Eleven Decks, Eleven Notes – Part 2

January 10, 2020

Bright but not the star.

The danger – I feel it.

Before dwelling on all things ‘fisty in the 2020’s, I was thinking about the possibility of making a non series post on Gloomhaven, since we’ve been getting back to playing it.

I’m not as fired up about builds and characters and party composition and rules as I was prior.  Still, Gloomhaven is my not-really-RPG outlet at the moment where I get to think about character advancement/build at all.  The more I play, the less, perhaps, I feel like it subs for a RPG as it’s not terribly openended.  The scenario by scenario rebuilding of my play stack, though, becomes more interesting as I level up and buy enhancements.  We played a really easy to accomplish scenario if you have good movement twice in a row.  The first time, I put all of my good movement in and it was stupidly easy.  The second time, there was poor communication on our strategy of looting and I failed the scenario by one card due to trying to fight through enemies on very hard difficulty.

The takeaway was mostly how not RPGlike it felt, especially when I contrasted with my thinking processes with RPGs on the same days.  I want to play more Gloomhaven.  I want to get back to playing real RPGs.

Thursday, we only played one game, which is our norm.  The ebb and flow was not normriffic, though.

Joren (Thunder) -> Justin (Purists) -> Ian (Turbo? Junk) -> Don (Purists)

So, what made this game different from many but not all of our Game Kastle Santa Clara games was that I got a fast start and got close to winning quite early.  I put out Solar Farm on turn one.  I get the first midrange with Sanctuary Protector (almost have to ban this card due to flavor text, but not yet).  I make a bid for victory with Kitty Kerosene and three Knightcaps with Sanctuary Protector just hanging out.

I figure there’s going to be stoppage to where I’ll have to play one or more of my three Turbo Boosts in hand to make the bid serious.  Chump Kitty, Math Bomb.  I save Kitty with Kinoshita House of Pancakes.  I lose everything else because look up Sanctuary Protector on chimpshack.org or wherever.

Kitty gets Auramancer/Stolen Thunder banged and Joren seizes KHoP.  I stop drawing meaningful characters as I’m pillaged down to no cards in play with one burned for victory.  Of course, my choosing to sit on multiple Turbo Boosts has something to do with that.  But, the other decks develop and The Gray and Material Transcendences and ambush all pop up to where I don’t really care about my board position.  The whole value in this post can be summed up by the CCG theory of “Fast, weak, win!”

I’ve seen it a number of times with V:TES and winnie decks or stealth bleed.  Come out fast, get clipped by table politics, seem under control, win off of the fact that what you do is just really good and uncomplicated.

Not that Turbo? Junk is uncomplicated.

Back to the story.

So, I have things like one location, two sites, one of which is unrevealed Valley of Ashes I never use even though Auramancing is in rage with a lone Software Pirate to defend.  Don is doing fairly well with The Unnameable attacking when Netherworld Returns starts a uniqueness auction of his own two copies.  I win the bid at one to smoke the attacker.  Note that I had like no cards in play and around 10 power at one point.

Justin goes for a win with half of an army:  Impossible Men, Echo Spirit, Mathemagician with Origami Handguns versus his reserves of Shards of Warped Reflection copying The Unnameable’s ability, The Unnameable(!!), and two other Echo Spirits.  He hits my Diamond Beach for one due to Origami.  He attacks again for the win and Math Bomb wipes his board except for Shards.

That same Math Bomb smokes two more Knightcaps as one came back from the Netherworld Returns.  Five lost Knightcaps due to Math Bombs!!  I chose to discard the fifth Knightcaps.  I did play four Turbo Boosts, so I did have four Knightcaps and four Turbo Boosts in my smoked pile.

I play Scrounging, naming the obvious … states.  I gain four power due to having one burned for victory.  I play Scrounging again naming, well, duh, states, and gain six power.  I finally draw characters and funny.

So, with Purists Bombing or Transcending people’s boards, there are only three characters in play when I play my star – Machine Warrior.  Now, why is Machine Warrior my star when I don’t exactly combo much with him?  Because I own at least the two copies of this promo and put them into the same deck, a deck created to have these two promo cards.

I attack where a Twisted Horror with Sword of the Dragon King, Origami Handguns, Amulet of the Turtle (6) is hanging out instead of an undefended site because …

Deadly Fans for the humor. Don Glimpsed of Brief Eternity.  Five cards were something like Scrounging, Salvage, The Hidden Grotto, Kowloon Gate, Software Pirate.  No Junk!

Justin had Chi Syphoned Kinoshita House of Pancakes twice and used his remaining KHoP copy to feed the junk-eater.  This was exactly what I was playing for as I drop Russ Razor, Laser Blazer and do exactly zero damage to the Twisted Horror (I had Payback Time and a Transcended Billy Zed), Wei Qing (Glass Dagger), Shards (one resource).  I attack the same site and play my second Deadly Fans for the win.

Was it a quality win?  Not entirely.  There was a card on the board that wasn’t copying Kinoshita House of Pancakes that should have been able to stop this lunacy.  But, it was a funny win, thus appeasing a tough crowd.

