Resurrectionists (or Ressers if you don’t like typing/saying big words) are the faction associated most closely with Undead and summoning. Likely that’s why you came to this forum, because you want to play with those kinds of models. This guide is aimed at taking you, the novice, through the interesting choices ahead – which Master to start with, what models to buy to support them, and why.
As with everything in Malifaux, there are no absolutely right answers. This guide is one person’s opinion, based on trial and error (because this guide didn’t exist until I wrote it). Take it or leave it. I’m not the best player in the world, not even the best player in my local game store. However, all the information here is reasonably well researched and checked by smarter people than me, and will no doubt evolve over time. If you notice any errors (rather than you just disagree with my opinion) please let me know via PM! If you disagree with my opinion, great! Leave some comments and let’s make this a really good guide for all beginning Resurrectionists.
What Ressers Do Well
Survival. That’s the name of the game, people. Ressers are more likely to have models on the board at the end of the game compared to any other faction. That’s because we bring more models on to the battlefield through summoning, bring them back to life or heal them effectively, or just have tough models to bring down in the first place. While we won’t always win the activation control battle against other factions (seems like most factions have good summoners and cheap minions), we’re certainly in the running vs anyone else. The key abilities in this area are Hard to Wound (and it’s nasty big brother Impossible to Wound) and Incorporeal, with a smattering of Hard to Kill and Armor. Make sure you know how all those abilities work!
Poison. Killing with conditions is a fun way to work around a lot of interesting situations that can arise in Malifaux. At the time of writing, 21 models have the Infect trigger on at least one of their attacks, which gives Poison +1 for each after SUCCEEDING (not after damaging). 15 of those models have the built into the attack. In addition, we have models that will heal from Poison and others that get extra bonuses against already Poisoned enemies. Poison, and particularly the Infect trigger, is an excellent way for us to get around Armor, Hard to Kill, Hard to Wound and many other damage reducing abilities.
Summoning. Every Master in the faction has some way to summon models, although some have very roundabout ways of doing it. With the right cards, it’s not unusual to double your number of starting models (in theory even triple!). In addition, we have some general upgrades that allow summoning (available to any Leader and specific Henchmen). And on top of all that, we have a half-dozen different models that summon something as a trigger or in addition to another effect. Half of those are 1 AP zombies, but every activation helps in that important battle for control, and anything that happens incidentally is a very efficient use of AP. Three of those incidental summoning models are usable across many different crew builds (and in case you’re wondering, those are the Carrion Emissary, Anna Lovelace and Datsue Ba all of whom are very Soulstone efficient for what they can do).
There are a bunch of other things we do well, but probably other factions do just as well or better. On that note, let’s talk about what Ressers suck at.
What Ressers Do Poorly
Speed. We have a few fast models (or ones that push/teleport), but they are noteworthy because they are the exception rather than the norm. Many models are only Wk4, and Cg6 is also a common upper bound. Don’t expect to be super maneuverable as a rule. We also have a lot of commonly seen models that have bigger (50mm and 40mm) bases, so we can easily gum up a section of the board. One key problem that newer players often have (including yours truly!) is positioning models correctly, and that problem is exacerbated by a combination of slow movement and summoning.
Hit Really Hard. Again, we have a few models that do this well, but it’s not our bread and butter (I’m looking at you, Guild!). Killing is usually combination of multiple attacks or from one or two key models, rather than something we take for granted. Thankfully, killing is not key to winning in this game.
Long Ranged Attacks. We’re not the faction of snipers, or even of pistoliers. We’re an up close and personal faction – we don’t kill you until you can smell the rot. The ranged attacks we do have tend to either be short range (12″ is long range in Ressers) or do something other than damage (the infamous 18″ range on the Rotting Belle Lure attack is a good example). If you want to make something dead as a Resser player, expect to get up nice and close first.
Look Pretty. Virtually everything in the Resser range is ugly, psychotic, dead or some combination of the three. And that’s how we like it.
I’ve grouped the Masters (somewhat arbitrarily) into three buckets. I’ve chosen these three to help you figure out what your second Master should be. I’m assuming you’ve already chosen your first, but if you haven’t, see the section below on your first Master. Assuming you’ve already got someone in one of the buckets, choose a Master from one of the other buckets as a complementary second Master.
The Summon bucket is for the three Masters who have a 1 AP action on their card that allows them to summon a minion of some sort onto the battlefield and then provide a range of buffs to help them along. These Masters typically have crews that help provide resources to enable that, e.g. drawing extra cards, putting down more corpse markers etc. Often your starting crew is balanced between making your summoning more effective and winning the game on their own. Usually they don’t take models who are dedicated scheme runners because those tend to be summoned instead. Crew builds with these Masters tend to vary less from scheme pool to scheme pool because many of the tools to win are (again) summoned during play.
The Aggro bucket is for the Masters who primarily attack directly, and for whom summoning is a more limited or secondary action. Each of these Masters have a way of dealing a lot of damage directly, combined with special movement tricks to help them get where they need to be. Their crews tend to be built in a way to support their style of attack in some way, as well as to score points. As I mentioned earlier, hitting hard is not a key strong point, but these are the Masters who are most likely to be able to do so.
The Mixed bucket contains the two Masters whom I consider to be not an obvious fit in either bucket. Tara doesn’t summon directly (her Totem does) and Yan Lo only summons back key models that have already died. Both Masters can get quite aggressive, but not in a straightforward way. Both of these Masters have unique playstyles not only in the faction, but in the Malifaux game as a whole.
Your First Resser Master
In order of preference, I’d recommend this:
- (Reva – not yet released)
- Yan Lo
Why this order? It’s a combination of how reusable the models in the boxed set are with other Resser crews and how complicated the Master is to use. Tara is a pretty complex Master to use, with a bunch of mechanics around burying that are fairly unique, and her models are only usable with her as they are all Outcasts who come into Ressers with Infiltration. Kirai is probably the most complex of the summoners, and her boxed set includes models that either must be summoned or just wouldn’t make a starting crew anyway, so that’s why she’s down there. The Masters in the bottom half of the pile are going to require you to purchase a lot more additional models to be used as summons.
