Malifaux Activation Order

Today’s post will be another that takes what we intuitively understand about Malifaux and breaks it down explicitly, along the same lines as the article on Viewing AP as a Resource.

Order of Operations In Malifaux


Mastering activation order is one of the most important skills in Malifaux. However, it can be tricky to get right. Do you activate the model which is most likely to be killed if it waits until later in the turn? Or should you activate the model which is best able to kill an opposing piece before it activates? Maybe neither one is the answer and you should activate the model which is about to place a valuable scheme marker or put up a defensive aura.

In my experience there are four really pressing reasons to activate a model early:

1) To get one more activation before the model is killed.

2) To kill an enemy model before it can activate.

3) To buff friendly models or debuff enemy models that are yet to activate.

4) To score VP (either before the model is killed, or before the method of gaining VP is denied by the opponent).

Remember, winning the game is all about Victory Points (VP) so the best option is usually the one which grants VP in the most efficient way. This would make option four appear to be the most appealing and, while this is often true, it isn’t necessarily always the case. Action Point (AP) efficiency is incredibly important, so often activating a model which will be killed if it doesn’t activate soon enough can be the best choice. For me, the most important model to activate the soonest is usually going to be one which combines a few of these options.

For example, maybe you have a model which will be killed if it does not activate as soon as possible, and that model is also in position to kill an enemy model before it activates (combining 1 and 2). Or maybe the model is in a position to score some VP which may not be available later while also taking an action to generate an aura which buffs the rest of your crew. Look at the board and remember that, once the game has started, all that matters is a model’s positional value. It doesn’t matter how many stones you spent on it or whether or not it’s your master. If it is in the most valuable position, it should be activated first. And, when possible, activate models which fall under more than one of the above categories.

Of course, activating as soon as possible isn’t always the best option in Malifaux. In fact, activating later in the turn can often reap some great benefits. On the message boards, the term “out activating” is often thrown about. What people mean by this is that their crew outnumbers the opposing crew, allowing their last few models to activate without the opponent responding.

In my opinion, there are three prime reasons to hold a model back and activate it last:

1) Activating last allows you to put the model into harm’s way and make its attacks without fear of opposing models activating afterwards and killing it (this is especially good on models which can move out of harm’s way after attacking).

2) Activating last allows you to score VP more easily (for example, placing Scheme Markers near an enemy Master after it has activated when you have the Spring the Trap scheme).

3) Activating last allows you to put some good buffs on the model before moving in and attacking.

Just like when deciding which model to activate first, you need to keep VP efficiency in mind. You may want to hold your master back so that it can attack safely, but if a 4 stone minion is in position to Spring the Trap, it may be the most valuable model you have. And, when you can hold a model back which fulfills more than one of these categories, that is usually a good choice.

It is also nice to see what your opponent does before committing your models. Don’t just look for the best opportunity; try to guess what he/she is doing. Anticipate what they may have planned after initiative is flipped on the next turn and use your late-turn activations accordingly. Does it look like your opponent is set to plant the last marker for Line in the Sand as soon as initiative is flipped? Can you stop it? At this point you are determining the flow of the game and that is very powerful: use it to your advantage.

Once again, this was probably a lot of stuff people already understand intuitively, but spelling it out can often help. Let me know if you found this useful.


  1. Unfortunately, I don’t have a discussion item to join in with, but I wanted to write to let you know that I find your articles fascinating! Even if it is stuff that people “know intuitively”, spelling it out and writing down the assumptions and pieces of it can provide new insight into decisions, and put a spotlight on why and when we make them. This is science you’re doing! :)

  2. Scott says:

    Hi, just wanted to say thanks for the great article. I’m new to Malifaux but have been a competitive Magic the Gathering player for years so really enjoying finding this level of detail and advice on my new favourite hobby. So much so that I’ve stopped playing Magic as Malifaux is just so damn good.

    Believe me, it might be intuitive but knowing the ‘why’ really helps a lot of people. Keep up the great work :)

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