Learnin’ Malifaux Part 2, Duels, Turn Structure and Line of Sight

Heyo Malifools, it’s time to return to my favorite miniatures game Malifaux. Since writing the first part of the series last fall I’ve manage to increase my 0-8 record to 0-17 with the Gremlins in Malifaux. Yeah, I can’t win at this game. Rumor on the net says the Gremlins are the hardest faction to play consistently. The other issue is that I constantly cycle and try new models. I know playing the same crew over and over would be more efficient but I’m trying to utilize all the bits and bauble I’ve been painting. In part 1 of the series we covered basic mechanics and stat cards. Today We’ll look over the different duel types and the turn structure of the game.

Simple Duels first. A duel is simple when it’s unopposed which means you’re not flipping against your opponent.  The process starts with declaring soulstone use then you flip the top card of your fate deck and add whichever stat is being tested to the value. Looking at your current number you can decide to cheat fate which would involve you playing a card from your hand to use as the flipped card instead of the original. If the duel total has any triggers you declare those before determining whether or not you were successful. We’ll keep using the Gremlin Master Zipp for our examples because he’s too awesome looking and definitely my next Gremlin purchase when I finish painting that is.

Look towards the bottom of the card at the (0) action called “Grab a Rope!” To use this action Zipp needs to make a simple duel. The target number of the duel is 10. In this instance he doesn’t choose to burn any soulstones. He flips the top card of his fate deck, a 7 of rams, adding 7 to his Ca of 5 he’s got a duel total of 12Rams with no triggers to declare. This duel is a success because the total exceeds the TN. So he’d push the target model before letting his opponent push it too. Quite an interesting (0) action indeed. I’ve not covered it yet but actions cost different amounts of AP the cost is denoted like (1) for a 1AP action. Each model can take a single (0) cost action on their activation. So Zipp couldn’t use this again until next turn.

Up next we’ve got Opposed Duels which after running through the Simple Duel are relatively straight forward. These occur when two models are fighting and such. Both models perform the duel flipping cards and comparing their result to determine success. Just like Simple Duels Soulstones can be used to grant + flips first. Unlike Simple Duels there is some timing to who can cheat fate first. The loser of the duel gets the first opportunity to cheat fate and turn the tables. Then the winning player can choose to do so. There’s a lot of strategy and hand management involved if you want to get into it. Forcing opponents to burn high cards on insignificant duels can be a viable tactic. When two friendly models are engaged in an opposed duel, the defending model can choose to lose the duel by relenting. A relent means the attacker flips like normal but the defender does not. Relenting defenders can’t declare triggers. Speaking of triggers the defending model gets to declare them first. Once success is determined effects are carried out via damage and attack abilities.


Soulstones provide many ways for you to wield the winds of fate throughout a game. I’ve already covered how you can cheat with them to enhance duels or choose a suit of your duel. You can also burn a soulstone to reflip for initiative or to draw up some additional cards. Master and henchmen can also burn one to prevent incoming damage and stay alive. Good resource management is necessary because most crews have no way to regenerate more soulstones. There are models with abilities that do it though.

Alright, the game itself is played out in turns. Each turn has four phases.  Draw, Initiative, Activation and End Phase starting with the Draw. Players shuffle their discard piles if they have any into their deck, it’s kosher to offer your deck for cutting. After shuffling you an discard unwanted cards from your control hand before drawing up to six. The next phase is initiative, each player flips the top card of their fate deck. The player with lowest value can burn a soulstone first to reflip if they’d like. The player with the highest value may choose to be the first or second player for this turn.

Once you know who is going first it’s time to activate a model to get this ball rolling. Each model in a crew may be activated once. When activated they may spend up to their allotted AP on actions. When the player declares the activation end or the model runs out of AP play is based to the opponent. Rinse and repeat. The activation phase for a turn is over once both players have activated all of their crews. If you’ve got a bunch of models left over and your opponent has finished activating all of theirs then you can complete the phase by activating whatever is left over.


