Thursday, 2 May 2013

MoFaux second edition!!!




This was actually the article I was planning on posting up yesterday... but you know me. I can't resist a good whinge. The news that Wyrd are about to launch the second edition of Malifaux upon us though is actually quite exciting news for me. You see I've been with MoFaux from the start, right at the very start when they were just releasing nifty looking 'Wyrd' miniatures, but of late I've somewhat struggled with how they've 'developed' the game and their product line. I've definitely been critical of rules bloat and the distinct lack of streamlining within their ruleset. There are also massive issues with power creep. I know fans of Games Workshop grumble about the new sickness syndrome that often afflict their releases, but trust me they've got nothing on Wyrd Miniatures and what they've done for Malifaux.

So for me a fun little game that my other half and I often enjoyed together became something neither of us were really willing to invest the time in anymore to keep on top of. Partly because the exceptional Freebooter's Fate arrived in our household and was more fun, but mainly because I think Wyrd let Malifaux get out of hand. In essence I think Wyrd have been a victim of their own success. From a standing start they have shot from being absolute nobodies to actually being a very recognisable and highly popular brand within our hobby. I guess growing pains were inevitable for them as a company. Those pains though seem to have finally resulted in them looking to release a fully realised second editions, thank God we're not going to have to suffer another ver1.9999999 or whatever.


So what have they said that might actually get me excited about the game again? Well in my article where I asked Wyrd to take a pause for the cause I identified a number of personal issues I had with the game:

  1. The amount of books required to own all the rules.
  2. The amount of tinkering and updating of the core gameplay mechanics, especially the amount of FAQs
  3. The rules bloat around special rules that already had versions that could have been used.
  4. Power creep.

There may have been other things, but I think that was the rough gist of what I felt with regards Malifaux and where Wyrd were heading with it. They seemed to be ploughing ahead and not really thinking much about the internal consistency of their core game. Maybe I'm being harsh their, but that's what it felt like to me and some of my friends. We loved the wackiness of Malifaux in terms of style, we didn't like the fact that it had crept into the rules and led to an overly convoluted experience that demanded far too much of your time to keep on top of.

So what in the announcement gives me cause for hope that maybe they're going to put this all right? Well for starters they've finally decided they need a proper second edition. No more papering over the gaping cracks that had appeared, they're rebuilding a second edition. That's a positive start, and I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt. But in that press relaes they mention a number of things specifically:

  • Streamlined and updated ruleset - now this could pretty much mean anything, I'm hoping it'll mean a reduction in the numbers of special rules and a slimming down of certain mechanics aspects that were open to abuse and just too complex to make games quick and fluid. Of course it could just mean they've hit the delete button and shrunk the length of some sentences down... but I'm positive that they know what needs doing.
  • Upgrade your models / crew - This was a major complaint with how Malifaux grew. There were Crews and Masters that were around at the start of the game that in effect became obsolete if you wanted to stay competitive. So the idea of being able to keep your favourite crew long term and not have to worry about the 'new sickness' will go a long way to fixing many of the issues people had with the game. Firstly though they need to ensure they've leveled the playing field for the factions they've already got.
  • Easier to Read Card format - Thank the good lord!!! The fold out book cards might have seemed cool unique and nifty, but they were a pain in the backside. Nothing was really 'at a glance' with them, and actually required an in-depth knowledge of what everything meant and stood for... and if you were going down that root it was just easier to memorise everything for your faction and use the card to prove things to your opponent. They weren't useful. Single sided playing cards please Wyrd. Preferably that fit into standard card protector sleeves.
  • FAQ - Yes. This is great news, they're going to stick to an FAQ schedule so we know when to look for updates, rather than having to search through forums and being told mid-way through a game that the FAQ I'm using was FAQ'ed 5 minutes ago... ARGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!! Sorry but having to search and search everyday just to make sure I was up to date pissed me off.

