Aquarius II – Zodiac I

February 28, 2010

Some day, I might stop doing these at the last minute/late and split up articles covering different angles for different days.  Though, Wikipedia has an amusing line about the sidereal zodiac going from February 13th to March 14th.

The eccentric and uncooperative genius* (professor, scientist, holy person, whatever).  It’s a good character archetype.  What would Back to the Future be without it?  What would Doctor Who?

*  See Aquarius I for why this is relevant.

So, I have a task to spec out another NPC for the Conan campaign.  Since party NPCs who do the magic thang should be kind of less cooperative than usual to force the PCs to get stuff done on their own merits, why not have Aquarius in mind?  Actually, I think a player is going to play the character.  Yet, the player is eccentric and uncooperative (and friendly), so nothing really changes.  Not that the character’s personality is up to me, but it helps visualize the character which helps me with numbers.

Speaking of numbers, STR: 14, DEX: 13, CON: 17, INT: 17, WIS: 23, CHA: 18 seems about right for this 14th level scholar.  Got to love heroic character generation where this is an average character of such a level.  Even with an okay Con, I still need to make sure he has Great Fortitude as a feat to avoid the “squishy scholar” problem that can arise.  76 hit points would be adequate for someone who avoids doing dumb things, but our group isn’t known for that.

He totally should have Summon Elemental as a spell based on a writeup that our GM did, so that means Master Wards and Signs which means having four sorcery styles prior to 12th level (i.e. not foregoing a sorcery style).  Counterspells, Prestidigitation, Oriental, and?  Hypnotism will help with Wars of Souls.  Curses enables Gelid Bones for the one cheesy combat spell in Conan.

Expertise in Knowledge: Arcana and Decipher Script are obvious needs.  Knowledge: Religion makes sense for a priest even if it’s less of a need.  Can get into the mysteries mechanics, which I dislike for overcomplicating a game (d20) that doesn’t need complications.

Lightning Reflexes and a coherent plan for what to do in combat are likely important.  The former because Reflex saves actually matter in our campaign and a bump in initiative is okay.  The latter because the previous scholar’s plan was to act like a barbarian and go unconscious at inconvenient times.  Though, if Gelid Bones is going to happen, then the combat options are more limited as Combat Expertise is nonsynergistic, as would be Intricate Swordplay.  Even fighting defensively should be out, which makes 5 ranks in Tumble less important.  Hmmm.

The other think Oriental opens up is the Meditation path for Power Point recovery, awesome to have Greater Meditation compared to the rarely easy to pull off human sacrifice plan.

Not being very Aquarian in this post, going back to Wikipedia, we get links from Aquarius to the god Ea, which opens up a number of interesting possibilities since we are in the right part of the world for Middle Eastern gods.  Possibilities that require further research.

Back to the Olympics.  Hey, they are an Aquarius kind of thing.


Aquarius I – Zodiac I

February 28, 2010

I hope I can rely on the native forgiving natures of Aquarians for being so late.

“I know”
positive qualities:  vision, individuality, tolerance, friendliness, inventiveness, originality, genius
negative:  eccentricity, neurosis, detachment, absentmindedness, refusal to cooperate

Mark Rosewater, Magic’s lead designer, and other writers for Magic frequently bring up the psychographic profiles that have been defined for Magic players – Timmy, Johnny, Spike (there’s a fourth that has been talked about).

I don’t do a great job of explaining them to people.  But, then, that hardly matters when I can point to this article – – or this article – .

Inventiveness, originality, genius – these sound like Johnny terms to me.  If it’s not clear where I’m going or where I’m coming from, maybe it’s time for me to explain some train of thought.

Hopefully, anyone reading this blog will know that I went to the Vegas Qualifier for V:TES this year.  Our host had three other players staying with him.  The other two I consider Johnnies.  They are into offbeat and inventive decks.  They keep looking for ways to win on their terms, unlike the Spike who is usually just looking to win or, at least, be efficient, or the Timmy who is looking to just have fun stuff happen.

Ignoring that people are rarely one thing, let’s get into the area of inventiveness or originality or … whatever.  Let’s get into deckbuilding.

I’m not a terribly original deckbuilder.  I try to be by trying to eschew well-established archetypes or, at least, *just* well-established archetypes.  The City Gangrel with Dominate deck I played in the Vegas Qualifier was mostly a Dominate/Obfuscate stealth bleed deck, pretty much the archetype that should be everyone’s first deck and, for all that people may see me play weird stuff these days, is by far the most common archetype for when I was learning V:TES.  But, I tried to spruce it up with Repo Man/Ambulance and with various tech I don’t see other players use much.

