Goonhammer’s Ashes of Malifaux Review Part 5: The Neverborn

We’ve seen the Arcanists and their nemesis, the Guild; we’ve visited the high society of the Explorers and the depths of the Bayou.  Time to venture into the wilds and see what Ashes of Malifaux has brought the Neverborn.


my eyes are up here… and over here… and here, too. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Mimics love humans!  They’re so complex, so many great features to imitate… well, most mimics, anyways.  Crookskins are atavistic throwbacks, unable to even remotely pass for human.  Lucius makes use of them anyways, as does Euripedes, who keeps the old ways alive.

These guys are tough for six stone minions.  Stealth is a great piece of defensive tech on a minion, since it makes it harder for the opponent to opportunistically pick them up on the way to doing something else, and 7 wounds with Hard to Wound is a lot to chew through – especially since they can heal on command in place of being Obeyed (or otherwise directed to act).  Careful here – the wording of Unruly suggests to me that you can’t use it to no-sell enemy Obeys, because it’s the Crookskin making the choice and while Obeyed it’s controlled by the opponent.  But given the number of ways Mimic has to make them do things out-of-activation, this is a pretty reliable Heal 2.

Startle is fun, but I think more often you’ll be do Craven Imitations as your bonus.  This action rules.  More healing is always great, but all four triggers are good, with Sneak Away being very good in a crew that can throw down as many Ice Pillars as Savage.  I don’t think too much of their melee attack (although if the enemy is Staggered, which they can do in a pinch, it’s a respectable Stat 7), but a 2/3/4 with Crit Strike is acceptable when you need it.

I’m pretty high on these guys.  They’re durable, surprisingly speedy minions that can generate Ice Pillars and in general be a pain in the ass to remove.  That’s valuable in a GG that values AP as much as this one does – nine model crews are definitely in right now, and Crookskins help you get there.

The Leech King


david bowie got kicked out of the Goblin Kingdom and fell on some hard times. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

There must always be a Leech King.  Well, I don’t really know about that, but there always has been.  He’s an old, old force of Malifaux, a force of blood and life and death.  No wonder he gets along so well with the Returned.

The Leech King is… odd.  The healing synergy is obvious: Regeneration plus I’ll Have What They’re Having lets him pass around healing, which of course Returned crews love.  But they have lots of ways to get that effect.  The Leech King offers a few tools, but at a price: high cards.

Let’s start with Clew of Leeches.  Enforcers that summon are pretty cool, and summoning models right into your opponent’s face is very cool.  Especially models that summon more of themselves (of which more later).  But you need an 11 of crows unless your opponent is at half health or below.  That’s a tall order!

Similarly, Blood Magic offers a very appealing upside.  The damage track here is very spread, but with Hemophilia it offers a potential 7 damage swing (especially if the opponent is already Stunned and can’t choose that option).  But you need the opponent to be at half health or below, and you need to cheat in a high mask to hit and then a Severe for damage.

If you’re willing to invest cards in this guy, he can make some very powerful plays.  But without those cards, I can see him struggling. He does have some other utility – condition removal is something Neverborn doesn’t have too much of, and anti-healing tech is rare as well, although Returned already has a much better version of it with Gwyll.  At minimum, the Leech King is pretty tough to remove, since he has a big health pool and lots of ways to heal himself.

I personally like the Leech King, but I don’t think you can just slap him into any crew, or even any Returned crew.  Swampfiend can probably make better use of his tricks (and is more likely to have cards to feed him), and Witch’s Brew from Zoraida2 actually makes this guy extremely strong, so look out for that.  I think it might have some legs, even if leeches don’t.

Giant Leeches

the creepiest part of peter jackson’s king kong. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Giant Leeches are a lot more straightforward than their boss.  They’re stealthy and fast, a lot faster than you expect them to be, especially if you can throw some chip damage out there for Sense Weakness.  Latch On is a nice ability, but they basically need it, since their attacks are otherwise fairly crappy.

I am amused at the prospect of hiring these guys in Bayou, giving them Ghillie Suits, and then having Zoraida2 use Witch’s Brew to make them Sz 4 for massive off-the-top-rope Body Slams.  I think a better use case, though, is summoning more Leeches with them.  Sure, you need an 11 (a 10 if the opponent is at half health or less), but you don’t need a suit.  Minions that summon more of themselves are very, very strong, and the best part is that the Leech King summons them too, so even if you lose all your Leeches you can start the chain again.

They’re very easy to kill, so I can’t really see myself hiring them, but as summons they’re a lot of fun.  Both Zoraidas can draw enough cards that you will probably be able to spare a 10 or 11 to make more Leeches, so just keep it up and make your opponent deal with an endless parade of awful little worm dudes.


(hans moleman speaking into phone both telephone) i need the creepiest monster design you have. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Insidious Madnesses feed on, well, madness.  What happens when a man is driven mad by a portal through time?  The unique insanity that generates gave rise to Delirium, a (thus far) unique Madness with the power to warp reality.