So as you can see, I think Wyrd have perhaps been listening to the criticisms people have leveled at their game. That's a great thing, as I really do still like the idea behind the game and the look of it. I also found it immense amounts of fun initially and would love to get it all back on the table at some point, just so long as I don't have to take an MSc in Malifauxology to play the damn thing. There are other tidbits from the press release concerning the second edition, such as more masters etc. and that Gremlins will finally be their own faction and the fact that the second edition will move the story in the world of Malifaux forward. I like to see that in games personally. So I have high hopes Wyrd... don't you dare drop the ball. Peace out!

20 comments:

  1. All easier said than done. Either way it won't matter to me, there's a great cull going on at the moment. Too many games, too little space and time :(

    I still hope they pull it off though! Thanks for the heads ups :)

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    1. Ah yes... the games cull. It happens to the best of us my good man. Even I have had to cull things in the past, and my man cave is HUGE!!!

      Still I like MoFaux's chutzpah and I think I'll give Wyrd a second chance to do it right.

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  2. This is great news and I am looking forward to it. The public beta will be doing the rounds at my local club - as the local Henchman it'll be something I'll push! The current 1.5 version is a lot of fun to play and very popular in my neck of the woods, but were not the most competitive environment. Updated rules and cards will hopefully make it a lot easier and faster to play which I hugely welcome.

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    1. I think the issue round by me is that while we might not all be tournament players we do play to win. MoFaux was just too God damn easy to break. If you wanted to keep on top of things as well it was way too much for a small skirmish game to ask of your time. Hopefully Wyrd have learned from their mistakes and can now see where they went wrong, sounds like they do to me, and that bodes well for the future. Would really like to see MoFaux turn into the game I think we all knew it could be.

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  3. I came late to Malifaux, and as a result only have one box set. Ihope this gives me a new oppertunity to get into the game without the purchase of 3 rulebooks to get me started.

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    1. Yeah, in my area the amount of rulebooks and the constant unstructured FAQs and erratas just totally put new starters off. I remember watching a Henchman try to run an intro game for a fastidious chap I know... I shouldn't have laughed, but my mate pointed out a couple of FAQs the Henchmen wasn't aware of. The Henchmen himself was a solid gamer that knew his stuff... a few weeks later he quit as a Henchmen and quit MoFaux as well. That was a bit of an own goal for Wyrd.

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  4. Hmmm...interesting news day in the hobby.
    Battlefront and Dust partnering up, and now a second Edition of MoFaux!

    Ok, now....I'm just gonna sit here and wait patiently for Corvus Belli to announce their updating their 'download' section so that all the rules and updated army lists are available as single downloads, instead of like, 32 or whatever it is.
    -_-

    Hope all is well, Frontline!
    Be eezy!

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    1. Yeah, the Battlefront taking control of Dust wasn't as big a shock to me as it could have been. 3 months a go now a chap emailed me to tell me this would happen... and I didn't believe him!!! :P I didn't sau so to him, but said I didn't like reporting rumours, still don't. But fair play to him I sent an email and said congrats on being on the money... now he also said he'd heard Kirby was looking for a buyer for his shares. I wander if that'll turn out to be true as well?

      All is OK buddy. Not quite well, but not awful either.

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  5. I've only just stumbled across your blog and I can't believe I've been missing out on this. I've just gone through a binge of "catching up" on many of your blog entries, game reviews, etc. and I find your observations to be consistently insightful and objective or at least in line with my own impressions of various game systems.

    I share your optimism about the second edition of Malifaux. It's my favorite game in spite of all the problems you mention here and in previous posts. While first edition Malifaux runs on a very solid game "engine," it's due for a bit of cleanup and the less time I spend worrying about awkward rules interactions, the more time I have to spend scheming my way through Malifaux.

    I'm relieved that they're finally addressing the poor layout and design of the cards. Each card is currently a wall of text that's clunky to reference and it's a chore to re-familiarize myself with the minutia buried in the cards before games. Cleaner design will go a long way toward making the game more accessible and attracting more players and I trust that this will not come at the expense of the "personality" of the game.

