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Thursday
Mar172011

Interview – Eric Johns, Wyrd Miniatures

I recently had the opportunity to interview Eric Johns of Wyrd Miniatures. If you don't know who he is, he's one of the owners of Wyrd Miniatures and is responsible for most of the ruleset. Read on to learn more about Wyrd and their plans for 2011.

TE – How do you feel about the success of Malifaux so far. It’s relatively rare for a new company to rise in popularity so quickly.What do you attribute the success to?

EJ – I am of course thrilled by the success and continued growth of the game. After putting so much time into it, I had hoped it would do well, but I was also realistic, so kept my expectations low. I think it’s safe to say that all those expectations were easily exceeded, and they continue to be. 

I’d like to attribute all the success of Malifaux to my game design!  I do think that the Game itself plays a big role, and includes some exciting and innovative elements which continue to attract players. But, even I have to admit it’s not quite so straightforward. We see new players drawn to the game all the time due to the miniatures, or the artwork, or the fluff, each of which seems to continue to get very positive responses. So ultimately it’s all of these things in combination. On top of this, I do believe we entered the market at a good time, despite the downturn in the economy. Our game suddenly became “economy-appropriate,” or in other words, a relatively inexpensive game to play at a time when people had less and less money to spend on games! Also at a time when there were relatively few other new games hitting the market. 

In short, it seems like between hard work and luck, all the elements seemed to come together!

TE – As with most miniature games Malifaux has quite a bit of errata. The new rules manual and pdf seems to be a strong idea in addressing the issues that came up from the initial run of the book. How do you feel about the reaction from your player base? Is it true that the pdf will basically be a quick-start guide? When is this scheduled for release? 

EJ – Unfortunately the initial release of Malifaux did have a ton of errata, which no one liked! However, we have always been dedicated to fixing the problems in the absolute best way we can think of, and this led to the idea of the Rules Manual. 

As we were preparing for the 2nd round of errata to go “live” I realized it was simply too much to expect players to have to deal with, and in our efforts to close every loophole, and fix all the wording issues in the game, we’d created something which was simply not usable any longer! As a result we knew we had to find a different solution. 

The Rules Manual allowed us to create a new book, which incorporated all the changes with the goal of presenting to the player a quick, easy, completely revised and updated rule-set, and do it at far less than it would cost for a completely new, full sized book. Also, with it’s small size, it would become the perfect game accessory, and easy to carry around any time! 

The PDF of the Rules Manual will be available at the end of March. It will include all the same basic information as the Rules Manual itself, but with a bit of twist to it. It will be missing a bunch of the extras however (artwork, examples, diagrams, additional strategies/schemes). The result is everything you would need to get pick up the game, but leave out just enough to get you wanting more Malifaux! 

TE. The encounter system for Malifaux is one of the more unique aspects of the game (other than the card mechanic), how did you come up with it? Were there any other games that lead to the idea? 

As you know, a lot of other games feature different scenarios, which was the basis for our system. However, to my frustration, it seemed like in the vast majority of cases, the scenarios were just a way to pretty up the game, when in reality you always only had 1 goal, which was to kill your enemy. So we wanted to go beyond where we felt other games had fallen short, and really make the Strategies/Schemes system in Malifaux integral too the game, and get beyond the idea that war-games had nothing more to offer than the goal of slaughtering your opponent. 

It did take a lot of work and testing, and is in fact something we constantly are working on and adjusting (as you’ll see there are quite a few little changes in the Rules Manual even!). But keeping in mind our stated goals, we’re finding it more and more easy to think up fun and challenging ways to force a player to get more, different results out of their miniatures on the board.

I think it was perhaps my favorite Malifaux moment ever, during the first Tournament at Gencon when the game was released. Two players finished up a game, and called me over to report their results, with one player stating that her routed the other off the board, expecting full points and a win in the tournament. I sat down with them to figure out the Victory Points for the game, and it turns out that none of his Strategies or Schemes had anything to do with killing other models, and he resulted with 0 VP for the game, while his opponent had achieved 2 or 3 (I forget). The result was of course a solid win for the player who was routed. The initial confusion on their faces eventually turned into something more, and at that moment I realized that perhaps we achieved at least part of what we set out to do.

TE –  Are there plans to release models for the story-based encounters? It seems like this would be a excellent opportunity to do limited release models. It seems like any time a limited release is issued there are plenty on nay-sayers as well fans.

EJ – Yes, there is! In fact we are hoping to have our first “Scenario Pack” available at Gencon, which would include a whole story-line of encounters for players, as well as a miniature or two you won’t be able to get any other way. I’m not making any promises right now though, but it’s an idea we’re excited about!

TE – What are Wyrd’s plans for 2011? Almost all the models from Rising Powers are released or scheduled to be soon, what’s next?

EJ – We have a TON of plans for 2011! As you’ve already seen we’re released the Rules Manual, which we’re very excited about. In addition we expect to have another Malifaux book ready for release at Gencon, along with a whole host of new miniatures and ways to play Malifaux. Also, we expect to finally see the release of our exciting modular terrain TerraClips, which is getting VERY close to completion now. It’s something that has taking a lot of work to perfect, which caused far more unfortunate delays that we had hoped, but we’re very excited about it! And finally, we of course have Puppet-Wars, a new game which has been taking up a ton of my time lately, and should be available later in 2011 as well.

