When the Burning Man crossed the sky of Malifaux like a comet, bringing madness in his wake, the Neverborn looked up and said: what human nonsense is this?
Really, it’s just proof of what they’ve been saying this whole time. Humans are far too dangerous to be allowed to live in Malifaux. When they’re not freeing Tyrants or raising hordes of undead, they’re becoming… weird fiery madness gods, I guess?
It’s not all bad news – Titania’s in pretty good shape, and Marcus is seeing his powers grow. The Neverborn of Malifaux Burns are stronger than ever, but there’s a distinct loss of control associated with those powers. Maybe it’s the Burning Man pushing them beyond their limits. Maybe they’re just taxing themselves to deal with the humans, and this is the inevitable result.
Let’s see what they’re up to.
Marcus is living his best life. Burning Man? Never hearda him.
Lord Cooper hunted Myranda in revenge for what Marcus had did to him. He almost got her, too. Marcus rescued his mate, but his rage overtook him. He studied the natural world and infused its power into his beasts. It was a slow and careful process, full of setbacks whenever an incipient Chimera caught a bullet. The only way to make real progress, true progress, was to throw caution to the wind. Like McMourning, Marcus became his own best test subject. And look at him! He’s flourishing.
The difference in playstyle between Old Marcus and Alpha is obvious from the first glance. Old Marcus hands out Mutation upgrades to his crew; new Marcus piles them on himself. More precisely, whenever a friendly model loses a Mutation upgrade – either by cashing it in for a suit and a +twist, or by taking the Aspects of the Wild bonus action to change it out for a different one – they may pass it to a beast or Chimera within 4″ of themselves that hasn’t gotten one yet. You probably figure out where this is going; by Turn 4 of the game (he starts with one), Marcus can be rocking Wings, Horns, Teeth, Camouflage and Armor, making him truly terrifying.
Beyond that, he has a pretty solid melee attack (the same as the Damned, Cojo, and a few other nasty beasts) and the Leap action, with Lady Justice’s Sudden Strike trigger to let him swing again where he lands. His other signature ability, Wilds of Malifaux, acts as a 4″ aura of severe terrain around him that also stops any enemy models from being placed within its area of effect – ensuring that he’s impossible to ignore. He’s unsubtle: he gets into the middle of your crew, tarpits you, and tears you to pieces. But he’s very, very good at that.
Titania, Autumn Queen
Titania is one of the few people actually doing better since the Burning Man showed up. She’s getting back into the swing of things: ruling her people, making pacts, awakening the natural world. You know, queen stuff. Plus, she has a shiny new sword. See it up there? The Viktorias raised a mercenary army to try to assassinate Titania, but they made the mistake of calling on Killjoy; the outcast Neverborn took one look at his Queen and bent the knee. The Viktorias escaped, but without their precious sword. Titania is too smart to try to wield the Masamune Nihonto (the prison of the Tyrant Shez’uul) but she’s smart enough not to let anyone else wield it either.
This Titania respresents her in a more regal, commanding form. She no longer really wants to get her hands dirty; she’s lost Awakened Hunger, Life Leech and Cruel Disappointment. As a result, she’s lost quite a bit of toughness (though she did gain some armor) and offensive punch. So what has she gained?
Well, quite a bit, actually. For starters, Autumn Court means that nearby Fae get a +1 on all duels outside of their activations. Mostly this means Resist Duels, but when making an attack (say, with Coordinated Attack, a trigger on her melee attack) they get +1 to hit. This minor change makes humble Autumn Knights terrifying to face; Df 7, Armor and Hard to Wound often translates as “don’t bother trying.” The Third Law is a very long range attack that Injures and Stuns, two of the most debilitating conditions in the game, and can push enemies or allies around. She also has the bonkers Behold Her Glory action, which gives a friendly target Focus, drops a scheme marker, and oh yeah, has a trigger to draw up to three cards. So that’s fun. At least it’s Once Per Turn.
