Heirs to the Blood – Library Ratings

July 31, 2010

I was remiss in not getting around to something actually asked for. I would have liked to gone back and reviewed the ratings I gave Ebony Kingdoms cards at this time, as well, but too many things to do for Gen Con. I probably will never get around to vampires as: 1, it would take time; 2, it wouldn’t be that interesting; 3, value is way too dependent upon other vampires.

Reminder on the system, though maybe I changed it as thinking in Magic terms for V:TES cards is not necessarily the way to go:
1 – Play these only for humor value.  Or, don’t.
2 – Average, can cover a lot of ground.
3 – Standouts, justifications for playing a clan, discipline, or whatever.
4 – Clearly superior cards, also cards that make you want to play certain types of decks.
5 – Best in the game.

Of course, I value breadth higher than awesomeosity in a narrow range of decks, in general. Govern isn’t the best card in the game because, amazingly, not every deck plays Dominate. (Of course, it’s not even the best Dominate card, but Deflection isn’t the best card in the game, either.)

Library
Comments
Rating
The Ailing Spirit Synergistic even when there aren’t special targets, superior is quite brutal in combination. 3
Amulet of Temporal Perception Why would I want inferior Temporis that’s more expensive? 1
As the Crow Freak Drive is a 5 but is easier to play.  Tupdogs are already broken. 4
Barrenness Really annoying, combos with Scourge of the Enochians, et al, but what is it doing to help win the game? 2
Benefit Performance Not remotely Con Boon, though it won’t accidentally give others pool.  Have a hard time seeing it replace the better card. 2
The Black Beast Too limited. 1
Blessed Resilience Strong in the right deck?  I wish I knew.  Only useful in one type of deck?  Yup. 2
Blessing of the Beast In many CCGs, effects like this would be hideously broken.  For some reason, this effect hasn’t had a big impact.  Should be a 4 or a 5, but where’s the evidence? 3
Bliss Too limited.  Not remotely in the class of other Dom or Pre cards. 1
Blood Tempering An action, that costs blood, that requires a terrible discipline and an out of clan discipline, that does virtually nothing.  Amusing, but awful. 1
Brick by Brick I hardly see Stone Quills anymore, I don’t expect this to make many cuts. 2
Cavalier Probably the most overrated card in the set, though that doesn’t make it bad.  The question is whether it’s good.  Borderline – I err on the side of average. 2
Charge of the Buffalo Does this serve any sort of purpose?  Why would a vamp with Spi want to be at close?  Fortitude level is slightly interesting. 2
Cheat the Fates I don’t find getting bleeds through actually all that difficult.  I do find getting paid back on 3 blood cards occasionally difficult. 1
Clockwerx Again, what purpose is served?  It’s an interesting effect, but how does it stop a BB deck from getting ousted?  It’s tempting to rate every BB card that doesn’t address their lack of survival as a 1, but this has potential. 2
Code of Samiel Quite a bit more than a HG, but what’s the “tournament level” impact? 3
Command Performance Reminds me so much of Glutton, though Ishtarri are even better at untapping.  If you can afford it playing DoC, you probably don’t need it.  While I’m iffy on it, at the same time the number of things it can do is significant. 3
Dabbler Man, this card is cool.  I see a lot more decks for this than Cavalier, though the Cavalier decks will likely be more abusive. 3
Dagger It may not make for particularly potent decks, but there must be some efficiency in this card besides just tricks. 2
Death Seeker A rather flexible answer, though it just feeds some players’ interests in building bad !Salubri combat decks. 3
Decompose How does it help you win?  It’s a reasonable effect (read – playable). 2
Development An underdeveloped mechanic.  Currently, awful.  In the future … 1
Diabolic Lure It’s free.  It’s also interesting in that it encourage blocky Dai, but it’s fairly limited. 2
Din of the Damned Will I play it?  Sure.  Will it ever pay off? 2
Dive Bomb Multirush with broken vampires, not bad for nonbroken (and largely bad) vampires. 2
Draeven Softfoot (Changeling) Well, he’s free.  Song of Pan will likely kill him.  Would I not want him in a Kiasyd deck?  Should want him most of the time. 3
