Through the Breach is a new tabletop roleplaying game based in the world of Malifaux. It is a steampunk setting where outlaws, mages, mad scientists, and unspeakable creatures thrive. Released at GenCon, Through the Breach is available in local game stores now. With the game recently launching, it seems only reasonable talk a little bit about character creation.
Player characters in the game are called Fated, individuals in the world of Malifaux that have a destiny to fulfill. Character creation is a simple process, the full details of which can be found in The Fated Almanac, but we’re going to go through the basic steps to hit the ground running (from the Neverborn) as soon as you get your books!
~ Forging Your Fate ~
Go ahead and grab a Fate Deck (or a standard deck of cards with the two jokers). If we want a Fated character, we’re going to have to start with the Fate deck. Everything in the game is resolved through card flips, and character creation is no different. You’ll end up flipping five cards off the top of the deck in what is called the Cross Roads Tarot.
The first card you flip goes in the center, and it is called your Station card. Your Station has more to do with your parents or family than you directly. It lets you know what your parents may have done for a living or what they might have been involved with. The Station card, therefore, also provides some insight into who you are and what you may have learned growing up. The apple doesn’t always fall far from the hanging tree.
I flipped a 10 of Rams (or Hearts), which means that my Station is Enforcer, essentially belonging to a family who was willing to break some legs to keep things in line. I think Abram, my new Fated, had parents who were strict and decisive.
The second card you flip goes to the left of your Station and is the western card. Your western card is used to determine your physical Aspects: Might, Grace, Speed, and Resilience. The flip will give you four values that you can assign to each of these Aspects. You can start thinking about what your Fated was like growing up. Some of these numbers may be negative, but don’t worry about that. Negative Aspects aren’t terribly detrimental, in fact, they may even provide you some unique opportunities!
The 6 of Crows (or Spades) tells me -2, 0, 0, and +2. Having tough parents can often make a tough kid. Abram didn’t grow up graceful, but he learned how to take a hit. I’ll put the -2 in Grace and the +2 in Resilience.
The third card you flip goes above your Station and is the northern card. The northern card contains your root skills. It reflects many of the skills your character learned growing up, and in conjunction with the other two parts of your Tarot so far, should give you a fairly solid idea of your character’s background. You can assign these values to any skills you want.
A 13 of Rams gives me only three Skills, at 3, 3, and 2. Unlike many kids his age, Abram wasn’t out playing. There were things he had to learn, and he knew that mistakes were not an option. Abram has 3 points in Labor, meaning that he’s good at working tirelessly at manual tasks. He has 2 points in Centering because he learned to keep a cool head. Finally, he has 3 points in Pugilism, as his parents knew he might be fighting from a young age.
The fourth card is the eastern card and goes to the right of the Station. This card informs your mental Aspects: Intellect, Charm, Cunning, and Tenacity. This is also the point you should start considering your Fated as they get older. The four mental Aspects have a lot to do with learning and interacting with others, and where you assign the values will have a large impact on how your character views the world.
The 12 of Tomes (or Clubs) tells me my mental Aspects are -2, -1, 0, and +3. Abram is clearly growing up into a man of extremes. He focuses to the detriment of other things, and he dislikes making mistakes. He has a +3 in Tenacity because he’s willing to stick anything through to the end. He’s a -2 at Charm. He can’t exactly relate to others well. His fairly straightforward, bullheaded approach to issues leaves him with a -1 to Cunning.
The fifth and final card is the southern card, and it goes below the Station. This provides you with your endeavor skills. These reflect more of the skills you chose to learn as you got older, and often reflect how you currently spend your time. These skills cannot be added to the root skills, which means that you’ll often end up with a Fated with plenty of skills at their fingertips.
An ace of Tomes reveals that maybe his approach to life didn’t keep panning out, as he finally gains a smattering of Skills. He puts 3 points into Intimidate and 2 points into Toughness. He tried to get his way by force, but it didn’t pan out. Now he’s got 1 point in each of Athletics, Pistols, Track, and Wilderness. Looking at how that all turned out, I bet he’s going to Malifaux because he’s got no goodwill left back Earthside.
