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Maniacal_cackle

Does Malifaux have a 'pay-to-win' problem?

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The more I play this game, the more I worry about the 'pay-to-win' problem. It seems like the more models you own, the better your chances in a tournament.

True, you have to actually be proficient in all the models you play, but many of us in my area play 1-2 times a week. Plenty of time to get proficient with dozens of models (or even a hundred).

I'm especially concerned as it feels like it is going to be very difficult to recruit new players. How is a new player going to feel when they own a single crew and face me with access to Dreamer, Zoraida, Nekima, Titania, and a bunch of counter pick models? If I'm able to have such a huge variety of choice, it feels pretty shit for new players, especially if I have counter pick leaders or models for their one crew.

Don't get me wrong, I love Malifaux's diversity and options. I love the out of keyword and versatile systems. The pick-counterpick pregame dance is part of what makes Malifaux great. This has to stay part of the game.

But at the same time, some players having access to an entire faction and some players having action to a fraction of a single keyword just feels so unbalanced to me. It feels a bit "the one with the largest wallet wins."

Anyone else feel like this/think it is an issue?

One possible solution (and I'm just spitballing here) is some kind of limit. I wonder if the game could use something like Magic the Gathering's sideboard.

For example, what if in a tournament you could register 125 soulstones of models (plus two free masters/totems) and they were the only ones you could use all tournament. This way, you'd still be able to fit loads of counter picking and meta choices, but it'd mean someone starting the game would have a target for competitive play: 125 soulstones. It'd also be nice for those of us who want to play multiple factions, and could get 125 stones for a few different factions.

This would also create some interesting choices (can I really fit this model in just because it smashes a master I hate? Yes, if I hate it enough!)

Of course, it'd still favour larger collections, as metas shift over time, but the goal would be to mitigate the impact of owning the most models.

What are people's thoughts? Mostly I'm interested in whether you think whether Malifaux has a pay-to-win problem. But thoughts on this 'sideboarding' solution are welcome as well!

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Generally speaking there's a core of models which are essentials for a faction and do the most work in tournaments and the rest can be take it or leave it. Mostly it's a case of gamer ADD and completionism rather than having huge competitive edge in my opinion. Money and models are great but clever and astute play tends to come out on top. 

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Early in m2e playing only one master was seen as something limiting you and an achievement if you did well. In the later stages of m2e people were playing very limited pools of models under a single or maybe two masters and doing well. I've also seen tournaments put in pool limits but we've never felt the need around here, the winning players often show up with a single crew and some off picks. 

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1 minute ago, The_death_jester said:

Generally speaking there's a core of models which are essentials for a faction and do the most work in tournaments and the rest can be take it or leave it. Mostly it's a case of gamer ADD and completionism rather than having huge competitive edge in my opinion. Money and models are great but clever and astute play tends to come out on top. 

Clever and astute play beats a wallet warrior, but clever and astute play backed by a big wallet beats clever and astute on a budget.

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Just now, Maniacal_cackle said:

Clever and astute play beats a wallet warrior, but clever and astute play backed by a big wallet beats clever and astute on a budget.

Depends on what you define as a budget. Mini games are always going to be a rich man's game. A single master and no out of theme models is probably a bad limit but if you know what you want before starting a faction you can usually build a limited model pool and kick ass. 

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@Ludvig I wasnt around for M2E. But didn't every master have loads of options, and thus was harder to counter pick?

In M3E, it feels like if I see Kaeris, I'm taking Archie. Then she either gets smashed by immune to burning, or pays an out of keyword tax.

Similarly it feels like some keywords are just devastated by counterpicks.

Does it all balance out because the keywords that die to counter picks naturally diversify their pools?

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M3e probably made the problem worse, I've barely started playing 3e and haven't been in any tournaments yet. 

In m2e you had the whole faction at base cost and some masters could hire a ridiculous amount of out of faction models. You also didn't announce the master beforehand.

