Welcome back, Mali-folks! So far in my Madness of Malifaux reviews, I’ve covered the Guild’s Harold Tull and his Cavaliers, the Arcanists’ Damian Ravencroft and the followers of Witness, the Neverborn/Resurrectionist Master Kastore and his Returned, and in an exclusive preview column, the Clampett family (and then a second column covering the rest of the clan). Today we’ll be visiting the secretive Library of All Things and meeting one of its keepers, newcomer Linh Ly of the Ten Thunders!
Welcome to the Red Library
Malifaux has a lot of ancient secrets. And a few of them are even safe to visit! One such place is the Library of All Things, a massive and non-euclidean bookspace that would be familiar to any fan of Terry Pratchett. The Library contains all books that ever were and ever would be, and a few things that never were: spirits, creatures of myth, stories and legends brought to life by the sheer volume of learning concentrated in Malifaux’s powerful aetheric field.
It’s not clear how the Ten Thunders first accessed the Library, or exactly what rituals they used to seal part of it off. The Red Library contains books by, for, and about the Three Kingdoms: China, Japan, and Viet Nam. It’s been portioned off from the main Library by powerful magic, partially to give the Thunders a safe(r) place to study the Library’s magic, partially to keep the stories and secrets of the Kingdoms safe. The Thunders have appointed a chief librarian to run their Red Library. Originally, it was the bitter old man Haru Katanaka, but these days it’s the young, idealistic Linh Ly. Hailing from Viet Nam, Linh is a thoughtful woman, keen to learn and perhaps not as careful as she should be. The older scribes may scoff at her youth, but they have a lot to learn from her, if they’d only admit it – Linh plumbs depths of the Library that even experienced bookkeepers fear t to tread.
More than that, the Library responds to her. Since Linh’s appointment, creatures of Three Kingdoms myth have been appearing more and more often, and they’ve even taken to helping the Thunders in their hour of need. These Stories are potent but unpredictable, and only Linh can control them (and even then, barely).
Like several other Masters, Linh Ly leads a crew split across two Keywords: Red Library models represent scribes, librarians and odd inhabitants of the Library, while Story models are legends jumping right off the page and onto the battlefield. There’s some potent synergy between the two, but some also have abilities that are keyworded only to work on one or the other, so you have to read your cards carefully.
Linh Ly, Bibliothecary
Bibliothecary is Core Box Linh Ly, the basic version. This represents Linh as a curious scholar, chosen by the Red Library herself to shepherd its secrets. This Linh is Red Library only (though she can hire Stories as though she had their keyword).
Let’s start with Well-Versed – that’s this crew’s signature ability and every model shares it, Story and Red Library alike. Once per turn, this lets you look at the top card of your Fate Deck and discard it. This is sort of like a once-per-turn positive twist – it’s better in some ways (you can get rid of the Black Joker; if you’re on a negative flip you can get rid of a bad card to increase your odds of getting at least one good one) and worse in others (if you do choose to discard, you don’t know that the card you’re getting instead is any better). But it’s very strong all the same, and remember it works on all kinds of flips… damage included. This crew has a lot of TNs and Well-Versed helps your models hit them without pressuring your hand. I’m not going to talk about it on every model, but remember this ability when evaluating the later entries.
Linh’s a bit fragile with only Df 5 and 10 wounds, but she gets an effective +1 Armor per Scheme Marker near her (to a maximum of +2). If you can keep Markers around her, that’s pretty durable, and it’s not even ignored by things that ignore Armor. Split Focus is another cute ability – effectively, what this does is let your Red Library (see? No Story. Gotta pay attention!) models split their activation in half, taking one part during the start phase and one part later. This action is a bit limited – no ranged attacks, no tacticals, and no Charging because it’s the Start Phase – but if you can clear the Slow off your models, it’s basically free AP.
Linh’s only attack is Ancient Words, which is fine but not particularly impressive, especially with how close she has to be to the enemy – though at least the triggers are good. Slowing an enemy is pure value and Draw Out Secrets creates Schemes, which she really wants to have around. Her Tacticals are where the value is, though. Double Shift is a variation on theme we’ve seen before in Molly, and it’s really good there – giving a model the ability to activate twice is very strong, and this resets the target’s Well-Versed too, though remember any given model can only be targeted by this once per game (so if you target someone and fail, too bad, that’s your one attempt). Lost Knowledge is incredibly straightforward: cash in a marker, draw two cards. If you had to spend an AP to make that marker, it’s a bit less impressive, but if your opponent is generating markers for you to eat or you’re getting them from Draw Out Secrets it’s pure value.
