Thursday, June 28, 2012

Versions, Updates, and Errata, Oh My!!! Part 2.

I spent some time digging through Google Images looking for a picture that fit this article but could not find anything. In the end, I just grabbed the new background art from the Wyrd Forums. It's nice, and has a teaser of the new Alternate Executioner. It also has a teaser for what many believe are the new Nightmare Edition models that will be available at Gencon.

So, in part one of this article series I talked a bit about the updates and new books that Wyrd releases over time. I made a reference to the fact that I was going to share my opinions on changes and errata releases "later". Later has arrived. Before I really get rolling here, let me say a couple things and offer a couple warnings. First, this is a fairly long article. Second, I make some general comments about GW here. These are my understandings, not intended as a rant or jumping off point to start arguments about the merits of different companies.

June 14, 2010 I painted up and posted my first Malifaux miniature.  At the time of writing this article, it has been 2 years and nearly 2 weeks since I started my move to Malifaux. Prior to that I spent 7 years (going back to ~2003?) playing 40K and WHFB. In that time I have seen a number of changes and errata released for all of the games I have played. I have also experienced the fairly wide gulf in philosophy that Wyrd and Games Workshop have toward releasing clarification and errata to adjust their games.

When I started playing GW games I was introduced to a set of rules called Chapter Approved. In 2003 this was a large book published in 2001 (if my google-fu is accurate) that had specific information for the game. 40K could be played with just the basic 3rd edition rules, but Chapter Approved released some errata that fixed those rules. In addition, there was clarification and additional rules in the book that changed the game. I remember the largest impact to my new playing experience was the "Trial Assault Rules". These Chapter Approved rules were used right through the release of 40K 4th edition in 2004. Not bad, a 3 year run for some errata and clarifications along with some additional new rules that were not available in the standard rule books.

The more I played GW games and the deeper into the community I became involved, the more I heard and experienced GW's approach to interacting with their community. I watched, over the years, GW pull away from the community and interact with them less. Official forums went away, Errata and Clarifications were forced into a fairly strict schedule of release, and questions would become lost in space and receive inconsistent answers via Phone calls to the company or employees in their stores. I also heard a lot of complaints from the wider community in stores, at tournaments, in clubs, and on the internet regarding how unhappy people were with the minimal response. The issue seemed to be a feeling of neglect from Games Workshop as a company.

So, In 2010 I start moving over to playing Malifaux. I was now a "seasoned?" gamer of 7 long years (read the joke in that statement) and jumped right into the online community that Wyrd had established on their forums.This was a very exciting time as a gamer for a number of reasons. The most pertinent reason to this article was that Wyrd had a very active community that actually involved the game developers directly. When a question was asked on thier forum, game developers would come out and answer the question. When parts of the game rules were unclear to the posting population, the game developers would step in and clarify the rule. Most impressive to me, when a rule was interpreted by the community to not be working as the developers intended, the developers released an errata on the site and "fixed" the problem. All of this happened in "real time" and I could check on a daily basis to see new responses come in from the people who actually designed and wrote the game.

So, my local group started playing a lot of Malifaux. My Malifaux collection quickly grew and my playing time for other games quickly decreased. I am an internet junky, so reading posts on the Malifaux forums was something I greatly enjoyed. I would make sure to check the forums and download the latest rules update on a weekly basis before heading out for game night. I started playing Malifaux just before Book 2 was released, so there was still a fair amount of change and new rules being pushed out from the company. To be fair, the rules did not update weekly, or even more often than that. The actual rules got a flurry of updates probably once a month. Along with that, the Errata Sheet that the Wyrd Developers released was only updated every 2 months or so. However, my playgroup was also new to the game so our understanding of the rules changed on a weekly basis as we read and digested new clarifications and updates.

