Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Back to Basics - Teaching Someone Malifaux

Its been a quiet week on the blog front because I was delivering a project for work. It's all done and dusted now, and I spent my weekend just recovering from the exhaustion and stress that accompanied getting such a grand scale undertaking across the line.

But anyway, normal service will resume this week with a couple of posts I have planned. I'm playing our local henchman tomorrow night, so a bat rep will be available later in the week, but first I wanted to talk about getting back to basics, and how refreshing it can be to teach someone new the game.

Last Friday at KRAGS, I was about to sit down and hammer out a game against Mr Neverborn when a lady came wandering into our club wanting to learn more about a game called MaliFolk. Now trying to contain our amazement, Jon and I proceeded to offer up a seat for her and another new guy who was looking a bit lost. We threw down Raspy and Seamus in a 15 soulstone game that took most of the night but won us some new gamers and them a good understanding of the rules.

As I reflect, it's interesting that both Jon and I learnt something new about each of our crews, but I'll come to that, what I wanted to start with is how I went about explaining the game and I'll be researching other posts to see if anyone has tips on training someone new. Why am I writing this? Well I've always found that some people just don't know where to start when trying to explain a game to someone new. They often make the mistake of diving to deep, to quickly, when in reality, the person you're teaching wants two things from their first game, an introduction and a good time.

I'm not saying I have this down pat, I've only taught a few people this game but I do think its worth talking about, so where to start.

I start by asking a simple question - is this the first time you've played a something like this? From that you can immediately glisten the persons experience, and comfort levels. Someone new to the hobby will need an entirely different approach to someone porting from another system and its that first response that gets people opening up, you learn what they have played before, what they like and dislike, and quite often they'll tell you why they are interested in Malifaux.

Lets talk about the person completely new to the scene first. Quite often they find Malifaux because of iconography or budget, or maybe a mixture of both. I start by explaining a little about how the game plays, then the history of malifaux and finally (and this is one I got from Jon), why it is they are fighting.

It's also good to reference systems or concepts they might be familiar with, likening totems to familiars or the backstory of a particular crew to something they might recognise in recent culture or other systems.

Then inevitably comes a bit about budget, what's it going to cost to get into the game, and here you can compare Faux to other systems, where the entry point might be 3-5 times that of a starter crew and a few addons.

Then comes the points where you can invite them to the table. Always sit them down and let them play, rather than spectate. You get far more enjoyment and buy in from a new player by letting them play, this isn't much of a spectator sport after all, particularly if you don't know what's going on.

Once at the table I pull out some of the simpler crews available, no minions above 6 soulstones and keep it to 15-20 soulstones as an absolute maximum sized game.

This is the point where the two types of people converge and you can start to explain the different factions in a little detail, adding a little back story for the two crews.

I tend to play a variant of shared treasure hunt where it only takes one AP to pickup the treasure. I find is gives the non aggressive player something to focus on and the typical wargamer is happy because they can see their opponent coming towards them.

Next up I talk about the deck, show them the different suits and power levels. I always use the standard decks that have the power level printed on them, I think the person has enough to remember without working out the power level. Lastly you explain the jokers, for now just explain it as red very good, black very bad, no point going into the detail until necessary.

I'll then explain the basic characteristics of a character with both players before spending a brief amount of time one-on-one explaining some of the core abilities of the crew.

You'll be tempted to talk a lot more at this point but in reality you've probably talked enough and its time to get down to a game.

Setup a simple game of 15-20 soulstones and leave a couple of soulstones per master to play out the different was the can be used.

I go through the board and explain heights and cover type before the game starts but don't go into too much detail, we just need to note the height and types for them right now, we can get into the detail if they start to use the terrain.

Turn 1 cements deck handling and terminology, initiative, action points and movement. If, like me, you use treasure hunt then the new players will be focused on that objective and in reality little else, that's fine because it cements the fundamentals.

Turn 2 will usually see ranged combat, and by turn 3 someone is usually charging. That then just leaves the exceptions, using soulstones, willpower and counters. I never explain counters until they are used. I once saw a demo where the guy walked through every counter, it was like watching paint dry....

If you're playing the newbie then give them the game or make it a tight loss, don't go for the drubbing. If you have two at the table then a little friendly jostling is fine but let them work it out, offering tactical insights to the looser to help even the odds, should it need a helping hand.

And that essentially is it, except to say that training somebody new is often a revelation in its own right. In our demo game I saw Jon pick up on the Ice Gamin zero action bite of winter and how it combines with Decembers curse. Meanwhile the lady using my crew played the graveyard spirit much more aggressively than I would, causing six wounds over the game and sending him out to pick up that treasure when everything else was otherwise engaged.

Sometimes I guess it takes someone new to breakdown your preconceptions of how a game or character should be played.

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