Card-inal Rules

December 5, 2018

In the last week, I played Shadowfist, Traveller, and V:TES.

During/after each session, I had profound thoughts on some aspect of card flopping.

I think I’ve forgotten them all.  Let’s see if I remember anything as I ramble …

Shadowfist

In the Shadowfist game, because even though it went pretty quick there’s a dearth of new decks so a second game wasn’t in the cards [ha], I won.

Who cares?

I won with, I believe, 13 power in my pool.

For normal ‘fisters, this may sound like some crushing beatdown against my three opponents and/or I was playing Ascended and there was Bull Market nonsense going on.

In my 50 card deck, I ran 5x Möbius Gardens, 4x Pocket Demon, 2x Spirit in a Bottle, 2x Bloodlust, 5x Auramancer, and … 5x Dockyard.  In other words, 5x Auramancer and 5x search for Auramancer.  Of course, early on, it was Möbius Gardens that powered me through.  Only later did everyone stop caring about my having two Auramancers in play to push me towards being able to dump my hand every turn (not that I did).

Btw, Dockyard to search out Fire Cadets was what gave me enough characters to swing for the win as I needed to do exactly one damage to the final site and my other two dudes could be intercepted.

This game had a high amount of recriminations.  Unfortunately, that seems to be the new norm.  Don’s Napalm Belchers become Brains in a Jar plan combined with Joren’s Jammer site damaging made for a lot of failed attacks as the targets ceased to be in play.

It seems harder and harder to find a game where all four players find the end result fun.  Quick games are unsatisfying.  Long games meant there were plenty of plays that could have changed the results.  While games tend to have everyone have a chance of winning, that doesn’t mean people’s decks are doing what they want, just means you are playing Shadowfist, with its sketchy endgame possibilities.

Traveller

May have heard on the interwebs that there’s a Traveller Kickstarter going on right now.  The irony is that my Saturday Traveller play wasn’t a perfectly timed demo to expand awareness and to inspire backers.  It was getting together with friends to play some games, including Puerto Rico, followed by Mexican food.

I keep meaning to post to travellerccg.com about what I did to create my deck for this three-player game, but there are so many things going on right now that I’m supposed to be dealing with.

I took the Empress Marava Far Trader deck, removed all of the crew, heroic actions, and a bunch of other stuff, and replaced with a vast amount of cards from our Aliens of the Imperium expansion pack.

I wanted to alien as much as possible given little time to work on deck construction.

Usually when I play Sophont Worker’s Union, I get a discount on one or two aliens, take actions to get counters, never use more counters.  Let’s just say that a deck with more than 30 alien crew cards gets a wee bit more use out of the three copies I ran, helped by having Fragmentation Grenades coming in from left and right.

Three-player and four-player Traveller is certainly more … involved.  Eventually, Gary switched to piracy playing my Beowulf connection deck because his son and I were so thin on cards without being that close to winning.  His son got locked to where he had one card left and couldn’t deal with a complication.  I could have kept playing for a bit, but the piracy would have bankrupted me in about two rounds.  I was not a round away from winning.

My deck certainly was not like any sort of reasonable deck.  I made no effort to have a plan for enemy ships, with pretty much just Misdirection to move an enemy ship complication away.  But, it was entertaining.  I got to put out aliens I don’t play all of the time.  I kept wondering about which aliens to care about having in play.  I kept wishing I could generate expert Social so that I could temporarily gain five VPs off of Diverse Dynamics.

How would I build decks for multiplayer play?

Less expectation that crew will remain in play.  There’s just so much crewkill in the game.

Piracy seems like it would be worse with more players as that’s more cards to burn through, but Traveller isn’t V:TES.  Decks naturally burn through cards really fast.  Add in that there are more players to stop someone from racing towards victory, and pushing key players over the edge can, in fact, be easier.

We could have done more or done more sooner to make people aware that Traveller exists.  I don’t expect everyone to love it, but it may surprise some CCG players with how much is going on.

V:TES

Three games at GameKastle Santa Clara.  Three fivers.

Mark (Ass Contract) -> Brandon (!Toreador from cube) -> Rob (Hatchling rush) -> Devin (BB w/ Vic) -> Ian (midcap Thaum w/ Create Gargoyles)

Rob brings out Alabastrom.  Devin brings out Agi.  Agi goes to torpor.  Gets eaten.  Alabastrom goes to torpor.  Gets eaten.  Over in my world, I Society of Leopold Mark’s fat Ass.  For some reason, he blocks my bleed of one.  I theft him to zero.

I bring out many a minion.  Four uniques, Carlton, Create Gargoyle.  The last kills me.  Mark goes backwards with rush and removes my CG w/ Dominate, allowing Devin to get in a bleed of six with Walk of Caine and, then, finishing me off because my CG in torpor also has +bleed for BB card on it.

Rob is helpless and we make a food run.  Mark is taken out.  Brandon has a bunch of guns.

Ian (PRE/FOR/cel/pro vote) -> Brandon (Trem from cube) -> Devin (Dem w/ Tha graft) -> Mark (Guruhi vote) -> Rob (as above)

While tempting at times to try to just get Mark off the table to establish vote lock, the problem with that plan was Devin just getting two easy VPs.  Brandon got to pass every vote he called while Mark constantly failed my votes, then would get me to support his KRCs 2 and 2.  Eventually, Mark got vote lock because everyone let him.  I thought about Banishmenting Eze with his 5 votes before that occurred, but I made a minimal effort to try to keep Devin in the game.