This is an important point to pause and take a moment to understand. Malifaux is a complex game built on some straight forward and simple mechanics. The basics of the game are not overly different from other miniature games. Here are the basics:
  • Cards vs Dice, and you have a hand to Cheat cards with
  • Everything takes Action Points. Models get 2 action points (AP) by default
  • Alternating Model Activation, I activate a model then you activate a model. Activate all models on the board to get through a single turn.
  • Move, Shoot, Cast, Attack, take action. These are basic parts of what a model can do
  • Models have limited wounds then die
  • The game is objective based. Completely objective based.
What makes the game complicated is that each model has a number of abilities that it can perform during a turn, with its limited AP. When these abilities across multiple models create combinations, the game starts to really ramp up in complexity and those interactions can be comes complex. Add to that, my local group is comprised of fairly advanced miniature and card gamers who are also competitive. We spend a lot of time analyzing, discussing, and testing combinations to get the most use from our game. Those complex interactions can become very confusing, and our understanding and accurate/inaccurate reading of an ability can create issues and confusion. At the end of the day, the majority of the issues and complexity becomes based on our interpretation of how a complex combination of abilities works. The key here is that the clarifications and rules changes are primarily based on our individual understanding and attempts to create more complex but "game winning" combinations for advantage in the game.

Stepping out of that explanation, I started to hear people on the wider internet and also within my local group complain that Malifaux was too hard to play. There were simply too many changes to the game for their liking and they become very frustrated. In addition, these people complained that the game was changing too quickly and they felt the could not play the game without going onto the forums daily to see what the latest update was. I have to admit, this sentiment really shocks me even today. It has not gone away and as the game grows, I still hear this complaint about Wyrd. Apparently Wyrd is TOO responsive to its community. Now, let me provide a balance here in saying that others will complain, at the same time, that Wyrd is not responsive enough and does not create errata quick enough for the community. What truly surprises me is that in some situations, the people complaining about Wyrd being too responsive are the same people who complain about GW not being responsive at all.

So, apparently Wyrd cannot win.

Lets take a look at some of the changes that have happened and what types of changes those are. Wyrd releases 4 kinds of changes.
  • Model Errata
  • Clarifications
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Rule Errata
Model Errata
Model Errata is the most common errata and change that a Malifaux player will see. There are typically three reasons that model errata is issued, and their frequency is in the following order:
  • Typo from Book to Card
  • Typo from Card to Card 
  • Balancing and Change to models
Malifaux publishes a new book every year and then publishes printed cards for each model as the models are released. Very often there will be a typo in the book. These typos are sometimes true typos where the printers miss-printed some information in the book, and other times they are mistakes that transferred from playtesting.  Some models go through a large number of iterations during play test and some of the changes during those iterations make it into the published book. This happens rarely, but it does happen. Wyrd has an amazing track record of catching these errors before the model is released and updating the card when the model releases for sale. At the same time they will issue an errata updating the public that the card is different from the book.

Second it typo's from card to card. Leviticus is the winner of this category, where his card was just determined to get printed over and over with errors on it. These were typo's and for some reason each version of his card came out with a different typo on it. Wyrd responded quickly and did new updates to his card. This happens in publishing, and is the second most common Model errata a player might see.

The third and rarest model errata is an actual change to a model to balance the model within the game or to change how the model plays. To date there have only been a small number of these changes. In all cases, the change to abilities on the model was tested extensively before release to the public. Most of these changes are in response to the wide Malifaux player community discussing and demonstrating imbalance within the game. Specifically, imbalance that creates a negative play experience for the players. These changes are rare, although they tend to have the largest impact and be the most remembered.

