Goonhammer’s Ashes of Malifaux Review Part 8: The Ten Thunders

That’s it!  We’ve shot the chutes and climbed the ladders, we’ve slogged through bog and sewer and stepped through high society.  Now it’s time to retire to the smoking parlors and tea houses of the Little Kingdom and find out what the Ten Thunders have been up to this whole time.


strong Mortal Kombat vibes here. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

The alliance between the Four Rivers martial arts temple and the Katanaka crime family is… tenuous, at best.  Both sides need each other’s support to exploit Malifaux’s resources, but they’re not exactly morally or ethically aligned.  Banying might be the one to change that – having trained at the Katanakas’ Ansatsu Dojo, he is now mastering the Four Rivers styles under Shenlong… especially the Sunless Self technique.

Banying does one thing amazingly well: he makes Shadow Markers.  He’s got the ordinary Enlightened/Harness Chi combo, but he can spend those Chi Tokens to turn Scheme or Shadow markers into Sunless Selves.  We’ll get into those in a bit, but for now, the relevant part is that they’re mobile Shadow Markers.  That’s surprisingly useful – people hire Ototo out of keyword largely to create Shadow Markers for Minako Rei, and this guy does it more easily and more cheaply.  The Shadow Clone defensive triggers gives you even more, although you do have to win duels to use it – but the ability to spend his Chi defensively makes that reasonably possible.

Before we go further, though, let’s talk about those Selves.

Sunless Selves

i will show you something different than, uh, this guy. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Banying can split his shadow into duplicates that act on their own.  They’re Mindless and their defensive stats are crap, but it largely doesn’t matter – like Kastore’s sword, they can’t be engaged or hurt.  Mostly, what they are is mobile shadow markers.  Not that mobile – at the end of one activation (the turn after you summon them, remember) they die and turn into a Shadow Marker.  But until then, they’re effectively an unremovable Shadow Marker that has some extra utility.  Their attack sucks, but it’s free, and their Tactical Action is actually kind of useful for the heal at least.

Remember your opponent can push them away, but you can also push them into position.  They’re like Shadow Markers with upside!

Back to Banying.  Illusionary Strike isn’t that strong an attack unless you’re spending Chi to boost it, but a 2/4/5 with really good triggers, that can attack you from safety, is a big deal.  Unworthy of Her Attention is a great trigger, but often unwieldy to trigger – but it’s pretty easy to trigger it when attacking through a Self!  Darkened Chi is a bit less exciting, being mostly a way to put Shadow Markers where you want them.  And Ninja Vanish is ok, but having to already have a marker in your landing zone makes it significantly worse than Leap (or similar abilities).  The trigger is great, though it’s a bit out of place here, since Banying can’t really make use of it and neither can his keywords.

I like Banying, but I do feel like you’re going to want a way to stack more Chi on him (maybe by Obeying him to Concentrate?).  He really wants to spend it defensively if he’s going to be within 6″ of enemies to use his various tricks, but he also wants to spend it offensively to make his Stat 5 attack reliable, and so you’re going to be chi-taxed a lot.  Spend it wiseful.


malifaux’s first flapper? Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

The Little Kingdom’s tea houses aren’t all about, uh, “tea.”  Sen is an amazingly talented singer, a beacon of charisma who can captivate a room with all of her clothes on.  It doesn’t hurt that she laces magic into her verses, lowering her listeners’ inhibitions and making them chatty.  That works just fine for Jakob Lynch and Youko, who both prefer customers who don’t think too hard, and the Honeypot and Qi and Gong both have lucrative contracts with Sen.

