Welcome to the third Malifaux Faction Focus article! Today, we’ll be talking about gribblies, horrors, and things that go “SKRRAWWWWWW!” in the night. That’s right– it’s time to learn about the Neverborn.
Remember that you can also check out the accompanying video on Danger Planet, the premier source for Malifaux video content!
The Lore of the Neverborn
When humans first stumbled through the raw, fresh Breach into Malifaux, they found themselves in a bizarre, surreal environment. Malifaux City is a vast agglomeration, featuring architectural styles from all times and all places in Earth history alongside strange buildings like no human had ever seen. Strangest of all, the city was empty.
The first settlers assumed that was true of the whole of Malifaux. They were wrong.
The Neverborn are what remains of the original inhabitants of Malifaux. Once, they were people– human, perhaps, though the legends don’t confirm that. They had art, and science, and culture, and government. All that fun stuff. And they also had magic. Boy, did they ever have magic. Combined with their technology, they created wonders surpassing anything humans had ever seen. They conquered disease, banished poverty, ended pain, and eventually overcame death.
As typically happens in such scenarios, it ended badly. Bored with their endless lives and drunk on their fathomless power, the greatest wizard-kings and -queens transcended their mortal beginnings and became Tyrants. The Tyrants were like capricious gods, warring with each other and treating lesser beings as toys. The people of Old Malifaux tried desperately to rise up against them, but neither their magic nor their technology had any hope of standing up to the all-powerful Tyrants.
In her desperation, the people’s queen, Titania, began construction of a strange machine. The Kythera device, when complete, did not do what she had said it would. She’d promised her people a weapon that could destroy the Tyrants; what she delivered was a portal to a realm of death and horror. The Grave Spirit, the inhabitant of that realm, reached out into Malifaux, and the people knew real fear.
The Spirit killed the Tyrants, shattering their physical bodies and scattering their essence. Unfortunately, the act of channeling it killed Titania as well and immediately raised her as a sentient undead. The people of Malifaux managed to stop Kythera from fully opening and allowing the Grave Spirit to consume all life, but they could not seal the portal. The Grave Spirit was here to stay, and it brought with it necromancy, the most vile and corruptive of magics.
The people turned on the undead Titania and imprisoned her and her most loyal followers in Nythera, a second device built on the patterns of the first. To their horror, they realized that their sacrifice hadn’t even been enough– the Tyrants remained, though in a greatly reduced and quiescent state. However, they could reach out to mortals and grant them a fraction of their terrible power. The people captured them one by one before they could re-gather their power, casting each into a specially-made prison: fiery Cherufe was imprisoned in the airless void of space, while Despair was sealed within a puzzle box. Other Tyrants fled to escape the fate of their fellows; Nytemare retreated to the world of dreams, while the Dragon split its essence and sent half of it to Earth.
The people of Malifaux, having dispatched their traitor Queen and the Tyrants, found themselves in a world wracked by war and polluted by death. Many of them had been subjected to Tyrant experiments, warping their bodies and minds. Others did it to themselves, reworking their forms so they could survive in the harsh new world. The cities were shunned as haunts of the Tyrants, and as the people retreated to the wilds, they regressed into barbarism. Many of them became little more than animals, while others, such as the Nephilim and Gigants, built their own strange and inhuman societies.
And so it remained for uncounted centuries, until the opening of the Breach and the arrival of the humans. Some of the Neverborn retreated in fright, while others found themselves captivated by curiosity. The Nephilim, under the sisters Nekima and Lilith, took a “wait and see” attitude that swiftly curdled into anger. The humans proved all too susceptible to the corruptive Whisper of the Grave Spirit. Worse, a human found December’s prison and freed his essence. Only with the help of the Masamune Nihonto, a sword possessed by the essence of the Tyrant Shez’uul, was December driven back from his ascension. The Nephilim sisters came to an agreement: the humans had to go.
With the help of Zoraida, a human witch who had embraced the strings of Fate, the sisters closed the portal and slaughtered the humans who remained behind. Nekima carved the word “OURS” into the chest of one man and tossed his corpse through the portal as it closed. The message had been sent.
When the portal reopened, the Neverborn were not in a position to close it again. Nor could they hope to stand up to the massed human armies in a pitched battle. Instead they watched from the shadows, biding their time, and striking when the moment was right. They pick off lone travelers, burn isolated villages, and hunt unwary explorers. They watch the humans, and learn from them, but they never forget:
Malifaux is OURS.
