Rise and Grind, Let’s Gain that Ground: Malifaux’s Gaining Grounds 4

It’s that time again!

No sooner had the meta settled from the recent round of nerfs than Wyrd decided to shake things up again, like a small child with a snowglobe, or maybe my son with literally anything that fits in his hand.  He’s seven months old, and he’s just discovered shaking.

So now we’re getting a whole new round of scheme and strats!  I gotta say, this is not a moment too soon.  Gaining Grounds 3 was fun at first, but it was really showing its age.  I always look forward to a new Gaining Grounds, because they turn the metagame on its head.  This isn’t just “oh, I guess objectives are in different spots now” – what you have to do to win a game of Malifaux is about to radically change.  Read on, and find out how!

Out With the Old…

I don’t think GG3 was bad, per se, but it was definitely getting old.  GG3 was defined by two things: holding ground and activation control.  Two of the strategies scored (and denied points) purely based on having a model standing in the right place at the end of the turn.  One more just required you to kill.  And the last one only needed a few Interacts scattered throughout the early turns.  The schemes, too, usually required just one Scheme Marker in the right place, and were otherwise mostly positional.

That led to a metagame where the strongest things you could do were 1) bully an area of the board and 2) make sure to get the last activation.  It was so easy to deny scoring by just taking Walk and/or Interact actions, having the last activation was a HUGE advantage.

I have to say, I don’t love that type of design.  The crews that were strongest in GG3 were the ones that interacted with your opponent the least, or at best interacted purely by killing

And In With the New!

GG4 couldn’t be more different.  This a tricky, schemey packet, one where you’ll have to devote lots of AP to scoring.  That by itself is a HUGE change likely to have many knock-on effects.  For one thing, games are going to be a lot less lethal if you have to invest as many as ten AP just to score the Strategy!

Scheme Markers are back, too, in a big way.  You’ll need lots of them to score in some pools.  That is another sea change; all of a sudden abilities like Don’t Mind Me matter again, and Free Loot and Forage are likely to become real actions again.  I love this.  Interacting and Scheme Markers are a core part of this game, built into the structure of the rules, and they’re part of what makes Malifaux unique.  It’s fun when they’re good!

Without further ado, let’s jump into the Scheme and Strategies themselves and learn how to win in the brave new world.

Raid the Vaults

Credit: Wyrd Games

Raid the Vaults is the new version of Guard the Stash, and as the name implies, it’s a lot more aggressive.  The difference is subtle but significant: you still can’t score “own-side” Markers, but Markers fully on the opponent’s side are worth 2.  The immediate impact is that this Strategy is easier to cap, as it was next to impossible in GG3 outside of completely one-sided games.  Another consideration is that now both players can fully cap this Strategy at the same time – no matter the deployment type, it’s possible for each player to control 4 points’ worth of markers.

I’m… not sure how I feel about this one?  It has some of the problems I identified with GG3; the chief difference is that this one gives you the option to ignore each other, which I don’t think is really an improvement.

That said, a straightforward Strategy that rewards charging up the board and punching your opponent in the face is probably a good thing to exist – it sets a good baseline for the game, and doesn’t impose weird crew-building pressure on you.

Stuff the Ballots

Credit: Wyrd Games

Now we’re talking.  This is a weird Strategy, one of the weirdest I’ve ever read, so let me try to break it down for you:

There are seven (!) Strategy Markers on the board.  Only ones on or beyond the Centerline are scoreable, which means 5 of the 7 are scoreable on Wedge and Standard while 6 of the 7 are scoreable on Flank and Wedge.  You can put “votes” on a Marker by Interacting while within 1″ of it.  Whoever has more votes on a Marker, so not tied, owns it.  If the number of votes on a Marker ever hits 6, it rolls over to 0.  You can vote any number of times, and votes stay on a Marker permanently until removed by the rollover – you do not remove them when you score.

This Strategy is wild.  We’ve never had this many Strategy Markers before, and the “vote” mechanic is completely new.  Ballots (I refuse to abbreviate it to “Stuff”) really rewards crews that can move fast and Interact multiple times to stack votes.  The more you Interact here, the more your opponent has to Interact, so while you could conceivably each race out to put one vote per Marker and ignore each other’s Markers, that’s very unlikely to happen.

There are a couple of wrinkles here to keep in mind.  You can’t Interact with a Strategy Marker Turn 1 in Ballots, so you can’t just stockpile votes on friendly markers during your unpack – you have to take those Interact actions when they really matter, later in the game.  And because a Marker resets at 6 votes, the ideal number of friendly votes to have one one Marker is three, and having a fourth vote is actually worse.  If you have three votes on a Marker, it takes four votes to flip control of it – if you have four votes on the Marker, it only takes three votes to flip it.