So, that’s the lesson for you all:  burn for victory when you have your first Scrounging in hand as you will Scrounging twice for states to gain lots of unneeded power to win off of Russ Razor, Laser Blazer wielding Deadly Fans.

Will I post about every remaining deck?  Stay tuned.

Eleven Decks, Eleven Notes – Part 1

January 3, 2020

I know it’s dangerous to do post series.  Have to be truly fascinated to want to read the subsequent posts.

Fortunately, nothing is more fascinating than a play on a movie title series all about Shadowfist decks.

Between start of Christmas Day and end of New Year’s Day, I built … by my cursory count … eleven new decks.  I also modified some other decks, but that won’t matter until Q2, when I’m done playing all of these new decks.

January 2nd, I played two of these decks, determining order of play through dice rolls.

Ian (Retiring Broke) -> Don (Feast Of Power) -> Justin (Ascended Financial) -> Joren (Thunder Returns)

I play Rebel Without a Cause.  I add Junkyard Crawler and realize the special ability is nowhere near as good as I thought.  I didn’t realize I had to move to the top or toast the card.  Still, I think I used the ability every turn the card was in play.  With some Close Calls, I was not owned by Don’s early Demon Whiskey.

Don hadn’t yet built the infinite power engine that is Feast of Souls.  He did get Haunted Tomb out and two Haunted Forests, with Palace Guards and Demon Whiskey being odd.

Justin got out multiple Insurance Policys and Treasure Cache.  Joren Auramancer, Thunder Maidens, Thunder Berserkers.

I shell out the first $10,000 Man.  Another 10G got a Netherflitter.  Then, the game gets Shadowfisty.  Joren fuels Don to infinite power by attacking Lotus stuff even though Justin stole one of Don’s Feasts of Souls with Cabinet Minister so that Don didn’t have 2x infinite power.  Don fuels Joren by continuously choosing to return Palace Guards to play with Auramancer out.

Don plays Long Shadows and Evil Twins.  Sure, Long Shadows doesn’t guarantee victory.  Just guarantees that you focus all of your efforts on killing that one card until it can’t undeadify the omniverse.

With $40,000 of Mans in play, I continue operation murder Obsidian Eyed Long Shadows with all of the rest of Don’s dudes done for.  Underworld Coronation.

Don puts out some stuff but doesn’t have it.  Justin Bear Markets.

Because I was the only one who could run out of power, Justin plays stuff and wins.

$40,000 non-banana eating Cyborgs.  $40,000 non-banana …

Justin (Back for Seconds) -> Joren (Soul Reaver Cruisers) -> Ian (Cattle Horde) -> Don (Commando)

Justin seemed to have problems with characters, as he got out Apprenticeship and didn’t use it a lot.  He kept Back for Secondsing to stop my assaults, much of the time using it on Don’s stuff.

Joren’s Soul Reavers were far more focused on murdering Don’s dudes, especially foundations.  So, Don rarely had much in play.

My first Demon Whiskey got Improvised Weapons up to four counters.  Fueled off of a long lasting Mah-Jongg Parlor, I got out two other Demon Whiskeys and two Bloody Herds, one of which got Haunted but also learned the power of Regenerate.  I played sites and swung for victories.  They were stopped.  One stopped by Tortured Memories.

With two 1-F dorks and a Ex-Commando with no weapons, Don swung and the most anyone could do was my throwing a 1-F Demon Whiskey in front of his attack on The Hidden Grotto.

Shadowfist.  From infinite power losing to five fighting for five winning.

Btw, since I kept not playing a particular “key” card, my deck name may change after I play this deck again sometime in Q3.

Tying back to yesteryears, no, not going to review Eleven Days, Eleven Nights even though I’ve actually seen it, what was the takeaway from this play?

My attempting to win makes for bad Shadowfist game endings.  Almost all of the times it seems like I should swing for a win because of the table state, the attack will fail and someone else will win.  My wins come from when I’m not doing much of anything and someone else gets stopped a bit too hard.

It always seems like part of the fun of the game is to try to win in the moment.  Maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s just better to accumulate a full Herd and copy absurdly irrelevant text.

On the other hand, when I do swing for wins when it’s likely to fail, it does cause games to last less than 2.5 hours, which means I do get to play more than one deck a week.

So, it should be obvious to any V:TES player or Babylon 5 player or … not quite sure about the same hurdle with Ultimate Combat! or Wheel of Time … that it is far, far easier (for me) to build Shadowfist decks than decks for other CCGs, as the most V:TES decks I imagine I’ve ever constructed in about two full days of deckbuilding was maybe something like nine or only like seven for Babylon 5.

The wonders of having no minimum deck size are a factor.  Cattle Horde is 40 cards.  Retiring Broke is a bloated, 50-card menagerie.  Of course, also not caring what the decks do besides like one or two things which have no particular connection to winning helps immensely.  Rather than spend time thinking about how to build a better Cattle deck or a better Close Call deck, I can just put together a different, 30-card deck and call it a cold, lean, thinly sliced pastrami sandwich on a sourdough roll with sweet mustard, mayo, shredded iceberg, tomato, red onions, and, perhaps, a garlic spread.

