Malifaux Burns, Part 8: The Explorer’s Society

So it’s come to this.  Almost a full year after Malifaux Burns was first released at Gencon, I’ve finished reviewing it.  Just in time for Madness of Malifaux!  Look for a column on Malifaux’s next book soon.  For now, let’s see what the coming of the Burning Man has done to our favorite collection of treasure seekers, map drawers, and bored rich sociopaths.

Lord Cooper, Huntsman

the man prefers a bow with a 400 pound draw weight. Credit: Wyrd Games

Lord Cooper really just wants to hunt the Most Dangerous Game.  He’s been hunting his “Runaways” for a while, but the challenge just isn’t there; it’s a rare Runaway who can successfully outfox the hunter and his hounds.  Besides, Marcus is still out there, and Cooper wants revenge.  The trouble is, tracking Marcus is next to impossible – he’s got keener senses that any beast, and the smell of gun oil and sweat stands out in the wilds like a beacon.  When Cooper leads an expedition into the wilds, Marcus is hunting him right back.

But what about if his hunting partners were beasts themselves?  Turning the tactics of the enemy against him?  It just might work.  Cooper’s been traveling light, trading his .950 Nitro Express for a compound bow and his Vatagi Huntsmen for Malifaux wildlife.  Now that is a hunt.

Original Cooper’s crew was built around him and his huge honkin’ gun.  Huntmaster turns the tables a bit, playing a support role.  But he’s not just supporting his Vatagi Huntsmen and Crypsis Corps; he loves to work with Beasts.

A lot of his power is on his front of card.  His signature ability, Scent of Blood, states that when he damages an enemy model (any damage, including, say, the ping damage from Hidden Agenda), a friendly Beast may discard a card to take a free attack against that enemy, with a -twist to its damage.  Helping those attacks land, Lead the Hunt says that any friendly model taking an Action outside of its activation gets a +1 to its duel.  He’s still got Predatory Instinct, but he’s also added Depths of Malifaux, so severe and hazardous terrain can’t slow him down, and Stealth, so he can sit out there without worrying about enemies taking shots at him.

His gun is gone, of course, but he’s replaced it with a Hunter’s Bow – identical in every respect to Ulix2’s, except for the triggers.  As a refresher, this is a 2/4/5 12″ gun that ignores Friendly Fire, and enemies hit must discard a card or gain Adversary: Beast.  Naturally, this is pretty sweet in combo with Scent of Blood; you tag someone, get a free swing on them, and get a +twist on that swing thanks to Adversary.  For triggers, he still has a built-in Trophy Hunter trigger to drop a Scheme Marker after killing an enemy, but can also heal friendlies with My Loyal Servant or apply Injured with Severe Injury… both extremely useful if you’re shooting enemies that are engaged with your Beasts.

He’s learned to toss pit traps from his Vatagi Huntsman, and the uber-useful Smokescreen triggers gives enemies near the thrown trap a -twist to their first flip each activation (including, say, their resistance flip against his attacks).  Rounding out his kit is a fairly basic melee attack and Call of the Wild, which thanks to the built-in Hunter’s Call trigger effectively just lets you point at a friendly Beast within 6″ and let it charge.

I really like Huntsman’s kit; the old Cooper was very feast or famine, and if your opponent could figure out how to lock him down in combat (not easy, but eminently doable) he was pretty awful.  This one has a lot of flexibility, and the synergies he has around Beasts are pretty good.  The chief issue is that his Beast options are a bit weak – the Malisaurus is expensive and much more fragile than it looks, the Sand Worm is fine but suffers a bit from a lack of dust clouds to pop out of (and he doesn’t benefit from its Jaws of the Beast ability, sadly), and the Damned is also not too hard to kill.  Still, he’s a lot of fun, and if your opponent doesn’t have Ruthless or good willpower stats, you can strip their hand and send a Terrifying Malisaurus down their throat.

Nexus, One of Many

This is getting out

of hand! Now there

are three of them! Credit: Wyrd Games

The Burning Man terrifies Malifaux’s citizens and fills the streets with chaos, but his coming has invisible effects, too.  The surging wave of aether that the Burning Man draws in his wake is fatal to Cadmus mites – they absorb the magic to the point of overdose and explode.  This is naturally lethal to their hosts, and Cadmus has seen its spy network shrink dramatically.  Its instinct is to flee like a cockroach scuttling away from a bright light, but Gretchen Janus had another idea.  By dividing its consciousness among multiple hosts, Cadmus has managed to weather the storm.