TE – If you could change one thing about Malifaux what would it be? 

EJ – Well, ideally I’d love to be able to go back and hand myself the rules manual before the initial book release of Malifaux, so I could have gotten everything right the first time! But of course that’s not possible.  In terms of the core mechanics, I’m actually very happy with the result, and there is very little that stands out to me, leaving me wishing I had done it differently. Of course there are lots of little things, models, abilities, etc...which I sometimes wish I had done a bit differently, but definitely nothing that keeps me up at night! 

TE – Can you tell us anything about Puppet Wars? It’s hinted at on the puppet deck and photos of puppet models are floating around the internet and there’s been a call for playtesters. Is this a new game, any super secret things you can reveal?

EJ – Ah, Puppet Wars. This is a game which has been getting a huge chunk of my time and attention, and something which I’m VERY excited about. At first it was designed to be “Malifaux-light,” and something which would be a good, quick introduction to Malifaux, but very quickly I realized that I had a chance to make the game so much more. It is still very much simplified from Malifaux, while keeping some of the core mechanics you’re used to, but at the same time, by simplifying the core of the game, it’s let me build in a lot more depth! It is a bit hard to explain, but with a simple core, it allowed us to build in more elements of both board games and collectable card games. All together, the game becomes quick and easy to play, but with the synergies and potential combinations that you might find in a CCG. That’s the goal at least! 

With the artwork, game, and miniatures, we’re hoping all the factors come together as well as they did with Malifaux, but to create a distinctly different gaming experience.

TE – What’s it like working with Nathan? How about the other developers?

Ah, trying to dig up the dirt around Wyrd HQ? As with any project, people have different ideas about what needs to happen. However, with Nathan and I, we’ve been friends for long enough, that we’ve never reached a breaking point, or even come close to it. In fact, more likely, the disagreements turn into conversations, which turn into hybrid ideas, which turn into something better than either of us could have thought up alone. Bottom line is that without the hard work of everyone around here, we wouldn’t be close to where we’re at as a company, and I think that we all recognize the contributions of the others.

As for my development team. I don’t have enough good things to say about them. A bunch of WAY too smart people who work long hard hours for far less appreciation than they deserve. And they have to put up with me regularly pulling the rug out from under them and taking projects in new directions with little or no warning...so I guess they also must be a patient bunch...or at least don’t let me know it to my face! Either way, it’s another part of Wyrd that I feel is a big reason for our successes. 

TE – Do you currently or in the past play other games? What are your favorites?

EJ – It’s the funniest thing; when you spend so much time making games, you find yourself playing less and less, until you aren’t playing any at all. 

In terms of Miniature Games, I did spend quite a bit of time playing the “big” ones out there (you know the ones), but also dabbled in quite a few others, and ultimately have read just about every game system I can get my hands on. It’s not the same as playing, but it’s enjoyable for me, as I think my mind thinks in rules more than experiences sometimes. 

I’ve also tried my hand at quite a few board games, but typically stayed away from chance based games, those simple ones we all grew up with, and always gravitated towards games of strategy and skill. I would probably say however, my favorite board game is Diplomacy. A game which features NO random chance. Unfortunately it takes 7 dedicated players and quite a bit of time to play, and I rarely get to play anymore.

I’ve also played quite a few CCG’s, had a year of two of extensive Poker playing, along with all types of other dice and card games. In the end, those have all faded, as I’ve gotten more and more focused on creating my own games! 

TE – Early in the game there was an option to buy T-shirts as well as an online magazine. Any plans on bringing these back? Are there plans for other Wyrd branded product?

EJ – Yes, we have tons of ideas and plans, just waiting for the time and energy to make them happen. However, I know for sure you will be seeing at least a few of these plans come to light before or at Gencon this year

TE – Competitive play is always a big draw for miniature games. Does Wyrd have any plans to support competitive play, possibly prize kits? Do you think the story-based nature of the game lends itself well to organized play? 

EJ – You’ve hit another of our upcoming plans, and this one happening sooner rather than later. You will soon be seeing an official Organized Play document for Malifaux, which will correspond to new prize kits. Additionally, I think you will find that the new Story Encounter Packs will also lead to some very interesting events in this new system as well. 

TE – Some other companies have recently released campaign kits, does Wyrd have any plans to do something similar?

EJ – With everything else we’re working on, it’s not something currently in the works. However, I do think in a lot of ways our Story Encounter packs will take the place of this in our game system and world. I do have something bigger along these lines on the back-burner in my mind, but it’s something that you will just have to wait for!

TE – Who’s your favorite master?

Marcus. I think that my involvement with him left him a bit on the weak side (as determined by the consensus of gamers out there). It was a lesson I learned early, to not get too involved with any single master or model, because it removes my ability to be unbiased when working on them. 

TE – Is there anything else you like to share?

EJ – How about I just show off some of the new exciting Puppet Artwork we have coming up. I’ll leave it up to you do figure out which puppet is which ;)


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Reader Comments (2)

WOW, great interview. Im guessing one of those is the Spirit of Lost Love.

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermalifaux guy

i really like the rat catcher.

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermaverickman5

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