Gum

July 31, 2011

I started writing a couple of posts only to lose momentum with my thoughts.  Rather than hunt around for something else to get inspired by, I’ll try to get through this piece.

There’s card advantage and then there’s card advantage.  When I think of card advantage, I think of drawing more cards than an opponent, using one card to defeat multiple cards of my opponent and so forth.  In a CCG like V:TES, card advantage doesn’t seem to really apply until you get to the point where you run out of cards.

Though, I’ve thought about how permacept, like a Raven Spy, seems to produce card advantage by requiring so many more cards used for stealth than normal.  Card advantage isn’t really the right term.  It’s more like card paralysis or, better, card quiescence.

I was thinking about tempo recently and how often indirect card advantage is gained in Magic by putting an opponent in a position where there isn’t time to play cards in hand.  It’s similar to how card advantage can be gained by making someone’s draws dead by having them have no effect on the game, e.g. creature removal vs. creatureless deck.

In V:TES, handjam is a major concern.  Trying to jam a stealth bleed deck on stealth might be the only way to survive long enough for the game state to change or to draw different cards.  Jamming an intercept combat deck on intercept might make combat survivable.  Too many masters is a common problem.  Rush deck with nothing but red cards is impotent.

So, there’s nothing new about making someone’s hand less productive.  The question is whether other methods than the ones typically considered can do it.

One of the more common situations I encounter of making cards in hand dead draws is when under a tremendous amount of pool pressure.  Don’t need stealth cards when you can’t afford to take actions.  Similarly, having minions nuked makes all actions, action modifiers, reactions, etc. useless to have in hand.  These situations are just variations on themes.  The question becomes how to reliably create scenarios to where someone else is stuck on cards that don’t do anything.

Some like to try to make use of the cards that restrict hand size.  This is typically awful as hand size has very little impact on card play.  V:TES is a game of card chains.  Sometimes, only one card in a chain is necessary, say Night Moves to get a bleed of one through.  Frequently, two card chains of action plus stealth, stealth plus action modifier, wake plus other reaction, etc. are the power plays due to their efficiency and reliability.  Ultimately, as long as you can play cards, you can … em … play cards.  The effects that prevent replacement are far stronger at disrupting play.  As bad as The Meddling of Semsith is at helping its player win, it can certainly cause someone else to lose.

To get off on a tangent, I’m increasingly thinking about card plays that are only intended for the endgame.  I tend toward plays that get you to the endgame, like bounce, but for variety’s sake, trying to engineer a particular endgame state is interesting.  The Meddling of Semsith is another of these plays.

Anyway, back to creating handjams.  The idea of a tempo deck in a game like Magic is that you come out fast enough that speed itself disrupts your opponent and plays that aren’t strictly card advantage but, instead, time advantage ensure your opponent’s defeat.  Besides putting somebody under so much pressure from speed or such obnoxious things as stacks of Anarch Revolts (more relevant to when there was little way to dodge them), other sorts of time-plays may be interesting.

I’ve been trying to build more aggressive decks as it helps to see different facets of games when people actually get ousted.  But, it seems like that it’s difficult, even more so in tournament play where I’m less likely to do something against my own interests, for me to force the action.  Instead, I probably do disrupt people’s games to some extent by how little I do.  Decisions to use resources to disrupt someone not doing anything you really care about are not the easiest decisions to make.  Well, unless all you want to do is have stuff happen, which I can sort of see when you have an environment where people rarely get ousted.

If putting pressure on jams people’s hands as they look for answers or greater threats, doing nothing jams hands on answers.  With too much time on one’s hands, it’s easy to become impatient.

There’s also the question of where in the spectrum of toolboxiness vs. focus decks lie.  A focused deck does its thing.  It can overwhelm a less focused deck, but more relevant to this post, even a partial overwhelm makes for quiescent cards in hand.  Of course, the drawback of such decks, in this regard, is that their hands can be made entirely irrelevant to the situation.  For instance, rush combat vs. single vampire with Secure Haven.

Let’s assume that a deck will have useful cards eventually.  What are the best ways to get to those cards when you suffer from card quiescence?  Dreams of the Sphinx, The Barrens, Fragment of the Book of Nod, et al.  It’s funny how I used to promote the importance of taking up master slots on card cycling, even more so than pool gain, yet have wandered away from ensuring that my decks move cards.  Dreams is the most common and avoids location hate, so really, the only answer is master counters or playing one’s own cyclers.  The latter seems especially productive.  Not that I’ve made a lot of effort to jam people in the past, but I will tend to sit on a Dreams with two counters.

