2010 …

December 31, 2010

It actually didn’t occur to me until a few hours ago to take a look back at the year.  It’s still a few hours until 2011 here, so here I go with my look back on my 2010 gamingwise.  No top 10 lists, no deep thoughts on theory or strategy or astrology, no particular cleverness at all – just some things to ramble about.

Biggest Story

I watch a lot of ESPN/ESPN News, and they had a poll of the top story for 2010.  LeBron’s decision led.  I understand that; it was the story that had the most that could be talked about and was really intended to be a media frenzy thing.  It wasn’t the most important story, but it was the biggest.

Heroes of Rokugan.  I got invested in 2009, but I was involved in 2010.  I did most of my fictions, played in the final events, scrambled to try to get all the mods in, planned things out, and completed my (main two) characters’ stories.  HoR3 hasn’t been that big of a thing, yet, I still don’t know what I want to do with characters, but I’m still looking back at HoR2 both for the stories and because of my running it for others.

Most Notable Event

V:TES going out of production.  While I actually don’t care a lot that there’s no cards expected any time soon, which is a complete reversal of my views on CCGs I played in yesteryears, it’s akin to Tiger Woods (the most important sports story of 2010) in that what it precisely means is unknown, yet is disturbing in its implications.

It’s not just about V:TES, which, really, has already had a period in which it looked like production was over.  It’s also a general sign of the decline of CCGs.  Where have all of the niche CCGs gone?  Oh, not being plugged into the CCG market like I once was, I’m sure there are ones doing okay out there.  Just had a conversation with a store owner where L5R seems to be hanging on.  The market isn’t likely to die as enough CCGs have gone mainstream and (even more ludicrous) Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes keep getting shown in the US.  But, I don’t see any effort to publish new ones.

As for the major release of 2010 – Heirs to the Blood – I have such mixed feelings.  On the one hand, the starter thing was painful.  On the other, the set overall was quite pleasing.

I must rant about Visionquest, however.  There are plenty of horrible cards in V:TES, astronomical numbers in all of CCGdom, so why single out this, rather harmless, card?  I get offended by certain cards because they are such a mindboggling failure of design and/or development.  There’s no rational reason for how bad Visionquest is.  Sanguine Instruction isn’t technically, strictly better, it’s just “strictly” better, which is absurd when you consider how bad a card Sanguine Instruction is.  When SI was first published or maybe when we were playtesting the set, I don’t recall, I couldn’t understand why it was only a 1 stealth action.  That Visionquest does far less *and* has a drawback suggests to me a few possibilities.  One is, of course, that maybe nobody read the card, something I highly doubt if it was provided to playtesters since even niche playtesting sees a high enough level of scrutiny that how bad it is would have been caught.  My preferred theory, at the moment, is to think that the card was stronger in playtesting and got nerfed after the playtesters were done, something that happens quite often in my experience.  I don’t prefer this because I think it’s the most likely scenario, I prefer it because playtesters often get blamed for things that aren’t their fault.  There’s always the niche CCG playtesting problem of not having enough time to worry about underpowered cards, but that would still mean that people found it acceptable as it is currently written, which would be discouraging.


Gen Con was a major mixed bag for me.  The lack of comrades on the trip had a huge impact both monetarily and in terms of enjoying my downtime.  DunDraCon was awful, as it has been for years.  KublaCon was okay.  ConQuest was virtually nonexistent.  I had more fun going to the Vegas Qualifier and the LA Storyline events, events where I didn’t game a whole lot, than I did most of the local cons.  Hell, I tend to get more enjoyment out of a casual gaming day than most of the local cons.

The question is whether this is the cons’ faults, my fault, or both.  I certainly don’t make much of an effort, anymore, at local cons.  The first ConQuest near my house I rather enjoyed as I played a few scheduled events, and that was only a couple of years ago.  On the other hand, a reason I don’t make much of an effort is that the cons don’t really offer much that enthralls me.  I’d rather play HoR online than virtually any of the RPG offerings at local cons.  A lot of that is due to a “been there, done that” view of things.  CCGs are all but dead at cons.  Boardgames …

Here’s the thing about local cons – they no longer provide something I can’t get elsewhere.  I can play boardgames probably like 5 times a week if I wanted.  Right this second, I’m not playing as many RPGs as I’d like, but I could be playing more, and I’m GMing my limit.  And, with CCGs being a nonfactor at cons, RPGs are the only things left.  Where are the special events?  Where’s the diversity?  Oh, right, have to go to Gen Con to find those.

Order or Chaos

I actually have very little consistency in my gaming schedule.  The only consistent thing these days is my running HoR2.  In general, though, the average amount of gaming seems fairly normal.  Maybe V:TES playdays pick up and Pleasanton slows down or South Bay RPGing picks up when HoR slows down or whatever.  No doubt, the amount of time spent gets fairly consistent due to filling up my free time with the sort of things I enjoy doing.  If I were busier, I don’t think I could continue running HoR2, for instance.  Should be interesting to see what happens in January.


What’s the grade for 2010?

I see discouraging things in the RPG industry and I’ve mentioned many times my views on the decline of CCGs.  I find a lot of boardgames popular with others rather tedious; those I don’t, I tire of reasonably quickly since boardgames are so inferior to CCGs in variety.  Campaigns have been inconsistent.  We have far too few V:TES tournaments.  I haven’t gotten terribly inspired by something new.

On the other hand, gaming leads to meeting new people and doing some different things (hadn’t driven to SoCal in ages) and gives me far more things to think about than I ever write about in this blog.

C?  C-?

2010, still

I should have time tomorrow to write about 2011 – what I predict, what I hope for, or whatever comes to mind.  Still thinking about 2010, is there anything I really would have changed?  I would have, of course, preordered HttB starters like I did for every set prior that WW published, but that’s not really what I mean by the question.  Should I have made more effort, whether it was with cons or getting people to play things I wanted or whatever?  Should I have tried more new things (or just more things in general)?

I give this year a mediocre to poor grade for gaming, but one thing that has struck me quite a bit in recent years is the idea that gaming should just be fun.  At the point where it is more of a chore or a downer or whatever, it’s kind of failing.  Now, gaming to me is more than just actually playing games, so I enjoy things that others can’t comprehend, like horrible RPG sessions and terribly designed boardgames that nevertheless have strategic options that are up for analysis.  I don’t have the mentality that some do that every session/experience should be enjoyable, but I see 2010 as being more of a year of just letting things happen rather than being as driven.

And, somehow, I taught people Ultimate Combat!

4e Funlessness

December 26, 2010

So, I’ve been using L5R 4e for a few months, and I’ve noted that some of the things that sounded inferior to 3e are, indeed, less enjoyable to me than 3e.  I thought I’d complain about them.

#1  Honor Rolls

Possibly not the most egregious change, but one that I keep thinking about.  Yes, 3e Honor Roll/Test of Honor rules were a disaster of complexity and confusion.  They were fairly easily abused, but, then, the whole system was easily abused.

4e is all about “L5R Your Way”, but I don’t play it my way, I play it HoR’s way (mostly).  I houserule for my group of HoR2ers that a spent Void Point on a role carries over to the HR, but I don’t think that’s how HoR3 does things.  Anyway, while that’s a narrow bit of unfairness, the main issue is that only certain characters can really HR in 4e, at least for anything major.

A root problem might be that 4e has much greater variance in Honor, going up to 10 instead of 3e’s 5.  It’s particularly bad at initial character creation where many schools start below rank 4.  Rolling 5k5 or 6k6 might make for a reasonable “I really need to succeed” reroll, but 4k4 is sketchy and less isn’t worth it.

Or, more precisely, it’s only worth it to HR with a low Honor character if the role failed was easy, which is just dumb from a flavor standpoint even if it does have uses, such as taint rolls, basic etiquette, or whatever.