That’s the headline here – One of Many is really Three in One.  Like the Stepford Cuckoos (RIP Sophie and Esme), One of Many is one Master spread out across three bodies.  That has a number of interesting effects, but the most obvious one is simple: you have nine Master AP per turn!  They don’t have bonus actions, but frankly, they don’t need them – nine is a really big number.

Mechanically, they still focus on Parasite Tokens, but with a slightly different use case.  Now, when an enemy gets a Parasite Token for the first time each activation, they take a single point of damage and a Cadmus model within 4″ can heal 1.  After that, the Cadmus player can discard a token off of an enemy model to reduce its duel total by 2 after it has cheated, or chosen not to.  This ability is absurdly powerful and leads to incredibly mindgames.  Say your opponent needs a 7 to Secret Passage, and flips an 8.  If they choose not to cheat, you can just discard the token and make them fail.  If, knowing this, they choose to cheat in a 9, you just… don’t discard the token, and they still have it.  All of the Nexus Kids have a built-in trigger on their Df to give the enemy a Parasite token if they fail to hit the Nexus Kid in question, and their main attack, Drain Life, also has a built-in trigger (once per kid per turn) to hand out a token.  Hilariously, that trigger (Join Us) also means that if the enemy model dies before the end of the turn an Eyes and Ears pops out…

Rounding out their kit are three great Tactical Actions.  Join the Hive pulses a 2″ shockwave out of a friendly Cadmus model within 12″, forcing enemies to pass a Df 13 duel or gain a Parasite Token… useful if the enemy is bubbled, but often you have better things to do.  Playthings pushes all friendly Cadmus models within 4″, including the caster, 2″ in any direction.  You can spam this three times per kid per activation to get some absolutely crazy mobility.  And Will of the Many is a sort of friendly-only Obey; it allows the target to take General Actions only, but they ignore the engagement range of enemies with Parasite tokens (so they can Charge or Interact).  What’s more, the Secret Mission trigger lets the target ignore its Insignificant ability until the next Start phase.  Removing Insignificant from Shambling Nests lets you make some truly depraved plays on the strategy, and should be a major part of your plan.

Nexus2 is crazy strong, in contention for best Master in the game right now.  There are simply so many lines of play, and the crew loses almost nothing on the killing front – the chip damage from Parasites adds up, and once the kids start hitting you they tend to keep hitting you due to the parasite penalty to duels.  The individual kids are kind of fragile, but they can use Soulstones and stay pretty far back from the action… and there’s three of them!

English Ivan, Double Agent

“steampunk james bond” is kind of low hanging fruit, but i admit they’re nailing it. Credit: Wyrd Games

English Ivan commands the shadows, but they don’t actually like him.  They tore him to pieces on his first trip into their realm, and they bridle at his commands.  Things are worse than ever now – it’s as though the Burning Man’s coming has riled them up.  Bright flames cast dark shadows, I suppose?  Ivan’s no fool – he needs the DUA protected against both the Burning Man’s chaos and the shadow creatures.  Gibson DeWalt has done admirable work putting together runic defenses, and Ivan has pressed these into service.  Time will tell if they’re up to the task of safeguarding his soul from the fiery peril above and the shadowy one below…

He’s always been the man with the plan, but Double Agent is now the man with the Secret Plan.  Two of them, in fact; at the start of the game, he attaches two Secret Plan upgrades face down.  During the Start Phase of turn 2 or later, he can flip one Plan upgrade face up and discard it to trigger a one-time effect.  There are three upgrades, and he can double up if he wants.  The first one simply summons a Daeva with Slow into base contact with an enemy anywhere in play.  The second triggers three explosions from friendly Scheme or Shadow markers- enemies within 3″ of a chosen marker must pass a TN 14 Df duel or suffer 3 damage.  And the third lets you pick an enemy Enforcer or Minion and, basically, get a free Obey on them, with a +twist to any duels during that Action or generated Actions.

These are really, really cool conceptually, and give you unparalleled flexibility.  The problem is they kinda don’t work.  Daevas have Made to Kill, giving them a free attack when they’re placed… but that’s once per activation, and since the Start Phase isn’t during an activation, the ability doesn’t trigger (I know this sounds stupid, but it is confirmed to work this way until Wyrd FAQs it, which they will eventually, presumably do).  Same with the Obey – you want to Charge, obviously, but it’s once per activation, so… you can’t.