Inserting another thought – gaining pool increases flexibility.  After all, gaining pool is creating time which counteracts plays that steal time away.  A reason to play Blood Dolls, Villeins, etc.?  How profound.  I’m sure the community can’t wait to hear about the usefulness of playing cards such as what has been the most played card in the game.  It is interesting, though, how some will lowball master pool gain.  Just as I’ve gotten away from card cycling plays, I’m increasingly reducing the amount of pool gain masters I play.  … hmmm … can’t possibly be any correlation to winning less often, nope.

I don’t know if I came to any great conclusions about generating card quiescence.  There are a lot of angles to approach from.  I do find it amusing that my train of thought brought me to playing more card cyclers myself as a subtle way to deprive them to others.  Amusing because, as I said, I have drifted away from the idea that The Barrens goes in every deck.  I suppose another conclusion is that focused decks are more likely to produce these advantageous situations, if at the cost of being on the other end.  It bothers me whenever it seems that it’s a better idea to play focused decks, something I’m increasingly concerned with, but that’s a post for another time.


Credit

July 18, 2011

I don’t know if people who read this realize how much I follow sports.  I don’t watch much in the way of sports because the actual events themselves aren’t nearly as interesting when you lack a rooting interest.

Kiseki.  That’s what my pocket Japanese dictionary and Google translating have for “miracle”.  Miracle On Ice, considered the greatest team sporting event in US history …  Congratulations to the Japanese women’s football team.  I don’t know enough Japanese history to be able to say that this was the greatest team result in Japanese sports history, but how is it less impressive than our greatest moment?

Never won in group play, I heard.  Beat two time defending champion and host nation, something that matters quite a bit in World Cup history, if more so on the men’s side.  Beat the team that beat the number one team in the world.  Didn’t just beat the number one team in the world that they had lost 22 of 25 times previously to, the number one team from a nation looking for a record third (women’s) World Cup, but in an epic game where they looked horribly outclassed and had to play catch up, including with about 5 minutes left in overtime.

The sports talking heads that I watch all of the time from Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption almost entirely are focused on the US choking.  So, the Soviets choked?  I don’t recall that being part of the mythology of the Miracle On Ice.  There are those who note that the Japanese story is the more American story than if the US had won.  I’m just amazed that anyone would think otherwise.

As for the US team, they lost.  I would have liked to see the team win.  But, once the finals were set, there was the compelling story for us and there was the compelling story for the world.  What made the result great wasn’t that the better script won, it was that the final game, itself, had a compelling script.  A bad game, like a 3-0 blowout or whatever, would have cheapened the result, whoever won.  That was a fantastic sports match, full of drama.  I wish I hadn’t missed some of the earlier matches.

Because I love World Cup.  Have next to no tolerance for soccer, otherwise.  It’s not about the quality of play – I don’t care about Man. U. vs. Arsenal or Man. U. vs. Barcelona or whatever because there’s no context for me and no particular reason to root for anything.  Give me Cameroon vs. Poland or Paraguay vs. Portugal.

Anyway, I just couldn’t stand how much focus was on how we didn’t win when it was great theater and one of the great results in sports history.

Now, what does this have to do with gaming?  Well, sports and games are pretty similar.  But, let’s take some actual features of what happened with World Cup play and relate them to personal gaming experiences.

As much as I don’t want to talk about the US choking, choking is actually a very interesting topic.  There is a Cracked article, http://www.cracked.com/article/222_6-ways-your-body-loves-to-screw-you-explained-by-science/, that talks about choking, but I don’t see in that article a comment I recall about how professionals actually choke more often and worse.  Another part of this other article, which I think was another Cracked article, talked about how singing or whistling or whatever that stops you from thinking helps prevent choking, since it’s consciously thinking about how to do something that screws us up.

I’ve made some bad mistakes in competitive CCG play.  I have a tendency to overthink things in pressure situations and go for unusual plays in the name of cleverness, but is this the same as choking?  I could believe that the same tricks to take one’s mind off of the pressure situation could very well work, whether the natures of the two situations are that similar.

