Goonhammer’s Ashes of Malifaux Review Part 4: The Guild

Welcome to the Guild Enclave, where Governor-General Marlow has his hands full.  The previous incumbent is still soaring around out there as the Burning Man, and while Fate gathers its pawns, the Guild tries desperately to maintain order.  We’ve seen what the Arcanists, Bayou, and Explorer’s Society are up to; now, we check up on the Guild.

Avel Ortega

Love can bloom in the strangest places.  Avel is a member of the raucous Ortega clan, and a confirmed bachelor… or he was, until he met Domingo Montoya, a member of Corporal Tull’s brigade.  To say sparks flew at first sight would be an understatement, and their literal shotgun wedding could be heard for miles around.

Avel’s a classic Ortega: Bravado, Hard to Kill, and a ranged attack.  Partners in Crime is actually a pretty strong ability, even if you’re not moving Domingo around.  Heat of Battle is great, though Family is already pretty taxed for cards – it’s like A Por El, but with extra setup costs that Family usually doesn’t have to pay.

Black Powder Blues is basically what this guy does.  It’s a very cool attack, mostly for its Triggers: Music In the Air is very strong, since you can just move an enemy off a point for any Tome (as an Immediately trigger, it goes off even if you miss).  Remember that you move them before dropping Blast markers, too.  And Reckless Aim is a nice-to-have, though as it’s not built in it’ll often function like Showboating to cycle a low crow on an attack that’s missing anyways.

The Maraca-Nada is worth noting, too.  It’s not a great shockwave, especially at 6″, but getting two of them for one AP is a good trick.  That really pushes me to hiring this guy with Domingo, which is an expensive package.  I can see it paying off against horde crews like Nexus or Som’er, though; you are going to tax your opponent’s hand fiercely, or rip through clusters of models between the Blasts on Avel’s gun and his Shockwave.

The rest of his actions are so-so.  Avel’s melee attack applying Stunned on a hit is neat, but you really don’t want this guy in melee.  Likewise, Arson is a strong ability, but the Guild already has access to it in on the Undercover Reporter, an overall much stronger model.  For Keyword purists, or people who really hate enemy Scheme Markers, I can see Avel coming out as an anti-Schemer.

Domingo Montoya

Avel’s husband Domingo is a bit more restrained than the jolly Ortega.  Loves explosions just as much, but he lets his guns do the talking.  And his sax, apparently.  Hey, nothing beats good sax.

His front of card is basically identical to Avel’s but for his Df and Wp being switched, and his back of card is similar too.  Like Avel, he has a Maraca-Nada with a built-in trigger to let his better half lob one too; like Avel, he has a low-damage, stat 5 melee attack that automatically inflicts a condition.

Domingo’s ranged attack is a lot more interesting than Avel’s.  First of all, it targets Wp; second, it doesn’t have a projectile icon.  Music In the Air is as good here as it is with Avel at setting up blasts, but Domingo’s blast damage also inflicts Distracted (or wipes out Focused) which is a big deal.  The damage is slightly lesser, and it’s only got one blast instead of two, but models who get tagged by Piercing Rhapsody are going to be much more debilitated than if they just ate a Black Powder Blues.  If the opponent is properly spread out, it can be a Min 3 attack, too.

Perfect Timing is also worth a shout.  Guild doesn’t have this ability yet, and it’s really good in lots of circumstances.  It’s got the classic problem of needing to hit a TN and then needing your opponent to fail a cheatable Simple Duel, but Wp 13 is high enough that it’ll potentially tax the opponent’s hand pretty hard to pass.  And failing this duel can really hurt, especially if the failed model already activated.


Our next stop is to Planet Zebes, where the fearsome space pirate known as Ridley has been up to his old tricks.  Well, that or Charles Hoffman has been rooting around in the “old constructs” bin.  Clipper constructs were retired for a reason, but in these desperate times, the Guild is reaching for old tools – especially to patrol the Badlands with Cornelius Basse.

Like most Augmented models Clipper has got Power Converter, like most Frontier models he’s got Home on the Range, and he kinda does stuff both crews want.  Specifically, he’s a flying, Armored beatstick and gun turret that offers both mobility and enemy displacement, two things that never go out of style.

Because Frontier doesn’t generate Scrap Markers (aside from Clipper himself), he has Dynamic Generator to gain Power Tokens from Charging, which means he can reliably give himself one almost every activation.  Between Flight, Fly With Me and Mv 6, he’s extremely maneuverable, so it won’t be hard to get him where he needs to go.  You’ll have to be at least moderately careful about positioning his big fat base – he can generate his own Concealing Terrain (in the form a dust cloud), but despite his armor his defenses are pretty low, so anyone with armor piercing attacks is going to kill him quick.