Seamus, on the other hand, is a pretty easy to use Master, his crews can quite happily include all the models in his boxed set and be very effective, and you’ll likely use all those models (not counting Totem obviously) in other crews. McMourning takes a bit more awareness of auras and positioning, but has a pretty straightforward play style, and a crew box that has a lot of utility models in it.
The middle of the table is probably the most arbitrary part. I’d use this part of the guide as a way to help you choose between two or three that you already had your eye on – pick the one closer to the top. Ultimately, I urge people to pick the Master they are excited to assemble and paint because every single one is good in its own way.
Before talking too much about the crews for the various masters, I want to first talk about three models that you will likely end up using a lot over the course of your games as a Resser player – the Rotten Belle, the Nurse and the Carrion Emissary. That’s because they fit into virtually any crew and offer a toolbox of options to go in that crew. If you find you don’t like using Nurses or Belles, there are plenty of other options in the 4-5SS range – Necropunks/Crooligans for scheme running and Ashigaru to help hold points, to name a few of my favorites – so don’t feel like you’re being locked in to anything: that’s just not how Malifaux works 🙂
Rotten Belles come with Seamus, and Nurses come with McMourning. Both boxes give you a bunch of other useful models so if you’re not too budget constrained that’s a good way to go. Otherwise, they both come separately in their own boxes, just like the Carrion Emissary.
Anyway, here’s the info on these Top Tools:
Probably the quintessential Resser minion, the Rotten Belle is 5SS and gives you a lot for that cheap cost. While the low Df/Wp might seem like a big weakness, having Hard to Wound and a high number of wounds means they are incredibly survivable. They also have Wk 5 which helps make them good for schemes.
They have a very long range Lure (18″) that is among the highest Ca values in the game, and with the right suit will force your opponent to discard a card. They also will give out Slow – it’s a little trickier to have it go off, but gives just as much utility. Consider that you’re trading 1 AP from a 5SS model for 1 Master AP or 1 Henchman AP. You can use their Pounce attack to Lure and enemy scheme runner away from wherever it wants to be scoring and into attack range, then take an attack all for 1 AP – with the right trigger, you’ll even keep them from walking away.
Finally, they even have Companion so can Chain Activate when you need them to. As a beginner, I advice ignoring this ability to start – knowing when to use takes time, and it’s better just to not think about it until you have your head around all the other things going on in the game.
Another 5SS minion, the Nurse is a great toolbox for accomplishing a lot of different objectives. She’s got a higher Df and a trigger to push up to 4″ whether she’s attacked vs Df or Wp, and with Wd 6 she is survivable enough to require a significant investment of resources in order to kill. She has two other abilities, both of which are important to how she functions. The first allows her to discard a card at the start of her action to add the suit to her duel total, and the second is Accomplice, allowing a model within 6″ to activate as a Chain Activation after she’s done. These are both important because they tie in with her primary attack action, Take Your Meds.
Take Your Meds is Ca that you have to declare a Trigger for. Each trigger gives a paired set of bonus and penalty, allowing you to use each one on both your models and your opponent’s. Briefly, they are paralyze/heal all wounds, +2 Ml damage/only declare Ml actions, Wk +2/only declare Walk and Interact, and to all duels/Armor +2. All of these can be used to help you strongly influence an area of the board. A simple example is that you discard a card to give you the right suit, then you Paralyze one of your opponent’s models that’s already at full Wounds (trading 1AP for 2 or 3AP), or you can use the same trigger to heal one of your slow, summoned models. Being only able to declare Ml actions is a lot like being paralyzed if you aren’t in range of something, so that can also be effective if you want to buff your own model with the extra damage for 1AP and then pseudo-paralyze with the other AP. Just make sure they have no movement tricks in their crew!
You’ll see a lot of crews below I’ve included a Nurse and/or a Rotten Belle (or two). If you don’t have these models, they are worth getting because of their sheer utility for virtually any scheme pool.
The Carrion Emissary is arguably the best of all the Emissaries, even without its Master-specific upgrades, and it’s so good with particular Masters that it makes the cut into multiple starter lists. Briefly, it’s an Enforcer with a stat line of mostly 6s, it can fly and has Hard to Kill but no other real defenses (it has a limited self heal) – this means it often works better with crews who can heal it (but as you just read, Nurses can heal everyone!). It also gives all your minions within 6″ +1 Wk, which is really good for a faction not known for being fast.
Where it starts to shine more is on the back of its card. It has one Ca attack that is both ranged and :melee, but only 6″ and 1″ respectively. However, it does min damage 3 and can blast, as well as having a bunch of useful triggers. The Emissary also has a zero action that you will likely use a lot, Shards of Kythera. This lays down two blast markers that count as Ht 4 impassable, blocking terrain. They disappear at the end of the turn and out pops a Mindless Zombie. The zombie is good for a lot of reasons – it’s another activation, it’s very easy to hit (so you can blast off it!) and it counts as a corpse marker for anything you want to use a corpse marker for. It even leaves a corpse marker when it dies. Just don’t expect to ever hit anything with it!
The Emissary for 1AP can turn corpse markers into scheme markers at range, and later in the game if you’ve score VP from the strategy you can summon any non-totem Resser Undead model up to 6SS. Those are currently all Minions (Crooligan, Guild Autopsy, Canine Remains, Ashigaru, Crooked Man, Necropunk, Rotten Belle, Dead Doxy, Flesh Construct, The Drowned) and the earliest you’ll be summoning is turn 4, so you’re likely to only get 3AP out of the summon – choose wisely!
Mostly, you will move, attack and drop Shard markers with this guy, helping to prevent charge/firing lanes while you maneuver your forces into position. Malifaux, as other authors have stated multiple times, is primarily a game about movement. The Emissary has lots of flexibility in its movement, gives more movement to your other models and helps prevent your opponent from moving into areas you want to control.
I’ll talk more about Master-specific Emissary actions below, where I’ve included it into the beginner list for a given Master.