Why Should I Play Neverborn?
Well, come on, if that didn’t sell you…
Neverborn are the horror faction. The models don’t tend to be the grossest (that trophy belongs to the Resurrectionists) but they’re often very creepy or unnerving. If you like monsters, things with claws and fangs and tentacles, the Neverborn are up your alley. Gameplay-wise, Neverborn tend to be lightning-fast and razor-sharp. They have barely any ranged attacks to speak of, but some of the most powerful melee killers in the game. They also have a great abundance of Malifaux-born magic. Controlling and manipulating terrain, ensnaring enemy models, even controlling their minds… Neverborn do it all. They have dirty tricks up both sleeves and a healthy variety of playstyles, from the uncomplicated face-eating of the Nephilim to the slow, sadistic control game of the Woes. Fitting their symbol and associated suit, the Mask, Neverborn are never quite where you expect them to be, and never quite predictable.
Play Neverborn if:
- You like combo play and catching your opponents off guard. Neverborn are very good at stringing together a series of innocuous moves that end with your opponent somehow having been cut in half.
- You like to mix it up in melee. Neverborn have some serious brawlers, and Nekima is one of the most dangerous Masters in the game.
- You like horror. Any kind of horror. From Lovecraftian tentacle gribblies and creepy dolls to Silent Hill flesh-horrors and giant, winged demons, Neverborn cover all the bases. A skilled painter can give their opponents nightmares.
There are two masters I’ve already covered: Marcus, who does double duty with Arcanists, and Lucius, who moonlights with the Guild.
When humans tremble in fear of the Neverborn, they’re usually thinking of the Nephilim. Large, strong, and ferocious, the Nephilim resemble demons of Earth myth, with red eyes, huge claws, sharp fangs, and wings. And a hunger for blood that borders on maniacal. Spilled blood actually grows the Nephilim, transforming them from skulking gargoyles to hulking monstrosities. They are unrelentingly hostile to humankind, hunting them from the shadows when they must and taking them down in broad daylight when they can. Nor are they mindless– the Nephilim have a society and culture all their own, albeit a fairly basic and tribal one.
Once they were led by two chieftains, sisters named Lilith and Nekima. Nekima was larger and stronger and brasher, but Lilith was quiet and clever and patient. Lilith ruled the Nephilim, and Nekima was forced to serve her sister, though her hatred and resentment at being cheated of her “birthright” festered and grew. When Titania returned, Nekima saw her chance, and betrayed her sister. The Nephilim civil war was short and bloody, and Nekima prevailed. The gravely injured Lilith was thrown into Nythera, Titania’s erstwhile prison, by Lilith’s ally Zoraida. Zoraida is keeping Lilith alive and safe while she figures out how to deal with the rise of the barbaric and warlike Nekima.
On the table, the Nephilim are about as unsubtle a crew as Malifaux has– though they’re not without their tricks. Nekima and her brood are melee killers par excellence, able to quickly cross the board with their wings and inflict grievous damage with their claws. They’re fast, strong, and fairly durable, and what’s worse, they feed on their kills. All types of Nephilim can gain Grow Tokens by killing enemy models or removing the Corpse Markers they leave behind. A Nephilim that has accumulated enough tokens can grow, from Terror Tot to Young to Mature, getting deadlier with every step.
Play Nekima if:
- You always wondered why Khorne Berserkers came with bolt pistols
- You like horror movie monsters as long as they’re not too weird looking
- You don’t mind buying three sets of dudes in three convenient sizes
Zoraida is more what you might call “honorary Neverborn.” She was human, once, one of the first humans to enter Malifaux during the time of the original Breach. It’s unclear why exactly she decided to turn her back on the human race– whether Malifaux unlocked something within her, or whether the events that played out during the first Breach were always her plan. Zoraida is more attuned to the vagaries of Fate than anyone else alive, and she serves as the steward and shepherd of the fates of two worlds– a heavy responsibility, especially for such an old woman.
