A lot of the game of Malifaux focuses around things called soul stones. These are the sources of magic for masters in each of the factions in Malifaux. Each model costs a certain number of soul stones to be able to be taken into the game, average game is about 35 – 55 soul stones. So if you and your opponent agree to a 55 soul stone game, your models are based off of the cost of the stones. I tend build my crew and subtract their cost from my total. So if I am playing Ten Thunder’s faction with Miaski as my leader, I can take Ototo as a henchman, but he costs 10 soul stones to be a part of the crew where as my Orin cost only 5 soul stones. The totem: Shang, costs 3 soul stones. After you pay for your models with soul stones whatever you have left goes into your cache that you are able to use throughout the game, you cannot have more than 8 soul stones in the cache. East master comes with a different number of stone already in there. You will want to use something to help you keep track of how many you have throughout the game. Some people use actual stones or decorative glass, I use small candy like M&M’s so when I use one, I eat it therefore it disappears and I am not confused (I get confused easily).
So you have your crew and you have your cache of let’s say 5 soul stones, now what do you use them for? One thing you can use the soul stones for is the chance to re-flip for initiative. The initiative is to see who goes first. The first and second round it doesn’t matter too much who goes first because you can play off the opponents moves, but once you get into a situation where either you want to attack first or haul butt out of there before you are attack this is where initiative is important. If you lose the initiative you can use (or “burn”) a soul stone to be able to re-flip. Sometimes this helps other times it doesn’t. It really is the luck of the draw. But if you have the chance to possibly turn the game around you definitely want to try and be the first one to activate your models. During a duel your master may burn a stone to be able to flip an additional card and add the totals together. Doing this can make your total (combined with the normal stat) too high for the opponent to counter. So if your Master is in a willpower duel with Pandora you can burn a soul stone and use it to help your chances of winning the duel and not having to take hit point especially if your master is running low on health.
If your master is low on health you can also heal by burning a soul stone. You will need to flip a card and based on the card you heal health. If the card is 1-5 you heal 1 health, 6-10 you heal 2 points, and 11-13 you heal 3. If you flip the red joker you heal all damage, but if you flip the black you heal nothing. While this helps heal your master, you can also flip to prevent damage from happening. It works the same way that a healing flip does; based on the card you prevent some or all of the damage, or sometimes prevent none of it; if you flip the dreaded black joker. There are some masters like Colette who can make fake l stones and masters who can like Misaki can steal soul stones. That makes it a little harder to play sou against them trying to anticipate if they will try to use those skills or not. Considering that soul stones are the magical force in the world of Malifaux, some of the masters don’t have a large cache. Case in point Misaki is from the Ten Thunders faction, a faction that does not focus on magic but rather martial arts; she only has a cache of 2 soul stones. This is part strategic planning, do you want to risk having so little soul stones and take as many models and upgrades as you can, or leave some wiggle room and leave yourself with enough soul stones just in case you need them?
There are many elements in Malifaux that take time to learn. Soul stones and their uses is one of those such elements. I admit I personally forget about my soul stones and hardly use them. My opponent normally reminds me I can prevent damage or heal a master. I have to think of a way to remember that I have them and remember some of the ways I could use them such as the healing of my master, I tend to forget that or adding a card to my duel flip. It is such an important aspect of the game that using one of them could help turn the game around into your favorite depending on how you use the stones you have left. Planning soul stone usage is just as important as planning how to achieve your schemes and strategy. Soul stones may take time getting used to using, but they play such an important part in this game.