Once you’ve completed, you’ll end up with a Tarot that looks like the below, and helps tell the narrative about your character.
Back in 2012, 7 Wonders (2010) had already been met with enormous success and two expansions had been released: Leaders (2011) and Cities (2012). At that time, I had started to work on the rest of the line through two new expansions (and the Wonder Pack, 2013): Babel and Armada. For both of these, development was proving to be more detailed than it had been for Leaders and Cities. In short, I was having trouble. When faced with such a situation, I tend to generally “let it rest” and I start working on other projects.
From memory, I started thinking about a 7 Wonders for two players on my own. A version for two players is available in the basic rules and I was satisfied with it (with the Repos Production team, we had spent a lot of time back then on this two player variant in order to offer a ruleset we felt was “solid”). This two-player variant has its fans and its naysayers. Many players have made their own variant and shared it online. That’s to be expected. The fact is that 7 Wonders is fundamentally a multiplayer game. So why not offer a 7 Wonders made especially for two players? Exclusively two-player games are a delicate market and publishers are often apprehensive when it comes to publishing one. But with the aura of 7 Wonders and the fact that an enormous number of players play it with only two people (sometimes even exclusively!), the challenge is interesting. I made a 7 Wonders: Duel folder on my hard drive, and started scribbling a few notes...
The first prototype dates from May 2013. This first version used the Wonder boards from the original game and a system of multiple decks. Placed between the two players, the decks repeated a three Age structure: the players first had access to Age 1 cards (at the top of each deck), then those from Age 2, and finally of Age 3. From what I remember, science worked the same way as the military did… I don’t really recall.
After a few games, I realized the following:
The main difficulty lies in the fact that I have trouble distancing myself in regards to 7 Wonders. Considering that 7 Wonders: Duel is a complete game, of course it had to have its own character and offer a new game experience. I needed an outside look to find this distance, this identity. So I called on Bruno Cathala, and for many reasons: firstly, because our common projects have always been very enriching, since Bruno has a solid experience when it comes to two player games. Finally, while he knows 7 Wonders (he was actually the first person to feel it would be a hit), he hasn’t played it more than that and will be able to have a new perspective on the issue. Hello, Bruno?
Moving forward to 2013. It’s summer, the time of the great gaming summer migrations. Antoine and I are catching a plane in Geneva, heading to Indianapolis, for GENCON. And what do two authors do in a plane when the flight is so long? They talk about games, of course. And that’s where, somewhere over the Atlantic, that Antoine explained to me that he really wanted to develop a specific version of 7 Wonders for two players. Another game, not just a simple variant. A bit like for the Settlers of Catan. I think it’s an excellent idea.
I love 7 Wonders even if I don’t play that often (I’ll admit that most of my gaming time is almost exclusively spent testing my prototypes) and I’ve never been completely won over by the two-player rules as they were presented in the basic game. Without being one of the naysayers mentioned by Antoine, I always thought that it could be better. And here, to my great surprise, Antoine is asking me if I’d be willing to work with him on this project. Can you say “Of course, I will”! I love the basic game, I like working with Antoine (we’re generally pretty efficient together, and it’s generally easygoing on joint projects), and the least we could say is that such an offer is a real gift. So I won’t be turning down a gift!
So we took our notebooks and started brainstorming at 36,000 feet. A good way to know if the rarefication of oxygen is good for ideas! (yes, I know, the plane cabin is pressurized, but the notion amuses me). The first realization is simple: in 7 Wonders, all of the game’s spice lies in the simultaneous draft system. But this system doesn’t work with two players: and that’s normal, it was made specifically for multiplayer.
First Realization: We’ll have to find another Draft system, a different one, but one that’s just as “clever” for two players. And almost immediately, we started pitching ideas, including the one finally kept of having the cards laid out in a pyramid, with the taken cards allowing us to ever-so-slowly discover the ones trapped underneath. On paper, it seemed clever, it felt right to use, and it seemed to be a sign that it was one of those mini-choices that are both simple and crucial, and give the game some pizazz.