That’s not to say the Plans are worthless, but it’s certainly annoying that they can’t be used to their full potential – though obeying a Rider and cashing in all of its tokens is pretty sweet.

The rest of Ivan’s card is kind of interesting.  He goes heavy on Distracted; enemy models treat the area within 1″ of him as Hazardous (Distracted), making it very difficult to make melee attacks against him, and enemies with Distracted are never treated as engaging him.

His actions are a mixed bag; he has a fairly meh short-ranged gun in Gloom Strike that at least hands out Distracted, and Displacing Shot lets him swap positions between an Umbra model and his target, leaving a Shadow Marker where the Umbra model once stood.  His third attack action, Covert Agent, is actually fairly interesting; it’s an 8″ range, enemy-only attack (non-projectile though) that Staggers the target and drops a Scheme Marker within 1″ of them.  It also has a couple of sweet triggers in Debt of Gratitude (from Molly) and Bewilder (from Colette).

Finally, his tacticals follow the sneaky-schemin’ theme; he can swap places with Mr. Mordrake (from anywhere on the board!) and allow another DUA model anywhere on the board to heal 2 and take a bonus action.

It’s hard to put the pieces together on this Ivan.  He does almost no damage, and while he’s got some movement tricks, Umbra models are pretty bad when you’re paying soulstones for them.  I do like Covert Agent, so there might be some play there, but it’s a shame his Plans don’t quite work.

Maxine Agassiz, Monomaniacal

The Tale of What Happened When I Joined The Explorer’s Society Vol. IV: My Ship Captain Is a Tentacle Grandma! Credit: Wyrd Games

Maxine’s been fascinated with the Burning Man since before she even came to Malifaux.  She arrived on this side of the Breach after an ill-fated plan to track the Burning Man’s portal creation went awry.  After being rescued by the Society, she docked her damaged ship at the edge of the Bayou and set to work trying to unravel the mysteries of the man in the sky.  Progress was slow, so she decided to consult an authoritative source: the Flammae.  Basically, for those Eisenhorn fans, she Uber Aemos’d herself, and here are the results.

Monomaniacal has set aside her non-title version’s flexible, card-draw-oriented playstyle for the simple expedient of beating face with a tentacle.  Her front of card is extremely impressive; she’s lost Polymath, now being locked into Reconfigure (Tomes), but she also has Vanessa’s Harness Ley Line ability, giving her +2 stat and a Tome to all non-melee actions when she’s on the Centerline.  The headline ability is Breachburnt; whenever a friendly EVS model anywhere on the table discards a card that matches its Reconfigure suit, or Cheats with one, any friendly EVS model within 6″ of that model may heal 1.  This is not once per activation – it’s once per card.  This is a truly insane amount of incidental healing, and it can trigger during opposing activations; it’s hard to recognize just how much this ability can heal for until you get Monomaniacal on the table.  She’s only got 9 health herself, but this makes her hard to put down, and as if that wasn’t enough she also has a once-per-game Demise ability that brings her back to life with 4 health anywhere on the Centerline.

Her back of card is no less impressive.  Her main attack, Aetheric Tear, is a 2″ range melee swipe against Wp (there are not many of these) that deals 2/3/5 damage and +1 Injured… which doesn’t seem like that much, except with Harata nearby all opponents are at a -twist to resist this, making it super likely to hit.  And of course the more you hit with Injured, the more likely you are to keep hitting.  It also has three crazy-strong triggers; Mass of Tentacles is both familiar and expected, Touch of Madness forces the enemy to discard a random card, and Cascading Magic causes you to discard the top 5 cards of your deck and draw any one discarded card.  Not only does this trigger Breachburnt, but it also almost always draws you a Severe… unless it draws you a Joker!

Her other attacks are just as good; Split Across Worlds is a 10″ Stat 6 on Wp (so Stat 8 if you’re on the Centerline) that means the target cannot heal for the rest of the turn, and once per activation, if a model within 2″ of the target heals the target takes 1 damage.  It’s tech-y and you won’t always use it, but it murders Leveticus and Jack Daw.  Finally, her bonus action Converging Ley Lines is a shockwave that forces a TN 14 Wp duel; models that fail take no damage, but are placed anywhere within 2″ of the shockwave marker, and EVS models can choose to fail.  Sometimes this repositions enemy models, but often it’s just an AOE leap for your crew.

