Capricorn II – Zodiac I

January 23, 2010

Success.  Not to say Capricorns are going to be inherently any more successful, but the path towards success is a driving concept for the sign in my mind.

My thought here is to talk about how to be successful at games like CCGs and boardgames.  This is ironic to a degree since I have no particular desire for success nor have I been particularly successful, but I’ve always been motivated in my analysis of games to try to understand what does produce success.

Know The Rules

I find two things about this interesting.  The first is how often people get rules of boardgames, non-collectible cardgames, and whatnot wrong.  It’s a big advantage of playing with people outside one’s group in that gaps of knowledge are often discovered quicker or, sometimes, at all.

Why not surprise at getting CCG (or CDG or CMG) rules wrong?  Because they change.  Essential to the original concept of CCGs was that most of the “rules” were on the cards.  Sure, there were rules, but cards commonly broke them.  In theory, the complexity of CCGs would come not from the rulebooks but from the card texts and their interactions.

In practice, of course, CCGs are typically highly complex before you ever get to the cards.  Magic’s official rules is something you search on your computer not something you would print out.  Firestorm, if I recall correctly, tried to include a comprehensive rulebook with starters and was just so tedious to read that you didn’t particularly want to play it.  Ultimate Combat!’s rule … thing (foldout sheet) has a lot more rules than you would think would be covered, but I asked tons of rules questions when I was a sanctioned referee and still don’t know how certain things work in a game that’s been dead over a dozen years.

I actually quite dislike teaching CCGs anymore as I’ve seen the ones I played become incomprehensible gibberish with all of the mechanics bloat.  While V:TES always had problems with its complexity and I was never that enthralled with trying to teach it, I had a pretty good script going with Babylon 5 until so much stuff got added to the game that, with my personality of overexplaining things, I just couldn’t take trying to explain how the game worked anymore.  With Wheel of Time, the amusing thing was that the game actually lacked fundamental rules (timing speed on card plays) until our group created them.

I think when I was writing the paragraph above I had something else in mind for the second thing, *sigh*, but I guess a second thing would be how much disdain there is for learning the actual rules of games (as opposed to what you think they are).  I realize it’s a pain in the ass to try to keep up with rulings for games, especially CCGs where particular, unintended card interactions spawn all sorts of rulings, retractions, errata, or whatever.  But, lack of rules knowledge leads to unnecessary losses.

Know The Components

Also much harder with CCGs but not terribly easy with even a game like Agricola (memorizing all of the different decks) or Race for the Galaxy (memorizing the stats and commonality of all of the cards). 

I’m stunned by how many people don’t have a solid idea as to what most of the cards in CCG card pools do.  Do I know what every card does in its entirety?  No.  Do I even know the precise text on every card I play?  No.  Sure, there are plenty of people who don’t care what everything does and may even enjoy the surprise factor.  Certainly, lots of gamers aren’t trying to compete at the highest levels.  What amazes me about the lack of components knowledge when it comes to CCGs, though, is that the whole point of CCGs is to build decks and the only way you can build decks is by learning what cards do.

A good example of how lack of components knowledge (well, also rules knowledge) can screw you is when Nights of Reckoning was released for V:TES.  I recall someone playing a Dawn Op/WC deck at Gen Con right after the Imbued came out, and I just couldn’t believe how far behind the times players can get.

With boardgames and the like, because I’m not particularly invested, I’m fine with not trying to memorize all of the components.  I don’t feel that I actually gain anything from knowing the precise commonalities of tiles in Ra, or whatever.  But, with CCGs, I would think everyone would be enthused about knowing what cards do since you might want to play them.

Of course, a lot of cards in CCG card pools aren’t tournament viable.  I’ve known top level players of CCGs who didn’t know what a lot of cards did because they knew enough to know the cards weren’t good enough to have a significant tournament impact.  So, it’s not like we are looking for perfect knowledge out there, but it’s rather important to know what cards you should/will see played do.

Travel

It’s possible for one player or a few players to be big fishes in little ponds and have a lot of local success.  I’ve seen it with B5, V:TES, and possibly other CCGs.  But, it’s unusual for one’s local group to have the player quality that crossregional play will see.  So, if the goal is success on a national or international level, then it behooves people to mix with other groups.

