Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Classic Blogging: Introduction to Malifaux

I have a confession to make, one that might colour your opinion of me: I've always been interested in miniature wargaming. As an avid lover of board games, it only made sense; if I can get enjoyment out of playing complicated Fantasy Flight board games, why wouldn't I love the most complicated board games of all time -- wargames? The hobby itself is a pretty in-depth thing -- you have to be proficient, if not skilled, at a range of different aspects (from the artistic to the strategic) to get the full value out of the product -- but every part of it has interested me in some way.

I remember, way back in elementary school, I discovered Warhammer 40,000 and was immediately drawn into the game and the world behind it. I don't remember how exactly -- it was probably through a promotional giveaway or something -- but I even managed to get my hands on a small squad of space marines and a land speeder and painted them up. I thought they were the coolest thing ever and really wanted to play the game they were a part of. Alack and alas, none of my other friends were interested (or had the wherewithal to get their hands on models) so I resigned myself to selling the little army of figures to another kid for a few dollars.

Jump forward a decade and a half and I've still never really gotten a chance to get truly into a miniatures game. It's true, I took a few forays, stepping tentatively into the pool before being dragged back by other matters. I purchased the starter box for the fantasy Warhammer at one point and even started assembling the Empire troops before giving up on the army simply based on the monotony. I looked into collecting Wood Elves, Lizardmen and even Tomb Kings at different times, and even considered the Necron faction in 40K, thinking the more skirmish-based armies would prove more interesting to me, but never collected more than a handful of models for each army.

But just this year -- and yes, I mean since the beginning of 2013 -- I have finally been introduced to and actually started getting involved in a miniatures game that I could see myself being involved with going into the future. The game is called Malifaux and I originally discovered it when a friend (thanks, Darren!) told me about a tabletop RPG based on the world of Malifaux being funded on Kickstarter. I fell in love with the setting and instantly backed the project and then set about learning about the miniatures game it was based on. Three months later and I own roughly a dozen models (an actually respectable number compared to the dozens required for Warhammer) and have just recently played my very first game to completion!

Introduction to Malifaux

For those who don't know, Malifaux is most easily explained as a character-driven skirmish game that heavily features elements of gothic/Victorian horror, the wild west, steampunk, fantasy and now even Far East stylings to create a truly unique experience. The backstory is truly something to marvel at (and is seriously worth a read) and reveals each faction in the game, explaining their place in Malifaux, what their motives are and who their leaders (known as Masters) are.

In really quick strokes, let me give you the rundown on the factions:

The Guild - A "big-brother" style of government put in place after the breach into Malifaux opened the second time. Many "citizens" consider them totalitarian and don't enjoy living under their iron fist, and many branches of the Guild -- though not all -- are corrupt. The Guild controls the Soulstone operations within Malifaux and they attempt to control who has access to the valuable resource.

Arcanists - The Arcanists are the unofficial title for magic-users who utilize Soulstones to act behind the back of the Guild. In broad strokes, the Arcanists would like nothing more than to kick the Guild out of Malifaux and take control of the city and all the Soulstones themselves. Many consider the Arcanists as a rebellion for the people of Malifaux, though everyone has their own motives and it is hard to say what would happen if they actually took over.

Resurrectionists - The Resurrectionists don't seem to be as organized a group as the Guild or the Arcanists, seeing it unnecessary to band together with others to complete their necromantic ministrations. This entire faction revolves around their Masters bringing corpses back to life; that being said there is still great variety within the faction, ranging from undead prostitutes to Frankenstein-like creations.

Neverborn - The Neverborn are a group of loosely affiliated monsters (or near enough for the term to be acceptable) seemingly born of the stories and fears of Earthside folk. They generally hate humans (and everything they own) and wish for nothing more than to kill all of them and kick them out of Malifaux. The Neverborn could be anything from nightmares made manifest to disturbed children with knives to straightforward demon-like creatures that want to drink your blood.

Outcasts - The Outcasts are a group of individuals who owe their allegiance to none of the other factions. By and large, they are simply out to find their own path and try to eschew all connections with the other factions -- unless they are being paid for their services. Though a few Outcasts work only for themselves, most can be hired as mercenaries to aid other factions in their missions.

Ten Thunders - The Ten Thunders faction is the newest addition to Malifaux and is the only group whose Masters belong to multiple factions. Their members belong to a criminal organization that stretches all the way from China and each member has infiltrated different levels of the groups within Malifaux in order to expand the organization even further. Most of the faction has a distinct Far East theme (with a big emphasis on the Ten Thunders ancestors), though each Master in the Ten Thunders can instead hire members of their alternative faction.

Malifaux (and Hobbying in General) for Me

When I discovered all the different factions, I immediately found myself interested in the Arcanist faction -- the idea of a rebel faction standing up to "the man" really appealed to me, and the flavour of their story (and the steampunk nature of their stuff) was really interesting. Though most of the initially released Masters seemed fairly bland to me (Ramos and Marcus, primarily), I really enjoyed the Kaeris and Mei Feng models, Colette and her showgirls are a pretty awesome concept for a crew, and I've come to really appreciate the backstory behind Rasputina. Kaeris was the first model to really catch my eye, though, so I decided that I would go with her box set first and expand from there.

Now I am in possession of two box sets (the M&SU Assets box, with Kaeris, and the Rail Crew box, with Mei Feng) as well as a single blister of a Large Steampunk Arachnid (thus far the only model I have finished painting and assembling) and am sitting with a respectable number of models -- enough so that I can comfortable play a game against someone else while still having enough choice so that they can't completely predict what I will be bringing to the table. (This is especially important in Malifaux where you declare your factions before choosing what models to hire, unlike in Warhammer where you are expected to bring the same list to every battle. This gives you the flexibility to pick and choose models to counteract what you think your opponent might hire.)

So I started assembling models, exciting to get started and to actually play a game with them. Alas, I was unable to get them together in time to take to my first real game but I am endeavouring to have them ready for the next possible game! Of course, even if this is my first true foray into the hobby, I have grand schemes, most of which revolve around elaborate bases for the models (even if my painting skills suck); to truly capture the vision I have for these models, I'm going to need to buy some more paints, glazes, and props.

And then there's the issue of a carrying case; with how small and fragile some of the models can be, it's important to have a foam case to transport your models in without fear of them being damaged. Professionally-made cases can cost you in the neighbourhood of $100, which is a considerable chunk of change I'd much rather spend on other things (like more models, video games, movies, food, et cetera). I did find a few tutorials on how to make your own foam carrying cases -- a process that only runs you around $25 -- so I'm considering looking into that option. We'll see, I guess.

All in all, I'm excited at the prospect of being involved in this hobby. As mentioned above, I even managed to get in a full game the other day (borrowing some of Josh's models, thanks again!), which I'll talk about in my next entry about Malifaux. It's a fun way to exercise some creativity and have fun while playing a strategic game (even if it can get unduly intense sometimes) and I'm excited to get a bit deeper into the hobby!

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