What’s better than a great Morphic Spirit deck?  Two sketchy Morphic Spirit decks.

Though, to be fair to other CCGs, more decks = more fun, as a general rule.

New Year – Old Stuff

January 1, 2020

I got my hoops in this morning.  It occurred to me when I was walking out to the park in a t-shirt that doing this sort of stuff on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day is a function of living in California.

No, the theme of today’s post isn’t how different folks perceive the “world” differently, though that may have made more sense.

I was planning on posting something, perhaps related to continuing to build Shadowfist decks now that I’ve pulled out almost everything I use, when I decided to check out where my HoR4 character was at, character sheetwise.

Much to my continuing chagrin, I didn’t have anything on this laptop that was even from 2019.  I had to download an attachment from email (which is why I email my sheets to myself) to have a starting point for updating a sheet to the after Gen Con 2019 specs.

So, I did that.

I may have yet another plan for how to spend XP, which does get into today’s topic.  I actually could spend XP at the moment as I’ve done precisely nothing L5R/HoRwise since GC19.  I also updated such things as which certs the character has, as several things hadn’t been included on the prior sheet.

After fixing the sheet (and emailing it back to myself), I decided to look at my last version of Moshi Shigeo, my HoR3 primary.  I was hoping to be inspired about something mechanical I could spew to you even though HoR5 won’t be using 4e and, thus, more 4e thoughts aren’t that useful to me.

I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m sure more than once because I’m prone to that these years, that I spend far too much time focusing on the mechanics of my HoR characters and not nearly enough time on who these characters actually are thematically, which would inform advancement decisions in a far more enthusing way.

Running down Shigeo’s numbers, most of them make sense.  Very HoRish, with certain skills at R-2 for Insight purposes back when HoR did a house rule to not count R-1 skills for Insight.  Sure, a Moshi who is a SR-4 Suzume Bushi did achieve the effect I was aiming for.  Actually, two effects.  One, messing with people because it’s not hard to mess with people’s expectations with L5R, probably (again) because so many L5R fans are attracted to the L5R norms.  But, two, it gave me experience with Suzume Bushi mechanics so that I can be knowledgeable and tell long, rambling blog posts at the drop of a new year.

A propos of how character identity often comes about from play rather than being engineered, Shigeo was supposed to be an … engineer, yet I got more play value out of using Perform: Shakuhachi than I ever did using Engineering.

Besides the HoR3 specific weirdness that mostly didn’t matter, like Mixed Omen and Mark of the Cat (having a black cat on my shoulder at the end of the campaign didn’t really do much) or having a Kharmic Tie with a peasant that never came up, ever, there are two things about perusing the character sheet that stand out.

One I’ve already talked about, at least in passing, which is that I tried to get a better feel for these characters by using character modeling ideas I haven’t heard anyone else ever mention, especially Shigeo precisely because I was aware that I was focusing too much on mechanics with HoR3.

I did Honor hierarchies for my HoR3 characters where I broke up my overall Honor score into scores for each tenet of Bushido.  This was in an effort to figure out how my high Honor Shigeo differed from my high Honor Ikoma Jun (from HoR2).

I assigned astrological values to Shigeo.  He was a Virgo … and a Wood Sheep.  Remember how so many years ago I tortured myself by writing about using astrology for characters’ personality endepthening?  It didn’t end up meaning a lot with Shigeo.

What stands out on his character sheet more than anything else is pure, unadulterated, hilarious [please stop] … stuff.

sturdy clothing
daisho; no-dachi; light armor
3 koku; traveling pack; fan**
court kimono (bought)
court kimono (bought with A’Nen’s help) – uguisu (poem reading bird) reading poem
court kimono (bought, haggled) – the passing of the “torch” from Amaterasu to Yakamo
lucky cricket kite (bought)
obi w/ songbirds in clan colors (gift, SoB15))
Treatise on Fighting Kites (gift, SoB24)
Charms with prayers to Megumi and O’Saigo (bought, SoB30)
shakuhachi (bought, 1.5k, SoB37)
fancy go set, go pieces, treatises, tournament report Emperor and Otomo Daimyo 700’s (bought, SoB47)
Sorinpu, The Hell Razor (presented, SoB 29)
Oracle of Fire’s Blessing, box with Shining Light scroll Free Action armor or not (SoB47)
Medicine kits (regular) picked up on mods

Sure, I got use out of Sorinpu, The Hell Razor.  I finished off the Demon Bride of Fu Leng with it, as I’m sure others did as well – the nature of living campaigns.  Still had my second attack in case things got … serious.  Also finished off the Dark Oracle of Water with it.

But, there’s a reason I keep bringing up money and how it applies to L5R play.  I flew a lucky cricket kite.  Because I haggled for one of those court kimono, I’m pretty sure I lost Glory, not that it mattered as HoR3 hadn’t addressed the everyone is at 10.9 Glory problem that L5R is prone to.  The uguisu kimono was particularly inspired, as it suited him immensely, and it came up, I think, in two different mods!