Beyond the cost/benefit, HRs in 4e just aren’t interesting.  You don’t think about how to do them and results are easily predictable, unlike when replacing in 3e where the dice pool could change radically.  It’s another mechanic in the game that I think became dry in the name of balance, though I don’t think it’s terribly balanced as I’m more and more thinking high Honor schools have a huge unaccounted for advantage and there’s the tyranny of Luck …

#2  Luck

The complaint about Luck isn’t that 4e did it any worse than 3e, it’s that 4e didn’t fix what was a horribly undercosted advantage in 3e.  Because of the change in HRs, Luck is even more important to making that one key roll during an adventure, and it’s so absurdly undercosted that it makes no sense not to take it.  In turn, it then becomes a crutch to where you want more of it, even though you can’t Luck a reroll.  Luck should have cost something like 7 points per rank rather than 3.  Of course, if Void Points weren’t so “precious” …

#3  Void

The whole idea of making Void more precious strikes me as a theoretical belief rather than anything that arose from a real need.  Void was not too common 3e in my play.  I didn’t have issues with those who correctly bought up Void to a high level.

For one thing, Void is what generally separates PCs from their enemies.  Whether bandit scum who have 1 (or 2) Void or monsters with none, PCs had an edge because they could pull more tricks out of their kimono sleeves.  By making Void more costly and less flexible and making it more difficult to recover, PCs become more like their enemies.

Was Void undercosted in 3e?  Sure, that it cost half as much as increasing another ring was kind of absurd as it meant that the path to greater rank ran through Void increases.  Does that justify increasing its cost by 50%?  Homey don’t think so.  25% increase (4x to 5x) would have made me happier.  I’m fine with retarding ranking up by some degree, but I’m against making starting characters weaker.

If Void weren’t so necessary, it might not be as bad.  But, having raises tied only to Void is a major step backwards in my mind.  It doesn’t even make any sense.  A master artist can’t make a better piece of art than a lucky novice (i.e. can’t call more raises)?  What about things without Void?  I ran a HoR2 mod recently and realized just how brutal it was that gaijin don’t have Void (though, I expect some rule to replace Void in such cases that arise in HoR3).  Then, I’m trying out Momoku in 4e, and it’s a lot harsher than I expected, as suicidal as 3e Momoku seemingly.  I thought I had a build to work around it, but the need to spend Void all of the time is just so great.

Yes, the three explosion rule to recover Void was kind of cheesy – any midrank character was likely rolling 10 dice on any important roll.  I could go into how I like the extreme results, now, but I can go into that in a moment.  But, now, everybody has to have Meditation and sit around and meditate during any downtime.

In theory, reducing the number of uses for Void Points would have decreased Void’s importance, but in reality, that only one VP can be spent on enhancement per round means that characters struggle more, leading to needing more help.  I also really dislike how characters are essentially useless when Down in 4e.

#4  Wound Inversion

I got into an argument about whether wound inversion is actually worse for PCs.  Regardless as to whether it is, it’s less fun as it makes L5R combat more like D&D, et al.

L5R was a system, unlike most, where spreading damage made a lot of sense, at least against certain threats, because it was relatively easy to put things into wound penalties.  With the wound box chart inversion, now everyone fights near full strength until they are one hit from being taken out of combat.

If I were solutions-oriented, I would say that the wound chart should be more of an hourglass with a bit of padding at the top to prevent automatic wound penalties and a bit of padding at the end to leave people incapacitated along a wider range.  That may sound strange since I was just complaining about being useless at Down and putting more boxes at the end means being less useful in combat, but there’s a strong psychological element to combat strategy and changing things affects enemies as well as PCs.

#5  Failure

Okay, I can’t argue with reining in combat, since my poorly built character in HoR2 one-shotted everything he attacked with his war fan.  So, I basically get not allowing raises to add kept dice and removing static bonuses, etc.  And, some of this applies outside of combat, like characters who auto-seduced characters due to static bonuses.

But, to me, L5R is a system of extraordinary successes and rare failures.  Failures (on important things) were rare enough that they felt like critical failures, just as triple explosions on random rolls felt like critical successes.  4e sees a lot more failure.  I actually am already tired of PCs failing basic Lore rolls for info they don’t even really need but that helps move things along.

The amount of missing in combat is so prevalent that I think combat is actually far more dangerous *to PCs* in 4e than in 3e.  Sure, a 3e baddie of any real threat probably took out a PC with one good hit, but they rarely got that chance as the PCs would win initiative and smoke them first.  Yeah, that sounds like dumb combat, but I actually found 3e combat very tactical, and I’m a big fan of combat being over in 3 rounds.  What I’m seeing in 4e, not in HoR3 where the combats have been easy but in my running HoR2, is that bad guys don’t go down and they swing back and they hurt when they swing back.  Should I make HoR2 mod combats easier?  Perhaps.  But, I don’t think the problem goes away if you reduce the number of hits you need on a baddie from 3 to 2.  There were plenty of combats I got through with 3e because the PCs devastated the baddies.  A party NPC bushi for my HoR2 group routinely takes 50+ wounds in combats because baddies take forever to die.  Admittedly, the problem lessons as the PCs get more combat capable, but … see next paragraph.

Also, increased failure also probably isn’t as much of a problem as characters develop.  Why is that a problem?  Because I’m a fan of starting characters being competent with increases in power being controlled (if not exactly flat).  If failure is just a newb issue in 4e, then it just means that experience is that much more important to having fun.  Might as well succeed often at every stage of character life.

#6  Advantages/Disadvantages

They still make little sense.  Sure, different campaigns are different.

I still despise how Sage works.  Got into a discussion on it and the metagame answer is to require multiple ranks of Lore skills to beat the cheesiness of good INT + Sage.  Sure, I could abolish uses of Sage like rolling L: Doors or L: Seaweed or the other silly things I’ve allowed, but that’s actually how Sage works – you know something about e-ver-y-thing.

Too many disads never come up.  Those that do, in contrast, often come up so often that they should be worth far more than they are.  I have a personal problem with L5R disads in that I see too many require building a character specifically around them, but the existence of cheese disads like Doubt and Gullible mean character convergence.  Yes, 4e encourages having someone play a disad lead to an extra XP, but that doesn’t work in HoR.

#7  Magic

Sure, magic tends to be broken in every system that has it.  However, the reduction in combat efficacy of bushi in my games means that the shugenja dominate combat and do so directly.  At least, before, they might have to buff somebody or something.  Now, I have a hard time calling raises with my bushi with Kenjutsu 7 while the shugenja just blast things with lightning bolts every round or drop autodamage through Fires of Purity.

Because Down is basically Out in 4e, healing magic becomes even more important with how my combats are resolving.

#8  Skills

Actually, to be fair, I haven’t seen enough with higher rank skills to go off the deep end.  But, it’s obvious to me that skills are far less important than in 3e due to decreased Insight and lack of free raises at rank 5.  To a degree, it’s relative as everything got weakened, but I fail to see how making skills worse improved balance when 3e made me actually care about ranks above 2 (and, I only care about rank 2 in 4e because of the HoR Insight rules).  So, this is really something to rant more about later.  On the other hand, Kenjutsu 7 is as ridiculous as I thought.

Return to the Valley of Undeath

December 24, 2010

So, it being a holiday time of year and my being not terribly occupied, I decided to swing by Castro Valley yesterday to check out the new store.

Actually got up there around 3:30PM, hung out with an erstwhile coworker, tried a Filipino Restaurant she recommended, finished my Christmas shopping.  Got to the store too late for game #1.

