Welcome to the sixth Malifaux Faction Focus article! Today we’ll be talking about the objectively best and coolest faction: the moonshine-sippin’, boomstick-totin’, pig-farmin’ good ol’ boys and gals of the Bayou!
Remember that you can also check out the accompanying video on Danger Planet, the premier source for Malifaux video content!
The Lore of the Bayou
East of Malifaux City, the terrain slopes away into a vast, marshy lowland, full of brackish deltas, winding estuaries, and dark, overgrown thickets. The Bayou is a microcosm of what makes Malifaux Malifaux. It is absurdly dangerous, filled with predators like the amphibian Silurids and the tunneling Grootslang. Yet it draws a steady stream of explorers and adventurers, because some of the most pristine ruins of Old Malifaux can be found there (including the Kythera mechanism, where Titania let the Grave Spirit into the world, as well as the crash site of the Red Cage). For every three expeditions into the Bayou, maybe half of one makes it out, and often empty-handed. Part of that is due to the Bayou’s “natural” hazards (mud vortices, patches of wild magic, bloodthirsty silurids, will-o-wisps) and part is due to the Bayou’s, uh… other inhabitants.
Remember way back in the Neverborn article, when I talked about how the original inhabitants of Malifaux had to change themselves in order to survive their Tyrant-haunted world? It’s not totally clear that that’s where gremlins come from, and the other Neverborn don’t seem to be in a hurry to claim them, which suits the gremlins just fine. Standing about three feet tall when they’re not slouching or drunkenly stumbling (which is never), gremlins are green-skinned, big-eared, noseless pests with a taste for the finer things in life: liquor and pork, mostly. They’re widely regarded as stupid, annoying nuisances by Malifaux’s human settlers. Which is, admittedly, what they are. But it’s not all they are.
Unlike Malifaux’s other “native inhabitants,” gremlins are quite friendly. That is, if you’ve got booze or guns or a nice-looking hat, and you don’t look weak enough to rob and dump in the swamp. Gremlins trade with humans, and some even make the pilgrimage to live among the tall people for a time. Humans will tolerate their drunken antics for a time and often even find them amusing. Gremlins are world-class imitators and are totally taken with the tall, enchanting strangers and their strange devices. Many humans who spend time around gremlins find themselves acquiring a pint-size doppelganger, which can be a bit flattering at first… but the little buggers are inveterate thieves as well, and soon enough the human will find their clothes and possessions going missing as their little duplicate tries to perfect their look.
Gremlins have taken to all things human with surprising speed. Rusty boomsticks abound in the Bayou, along with stolen aethervox radios and the products of fine human haberdashery. They’re simple creatures, and in some ways quite innocent, but they’re possessed of a feral cunning no human should underestimate. Gremlins know full well what the humans traipsing into their Bayou are coming for, and they’re not at all keen to see their homes pillaged and robbed. Nor are they interested in the types of things that unscrupulous humans can bribe them with: gremlins don’t want power, or fame, and they only need enough riches to keep them in gunpowder and booze, both of which are easier to steal than buy. And if you don’t have anything to offer a gremlin, you better watch your back. Or at least your ankles. Nekima may think Malifaux is OURS!, but the Bayou belongs to the gremlins.
Well, them and Zoraida. The Swamp Hag lives in the Bayou, and just as she’s basically Honorary Neverborn, she’s an Honorary Gremlin as well. Not exactly– the gremlins are terrified of her, fully aware of her power– but they at least know enough not to mess with her, and to go to her for help if they need to. Zoraida, for reasons of her own, is glad to aid the little terrors. Maybe it’s sympathy? Maybe she’s playing a long game and needs the gremlins alive for some future plot. Impossible to tell.
Gremlins, as has been intimated above, love two things above all others: pigs and whiskey. The first form an essential building block of the Bayou’s ecosystem. There isn’t so much a food chain in the Bayou as a food circle (or perhaps some kind of non-Euclidean tesseract). Gremlins raise pigs for war, companionship, and food, usually all at once. Pigs feed on gremlins too stupid, slow or unlucky to get out of the way. They are livestock, pets, mounts, beasts of burden, and predators. And these aren’t your momma’s pigs… Bayou swine are massive, fearsome tuskers with bulging muscles and evil dispositions, a rampaging wall of pork summoned by the battle-cry “SOOOOOO-EY!”
