Archive for November 27, 2013

Burnout

Burnout

Over the weekend I was asked on a podcast if I ever get sick of dealing with Malifaux all of the time. My response was that I don’t get sick of it, because it’s my job. I go in to work, read feedback, playtest, and tweak models for eight hours and, at the end of the week, I get paid. Which, honestly, I think is the only way to stay sane. If Malifaux continued to be a hobby for me, I’m not sure how much fun I could have with it.

Also, at the end of the day, it gets better results. I’m not emotionally attached to one particular crew. I’m a lot less likely to write some horribly complicated ability and shoehorn it into the game because I think it’s cool. I’m not going to make my favorite master the best (or worst) due to my own bias.

In fact, on that same day (different podcast I think) I was asked if I had a favorite avatar, and my answer was no. I don’t have a favorite avatar, because right now, to me, the avatars are still just projects to be completed. I’m more concerned with making them work, and making sure other people enjoy them, than enjoying them myself. However, I do have some favorite models from wave 1 that I’m really itching to try out. But I didn’t feel that way about them while we were still designing them; I guess once a model is out it’s not a project anymore and I can enjoy it.

Even so, it’s hard to stay totally detached. After staying up all night reading battle reports, running quick scenarios, and calculating odds it’s tough to come in again and do the exact same thing the next day. And after releasing a beta update and reading that *everyone* hates *everything* it can be difficult to keep from slamming my head into my desk. I could make a model better in ten different ways, but if I take one thing away, that’s what I’ll hear about. The masters need to work like they did in last edition and use the same crews while being updated to M2E and getting rid of auto includes. Every model needs to be fast, defensive, great at dealing damage, cheap, and balanced.

After reading the forums for an hour after an update I usually come to the conclusion that I’m horrible at my job and I need to gouge my eyes out with a paper clip. Or, at least, that’s how I would feel if I took everything at face value.

At the end of the day, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Every week we’re chipping away at the marble and I need to take a step back and look at the whole sculpture. We’ve made some great improvements in the month and a half that we’ve had, and we’re on track to finish with honors. And I have a community of dedicated people helping to shape the game they love into something they will want to play for years. The feedback isn’t about me. None of this is about me. And any game designer who doesn’t understand that fact will not survive a public beta. It’s about the game. It’s about the community. It’s about coming together and slowly shaping a project into something we are all proud of. Sure, people may want completely contradictory things, but that’s because there are lots of different voices with lots of different opinions. And that’s a great thing. Of course people notice the negative more quickly than the positive, but that’s human nature. And, ultimately, ironing out the negative is what I’m here to do, so it makes my job easier.

The Hunger Games (Spoilers)

Over the weekend I saw Catching Fire. I love the Hunger Games book series and, so far, I think both movies have gone above and beyond in living up to the books. This post contains spoilers, if you haven’t seen both movies yet, do not proceed past the Mockingjay.

Hunger Games

*SPOILERS*

You were warned.

I am a huge fan of both the Hunger Games books and the movies. The Hunger Games is the story of Katniss Everdeen who, in a dystopian future, is selected to participate in the Hunger Games; a brutal reality TV show where children fight to the death. In a nutshell, the basic premise isn’t entirely new, but the story is told in such a way that there are many metaphors which reflect on our own society.

It’s easy to read The Hunger Games and experience nothing except an entertaining story with plenty of action and violence with a teenage love triangle thrown in; and that’s fine. But I think there is a lot more to it than that. Everything which Katniss does has to be seen in the light that she knows she is being watched. Sure, she has a touching moment with Peeta in the first book when she nurses him back to health, but everything she does, she does with the knowledge that she is putting on a show. This is an obvious metaphor for today’s media which displays and judges every little detail of the lives of celebrities (it’s also a great metaphor for having to adhere to the ideals of others in general. It works just as well for the societal pressure for a teenage girl to have a boyfriend as it does from the perspective of media; being open to multiple interpretations is an earmark of great metaphor, but I’m getting sidetracked). Sure, we don’t force celebrities to fight to the death (yet), but we do sacrifice their privacy, comfort, and sometimes sanity on the altar of entertainment. In a lot of ways The Hunger Games reminds me of the Britney Spears Southpark episode. In the episode, Britney Spears is tormented by the media until the residents of Southpark sacrifice her to ensure a good harvest. Granted, at least today’s celebrities choose to be in the spotlight, but plenty of the Tributes volunteered to be in The Hunger Games as well.