Delirium’s front of card is pretty much what you’d expect of an upgunned Insidious Madness.  Incorporeal, Terrifying, 9 health and 5/6 defenses is surprisingly beefy for Neverborn, and his Mv 6 makes him speedy as well.  He’s got the standard Woe suite of Misery/Opportunist, this time keying off Adversary, which is an interesting choice because removing Adversary prevents the rest of your crew from taking advantage of it – so there are choices to make there.  He also Lucid Dreams like many Nightmares, though note that he can’t use the removed cards.

His other bonus, Autophobia, applies Adversary and does so in a way that doesn’t punish you for stripping it (since only Delirium benefits from it).  Its trigger, Got Your Nose, is worth mentioning, since it not only affects one of Delirium’s other attacks but also its Terrifying ability, making it hard for its target to hit back.

Delirium’s other Attack Actions are kind of surprisingly aggressive.  Savage Bite is a big-boy attack, and its triggers are both slightly better versions of “draw a card” and “your opponent discards a card,” which are significant effects.  Its ranged attack, Psychotic Influence, is where the real spice is.  It can either deal not-that-much damage or transmute a Condition; the latter effect is really strong, as turning a stack of Focused into Slow really cripples an activation your opponent has been making an effort to set up.

The built-in trigger gives you sort of a weird modality to this attack: you can end another condition and deal an extra point of damage, meaning that if the target has multiple conditions you can either:

  • end them both, inflict a new one and deal a point of damage, or
  • end one and deal some more substantial damage.

Of course, if they only have one condition, you can always pick the second option.  It’s a neat decision tree, and of course the attack also has the extremely strong Glimpse the Void, which also benefits from Got Your Nose.

I really, really like Delirium.  It’s expensive, but it’s both reasonably durable and reasonably dangerous.  The one thing to note is that the lacuna between activations where you get off Got Your Nose and activations where you don’t is enormous, so it may be worth saving a high Mask for this thing.

Delirious Thrall

this is the muppet babies version of pyramid head. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Delirium’s victims are trapped in its orbit, drained of their personalities and memories and recast in its image.  And now they’re coming out of the mirror to get you!  Let’s start by noting that they’re living, meaning that the Dreamer now has the ability to create life.  Not significant gameplay-wise, but kinda troubling from a metaphysical perspective!

Thralls are joining the 6/4 minion club (remember when I said that there were a lot of these?  I wasn’t kidding!).  Like their boss, they have Misery and Opportunity (Adversary), which they apply via the much more traditional Threaten.  Their Threaten has a crappy stat, but the positive twist means that a decent percentage of the time your opponent will have to cheat first, which has some value of its own.

A word here on Misdirection before we get to the back of the card – a lot of the time, this is just like a version of Protected you don’t have to discard for.  In the rare occasion that two different enemy models are within 2″ of a Thrall and someone still attacks its Df, they will just pitch the card so you get hit.  Don’t count on this to save you.

Anyways, Thralls look a lot like normal Woe minions, with Glimpse of Insanity and a so/so attack.  Mirrored Image is cute, since it’ll sometimes force some awkward cheating to avoid giving your cheapo minion a min 3 attack, but it also is a stat 5 that a lot of the time just hits at 1/2/3, which is not a good use of an AP however you slice it.

If these guys have a use, it’s probably House of Mirrors, which provides a very useful web of protection to your models while sometimes drawing you a card (a small card, but still useful for TNs or just discarding to Misdirection).  As I’ve said, Misdirection is mostly going to be used to pawn hits off on your other models, but that’s valuable in and of itself.  Is it worth paying 5 stones for a relatively fragile minion that folds like a cheap suit if the opponent has Wp attacks?  Hard to see it, but maybe.


alas, poor yorick. i ate him well. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Beneath Nekima, the Nephilim Queen, Nephilim chieftains lay claim to various parts of Malifaux.  Ithanna controls an area called Heart Spike, a verdant place bathed in Titania’s rejuvenating power.  She wields a living blade, Desmonia, but has never made a play for the Nephilim throne – she’s content to remain neutral, caring for Heart Spike more than politics.

Ithanna is an interesting one.  A lot of text on this card.  Her large health pool and access to Soulstones offsets her poor Df a bit, but (despite the unique attack action) this isn’t a brawler.  As a headliner, she supports Titania’s Underbrush-focused gameplan by letting your other Fae models drop Underbrush forests as a bonus action.  While sometimes you’ll want to use the bonus printed on your card, this optionality is huge and will allow you to really carpet the board in greenery if you want to.  Remember, it’s optional, so models with Germinate can do it three times in an activation if they want to.  You’ll rarely need that many Underbrush markers, but as they’re 50mm and non-Destructible, against slow crews without marker removal or Unimpeded you can basically choke off the board.

She generates corpses readily with Heart Spike, though she’s more of a scavenger; you won’t send her into frontline brawlers, but she can pick off the injured or weaker minions easily enough.  Desmonia’s Thirst is a promising attack: a built in +twist and Coordinated Attack will set up some really nasty hits, especially if you can throw Nekima or a Mature Nephilim into the opponent first.  Thirsty Roots is a bit like Entomb, though Poison is a much less nasty effect to inflict than Stunned (and Entomb’s malus technically doesn’t cap at 3, though it’ll be rare that you have more than that).  Being able to center the shockwave on a 50mm marker is a big deal, though.  That’s a gigantic shockwave.