Liquor is the gremlins’ other passion, and the greatest moonshiners are revered as demigods of distillery. Gremlins make shine out of just about anything, and though they may be small and prone to dying unexpectedly, their little green bodies are remarkably resilient to the stuff. The most potent gremlin shine can strip paint, power jet engines, and destroy all traces of human cognition with a single sip, but no matter how much the gremlins drink, the only noticeable change is that their already-atrocious aim gets even worse. (Or sometimes better. You never know, with gremlins.) Even weaker shine is prized among certain very specific human communities, and gremlin-brewed liquor is a major trade good… important enough for smugglers to risk the ban on trading firearms to gremlins (a Guild law passed in a moment of lucidity and foresight).
The gremlins could be a force for great good or terrible evil if they could get their act together. That’s a load-bearing “if,” though. The Bayou is ruled by major families– the Joneses, the LaCroixs, the Turners, the Tuckets, the Gautreaux, and a few others– and they spend most of their time raiding each other and acting out their painfully complex and utterly incomprehensible feuds. Recent events have forced a bit more unity, and the gremlins (in a moment of inspired imitation) decided to hold a Democrazy to elect a Gremlin General counterpart to the Guild’s Governor General. A little bit of backroom politics resulting in the selection of Lenny Jones, who seems a decent sort even if he can’t always remember which way to put on his pants. This has not appreciably increased the amount of organization in the Bayou, but Lenny likes his new hat, so maybe it’s all to the good.
Why Should I Play Bayou?
I don’t really know what to put here. If the above paragraphs didn’t convert you to a Bayou player for life, you and I are just on two completely different wavelengths. I have been playing Bayou since first edition and don’t see myself ever jumping ship, though I have recently acquired a couple of Explorer’s Society crews for the novelty.
Bayou are The Greenskin Faction. Every game has to have one, by law. If you’re a greenskin player, you’re a greenskin player, and you just know it. We communicate via secret frequencies, our minds thrumming to the same subterranean rhythm. Our works rise beneath green-tinted stars, monuments to gods of chaos and disorder. Do you like to do weird things that no other faction does? How would you like to care about the suit of your initiative flip? Do you want to hit someone with a piano? How drunk can you be and still play a game? Let these questions shimmer on the mirror of your soul and you will know if the Bayou is your destiny. The Bayou symbol is the pig-and-whiskey, the two things that gremlins care about brought together into one glorious icon.
Play Bayou if:
- I mean, “greenskin faction” says it all. You want to be able to horde up. You want to have a chance of damaging your own models. You want to damage your own models, on purpose, because it’s funny and because you get value for doing so.
- You like catching people by surprise. Bayou are not the most commonly played faction, and many people are unfamiliar with their tricks. And the faction is basically all tricks.
- You appreciate the faction’s tone. Bayou are, for what it’s worth, the comedy faction. You’re not going to be a brave hero or a sinister villain. You’re going to be a drunken swamp hillbilly, and you better like that idea.
As a reminder, Zoraida’s been covered before and doesn’t get two bites of the apple. I personally don’t know why she’s allowed to play in the Bayou. (In extremely Jim Broadbent voice) She’s not even from around here!
Som’er Teeth Jones
When most humans think of “gremlin raiders,” they’re naturally thinking of the Jones clan. Led by their patriarch Som’er, the Joneses simply cannot be kept up with; they’ve got the shiniest boomsticks, the meanest skeeters, and the biggest hats on the Bayou. And there’s a lot of them. Som’er can’t keep track of his sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandkids, cousins, drinking cronies and hangers-on. But he doesn’t have to. They all know who he is, and most importantly, they know he’s got the biggest and best hat of all. That’s the law, down on the Bayou– he who has the Big Hat makes the rules.