    I'm more skeptical about the new upgrade system. While upgrades have thus far been invoked as a means of introducing complexity incrementally, in the long run they could well prove to be a substantial source of complexity once you have a crew with 10 or so upgrade cards on the table. And that's just for one of the crews. It's no accident that games with customizable models like WHFB and 40k place more emphasis on winning the list-building phase with "options" that are often strictly superior to others, whereas with games like Malifaux and Warmachine, list-building emphasizes flexibility and adaptability to changing scenarios. It will be very difficult for the designers at Wyrd to take all combinations of upgrades and model abilities into account, while at the same time it won't take long at all for netlisting to determine optimal upgrade loadouts. In other words, while customization often sounds like it presents interesting choices, in reality it usually ends up ceding those choices to prevailing internet "wisdom" and eroding the emphasis on in-game player decisions. I prefer the elegance and game balance that comes from all information pertaining to a model being listed on one card.

    Despite my reservations about the potential complexity that the upgrades system presents, most of the proposed changes for second edition will go a long way toward making this fantastic game even better. Malifaux has character, humor, and feels like a different story each time you play rather than an exercise in rapidly assassinating a single model, getting as many little toy men inside an arbitrary square or circle objective as possible, or simply grinding through all the models on the board in dice-based attrition. I can't wait to see the new streamlined rules that will allow Malifaux players to focus on what this game is really about: trickery, tactical movement, dark humor, plotting, six-shooters, ladies of the night, scheming, necromancy, bluffing, nightmares, and the most characterful minis on the market.

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    1. I forgot to add that, if you haven't yet, you might enjoy listening to the bevy of interviews with the designers at Wyrd that have been released on the Malifaux podcasts in the last week or so. There's a lot more detail on how the new upgrade system will work as well as changes to avatar manifestation, the soulstone mechanics, and crew balance. There are also adjustments to shared strategies and an increased potential for bluffing with schemes using misleading scheme counters. The schemes will now be limited to a changing pool determined before deployment, which will prevent people from taking the same schemes every game. This is the same objective-based game we love, but the new mechanics governing the selection of strategies and schemes incentivize flexibility in crew creation. That seems like good design to me.

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    2. well thanks for your kind words. Hopefully you'll enjoy your stay. :)

      As to your comments about customization... YEP!!! I've written an artcile about this very concept:

      http://thefrontlinegamer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/sunday-sermon-locus-of-control.html

      If you want to discuss any of the issues in that article further, by all means leave a comment, I'll definitely get back to you. That goes for any of my back catalogue so to speak.

      But yeah, back to MoFaux second edition, I'm quietly excited and I'm rooting for them to pull it out of the bag.

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    3. Thanks for the reading assignment! It's another excellent piece of writing that incisively distinguishes between qualitatively different types of decisions we gamers can make and the control it gives us in our list-building and in-game choices. I've done an unhealthy amount of reading on this site in the last few days, but you're so prolific it will be awhile before I catch up. I almost never post on websites (despite the length of my previous post), but know that you have another avid reader. Reading game reviews is only really instructive if you have a sense for the writer's breadth of experience, intelligence, aesthetic preferences, affinity for cats, favored game mechanics, accumulated knowledge of the industry, etc. and because you've written so extensively on all of these subjects it's easy for me to calibrate your gaming preferences with my own to help me make a decision as to whether I might like a game or not (for example, your recent review of x-wing convinced me to try playing it before simply ordering it).

      In one of your articles you mentioned that a wargame has to have the holy trinity of engaging background, beautiful minis, and solid rules. Malifaux certainly has the first two covered and I think the card-driven, alternate activation game engine is fantastic, but it just unnecessary rules bloat clogging up the works right now. I can't wait to see what a cleaned-up edition of this game will look like and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it in the coming months.