Despite no announced masters the keywords that had solid counters just ended up not being taken much at all in tournaments which will likely be even more true now. If you know what people will take as counters you'll need to counter the counter. Maybe do a leader that works well solo or has a good value totem a d then fill the list with versatile models and a second summoning master to make their counters less effective. The best answer is probably just take a master with no hard counters. 

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Another example is models that are great at one particular scheme (guessing grave diggers on dig their graves). If someone owns 2-3 of those, that marginal advantage starts to add up.

In a recent game with us both playing the same faction, we flipped a set of starts/schemes that we looked at and basically said "yup, Maniacal's pool of models wins this game" and reflipped the pool for a more balanced game.

That's fine sometimes (the game is fun with its varying degrees of challenge), but it seems worrisome if someone starts owning a pool that just dominates by coverage.

There are only 208 possible deployment/strategy/single scheme combinations (with five of those combinations per game). Getting a model that is good at 16 of those is really going to add up.

Maybe I'm worrying about nothing, I guess the biggest answer is "wait to see tournament results." Are those posted anywhere, or are they scattered around?

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Some people still play fixed crews or masters and playing one means you get alot better with it. I believe alyx in the uk ran a fixed McCabe crew as explorers in a recent tourney and still got on the podium.

So no malifaux isnt apay to win and tbh sometimes having too many options can mess up your gameplay (think that's my problem)

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Niche picks need to be extremely good to be worth changing up your crew vs a well oiled machine that does good in any sort of pool. In my experience more than half a list is usually set and then you rotate a few models depending on Strat and schemes but in m2e at least people would play the same list for entire tournaments and do really well. It's just a matter of learning which crews have that capability through playing an absurd amount of games. 

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4 minutes ago, Maniacal_cackle said:

Another example is models that are great at one particular scheme (guessing grave diggers on dig their graves). If someone owns 2-3 of those, that marginal advantage starts to add up.

In a recent game with us both playing the same faction, we flipped a set of starts/schemes that we looked at and basically said "yup, Maniacal's pool of models wins this game" and reflipped the pool for a more balanced game.

That's fine sometimes (the game is fun with its varying degrees of challenge), but it seems worrisome if someone starts owning a pool that just dominates by coverage.

Elsewhere on this forum someone posted a thread asking about collection sizes.  I think that’s the first counter example.

Unless you want to post the strats/schemes, and the pools of models available to each player at the time, trying to refute your claim is just a “Uh huh” “Nuh uh” game that won’t accomplish anything.

Yes, if a player has exactly enough models to make exactly one crew they’re in a bad spot.  But finding three leaders that you can say “This one handles these situations, that one handles those, and that one handles the others” is a good spot to be in.

During M2E, I always thought the best advice for a new player was “Pick two master boxes to start.”  Because they need to be able to make choices.  And I think that remains true in this edition.

 

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It's pay-to-play, in the same way any miniatures game is, except more forgiving than most because of small force sizes and slow release schedule. 

Fundamentally you can't avoid this "problem" while maintaining meaningful model rule diversity and crew construction choice.

But I don't see it as any more "pay-to-win" than the fact that if you show up to a golf game with just a driver and a putter you may be at a disadvantage against someone who shows up with a full set of clubs.

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Is it optimal to have every single model option?  Yes.

Is it necessary?  No.

However, I do believe that the developers create and balance around the entire universe of options, which not all players are going to have.  This means that some options may end up being objectively superior and you either have to play it or understand you're going to be at a disadvantage.  

But even difficult match ups are playable and winnable.  Malifaux has a lot of variables that muddy the utility of "mathhammer."  Player skill, terrain set ups, plain old luck are so influential that I don't think any match up is deterministic pre-game. 