The only one of Som’er’s kids he bothers to care about is Lenny, a hulking and surprisingly gentle lad who’s not even trying to hide his Steinbeckian roots. Lenny, owing to a quirk of fate far beyond his understanding, is the Gremlin General, but it’s Som’er who is the power behind the throne. What does Som’er want? Well, unlike many of the other faction honchoes (with their plottin’ and schemin’) pater Jones is a gremlin of simple tastes. He wants more loot. He wants quality mash liquor. He wants a gun that makes a nice satisfying BOOM. And he wants respect! He’s the boss, and it’s important that everyone else knows it. He was out raiding human settlements for hooch and guns while the rest of the gremlins were wondering where the tall people came from. And he’s the one that put the Gremlins up to the idea of Democrazy, even if that dang Lenny can’t remember what he’s supposed to be doing for five minutes at a time.
Som’er is the Bayou’s summoner, calling on his seemingly endless family tree to replenish his ranks. Rank and file Bayou Gremlins are weak as hell, but you can summon up to four of them at a time, and quantity has a quality all its own. And there are plenty of gremlins with specialist jobs– Gremlin Criers spread the good news about Democrazy, whipping the others into shape, while Good Ol’ Boys are a cut above the average gremlin. Som’er can also rely on the strong right arm of Lenny to put decent-sized holes in things. Big Hat gremlins have fairly crappy stats, but they get a buff when they’re near each other, and that means those Good Ol’ Boys can be surprisingly accurate with their broken bottles…
Play Som’er Teeth Jones if:
- You wanna throw a wild hootenanny and invite all the gang
- You really want to blanket the table in little green bodies. Quantity is job one.
- You like card draw and hand manipulation. Som’er has both in spades.
Nobody beats the Joneses for quantity. That’s a given. So what’s an ambitious gremlin to do? It’s hard to even think of an “elite” gremlin squad, but that’s what Ophelia LaCroix is trying to build, pressing her Kin into service. The whole clan takes the field, from crazy old Pere Ravage to the Young LaCroix that carry Ophelia’s arsenal into battle. Motivated by spite and cowardice–a potent mixture at the best of times–the LaCroixs are surprisingly dangerous, a fact many Guild patrols have learned to their sorrow.
It started with a dream. Ophelia watched as Perdita and the Ortegas began clearing out their corner of the Bayou. The Ortegas saw the LaCroixs as pests, and the disorganized gremlins couldn’t stand up to a disciplined, professional force like that. In the middle of the fight, Ophelia saw her: the pistolera with the broad-brimmed hat, guns blazing in her hands, directing her family like a living weapon. In those flashes of muzzle-fire, Ophelia saw her future. Her destiny, written in living flame.
She would have to steal Perdita’s hat.
That done, Ophelia set about whipping her clan into shape. One by one, they got the message, and like their boss they set their sights on the hardest gunslingers they knew. Raphael imitates the swaggering Santiago Ortega, while Francois follows in the footsteps of the swashbuckling Francisco. Rami, a coward with a sniper’s eye, based his clockwork rifle on Nino Ortega’s long-barreled repeater. Even when they ran out of Ortegas to copy, the LaCroixs kept up the tradition; Merris’s liquor-powered jetback is the Bayou’s answer to Kaeris’s wings, and Sammy LaCroix’s habit of sticking pins in stitched dolls is surely inspired by Zoraida’s voodoo.
The Kin are perhaps the most straightforward crew in the game. They shoot, and if that doesn’t work, they shoot again. Francois is a melee beater, but the rest of them form Malifaux’s most potent gunline. They’re not particularly adept schemers, but it is hard for your opponent to score points when they have no models left on the board. Ophelia herself arms up with a variety of custom-made weapons, from a tar bomb to a broken bottle launcher, and her Young LaCroix make sure she always has the right gun for the job.
Play Ophelia LaCroix if:
- Your friend plays Family and you want to play a version of the crew that’s just better
- Your playgroup goes light on terrain and you want to punish them for their folly
- You find Malifaux isn’t quite killy enough for your tastes
Sigh. Ok, let’s talk about Wong a little.