Second game:

Ian (Thin Step) -> Sean (!Brujah) -> Dan (Ahrimanes) -> A.J. (Tzimisce bleed) -> Grant? (Giovanni)

My deck did almost everything it was intended to do, just failing to play a Contract (of some sort).  The reason why this game was notable, to me, was that Gloria Giovanni bleeds into my Abd al-Rashid, gets by, Conditions for 4, and Abd reduces with Confusion of the Eye and Nest of Eagles …  Thereafter, my predator was reluctant to have Gloria pump due to the brutal threat of Nest of Eagles.  I let a Dogs of War pass from my prey as I died soon after.

I suppose my grandpredator’s strategy seemed odd – expensive Tzimisce stealth bleed when inexpensive is easy, bleeding into someone with bounce when it was clear he had it in hand – but, nobody really cared as the intent was to play quickly.  Of course, I can’t add more Nest of Eagles as that would be silly.

Third game:

Ian K. (!Ventrue) -> Brandyn (fat Malk wall) -> Joel (ANI/FOR Raptor) -> Ian (Dementitude, not to be confused with Victation)

I get out Harold Zettler, Unmada, Cyscek.  I was amused by my two +1 stealth guys; more so because they mostly bleed for 1 at 1 stealth.  None of my offensive combat ever works, so I go from choking on wakes, intercept, combat defense, to having nothing to defend with while being unable to do 3 pool damage to my prey, to getting ousted.  Sure, it was amusing to pump a bleed with Changeling, and I realized that I could try to play Dabbler, especially if I add some Madman’s Quills to give some additional offense.  But, as usual with my Dem/Vic decks, I just can’t reliably hurt anybody.  Was the Personal Scourge against a minion with Brass Knuckles funny?  Was Soul Decoration at inferior for a 1 bleed at 2 stealth?  Was Cyscek with a Dementation skill card Filliping Unmada?  Was Touch of Clarity to cancel Voice of Madness the obvious reason to put the card in the deck?

While the first deck likely has limited replay value, I was seeing enough random stuff that it at least qualifies as a two-in-a-lifetime play.  The second deck was the all kinds of random that I like my decks to have, and the vampires are funny, so it might be a more-than-twice play even though I’ve played Victation decks a few times and have never achieved anything with them.

Bay Area Qualifier

December 20, 2010

It was like a V:TES convention for me.  Now, three tournaments or whatever is kind of conventionlike in the first place, but as I played until 1:30AM or whatever in Pleasanton before the qualifier weekend, it was very conventiony.


So, I get into Pleasanton about 8PM, start playing about 8:30PM.  Played two games, both times with the same predator.  First game, I play my awesome Jyhad-only (library), Toreador, Victoria Ash makes an appearance, Business Pressure-Disarming Presence 4cl deck.  It’s all good when I have so many masters to play that I have to wait to play the broken Elysium: The Arboretum – not so much broken because the group plays it as written but because the combat deck I play against all of the time is Camarilla.  My prey is playing the deck and punking his prey, who is playing Celerity/Fortitude; my grandpredator is playing Nos vote, and my predator is playing some Gangrel/! thing.  I call Rumors of Gehenna at some point which my grandpredator doesn’t like as I choose myself and my prey and I play Business Pressure and Disarming Presence, nobody cares about tapping, so everyone votes, but my prey and my grandpredator spend a bunch of pool to counter each other and it fails, though I could have played Telepathic Vote Counting to take it back into my hand.  Eventually, my grandprey and my predator die.  I die.  Nos win in an untimed game.  Discarding a Minion Tap was probably not a good idea on my part as my guys were pretty much always fullish.

Instead of playing my other Pleasanton-oriented deck, which was another Presence vote deck, I play a cut down version of my Elisabetta deck, 67 cards after making it 4cl.  I bring out Mylan, my prey takes it and that’s kind of game as he gets 6 minions in play.  I sit at 1 pool for 4-5 turns but don’t really feel that threatened by my predator who is playing the same or similar Gangrel/! deck.  Across the table, the Aus/Cel/Pre?/Obf? deck keeps getting blocked equipping and doesn’t use Greta’s ability enough.  I don’t really remember doing much cool, though I did rush some with Steely Tenacity with Forestal.  I draw Failsafe a turn too late.


My alarm wakes me up.  I have a great internal clock for waking up, so this almost never happens.  Not only does it wake me up, but I don’t realize it’s my alarm for a while.  I felt like crap.  So, off to play two tournaments.

Tournamet #1, Round 1:

Ian (Nagaraja w/Obt) -> Dan (Trem w/ Talbot’s Chainsaw) -> Mike (Malk 1/2 Prank Parity Shift) -> Sean (Miller Time) -> James (Corrupt Construction)

James puts Fame on my Kanimana right away, it never triggers, going away when he’s eventually ousted.  I have nothing but Nagaraja in my uncontrolled, so even though I get Obtenebration from Lilith’s Blessing, I keep not bringing out a second vampire.  I do block Talbot’s.  Mike keeps playing Pranks which only cost James pool and guarantee Sean getting a VP as he chooses a single number for everyone every time and hits James every single time rather than just giving him 4 pool.  Dan is tooling.  I have Anarch Troublemaker in play from turn 1, The Erciyes Fragments in play, give up on Descenting into Darkness and pay 3 extra for Raful.  James’s Corrupt Constructions never come my way.  Dan doesn’t draw a wake, so I oust him with Troublemaker plus bleed for 6.

This brings up a rather important point, something I just don’t get about how people build decks.  If you have enough wakes in your decks, I will never oust you.  Yet, I oust people reasonably often.

Game times out as Mike bloats off of Pranks, Sean is only a halfway threat to me, and I choose not to get ousted.

Round 2:

Sean -> Matt (Multitaskmites) -> Ian -> Ira (Akunanse vote)

I don’t believe in hitting one’s prey hard early.  It engenders table hate, causes one’s prey to wall up (and often whine), and uses cards that could have been used to lunge.  I hit Ira early.  I know his deck, I know how his decks work, I know that I have to give Sean some room both because this is 4 player and because Ira and Matt are far better players.  I hope that Sean recognizes what I’m doing, but as I expected, I neither topdeck some bleed to take Ira below 4 pool nor do I get any help containing Ira.  Sean pounds Matt’s pool down.  Ur-Shulgi tries to bleed me some but isn’t achieving much even with Pentex on my Raful.  My Bartholomew gets Banished, which is kind of annoying, so I only have Pentexed Raful and Forestal (completely different draw).  Speaking of completely different draws, Sean gets out Anneke and starts blocking meaningless actions, like Thetmes getting Retain the Quick Blood and my going anarch with Forestal … across table.  Matt, with like no pool, tries a bleed of 7 and I don’t bounce with Auspex, don’t bounce with Dominate, don’t bleed reduce with Friend of Mine a *second* time … I just Archon him.  Sean doesn’t oust Matt when he has plenty of chances to finish him off.  Anneke gets a Pulse only to immediately burn from Matt’s Fear of Mekhet (Ira discards his).  I had given up on trying to oust Ira once he got back up to 8 pool, so Ira kills Sean who doesn’t have wakes since he blocked those other actions earlier, has no problem with Matt, I can’t last the 5 minutes I need to time out and either get into the finals with 2 VPs or do a rolloff for the finals with 2 VPs.  I did first turn discard Shadowed Eyes, so who is the real winner?


Pretty sure Ira was top seed.  I know the order of play was Mike, Brandon (THA), Ira, Robert (Ahrimanes vote, I think), A.J. (Tzimisce wall).  Brandon gets ousted, game times.

I played my only pickup game of the weekend.  I play the Jyhad 4cl deck from above.  I first turn Info Highway, Victoria Ash, call Rumors for only myself, bring out Anson becomes that’s funny, Minion Tap Anson for 8 and Giant’s Blood because that’s the way I roll, put Elysium in play with my prey playing a Cam deck because that’s the way I role, tap my prey’s Tara with Consanguineous Condemnation + Disarming Presence combo because that’s the way I successfully bleed at no stealth with Legal Manipulations.  My predator and grandpredator fight a lot as my predator is Baali intercept and my grandpredator is some sort of Lasombra fight deck.  My prey’s Ventrue Law Firm deck with two non-Ventrue in play doesn’t put any meaningful pressure on his prey’s Salubri deck until late.  Salubri get a couple VP, and I clean up.