I suppose I should include a few notes about my game.  I bring out Una.  Her first action is to get Polaris Coach.  At a point in the game, I bleed with Una and Brandon blocks.  I don’t use any of the four counters on Polaris Coach.  Gustav Breidenstein did learn Protean and super Forced March.  Ubende tried to take Powerbase: Tshwane using stealth from Instantaneous Transformation but got blocked, anyway.  I kept hoping someone else would fail a vote, including the Ancient Influence that gave me 7 pool or the Reins of Power that I did 6 pool damage with.

Time out with Brandon and Mark with 1.5 and me with .5.

Brandon (borrowed Valkyrie) -> Mark (Children of Stone) -> Rob (Salubri/HoS) -> Devin (Shattering) -> Ian (!Gangrel w/ Thaum)

So, amazingly enough, I tended to win combats with either Aksinya or Mimir playing a deck where my first discard was Shotgun Ritual.  I also discarded Cauldron of Blood at some point.  The table forgot that Mark’s Gargoyle had Armor of Terra on it and we had to roll back a 2 agg punch into diablerie which really messed things up.

Brandon Revolutionary Counciled more times than it actually resolved.  I spent a lot of time at 1 pool.  Through poor play of Aksinya’s ability, I went from 3 pool to zero.  Devin eventually conceded to Brandon.

Common, One Might Have Said … Neutral … Ground … Back In The Day

I don’t build decks often enough.  So many cards or archetypes I could play or play more of.  I play V:TES and next day start writing out some deck lists.  I keep having the same sort of thoughts with Shadowfist decks, one of which is building the all foundation character deck (with no Queens).

I was vague on Keyforge and became somewhat more knowledgeable.  I find it funny that the whole point of the game’s existence is to not allow deck construction, which is kind of the reason CCGs are the most awesomest form of competitive gaming.

I hope I never become one of those folks who complains about deckbuilding, that I just complain about my laziness/procrastinating that causes me to not do something that’s just ultra cool.  I even have interest in L5R deckbuilding and I gave up on the game in a galaxy far, far away.

Certainly, playing Traveller multiplayer brings player psychology into it.  But, I think the last week was less about the commonality of play experiences between the games and more about the essence of CCGs.  They (the decent ones) have depth of play, variety of deck construction, unpredictable events, and flavor text.  Well, V:TES flavor text owns flavor text in the other two.  I’d rate Traveller as having the best art on average.  Shadowfist has the most interesting theme to me these days.

They also aren’t easy.  Shadowfist may have the hardest decisions.  V:TES may have the hardest to remember rules set.  Traveller may be the hardest sell because it didn’t come out in 1994/1995, when CCGs were first Rage-ing and There Can Be more than One.

But, easy isn’t necessary.  I’d much rather that choosing health care options or mobile phones or hotels to stay at were easy.

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Digital Travel

November 27, 2018

The plan has been in place for quite some time to have an electronic version of Traveller.

Yesterday, Horizon launched a Kickstarter to expand play beyond the rectangular cardboard into the world of zip zap that is the fu-ture …

Traveller CG Digital Edition

Posted about the KS on the VEKN forums, pointing out how our programmer is one of the most successful V:TES players in history.  I thought it was an interesting bit of trivia.

Only 28ish more days to back, back, back.  It could go all the way … with your help.  (Gratuitous sports jokes are all part of the payoff.)

I can, of course, be doing more to advertise the game.  So, with the theme of travel, I thought of how 2019’s convention schedule can be impacted now that cards are available in retail establishments and/or through their distributors.  If anyone has any suggestions outside of Origins and Gen Con, I’m interested in getting a better sense of which cons would have the most impact for exposing to people who don’t know the game is available.  International suggestions also welcome.

So, with the theme of digital, while Jeff and I were at GobbleCon Saturday to do some late notice demos, my Thanksgiving, besides being a blogging day, because one can be thankful of the opportunity to blog about gaming as well as write absurdly run on sentences, was a day of catching up on Rokugan 1600 fictions.  Not written with quill and squid but with the dread power of a keyboard while peering at a monitor.

I finally wrote something from a villain’s perspective.  I should just write those to begin with.  Though, thinking about it, are the villains really the villains or are they just antagonists to a messed up society of sword worshipers?

I wrote some other NPC stuff, too.  I could write all month (next month) and still not cover all of the NPC possibilities.

Yup, too many NPCs.  I knew there were from the start and, yet.  And, yet, you know what is fun for me?  More NPCs.  More stories that have nothing to do with the players or even really the campaign’s focus.  Well, rein it in, myself, rein it in.

Don’t rein in your end of year Kickstarter backing of the Digital Edition of the Traveller Card Game.

I know things I want to happen in the next installment of R.1600, I just foresee two problems.  One, too many things.  Two, how to adapt to player action.  Three … foresee three problems … everything is cooler in my brain than it normally ends up being in play.

It is funny, like when I read some reddit stuff on too many NPCs, how my problems aren’t special snowflake problems but rather mundane difficulties GMs routinely face.  It’s almost like there’s this human nature thing that happens that makes things suboptimal as, even though we know about a potential trap, we walk into the trap anyway.

Why is it so difficult?

You know who travels?  The Doctor travels.

I watched The Witchfinders and, then, hurriedly went to read reviews expecting to see comments supporting my one and only truth – that episode was atrocious.  Only to have people say they liked it.  Ye gods.  Hath Satan taketh controlleth of the interwebseth?  I kept wondering whether there was some clever audience manipulation thing going on that would make the tonal whipflash make sense.  It was like there was a parody running interlaced with the episode.