Clarifications are not actually a change to anything in the game at all. These are statements that are issued by the game developers to clarify rules that the community is not understanding. An excellent example of this is the clarification for the Companion rules. Companion is an ability within the game that allows a group of models to interrupt the normal I-go-you-go one model at a time activation order, allowing those models to all go together before moving onto the other player. It can create an alpha-strike type of situation within the game. The rules were written in the first rulebook, then reworded in the Rules Manual and added in a diagram to further clarify how the rule works. Nothing actually changed in the rule from day 1. The developers realized that the rule was a complex concept within the game and players were not clear on how it was supposed to work. After the rules manual came out there was still a lot of questions asking for clarification on how Companion worked. To that end, the developers released a further clarification with additional diagrams when the latest (2012) clarification documents were released. Its key to realize that since day 1 of the game the companion rules have not changed. How players used those rules may have changed due to the players lack of understanding the rule, but the rules did not actually change. Clarifications are probably the second most common "change" that Wyrd issues.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
FAQ's within Malifaux are not overly common in an official format. Typically the FAQ's are different from Clarifications, as these are rules that most players seem to understand but the question still gets asked a lot. Malifaux is a very different game from other miniature games and this impacts new players coming in. There is a fair amount of "wait, that model can do what?" and "wow, how does that work?" when players see new combinations in the game. Most of the time these questions are based on the idea that an interaction works differently than expected from playing other games. A great example of this is "Wait..... The game does not end when all my models are killed? You can still keep playing to get your objectives?". Another is "What do you mean I can still win the game if my whole crew is killed before the game ends?".

Rules Errata
Since the Rules Manual, Wyrd actually provides Errata for the rules on a relatively rare basis. Rules errata is an actual change to how a game rule plays within the game. Most often, these errata are issued to change a rule that is not working as intended or is being exploited by a set of model ability combinations within the game. Wyrd developers are very careful about making these changes, as the ramifications to changing a core rule within the game have a significant impact. I have been luck enough to be invited to help the developers test a set of errata recently, and was able to experience how much effort and caution the developers dedicate to making sure the errata's that are issued achieve the desired results without breaking the game.While I can only speak about my recent experience, I can say that there is a fair amount of testing with very experienced players before any rules are errata'd. This slows down the response on rules errata a fair amount, as the developers want testing feedback prior to changing the game. Rules errata is a true change to the game, and it is the least common change issued by the company. Currently I believe that Wyrd has pushed out actual Rules Errata 4 or 5 times since the game started. Key rules errata consist of changes to the Link ability, changes to the Bury rules, Changes to how the Push rules work, and changes to Poison. Of these, Bury, Push, and poison all came out with the latest (2012) errata and clarification document.

That brings us to the end of a very long article. Malifaux's latest changes can be found in three nicely packaged PDF documents on their website. After reading this whole thing, I hope you come away with a couple points. First, I would love if people would question their stance when they find themselves complaining about too much change. Were you recently complaining that other companies did not respond enough? Are you just complaining? Second, is what your seeing and feeling really a change to the rules, or is it actually a clarification that shows you were playing a rule incorrectly?

Lastly, as I scroll back and review what I wrote, I notice that the picture I chose for the lead-in to the article is ironically fitting. While it was not my intention in the begining, Wyrd's owners Nathan and Eric (who are hanging in the picture) must certainly feel like they cannot win. The picture is fairly appropos.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Versions, Updates, and Errata, Oh My!!!

Welcome to the internet, where even the best intentions get you jump on and beat down like the filthy over achiever you are!

Oh, so I joke, but only a little. I wanted to put up a blog post based on some feedback I have seen recently regarding my current favorite game, Malifaux. I thought this would be a good time to post as we recently received an announcement that a new rule book (Malifaux 1.5 - look to the left) is also coming out. In addition, in just a short 2 months Gencon will be here with the 4th expansion to the game.

So whats up with all the expansions and changes? Well, lets step back a bit and look a bit closer at the issues here. Lets talk about expansions and new book releases first.

Malifaux started off releasing the first rulebook at Gencon 2009. At the time they came out with a bunch of models and released their initial set of rules. The book contained all of the models that Wyrd was set to release with the game, for all "armies" (known as factions) within the book. Gamers picked up the models and the book and started playing. Models from the book released along a regular schedule and everyone was happy. Everything was not perfect, however, and Wyrd responded to errors and unbalance by being very responsive on thier forums and releasing Errata and Clarifications regularly. More on that later.