Then, I tried to be much more inventive back in the day.  My kick soon after becoming aware of the tournament winning deck archive was to come up with inventive ways to win with clans.  After a time, that morphed into coming up with dumber and dumber deck ideas to see what I could sneak into the TWDA.

A project of mine since Twilight Rebellion came out has been to come up with uses for Laecanus.  He’s awful, being screwed out of Auspex for no good reason.  Of course, he naturally goes into Hell-for-Leather gun decks or even just Celerity gun decks.  We can even see that in group 4/5, there are four Toreador with CEL at 6 cap or less, and they are all screwed on Auspex (in that you really want AUS for bounce) and mostly suck at Presence, too.

I’ve done a number of decks, including several Obtenebration decks and two or more anarch decks.  Nearly every time I draw Laecanus, I don’t want to bring him out as he’s just bad.  So …

Speaking of bad, I’ve been thinking of Mercury’s Arrow.  People think the card is trash.  Thinking little of it is reasonable, it has a deficiency of goodness.  But, having played against my original MA deck, it’s annoying to play against because it is a real threat.  Yet, .44s are that much better a threat since they don’t keep costing blood and stick around and work real well with Psyche! (nevermind that .44 Magnum is just an awesome card in the game, Celerity or no).

But, it’s so unoriginal to pair CEL and guns.  Originality is often advantageous in CCGs (my Spikeness crops up) as people have a harder time playing against the unknown.  I see taking the trite Celerity guns archetype and relying far more on Mercury’s Arrow being a more challenging deck for someone to know how to deal with.  And, it does have some possible benefits where pool savings or not relying equipment is important.

Not that switching out of guns is best synergy with Laecanus as it makes his anti-Frenzy ability less relevant.  Anyway, because of the lack of Auspex, I’m still probably stuck with rushing rather than the better strategy of intercept combat.  Besides playing lots of Tastes of Vitae, what’s the tech to make this sensible?  Well, can always spend more blood and play Fleetness to rush at stealth, get a maneuver, and have a stealthed bleed for when it’s time to clear the hand of Aire of Elation (all four of them or whatever I’d run).

Actually, having done rush with him, since he does have Presence and since he is a Toreador, bruise bleed is not something I’ve considered previously.  It’s not an archetype I care much for, especially without Dominate.  In theory, enough AUS could be found for bounce or, *gasp*, a try could be made to run without (a horrible, horrible try).  Though, his Toreadorness has the problem that you might as well just run good Toreador since they aren’t exactly hard to find.

I guess I could do a more Power of One based anarch deck if I was going to break down and do bruise bleed.  At least he makes sense as an anarch for all sorts of mediocre plays and I can not get ousted by the sheer awesomeness of anarchdom (I’m sure that makes up for nonexistent pool defense cards).

There’s not much genius here.  I should be looking for more genius things to do, as my friend Bill keeps bugging me about.  I should be getting some Heirs to the Blood soon, which may inspire me more than my oh so brief conversations with players in Vegas have.  I can already picture Gargoyles … with Dominate … again.  Because nothing is quite as original as doing something you’ve done before and found to be amazingly dull the first time around.

Heirs to the Blood Precons

February 27, 2010

I don’t want to bitch about how the Heirs to the Blood precons are built.  They make a lot more sense than most of the older precons.  And, the goals of those publishing them don’t seem to be the goals I would have.  I just want to make a few miscellaneous remarks.

Deck Name: “Heirs to the Blood” Gargoyle / Tremere Starter Deck
Author: Ben Peal
Description: Gargoyle / Tremere Preconstructed Starter Deck

Crypt (Capacity min=4 max=8 avg=5.7; 12 cards)
2x Cedric            6 obf pot vis FOR  Gargoyle:4
2x Rocia             8 obf FOR POT VIS  Gargoyle:4
2x Rusticus              4 for VIS      Gargoyle:5
1x Lord Ephraim Wainwright   6 for pre AUS THA  Tremere:5
1x Muhsin Samir          6 aus pot DOM THA  Tremere:4
1x Hector Trelane        5 dom nec AUS THA  Tremere:4
1x Claus Wegener         5 aus for tha DOM  Tremere:5
1x Tarrence Moore        4 aus dom tha  Tremere:5
1x Frank Weisshadel          4 dom pot tha  Tremere:4