I’m not a fan of this season.  It does make me recall oldWho.  That’s not bad.  But, there was a lot of not so great oldWho, too.  And, there’s been plenty of newWho I haven’t thought highly of.  It’s like there’s untapped potential.

The Traveller Customizable Card Game is replete with untapped potential.  Potential that could be tapped … I mean … exerted with a few heroic actions.  All totally not pitching aside, there are some deep interactions in the card game, a lot of which have to do with how cards are money.  There were times I played complications on the contracts I was going to pursue just to be forced to bounce permanents back to my hand to use as money for going after more contracts.  It didn’t exactly work as I was far behind my opponent and had no way to really slow him down, but it was techy in a way that a lot of Magic puzzles want you to think.

Wow, haven’t mentioned Magic in a bit.  I guess that comes from not playing it or reading about it or having other people talk to me much about it while at the same time playing/running other games.  It’s almost like I’m stating something so keenly obvious that it has already sliced through the fabric of destiny.

Digital.  Travel.  Oh.  Nevermind.  For the one and only time in the history and future of this and every other creation, I managed to stray from my topic.


VTES [2018/11/18]

November 22, 2018

Last Sunday, I played V:TES.  Yup, weird.  In a race of how many times I leave the state versus how many times I play V:TES this year (counting, say, all of Origins as one instance), I have to actually think about the relative totals.

I worked on decks in the morning, having my Rokugan 1600 Saturday evening and some non-gaming [boo] stuff to do Saturday morning.  I’m hardly building new decks at all for any of the three card games I’m “playing”.  Yup, becoming one of “those” people.

And, yet, as soon as we start playing, I think about decks I haven’t built before.  Just need to be playing more often to keep the fire burning.

So, I managed to not put my refurbed decks into my game bag.  So, we played three games and I borrowed from a different player each game.

G1

Devin (Shamblers) -> Mark (Ass BH) -> Alex (Akunanse) -> Ian (borrowed Children of Stone)

Mark never really got going.  So, Devin Conditioninged him.  Devin lost five minions in one round around the table.  Carlton got Pentexed, Deep Song rush blew up a Shambler.  I blocked a hunt by a vamp emptied from Conditioning.  I Stone Dogged a Giovanni I Famed.  Devin diablerized his own vamp for reasons not entirely clear to me and got bloodhunted.

Without any defenses at all, I used the power of having actions to bleed and Anarch Revolt and stuff until Devin was out.  Alex eventually conceded because nobody owns Alabastrom and his trio of Batfriends in combat.

I find Children of Stone interesting for Gargoyles, but I’m not a fan of the Thaum level.  Still totally unenthused by playing Trem/! and Gargoyles together (outside of Create Gargoyle).  It’s just not interesting to have the added clunkiness.  I had a bunch of Dominate and no Dominate cards, which sounds like one of my decks, but the reality is that the deck could just Conditioning and Deflection like all true decks do.

G2

Ian (borrowed Akunanse from above) -> Mark (as above) -> Alex (borrowed Al-Muntathir) -> Devin (Valkyrie)

Thought Devin was in a good position and maybe the game would time out or time out with my being ousted.  My problem was lack of permacept.  I could wreck Ass, but Mark stopped blocking and focused on bloating to counteract my pressure.  So, I eventually got a hand of all combat cards.

Devin got ousted as he didn’t get quite enough action going on and Al-Muntathir could bleed for a lot.  Alex got ousted when he ran out of ability to stop a horde of Ass bleeders.  I didn’t have anything to defend myself at the end.

G3

Ian (borrowed Thucimia) -> Mark (Eze/Nana) -> Devin (Nos winnie swarm bleed w/ Embraces) -> Alex (borrowed Valkyrie)

My game was short.  By the time I had taken one action with Thucimia, Mark was helping Alex kill me, and we both fell pretty quick.  The endgame was interesting with Devin’s horde of bleeders against Valkyrie bleed/vote.  In the end, Alex cycled enough to draw an Eat the Rich to do the one pool damage necessary to finish off Devin.

It was kind of weird playing.  The game came back naturally – that’s what 20 years of experience does.  The experience was kind of off from the norm – I wasn’t as engaged, wasn’t playing my own decks, the air quality in Berkeley was atrocious, and our locale was too hot inside.  I felt less like me playing and maybe more like what it’s like for other people who aren’t as invested.

I’ve had years where I’ve hardly played.  Then, years I played a lot.  I would prefer the playing a lot.  It’s just that we lost some players that I actually do other things with, so it’s kind of different than when we lost players before that impacted how often I played.  In the latter case, I seek out other V:TES players.  In this case, I just hang with friends who are former V:TESers.


Target Practice

November 4, 2018

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year.  The time when I begin talking about the new seasons of Arrowverse shows.

For the three people who are still reading, let’s get some contextual stuff out of the way, first.

Supergirl –

Have not watched a new episode, haven’t watched most of last season on DVR.  I’m so close to mass deleting as the show only really got me perked up (outside of crossovers) in the first two episodes of season “yo, Superman”.

Arrow –

Keep seeing comments about getting back to roots.  Um, nope.  I have had a higher tolerance for Felicity than most after she became a main.  Great supporting character, terrible main.  But, I just can’t stand her this season.  Her arbitrary “I’m more important than everyone else”ness is exactly contrary to what makes superheroes heroes (well, what makes anyone heroes).  Helping others is what society deems Good, as I’ve stated before.  Sacrificing to help others is more Gooder.  Whining is not Good.  Arrow always should have been one of two things – modern take on vigilantes where they just straight up murder the bad guys all of the time … or … ignore early season 1’s straight up murdering people right and left and all hail boxing glove arrow time.  To keep trying to play on the fence of what vigilantism means is really, really boring.  Almost like I said this before – angst is bad, m’kay, there are plenty of ways to have drama without caring whether someone has dealt with their personal demons or not.