His attacks are what you’re here for, and I’m actually a fan of both.  A 2/3/5 isn’t that impressive for a 9-stone beater, but the triggers are both very, very, very good in different situations, and Power Converter lets you build in either one.  That is huge, since it compensates for one of the biggest weaknesses of Enforcers (lack of Soulstone access).

I’m looking at this guy more in Frontier than Augmented, since tossing enemies into terrain is a really great way to set Basse up for success, and Clipper’s ranged attacks is another example of that.  The damage is nothing to write home about (although being armor piercing without a trigger is pretty nice), but Staggering any enemy near terrain sets up Basse’s Caught in Quicksand for a stat 9 vs. Movement.  Or, if you prefer, you can go with Basse first to Injure the target so Clipper can more easily hit them.  It’s a nice bit of synergy that works in both directions, and the Pneumatic Spike even has the ability to drop a Scheme Marker at range, which is always stronger than it looks.

Overall, I’m bullish on Clipper, especially in Frontier, where he replaces a Rough Rider (for a few more stones, granted, but he also does more).  Fly With Me is a realllllly strong ability, a lot better than Ride With Me in many situations, and I can’t wait to see how Guild abuses it.

Director Rodriguez

The Ashbringers are a new division brought in to control the plagues of magic and undeath in Malifaux.  Director Rodriguez is a hardliner who doesn’t have much time for Lady Justice’s “fight fire with fire” approach; he’d rather use literal fire than the metaphorical kind.

Rodriguez is a shitkicker, and a real nightmare for opponents to deal with.  He’s a beefy-as-hell Henchman, especially if you slap a Lead Lined Coat on him; Armor, 10 health, 6/5 defensive stats, Soulstone use and Hard to Kill combine to make him very annoying to remove.  He doesn’t even need the coat!  Fireproof is a nice asset, too, because this guy loves to be on fire.

The Art of Undeath is worth noting.  The Marshal keyword has a ton of anti-Undead synergy, but hitherto it’s been a bit tricky to turn enemy models into Undead unless your opponent obligingly dropped a Resurrectionist crew.  Not anymore!  Big fat 5″ aura that turns on all your synergies!  No flips needed!

But Blaze of Glory is an insane ability, and the core of his card.  Burning is one of those conditions that’s super easy to stack a lot of the time, and when you can stack it high, you can just be on +flips forever.  Especially if you’re standing in a Pyre Marker – just swing punch after punch at permanent positives, and why not, use some of that Burning defensively, too!

His attacks are absolutely top notch.  Flaming Fist is a beatstick-standard 3/4/5 Stat 6, with the first swing being sort of an effective 4/5/6 due to the Burning (with a delay, of course.  The triggers are both excellent, too; Cleansing Strike just lets you clear Focused or Fast or Shielded from your target (or Burning or Poison, for the crews that like those conditions), while Rising Flames makes you a true 4/5/6 and pulses out some aoe damage as well.  That one isn’t Enemy Only, either, so you can punch an Armor +2 friendly (not too unusual in Guild) and pulse some unresisted damage to nearby enemies.

Breath of Fire is likewise a very nasty attack, especially with Execute (and it is Execute, because of The Art of Undeath), and Stain being close to a “delete this model” trigger as well.  It’s always been let down by its short range, but Rodriguez has that handled, too, with Hovering Flame.  That’s an absolutely bananas bonus action, a 5″ move in any direction ignoring models, and it’s doubly scary on a brick shithouse like Rodriguez.

On those occasions when you don’t have to Hover you can create a Pyre or Coffin with Funeral Rites.  I actually think this is mostly going to be used to make Pyres when hiring this guy into a Lady Justice crew, since the crew doesn’t otherwise stack the Burning on him that he needs.  One Pyre, though, lets him stack it up nice and high, ready to spend on punching people’s faces through the backs of their heads.

I think Rodriguez is insane and an easy OOK hire a lot of the time.  I think he’s flatly better than a Peacekeeper outside of Hoffman crews (obviously, within Augmented, the PK is still stronger).  If you were previously OOK hiring a Peacekeeper to do your killing for you, as I know some Nellie players were, just slot this guy in instead.


