What a long, strange trip it’s been! We’ve been from the Bayou’s seashore to the middle of the Guild enclave, from the burning desert to the Hushed Copse, and from the mysterious Library of All Things to wherever Damian Ravencroft polishes his bald head. Madness of Malifaux brought with it six new crews, but that wasn’t all… the book also featured the long-awaited Ten Thunders and Arcanist starter boxes, along with one miscellaneous model that defies easy categorization. Let’s wrap things up with these weirdos and see what else Wyrd crammed into this book.
Necromancers conjure up lost souls all the time, but some escape the clutches of their master. They find it easiest to inhabit the bodies of already-living things, and plants don’t have a pesky consciousness getting in the way. Hence, Yaksha: creatures of life and death. On Earth they serve the scheming Court of Two, but those that have made it into Malifaux are drawn to Jedza, her aura of life giving them strength and comfort.
These guys are Other Side models who can also be run in Malifaux, hence the odd one-off appearance. They’re a little weird, honestly. They’re technically Seekers, but Versatile, so anyone can hire them… but I don’t think you would outside of Jedza. They’ve got a really bad case of 5 Soulstone Minion syndrome, with 5/5 defenses and 5 health, and only Hard to Wound standing between them and an ignominious death from some random Peacebringer. They do have Vengeance and Planted Roots, two abilities that really only get value when you’re being hit, but when these things get hit they’ll probably just die. They’re also slow, which is mitigated a bit by Nature Spirit, and that’s honestly the one reason to consider them: Leaps are very strong. This one’s a lot weaker than most, though, because of the terrain requirement. You can make Severe Terrain easily with Seeker, but it’s in the form of an Aura in most cases, and that leads to a problem: you can only Leap to places you already have a model. That makes them a lot less useful as scheme runners.
Tangling Roots is at least cute with the Kurgan, since Yaksha can attack without putting themselves in danger, but it’s not an impressive attack. Stat 5 2/3/4 is pretty bad, and while Awaken the Land is a great trigger, you still have to actually hit.
Yaksha are kinda flavorful, but it’s not like Jedza doesn’t have better options, and I don’t really know of any other ES masters who would want them.
Despite recent Burning Man-related setbacks, Malifaux City is drawing more people every year. It’s becoming truly cosmopolitan, which means it’s starting to develop every modern convenience. This apparently includes steampunk conventions.
Well, actually Frodsham is a watchmaker (or “horologist”) and occasional spymaster. His Soulstone-powered clockworks are the talk of the town, but Malifaux’s best and brightest would probably be a little unhappy to learn that their precious little timepieces are spying on them…
Let’s not beat around the bush here: Harrison Frodsham is broken. He is game-breakingly good, possibly the best model in the book (although there’s some stiff competition there) and far above the game’s pre-Madness power level. A lot of that strength is in A Cog In Its Place. I’ve opined before about how good Pass Tokens are. Many Explorer’s crews spend 8 stones for Jin Baccara, who provides you a pass token and basically nothing else.
Harrison just gives you one for showing up, and he gives you a ton of free out-of-activation movement every time someone spends one. And not just you – he can push enemy models too. Without a flip. From relative safety. He’s not easy to remove, either, with 5/6 defenses, 8 health, Soulstone use, and the combination of First to Speak and Innocent Bystander giving him significant defensive tech. Also he clears Slow passively off your crew, just because, and he can share conditions, so he can hand out Focus to your master. He doesn’t even have to Concentrate to do that, since he has a bonus action that either heals any target or gives himself or another Watchmen model Focused +1!
As for his attacks, Sharp Wit is never bad, and Harrison’s can even do damage. And Spycraft is insane; not only can he channel it through his Keyword models and ignore Concealment, but it’s a non-projectile Wp-targeting attack that strips your opponent’s hand or grants you activation control. And it has Draw Out Secrets! It feels almost churlish to discuss Gather Intel here, which is an extremely strong action on Youko2 and just as strong here, even if it has a cute little trigger to let you switch places with the starter box enforcer.