Second Realization: The military aspect can’t work the same way. As with two players, the notion of player on the right and the left doesn’t make any sense. And what if… we had a “tug of war”? Meaning, a military track. With a token which moves in one direction or another according to the number of shields gained by the players via their military cards. And if this token goes beyond a certain limit, then we get an immediate military victory.
It’s simple, efficient, and fun. And a possibility for a sudden victory, a sort of Sword of Damocles allowing to put some pressure on the opponent’s choices, in a two-player game, it’s awesome! We’ll have to work out the details, but we’re on to something here.
Third Realization: We need to redo trading. Because if I purchase from my only opponent the resources I don’t have and he buys from me the ones he doesn’t have, there won’t really be any tension, as the coins will continuously go from one player to the other without ever running short. So we need to change that. We don’t know the cost scale yet, but what’s certain is that we’ll have to buy from the bank, and not from the opponent.
Fourth Realization: The ‘science’. The science is a crucial element in the basic 7 Wonders. But, the scoring of victory points from green isn’t intuitive, and that it’s one of the most difficult elements for new players who are learning the game for the first time. So, at this point, we want to keep the specific attraction of science, but by simplifying the calculation… and why not by strengthening the thematic aspect. And we come up with the idea of almost entirely removing the victory points linked to science and introducing the possibility of an immediate scientific victory. A counterweight to military victory.
Pure intellect against brute force in a way. We’d need to collect different scientific symbols (so we might have to create new ones). Each symbol would exist in two copies. If a player collects all the different symbols, it’s an immediate victory. But if a player collects a pair of identical symbols, then they’d get a scientific development which would grant them a special bonus (and on a thematic level, that’s cool).
And for all the rest (the VP from the civilian buildings, the three Age structure, the possibility of building your Wonder), well, we’re not changing anything. There. In a few hours in the clouds, each bouncing ideas off of the other, it looks like an entire system has been set up. Easily. Naturally. As if by evidence. A system which, in our heads at least, seems very promising. Very exciting for us in any case. In short, all that’s left is the trial by fire!
Back in France, I start working on building a prototype, just in time for the first playtests arrives. The prototype quickly goes through its paces (a two-player game, with two designers on it, allows for quick successions of games, that’s cool). Quickly, we ended up with a satisfying version, one that was solid and promising. The development is far from done, but as it was the little brother to 7 Wonders, it seems right to me to introduce it to Repos Production right away, so that the publisher gets in the loop as soon as possible! Confident and impatient, I send a prototype to Thomas Provoost, General Manager of Repos Production...
The prototype sent, I move on to other projects, just to vary my fun… or almost, as I’m then working on the final touches on Babel, an expansion for 7 Wonders. The development is coming to an end here, and a work session at the Repos Production office is about to take place. A good occasion to talk about 7 Wonders: Duel
Unfortunately, the discussion didn’t turn out the way I expected it to. Thomas and Cédrick aren’t convinced by the prototype for 7 Wonders: Duel! So I go back home, a bit disappointed, bearing the bad news to Bruno. As authors, we’re used to getting turned down, but 7 Wonders: Duel looked really promising to us, going even beyond the renowned halo of its elder...
Publishing a game is already a complex task, but managing a game line is even harder. The idea of enriching the 7 Wonders line was appealing to us, but the question was under what form, and with which product: a kids’ game, a dice game, a game on modern civilization and the conquest of space, a 4th Age... The possibilities are endless, and at least as great as the risk of disappointing the fans. So we’re very careful about all the details. The reasons which led us to not accept the very first version of Duel were many. Some were based on game design, some on the contents, and the third, the main one, on a misunderstanding with the authors.
That’s right – sure that we’d fall directly under its charm, Antoine and Bruno asked for a very fast answer from us: two weeks. That’s a short time to make important choices! We misunderstood this urgency due to their enthusiasm. Thus, we had to take a position regarding a nearly finished game, while it was just a prototype for them.
