Welcome to the fifth Malifaux Faction Focus article! Today, we’ll be talking about bandits, mercenaries, madmen, and Tyrants. It’s time to focus on the “none of the above” gang, the Outcasts.
The Lore of the Outcasts
It’s tough to talk about the lore behind “the Outcasts” because part of what defines the group is its sheer lack of coherence. The Guild all fight beneath one banner, the Arcanists and Neverborn share uneasy alliances of convenience, and even the Rezzers stick together (if only because everyone else hates them). But what makes an Outcast an Outcast is their sheer, bloody-minded individualism. Indeed, there’s very little reason to imagine that one of Jack Daw’s spectral Guilty would ever choose to fight for Von Schill’s disciplined Freikorps.
Nonetheless, the lot of them have some things in common. For a long time, Outcast was just a catchall label for those inhabitants of Malifaux who didn’t claim any allegiance in the great struggle for power and Soulstone. Many of them were mercenaries, willing to fight for whoever paid them. Others were just so darn weird that they were driven to the fringes. They eked out a living on their own, occasionally working together out of desperation (if nothing else), but recent events have forced them to at least try some unity.
One of the most notorious Outcasts is the mercenary leader Leopold von Schill. The Freikorps, von Schill’s mercenary band, sold their swords (and guns, and flamethrowers…) to anyone who could pay. Von Schill got rich, and all manner of wealthy people had their problems handled in a discreet and professional way.
This happy arrangement ended shortly after the Burning Man went up like a torch. The new Governor-General, Franco Marlow, took a dim view of the existence of a mercenary army that rivaled the Guild. He offered to bring von Schill and his men on board, but when the Freikorps commander refused, Marlow outlawed mercenary work with a stroke of his pen. The Freikorps, having lost their livelihood overnight, decamped from Malifaux City. Von Schill had long dreamed of a place where men and women could stand free from Guild tyranny, and Marlow’s decree was the kick in the ass he needed. He took his men out into the Badlands to the site of the abandoned prospecting town Hope. There, he founded Freiholt– the first new city on Malifaux to be totally independent of the Guild.
Freiholt has attracted all manner of shady characters, and now hardened mercenaries rub elbows with rat cultists, train robbers and the occasional Gremlin pirate. It’s a dangerous place, isolated and occasionally under siege, but it’s a wealthy one, too. Everyone looking to hire troubleshooters outside of the watchful eye of the Guild knows where to go. Others have followed the Freikorps, setting up shop in a place where there aren’t too many questions and jobs all come with a “no questions asked” rider.
Some Outcasts aren’t in it for the money, though. There are all manner of secrets in Malifaux, traps from the ancient past that can snare the unwary. Sometimes people hear the Whisper and start skulking around underground stealing corpses. Sometimes the voice in their head is a bit more subtle.
The Tyrants have long groaned under their slabs. The spiritual and metaphysical wards that restrain their essence fade with time. Their bindings loose, they seep into the world like radiation or toxic gas. Two of them have worked free the mortar around their cells through centuries of patient effort and now walk, disguised, among the living. Plague and Obliteration, those ancient sorcerer-gods, have both chosen their pawns and even now move them across the world like a great chessboard. The gifts of the Tyrants set their chosen ones apart, peeling them away from the human herd. These nightmare-touched godlings are Outcasts, too, and have their own designs on Freiholt. Plague recently attacked the settlement, and only with the help of Obliteration was He turned back. Time will tell what the freed Tyrants will demand of the Outcasts, and whether any of the mercenaries and sellswords have the will to deny them.
Why Should I Play Outcasts?
Many miniature wargames have a “mercenary” faction– Dogs of War, Warmahordes’s Mercs and Minions, and so on. The Outcasts got their start there, though Second Edition firmed them up into their own thing. With the dawn of Third Edition, the day of the mercenary is over– Outcasts are a faction like any other. They still have vestiges of those early days, though. Remember how I said Arcanists were diverse? That’s nothing compared to the Outcasts. Literally anything you can imagine could show up in the Outcasts. Some crews are fully human; others are utterly monstrous. And some are a mix of both.