The really interesting thing about her, though, is her Queen’s Champion bonus action. This action attaches a Champion upgrade to a Fae Minion within 6″. While so upgraded, a minion gets a ram and a crow on all of its attacks, which auto-triggers Into Thorns, Puncture, and some other neat abilities; every single Fae minion can use at least one of those suits. Champions also let Titania draw line of sight for her attacks and auras through them, which is helpful to extend the range of Autumn Court and let her make her Stat 7 melee attack from a place of safety. (Plus, you can channel the attack through a minion, trigger Coordinated Attack, and let that minion swing at Stat +1). Champions even get Companion, for Chain Activations! At the end of your turn you have to pitch a card to keep the upgrade, but at least you’re drawing lots of them.
It’s hard to evaluate Titania2, because the things she lost were straightforwardly powerful and the things she gained were pretty tricky, but she’s very cool and does a lot of different strong things. I’d like to hear what you’ve been able to pull of her with so far!
Nekima, on the other hand, is having a bit of a tough time. Nephilim are often used as footsoldiers, which means they die. A lot. She’s trying to bring more into the fold, but this often means forcing the young to grow up before they’re really ready. She worries that she’s sacrificing the next generation of her people for nothing, but what else can she do? Titania commands it, and the humans are a threat…
This Nekima is a bit more thoughtful than her original, but that’s a relative measure. She’s lost Frenzied Charge and her absolutely bananas attack has been radically scaled back. Sending her into melee is not the play. Fortunately, you don’t have to!
Broodmother focuses very strongly on growing up your little dudes. She can summon Terror Tots, giving her something to grow, and has a shockwave that drops a Corpse Marker, giving them something to eat. She can even hand out Grow Tokens! With Dark Bargain, she can let her Nephilim interact as a bonus action, even while engaged, and when her Nephilim grow up they drop scheme markers nearby, giving her some schemey play. Best of all, with Cruel Teachings, she can let Nephilim within 12″ take a point of damage to trigger Black Blood whenever they fail a duel during their activation, giving you lots of unresistable ping damage.
Making the best use of this Nekima will involve carefully planning out your triggers and positioning, but the payoff is real; hyper-accelerating a lot of 4-stone Tots (or summoned) tots into giant Mature Nephilim is a real play, especially since the Noxious Nephilim can also hork up corpse markers. Between the two of them, they also have lots of card cycling to bring up your hand quality, although there’s not a lot of draw, so you have to cheat and discard carefully. Maybe bring some Nefarious Pacts to top off?
The Dreamer, Insomniac
Aw, poor Dreamer. He’s just a kid, after all. His dad died when Lovecraftian fish-monsters invaded London (it’s a whole thing), and his mom isn’t sure what to do with her strange son. Malifaux isn’t the refuge it once was, either. The Dreamer can’t really get a solid night’s sleep anymore, drifting in and out of wakefulness. Chompy isn’t that much reassurance. He may be Dreamer’s best (ok, only) friend, but he’s also a giant nightmare beast from the age of myth, and just maybe he doesn’t have the boy’s best interests in mind.
Insomniac has traded Dreamer’s straightforward summoning (ok, not that straightforward) for one of the most mind-bendingly complex play patterns in the game. Many Nightmare models have the ability to remove cards from the game with Lucid Dreaming, which they can then cheat back into play. Insomniac has a better idea of what to do with those cards. At the end of any enemy model’s activation, if you have five or more cards removed from the game, you swap them with your hand and bury Dreamer. At the start of any friendly model’s activation, if he’s buried, you put two cards that are removed from the game into your discard pile, and if there are none left, Dreamer unburies near any friendly Nightmare.
(As an aside, I hate that these abilities have the wrong names… Drifting Off buries him, and Insomnia brings him back, but since he’s only in Malifaux when he’s asleep, it should be Insomnia that wakes him up and sends him back to Earth and Drifting Off that brings him back to Malifaux!)
Besides that trick, Dreamer has some interesting ways to manage his hand size – Nightmares in play can discard a card to get a plus twist to any duel, helpful for shrinking your hand to minimize the time he spends buried, and he has a couple of other neat tricks for debuffing enemies and screwing with the opponent’s deck. Oh, and he can resummon Chompy by tagging an enemy non-minion with a Stat 5 Willpower attack and hitting the mask trigger, which is pretty beefy.
