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Malifaux Tactics: Strategies

Posted by Andrew on

Looks like I missed a week on the blog, I blame Kickstarter. At the time I'm writing this we're 88% funded. You guys rock.

Now, on to tactics. The thing that most makes Malifaux different from other miniatures games lies in how the game is actually won, our strategies and schemes. I've heard a lot of conversation and advice that states “play to your strategies and schemes,” without actually saying what this means. I'm here to help define this. This particular topic could fill volumes when it gets down to individual tricks and tips for every master vs. master combination, so I'll keep it general and brief.

Whenever I'm teaching the game to new players, I usually let them play about five or six games to get the basic rules down pat. If I see them getting frustrated, I give them an exercise to do between games. This involves taking the models they have access to and going through the entire strategy and scheme pool, then finding a solution to each.

Ideally, you find three ways to win VP in each strategy, one way in each scheme. Only use the models you have available to you, and try to find multiple ways to score. While this is good for study in general, the exercise is really designed to put a new player firmly in the mindset required to be good at Malifaux.

Eventually, most come to the same conclusion. There are precisely two reasons to take any action in Malifaux. Each action should have two questions the player asks him or herself;

1.Does this score me VP now or on a future turn?

2.Does this deny my opponent VP now or on a future turn?

If the answer to both those questions is “no,” then it's probably a waste of resources. There are some advanced tactics that can involve robbing your opponent of resources or making a psychological play, but just about all of those fall into one of those two categories anyways. If a distraction unit is in your ranks, is dealing with it worth the resources you'll be allocating there as opposed to earning VP? Is sending a distraction or disruption model into the fray going to prevent your opponent from gaining VP? Are you doing this to just kill models? Ask that last question a lot. If it's possible to ignore a distraction, ignore it and focus on the game. This goes so contrary to just about every other miniatures game out there that it's a tough lesson to learn. I can't count the number of times I've beaten a Rasputina player because she focused on killing my models in the center of the table rather than dealing with my scheme runners. Even when I deliberately make them tempting, easy targets to soak up her precious AP. Killing models helps, so long as they're the models key to your opponents goals. If they're minions I've earmarked for distraction, killing them is part of my plan. Don't do things according to your opponents plan.

But I digress.

Let's take a look at the strategies and schemes, and see if we can't come up with some good general strategies to work with them.

First off we have Turf War. It's worth noting that in Turf War, both players are likely to get lots of VP for the strategy. As long as you have two or more non-peon models near that table center, you get a VP each turn after the first. So scoring is easy, have a centrally located force and skate to your VP. Your opponent can do the same thing, so I've found that taking a look at tactics for Turf War is more productive when viewed from the denial end.

Turf War games wind up being bloody affairs. Considering it's so easy to gain the VP for it by flooding the center of the table with models, you wind up with a congested mess on turn two. Which is amazing if you're playing as Resurrectionists. Pro tip number one: DO NOT try to engage in the attrition game against the undead. It won't end well for you. Denial in Turf War generally involves two basic ideas; removing your opponents from the table, or forcing them away from the turf marker. The first is a straightforward idea, kill your opponents models. The second gets trickier. If you decide to focus on the former rather than the latter, I'd focus on the more fragile troops first. Remember, you don't need to kill all of them, just most of them. The second is a bit more tricky, and this strategy alone is worth combing your faction for models with push effects to knock the enemy away. Pushes and forced movements are key to much of Malifaux, know what models have them. When planning a list with Turf War, I usually figure ways to deny my opponents denial more than scoring, as scoring in and of itself is easy. This means taking models that are durable but not too expensive to give a good buffer of how many you can commit to the center, as well as anything that can force movement or ignore forced movement.

Next on the list we have Reckoning, the only true kill scenario. Reckoning favors lists with smaller numbers of big, beefy models. Winning at Reckoning usually involves a combination of hand management and timing. First, if you've killed two models in a turn, don't finish off a third. Leave that third, fourth, even fifth wounded and ready to go, it'll make your life easier on the following turn. Second, your hand becomes a vital resource to keep your models alive. A proper application of a high cheat on a resisted duel can mean the difference between scoring and not with Reckoning. Taking a master that can kill is obviously great with this strategy, but I've found that those who can apply force wherever it's needed do better. Seamus can almost win this by himself by popping around with Back Alley to pop scheme runners, probably his favorite activity, and Rasputinas board coverage with Ice Mirror makes her ideal for this strategy. Denying your opponent VP in Reckoning is as simple as keeping your models alive, keep wounded or fragile models out of sight if possible. Anyone who can heal is worth their weight in gold when playing Reckoning, and be very wary of doing any sort of summoning that damages the incoming model. Nicodem and Kirai both struggle with Reckoning, they give up a lot of VP. Insignificant models killed count, so summoning Seishin is dangerous.

Reconnoiter pops up next, and is pretty much the polar opposite of Turf War. Instead of a giant dogpile, expect a lot of skirmishing and movement around the table. Control of a table quarter goes off total non-peon models, so if you flood the table with cheap scheme runners your opponent may have difficulty putting out enough attacks to keep the swarm in check. Aside from running population control, Reconnoiter has some interesting ways of denying your opponent VP built into it. First, models within 6” of the center don't contest any quarter. Second, models with their bases in multiple quarters don't count as being in either. Remember the golden value of forced movement in Turf War? It's back here, and just as strong. Many times, it's easier to keep someone from controlling a quarter than it is to kill them. If you go the killy route, the models you take need to be able to pop those little, fast runners that will likely be swarming the board. This means that rather than deal tons of damage, your killers need to be fast, have guns, or both. Two-man Ortega teams do this admirably, Death Marshals are even more amazing here than elsewhere, and summoning anything quickly becomes a nightmare. I'll have an entire article on summoning later, new players frequently think it's a lot more powerful than it is.

Squatters Rights, I've found, epitomizes the theme of “play to your strategy.” Even more with Reconnoiter, I've won games without killing an enemy model, sometimes being tabled in the process. If something is on that squat marker, they own it. You need to deal with it, and have enough AP left over to claim it for your own. Big, tough models do this well, as do groups of smaller models. Speed is crucial, it lets you claim those markers early on. If you manage to claim all five, it's a tough uphill climb for your opponent to earn any VP at all from the scheme. Forced movement, once again, is amazing. Pushing people away from the markers pretty much makes it impossible for a model to claim it if you've got one nearby. They need to spend AP to kill you, then move up, leaving none left for the interact action. Squatters Rights encourages more balanced lists, with an emphasis on speed and durability more than killing power. Killing power helps as always, but I find it less important in this strategy than most.

Stake a Claim is odd. The interact action to drop your markers takes 2 AP, has a denial range of 6” rather than base to base, and has to be on your opponents half of the table. What does this lead to? Chaos. Pure, unadulterated, chaos. The few games of Stake a Claim I've played have been madcap affairs, everyone is scrambling to do everything. The center line can be the focus of activity as models bounce back and forth to score and deny in turn, it can be focused on the corners as mobs of scheme runners duke it out, anything can happen. Forced movement, as always, is fantastic for getting your guys into position to spend their entire turns dropping those markers, as is giving your models Fast. If anything is the measure of a good Malifaux player, it's the results of that joker being dropped on strategy selection. Have fun, anything can happen.

Considering how long this has already gotten, I'll be breaking schemes down in a different article. Play to your strategies and schemes, understand that killing your opponent only counts if it furthers your plans. Carnage is fun, but it is a means rather than an end.

Keep gaming, Mojo out.