That diversity shows up in playstyle, too. Malifaux has long been famous for the sheer weirdness that shows up on the tabletop. Even with its rules simplified and standardized, one thing that sets the system apart is how much emergent complexity can arise out of a relatively simple ruleset. The Outcast crews exemplify this: many of them play completely differently from any other army in this (or any other) game. They can easily catch enemies by surprise, though they have a rather steep learning curve. Then again, Outcasts also have two of the most forgiving, beginner-friendly crews in the game.
Since we’re all out of Malifaux suits, Outcasts’ symbol is the rose, due to their affinity for Seal’s 1994 hit “Kiss From a Rose.”
Play Outcasts if:
- What drew you to Malifaux is the legendary weirdness and complexity of its play patterns. A lot of the cruftiest, strangest rules have gone by the wayside since first edition, but the ones that remain are concentrated in Outcasts.
- You want a wide variety of options. As perhaps befits the “catchall” faction, Outcasts have a huge range of models, both mechanically and aesthetically. You’ll end up sampling a little bit of all of Malifaux’s archetypes: steampunk, weird western, horror, wuxia mashup…
- You like to be the scrappy underdog. Insofar as the Outcasts have a unifying theme, it’s “rah rah fight the power!” Of course, you won’t be an underdog mechanically– Outcasts are a very competitive faction with a high ratio of extremely powerful Masters.
I’ll cover seven of the Outcasts here, with one more in a later article.
Leopold von Schill
The Big Guy himself, the Man With the Moustache, von Schill came to Malifaux shortly after the reopening of the breach. Like everyone else who flocked to the new world, he had one thought in his mind: time to get $$$paid$$$. Von Schill was a soldier Earthside, and after he mustered out he turned to mercenary work. Malifaux presented the perfect opportunity for a man of his skillset, but for one detail: von Schill and Governor-General Kitchener hated each other from their first meeting.
A career with the Guild was a nonstarter, but there were plenty of opportunities for a licensed merc, especially one with the skills to train his own Freikorps. Within a short time, von Schill’s company became a byword for professional excellence in Malifaux. When someone needed not just thugs or muscles but soldiers, drilled and trained, they went to the Freikorps, and the Korps and their founder soon became rich indeed. Of course, mercenary work is dangerous, and Malifaux mercenary work more dangerous still. Von Schill was present at Nythera when Titania awakened, having been hired to crack open the vault to get whatever treasure was inside (turns out it was an ancient undead queen), and he lost an arm and a leg to Rasputina’s frost. He’s got some new mechanical parts, though, and he’s back on the warpath. Right now his biggest priority is getting Freiholt up and running, which would be hard enough even without supernatural plagues and mercenary politics. But such is life in the Freikorps.
On the table, von Schill’s crew is the epitome of a solid all-rounder. Freikorps members are all well-armed and armored, and the crew has a balance of melee punch, ranged support and magical capability. They also make heavy use of equipment, from grenades to rocket launchers, that von Schill can pass around from inside his Steam Trunk. Freikorps are straightforward but powerful– I wouldn’t say they’re the “Space Marines of Malifaux,” but if someone has to take that title, it’s this bunch.
Play von Schill if:
- You like being a little bit good at everything, with a preference for range over melee
- You’re one of those historical gamers whose eyes let up when people talk about Germans (please no)
- You feel naked if your troops don’t have at least some armor
Earthside, Viktoria Chambers was one of the best Mercenaries alive. This side of the breach, she’s two of them.
