Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Malifaux Blues

Well, it happened again! I found myself staring at the 3x3 board in shock as my opponent declared a 7-5 victory over me. This time, the opponent happened to be my 14 year old son with his brand new Ophelia crew. I looked over my list, feeling betrayed by my own models. I'd been so sure I could win this one, only to be proven wrong.

To be fair, everyone loses sometimes. It doesn't matter how good you are, statistically thinking, we all lose eventually. Plans are thwarted, Black Jokers are flipped and so forth. As humans we tend to rail against Fate and cry out the injustices that make up the RNG Gods. (that's random number generation to anyone who doesn't know). Our plan was perfect, how dare a bad flip or an awkward die roll take away our perfect victory?

As a Warmachine player, I heard more than a few people tell me, "I won't play Trolls. My luck is too awful to rely on all those tough rolls."  Malifaux is no different. Just the other week I found myself saying, "I would have won if it wasn't for an awful hand on the last turn." Is that really true? Did I lose because there is an unseen force that set up my deck for failure? Or did I not look at all the avenues my opponent had for success and allowed myself to be in a spot where a bad hand sank my chances of winning?

No matter what endeavor we have managed to fail at, the fall is one of the biggest lessons we can learn. One of my favorite quotes on failure comes from Thomas Edison who said:

"I have not failed, I have simply found 10,000 ways that won't work."

another by Winston Churchill says:

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." 

So what does this mean for the beginning Malifaux player who is wanting to have fun but finds themselves frustrated by understanding the intricacies of the game?
Its not exhaustive but I have a list of things that I do to help me understand where a game went wrong.

1. Keep notes. I know it seems kind of excessive to take notes while you are playing a game that already requires a lot of concentration and space, but if you are in a position of losing a lot, bring a small note pad. Mark down the places where you saw the game begin to swing away from you.

2. Talk to your opponent. After the game, take a few minutes to talk about it. Get your opponent's perspective. Often what you will find is that they saw a weakness and exploited it. Never be afraid of saying, what could have gone better here. If you are playing with a veteran they can be a good starting to point to understanding how to up your game. If they aren't willing to help sum up a game, maybe you should play with other people.

This guy will burn your
house down.
3. When you fall to a model's tricks, remember them for later. Knowledge is power, the old adage stands as true in Malifaux as it does anywhere else. Knowing what your opponent's crew is capable of is often crucial to not getting blown away early on. Knowing that Sameal Hopkins can set terrain on fire might keep a model from being roasted. Knowing that Ophelia has squeal will save you from wasting AP and  a card on flurry. Remember that you are always allowed to see your opponent's cards.

4. Be aware of how many points you could have scored each turn.  Each game of Malifaux can be vastly different then the one before it thanks to the Strategies and Schemes in the pool.  Look and see where you could have scored a point. Did you spend too many AP shooting a tanky target when you could have killed something squishy for Reckoning? Did you go all in to take out an enforcer and forget to drop scheme tokens?

5. Conversely, be aware of where you could have prevented an opponent from scoring. Sometimes learning how to slow your opponent down is just as important as making sure you get your own VP, even if that is as simple as dropping a guy in engagement range to keep one of theirs from dropping a marker.

6. Don't get discouraged. Malifaux is a hard game to tackle. There are 39 masters that you need to at least know on a surface level to not be steam rolled by them and their tricks. That doesn't count the other enforcers, henchmen and minions that have their own shenanigans. There are 3 objectives each game to pay attention to, not counting your opponent's schemes. There are terrain rules and engagement rules and strategies. All of that adds up to a lot of things to learn before you can become proficient at the game. When you lose, and you will, take a deep breath and figure out where the train went off the tracks.

Losing is something we all hate to do, but its an essential part of the game and of life. Very few people start out with a firm grasp of the rules and most of us take a while to get up to steam. When I first learned to play Warmachine, Allen and Derek both warned me to expect to lose my first 10-15 games and they were right. Now, as we are all getting into Malifaux we are starting to realize there is a whole new burden of knowledge to grasp and that it may take us a few months to get our feet on firm ground. As for now, I'll keep taking my licks at the hands of Malifaux's Most Wanted and try to learn as much as I can from each experience.

Until next time, Keep Cheating Fate-- John Fox

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Actually one of the things I like about Malifaux is that there is a limited amount 'luck' in the deck. Unlike with dice where you could (in theory) roll nothing buts 1s or 6s all day, once your opponent has flipped the red joker once, you know you're not going to see it for a while.

    I'm very much a fan of the point about making notes. I make a point of recording my tournament games as it gives me the opportunity to review what happened and, hopefully, prevent myself from falling for the same tricks twice.