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    4. I hope you didn't think it was an actual assignment!!!

      I'm glad you've felt the urge though to do an "unhealthy" amount of reading on my Blog. It means I must be doing something right. Yeah, as to the Holy Trinity of wargames I think it is something I will come back to at some point and possibly expand on. Malifaux would score a 7 on background for me and probably a 7 on mini's too, and then given the current state of the game I'd have to score gameplay a 4 out of 10. As you say I'd suggest it's the game that lets them down right now. Wyrds mini's have also been getting better and better lately too, so on that score I could see it popping up to an 8 or 8.5.

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    5. Those ratings seem fair for Malifaux, though I'd revise them upward just a bit.

      Rules: I don't know how recently you've played Malifaux, but the current rule set really isn't broken as they fixed a lot about the game in the last year or two. That's not to say there aren't complexity issues and lopsided match-ups, but I think the problems have more to do with the execution of rules for individual models than the game as a whole. I'm not at all trying to convince you to try playing the game again in its current state, but I do think that cleaning up all these peripheral issues will really allow the core of the card-driven game to shine. Also, we shouldn't have to reassess whether the game is broken or not on a yearly basis, so the easily accessible and regular FAQs should be a step forward for rule balancing and dissemination.

      Background: I think we simply have different taste. Despite having one of my favorite rule sets, "HoMachine" (as you call it) just doesn't appeal to me aesthetically (especially your silly angry elves). Same goes for Infinity and other anime-like games. Conversely, I'm a sucker for grimdark and love the 40k and Warhammer universes, though don't play either game anymore because the rules are so terrible. Malifaux is a step up from the GW backgrounds as it's just as dark and strange but without the fetishism for skulls, shoulder pads, or geneseed bros.

      Minis: The new plastics are great and it will be much easier for new players to get into the game. Despite how much I like the new character designs, however, I'm glad to have all my old minis in metal before the new plastic rescuplts are released, not because I like metal (plastic is obviously easier to work with), but because they're hand-sculpted and feel true to the world of Malifaux. For me digitally sculpted models are analogous to CGI in blockbuster movies in that they seem less gritty and somehow weightless, for want of a better way of describing the difference. Analog sculpts produced in plastic would be the grail for me.

      The next stage of evolution for the game sounds like it will preserve most of what is compelling about Malifaux and clean up the crap, by which I mean the four issues you list in your blog entry above. As you've commented elsewhere, having a second edition will also demonstrate a level of support that makes the game a safer investment for prospective players. These are exciting times for Malifaux and as long as they follow through on their design goals, even imperfectly, the game will be much healthier for it.

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  6. Good news. Malifaux was broken as hell when I stopped playing. Which was just at about the start of all the serious Hamelin and Dreamer abuse that resulted in a complete rewrite of two complete crews. That is not good game design.

    If they pull this off, it'd even be a reason for me to start playing it again. PP did the same when it became obvious that HoMachine was broken and it did wonders for that game.

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    1. Oh good God... I woke up after playing a game against Hamelin's crew in a cold sweat. I'd managed to squeeze a draw, but only just and the ordeal had left me feeling slightly shell shocked. The Dreamer while bad, didn't cause me personally as much angst... but yeah, the game sucked donkey balls around this point and so many people I know just quit. Hopefully Wyrd have worked out what they did wrong (lots and lots) and can put it all back together again. I'll give them a second chance.

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    2. I got as far as buying the models for that crew and painting up the rats when Hamelin was just an annoying as control list. Then the reality of an untargetable Hamelin with unlimited supply of soulstones and rats happened. Since Special Lady Friend was my regular (read: only) opponent at the time, I out a full stop on production for the good of the relationship.

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    3. Yeah... that could have put a strain on your relationship and killed any sex life dead!!! lol.

      I really do hope Wyrd sort MoFaux out, because they seem like a decent bunch of people and they've got a potentially great product on their hands.

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