Library (77 cards)
Master (12 cards)
1x Antediluvian Awakening
1x Barrens, The
1x Chantry
1x Depravity
2x Effective Management
1x Fame
1x Guardian Angel
1x Thaumaturgy
2x Villein
1x Wasserschloss Anif, Austria

Action (7 cards)
3x Bum’s Rush
1x Create Gargoyle
1x Defender of the Haven
1x Hatchling
1x Soul of the Earth

Ally (1 cards)
1x Rock Cat

Retainer (4 cards)
1x J. S. Simmons, Esq.
3x Razor Bat

Action Modifier (4 cards)
4x Conditioning

Reaction (20 cards)
4x Deflection
2x Patrol
4x Voices of the Castle
4x Scry the Hearthstone
6x Wake with Evening’s Freshness

Combat (29 cards)
3x Immortal Grapple
2x Pounce
2x Lead Fist
3x Raking Talons
4x Rockheart
4x Slam
4x Soak
4x Stonestrength
3x Torn Signpost

The lack of some of the Visceratika cards like Skin of the Chameleon is notable, but I can’t get too excited by that.  The Thaumaturgy skill card is horrid for the deck; maybe it was needed to put more Thaum skill cards in circulation since it’s useless to the deck where Dominate or Potence would be so much better; actually, when you consider that Dominate is reprinted in another deck, that’s out and it seems like some effort was made to print a variety of skill cards and this would be the deck that would have the Thaum card, but it doesn’t explain why there’s no Potence card in any of the decks.  Having won every game I’ve ever played with this deck and considering what a hassle it is to build slave gargoyle decks, it holds together well.  I’d like to see a couple of Blood Dolls or some sort of additional pool gain.

Deck Name: “Heirs to the Blood” Kiasyd / Lasombra Starter Deck
Author: Ben Peal
Description: Kyasid / Lasombra Preconstructed Starter Deck

Crypt (Capacity min=5 max=10 avg=6.6; 12 cards)
1x Pherydima    8  obt pot DOM MYT NEC      Kiasyd:4
1x Omme Enberbenight      7  cel dom MYT OBT        Kiasyd:4
1x Roderick Phillips March 7  cel obt tha DOM MYT   Kiasyd:4
2x Isanwayen            6  DOM MYT OBT      Kiasyd:4
1x Dame Hollerton       5  myt DOM OBT      Kiasyd:4
1x Luca Italicus     10 tha DOM FOR NEC OBT POT     Lasombra:4
1x Lord Vauxhall     7  DOM OBT POT THA         Lasombra:4
1x Virginie, Prodigy    6  obt DOM POT          Lasombra:4
1x Black Wallace    6  obt tha DOM POT      Lasombra:4
1x Andrew Emory     5  aus dom pot OBT      Lasombra:4
1x Ermenegildo, The Rake 5  pot DOM OBT         Lasombra:4

Library (77 cards)
Master (14 cards)
2x Blind Spot
2x Capitalist
1x Channel 10
1x Dominate
1x Obtenebration
1x Political Hunting Ground
1x Sudden Reversal
1x Vessel
2x Villein
2x Wider View

Action (9 cards)
1x Eternal Vigilance
1x Goblinism
6x Govern the Unaligned
1x Song of Pan

Equipment (3 cards)
1x Zaire River Ferry
1x Tinglestripe

Ally (2 cards)
2x Nocturn

Retainer (1 cards)
1x Mr. Winthrop

Action Modifier (18 cards)
1x Blanket of Night
6x Bonding
4x Shadow Play
1x Shroud of Absence
6x Stone Travel

Reaction (10 cards)
2x Covincraft
2x Folderol
3x Obedience
3x On the Qui Vive

Combat (9 cards)
3x Absorb the Mind
1x Autonomic Mastery
2x Darkness Within
3x Oubliette

Combo (11 cards)
4x Aura Absorption
3x Fae Contortion
4x Murmur of the False Will

Blind Spot?  Really?  I already feel like I have way too many of this niche card.  What I’d replace with really depends upon the goal.  If the goal is to help the deck with evasion, Misdirection or Anarch Troublemaker.  If the goal is to upvalue the deck, The Hungry Coyote.  Again, it’s hard to say a lot about precons when the goals aren’t clear and when they seem to conflict with my own interests in what precons should be.  