Then, Gencon 2010 rolls around and Wyrd announces the release of Rising Powers, book 2 and the first Malifaux expansion. This updated some of the rules of the game, and it released a whole new set of models for each of the factions. This set-up another year of releases on a regular release schedule. Lets be honest here, it did not really change the rules of the game drastically. Rising Powers clarified a couple existing rules, added a new model type (Henchman / special forces) and added some new characteristics to fit the new models. It also expanded the entire encounter system to the 13 expanded strategies and the location special rules we now use regularly. The core mechanics of the game did not change, other than to get further clarification on specific points.

So, we power on for about 6 months and come to January 2011. At this point the Errata, FAQ, and Clarifications for Malifaux have become a 3 page document and is becoming a bit bulky. This is in response to the questions from the community, but Wyrd decides they can do better. They lock up the current Errata/FAQ/Clarifications and review the entire rule-set. They sit down with editors and work to reword those parts of the rules that are complicated or un-clear, add in the Errata to that point, create some new diagrams for further clarification, then release the Rules Manual. So, here we are at a little over 2 years and the first significant rules change is released. It is important to note that the overall changes to the rules amounted to maybe 25% of the actual core rules in the game. At the same time, Wyrd releases Version 2 cards for most of the models in the first Malifaux book. Several of these cards incorporate changes that are made, partly based on community feedback, to balance the models from book 1 within the game. The V2 cards are offered as a free exchange, and the Rules Manual is put on sale for ~$15 US.

Then we come to Gencon 2011, and the release of Twisting Fates, book 3 and the second expansion to Malifaux. This book adds in a whole new set of rules for Masters, specifically the rules for Avatars. This expands out the game and is possibly the first move Wyrd made to seperate parts of the game between Newer Players and Experienced Players. Avatars add a whole new class of model that works completely different from Masters or Henchmen (who work very similar). It also complicates the game by adding in Manifest Requirements, a type of whole new extra objective to track in an already complicated objective based game. At the same time, Wyrd goes to extreme lengths to make sure that throughout playtesting, the Avatars are kept at a power level similar to Masters and Henchman. This way it is not necessary for a player to use an Avatar to have a chance in the game.

So, jump forward about 9 more months to around May 2012. Since the beginning of 2011 the game grows exponentially and new players pour into the scene. Experienced gamers and new gamers alike start to play Malifaux. Along with this rush of players comes new issues that are identified. First, competitive Malifaux starts to move into a visible position with tournaments jumping up in the US and UK. These tournaments bring competitive players who start discovering ways to "break" the game and start discovering over-powered combinations of models that were missed in earlier playtesting. The growth also brings in a wider spectrum of new players, along with non-native-english speaking players and additional clarification and FAQ's are required. Wyrd copes with this by pointing folk to the Rules Manual and answering questions on the forums. Errata are created to fix both Typo's on cards along with some balance issues. Release of errata is slowed down a bit as the the errata is tested by the Wyrd development testing team. Around the May time-frame all these errata, clarification, and FAQ are again rolled together in a set of downloadable documents and released to the public in one place, making it easy to track the changes.

Jump ahead a bit to July 2012. Wyrd announces that they will be releasing a new Core Rulebook 1.5 at this time. What the heck is this? Let me try and shed a little light on the situation. The first Rulebook for Malifaux contained three pieces of information.
  1. Background story "Fluff"
  2. Game Rules
  3. Model Rules 
Of these three pieces of information, numbers 2 and 3 became outdated and unusable when playing the current version of Malifaux. Enough was clarified and errated within the rules that the gaps in the first rulebooks rules make it not good. Also, the V2 cards invalidaded several of the V1 cards listed in the first rulebook. However, despite these changes, the initial background story was fantastic but only available in a book that had gone out of print. This left many of the newer players with no good way to get thier hands on that information. To address that, Wyrd decided to release a core rulebook to replace the original Malifaux rulebook (book 1). This is what Malifaux Rulebook 1.5 is. It is a book with the orignial background story, updated and current rules, updated and current V2 cards.