Still, the biggest thing he does is stack your hand with 5 severes, which is good work if you can get it. Managing him is very much about watching your hand size. And his positioning – he’s lost Incorporeal, and though he has Serene Countenance and Innocent Bystander, he’s only Df 4 and 10 health; anything that can attack with +twists (such as: any soulstone user, anyone with focus) is going to kill him dead if they can see him. You can keep him safe by teleporting him around with Insomnia/Drifting Off, but you do have to watch the board carefully and keep him safe, since your crew stops functioning if he dies.
Euripedes, Old One Eye
Good ol’ Meatfist. Euripedes suffered more from the Burning Man’s coming than anyone; fiery nightmares filled his head, scorching his thoughts and consuming his visions in skeins of flame. The pain was driving him mad, so Titania gave him respite; she taught him ancient runic magic. Carving the runes into his own skin was painful, but not as painful as feeling his mind burning to a cinder, and Euripedes has a measure of control he never had before.
Meatfist does many of the same things he used to, but in new ways. He still summons Ice Pillars, though he doesn’t teleport to them or shove them around. His central mechanic this time is Rune Tokens; he gains one whenever a nearby Savage is damaged, to a maximum of 3, which considering The Old Ways means he’ll have 3 at all times. At any time he can discard a token when a Savage within 10″ performs a duel, to look at the top two cards of either deck and discard any non-jokers he wants.
This ability is, to be blunt, insane. You can’t quite guarantee your opponent flips crap, but it’s close, and between this and The Old Ways you can set up duels for 100% success before cheating comes into play. Not having to cheat first is a big deal, and sooner or later your opponent will run out of cards and have to play off the top of the deck. Which is right where you want them.
So what do you do with these flips? Well, his melee’s a bit worse (but a 2″ range is pretty good), but he has a very nasty ranged attack; you can discard rune tokens to add blasts to it, and if you blast into an Ice Pillar, you have a built-in trigger to attack again through the pillar. Meatfist can reach out and touch someone from a long, long way away. He also has Avalanche to push other models around, even through other models and terrain, which is helpful when you’re trying to navigate a bunch of 50mm bases through a board covered in Ice Pillars. He even has a trigger to discard rune tokens to heal some damage on the model he pushes, which is a big deal if you’re going to be Old Waysing a lot.
Old One Eye is quite strong, with a lot of ability to affect the board from a long way away, and he addresses some of the keyword’s weaknesses. Plus everyone likes winning duels, don’t they?
Zoraida, Swamp Hag
Zoraida’s been tending Fate for so long that she’s almost forgotten she knows other tricks. The Burning Man is the cure for that kind of inertia; as a force of pure chaos, he makes any attempt to control the weave of Fate pointless. So what’s a swamp witch to do? Go back to basics, of course. Cook up potions, stitch dolls, summon muck-monsters and turn people into frogs! And travel everywhere surrounded by a living carpet of moths, apparently.
Zoraida is the ur-Obey master, so what does she do when she loses her Obey? Lots of stuff! She is a very resource intensive Master, but she also generates a lot of resources, so it balances out.
Let’s start with the first half of that equation. When enemy non-Leader would stop being stunned (say, at the end of their activation, or when they use condition removal) you can discard a card so it just… doesn’t. Perma-stunning some models turns them practically useless. You can also pitch cards when Zoraida takes a non-Charge General Action to let two other friendly Swampfiends take the same action, and you can discard to activate Protected, shifting attacks to other friendly Swampfiends.
That’s a lot of discard! Fortunately, she has the tools to make it work. Nefarious Pact gives you one free card a turn for showing up, but most of the draw will come from Lost Knowledge, which simply removes a marker to draw two cards. You can do this multiple times, and you’ll want to, because it has some insane triggers. Lost Effigy summons any Puppet of cost 4 or less, including… every Effigy. And Seal Fate is one of the most absurd triggers in the game; you simply pick an enemy model that hasn’t activated yet and it activates next.
That is insane! There are certain crews that just instantly lose to Seal Fate. Lord Cooper being forced to activate without any Focus on him and with no enemies in range? McMourning before your opponent has managed to set up any Corpses? How about activating your opponent’s Howard Langston or similar before they’ve had the chance to give him Fast or stack Power Tokens on him? There are so many things you can do with this trigger, the sky’s really the limit.