Ballots really rewards crews that can push out quickly and take lots of Interact actions.  It also rewards out-of-sequence Interact actions, such as those generated by Obeys, Ironsides2, Zipp2, and Zoraida2, since your opponent can do the math to ensure that a Marker is safe, only to be unpleasantly surprised.

Cloak and Dagger

Credit: Wyrd Games

Another odd one.  This starts off looking like Break the Line, with four player-placed Markers on the Centerline, but there the similarities end.  Interacting with a Strategy Marker gives you an Intel Token, but then your opponent gets to place the Marker within 4″ of itself.  Once you have a Token, your opponent can Interact with you (even while engaged by you) to steal it, and once they do, you can’t steal it back with that model.  At the end of the turn, you can discard any number of Intel Tokens, then you score if you have discarded more Tokens than points you’ve scored.

First of all – this Strategy takes an insane number of Interact actions to cap out.  You have to take ten Interacts to score 4 points, which is outrageously high, and that’s assuming no Tokens are stolen from you – and you’ll have to be Walking a lot, too, since those Interacts will be pushing the Strategy Markers deeper into enemy territory.

That said, the “stealing” mechanic does give you another angle of attack, and the fact that you don’t have to discard Intel Tokens means that if you don’t have quite enough, your turn isn’t wasted.  I think this is a Strategy that will be very hard to cap out, but 3 points should be within reach if you’re willing to work for it.

Some things to note: you don’t have to discard Tokens from a given model, but if you do, you have to discard all of them.  Usually that won’t matter, but if you have big stacks of Tokens on a couple of models (Vernon and Welles particularly can grab two per activation, even counting the place, three if they’re Fast) you’ll have to make hard choices.  Second, you can Interact to steal a Token ignoring the engagement range of the model with the Token, but not ignoring anyone else’s melee range, so if you’re worried about that, protect your Token carriers with 2″ engagement bodyguards.

Plant Explosives

Credit: Wyrd Games

An oldie but a goody.  Plant Explosives goes all the way back to GG0, and this version is only slightly updated.  It starts off a bit like Cursed Objects, with you placing Tokens on your models after Deployment, but you place them on your own models instead.  A model with a Token is carrying explosives; it can Interact to drop them, turning them into a Strategy Marker, and can Interact to pick them back up, turning an on-board Strategy marker into a Token.  Importantly, these aren’t “friendly” or “enemy” Strategy Markers; they’re just bombs.  You score by having Strategy Markers on your opponent’s table half, and of course Markers that aren’t fully on the opponent’s half count for both players, so don’t do that.  No need to make it easy for them.

There are a couple of complications here, of course.  Five Markers per side is a lot – you only need 4 to cap out on points, even if nobody drops a Marker on the centerline – but you can lose them if your model dies.  Nearby non-summoned enemies can pick them up, but if there’s nobody around, they’re gone.  Second, Strategy Markers can’t be placed within 6″ of another Strategy Marker, friendly or enemy.  There are some interesting lines of play here: placing Strategy Markers on the enemy table half, but close to the Centerline, makes it harder for them to place Strategy Markers on your board half.  There’s a first-mover advantage at play.

This Strategy is old and familiar, but the 6″ limit is new and really changes how it plays.  Ordinarily, this type of Strategy rewards activation control, since you can see where your opponent dropped markers and get the last chance to pick them up or safely drop your own.  But if the enemy drops them early and boxes out the location where you wanted to drop a Marker, you’ve got to spend extra AP getting out of range.


Once again, 13 Schemes.  I’ll go through them one at a time.

Let Them Bleed

Reveal Condition: At the end of the Turn, if there are two enemy models in play that have (or are tied for) the highest Cost and both models are at half or less than their maximum Health, gain 1 VP. Leaders and models with Summon Upgrades are ignored for revealing this Scheme.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, if there is no more than one enemy model without a Summon Upgrade in play that has Health equal to its maximum Health, gain 1 VP.

A returning favorite from GG2, just as you remember it.  If this is in the pool, pay attention to your hiring – if your most powerful non-leader hire stays healthy, you can deny it indefinitely.  With all the Interact and Walk-heavy strats, though, it’s nice to have a Scheme you can score purely through combat.