Zoraida is dual-faction, owing half of her allegiance to the Bayou, in which she makes her home. She surrounds herself with Swampfiends— the cursed, the lost, the mad, and the creatures that dwell in the deepest, darkest wilds of Malifaux. Practicing her voodoo and divination magic, Zoraida can control the wills of lesser creatures, manipulate them to her own ends, or just torment them from afar with her voodoo dolls. It was she who helped the Neverborn close the Breach the first time, and while it’s unclear whether she had any hand in reopening it, since then she’s had her hands full making sure that the humans don’t do too much damage. The return of Titania caught her off guard, and the appearance of the Burning Man shattered all of her best laid plans, but she’s pragmatic and capable of quick adaptation when she has to be.
Zoraida knows everything that happens in Malifaux. That’s what helps her keep one step ahead of the invaders, and with a foot in both worlds, she’s probably the best positioned to help Malifaux’s old and new inhabitants prepare for what’s coming.
On the table, Zoraida is a tremendously potent control master, able to channel her powers through her servants and take direct control of ally and enemy alike. She can manipulate hands and decks and place curses on her enemies. Her Keyword is a grab bag of swamp-dwellers, from the hulking beatstick Bad Juju to the quick and agile Silurids, the slow and implacable Waldgeists, and some of the weirder swamp dwellers like the Adze and Grootslang. Zoraida’s crew can attack from any angle and in unexpected ways; it’s impossible to be totally sure you’re safe.
Play Zoraida if:
- You never grew out of the “stop hitting yourself” game
- You played Warmachine and miss arc nodes
- You don’t care how weird your horror movie monsters are
The Gigants are one of the most reclusive of Malifaux’s tribes. Once, they warred against Titania and her followers. When they were defeated, they bent their knee to her. Euripedes, their leader, sacrificed his eye to Titania and gained shamanic sight in return. He is her haruspex, her seer, who charts the course of fate and leads his people based on the visions he sees in entrails. He’s not your standard cards-and-crystal-balls seer; Euripedes and the Savage forces who follow him are animalistic, reveling in bloodshed and violence.
His Crew consists of Gigant tribesmen, who range in appearance from “big ogre-lookin’ dudes” to “holy crap what the hell is that.” Gigants dwell in Malifaux’s high, frigid mountain range, and their approach to war is as primitive and crude as they are: some of them content themselves by chucking huge boulders at their enemies, while others use shamanic ice magic or (in the case of Euripedes’ henchman, Thoon,) a hooked chain. And when all else fails, you can just pound soft flatland people into dust with your big ol’ fists.
On the table, Euripedes’ crew is a strange mixture of raw power and precognitive tricks, augmented by ice magic. His Gigants have various ways to manipulate their deck and card flips, but always at the cost of blood. They’re sturdy fighters, though, hard to put down, and they draw strength from their mountain home– Euripedes and some of his followers can summon huge ice pillars to block off areas of the battlefield or even encase enemy fighters in a frozen prison. These pillars revitalize the Gigants and can even themselves be used as weapons, flattening enemies beneath their jagged edges.
Play Euripedes if:
- You get nervous when forced to field models that can’t beat ass
- You have a 3D printer to make markers with
- You think it’s funny to introduce your opponents to Euripedeez Nuts
Is Pandora human? Was she ever? She certainly looks human, which lets her move freely among the human societies of Malifaux. She seems innocent enough, attending shows at the Star or parties in what passes for Malifaux high society, although the ornate puzzle box she carries everywhere certainly draws some attention. When the box opens, people quickly regret their earlier lack of curiosity… but by then it’s too late. The Tyrant Despair has been unleashed, and the horde of Woes that follow it and its vessel are already starting to feed.
Whatever Pandora was originally, she is now host and vessel for Despair. She certainly regrets opening the Box the first time– when Despair emerges, Pandora finds herself trapped in the box, helpless to watch the carnage that the Tyrant wreaks in her form. The Tyrant Fortune is trapped with her, having failed at its own bid for ascension, and Pandora finds herself torn between two otherworldly powers. She was once an ally of Zoraida and Lilith, but with the first preoccupied and the second imprisoned, she finds herself somewhat adrift. Still, this is Malifaux, a place where bad things happen. There’s always plenty of despair to feed Despair, and while Pandora may fervently wish to escape the Tyrant’s influence, so far she remains trapped.
On the table, Pandora and her crew are debuffers extraordinaire. She was notorious in first and second edition as a negative play experience, and her signature Misery ability is well-named. She’s been toned down a bit, but her foes will still find themselves stunned, staggered, and crippled by the weight of their own doubts and fears. She can turn enemies’ weapons against themselves and strip away their buffs and protective wards. Once they start to succumb to despair, it’s a short spiral down– Pandora excels at putting the boot on someone’s neck and squeezing the life out of them one hit point at a time.