I’d like to think that it’s obvious to most people that playing against better players is important, but I find from reading many e-mail groups, forums, or whatever that lots of folks seem to have grossly overinflated opinions of their abilities or their groups’ abilities.  Playing outside of one’s local group does quite a bit to help dispel such views. 

There are local/regional metagames, even for boardgames.  So, there are differences in the efficacy of various strategies to where someone may know more and have a better strategy in the abstract but less success in a particular environment.  Yet, one can’t distinguish between metagaming and true strategic knowledge unless one does face a variety of/top level challenges.

Play To Win

For some of us, there’s nothing particularly fun about winning, so we play games in such a way that winning is of lesser importance.  While games are supposed to be fun, playing to win has obvious correlation to success.  So obvious, you wouldn’t think it needs to be mentioned.

But, the concept has a certain level of purity to it.  Removing distractions is not always easy.  One of the tactics in games (and gambling) is to put another player on tilt to where the focus is on proving something rather than just the purity of striving for success.

I probably should have mentioned this earlier in this post, but I’m not going to help much, if at all, someone who is more successful than I am, which is quite a few folks.  To some extent, stressing playing to win is aimed at those players of games who get frustrated by lack of success and don’t realize that it may arise from not really trying to be successful.  Sure, I’m a player who sabotages himself by not trying to be successful, but, then, I don’t care about being more successful.  Some people do, even if it’s on a local level.

The purity of the concept can also be seen when it comes to playing to win at all times.  I have had some minor success in my gaming, was an original V:TES Hall of Fame member after all and ranked in the top 10 in the world in three different CCGs at one time or another, anyway, one area in which I’ve noticed that I seem to have a comparative advantage is that I don’t give up anywhere near as quickly as people I’ve played against.  Wins and losses are tallied when the games are over.  Losing isn’t the same as lost.  … And, other good sounding aphorisms.

Studentying

Touched on this in “Travel” – the concept is that we all have things we can learn.  Playing with other groups is the best way to do that, but there are others.  As painful as it often is to read forums, there are things to absorb or, at least, consider and try.  Strategic knowledge is something that should be confirmed.  With CCGs, where the components keep changing and, so, the game keeps changing, it’s important to constantly confirm one’s strategic knowledge.

Etc.

There’s far more that could be said on this topic.  I just wanted to hit a few things that resonate with me from my observations.  And, it was Capricorn’s time, you know, several days ago, when I should have written this.


Capricorn I – Zodiac I

January 22, 2010

Late again.  I even knew what I wanted to post about for a while.

Capricorn
“I use”
positive qualities: determination, stability, wisdom, dependability, sureness, tranquility
negative qualities: selfishness, narrowness, ruthless ambition, rigidity, snobbery, depression, loneliness

So, something I haven’t talked about with using astrological signs for character (personality) archetypes is general classes of characters (as opposed to specific examples).

Leaders

Leaders come in all types.  Something like an army general may be a character that comes to mind for a Capricorn, but what of a ship’s captain, a pilot, a head nurse, high priest, etc.

Going with a fantasy RPG bent, I can easily see a cleric with a Capricorn personality and a party leadership role.  With a militaristic RPG bent, such as BattleTech, any sort of officer in charge of the party’s unit would work, even a NCO would make sense if the possibilities for advancement topped out at that level.

Loners

Loners are popular … not in any real world sense as they wouldn’t be loners if they were popular but as characters.  Take Wolverine, Punisher, et al.  The thing about loners is that they need to be highly competent in order to get by on their own, and Capricorn is the sign of experience.

Going through different genres, what about a NPC scientist in a Call of Cthulhu game who is not only highly sciencey but competent in other areas (like fightyness)?  A (formerly) wayward student of a martial arts master who develops his own badass techniques and:  will only share them with PCs who prove themselves; will be a random force of beatage who gets in the party’s way; or, whatever?

Age

I occasionally think about age with other signs – the perpetual teenager that is Gemini or whatever.  But, once I read it, I could never get out of my mind, when it came to Capricorn, the idea that they age backwards.