Point #2.  People worry way too much about how good their decks are.  I was in a dominant position at all times with a 4cl Jyhad library deck that has only 4 votes that can do pool damage and 8 bleed cards (with obviously zero Aires of Elation).

Point #3.  Don’t need new cards to compete.

Qualifier, Round 1:

Joel (Laz & Friends) -> Ira (Ira … Rivers & Alexandra) -> Andy (Dem stealth bleed) -> Gerrentt (Cock Robin & Friends) -> Ian (Anarch OBF antivote)

Joel kept punking Ira … Rivers, containing Ira.  Andy kept getting punked between Cock and Ira, being contained.  I actually thought about helping him, but I knew his deck too well to do that.  Gerrentt did a bit to me, mostly with annoying Tiers of Souls, which slowed down my tooling up.  But, I was mostly free to do what I wanted, Joel not rushing me that much and not hurting me when he did.  I got out a lot of guys.  Joel ousts Ira without expending too many resources in what is a crushing beatdown.  Andy is at risk, but I oust Joel with Monkey Wrench and stuff.  Andy ousts.  I arrange my turn so that Mylan can Computer Hack oust Andy with my last action.

Round 2:

Ian -> Dan (!Trem Gargoyle) -> A.J. (Pre/Vic) -> Ira -> Ian T. (Valerius)

This was awesome.  I kind of ruined it in the end, but it now goes down as one of the *those* games.  After an hour, I had played two cards.  I had three cards in my ash heap:  Old Friends (discarded even though I had it in hand when I bled before my prey got up a vampire), J.S. Simmons, Delaying Tactics (discarded).  Wait, J.S. Simmons hadn’t been discarded?  Ira tried playing J.S. and he got blocked.  I tried playing J.S. and I got blocked … playing mono Obfuscate … by my predator!!!  I had also played a Villein in that first hour as my second card played, I think.  Averaging a card played every 30 minutes or so …

Why?  My prey had rush with Tupdogs.  My predator blocked my actions that he never should have tried to block, so I was content to only take actions nobody cared about, like hunting.  So, and this does make some sense, I think like only one of my actions got blocked after J.S. for about an hour, again, by my predator, who had Alexandra behind him.  I got a Camera Phone and bled for 1 without it a couple of times – nobody blocked.

The pivotal moments in the game were oddly in the midgame.  My prey had Famed Velya and punked it repeatedly.  Matteus calls Banishment, not targeting Velya, not targeting his prey, not targeting his predator, not targeting me (what did I care?), but targeting Ian T.’s second vampire.  It passes, leaving Ian fairly helpless to do anything.  On another turn, my grandprey had Velya and Matteus up and decided to play Festivo dello Estinto with Velya empty and Famous.  That was not wise as it guaranteed that either his prey or his predator would block.  Ira was actually low on pool after bringing out Alexandra, like 5 pool.  Then, Matteus calls KRC, which a torped Velya can’t help pass.  If Velya had somehow hunted or Change of Targeted and A.J. had something more brutal than KRC, Ira might have been in a world of hurt.  Dan gets A.J., Ira gets Ian, I start playing some cards bringing my card per minute average (well, minute per card) way down to 27 minutes a card and, then, to under 10 minutes a card as I die.  Ira wins easily.

There was much discussion after this game about my building a deck that tries to win off of playing no cards.  Not to be confused with my building decks that try to make zero decisions in the game – 20 Ascendance, 50 Earth Meld, 20 The Embrace is the prevailing idea.  Of course, it was the finals which contributed to this line of thinking.


Ian -> Sean (fat Toreador) -> Robert (Ahrimanes vote) -> Ira -> Joel

Joel was top seed.  Ira tried to talk Sean out of bringing out Alexandra.  Ira wrecked Robert and ignored the Haven Uncovereds Joel threw backwards because Joel didn’t use them.  Joel beat my guys down sometimes, often enough for me to track how many cards in my ash heap were played.

I don’t know how much time into the game it was, maybe between 45-60 minutes, but I think I had around 5 cards in my ash heap and none of them had been played.  Maybe.  I played two cards that give stealth the entire game, neither to give stealth.  I played superior Spying Mission and Swallowed by the Night to make a rush meaningless.  I had zero actions blocked.  If Joel didn’t punk and then oust me on his turn, I might have ousted my prey with a topdeckable Monkey Wrench.  Robert was Sean’s bitch, going down to 1 pool, playing a DI on Ira and asking Sean whether he wanted him to tap Tshwane or not to continue being his bitch.  Ira contested Alexandra!  Sean ousted Robert.  Joel didn’t die, so Joel won on a time out.

The lesson with my deck?  I think an obvious lesson is that even playing mono-Obfuscate bleed where I don’t defend (except against votes) and have nothing better to do than stealth bleed my prey out of the game rapidly, I can find a way to play any deck passively.  I got annoyed by my predators doing things to my minions when all they had to do was bleed me, which I had pretty much zero defense against.  Of course, it worked.  Both times my predators messed with my minions significantly, I got ousted, though one of the times wasn’t by my predator.  Furthermore, my predators in both cases never ousted my preys, so my spite arguably worked.  It was highly amusing to do nothing with a deck that can only go forward since I didn’t have any bloat, either.  And, the deck did do what it was supposed to – the only opponent with no vote cards won.

Hung around a bit to talk, no late night pickup game for me though, so I go home.


Don’t feel as crappy but more just exhausted, so I get a late start on the day, have to lie down for a while after I get up, and proceed to hit every frickin’ red light on the 15 minute-ish drive to Andy’s.

Draft.  I try to joke about it to seem less arrogant, but I’m a way better draft player than constructed player.  I don’t screw around in draft.  I know how to draft.  And, yes, I was the second ranked limited player in the world for nearly a year and had won 5 straight limited events, including one in the DC area, playing with Josh Duffin and Matt Morgan.  Might have even won the next event I played with them if someone hadn’t passed Matt a Mbare Market, giving him two(!!!), and if my grandprey in the finals had trusted me a bit better so that I could oust Josh (my prey, his predator), which I almost did anyway before Matt’s horde of minions rose up.  Not that I’m as good as I was, as I don’t really enjoy draft anymore.

Nevertheless, even though I got zero Monkey Wrenches, zero Anarch Converts, passed most bleed cards and almost all Zip Lines, didn’t draft Assamites even though that was my preferred KMW strategy, and banked my deck on my two Mata Haris, I played 33 cards in my deck rather than the minimum 30 (with 1 recursion) because there was nothing to cut.  For one thing, it helped that people didn’t realize how import An Anarch Manifesto is when drafting Twilight Rebellion.  Second, I wisely didn’t try to draft a deck that Laecanus would fit into since he hates me and causes me to always lose.  Third, people rare draft.  Fourth, people often don’t know how to draft.  Sure, I passed Garibaldi, which is insanely good.  But, I got passed Failsafe(!), which made me incredibly happy as I now play Failsafe in most of my decks*.  I got passed King’s Rising.  I’m pretty sure I got passed Club Illusion.  I got passed My Enemy’s Enemy.  My first library pick?  Tumnimos.  By the way, we drafted vampires first.

*  Friday night, after the game in which I sat at 1 pool for a bunch of turns, I commented that it’s really hard to play the game at 1 pool … but, at 2 pool, there’s a lot of things you can do.  Failsafe is my way to get off of 1 pool, which happens far too often.

Of course, the real strength of my deck, besides pool gain, was Aksinya Daclau.  Mata Hari really wasn’t that important, the only cards I needed her for were Waters of Duat, Black Sunrise, rushing with Steely Tenacity.