Rounding out the set is Calculate the Possibilities, which is even stronger here than it is on Big Brain Brin.  It fixes your deck, draws you a card, and discards a ton of cards for Breachburnt.  I’ve discarded 7 tomes before, which did not feel good for my opponent.

Monomaniacal is nuts and one of the best Masters in the faction.  What she does isn’t subtle – she charges forward and slaps your face with a huge tentacle while healing her crew and drawing cards – but it’s strong and very difficult to interact with.  Plus there are a million stupid Breachburnt combos.  Try her with Jedza1 as a second master.

Cornelius Basse, Badlands Sheriff

I know what you’re thinkin’. You’re thinkin’ “Did he take three actions or only two?” Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. Credit: Wyrd Games

Cornelius Basse wasn’t sure what to expect when he got to Malifaux, but so far things have turned out… oddly familiar.  The Badlands is a vast expanse, but it’s got a lot in common with the Oklahoma plains.  People are people everywhere, and the kinds of crimes people commit in Malifaux are just variations on a theme.  The Badlands needs order.  It needs a sheriff.  That’s the role Basse was born to play, and the Guild knows enough to point him in the right direction and let him go.  There’s just one wrinkle: explicit instructions from the top to target the outlaw Parker Barrows.  Basse can’t exactly refuse an order – he’s run out of worlds to run to – but even if he could, Barrows’s gang is getting more violent and the man himself more obsessive.  Any lawman worth his salt would want to hunt him down.

Badlands Sheriff leaves behind some of the terrain shenanigans of his original form in exchange for tighter synergy with the rest of his crew.  Two abilities on his front of card say it all: Dustbowl means you don’t remove Dust Cloud markers at end of turn if they’re within 1″ of friendly Frontier models, and Shelter from the Storm gives him a 4″ aura in which friendly Frontier models’ activations ignore Concealment.  That latter, especially, is huge – a crew full of guns that created Concealing terrain as a core mechanic always had some weird anti-synergy.  Basse keeps Home on the Range and Favorable Terrain and trades Hard to Kill for Hard to Wound, which is more broadly useful over the course of a game.  He also picks up Wanted Posters, a neat little trick – it’s a 10″ aura in which enemy models’ TNs are raised by 2.  It will often be marginal, but in cases where it does matter, it matters a lot.  Summoners especially are screwed by the increase, and some are locked out of their most powerful summons.

Badlands Sheriff’s back of card also fits his new theming.  He’s traded his Chesterfield Shotgun for a Sheriff’s Peacebringer, a longer-range but slightly weaker gun that at least ignores Hard to Kill (and keeps the High Noon trigger).  He’s lost Gunfighter, though; now, when he’s engaged, he’ll try to slap some Shackles on you.  This attack is really neat; it’s a Stat 6 vs. Mv (which means you can improve your accuracy by Staggering the target), with 2″ of reach.  It’s only a 2/3/3 but the target gains your choice of Slow, Staggered or Stunned, which means if you can get multiple swings on a single target (at Stat 8, effectively!) you can absolutely ruin one model’s day.

In addition to these attacks, he’s got Twisting Tornado, a middling Shockwave that is most notable for dropping a Dust Cloud instead of a 30mm marker (and thereby having a lot more coverage!) and letting nearby Frontier models move 2″ instead of taking damage.  As a bonus action, he gains Challenge, which is so/so except that carries a Thousand Yard Stare trigger to heal Basse and pulse out Staggered within 2″.  The synergy with his melee attack is obvious, and unresistable Staggered is always good.  Finally, he has a mirror image of Parker Barrows’ Chaos in the Badlands with Order in the Badlands.  The abilities are identical, right down to the Tumbleweed trigger for marker removal, with the caveat that Order lets you pick a condition and end it on every model that the marker moves through, rather than inflicting Injured.  I think Parker gets the better of this exchange, since unresistable Injured is one of the most degenerate things that Malifaux does, but if your opponent clumps up then mass-removing Focused or some other key condition can swing games.

I quite like this Basse.  He does a lot of different things, and it’ll be rare for him to have a bad activation.  His ability to “arrest” a key enemy model is neat; pulsing out free Staggered means you’re swinging at Stat 8, and there are many models for which “Staggered, Slow and Stunned” basically means “you miss an activation.”  Wanted Posters is pretty cute, too.  There’s nothing here that pushes me specifically into one playstyle over another, but that’s a strength of the model; you can react to conditions on the board.