Malifaux’s design decisions are sometimes a little questionable. Some of the first edition models were a little cheesecakey, and while the “over the top” aesthetic is part of why people like the game, there are times when it treads on the boundary of good taste. Most of that is in the past, but there are some legacy designs that raise questions, and Wong is one of them. It’s not just the name, or the Fu Manchu moustache, or the ridiculous expression. It’s the name and the Fu Manchu moustache and the expression. The fact that he’s explicitly based on Egg Shen from Big Trouble in Little China (Three Demon Bag and all) helps a little, but not much. To Wyrd’s credit, they resculpted him and the new version is significantly less problematic looking, but still… Wong.
That said: Wong was once a simple gremlin named Obadiah. Along with his cousin Burt Jebsen, he stumbled across the path of a caravan, deep in the Bayou: a sorcerer hired by the Ten Thunders to summon oni. Burt and Wong had no idea what that was, but they’d seen the havoc the sorcerer had wreaked on innocent gremlins and were determined to put a stop to it. They ambushed the caravan and killed the sorcerer… at which point gremlin looting instincts kicked in and Obadiah stole the man’s clothes, moustache (it was a fake, held on with spirit gum) and his bag. That last decision proved to be a mistake.
The Three Demon Bag contains disembodied oni spirits, and with their connection to the material world dead in the swamp, they needed a new one. Their beguiling whispers ensnared Wong, and here the oni ran into trouble. Wong was certainly not strong-willed enough to resist the oni’s temptations. He didn’t even try. In fact, he appeared to be too stupid to easily manipulate. The oni fed him some of their power, a taste of what they could give him if he served them, and he marveled at the pretty lights. Then he went off to organize a stage show, gathering a Wizz-Bang cadre of magical neophytes around him.
Wong’s playstyle is… interesting, to say the least. His magic is unpredictable, and his crew thrives on it: whenever a friendly model hurts another one, they generate a Glowy token and give the injured model Fast. These tokens can be cashed in for a variety of effects, but it’s always difficult to balance the tightrope: don’t hit your own guys, and you won’t trigger your abilities… but if you hit them too hard, they’ll fall over when the enemy looks at them funny.
Play Wong if:
- You miss the chaotic gameplay of WHFB Skaven
- Your opponents like to bubble their crews up
- You don’t care who takes the damage as long as there’s a lot of it going out
Whose hogs these are I think I know
Some of them are feral, though
They will not see me stopping here
To brace my gun against the snow
Pigs and liquor, liquor and pigs. All gremlins love both, but there are few gremlins who love pork as much as Ulix Turner. The Bayou’s premier pig farmer has reached an impressively old age for a gremlin– doubly impressive when you take into account his line of work. He breeds, cares for, raises, and trains the nastiest, meanest, biggest, orneriest pigs you’ve ever seen in your life. With his faithful hound Penelope at his side, Ulix is known far and wide as a pig whisperer: not only are his pigs fat and healthy, but they display a startling level of obedience to their master, even letting him hitch a ride (useful, with his bum leg).
Ulix has a few green-skinned assistants to prod pig buttock and haul slop, but most of his followers are, well, pigs. That suits him just fine. He can summon an army with a cry of Sooey and go to war on pig-back. Ulix is a cantankerous old coot, but he has a keen sense of justice, and if humans or other creatures think the gremlins near the Turner ranch are easy prey they’re in for a rude surprise. Under the watchful eye of Old Major, who keeps an eye on the young ‘uns and nudges them along where needed, the Turner pigs are a force to be reckoned with.
Ulix’s crew is, unsurprisingly, almost entirely pigs. Pigs are very fast and hit very hard, but tend to be fragile; however, there are lots of ways to heal them, so as long as your opponent isn’t finishing off your pigs then you usually have ways to top them off. As a master pig breeder, Ulix can nurture his porcine charges even on the battlefield. He doesn’t summon pigs (although several of his crew can call new Piglets to battle) but he can grow existing pigs into larger and more powerful forms. A Piglet isn’t much to speak of, but when the little snouter suddenly turns into a fearsome War Pig, you have to stand up and take notice.