The first issue was that Duel would be the same price as the basic game. This version contained, to a few cards, the same contents as the basic game. This wasn’t viable commercially and could not be defended to our clients and our distribution partners. The second issue was that the trading rule, which was totally different, contained a market system which really weighed down the game. We were in a gaming experience for experienced players (Ghost Stories style), which was far from the original 7 Wonders public.
The draft structure was identical at each Age, which didn’t give a feeling of evolution. The cards were all visible, which lengthened the games and made them too cold and analytical. A draft includes, for us, a part of luck and suspense. Many effects weren’t present yet, like the replay effect, which brings enormous tension and a permanent risk of upending the draft. And, finally, the beginning of the game – each player draws one Wonder from among seven – was identical. We needed for the experience to be different from beginning to end!
After many games, our answer was clear: a good prototype, sure, but not an almost finished game ready to be published. So we refused the game. A few months later, during GenCon, Antoine and I went to eat and talk about our other projects. Each having some frustration about Duel, we broached the subject. Quickly, we cleared up this misunderstanding and a few weeks later, we were sent a new version of Duel. Strong from this first refusal, Antoine and Bruno had worked like madmen, and had already removed the content problem and introduced the drafting of the Wonders at the beginning of the game. All of the elements were there to begin working.
One of the roles of the publisher is to challenge the author so that they’ll give their best and produce a quality game. The initial refusal from Repos Production surprised us (the line is a huge success and publishing one more game isn’t a financial risk), bewildered us (we had the conviction of having an excellent game), and frustrated us a bit (we might be used to it, but getting turned down is still painful). Finally, being turned down has the expected result: Bruno and I were certain of the potential of 7 Wonders: Duel. So we continued to work on our side until we had a new version – a better one, of course, but one which would be receptive to the criticisms we received – to present to Repos Production. And it was a good thing, as that version was an immediate hit. The publishing adventure would begin...
One of the critical points on which we worked until the last minute was the way to gain gold coins (GC). It’s often said that ‘Money’ is the lifeblood of ‘War’. And in 7 Wonders: Duel, this saying is also true. In order to construct a building, a player needs to have the proper resources… or buy them from the bank if they don’t have them.
From the start, we set up a twisted system which was well adapted to a two player game: to build, each missing resource costs 2GC + 1GC for each resource of the same type owned by the opponent. This way, it becomes dangerous (or at the very least really costly) to let an opponent start blockading one of the five resources of the game.
In regard for this increasing resource cost, we needed a way to be able to gain GC. And for quite some time, we kept the same system as in the original 7 Wonders: discarding a card from the draft grants 3GC. Simple. Efficient. Easy to remember. But… while this “return” of 3GC for each discarded card was fine during Age 1, it would become frustrating for some players as soon as the cost of resources would go up to four, or even five GC in Ages 2 and 3, leading them to having to discard on multiple consecutive turns in order to have enough money required for construction.
Even if ending up in this situation was due to a bad reading of the circumstances, and to bad choices at the beginning of the game, the result was felt to be too punitive, leading to too high a frustration for the player. So we had to find something else, something that was both efficient and not too complex.
We banged our heads on that point, Antoine, Thomas, or myself offering suggestions in turn, each coming up with increasingly complex systems one after another. Until, after a sleepless night, an ultimate idea surfaced, which was immediately unanimously adopted: What if discarding a card only gave 2GC… + 1GC extra for each commerce card (yellow cards) already built by the player? It’s simple. It fits with the incremental cost of the missing resources (2+X). It melds with the very function of the commerce cards. It doesn’t prevent the resource monopoly strategies. But, it’s no longer necessary to spend many consecutive turns to rebuild during the game. A few tests quickly confirmed the proper basis of the system, to the point where we ended up wondering why we hadn’t thought of it sooner!
As during the time of 7 Wonders and its expansions, the final stretch of 7 Wonders: Duel was epic, long, and painful when it came to sleep: a colossal number of micro-tweaks were applied, one after another, in between test games, and were the hallmark of the last few weeks of development.
“Even if the hill is steep, the road is straight” - Hicham A.