Reading the Room is a creative solution to a thorny problem.  The Leverage/pass token mechanic in Qi and Gong is theoretically cool, but the problem is that the most powerful thing to do with a Pass Token is to use it for activation control, not spend it for an effect.  Sen’s Favor Tokens let you use the fun, positive-twist-granting part of Leverage without the annoying, busted pass-token-generation part.  Rig the Deck is generically strong, of course, but Sen’s a bit fragile at 5/5/7 with only Serene Countenance to protect her.  Serene Countenance (and other sources of negative twists on attack flips) is of limited utility by itself, because a lot of powerful attacks are going to come at you Focused anyways, and your opponent will be holding a card to cheat because they really want the attack to hit – so Serene Countenance doesn’t do much unless you’re in concealment.  That said, it’s better than nothing.

Siren Song is the really interesting ability here – flat modifiers to stats are very rare in Malifaux, and even though this one is pretty limited (in range, and applicability), both of its keywords have a lot of relevant abilities.  Boring Conversation is the one that jumps to mind, but there are lots, from Gather Intel to Consume Brilliance.

Sen has the bog-standard Sharp Wit for “noncombatant” models, but more often you’ll be using Beckoning Call, a truly great action.  Mostly that’s used to reposition friendlies, but Luring the occasional enemy is very strong.  This Song’s All About You is cute, but at short range and with a low stat, I wouldn’t expect to use it that often.

Finally, Aces and Eights is just a generically strong bonus action – draw two cards!  Sure, they’re small, but you can use them for TNs or to discard to enemy (or friendly) effects, or even just to Rig back into your deck.

Sen seems quite playable, though like all support models you have to take care not to overload, since you do need some killers.  She also doesn’t really scheme much, which you will have to take into account.


this backronym has strong MODOK energy. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Sen’s backup musician, the King of the Octave, is a one-automaton-band.  Youko commissioned him, but Lynch doesn’t mind hosting the robot… especially because he’s more than capable of defending himself from rowdy fans.

Df 4 Wp 5 with 6 health is no way to go through life, but at least KOTO has Armor to keep himself alive.  Mostly, Ten Thunders don’t field this type of model, so your opponents might not be expecting it and packing anti-armor – which is good, because if they are, this guy’ll end up in the scrap heap fast.

Like Sen, he has Reading the Room, and his Rig the Deck is a bit bigger than hers.  So far so good, but Good Luck Charms is a bit of a letdown; I don’t think you’ll be cashing in Pass Tokens for Shielded that often (although if Sen is handing your models Brilliance with The Light Inside in a Qi and Gong crew, you might as well cash it in…).

Nervous Energy is pretty much what you’re here for, and that’s a very strong effect, though being limited so much (unengaged models, only two, short range) makes it a bit weaker than similar variants.  The heal is great, especially since it’s not just the models moved (but it doesn’t heal K.O.T.O. himself) and because his friends can spend the Brilliance he gives them for Shielded.  I am not super impressed by his attack, but Pluck the Strings can be quite strong, especially with Sen around to debuff enemies’ Wp.  If you can spread the Brilliance, an unresistable AOE stun is very strong, and Sen can fish out the card you need to hit the Dazed and Confused trigger with Aces and Eights.

K.O.T.O. is quite cheap, though his impact also seems pretty limited.  I’d hire him if I was already hiring Sen, but probably not without her… and I think she’ll show up without him a fair bit.

Story of Suzaku

like a phoenix, rising from… from the… something. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

Linh Ly is worried.  She’s worried about her responsibilities, worried about the Library, and worried about the Oni.  Her worries called forth the Story of Suzaku, which now smolders in a book that has to be kept in a special fireproof brazier.  Suzaku once burned the Oni to ash, and maybe it will again… if it doesn’t burn down the Library first.

A Burning-synergy model is an odd choice for Oni and Red Library, neither of which has much pre-existing synergy with the mechanic.  Suzaku has the expected suite of abilities (Flameborne, Flaming Body, Flight), along with the Red Library’s Well-Versed, but pointedly not From Beyond.  Instead, it helps to manage Flicker on other friendlies with Wind Up Bird, which also incidentally serves as its source of Burning to power Flaming Body.  Neat how that works!

