Malifaux Burns: An Introduction
Remember the Governor-General? Well, he’s back! In immolated form!
Last September, at Gen Con, Wyrd released the first full expansion book for Third Edition: Malifaux Burns! This svelte little book included more than 80 new models, including new Titles for all 54 masters.
What’s a Title, you ask? Well, for those who remember Warmahordes, it’s a bit like an Epic version of a Master: a second version with (usually) the same Keyword but all-new rules. When you declare a Master, you can choose to field either version; you don’t have to make the decision until you get to the crew-building stage. Obviously, you can’t have both the title and non-title versions of the same master in the same Crew.
For those whose memories of epic warcasters and warlocks aren’t tinted by rose-colored glasses, you’ll be relieved to learn that Titles are not just “Masters, but better.” They’re… different. Because they share a Keyword with their original (and thus share a supporting cast) they often play around in a similar mechanical space, but while some of them are mere variations on a theme, others radically reimagine the original. As far as balance goes… well, the Titles haven’t been errata’d yet, and some of them are outliers (in both directions) along the power curve, but overall they’re hitting the sweet spot where in most cases you could make a case for either the title or the original.
Nor are the Titles the only new models. Wyrd is selling Malifaux Burns Masters in a rather unique way – each Malifaux Burns box contains two Masters, one each from two different factions, and a shared Enforcer or Minion that has both Masters’ keywords (although the backup dancers here are only in one faction – so they can be hired cross-faction only by their designated Master).
The new designs are, frankly, impressive. Not just visually, although some of these sculpts are really creative and fun; the Titles are largely cool, complex designs that break into unused design space, and they do a lot of neat things (some of which are, maybe, a little too good, but Wyrd has a good track record of handling that particular problem).
In addition to all these new models, Malifaux Burns is packed chock-full of new art and lore. The title comes from the return of the Burning Man to his world of, uh, “origin.” After a sojourn Earthside, where he spread madness and chaos like some kind of charred Johnny Appleseed, the apparition that was once Kitchener has come back, and Malifaux will never be the same.
We’ll go faction-by-faction, starting with the Guild. I plan to review each Faction’s Masters, as well as the Enforcers that belong to that Faction; I won’t review Enforcers twice, so some of the Masters will get theirs today and others will get them later. I’m also going to review Masters in the faction where they appear in Malifaux Burns, which means some of them will be reviewed at different times from in my original Faction Focus articles. I promise you this is not important enough to complain about.
Charles Hoffman, Inventor
See, when I said Titles, I literally meant titles. Every MB master has a snazzy little title after their name. “Inventor,” eh? Good on ya, Chuck!
Ever since Ramos went to prison, his last little presents to Malifaux have been going off. Nobody’s sure if this is a failsafe the old man set up in case the Guild got him, or if his constructs are going haywire from lack of maintenance, but it turns out Ramos had dozens of Arcanist safehouses scattered around Malifaux, and most of them are packed chock-full of robots. One by one, operating on some timetable nobody can figure out, these poison gifts are unwrapping themselves and spreading chaos through the city. It’s up to Hoffman to clean up the mess, but there are consolation prizes: access to Ramos’s notes and experiments has led to rapid advances in technology. Hoffman’s at the forefront of these efforts, trying to turn his erstwhile mentor’s spite into something worthwhile.
Title Hoff is less of a buff machine. Instead, he advances his plans with MAD SCIENCE! At the start of the game, he gets to deploy four Pylon markers. He can push these markers around and, if needed, blow them up (damaging nearby enemies) and, yes, he has a trigger called Construct Additional Pylons to drop more. Instead of Hoffman’s robots getting power tokens when he’s around, now they get them (and some Shielded, which is nifty) for activating near a Pylon. Hoffman can also channel the arcing electricity of the Pylons in a devastating Alternating Current attack that can deal up to 4 irreducible damage from 12″ away. That’s nasty. He can only shoot a given target once per activation with that attack, but he can do the attack three times, so… do the math.
At launch, Inventor Hoff was polarizing, since his Pylons could block off access to areas of the board and some crews just straight up couldn’t do anything about it. Since then, the addition of the Slam general action (which can move Pylon markers) makes them a bit less devastating, but playing with markers was never the most powerful thing Hoffman could do – that’s zapping your models to death with up to 12 irreducible damage per turn, at range. He’s straightforwardly powerful, incredibly so, and that’s before pairing him with Mei Feng; she can hire Sparks, who has Command Construct, and can therefore let Hoffman shoot again. It’s, uh… it’s something.