Jedza, Everlasting

I promise I’ll give your soul right back when I’m done with it. Credit: Wyrd Games

It’s difficult to get an immortal woman to act with urgency.  Jedza has all the time in the world.  The Burning Man’s arrival, though, has set her off.  She’s still keen on unraveling the secrets of her curse, but there’s always more work to do.  Her retinue have noticed her new urgency.  Jedza is used to ambling calmly through life, but now she’s seized on the life-magic that flows through her and bent it to her will.  She’s no longer content to let Fate lead her inevitably to her destination.  Sometimes, the hand of fate must be forced.

Jedza’s playstyle is so totally centered around her Life Tokens that her Title was always going to be a radical reimagining.  Everlasting still gains Life Tokens, but that’s about the only thing she has in common with her original.  Let’s not bury the lead – the model-defining ability here isn’t on the front of her card, but the back.  Jedza’s main attack is Death Touch, a stat 6 2/3/4 that does irreducible damage and heals her for 2 if she kills her target.  That may not seem like much, but built in is the A Life for a Life trigger, which lets her discard up to two Life Tokens to add that much damage to her attack.  A Stat 6 4/5/6 irreducible is monstrous, and some crews just cannot handle it.  Armored and Incorporeal models (as well as models with other sources of damage reduction) tend to have low Health as a result, and Jedza can just chunk them down.

Everything else on the card works together to make that Death Touch tick.  She gains Life Tokens when a Seeker model within 8″ overheals, that is, heals in excess of its maximum health.  She can hold three tokens, and if she would gain more, she instead spills one point of healing over into another nearby Seeker – which, in a roundabout way, lets you share healing between your crew.  She still has a Chronicle, handing out Staggered or Shielded at your discretion, but she’s lost Inevitability of Death and Font of the Everlasting.  Instead, she’s picked up Life Leech, which is surprisingly strong.  Not only does it keep her alive, but it gives her Life Tokens during enemy activations if she’s already at full health, and it can trigger her team’s Chronicle effects during enemy activations – which can be surprisingly strong!

Her other actions are pretty sweet, too.  Dredge Up lets her push a marker 4″ and then take a swing through it; pushing hazardous Geode markers lets her get a free point of damage on enemy models before walloping them for 4/5/6 irreducible, and the less said about Pit Traps with this ability, the better.  She can generate her own markers with the bonus action Waystone, a shockwave that deals damage and Injures foes and leaves a Geode behind.  Rounding out her kit is Off the Path, a fun little Stat 7 attack against Willpower that lets you cycle two cards from your hand and move the target based on the value of the cards discarded – 2/3/4 inches for a weak/moderate/severe.  There’s an interesting minigame here, since you can pitch two weaks to cycle up and move a target 4″, or two Severes (probably downgrading them in the bargain) to move the target a mighty 8″, which is a really significant amount of displacement.  She can even ping the target for a damage to gain a Life Token with the Losing Yourself trigger.

This Jedza is extremely potent, with tremendous damage and board control and even some summoning tossed in – a crow trigger on Waystone summons a Moorwraith instead of creating a Geode.  The tradeoff is that, without Lost Knowledge, her keyword has no card draw (just cycling), and Seekers are a bit fragile without Jedza’s Fragility of Life aura.  Still, I’ve been having a lot of fun playing her, and I think she’s very competitive, as long as you pick your targets correctly.

Anya Lycarayen, Rail Magnate

here at Condor Rails we support Pride Month. that’s why for the entire month of June we’ll be painting all of our train cars with rainbows. Credit: Wyrd Games

Where others see danger, Anya Lycarayen sees opportunity.  The Burning Man has the Guild all in a tizzy, and they’re not paying attention to Condor Rails.  This is Anya’s chance to cement her monopoly.  By hook or by crook, those rail lines will be hers.  It’s an exciting time for Condor, especially with the Explorer’s Society backing them wholeheartedly; her investment has paid off, and now it’s time to reap the dividends.

This version of Anya has put her tomahawk away and decided to act like a CEO rather than a streetfighter.  Headlining her front of card is Labor Contract, the same ability Toni Ironsides has to summon Drudges when a friendly model drops a Scheme Marker.  Of course, under Anya these Drudges are filthy scabs rather than honest Union men and woman, but that’s kind of what the Explorers are all about.