Round 1:

Andy -> Ian T. -> Eric -> Ian (I think Andy is the starting player)

In my opening hand, I have Failsafe and King’s Rising.  It would have been hilarious to end my game on turn one with bodacity, but I only play the Failsafe.  Mata Hari comes out, gets Tumnimos and Waters quickly.  Andy and I keep up in minions.  Eric threatens my pool with Steely Tenacity and stuff.  I let Eric know that if I’m still at 6 pool, I’ll bring out another vampire.  I stay at 6.  I bring out Aksinya to go to 2.  I defend well.  I pop Failsafe, later play King’s Rising.  Andy’s Anima Gatheringed Joe Boot Hill, btw, also encourages me not to go forward.  Eric plays Constant Revolution, which actually ends up being his death both because he taps a guy to do it when he’s low on pool and Ian has obvious offensive potential and because it causes me to randomly lose Con Boon which I was thinking of using to give him pool.  Eric goes for the 5 bleed, which I bounce, of course, but I stupidly didn’t try to block first as he had a Zip Line, so I actually have to tap a few more guys to oust Andy, Eric dies.  I outminion Ian and had dropped Club Illusion for extra beats.

Round 2:

Gerrentt -> Eric -> Dan -> Ian

It doesn’t make sense that I’d go last twice, so in the previous game, maybe Andy wasn’t first.  Anyway, Gerrentt brings out Convert, bleeds, gains like 5 pool from the Edge.  Dan doesn’t bleed me forever, though his deck is full of bleed.  I get Aksinya much earlier but don’t have my pool gain.  Gerrentt amasses a ridiculous number of dudes.  I bounce a 2 bleed at stealth.  Dan tries a real bleed of Force of Will Monkey Wrench 6 at 1 stealth which I, of course, bounce, putting Gerrentt into kill range.  I keep hoping Eric will oust Dan as I’m not nearly as scared of Eric’s deck; he doesn’t do that, but he kills Mylan with Keystone Kine, which I was all happy about.  I sweep.


Mike -> Sean -> Ian -> Gerrentt -> Matt

I’m top seed, winning a flip against Matt.  I’m fine with being behind Gerrentt.  I’m fine with having the only player without a brutal aggro deck (I don’t count) being behind me.

The game was actually quite interesting, involved, strange, and surprising.  Let’s see.  My predator brings out Lorrie Dunsirn!  Wow, what a terrible choice.  I transfer 1 to each of my three 5 caps rather than Mata Hari and know Aksinya is on top of my crypt since she’s upside down.  If my predator, who I knew had Aksinya in his crypt didn’t bring her out, I would have decrypted, but he brought her out.  Matt lent Gerrentt The Rumor Mill to stop my getting An Anarch Manifesto, which he regretted when Gerrentt got Heart of Nizchetus, which Matt was far more concerned about than I was.  In fact, Matt was incredibly worried about me all of the time, which I think was mostly due to my being top seed and because he knew I had cards like Failsafe and King’s Rising, rather than knowing my true power.  He lent Rumor Mill to Gerrentt later to stop me from getting a Sport Bike, and Gerrentt proceeded to get a Pulse of Canaille.  Gerrentt put out Twilight Camp and Crypt’s Sons – damn, what hot rares!

Meanwhile, back in my world, it was pain.  Mike conned Sean into rushing Mata Hari, which really didn’t affect me since I had no plans to go forward for the first 1.5 hours of the game, anyway.  Sean also kept tapping Aksinya to do things, which was nonsensical as everyone knew Mike had two Monkey Wrenches.  Mike contested Louis Fortier with me, which was probably accidental, so he spent all of the rest of the game trying to kill me as his grandprey, well, at least, put me down to where he could take Sean and me right away.  So, I tried to kill him back.  Mike cut deals with Matt to contest Crypt’s Sons with Gerrentt, so he was contesting 2 cards for a while.

It was hilarious.  Sean kept hurting me with rushes or bleed of 4 or Perpetual Care for 4, but all I did the entire time was try to figure out how to keep him alive and keep his predator under control.  As I expected, Matt finally lunged and took Mike out, something anybody should have expected given that Matt and I were tied with 7 (out of 8) VPs.  Gerrentt was free, though, to Pulse bleed on Matt.  I Power of Alled a Patsy that would have killed Sean.  Fortunately, Matt had called a Peace Treaty when I was at 3 pool, so I kept my Baseball Bat and gained 4 pool from Failsafe, making me unkillable.  I played King’s Rising, which was when two of the observing Haases knew I was going to win.  Sean died.  I ousted Gerrentt.  When I contested Toby with Matt with about a minute left, Matt conceded in a very sportsmanlike move since he was dead on my turn.

Spend half the game contesting a 5 cap in limited?  Have a grandpredator trying to kill me?  Have a predator unwisely use his actions to maximize damage to me?  Explain to my predator that keeping Aksinya untapped would do more pool damage to me than he could do by taking actions with her?  Not ever bring out my Aksinya who pretty much gave me two table wins?  Wait about 100 minutes to bleed my prey for the first time?  Of course, my prey would concede in the endgame with 1 minute left.  What other choice did he have?  What other choice did any of my opponents have?  Oh, right, they could have done less pool damage to me – that would have screwed me …

Thank yous for:

Brandon – Running everything, getting phat loots for the events.

Matt – Not stalling to win even though I would have been cool with it as Mike’s plays annoyed me and Matt would have been a worthy victor.  I think it’s great that players like Matt, Jeff Thompson, etc. display such sportsmanship.  I try to live up to those examples.

Out of town players – Mike, Matt, Robert, James – great to have people from other regions.

Mid-East Bay players – Dan, Sean, A.J., Joel – great to have players still playing in that area and willing to make the trek.  Sure, Ian came from further, but one would think a lot more Berkeley and SF players would have made it out.

The rest of the players – games don’t work unless you have opponents.

Haas household – Andy, Eric, their dad – for hosting, having food and drink available, putting up with a bunch of gamers, especially crazy people like Robert.

Forgetting anyone?  Hope not.

Well, that was exhausting.  It was great, though.  Now, off to see if I own 20 Jyhad The Embraces, so that the deck can be Jyhad-only, as well.

Draft deck:

x1  Toby
x1  Louis Fortier
x1  Paul Forrest
x2  Mata Hari
x1  Aksinya Daclau

x1  Club Illusion
x1  Failsafe
x1  King’s Rising
x1  Libertas
x1  Sermon of Caine
x1  Svadharma
x1  Trophy: Safe Passage
x1  Warning Sirens
x1  Chameleon
x1  Fee Stake: Corte (all players were allowed to add these three)
x1  Fee Stake: Los Angeles
x1  Fee Stake: Perth
x1  Shattering
x1  Tumnimos
x1  Undue Influence
x1  Waters of Duat
x1  Zip Line
x1  Changeling
x1  Command of the Beast
x1  CrimethInc.
x1  Burst of Sunlight
x1  Song of Serenity
x2  An Anarch Manifesto (thought I had 3)
x1  Baseball Bat
x1  Sport Bike
x1  Consanguineous Boon
x1  Conservative Agitation
x1  Exclusion Principle
x1  Black Sunrise
x1  My Enemy’s Enemy
x1  Power of All
x1  Steely Tenacity

HoR2 Retrospective #1

December 15, 2010

So, I’ve been running the HoR2 mods kind of from the beginning.  It’s interesting to see things from the other side of the screen (so to speak).  It’s also interesting to see them played in approximate order as I played most of the early mods really late, like after my characters were rank 2 and, in one case, an Emerald Magistrate late.

Not to disparage anyone since writing mods is hard work, especially accounting for the ways players will not get what they are supposed to do, but I thought I’d do some analysis of the first seven mods.  Why seven?  I have never actually played #8 – Uncertainty – and haven’t yet run it either (maybe next week).  Also, seven seems like a reasonable number to work with in a first batch, though I might never get around to making this a series.