Lucius Mattheson, Dishonorable
Speaking of masters who are taking things into their own hands… er, their daggerlike claws…
Lucius never expected to see his old boss again. The Governor General’s Mansion was the epicenter of the Burning Man’s return, and though the current incumbent, Franco Marlow, survived (much to Lucius’s chagrin), the place was a total loss. This is a bit of a problem for Lucius, who relies on human bureaucracy to cover his tracks, but it’s also an opportunity. In all this chaos, nobody would notice if the Governor’s Secretary took a working vacation, and he’s finding out just how much he enjoys handling matters himself.
This version of Lucius has lost much (but not all!) of his earlier iteration’s fiddly action-generation gameplay. He doesn’t order his minions to do the killing – he can do it himself. (Ok, he still orders his minions a little bit). He has a neat attack that lets him push enemies around and then take a free swing at them, but mostly what you’re here for is the Daggerlike Claw, a stat 7 attack with a built in +twist to damage if the enemy is Staggered and three nasty triggers. And how do you hand out staggered? Well, you use Sudden Appearance, a trigger on his Secret Passage action. That’s right – just like Seamus, Lucius is going to be jaunting around the board one 12″ teleport at a time. He’s picked up some useful defensive tricks in Flexible Morality and Superiority Complex, but the real show-stopper on the front of his card is Planning Ahead, which lets him drop a scheme marker anywhere within 12″ during the Start Phase, and for the rest of the turn his keyword models within 2″ of it can build in the suit of their choice once per activation. Building in suits is, uh, really good guys, and the ability to do it in an aoe – for free – while also dropping a scheme marker that can be used for all normal scheme marker things… that’s pretty cool.
Unfortunately, he’s still in one of the weakest Keywords in the game (well, two of the weakest Keywords, technically), which holds him back. But his card is great, so maybe as a second master he’ll have some legs?
Perdita Ortega, Neverborn Hunter
Perdita’s had a rough go of it. The old Governor-General didn’t appreciate her, and the new one has buried her in paperwork. That’s tough, for a woman used to living on her wits and her pistols. In her absence, Latigo – the ranch of the Ortegas – has been letting standards slip. There are pistoleros slapping iron that can barely hit a bullseye at 10 feet, let alone 100. Something had to be done.
Perdita’s slapping her family into shape, retraining newbies, building up supply stocks, and doing a thousand other things. In all this time she hasn’t had the time to practice her marksmanship, and she’s not quite the killer she used to be, but she’s an incredible buff bot. The biggest change on the front of her card is Head of the Ortegas – whenever a Family member within 6″ Concentrates outside of its activation, you may draw a card. That synergizes incredibly well with the two signature abilities of the Family, Family Values (a trigger most of them have that lets another Family model within 6″ concentrate) and A Por El (a rule that lets you discard a card to let another nearby model take an action at the end of your activation).
As any Magic player will tell you, stapling “draw a card” to an effect turns a mediocre card into an incredible one, and Perdita’s ability to turn the downside of A Por El (its discard cost) into an upside (a card cycle!) is incredible. She can still do some damage when she has to, and can hand out Stunned at range, but I’ve saved the best for last – once per turn, on a 7 or more of rams, she can summon a new Latigo Pistolero with a Specialty upgrade. Pistoleros kind of suck, but these upgrades are incredible; each one triggers an effect just for showing up, gives the Pistolero +1 to all duels and a free suit of their choice when they’re near a friendly model, and gives them a unique aoe ability. Mostly, these are nasty counter-abilities, like one that lets nearby models turn off enemies’ Incorporeal or one that makes them immune to concealing and hazardous terrain. Best of all, when your new Pistolero kills an enemy model, it can instantly upgrade to a Monster Hunter while keeping the Specialty!
New Perdita is, in a word, bonkers. Her keyword was not the strongest, but this version supercharges it. You’re doing all the same stuff a Family crew was doing before (taking a ton of Focused Peacebringer shots) but now you’re drawing a million cards a turn and summoning new models and also Perdita hands out shielded in a 12″ pulse that ignores LOS, for some reason. Once again, she’s held back a bit by her keyword – a ranged army that doesn’t reliably ignore cover or concealment is going to run into some problems. But Perdita herself is so good that she almost entirely makes up for that.
Dashel Barker, Butcher
Dashel is one of the few people actually enjoying the Burning Man’s arrival. Before, he was tied to a desk, filling out paperwork and reading incident reports. Now he gets to get out there and whack things! With an axe! And another axe! Nothing too complicated here – Dashel gets to do what he does best, break things.
