A Case for Chess Clocks in Malifaux Submitted By Cody Hiatt
Narrative Rules for Clock Usage in Malifaux

This system uses the difference in chess clocks to award points if the game does not resolve and the round timer is called. If the game is finished before the round timer is called, the clocks are not used to resolve any additional effect. The system uses a differential in clock time with the understanding that the alternating decisions in malifaux make it hard to precisely determine exactly how much time each player uses. The clock runs on whichever player is responsible for making a decision. This more often than not results in the clock running on the activating player entirely. The amount of points a player receives based on clock differential is different depending on how many turns were played. Less points are awarded if the game is closer to natural completion. See below for technical specifics of clock usage.

Reasons for Clock Usage in Malifaux

Time is not a win condition in malifaux. The game is designed to go 5 turns and the associated victory points are the only win conditions. These rules are designed to enforce this truth, not supplant it. Thus, the rules on page one are a back-up plan and way to amicably resolve games that cannot go the full 5 turns due to time constraints placed on tournaments. The tournament organizer is still the boss and can resolve the end of the game however they please. This is a draft and the numbers will change with testing.

The rules summarize using a chess clock to track the time each player uses. There is no death or win condition associated, but if the game does not finish before round time is over, the differential in time between the two players awards victory points. If both players were playing a 3 turn game, there should be no forced win condition asserted on the one player who played 2 minutes slower. However, if one player was playing for all 5 turns, while the other played for 3, the clock rewards the faster player. Strategy still wins.

Malifaux is a social game reliant on the social contract. At tournaments, social contract violations can occur often unintentionally. Clock use will obviously prevent malicious violations like slow play, but my hope is that using the clock can take some pressure off the social contract and allow us to have better games with new and old friends. Here are some examples:

  • Say you struggle with analysis paralysis. Using the clock will keep things sporting, you don’t have to feel bad about tanking. Playing slow is not slow play when you use the clock.

  • Say you want to play crews that take a long time to play. You don’t have to worry about being a bad sport who prevented the game from finishing.

  • Say you like counting cards but it often slows down your decision making. Decisions made on your time are fair.

  • Gotta use the bathroom? All fair on your time. Grab lunch while you are at it.

  • Malifaux has a lot of character. As such there are many abilities that add more flavor that direct game impact. All these abilities are fair game on your own clock. Wanna spend your time making rats, giving out 15 focus a turn, and punching for a rat severe of like 1? Do whatever on your own clock bro.

Most of the conceptual rejection of chess clocks for malifaux comes from the amount of handshakes needed for each interaction (adding stats in opposed duels, deciding to cheat, ect.). This is true but not unprecedented in other games. How most handshakes play out in other games is that the clock is running on the acting player, if the non-active player has to look up a stat, tank on a counteraction or whatever, the person flips the clock over. Nine times out of ten, every opposed duel will look like this…

“Archie is punching Parker, *flip* I have a 12 with my sweeping strikes trigger.”

“I have an 11, its defense right?”

“Yeah, wanna cheat?”

“No, single negative right”


The clock did not need to go back to the defending player at any time in this interaction. If a defending player ever decides to tank about soulstone usage, ask a question about Archie’s other triggers, ask how many more activations the player has, or whatever, the acting player CAN just flip it over until it is resolved and then flip back. The operative word is CAN there, most of the time the clock will stay on the acting player as these interactions don’t take up nearly as much time as positioning and analysis paralysis.

Technical Rules for Clock Usage in Malifaux

  • Chess clocks are set at 2 hours for each player.

  • Clocks run on the agentic player. Active player = player who is currently activating a model. Agentic player= player responsible for making a decision before the gamestate can proceed.
    • During a model's activation, the active player is the agentic player.

    • If a player is resolving an ability, regardless of activation, the clock runs on that player.

    • If an opposed duel occurs, the active player CAN flip the clock over if the non-active player must take time to look up stats, ask questions, or decide on counter actions.
      • This list of exceptions is not exclusive. In general, if the non-active player becomes the agentic player, the clock can flip to that player.

      • It is the active player’s responsibility to flip the clock over when the non-active player is agentic.

  • The clock is started after the attacker is determined with the attacking player.

  • The clock is paused in between turns as end of turn effects resolve. The clock is restarted on the player with initiative after it is determined.

  • If the round timer finishes before the game finishes, the gamestate resolves as such:

1. The active player finishes their current activation as normal. Chess clocks keep running.

2. The other player may do ONE more activation, BUT no cards can be flipped during this activation. This often means the player will just be able to take general actions.

3. The game state is scored as if the game ended.

a. A player can score either the first or second point of a scheme as a result of ending the turn/game but not both in this same turn.

4. The differential between the two chess clocks is calculated.

5. The player who has spent less time during the game is awarded victory points based on the scale below. A player cannot exceed 8 total points.

i. If the game ends in the middle of turn 5, the player who spent less time is awarded a point for every 15 minutes difference between the two players. (the exact minute values need to be tested)
ii. If the game ends in the middle of turn 4, the player who spent less time is awarded a point for every 10 minutes difference between the two players. (the exact minute values need to be tested)
iii. If the game ends in the middle of turn 3, the player who spent less time is awarded a point for every 5 minutes difference between the two players. (the exact minute values need to be tested)

6. The tournament organizer can change or overrule any of these guidelines at any point.