I mention this because I think that shining light on this aspect is something which the first Hunger Games movie did right in a lot of ways through the character of Cato. Cato comes from one of the more privileged districts and he volunteers to be in the Hunger Games. In the book he is nothing but a mindless, violent brute who stands between Katniss and her survival. But, in the movie, he delivers some of my favorite lines. “I’m dead anyway. I always was, right? I couldn’t tell that until now. How’s that, is that what they want? I can still do this… I can still do this. One more kill. It’s the only thing I know how to do, bringing pride to my district. Not that it matters.” The movie shows Cato for what he really is, a victim; a victim of the society as a whole not just because of the situation he was in, but because of what he was led to believe. In the book Katniss touches on this with her internal monologue because it is told through a first person perspective, but I think the movie accomplished the same point just as effectively. This is something that few book to movie transitions accomplish; it wasn’t just a straight copy, nor was it a total rewrite, the same point was made effectively through its own unique medium.

Ultimately, Cato wasn’t the bad guy. He wasn’t the final obstacle. The enemy was always the Capital, and Katniss could never defeat them by playing their own game. Her ultimate victory is not achieved through violence, but through self sacrifice. Allowing Cato to appear more human only adds to this message.

berries

Even the cliche teenage love triangle is a great metaphor with Peeta representing non-violence, opposing the Capital by living his own way; and Gale representing violent opposition, beating the Capital at their own game. More than choosing between two guys, Katniss is choosing between two ideas.

Anyway, the Catching Fire movie continued to enhance the messages of the book in its own way. The scene which struck me the most in this respect was when Johanna Mason is being interviewed about having to participate in the Hunger Games again and she screams, “Fuck that! And fuck everyone that had anything to do with it!”

Johanna Mason

The really brilliant part about that line is that both F-bombs are bleeped, because the audience is viewing the footage as if they were Capital citizens watching the interview. The gut reaction this has is immediate, “You’re going to put her in an arena and watch as she is forced to commit murder, but you can’t handle the word fuck?” The great part about this reaction is that is exactly what is happening to the real life audience. Catching Fire has a PG 13 rating, which would be immediately kicked up to R if it included two F-bombs. This movie, which features teenagers stabbing each other, skin being melted off by poison gas, and the very same character which delivers those lines stripping in an elevator, can’t handle strong language. It’s an immediate and poignant reminder about the oddities of our own society and our own values. And it’s something which literally couldn’t have been accomplished by the book.

Of course, reading the books is still more than worth it. The internal dialogue with Katniss is fantastic and can’t be replicated in the film. However, rather than being handicapped by the medium, the movies have taken the same messages and presented them in their own way. Very few book to movie transitions are able to do this, and I thoroughly look forward to what Mockingjay brings to the table.

Viewing AP as a Resource

Today I will be talking about viewing Action Points (AP) as a resource. Doing so doesn’t change much, but it helps to explain logically what most players already understand intuitively. Spelling things out like this can sometimes help point us in the right direction when we have a difficult in game decision.

When selecting your crew, you have a number of AP which will be available to you throughout the game. An average crew crew can probably get about 85 AP over the course of an average game (8 models x 2 AP = 16 +1 AP for the master = 17 x 5 turns = 85). This varies depending on the number of models, additional actions the models can take, etc. It’s good to know about how many AP your crew can generate in game.

The point of the game is to collect Victory Points (VP). So, ultimately, the winner of the game is the player who most efficiently spent his or her AP to gain those VP. The more AP it costs you to get any single VP, the less viable that objective is. For example, an objective that requires you to cross the board is good for a crew with a high walk stat (as they will use fewer AP to cross the board), but another objective that involves killing models may be less appealing to the crew if they deal low damage (as this objective costs more AP for the crew). This may seem obvious, but as I said earlier, this is mostly an exercise in expressing logically what most people grasp intuitively. “Keep to your strategies and schemes,” is common Malifaux advice and what people are essentially saying is, “make sure you accomplish as many VP as you can with as few AP as possible.”