Rodriguez’s servants share his hatred of the undead and his affinity for fire.  They are magical waste disposal technicians: grimoires, cursed objects, reanimated bodies, it all goes into the bonfire.  That obviously endears them to Sonnia, and Lady Justice sees the value in it, too, even the Ashbringers chafe at her necromantic dabbling.

The bar a five-stone minion has to hit to be playable is pretty low.  Ashbringers do suffer from the classic 5-stone minion problem (i.e. too easy to just remove from the board), although Armor +1 does mitigate that.

They’re absolutely great, though, at fueling crews that thrive on Burning, and that carves them a niche.  Fiery Presence is a great way to get Burning onto Rodriguez for Blaze of Glory, as is Path of Ashes.  They also manage burning very well with Embrace the Flame.  It’s a super strong action, a Heal 3 on a suitless 5, and the setup costs aren’t too bad.

Their other attacks are just kind of so-so.  False Accusation is a pretty situational bonus, although a built-in Ember trigger makes it sting less in Witch Hunter.  And Flaming Fury is a reasonably strong attack for a cheap minion, especially with the excellent Drain Magic trigger, though Stat 5 is a bit of a bummer, and Ashbringers are really too fragile to want to be out there mixing it up.

I think the first one of these is an easy hire in a keyword list with Rodriguez – it’s just too easy to keep your beatstick topped off with plus flips and heal him for three per turn, and that’s definitely worth five stones.  Outside of that synergy, though, I’ll pass.

Nightcrawler Network

This “representative” of the Nightcrawler Network has found work with both Dashel and Nellie.  The former appreciates crime scene footage from unexpected angles; the latter loves salacious gossip and paparazzi shots.  Neither suspects that the “representative” is, in fact, the Network – a man who has used Soulstone-powered cameras and a homemade rig to spy on the whole city at once.

The Network is nuts.  He’s a bit fragile, but reasonably healthy, and between Stealth and Extended Reach, it’s really hard to actually lay hands on him.  Especially since he never needs to be anywhere near the action – he can just channel all of his actions through Camerabots, which are super easy to put where you need them.

Spy Network is a frankly insane ability.  It gives you incredible board coverage, making it super easy to attack wherever you need, and making stacking Focused with Chasing a Story very easy.  His actual attack and tactical actions are pretty good, too: Network Cable is unimpressive unless Focused, but as mentioned, getting Focus here is pretty easy if the scheme pool requires Interacts; and the built-in Slander trigger makes it a lot more dangerous (mostly for the Distracted, though occasionally being a 2/4/5 is nice).

Walk the Line is another very strong ability, letting you reposition friendlies and even occasionally draw cards.  Sometimes you’ll be using it to pull people back to safety, sometimes nudging them into position.  Sabotage Their Plans is very very useful when you need it, and you’ll know when you need it, but I think more often you’ll be summoning Camerabots.  The fact that you target a piece of terrain makes this ability somewhat variant depending on the table: if you have lots of little rock formations or whatever, you are more limited in where you can put them, but if there are a couple of big houses, you have a lot more freedom.  There’s a built-in trigger to push any Camerabot 4″ (not just the one you summoned) to get the perfect angle, and remember you can channel this action through a Camerabot and thus leapfrog them up the board.


I kind of have to talk about these little boogers in the same breath as their boss.  Camerabots are not something you’re going to hire very often – but you will be summoning them as much as possible.  They’re extremely easy to remove, but again, kind of hard to hit, since they have Stealth and their boss’s Extended Reach to keep them safe, and Df 5 is sort of surprisingly high.

They don’t do much during their activations – Get a Better Angle is the only way they have of moving around, and their Attacks are kind of so-so, though if someone stumbles within 6″ of a Camerabot and doesn’t kill it, you might as well try to debilitate them with Flash Photography.

They can’t Interact, but they can control the Interacts of models around them with Exclusive Interview, and that’s a big deal.  Position one near a Ballot marker and you’re forcing your opponent to remove a stubborn Stealth, Extended Reach bot before they can do anything.  Camerabots are extremely vulnerable to Shockwaves, so beware of that, but if you’re not playing against Wong or a similar master, they can give your opponent fits.  Remember that even if you’re not controlling Interact actions, just having a little bubble of Extended Reach near models that you’re trying to keep alive can blunt an aggressive melee alpha strike.

I like the Nightcrawler Network and friends a lot.  I think they’re somewhat dependent on the table and the matchup, since if your opponent can control the Camerabots well, the Network doesn’t do much on his own.  I also think there are some scheme pools that don’t care much about the bots.  But, especially on Ballots, you can really make scoring a nuisance with these little buggers, at a very low cost to yourself.

