HAMELIN, and the PLAGUE keyword, are a versatile, thematic and dynamic crew to play in Malifaux. Hamelin himself is a self-sufficient board control piece, projecting influence through his signature Blight mechanic. His keyword models all interact with Blight in some way, using it for damage and to disrupt the enemy crew. The complementary VERMIN keyword brings a cycle of models that also synergize with Hamelin’s Blight mechanic, while also bringing resources in the form of card draw and activation control.
This guide will provide an overview of the PLAGUE keyword, a brief overview of the models and their role in the hiring pool, and will end with a few sample lists and tips on playing them.
If you’re looking for a crew that can play into most matchups, with strong control elements, then Plague is for you!
As stated above, HAMELIN is a self-sufficient control master. By this, I mean that Hamelin does not rely on his keyword to make use of his signature mechanic, Blight, or to effectively impact the board. He has above average defensive and offensive stats, and his Actions include very useful built-in triggers in the form of Terminal and Taint. On the board, Hamelin will tend to move where his overlapping auras (no less than 4 on his card alone!) can make the best use of Blight tokens. Hamelin’s totems are the STOLEN, a trio of Minions that help him live longer thanks to his Demise effect, while also bringing a ranged offense that hits far harder than they look capable of at first glance.
The Plague keyword features most of Hamelin’s Henchmen and Enforcer hiring options, in the form of NIX, BENNY WOLCOMB and the OBEDIENT WRETCH. NIX is the Henchman you get in Hamelin’s core box, and is one of the most durable models in the keyword. He does well moving aggressively to pin dangerous models in place, or to play a defensive line role. BENNY WOLCOMB brings some ranged pressure, but his claim to fame is the ability to convert scheme markers into MALIFAUX RATs. The OBEDIENT WRETCH is a very affordable model, who brings surprising threat for her cost.
The Plague Minion, the RAT CATCHER, fills a few different roles in the crew. It is the end product of the Rat Cycle; it has ‘Don’t Mind Me’ and so excels in interacting when other models normally wouldn’t; and it has a high damage potential for it’s cost.
The rest of the Minion options in Plague also share the VERMIN keyword. Malifaux Rats are the cheapest, and function both as incidental summons as essential parts of the Rat Cycle. RAT KINGs are the combat Minion, with access to placement effects and the Onslaught trigger. Lastly, the WINGED PLAGUEs are the fastest Vermin, having Flight and the ability to push towards enemy models.
So far, we’ve alluded to both the Blight mechanic and the Rat Cycle. To understand how Hamelin’s crew works, it’s important to understand both.
By itself, Blight does nothing. Models gain Blight tokens passively (through effects like HAMELIN’s Source of the Contagion or the Diseased ability found commonly throughout the Keyword) and actively (through several Attacks and the Taint trigger found commonly throughout the Keyword). Once a model has Blight, a Hamelin crew can:
- Summon a MALIFAUX RAT when the model with Blight dies (Hamelin and Rat Catchers’ Voracious Rats)
- Cancel a Trigger (HAMELIN’s Coughing Fit)
- Cancel an Interact (NIX’s Loose Bowels)
- Inability to Cheat Fate (OBEDIENT WRETCH’s Tummy Aches)
- Once a model has three Blight tokens, the STOLEN’s Vomiting Disease gain a positive twist to their Damage Flip.
In addition to these, the most important common ability that interacts with Blight is Bleeding Disease. This action is found on HAMELIN, NIX and the OBEDIENT WRETCH. It’s Range 12”, targets Wp, and does damage to the target equal to their Blight Token count. In practice, this makes it a fine finisher action.
The Rat Cycle is the second part of Hamelin’s crew mechanics. MALIFAUX RATs can be hired, but also come into the game through a few different avenues. MALIFAUX RATs are a resource for the crew, including:
- Drawing a card on death (through Demise (Expendable)
- Alleviating activation control (through ‘Just a Rat…?’)
- Providing Shielding (BENNY WOLCOMB and RAT CATCHER’s Covered in Rats)
- Provide sources of damage (Hamelin’s Pustulent Tumors and Benny’s “Rat Bomb!” trigger and “Swarm Them!” Action)
- MALIFAUX RATs can use ‘Tangle Together’ to become a RAT KING
- RAT KINGs can summon a RAT CATCHER (Important to note it is not a summon)
In practice, Malifaux Rats will be summoned into the game as a natural byproduct of the Blight mechanic. However you choose to utilize Malifaux Rats, they are integral to how Hamelin approaches the game.
Malifaux is not a game of ‘net-lists’, but these two lists should provide some food for thought on running Hamelin, and getting used to playing the Plague keyword.
This list is designed to work in scenarios with a mix of scheming and killing, as most Malifaux games tend to be. It starts with the ‘core’ of Hamelin, Stolen, Nix and Obedient Wretch to take advantage of the Blight mechanic and start the Rat Cycle. These models can reliably load up Blight and then bring Bleeding Disease to bear, either singling out models or through weight of attacks. The Midnight Stalker is a fantastic, self-sufficient scheme runner for the Outcasts and can take care of a Scheme Marker/ Interact focused Scheme or Strategy for you. The Prospector is a safe activation, allowing you to generate cards and soulstones, while also threatening to disrupt a scheme marker scheme your opponent may try to score.
The flex point here is between Rat Catchers and Rat Kings. Both are Plentiful (2), which means you may never have more than 2 at a time. The Rat Catchers can hit hard with their built-in crows and two very good triggers on their melee action, and Soldier for Hire helps them live long enough to use those actions. It also allows them to draw cards when they kill models, and Don’t Mind Me works great with This Will Fetch a High Price.
Taking the Rat Kings, you give up the option to easily summon in Rat Catchers (if you do so, you lose the Servant of Dark Powers upgrade when the King you hired dies), but is a more aggressive choice as it lets you get the Rat Kings stuck in sooner with Herald. They become more durable with Terrifying (11) and Unnatural Vigor, and if your opponent puts in the work to kill them you can just make more Rat Kings.
This list is designed to take maximum advantage of Benny’s ‘Loyal Rats in Tiny Hats’ action. It does require some restrictive setup (You’ll want to create a pentagon of the Rat Kings, Prospectors, and Nix/ Obedient Wretch with Benny Wolcomb in the center). The first set of activations would go as:
- Nix/ the Obedient Wretch interact, then focus or move. (1 scheme marker)
- Rat Kings each interact, then summon a Rat Catcher with Rat Problem. This kills the Rat King, who are in range for Benny to use Loyal to the Very End to drop a scheme marker. (5 total scheme markers)
- The Prospectors appraise the corpses of the Rat Kings, and interact (7 total scheme markers)
- Benny uses ‘Loyal Rats in Tiny Hats’ to summon 7 Malifaux Rats, which along with the hired Malifaux Rat results in 8 Malifaux Rats.
- Hamelin uses Unclean Influence to have the 8 Malifaux Rats to move and tangle together into two fresh Rat Kings with some amount of Focus.
This build allows you to have a productive turn 1 without leaving your deployment zone, nets two additional models, and still has room for Hamelin, three Stolen, and Nix to do whatever you need them to do.