A Wyrd Malifaux Q&A With Game Designer Aaron Darland

October 26, 2015 by deltagamegirl22

If you followed the Gen Con coverage this year, you may remember that we had a chance to chat with Aaron Darland (see the video above!). This has opened a brilliant new link to the Wyrd world, so I thought it would be fun to pick Aaron’s game designer brain and see what we can learn about all things Wyrd and wonderful.

BoW: Have you always been a gamer? What kind of games do you enjoy?

Aaron Darland: I have always been a gamer. My family got me a Nintendo when I was young, and that’s what really hooked me in. As I got older, I focused more and more on tabletop gaming because I really enjoy interacting with other people. I think it’s really that I enjoy puzzles, and often I find that the games that I tend to enjoy are ones where I can really try to problem solve.

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It means that I gravitate toward more complex games and strategy games – the sort of games you can really focus on. Though, I feel it’s worth mentioning that my favourite type of games to play are tabletop RPGs, but with two kids at home I have found scheduling them to be…difficult.

How did you get into game design?

Well, I got into game design largely because of my own ego related to role-playing games: I always thought I could do it better! So since high school I’ve been tinkering with systems for my own home-brews, and I enjoyed that enough to just keep doing that for fun.

Malifaux Art #1

My ego has dropped since I was a teenager (as I’d imagine most people’s have), but my enjoyment of systems has not abated. How I got into game design professionally was really all about commitment. I had been an active member of the Wyrd community since 2010, including multiple beta tests.

At a certain point, I just knew the people involved and asked if I could do more. My designs worked, and over time that turned into a job at Wyrd.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative ideas?

I would say that most my inspiration comes from trying to figure out a solution to a complex issue. I find that I work best with certain tentpoles that I have to make work — it pushes me to be creative and try out different things. I’m not somebody who does a lot of creation in a vacuum.

Malifaux Art #2

I tend to try to do some low-level research on things: probability, other games, history, etc. and use that to drive my thought process forward. If I can’t think of something that’ll work, maybe the tentpoles need to be revisited.

What is your favourite game in the Wyrd world?

Malifaux is definitely my favourite Wyrd game. It’s the genesis of so much that we’ve got. It has been a real goldmine for ideas and creation, and there’s such a great community that’s a part of it. Honestly, in many ways the community is my favourite part about it.

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Cards instead of dice drew me in, but the amazing opponents kept me there. A wargame really needs a community to function, and ours has really become something great.

What’s your pitch to sell the world of Malifaux to a new gamer? What would the best entry point be?

Every time I need to pitch Malifaux, I always ask what their gaming background is. I think that matters a lot for how you talk about it. Assuming they’ve played wargames before, my pitch focuses on the ability to control the random through a hand of cards and the constant interaction that occurs because of alternating activations and the opposed duel mechanic.

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There are very few wargames that are as interactive as Malifaux, and there are none I’ve seen that give you as much control over the outcome of the game. The ability to choose schemes alone creates a gaming experience unlike what you’ll find in other games.

How would you describe the different factions in the world of Malifaux? Why would a gamer want to choose them?

Hmm… the Factions of Malifaux are pretty varied. I think I’ll start by saying that I think players should pick the Faction they like the look of — there’s enough diversity and cross-faction hiring that you’ll largely be able to get what you want out of them. That said, some people play more based on fluff or mechanics, so it all depends. I’ll give you a quick alphabetical run down…

The M&SU

The backbone of the Arcanists is the Miners and Steamfitters Union, a workers union that is constantly at odds with the tyrannical Guild. The M&SU, as they’re known, are the front of the organization and largely stay within the bounds of the law. But this massive union covers something much deeper, the network of spies, mages, and instigators known as the Arcanists.

The Arcanists are an amalgam of various strong personalities, creating a Faction that is both unified and disparate. This gives them a lot of different options on the table: they have beasts, constructs, union workers, showgirls, and ice monsters at their disposal, to name a few.

The Bayou Boss

The Gremlins are short, green pests. The Gremlins are a little bit hillbilly and a little bit Louisiana creole. They live in the bayou, make moonshine, herd pigs, and ride giant chickens. Don’t let their ridiculousness fool you, though, they are a very competent fighting force. They tend to fight with guns, though a variety of melee options do exist (often in the form of pigs).

A Gremlin crew will often have more action points than their opponent, giving them the speed they need to get things done. Fortunately for everyone else, the little buggers are often pretty easy to put down.