That ability is pretty card-defining, but Anya has a suite of other useful tools; Unseen Manipulator reduces the opponent’s hand size by 1 (and since you’ll usually be bringing Winston, you’ll have 7 cards to their 5).  She’s still got Price of Progress, and will have a hard time safely using it with Df 5 and 10 health, but Flexible Morality at least forces opponents targeting her to discard cards or suffer a negative twist.  Hand stripping is more potent when the enemy starts with 5.  Finally, Overshadowing Presence effectively turns off enemy Scheme Markers within 6″ of her, letting you negate them without having to spend the effort removing them.

Her actions are a bit less impressive; Hidden Rifleman is a carbon copy of Lucius’s Hidden Sniper, swapping in Syndicate for Mimic/Elite, and while the Glancing Shot trigger is interesting (letting you apply Staggered, Stunned or Distracted instead of the typical Injured), it’s still a Stat 5 gun that doesn’t ignore concealment or friendly fire.  Exert Control is a bit more interesting, a Stat 6 attack that pushes the target 3″ and drops a Scheme Marker in base contact with it if it’s an enemy.  There are some neat triggers, too, but the problem is the ability’s 6″ range, meaning Anya needs to be deep in the Danger Zone to use it.

Much more useful (and spammable) is New Orders, a 10″ Obey that can only target friendly Syndicate models, but as a Tactical Action it ignores Concealment and it only requires a suitless 5.  The Corporate Holdings trigger makes the area around the target Hazardous, too, which is very useful when you’re sending someone like Corvis Rook into position.

Finally, her Lock Down bonus action gives a friendly Scheme Marker a 1″ aura in which attack actions cannot be taken- tremendously useful, though you’ll want to pair it with a Drudge so they can’t just eat the marker.  The marker protects the Drudge, and the Drudge protects the marker, which is some neat synergy.

Overall, I love this Anya’s playstyle, but I’m not sure it comes together on the table.  She’s got tremendous control potential, but she’s very squishy, and a lot of her abilities require her to be close to the action.  Often she’ll just be Obeying multiple friendly models, which is… ok, especially when you’re letting Sovereign drop another Thunderstruck shockwave, but it does rely on other models staying alive and Syndicate isn’t the toughest keyword.  Drudges help with that by handing out Unionized to nearby models, but the trouble is that they have to activate to do so, and they’re Mindless.  Unlike Toni, who can just plop a Drudge into position to instantly activate her crew’s Unionized, Anya has to jump through hoops – she can spend a New Orders to turn on the aura, but that’s a Master AP.

The upside is that it’s much easier to summon Drudges with Syndicate models than M&SU, especially if you’re running the Catalan package, which you should be doing almost 100% of the time.  Yannic’s Ingenuity doesn’t work quite the way you hope it would, but it still works just fine with For the Corps! and so you can cycle a hand card while summoning a Drudge, which is very strong.

Lucas McCabe, Tomb Delver

“i’ve got ms. croft’s lawyers on line one!” “tell them i’ll talk to them after i’m done with mr. jones’s lawyers!” Credit: Wyrd Games

Malifaux is full of hidden tombs and ancient treasures, and Lucas McCabe has plumbed ’em all.  Well, almost all.  He’s so far stayed away from the Necropolis that sprawls beneath Malifaux City – and with good reason.  Not only is the sewer full of Resurrectionists, but the treasures of the Necropolis are of the distinctly “hostile to human life” variety.  That’s where Plague was imprisoned, remember.  Still, McCabe knows he’ll have to go there eventually.  He’s already been fired from the Guild, and his current employers – the Ten Thunders and the Explorer’s Society – are not known for their loyalty.  He’s been stockpiling the choicest relics and preparing for the day when one or both of his paymasters cuts him loose.

Original McCabe focused on empowering his team by handing out Relics.  New McCabe does that too, but, well, he’s lost his horse somewhere.  And his netgun.  Mostly, what’s changed is the nature of the relics; the Cursed Objects rule gives any model with an attached Artifact upgrade a 5″ aura in which enemy attacks are at a -1.

That’s a huge, crew-defining bonus, but luckily that’s not all there is to Tomb Delver.  He’s a lot more self-sufficient than his original version; Claim the Riches is an upgunned Looted Supplies, with double the range, triggering off any non-Scheme marker instead of just Corpses and Scrap, and giving him a Shielded to boot.  Likewise, at the end of his activation, McCabe gets a free use of one of the bonus actions printed on an Artifact he’s holding, and then may pass it off to a nearby Wastrel or Minion to give both him and his target a Shielded.  Rounding out his defensive suite is Extended Reach, which ensures that enemies that want to smack him will have to waste an AP walking up to his face.

