Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Nuanced Gameplay" - Malifaux

 On a recent D6G podcast episode (Episode 126) around the 1 hour 58 minute mark, Mack Martin made the following comment in relation to his goals for Malifaux V2.

"... the thing we talked about a lot with Dust Warfare was Decision Fatigue. Right now Malifaux is extremely high on the Decision Fatigue. I'm trying to find ways to alleviate that without removing the complexity and nuance... Lets not call it complexity, the nuanced game play. That's what the fans actually like. They don't want 6 pages of rules for every rule, they want nuanced game play where this model interacts with this other model in a very clever way and it interacts with this other model in a different clever way. And that's what we're trying to maintain, the nuanced games play, the optional complexity without making it fiddly and have all these hard set rules that you have to go to the forums to understand how their supposed to interact."
 Mack may not be among my favorite people currently but this is an excellent point which demonstrates his understanding of the existing Malifaux player community.  I am sure it is surprising to some folk, but I completely agree with him on this statement. Ok, well not completely but I do agree with nearly all of it.

In the second part of my "What I love about Malifaux" series I mentioned both Complexity and Combinations among my loves for the game. Mack summed this up nicely with his term of Nuanced combined with his brief definition of that term. Other games I have played have levels of nuance within the rules and game play. Privateer Press's Hordes has implemented this in a number of ways, especially in how a warcasters feat can affect the whole battlefield. In that game, once you understand a warcasters feat you can then build your forces around how they will take advantage of that feat to really create a stellar turning point in the game.

Malifaux takes this to another level, which is certainly one of the portions of the game that not only sets it apart but draws in the players it has. Each model in Malifaux has abilities that create this nuanced capability with each other model on the table. In the place of having one central "pivot" for your army, you end up with a number of models who can all interact with other models to create a web of key moments through a game. Ferreting out these interactions was not only a strong draw to the game but also one of the key differentiators to overall player skill when you look across the field of competitors in a tournament. Those players who tend to end up at the top tables in a competitive tournament were not the players who knew the most obscure rules reference, but were instead those players who understood the most complex and innovative "nuances" and built a crew to take advantage of them. Often this resulted in one or two key "tricks" or combinations that were at the core of the players approach to a game then a series of smaller innocuous or easily missed "tricks" throughout the rest of the crew.

I do believe that an update to Malifaux containing upgrades could include and improve the nuance to the game. I do not agree with the idea that Nuance and Optional Complexity are the same thing as inferred in Mack's quote. Optional complexity is what has been currently introduced with the upgrades in Malifaux V2. Optional Complexity is a situation where the core models of the game are simplified to a "lower common denominator" and then their "complex interactions" are added to upgrade cards. My opinion is that this achieves a very different end state than maintaining the nuanced game play that players want.

If I had been in control of updating Malifaux, I certainly see the benefit of the upgrades and may have utilized that strategy. I would not have stripped down and changed the current Masters and models across the board as has happened. Instead I would have gone through the effort to actually streamline the abilities to make them easier to understand and digest. This could have been done without removing a great number of the abilities Masters had. Beyond that I would have then used the upgrade path to add new, innovative, and flavorful upgrades to models that could be purchased during crew hiring. This would have had the affect of maintaining and balancing the current models in the system while adding in a small grouping of upgrades for specific models that increase the overall options. That achieves both the end goal of an increased design space, specifically for Campaign and Casual play along with keeping the current feel of the Masers in the game.

Just my opinion......

Continuing Malifuax V2 trial play
I know some of my readers are looking forward to hearing about my continuing games of Malifaux V2. It was unfortunate but the game I expected to get in on Tuesday did not come to fruition. I did end up having a very fun game of Hordes against a friend of mine who is learning to play Warmachine. Hordes is still not in the same class as Malifaux Classic (for me), but I don't mind pulling out the models from time to time. The 20 point game we played was pretty amusing!


  1. I think the issue we have here is how subjective 'nuance' or 'complexity' is.

    In Classic some crews are clearly more complex than others, some are more simple, the same applies to strats and schemes, but every player will have a varying level of 'acceptable complexity'.

    I know when I've been giving demos, I've had some people who after 1 activation has a full grasp of what they are supposed to do, others who after 5 full games are still mindblown by the basic action choices.

    When everyone has a different idea on what 'acceptable complexity' is, everyone is going to have an idea on what is 'too complex' or 'too simple'.

    At this point I'm not fully ready to state where I think Mack is in this scale, but from what I've seen so far him and I have vastly different ideas on what counts as 'acceptable complexity'.

  2. For me all masters from first book 1.0 have acceptable complexity.

    What is very strange for me is that in this moment (M2E) WYRD is making MalifauX less complex - and in previous years the "acceptable complexity" from first book change to "different trigger for each suit" in book forth. It is disturbing - first making the game to complicated and then fix it by making if far too simple.