As for 7 Wonders, there isn’t a card, a Wonder, a progress token, an effect, or a chain building which hasn’t been slightly or even radically changed during the long editorial process. The work was even more complex than on 7 Wonders as the triple possibility of victory gave a permanent limit to our creative impulses. We had to make sure that with each evolution to not strengthen or weaken one of the conditions.
After these long months of work, contemplation, and going back and forth, I’m very proud of the work we’ve done and of what 7 Wonders: Duel has become. Duel now has everything its big brother has, it’s easy to learn, fast, magnificent (thanks Miguel), and addictive all while being very different. The 7 Wonders line gets longer in the best way there is.
~ The Spark of Rebellion ~
The fate of the galaxy is yours to decide with the eighth wave of X-Wing starship expansions and the Imperial Assault Carrier Expansion Pack!
~ Wave VIII ~
The Ghost and its crew make their X-Wing debuts as part of the game’s eighth wave, as do the Inquisitor and an infamous assortment of the galaxy’s deadliest bounty hunters. Spark your own rebellion against the Galactic Empire with the Ghost Expansion Pack. Hera Syndulla, Ezra Bridger, Kanan Jarrus, and the other heroes of Star Wars Rebels offer their skills, ready to pilot their two signature starships, the Ghost and the Phantom!
The galaxy’s most famous VCX-100 – and likely the hardest to detect – the Ghost is a massive, heavily armored, and heavily shielded Rebel vessel that just barely makes it into the game as a large-base ship for Standard Play. That’s not to say that it doesn’t still provide a huge impact; the Ghost Expansion Pack brings this prepainted VCX-100 to life at 1/270 scale as a powerhouse hitter that packs a massive stat line of four attack, zero agility, ten hull, and six shields!
If that’s not enough, the VCX-100 isn’t even the only ship in the Ghost Expansion Pack. It’s accompanied by its attack shuttle, which is, itself, a lethal, small-base starship that can make a valuable contribution to any Rebel squad with an attack value of three and both turret and crew upgrade slots. Moreover, the Phantom can start docked to the Ghost and comes with rules for deploying in the heat of battle!
Personally tasked by Darth Vader to hunt down any surviving Jedi Knights, the Inquisitor was provided access to the best of all available Imperial technologies, including his own personal TIE Advanced prototype, which represented a groundbreaking improvement over the TIE fighter designs of its time. This lethal starfighter arrives to the Imperial forces of X-Wing, along with four ship cards, including one for the Inquisitor himself. Additionally, the Inquisitor’s TIE Expansion Pack contains five upgrades, a maneuver dial, and all the tokens you need to launch into space and pursue your foes through the stars!
Meanwhile, the Mist Hunter and Punishing One Expansion Packs give life to three more of the skilled bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back. Zuckuss and 4-LOM pursue their prey aboard their signature G-1A starfighter, the Mist Hunter. This miniature starfighter enters the game pre-painted at its standard 1/270 scale, and it comes with a wide assortment of optional upgrades, including a Tractor Beam, Electronic Baffle, and an illicit Cloaking Device.
However, if all the tricks those upgrades permit don’t interest you as much as more raw power, you might prefer the Punishing One Expansion Pack, which comes with the Corellian bounty hunter Dengar and his signature JumpMaster 5000, which also happens to be the Scum faction’s first large-base turreted ship.
~ The Imperial Assault Carrier ~
Even as the Ghost and its crew members spark insurgency throughout the galaxy in Wave VIII, Agent Kallus and the Imperial Assault Carrier Expansion Pack grant the Empire new means to carry the fight to the Rebellion’s treasonous scum, no matter where they attempt to hide!
The highlight of the Imperial Assault Carrier Expansion Pack is its pre-painted, huge-base Gozanti-class cruiser miniature. Designed for use within the game’s Cinematic Play and Epic Play formats, this heavily armored transport is too large for the game’s Standard Play format, but nonetheless enters X-Wing at the game’s standard 1/270 scale. Accordingly, it towers over the game’s small and large ships, even as it can carry and deploy up to four TIEs from its signature docking clamps.
