11/05/2015

Is First Edition the New Beta?


Recently I learned that, as much as I enjoy funding new tabletop games, I should not get involved with startup-level projects. Too often their rules are flawed and after only a year or two, a much-needed update or second edition is released that supersedes the original rules.

Rules are supposed to change over time. They're amended, reworded, tweaked, and errata'd and FAQ'd. But these days it feels like if you just buy into a game that's on its first edition, you're basically paying for an open beta test. Compared to other games, it's not rebalancing. It's a complete rewrite from the bottom up.


For example, 'Dropzone Commander' has had the smallest fixes with their v1.1, whereas 'Malifaux' and 'Mercs' have both received a complete overhaul of their mechanics and are now at v2. The worst culprit is 'Super Dungeon Explore' which very quickly after release had a v1.5 released (online only) and about a year later moved onto their current v2.

I realize that, eventually, these games will come out with a v3. But what makes their second editions so important is the fact that they seem to be the edition that all their supplements and expansions come out for. Aside from Malifaux, which had one or two expansions with its first edition, most of these games hit their second edition and feel far more comfortable there, and thus begin pumping out more products for it.

The only irritation, to me, is that I paid for first edition books, model sculpts, and accessories. Sure, they sometimes carry over, but what about the ones that don't? It was purely wasted money for me, and a cash grab for the companies putting them out.


I think what causes these "unstable" first editions is the fact that the developers simply don't playtest their games enough, or have any naysayers on the team. Most games are destroyed by rules as written (RAW) players, since they tend to exploit the wording as much as possible which damages the mechanics.

It would be nice if they'd release the rules online for public testing, much like Wizards of the Coast did with 'D&D Next', for player feedback. But instead, they're more concerned with making money and end up producing a careless, hurried product with potential for improvement. It's almost as if one of the devs says, "Hey, should we try to fix melee combat before release?" and the other responds, "Nah, if the game sells well enough we'll worry about it with the next edition."

I'm tired of being a guinea pig. I really am. No ruleset is perfect, and I know this. But gaming companies these days seem to have good ideas but tend to be completely ignorant as to how shaky their rules reflect them. And the devs are either too lazy or proud to fix the issues - which are sometimes right in front of them.

 In short: Procrastination is no way to run a company.

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