Bashel, as he’s called, isn’t much of a summoner anymore. No, now he’s a murder machine. He gains Rush, giving him a 7″ charge (plus 2″ of melee threat!) and Frenzied Charge, letting him do it as many times per turn as he wants. With Pursuit, he’s at a stat 7 when attacking models that have already activated, and while he’s lost his armor and a point of Willpower, he’s got Hard to Wound and a ton of health. Mostly, he’s just hackin’ and whackin’ with a 3/4/5 attack that his a trigger to let him attack again. His bonus action lets him eat a marker to take a general action, giving him an effective 4 AP, and he can even summon a Guard Patrol if he wants to off of that, but mostly what he’s doing is charging in and cutting off heads. He does have some neat tricks – Draw Them In staggers enemies and pulls them towards a friendly model, and Second Slice deals 1 damage in an aoe (and then a second point of damage to any models that were left at 1 hp, finishing them off).
His front of card is kinda cool, too, with Grip of the Guild letting his Guard shoot anyone he’s engaging without penalty and Desperate Measures letting nearby friendlies use Soulstones even if they normally can’t. All that adds up to an incredibly nasty melee killer who can put the hurt on anyone who can’t get away, and support his crew while doing it. Bashel is very strong, and a lot of fun to play, too! Who doesn’t like killing things with their Master?
Nellie Cochrane, Voice of Disorder
Alas, poor Nelly. Thought of the Burning Man and died.
Well, she didn’t die. But Nellie’s in rough shape. She went out into the streets of Malifaux after the Burning Man’s arrival, looking for a story in the chaos. What she found was a discarded copy of the Contiones de Rege Flammae. The Flammae, as it’s known, was penned by the madman Ephraim Wade, the first to be touched by the Burning Man’s “wisdom.” Reading the Flammae gave Nellie a whole new perspective on life… and as the proud owner of a printing press, she felt duty-bound to share her new outlook with the masses.
This Nellie’s an interesting one. She’s somewhat similar to her original, still playing a scheme-focused game with Exclusive Interview, but she’s picked up a new suite of control tricks. Top of the list is Spread the Word, which lets her spread Conditions around – once per activation, when a model within 8″ gains a Condition, she can have another friendly Journalist or enemy model within 2″ of that model gain the same Condition. That means if her crew is handing out Distracted or Staggered, she can spread the love, and when they Shield each other or Focus they can share that too. It’s a very powerful ability, but it really pushes you in a certain direction in your crew build – namely, handing out conditions.
Nellie’s real focus is Distracted, which I guess represents madness. Her False Reality ability lets you teleport a model 2″ plus 2″ for each point of Distracted on it; my personal best is 18,” which on a 36″ board is massive. She also has a trigger to Obey the model after it lands, which means that you can just casually slam a friendly into a Symbols marker from downtown and remove it before the enemy can do anything about it. So that’s nice.
I’ve played one game with this Nellie and I found her a little fiddly to use, though her First to Speak ability (all enemies take a -twist on all attacks against her once she’s activated) makes her a little easier to keep safe. But there’s really no joy like loading up Distracted on an enemy model and then Chaos Dunking them back to their deployment zone. And for those willing to really get to know her card, the power is definitely there.
Lady Justice, Death-Touched
Lady J’s been going through some stuff. The death of the Judge at the end of 2e hit her hard, and then it turned out McMourning went and stole his body and reanimated it… chilling stuff. Her failure to stop McMourning hit her hard, and for a while she considered hanging up her spurs. In the end, she decided to go back to basics. She has a pine box like the rest of her Marshals. Why not use it?
This version of Lady J isn’t quite the swordswoman she once was (though she’s more than capable of slicing you apart at a stat 7 2/4/5). Instead, she focuses on the coolest part of the Death Marshals: their flaming Ghost Rider coffins. Marshal in her crew that use the Pine Box action can drop a 50mm Coffin Marker and target enemies within 1″ of that, turning a 0″ range ability into one that reaches almost 4″. Once the markers are on the board, they persist, blocking enemy movements (but not friendly ones) and preventing nearby enemies from healing. They also make nearby enemies count as Undead, turning on all the sweet anti-Undead tech in the crew. Lady J herself can create the markers a few ways- via the Burial Rites ability, incidentally handing out Focus; using the Ashwood Coffin ranged attack, which acts like a ranged Pine Box; and via a trigger on the Equilibrium shockwave attack.