The Torch & Blade
Law. Order. Corruption. The Guild are in control of Malifaux City and the Soulstone trade. Like the Gremlins, they are largely a ranged Faction, but they have a variety of strong options in melee, too. In the game, the Guild specialize in putting out damage: many of their models come with the Critical Strike trigger, allowing them to do more damage on certain attacks.

The sheer stopping power they bring to the table makes it easy to see why such a tyrannical group has managed to stay in charge: not many people can take a bullet to the head and keep kicking.

Mother Of Monsters
Humans, however, are merely tourists in the eyes of Malifaux’s natives: interlopers who came through the Breach to steal that which belongs to the world of Malifaux: Soulstones. But Malifaux was not a barren world, and its natives don’t play nicely. The Neverborn are the monsters that stalk the streets, mountains, and forests of Malifaux.

United in their desire to drive humanity out of their world, the Neverborn attack with unmatched savagery, using their speed to strike at the most critical locations… or using their enemies’ very minds against them, controlling their actions and driving them insane.

Hired Swords
In any time and any place, there are those that just don’t really belong. In Malifaux, those are the Outcasts. Mercenaries, lone wolves, and dabblers in the taboo (such as steampunk necromancers and rat-obsessed plague gods) are those that find a home in the Outcast Faction. Their diversity is one of their greatest strengths, and an Outcast crew will often be a collection of whatever is needed to get the job done.

Forced to survive without the support of a larger organization, the Outcasts have learned to thrive on their own. This leads to the Faction being one of the best at stopping their enemies from doing as they wish. If you want to shut down your opponent’s plan, pick Outcasts.

Open Graves
Resurrectionists. The name itself tells you much about this group of necromancers, undead, and spirits.Those who count themselves as Resurrectionists are not united in a common goal so much as they are in methodology: the use of necromancy is strictly forbidden in Malifaux. Of course, if you do tread these dark paths, a host of monstrosities await you.

The Resurrectionists are the best summoners in the game, able to bring a variety of new creatures to the battlefield at their whim. And since they’re already dead, the Resurrectionists are usually better at taking a hit than anyone else. If you’re fighting a war against a necromancer, make sure it isn’t a war of attrition…

Ten Thunders
Even deeper in the shadows of Malifaux is an organization known as the Ten Thunders. Hailing from the Three Kingdoms, China, Japan, and Vietnam, the Ten Thunders have managed to infiltrate the other Factions of Malifaux. They are spies, ninjas, and samurai. Their success at ingratiating themselves with the other Factions has led to their ability to call on portions of them to help them fight.

A Ten Thunders player may find themselves leading a traditional force of ninja and samurai to the battlefield, or they may draw upon their contacts to shift their playstyle closer to that of another Faction.

If any of these descriptions seem to fit for someone, I’d tell them to find a local Henchman or visit our forum/website to talk to people further. We have a really helpful community who can really help steer new players in the right direction. There’s something for pretty much everyone here, so hopefully you can find your own niche.

We also just put out a Two Player Starter set this is a great way for someone to intro into the game, and all the models in it are Mercenaries so they can be used no matter how you grow your collection.

What can you tell us about The Other Side? What is it? When can we expect to see it?

I don’t have a lot to give you on The Other Side! It’s Wyrd’s next major miniatures game project. It’s set on Earth (i.e. The Other Side) in the same time period as Malifaux. It focuses on more widespread conflict on Earth, taking us up to bigger games than you can find in Malifaux itself.

The Other Side

The games will share some similarities (like using cards instead of dice), but they will not be cross-compatible. Outside of that, the best I can tell you is that we’ve been doing some testing on it and it has been pretty well received! I’m looking forward to continuing work on it and making, hopefully, a great new minis game.

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I can’t really estimate a release date, but I can say that it shouldn’t be too too long before there is more information to give. I’ll just use our oft used and intentionally vague: soon. (Can’t blame a girl for trying!)

Is there anything more in the works from Wyrd that you can share with us?

Right now, Wyrd is mostly focusing on three core games: Malifaux, Through the Breach, and The Other Side. That said, I’m really happy with the release of Darkness Comes Rattling and hope that we can expand on that. We’ve got a variety of other plans, but nothing official enough to share with you at this point, so you’ll just have to keep asking until my lips become unsealed!

What is your favorite game in the Wyrd world?

"Malifaux is definitely my favourite Wyrd game. It's the genesis of so much that we've got..."

"I don't have a lot to give you on The Other Side! It's Wyrd's next major miniatures game project. It's set on Earth (i.e. The Other Side) in the same time period as Malifaux..."