Starting Crews and Tactics
I’ve provided some starting crews for each Master below. This is to try to answer the question that is often asked “OK, I’ve got Master X, now what do I do to get to a good crew at 50SS”. By no means is this a silver bullet for winning all your games! I’ve aimed at creating lists that use a good amount of models from the boxed sets (I’ve stuck to at least 4 and more if warranted), and supplemented those with models that both fit into a good list and are as easy as possible to learn. In addition, I’ve tried to avoid models that can only be purchased in some other crew box. I’ve also leaned on only suggesting upgrades that are either essential, easy to use (or both!). Each list leaves a few stones for upgrades or personal tweaks based on your model collection. You’re only beginning, so it’s a good idea to avoid upgrades that provide extra actions unless strictly needed.
I give a quick walk through on how to use the crew and what types of situations they excel in. Again, apply a healthy dash of salt to this all – I’m not an expert in every model, crew, scheme and strategy, but this should at least help get you started.
- Seamus, Sinister Reputation, Red Chapel Killer – 6 Soulstone cache
- Copycat Killer
- Madame Sybelle, Bleeding Tongue
- The Hanged
- Yin the Penangalan
- Rotten Belle x2
Purchases: The Hanged, Yin
I’ve listed Seamus as the easiest Master to use, primarily because you usually do the same three things in each of his activations, and the only things that vary are the order and what (0) action you take. Seamus will focus, Back Alley (teleport) and shoot his .50 Flintlock. Then the Copycat Killer does pretty much the same thing. Seamus’ upgrades are to enable the rest of the crew to function very effectively. Sinister Reputation gives a Wp reducing bubble and everyone else has some kind of Wp-based attack, which consequently will heal Seamus when your opponent fails a duel. His zero action will either be to summon a Belle or to enable him to teleport while still in line of sight.
Madame Sybelle, The Hanged and Yin all have ranged attacks against Wp and (importantly) are Terrifying All 12 or more, just like Seamus. You’ll quickly get into the habit of telling your opponents to take these checks (and usually at -2 Wp!). Yin’s Gnawing Fears can put models on a flip for Wp duels, and then The Hanged will take off half their wounds! Madame Sybelle can force people to target her, even if the action is out of range – combined with Yin’s Gnawing Fears, this can very effectively lock down a model for most of two turns. Yin is great at taking and holding a point on her own, although vulnerable against anything with built in flips. Using Whispers From Beyond with The Hanged will take off half of any model’s wounds – great for big beaters – and prevent them from healing the rest of the game. Hanged also remove most immunity to Horror duels within a 4″
The Belles are durable scheme runners who can hand out Slow or Lure other models away from where they want to be (or both!). These are a common faction toolbox model, so you’ll end up using them a bunch. The Nurse works to help burn cards from your opponent’s hand even more – they’ll generally try to avoid having their key models paralyzed. She can also rescue Seamus if he gets stuck in combat: He’s Ml 7 with a trigger to attack again, but min damage 1. Hitting him with Hallucinogens means an unsuspecting assailant can be staring down the barrel of 6 min damage 3 attacks at Ml7!
Upgrades to consider include Not Too Banged Up on Sybelle for extra walk on Rotten Belle Lures, and Unnerving Aura on Yin, forcing people to take damage if they stay too close to her.
What do I use the Red Joker for?
Seamus damage is the obvious one, because it’s 12 which kills virtually everything in the game that doesn’t have some form of reduction. Copycat Killer is a hefty 11, so he’s the obvious second choice.
Some possible next steps
Swap out Datsue Ba for a Hanged. The Hanged is a better choice in Collect the Bounty and is much simpler to use (if not in range, move and then Whisper, otherwise Whisper!) whereas Datsue Ba (+ Spirit Whispers) takes a bit more practice to get used to, and requires some extra models that she summons from a trigger.
Build Seamus with Bag o’ Tools. This means you’re not getting as much mileage out of the passive Wp duels really draining the hand, but Seamus is able to effective in combat on his own. This one works better when you need Seamus more in the thick of things (I never play this build, but that’s my preference).
Add in the Carrion Emissary. You’ll find that the Emissary will be targeted a lot because it doesn’t have Terrifying, but it does heal when things nearby fail Wp duels if you use Seamus’ specific Conflux. Combined with Madame Sybelle, your Belles will be Wk 7! Good if you have to get them to key points on the board.
- McMourning, Moonlighting, Plastic Surgery – 6 Soulstone cache
- Zombie Chihuahua
- Sebastian, Transfusion
- Carrion Emissary, Conflux of Forbidden Knowledge
- Rotten Belle x2
- Carrion Effigy
Purchases: Carrion Effigy, Rafkin, Mindless Zombie
You can maybe trade for: Rafkin, because there’s a limited edition alternate, Mindless Zombie because people don’t always use all five in the box
To briefly touch on the auras in this crew: McMourning and Sebastian both have Catalyst which will cause models to take Poison damage when they activate, not just at the end of turn (this doesn’t stack). In addition, Sebastian’s Induction aura means that a model taking 1 poison damage actually takes 3. Rafkin’s My Own Concoction aura works inversely, meaning that any regular attacks against a model already poisoned results in them taking 1 extra damage. So, you’ll want to Lure the key model into the bubbles, dealing sufficient damage with attacks to allow McMourning to Expunge and summon a Flesh Construct.
The Zombie Chihuahua is a cheap activation who can also Expunge (without the summoning, obviously!) to finish off a model in a different area of the board. Being only Ht 1, he can be quite easy to protect, and the Expunge is a (0) action so you can walk out, Expunge and then go hide.
The Carrion Effigy helps eliminate those pesky immunities to Poison – it can really help against things with complete Condition immunity like Lenny or Ashes and Dust. Absent the need for that, he’s a solid scheme runner who is not easily killed. The Nurse will help with overall board control, and healing your Wounded models in a pinch. Rafkin is very squishy, having no real defenses to speak of, so you need to protect him. Only bring him into combat if you have a high degree of confidence that he will kill what he’s facing. He has a zero action that does min damage 1, which can sometimes be helpful in finishing off that Hard to Kill model before it activates … however, you’re better off just making sure the same model is inside a Catalyst aura instead.