While I could talk about good scripts and bad scripts when it comes to RPGs, I’m more of the mind to speak to scripts and competitive play.  When I envision myself playing in CCG tournaments, of course I think about winning.  But, I don’t think about dominating.  I think about ridiculous plays that blow people’s minds.  I don’t enjoy winning in and of itself, I need the appealing storyline to have winning be enjoyable.  It’s why I have such little interest in playing decks known to be good.  What’s the story to tell about winning with Malk94, Ventrue Lawfirm, AAA, …, even weenie Potence?  It’s not entirely about being completing the underdog story, for me.  The intellectual challenges of doing things differently are some part of the motivation to do things differently.  Still, I can’t stand easy wins.  This is something that also applies to RPGs where I’d rather not even bother fighting an easy combat.  Well, the RPG is all about the story, after all.


Salesperson

July 10, 2011

There are a lot of aphorisms I’ve thought of that I don’t get to use because shoehorning them into a conversation just comes across as pretentious.  I should really write them down; after all, I used to write down my e-mail sigs.  One of them, which I keep waiting to whip out at the office, is “The difference between a salesperson and an analyst is that the salesperson cares about what is right with something while the analyst cares about what is wrong with it.”

My mood, at the moment, is on the analyst side, but I’m also tired of being critical and negative this weekend, so I thought of something I could write about that seems (relatively) positive (for me).

I was watching the ridiculous Brazil/USA Women’s World Cup match and, as is typical when I’m watching TV, I needed something to do in addition.  I didn’t want to keep playing one of my various solitaire bridge games, so I decided to put away some V:TES cards.  As much as I’m pro-bloodline, I build far fewer bloodline decks than I used to.  I’m sure some of that has to do with others having more success, while a lot probably has to do with the feeling of sameness when I go to build a deck to either a deck I’ve built and played, a deck I’ve built and haven’t played, or someone else’s deck.

To go off on a tangent for a moment, I’m kind of interested at the moment in playing decks posted online.  It’s always a good idea to try to view things from a different perspective, and I haven’t played someone else’s deck in a “formal” sense  in a long time.  By the way, while I hate building and playing other people’s decks and trying to claim them to any degree, I’m fine with building and playing other people’s decks for testing purposes.

So, I decided to put away bloodlines cards – vampires, clan cards, disciplines, put away Maleficia and Striga cards for the first time.  They tend to sit out longer because my bloodlines box is at the bottom of one of my piles of 5,000 count boxes.  While sorting, I got to thinking about group 4 Samedi.

While Legacies of Blood was good to Samedi, printing Reanimated Corpse and Little Mountain Cemetery, the new (at the time) group 4 Samedi had to be the worst batch of vampires ever printed in the game.  Em, being so positive so far.  The contrast to group 2 Samedi, which were fairly good if you excused how bad their bloodline discipline was, was startling.

I have actually played Macoute in a deck.  But, I got to thinking about doing the Nec/Thn thing since they were obviously intended for that, and the additions of Baroque and Morlock not only gave comparable numbers of options to group 2/3 but more minions designed for a Nec/Thn deck.

Of course, since every Samedi I’d consider for the crypt also has Obf, it’s a Nec/Obf/Thn deck.  The question with Necromancy is always what it will add to a deck.  Of course, there’s always the Shambling Hordes splash, but that has so little appeal to me.  Keystone Kine makes sense as a way to leverage Nec/Obf, though it’s usually just a Computer Hacking with this crypt.  Necromancy just has few splash effects that are all that desirable.  Back in the day, one of them would have been stealth, but Samedi are the best stealth clan in the game.  Recursion has been stolen largely by Ashur Tablets (by Sudario Refraction for Giovanni) but could be an option.  Anarchdom certainly opens up some additional effects for both Nec and Obfuscate (and Fortitude, but that’s a different crypt).

Alternatively, one can look at Necromancy through the prism of “why not play Giovanni?”, given the rather insane Giovanni clan cards and/or Dominate (sans scarceness).  Reanimated Corpse – lots of synergy with Nec in theory, Little Mountain Cemetery, equipment untaps, Off Kilter, and the rather questionable Ex Nihilo + Groaning Corpse combo seem the only reasons to dip into Samedidom.