Given the dangerousness of the Necropolis, he’s traded out his old weapons for some decidedly nastier ones.  Bleeder Lash is the same attack Madam Sybelle has, but Tomb Delver has some nasty tricks with it – the Crack the Whip trigger pushes nearby enemies away and deals a point of damage to them.  Importantly, it’s a 2″ reach attack with a min 3 damage track, which is extremely strong once you give him Precise; slap the Glowing Sabre on that bad boy and go all Lumiya on your foes.  Instead of his Netgun he’s got a Pepperbox, a 2/3/4 gun that Stuns anyone it damages, but with blasts on all three levels of damage it can spread the love around.

His Tacticals are solid, too; Take What You Can Carry pushes a friendly Wastrel anywhere in LOS 2″ and then lets it gain Staggered to take the Interact action, but more importantly can generate its own Scrap with the Glimpse of Gold trigger – not making his own Scrap was an Achilles’ heel of the original, and this lets him churn out upgrades at an increased rate.  His bonus action Treasure Trove, unsurprisingly, turns a corpse or scrap into an artifact (on a model within 5″ of the removed marker), but has two very good triggers; Jackpot! pulses out focus to Wastrels within 5″ of the model who gained the upgrade, and the built-in Tomb Curse forces nearby enemies to test against Wp or be Stunned.

Tomb Delver is nasty.  One downside of the Wastrel crew has always been the lack of a brawler to effectively carry the Saber, and well, Tomb Delver solves that problem.  He makes the whole crew tankier with Cursed Objects (confusingly now both an ability and a Strategy), hands out Stunned via Tomb Curse and the Pepperbox, draws a bunch of cards, has great action economy, and incidentally rips apart anything that gets within range.  Do not underestimate him – Wastrel crews are not historically very dangerous, but this guy will ruin your day if you let him get close.  Plus, as a second master, he’s outrageously good with the Nexus kids; how’d you like to take an attack at -3 to hit?

Empyrean Eagle

er, wait, what? Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Cooper’s made some new friends.  His attempts to suborn Malifaux’s wildlife in order to hunt Marcus have been surprisingly successful; some of the birds help out the beastmaster, but others have been trained as hunting raptors by the Explorer’s Society.

The boids are pretty solid for five stones.  They’re fragile, yes, though in Chimera crews you can mitigate that a bit with Armor and Stealth.  They have Flight, as you expect, and Mv 7, letting them really tear up the board.  Their melee attack is pretty crap and frankly if they get into melee they’re probably dead, but they have Austera and Twigge’s Aerial Strike as a bonus action, and that attack is very good.  A 12″ range ignoring basically everything and a 1/3/5 damage track – they’re only Stat 4, but with Predatory Instinct they can build in a positive twist, and the Vantage Point trigger lets them drop a Scheme between themselves and an enemy target for some scenario utility.  Mostly, you take these guys because they’re incredibly good at Vendetta.  Ping an enemy model from 12″ away and out of LOS, then spend the rest of the game hiding.  Easy 2 points.

Pearl Musgrove

basse! do something! Credit: Wyrd Games

Cornelius Basse has put together a bit of a motley posse to hunt down Parker Barrows.  Some of them, he knows, have checkered pasts, but he can’t hold that against them without hypocrisy.  Bernadette’s face still graces wanted posters Earthside.  Some of the reformed posse members, like Pearl Musgrove, are downright helpful.  She seems real eager to catch Parker Barrows, too.

Of course, if Basse did a bit of digging, he’d figure out that Musgrove was an assumed name.  It’s not certain just what he’d do if he learned the woman with the sawed-off shotgun was christened Pearl Barrows…

Pearl’s a mixture of Frontier and Bandit and it shows on the front of her card.  She’s got Run and Gun, which helps her 6″ ranged attack have a prayer of hitting, and Home on the Range to help her get close.  Her only defensive tech is Hard to Kill, but her Reformed ability makes her a lot tougher than she looks – after any kind of Marker is removed within 6″ of her, she heals a friendly Bandit or Frontier model within 3″ (including herself) by 1.  This healing stacks up fast, especially if you’re scooping up Scheme Markers with Parker or Benny or dropping Dust Clouds that vanish on their own.