Play Pandora if:
- You’re a sadistic monster who shouldn’t be allowed around normal people
- You don’t mind tracking every condition Malifaux has to offer
- Pushing other people’s models around gives you an illicit little thrill, you pervert
The Dreamer looks like an ordinary little boy, and that’s because that’s basically what he is. On Earth, anyways. It’s unclear whether, exactly, the child known as the Dreamer realizes that when he sleeps, he’s astrally projecting into Malifaux. It’s hard to tell whether he knows that his dreamscape is actually another world, and the characters in that dream are real people. Maybe if he did know, he wouldn’t be so cavalier about how he treats them. He loves to play with his new friends, and his Nightmare pals always come along to join in the game.
The Dreamer’s power derives, at least in part, from his nighttime playmate: the horrific monstrosity he has dubbed Lord Chompy Bits. “Chompy” is only the latest name this entity has carried; the residents of Old Malifaux knew him as the tyrant Nytmare. Nytmare was originally drawn to the Dreamer by the boy’s powerful imagination and vivid, lucid dreams, but found himself unable to overpower the Dreamer and seize control of his dreamscape. For whatever reason, the Dreamer’s ability to control and shape dreams is unparalleled among humans. Instead of consuming him, Nytmare began to manipulate the boy, seeing in him a way to affect Malifaux and regain his lost power without exposing himself to unnecessary risk.
Lately, the Dreamer is proving difficult and unruly. He’s grown, no longer the innocent child but now more of a tough little urchin, especially as conditions on Earth worsen. Nytmare still feels in control, but he’s begun to wonder if relying too much on a human’s power is a mistake…
On the table, the Dreamer warps reality, moving enemies around and setting them up for the jaws and claws of his Nightmare buddies. Chompy himself is an unholy terror, munching on anyone who gets close. The Dreamer’s fertile imagination means he can summon an endless horde of nightmare creations, which enter play off the board, lurking in the enemy’s subconscious. When an enemy model’s resolve cracks (i.e. when it fails a duel using its Willpower), the night terrors pop up hungry and eager.
Play the Dreamer if:
- You like the “creepy Victorian kid” aesthetic
- You want your horror movie monsters to be as weird as humanly possible
- You can’t decide if it’s more fun to debuff people or just kill them
The Autumn Queen. The Third Law. The Keeper of the Old World. Titania was a legend so old that the humans had never heard of her, and the Neverborn spoke of her only in whispers. She was sealed away forever in the prison of Nythera. And now, thanks to some incautious human mercenaries, she’s back.
When she was initially sealed away, her most loyal followers were sealed with her. These Fae have returned alongside their queen. Titania and her followers are undead now, withered under the Grave Spirit’s power, but they aren’t mindless– they are self-willed and free. What’s more, their own deaths haven’t severed their connections to Malifaux’s natural world. Beneath their touch, the forests and wild places of Malifaux bloom, every thorn and vine serving the Autumn Queen’s will.
Titania’s return upset the power balance among the Nephilim, toppling Lilith from her seat and elevating Nekima in her place. The Gigants returned from their mountain exile at her call, and Zoraida finds herself momentarily wrongfooted, her access to the levers of power cut off. What Titania wants is simple enough: she wants the human invaders gone. She wants the Tyrants sealed. And she wants her throne back. All of Malifaux will bow to the Autumn Queen, or their blood will fill the grooves and hollows of the Letting Stone.
On the table, Titania’s crew makes the flowers bloom. Just hiring her and her followers into your crew gives you Underbrush Markers, little patches of woodland that can slow your enemies and hide your followers, and you can easily grow more. She can throw your models into thorny brambles, or simply send the forest to your doorstep. And their undead bodies are extremely resilient to harm.
Play Titania if:
- Your favorite model type is “forest”
- The Sylvaneth are a little too wholesome and clean for you
- You get agitated when enemy models are allowed to move
Oh, and the Neverborn have their own Nightmare crews. This one actually does double duty with The Other Side, Wyrd’s larger-scale wargame. Behold the slimy, fishy version of Nekima: Adi Adara!
That’s 3/8 factions down. Join us next time for the objectively smelliest faction: the Resurrectionists!