Commander Bura

Commander Bura is Marlow’s protege, and has been stepping forward to help the Guild keep order.  Her Vanguard division has been racking up the successes, supported by her protective magic – a pale shadow of her boss’s, but still potent, especially augmented by technology.

The Vanguard keyword is all about Shielded.  Shields Up!, the “keyword ability” that they all share, is a real doozy.  Being able to eat a big stack of Shielded to reduce incoming damage by a larger amount is huge, since Shielded is one of those conditions that it’s pretty easy to stack up in big numbers, and it is also one of the very few ways in the game to reduce damage to 0.  What’s more, Bura’s player has the option to apply Shielded any number of times, so you can no-sell a huge attack or simply whittle it down low, knowing that you have some healing incoming on your next activation.  This is a bit of a build-around but it’s a tremendous asset and one that makes Bura much tankier than her 5/6/7 defensive stats indicate.

Her other abilities mostly play with Shielded as well – Under My Protection gives her and her Vanguard friends a little Shielded each turn, and then a little more when she activates.  This is actually a deceptively large amount of protection.  If you’re running the full four Vanguard models, this is seven shielded just for showing up, without spending a single AP, and without counting any other source of the condition.  And because of how Shields Up! works, you’re likely to be able to spend it all.  Note that Bura can actually hand out Shielded to non-keyword models using this ability, too.  Guild really benefits from little spurts of Shielded, since a lot of its models have Armor, and stacking Armor and Shielded produces great synergy.

Shielded Bullets gives you something to do when your opponent isn’t obligingly attacking your Shielded models.  Once per activation, she can cash in a Shielded to let a nearby friendly’s gun ignore Shielded and Incorporeal.  That’s pretty sweet: Incorporeal is rare, but Shielded isn’t, and the ability to pierce right through someone’s shields can guarantee that last point goes through against an armored beater (like, say, the Hand).  Finally, Resupply gives Bura one small card per turn, which is quite useful either for fueling discards or just hitting TNs.

As you might expect from a Shielded-focused crew, Bura’s attacks aren’t too dangerous, but there’s some interesting play there.  Her Sword is not something you’ll ever be excited to use, but Crushing Force can be pretty useful against Shielded foes (since it’s sort of a 3/4/4 against them), and by attacking Mv it gets around triggers (and will usually be at even stat with the defender).  The built in Get In There! trigger can also help get you that last little push you need on a minion.

Her Tacticals are much more interesting, though.  Remember the Mission is always strong, giving you a pseudo-Don’t Mind Me.  Overload is very cool: a three-damage pulse is something that people have to pay attention to, especially a three-damage tactical pulse, which ignores Incorporeal and other effects specific to Attack Actions.  TN 12 isn’t much, but TN 14 Mv is annoyingly high, and notably she doesn’t need to target Bracer (whoever that is) to get that trigger.  They just need to be nearby.  And notably the 5 you drew from Resupply can help you hit either Tactical’s TN and get the trigger you need.

Overall, I like Bura, especially at seven stones.  The synergy with other Vanguard models is strong, and she also plays very nicely with a Lawyer.  Just make sure you’re hiring some damage dealers, since she won’t help you much there.


Commander Bura’s loyal second, Bracer, doesn’t have her leader’s natural aptitude for shielding magic, but makes up for it with technology and aggression.  The Enforcer in the Starter Box, Bracer is all about mobility – between Herald and On the Move, she can get way out there before the game even starts.

You may not want to dangle Bracer too far out there, though – Df 6 is nice, as is Arcane Shield, but her health pool is very small, and she’s only got the one Shielded to start with.  (She also wants to stay near Bura or at least your Master for Arcane Resonance, which limits how much you can afford to send her out).  Shields Up! is obviously very strong, but you’ll have to work a bit to put more on her.  She gets one during her activation, obviously, and the built-in trigger to pull a friend up the board is quite strong, but that often won’t be enough by itself.

Heroic Intervention is a great action, but Bracer’s not really a melee beater.  A stat 5 attack that only does 2 damage – and only if you’re not taking Quick Shot – isn’t that threatening.  And her Collier Pistol is also stat 5, so she’s not exactly lighting the world on fire there, either.  Rations is a neat trigger, but at this point you’re investing resources into a model that’s neither particularly killy nor particularly survivable, to make it a bit more survivable… I dunno, I don’t really see it.

