stones and a brawl is 30-70. Minion units are usually less than 10 soul stones in cost. Masters (élite units) cost nothing, but rules limit you to one for a scrap and two for a brawl. There are also rules about masters and minions coming from the same faction, with some masters that work for any faction.

Once you calculate the soul stone costs of the armies, you deal the number of cards to each player based on the battle’s size.

Yes, cards. Malifaux does not use dice. The Malifaux “Fate Deck” has 54 cards with new suits, rams, crows, masks and tomes, as well as the terms “weak,””moderate,” or “severe” printed on them. The card art comes from the base book and looks great on the cards.  That said, Malifaux includes a handy conversion chart to use standard cards. It is a bit more involved because you have to remember the mapping of crows to spades on the traditional deck. Here are a few shots of the Malifaux fate deck art.

Combat mechanics involve “card duels.” Ranged attack require both sides to flip a random fate deck card and add that to their attack or defense rating(including other modifiers, such as special abilities or proximity to another miniature.) Then each side can replace their flipped card using a card from their hand or use soul stones(lets you flip another card). Each side does this once and high score wins. Weapon damage (listed like this on the miniature stat sheet: 2/3/5) comes from another card draw and looking at the weak, moderate or severe on the card. Here is a shot of a miniature’s stat block.

Malifaux’s system is easy to learn and I have a pretty good understanding from a single read-through of the book.

The Malifaux rule-book is a glossy, 212 page, 8.5×11 inch perfect-bound book. Production values are very good and the art excellent.  The book is a fun read, over and above the rule components. There are interstitial bits of prose that make it quite entertaining.

This is a miniature game, but I do not currently own any of the miniatures, so I am not reviewing them per se. However, I took a quick look at them at my FLGS and in the book and seem quite good. If nothing else, they are very odd and humorous. Gun slinging magicians, redneck goblins and flesh-eating teddy bears, to name a few. Many stat blocks in the book also include a shot of the miniatures, fully painted and based.

Malifaux impressed me and I highly suggest you check out this new entry into the miniature skirmish game if you are looking for a fresh mechanic and a twisted sense of humor.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.