All this focus on Pine Boxes rewards you for bringing models that can attack buried enemies, and of course Death-Touched can as well. It feels pretty bad to have your models taken off the table and then beaten to death in the nether void. Death-Touched’s crew can also absolutely clutter up the board with Coffin Markers, largely for free, and unless you can fly over them or remove them somehow you are going to have a hard time maneuvering. All that adds up to a very, very potent Master. Positioning her can be a challenge – she’s not that tough, but she needs to be fairly close to the frontline to do her thing – but she’s Hard to Wound and has Regeneration +2, so it’s not like she’s helpless.
For those who want a bottom line, Lady Justice is completely nuts. I feel like I didn’t really bring that across in my even-handed summary of her strengths and weaknesses, so let me be clear: she is the most powerful Guild master right now and in contention for most powerful in the game.
Sonnia Criid, Unmasked
Like the Burning Man, Sonnia Criid spent some time on Earth; like the Burning Man, she’s back now. Also like the Burning Man, she lights things on fire out of habit. See? Lots of similarities. As the Guild’s foremost expert on rogue practitioners of magic, Criid is the natural choice to head an anti-Burning Man task force; her affinity for fire is the cherry on top. As Cherufe’s former vessel, she hates Him more than most, and recognizes the danger He poses more than just about anyone. So here she is, ready to light asses on fire and chew bubble gum. And she’s all out of… ah, never mind.
This version of Sonnia is, thematically, quite similar to her original: she’s a turret that lights everything in the world on fire. Where they differ is technique. Unmasked retains the original’s signature Flameburst attack, but with a new and unique trigger: Lasting Flames replaces its blast markers with permanent Pyre Markers. Between that and On the Pyre, her bonus action, she can absolutely clutter the board with the things; she can drop a theoretical maximum of 9 in a single activation (although the average is probably 3-4). Adding to the fun, her Walls of Flame rule means that enemy models treat Pyre Markers as Severe (neat) and can never ignore Pyre Markers’ terrain traits, which is a lot better than it sounds. Incorporeal? Unimpeded? Depths of Malifaux? Don’t care, you’re slowed and on fire!
Given that Pyre Markers are not destructible and thus can’t be removed under ordinary circumstances, this means that crews without marker removal will treat Sonnia like one of those MMO bosses that gradually fills up the floor with fire pools as a soft enrage timer. In addition to the downside of, you know, burning to death, crews facing a Pyre-filled board have to contend with Sonnia’s Charred Soul rule, giving her a Soulstone every time a model with Burning +2 or more dies (i.e. every time a model dies), and Channeled Flame, which lets her siphon burning off friendly models within 8″ to gain a +twist to her duels.
Unmasked is still a turret, yes, but she’s a turret with infinite +twists on all of her duels, tons of Soulstones, and a slowly growing carpet of flame that makes the board a fiery morass. Seems great. I haven’t even touched on some of the weirder interactions she enables, like how her Enraged by the Mage rule allows your models to take two attacks after charging if they were Obeyed to charge out of activation, but she’s just sort of generically great and will rarely if ever have a bad activation.
Sly Six-Shots is the first of the new Enforcers we’re going to cover. As Malifaux’s premier dealer in lightly used armaments, he pals around with the Family, but has also been seen associating with their mortal enemies (at least in their own minds), the Kin.
Sly brings something to table that neither Family nor Kin have alone: scheming. He’s not that fast on his own, but Escape Plan gives him a 2″ push at the start of his activation as long as he’s near a table edge or Impassable terrain, and once per activation when a model within 6″ of him takes a shot, he can scoot 2.” And he has a built-in Df trigger to move 3″! All that adds up to a lot of out-of-activation movement. He has a fairly crappy attack that becomes reasonable if the enemy is near Scheme Markers, but the real gold on his card is False Claim – he can drop two scheme markers anywhere he pleases within 3″, with the caveat that at the end of the turn you have to remove one marker from anywhere in play. This ability is great at scoring Detonate Charge, Breakthrough, Spread Them Out, and any other marker scheme – it’s also great to use with Mark Territory (on Bayou’s 12 Cups of Coffee upgrade) and it buffs Sly’s gun. It even comes with two excellent triggers: one gives him kind of a crappy version of Secret Passage, an 8″ teleport instead of 12″, an the other lets a nearby Kin or Family take a free shot.
Sly’s a bit fragile, but Flinch helps keep him alive, and if you can keep him healthy he provides some real scheming reach to crews that don’t otherwise do it. Nothing broken here, but a solid workhorse. I wouldn’t take him if I didn’t plan to take a scheme that really benefits from False Claim, but that’s a lot of schemes.
Disease Containment Unit
This gal’s not out at time of writing, so no art here – when she drops, someone paint her and send me a picture! Same goes for any models without art, by the way: if there’s no picture here, that’s an invitation to send me one of yours.