The End Phase involves upkeep on effects (unless otherwise noted they end on the end of the turn) after which both players determine if they’ve scored any victory points for the round. If they do then note them with a pen and paper or counters of some kind. On turn 5 and after players flip a card to see if there will be another turn. 10+ on a flip at the end of turn 5 means there will be a turn 6 and the TN for the next turn goes up until time out in a tournament, the test is failed or one or both crews are wiped from the board.

Let’s go into some more detail on the activation phase after all it really is the bulk of the game and where most of the action happens. When activating a model you first resolve any effects on them that end ‘on activation’ before generating the models AP and taking actions. Every model gets 2 AP but masters get 3. There are other sources of AP like Melee Expert grants a single AP to use for melee attacks only but we can cover those when applicable. The models spends these AP to take actions before ending its activation. Remember each model gets to take a (0) action as well. There are five general actions models can spend these AP on.

Charge is a (2) action, the model moves its charge range towards an enemy if they end up in melee range (noted on the back card) they can make two (1) melee actions against the enemy. Defensive stance is (#) cost which means the model gets DF +1 for each AP spent on defensive stance. A model could burn it’s activation to get a +2 to defense for instance if it needed to get nice and stuck in over an objective. Focus is a (1) action, it adds a one to the models focus value which starts at zero. Models can reduce this focus value by adding + flips to their attack action and damage flips. The focused value is reduced to zero again at the end of the turn so you generally want to focus for (1) and then take a shot for you last (1). Walking in the game is (1) and it’s not uncommon to breeze through an activation taking a double walk. The model can move it’s Wk distance in inches for each AP it spends on walking.  Interact is the last general action, it’s a (#) cost activation that does different things depending on the individual rules or scenarios that call for these actions. For example a model (non peon type) may always take a (1) interact to place a scheme marker in base contact not within 4″ of another friendly scheme marker, these are used for determining victory points. Likewise any model may take a (1) interact action to pick up any scheme markers in base contact.


The next bit to touch on is Range and LoS (that’s line of sight for those acronymically challenged, shite I had no idea acronymically was a word. There you have it a word of the day for ya.) As I mentioned in part one measuring is done from a top down perspective as far as checking range. Line of sight is determined by imagining two lines that extend out from the sides of the models base towards the object they are checking for LoS on. If at least one of these abstract lines reach the target then LoS has been established.


Elevation can affect LoS as well but if the blocking terrain has a Ht that is lower than the attackers or targets Ht then it’s ignored for LoS and acknowledged as cover instead. To get cover from the aforementioned blocking terrain piece the target needs to be within 1 inch of it. Vantage Points come into play a bit. Vantage point terrain is that which is taller than Ht 2. When using vantage points LoS is drawn diagonally, you’re LoS lines are the hypotenuse of a triangle whose right angle is that which you’re perched above. How’s that for some verbose rules jargon. It’s simpler than it sounds though. When drawing LoS diagonally from a vantage point models between the acting and target model below the point are ignored. Terrain that is equal or less than the Ht of the lower model is ignored for LoS but not cover. Range however is still measured from a top down perspective. It’s pretty damn nice to be up on a vantage point with a sniper type model to say the least.

I mentioned cover a few times. It’s worth pointing out that there are two types soft and hard cover. Soft provides a – flip to ranged attack actions (with a gun on the action, not spells), Hard cover grants – flip on the attack action like soft cover but also on the Damage flip of the attack action.

We’ll stop there as I’m trying to keep these under two thousand words for brevity and sanity’s sake. For more gaming goodness jump over to twitter and follow me @vorgames and search for the #malifaux tag the community is really thriving and it’s great to see the encounters and crews being played around the world. In the next post I imagine we’ll detail model movement, damage and markers used to track effects in the game.

Go forth and flip Red Jokers!


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