Ears of the Hare One of two types of Spiritus cards I specifically didn’t want made because they wouldn’t expand options enough yet got made.  Does actually help, though. 3
Ensconced Too limited. 1
Evil Eye Superior is harsh.  But, the number of decks that are going to play Maleficia is minuscule.  Those that do are going to be in complexland.  More of a referendum on deck complexity. 2
Faerie Wards Younger is so often a problem drawback. 2
Fanfare for Elysium Interesting, but is it as good as the alternatives? 2
Flames of the Netherworld Really mostly about the Tha version.  I just don’t find offense to be the issue with Dai-ers in combat but defense. 3
Foldable Machine Gun Serves what purpose? 2
Fractura A card to make a deck around … because its badness is an interesting badness. 1
Gift of Sleep Good, but how good?  As many metas have important allies, borderline really good. 3
Great Symposium Always play in a limited number of decks.  Does it make me want to play Kiasyd, though?  Not really. 3
Greater Curse The Mal versions are typical infernal annoyance.  The Dai version is actually a powerful effect, being far more important than, say, Vermin Channel. 3
Gremlins Why does it have to have a Dom version?  Without that, I could play it in my Con-Dom Kiasyd decks.  Anyway, kind of unnecessarily useful.  Does make me want to play Kiasyd. 4
Groaning Corpse Samedi were not designed to fight.  They have far, far better things to do.  If Carrion Crows is at least a 4, as much as I can’t see good decks coming from this, it does at least begin to give a reason to do Samedi combat. 3
Harmony Does it suck?  That’s how I look at cards like this.  Choir sucks, so is it possible to have cards that key off of Choir not suck?  Even if it makes Choir less bad, I struggle with how it makes decks not bad. 1
Hatch the Viper So cool.  So not productive. 1
Hay Ride Are actions really a BB issue?  It’s hard to say that it should never be played beyond that BB really have no game. 2
Hexe Eh, ennui setting in. 2
Hide the Heart Saving other people with cards that are useful to yourself is not weak.  I’m not much of a Telepathic Counter fan, but then, this isn’t TC. 3
Hive Mind This set did to San what The Final Nights did to Quietus – give it stuff redundant to what it already could do without addressing the real problems the clans with these disciplines have.  Similar to San’s best card – Unwholesome Bond. 3
Hunger Moon What purpose does this serve?  Waste of an interesting title. 1
I am Legion The cancelling Auspex part is where I see this having a lot of impact.  For Baali, getting one action through is a lot more important than for, say, some random clan with Obfuscate that will be more weenieish or midcappish.  Tended to think it was being overrated, but the more I think about it, the more I can see an Infernal Servitor … 4
Infernal Servitor This “guy” is just a beating, with like no particular downside. 4
Jar of Skin Eaters Explosive, but what does it have to do with winning? 1
Joumlon’s Axe Nice, solid weapon.  Which is saying something for a melee weapon. 3
Journal of Hrorsh I’m still concerned about the combo potential, but I don’t think nuking a dude is as enthralling as it originally sounded.  Still, gets chaff out of the way. 3
Knotted Cord It’s tempting to say that this is an absurd waste of a set slot, but Baali vote is so much more credible now.  Would I ever play this?  It’s questionable whether it’s better than Bewitching Oration. 1
Lead Fist It hurts, but does it matter? 2
Lily Prelude A beating.  Doesn’t like Delaying Tactics, but just scary.  If KRC is a nobrainer 5, than this can’t be too far behind. 4
Lord of Serenity Will it get burned?  Should, but it is a reason to go more blocky with Salubri, which I like as Spirit Marionetting is tedious.  Kind of borderline terrible, but I lean towards average. 2
Loving Agony Has a lot of competition.  Is it better than running out some other !Salubri strategy?  I tend to think it’s not clearly better than doing other things. 2
Maleficia A requirement card.  So, does that mean a referendum on how much one gains from the non-discipline?  Not sure it matters, since I’d go with the same rating either way. 2
Masca Assuming I’m reading this right, it’s meant for combat but doubles as stealth if you really want something to occur.  The combat benefit is sketchy and so not worth grafting Striga for.  I guess overcosted stealth makes it above terrible. 2