A New Cry From a Broken Heart is an odd action – it requires a Scheme Marker, but lets you reposition it, heal friendlies and inflict Slow. I think it suffers from some of the same problems as Shockwaves, i.e. your opponent can choose which models to fail with, but it certainly pressures their hand. Finally, Control of the Red Library is good clean fun, letting you place or remove Scheme Markers, or push a wagon/hand off a curse token/do other interesting things in GG All, within 4″ of yourself. It’s free real estate, so you might as well use it.
This Linh clearly wants a lot of Scheme Markers around and is at least reasonable at both making and using them. She’s a support master, so a bit finicky to play, but she’ll generate a lot of resources for you in cards and AP.
Linh Ly, Storyteller
This version of Linh is no longer messing around. She’s brought out the Stories and is on the warpath. She’s quite a bit more durable – higher Df, more health, and healing from Legendary Figures makes her reasonably tanky, and By the Book is a killer ability. If she has cards to spend to for opponents to cheat, she can make them lose their suits, which is killer in some matchups. Levi, for instance, is a lot less scary with a 2/3/4 than a 4/5/6. She also has an upgraded version of On the Move in Jump Off the Page – she can reposition two Stories, pulling them out of combat if necessary, and can even move herself (she’s a Story in her own LOS, after all).
Her attack, Creature of Myth, is pretty respectable as well. Stat 6 3/4/5 is pretty much the gold standard for a beater, and this version comes equipped with three very nice triggers. Pulled Here and There is so-so, but when it’s great it’s great. Killer Late Fees is an absolute game-changer when it comes up, finishing off Hamelin, Levi, and Maxine with no fuss and no muss, while Mutilate is both debuff and bonus damage.
Storycraft is a bit of a tougher sell. Adversary is good, but you already have Well-Versed, and I’d often rather just spend the AP attacking again. If you’re getting the Coordinated Attack trigger off, it’s a lot stronger, so watch for that.
Confiscated Lore is as brutal here as it is on Damian and Sonnia – rigging your opponent’s deck lets you land brutal haymakers, and putting a Black Joker right where it can do the most damage is brutal. Reposition is fine, though less essential here than it is on Sonnia; Read It and Weep is a much tastier option, since infinite range irresistible ping damage will never be bad. Finally, Turn the Page is just the kind of bonus action a beatstick Master needs; you’ll often use it on yourself, as healing 2 and clearing a nasty Stunned or Slow will let Linh get right back into the action.
This version of Linh is not subtle at all. She gets in there and smashes things with a huge book-hand. The Library Policewoman is here and she’s pissed. Why couldn’t you have kept your voice down?!
I appreciate Wyrd’s continued effort to make bunny-themed models, but my bunny is cuter.
The Rabbit is an odd little thing. It’s fast, but its stats otherwise suck… until you see Lucky. Double negative twists on all opposed duels means that it’ll take some effort to land a hit on this thing, and you can’t exactly blast or shockwave it to death with Evasive. Of course, it doesn’t do all that much, but I wouldn’t count it out. Arcane Reservoir is of course great all on its own, and while the Rabbit is Insignificant, Phases of the Mid-Autumn Moon lets it drop a Scheme next to itself every activation at the low, low cost of a card (which Bibliothecary draws a ton of!). Remember that Lucky works when the Rabbit is attacking, too, which will make it a lot easier to get off that Blank Stare. Finally, Moonlight is kind of cute, but the only type of Marker this crew readily generates is Schemes, which are pretty easy to remove… if your opponent is generating Markers, though, you can make their life annoying. +2 to TNs is more significant than it sounds.
Mập Mập is a manifestation of the Library itself, a helpful guardian meant to keep Linh Ly safe. He’s tremendously intelligent, like me, but also tremendously lazy, also like me. Still, he’s handy in a pinch, especially with all the booklight spirits he attracts (those little Miyazaki-looking cat things).