Harrison is stupid. He goes in every Arcanist crew, replacing its worst 8 soulstones, and makes it better. He heals, grants focus, gives you activation control, pushes models around, does damage, debuffs enemies, hands out Focus and more. He could lose half the text on his card and still be insanely strong. I hate that this model exists.
The Harris J-5 often clerks at Frodsham’s shop, when the proprietor has business elsewhere. Visitors may think it a curiosity, but they haven’t seen the automaton’s legs replaced with a wheel… or the business end of its pendulum.
The Harris J-5 is a step down from its master, being merely very good. It draws a card almost every activation and shares conditions, just like its boss. It’s a bit more of a combat model, boasting Extended Reach to make it just that much harder to engage anyone nearby, and a melee attack that can place its blast a whopping 4″ from the target (or just Crit Strike if you really need to kill something). Overwhelming Intricacy is interesting… usually this kind of effect is pretty bad, but pushing nearby Watchmen up for free is useful, and the trigger makes it a Wp 14 duel, which is actually kinda hard to pass. Finally, you can heal yourself or another Construct (because why not) or clear a condition to take an action (because why should this model have a weakness?).
The J-5 would probably be fine if Harrison was reasonable, but he’s not. Still, it doesn’t really add much aside from being a fairly efficient fighter in a Construct list, so maybe with Hoffmann? Or just take Harrison and win.
Ugh, more clocks. These little things don’t do that much, though their Armor, built in Leap Aside and Automatic Movement ability make them frustrating to remove. Mostly, you take them for Watch Chain. It might someday do damage, but if you have a 6+ of masks it prints a pass token, which is a totally reasonable ability for a 5 stone minion to have.
This is a direct message to Wyrd: Pass Tokens are much, much more powerful than you think they are. Every model that produces them without having to interact with your opponent’s crew is a staple. You need to be much more careful balancing models that make pass tokens than you have been. And for the love of God, errata Harrison – I don’t want to deal with this for eight+ months.
Speaking of things I don’t want to deal with for eight months…
The Ten Thunders is a syndicate, not just a gang, and that means it contains gangs, like an even-more-violent MLM scheme. One such gang is the Sayuri, made up of trafficking survivors. Koji escaped from traffickers himself, and he reserves shocking violence for anyone he catches buying and selling people. He protects his Sayuri, and Misaki protectse him; she has a soft spot for Koji and his gang, even if his brashness brings him into conflict with the Guild.
Koji’s pretty cool, but there’s one obviously unintended interaction we’re going to deal with at the end of his writeup. Like Parker Barrows, he’s all about enemy scheme markers. He and his crew gain Shielded for walking over them, and he draws a card when one is dropped near him. He can use them in other ways – for instance, by pushing one around with Hostile Takeover to turn it into a friendly marker. He’s also surprisingly durable, with Hard to Kill and his keyword ability, Menacing, which gives enemies a -twist to hit him and his friends. Plus he can pull friendlies towards him during enemy activations, a neat way to rescue someone caught in a bad situation, and if the model he pulled is his cat Kara, she even gains shielded.
For attacks, he has a solid Machete, which removes markers (I’m not sure if it can remove Schemes, given that he treats them as having the Hazardous trait… that’s a question for Wyrd) and has two solid triggers. Taker’s Bane is the real spice – it’s not the strongest gun, but its ability to drop enemy scheme markers on a hit turns on his other abilities when the opponent isn’t cooperative enough to make their own markers for you. And Bōryokudan is a neat little bonus action, doing a hefty shot of damage or producing more markers.
The problem is Protection Money. Koji’s not the only model that has it – Lotus Eaters and Katanaka Crime Bosses do too. And there’s no limit on it at all. One marker = one card per model with protection money. And while Bōryokudan is enemy-only, Taker’s Bane isn’t. I think you know where I’m going with this.