Member of the Entourage Really a matter of what sort of combos one can do with this or, more likely, a metagame play.  Cheap defense for a clan that can untap easily but should be better off putting in better pool defense than this in most cases. 2
Mind of the Wilds The first question is how much the inferior matters.  May disincentivize blocking.  Dependent upon so many variables.  What about free stealth in non-stealth disciplines?  I easily imagine Tzimisce with Breath of the Dragon getting use out of either.  But, there are plenty who can get some extra stealth.  I don’t see much game impact, though it is interesting.   2
Minor Curse This effect can really disrupt certain decks, OTOH, there’s a reason we don’t see them since that doesn’t lead to winning. 1
Mole’s Tunneling Stealth/evasion is strong.  Expensive stealth still sees play.  Another thing I didn’t want to see for Spiritus as it’s boring.  How much will it get played at Animalism? 2
Momentary Delay Blah, blah, blah … wake, block with second minion.  I know, more text may mean that the best uses are hard to identify, but I’m still thinking that there are less complicated things to do in one’s deck. 1
Morphean Blow Okay, can’t get too excited one way or the other. 2
New Moon Sigil Just too expensive for me to see getting virtually any play. 1
Off Kilter Frustrating to have as one’s prey.  It’s so not likely to get blocked.  Unlike a lot of new cards, actually addresses a need for the clan. 3
Olid Loa How much is lost by taking up a deck slot on this rather than a better card?  A lot. 1
Oppugnant Night Comes down to how much someone thinks rushing is a good idea in the first place.  While it will likely lead to bad decks, it’s not the reason the decks will be bad. 2
Outside the Hourglass There aren’t a lot of cards in this game that combo with themselves.  That tends to be quite strong in CCGs.  As a card I have more familiarity with, it’s proved to be quite obnoxious.  Hard to get too high on a combat card, though. 3
The Path of Harmony Still don’t have that much that costs blood.  I might play it in Ahrimanes stealth bleed, or maybe just play Life in the City instead.  Probably overrating it.  Though its clan and its lack of necessity means it will probably never be burned. 2
The Path of Service I think there are better reasons for this path, mostly in Create Gargoyle decks since Tupdogs don’t need it, and I’m not sure anyone still plays real Gargoyles anymore. 2
Penitent Resilience An interesting answer in some metas, the superior is Seduction which some like a lot, I’m not sure how much I like it when it isn’t attached to Dominate. 2
Pocket Out of Time If you want a good instance of my biases, I’m obviously biased away from combat and toward stealth. 3
Potio Martyrium I guess ludicrous cards have their place. 1
Pressing Flesh I think it does what it’s trying to do well.  Now, how important that is is less clear. 2
Psalm of the Damned Based on looking around, you’d surmise that this is pretty good.  I think it’s functional. 2
Ravager Seriously, what is the point of this? 1
Raw Recruit Not entirely sure I understand this, but it seems like a good way to prevent rescues, and of course Tupdogs are slaves.  Worse than Graverobbing in Tupdog decks? 2
Research See Development (or lack thereof of this mechanic). 1
The Rising I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about this.  I had pegged it as one of the more important cards in the set, though it is a lot of work, and there can be a lot of event hate.  Just because it may be a win more card, I’ll be more conservative. 2
Ritual Scalpel Why?  Why not something that encourages playing Nagaraja? 1
Safe Passage Small effect but not bad. 2
Scarlet Lore I have hopes for this, but for whatever reason, there’s not a lot of recursion and searching, two effects normally broken in other CCGs, being used. 3
Scobax Cheap.  I have to admit that this encourages me to actually care about Striga.  Presence reduce with no drawbacks is not trivial. 3
Scourge of Alecto I’ve discarded it.  Often. 1
Shaal Fragment Another bias, I don’t care about increased hand size.  The funny thing is that this card is possibly better because it can be stolen, but really, HoS have enough problems with competivity. 1