I had a 229 point character (I played two other characters in HoR3, one of them quite a bit and enjoyed playing that character more), and my main takeaway of what makes this character more interesting than every other Suzume-trained Moshi is that he had some interesting stuff, half of which he bought.

Sure, I’m still stuck in my own echo chamber of RPG philosophies, but I thought providing an example might mean just slightly more.  Besides, it reminds me that I need to think about how to enjoy playing Tatakisu and not dwelling on whether his numbers can hold up with higher rank parties.

So, I do intend to actually cover new ground in 2020.  A blog isn’t just about hearing oneself natter.  Should actually do something for the audience.  Maybe I’ll talk about my Traveller CCG deck ideas, which I haven’t even gotten around to talking about on our Traveller forums.  That will enthrall half of all existence, I’m sure.

The Best Of … 2016

December 31, 2019

2019 hasn’t been all bad, but it has not been a particularly good year.  2016, on the other hand, wasn’t all good but was one of my favorite years with my brother’s wedding and seeing an old friend for the first time in a long time.

Blogwise, 2016 was clearly better.  L5R 4e was much more relevant back then, and I was still producing analysis of it that might have been useful to people.  I played far more V:TES back then.  Historically, two of my largest audiences have been people looking for L5R RPG and V:TES content.


My first post of 2016 was a V:TES tournament report.  But, it’s the other post of January … also V:TES … that was probably more interesting just from a history of V:TES standpoint.


LSJ and I didn’t converse a lot.  An actual conversation wouldn’t have likely been as coherent as this.  Ah, InQuest – not the best thing ever, but it suited my tastes quite a bit.


Draw, Lose, Win

I have a propensity towards redundancy in thought, it’s part of the issue with not having more things to respond to and staying within the familiar grounds of what I play or think about playing.

What stands out about this post is that I dig a bit deeper into why different CCGs appeal to me more than others in a way that may have some relevance to others.

Cardflopping Like It’s 1999 isn’t terribly interesting, but it reminds me that I need to pull out the Wheel of Time Aes Sedai playtest slips of paper I hope I still have and write about WoT like it’s the 20th Century.


Fisticuffs – Abysmal Li

Why play CCGs?  Because:  Mess with the red and you end up shed.

The Ceaseless Struggle

It’s just the nature of the times to talk about how to change V:TES.  Note the amazingly awesomest variant format proposals I make.

The Story of O … -tomo Junhime and Usagi Kidai

Who says romance is dead?  Oh, wait, this campaign ended a long time ago.  On the other hand, I still think about these characters.

Why play RPGs?  Because:  Junhime gets some assistance from Kidai on murdering geese, she bags two.

Your Better Third

The previous is worthy because it provides an example of something.  Here is a bit more in depth on the theory.


Well Suit-ed

Why play mahjong?  Because:  You like games somewhere between bridge and Eurogames.

Shanghai Salon

Travel and play games.  With pictures!

Favorite VTES Sets

I say something nice!

Despised VTES Sets

I rant!

Hot Hawk

How many people explain how to build/advance L5R 4e characters with numbers?  This guy.

Deck Stats 2, The Stattier

This is a perfect example of the benefits of having a blog.  I can self indulgentize while being more entertaining than one can possibly imagine.

KublaCon 2016

Why was I so postriffic in May of 2016?  Because of lack in April, I’m sure.

Back when I did stuff at local cons.  Finally, champion of the fifth largest economy in the world in Modern play.


Introducing L5R

So, you want to run L5R 4e for people unfamiliar with L5R?  Well, this will give a little idea what it’s like.


Shadowfist Draft Decks

What is Shadowfist drafting like?  Maybe something like this.  So much data.

Name “That” Game

Who doesn’t love Nezumi?  Who doesn’t love Naga?  Who doesn’t love the Fearsome Biter Tribe?

VCG Salute

Alternatively, can people stop complaining about the VCG model?  If you don’t like random packs, go to eBay or buy off of other players.  It’s really not that hard.


Gen Con 2016

What happens when there isn’t any HoR to play at Gen Con?  Here’s an example of what I do.


Dungeon Lies

Something I get frustrated by is how forumites will speak for players that they don’t seem to understand.  The casual player has no idea what’s going on with the economy to make any sort of decisions about ultrarares, transmuting, etc.


The Draw

Very similar in philosophy to Draw, Lose, Win.  Why bother calling this out?  Because I’m being positive – that’s so rare.

True Dungeon – Ultrarares 2016

Images!  Gaming analysis by someone only learning what’s what!


Sing Or Singe

This time of year tends to produce more personal posts.  Also posts that are nostalgic or look forward.  Weird seasonal feature.  This post is long, therefore it has to be good.

As an update, Harry is building new schools in Somaliland.  If you want to help, let me know.