Two of these TIEs even come with the Imperial Assault Carrier Expansion Pack. Given an alternate paint scheme to match the TIEs flown during the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi, these TIE fighters are accompanied by ten ship cards, including ship cards for four new TIE fighter aces, all of which are fully legal for Standard Play.
In addition to its ships and ship cards, the Imperial Assault Carrier Expansion Pack contains twenty-six upgrade cards, and all the maneuver dials, damage decks, tokens, and game pieces that you need in order to commission your Gozanti and its escort fighters to intercept and destroy all agents of the Rebel Alliance!
~ Expand Your Galaxy ~
The Star Wars galaxy is a rich and fantastic place, full of heroes, villains, and thrilling adventures. Wave VIII and the Imperial Assault Carrier Expansion Pack will soon allow you to bring even more of these adventures to your games of X-Wing, even as they introduce many of the most recognizable ships and characters from Star Wars Rebels!
Our first Munchkin booster packs, Fairy Dust and Waiting for Santa, were published in 2009. Those first micro-expansion packs were soon followed by other inexpensive Munchkin boosters, and as each new set was released we heard demands for more and more themes and new ideas. The boosters were, both financially and from a gameplay perspective, far more successful than we had originally hoped.
The format, though, wasn't perfect. Two different - and very public - problems kept the boosters from truly reaching their full potential, while a third issue with the boosters (behind the scenes) nagged at us more and more as the number of booster releases kept climbing.
Those three grievances were:
We hate when Munchkin expansions go out of print. It drives the aftermarket prices to unreasonable amounts which makes it expensive for new Munchkin players to grab older cards. That's no fun!
A Possible Solution? When we outlined our Star Munchkin plans for 2015 (Star Munchkin 3, Star Munchkin Deluxe, and Star Munchkin Cosmic Demo) we struggled over whether or not to reprint the Space Ships booster. Prices on eBay were around the $40 mark, but the demand wasn't high enough to justify printing tens of thousands of copies of the booster. What could we do?
After several phone calls, emails, debates in our conference rooms, and painful tears, we settled on an idea that we felt could work: The blister pack. What's a blister pack? You've seen these thousands of times before. A piece of cardboard and clear plastic shell are glued together to form a hangable package that allows us to see what's inside. Blister packs are used in almost every industry - how many of these did I tear open when buying Star Wars action figures as a kid? - and a blister pack would allow a store to display Space Ships right beside Star Munchkin 3.
And even better is that the blister pack is standard for us, and both quicker to produce and can be run in lower numbers than a fin-seal. We believed we had the solution so we went with it, shipping Space Ships to print in the new packaging format before talking with more than a handful of outside partners.
We revealed the Space Ships packaging to retailers at the GAMA Trade Show, and the response was positive! This turned out to be one of our best decisions of the year, automatically making reprints of boosters viable and providing stores with a package that pegs in the exact same spot as the various Munchkin tuckbox expansions. Win!
As soon as we knew that the new format would work we sat down and went through the list of out-of-print boosters and selected two to reprint right away. Our processes usually require more time, but the staff pulled together and managed to get these two boosters revised and off to the printer quickly.
But reprinting out-of-print boosters wasn't the only use for the blister packaging. A few ideas floating around the office weren't big enough for a tuckbox expansion, but we had more than 15 ideas for cards. We quickly worked out pricing and plans for 30-card blister packs and created two new sets that will be in your favorite local game store before Christmas:
And, we’re not finished yet! The flexibility of the new blister packaging over the old booster fin-seals has us reviewing our 2016 plans. Now that we can print fewer copies of a micro-expansion, we’re looking at bringing back some other out-of-print boosters, and the 30-card format looks perfect for a few other ideas.
We would love to hear from you about the new packaging for the booster packs. You can find us on Twitter (@sjgames), or leave a comment on our forums at www.sjgames.com. And if you have an out-of-print Munchkin booster that you want to see back in stores, please let us know! After all, part of the reason we made the packaging change was to make it easier to reprint those earlier Munchkin boosters.