Shadowed Eyes Still accumulating them, still haven’t found a reason that they would be g- useful. 1
Shatter the Gate Bluffworthy? 1
Shattering Crescendo When am I going to do stuff with this?  I got hammered by it.  I think it’s superinteresting, maybe really good, maybe not. 3
Slake the Thirst Addresses no need.  Only so many slots in a deck. 1
Spirit Claws It is strictly superior to cards that get played all of the time. 2
Stiff Contempt Um, who even thinks they will successfully block Samedi?  Especially with Under My Skin, these days? 1
Striga Weaker than Maleficia and less interesting.  I’m having trouble seeing what is even desirable to do with Striga. 1
Strix One of the more interesting things to do with it.  But, still, why would you want to fight with infernals who tend to be squishy and expensive? 2
Summon History How broken is this card?  That’s really the question.  It’s so openended that it must be utterly abusable somehow.  Rarity is one thing that has prevented more visibility on what it can really do.  That Trujah have problems is another, though there are now enough Trujah with bounce to cover the biggest problem. 4
Tend the Flock There are cards you would always put in a deck for a given clan, then there are cards that you can’t get away from when playing that clan because they are so absurdly better than anything else you could do.   5
Thicker than Blood A weird card in that it, on the one hand, does address an issue with BB of getting their engine going fast enough to survive, but on the other, doesn’t address it in a way that makes me feel comfortable that it changes matchups.  It was amazing in one game where the BB deck’s predator was weenie Hack.  Better than Effective Management? 2
Threading the Path of Orpheus Maybe someone had something in mind with this, but answers to unlikely problems do not compete well with useful cards. 1
Three’s a Crowd I always found it humorous how the common BB decks had no answer for maneuvers.  Support for bad strategies doesn’t do anything for me. 1
Tinglestripe I’ve cooled on this.  It’s fine, but it was never what Kiasyd needed as they have Earth Swords if they want to fight.  It’s not like Kiasyd need combat defense either, which is what this is better for.  Combat ends, cancel Grapple, ultrarare weapon hosers – it’s covered.  If I’m going to take an action to equip, I’d rather have a gun, as either a SNS would be useful with DBR or a .44 would be better. 2
Treat the Sick Mind Untapping is good for Obeah … sadly.  The superior is funny as it makes passing around Dementation skill cards useful.  But, is this really doing anything important enough to waste card slots on?  I think it can rise to the role-player status. 2
Under My Skin Interesting how playing with this card has affected people’s views.  It’s a lot of stealth.  It’s also spread out over multiple actions which is better for a clan with Obfuscate.  I still don’t see in what way it’s necessary, but it’s likely to show up in decks for how discouraging it makes trying to block Samedi. 3
Unleash Hell’s Fury Because so many Baali decks run the fatties and decks with fatties suffer more from random screwage, this serves a desired function.  Still, a role-player even if an important one.  Easy to overrate in that people won’t notice as much when it won’t help or what could have taken up its slot. 2
Vaticination This one is a toughy for me because I have seen an interesting use for it somewhere, and I tend to think that there is a place for looking at everyone’s hand, but I generally have no interest in looking at other players’ hands or discarding cards from them. 2
Veneficti (Mage) Who costed “Baali” allies in this set?  Why can’t Salubri get any allies?  Oh, look, burn option, I might be underrating this. 4
Virtuosa I haven’t really found my DoC getting blocked.  OTOH, makes Concert Tour more relevant.  Is it playable or is it not?  I guess it is. 2
Visionquest Why is this card so weak?  I mean, really, isn’t Sanguine Instruction better?  That’s setting a rather low mark. 1
Voices of the Castle It’s fine.  Tupdogs are broken.  Yeah. 3
Warding the Beast Three incredibly sketchy effects does not make for one card I can see adding value. 1
Wider View By far the best card in the set, but, then, it’s a generic card.  Still, a generic master that competes with existing masters and beats them.  That’s hardcore. 5