Of course, the number of AP a crew generates in a game is not a set number. While 85 might be the maximum potential for most crews, this number is going to go down as the crew loses models throughout the game. This brings me to my next point: not all AP are created equal. If a model is very survivable, it is much more likely to survive the game, and thus it is likely to be able to generate every AP possible. Because of this, survivable models will generally have less potent actions.

On the other hand, a model might be very good at causing damage.

“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya you bastard!”

Rec Room

In this case, the model can deny your opponent AP by removing their models. Additionally, in kill-based objectives, the model can generate VP at a more efficient rate.

During the transition from 1.5 to second edition, one of the major shifts which we made was to reduce the number of specific AP in the game. Specific AP comes from things like melee expert which allows the model more attacks, or nimble which allows it a free walk action, etc. These abilities were found on the vast majority of models with a cost of 6 or greater. However, these models were generally tough, good at killing things/accomplishing objectives, and they generated extra AP every turn on top of it. One of the disadvantages of fielding a crew of nothing but the most expensive models is generally that you will be getting fewer AP every turn, although the ones you do get will be more valuable. In 1.5, most of the models could both generate numerous AP and use them very effectively (and the expensive models which did not have specific AP very rarely saw the table). By reducing specific AP in second edition, crew selection has become much more difficult. People generally want a few heavy hitters, but they need some good objective runners as well. Hard choices are a good thing for a game.

Of course, we didn’t want to swing the other way either. In the early M2E beta test, there was a great amount of concern about “swarm” lists. In other words, lists which ran as many cheap models as possible in order to maximize AP. However, this is generally balanced by the quality of the AP those models generate. And the key faction which is best at doing this (Gremlins) generally pay for their extra AP by way of damage. While this mechanic is very fluffy for the gremlins, it also serves a very important balancing function; when gremlins suffer damage to generate more AP, they are essentially risking the AP they can generate later in the game in return for AP on the current turn.

Abilities which increase a crew’s AP potential during the game are incredibly powerful, so they are usually relegated to Master-level actions. The most common form of this is summoners who can spit out a number of smaller models to accomplish various objectives. These often prove some of the most difficult abilities to balance. The earlier in game the model is summoned, the higher its maximum AP output becomes. This is why there are often restrictions on summoning which make doing it in the early game restrictive or more expensive (i.e. requiring corpse markers which won’t drop on their own until later in the game, or in the case of Molly having to be near the enemy). Coming up with mechanics which restrict the early game more than the late game can be very difficult and is one of the reasons summoning is hard to balance. Another tool we use to balance summoning is having the summoned model take damage, meaning it is less likely to achieve its full AP potential.

Finally, there are even ways to transfer AP from one model to another (for example, with Obey you can spend one AP with one model to allow another model to take an action worth one AP). This is very useful if you have a big, heavy hitter with whom the AP would be more valuable. In other words, the heavy hitter has a limited number of AP, so other models funnel theirs over to him.

Of course, Obey-type actions aren’t just used to give AP to heavy hitters. They can also be used to allow models in critical locations to take interact actions or drop scheme markers. This brings us to another important aspect of viewing AP as a resource: positional value. We have already established that not all AP are created equal, but up to this point we have only explored how this is true because some models have better stats than others. However, the model’s position on the board also plays a part. A bayou gremlin may be a cheap model with low stats, but if it is in position to place the last Scheme Marker for Line in the Sand and score some VP for you, it may be the most valuable model in your crew. In other words, the value of a model will change as the game changes, and this is something which I call positional value. Again, this is understood intuitively by most players, but it can be useful to spell out.

This is another tricky thing about balancing summoners. Frequently, summoners place models right in the middle of the action, increasing their positional value. A normal model might need to take three walk actions to get to the center of the board, but if a model is just summoned right there, it has essentially gotten 3 AP worth of positional value right off the bat. This is a big reason why summoned models are slow and may not interact the turn they come into play.