On the other hand, Capitalist is absurd.  Maybe it’s possible for the game to change in some way to where Capitalist won’t be strictly inferior (in all practical ways) to Perfectionist, but I doubt it will ever happen.  I certainly don’t need more of either Capitalist or Perfectionist, but whoever could use more archetypes should not comprehend why Capitalist got reprinted.

I wasn’t expecting more copies, but Shroud of Absence shouldn’t be anywhere near as rare as it is – it’s trying to argue things like this that burnt me out on arguing for anything with CCGs.  No Earth Swords is so weird.  Why play Kiasyd?  Sure, some of the cards are super flexible, but what makes them distinct from Lasombra?  As much as Lasombra have Potence, I see there being a comparative advantage to Kiasyd combat.  Tinglestripe feeds this, but then, why not support with Earth Swords?  Where’s the Darkling Trickery?  Surely, everyone knows that every deck is better with ultrarare weapon hosers.  Oh … right, put them in a precon, and they aren’t ultrarare anymore.  Everyone knows that fixed rarity weapon hosers suck.

Deck Name: “Heirs to the Blood” Salubri antitribu / Ventrue antitribu Starter Deck
Author: Ben Peal
Description: Salubri antitribu / Ventrue antitribu Preconstructed Starter Deck

Crypt (Capacity min=3 max=8 avg=5.7; 12 cards)
2x Uriel        8 ani obe AUS FOR VAL   !Salubri:4
1x Aredhel      5 aus FOR VAL       !Salubri:4
1x Langa        5 for VAL       !Salubri:4
1x Nkechi       4 aus for val       !Salubri:4
1x Rashiel      3 for val       !Salubri:4

1x Polly Kay Fisher     8 for pot AUS DOM THA   !Ventrue:4
1x Titus Camille    8 for AUS DOM OBF   !Ventrue:4
1x Jefferson Foster     6 for tha AUS DOM   !Ventrue:4
1x Mariel St. John  6 dom pro AUS FOR   !Ventrue:4
1x Jephta Hester    5 aus DOM FOR       !Ventrue:4
1x Neighbor John    5 dom for AUS       !Ventrue:4

Library (77 cards)
Master (12 cards)
1x Auspex
2x Blooding by the Code
1x Corporate Hunting Ground
1x Fame
1x Fortitude
1x Information Highway
1x Path of Retribution, The
2x Vessel
2x Villein

Event (1 cards)
1x Dragonbound

Action (15 cards)
3x Abbot
1x Blessing of the Name
2x Brother in Arms
4x Govern the Unaligned
1x Graverobbing
2x Rumble
2x Sense Death

Equipment (5 cards)
5x Baseball Bat

Action Modifier (2 cards)
2x Dawn Operation

Reaction (19 cards)
3x Enhanced Senses
3x Eyes of Argus
1x Melange
3x Precognition
2x Telepathic Counter
5x Wake with Evening’s Freshness
2x Hide the Heart

Combat (23 cards)
1x Blissful Agony
1x Eye of Unforgiving Heaven
5x Indomitability
3x Sword of the Righteous
3x Target Vitals
5x Unflinching Persistence
3x Vengeance of Samiel
2x Death Seeker

The best value deck?  Eyes of Argus is one of those cards you want like 60 of.  Target Vitals is something I don’t have arbitrarily large numbers of.  Guess it depends upon whether you care about cards like Blissful Agony, or, more precisely, whether you can find other people who care about it if you don’t, something that should be fairly easy.

Nothing makes me hate melee weapons as much as precons.  Actually, with KoT’s Toreador deck, nothing makes me hate crappy weapons as much as precons.  Oh well, let it go, just let it go.

Deck Name: “Heirs to the Blood” Samedi / Nosferatu Starter Deck
Author: Ben Peal
Description: Samedi / Nosferatu Preconstructed Starter Deck.

