There comes a time in every boy’s life when he has to admit that he’ll never be as cool as Tom Bloom. Creator of the good webcomic
Kill Six Billion Demons and the writer of the best mech RPG Lancer, he now descends on miniature wargames. His contribution? A blazing fast and verily flash skirmish war-game Magnagothica: Maleghast.
Listen to the Fortified Niche episode.
Magnagothica: Maleghast takes place in an unpronounceable city. Death doesn’t really work there. Consequently, a lot of people turn to magic and dark arts as major sources of employment. The coolest of them are necromancers. They have gained powers from pacts with devils and thus can raise their own personal armies. Even if they die, they reform in seven days. So why NOT fight?
The game is played on a board of 8×8 squares. So, a chess board. You can attack diagonally, but movement is strictly forwards-backwards, left-right. Each unit has its own movement score, to-hit number (what you need to roll to hit them), armor type, and some traits and abilities. On a turn, a unit can move and act or move twice. Simple! For once, relying on simple D6 rolls doesn’t sting too much.
Attacks deal 1 damage even on a miss. On a hit, however, you get effects as well as effects that are triggered by rolling well on an attack dice. Granted, 1 damage isn’t much and can be completely negated by having the right armor. But even having a source of chip damage makes the game always move and provides some prevention of sad unkillable death stars. Besides, the real meat of the hit is usually not in the regular damage output, but effects that move, debuff, or otherwise manipulate enemies.
If I had to compare Magnagothica: Maleghast to a video game, I’d go with Into the Breach. That’s because the game rides more on combos than simple damage. Seen here in the screenshot are the effects of my magical chain reaction wiping out a sizeable piece of Cassa’s army. I think this unabashedly gamey aspect of the game will make it appealing for WarmaHordes players.
Since Magnagothica: Maleghast is a gamey game game, each of the factions have their own open special rule and then – left unsaid – a special way they interact with one other part of the game. The Deadsouls? They’re secretly the faction most likely to manipulate walls. Gargamox? They might dabble in the plague, but they’re also the one doing the most with sections of hazardous terrain.
Army building is also fairly easy. You take your free necromancer, customize them a little, and then assemble an army. Each unit belongs to a certain/class type, usually expressed in the unique design of the unit in question. Thralls and Titans stand out in this regard: the former can be taken (and activate) in twos per single unit slot while the later have a limit of one per army and take 2×2 spaces on the table. The rest, however, can be wildly different. A CARCASS thrall is a fairly potent ranged combatant. Warheads, Goregrinder thralls? They’re made to rush into the melee dish out damage. Igorri thralls? They leave two corpses after death – and Igorri have a lot of uses for corpses. And as you get more experienced with the game, you can even partake in some limited unit type customization.
Magnagothica: Maleghast was supposedly put together in a couple of weeks, and for that, it’s a stunning achievement. I’m sure more playtesting would find its weakspots. But now, it is a simple and fast game that, as promised, works well on the digital tabletop. Still, one wonders whether there could be a travel version that you could break out for a quick game with a bud on the go. The art for standees is already there…