Death Beds

At the Beginning of the game, secretly choose a type of
non-Scheme Marker.
Reveal Condition: After killing an enemy model within 2″ of both one or more friendly Scheme Markers and one or more of the secretly chosen Markers, you may reveal this Scheme and remove one Scheme Marker within 2″ of the killed model to gain 1 VP.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, you may remove two or more different friendly Scheme Markers each within 2″ of a different Marker of the chosen type on the enemy table half, to gain 1 VP.

Another GG2 favorite returning without substantive changes.  This Scheme is very dictated by your Crew; Fae and Angler will score it trivially, Urami may not be able to score it at all.  Remember that it scores mid-turn, and is therefore a good choice against Qi and Gong and other pass-token-generating crews.

Power Ritual

Reveal Condition: At the end of the Turn, if you have a friendly Scheme Marker within 3″ of a table corner not part of your Deployment Zone, you may reveal this Scheme and remove that Scheme Marker to gain 1 VP.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, if you have three or more different friendly Scheme Markers within 3″ of three different table corners, with no more than one table corner as part of your Deployment Zone, you may remove those Scheme Markers to gain 1 VP.

This one’s back from GG0.  It’s sort of an upgunned version of Breakthrough, which is a bit harder to deny but a bit harder to score as well.  Notably, this scheme is very different in Flank (in which case scoring it is quite easy as long as you can spread out) than in Standard (in which case scoring it is quite hard).  This is the type of scheme that cheap, high-mobility scheme runner minions are made for.  One warning – it’s almost impossible not to telegraph that you have this, so be prepared for a canny opponent to try to stop you.

In Your Face

Reveal Condition: After an enemy non-Leader model of Cost 8 or more is killed while within 3″ of any Leader, you may reveal this Scheme to gain 1 VP.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, if the highest Cost (or tied for) non-Master model you hired this game is in the opposing player’s Deployment Zone, gain 1 VP.

A GG3 scheme this time, In Your Face has been updated to score mid-turn, which is sensible, since it’s very weird that it didn’t do that before – mechanically it’s identical, it just doesn’t create memory issues.  If this is in the pool you can really mess with your opponent by simply not hiring any models that cost 8 or more, though that’s more feasible in some crews than others (good luck making Cadmus work without Stanley, the Archivist, or the Creeper).

Deliver a Message

Before the game, secretly choose a friendly non-Leader.
Reveal Condition: During its Activation, if the chosen model is within 1″ and LoS of an enemy Master or Leader, the secretly chosen model may take the Interact Action targeting the enemy model to gain 1 VP. The targeted model is not treated as engaging the secretly chosen model for the purposes of this Interact Action.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, if an enemy Master or Leader is within 2″ and LoS of a friendly Scheme Marker, gain 1 VP.

This one’s also back from GG0, but it’s rather significantly changed.  Originally, you did not need to pick a friendly model to be your messenger – anyone could do it.  I’m glad they’ve changed that, since it was a bit too easy to score.  They’ve also removed the condition that let you score the endgame point if your opponent killed their own Master, and that I don’t agree with.  That’ll often be the right play on Turn 5 if you’ve scored the first point, and I don’t like noninteractive denial of points, especially since they’ve made the first part harder to score.  Also if your opponent has multiple Masters this is easier to score now, but that’s rather corner case.


Reveal Condition: At the end of the Turn, if you have two models, each within 3″ of where the Centerline meets a different table edge or corner and at least one of them is within 3″ of a friendly Scheme Marker, you may remove one such Scheme Marker to gain 1 VP.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, if you have two models, each within 3″ of where the Centerline meets a different table edge or corner and within 3″ of a friendly Scheme Marker, you may remove each such Scheme Marker to gain 1 VP.

Outflank is back from GG2!  This version is a bit easier to score, which is good, because the old one was punishingly difficult for most crews.  Now, you only need one Scheme Marker to score the first point, rather than two.  Hooray!  This Scheme still requires you to be super-mobile and still telegraphs hard, but with Stuff the Ballots, it’s actually a great choice, since the Strategy Marker distribution requires you to be heading out to the far flanks anyways.

Hold Up Their Forces

Reveal Condition: At the end of the Turn, if you have two or more friendly models, each engaging a different enemy model with a higher Cost than itself, you may reveal this Scheme to gain 1 VP.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, if you have two or more friendly models, each engaging a different enemy model with higher Cost than itself, gain 1 VP.

Like the might coelacanth, Hold Up Their Forces has survived unchanged from GG0.  This is another Scheme you can fully score with nothing but Charge actions, so it pairs well with an Interact-heavy Strategy like Cloak and Dagger.  The endgame condition is pretty onerous in high-casualty games, so it’s best suited when the pool and matchup mean you won’t be killing each other too hard.  It also heavily depends on your opponent’s crew build.  However, this scheme is tailor-made for Summoners, since Summoned models count for it!