Mập Mập doesn’t have that much health, but as a Df 6 Henchman with Hard to Wound, he can be surprisingly tanky. That’s good, because his Guardian of Knowledge ability lets him suffer wounds to reduce other people’s incoming damage. Spreading damage around is very strong, especially with the aoe ping healing this crew has access to (you’ve seen some already in New Cry From a Broken Heart), and Mập Mập can always heal himself if nearby models are Slow. Remember that Split Focus slows your own models, and Mập Mập’s Bored to Death attack inflicts Slow in addition to damage. It also has one of the game’s stronger triggers in Deja Vu, which is a key source of card draw in Storyteller crews. Take a Look is another neat ability- you’ll use it on friendlies as often as enemies, which is the sign of a strong and versatile attack. Mập Mập can also clear conditions on friendlies with Helped By Booklights and even pass them on to enemies; this is often a good way to get rid of the Slow from Split Focus, and it even heals the target. Finally, Boring Conversation is always strong, and Lie Down and Nap has great synergy; stacking 3 shielded means your first three uses of Guardian of Knowledge are effectively free.
Mập Mập is great and not too pricey. He sits there debuffing enemies, making them test before they can do anything, healing nearby allies, soaking damage… he’s just a fat sack of annoying-to-remove health, and that’s just where you want to be in this GG.
Story of Thánh Gióng
Thánh Gióng is a Vietnamese folk hero. In times of yore, a kingdom was faced by a terrible enemy (according to some legends, Chinese invaders of Viet Nam – Thánh Gióng is a popular anticolonial hero). The king sought out a champion and found a three year old boy. Though the boy could not speak or crawl, as soon as he heard the king’s plea, he volunteered. Eating his Wheaties and growing up big and strong, Thánh Gióng mounted his iron horse, took up his iron sword, and defeated the enemy. His job done, he rode away into the sky… only to return when Linh Ly called out for his help.
Thánh Gióng is a protector, and it shows. Like Mập Mập, he’s a Df 6, 8 wound henchman, but with Armor instead of Hard to Wound. Thánh Gióng can Take the Hit, and uniquely, he can do so in a 6″ range once per turn. That is massive and useful not just to keep models alive, but to reposition a 50mm base. He’s pretty fast, too, even Unimpeded, as is traditional for mounted models.
Thánh Gióng’s attack isn’t exactly shameful, either, though it’s not really why you take him; the damage and stat are good-not-great, though 2″ range is nice, and letting other friendlies scoot out of combat is a neat trick. From the Heavens and Sweeping Strikes are reasonable triggers, though typically more useful on brawnier attacks than this, but Defensive Fighting is pretty cute. Stacking Shielded on an Armored model with Take the Hit is a recipe for frustrating your opponent.
His two tacticals, though, are where the card really starts to excel. Righteous Protector is a big pulse and lets your whole crew unpack very neatly, and it can either draw a card or give you a free attack, so you don’t even give up much by spending an AP on it. It even messes with opponent’s positioning! And Heart of a Child is just great; 1 healing to all friends and 1 damage to all enemies in an aoe. Works well with the damage you’re taking when you Take the Hit, works great with Mập Mập, it’s all gold. Thánh Gióng is super strong and a major draw of this Keyword. You’ll get lots of mileage out of him.
Story of Sūn Wùkōng
You know this was coming. Everyone knew this was coming. “Legends of the Three Kingdoms?” you say. “What about Sūn Wùkōng, the Monkey King?” Well, duh. Everyone knows about Sūn Wùkōng; the strongest monkey ever, with the speed of a meteor, the 72 Earthly Transmutations, able to somersault 34,000 miles at once, make copies of himself, and totally steal the scene. Trapped under a mountain for 500 years by the Buddha for his rebellion, he’s back baby. Awoo! (Monkey howl).
Sūn Wùkōng is pretty much what you’d expect – a nasty, maneuverable brawler with just enough tricks to be interesting. His Mv isn’t that high, but that’s not the full story; any attack against his Df might result in him scooting 5″ away, and of course he doesn’t care about terrain. As long as he’s unengaged, Speed of a Meteor is a free 5″ push every turn, ignoring models as well as terrain, that comes with a free Scheme Marker (and can push other Markers around, causing delightful chaos). It’s hard to come to grips with Monkey, since you can’t Charge him.