A simple tactic you’ll be able to employ is to drop the Shards of Kythera with your Emissary on turn one, and at the end of the turn summon a Mindless Zombie. In turn 2, you can use the Emissary’s and/or Rafkin’s blasts to blast off the Df 2 Zombie and lay down a bunch of poison on your opponent’s models. Depending on how they’ve placed, you could easily give half your opponent’s crew Poison +1 before you’ve engaged with them. The Emissary is a good way to help protect your more vulnerable models – the Shards can help prevent charges and Hard to Kill gives it an opportunity to be healed by a Nurse (or Rafkin). Importantly, it gets to all attacks against poisoned models which means you’re much more likely to hit the trigger you want on its main attack.
What do I use the Red Joker for?
McMourning’s Surgical Implements will 8 damage + 1 Poison (or 9 damage if Rafkin is nearby, and 2 Poison if you flip/cheat a or stone for it), which is enough to kill most things, especially if you Expunge straight after to turn them into a Flesh Construct.
Some possible next steps
Rogue Necromancy. This happy critter can easily fit in where the Emissary is, if you want a more aggressive list, but it also likes to have Belles draw things to it (because it’s pretty slow, even with Stalk). It’s Ml7 with infect built-in and min damage 3, so if it’s near Rafkin, that’s min damage 4 + 1 Poison, and with a built-in plus flip to attack and damage, you’re likely hitting 6 damage pretty easily. It just dies really easily to high min damage models, so be wary.
Shikome get 1AP charges against things that are poisoned, have triggers to ignore armor and also have built-in poison trigger in melee. Good choices for Collect the Bounty because they are hard hitting Minions.
Embalmed. Guild Autopsy and Flesh Construct both come with Poison +5, so summoning them (Autopsy can be summoned with Spare Parts) or hiring them enables Sebastian to use Transfusion (or any other model you put it on) to quickly put 5 Poison on another model to enable an early Expunge for instance. Or the Carrion Emissary can more easily blast off them because they are both low Df and it would get flips to the attack.
- Reva, Guises of Death – 6 Soulstone cache
- Vincent St. Clair, Deal With Death
- Carrion Emissary, Carrion Conflux
- Bete Noire
- Rotten Belle
Purchases: Bete Noire, Crooligan (or possibly trade)
I’ll start this miniscule section with a caveat: Reva is not yet available for general release and so she’s not had the test of time that the rest of the Masters have had, so this is effectively a placeholder. I’ll expand this area as she starts to see more play time (including by me!). Reva is arguably easier to use than McMourning, but I pushed her down the list a little, again due to newness.
The idea behind this list is that Bete Noire can take advantage of the ranged killing of Reva and Vincent to pop out down the board and wreak havoc. The Carrion Emissary and Reva can create remote corpse markers through Mindless Zombies and Corpse Candles, so that Reva can attack through those markers. The Crooligan is a gambit to encourage an early attack and thereby pull Bete out early, but a second Shieldbearer works in that spot too (thus saving the money on Crooligans).
Something to note is that From the Shadows can be a bit of a trap. I recommend only deploying within 6-9″ of your deployment zone until you have a very strong grasp of how to use the ability. Much further forward than that and you’re probably over extending and will lose the model. With a 4SS Crooligan who “turns into” Bete Noire, that’s not the end of the world, but you don’t want to lose Vincent that early. His upgrade is more for the push out of combat than the deployment tricks anyway.
What do I use the Red Joker for?
All the 6+SS models have a good enough damage spread to use the Joker with, and the Shieldbearer can give itself damage flips in order to make the cheat easier.
Possible next steps will have to wait for now!
- Yan Lo, Fortify The Spirit, Brutal Khakkhara, Reliquary – 6 Soulstone cache
- Soul Porter
- Izamu The Armor
- Carrion Emissary, Ancestral Conflux
- Chiaki The Neice, Pull of the Grave
- Rotten Belle
Purchases: Izamu The Armor
Maybe you can trade for: Izamu, because Genbu was released in the Tortoise and the Hare box, sometimes people want the Hare for their Arcanists but not Genbu, or they replaced their Izamu with the Genbu.
Yan Lo is a bit like playing two different Masters. He gets stronger as he generates Chi (either from discarding cards or from models dying nearby), and he can spend his Chi to do a lot of things, primarily adding it to all his Ca values and attaching more upgrades. Those upgrades in turn give him more things he can do with his Chi – this is why he’s not high up the list of easy Masters to play! Astute readers will notice that this is the only master who gets all three upgrades in the starter list. There are very specific reasons for this. The Khakkhara gives Yan Lo a Ml range of 2″ rather than 1″, so you can engage more models when you need to (typically late game), as well as getting a much better damage track (3/4/5 vs 2/3/4) – the Emissary gives him Ml 6. Fortify the Spirit gives him a trigger to add his Chi to any Df or Wp duel (but it needs a suit) – the value of this is more that having it will mean your opponent is less likely to TRY targeting Yan Lo because attacking an effective stat of 8 is often not worth it. Finally, the Reliquary allows Yan Lo to resurrect any Ancestor onto half wounds – Izamu, the Emissary (who gets Ancestor from his conflux) and Chiaki are the Ancestors in this starting list.
There are a few key interactions in this crew that you will get mileage out of. The obvious ones are that the Soul Porter can give any Ancestor an extra move, especially useful for the Wk 4 Izamu to get into the key position. The Porter is also Incorporeal, Wk 6 so he can easily keep up with everyone else, and has a 3″ engagement range – he’s probably my favorite totem in Ressers, and learning how to use him well will seriously improve your Yan Lo game. I rarely sacrifice him for the extra Chi – he provides too much other value.
The Carrion Emissary shines in this crew more than any other, in my humble opinion. The simple reason is that it gets Fast ever time a model within 6″ attaches an upgrade, so usually 3 times per game thanks to Yan Lo. Make sure you have Yan Lo within 6″ of him when you’re going to attach an upgrade in order to get the bonus – it can also give Yan Lo +1 Wk for his activation as an added bonus. Using the Emissary’s Shards of Kythera action turn 1 will summon a mindless Zombie – Yan Lo (or anyone else) can then kill the Zombie in turn 2 to gain two Chi – one off the Revitalize trigger and one from Focus Chi. Note that Harvest Chi only works when enemies are being killed, so killing your own Zombie won’t get you more Chi!