6 stones is cheap, and Bracer is deceptively fast, so she might have a place.  You’ll obviously never hire her without Bura, so if Bracer is in your list you’re going in on Vanguard, which may be worth doing.  But if the package doesn’t work, Bracer is probably not going to see the light of day.

Battering Rams

Bura’s foot-soldiers take to the streets in customized ram’s head helms.  These both remind citizens of the power and vigilance of the Guild, and are also incidentally great and smashing through stuff.

Battering Rams join the 6/4 club, which is expanding at a rather worrying rate.  6 stones for 5 health, with no Armor or other defensive tech, is a bit of a hard sell.  Sure, the Vanguard keyword is all about Shielded, but these guys don’t start with any.  It’s not too hard to stack it up – Bura can do it, Bracer’s trigger adds more, and they have the Shield Generator action – but you won’t necessarily have any of those things (I guess aside from Bura’s Start Phase effect – I would never hire Rams unless I’m hiring her too).  Especially since Shield Generator competes with Take the Fight to Them, the one truly special thing on the Rams’ card.

Breaching Charge and Heavy Impact are both cool and flavorful abilities, although I don’t think you’ll Charge-Slam very often, but the Rams’ attacks are pretty anemic.  Throw Knife is a neat attack that’s very much let down by its Stat 5, and the Sword is very much replacement-level.  Take the Fight to Them is pretty interesting, since AOE movement tricks are rare and special in Malifaux, though this one does have some limitations – as fun as a 9″ charging Dashel2 would be, it just won’t happen.  And a 7 is a real card.  So unless you’re going for the full Vanguard package, or you have a specific trick you want to do that involves Lady Justice or a Peacekeeper charging a wee bit farther than normal, I think you can leave the Rams at home.


Someone’s gotta spread the Good News.  With the Burning Man up above and Resurrectionists crawling in the sewers below, there’s a lot of anxiety in Malifaux right now, and the Propagandists help the Guild keep a lid on it.

The Guild’s ten-stone versatile beatstick… isn’t much of a beatstick at all, really.  He’s pretty hard to evaluate.  Armor +2 is one of those weird rules that tends to deform a model’s card around it; if an enemy doesn’t have anti-Armor tech, it’s very difficult to chew through, but if they do then armored models tend to go down quickly.  And if you’re playing Guild, your opponent is going to being anti-armor a lot of the time.  Still, Nihilism is surprisingly good defensive tech – not only is it immunity to damage from Burning or Poison (if you want), it lets you dodge Injured, Staggered, and Slow, all conditions that tend to set up a kill.

The Propagandist can put itself in danger if it wants to trigger Rage Machine, but in my experience playing Bayou with the Mechanized Porkchop, that rule is less good than it reads.  It typically wants to be near your crew, drawing cards with Camaraderie and pulsing out Focused with Bombastic Speech.  The latter deserves some mention – Focus pulses are very strong in Malifaux, though this one being Minion-limited does limit its usefulness a bit.  Still, there are some Guild Minions that really benefit from Focused (Hex Bows, Executioners, Witchling Thralls), and Willful Ignorance is a super strong trigger.  Remember, that part is not minion-only: sometimes you’ll give a Bombastic Speech with no Minions to buff, purely for the trigger.

Impassioned Defense is a classic Guild action, and the triggers here are very strong.  Special shout-out to Fake News for being absolutely bananas as a hand-cycler, and only needing a 4 or more of masks to pull it off is very reasonable.  But if you don’t have the mask, or your hand is good, you can always just get a free swing from Director Rodriguez or, hell, even Bashel.

The Propagandist’s actual attacks are fine, but not what I’m excited about. Propaganda Machine is pretty poor unless you set it up, and Vox-Amplifiers is ok, though Guild doesn’t really abuse the marker-generation all that well (except to treat it as a Draw Out Secrets with extra steps).  And Misdirected Rage is fun, but not super reliable.

So what does it all add up to?  The Propagandist is a pretty powerful buff-bot with key tech in specific matchups.  Being able to no-sell conditions can absolutely flip some matchups on their heads, and pulsing focus makes Minion gunlines potentially viable.  Ten stones is a lot, but the Propagandist has enough text that it could probably do 10 stones’ worth of work for you; you’ll just have to figure out how to set that up.

Seeing Red

And that’s the Guild!  I like their Starter Box a lot as a Starter Box, even if I don’t think the models are going to see an exceptional amount of play.  Rodriguez is bananas, but most of the rest of the models will probably see some play in their Keywords, if not outside.

Join us next time as we explore the wild places of Malifaux and get to meet some very old, old friends…

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