Her back of card is pretty reasonable, too – that shotgun may be short ranged (and Stat 5) but it’s got a built-in positive twist and a built-in Brushfire trigger, which lets her treat a Scheme or Dust Cloud within 3″ of the target as an additional Blast Marker for her attack (removing it afterwards, which is a nice little bonus).  She can set up a target with Draw Them in, which forces enemies near a friendly model to test Mv or gain Staggered and be pushed into the friendly, and her Kick Up Dust is an improvement over the standard version the Frontier crew bears since she has a built-in trigger to drop an enemy Scheme marker instead of a Dust Cloud.  Dropping a Scheme anywhere within 3″ as a bonus action is pretty good if you can synergize with it, and she’s got both on-card synergy and in-keyword options.


a dapper man who knows how to dress for success. Credit: Wyrd Games

Lucius isn’t the only spymaster in town anymore.  He figured that out when one of his Mimics came back with a bug face.  Turns out the guy’d gotten himself infested with Cadmus mites, which interacted oddly with his Neverborn biology.  Now Lucius and Cadmus share custody of Cavatica, which neither is happy about, but both accept for now.

Cavatica’s a dapper fellow, with a number of abilities common to both keywords.  Between Arcane Shield +2, Disguised, and Superiority Complex, which reduces incoming damage from models with Conditions by 1, he’s surprisingly tanky.  Following Orders gives him some card draw if he’s Obeyed by a friendly Lawyer or tagged with Will of Cadmus or Will of the Many.  His unique ability, Unstable Form, allows him to spend a Shielded to allow a nearby friendly to get a positive or negative twist to any duel taken outside of its activation; the latter half of this is only rarely useful, but the former is pretty strong, albeit much moreso with Lucius (as you have a lot of Obeys and similar abilities, and you can also pile on more shielded with Impassioned Defense).

His own actions are reasonable, too; he’s got a Fancy Cane, not the most impressive attack, but with Tear Off a Bite to keep him healthy and Severe Injury to set up the kill.  Called Out turns off an enemy’s Concealment and Cover (and helpfully ignores Concealment itself), also allowing you to discard a card to let another friendly model attack the target.  Most interesting of all is its Look Away trigger, which reduces the range of the target’s auras and pulses by 3″, to a minimum of zero – this doesn’t work on Leaders, but there are some non-Leader models with important auras, and this is one of the few ways in the game to shut them off.  He’s also got Creep Along for some mobility and Startle to throw out Stagger at range when you don’t need to Creep; that’s pretty useful to set up Superiority Complex.

Jin Baccara

Nobody cheats the Thunders.  I mean, yes, lots of people cheat the Thunders, but not for very long.  When Thunders-controlled casinos started losing money, the clan couldn’t figure it out at first- the cash simply vanished from a locked vault.  Once they realized that these losses correlated with the presence of a card sharp named Jin Baccara, they simply made him an offer he wouldn’t refuse.  The man’s ability to slip into shadows is quite useful, especially to a woman who already uses them, and he’s become a part of Misaki’s elite Last-Blossom hit squad.

Unbeknownst to them, Jin already had an employer in the DUA, and they’re happy to have a spy in among the Thunders.

Unsurprisingly, given his Last-Blossom and DUA allegiance, Jin likes to play in the shadows.  He can generate them with his Ink-Tipped Dart attack, a Stat 5 version of Misaki’s without the triggers.  He won’t be making too many of those attacks in early turns, though, because of the Undercover ability – like the Guild’s Undercover Reporter, Jin can start the game buried.  He may choose to unbury in base contact with an enemy Minion, punting that Minion back into the deployment zone.  What’s more, he’s not useless while buried.  If he starts the turn buried (or in Concealment), you gain a Pass Token, which is very good.  He can also take the Enemy Intel action while buried, which ignores range and LOS – it’s a Stat 5 vs. Wp that must target the enemy Leader, and forces them to discard a card or else you can look at the top three cards of their deck, discard any you want, and put the rest back in any order.

He’s got some other utility; Ambush lets him push 3″ as a bonus if he’s in concealing terrain or willing to pitch a card, and Dispose of Evidence removes a Scheme Marker to draw a card.  But mostly you take him for Pass Tokens and to screw with your opponent’s deck.

And that’s Malifaux Burns!  The book is far too complex to summarize in a single paragraph, but it’s really breathed new life into Malifaux.  Title masters are great, some of them radically reimagining their keyword’s playstyles, and the new Enforcers add a basket of cool, unique abilities to the game.  Some things in the book are definitely a bit over the curve and should be toned down, but when is that not the case?  Overall it’s a great success for the game, and I’m already looking forward to Madness of Malifaux, this year’s new release.

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