In general, Chiaki can be used with her upgrade to hand out Slow and as a scheme runner. She has a zero action which is great for taking out opposing scheme runners by making them Insignificant – with the right suit it can even generate Chi for her, which she adds to her Ca just like Yan Lo. She can then hand out her Chi to other Ancestors to make their Ca better. In this case, it’s either Yan Lo or the Emissary – giving Izamu a bonus to Ca only affects his self-heal and in Yan Lo crews you shouldn’t really need to use that as Yan Lo has a very effective heal himself. Full heals from the Nurse also Paralyze their victim, but Paralyzed is a condition that can easily be removed by Chiaki. This is particularly useful on Yan Lo, who cannot heal himself.
The upgrades he attaches to himself will (in total) give him 9 possible actions to take and give him Impossible to Wound and Incorporeal. I’ve taken attacks from an entire crew with a fully powered-up Yan Lo and have him survived to tell the tale, albeit only on one wound (“Helloooooooo, Nurse!”). However, he needs to have a full +3 Chi in order to really pull this off. You also don’t need to attach Bone Ascendant every game, but you’ll know you’ll need it – it’s very useful in situations where a lot of enemies are comparatively bunched up and you can hit them all at once, and it’s definitely the time when you want to have the Brutal Khakkhara. Generally turns 1, 2 and 3 are spent getting ready and turns 4 and 5 are where Yan Lo really shines – resurrecting the big guys who might have died, handing out Armor +2 (so good on the Emissary!) and even getting stuck in and attacking himself. Don’t overextend him in those early turns and you should do fine.
The Ashigaru is useful to hold a point and keep enemy models out of engagement range of Yan Lo or anyone else you want – their 1 AP charge is often effective against scheme runners, and their 1 AP Brace deters pretty much everyone from charging. The Rotten Belle can easily be a second Ashigaru, but the value in having the Belle is to pull key models into Yan Lo’s lightning dance range, allowing him to teleport in more safely, and place the enemy model into range of Izamu, the (fast) Emissary or both!
Yan Lo has a lot of tricks, but he’s hard to use and it’s easy to get disheartened with him. That’s why he’s mid-pack for beginners.
What do I use the Red Joker for?
Izamu or Carrion Emissary damage are the primary targets. The crew is pretty consistent and with a low variance on numbers so there’s really not too many obvious choices.
Some possible next steps
Using other Ancestors. Yin the Penangalan is a natural fit with this crew, and between Yin (especially with Unnerving Aura) and Izamu, you can Lightning Dance something into a whole world of pain. Toshiro is the other Ancestor, and he can summon 5SS minions off corpse and scrap markers: however, he’s a little trickier to use and protect, which is why he didn’t make the beginner list. Just don’t take ALL the ancestors at once! Three is a reasonable max, not counting Yan Lo.
Anna Lovelace. Lightning Dance and Lures are great ways to get models where you need them, but everyone knows that Malifaux is all about extra movement shenanigans, and Anna helps shut down those of your opponent. With a massive 8″ that stops anyone from placing or pushing into, you can have a much higher degree of confidence that things will stay where you put them. She can also shoot into combat without randomizing, meaning she can partake in your “kill zone” between Izamu and whomever else. Finally, if she’s able to hit moderate or severe on her casting attack, she can summon a zombie or a seishin, which makes for easy meat for Yan Lo to get some emergency Chi if he needs to.
No Ancestors. At which point, you can obviously drop the Reliquary. Yan Lo is a Master who can support pretty much any crew (because who doesn’t want Armor +2 and healing?) so you can just pick your favorite models and slap them on the table with Yan Lo (and I frequently do). He’s also great to add in a model that you want to test with, for exactly the same reason. Sure, it won’t have the world’s best synergy, but it’s probably the most forgiving way to be able to test something out. I’d still recommend the Soul Porter tho, but this is the one place where you might consider the Grave Spirit – woohoo Armor +4!
- Nicodem, Undertaker, Maniacal Laugh – 6SS Cache
- Mortimer, Corpse Bloat
- Carrion Emissary, Carrion Conflux
- Bete Noire
Purchases: Crooligans, Bete Noire (The Hanged, The Drowned, Mindless Zombies)
Nicodem is the most flexible summoner in the game. He has access to a whopping 17 different Minions, meaning he has a tool at his disposal for pretty much any situation. However, as a beginner choosing between so many possible summons is pretty intimidating! I’m going to assume you already have Rotten Belles, so you can probably get by with just getting a box of The Hanged and a box of The Drowned.
Combined with Crooligans, Rotten Belles and the Punk Zombies you get in the boxed set, these minions will give you a lot of flexibility to deal with most scheme pools and opponents. The Hanged are arguably the most feared Minion in the game (for good reason!) and can easily swing games on their own. The Drowned are tough minions who can hold points and drop Scheme Markers when they die. Punk Zombies are solid all-round combat minions, and I’ve already written a whole section on Belles (see Top Tools above in case you skipped!). Crooligans are excellent scheme runners, and surprisingly survivable.
So, what about the other 12 models he can summon? They all do something similar to the five minions I’ve already talked about, but will do it marginally better or worse, depending on the opponent and situation. These five summons are very solid for all situations and are great for getting started. Once you’ve got a good handle on how the crew plays and what/when to summon, you’ll be able to cast a critical eye at other possible options and buy them as appropriate.
Now, how does this crew work? Nicodem has a 6″ to give to Df and Ml for any Undead. This can stack with the Conflux on the Emissary, which is a 4″ to give to friendly Minion Attack duels. However, the stack isn’t necessary – think more that the Emissary and Nicodem give you two focal points for your models so that you can do more things. If they happen to converge then great! A 6″ bubble + 4″ bubble + 30mm base means they can be ~11″ apart and still have a model get both benefits. Just be aware that The Hanged generally wants to be near the Emissary more than Nicodem, because it’s using a Ca attack.
When you draw your hand each turn, you’re going to need to mentally set aside the cards you’re going to summon with. If you get a 13 of any suit, turn it into The Hanged (unless you have two on the board already, in which case try to hold on to it to summon The Hanged later). You’ll need to spend a Soulstone for the unless you’re lucky enough to draw the 13 in that suit. Beyond the Hanged, you’ll need an 11 for Punk Zombies, 10 for Drowned, 9 for a Belle and 8 for a Crooligan. You only have six or seven stones, so ideally keep your 9+ for summoning. Keeping a 10 in hand is also good for saving Bete Noir, so if she’s out or likely to come out in a turn, keep that 10.
