Monday, 4 January 2016

Musings on events

So there was an interesting discussion on A Wyrd Place the other day about prize support in competitions. While it was mostly focused on the types of prizes that could be provided it brought out a couple of different views. In particular some players were of the view the prizes should be awarded to the winners, while others (myself included) were of the view that tangible prizes like models were better allocated in another manner.

This got me thinking and it reminded me of this fantastic article. It is about Netrunner (another great game) but it raises some valid points about how organised gaming tends to focus on the competitive aspect of gaming to the point that competitive players expect that events should cater for them. The reality is that people play games like Malifaux for a variety of different reasons. Not everyone is in it to win tournaments and play super competitively. Now, I am not saying that competitive players are bad or wrong. But at the moment they are heavily catered for, case in point having a look at the UK Calendar there are already 21 Malifaux tournaments in the first quarter of next year. Now obviously you could not enter all of them (quite a few take place on the same day as each other) and they will vary in levels of competitiveness but you can hardly argue that competitive players are missing out. Hell, even Wyrd supports the competitive side through the Gaining Grounds supplement.

Obviously, competitive tournaments have their place, events like Nationals and the UK Masters are great and they do motivate players to really master their game. That is fantastic. But there is more to this great game than that. We all got into Malifaux for different reasons perhaps it is the unique card system, amazing models or the truly fantastic fluff.

How many of us have ever played the story encounters? I think there are a couple of story events that take place each year, mostly at the hands of Mr Brown. But a few more of these and other events would be a good thing for getting more people involved in Malifaux...and who can really complain about more players. Understandably running a story event tournament takes a bit more work than just running a gaining grounds event.

So I thought I would discuss some alternative events that could be tried more.

Growth Leagues
These are a great way to encourage new players into the scene. Start out the league with a lower amount of soulstones and add a few more at regular intervals (for example weekly). I would recommend choosing a starting amount of 26ss (people want to play their masters) and add 5-10ss each week. Keep the league relatively short as people run out of steam pretty quickly. Dr Walnut ran an event like this at Dark Sphere last year and Mechanical Dove is doing another kicking off in mid January.

You also want to encourage painting, either by requiring models be painted or giving extra league points to those that do. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink I suspect that there will be quite a few players with new toys after Black Friday and Christmas so the New Year might be a good time to kick one of these off.

Henchmen Hardcore
There are a few rulespacks for these floating around the net, but effectively everyone hires exactly 4 models with 20ss,fixed strategy (turf war or extraction) and fixed scheme (only assassinate) with no summoning. These tend to be really quick brutal games.

Due to the short games they make a fantastic way to run a mini tournament mid week. You can easily crank out 3 or 4 rounds in 2 hours. Also due to the low model count new players are easily
brought in. I had a friend staying with me from SA that had never played a game of Malifaux, I taught him the rules in the afternoon and he leaped straight in for the evening event doing particularly well with a Joss list I put together for him.

Story Events
This is my ideal tournament - one where each game (and the cumulative scores) has an impact in the next round. The great thing about these events is that you can immerse yourself in the Malifaux setting and the event can evolve based on the way you and the other players perform. This could be through specific bonuses, choices on what strategies or schemes that could be in the pool. The possibilities really are endless.

This does take some nifty footwork from the TO and plenty of preparation, but for those looking for an afternoon of reality escape artistry this is it.

I would recommend keeping it simple at first, it is amazing how much of an impact a few little tweaks can have. If you do too much it can bog down the game or the players will just forget about it.

I have another blog post in the works that will focus on some ideas I have for these, but the Campaign book has been out since Gencon...and I have not seen any Campaigns being run in the UK. There probably are a few tucked away in local metas but people were clamoring for a way to have their characters evolve game to game for ages...and then when it arrived there was a lackluster response.

Tweaks to tournaments
One idea I saw thrown around that could work in a larger event is to have a beginners' side event at a major event. That way the players in that event know that they will be only facing newer players. This could also allow for longer rounds and the judges could keep a closer eye on those particular players to give them more of a hand if needed.

Prize structures can also have a drastic impact on the way people behave. In most other gaming systems I have seen prizes seemed to be handed out for player placement in the tournament. This has a few key drawbacks, in many cases the prizes come as model support from Wyrd (or a club) and the people placing well tend to have the models already - so a dud for them. It also does little to attract newer players. The UK seems to do a good job with this though, any model support goes into a raffle where every player gets automatically entered and everyone has a chance of winning regardless of their performance. This does a lot for new players. An extra crew box or key model for them adds a lot more value and options to their gaming. And perhaps in a future tournament they might place well with their new toys.

To encourage top players they rather win customised trophies. They definitely seem to place more value on these prizes as they come with bragging rights.

A few other great prize ideas I have seen include attributing a prize for in game effects (for example - the first person to receive a red joker for damage against one of their models or the first person to flip a black joker for damage). These types of "achievement" prizes can add quite a bit of fun to a game or event.

Team events are another great way to play the game in a different light. These seem quite popular when they happen, I know the Tanelorn guys run a few of these and I am sure there are more.

One idea I had was that of a "Teaching tournament". Where new players are paired against experienced opponents. In round 1 you have a longer round where the experienced player has the opportunity to give the person a detailed run through with the crew that the newer player can then carry through to each new game. New players earn scores for how they do, while the experienced players earn VP for votes on how much they taught each new player each round, plus how successful their first opponent was in the day - as that was the player that they had the opportunity to teach the most. Obviously this still needs some tweaking and experimentation, but I think it could be a fun day.

Hobby days
Hobby days are another great idea, whether it is a communal painting day or terrain building day. My old gaming crew used to do quite a bit of this, turning up at someone's house or the club with your models and paint in tow and just building and painting together with a few beers. Good jolly fun.

I personally really enjoyed group terrain building. This worked as a great way for us to get our club terrain to a level that we were happy with and gave everyone a bit more appreciation for the terrain that they used.

Another fun outing is a speed painting challenge where everyone receives the same model (the old GW intro kits were great for this - Nightgoblins!) and had a competition to paint the best model in a given time slot. This may not translate as well to Malifaux given the character nature of the models, but there might be something worth exploring here.

Anyway those are a couple of thoughts that could be worth testing out to try a different sort of Malifaux experience to the normal competitive tournament event.


  1. Great article and lots of great ideas to build a community. I'll post this in my local group and see if anyone is interested in implementing some of these. :-)