Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Evaluating Malifaux

I am predominantly a Warmachine/Hordes player, but like any other gamer, I am on the look out for other game systems that I believe will intrigue and challenge me. I was listening to my new found podcast The D6 Generation and they had an interview with one of Malifaux's game creators. It was an excellent insight into the game's maturity and development. This started me on a quest to evaluate Malifaux, and whether I wanted to play it.

I am in no way going to go over every aspect of the Malifaux game. The game is vast and very in-depth. There are many resources for which you can delve deeper into the game system, so I will put some handy links at the end for convenience.

Note: I have not actually played this game. I have just started to absorb resources found across the internet. 

What I like
The scale of the game
I am not a big fan of high model count games. Malifaux matches are usually played with about 5-10 models per game. Don't let the low model count deceive you. A game of that size takes about an hour to complete the 6+ rounds. 

There are four main factions: GuildResurrectionistsArcanists, and Neverborn, and a fifth, Outcasts, which is those that do not fit in the four main factions. 

So far the total model count is about 100-150 unique models. 

Each faction currently has four masters, which are similar to Warmachine's warcasters, and numerous minions, who accompany masters to form what the game calls a crew.

Overall, a small tight nit game keeps balance issues to a minimum, yet still provides enough variety for the player to expand.

The game mechanics
The game mechanics are quite different from other war games I have played. 

First, there are no dice, the game is played with a standard 54 card deck. This provides the "2d6" style of play, but with a nice tweak: the control hand.

The control hand allows a player essentially five predetermined card, or "dice rolls", for which the player could enact into the game whenever he/she feels is necessary to augment the actions of the turn. This is similar to Warmachine's "boosting" mechanic, but the player knows what they "boosted" dice rolls will be in advance. 

Besides the use of cards instead of dice, there is model level alternating activation: You activate one model, do all its actions for a turn, and then I go, and do the same. Pretty much exactly how Chess is played, but there are special abilities that can alter this mechanic.

I like the different style with cards, and the alternate unit activation is a nice change.

The win conditions for a Malifaux game are VERY story driven. There is no "kill the other side and win" win condition. You can actually win even if you are tabled. There is both primary and secondary objectives which net you victory points.   

The rule set
From what I've gathered, without actually reading the rules, the Malifaux rule set seems pretty straightforward. It seems like rules are similar to Warmachine. I will need to actually play the rules to get a better sense of the game play, but I feel anyone with a Warmachine background would feel comfortable with the nuances the rules set forth.  

Malifaux is on almost to its third expansion book, and has recently released a Rules Manual with strictly the updated rules as of Q1 2011. It is even available free as a PDF. Erratas released periodically to fix imbalances, and is a good sign that the game developers are striving for balance instead of profit driven OP. 

Overall I like how mature the game has become since its release in 2009. They are heading in a nice direction with regards to keeping up with a balanced rule set.

Another thing that draws me to the game is that of model based special abilities. Each model in Malifaux has a card similar to that of Warmachine, but its a bit larger in size.

Each card has specific statistics, abilities, triggers, and skills that are used to make up a model's unique play style. Very similar to Warmachine's amount of special abilities. This makes for a tactical game that is on par or even more advanced than that of Warmachine. If your not too fond of the weaving of special abilities in Warmachine, then you may not like certain aspects of Malifaux.  

On the Fence
The miniatures 
I still haven't decided if I like the game miniatures. I can tell that they are of high quality, detail, and variety. It's more of a question whether I like the theme that they are try to achieve in the model line up. Whereas Warmachine is quite PG in the model lineup, some of Malifaux's themes are not: undead hookers, undead children dragging around a teddy bear and butcher blade... It's not that I dislike that, it's that I don't have much experience with the Victorian Horror side of fantasy. It would be a very different visual experience from Warmachine, and that is always appreciated.  

What I don't like
Game website
This is more of a slight pet peeve of mine. When I first went to investigate Malifaux, I went first to the developers website: Wyrd Games. I was expecting to obtain a lot of information about Malifaux, and even some guidance about the history of the game's fluff, development, maturity, and ongoing progress. It's sad to see http://wyrd-games.net/games has such a weak presence. It can be off setting to not see a mature web presence for a game system these days. It's a pet peeve of mine, but I do think the web resources strictly run by Wyrd could be improved. I want to be able to see a full gallery of the models so I can decide which faction's decor I like the most.

On a good note, they do host a fully supported community website, including a game forum, rivaling that of Privateer Press' forums, albeit a bit less organized in my opinion. 

There are signs that Wyrd is a young game development company, but I believe they have a pretty solid IP to keep the company fueled as it matures. 

Overall I'm still letting all that I learned over the last few days sink in. I like to spend time investigating a new game system before I commit. Because when I commit, I will jump in with two feet. 

Helpful Links:
Pull My Finger: Malifaux Tactica Wiki (Great "Starting Malifaux" section)

1 comment:

  1. My biggest pet peeve (aside from the card system) is actually the setting. Gothic horror? Awesome. Steampunk? Excellent. Magic? Ugh. Why does EVERY GAME need magic in it? Can't there just be a game where it's technology and some supernatural elements, but you don't have to go around picking up unobtainium?

    Nevertheless, nice personal break-down of your proto-Malifaux experience. I like it when you analyse these different systems and factions; keep it going! I might have to do a few on Dystopian Wars...