A lot of players talk about a model’s effectiveness by referencing its soulstone cost (i.e. “My 8 soulstone cost Coppelius held up 13 soulstones worth of models. Pretty good!”). While this isn’t a bad rough estimate of a model’s effectiveness, the thing which I place the most value on is its AP efficiency; how many AP does the model need to spend to get me a VP? While Coppelius in the example above may have done a good job, he’s not going to win the game for you if your opponent has a 2 soulstone gremlin running around throwing scheme markers everywhere. In other words, don’t ignore the positional value of models. Once the game has started, how many soulstones the model costed you is totally irrelevant; all that matters is VP.

I hope this wasn’t too dry or too obvious for you. Leave a comment and let me know if you found this post interesting, and what sort of posts you would like to see in the future.

 

Five of My Favorite Games

I thought I would use this post to list a few of my favorite games. These are definitely not all of my favorite games, and they’re listed in no particular order, but they’re the ones I felt like talking about today. I like them all for very different reasons.

Hive

hive

In Hive, the goal is to surround the other player’s queen with pieces. Each piece has a different insect on it, and every insect has a different way of moving. As players put pieces down, the pieces connect and form the “hive.” In this way, players actually build the board as they play.

This game has a high level of strategy and revolves around positioning. The sides are totally symmetric and there is no randomization. In this way it reminds me a lot of chess and would definitely appeal to anyone who enjoys chess without being being another variant of it. For some reason I also love that you don’t need a board to play. I would highly recommend Hive to anyone who enjoys strategy games.

Neuroshima Hex

Neuroshima Hex

Neuroshima Hex is a strategy based tile laying game. Players take turns placing hexagonal pieces on the board. Each piece has attacks from specific sides. When the board fills up, or a player plays a “battle” tile, a battle takes place and each piece performs its attacks from highest initiative to lowest initiative.

This is a fantastic asymmetric strategy game with very little randomization. Each player has their own unique army with its own abilities and attacks. Players take turns randomly drawing tiles for their own army and then placing them on the board. Most of the strategy lies in making sure that your pieces will take out your opponent’s pieces before their initiative during the battle. There is also a lot of positioning, and the more pieces on the board, the further you need to plan ahead. If you can take out the opposing HQ, you win the game. Resolving battles themselves can be a little tedious, and for this reason the game is a very popular App, because the App takes care of that for you.

Warlord

Warlord

Warlord is a dead collectible card game, but I thought it was worth mentioning because I used to play it a lot. The object of the game was to kill the opposing player’s Warlord and, unlike most card games, this one used a D20 to resolve what happened during the game.

Each player started with an army which was formed into ranks (the first rank in front, the second rank behind it, etc). As characters from the first rank were killed, the characters behind them would need to “fall” forward. Better characters would need to enter play in higher ranks, and take longer to get into combat. Powerful actions and items required higher levels of characters to use them. In this way players “paid” for more powerful cards without any sort of mana system. I think this is very important, because players often complain about the randomness of the dice, but because resources were not randomly drawn from the deck, the card portion of the game was a lot less random. The use of dice coupled with strategic positioning gave this game a feel totally unique from other CCGs. Plus the world was fun; who doesn’t love a race of undead elves?

Ascension

Ascension

Ascension is one of the many deckbuilding games which has become popular recently. Players take turns purchasing cards from a queue and the player with the most points worth of cards in their deck at the end of the game wins.

The game uses two different resources: power and runes. Power is used to defeat monsters and gain victory points immediately while runes are used to purchase more cards. This way there are a couple of different builds to try to go for. Ascension has almost no interaction with the other players. This would usually be a negative for me, but if I’m sitting down to play a deckbuilding game, I prefer the more relaxed, non-competitive atmosphere that Ascension provides. I also thoroughly enjoy the world and the art.

Connect Four

Connect Four

Yeah, that’s right, I said it. Connect Four. I know I may have lost all credibility here, but I did say I included each game for a different reason. Connect Four is one of the few mainstream children’s games which actually encourages strategic thinking in younger children without drowning them with rules. Games like Clue and Stratego are great, but they can be overwhelming to five and six year-olds.

Connect Four requires strategic play and can be mastered by kids without constant adult intervention. And this is a huge plus to anyone who has ever run social skills groups for children with autism. When the kids asked for Monopoly, I wanted to gouge my own eyes out.

Those are a few of my favorites. Let me know if you enjoyed this and I may do an article like this again with more games. What are some of your favorite games? Leave a comment and let me know, I’m always looking for more.