Reveal Condition: At the end of the Turn, you may remove two friendly Scheme Markers to gain 1 VP: one of the removed Scheme Markers must be on the Centerline, and one must be in the enemy Deployment Zone.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, you may remove three friendly Scheme Markers to gain 1 VP: one of the removed Scheme Markers must be in your Deployment Zone, one must be on the Centerline, and one must be in the enemy Deployment Zone.

The first of the purely new Schemes, Espionage is a bit like Spread Them Out in that it requires multiple Scheme Markers in enemy territory, some distance from each other.  The first one is easy to get, though the second one will vary wildly depending on deployment; this is easy to score in Wedge and Flank, tricky in Standard, and very hard in Corner.  It’s also the only Scheme that requires you to drop markers on the Centerline, so your opponent has a good chance of seeing it coming.  It requires a minimum of five Interacts (or other Marker-generating actions) to score, so keep that in mind – it’s going to tax your AP.  Spread was a fine Scheme, though, and this one is in principle easier to score.


Reveal Condition: At the start of an enemy non-Minion model’s Activation, before resolving any other effects that happen at the start of a model’s Activation, you may remove two friendly Scheme Markers within 3″ and LoS of that model. If you do so, gain 1 VP.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, choose an enemy model. You may remove two friendly Scheme Markers within 3″ and LoS of the chosen model to score 1 VP.

Another mid-turn scoring scheme!  I like Ensare a lot.  I certainly prefer it to its predecessor Detonate Charges.  This one actively punishes activation control, since the longer your opponent holds their activations, the more options you have for the reveal.  There’s an interesting balancing act here, where you want to set up your trap early enough that the model you’re hoping to catch hasn’t activated yet, but late enough that other models that could remove your markers and ruin your fun have already gone.  It’ll really make you think, which I love.  Or you could just drop the markers near an isolated enemy way out on their own… if this Scheme is in the pool, beware of dangling any of your Crew out like that.

Sweating Bullets

At the beginning of the game, secretly choose a friendly non-Leader model.
Reveal Condition: At the end of the Turn, if the chosen model is within 6″ of the Centerpoint and engaging an enemy Master or Henchman, gain 1 VP.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, if there are no unengaged enemy Masters or Henchmen within 6″ of the Centerpoint, gain 1 VP.

This one’s.. interesting.  The first half is a sidegrade from Catch and Release, letting you pick any model you want but only letting your score if your opponent is near the Centerpoint.  On balance, I think that’s a bit worse, since your opponent can simply keep their Masters and Henchmen away from the Center if this Scheme is in the pool.  On the other hand, you can either force them in there via movement abilities, or you can take advantage of their absence to score other Schemes and Strats (such as by dropping a Scheme Marker near the center for Espionage).  It also leads to some interesting mindgames, since once you reveal the Scheme the incentives flip: now your opponent wants their expensive heavy hitters near the Centerpoint, and you want them gone, or at least engaged.

Information Overload

Reveal Condition: At the end of the Turn, if there are more friendly Scheme Markers completely on the enemy table half (minimum 3) than enemy Scheme Markers in play, you may remove two friendly Scheme Markers completely on the enemy table half to gain 1 VP.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, if there are more friendly Scheme Markers in play than enemy Scheme Markers in play, you may remove two friendly Scheme Markers in play to gain 1 VP.

Scheme Markers!  Scheme Markers everywhere!  If you are the type of person who declared Scheme Markers for Load ‘Em Up, this one’s for you.  It’s heavily dependent on your opponent’s crew (can they generate/remove lots of markers?), the Strategy (is it requiring you to take lots of Interact actions?), and the other Schemes (will they require you to drop lots of Scheme Markers?) but it’s also very easy to bluff, and you can set it up while also setting up Power Ritual or Outflank.  There’s also some interesting interplay between this Scheme and the game rules; the player with Initiative resolves their end-of-turn effects first, so if your opponent goes first and removes Scheme Markers of their own to score Espionage or Outflank or even their own Information Overload, that might suddenly let you score even if you weren’t able to before.

Take Prisoner

At the beginning of the game, secretly choose an enemy Minion or Enforcer.
Reveal Condition: At the end of the Turn, if you have a friendly model engaging the chosen model and there are no other enemy models within 2″ and LoS of the chosen model, you may reveal this Scheme to gain 1 VP.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the game, if the chosen model is on your table half, or if the chosen model was killed by an enemy-controlled model, gain 1 VP.