It’s some kind of Gothwin’s Law: as time passes in any gothic-inspired setting, the probability of a plague doctor character approaches one. The DCU is the Guild’s answer to Hamelin’s blight, a beak-masked woman with a flamethrower to clear away diseased bodies. It’s a title, not a person, and there’s more than one – which is good, because some of them have been corrupted by the Piper’s influence, and their rattling canisters spread Plague rather than cleansing fire. Assuming this DCU is on the side of good, she fights under Dashel’s Guard banner.
The DCU has a couple of reasonable attacks, but mostly what you’re taking her for are the triggers. She can spread burning or blight tokens with her flamethrower, and has a built-in Clear Them Out trigger to remove a scheme marker near her target to give a nearby friendly minion Focused – a strong play with Dashel, since she can “remove” the Dispatcher as a marker to draw a card. She can also push herself towards a marker with Rapid Response while pushing nearby friendlies away and ignoring Hazardous effects, giving you some out-of-activation mobility. She can also summon Rats or Guild Hounds while doing so, which is kinda neat! With armor and immunity to Poison, Injured and Hazardous terrain, she’s a tough little trooper too – but when she dies, she explodes, so watch those tanks.
The DCU is a little pricy for a model that really relies on hitting with Stat 5 attacks to do anything, but she can attack friendlies to trigger Clear Them Out and push them around with Rapid Response, so you don’t have to flip high. And she does have Pursue, bringing those stats up if she’s targeting models that have already activated… and dropping a Severe 4 Flamethrower shot with two 3 damage blasts into a packed enemy formation is really something.
Remember in The Wire, when that guy made up a fake serial killer to report on for clout? Well, what if he decided to cut out the middleman, so to speak, and do the killing himself? Auguste Hart was always a madman and a fabulist, though he was a compelling journalist before he decided to claim he had scored an interview with Jack Daw. It seemed like the perfect lie, since the hanged man was never going to public disavow him… but then Daw himself showed up, drawn by Hart’s guilty conscience.
Torn between Nellie and Jack Daw, Auguste is a model of singular mechanical focus: he really, really likes being Distracted. A lot. He ignores Distracted penalties on attacks and can lower his Distracted condition to reduce incoming damage, or to pump up his Crazed Swipe attack to a 3/5/6 damage track that ignores Armor and Incorporeal. He’s quite good at inflicting Distracted on himself (and nearby enemies), and he penalizes enemy willpower in an AOE, so as long as you can keep his Madness Meter topped off he’ll punch well above his weight. Daw isn’t very good at stacking Distracted on Hart, which is something to keep in mind, but Nellie is great at it and I frankly wouldn’t leave home without him in a Journalist crew.
Sonnia and Kirai, instead of sharing a Title box, are both in The Other Side’s starter set. In addition to being an intro to Wyrd’s larger-scale wargame, the starter box contains dual-use models for Malifaux– in the case of the Guild, the Mages and Gatling Gunners. These guys represent the Guild’s ordinary foot soldiers, so they have no keyword – they’re just Versatile. They’re not law enforcement or specialists; they’re just regular Joes and Janes, casting magic and enforcing the Law.
Let’s get this out of the way now so there’s no confusion: Guild Mages are busted. You want an example? Watch this game I played with Nellie:
The have Arcane Shield and Counterspell to keep them alive, they remove markers of any kind without flipping cards, they have a nasty ranged attack that can transmute enemies’ Focused or Shielded into Poison or Burning (and vice versa on friendlies), but the real meat on the bone is their Glory of the Guild! ability. Once per activation, when a nearby model (friendly or enemy) discards a card, you can heal a friendly model within 6″ based on the value of the discarded card. Do you know how many abilities in this game require you or your opponent to discard cards? It’s, uh, a lot. Three on the Mage’s card alone! Guild Mages have absolutely insane healing throughput without investing any AP at all, and when you combine that with their respectable attacks and marker removal, they’re one of the strongest Versatiles in the game.
The Gunners are kind of a letdown after the Mages, to be honest. They’re… fine. They have, to be frank, crappy stats, but some of the best stuff on their card doesn’t require them to flip a card at all. They get a free card just for showing up if they’re near another friendly, they inflict damage to enemies that end a charge near them, and when they fail an attack action they can discard a card to have another nearby friendly take a general action – ignoring engagement while they do! They also have the unique ability to hand out Stealth in an aoe, which is sometimes useless and sometimes unbelievably good. Try taking these guys into Kin or Family or another gunline crew and watch for the look on your opponent’s face when your whole crew is untargetable.
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