It’s like other folks, the folks who like this season, want something different than what I do.  Oh, right, they do.  They want Amell shirtless in prison fights.  I want a superhero show about an archer (well, not really, since Green Arrow isn’t an important character to me, but, given that we don’t get supers I like better, sure, a show about a superhero archer).  Of course there’s lots of agreement on the weak parts.  For instance, get rid of every other main character and have some fun supporting characters, like season 1 Felicity and anyone who is like “Whoa, you are a Bratva Captain?”.  Just to show I don’t hate women – make Nyssa mainish and have her be the rival/foil.  “Husband, while you were fiddling with your long, thick expanding arrow, I straight up murdered all of the bad guys and solved the problem … again.”

Flash –

Not bad.  But, see below about Legends of Tomorrow.  Cicada is actually less interesting already.  I can accept the ludicrous tropes needed to make a god threatened by ungods, but oh my does it get tiresome when they set up scenes where anyone who moves, I don’t know, four times as fast as a normal person wouldn’t be remotely threatened.  Cisco is not as cool as he once was.  Caitlin’s problems are boring.  Ralph is boring.  Wells has yet to get anywhere near season 1 Wells, though that may not be possible.  Having JPK play the daughter of two actors who are actually younger than her is somewhat amusing.  Just too much locked into tropeland rather than capturing the really cool dynamic of early season 1.

Legends of Tomorrow –

At no point has Supergirl been what I wanted it to be as a show.  Sure, Supes’ first two episodes were there, but that didn’t last long.  Arrow had moments but really lost its cool after like the first three episodes.  The Yao Fei training and early Deathstroke stuff was on point.  Even later Deathstroke was just a slog as:  one, wasn’t Ollie’s fault; two, the whole setup was really stupid when you stopped to think about it at any time even though the plan to pit them against each other made perfect sense.  Flash was what it should be early to mid season 1.

Oh, hold on.  All of these shows tend to be what they should be when they do crossovers.

LoT was not good in season 1.  Two characters were such a downer.  But, it got better.  Season premier of this season may not be perfect television, but it’s exactly what LoT should be like.  I’ve had bigger laughs, but that they made a Woodstock episode work at all was an achievement as I don’t have any nostalgia for Woodstock (okay, I’m maybe not as ancient as I think), so I find it a boring historical reference.  Then, the second episode happened.

Which brings me to my gaming topic.  !!

There’s a line in storytelling, even highly mechanical storytelling, where on one side you have good or better and the other you have not good or worse.  LoT had the same ideals and generally the same components but failed the execution.  The second episode was actually exceedingly obnoxious.  Boringland called and paid a visit.  The supernatural antagonist (not really the real antagonist) was not terrible.  The singing was timely.  It was just how mindnumbingly stupid Zari was that left me disgusted with the episode.

My concern with running … since there’s only so much I can do as a player and I have a high tolerance for suboptimal play of RPGs … is that I try to do what sounds righteous and don’t get on the righteous side of the line.

This is likely a terrible example for this particular topic, but it’s something from recent Rokugan 1600 play that hasn’t worked.

Usagi Yumi

I steal so much stuff from prior campaigns.  So, one thing I did was have an object that mattered to me as a player show up in the campaign as a subplot device.  Besides passing comments on rare occasions about getting rid of the yumi, at no point did it matter to the player of the PC tasked with finding the rightful owner to find the rightful owner.

When the lack of progress kept getting commented upon, the players finally came up with some ideas for pursuing the subplot.  One idea was okay, but I called it “prosaic” in an email I sent – prosaic doesn’t fit my style of RPGing.  The other idea I called “I Love Lucy” level thinking to just be rid of the subplot.  Because latchkey kids had to watch TV from the time they got home to when they went to bed and I’m from an age when there were maybe eight TV stations to watch with only about three mattering, I suffered through I Love Lucy.  And, Laverne and Shirley.  And, other shows about incompetents.  Which is maybe why I have such a deep, abiding hatred of entertainment about incompetents/losers.

I was proud of bringing more magic items into a fantasy campaign because I noticed that I should do more of that sort of thing to play up the fantasy elements of, er, fantasy campaigns.  Instead, griping and sarcasm.

The intent was to motivate towards a goal, since I don’t really require players/PCs to have goals yet goals add depth to a campaign and contribute to having a PC story arc.  Sure, this sort of thing is well familiar to GMs.  They have in mind something they think will make for a better game, a cool story, and the player doesn’t care.

So, what could I have done differently?  Well, since I think in a way that most people I play RPGs don’t, maybe the hints I made recently could have been made earlier.  Though, to be fair in the sense that this isn’t the most important thing to the campaign, I was fine with letting the player deal with the subplot when he felt like it.

Now, there’s another reason not to tip my hand.  I like other people figuring out things, perhaps because I like figuring out things.  I like guessing.  I like having an opportunity before I get an answer handed to me.  I find it weird when other people aren’t into guessing, which a lot of people I quiz aren’t into.  To me, being handed an answer either undermines or invalidates knowing something.  Since this is so “profound”, I’ll come back to it another time.

As a GM, I don’t see my job being giving answers.  I see my job being to give mysteries where the players can discover the answers.  Feel like I’m getting off topic, in that maybe I have a bunch of topics related to CW TV shows.