There was a lot going on in 2016, for me.  Gaming and nongaming.  It wasn’t just writing about games people are interested in.  It was a good year for writing, even if a lot of things weren’t as original as when I originally said them.  I definitely miss certain things from 2016.

Let’s hope 2020 is better than 2019.  Wouldn’t be bad to play more L5R 4e and VTES, either.


Kickboxing Day

December 26, 2019

I’m not sure it would fall under my perfect Christmas.  My perfect Christmas might involve a navy of nymphai.  But, what I usually think of as a desirable, yet plausible, Christmas is to have nothing I need to do where I get up and go shoot some hoops at the park, wash up, put comfy clothes on, and amuse myself with fiction or game things while decent NBA is on in the background, with someone else handling food generation.

I had stuff to do in the morning.  Too tired to clean up Tuesday, hid some stuff upstairs and vacuumed a bit.  Dealt with some recycling.  Then, didn’t have a whole lot to do though one of my friends was interested in trying to get together after his family did tree stuff.

Having floor space for a change, I did one of my preferred things to do for a while – I sat on a vast ocean of carpet.  Now, simply sitting upon carpet doesn’t really achieve a whole lot.  So, the much more preferred element of being surrounded by cards was achieved in the vast and unfathomable reaches of the carpet.

Shadowfist cards.

See, I may enjoy playing V:TES as much as, possibly even more than, Shadowfist.  And, I may have some Traveller work I need to do.  And, I may find fondling Ultimate Combat! cards or Magic cards a worthy enterprise, and I may someday decide to break out B5 or WoT cards and fondle them.

But, my preference for deckbuilding these days and in many recent days is Shadowfist.  I wanted a pleasant activity that I didn’t have to take too seriously.

Now, much of my fondling involved deck destruction rather than deck construction, but I got my assembling on, as well.  At first, it was fairly easy to be inspired and to start yanking and sleeving.

Over time, prior to and after my making a far inferior beef stew to the last Christmas stew I made, I felt a bit of a chore to force together components into geniusness.  In particular, my massive pile of Modern Lotus cards was a discouragement to bringing peace, joy, and undead recursion to the world.

And, so, we get to Kickboxing Day, when no play is planned and there’s still a nigh infinite amount of open carpet terrain in which to sit surrounded by cards.

I got to thinking about what inspires and uninspires with Shadowfist deckmaking.

I actually build a fair number of Modern decks, as it provides limitations.  Unfortunately, the Lotus limitations lack edibility.  There are so many individual cards I prefer in Lotus, yet there’s a sameness I feel to what I do that requires more Hopping Vampires to get away from.

Other factions have the “great cards, terrible faction” problem pour moi.  Dragon, Monarchs, Purists.

Jammers have so few cards to work with, so it’s a struggle to jamm.  Ascended have so much crap, with such griefy mechanics or … or … something about their characters just tends to rub me the antiway.

My play group considers me a Hand player.  I thought that was kind of odd, seeing as I’m more attracted to Architects cards and Lotus cards.  But, I think Hand has the oppositeyness of having less desirable individual cards but being factionally pleasant.  I may not do monks/ronin/peasants in L5R, but I can monk or peasant in ‘fist.  Ronin are still disgusting.  It is hard to get away from superleap, though, given how prevalent it is.

7 Masters is interesting in that I no longer really have any interest besides casual Kunlun Clan Assault play.  My favorite 7 Masters card fooled me hard.  It took me forever to realize it has to go on my personal banned list for invoking the hated creatures that are so prevalent among the Jammers.

Syndicate once interested me, but playing them felt so miserable.  Well, Zero-G Sumo was okay.  But, I thought I had a cool take, and it only ever worked in draft.  So much uncool about Platinum Upgraded Little Dragon Catching Bullets.

I just keep finding Architects cards I want to use.  Perfect example of how RPG and CCG interests do not necessarily have anything to do with each other, as I can’t find anything remotely interesting about Architects in the RPG besides hanging with Neighbor Omega.

More than factions, I often gravitate towards non-faction resources as the basis for decks.  I love me some Bonebow Army, a combination of the art, the cost, still being something of a Melnibone fan.  Some of my Dragon decks are really just in need of sleaze like Netherworld Trickster to power Manufactured Island openings or to Dirigible.  Even chi gets some action, sometimes supported by Ascended rather than better factions.

My current kick is multifaction.  When I play, I consider things I see and think about how to steal ideas and multifaction them.  Dockyard, sweet Dockyard to make them viable.

So, relaxation, something dearthy these days for dis dude.  Just going through cards, conceiving brillianceosity at every xat.

I really need to run more removal and/or evasion.  That’s starting to feel V:TES level choreishness.  But, there are plenty of cards I don’t run that often or at all that fit into either of those because the beauty of ‘fisting is that I don’t give a crap about meeting a minimum threshold of viability or about prepping for the North American Championship/Worlds.

I can figure out how to build the coolest [sic] Ice Tiger deck.  So chill.

Well, I should get back to the carpet.  Bring the Classic boxes down for more sorting and shaping.

Raze Of Skywalker

December 24, 2019

Not clever enough?