I Kill All The Models!

A problem which is common to tabletop wargames is that of balancing the importance of objectives against the importance of simply killing models. Actually, this may not be so much of a “problem” in most games as it is a simple design choice; objectives are the excuse to get the models into a position where they kill each other. And that’s great fun at times, but it’s not what we were aiming for with Malifaux.

I think that most people would agree that second edition is just as (or more) objective oriented as first edition, but getting there was difficult. After all, killing all of the opposing models both makes accomplishing your objectives a lot easier and prevents the opponent from accomplishing his or her objectives.

It’s sort of like that scene in Starship Troopers.

“Sir, I don’t understand. Who needs a knife in a nuke fight anyway? All you gotta do is push a button, sir.”

trooper

“The enemy cannot push a button… if you disable his hand. Medic!”

If there is a lesson which can’t be learned from Starship Troopers or Tremors then…well, then I haven’t learned it. I don’t get out much.

Anyway, it illustrates the point well. Keeping your eye on the goal is all well and good, but if you can just disable the enemy, that essentially becomes the goal; making objectives irrelevant. We did a number of things to tackle this problem.

First, we made sure that most of the game’s objectives were active rather than passive. What, exactly, does this mean? Let’s compare the old version of the scheme Breakthrough to the M2E version:

1.5 Breakthrough: “If you have more models in your opponent’s Deployment Zone than he or she does at the end of the Encounter, you score 1 VP.”

M2E Breakthrough: “At the end of the game, this Crew earns 1 VP for each of its Scheme Markers within 6″ of the enemy Deployment Zone.”

In 1.5, you just needed to make sure that you had more models hanging around on the other side of the board than your opponent did. And what’s the easiest way to make sure this happens? Make sure you have more models than your opponent does at the end of the game. This leads to a war of attrition, which is how most wargames tend to play (and there’s nothing wrong with that). In second edition, you need to get to the other side of the board and then take an interact action. This pulls the game away from being a war of attrition in a few ways. First, once you have planted your scheme marker, it doesn’t matter if the model that planted it dies. This clearly takes some of the emphasis off of killing. Second, you have to actually choose between spending AP on your objective and spending AP gunning down your enemy. (And AP is a resource more valuable than any soulstone, but that’s an article for another day.)

The next thing we did to combat the war of attrition was to shorten the game length from six turns to five. Models do damage to each other over time. That’s what happens in a wargame. On a long enough time-line, eventually one of the players will be wiped out. And, once one of the players is gone, the other player can run around accomplishing all of the objectives. The new Breakthrough does a great job of forcing players to choose between killing and accomplishing objectives, but if a player has enough time to wipe their opponent and then run around placing Scheme Markers, then we didn’t really accomplish anything with it. Through simple trial and error we determined that five was the optimal number of turns to provide a good game without either side having time to wipe out the other. Ironically, when we initially presented this to playtest, people rallied against it. It was seen as a “bandaid.” But I think it’s one of the major improvements in M2E. Six turns is the norm in most tabletop wargames, but that seems arbitrary to me.

The last thing we did was to make sure that models which excelled at support and taking objectives were actually worth taking in comparison to models which could simply do large amounts of damage over time. The key to designing a successful support model is to constantly ask yourself, “if I had spent that AP to attack, would I have gotten more value out of it?” (Again, we come back to viewing AP as a resource, which is very helpful in design.) By constantly weighing the value of support against damage I designed models like the Nurse and Fingers who have to make up for their lack of killing power in other ways.

Of course, we have a few Schemes and Strategies which emphasize killing, and plenty of models which are good at it. We never set out to eliminate combat. However, the value placed on scoring objectives instead of on killing models has always been hailed as a selling point of Malifaux, and with second edition I feel that we maintained that legacy, if not improved on it.

 

Pregnancy Advice

I have posted some of these on twitter, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to compile them here. My wife and I are expecting, and along the way I have learned a few things which I will share with you.

Don’t claim that you do not need to go to birthing class because you, “have already seen all the Alien movies.” Even if this claim is true, it’s best not to make it. Even if you saw all the stupid Predator cross-overs too.

Don’t respond with, “you’re welcome” if your wife says, “you did this to me.” This is not a good idea.