Anyway, ideas are easy, execution is hard.  Oh, also said this before.

Meanwhile

Meanwhile, there are things I think I do poorly that seem to find favor with players.  This should not be surprising, but it suggests the closeness to the line that a GM can run at.  With just the right dice rolls or player interpretations or improvisation, something uninspired can be inspirational.

Another example that may not even fit.  There’s a geisha that two of the players met in a side session.  She worked in that session better than expected, so I’m obviously having her return to the stage.  Maybe that NPC will engage in a way so many others don’t.

We’ve played enough sessions for players to either gain a feel or reassess their characters.  If I don’t start adding depth rather than continuing to create breadth (shallow and broad I be), going to miss out, methinks, on a better experience.

More engaging villains.  More engaging NPCs.  More engaging locales.  More engaging objects.  More engaging plots, subplots, events.  If wishes were fishes, fish sauce might be more expensive.

So, how to do the better things Arrowverse shows have done and eschew the worse?  Well, no, I don’t look forward to Mick and Constantine working together.  Just sounds Odd Couple level “I only watch this show because nothing else is on this channel I watch for four hours every day” grating.

I’m not very hard on the players.  I was reading some story ideas in L5R supplements and they are *harsh*.  Permanently being made an eta harsh.  Maybe events would be taken more seriously if there were actual consequences.  OTOH, doesn’t sound like that would be any more fun, just more intense.

GM Fun

Because who really cares whether I have a coherent blog post or not?

I was asked what was fun for me as a GM, what would make things more fun.

I enjoy research.  I enjoy worldbuilding.  I enjoy using research in my worldbuilding.  I enjoy coming up with interesting takes on mechanics.  I enjoy the soap opera lives my NPCs have that players generally couldn’t care less about.

What makes me stop enjoying anything is if players aren’t enjoying play.

I’m sure the writers of Arrowverse episodes enjoy Gorilla Grodd or messing up the timelines or trying to address political issues.  See, getting related to my own post – booyah.

I can enjoy building a world that doesn’t get played.  What seems like it would be more fun is having the players enjoy the world.  I’m pretty sure that’s true, as players caring about some aspect of the world gets me motivated to keep creating more of the world, while players not caring about the world hardly at all gets me disinterested in running.

When I can find the time and am in the mood, I enjoy writing stories that are relevant to the PCs.  This is an area I’ve been poor at for R.1600, as we often schedule sessions in quick succession or have long layoffs.  In theory, if we had more every other week sessions, that would give me a week to work on a session and to write up what’s going on with the NPCs so that the players have more insight into how I view the world.

Arrowverse seasons are still early.  Flash feels like it’s wavering between the two sides of the line.  Arrow is relatively good for Arrow but that doesn’t say much as so much of Arrow has had similar problems to so much of Wheel of Time.  I don’t expect it to rise to new heights or to rise to the heights of its crossover episodes.  LoT is where I hope to be continuously entertained, but it needs to figure out how to use its current crew better as I feel like it’s a Sara and everyone else show, at the moment, because only Sara feels fully “present” as a protagonist.  Mick is underused, Nate is annoying, Ray gets too silly, Zari doesn’t work when she’s serious, Constantine is not integrated well, at all.

R.1600 isn’t early.  If only it was easier to implement GMing advice rather than just reading it.  If only it was easier writing good TV.  Oh yeah, still absolutely on theme for today.


Yacht Sea

October 28, 2018

Yacht See.  Yacht C.

Something of a follow up to my prior post.

Let’s talk about game design … and a not so obscure game that starts with a Y.  Actually, if you look at the Wikipedia entry for Yahtzee, you get some rather convenient background on the name.

Anyway, on that trip, Yahtzee came up twice.  Once when I played a bunch on the plane in lieu of playing other things (though I did play a few other things).  The other time when an Australian who didn’t know what CCGs are asked me why I thought Yahtzee was so popular.

I answered with reasons including:  visceral appeal of rolling dice; rerolling dice; gambling roots; scoring system is both understandable and varied.  Actually, maybe I didn’t mention that last one at the time.  But, it’s important to why this blog post exists.

But, let’s talk about rerolling.  Actually, because actually is the secret word for today … doh!  Actually, let’s get off on a tangent.

RPGs often use dice.  As everyone knows, the best dice rolling mechanic is a single d10, with explosions.  Yes, even better than 1e/3e/4e L5R R&K because it’s easy for people not into probability calculations while R&K is suited to people who can approximate TN probabilities in their head.

Then, there’s rerolling.  Rerolling dice is like, totally, the wasp’s elbows.  Every sane, normal, mundane personage wants to be able to reroll dice when they don’t like their initial results.

Gambling is frequently about random results.  Lot of games come out of gambling games.  I have discussed the contrast between poker and Yahtzee recently, but that’s a tangent.  And, if there’s one person who can’t stand tangents, that would be this bloke.  This not-blue eyed, not-blond bloke [there’s like three people who might get this reference … FTW!].

People enjoy bingo, keno, lotteries, bunch of other random stuff.  So, sure, dice.  But, then you have redicing.  It’s like draw poker over stud.

Where was I?

So, game design.  One thing about thinking like a designer/developer in a professional sense is evaluating the replay value of games.  There might be games that are cool/fun/entertaining at first blush and grow sickly right quick.

It gets back to Cards Against Humanity and its ilk.  I enjoyed playing Before I Kill You, Mr. Bond the first time, but I pretty quickly lost interest after that.  I was already losing interest in CAH just in a second session.  Sure, the thrust of these sorts of games is the social interaction rather than the mechanics, and there are plenty of games that are more popular that are hitting the social nerve rather than the quality mechanics nerve, but, in theory, can do both.