Long before Benjamin Button, maybe before Merlin, there was the concept of the Capricorn child who acted much older than his/her years, who got older, and who eventually started to find the inner child.  There’s a lot of riffs on this that could be used, whether it’s adult-acting children or grandparenty types who are surprisingly childish at times (Doctor … Who?) or all sorts of metaphysical or superscience backwards aging story pieces.

Success

The key, to me, seems to be, see, okay enough rhyming, that the Capricorn character needs to either have achieved or be striving to achieve.  Fortunately, that’s something that is easy to relate to when trying to distinguish important characters.


More (Red) Rocks?

January 12, 2010

I actually had to look back to see if I had already posted about 2009’s Vegas V:TES qualifier.  So, 2010’s is coming up, weekend after DunDraCon, and I am not clear on whether I should plan on going or not.

If I did go, though, what would I imagine the metagame to be like?  As stated in my March 1, 2009 post, the miniqualifier was vote heavy and the qualifier was bleedier.  Come back to this in a moment.

The first thing I can do is dispense with set impact.  Far as I’m aware, Heirs won’t be legal.  Ebony Kingdoms is too specific a set to have meaningful impact.  So, that leaves the last meaningful set being KoT, which I’m sure people are still digesting.  Some cards from it that might finally get some stage time might include:  Horseshoes, Loki’s Gift, Old Friends, serious use of Rego Motus.  I could say that three out of four of those are cards that I would have played much more often back in the day when I built a high volume of decks.  Well, maybe not Horseshoes.  I wonder why I don’t hear more about Loki’s Gift, the evil zen robot of V:TES (assuming you ignore ultrarare weapon hosers).

So, it should be a pretty well defined metagame.  Well, it would be if there was such a thing with V:TES that mattered.

Bleed, vote, or combat?

I would imagine it might be fairly similar this time around.  Of course, it could just as easily flip, with bleed being the miniqualifier threat and vote trying to take the qualifier as people try to outthink … well, nothing really.  With only one qualifier in the first event, I expect the same sort of experimentation that cropped up in 2009.  I could see more combo decks and more questionable strategies, like rush, in the miniqualifier.

With the love for Parity Shift these days, there needs to be some answer for vote even if the qualifier ends up being well-suited for copious amounts of bounce.

Weenies?

How much do I fear weenie Auspex or Animalism?  Too much.  Especially the former produces such horrid matchups.  Still, I can’t see any sort of deck I would want to play being able to beat weenie Auspex, so I should probably just ignore it and look at ways to improve the weenie Animalism matchup while having some thought for surviving a weenie bleed predator.

Mesagaming

That’s not misspelled.  If metagaming is looking at the environment, I’m going to pretend mesagaming means looking within.  If I go, I would imagine I’d play something to my tastes, which likely means something that doesn’t stand up well to any particular focused archetype.

The reality is that I just like hanging around with other gamers and being in the crossregional milieu, whether I’m relevant to it or not.  It doesn’t hurt, though, to get more tournament play in, especially outside of the region.  And, lots of ideas always come from events like these, not that I followed up much, if at all, on the ideas that came out of last year’s trip.


Omissions

January 1, 2010

So, for our last V:TES tournament, I was bored and tired of trying to think up serious decks and decided to play a deck I’d hope I’d enjoy playing rather than something I’m supposed to try to win with.  The plan failed.  It wasn’t enjoyable playing a deck that didn’t do anything.

My strategy since 2002 or so has been to play clans that by TWDA numbers are crap.  At first, it was to prove points.  Later, it was a game to see just how bad a deck I could win with.  After the Osebo win, I lost a lot of interest in the “get the first winning deck for a clan” philosophy.  I even started playing deck archetypes I had played in other events (usually storyline, but still …), like !Salubri stealth bleed.

I just had a thought.  Has to do with how tired I am of playing Presence (even more so than Dominate).  For a while, let’s see if I can forget about clans and consider disciplines instead.  What haven’t I won with (standard constructed) in terms of disciplines?

Animalism – Rare in my decks, but Of Ghastly Dreams was Animalistic.  No, actually, it wasn’t.  Just looking at the decklist again, there’s a whopping one Animalism card in the deck.  Hmmm …

Auspex – Ha!  Next.