Don’t poke your wife in the belly until the baby kicks and then claim that it is a prenatal high-five. In fact, you should probably avoid using the term prenatal unless it is in relation to something medical. “Prenatal thumb war,” is not a thing, do not attempt.

Don’t practice swaddling on the cat. Don’t put the cat in baby clothes. If in doubt, do not involve the cat in the pregnancy at all. I honestly can’t stress this point enough.

BabyCat

She looks innocent, but underneath she is seething with murder. The baby clothes only help her hide her true intentions; to rip, kill, and maim anyone who would dare force their fashion sense upon her.

I wish I could share the “do’s” with you, but I’m still working on those. In the mean time, beware of fluffy animals in cute outfits.

Designing The Avatar Mechanic

Today I wanted to talk a bit about the design of the Avatar manifest mechanic. This was a particularly difficult mechanic to design, largely because of design decisions from 1.5 which we needed to keep in the game. Essentially, Avatars needed to “pop” into play, but balancing this in the current edition was very difficult.

Here is part of a post I made in the closed beta when we were designing the manifest mechanic:

Sometimes, when designing a game, it helps to look at the design process as a game. Here are the rules for avatar design:

1) Every Master needs an avatar
2) Manifesting rules need to be in the core book out in August
3) Masters need to “turn into” their avatar during the game
4) Avatars need to be purchased at the start of the game with soulstones
5) Avatars can’t screw up the game (obvious, but it’s one of the rules, listing them helps)

Here is my current issue:

Avatars are supposed to be big, flashy models. Additionally, by their very definition, bringing them into play removes your most powerful model (the master). And, on top of all of this, they only are in play for a very limited number of turns. To make up for all of these drawbacks, they need to have an inflated significance on the game.

Unfortunately, this generally puts avatars into two camps: useless because they simply couldn’t achieve enough considering their limited time on the board and removal of the master, or totally game warping. The line where they can be balanced is incredibly thin, and although I’m sure we can hit it with a handful, I’m not convinced it’s possible for every master in the game. In other words, rules 3 and 5 (above) aren’t playing well together.

That post was the basic core from which we started the manifest design. The issue was that Avatars, by their very nature, were an “all or nothing” mechanic. Meaning, they either failed horribly or dominated the game. An all or nothing mechanic can be balanced in the sense that it succeeds as often as it fails, but it frequently leaves players with a bad taste in their mouths. Close games are generally more fun, and a mechanic that will either sink or swim is just generally less fun.

Following those principles, we came up with the current design (rulebook pg. 56-57). Basically, Avatars are upgrades. When you purchase the Avatar upgrade, you select a manifest card (there are five to choose from). The manifest card tells you under what conditions you “manifest” your Avatar. If you meet your manifest requirements, flip the Avatar upgrade over and you get access to some new abilities.

This new system fixed the issues which we previously had with Avatars. The manifest mechanic was linked to the upgrade system, so we had an easy way of introducing it into the game. Because the Avatar was an upgrade, the master immediately got something for purchasing it, which makes the mechanic a lot less “all or nothing.” In this way, the Avatar adds something to the crew even if it never manifests. Also, since the Avatar upgrade simply flipped over and added a few new abilities, the master was no longer “removed” from the table when the avatar came in. In other words, manifesting only added to what was there, it didn’t take anything away. This made it much more reasonable to balance.

Designing balanced models is very important, but it’s impossible to do if the core isn’t there. Creating an environment where you can tweak models without sending their power levels soaring into the atmosphere or scuttling them completely is key (and was a large reason for the recent Levy changes, but that’s another topic). And sometimes even if things are balanced, they still aren’t fun. Mechanics which cause a major swing in the game can be very problematic, and removing them here was the right move.

And, no, just because I made this post doesn’t mean avatars will be out next week. But I was working on them today and I thought this would be a fun topic for you to be able to reference when they do find their way into the public beta. Aaron Darland did a lot of work on the individual designs, and I hope he can give you some insight on them at some point.

Lessons With My Daughter

My wife and I have a little girl on the way. She’ll be joining us in December.

This has me thinking about what sort of parent I will be. What sort of things we’ll do together. What I will teach her. What I will show her. Which is entirely unrealistic; in my head she pops out at 4 years old and skips that annoying baby stage. Even though all of this is literally years away, it still has me thinking.

