Malifaux 2nd Edition – Why Do We Need Change?!?!?
Many people are frightened by the thought of something becoming different and generally any time a game system manufacturer announces an edition change the first thing that comes to mind is “what’s wrong with it the way it is?” which is usually followed by “I’ll quit if *insert thing you think you can’t do without here* changes….“
However sometimes there’s a good reason for those changes…
I’d be the first to admit that I liked 5th Edition 40K a lot but even the most die-hard fans of it were aware that it did need a few tweaks and minor alterations to improve it. Instead we got 6th Edition which seemed to many people (me included) to be change for the sake of selling a new expensive rulebook and had abandoned balance completely. I still gave it a go however…but I didn’t like it…so I moved on…
…and was introduced to Malifaux by my FLGS Titan Games…which was mainly sold to me on the basis that it contained zombie hookers…
After a fun few months of killing hookers and turning them into zombies (I played a lot of Malifaux during this time as well though) I began to hear rumours of an impending edition change and that feeling of apprehension started. Like with 40K I knew that certain tweaks were required but I hoped that unlike 40K they only changed what was needed rather than changing every fucking thing…
In a move that was a new experience to me (at least in the world of miniature war-gaming) Wyrd announced that a period of Beta testing would occur that actually involved people that played the game and I was further amazed to find that suggestions made by the testers were actually implemented. Admittedly some of those alterations were changed back and forth a few times as the improvements turned out to be worse than the original ‘broken’ thing that we were complaining about but that’s to be expected. However none of that ramble explains exactly why we needed version 2 at all…
This is the all important one in my opinion. When the system was first created it contained an in-built balance between Masters. Those whose backgrounds had them hunting undead were equipped with abilities that worked best against those opponents, however generally that specific opponent had tools to deal with that particular enemy. In general this meant that player skill decided who won more often than not. However…nothings perfect…and some issues started to emerge.
As new Masters were created, the ‘Henchmen’ sub group of Masters was introduced and support units for existing masters were bought into the game certain balance issues began to creep in. Some of these were relatively minor…others were (even Wyrd were forced to admit) game breaking when put into the hands of a power-gamer. Some of these were just game mechanics that could be exploited with the right crew selection or even with the default starter box crew and others were rules added for reasons of ‘Fluff’ which were used for purposes other than those for which they were intended.
Pandora (for example) was very frustrating to play against as there was no real defence against her abilities due to the fact that her actual game mechanic made those defences go away and she could quite feasibly win a game just by turning up. Some Masters with summoning abilities could kill off cheap models and gain more expensive ones effectively getting a more expensive crew than they started off with early on in the game and though this works from a background point of view it could create issues from a game balance one and some Masters (The Dreamer for one) could use his default abilities in combination to effectively ‘Alpha strike’ the opposing player. On the other hand a Master such as Hamelin to all intents and purposes had built in mechanics that made him near impossible to beat, fluff rules that could be exploited and for some reason subsequently seemed to attract a certain type of player…you know the ones…
Also (as with any system) some models were a bargain and others…weren’t. It was a running joke locally that Ronin were the best six soulstone model in the game…which made the fact that they only actually cost five soulstones pretty awesome. Though erratas and FAQ’s solved some of these issues (in the case of Hamelin and The Dreamer at least) it was clear that something needed to be done overall to even the playing field.
From my experience of the beta testing, all these issues have been resolved. A few oversights by the design team were quickly picked up by play testers and amusingly the power-gaming bastards were extremely useful in this regard as they picked up on broken rules combinations quite quickly, got to enjoy them for a week and then had to find new ones as they were tweaked out of existence. Though a week of hurling Wendigo’s across the table at paralysed Masters and eating them was amusing, we all knew it wasn’t going to last and to be fair I don’t think any of us really wanted them to.
The Learning Curve.
Some systems are simpler to learn than others and as some-one who is often asked to demo games to people I can appreciate that a weighty rules book or a stat card where you need a magnifying glass to read the rules can be a bit off-putting. An additional problem (not just a Malifaux one as well) is that certain rules are explained in a place other than where they are listed. Quite often I was asked what a rule on a stat card does because there wasn’t a rule description next to it and though finding out is fairly simple, having to check a rulebook with any regularity can be both irritating and breaks your immersion in the game which (for me at least) can impact on the enjoyment of whichever system I’m playing.
In my opinion a game system should be easy to learn but difficult to master. In systems that require unit synergy it can become frustrating early on if you need to know that unit A buffs Unit B, which then summons unit C, which subsequently enhances units A and B, which then, etc. just to get your crew, army or whatever to do what it’s intended to do. Learning these combinations should allow you to enhance your crew and give you an edge over more experienced (or lucky) opponents rather than being essential to make your guys (and girls) walk across the table from one point to another.
In some game systems this ‘curve’, is very steep and this can be off putting. I know several people who have had negative experiences of Infinity early on, only to announce that it’s the greatest game ever once they’ve got the hang of it. Though this hasn’t been a massive issue with Malifaux I have had to teach people the fine points of certain crews had they been unfortunate enough to pick a complicated one to start off with…
The beta testing has also resolved these problems quite neatly. All built-in abilities are fully described on the stat cards and each models abilities have been distilled down to the core concept of the character. This means that rather than having five spells of which you only ever used two…you now get the two you would have been using anyway, etc. The ‘upgrade’ system still allows you to take many of these ‘extra’ abilities if you still feel you require them though they’ve been altered to make them all useful. I’m yet to find an ability or upgrade that isn’t useful in at least one situation.
For your general information, the following Masters will have M2E rules in ‘Wave 1’
Arcanist – Rasputina, Marcus, Ramos.
Guild – Lady Justice, Perdita Ortega, Sonnia Criid.
Gremlins – Somer Teeth Jones, The Brewmaster, Ophelia LaCroix.
Neverborn – Lilith, Pandora, Zoraida.
Outcasts – Von Schill, Leveticus (removed due to still having balance issues), Viktorias.
Resurrectionists – Seamus, McMourning, Nicodem.
Ten Thunders – Misaki, Mei Feng, Jakob Lynch.
Should you wish to use an existing crew from the above list without buying new models when they’re released you can purchase faction specific ‘Arsenal Boxes’ with all the new format stat cards in for all the models that have been tested up to now 😉
Though I enjoyed using Seamus I’d have to admit that winning games with him was a massive uphill struggle and playing against certain Masters *cough* Pandora *cough* was always a frustrating experience…except possibly if your a pre errata Hamelin or a The Dreamer player in which case I doubt any of you had fun. The new versions of these characters have been balanced nicely but have still retained their basic character and abilities so there are no glaring ‘what the fuck’ moments as the things that have been changed needed changing.
I know there’s bound to be those people who have issues with the new rules because there always are people who become so attached to a rule-set that any change is difficult for them to except and there will be people so used to auto-winning with a particular crew that the thought of needing actual skill to win a game brings them out in a cold sweat. If your one of those first group of people then at least you can play 1.5 using some lovely new plastic models…if your one of the latter group then you can always go and play 40K…I hear Necrons are a popular choice with the WAAC people 😉
If your interested in the latest news on Malifaux M2E then you can check this post and if you want to see the new artwork style there’s a gallery of it here. My Facebook page also has regular updates on various things (not just Malifaux) and for more information on Malifaux (amongst other things) feel free to check out my blog here.