Now, that brings us to the looming Gencon 2012. We already know a new rulebook is coming. We know this based on Wyrd's past record plus EricJ's announcement on the Gamers Lounge podcast. Eric says this book will contain a new faction called 10 Thunders. I suspect this will add a load of new models, similar to Rising Powers. We have heard that the 10 Thunders factions infiltrate other factions. This could mean an additional set of rules similar to Avatar Rules in Twisting Fates. It also might not. We have to wait for Gencon to see.

So, post Gencon what would you need to buy for a "complete set" of Malifaux rules. That answer is simple, you buy the Rules Manual. Basically, you end up with the following two choices:

If you want the basics:
  1. Rules Manual
  2. Model rules on the cards that come when you buy the model
 If you want a complete set of rules for all models/rules/etc:
  1. Malifaux Core Rulebook 1.5
  2. Rising Powers 
  3. Twisting Fates
  4. Book 4 (10 Thunders)
I would probably still pick up a rules manual since its a quick reference and easy to carry around.

I just realized how long this is, so I am going to sign off for today. Later this week I will come back and discuss rules changes and errata.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Malifaux Book 4 Teaser???

I am not sure how many of you intrepid readers also follow the new Breachside Broadcasting website, but you should check it out. Its a joint effort from a group of Malifaux Podcasters, backed by Wyrd (the makers of Malifaux) to support a world-wide campaign that is running. Yes, the same campaign I mentioned in an earlier post.

Well, in an exciting turn of events, Wyrd has released a teaser picture for one of the new Neverborn Models from the next book. Whats more, they released it through the Breachside site!

Imagine that, a miniature company supporting the hobby by releasing teaser pictures via non-company-channels.

Check it out here!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Malifaux World Wide Campaign?

Wait..... whats that you say? Wyrd is too small of a company to do something like a world wide campaign? Only companies like GW can do that type of thing? What.... only companies like Privateer Press can run leagues that shift the fluff of thier game?

Well, you are certainly incorrect there. Thats right, Wyrd is off and running with the announcement of the upcoming Dead Heat worldwide Malifaux Campaign. This is an official campaign Wyrd is running, launching on June 15. Thats this Friday!

So, whats the deal here? We do not know much but new Henchman Wrangler Lalochezia leaked a teaser of the campaign and a picture of the city in a thread on the Wyrd Forums earlier this week. I have it on good authority that this campaign will directly impact both the fluff of the game along with possibly the model line. Rumors are what they are, but we will all find out together on Friday when the Campaign launches.

These are certainly exciting times! I also got this exciting little flier to spread around.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blogroll Update

I realized today that I had not parsed through my blogroll in a fair long time. With that said, I went ahead and opened up the widget to see what was there.

It is not a huge deal, there is no way I would keep all the blogs I subscribe to on my blog widget. I keep those tracked in a couple different places, including my email client (Thunderbird) and my Google Reader account. However, there are some new blogs that I want to give some attention to, along with some old blogs that I still run to when an update pops up. There are also a growing number of Malifaux blogs that are good to follow.

So, the Blogroll has been updated. If this drives traffic in a significant way to anyones site, fantastic. If not, I tried.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Blog Referral - Table Top War

I read a lot of blogs... a lot. I have several linked at a variety of places around here, along with a very long list on both my google reader acount and via my direct email client.

However, this one series of articles caught my attention this morning! Magilla Gorilla over at Table Top War is starting a new series of articles called "Entering the Breach". Magilla is a long time blogger, primarily of 40K, with some great history on the articles he posts. He has recently moved, with his group, to Malifaux as his primary game. The lead in to his article promises a no-holds barred look at Malifaux and the reasons his group is making the move. Even with the intro to the article, this promises to be a good read.