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I won't worry much about these. A newbie with access to every model or with only his initial crew is going to lose hard versus a seasoned player. To introduce new players is better other formats, henchman hardcore, limited pools, introductory crews tailored versus each other... not abusing the newbie :P

I cant talk about the competitive side... the more models the better of course, but I guess that it'd depend on the player. Having a few masters (around 3-4) from the faction that cover most angles and the best OOK to be able to adapt could be enough... or even with only 1 or 2 masters if these are strong keywords that can't be hardcountered so easily.

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Although anecdotally, could people share examples of what they take to tournaments?

I can see that it is possible that in practice, the numbers brought to a tournament fall within some sort of soft limit like the 125 cap anyway.

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Generally when I go to a tournament I take 2-3 masters worth of stuff.  More often 2 but did 3 enough times as well.  I started doing it a little before M2E started till the present.  And plan to keep doing so likely.  I find that taking to many models lead to decision paralysis when it comes to list building for me.  I find myself starting second guessing myself or eyeballing a master I think would be a good match but don't have as much experience with.  Back in M2E, heck that first Adepticon right after it came out, I only took 14 models total and did well.  In M2E I rarely took more than 16 models to tournments.

Now in M3E I think I will tend to take a little more, As there is not much overlap due to keywords, but I think I will keep to limiting myself to 3 masters at the most.  Ones that I feel cover my bases and I am comfortable with.  Not just in remembering all their rules and tricks, but also can get stuff done fairly quickly to keep the game moving.

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The way it works is a feature, not a bug. Designers want to sell more units and the game is balanced for a whole faction available at hire. But let's even have this argument in good faith.

4 hours ago, Maniacal_cackle said:

For example, what if in a tournament you could register 125 soulstones of models (plus two free masters/totems) and they were the only ones you could use all tournament.

My two favorite crews are Nightmare and Puppet. They share a couple of models. The total cost of every model they have access to by keywords, through upgrades, or through summoning, is 307ss. That's without any versatile or out of keyword models. What you're suggesting means people couldn't even use two whole keywords, let alone versatile models.

Any hobby takes money, and minis aren't different. It's possible to win well with even a fixed crew. I ran a tournament this weekend and someone smashed it with a fixed Marcus list for the first two rounds. It's not undoable at all. But it's also really unfair to people who have bought and painted all the models for their favorite keywords to be like "this isn't fair to new players so we aren't doing it." In pickup games you should definitely be compassionate to what your opponent has available, but in a competitive setting it's just not a good feeling to know that you could have won if you'd been able to switch crews, you have your other crew right there and painted up, but you can't because of an arbitrary rule meant to favor new players who already are unlikely to win an event because of lack of experience. Plus, again, it gets rid of any incentive for people to buy new models unless they're just busted good, which is uh.... really really bad for the state of the game and its continued existence since Wyrd needs sales to stay in business and the busted good mode is what drives people away from games.

I hope this makes sense and doesn't sound harsh. My spouse and I are pretty poor and the only reason we have a decent collection is this is all we really do for fun. We're not big on movies or going out to eat etc, so we have a decent collection, but even so I often have times where I know I could have done better with access to certain models. So I really understand where you're coming from. It just isn't realistically a problem for anyone but a given individual because it's what's healthiest for the game.

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9 hours ago, LeperColony said:

 Malifaux has a lot of variables that muddy the utility of "mathhammer."  Player skill, terrain set ups, plain old luck are so influential that I don't think any match up is deterministic pre-game. 

Yup had a game of corrupted idols recently where my opponent rushed to a single corner. As far as possible away from my entire crew. Every single strategy marker fell into that corner amd gave him 4 obscenely easy VPs I bashed all but one of his models managed to get my 4 vps through schemes but he got 1 scheme right at the death to win it. There wasn't a crew change in the world that was digging me out of that clustercuss 😂

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I think the "pay to win" outlook is misleading.

Most of this is based on my experience in the last 2 editions, I don't have enough experience in this edition to say how much of an advantage things are.