Celerity – “When In Doubt … Win.”  8 Celerity cards, 2 Auspex/Celerity cards.

Dominate – Samedi deck not in the TWDA had some.  DoC deck had a few Deflections.  Underrepresented, but that just proves I’m not lame.  Get it?  Crutch.  Lame.

Fortitude – DoC deck had 6, all damage prevention (surprisingly useful in the finals).  Wow!!  I just looked at the decklist for the Samedi win.  26 frickin Fortitude cards.  I totally don’t remember that.  This actually makes me less interested in doing weenie Fortitude, which I’ve been thinking about for ages.  Go, go, gadget looking up old decklists.

Obfuscate – Yeah, right.

Potence – Pale Panda Warriors is clearly the best deck ever as it ran 4 Iron Glares and 2, count them, 2 straight Potence cards.  Who can now deny that I worship at the altar of the big fist?

Presence – Absurdly overrepresented.

Protean – Don’t do Gangrel.  They win too much.  However, why I haven’t done !Gangrel (except that horrid rush deck that taught me that I can’t succeed with rush) is mysterious.

Thaumaturgy – I only whip out the !Trem in storyline play.  Looks like Protean/Thaumaturgy has to be my next deck … come on … think about it … you know why … if you don’t, search for vampires with those two disciplines … yeah, that one.

Chimerstry – See first TWD.

Necromancy – Close.  Very, very close.  Whether weenie Nec in 2001 or HoS in 2009.  There was also that hilarious !Salubri deck, not that it was getting into the TWDA.

Quietus – Bah.  Well, actually, she has this discipline, too.  Oh yeah!

Serpentis – Boring, not because of the cards which are not at all boring, but because of the prevalence of FoS in the area.  Still, it’s missing.

Dementation – Not in the TWDA – 9 player tournament – straightforward !Malk stealth bleed deck.  Besides, there’s not much to do with this that wouldn’t involve overrepresented disciplines.

Obtenebration – Interestingly enough, no.  Me likes it much, but it’s so often attached to Dominate.  I so want to do a real Matthew Romans deck, but there’s absolutely no point.

Vicissitude – The deck that started me upon the path in 2001.  I really should find a name for my Path.  Anyway, first TWD was weenie Tzimisce bleed.  When I posted the deck to the newsgroup, I got idiotic responses about how I should have made it an intercept combat deck.  12 of 13 possible VPs suggested otherwise.  Never did bother mentioning it had won a tournament or that it had won every game it ever played.

Daimoinon – Blessing of the Name 1.1, a deck that I grow more fond of over time.

Melpominee – Kind of hard to leave it out of Mellow-Yellow Drama.

Mytherceria – Dave S. won a tournament with a Kiasyd deck I lent him.  I really like to play with Kiasyd but don’t really see the point of winning with them.

Obeah – I doubt this will happen any time soon.  Heirs will likely see a glut of Salubri decks, which will just turn me off.  I don’t think I ever tried playing Salubri in tournament play.

Sanguinus – It burns.  I see my failure to come up with a competitive BB deck to be particularly notable.  Their decks are just so tediously similar to each other and so tediously inept at surviving serious decks.

Spiritus – Too many Ahrimanes wins for me to give a fig.

Temporis – Tried.  Failed.  Badly.  Why do they have to have Potence and Presence as other disciplines?  Still, trying some more wouldn’t be a bad idea since I only tried twice?, maybe only once.

Thanatosis – So, Weapon Not Found had 11 Than cards, that’s respectable.

Valeren – Storyline, finals of qualifier, but not really that close.

Visceratika – There was that Gargoyles with Presence deck that showed I was digging deep for awfulness which made a finals.  Lent out that Gargoyles with Dominate deck that John likes to mention (bitch about) as a lesson that real decks need to be able to defend themselves against bleed.

Abombwe – Forgot about this.  Have no Akunanse interest, similar problem to BB of being too similar to each other.  However, there are some cute grafting things that could be done I should consider.

So, besides Protean/Thaumaturgy/Quietus, I’ve got Temporis, and if I play out of the region, Serpentis to work with.  Given our rate of standard constructed tournaments, that should cover me for 2010.  Well, maybe I’ll make it to Vegas again.