Fear

July 17, 2010

So, I was thinking about post topics.  While there are lots of ideas, it’s hard to pin down something I feel inspired enough to drone on for far too long.

In thinking about one idea – V:TES cards I regret not doing more with, I came up with an idea for a three part series.

Let’s say you Google Fear.  In all likelihood, you end up with the Wikipedia entry at the top of the search like I did.  I started reading through it, and it was quite interesting.  Often what I think of in terms of fears are really anxieties; fear, itself, is pretty rare.  But, I need to get this back to gaming.

What are players of games afraid of?  Losing, maybe?  I think that’s more likely to be the case with people who play in more competitive environments.  I think my greatest fears of losing in games came when playing major CCG tournaments, though I don’t know whether it was really fear of losing.

I tend to not care about losing, often feeling a great deal of relief at losing.  If I were to try to pinpoint fears, they would be more along the lines of fear of being put into a position where I effectively cease playing the game (which is why I so despise prison strategies and whatnot) or a fear of not holding up my end of some sort of social compact.  For example, I have a pretty clear view of my V:TES (tournament) career.  I started off as a goof, a random game element, who wasn’t even that random as I quickly got ousted.  At some point, after having playtested other CCGs for years and otherwise taking other CCGs far more seriously, I decided to prove some points with V:TES, which led to winning more than my share.  After a while, it wasn’t about proving a point, it was about being afraid.  Not afraid of losing, nor afraid of winning, but being afraid of not competing to the level that was expected.  Now, that seems more anxiety than fear in that there’s a nebulous direct threat, but I sort of see the direct threat being during an event when you don’t want to fail to live up to expectations.  Ah, fear of failure.

Anyway, that’s not that interesting since I think I’ve moved on and am kind of back to the halcyon days of “my give a damn is busted”.  Of more interest from an analytical point of view is how to use fear to accomplish one’s gaming goals.

Can quickly dispense with the idea of physical fear.  At the point where someone is actually afraid of another player outside the game, time to find something more fun to do.

But, the fear of what a player will do within a game is extremely common.  A lot of players like to craft a style of play where they intimidate other players in terms of how they can screw up another player’s game if they so choose.  Even more commonly, we see players attempt to redirect attacks (in those games with attacks) by using short term promises of repercussions.  Since these sorts of things are probably covered much better by others and I don’t find them that interesting, I’ll move on.

Again, as I often say about games such as CCGs, the awesome-osity of them is that you get to bring a personal element into the game.  On a more general level, that’s a style of play.  At a more specific level, we can talk about fearing what someone else brings to the table.

I could rattle off a list of decks to fear for various CCGs I no longer play, or I could focus on the CCG I do play.  What is fearsome in V:TES?  Let’s include both what we actually play against and what we might play against even if the latter is questionably something fear-inducing.

Winnies (weenies).  Whether the fear of being ousted quickly, the fear of the game being decided because others are ousted, the fear of having all of one’s minions annihilated by winnie combat, the fear of never being able to do anything against winnie Auspex, or whatever – seems like winnies are at the top of the list.  Can this be used?  Of course, screaming “table threat!” repeatedly is likely to work, but that shouldn’t even be necessary.  I’m more interested in whether the idea of presenting oneself as more fearful than one truly is is worth pursuing.  Anarch, winnie Potence (or whatever) can easily bleed for a bunch, so what about dropping a lot of the combat and going with blood gain, Power of One, and Monkey Wrench?  A less blatant angle could be winnie Animalism with Hell-for-Leather as combat defense!

But, and this is more general, what’s gained?  Seeming to be a greater threat, while I’ve seen situations where it works to one’s advantage though more so in games where people were okay with coming in second, is not that enthralling.  Here, though, we are looking more at presenting a different sort of threat than the norm.  Is that productive?

On the one hand, I made very good use of this exact philosophy when I dominated with winnie Vicissitude.  Back in the day, people just expected combat from the Tzimisce and they got Computer Hacking, Living Manse, Changeling until they died.  On the other, I keep trying to present the threat of bleed with Malks, et al, while actually playing combat and having things fail miserably.  Now, that could be because bleeding is good and combat isn’t, but it’s sad how much more useful it would be to be actually playing bleed.

Back to other feared decks.  As alluded to, bleedy decks, especially stealth bleed are fearsome.  Interestingly, they are actually more fearsome in actual play than they are in anticipation of actual play.  I find that people either don’t metagame against the possibility of them or … they do.  Either way, the fear is much greater than anticipated when it’s shown just how efficiently such decks work.  I find that the strategy that works for me is to run away from this fear by either finding ways to bleed for a bunch without the usual disciplines/vampires/whatever or by not actually having my deck be all that effective.  It’s hilarious how different posted decks with their 10+ Governs and their 8 Conditionings and 8 Bondings/Foreshadowings/whatevers compare to my hoping to draw my one Conditioning in the deck when I’m ready for it.  The absence of fear was good.  Was?  At some point, people who keep seeing lunges work eventually start fearing the potential lunge.  Still, the fear of what is happening (the table threat doing its thing) vs. the fear of what could happen is better than being the table threat.

