Gaming Unplugged: Malifaux

Gaming Unplugged is a monthly musing of different table top games played, examined, and reminisced by Scott McCauliffe.


It’s Christmas time so I figured this month we’d go with a little brutality, magic, and horror. Festive I know. It’s time to cross the dark portal and horde your soul stones in Malifaux.

This is the first time in Gaming Unplugged I’ll be focusing on a larger scale game. Malifaux is a traditional style table top miniature war game. This war game in particular is on a smaller scale then some of the bigger powerhouses in the genre. What’s good about that is it keeps the price point down, and therefore makes a good gift for that person you know who wants to declare war.

Malifaux does everything it can to separate itself from the major war games already on the market. First off, the armies are small; starting out with four to six figures is enough to get right into a full blown game. Second, it’s army choices are not like any others you’ll see. It’s like the creators got together when deciding on factions and said, “Pick any style you want! They don’t need to mesh.” The major factions in Malifaux range from western to demons. There is a little bit of everything for everyone. Even people who don’t want to resign themselves to one style or look of characters can choose to make a mercenary army comprised of units from all the other factions. Lastly, Malifaux is the only war game I’ve seen that doesn’t use dice as encounter deciders; in this case they use cards.


A big pull of Malifaux, at least for me, was the scale. I used to play Warhammer 40k and that game is big. it’s huge, it’s sort of absurd. With Malifaux, a single purchase of a base box starts you with any army ready to go (some assembly required). After that, you only need a rule book and a deck of cards. It doesn’t even have to be the Malifaux brand cards, although it should be. The figures are inexpensive enough you have the option to have two different factions without breaking the bank. You want steampunk and magical beasts? No problem. Get them both and decide which one you like playing more.

The most interesting thing Malifaux has going for it is the different army/factions to choose from. If there is a subgenre of fantasy you like, Malifaux has it. There are seven overall Factions to build your crew from and each of them has different leaders with a little different style between them.

The Guild (Old West) – Fire, Guns, Steampunk

Resurrectionists – Undead, Serial Killers, Japanese Ghosts

Arcanists – Magical Beasts, Ice Monsters/Magic, Steampunk/Electrical Magic

Neverborn – Demons, Witchcraft, Nightmares

Outcasts – Criminals, Mercenaries, Assassins

Gremlins – Goblins and pigs

Ten Thunders – Treasure Hunters, Asian Mystics, Evil Spirit Possessed People

There is basically anything for anyone.

The Malifaux gameplay is very original but can be confusing. Certain creatures have stats that others don’t and the rule book doesn’t always explain the finer points in the best way. What sets Malifaux apart from other table top war games is the fact that battles are decided with a deck of cards instead of the tradition dice rolls. You are also given a chance, every turn, to “cheat fate”. What that means is if you don’t like the current outcome of a duel you can draw another card in the hopes that you’ll have a more favorable result. The catch is you could have bad luck and wind up with a worse outcome than before. Let’s say your opponent attacks one of your figures and the initial result is your figure is going to take one or two damage. You could cheat fate and draw a new card to hopefully take no damage. You could also draw a card and wind up making it a critical hit instead of just a regular one, therefore doing more damage. It’s an interesting way to handle things, but can also draw battles out a little bit. Not only can a defender cheat fate, so can the attacker if they so wish.


Like any other war game there will be work that goes into getting your army set up. First and foremost, you will have to assemble your pieces. Your characters do not come with arms and/or legs attached. They are also metal, so basic super glue isn’t always strong enough to hold everything together. I don’t know how many times the legs of my steamborg executioner fell off. Get yourself something good for metal.

I really like Malifaux for its style and it’s scaled down take on the traditional table top war games. It’s easy to get into and plenty of fun to play. I do wish there were more customization options, though. One thing some of the other miniature war games have going for them is being able to choose your army’s weapons and armor. In Malifaux, all of your figures have predetermined load outs. Also some of the finer rules, such as what the hell happens with “terrifying units”, is a little muddy and takes constant rechecking in the rule book for how to handle it. Over all, though, Malifaux is fun and will eat up hours in your day before you know it. And that’s a good thing.

All pictures belong to Wyrd Miniatures.

Published by

Scott McCauliffe

My name Scott McCauliffe and I'm a nerd. I love comics, games, movies, toys, you name it and I'm a fan. Except LARPing, sorry guys, I just don't get it. I'm a graphic designer by trade and I work at a nice local newspaper, laying out a few of the pages. I'm very happily married to my wife and we have a beautiful little boy and another little one on the way. I like to write in my spare time and I also create posters and t-shirts that I sell online. Back in 2010 I wrote my own comic book and attended the inaugural Denver Comic Con with it in artist alley. That was exciting. I'm also writing a little bit of science fiction right now. I'm also an avid gamer, both video and table top. I love playing Pathfinder (D&D 3.5) with my friends and family. Many monsters know the fear of Welby Goodbarrel, halfling alchemist. I have a pretty nice action figure collection going. It's mostly Star Wars and Marvel, with some Batman mixed in for good measure. I'm kind of an all over the place guy, never really focused in on one thing I like to be deep in it all. And I accept any trivia challenges!

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