I’m not too enamored of her bonus action, since it’s pretty situational, although at least she can always make her own Underbrush if you need the healing in a pinch.  Note that she doesn’t have Germinate, so hitting a non-built-in trigger on Thirsty Roots is the only way for her to make Underbrush.  That’s not awesome, but at least she can stone for it.

Eight stones seems right for this package.  You can’t just fire and forget, but Ithanna offers some utility, some healing, and occasionally some unexpected punch.

Carnivorous Wyrdwood

no, you cannot axe him a question Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Look, I promise we’ll talk about this card.  But first: what the fuck?

Carnivorous trees have a venerable pedigree in horror, okay.  That’s not what I’m on about.  But this looks like a weirwood doing Crypt Keeper cosplay.  This looks like the demon tree from Poltergeist got into a teleport accident with an emoji.  Come on, Wyrd.

The Carnivorous Wyrdwood is pretty appealing, though probably not for the reasons intended.  Armor, Planted Roots, and decent defensive stats will make it difficult to remove, and Black Blood punishes you for trying, but what you really want here is Regrowth.  Neverborn have some of the most powerful non-Master summoning in the game, thanks to the orphaning of the Puppet keyword, and both Vasilisa and the Widow Weaver are salivating over getting to double up on scrap.  Typically, in Zoraida lists, you’ll summon and instantly kill your Voodoo Doll to generate Scrap, then let Vasilisa and/or the Weaver go nuts making Stitched Together.  Summoning 12ss of Stitched on Turn 1, then every turn for the rest of the game, is… well, it’s a play, all right.

The rest of the card?  Eh.  I like Germinate, though it’s a bit awkward because the duels Nephilim particularly want +twists on are attack duels, and that requires the marker (and thus the tree) to be pretty far forward.  Snagging Vines and Bark Worse Than Its Bite (…sigh) are both passable attack actions, though at Stat 5 they’re not going to that effective unless you’re willing to sink cards into them – and you really would rather be spending those cards on your Nephilim.  Or on the Stitched you just summoned.

I think the tree is good, I just don’t think it’s good at the thing it’s possibly meant to do (something to do with underbrush, and pulling enemies into it, I guess?).  It’s good at enabling degenerate summoning lists.  Enjoy!

The Syzygy Sisters

once i was in an ARG called Project Syzygy. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Don’t wizened old crones typically come in threes?  Well, Malifaux has only two moons, not three, so we get the Savers version.  The Syzygy Sisters are quite cool.  At 6/6 with 10 health and Regeneration, they won’t fall off the board easily.

Their back of card is very thin, but that’s mostly because a lot of the power is in their Upgrades.  They have a Lure, a pretty bare-bones Shockwave that makes a Scheme Marker, and a version of Heroic Intervention that doesn’t push friendlies as far but lets you take a non-melee attack action if you want.  What kind of action?

i c an be ur angel… or yuor Devill… Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Let’s start with The Dark Stone.  This upgrade makes the Sisters into a ranged threat, with Bullet Proof to let them trade shots with enemies and the unique Piercing Darkness ranged attack.  The range is short, but Stat 6 vs. Wp is pretty good, and the attack has great triggers.  Armor Piercing is always useful, but Devastating Strike is where it’s at; getting this attack to a straight flip lets you cheat in a Severe for a massive 6 damage with a blast for 4.  Not much is getting up from that.

Amusingly, this upgrade also gives you Avoid Doom, the slightly less hilarious version of Forever Doomed.  Never a bad thing.  And it lets your Scheme Marker eat enemy Scheme Markers, which is quite potent in this GG.

Moving to A Pale Light, the Sisters trade away their ranged potency for a nasty melee attack.  This version really wants to be in the thick of things, since enemies can’t cheat melee attacks against them or pin them in combat.  Pale Blade has your bog-standard Stat 6 3/4/5 damage track, but again, the triggers are very, very good here.

The flexibility is really what sets this model apart.  Being able to pick off scheme runners with Piercing Darkness before engaging Ass Beating Protocols and slamming into their lines gives the Sisters a lot more play than your typical brawler.  They can eat Scheme Markers, they can eat non-Scheme Markers, they can be specifically resilient against guns or melee attacks: this is a model that really rewards skilled play.  Don’t sleep on Perfect Form, either.  I think most of the time you’ll be making Fallow Night a bonus action (it’s once per activation anyways), but sometimes you won’t want to Fallow Night but you will want to make three attacks, and making Moon’s Protection a bonus gets you there.

Purple Reign

That’s the Neverborn!  There’s a lot of power here, though outside of the Wyrdwood I’m not sure what slots into existing lists.  Neverborn already have some great out-of-keyword beaters, but I hope people try out the Syzygy Sisters.  That’s a really cool model concept.

Join us next time as we ramble out into the badlands and see what our favorite collection of misfits, scamps, and/or rascals are up to!

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