Viktoria crossed the breach in the early days, looking to sell her sword and earn her fortune in the brave new world. Of course, she had rather more sword to sell than most. Viktoria was a skilled fighter, but what set her apart was the Masamune Nihonto: an expertly forged blade, folded 999 times by a master swordsmith etc. etc. etc. You know, standard weeb stuff. But unlike literally every other time someone has made this claim, this Hanzo steel actually matters. Unbeknownst to Viktoria (and pretty much every other human, but very much knownst to some of the oldest Neverborn), the sword contains the restrained essence of the Tyrant Shez’uul, a (literally) bloodthirsty entity that managed to cross over to Earth thousands of years ago. It’s trapped in the sword, but the Nihonto has enormous spiritual potency. Neverborn agents lured Viktoria to Malifaux in an attempt to reclaim the relic and re-imprison Shez’uul.
That was the plan. And it almost worked, too. They sent a shapeshifter to kill Viktoria and take it, but the swordswoman’s cut severed the spiritual ties that enslaved the creature and set it free. Nobody knows what passed between the two of them, but they emerged from that fight as sisters: twins, in fact, as the other-Viktoria kept her stolen shape. The two have been inseparable ever since, their bond in combat making them nearly unstoppable. They’ve surrounded themselves with a gang of fellow mercs, all of whom respect the women and fear the sword– even if they don’t fully understand why.
The Viks (as they’re called) are unique in one obvious way: there’s two of them! Hiring one to lead your crew gives you the second for free. Of course, they don’t get a Totem, but having two Masters is definitely a trade up. The crew’s playstyle epitomizes the term “glass cannon.” Each Vik is fairly fragile, but they’re absolutely whirlwinds of destruction, and the ability to activate them back-to-back lets you put out truly horrific amounts of damage.
Play the Viktorias if:
- You think the Kill Bill movies are Tarantino’s best
- You realllllly like killing things and don’t so much care what happens afterwards
- You like alternate sculpts. There are probably more alt Viktorias than any other master in the game (and that’s not even counting the fact that each set has two models)
Is Leveticus human? Technically, probably yes. Is he evil? By any normal definition, you’d have to say so. Is he immortal? That’s a tough one: yes and no is about the best answer you’re gonna get. Is he a complete creep? Sadly, the answer to that one is a resounding “yes.”
The proprietor of Captivating Salvage and Logistics, Leveticus appears to be a fairly eccentric old man. Appearances are deceiving; he’s one of the most powerful mages in Malifaux, and one of the most tangled in the skein of Fate. Leveticus has bent his life to conquering death, and has managed it, after a fashion. He has mastered the art of rendering unlucky humans into soulless Hollow Waifs, and when he dies, these Waifs serve as spiritual anchors allowing him to resurrect. And Leveticus dies a lot. That’s a side effect of channeling the potent entropic magic he specializes in: it gives him incredible destructive power, but that destruction is sort of two-way.
When he’s not dying and returning to life, Leveticus likes to delve into the secrets of Old Malifaux– specifically, the art of amalgamating flesh and steel. These Amalgams are often horrific blends of dead flesh and rusty metal, or constructs like the sentient storm Ashes and Dust. Beyond these monstrosities, Leveticus is served by his scavengers and his faithful sidekick Rusty Alyce, so named for her habit of talking to her robotic arm. Alyce is a little cuckoo, but she keeps the old man focused… even if sometimes he’s a little too focused on her. Yes, it’s weird and creepy and mostly played for laughs in the lore, but I just try not to think about it too much.
Leveticus famously had one of the strangest playstyles in First and Second Edition; you mostly tried to get him killed every single turn, whereupon he’d return, hale and hearty, from one of his Waifs. These days the Waifs are more “emergency extra lives” than “core part of a resurrection-based gameplay loop,” but Leveticus is still very hard to put down for good. He and his crew can do a lot of Irreducible damage (the game’s equivalent of Mortal Wounds) and can resummon destroyed models… entropy gets everyone in the end, but those who serve it sometimes get to go around the carousel one more time.
Play Leveticus if:
- Death is but a door, and time is but a window… you’ll be back
- You don’t mind hurting yourself to make sure your opponent dies
- You like the weird, gribbly fleshmetal monsters, but Von Schtook isn’t your style
Hamelin wasn’t a very nice man. He was technically a rat catcher, but it would be more accurate to call him a bully and a thief and an occasional murderer (when he could get away with it). Then he took shelter from a storm in the sewers under Malifaux City, and was washed into an ancient part of the buried Necropolis, and, well, he died.