Crypt (Capacity min=4 max=10 avg=6.4; 12 cards)
1x Troglodytia      10 obf pot AUS FOR NEC THN  Samedi:4
2x Baroque      7 aus for obf NEC THA       Samedi:5
1x Tanginé      7 ani nec pot OBF THN       Samedi:4
1x Macoute      6 obf thn FOR NEC       Samedi:4
1x Abebe        4 nec obf thn           Samedi:4

1x Federico di Padua    7 ani AUS OBF POT       Nosferatu:5
1x Shahid       7 ani for pro OBF POT       Nosferatu:4
1x Topaz        7 ani for qui OBF POT       Nosferatu:4
1x Harold Tanner    6 ani dom obf POT       Nosferatu:4
1x Petra        5 aus ANI OBF           Nosferatu:4
1x Slag         4 ani obf pot           Nosferatu:5

Library (77 cards)
Master (14 cards)
4x Agent of Power
2x Coroner’s Contact
1x Dreams of the Sphinx
1x Dummy Corporation
1x Houngan
2x Vessel
2x Villein
1x Warsaw Station

Action (18 cards)
4x Computer Hacking
2x Deep Song
1x Divine Sign
2x Horseshoes
2x Little Mountain Cemetery
3x Night Moves
2x Off Kilter
1x Patagia: Flaps Allowing Limited Flight
1x Rampage

Equipment (6 cards)
3x Camera Phone
3x Sport Bike

Ally (4 cards)
3x Reanimated Corpse
1x Underbridge Stray

Action Modifier (20 cards)
4x Cloak the Gathering
2x Freak Drive
1x Hag’s Wrinkles
4x Lost in Crowds
1x Marked Path
2x Mask of a Thousand Faces
4x Veil the Legions
2x Under my Skin

Reaction (9 cards)
2x Elder Intervention
4x On the Qui Vive
3x Steadfastness

Combat (6 cards)
2x Cold Aura
2x Compress
2x Soak

Ignoring card value (dollar dollar bills), unsurprisingly, I consider this the real loser of the decks.  It’s not so much because it can’t function, it’s just that, as usual, it feels like it has no heart, just a cobbled together mash of stuff with mediocre plays.  With the other precons, you can kind of gloss over the junk because things stand out.  Here, I’m drawn to x4 Agent of Power as clunky and sketchy, any copies of Night Moves (a way overplayed card IMO), that there should be more equipment (like weapons, wait, they would probably suck, nevermind) and at least one more Hag’s Wrinkles (it’s the most interesting thing Than does designspacewise).  The combat is amusing, but I don’t think amusing is a design goal.  You are kind of screwed with Samedi and another clan because of the lack of crossover – I understand that.  Nevermind being screwed by the awful Legacies of Blood Samedi.  So, it’s a lot better than it could be.

Repo Man – the obvious addition/reprint/upvaluer.

Anyway, I give credit to these decks being not absurd and being far more playable.  I wish someone like Ben had been designing the many ludicrous precons we’ve seen in the past.  And, while the Samedi deck doesn’t excite me within itself, it has value cards.

Vegas Qualifier 2010

February 23, 2010

I could write a post about DunDraCon 2010, but since I was sick every day except the day I was too tired from work to want to do anything, there seems little point.

I should write about Aquarius since I’m nearly a week out of the sign’s window already, but I’m too tired for creative thought.

So, instead, I’ll write something simple – a report on my trip to the 2010 Las Vegas V:TES Qualifier.

I get in Saturday around 12:15AM, so off to bed as soon as I get to Nat’s house.  Apparently, I get a lot more sleep than many of my opponents, certainly more than the drunk insomniac also staying with Nat.


Round 1:

James (EuroBrujah guns) -> me (Serpentis SB, Ashur Tablets) -> David B. (Pot/Cel) -> David T. (Pre/Obf/For) -> Preston (Cesewayo)

The interesting thing about more competitive play is how fast games warp.  My prey took one action in this game.  I bled him some while he brought out Menele, David T. Pentexed Menele, I continued bleeding, then I killed him when he brought out Jacko because I didn’t want to be rushed and I had little pool.

Why did I have little pool?  I had never played the deck before and didn’t realize how important Liquidation was to my pool management.  I normally play decks with silly cards like Blood Doll, but no, I was relying entirely on Ashur Tablets, Liquidation, and ousting for pool gain.  I only ran two Liquidations and I discarded one because I felt safe … for some incomprehensible reason.

David T. played the early game with one vampire, yet had Preston on the ropes.  With a mighty two vampires in play, he was one action away from taking Preston out.  Any of vote, bleed, or Enticement would have done it, but Cesewayo was tooled up and Preston had The Erciyes Fragments to grab bounce from James’s ash heap.  James couldn’t get a gun in play so wasn’t a combat threat when he was in combat, but I didn’t want to help him cycle, so I avoided combat.  But, I lost 5 pool to Parity Shift and kept getting bled for 2 until I got down to 3 pool and got ousted by a 4 bleed at stealth.  I found out later that David T. finally got Preston and James won.