I don’t really fear either winnies or big bleed as the metagame is short on the former (unless there are storyline rules or known visiting players) and the latter has been so common in the last 14 years that’s just the norm.  Also, the way I build decks works against the latter.

I fear bloat.  I fear rush.  I don’t fear walls much because my style of play is to do nothing until I win, already.  Bloat is terrible for that style.  Rush I fear not because I care whether it ousts me but because I fear that it won’t.  It will just make the game unplayable while one is forced to play it.  In other words, it’s the fear of being unable to win.

Can that be used?  Can making opponents afraid of being put in unwinnable positions rather than lost positions be a strategy?  I’m less concerned with tactics, where it’s rather common to find threats that will cripple one’s games.  Can you motivate other players to do what you want by presenting the possibility of putting them in unwinnable situations?  How subtle should it be in a deck?

Global pool reducers, like Anarch Revolt, are motivations to go forward.  Political Flux (hi Brandon) can be a motivator to step on the petrol (fear of not getting 12 pool) or stall (fear of gaining too little from the oust).

Would bluffing combat in a deck with rush motivate me?  Would bluffing bloat force me to go against type and actually try to go forward?

The thing about V:TES is that you need a stable enough metagame to actually get people to put things in their decks that they don’t want to.  I’ve never seen that.  Where with B5 or WoT or whatever, that was the norm – Tu’Pari is coming, Grey Man.  There’s just too many variables with V:TES.  So, I don’t see any way to instill fear into someone to where they start building decks differently than what they should be doing anyway, e.g. putting in bleed defense, having a thought for winnies.

I don’t feel like I covered what I had in mind.  Maybe the topic is too rich to be covered in so few ;) words.


RAND()

July 11, 2010

One could read an article by a professional on randomness in gaming (especially Magic) by reading this:  http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/mm/37

Or, one could read on.

Chess.  I never got into it.  Sure, I played it, not so much with my father who apparently had a real interest in it but for some brief time in high school.  Is chess random?

Well, yes and no.  The game itself is one of a number of games that has no random element to play.  But, I’d contend that every game needs a random component to make it viable.  Chess just happens to have the same random component that every game starts with – the players.  Even if someone argued that a machine playing would not have any randomness to its game, having the machine be an opponent was a random (variable) match of opponents.

I’m not much for chess.  I used to have somewhat more interest in Chinese Chess and other less common members of the family.  But, the problem I have is the perception of solvability, of the mechanical nature of the game.  It’s not enough to have games vary depending upon players or how the players think that day or whatever.  Now, of course, the number of possible moves is high enough that I won’t solve the game, even if I were more interested in doing so.  Still, I fail to see the point.

So, I was playing Talisman last night.  Talisman is pretty much the same game to me as WizWar and a bunch of more mainstream games.  It’s randomness with the payoff having nothing to do with the goal and everything to do with the activity.  If chess fails in being conceptually dull, Talisman fails in being conceptually about nothing.

I’m quite fond of weird/unexpected interactions in games.  I’m pretty sure I can say I try to produce them, which is why I favor games such as CCGs where there’s greater control over the play (is this ironic?).  But, weird/unexpected/whatever is always within a context of what is normal and what isn’t.  When there’s no baseline, no standard of normality, then there’s also no unusual.

Now, someone could play the game differently than what I experience.  Instead of being more interested in screwing over other players for whatever social reasons, players can be memorizing card pools and working out probabilities of any result arising.

RPGs.  Just talking about resolution systems, off the top of my head, I believe every RPG I’ve ever played had some sort of random element to resolution.  Two things …

One, systems that feel too random to me irritate me.  Whatever the actual probability math is on White Wolf games – I’m thinking World of Darkness games, the resolution feels way too high variance to me.  Characters who are supposed to be good at things routinely fail; the opposite – character getting unusually lucky may not bother me at all, after all, I like L5R’s d10 system with its long tail on the high side.  d20 – same problem with perceived excessive variance.  d20 should really be d10 as then proficiency would have a far greater impact, again addressing the appearance that high levels of supposed competence don’t really bear out in actual play.  On the other hand, while failure is often boring, catastrophic failure is often fun, so it could be more about whether a system sufficiently penalizes failure (as I feel that L5R does) rather than the commonality of failure.