Swamp Witch encourages much more proactive play than Zoraida1, and that’s a good thing. Your activations will be more interesting than “Obey, Ensorcel, Obey Hinamatsu, Burn Out.” Yawn!
Dora’s on her way up, too, though she’s starting from a lower position, as it were. Despair managed to use her to defeat Fortune during Its attempt to ascend and trap It in the box. Now there are two prisoners, and with her jailer’s attention split, Pandora is able to resurface a bit. She can draw on Despair’s power as well as Fortune’s… and Malifaux had better look out.
Tyrant Torn eschews the bubble-debuff playstyle of Pandora 1 for something much more proactive. No longer does she make you hit yourself; now you just get klonked from 10″ away with a 1/3/4 attack that stuns and can make you discard a random card. She can transmute conditions into other conditions using Compounding Emotions, turning your own crew’s Burning and Poison into Fast and Focused while turning your enemy’s beneficial conditions into Slow and Stunned. And she can summon! She has to target a stunned enemy, but she can summon any Woe minion, or even the Poltergeist… so you’ll never really be rid of that wretched ghost. She can also push enemies around and make the area near them Hazardous, compounding the ping-damage playstyle Woes are famous for.
Where she really shines, though, is her front of card. First of all, she’s drawing on Fortune’s power, so she can Cheat Fate with the top card of her deck. That’s not amazing but it’s nice to have, and it means you can always go for a mulligan if you fail a key duel – though it’s risky to try to cheat this way defensively, since you could end up worse off. She has Nefarious Pact, giving her a card a turn for basically no reason, and Expose Fears, which effectively lets her double up on Misery. She actually doesn’t have Opportunist or Misery herself, but if an enemy within 10″ suffers damage from Misery she can push them 2″, effectively giving you both halves of the ability. And she has Luck Thief, which is nightmarish for enemies to deal with, especially since you can use Wicked Dolls’ Threaten to give her Adversary (Opponent’s Keyword). That gives them a built in +twist on all duels against her, which becomes a -twist, which they can’t do anything about. Truly nasty stuff.
This Pandora is extremely potent, possibly the best Master in Neverborn, and really debilitating to play against. I have not enjoyed facing her so far. Wouldn’t recommend it!
Now we’re into the shared minis – and to the surprise of very few people, Rasputina and Euripedes share a box themed around Ice Pillars. Kaltgeists are little ice spirits, and they’re some of the most useful of the shared models in the book. They’re surprisingly resilient, with armor and the ability to gain Shielded and heal if they end an activation within 2″ of an Ice Pillar. This includes other Kaltgeists, as they have the ability to let other models treat them as an Ice Pillar. That’s huge: a self-propelled Ice Pillar that you don’t have to spend AP to generate and can’t be removed with Slam is big money for both crews that want them, since both want ice pillars in particular places.
Kaltgeists aren’t just walking pillars, either; they have a not-too-strong but not-awful attack in Hard Slam, and two useful Tacticals. Jagged Ice lets them pulse out a shockwave from a nearby Ice Pillar (or, again, another Kaltgeist) that can damage and Stagger enemies, and Icy Winds is a neat little bonus action that pushes nearby December or Savage friendlies around… but you can pulse out the push from both the model using it and a nearby Kaltgeist or Ice Pillar, meaning two of them working in tandem can push a lot of friendlies up the board very fast. Useful, in two not-particularly-speedy crews!
Titania’s most obvious and natural pairing is with Ulix, right? I mean, ancient Fae queen, grizzled pig farmer… same difference, huh?
The two of them share the allegiance of the Erymanthian Boar, who doesn’t really resemble the creature of Herculean myth; it’s basically a boar made of twigs and leaves. As one might expect, it synergizes with both Underbrush Markers and Pigs (well, not really, more Beasts). The Boar, like many Pigs, has Stampede and a 0″ melee attack with four mandatory triggers, and like many Fae can spit out Underbrush markers with Germinate. Its two unique abilities are actually both quite useful. Friendly beasts within 6″ are unaffected by Severe Terrain, which is a huge deal for Ulix, since his 50mm Pigs can often be gummed up by forests (and Underbrush Markers like the ones the Boar generates). Any nearby Beast touching an Underbrush Marker can remove it to reduce incoming damage by 2. This isn’t that useful with Ulix, since the Boar is your only source of the things, but it’s not nothing.