So, I may be colored by how much people I hang with pan the first two movies in the trilogy, but, wow, that was a bad trilogy.  Like some of the weak extended universe stuff, only less coherent.

I’ll spoil things to some degree below.

Bad acting.

Bad dialogue.

Bad plot.

Bad editing.

Bad sound.

Superfluous characters.

Even the scenery didn’t pop that much as so many things looked similar.

Let’s get into gaming before continuing to review this quite mediocre movie.

What I came away with that I can shoehorn into a gaming post is that there were no stakes in these movies.  Either what they did didn’t matter or it mattered to them but not to me because bad stuff happened to characters I didn’t care about or didn’t care that the bad stuff happened to.

That Ford wanted Han deadified made any stakes for his impalement meaningless.  And, yet, Force Awakens felt like it had the most importance because it hadn’t yet driven the story into some incoherent mess, even if it did start out as something of an incoherent mess with no idea why the First Order or the Resistance existed.


One of the things I find frustrating about GMing is that I try to set up scenes with dramatic stakes, but the players don’t feel it.  I’ve done better letting the players themselves get into situations where they feel the stakes from their own actions.  It’s almost like trying to script anything is a bad idea.  Well, a bad idea when my players don’t feel the script.  Lot of convention games will have a script and the players buy into it.

Actually, I was just having this conversation.  Convention games tend to run better because the players have often already bought into the type of game that’s being run.  If I’m playing Buffy, I expect there’s a big bad at the end who may need some ritual spell to be taken out.  Campaign play has a tendency to just meander.

Personal survival can be high stakes, but only if you actually care about your character and about what threatens its survival.  I’ve played campaigns where I couldn’t care less what happened to my characters as they were just a set of numbers.

Mental struggles don’t strike me as something that common to happen with PCs.  Sure, Ty had mental struggles after he got trollicized, but that was in a seven year campaign, plus there were other reasons to get inside the character’s head, plus Conan is darker and closer to sanity jarring events.

Fame and fortune don’t strike me as stakes that matter a lot.  Fortune because you either retire once you have it or it never mattered to begin with.  Fame because it’s too relative.  There aren’t rivals to benchmark against in hardly any of my play.

Causes – nope.  If you are part of a cause, how can the cause die without the campaign ending?

Power.  Far more than money as a motivator in RPGs, power is something where stakes exist constantly.  Magic items.  External stat bumps.  Gauss rifle replacing AC/20.  Followers.  Going to a better generation.

Now, internal power increases – gaining XP, spending XP – are not as much at stake.  Sure, some GMs will vary XP more, which is often exceedingly annoying, but it’s usually not an issue.  Except for dying causing loss of XP.

Family and friends/”friends”.  These are the stakes I’m most interested in.  Locations are really about the abstraction of friends.  Or, power for those locations where you get to bathe away your disads, or whatever.

It’s not like stakes have to be set right away.  With Conan, the norm was survival first, then make friends to aid their survival.  I imagine a space game could first focus on welfare of the ship before moving on to welfare of various planets/moons.

So, time to be more spoilery.

There were many characters that didn’t need to be in RoS.  Finn served no purpose, for instance.  I was fine with Finn in FA.  He and Rey played well together when the others weren’t around.  Then, the movies split them up or saddled them with chaperones.

BB8, R2, alien Force woman, all of the First Order commanders, Lando, Chewy.  If anything, Lando had more of a purpose being around than Chewy did.  What did Chewy do in the original movies?  Loyal muscle.  Muscle to rally around in a fight.  What did he do in these movies?  I don’t much recall.  What did he do in this movie?  Provide a zero stakes motivator?

While the elements were sort of there to hit dramatic notes, they fizzled.  Time after time, I was like “That should have been a bigger deal.”  Leia’s ending made no sense.  I’m sure Carrie not being around limited what they felt they could do, but there was no setup to have any sort of payoff.  Still makes no sense.  Rey, at least, gave an argument for why Ben should change.  Sounds like Finn was never going to win, but, wow was that a painfully unsatisfying ending.

So much predictability.  I think that’s the thing about the originals – we didn’t know what to expect.  Return of the Jedi just keeps looking better and better in comparison to these other efforts, as it did what it needed to do and had some good stuff as well as the cheesy stuff.

As I’ve said, kind of recently, I think Star Wars is more about marketing nostalgia than being something someone wants to be a part of anymore.  I, now, can see just not caring about any other efforts.  It has so much baggage, now.  The EU did far more coherent stuff with Palpatine to where Palpatine was reasonable (if tired) as a presence.  The EU didn’t immediately make a villain out of the last Skywalker to where you didn’t really care what big nose was doing.

Everything was so rushed in dramatic places and so pointlessly labored in trivial places.  The fights were boring because you knew the results or, in the case of blasters, pew pew ad nauseam.

Deus ex machina a little?  I mean, I don’t necessarily mind some godly interference, but it just felt pedestrian here.

The ending.  Just wow.  Dancing with Ewoks so much better.