I created a new Mechwarrior character yesterday as our first mercenary unit in the Summer campaign we decided upon had a TPF (total party failure).  I used die rolls to randomly determine my lifepaths.  This is MW3, btw, a ludicrous system for character creation.  I had heard of people using spreadsheets to create characters for other systems before, this was the first time I needed to use a spreadsheet to reasonably track the absurd levels of detail and copious amounts of meaningless numbers.  It’s quite amusing how MW1 and MW2 were so restrained when it came to numbering up a character and MW3 goes into some pseudo-realism overload.

Anyway, the overcomplexity of the lifepath system combined with the lack of perceivable connectivity between different aspects of character creation left me with a desire to take the decisions out of my hands.  I didn’t completely randomize character creation, since I wasn’t exactly looking to play an accountant or a farmer.  What did happen, though, showed the strength of having lifecharts in RPGs for those people who need some inspiration.  From the streets of St. Ives Compact to the military academies of the Federated Commonwealth to Knight of Randis – yeah, that’s exactly what I had in mind when I was conceiving of a new character.

Actually, to some extent, it was.  Two sorts of character types are comfortable to me.  No, not brainfolk (scholars, wizards, scientists, etc.).  Rogues (if awfully analytical ones) and paladins.  I tried once to combine the two in a D&D campaign where we used gestalt rules, but I don’t think anyone else got that it wasn’t trying to be wacky but trying to cater to both of my archetypes at once that I was hoping to achieve.  My first MW character was a rogue, if a militaristic one.  This character is, obviously, the paladin.

Of course, there’s my Conan character, a rogue with a streak of paladin.  But, I’m getting way off topic.

CCGs.  What is the most important driver to the appeal of CCGs?  I don’t know.  I’m big on how deck creation enables bringing one’s personality into the game in ways that boardgames can’t achieve.  But, maybe, the most important is the random draw.  A CCG doesn’t really matter if I play my supercool, sweet, neato deck against your lame, banal, loser deck and one deck trumps the other.  There must always be that element of “no guarantees”, just as sports are so popular because sometimes the underdog wins.

I didn’t bother rereading Mark’s article.  I do know that he talked about coin-flipping cards and the like and how randomness isn’t as random as people think.  Games are exercises in probability.  I sucked at probability in school and I still can’t remember the formulae or consistently wrap my head around why they work, but I know that I enjoy the probability games within games.  When I talk about L5R combat being interesting to me, I will get into such things as “I try to figure the 60% probability of success for determining how many raises to call with my character who would have a better roll with an Honor Roll, though circumstances may dictate a tactic of a different risk level.”  With many other games, it’s a matter of trying to approximate the expected value of payoffs for different actions, whether deciding how much to Power Attack for in Conan, the probability of getting a wake or an Archon Investigation when tapping my Dreams when tapped out in front of Dominate bleed, or whether any given player may take first player in Agricola if I don’t this action.

I get into deckbuilding ruts.  In almost every case where I notice it, I think about how one of our former players used a computer program to determine random cards he had to build decks out of.  I couldn’t figure out why he had a Carrion Crows, Tongue of the Serpent deck until I found out that he needed to build around a particular vampire and two library cards.  I thought that was so cool.  Constraints breed creativity, and I frequently have few constraints when it comes to CCG decks I can build.  Much like trying to put together a coherent backstory for a RPG character off of random die rolls can be more fun than simply creating a character without similar constraints, I always thought it would be the big pineapple in the sky to build decks with a random generator.

I believe that CCGs have a great capacity for randomness.  After all, I enjoy multiplayer CCGs, and they are far, far more random than two-player CCGs.  I’m not even sure I prefer two-player CCGs so much as I miss playing them.

Is there a right level of randomness in a game?  Probably, or at least some sort of range of randomness levels.  I go back to the idea that there needs to be a baseline, whether that baseline is a “normal character” in a RPG, a typical series of plays in a CCG matchup, or a typical series of events in a boardgame.  The randomness needs to produce those wacky results that some of us look for.