Yahtzee has replay value to me.  Now, I wouldn’t rate it as the greatest things since pound cake.  But, for someone who can play solitaire for hours yet has little tolerance for games like Through the Ages, Yahtzee is at least a starting point on simple mechanics with some level of replayability.

Funny.  How long does funny stay funny?  There are folks I’d be happy to play CAH with a lot, though I think that has a lot more to do with wanting to hang with those non-gamer folks and would imagine doing something besides CAH with them would be even better.  Jokes are better when you don’t see them coming.  In Valley speak, you are looking for disruptive verbalizations to sink venture capital into.

It’s not our goal to make perfect games.  It is one of our goals to make games that fit the source material.  It is one of our goals to make games people would want to buy.  Goal isn’t the right word, but it’s a lot better if we make games that we enjoy.

For gamer types, pulling something off the shelf is more likely when the mechanics of the game feel righteous, dude.

Now, I would not be into a Yahtzee variant.  The scoring system being fixed makes it easy, it also makes it limiting.  Consider American Mahjong, where you get new scoring cards every year.  While there could be a scenario based game that plays like Yahtzee, still not really achieving the replay-driving level of variance being looked for in a game that is not trying to compete with solitaire but trying to compete with whatever Eurogames and Ameritrash are happening in the open gaming room.

Nothing wrong with jokes, you there, in the woods.  I am in the woods.

But, note, so much of my entertainment in multiplayer CCGs comes not from eviscerating my victims but from the emergent humor when you “get” the mechanics or thematics of the game.  Hmmm … this paragraph seems rather tangential.  Well, who doesn’t love tangents?  Actually …

Maybe I should just reroll this blog post [don’t let them know that these posts are constructed just based off of a bunch of die rolls … okay, sure, the secret will never be revealed].

Appealing games are more appealing if they have replay value.  There are mainstream/classic games that can point to how to achieve replayability or to how there are really popular games with kind of terrible replayability.  Using the former, can think about how to achieve multiple goals with a new game, a fun game.

Actually, on a tangent, CCGs should have immense replayability.  When they don’t have l33t replayability is when they have a crucial flaw.  I find Ultimate Combat! very replayable even with its small and internally similar card pool.  V:TES, of course, has l33t replayability, but certain storyline events had unl33t replayability.

Dice can be appealing.  Rerolling dice can be pre-appealing [OMG, nobody will get this reference, not even her, as she would never read this blog, besides, this use doesn’t even make sense, anyway].

In other news, have had a couple more sessions of Rokugan 1600, where we learn how different gamers perceive …


Kućna Biljka

October 17, 2018

When is a gaming blog not a gaming blog?

When it’s ajar, a jar, … *sigh*.

I can get into TV reviews, movie reviews, book reviews, food reviews, and make some loose tie in to gaming to justify my whims.  Then, there are the travelogue posts that tend to be even sketchier when it comes to fitting this blog.

But, hey, I didn’t take any games but I totally played some (not mind games, well, not intentionally).

In the beginning, was a city.  A city with an airport.  And, an airport shuttle bus.  And, a Metro and a Decathlon on the way to the AirBnB.  Oh, right, there’s only like one or a few people in the world who would understand why I took note of the Metro store and the Decathlon store on the way in.

We were a group of seven.  Five convicted murderers and the other six in the group.  Uh … Germany.  So, I met up with two of the party in Frankfurt.  Success.  Shelter.  Success.  Well, time to declare victory and call it a week.

I headed to the Diocletian Palace area because 4.5 movies on the first flight left me full of chi.

So, I may have said something about not being a movier.  I have in my decrepit old age of traveling an airline a bunch for status (not gaining me much since I dropped from gold) become the moviemeister, Baron von Movie.  Or, Baron von Ultimate Yahzee.

I finally saw Solo.  Watched Deadpool 2, Kingsman: Golden Circle, Monkey King 3, and most of Deadpool.  My early filter didn’t show Deadpool, thus the sequencing.  It’s refreshing when characters actually say what they think.  Yukio is adorable.  I can see getting tired of the Deadpool schtick, though.  Solo – terrible beginning, not exactly all that afterwards.  Golden Circle just bad.  I can understand the value of Bond parody, but, even with the cheesiness of Bond movies, they exude some stylin’ and profilin’.  But, then, I don’t watch action movies so much for action [just like I don’t eat massive quantities of meat because I care that much about the meat … oh never mind, Andy].  Monkey King 3 is not what I have in mind when I think of martial arts flicks, but my lukewarm feelings had more to do with the beating over the head of gender relationship stuff.

We eat at Maslina.  You know, I’m not going to spend a lot of time reviewing food.  I’m hypercritical, I mean, hyperanalytical and mostly complain about how my food and drink don’t rise to the level of … of … really great food.  I did learn to not order lemonade in Europe as I’m not entirely sure who drinks unsweetened lemonade.

Get this out of the way, now.  If you don’t get breakfast and lunch served everyday, then Croatia is about eight gelatos a day for, like, $12.  No matter what tourist port you are in, somehow, they will present gelato to you right as you get off the ship.  If you just need to scavenge for dinner, like us, then knock out your three gelatos for $4.50.  Now, you could order smoothies, like someone who drinks copious amounts of sugar, but just say yes to $1.50 cones and “suffer”.

Obligatory Port Shot

On to Makarska.  Weather was unkind early on …

Hindshadowing

So, what’s a group of young folks and a blogger going to spend time doing when not rafting or kayaking?