So, keep an eye on his blog (Table Top War) and go read his introduction article!

Monday, June 4, 2012

New Models, Alternate Models, Painting

So I have been in a bit of a slump lately, with very little motivation to paint. This is strange, as at one point in my hobbying I was as excited to paint models as I was to get games in. Lately, I have been more motivated to play games than for the hobby side. This is not a good thing when your like me and stick pretty firmly to only playing with painted models. I have a load of new Malifaux models sitting around waiting to get on the table, but they are without that precious coat of paint that lets me feel ok playing with them.

So, I try and find time to carve out and push myself into the painting. Once I am sitting down with a podcast or audiobook playing, I can typically get into the groove and knock out a model or two. Its been rare enough lately, that I do not have my light tent set-up to take good pictures of the models. As frustrating as that is, I decided to grab some black background quick pictures of the latest 4 models in my collection.

I have started on the Effigies (I have all 5), really looking forward to playing them. The Arcane Effigy was the first off my paint tray. I have to say, I was only so-so when I was looking at the primed model, but after getting some base coats and minor highlights on him I really like the model. I think a top end painter could make this guy look fantastic! I think he is going to play very well with Collodi, adding in a decent ranged weapon (Aetheric Bolt) and also a (0) ranged damage spell as well with Siphon Aether. Bringing along Arcane Reservoir to Collodi, expanding his hand to 7 card, will also be a really nice add to the crew. I will not likely see use for this guy in his "native" faction of Arcanists. My Arcanist crew consist of Colette, Kaeris, and Rasputina, who either want their totems or in Kaeris's case cannot take a totem. While the extra cast is nice, its not better than the totems that the masters can take. With that said, I am considering taking the guy with Pandora, as she can pick up a totem and the extra cast can really help her out.

Next in the Effigy line is the Brutal Effigy. I like the look of this guy, but he is probably 3rd down the list if I was to rank them. From a playing standpoint, this is the Effigy I believe will see the most play overall. As a guild model, he slots nicely into that 4 point slot along with Guild Guards, Witchling Stalkers, and Death Marshals. He has decent weapons, Critical Strike in melee, and a triggered slow on his ranged attack. He also brings along a ability that is typically missing in Guild, a heal. When looking at the Brutal from a Neverborn standpoint, he is also a great fit for a Collodi crew. He brings along some decently hard hitting melee ability, plus has Melee Expert built in. Grabbing Fast from Collodi will be a benefit overall. In addition, being able to combine the Effigies object with Collodi's ability to hand out armor could make this guy very resilient.

That brings us to the Alternate models I painted up. We start with Alternate Pandora and her box of Woes. One thing I have noticed with the Alternate models is the increased amount of skin showing on the models. Its not a bad thing, but it certainly makes you focus on how to paint skin tones. I like this model, although I am torn on if I prefer it over the original model. For the time being, Alt Pandora will be making her way into my case, replacing original Pandora.

The other Alternate model I got painted up was Alternate Lilith. I loved the art for Lilith, and the model certainly lived up to the book art.After painting her up I find that I actually prefer this model to her original model. This is really saying something, since I liked the original model quite a bit. With that said, this still lives up to the "Show more flesh" that the sculptors seem to prefer on the new Neverborn models. I did not set a green undertone this time, as I do not feel it came out well on the original model.

So thats it for this post. I have Johan on my tray with hopes to get him done in time to use him in a couple games tomorrow (Tuesday). I want to get him into a Kaeris crew with the Union Miners I painted up recently. I also have more Effigies to paint up, with the Mysterious and Hodgepodge already primed and sitting on the tray. Then its time to dig out the light tent and get updates to the missing models on my Malifaux Crew list (link at the top of the blog).

And for those who have followed the blog for a while and do not believe I still have an interest in Eldar, here is my painting table. I do have Eldar still on the tray, I just do not get to them much. And for those with a sharp eye, I did not paint it but have had it for a while now.