Round 2:

me -> Robert S. (Ahrimanes) -> Jeff P. (Ahrimanes Great Beast) -> Christian (anarch Tremere)

It was so bad when Rob got out intercept locations in his first couple of turns.  My deck was stealth light because I wasn’t metagaming for good decks for some reason.  I still reduced his pool significantly.  On the other hand, Christian was reducing mine even with playing 6 Ashur Tablets.  Jeff brought out Nergal, got the Great Beast because Rob was too busy defending against me, and took control of the game.  Christian was getting hammered until Jeff pressed into a Walk of Flame, and the Great Beast never made it out of torpor.  I could have rescued, but I tried to kill my prey since I was low on pool and he wasn’t obviously going to stop me.  Of course, with a wall deck, stopping light stealth isn’t terribly hard, so I failed.  Christian didn’t think it was best to keep me alive, so he got me and Rob cleaned up.

Failing to make the finals, I played an actual pickup game – the only pickup game of the trip.  Not playing more pickup games made me unhappy face.

Nat (Ankla bleed) -> Dave L. (modified Samedi precon) -> Chris (weenie Brujah vote) -> me (anarch Baali toolbox) -> Jeff P. (modified Kiasyd precon)

I gave Chris grief for not being able to oust me.  It was sad how he had vote lock, could get most of his actions through, yet couldn’t oust a deck that brought out multiple Baali.  I finally got some serious Failsafe action in a game, which was the hotness with such a tenuous deck.  The best way to describe the silliness was that Barbaro turned two vampires infernal and my prey decided to self oust from the infernal penalty rather than die to either Anarch Revolt or Contagion.  Nat was slowed by the intercept in the Samedi deck.  But, he eventually took Dave out, took Chris out, and took me out as I sat on a hand full of Conflagrations.

I did also manage to play all three of my Condemnations – Mute on a Brujah, Doomed on Omme Enberbenight, Betrayed on Ankla.  The Undue Influences in the deck didn’t turn out to be that exciting, maybe because I drew lots of them early without Sense the Sins to actually do any meaningful damage.


Round 1:

Robert G. (Arms Dealer) -> James (Malk vote) -> Cameron (Hell-for-Leather) -> Sim (Newjah) -> me (City Gangrel Dominate SB)

This game warped crazy.  I went down to 6 pool in no time.  James brought out Lutz who got diablerized.  Robert G. had 11 bleed on the table when I ousted him with bleeds of 5 and 6 where he had to think hard about whether to try to block the second bleed based on whether I had stealth or Conditioning in my hand.  When I ousted him my ash heap was something like x2 Foreshadowing Destruction (one discarded), x2 Conditioning, x2 Govern, x1 Cloak the Gathering.

Cameron went down to 4 pool, Pentexed forward to go to 2, rushed Sim into oblivion (taking down Karen and Tara).  I didn’t get it.  Maris was still behind him, and his predator and prey still controlled the votes.  He thought he’d do more pool damage and thought maybe my bleedzooka deck would oust James on my next turn.  Since I don’t play bleedzookas, I bled James twice and did 2 pool damage and Cameron got ousted.

James made an epic comeback, eventually bringing out Oriandus and Rachel Brandeywine as he had vote lock and kept gaining pool off of Parity Shifts and Con Boons.  I tried propping up Sim, which at least kept him alive, though it didn’t enable him to do anything.  Right after Rachel came out, I pretty much had one last shot to take out James and had crafted an all bleed/stealth hand to do it.  The endgame was uninteresting.

Round 2:

Rehlow (FoS steal) -> me -> Andy (high cap Toreador vote) -> John (Kiasyd) -> Mark (!Trem)

This was weird in a not particularly pleasant way.  Rehlow’s Cave of Apples enabled him to take my Mylan and Jake Washington.  Temptations hit my vampires.  Mark got scary (for Rehlow) with a building Nephandus horde, which I dug for basic Sebastian Goulet to steal to form a triangle of absurdity with potential (but lack of actual) ally ownership changes.  I tried to ignore Andy, but I eventually had to oust him as I was only playing for 1 VP since my 1 & 4 from the previous game put me in a good position for the finals.  Fortunately, Mark took Rehlow out before my board exploded to his vamp steal cards.  I stole John’s Mylan and bled him out and Mark and I had a reasonably epic endgame where I took two of his Nephandi with Sebastian, From a Sinking Shipped a third, only to watch him block 4 or 5 actions to survive at one pool while I kept forgetting that I was playing On the Qui Vive with allies.  It reduced my bleed power on one turn and killed me in the end when I remembered Carlton was tapped and he could bleed me out with his one action and all of my 6 or so minions tapped.  My (delayed) remembering that my guys didn’t untap ensured Mark his first game win which enabled him to get into the finals (as top seed), kind of important for what happened later.