Play Ulix Turner if:
- You love the 30-50 feral hogs meme and wish it had more time in the sun
- You think things like “ranged attacks” and “playing the mission” are a bunch of silly faffing about
- You don’t mind shouting SOOOOOO-EY at the top of your lungs in a crowded game store
Liquor and pigs, pigs and liquor. All gremlins love both, but nobody brews hooch like the enigmatic god of shine known as the Brewmaster. Hailing from a distant tribe of mountain-dwelling gremlins, the Brewmaster arrived in the Bayou at the head of a strange collection of robed followers. The Tri-Chi gremlins have raised drunkenness to an art form, and an expert Moon Shinobi is more than a match for any trained human martial artist… as long as he’s completely wasted.
The Brewmaster was initially sent to the Bayou by the Ten Thunders to infiltrate the gremlin community and shape them into a weapon for the Thunders’ use. This he did for a while, but seeing his own kind awakened something in the Brewmaster. He made a fateful choice: he turned his back on the humans that had raised him and taught him the secrets of alcohol, and pledged instead to support and defend the gremlins against any who would wish them harm. The Thunders aren’t happy, but even some of the Brewmaster’s former human peers still respect him enough to come and learn (and drink) at his side. He doesn’t just brew whiskey; he crafts intoxication, and his skill at doing so is profound.
The Tri-Chi crew, unsurprisingly, has a style of fighting that focuses on intoxication, represented in-game by the Poison condition. None of them take damage from it, and many of them want to be heavily poisoned to activate their abilities. Once opponents start getting hammered, they’re putty in the Brewmaster’s hands– he can command drunken foes to do his bidding, push them around, or just burn out their livers with concentrated alcohol poisoning.
Play Brewmaster if:
- You’re ok tracking a lot of poison on a lot of models
- You’d rather slowly wear someone down than knock them out in a single blow
- You love painting liquids, bottles and robes– the crew has a lot of all three.
The Tuckets are perhaps the Jones’s biggest rivals for control of the Bayou. Like Som’er and his brood, the Tucket clan make their living (such as it is) as raiders, looting human settlements for anything shiny, useful, and/or not nailed down. But there the similarities end. While the Joneses are all under the thumb of the their swaggering patriarch, the Tuckets bow and scrape before Mah Tucket, who maintains order via liberal use of her giant wooden spoon. And while the Joneses tend to drown their foes under a horde of drunken, hollering hooligans, the Tuckets take a very unusual approach to warfare: thinkin’.
Mah Tucket’s dumpy, bowlegged form conceals a keen tactical mind at least the equal of the Guild’s sharpest captains. More to the point, she has an understanding of human “puh-sy-col-ogee” unmatched by any other gremlin. Humans tend to underestimate gremlins. They don’t expect them to lay traps, to sneak, to plan ambushes and stage feints. The Tuckets profit from being underestimated, and gremlins dissatisfied with the sheer stupidity of their kin tend to find their way to Mah Tucket’s side. These Tricksy bandits are quickly becoming the scourge of the Guild and Arcanists alike; Mah Tucket has a particular appetite for high-tech salvage and often raids M&SU holdings to loot machines left behind by Ramos’s departure. Just what the gremlins are doing with all of this advanced technology should probably be a bigger worry for the humans. Sure, some of it just blows up (and solves two problems with one sizzling green explosion), but there definitely aren’t enough kabooms emanating from the Tucket junkyards to account for all the parts they’ve stolen…
Mah Tucket’s keyword is one of the most flexible in the game. She has access to a massive variety of models, from Sparks the wrench-toting gremlin engineer and his Survivors (gremlins with steam-powered prosthetics) to Big Brain Brin and his collection of Test Subjects (Bayou critters wearing homemade thinkin’ caps). She’s even managed to press some Arcanist devices into service, such as the serpentine Soulstone Miners. This collection gives her unmatched tactical versatility, augmented by her signature Careful Planning ability, which gives you a bonus each turn depending on the suit of your initiative flip. Mah’s crew tend to favor ranged firepower over melee, and can dig pit traps to dissuade their enemies from getting too close, but their nastiest ability is Scamper– a free 2″ push whenever a nearby enemy cheats fate lets you reposition your whole crew on the fly.