Aim to summon at least once per turn, but don’t burn too many resources in summoning. You can use up corpse markers to get +1 Ca, but only do that if it’s necessary and efficient – everything to do with summoning is some kind of resource trade off. e.g. if I have the 12 of Tomes, I could burn a corpse marker and Soulstone to summon The Hanged, or I could just burn the Soulstone to summon a Punk Zombie – unless I really need The Hanged, the Punk Zombie is likely a better choice. If I have two 12s and one is the 12 of , then maybe burning that Corpse Marker *IS* a good idea because then I can summon two of The Hanged.
The summoning action Re-animator has a Range of 10″ but you’re going to want to keep to 6″ where possible (or within 6″ of the Vulture), so that the summoned model comes in immune to Slow. However, you can also move Nicodem or the Vulture to be closer to that model before it activates because Slow is a Condition, and once you become immune to that Condition you immediately lose it (BRB page 39, in case you need to show someone later). Muwahahahah, which turns corpse markers into Zombies, is something you want to do when you have a few corpse markers nearby – it only needs a 7 of any suit. Once you use a Zombie within 6″ for summoning, don’t forget to draw a card from Undertaker’s I Can Use That ability. Activate your Zombie before killing it, remembering that it’s Immune to Slow inside the Nicodem/Vulture bubble.
Nicodem also likes to give out Fast – he only needs a four to do it, so it’s likely you’ll be able to just flip it off the top of the deck, but worth remembering that a 4 or 5 in your hand still has a use. Don’t forget it’s ANY friendly Undead model so while it’s primarily for your summons, it’s also good for Bete Noir. Finally he can group heal on an 8, and potentially damage enemies at the same time with a :blast.
The Crooligans serve two purposes in this crew. Firstly, they can be deployed From the Shadows which gives you some extra flexibility in where you place them. This can enable much deeper, early game scheme marker placement (great for Leave Your Mark among others). Secondly, when you place them relatively close to the opponent’s crew, your opponent needs to make the choice about whether to kill the Crooligan (and risk having Bete Noire pop out) or leave the Crooligan alone and let you run the schemes you want.
Mortimer can make corpse markers for you, either up close and personal against an enemy with his Dismember trigger on his shovel attack (or even against your own model if you happen to have a very low in hand), or just by popping out his spleen with Corpse Bloat. He can also make use of Corpse Markers that have been freshly created near the enemy (e.g. because they killed your Crooligan or because the Emissary just had some Shards there) to throw a stink bomb – Unforgiving Stench from Corpse Bloat. The Vulture can also help with placing Corpse Markers where you want them. Don’t forget about Mortimer’s Chatty aura: stopping people from interacting is a simple but effective game changer.
What do I use the Red Joker for?
Summoning The Hanged.
Some possible next steps
Other Beaters. There are a number of Undead models that you can’t summon that are good for Nicodem crews. Izamu The Armor and Datsue Ba are both possibilities and Killjoy as a (somewhat dangerous) Mercenary can all benefit from Nicodem’s flips. Adding in Necrotic King upgrade to Nicodem can potentially make all the Undead things even nastier, giving them to damage as well. Once you get the Transmortis set, the Valedictorian really likes flips, especially to damage, and Nicodem is able to keep a Rogue Necromancy healthy enough to keep it’s built in to attack and damage for most of the game.
Other Summons. Here’s my suggested order for all the boxes of things you could possibly summon. The Hanged, The Drowned, Necropunks, Shikome, University of Transmortis, Guild Autopsies, Dead Doxies. Draugr haven’t been released yet, and I’m assuming you already have Crooligans and both Seamus and McMourning boxes so you’ve got Rotten Belles, Canine Remains and a Flesh Construct (and your Nurses!) – otherwise buy Rotten Belles first (maybe second after Hanged), Flesh Construct after the University box and Canine Remains toward the end. Ashigaru I wouldn’t buy seperately, but get them from Yan Lo’s box (you’ll also get Chiaki who is a good model). If you don’t want Yan Lo (why not?!), I’d buy the Ashigaru last because they compete with BOTH Rotten Belles and Necropunks as 5SS summons.
- Molly Squidpiddge, Forgotten Life, Tear of The Gorgon – 7 Soulstone cache
- The Valedictorian
- Madame Sybelle, Bleeding Tongue
- Philip and the Nanny, Haunting Cries, Take Back The Night
- Rotten Belle
Purchases: Seamus’ crew box, University of Transmortis (The Drowned, Punk Zombies)
Molly’s unique trait is that she summons Belles (like Seamus) but also either Spirits (like Kirai) or Horrors (unique to Molly, but similar to Nicodem). This choice is determined by a 1SS Limited upgrade that she will bring that also gives her a zero action to make either Spirits or Horrors take a 1 AP action. I’ve written the list for Horror Molly for a few reasons, partially because being effective with it requires less purchases and also because it’s more unique than the Spirit version, where the list of summons is virtually the same as Kirai’s. Tear of the Gorgon gives the ability to take two zero actions, one of which grants Molly Terrifying. In this build (much like Seamus’ above) the key models are all Terrifying or Manipulative apart from Molly, so I consider it worthwhile to give her the upgrade so that if your opponent wants to target a key model, it is potentially burning resources to do so. It can also really help in a clutch time in the game, allowing you to give out both an extra AP AND Reactivate.
The Valedictorian comes in the University of Transmortis box, which I think is a must-buy for Horror Molly. It gives her access to a toolkit of Students which make for great summons vs particular model types, as well as each having a zero to remove Triggers (very annoying for a lot of models who rely on built-in triggers to accomplish certain effects). Read through each one and it’s pretty clear when you’re going to summon each. Keep your Rams for giving the Valedictorian to damage flips and hand out 5 or 6 damage with regularity! Sybelle can use her Call Belle action to move Molly around, preserving your Master AP for summoning and other fun activities. Arguably, Molly is not as much about summoning as she is about denial. Using her Whispered Secret action puts an enemy model in for all duels – without being able to cheat vs attacks, it’s very easy to get to cheating range for damage. Revelation is her Ca attack that does medium damage but will hand out Slow or Paralyzed (more denial) and give you some minor benefit on most suit triggers.