Our last returning Scheme, this one was last seen in GG1.  It’s changed pretty significantly since then.  The reveal condition is similar, but the range to deny scoring has been cut in half to 2″, so it’s a lot easier to score.  The second half is totally different, though – rather than engage the enemy model, you have to have it on your half.  That’s a lot easier to deny, and makes this Scheme require careful planning.  You can’t score if you kill the target, so you’ll have to target it with displacing attacks that won’t kill it, and you will also need to make sure you’re not making it easier for your opponent to score their Schemes.  This’ll be a one-point Scheme a lot of the time, but at least that one point should be reasonably easy to score.

Protected Territory

Reveal Condition: At the end of the Turn, you may remove two friendly Scheme Markers completely on the enemy table half each at least 10″ apart, and not within 3″ of any enemy models to gain 1 VP.
Endgame Condition: At the end of the Game, you may remove two friendly Scheme Markers completely on the enemy table half each at least 10″ apart that are each within 3″ of at least one friendly model to gain 1 VP.

Our last Scheme, this one is very much like Spread Them Out, removing the third Scheme Marker requirement but adding a requirement that the Markers not be near enemy models.  This is pretty easy to deny if your opponent sees it coming, so you’ll want to use some misdirection to make them think you have a different type of Scheme.  On some Strategies, though, they won’t be able to spare the models to deny it: Raid the Vaults, for instance, pushes you into enemy territory, and so you may not be able to leave someone back for denial.

What Ground Have We Gained?

I haven’t got too many games in with GG4 yet, but that’s never stopped me from sharing my hot takes before.  So what should we think of the new packet?

I really like it!  As stated above, I think GG3 was really empowering some of the least interactive play patterns in the game, and low-interaction, low-variance gameplay is both boring and unfun.  The new GG swings hard in the other direction, encouraging interaction along all axes.  I can’t give general advice, since so much depends on specific pools, but here are a few top-level takeaways.

  • Chatty and Don’t Mind Me Are Good Again

After being basically trinket text for a lot of GG3, abilities that make it easier for you to Interact – or harder for your opponent – are great again.  You will be taking the Interact action a lot in GG4, and often in specific places, and your opponent will be trying to stop you – and many of the key Interacts, such as voting or taking Intel Tokens from a Marker, can’t be taken while engaged.

  • Pass Tokens Are Still Good…

Yeah, sorry.  Activation control: still strong!  They’ll help you a lot on Raid the Vaults (though, as noted, this version encourages pushing past each other, so you won’t be skirmishing around the same markers as much).  They’ll also let you get the last vote in on Ballots, but that’s less of a downside, since your opponent can stack up so many votes on the Markers that even holding your Activations won’t give you enough AP to flip them.  Mostly, Pass Tokens are good for Schemes, and a few (like Sweating Bullets, Take Prisoner and Protected Territory) are much easier to score if you’ve activated your opponent out first.

  •  …But Not As Good

That said, there are lots more situations where you really want to be proactive, and Pass Tokens won’t help.  Ballot votes are an obvious one (the first player to 3 on a marker gets a big advantage, but Explosives can deny other Explosive placements, and there are quite a few Schemes that score mid-turn now.  You won’t be able to just activate last and casually take points off the board as easily.

  • You Really Want to Be Able to Interact A Lot (and Out-Of-Sequence)

I know I’m flogging a dead horse at this point, but this GG requires you to take a LOT of Interact actions.  A lot!  There’s no substitute for quantity.  This is also a GG where Interacts can deny your opponent points in a few different ways, so out-of-sequence Interacts (through Obey, Dark Bargain, Moth Witch, etc.) can let you activate early, wait for your opponent to act thinking that your key model has already gone, and then squeeze out one more vote or Scheme Marker to grab a sneaky point.

  • Ranged Scheme Marker Dropping (And Removal) Is Great

Scheme Markers aren’t just important here- they’ve got to get to some pretty out-of-the-way places.  Far corners of the tabletop, the places where the Centerline meets the board edge, your opponent’s deployment zone – you need to really rocket your Markers up the board.  Having to place them in base contact is a drag, and requires a lot of Walking.  So you should definitely be looking to drop them at range if at all possible, via abilities like Not a Bomb? and Vantage Point.  By the same token, you should be packing models that can pick up enemy Scheme Markers without having to end a move on top of them – anything from Lost Knowledge to Free Loot can help here.

Are you as excited about GG4 as I am?  Probably not, I’m way up there.  But I bet you’re pumped!  What Strategy are you looking forward to the most?  What model has been gathering dust on your shelf that you’re now looking forward to putting on the table again?  Let me know in the comments!

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.