To this point, every game I played was interesting, some might even say fun, for me at least.  I had lots of decisions, on the edge both ways, crazy stuff happened.

Round 3:

Norm (!Trem, Tupdogs, and Beast) -> Preston (Akunanse) -> Darby (Imbued Talbot’s Chainsaw) -> me -> Nat (Serpentis SB with bounce)

This was not too enthralling.  Though I had gobs of pool from an early Villein + Giant’s Blood, I felt on the defensive right away.  Preston fought Darby some but had no meaningful impact on the Immune.  Nat had bounce, but I wasn’t bleeding him and was getting rushed from Beast and blocked by Carlton.  Eventually, Darby took control with Talbot’s beatdown and we needed Norm to help gang up on him, Preston blew himself up trying to beat down Darby though it would have been really interesting if he got a weeniekiller vote off to kill Darby, especially the second one which would have ousted Darby, Preston, and Norm.  With Norm with little pool, Nat ousted him and Preston, stole the Imbued with the Chainsaw, and we timed out.


me -> Preston -> Robyn (Palla Grande) -> Mark -> Brandon (Dom/For tap bleed)

The funny thing is that my deck was metagamed against decks like Brandon with my 11 bounce cards … and other stuff.  I still only lasted around 5 turns and, what, 20 minutes?  Maybe longer timewise, but it felt like nothing.  Because I did nothing.  I spent my Governs to bring out guys, including using one on a Tupdog (transferring back).  Losing two pool to Tension in the Ranks from my exploding Tupdogs, taking a bleed crosstable, and tapping my Anarch Convert to spend a pool on Heart of Nizchetus did not help, but the reality was that I needed to draw either one of my 7 remaining wakes or … one of my two Archon Investigations to stop Brandon’s lunge.  I drew none of those and took 10 bleed with all of my guys tapped because of Anarch Troublemaker.

I went to get food and so found out later that Brandon couldn’t get through Preston and Mark took 2.  Robyn conceded since Mark was higher seed, thus guaranteed to win.

My next turn would have been exciting as I had Heart in play, Villein to empty my 4 cap (or not and try to oust Preston who was at 6 pool), Epiphany to merge Sebastian and take Mark’s Nephandus.  But, even though I tried being as conservative as possible, I wasn’t quite conservative enough to not have to rely on drawing off of Dreams to get a wake or AI to have that next turn.

Sunday, I slept in a bit, Nat and I went for dim sum in Chinatown where they were celebrating Chinese New Year, window shopped (yes, two guys window shopped because life is about irony), went to City Center to check out the new complex, watched some Olympics.

Was great to be able to stay with Nat.  Wish I could play more pickup games which tend to be much more fun than tournament games.  Felt like I didn’t do that much compared to last year, but I think I had an extra day last year.  Didn’t get to spend as much time talking to other players as I would have liked.  Did sell one of my extra 3e boxes.  But, no trades for me.  Good trip.

Solitaire Bridge

February 23, 2010

I’ve been flying much more often than usual recently – business trip, etc.  Reminded me that I should write down the rules to solitaire bridge.

There are about 4 or so solitaire games I cycle through when I’m bored and have a deck handy.  Solitaire is great for passing the tedious time spent in airports.  Solitaire bridge happens to be the one I invented.

There are various variations on it, but by far the most common variation I play is “no trump, with partner”.  Simple enough, draw a hand of 13 cards to act as your bridge hand.  Play off the top for each trick with the first trick being led by the player “to your left”.  High card of the suit led wins the trick.  Of course, since your hand is the only one with any control over how it plays, it’s fairly standard to take around “4 NT” (10 tricks).  Partner is as much a wild card as the opponents, though strategically it’s desirable to have partner win tricks and be on the lead to see an opponent’s play before you make your own play.