Consider how much better the “not that tower” moment would have been done in other SW movies.  Stuff just happened without … again … setup and payoff.

The whole trilogy was that way.  The First Order was never set up.  The Resistance was never set up.  Leia being in charge of the Resistance not, Han off on his own not, Luke hermiting not, Snoke not, Ben not.  Finn got an origin story.  Rey had an origin, if not much of a story.  They carried FA.  Then, stuff happened for reasons that made no sense and in which you didn’t really care about.  How do you payoff when you don’t even realize there’s a payoff happening until you stop to think about it or you could see it coming from a parsec away?

Yes, we understand why this trilogy was a mess – lack of coherent vision to begin with.  What’s sad is that someone couldn’t perceive how little reward one gets from what happens in the end.  Well, that, and why we need supposedly scary First Order commanders to act like children.

Too many close-ups.  This seems to be a thing that movies can’t get away from.  I don’t need to have someone’s face right in front of me.  Well, maybe Gal Gadot’s face.  But, I don’t need to see people’s pores.  I don’t need to see the dirt or the scars.  It’s a symptom of over focus on character examination.  Focus on adventure.  Sure, there are tons of gratuitous action scenes, but how adventurous are they?  It just feels like going through the motions so much of the time on these quests.

Kylo was pitiful, in part because Kylo barely existed.  So much Rey’s bad boy and not someone who existed on his own.  Finn had a lot of that, too, being princeless charming rather than someone who had his own identity.  Poe was always rather annoying.

I’ll just have to fanfic Finn finally saying to Rey “Honey, your calves aren’t all that where you need to show them off all of the time.”

Just amazing how good the originals were that everything since (moviewise, anyway) has been pale in comparison.

The actors’ efforts did come across as earnest.  Just not hugely believable.  The quipping lacked gravitas.  So many relationships felt forced.  Why did anyone care about Leia that much?  Why did Rey care about Chewy that much?  Who cares about BB8?

I can imagine that a novelization of this trilogy could be so much better.  First, give some back story.  Second, give Snoke something to do, like train Kylo.  Third, clarify all of the dramatic moments so that they feel remotely dramatic.

Or, you know, rethink what is trying to be accomplished assuming money isn’t as important as cool.  Ha, ha ha.  Another billion with people who actually think RoS didn’t suck.  Thing is, prequels sucked where I didn’t like any of the characters.  I actually am fine with Rey and Finn and still sucked.

Well, I have more gifts to give out in this joyous time of year besides my gift of ranting about a movie you will have seen, anyway, and can make up your own mind about.

Shed Some Darkness

December 21, 2019

In some places, it’s the least lighted day of the year.

So, let’s talk Shadow … fist.

Or, possibly religion.

Or, books and movies.

So, have played Shadowfist a couple of times in recent weeks.  That wouldn’t seem all that odd, but I’ve been traveling more than I’ve been Travellering lately.

Shangshang time, we played our usual single game where I played a modified version of Kind Of Orange.  Adding Dockyards and reducing the number of Arcanomoths made that deck run much smoother.  Still, no Orange Master meant no hitteryness.  I still want to peacock more better by adding the obvious five Auramancers.

Shang time, we played two games.  Uh oh.  The derry-o.  Yup, kind of sad first game where other players got out lots of FSSs with not a lot of stoppage to grind the game into pink sludge.  I was running magic Architects, so my three-cost unique got up to like 15 fighting.  The second game, I played Fu Tu Yu and I vaguely made the last bid for victory.  Time had already run out – the store closes at 10PM.

I made such awesome attacks as Urban Monk by himself for the win.  That was, I believe, my second attack of the game after my first being Blue Flower Society attacking Black Helicopter Squad and no one following up when only cops were left to defend stuff.  Bountiful Master went in for a win.  Yup, Bountiful Master.  While Thermobaric Explosion couldn’t do anything to him as we were celebrating a Lantern Festival, dorks and Death-O-Rama could.

So, my details about these games are hardly the stuff of 901 page books with better than four star reviews pritnear everywhere.  So, let me bring up a discussion prior to playing.

My contention in the discussion is that Shadowfist does not have good mechanics.  I don’t remember Blood Wars all that well, but mayhap Blood Wars has better mechanics.  Vampire clearly does, and it’s easier to understand how to play, too!!

But, what about Babylon 5?

I’d contend that Babylon 5’s mechanics are superior.  Timing is far less of a mess than Shadowfist.  But, that has little to do with it.

Where Shadowfist suffers is in two places I’m pretty sure I’ve already mentioned.  The beginning is bad, the ending is bad.  The beginning is bad somewhat because of the swingy nature of burning for power or seizing.  But, what is so problematic is the reliance on two resources to be able to play the game.

Magic’s land problem, which is really more of a draw one card a turn problem since Ultimate Combat! has land and it’s not at all similar, is a single resource requirement.  You can have sites or alt power generation and still be incapable of playing meaningful cards in Shadowfist.  Or, you could have the resource characters you need to play more impactful cards and lack power generation to ever get to the point of being able to burn for power to have enough power to matter.

