Friday, September 3, 2010

MORE Malifaux? Seriously?????

Thats right, another Malifaux related post here. This time its a bit more interesting (I hope) as I am going to write a bit about my thoughts on running a Malifaux tournament. Those of you who are now rolling your eyes, have no fear, I am actually running a tournament and will be discussing my thoughts that went into putting together this tournament.

So, I should first put a plug out there. I will be running a Malifaux tournament in Ashburn VA on October 2, 2010. This will be a 4 round tournament, with 4 awarded prizes (more on that later). The players pack can be grabbed here.

So lets move on to my thoughts on why I decided to run a tournament, thoughts on how this came together, and some of the decisions I made in relation to running the tournament. See, Malifaux has not only pushed its way onto my personal painting tray and eaten into the DTP, but has also made incredible headway eating its way into the psyche of my local gaming scene. To feed that Malifaux interest (addiction) we started a Tuesday night Malifaux night at our new FLGS. This has been going strong, with a regular attendance of 12 players and spikes up to 18. Our local group is also seeing additional migration from some of the regular GW players. Based on this interest, I have been involved in multiple conversations on what types of Malifaux events we could put together and that the community would be interested in. After a fair amount of discussion (and because I am a control freak AND impatient) I decided to jump in and put together a tournament.

Size and Structure of the tournament?
One of the first things I needed to figure out was how to structure the tournament and what size tourney I wanted to run. Lets tackle the size thoughts first.....

Malifaux measures the size of a game by the number of Soul Stones (SS) to be spent putting together your crew. You get a Master to lead your crew for free, and then spend a certain number number of SS on your crew, with each model costing a different amount. Starter boxes are structured around a 25SS game, and as such this is commonly understood to be the basic level to play the game at. Many players seem to advance pretty quickly to the 30 or 35 SS level based on what I have experienced along with what I have read on the Malifaux boards. Based on this, my initial thoughts were to run a 30 SS tournament and at the start, I was pretty comfortable with that. I reached out to the wider Malifaux community and had some discussions on my tournament ideas, and got some very insightful and influential feedback. Based on this feedback, I ended up shifting the crew size for this tournament down to 25 SS. One of the largest influences for this was based on the number of new players in my local area and community who are still learning the game as a whole. Making this tournament "newbie friendly" became a fairly strong motivator when I made other decisions as well.

That brings us to the "structure" of the tournament. Wyrd has set forth a system for use in setting up a game that breaks down to the following steps:
  1. Pick a size (size of your crew)
  2. Pick your faction
  3. Select a location and Set-up terrain
  4. Choose Deployment
  5. Select Strategy (whats the mission?)
  6.  Pick your crew (including your master)
  7. Select your Schemes (your personal extra missions)
  8. Deploy
What I am focusing on for the structure side are steps 2 and 6, which decides how your crew is put together. Strictly using this system allows a player to pick their faction and crew each round of a tournament, allowing them to play a separate army based on the strategy (mission) they are playing. Now, based on interviews, it sounds like the game creator's intention is for factions to be picked per tournament, so a player would choose one of the 5 factions before showing up at the tournament. This still allows a player to choose from up to 5 different "Masters" based on the strategy they are playing to. I feel this really sets up a situation where "He who has the most" is in the best position to win the tournament.

Personally I am not convinced this is the best idea for tournaments, although I understand the business mechanics behind the decision. Most importantly, I did not want to set-up a "newbie friendly" tournament that had this mechanic. I originally wanted to provide some of the flexibility the system is built toward, so I had 2 ideas on how to accomplish this. The basis of both these ideas is that each player would come to the tournament having chosen 1 Faction and 1 Master, which would be used throughout the day. At that point, one of these two "Crew Creation" methods would be implemented:

Dual List

Ok, so its Dual List not Duelist..... The dual list idea is to allow each player to show up with 2 lists created, using the same master in each list. This system mirrors the one used by Privateer Press for War Machine and Hoards tournaments. Each list would be built to the specified SS total (25 in our case) and at the beginning of each round the player would choose which list is used. The method here allows the player to build 2 lists that provide him/her flexibility to cover different scenario types.

Side Board

The side board idea comes from my background playing Magic the Gathering. This idea would be for each player to come to the tournament picking 1 faction, 1 master, and then 35 SS of models. At the start of each scenario, the player would construct a 25SS list from that set of models to use in that scenario. This allows the flexibility of having extra models as a "Side Board" that can be swapped each round to fit the needs of the scenario.