The Drowned and Punk Zombies I talk about in Nicodem above, and they fill a similar role here, but with some added benefits due to how Molly summons. Her boxed set comes with Crooligans for scheme running, and you can even summon her totem on a 6+ of . The totem has a lot of good synergy with the crew so don’t be afraid to summon it back if it dies. It can move a lot of models at once with its (0) action Brethren. This can be great to bring a Punk Zombie or Student into Flurry range. Note that it has a 1/1/6 damage track and built in Infect – with Ml 5, opponents actually have to defend against this because cheating in Severe for 6 from a Peon is hilarious! It can also be summoned 10″ away to help make the Brethren action even more useful.
Molly’s summon mechanic is unique – she summons a minion within 6″ and it immediately takes an amount of damage equal to its wounds, preventing 1 for each enemy within 3″. Those enemies all then take a TN 15 Wp Duel or take 1 damage. She also gives Black Blood to Horrors and Belles within 6″ – this can lead to an interesting tactic nicknamed the Punk Zombie Bomb. Summon a Punk Zombie near at least two enemies (so that it retains Hard to Kill). Each of those enemies will take 1 damage from the summon action (The Ones Left Behind). If you have another model inside the Black Blood aura (e.g. the Valedictorian), then you can use Molly’s (0) Whispers of Future Flesh to have the Punk Zombie take Slice & Dice (which does 3 to all models within 3). This will wound the Valedictorian, forcing out another 1 damage due to Black Blood. So for the cost of summoning the Punk Zombie and a zero action, you’ve potentially done 5 damage to at least 2 models, or burned through a lot of their good cards to prevent it. The Punk Zombie can then chain activate due to Molly’s Accomplice and either Slice & Dice again if there are enough good targets, or just attack directly. (Thanks to Adam from Cheated Fates Radio for that tip!)
Given that the model suffers damage equal to its wounds, you can summon a Drowned away from any enemy models and it will come onto the table and then immediately die and leave a scheme marker. You can also summon something in a couple of models on just one wound and have a Nurse completely heal them as a chain activation. This crew more than any other will use all the you draw – low crows will get discarded by the Nurse (1-5) for heal/paralyze, Rotten Belles can use middling crows for Lure to force your opponent to discard a card (4-8), Molly will use all the high crows for summoning (6-13) and the Necrotic Machine wants a 7 or 8 for Brethren.
Philip and the Nanny allows you to turn scheme markers into cards, so you can easily turn Crooligan or other AP into cards with their ability. They also have a 10″ with the Take Back the Night upgrade so that any Spirit or Horror you have that kills a model within the aura gets to draw a card (once per turn, per model). Philip can also be moved very effectively by other models. Luring with a Belle gives Philip an 8″ walk, and if you take the optional Not Too Banged Up upgrade on Sybelle, it goes to 10″! Great for that late game Undercover Entourage, or other scheme running.
What do I use the Red Joker for?
Most of the models in this crew have weak damage 2 and severe 5 (6 for Valedictorian) so take your pick! You may also want to use it for Molly’s Whispered Secret to get past Wp 7 (losing that duel would require them to use their Red Joker too, so not a bad trade)
Possible Next Steps
More Horrors. Dead Doxies, Guild Autopsies and the new Draugr all have interesting potential roles to play in a Horror Molly crew. In addition, Yin, the Rogue Necromancy and Killjoy also have the Horror characteristic and so can be targeted with Molly’s Whispers of Future Flesh to give them a 1 AP action – with Killjoy that could even be a charge!
More Spirits. Then there’s the whole Spirit build for Molly. See Kirai for some info on what that might look like, but it’s a whole different way to play the same Master. 7 different boxed sets of Spirits to consider, plus you’d want to change up your main beater to Izamu (or maybe even Datsue Ba).
- Kirai, Unforgiven – 7 Soulstone cache
- Lost Love
- Datsue Ba, Spirit Whispers, My Little Helper
- Izamu the Armor, Wronged Spirits
- Flesh Construct
- Rotten Belle
- Carrion Effigy
Purchases: Izamu the Armor, McMourning box (Flesh Construct + Nurse), Datsue Ba, Carrion Effigy (The Hanged, Shikome, The Drowned, Gaki)
Ah, Kirai. The reason that so many players hate facing Ressers. She is an incredibly powerful model and there are a lot of synergies with her crew, but like many things that are very powerful, it requires a lot of coordination to use correctly. This build is the build that I eventually settled on as the combination of simplest to use in order to learn how best to use her. But she’s still tricky and you’ll likely lose to an equally skilled player a lot in the early stages of learning how to use her.
Kirai summons Spirits, including her own special spirit, Ikiryo. If a friendly model within 6″ Malevolence of Kirai or Lost Love takes damage from an enemy attack action, you can discard a card or stone to summon Ikiryo in base contact with the enemy model. Ikiryo can then attack (she’s quite the beatstick) and sacrifice herself ready to be summoned again – she’s Immune to Slow and Paralyzed. Anything she’s summoned into base contact with gains Adversary, so all Spirits get to attack it, including Ikiryo herself. Preventing multiple ranged attacks is a key function for Ikiryo.
Kirai’s main summoning action damages her own models and the spirit itself, equal to half the summoned model’s wounds. The Flesh Construct is there to provide 13+ wounds worth of summoning – it heals itself and can easily be ‘refreshed’ by the Nurse. Other than having spirits ripped out of him, his main job is as a bit of a bodyguard for Kirai. Lost Love works to extend your Malevolence aura and LoS for summoning Ikiryo. The Rotten Belle can lure things closer for being attacked, or even function as a secondary summoning battery.