Play Mah Tucket if:
- The movement phase is your favorite part of 40k
- You love Terry Pratchett but wish Nanny Ogg was a bit more violent
- You want to field your whole keyword– there are basically no Tricksy models that aren’t at least situationally great.
Daring tales of adventure and danger! Sky pirates swooping down from their floating fortress! Dashing adventures and glittering prizes! There’s only one place you can find all of these things at once: the aethervox airwaves.
Zipp isn’t the bravest gremlin, or the strongest. He sure talks a lot, though, and for some reason, other gremlins listen to him. He also listens to far, far too many aethervox dramas, and has internalized some very strange ideas about how the world works. For a while, he led a gang of Infamous raiders who fancied themselves sky pirates, but all they really were were gremlins in gliders. Their loquacious leader might be constantly monologuing about their “feats of infamous courage!” but they were happy enough just going where he pointed them and stealing what they could. But then Zipp got his lucky break.
The Guild’s Bloody Sky project was the ultimate top-secret, off-the-books operation. Under the supervision of the brilliant Abyssinian engineer Dr. Hackeem Tewolde, it brought together cutting-edge soulstone-powered science from multiple fields in order to create a weapon that would impress the dominance of the Guild in the minds of all who saw it: the enormous airship Bloody Sky. In order to keep the project secret, it was run out of a hangar far outside Malifaux City, on the outskirts of the Bayou. And when Tewolde and his chief engineer Earl Burns took it out for a test drive, Zipp happened to look up at just the right time. Right then and there, he fell in love.
Tewolde and his hired security never knew what hit them. One moment they were fine-tuning the Bloody Sky’s technology, then next the hangar was on fire. And when they frantically opened the doors and wheeled the airship out, it kept going… and going…
Zipp and his Iron Skeeters had taken their prize. It was only by pure luck that they also happened to steal Earl Burns, the one engineer who could keep the thing aloft. Burns was pressed into service, motivated by promises of glory but also by fear of the First Mate (a silurid who ate the previous First Mate; it’s unclear if he knows his rank, but he seems to like his hat and the cigars Zipp gives him). Now Earl maintains the Infamy (as Zipp rechristened his floating headquarters) and the various devices that the gremlins have “appropriated,” like Captain Zipp’s jetpack and lightning gun and the hovering Skeeters that his crew fly around. Earl is just trying to keep the gremlins from breaking things or lighting the hydrogen-filled airship on fire, but he’s also fervently hoping that they haven’t figured out the controls for the airship’s main armament: an experimental device called the Mechanism…
Zipp is a dual-faction Master, moonlighting with the Outcasts (and if you wonder how someone can be half-Outcast, a faction mostly defined by being “none of the above,” it’s because he’s great friends with Parker Barrows). Zipp’s raiders are incredibly fast, darting around on skeeters, and the sputtering exhaust gives them some measure of protection from enemy ranged attacks. Zipp himself is incredibly annoying, and excels at simply interfering with whatever your opponent is trying to do. He can tax any attempt to perform actions near him, pick up and reposition enemies, and call on his crew to drop pianos from the Infamy to clutter up movement lanes and block line of sight (or just land on people’s heads). Zipp is fast, disruptive, and a nightmare to pin down, and his crew is much the same… except for the hulking luchador Mancha Roja, who simply likes hitting people with broken pieces of piano.
Play Zipp if:
- You’ve spent hours refining your trollface in the mirror
- Your idea of fun is dropping 9 pieces of blocking terrain right in front of your opponent’s crew and letting them figure it out
- You THRILL to DASHING TALES of REAL-LIFE ADVENTURE!!!
Bonus: for a long time, Bayou had no Nightmare Edition crews. Then we got one, and, uhhhhh… hoo boy.
Ulix Turner has had a bit of a makeover. The set “Unicorn Vomit and Pixie Farts” is well named, and it’s guaranteed to strike terror into the heart of your opponent.
That’s all for this week– and would you believe it, we’re 3/4 done! Join us next time as we enter the home stretch and deal with those masters of manipulation, subterfuge, and precisely meted out violence: the Ten Thunders.
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