Something walks the earth wearing Hamelin’s skin, but it’s not Hamelin. No, it’s the most active and aggressive of the reawakened tyrants: Plague has emerged from his prison, spreading his sentient disease. Hamelin’s fingers dance across Hamelin’s pipe, but Plague’s tune burrows into the ears of Malifaux’s wretched and forlorn. They follow the Piper, a crowd of Stolen, their sore-pocked skin glistening with feverish vitality. In their wake come the rats: an endless swarm of them, yellow-eyed and jagged-toothed, piling on one another in their haste to devour and befoul.
Plague has tried to ascend multiple times, and has gotten frighteningly close; the first time, Kirai stopped him, while more recently his attempt to conquer Freiholt was blocked by Obliteration’s pawn Tara. Still, Plague remains patient. His influence spreads, and with each new coughing victim, his army gets larger…
Hamelin’s crew focuses on handing out Blight Tokens, representing the spread of Plague’s disease. They don’t do anything on their own, but the more of them you have, the more vulnerable you are to Plague’s power. Along with the Blight comes a tide of Malifaux Rats– individually the weakest models in the game, but you can have a lot of them, and you can summon a basically endless supply. And in numbers, even little Rats can do a lot of damage…
Play Hamelin if:
- You worship at the altar of the Great Horned Rat. Or possibly Grandfather Nurgle, I’d say both gods have an in here.
- You prefer swarm tactics. It’s not enough to outnumber your opponent– you have to bury them in bodies
- You like to drag out your victories. Make ’em last, make ’em suffer.
Tara had a rough life from childhood. Life’s not easy for an orphan, and it’s even harder in Malifaux. Her circumstances hardened her, turning her into a killer, and she became a feared gunslinger and Neverborn hunter. She was a hard woman, hollow inside, without compunction or mercy. Maybe that’s why she fell into the prison of Obliteration— maybe she fell into a trap that had been set to snare those who thought like her.
Obliteration had once been one of the Tyrants, a terrible force of destruction, and after the Tyrant War It was imprisoned in an extradimensional space. Its prison was Its body; it could not destroy Its cage without destroying Itself. Others had found their way into that pocket dimension over time, most of them quickly driven mad, but not Tara. She struck a deal with the entity and It vomited her back out into the world, along with a woman named Karina who had been trapped into the timeless void for what (subjectively) felt like a lot longer.
Tara is Obliteration’s pawn, spreading Its destructive nihilism across the face of Malifaux. During one pitched battle, a sniper shot her dead, but thanks to Karina’s quick necromantic work she walks again– a self-willed, autonomous undead, retaining her connection to Obliteration. Since then, Tara has quietly built Obliteration’s power, using Its control over time and space to call forth entities of pure nonexistence from Its prison and sending Its enemies to the void.
Whatever meter of playstyle complexity you care to keep, Tara sits at the extreme end of it. Obliteration has granted her mastery over time, and she can slow down enemies– or speed them up, then siphon off the energy generated that way to power her minions. She can summon Void Wretches and Hunters, creatures made from fragments of Obliteration’s prison, but they don’t show up on the board at once– you have to create eddies and whorls in time from which they can emerge. She makes tremendous use of the “bury” mechanic, whereby a model is temporarily taken off the table as it blinks out of existence.
Play Tara if:
- Five-dimensional chess has become dull and lost its spark for you
- You love the Cloverfield monster’s weird little tick things. They’re cute, aren’t they?
- You hate painting– it’s ok, half your crew doesn’t actually sit on the table at any given time.