I want to take her on nature walks. I want her to have have a curiosity about the natural world while respecting nature’s ruthlessness. I want to buy a telescope and watch the stars with her from my porch. I want to teach her that asking the right question is more important than having the right answer.

I want to read books to her. Children’s stories, of course, but also some of my favorites; The Hobbit, White Fang, Rikki Tikki Tavi, Peter Rabbit. I want to see who her favorite characters are, and read them in silly voices. I want to teach her to look at the world from a different perspective; to have empathy.

I think curiosity and empathy are two of the most important things in the world; from them, all else follows. I want to teach her how to use them and show her how important they are.

I want to have fun with her. I want to take her to the park and have a socially acceptable reason to go down the slide again. Build sandcastles. Throw mud.

Part of the beauty of having children is getting to re-experience the world through their eyes. Getting to grow up all over again. I think that the longer we live in this world, the easier it becomes to forget how magical it really is. As the years go on we take more and more things for granted. We worry about deadlines and bills. Every night we look up at the stars a little less, and every day we forget how miraculous it is to be able to do something as simple as wiggle our fingers.

I want my daughter to know that discovering more about the world does not dampen the mystery; the mystery only ever grows. Every question that is answered leads to ten new questions. The magic only dies when you stop asking; when you stop looking; when you get one answer and hold it up as Truth and try to beat everyone else over the head with it. I want her to be able to take comfort in the unknown, because only the unknown holds the promise of new experiences.

This is probably all a bit lofty for a newborn. But we’ll start with Good Night Moon and work our way up.

Most of all I want her to be whatever sort of person she wants to be. I just want her to have all the right tools and, above all else, know that she is loved.

 

 

 

Questions About Frequently Asked Questions

Today the first FAQ/Errata for Malifaux Second Edition went public, so I thought it was worth a special blog post to talk about it a little bit.

With second edition we chose to move away from the rules martial system (answering rules questions on the forums) and move to a regularly scheduled FAQ. The reason for this was that a major problem with first edition was that rulings were difficult to find. People had to search through old threads and print out forum posts to answer rules questions. However, if rules questions are answered all at once in an easily accessed FAQ which updates on a set schedule, all of the rulings are in one place and everyone knows when and where to find them. Right now, we have scheduled FAQ updates every other month, so the next one will be January first.

This leaves me with the task of keeping an eye on the rules forum and deciding which questions to put into the FAQ. This isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, because while I want to answer as many questions as possible, if I answer every single question which pops up I will end up with a fifty page document. While I’m sure some players would prefer this, it isn’t ideal. If the document is too long, it becomes unwieldy and difficult to use. People who genuinely need an answer to a confusing question would need to scroll through pages of simple questions which are already answered in the core rules. So, how do I determine what goes into the FAQ? For the most part, I have found that there are four kinds of questions which I included and I will give an example of each:

1) Questions which are very well covered by the rules, but for whatever reason seem to keep popping up. Here is an example:

Q: Does a model have Line of Sight (LoS) to itself?

A: Yes.

This is clearly spelled out in the rules, but it seems to come up often enough that it is a useful inclusion in the FAQ.

2) Questions which are covered by the rules but, due to the ambiguity of the English language, have multiple interpretations. Here is an example:

Q: Can a model spend multiple Soulstones to add multiple suits on a single Action?

A: No, only one Soulstone may be spent to add one suit per Action.

This is spelled out in the rules, however the wording could potentially be read more than one way, so it’s useful to set the record straight.

3) Questions which the language is perfectly clear on, but could be confusing in the context of game mechanics. Here is an example:

Q: If a model suffers 0 (zero) damage, does it count as having suffered damage?

A: No.

When it’s presented like this, it actually sounds like a fairly silly question. However, in the context of a game, it makes sense. Games use their own kind of language; they have to, to be able to present ideas succinctly. For example, when I tell you that my model was “killed” I don’t mean that its heart literally stopped beating; I mean it suffered damage equal to or greater than its wound stat and was removed from the table. But since spelling that out every time would get tedious, we say “killed.” Although in terms of the English language it is clear that a model which suffers zero damage did not suffer damage, I can see the potential for ambiguity in game terms so I felt this was a legitimate question.