More interestingly, it can “teleport” between forests; if it moves into Severe Terrain, it can immediately get a 6″ place (well, a 6″ “completely within” place, but that’s still 6″ of displacement) into Severe Terrain and then continue moving. That’s up to a 12″ charge, which is, uh, really something. You have to look at the board before hiring, and maybe be prepared to make your own terrain, but the ability to pop around helps you not have to take Walk Actions. The Boar has Reposition on its Germinate action, which can pop it up the board easily with a little foresight. The Boar is definitely a tech pick but when you need it, you’ll be really glad to have it.
At least one Woe witnessed the showdown at the Star Theater: Dorian Crowe, the Woe of Non-Constructive Criticism. He’s a bit of a fussy boy, with an amazingly fancy jacket, but don’t let his bored expression fool you: he does work.
Balanced between Woe and Performer, he’s quite a bit more of the former than the latter; he has Misery and Opportunist like all Woes, though his condition of choice is Distracted, which admittedly Performers are really good at handing out. He can burn you with a cigarette lighter for Burning and Distracted and push you around with a Disapproving Glance (which can also remove markers and hand out Distracted or Stunned). What you’re really taking him for are his bonus actions, though.
Losing Interest is not keyword locked and lets him move all friendly unengaged models within 6″ (plus himself) 2″. This is a move, not a push, and with his Incorporeal makes him annoyingly hard to pin down. He can even heal or clear conditions on a friendly model with the Ennui trigger. His other bonus, Boring Conversation, is familiar to anyone who’s played with Zipp, but becomes truly nasty when paired with a Distraction aura… say, from the Poltergeist or Harata Ngaatoro. Fancy that, that ability appearing in both of his Keywords. He can even do both in one activation, since the Fussy Company trigger on his melee attack lets him start Conversatin’ immediately. And even if he doesn’t have enemies to put down in creative ways or friends to push around, he does have incorporeal and Don’t Mind Me, meaning he can slip to where he needs to be and interact to score. He’s a great hire and one I’d recommend to any Pandora player. Colette maybe as well, though I think he’s less key there; Performers are a lot more maneuverable than Woes.
Jedza and Zoraida have a bit of an odd friendship, though I guess it makes sense; they’re both impossibly ancient witches with a keen understanding of life and death magic. When Jedza’s aura brought to life a rubbish heap made from Zoraida’s discarded ingredients, the women agreed to share. Hence, the Kurgan: a pile of garbage with eyes and a helpful attitude.
The Kurgen is a pretty hefty boy, with Armor 2 and 8 health. What you’re really taking it for, though, is the mobility it provides. At the start of its activation, it can take a nearby friendly model and just plonk it down anywhere within 3″ of itself. It has Euripedes 2’s Avalanche ability, though without any triggers, and the Heave trigger on its melee attack. It even has a trigger on its bonus action that forces an enemy model within 3″ to pass a Tn 14 Mv duel or be abducted into anywhere within 3″.
There’s other utility in the model as well, of course; like all Seekers it has a Chronicle, moving the healed model 2″ towards itself, and its melee attack is actually respectable (especially since, if it’s in Severe Terrain, it can target any other model in the same terrain, ignoring Range and LOS). The aforementioned bonus action gives it a Severe, Concealing aura and lets friendly Seekers and Swampfiends treat it as a Severe, Impassable, Concealing marker. That’s really useful for Jedza, whose crew loves markers, and a bit less so for Zoraida, though Swamp Hag can “remove” it for Lost Knowledge (dealing 2 irreducible damage to it instead). I personally think Jedza2 loves it the most, since she really wants to be moved around into position so she can spend all her AP death-slapping anything that hoves into her field of vision, but I can see use cases for it in either crew… and probably out of keyword, too, since lots of Neverborn masters like being flung up the field.