I actually prefer it in Red Library, since you can give your models Slow with Split Focus, then eat the Slow off them with Wind Up Bird to just give yourself free AP.  Plus, Linh Ly 1 can generate tons of Scheme Markers, which Suzaku makes into little burning traps for the enemy.  Synergy!

Both of Suzaku’s attacks are pretty strong, though I think you’ll Up We Go a fair bit more than Conflagration (not least because the range of both attacks is the same).  The Wind’s Wrath is a very neat little bonus if you have “enough Burning” (as though that exists) or just don’t have a Condition to eat.  You’d be surprised at how much 1″ can help.

It’s a bit odd to me that Suzaku doesn’t really do much to actively set enemies on fire (outside of Conflagration, which kind of wants them to already be on fire), and doesn’t really benefit that much from them being on fire aside from Smolder.  But Flaming Body is quite good, being a form of Armor +2 that isn’t ignored by Armor-ignoring effects, and that might give it the staying power it needs to stay in the fight.

While I like what the bird does, Red Library and Oni are both not exactly lacking in great models, and the bird doesn’t really synergize with either.  Up We Go is great, though, so it might find a home based on that.


i’m tails. i’m called that because i have five tails. Credit: Danger Planet Brandon

“Who is Zhen?” is the wrong sort of question.  “What are Zheng?” is closer: huge stone statues, with protective magic laced into their masonry.  They’re activated in times of dire need, but they’re fearsome protectors when roused.

My first question is “why is a giant stone statue not Armored?”  The answer is pretty obviously “because it has 10 health, Warning Growl, and can be Df/Wp 7,” but that’s not satisfying.  Anyways, Zheng does a lot of the things you want an expensive beater to do: it has a fearsome attack with strong triggers, including “do more damage,” “make another attack,” and “draw a card” (all conditional, but still).  It has a bonus action that’s effectively an AP (a Walk AP, to be precise) and sometimes gives you a third swing.

The front of card is pure upside: Feline Reflexes is mostly a hand tax, but hand taxes are good, and against opponents without a ton of draw it’ll make Zheng Df/Wp 7.  Unimpeded is exactly what you want on a 50mm beater, especially one this fast, and Exploit Vulnerability gives you even more AP.  Warning Growl is Zheng’s one piece of unconditional defensive tech, but it’s a very strong one.  It’ll be easy for Zheng to outpace its friends, so you won’t necessarily be able to turtle up around it, but in those early activations an aura of Hard to Wound is solid.

I even like Intimidating Roar, which is not enemy-only and can help you reposition!  Zheng does a lot.  There’s nothing on this card that jumps out to me as insane, but the whole package is very solid, and probably worth 10 stones.  I don’t know if there are a lot of Ten Thunders lists that have a 10-stone hole in them, and Zheng is a bit less fearsome as a Versatile beater than something like the Lone Swordsman, but it’s a solid model with a lot to recommend it and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it see play, especially in Cloak and Dagger and Stuff the Ballots (where that out of activation interact can do a lot of work).

Rhymes With Orange

And… that’s it!  Yeah, just six models for the Thunders.  Interesting ones, at least, and I think most of them are at least doing something kind of unique.  What do you think, Thunders players?  Did you get quality over quantity?

Ashes, Ashes…

Whew!  That’s the whole book!  I’m a big fan of this release, in case it didn’t come through.  I think this is the first new release of M3E that isn’t going to break the meta in half (well, maybe Ceddra), but I think it’s still going to make a splash.  There are a lot of cool toys here, and there’s at least one model in every faction that makes me want to try that faction.  Yes, even the Thunders.

As always, I’ll be doing one more wrap-up post to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly in this book – but tell me, what do you think of Ashes?  Have you gotten some table time with your new friends?  What has surprised you the most?  What are you already sick of seeing?  Let me know in the comments, and until next time, keep it wyrd!