Koji and two Lotus Eaters can hang out in a pocket. Koji can shoot Shōjō, or Fuhatsu, or anyone else with Armor or Incorporeal, and generate two markers at the cost of 2 hp total (maybe just one if you hit a My Loyal Servant trigger on the second attack). Each one draws you three cards: one per Protection Money aura. That’s six cards with no TN or suit required. But it gets worse – Shenlong’s Wandering River Style upgrade gives him the Four Winds Punch ability, which pushes a model… and also picks up and re-drops any markers near them. That’s 6 more cards per punch, and both of Shenlong’s Aspiring Students can punch… so that’s 24 cards turn 1, and if both markers make it to turn 2, you can drop a third so that every punch is now nine cards.
This is not a reasonable amount of card draw. This is an amount of card draw that allows Shenlong to have a hand full of 13s, 12s, and the Red Joker, every turn of every game. Even if you only go with one Lotus Eater it’s 16 cards on turn 1 and 24 on subsequent turns. I have played against this. It sucks.
For the second time in this article, I am speaking directly to Wyrd: do not let this go un-errata’d. This needs an emergency patch the same way McMourning, Insanitary did. I know that Harrison may take you some time to fix, because you may not agree with me about Pass Tokens, but there’s no way to argue Koji is functioning as intended.
Got through that? Whew. Now let’s talk about a kitty. This isn’t the first Kara – Koji led his fellow survivors in a revolt against their traffickers alongside a young woman named Kara. Koji made it out; Kara didn’t. That the panther bears her name is Koji’s way of thanking and honoring the courageous young woman, and also getting revenge on her killers.
Kara is pretty cool. Terrifying Gaze is super-sweet anti-Obey tech, and Feline Reflexes is an amazingly cool defensive ability: Kara’s Df isn’t great and her Wp is poor, but her Mv is great and she defaults to resisting with that unless oppo wants to pitch a card. Kara’s also got Stealth and Menacing, so she’s a bit hardier than she appears… but enemies making Focused attacks and willing to discard will melt her quick.
Her Deadly Claws are reasonable, if nothing to write home about (though self-healing is always nice). Play With Prey is cool as an offensive movement action that’s resisted by Mv, and if you or your opponent has been dropping Schemes you can even get a free attack out of it. And I really like Pounce On Chest. Drop it! generates scheme markers for her other abilities, and Flash of Gold can sometimes randomly discard your opponent’s best card. Kara’s a neat little package – I don’t think she’s more competitive than most keyword options, but she’s very flavorful and pairs well with Koji.
Finally, we’ve got the Amai. These are your Sayuri foot soldiers – survivors given weapons by Koji and unleashed on their oppressors. They’re here to kill human traffickers and drink boba tea, and they’re all outta boba.
Amai have a lot of interesting rules. I’m particularly interested in Confident Stance and Gamble – Stance is an interesting take on anti-Charge tech, while Gamble is a very cool ability exploring a bit of design space that Wyrd hasn’t done much with. Koji can make enemy Scheme Markers pretty efficiently, which means you don’t need Amai, but they are a nice additional source. And of course they’re Menacing too! Each one comes with a sword and a gun, neither particularly great, but each with a fun unique trigger. We’ve seen Threaten before, and it’s not great here (especially since you’re probably not declaring Sayuri as your main keyword, so they’re likely to inflict an Adversary condition they can’t even benefit from), but it’s not nothing. And finally Juggernaut is nice, but not so much on a 5 health minion. Even if they survive an attack, you probably have better things to spend cards on.
I don’t hate Amai, but the best way around Menacing is just to Focus and hit them, and any Focused attack with a Severe 5 has a pretty good shot at just killing them. For thematic play, though, they’re absolutely ace – those triggers are cool as heck!
And with that, we’ve covered every model in Madness of Malifaux! As you can probably tell from some of my editorializing – especially in this column – I have some thoughts on this release as a whole. So that’ll be my next column, my last Madness piece: a summary and wrap up. Thanks for coming this far with me, and may your jokers ever be red!
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