#1  Treacherous Terrain

What I like about Treacherous Terrain is that there are clear bad guys.  One of them is more of a society thing which is good for getting people into the social mores of a society we Westerners just aren’t going to grok.  The other shows true evil.  One of my biggest complaints with HoR is that it isn’t heroic enough.  I really don’t actually like Rokugani society – I like demonslaying.  The mod flows okay, very linear.  There’s opportunities to be social without being overboard.  The mod doesn’t punish you overmuch if you aren’t perfect.

Is it predictable?  Sure.  But, the thing with a lot of these mods is that people can figure out what’s going on easily enough (or as one option among red herrings) but lack the ability to resolve things until certain actions are performed or the bad guy goes blatant.  I don’t know if it’s so much a criticism as that it’s a feature of this mod that it’s really almost entirely about one big combat sequence.  In GMing the mod, the combats aren’t that dangerous, though any combat in L5R is dangerous.  When I played it, it seemed far more dangerous … for brand new characters; my party was way overpowered for this as I wasn’t the only one playing an experienced character.

Decent.  Btw, “decent” to me has more the definition that “good” does in a dictionary.

#2  Writ of Justice

I think this should come later in the series.  We were another experienced party, far, far more deadly than someone coming off of playing Topaz Championship and Treacherous Terrain.  I was playing my first alt character, which was useful as we went with a strategy of “oops, I guess this is a frontal assault” on like 30 dudes.  L5R is not a system where you want to just slaughter your way through 30 dudes, at least not before the party is rank 3ish (second attacks for bushi, more degenerate spellcasting).  So, useful because this was my “try to kill me” character who actually came close a few times.

There’s another reason for it coming later.  While you may want to set up some metaplot stuff early on in a campaign, the metaplot stuff here can easily go over the heads of the players.  The yakuza gang stuff just didn’t mean anything to me.

Getting back to the danger level, when I ran this, the undermanned party almost did the right thing but ended up botching it after making things more complicated than they needed to be.  Where we could botch things and just murder our way to victory, my players didn’t have that as a solid option.  While there are some holes in what happens if players do certain things, a far too common problem which I’d be less critical of if we were talking about doing things not explicitly mentioned in the mod, this mod does cover a vast variety of options for what the players can try.

Unenthralled.  Too dangerous for people who don’t do the right things.

#3  Tears of a Fox’s Heart

This was funny in that my players played this so much better than I did.  I fixated on the Kitsu because of his incompetence.  Now, a lot of mods try to have red herrings, but this is the sort of thing that is obnoxious.  If I would have failed rolls, I wouldn’t have realized he didn’t know what the hell he was doing and wouldn’t have been as suspicious.  In other words, I was penalized for success.  Now, one of our players did figure things out pretty much immediately, it was just a matter of proving it.  And, because the GM allowed it, I got to use an obscure skill *a lot*.

I like the mood of this mod and the story mostly works.  The ending, if dealt with socially, makes enough sense that you can go the easy option.  I like the supernatural mods because, again, it’s not getting bogged down in courtly nonsense and legal arguments.  It’s more like Inuyasha, say, which is something I’d much rather play.

Decent.  I have a fair number of notes, so felt reasonably meaty.

#4  Wrath of the Kami

This was a bit of an odd experience for me as our group was sufficiently buff and likely to get on the right leads that I spent a lot of the mod just following the fluff.  Sure, I got to show off a bit of my deadly combat prowess doing 35 damage with a war fan in what I think was a boring roll, but I missed out on a cool experience as I was barely engaged on what was going on.  Also, my experience might have suffered from playing the Remorseful Seppuku series of mods out of order as I already knew about the major NPC and my experience in Unquiet Graves was brutal (in a number of ways) making this kind of easy.

I would have said there was nothing really wrong with this mod after playing it or after reading it as a GM the first time.  Then, I realized something.  It actually forces you along a much more linear path than it seemed at first.  It did impart some metaplot while introducing an infamous NPC and there were humorous ways to resolve things, but it forced you to either choose options that are kind of ridiculous for lower rank characters … or take an option that is never addressed in the mod yet is probably the most obvious thing in the world to do if you have a certain bent (my players talked about it but I never considered it).

Unenthralled.  Resolving things is too predetermined.

#5  Unrequited Love

Set immediately after Wrath of the Kami, this is a purely courtly mod.  I can see some people – the type of player who likes to play antisocial Crab bushi – hating this mod as being boring and frivolous.  But, I actually am quite fond of it, putting it in my upper echelon for HoR2 mods.  It’s a nice break from murder investigations, which I eventually got tired of, and enables some character development while playing in what feels a bit like a romantic farce.  It also plays quick.

It does have some problems on when you are supposed to do things since the Emerald Championship is still going on in the background.  My players did okay, though I notice the courtly stuff ends up being more mechanical for them than it is for me.

Strong … for courtly types.  Maybe I like it so much because my hottie won.

#6  Devoured by the Sea

I had a bias.  I was a big fan of sea mods because my first alt was a [Phoenix, Mirumoto School] sailor, and another player was playing a [boring Mantis] sailor who happened to be my character’s love interest.  So, we happily coupled … um … sailed as a couple.  I think I was actually useless any time we weren’t making sailing rolls.

On the other hand, I could see some people getting a bit frustrated with the mod.  If you weren’t prepared to be at sea, might be rougher than it should be.  There’s way too much “why is this happening?” going on.  I actually commented to an observer that I thought one scene was completely pointless even though it was supposed to be dramatic.

I’m not really sure whether it would be all that for a more normal party.  As for my players, since one of them was playing HoR for the first time with a Mantis who Doubts his sailing skill, it was quite amusing.

Mixed.  Lets people use obscure skills, big letdown on major scene.

#7  Scholarship

As I was playing an Emerald Magistrate at the time, this was kind of odd (I know, I say that a lot).  I was very frustrated by how mods have NPCs who are way too stubborn, but the combat was nice and brutal.  By brutal, I mean that I rolled 90 on my attack roll in the first fight (in a low rank mod) and the final battle saw the spell I hate the most give me nothing to do in the fight.

A big problem I have with this mod is that it isn’t clear how much urgency there is and how long it takes to do anything, so you have intense timeline issues.  If you don’t do things right away, you get screwed.  My players did a good job acting quickly (if wasting a lot of time deciding what to do once they were at a place with clues) but almost let things get away from them because so much is frontloaded in the mod.  Again, I like how the bad guys are really bad.

Decent, I guess.  I get tired fast of recalcitrant NPCs, though.


So, a thread broke out on what people’s favorite early mods were (first 20 or so) and I was stunned by what people chose.  I still despise Charge of the Baraunghar for instance, yet some people picked it as the top mod.  Of course, since I played a lot of early mods much later with characters who were much more experienced and in groups that had broken (aka normal rank 2) characters, they were possibly different experiences for me than they might have been otherwise.

That Unrequited Love is my favorite of the early mods and that there isn’t much in the way of competition for that is probably highly unusual; I think it has a lot to do with not feeling screwed by the mod in one way or another.  I really liked the ending of Unquiet Graves (where people I know had an absolutely terrible ending), I found much of the rest of it tedious.  I liked In Search of the Future much more than others, apparently.  I liked Bloom of the White Orchid more than others (who aren’t shugenja), which isn’t saying much as players of non-shugenja seem to think there’s nothing to do in it, where I mostly forgot what happened since it was the second mod in HoR2 I played (I do remember doing stuff).

Anyway, getting back to the first seven mods.  I think they could be better, both in terms of making decisions easier for newbs, for making what’s going on less obscure, for being less dangerous.  Some of the later low rank mods are much more to my liking as early mods to play, like Secluded Village, which I think is really good at presenting the world and an adventure in the world that’s player friendly (even if people I run it for make one of the villages way more difficult than it needs to be).  Of course, everyone should start a new character with Grave of Heroes, like I did with one character, but that requires some careful metagaming – I survived, somehow.