The scoring system is simple enough with each trick above 6 producing a progressive score:  100 points for 7 tricks, 300 for 8, 600 for 9, 1000 for 10, 1500 for 11, 2100 for 12, and a bonus for a Grand Slam to the nice round number of 3000 points for 13.  Though very rare to get less than 7 tricks, I frequently do -200 points per trick below 7.  I normally play 6 hands in a set to average things out some.

What value over other solitaire is there?  I use casual thought, which is the level I like with solitaire.  I don’t like random solitaire games and I don’t like having to think too hard when I’m just killing time.  However, if I were inclined, I could use this as practice for card counting since that’s what the game is all about.

The strategy is to play as low as possible from suits with as few overcards left in the draw deck as possible.  Since no trump is my norm, having stoppers in every suit (10 or better is pretty good, aces are still great for extra control) is better than wildly unbalanced hands, but one long suit is usually good.  The early game is usually about trying to get rid of low cards.  After a certain point, usually when a suit is gone, I cash winners.  With bad hands, sometimes I cash winners earlier hoping to see a suit get played out.  Underplaying partner is usually a good idea as only one random card can take the trick at that point.

Of course, I’ve played variations with no partner, with a trump suit, with a personal trump suit, and probably others.  I don’t like trump suits as they make things very crazy if impersonal (the suit is trump for everyone) or too easy if personal (only your hand can trump).

Main reason I play this game over others is that it takes up so little space, but it’s also somewhat more thoughtful than some of the others I play.

Ox I – Chinese Zodiac I

February 13, 2010

So, here I am, sitting in the main lobby of the hotel for DunDraCon, on the last day of the Year of the Ox (my local time).

It was always my intention when I started the astrology series to also do the 12 earth branches, aka 12 animal signs, of Chinese astrology.  Per usual, massive procrastination has led me to my last opportunity to be timely.  And, I only have to do this once a year!

The thing about the 12 animal signs is that they map, to a degree, to Western astrology to where it can be awfully similar to talk about them.  Still, why not?

More specifically, this Ox year is an Earth Ox Year.  For those who don’t know, there are 5 elements – earth, fire, water, metal, wood – that make the Chinese cycle a 60 year cycle.

From The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes, by Theodora Lau, we get this info for Ox:

Ranking order: Second
Hours:  1AM-3AM
Direction:  North-Northeast
Season and principal month:  Winter, January
Western sign:  Capricorn
Element:  Water
Stem:  Negative

Let’s just say you were looking for inspiration for building a world.  This trivia could inspire you to, for example, create an Oxish society in the North-Northeast part of the world, where ceremonies may be held between 1AM-3AM, a land of snow.

Rather than talk about the Ox generally, let’s quote a passage on the Earth Ox.

“This is an enduring although less creative type of Ox who is always faithful to his duties.  He knows his limitations and realizes his imperfections quite young in life.  He will shine in any career he decides to undertake as he is practical, industrious and prepared to pay the price demanded for success.  He contributes his share willingly and will favor practical and worthy endeavors.  He looks for security and stability and will work efficiently with these two master goals in mind.

Although he may not be sensitive or very emotional by nature, he is capable of sincere and lasting affection and will be loyal and steadfast to his loved ones and his principles.

He fights for constant advancement of his station in life and will endure difficulties and suffering without complaint.  Purposeful and determined, this Ox will go far; it will be hard to push him back because he will never surrender captured ground.  He may be the slowest but is the surest of all the Oxen.”

So, we have workmanlike behavior.  Besides the obvious personality elements for characters, it’s a perfectly valid philosophy when looking for success in such endeavors as boardgames, wargames, or even more creative endeavors such as CCGs.

In terms of how personality can be reflected in character mechanics, we see a good description of someone who would have a relatively higher Constitution and Wisdom, relatively lower Dexterity and Intelligence.  If it were a superhero, the brick archetype would be an obvious one.  If we were thinking of an appropriate mech (aka mecha, battlemech, etc.), we’d be looking at low speed, high armor, lack of flashy or dangerous systems.  Urbanmech from BattleTech would be somewhat along these lines.

According to Theodora, the Ox will get along well with the Rooster, the Rat, and the Snake.  Will not do well with the Dog, Sheep, and Tiger.  This can be used in a variety of ways, everything from rival martial arts schools based around different animals to the personalities of individuals in a unit (military, superhero team, whatever).

As for famous Earth Oxen, we have Nehru, Charlie Chaplin, and Hitler.  Who wouldn’t want a multiple personality character with those personalities?