It has been close to two years now since I have felt really engaged by Warmachine or Malifaux, it got to the point where I didn’t even bring models for either one to the Kingdom Con 2015 convention. Warmachine was my first miniature wargame and I still owe Paul a big debt for running my first demo game and getting me into the hobby during the summer of 2008. I started with the Protectorate of Menoth starter box (warcaster Kreoss, two light warjacks and a heavy warjack). I expanded my army over time with models that I liked for either fluff or abilities despite what the Privateer Press forums might say about them. While I had quite a few solos the units were quite a challenge, I started off with minimum units (six models) plus the unit attachment (two more models). I think that Holy Zealots and Idrian Skirmishers were my first two units, I quickly expanded to full ten man units though since the benefits were well worth the point cost differential.
From the start I liked the idea of the cavalry unit since they were fast and Exemplars but the price point put me off at something like $50 for three models IIRC. I never did get the Vengers, the closest I got was buying the Exemplar Gravus cavalry solo on sale. as my army expanded and I started playing bigger games (50 points instead of 35 pooints in Mk II terms) I kept adding units, first a full unit of Exemplar Errants then a full unit of Temple Flameguard. With the old packaging where you could buy a pair of models in a blister on the cheap I ended up going to 12 models in each of those units so I could run one full sized squad of each or split them into two minimum squads. I of course had the UA for both.
All of that added up to a shedload of painting. I never really grasped the concept of a tabletop standard for my painting, I think the extremely ornate armor of the Protectorate had something to do with that. I ended up with an army that was mostly blocked out (except the TFG which were more primer than paint) with some detail work but I never did any highlighting or shading to speak of and only a few solos even got washes. One thing that I really appreciated about the Protectorate models is that for fluff reasons they all wore metal masks so I didn’t have to paint any faces or eyes!
By early 2010 I was ready to expand my horizons into another miniatures game and discovered Malifaux at Kingdom Con in April. I remember driving back from the con on Saturday night with Paul and stopping at Game Empire to see what they had in the store (which wasn’t much since they had a booth at the show). I made my first purchase in June of the Arcanist (Ramos) and Resurrectionist (McMourning) box sets and the first edition book.
There were two things I liked about Malifaux from the get-go: it was skirmish based with a small model count and minimal units (which were usually only three models) and the strategies & schemes. The former was appealing since it kept the buy-in cost a bit lower and the latter because it afforded more complex game play than just march forward and bash in the face of your opponent when compared to Warmachine. I know that Warmachine had tournament scenarios but they weren’t used much if at all in casual play and even so they were really just a means to getting players to engage rather than turtle up. It wasn’t too often that I saw someone win on scenario points.
Being only my second minis game the alternating activations of Malifaux was probably the biggest change for me but one that I didn’t really appreciate much at the time. Now that I have picked up Guild Ball which also uses alternating activations (instead of “I move & attack with all my models, then you do the same”) I have found that it really adds a lot to the game. Not only does it keep both players constantly engaged (instead of partially tuning out during an opponent’s 20 minute turn in Warmachine) but it also forces the player to adapt on the fly since they don’t get to set and and execute a big strike all in one turn. In face there is no such thing as an alpha strike with alternating actvations (although there are factions in both Malifaux and Guild Ball that will allow you to activate more than on model in succession due to special abilities).
I enjoyed Malifaux when I was able to play it but there just wasn’t a big scene for it in my area. These were the first models where I tried out resin bases and they worked out rather well. I used Micro Arts studio for both factions, ruined factory for Arcanists and cobblestone for Ressers. Unfortunately I never did get fully motivated to get all my models painted and kept buying more before I finished painting what I already owned. I even crafted elevated bases out of wine corks for my Night Terrors but never got past priming and base coating them in brown.
Ultimately what killed Malifaux for me was M2e (i.e. second edition). I can’t say that there was anything inherently wrong with it, in fact it was nice that more emphasis was put on gaining victory points on the schemes each player selected and a bit less on points from the randomly selected strategy used by both players. No, it was the changes to the models and the art style that really turned me off. Instead of having Masters who had a huge number of rules and abilities on their cards (some of which I would need a magnifying glass to read today) they kept a few rules/abilities and then let the player choose additional ones by spending soulstones (points) on upgrades; those points came from the pool used to hire other models for the army. The art direction took a hard turn to what I thought was the silly. That might have worked for another game but it just didn’t work for Malifaux in my opinion.
At some point I turned to an alternate Warmachine faction to get some variety (since I just wasn’t getting in any games of Malifaux). Believe it or not I picked up some filthy Morrowans aka Cygnar aka the nemesis of the Protectorate. I think it was the electrical attacks that really drew me to the faction and after the battle box my first unit was the Stormblades. I painted them (somewhat, the ‘blades are still in an all olive drab base coat) and got in quite a few games with them. I even picked up the much maligned Ogrun Assault Corps mercenaries (with the required attachment to make them in-faction) since Cygnar didn’t have any medium based units.
I saw the writing on the wall for Warmachine as far as I was concerned when they released the first battle engines in 2011. These were huge models on 120mm bases which was more than twice the diameter of the largest bases we had before (50mm). Their points cost in-game coud easily be over half of the allotment for a smaller game and the monetary cost seemed excessive to me at $85 list price for just one model. Later the colossals were release which took this idea even further. They had the same 120m bases but were much more powerful, harder to take out and hit the wallet even harder at $130 and more per model. This just wasn’t the game I fell in love with any more.
All of that said I am still loathe to sell or trade off my armies (well maybe Cygnar). Part of me wants to at least get what I have painted up, especially since I bought some neat resin flagstone bases for my Stormblades and some shale bases for my Bastions. I am not sure how much of my collection I will get painted or if I will get in even casual games in the future; I am definitely not into the hyper-competetitive tournament scene. At least with Malifaux I know at least a couple of local gamers who share my dislike of M2e and might be up for some version 1.5 games in the future.
In my next article I will explain why Guild Ball was such a good choice for me.