Recent Winners

December 6, 2010

While still in my mind, for many years, my only real motivation with V:TES tournaments was winning with particular clans, whether those without wins or, when more and more clans ceased being winless, those shafted in the game.  More recently, I haven’t really been following winning decks on an overall level.  Given our qualifier in a couple of weeks being one of the few tournament opportunities in the span of a year, I’m inclined to take a look around and see if anything interesting is going on that may have been missed.

So, in 2009 and 2010, from http://thelasombra.com/decks/clan-twd.htm, we get:

Ahrimanes:  5, 1+4 – ticking back up

Akunanse:  7, 3+4 – much higher than I expected

Assamites:  5, 4+1 – low, what’s going on fanboys?

Baali:  8, 4+4 – this actually seems low

Blood Brothers:  1, 0+1 – just a really horrible clan

Brujah:  14, 9+5 – KoT, KoT, KoT

!Brujah:  2, 2+0 – *sigh*, business as usual

Caitiff:  3, 2+1 – don’t actually care

Daughters of Cacophony:  1, 0+1 – really?

Followers of Set:  9, 6+3 – how the almost mighty have fallen

Gangrel:  11, 7+4 – how the truly mighty have fallen

!Gangrel:  6, 4+2 – business as usual

Gargoyles:  7, 3+4 – nothing Gargoyle matters while Tupdog exists

Giovanni:  22, 14+8 – robust!

Guruhi:  7, 2+5 – Nana, Animalism is sure good these days, too

Harbingers of Skulls:  2, 0+2 – of course

Imbued:  14, 6+8 – not dead yet

Ishtarri:  5, 5+0 – interesting drop off

Kiasyd:  7, 1+6 – unsurprising uptick

Lasombra:  17, 10+7 – solidly in the middle

Malkavians:  41, 22+19 – mighty!

!Malkavians:  14, 8+6 – not bad for the other clan with Dementation

Nosferatu:  16, 9+7 – just keeps getting wins

!Nosferatu:  5, 3+2 – business as usual

Osebo:  4, 3+1 – business as usual

Pander:  4, 3+1 – aaaaaaahhh, the old ones rise!

Ravnos:  9, 3+6 – double from 2009 to 2010?

Salubri:  3, 1+2 – also double, but too low to judge

!Salubri:  3, 3+0 – the bloom is off

Samedi:  2, 2+0 – really? they aren’t that bad

Toreador:  17, 8+9 – bland

!Toreador:  8, 4+4 – where have all of the Palla Grandes gone?

Tremere:  21, 12+9 – not shocking

!Tremere:  19, 7+12 – would be shocking if there weren’t obvious reasons

True Brujah:  2, 0+2 – look, Auspex

Tzimisce:  14, 9+5 – trending downwards or just a down year?

Ventrue:  38, 30+8 – what a year, last year, for them

!Ventrue:  27, 14+13 – Hugh, play something different

Let’s reorganize this some, putting them into natural groups.

Brujah:  14, 9+5
Gangrel:  11, 7+4
Malkavians:  41, 22+19
Nosferatu:  16, 9+7
Toreador:  17, 8+9
Tremere:  21, 12+9
Ventrue:  38, 30+8
Caitiff:  3, 2+1

As good as KoT has been to Brujah, who certainly needed the help, they still fare poorly.  Gangrel do surprisingly poorly, likely because there’s nothing to fill the Tradition void this time around like there was when they gained Serpentis.  The Malk and Ventrue domination is stunning.  Sure, they dominated early in the game’s history, but other clans held their own to a much better degree for many years.

A question begged is why Malks and Ventrue have done so well since 2009.  I’m sure there are plenty of theories.  Lutz is overly popular.  Dementation bleed doesn’t go out of style.  Etc.  I do find it interesting that both clans match up well against winnie Animalism.  The former because it can just nuke any deck before it gets going, the latter with multiaction and superb combat defense, often in the same card.

The next question that comes to mind is why the Ventrue dropped off so much from 2009.  Overplayed in 2009, with ennui setting in?  Then, the Malks’ 2010 is huge even compared to other Cammies.

Sucks to be 1 or 2 caps these days.  Actually, I think the design of 1 caps has gotten worse, often making them useless even without Scourge of the Enochians.

High:  41   2009:  30   2010:  19

Low (ignoring Caitiff):  11   2009:  7   2010:  4

Assamites:  5, 4+1
Followers of Set:  9, 6+3
Giovanni:  22, 14+8
Ravnos:  9, 3+6

Crazy disparity, here.  Start at the top, Assamites dropped from 14 wins in 2008.  I’m not terribly surprised since there’s not much new to do.  FoS didn’t change that much.  Ravnos picked up in 2010.  In 2008, Giovanni did quite well, as well.  It’s funny that Ashur Tablets opens up recursion to everyone, but in a day and age when the ash heap is the hotness, Giovanni still abuse it better with Shambling Hordes, Sudario Refraction, Khazar’s Diary, et al.

High:  22   2009:  14   2010:  8

Low:  5   2009:  3   2010:  1

!Brujah:  2, 2+0
!Gangrel:  6, 4+2
Lasombra:  17, 10+7
!Malkavians:  14, 8+6
!Nosferatu:  5, 3+2
Pander:  4, 3+1
!Toreador:  8, 4+4
!Tremere:  19, 7+12
Tzimisce:  14, 9+5
!Ventrue:  27, 14+13

In reality, these should be broken up even more.  Lasombra and Tzimisce should be compared against each other – they are close enough to call a wash.  Then, pull out Pander, who the Enochians are after and who have always gotten ill treatment.

Leaving the antitribu, the stories are:  !Brujah suck, as usual; !Tremere are rockin’, no doubt due to Nephandus; and, !Ventrue are off the hoof, ho! the day of the grinder is here.

High:  27   2009:  14   2010:  13

Low:  2   2009:  2   2010:  0

High is better than indies due to 2010, lows are just sad.

Ahrimanes:  5, 1+4
Baali:  8, 4+4
Blood Brothers:  1, 0+1
Daughters of Cacophony:  1, 0+1
Gargoyles:  7, 3+4
Harbingers of Skulls:  2, 0+2
Kiasyd:  7, 1+6
Salubri:  3, 1+2
!Salubri:  3, 3+0
Samedi:  2, 2+0
True Brujah:  2, 0+2

It always amazes me how few people play bloodlines … it’s obvious you only get numbers this low when you don’t even try.  Kiasyd are finally rising up, something that should have happened from day 1.  Baali aren’t doing quite as well as one might think, but, then, a lot of the “Girls” decks aren’t Baali decks.

I could speak more about bloodlines, but, really, what’s the point?  People don’t play them, so they don’t win, and the numbers are too low to draw much in the way of meaningful conclusions about how they fare against each other.  Harbingers double their win total this year, and … whatever.  Still no Nagaraja win at all, and, of course, I don’t consider the Fuzzface deck an Abomination deck.

High:  8   2009:  4   2010:  4

Low:  0   2009:  0   2010:  0

Ridiculous.  Leads me to believe that tournament results, more than ever, are coming from highly competitive events where people play boring crap.

Akunanse:  7, 3+4
Guruhi:  7, 2+5
Ishtarri:  5, 5+0
Osebo:  4, 3+1

I totally don’t remember all of those 2009 Ishtarri decks.  I don’t really remember any Akunanse decks.  The only thing not flying under the radar is that Nana has led to Guruhi being viable, with them going from 3 wins prior to 2009 to more than triple that today.