Heads Up!.  Yup, Heads Up!.  Cards Against Humanity.  First time, for me, and it was just like Apples to Apples (from a certain perspective).  I even played Uno and mansplained some on why I’m not into games like chess to someone who had just played some chess.  I’m just going to assume any time I say anything, I’m doing it in a manly way because of my early nurturing.  Also, much later in the trip, Exploding Kittens.

See, gaming content.  I’m nothing if not focused.

Night one of the trip, I didn’t get to sleep until after 4AM.  In fact, I was playing solitaire at 3AM … gaming, booyah!

Yup, me and all of the other kućna biljke [not sure this is as kosher as I think it could be] just notpartying late into the night.

So, that gave me a perfect opportunity to bail out on the next night’s socializing.  Not that I qualify for Navigator cruises, Contiki, et al, but one can just imagine.

Not the “Marco Polo”!?!

Tourist joke time!

I left a review for Sail Croatia.  Quite happy with this ship, though, to be arguably unfair, it’s not their ship, they just lease vessels from ship owners.  Might have been different if I shared a cabin with a stranger, but can worry about that the next time …

Sand not shown.

So, I didn’t take a lot of pictures.  I took no pictures while dune buggying as I was the seventh wheel, the wheelman.  All alone in my buggy (the second one as, of course, the first one wouldn’t turn over).  Anyway, one thing about our trip was lack of connection between beaches with sand and being in the water.  This beach would have been an opportunity for that, but the weather was still gloomier than usual.

Back to the lightning storm in Korčula.  Dinner at a nice restaurant and it didn’t rain at our sea wall locale.  Not here but near here.

Europe …

I also took no pictures while kayaking Malo Jezero (malo) and Veliko Jezero (Most-ly, sic humor FTW), while zip lining (see, gaming, as Andy and I discussed how Zip Line is a stealth card due to the squealing sounds matching the frequency of bats), or on …

Not Old … Town

The walking tour.  The Game … … … of Thrones walking tour.  Who loves irony?  Who?  I’m sure there’s a fantasy oriented sort who suffered through all of the Wheel of Time books (if not all of the chapters) who has never watched a complete episode or read any of the books who would be into such a tour.  Pretty safe bet.

I was definitely impressed at Dubrovnik Old Town.  Those three tourists, yum.  Anyway, Dubrovnik is one of the (numerous) locales on the trip I would have been interested in spending more time.  In this case, I felt like I only scratched the surface of touristdom.

The day after Dubrovnik was, I believe, when I had this sense of the trip being incredibly dense.  Sure, you don’t spend a lot of time in any given port (unless you stay up until 4AM doing … whatever), but each day is different to where there’s a lot of feeling of activity.  Also, weather improved and we actually hit swim spots.

Swimming.  I don’t actually swim much.  Kućna biljke aren’t known for mobility – all about the floating.  But, between being dumped in the middle of placid water, it being chilly, and whatnot, I even coordinated using arms and legs at the same time at times to achieve water-based motion.  I know, pin a medal on me right now.

I drink my sugar.

Oops, forgot to put this picture in the Dubrovnik “section”.  Most pictures of food I take for coworkers.  At least one of our group consumed the products of these dispensers.

Blocking the nudist beach.

The back half of the trip had a group humor moment.  Probably had to be there.

Gender bias – 40 kuna.

From here.  Okay, fine, I’ll explain.  At various times, we were low on cash and lots of things were cashy.  Now, ATMs are everywhere, so this isn’t actually much of a challenge, but one groupster would have more cash than another.  So, five of us went into the fortress.  I paid for myself and another male.  The third male paid for himself.  His fiancee was going to be covered by a female.  The ticket dude was having none of this outrageous chivalrouslessness once he realized we were “together”.  So, the two non-males saved some precious gelato-producing materials.

Oh, the adventures I could …

Getting to the end.  Last swim spot was most involved for this one, heretofore known as the “Water Wheel”.  If only someone had a Go Pro, someone who switched helmets with me to mount an electronic device and if only someone with a bumpy skull was into taking pictures while in motion.

Oh, which reminds me.  Safety is a six letter word.  When we had to sign waivers and wear safety equipment for ziplining, given that to that point our entire safety instruction was “Put the life jacket over your head, pull the strap around, and buckle.  Life jackets under the beds.” and at no point when I went kayaking by myself “Do you know how to swim?  Have you been kayaking before?  Do you want a life jacket?” to the point where I think I technically crossed out of Veliko Jezero into the sea, we figured there was a 10% kill rate on ziplining.  Bucked the odds, again.

Almost Splitsville.

Back in Split was trip-py.  It was an odd feeling to me to be back in a “city” where not everything was touristful (Dubrovnik outside of Old Town might have been that if we were ever more than a hop, skip, and jump from Old Town).  Also, the “return” of, er, returning to our starting point.

Return trip was ending of Deadpool, Black Panther, Infinity War, and lots of Yahtzee.  Because, gamer, yo.  Dice forever!

While I still don’t have the enthusiasm to cinemize, except when with family or the like who are more cinematic than I, I guess I’ve got to realize that it doesn’t really bother me to watch superhero movies, anymore.  I was reasonably entertained.

While not a tournament report, thanks to Athena for the invite on her trip and the groupsters for sharing gelato.  Thanks to the crew for not forcing us to use life jackets.  Thanks to Lara for mucho guidance.  Thanks to fellow passengers.

Now, when could I possibly fit in a return trip, where, of course, a V:TES tournament and Traveller feature prominently?