Yes, you do want to have access to more than just a 50ss crew to do well. but the more you buy, the less of an advantage it gives you. I speak as someone that owns almost every master and has been playing since the beginning of the game and who played the last M2E UKGT 7 round event with out duplicating any model other than my master (and totem).  My collection is huge and I try and use as much of it as I can.  

Owning 100ss of options for your list is obviously better than only owning 50ss worth of options, but the improvement to then owning 150ss worth is much less, and  owning 200ss worth of options is almost identical to owning 250ss worth of options (assuming that you purchased sensible improvements all the way through).

7 hours ago, Maniacal_cackle said:

Does data exist (or will it exist) showing how many models winning players in tournaments usually play?

It seems like a hard topic to analyse without data, but seems the voices here all disagree!

I don't think I can give formal data, but I know at least 2 of my local players have won the UKGT during the M2E era, and I think they both played fixed master. 1 of them virtually played fixed crew (Kirai) for all 7 games. You could certainly have replicated every model he used that day for under £200. That wouldn't cover all the models that were tried in honing the list to that level though. (The other play did also manage to win an event with each faction that year, but I think played Leviticus for every game in the GT).

So Neither player only owned a small selection of models, but both only used a small selection to win the largest event in the world.  (I think most UKGT winners over the M2E era played fairly fixed master/lists, with at least 5 of their 7 games with one master, and a relatively stable core list).

I've played in Fixed pool events in both M1 and M2e, and I've even written a blog post on them on this site, but I don't think they are as equalising as people think they are. They do lead to a different challenge to play, but they make you focus more on selecting generalist models and only a few specialist models when they are really worth beign that specialised (or at lest that's how I do it). They still encourage you to own a much larger pool of models than the size of the pool you are playing, because you are much less likely to want to take multiple of the same models, in that sort of situation.

In my view, once you have a decent sized crew pool, that you understand, the next greatest challenge is understanding what your opponents models can do. For me, the best way to do this is to actually use them, so I generally build up a good understanding of as many models as possible by playing them, which is much easier if I own them. Others are happy to get the experience through reading the cards and facing the figures on the table, and do can do that quite well.

There is a lot of depth in the game of Malifaux and it does take quiet a long time to maximise understanding and use of a small selection of models to know how to face different situations. It is very hard work to have a good enough understanding of a large pool of models to use them all competently even when you are faced with unexpected challenges.

The discussion has happened before in previous editions, and generally I think the view is that good skill is much better then a large collection. Its much fast to get to a good level with a small selection of models than with a large selection. If you start 2 players who have equal skill  at the same time and play the same number of games, the player with the smaller collection will generally start off much faster and better, but over time the player with the larger collection will catch up, and eventually the larger collection will give an advantage in a few games when those extra options shine. If the small collection is very small (barely any options at all), then that gap might be caught up fairly quickly, especially if the collection struggles at certain things, but if its a well purchased set that you have tried to fill the holes in your crew then it can take a long time to match

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5 hours ago, Adran said:

In my view, once you have a decent sized crew pool, that you understand, the next greatest challenge is understanding what your opponents models can do

Yeah, to me this is one of the great divides between stronger and weaker players.  I'm actually an experienced player, but my model knowledge isn't great and I don't do very much studying of the entire model pool.  That immediately puts me behind in any encounter against unfamiliar crews (though I only have myself to blame).

Even if someone owned every model, they'd still need to know what every model did and they would have to be experienced enough with every option where using a situational "counter" results in at least equal, but preferably superior performance to more familiar models.

There's a lot to be said for simply understanding a small but solid pool, and I imagine outside the highest tournament levels a player will almost always see better results mastering 25 models than owning 50.  

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There are two questions here.  1. does how big your collection is matter?  Obviously it does.  Given more options, and the ability to try out more things, you should have the opportunity to field a stronger crew, and to adapt to different strats, schemes and enemies, as well as changes to the meta.  Any game that you are unable to have the full range of options without spending additional funds from the amount to start playing the game is going have that situation.