Akunanse are flat, having about 4 wins a year except for 2007.  Osebo chug along at 2 wins a year.  Ishtarri were fine through 2009, 2010 has been harsh to them.  They did get little from Ebony Kingdoms, but, then, so did Osebo.  I might believe that there are few Laibon players and Guruhi cannibalized wins from Ishtarri, or something.

High:  7   2009:  5   2010:  5

Low:  4   2009:  2   2010:  0

Imbued:  14, 6+8

Pretty flat, as 2007 saw seven wins.  Enough of the metagame to matter – note how much better they do than Laibon, bloodlines, low tier Sabbat clans, and, impressively, most of the original independents.

Of course, a major piece of the metagame – non”clan” decks – is missing from this analysis.  I’m sure there are quite a few winnie decks not being taken into account, and cursory examination reveals a good number of superstar or multifattie decks, such as “Girls”.  Not that I was trying to break things down for high level competition, I was much more interested in more flavorful elements of the game.

Once upon a time, I would have concluded that I needed to play Nagaraja, followed by Abominations, then other loser clans.  Do I still care about such things?  Well, guess I’ll find out in 12 or so days.

Pinnacle – Supplemental

December 3, 2010

Following up on the classic post from presence.vekn.org, might as well go through the rest of the sets.  With extra commentary since there are so few and GF I write less than a 1,000 words.

Lords of the Night

It’s obvious that a Follower of Set is the best crypt card.  It’s not as obvious which one.  I am reminded, by the way, of just how much Lords of the Night was a FoS set.  Anyway, Nakhthorheb is most people’s choice and I don’t disagree.  The two others that come to mind are Renenet and Halim Bey!!

A comment on Durga Syn.  Durga Syn has never been good, so bad in fact that I don’t recollect ever seeing her in play.  Yet, DS was given mad props when she was spoiled.  Again, the most common reaction with new cards is overestimating them as people only consider their ideal uses and forget to compare against what is currently available.  DS was thought to be some sort of Imbued killer, completely overlooking both that there are better things to do than build a deck around hosing another deck and that Ravnos could already annihilate Imbued if you did things like played a Trapparition archetype.  Then, with this CCG, fat vampires are nearly universally overrated, no doubt because people forget that every card choice competes with every other card choice and there are almost always better fatties, nevermind better anything else.  Of course, DS’s craptasticness means I really want to build a DS deck at this very moment, a feeling that may pass once some other idea percolates.

Target: Vitals.  Completely game changing card.  Now, everybody can beat.  Strong set with a number of quality cards.  Resist Earth’s Grasp would be #2.  Preternatural Strength, Camera Phone, … too many solid cards.

Twilight Rebellion

Putting aside Anarch Convert since it’s only the most played crypt card in the game and the only serious contender to Tupdog’s throne as best crypt card in the game, I’d say there’s not much in the way of standouts, but Jacob Fermor would be the one who sees significant play.   Sean Rycek might be more good stuff, which brings up an interesting point.  I’m arguing in favor of the cards that see the most play because it follows that people play the best cards.  But, V:TES is not a game in which playing the best cards matters a whole lot.  The reality is that a lot of multiplayer CCG decisions are based on coolness over efficiency, a marked difference from two-player CCGs where efficiency often rocks the casbah.

The only good 60 card set.  TR is what every 60 card set wants to be and is way better design than a number of larger sets, e.g. KMW.  I’m still amazed at how many interesting cards the set produces without having anything that’s obviously overpowered and with so little that’s obviously underpowered (even if some cards suck).  Constant Revolution should probably see more play, seems like it’s beginning to see serious play in winnie Auspex builds (finally).

I play Failsafe a fair amount these days, ironic since I was one of its greatest detractors – http://presence.vekn.org/viewtopic.php?t=2330&start=0 – “I expect virtually no constructed use of Failsafe.  There’s already an absurd level of competition for master slots.  What exactly are people going to start taking out of their decks under the theory that they will be at 1-2 pool at some time in the game?”  Then I argue in subsequent posts in that thread about how it’s inferior to other plays.  What I failed to realize and most others seem to ignore because they don’t build the sorts of decks I do is how synergistic it is with infernal.  Where others do silly things like bloat like mad with Cybele, I play real Baali decks, decks that intercept and Majesty … er …  Anyway, not trying to argue that the card is good, I just thought this bit of history was amusing.

Monkey Wrench I see as being way underplayed.  That any doofus can whip out kill is nontrivial.  Some might argue Revolutionary Council, which I see being an unnecessary card in decks built around it – winnie Assamite stealth vote/bleed is not actually weak.  Maybe somebody would like to mention Twilight Camp; okay, I’ll mention Twilight Camp, not for goodness but for nongoodness.  While I think I found a deck archetype, my LA storyline deck, that gets meaningful use out of them, I still find it incredibly hard to slot them over other good stuff masters.

Power of One ist our vinner.  Undue Influence, Power of One is Kindred Spirits with meaningful stealth, if kind of expensive.  Is it obviously the shiznit?  Not so much, but it’s popularrific.

Keepers of Tradition

The fun of making these picks for recent sets is that they are more controversial as there has been less time for people to figure out what’s best.  Few people argued much with my picks for oldtime sets in the original Pinnacle post.  Yet, I don’t see any controversy here, Dmitra Ilyanova is the clear best vampire, seeing an absurd amount of play.  Not to say there aren’t other strong vampires, especially at the high! end, what with inner circle members and justicars.  It’s impressive that Brujah get so many quality vampires for a change, as a side note.

Now for the tough pick.  That is, now for the tough pick that isn’t Villein, the better Minion Tap, only one of the best cards e-e-e-ver.  Ashur Tablets?  Broken, stunningly gamechanging in ways that pain me even if there are tons of cool things to do with them.  Enkil Cog is a lot of people’s favorite, but its love is analogous to how people overlove fat vampires.  Deep Song, Eyes of Argus – absurdly good, too good.  I am increasingly believing that these two cards make the game less fun.  The former makes it far too easy to do efficient combat decks to where Animalism is the combat terror in the game.  The latter is another defensive tool for only the best defensive discipline in the game, though, maybe, the idea that more bleeds will end in combat because of it is what was intended.

Ebony Kingdoms

Nana Buruku – proof that extra master phase actions is broken, except that had been proved by Anson over a decade ago.

I play other cards, like Well-Marked, far more often than Bamba, but, really, Bamba was the obvious best card in the set by an absurd margin when the set was new, and nothing has suggested a rethink.

Heirs to the Blood

From the easy, to the really difficult.  The thing with bloodlines is that which ones you favor has such a massive impact on what you think, and that far too few players play bloodlines often enough to show value to where the bloodline player in a particular group is likely to be the driver of what works.

I could argue Al-Muntathir since he makes the clan viable.  But, from a success standpoint, it would probably have to be The Arcadian over Isanwayen.  The unnamed may get the most decks, but there’s only one deck in the TWDA (five for The Arcadian).  Scout is cute, but I think people way overplay group 5/6 DoC; the Obfuscate isn’t necessary as I’ve never had problems getting my actions through with them.

By the way, for anyone who read The Ash Heap, which seems to have a broken link for the forums, may recall that my list of top Legacies of Blood vamps were mostly those with Dominate and Obtenebration, which I got criticism for.  *sigh*  Analysis is analysis.  You can love your 10 cap Assamites with no bounce disciplines or whatever all you want, but there’s “I like” and then there’s analysis.  The former is unrelated to elephants, making it irrelephant, to anyone else; the latter is why I have a blog.

As boring as it is, Wider View is clearly the best library card.  It cheats by being a generic card in a set that is focused mainly on narrow effects – esoteric clans often with unique disciplines.  I could comment on other strong cards, but I did a set review not that long ago and don’t think much would change my views.  It is good to see people making use of Summon History, since it should be broken.

Oh, one thing I missed in the previous post, Cybele should be ranked above Mata Hari.  Forgot which set Cybele was in.