Overall I think both of these achieve the same ends in only slight different way, and both provide the flexibility built into the original Wyrd rule-set without the mechanic allowing "He who has the Most" to have an advantage. I also prefer the method of picking 1 faction AND 1 master before the tournament over just choosing the faction. I think this provides an opportunity for players to master the play-style (including strengths and weaknesses) of 1 master, and limits the potential of "mirror matches" in a tournament.

The final method I used for tournament structure was to use a fixed 25 point list for each player. This really brings me back to my "newbie friendly" approach, as I expect a fair number of players at this tournament could be playing with just a starter box. In the future I will implement one of the above systems, possibly trying out both in different tournaments and seeing what feedback I get from the attendees.

Strategies (also known as Scenarios)
In the new book, "Malifaux: Rising Powers",  there are 5 strategies set out as "Core Encounters". To quote,
The Core Encounter chart is designed for players who wish to play a more competitive Encounter. These Strategies represent the core causes of conflict in Malifaux, and you will find that each faction has the tools available to accomplish them.
 I decided for my tournament I would go with 4 scenarios through the day, and ended up picking 3 of them from the list of Core Encounters. A big motivator for this decision was that I would be providing counters for those strategies that required them. I ended up choosing strategies that had a limited (2 or 1) number of counters required. Truly this was a resource decision more than anything else. In the future, once I am able to build and paint additional counters this will not be as much of an issue. I also chose a strategy that is not in the core list, but that I felt was one that all crews could accomplish.  In the players pack I wrote out the details for each strategy, and how victory points were scored. I made some minor changes to the strategies where they made sense to me. Some of these changes were to only allow bonus VP when a player was already scoring VP as opposed to bonus VP on a 0VP score. I also added in some conditions around models which are considered "insignificant" as this trait seemed (to me) to be negated or minimized due to the scoring in certain scenarios.

In a game of Malifaux, each player chooses 2 Schemes to add to their strategy. These schemes can be kept secret or announced at the start of the game for extra VP when accomplished. Due to the "newbie friendly" nature of the tournament, I reduced the number of schemes per game to 1, and ruled that a scheme could not be repeated through the tournament. This means that each player will play to 4 different schemes by the end of the tournament. My decision to keep schemes instead of eliminating them completely was due to my belief that they provide important flavor to the game. I made the choice about repetition based on feedback from other tournaments. I believe that some schemes are easier to accomplish than others, and wanted to make sure these "easy button" schemes are not taken repeatedly and thus reducing tactics and generalship.

Other Thoughts
 I am expecting not only constructive and positive feedback to how I structured the tournament, but also criticism and critique. I am preparing myself to take all feedback in a positive manner, with an eye toward improving the system for the future. I keep reminding myself (and offer this as advice for others) that no one else had stepped up to run an event or tournament prior to my doing it, so some of the criticism may come from people who are just complaining and not willing to step up to improve the system or do it themselves.

I do believe that some of the scenarios may be tough for some crews simply because there is an amount of "Rock/Paper"Scissors" involved in the game. In addition, some of the strategies may mean playing to a draw on the strategy, and winning through schemes. I believe this is the deeper level of strategy that true masters of Malifaux will need to master. Those who play the game and stay at the "easy to learn" level will persistently grumble and eventually could lose interest in the game. Malifaux (in my opinion) is a deeply complex game that only becomes richer as you transition to the more advanced "but hard to master" level of the game. Hopefully my approach to this first tournament will engage the new players who are at the EtL level while giving a glimpse into the deeper HtM levels to come!


  1. I like the ideas that your posing there for the tournament. One thing that I've been seeing a lot is there are varying the amount of soulstones over each game so starting with 20 then going to 40 then to 30 for example which lets people try different things and with an upcoming tournament that we will be having over here (that I'm hoping to get to) the only restriction for the force is you only bring the one master.

    So I would be taking Lady J but would be varying from game to game depending on who I am facing as the others would as well.

    And to see what is going to be happening over this side of the world have a look at the players pack we have here:

  2. No worries, but those will help a great deal. I am always looking for ways to improve this moving forward and am pretty excited to see how this works out.

  3. The different number of stones per game is interesting, almost like an escalation tournament. I can really see TO's going to the one master system, then allowing selection around that master per game. I cannot put my finger on exactly why I prefer one master, but it could be as simple as that's how most every other game does it.

    I will check out the Wargamer AU site. I know I have grabbed ideas from the MOAB and Irresistible force players packs in the past.