Sunday, 29 January 2012

Malifaux: Initial Thoughts

I've started playing Malifaux. As in, I've bought and partially painted a bundle of models, and have played my first five games. Just about the right amount of experience for some intitial thoughts, then.

Remember, these are my personal observations, extrapolations and speculation. Any resemblance to actual facts, real or fictional, is entirely coincidential.

And, as usual when I can't figure out any better way of doing things, this will be a trip to the Land of Sub-Headings.

Malifaux is what WarmaHordes seems to be to someone coming from a GW background: a skirmish game. But whereas a small WarmaHordes army of 35 points may number some fifteen models, a fifteen model Malifaux crew is huge. The ones that manage such crews are the true fodder-factions (meaning Gremlins, some Resurrectionists, and anyone considering piles and piles of Desperate Mercenaries a wise investment), and most crews at 35 points will end up with five to ten models.

So, there are fewer models to paint. Which means you can spend more time on each model. Which is nice, 'cause Wyrd does make some purdy models...

Purdy in this case meaning 'Oh, heck, those are cool'. Picture property of Wyrd.

No dice
Seriously. There are no dice. 

You use cards instead. Basically regular Playing cards, but with fancy designs and weird suits, are used for all random chance. It's weird, but after a little while, it starts making sense. There are a number of benefits to using cards (though, obviously, it has the drawback of being a lot less scaleable than using dice; it is not really feasible to draw handfuls of cards at once...).

Black Joker bad. Red Joker good.
 For one, the absolutely abysmally bad streeks of luck you can have with dice are much less likely to happen with cards. Oh, sure, you might fail with what you're trying to do, several times in a row, but getting thirteen ones in a row is more or less impossible. Also, there are mechanics in place to let you mitigate the bad luck you get. And (barring actual cheating) decks of cards are much less susceptible to skewed results than dice are. Dice are not generally perfectly manufactured, designs both in design and manufacturing contributing to making the chances of the possible results non-equal.

Not so with cards. 

The cards are a bit slower, though...

There might be an entire future post in comparing dice to cards. We'll see.

This one follows the Skirmish one. Malifaux requires a lot of terrain. And I'm not talking about a GW lot. I'm talking about between eighteen and thirty-six small pieces scattered around a 3'x3' table. I'm talking about a game where, quite frankly, a fully modelled board is very attractive.

We've cheated. We've used old Mordheim buildings. that we've been using for 40k rather a lot in the past. The smallest ones are much too large, so we've used fewer, and I think we've covered a little bit short of the right portion of the table. We've had a shortage of small, LoS blocking pieces, but whatcha gonna do?

Some members have started purchasing TerraClips terrain. Big, modular chunks of buildings, streets and sewers? Yes, please.

For someone coming into this game from a GW (and lately, Privateer) background, the amount of interactivity is astounding.

You know that "first-I-move-my-army-and-kill-your-things-and-then-you-move-your-army-and-overhyphenate" mechanic is not there. Unless you play against the Ortegas. Which I have. No, you activate one model, and then your opponent activates one model, and so on. No standing around for an hour while your opponent moves his entire army. No taking the opponent's entire arsenal's worth of lead to the face before having a chance to retaliate (unless you're facing Ortegas).

Also, both players are very much involved during each player's activations. Many actions (most of those affecting the opponent) have both players participating. Not only does the attacker flip cards to attack, the defender flips cards to defend.

The Rules Manual
I'm going to be frank. Wyrd Games (who produce Malifaux) are a bit green. They do not write the rules that the far-from-infallible GW and Privateer do.

No, not that kind of green...
The Rules Manual, their primary source of basic rules, is a jumbled affair. It is hard to navigate and full of vague phrasings. It's showing its age, really (that being, it's a fairly young game, in years, and in games played by the player base).

It has the distinct advantage of being available - in a slightly stripped-down version, but with all the actual rules in it - for free. As I've made clear before, I approve.

In the end, Malifaux requires more of a RAI approach than the other games I play. Sometimes, the answer just isn't in the rule book, and you have to figure out what feels right. A bit too often, though, unfortunately.

And That's That
Those are my initital thoughts about Malifaux. Still carefully optimistic, basically.

I'll see if this game prompts more writing. It might.


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