2.  The second question is how much does it matter.  This is where I would argue, not very much.  I think above they have touched on all the reasons why, so I'm not going to touch that. 

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18 hours ago, CD1248 said:

But I don't see it as any more "pay-to-win" than the fact that if you show up to a golf game with just a driver and a putter you may be at a disadvantage against someone who shows up with a full set of clubs.

I think this about sums it up. If you want an example of pay to win you can go chase the 40K meta and come back and tell us how it goes.
Side note: Most M2E tournies I played in there 2 master 1 faction only. With the keyword system you are even more limited than you where before so hitting that pay2win threshold of getting the best models in faction is greatly reduced. All in all Malifaux is less pay2win and cheaper to be competitive than ever before.

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12 hours ago, Adran said:

I think the "pay to win" outlook is misleading.

Most of this is based on my experience in the last 2 editions, I don't have enough experience in this edition to say how much of an advantage things are.

Yes, you do want to have access to more than just a 50ss crew to do well. but the more you buy, the less of an advantage it gives you. I speak as someone that owns almost every master and has been playing since the beginning of the game and who played the last M2E UKGT 7 round event with out duplicating any model other than my master (and totem).  My collection is huge and I try and use as much of it as I can.  

Owning 100ss of options for your list is obviously better than only owning 50ss worth of options, but the improvement to then owning 150ss worth is much less, and  owning 200ss worth of options is almost identical to owning 250ss worth of options (assuming that you purchased sensible improvements all the way through).

I don't think I can give formal data, but I know at least 2 of my local players have won the UKGT during the M2E era, and I think they both played fixed master. 1 of them virtually played fixed crew (Kirai) for all 7 games. You could certainly have replicated every model he used that day for under £200. That wouldn't cover all the models that were tried in honing the list to that level though. (The other play did also manage to win an event with each faction that year, but I think played Leveticus for every game in the GT).

So Neither player only owned a small selection of models, but both only used a small selection to win the largest event in the world.  (I think most UKGT winners over the M2E era played fairly fixed master/lists, with at least 5 of their 7 games with one master, and a relatively stable core list).

I've played in Fixed pool events in both M1 and M2e, and I've even written a blog post on them on this site, but I don't think they are as equalising as people think they are. They do lead to a different challenge to play, but they make you focus more on selecting generalist models and only a few specialist models when they are really worth beign that specialised (or at lest that's how I do it). They still encourage you to own a much larger pool of models than the size of the pool you are playing, because you are much less likely to want to take multiple of the same models, in that sort of situation.

In my view, once you have a decent sized crew pool, that you understand, the next greatest challenge is understanding what your opponents models can do. For me, the best way to do this is to actually use them, so I generally build up a good understanding of as many models as possible by playing them, which is much easier if I own them. Others are happy to get the experience through reading the cards and facing the figures on the table, and do can do that quite well.

There is a lot of depth in the game of Malifaux and it does take quiet a long time to maximise understanding and use of a small selection of models to know how to face different situations. It is very hard work to have a good enough understanding of a large pool of models to use them all competently even when you are faced with unexpected challenges.

The discussion has happened before in previous editions, and generally I think the view is that good skill is much better then a large collection. Its much fast to get to a good level with a small selection of models than with a large selection. If you start 2 players who have equal skill  at the same time and play the same number of games, the player with the smaller collection will generally start off much faster and better, but over time the player with the larger collection will catch up, and eventually the larger collection will give an advantage in a few games when those extra options shine. If the small collection is very small (barely any options at all), then that gap might be caught up fairly quickly, especially if the collection struggles at certain things, but if its a well purchased set that you have tried to fill the holes in your crew then it can take a long time to match

I'm quoting this whole thing, because it's a quite good analysis. These reasons are why Tacticas are so valuable too, because they give you a bit of insight into what the various pieces do. That knowledge gives you quite a bit of power, and money has nothing to do with it.

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