Babylon 5, even in the olden days of tediously building to 10 on like round five, had few ways that you couldn’t play cards up until the Drakh, ISA, or techno-mages shut you down somehow.

Then, there’s no movement toward victory in Shadowfist.  Burning for victory may give you better tiebreakers, but it doesn’t guarantee any better chance at winning.  It’s possible to be stymied in perpetuity until you don’t want to play out people decking themselves.  This is something of an unusual feature as my recollections are that most CCGs have some sort of push towards ending a game.  Babylon 5 could have situations where you pushed someone backwards, but that was hardly the norm.  Games that couldn’t be won because of the Shadow War might have been less that improbable, but they felt like a game moved forward until it Vorloned into nothing.  ISA could stymie up until it fell apart.  Drakh could ensure most power without a win.  But, those bring up an important difference between Shadowfist and Babylon 5.

Babylon 5 has an awful card pool.  The rules of the game may be superior, but I wouldn’t put the game itself as a superior product.

And, that’s kind of the point.  On average, I’m pretty sure I’ve enjoyed Shadowfist more than B5.  Because Shadowfist does have positive features.  Shadowfist’s wildly swinginess is completely in keeping with the theme.  There are all sorts of thematic wins, including how often you can Disintegrator monkeys.  Or call down Wrath upon Gardens.

B5’s midgame was its best part, too.  The beginning was tedious or dumb with Conscription.  The ending was often sudden or had feelings of inevitability.  Shadowfist has crazy going on constantly.  V:TES routinely amuses me because the unexpected happens.  Shadowfist has my purposely targeting another player with Extortion so that I can get two Ogres out of my hand.

Now, our house rules make the game very different.  That and play styles.  When you know one player can’t win on 20 power because his decks would rather have states than characters, you get to do more in games.  But, the ease with which a player can come back in our games or can preserve power radically changes the nature of the game.

Anyway, why does any of this matter?  Who cares about analyzing a virtually dead CCG?

The point has something to do with how Magic has great mechanics (it does, with one major exception) and generally a pretty fine card pool but isn’t fun for me to play most of the time, where Shadowfist has pretty bad mechanics and a questionable card pool and is usually fun for me to play and …

And, how this matters when I’m a lead developer for a CCG.

What can make Traveller more fun?  Less fun?

I was looking at card ideas recently and noting that one of them could never see print.  It would make piracy a meaningless mechanic in the game, and that’s not good.  I asked one of our playtesters where piracy stood in terms of too strong/weak.  We both feel it’s about right at the moment.

Crew control may be too strong, but we are trying to do something about that, and it’s not entirely clear whether it makes for bad games or not.  Sure, I had an opponent scoop after round one due to crew control, but it’s just not possible to make a game with as many components as a CCG where every game is going to be a good game.

If two-thirds of games are good games, then I’ll wear a hat at the autograph sessions.

Because it’s unlikely I can generate enough inspiration to do a separate post on these other topics, let’s talk Dart.

No, not Fallon Sherrock.  Dart as in Kushiel’s Dart.

So, I’m curious as to what people consider erotic fantasy.

Anyway, the more I read the book, the less interested I became.  In that same pre-Shadowfist conversation, I noted that it was fine that Force Awakens has no plot in the beginning because that’s modern “story”telling – don’t bother with plot, just focus on every single thought of a character ad nauseam.

The Skaldi section was tiresome.  The ending dragged on.  Oh, I don’t mind the ending ideas, just the execution being weirdly wrapuppy and tonally dissonanced.  The last ten pages even took a while.

I’d put the book at three stars.  It had appealing elements, though the sex hardly serviced the fantasy.  Pretty neutral on the main character, but, at least, I didn’t dislike the major character as I disliked pritnear all of the The Blade Itself mains.  Maybe, over time, I’ll think less of the book, as I’m inclined to do with entertainment in general as I focus on the negative features.  The Last Jedi wasn’t hateable until after I had watched it and thought more about all of its numerous problems.

Ironically, perhaps, I don’t think Kushiel’s Dart pushed any of my buttons, so to speak.  It just was okay characters in typical situations.  But, then, politics/intrigue isn’t my bag, even if I enjoy Deryni novels (more so for characters being cool and the mythology).

Some reviewers thought the take on religion was interesting.  It got me thinking about how coherent religion is nowhere near as important as fun religion, bringing this post full circle back to how fun and good aren’t the same things.  I started thinking about how I’d do religion in fantasy stories/gaming, but I didn’t get very far.

So, Rise of Skywalker.  Religion, fun or lack thereof, whatever else that may relate to this post.  No, I haven’t seen it, don’t be ridiculous.  I finally got a flight on which I could watch Endgame in recent weeks.

It’s just that so much of what has happened with Star Wars has made Star Wars not really matter a whole lot to me, anymore.  I watch a movie and think about how it’s marketing nostalgia to me rather than being something cool I want to be a part of.

Even though it has monkeys, Shadowfist can envelop my interests with such deck ideas as Stand Together Suckers or Stand Together Snake.