Datsue Ba is the workhorse of this crew. She can move other Spirits for a zero, or summon a Seishin (Kirai can sac these to get casting bonuses, or put damage on them as a Df trigger, so you often want one or two within 2″ of Kirai). Her attacks ignore armor, but the really key thing about her is her Weigh Sins action. You can either cast this (needs a 9 or higher to go off) or hit it as a trigger on her Ml attack. This action has a 1/2/6 damage spread, so it’s unlikely to kill something without cheating. However, it can plink off that last damage on a Hard to Kill model and has a built in trigger to summon a Gaki when you kill something – that can upgrade to an Onryo with a (which is why Izamu carries the 0SS upgrade for buffing Onryo).
Kirai can use her Swirling Spirits action to help move spirits around, and often this is Izamu who is quite slow and on a big base. However, placing him 12″ away and ideally within 3″ of something you want to kill is amazing! Do that and live the dream of having the Nurse give him Hallucinogens (+2 Ml damage!) and watch your opponent weep as they suffer 3 Min damage 5 attacks with built in flips to damage! She also has a Ca attack that doesn’t randomize in combat and does min damage 3 with the Unforgiven upgrade – another good way to spend your AP when the summoning options are low due to what’s in your hand.
So, what are you summoning? Your go to models are of course The Hanged and the The Drowned, but you’ll also get mileage out of Shikome (both for attacking and scheme running) and Goryo (not released yet, but they fill a similar attack role to Punk Zombies). The cheaper minions (Onryo, Gaki) are best summoned from Datsue Ba’s attacks, but if you need a minion somewhere and you’ve only got an 8 or 9 of then do it! Night Terrors (the 3SS insignificant minion) are good for Interference and Extraction, when you need bodies to count for the scheme. They are fast moving and survivable (with Incorporeal and Hard to Kill). But primarily you’ll summon the top 4 minions. Again, like with Nicodem, you have the option to increase your Ca value, this time by sacrificing a Seishin – only do this if you really must in order to score points, because keeping the Seishin around is usually a better idea (for Kirai’s Df/Wp trigger for instance).
What do I use the Red Joker for?
Datsue Ba damage on Weigh Sins is awesome – 7 damage kills many models and turns them into one of yours. This is a swing of 4 AP, which can’t be overstated! Also, a Red Joker also can be used to summon a Hanged, so pick which you need more 🙂
Possible Next Steps
Kirai Upgrades. This list only gives her one upgrade. She has multiple others to choose from, all of which give her different actions and abilities that end up creating a more powerful but trickier Master to use. Experiment and see what works for you.
The Lovelace Sisters. Combining Anna Lovelace and Hannah gives you a lot more card draw which results in more summons. Both of these models can be protected by Malevolence and give you a lot of control possibilities. However, as a pair they are 20SS base and again they take some finesse to use correctly.
- Tara, Knowledge of Eternity, Obliteration Symbiote – 7 Soulstone cache
- Karina, The Faces Of Oblivion
- Scion of the Void
- The Nothing Beast, Void Shield
- Rotten Belle
- Void Wretch x2
Purchases: Anna Lovelace, Scion of the Void
A big caveat for this section: if you’re starting out with Ressers, you probably shouldn’t start with Tara. Her boxed set is only usable by her in-faction, which means if you buy a second master, you’re literally starting from scratch. Subsequently, I’m assuming you’re choosing Tara as a second or subsequent Master. Her mechanics revolve thematically around manipulating time and the void, so she and her crew give out Fast (and Slow) even to enemy models, bury/unbury them, and then get advantages when attacking those models (even while buried!). She also pitches cards and her Nothing Beast and Void Wretches want to have an empty hand in order to have a high Df, so I’ve avoided models that are going to want to cheat a lot.
This crew wants Tara to activate first so that she can also activate last. Second will be Karina, who will use any high she has to summon Horrors – Punk Zombies and Drowned are the easy go-to models here, but Crooligans or Guild Autopsies are available on a lower card. Karina is an Enforcer so can’t spend a stone, which is why it’s only crows. Having her go second means you’re getting rid of cards to keep the Nothing Beast and Void Wretch’s Df as high as possible. If you can activate the Nurse third, you can pitch a card for her to have a suit, meaning you’re likely on only 1 or 2 cards at this point (3 from Tara, hopefully 1 for Karina, potentially 1 for the Nurse). Going to zero this early in the turn is probably not what you want to do, but different triggers on the models in the crew will allow you to draw a card or two during the turn so it’s not awful (you often need to keep at least one for Horror duels or to get you out of some kind of jam).
You can bury models in this crew and unbury them using the Scion of the Void – that can be very helpful for positioning models exactly where you want them. Likewise, Obliteration Symbiote on Tara, particularly during her second activation in the turn, will allow you accomplish other fun shenanigans by unburying a previously buried enemy model and taking a full activation with them. Knowledge of Eternity gives Tara a Ca7 with a built in trigger to bury enemy models, so you should be able to pick and choose which model you want to use. Be aware that if the model you bury hasn’t activated and then you unbury it, it will get to activate once your turn is done.
What do I use the Red Joker for?
Primarily you’ll use it for the big damage spread on these models – the Scion or the Nothing Beast. However, if you think you’re going to lose a living model (Nurse, Anna) near Karina in the turn you have it in hand, you can keep it to summon a Death Marshal. However, you’ll maybe only do this once. Ever. So don’t sweat it too much 🙂
Possible next steps
Corpse bombing. If you take Tara with Spare Parts and put Corpse Bloat on a survivable model, you can often summon a Rogue Necromancy as early as Turn 2 (or Turn 1 if you get lucky), and again on turn 3 or 4. Summoning such a big model, especially with Fast, can really swing the game in your favor.
All the Wretches. Void Wretches are excellent scheme runners, and very survivable. Using 3 (or more) for Interference, when combined with schemes like Leave Your Mark or Covert Breakthrough and all the bury mechanics in the crew can lead to a very difficult game for your opponent.
Thanks for reading through the guide, or even just the parts you did read! If you have any feedback, please leave it below. Thanks to Matt Beasley and Tom Weber for providing a lot of feedback as I wrote each crew list – neither of them play Ressers, so it was great to see how easy/difficult the list was for someone to understand and play. And thanks to the folks on the various Malifaux chat channels who have helped keep me sane while I wrote and provided ideas and feedback on the lists. Thanks also to the commenters in the forum thread who have found some nits that I overlooked – these have now been picked!