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?
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?
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.