In contrast to the gods and monsters we’ve been reading about, Parker’s a refreshingly straightforward guy. His older brother took his inheritance? Pah, Parker don’t need it. He just needs a couple of six-guns and a train to rob. At the head of the Barrows Gang, the most feared group of Bandits this side of the Breach, Parker takes aim at the Guild, the Union, and whatever bank teller is unfortunate enough to be on duty the day he rolls into town. He doesn’t particularly love killing people, but he’ll do it if he has to, especially if they’re shooting at him. People always take offense, even when he asks for their valuables politely.
Parker’s gang is accompanied by Doc Mitchell, an alcoholic doctor and hostage whose job is mostly to stitch up whatever wounds aren’t immediately fatal, and Mad Dog Brackett, whose job is mostly to put out lit cigars in people’s eyes and then blast them through the wall with a giant shotgun. Parker’s an easygoing guy, and he’s made friends with Zipp, a Gremlin pirate chief. There’s solidarity, out in the badlands. Parker may be a robber, but he’s no murderer, and the Gang look out for each other. Of course, following Zipp’s plans is more than a little foolish… especially when the little green fellow talks about wanting to steal the Hanging Tree…
Parker plays exactly how you’d expect a classic Wild West bandit to play. He and his men (and women) are armed to the teeth, and surprisingly mobile– unlike most Malifaux models, they can make ranged attacks as part of a charge move (as opposed to melee attacks) so they can keep shooting on the move. Many of their attacks force enemies to drop their own scheme markers, usually something you don’t want to happen, but Parker and co can scoop these markers up to draw cards or use them to trigger other powerful effects, representing them making off with their victims’ valuables.
Play Parker Barrows if:
- You’re coming from 40k and want a familiar experience– I’d say, of all the Malifaux masters, Parker’s crew plays the most like a 40k army
- What drew you to Malifaux was the Wild West aesthetic
- You can do a dead-on “Reach for the sky!” from Toy Story. Or at least “There’s a snake in my boot!”
Speaking of the Hanging Tree…
Jack Daw is the first thing a lot of people see what they first come through the Breach into Malifaux. When the Breach reopened, he was there, hanging from the massive Hanging Tree with a bag over his head. He was human, once, or at least he looks that way. Maybe he dates back to time of the first Breach. Maybe he’s a lot older than that.
Jack doesn’t stay on his tree, though. He has been known to wander, seeking out acts of treason and betrayal and punishing the guilty. And the innocent. Punishing anyone, really; the mere presence of betrayal seems to trigger a sense of rage in Jack that can only be quenched with a lot of bloodshed. Worse, he’s followed in his wanderings with a cavalcade of Tormented souls: specters of guilt and punishment, the betrayers and the betrayed, all following Jack and inflicting their suffering on anyone who stands in their way. They have powerful, ancient magics on their side, magics that draw out their victims’ guilt and turn it into a weapon, curses that force their enemies to relive the last moments of a condemned murderer or the last moments of his victims. Jack himself never speaks, never explains, and is never predictable; he’ll appear one moment, raise havoc, and disappear the next, leaving a few cowering survivors.
Jack Daw, as a spirit followed by vengeful ghosts, is dual faction Outcast/Resurrectionist, though he doesn’t really play nicely with others (and it’s hard to imagine why you can hire his ghoulish gang into, say, Parker or von Schill’s crew). He is uniquely hard to kill, able to discard cards to turn any successful attack into a mere one damage. He and his crew can inflict terrible Curses on enemies, debuffs that persist forever (or until the enemy willingly suffers a penance to remove them), and if he catches you in his noose, he’ll throttle the life out of you.
Play Jack Daw if:
- You really like to watch your enemy squirm rather than just going for the kill
- You can track a lot of different things at once– the crew has some weird mechanical interactions
- You want a master who’s next to impossible to kill, but just possible enough that people will try
As has become traditional, we will close with a review of an Outcast Nightmare Edition box set. In this one, Hamelin trades his pipes for a cup of tea and his rats for, well…
That’s all for this week, and we’re more than half done! Join us next week as we begin the home stretch with the rootinest, tootinest, shootinest, moonshine-drinkenest pack of yokels this side of Ten Peaks, the Bayou!
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