His attacks are both pretty fascinating, too; the Rúyì Jīngū Bàng is an unimpressive 2/3/4, but 2″ reach at stat 6 are both premium, and it lets Monkey vault right over you and place wherever he wants… which makes the Whirlwind Attack trigger (showing up here on a Mask instead of its ordinary Ram, which is either a misprint or a really weird decision by Wyrd) stronger than it looks, since you can drop yourself right into the perfect place before pulsing out that damage. And Journey to the West is a neat kidnap ability, letting Monkey steal an enemy and run away with them, either doing damage to nearby enemies or drawing cards with Good for a Laugh.
All that, and if you kill him he comes back! I love Sūn Wùkōng. He’s super fast, annoying to remove, surprisingly killy, and full of tricks. He really plays like you’d hope the Monkey King would, and I bet you’ll see him a lot.
Story of Raijin
Depending on the story you read, Raijin was perhaps formed from a maggot feasting on the corpse of Izanami. Nasty, but he’s found work as a thunder deity, pounding out the storm on his Taiko drums. Raijin’s got a lot of abilities that seem linked more by theme than function – Middle of the Storm prevents projectile damage to nearby allies, while Sound of Thunder pulses out damage and Stunned to nearby enemies, and Fūjin’s Wind can displace and annoy nearby enemies. Between Middle of the Storm, Hard to Wound and his 6/6 stats, Raijin’s a tough customer to take down – which is good, because his kit really wants him to be near the enemy.
He’s got a unique melee attack that targets Mv and displaces the target a surprising distance. Thunderous Blow is a neat trigger; Slow is a brutal condition to inflict, and this is the third ability that forces simple duels on nearby enemies. And there’s a fourth: Thunderstruck, a nasty shockwave that also heals Raijin himself, and can either draw a card or create Hazardous Terrain in a weird and convoluted way. Juggernaut provides more healing, and Maddening Drums gives you some damage and Marker removal.
Raijin is a surprisingly beefy beater, with lots of self-healing between Juggernaut and Thunderstruck. He can also force an absolutely insane number of duels between Fūjin’s Wind, Sound of Thunder, Thunderstruck and Thunderous Blow, which will either strip your opponent’s hand or punish them hard for clumping up. Sound of Thunder is worth particular note here, because while it’s once per activation, you will be able to trigger it a lot. Raijin can move in his own activation, obviously, but Thánh Gióng can move him with Righteous Protector, Storyteller can move him with Jump Off the Page, Mập Mập can move him with Take a Look, and Bookkeepers (below) can move him with Narrow Road to the Deep North. Some of those abilities don’t even require AP! If you position him right, Raijin will be thundering across the board over and over again, and your opponent will have to either eventually accept the stunned or keep cheating over and over.
The Library of All Things is as dangerous place. Sometimes you need a little help. In her early days as head librarian, Linh Ly was lonely, and the Oyabun’s daughter was one of her only friends. Misaki brought Linh origami animals, and as her power grew, Linh used her magic to bring them to life. The Paper Tiger is one of her favorites – a guardian spirit as fierce as its namesake.
The Tiger is… odd. It’s clearly built around its Deadly Claws, which are a decidedly mediocre attack between its bad stat, so-so damage track, and complete lack of triggers. However, Stain on the Page forces a discard from each model it tags with an attack, which can seriously add up – especially when you consider its free attack when placed! …but the crew doesn’t natively place it, except with its Blown by the Wind bonus action.
It’s pretty fragile, too, as a 5/4 Enforcer with only 7 health, though Paper Thin’s permanent Cover at least makes it moderately difficult to shoot off the table.
Intimidating Roar is a great action, at least – mostly you’ll use it to push your own models up the field (hello, Raijin!), but it’s occasionally useful for pushing enemies off points. 7th Fold in the Page is cute, but mostly for the friendly movement; it’s got the standard shockwave problem, and it needs a 9 to go off and only has a 5″ range, all of which make it difficult and awkward to use.
I dunno about the Tiger. It’s very fragile for 7 stones, and it’ll often just die if your opponent really wants it to. Stripping their hand with Stain sounds cute, but with Stat 5 you’re definitely investing your own cards to make it happen. At least the art makes it look like the model’s going to be very cool.