Wait, more gaming.

So, one thing about watching five years’ worth of movies was philosophizing upon the idea that entertainment can be less than great and still, somehow, be good.  In the next three thousand words, I’ll – …

 


The Needle

September 23, 2018

So, let’s talk about golf.  Well, in a moment.

Let’s talk about sports, first.  Why do athletes get paid nine figure contracts?  Because there’s money in popular stuff.  The world is an opulent place (with high levels of variance in personal wealth, of course).  A boardgame KS with cool minis [ha] can get you $4.2m.  On the other hand, two people I know have companies/organizations fundraising at the moment.  One company is working on drugs to combat the typical effects of aging.  The other group would be a group that involves my brother who has found a film festival to show the Abaarso School film he made and who is working on building a bunch of schools in Somaliland.

Woodstock Film Festival Somaliland

Yup, sports.  Wait.

Sports.  Sports are entertainment.  One of the things that tends to get forgotten when commentators obsess over winning and losing, where winning often correlates to popularity but isn’t the be all and end all of popularity.  Sometimes, you can claim the lovable losers category, have sellouts for a decade while losing, keep players around to give your team a sense of identity rather than come up with a “process” or chasing the Moneyiest Ball of them all.

But, also, sports are an activity that quite a few can relate to.  In watching The Needle move this weekend, I was asked about taking up golf and noted that it was the most frustrating sport I tried up until fencing.  It’s so much more fun to exclaim at a TV (yes, I’m that old school that I don’t say monitor) about “just hit 2 iron, then middle of the green” than actually want to be hot, sticky, muddy, and frustrated by topping a ball, which are vague recollections I have from high school.  Meanwhile, I wish I could find a good wall to throw a tennis ball against to see how messed up my shoulder really is or whether it’s just lack of training.

Golf is an international sport, so I imagine that unless something weird is going on at the moment in the world of futbol, Tiger is the biggest sports story in the world.

Story.  Stories.  Finally, I get to my theme.

I was at a birthday BBQ yesterday and there was a point during conversation where there was a question as to whether what makes the better story is what drives human existence or procreating.  Fortunately, this one is easy.

There are multiple aspects to Tiger’s tournament win.  It’s not just another “Will he catch Jack?” or the banal nonstories 24/7 sports coverage likes to obsess over, such as what a sports figure will do after saying something stupid/offensive/politically incorrect.  Get a lot of pointing out how much humans like comebacks, blah blah blah.

Tiger isn’t my favorite golfer, yet I’ve rooted for him more than any other.  LeBron isn’t my favorite NBAer, yet I root a lot for him, Jordan is also not my favorite NBAer, yet it might be hard to tell back when I watched WGN constantly to see Bulls games.  Another aspect of sports is that people’s favorites can be quite arbitrary.  Other than my mother or maybe someone I’ve told, I don’t think there’s any way someone would guess who my favorite MLBer is.  I’ve lived almost my entire life in one region of the States and none of the local teams rate as favorites nor have local players been among my favorites with maybe a rare exception.  There is an incredibly strong pattern to what are many of my favorites, but I don’t think the reader cares – I’m not looking for sports memorabilia as presents.  I’m not really into presents, at all.  Meanwhile, I have often rooted against teams or even individual players because they were rivals to my favorites.

But, I digest.  No, wait, my blog posts aren’t remotely digestings.

So, good stories.  After all, it’s not *that* hard to not tell bad stories.

I come back to the concept of feeling like I’m being challenged in RPG play without necessarily actually being really challenged.  I come back to that, but that’s just one aspect of a good story.  You also need to plotacize your story.  Well, I think so.  Is there a good story without a plot?

To ponder this some, I looked up the definition of plot.  There are good aspects to stories that aren’t part of the definition of plot, sure.  But, do you really have a story if you lack a plot?  Well, I wasn’t much of an English student and I didn’t read most literature that got foisted upon students back in the pre-computer days of my youth, so my feeble mind probably can’t make use of this topic and this is not the direction to be moving in.

“I rolled a 20, then confirmed my crit, and the sinister priest exploded.”  I’m fairly sure this isn’t a compelling story to you all.  This particular description of events is either what happened in a memorable situation I played in or I critted on a 19 and confirmed the crit.  Anyway, that session and the results were meaningful.

I find when GMing that the good stories don’t seem that common.  There are events and dice are rolled and wounds are recovered later and I’m not sure what the story is.  When I play in campaigns, I remember what happens, at least in recent sessions.  Okay, maybe I’m a special snowflake who cares far more about such things to where I devote brainspace to trying to perceive and engage with a narrative.  Except, if that’s the case, how come narrative-ridden offerings are as popular as they are?  Folks must like stories.  Gooder stories.  Wellier stories.

What’s today’s big story?  Tiger wins tournament for first time in 5 years.  Not Justin Rose wins FedEx Cup.  Not Rory choking.

I see the advantage of RPGs over other sorts of games is that you can achieve stories that move the needle for yourselfem to the same degree.  I have, of course, said the same thing before because I wake up a certain Dog all of the time (shout out that there isn’t much of the Year left).

We are in a hiatus period on Rokugan 1600 because of work, work, travel, travel.  I considered filling up some of the down time with stories written by the GM, a GM who doesn’t make memorable villains and therefore reduces the rapturousness of the players.  Behind the scenes views into the lives and times of “Who is that guy?  Whatshisname?” may make events resonate more.

Because, as much as I might like HeroQuest or may have played SSI gold box AD&D games to nondeath, there’s more to existence than procreating.  Maybe.