4) Questions which are legitimately unclear and that the game has no real answer for. Here is an example:

Q: When shooting into an engagement, what if every model which would be randomized has a rule which states a card is not flipped for it? For example, if Santiago is shooting into an engagement between a friendly Family model and a Doppleganger and no other models are within 2”?

A: If there are no models within 2” of the target (including the target) which may have a card flipped for them when shooting into an engagement, then the target is chosen normally without any randomization.

This question isn’t about people’s interpretation of the rules or clarity of the language; the answer simply isn’t there. It could have gone a number of different ways. This particular kind of question is a very close cousin of the errata (an all-out change to the rule) but differs in that it does not replace any of the current rules, it simply clarifies what to do in a corner-case scenario which the core rules were not able to cover.

Each of the questions in the FAQ falls into one of the above four categories. Breaking it up like that greatly helped me in filtering what needed to go into the document from what would simply clutter it. Of course, there was more than just an FAQ in the document, there was also errata. An errata is an all-out change to an existing rule, and there were only two types of things which I chose to errata. Here is an example of each:

1) Typos which effect game play. Here is an example:

Pg. 37, “Zero AP Actions” Call Out Box: Change the text of the call out box to: “Some models will have Actions that have an AP cost of 0. A model may take only one of these “free” Actions per Activation.”

The text was changed to clarify that one zero Action may be taken per Activation rather than per Turn.

All through playtest we played as if zero actions could be taken once per activation. It was the intent and the assumption of the playtesters, yet this typo slipped through and, strictly speaking, it goes against how we intended the game to play. So we fixed it.

2) Rules which were simply broken. Here is an example:

Nexus of Power: Change text of Nexus to: “Friendly models in a6 heal 1 damage after resolving an Action in which they spent one or more Soulstones on something other than a damage prevention flip.”

The Nexus of Power upgrade was too good for its cost. It wasn’t a typo, it was simply something which we did not catch during the playtest process. There is some controversy in making a change like this. After all, people want their rules to be set in stone; by definition rules need consistency. So this is not a decision which I make lightly. However, I firmly believe that in the long term the game will be healthier for fixing outliers such as this. On the whole second edition has proven to be a very well balanced game. There are, of course, always slight variations in balance, but this was extreme enough to warrant the change.

Speaking to this upgrade specifically, I know there will be some outcry about this. I know there will be people who think this went too far. But I think there are a few factors here. For one, it was previously one of the most powerful upgrades in the game. Cutting it down to size is going to carry a certain amount of system shock. Also, keep in mind that it is only a one stone upgrade. The goal of upgrades is not for them to be taken every single game. As such, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “Would I spend one soulstone on this…sometimes?” I found the answer to that question to be yes. A one stone upgrade should be a very minor addition to a crew, it should not be game warping.

Finally, I have seen the argument that soulstones need to be spent to make it work. People have mentioned that you spend one stone on the upgrade, and then more stones to make the healing work. However, you are still getting the regular effects from the soulstones. In other words, you are spending soulstones on things you would spend them on anyway and then getting healing on top of that. So, in essence, stones didn’t need to be spent on healing. With the errata, Nexus does force players to change their play style slightly since the most common form of soulstone use in Neverborn (damage prevention) does not trigger the healing. However, the other benefits of soulstones may still be gained while simultaneously triggering the upgrade. I think it’s a happy medium for an upgrade costing a single stone.

Anyway, that’s enough about Nexus of Power. I think that the FAQ and Errata will improve the game and shore up any loose ends which everyone from new players to tournament veterans need taken care of. And anything that it missed can be addressed in January when it is next updated; that’s the beauty of having scheduled updates. But, before I finish this, I want to say thank you to all of the people who helped make this possible. Between the open beta, the FAQ/Errata, getting the avatars ready, and general forum management my attention is spread thin. But there are a vast number of volunteers behind the scenes making all of this possible. The closed beta testers did a fantastic job of pointing out relevant questions and helping me tighten up the document. The moderators (Mako, Rathnard, and MythicFOX) have done an amazing job keeping the forums calm. And all of you have been brilliant with your feedback in the open beta.

Thank you.