Fear

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.

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2 Responses to Fear

  1. Brandon says:

    I think that bluffing combat is tricky because when you have someone on the ropes, they don’t have a choice about blocking you. Once your combat fails, you will be blocked with impunity unless your deck has a solid ousting mechanism(i.e. Stealth Bleed for vic weenies, Monkey Wrench for weenie anarchs). Some disciplines will be better at this than others.

    I think that weenie cel/CEL could be reasonable as a deck that bluffs combat but bleeds effectively.
    Stealth:
    Alacrity
    Resist the Earth’s Grasp
    Fleetness

    Bluff combat:
    Mercury’s Arrow
    Sideslip
    Torrent

    Bleeding:
    Codex of the Edenic Groundskeepers
    Laptop
    Leverage
    Computer Hacking

    Misc fun stuff:
    Target Vitals
    Distraction
    Learjet
    Heidelberg Castle

  2. Brad says:

    Thanks for the hard work Ian. Interesting post.

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