Surprise! There’s more. This book features the Neverborn starter, and like the previous starters, this one contains a Henchman, an Enforcer, and two Minions, all sharing a unique keyword (ok, the Bayou one is a little weird, but they’re a weird Faction). The Henchman is Klaus, a Mimic and “Grim” (whatever that is) who just loves infiltrating human parties and stealing secrets. He’s a classic tricky mimic, with Sharp Wit to hand out Slow and Incessant Questioning to do a little bit of damage and hand out Staggered. He can also swap a card in hand for a card of matching suit in the discard pile, so you know, turn those 1s to 13s and profit.
His bonus is a cute little attack that forces an enemy to discard a card of the suit of your choice or take 3 damage, and his front of card continues the disruptive theme: he forces your opponent to discard when he activates with Which One is Real? and has a variety of annoying abilities to make him hard to pin down, from Disguised (can’t target him with attacks from Charges) to Face in the Crowd (cover as long as he’s near another model) Infiltrator (enemies don’t treat him as an enemy, and in fact he can benefit from “friendly only” or Keyword locked abilities… there’s a surprising amount of stuff that this shuts down, and you can pick up some neat abilities). He’s also got the Grim signature ability, Dark Tale, which gives him shielded when a nearby Grim ends its activation having damaged enemies. I don’t know how often that’ll trigger, since most Grim aren’t very deadly, but at least if he hits you with Incessant Questioning he gets one shielded. Every little bit helps. Oh, and the Pocketful of Personalities trigger on his Sharp Wit attack is kind of hilarious; you get to copy any trigger on the target’s melee action that doesn’t summon a model.
Hildegard, a Grim and Woe, is Klaus’s Enforcer, and also possibly his stalker? The two of them met at a human party, both imitating guests, and she seems to have developed a crush on him. This is represented by her Infatuation ability. If she activates within 6″ of a friendly Master or Henchman, she gets to draw a card; if it’s Klaus, she can either heal herself or him by two. That’s so sweet!
The real reason you’re taking her, though, is Entrancing, a 3″ aura that prevents enemy models from benefiting from positive twists from Focus if they’re targeting a friendly within the bubble. That’s nasty and especially goes well with Face in the Crowd.
Her back of card is a bit less exciting; she has Unassuming Demeanor, a weak attack that treats negative twists as positive ones (and so will at least do 2-3 damage a lot of the time), though it gets a bit stronger with the AHHH, MY EYE! trigger. She can also use Take by the Hand to push enemies or friendlies around, and can use it to either let the pushed friendly take a melee attack or give an enemy who saw her Distracted. Finally, she has Sweet Song, which can pull enemies towards her if they fail a TN 13 Mv duel and also has a built-in trigger to give her a version of Sparks’ Packed with Explosives trigger: when her Shielded goes down, she pulses out damage. If you can stack Shielded on her (perhaps with Impassioned Defense from Lawyers?) you can do a surprising amount of damage, but Dark Tale doesn’t give you that much shielded, so it’s a bit marginal.
Last and, to be honest, least, are the Red Caps. These are nasty little Grim Puppets with sickles, and to be honest, there’s not that much to say about them. They’ve got Dark Tale like all Grims and Armor like most (all?) Puppets. They have Trail of Gore, which is nice when it works but often doesn’t, and a not-very-impressive 1/2/3 attack that at least has Crit Strike.
They do have the rather cute ability to trade in a Shielded for a ram on their duels, giving them a 2/3/4 with an option on 3/4/5, but the attack is still only Stat 5, the trade is once per activation, and as mentioned it’s not actually that easy to stack Shielded on them (though the attack can give some to you, if the enemy is engaged by more than one friendly). Rush gets them into melee faster, but kind of… so what? They’ll fight, but lots of stuff fights, and it’s hard to see what they do that’s better than the competition.
That’s the Neverborn! They made out very well with their new masters; most are upgrades on their originals. The Starter Set isn’t that exciting, but there are possibilities with Hildegard, and hey, Starter Sets aren’t meant to be game-breaking.
Next time I’ll be taking a look at the Outcasts, who have some really interesting Masters (and one totally bullshit one, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).
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