Bookkeepers are Linh Ly’s rank and file: adepts of the Library that are able to make sense of its infinite, non-Euclidean stacks and located valuable research tomes. They can navigate the Library, a near-impossible task for the uninitiated, and call upon its spirits and its ancient magic to both guide them and protect them. And they’re really mean if you’re late returning a book, too.
Bookkeepers are interesting – like many cheap Minions, they’re very fragile, though Arcane Shield mitigates that a bit. Mostly, their defense is that they don’t have to be anywhere near the front lines. Narrow Road to the Deep North is one half of the interesting tech on their card – out of activation movement that doesn’t require AP is very strong, even with the various limitations present here. The other real draw to these guys is Book Worm. A single AP, with no TN, to discard a card and draw 2 is really strong. Sure, it means you have to activate them early, but you don’t have to activate them first. This gives you card draw when you’re taking Storyteller, which you otherwise don’t have that much of, and is really the reason you’re taking these guys. Efficiency and Inverted Steps make them good cart-pushers, though Don’t Mind Me isn’t as valuable in this GG as in previous ones.
Neither of the Bookkeepers’ attacks is particularly strong; sure, a Severe Cursed Translation can drop some hefty blasts, but that will involve dropping a pretty serious card into a fairly unimpressive Stat 5 attack. If you can set up the Scheme Markers then you can try to nuke someone for a Moderate 5, which is pretty cool, but don’t think of these guys as combat monster. From time to time you’ll use Paper Cuts to eat an enemy Scheme Marker, but you can also just interact to remove it… and if a Bookkeeper gets into combat, they’re not long for this world.
The Library of All Things has one rule: you can’t take any books out of it. You can read them all you want, but stealing from the Library is a big no-no. Enter the Calligraphers: these trained scribes copy down the Library’s rarest works so the Thunders can peruse them at leisure. They’ve managed to harness the magic of writing, and use it to support the Thunders even outside of their vocation.
I’ve iterated at length about the five-stone minion curse in this column, but to repeat myself, they usually just die. Calligraphers might be an exception. Slippery makes them exceptionally difficult to come to grips with, and Protective Markings makes it a little harder to chip them down. If your opponent can do 5 damage with a ranged attack (which most crews can) there’s decent odds these guys just eat a focused shot and die, so they’re definitely a sometimes-hire, but at least Thánh Gióng and Mập Mập can keep them alive.
Accomplice is one of the most powerful rules in Malifaux, though, so any model with it is worth looking at. The question is, can the Calligraphers set up a beater to take a powerful activation? And luckily, the answer is yes, thanks to their unique and very cool Rewrite action. This action lets you steal another model’s tech, letting you pick from an astonishingly broad range of common special rules. Some of those are kind of whatever – amusingly, stealing Manipulative does literally nothing – but this gives effective Armor Piercing to anyone in your crew, and is also the only way to turn off Hard to Wound and Hard to Kill for any ally (as opposed to just the individual attacks that can ignore those rules). Some of the tech it steals, like Disguised, can’t normally be interacted with at all! These rules can easily make the difference between a dead foe and an annoyingly alive one, and being able to strip them and immediately let your beatstick activate to capitalize is very strong.
Calligrapher’s Brushstroke isn’t even a terrible attack – stat 5 is bad, but 2/3/4 is perfectly average and both of its triggers are very strong. If you can tag an enemy with Rewrite, smack it with a Brushstroke, then turn Storyteller loose, she can really ruin someone’s day.
Calligraphers’ bonus action is potentially very strong, but unfortunately largely a bust – the fact that you need a Scheme Marker to target and it requires a specific suit means that most of the time it just won’t go off. The effects are very good, especially handing out focus to a friendly, and if you have a low-ish tome in your hand you might as well… but don’t expend too much effort trying to make this happen.
Overall, I am a big fan of the Red Library/Story keyword. It’s not quite as strong as Witness, Cavalier, or Bygone, but it’s perfectly serviceable, and you can definitely win games with it. The flavor here is an absolute home run as well. And for Thunders players sad that their new master isn’t completely broken bullshit… don’t worry, there’s a compensation prize for you. Watch this space.
That’s all for this week. Make sure to check out Danger Planet, here, for more great Malifaux content. And tune in next time for a look at the sixth and final keyword of Madness of Malifaux: the mysterious Bygone.
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