Friday, 18 July 2014

Malifaux: Incarias Complains about Terrain in M2E

This has been sitting, half finished, in my Posts for a couple of months now. I figured it's time to do something about that.

The guys down at the club are (or were, see above) getting tired of my complaints about the terrain rules for M2E (Malifaux 2nd Edition, for those not in the know).

So I figured I'd whine to anyone foolish enough to stumble upon my little corner of the Internet instead...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the main problem with M2E terrain rules is the fact that they are too short. There just seems to be a lot missing.

That said, here are the terrain features that work the least well, in no particular order.

Or rather, here are the terrain features that annoy me the most.


I couldn't find a good picture to illustrate this point, so here are some puppets.
Yes, M2E is a two-dimensional game with an abstract third dimension. That's no excuse for not dealing with that abstract third dimension properly. Especially since they had this bit more or less under control in M1.5E.

Everything in Malifaux has an Ht (height) value that roughly corresponds to how many inches high it is.

Imagine Pandora (Ht 2) on a crate (Ht 3) behind a wall (Ht 4). In M1E (I'm not gonna bother with the .5, denoting the mid-edition 1.5 edition) Pandora would add the crate's Ht to her own, and thus be Ht 5, and easily seen over the Ht 4 wall.

In M2E that rule is missing. Pandora is still Ht 2 and that puny wall hides her completely. In theory, the crate could be Ht 10 and it still would not be possible to see Pandora over the wall.

An absurd RAW interpretation? Yup. But still.

(And if I've just missed this rule, please tell me. It would make me go headdesk, but after that, it would make me happy).

Vantage Points

The point of this picture will become apparent.
Yes, this is a form of elevation. No, it does not go under the previous sub-heading.

Vantage Points have a steep side. Anything with walls and a flat top, basically, as well as ledge-like hills and probably a lot of other things.

The rules for Vantage Points work fine if you work with boxes.

It gets trickier when you have walls at the edge. You can ignore the ledge of the Vantage Point if you're close to it. Can you ignore the wall? Because if not, the diagonal LoS employed for Vantage Points will make it impossible to see anything even slightly lower. Or the other way around.

Another thing is what happens when two models are on separate pieces of Vantage Point Terrain.

Let's assume the above mentioned Pandora is facing off against Seamus, similarly perched on a crate a few inches away. If the crates are the same Ht, "LoS is drawn normally". If not, you use the diagonal method.

The latter works okay (with the same problems as I've already touched upon), but the former interacts with elevation, above.

What if there's a Ht 2 model on the ground in between? Do we have LoS? Both Seamus and Pandora are still Ht 2...

All Terrain is a Box

And trust me, if you've got a box in Malifaux, something is going to come out of it.
M2E assumes every piece of terrain has the same Ht all over. Essentially, Malifaux terraing should have vertical lines, a flat top and no irregularities.

Piles of rocks? Should be neatly stacked.

Balconies? Strictly banned.

Doors? What's that?

The Great Pryamids at Giza? Weird choice, and no.

Trees? Guess what? I think you need a gardener, so you can get those nice cylindrical trees that are all the rage in Malifaux at the moment.

Yes, you could just pretend that every rock in that pile is a separate piece of terrain, but then you run into the problem with elevation on top of elevation mentioned above.

The real fricking problem is with buildings, though. There are no rules for openings in otherwise solid terrain pieces. So no doors to enter building through. There are no rules for overhanging terrain (balconies, the tops of doors, trees, for that matter). Does Teddy (Ht 3) get cover from that balcony that's nicely in face height? Does Kade (Ht 1)? One is clearly partly covered, and the other is not, but the rules have no room for overhangs, so what is a rules lawyer to do?

Are We Just Using Bad Terrain?

In short, yes and no.

Yes as in our terrain is not made to match M2E rules.

No as in there are clear hints that Wyrd do not, in fact, expect us to play with uniform boxes.

Their own terrain (TerraClips) has plenty of doors and balconies, and their Vantage Points come with low walls. There are more than hints that we could use buildings which you can enter (the whole Enclosed terrain category seems to be made for these). In fact, the image for Vantage Terrain has a stack of boxes that is misaligned, so as to create a (slight) overhang, and the Vantage itself has a more considerable overhang.

More importantly, though, using terrain that is all uniform in height, has no openings and no overhangs means making new terrain, and it means making terrain that is a lot less interesting than the setting deserves. I want my master to be able to dash through buildings. I want that Guild Guard's bullet to bounce off the balcony in front of Teddy's face. I want my sniper to crouch behind the low wall at the edge of that elevated piece of street.

In the end, we've started improvising. We've stopped using some of the more outlandish terrain, and we've come to tacit agreements about the rest. But on at least one occasion, we've had a problem because the two players had interpreted that agreement differently, and even when it works, we have a lot of abstract terrain, and not the terrain gthat would make for the most entertaining games.


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