Lacking Fortitude for non-equipment untaps, is equipment untaps sufficiently interesting to bother with?  Bleed equipment seems kind of silly, being strictly inferior to Dominate.  Sport Bikes, Nec intercept, … profit … is a business plan that I’m sure won’t generate much in the way of venture capital.  Weapons could just be Disguised out (because the Samedi discipline mix is nothing if not redundant) and offensive combat with the best combat avoidance clan in the game is always a suspect path.

There’s a reason I don’t build many Samedi decks anymore.  Bad bleed deck, bad intercept deck, bad combat deck?  Take those away and you end up left with Reanimated Corpse, LMC, and Off Kilter.  All three tend to be “linear” – being advantaged by playing more of the same.  I’m not much of a fan of decks that do the same thing repeatedly, even if I will build them, like my Off Kilter deck, my LMC deck, and maybe a RC deck at some point.

I could, of course, just throw random stuff in – Necromancy is awesome for random stuff, like Grasp the Ghostly.  With recursion from Gear Up or whatever, I can play a lot of one-ofs in my three disciplines, have three stealth disciplines to make sure all my actions succeed and … profit.  *sigh*

I do have specials; they just don’t have much synergy with each other.  +1 bleed on an unblockable minion (one with Obf/Thn) never hurts, but it’s kind of more interesting when you have non-equipment untaps to OK the edge into extra pool, whip out awesome allies, add blood counters to the acting minion and everyone in the uncontrolled region, or whatever.

I sense giving up on defense and looking for either Off Kilter or LMC bloat to survive with Nec being around for random effects and recursion.  The discipline required on this deck is not insignificant.  The temptation to go overboard with odd effects, go too far in bloating, or not go far enough in some angle that relates to actually ousting people is high.  Anarchy will only expand the number of options.  I could drop that angle, but then I lose the more exciting Gear Up for the more action inefficient Whispers from the Dead or Pandora’s Whisper.

Untapping could come from Dabbler, in theory.  While it would be good to try some Dabbler decks, I’m already trying to cover so many bases, that trying to force Dabbler triggers seems like a great way to up the nutpuncheriness.

Am I including a decklist?  No.  I started thinking about this way too late in the day to have actually already built the deck.  I could rattle off a decklist in half an hour, but given the lack of having a clear concept what I want the deck to actually do, I doubt it would be anything close to a finalized version for something I’d actually end up playing.


Illusionists

July 4, 2011

Ravnos.

Today, while a day of Independence, is not a day in which I envision speaking upon some sort of Independence theme but, rather, about Ravnos.

Why Ravnos?

A coalescing of thoughts and comments.  In no particular order, here are some reasons to speak of Ravnos, now:

1.  I haven’t played them much in a long time.
2.  I like Chimerstry a lot.
3.  Animalism – Join it with Ravnos or humiliate it with Ravnos?
4.  Sensory Deprivation isn’t fun, but that’s because it’s evil.
5.  Someone mentioned Nightmare Curse.
6.  There must be other tech in Chimerstry’s wide range of effects.
7.  I miss Gabrin.
8.  Ezmerelda amuses me.
9.  When did Week of Nightmares stop being broken?
10.  If we ever have a tournament that qualifies for the TWDA …

I’ve been claiming that Ravnos Trapparition has been a good metagame choice for quite some time.  Just like winnie Animalism murders winnie Auspex, Trapparition should as well … while murdering winnie Animalism.  Draba is not reliable, but it’s an answer to stealth vote that a lot of decks don’t have.  Week of Nightmares provides the ousting power boost to actually oust folks.

This was before Nana “I’m not a Prince with PRE and Dominate, yet I’m still clearly broken” Buruku manifested.  While the popular crop of Animalism decks may not get trumped in every fight by Crows + Apparition since Aid From Bats can be used to press to end, leading to minor trades in enough cases, Animalism beats and Apparition should make Ravnos a metagame combat trump, with the worst thing I envisioning being Ashur Tablets recycling trumping the Ravnos deck when it runs out of cards, but that’s so corner case a scenario that I’m not going to worry about it.  Alternatively, the Ravnos can dispense with fighting Murder with Murder [of Crows, poetic license, not suggesting the card will be key].  Double Apparition is still immunity, though what leverage it’s providing is questionable.  A Trapparition deck sans Crows with Canine Hordes and Target Vitals to eviscerate all equipment in play is amusing, if card inefficient.  And, of course, there’s the trumpiest (if not perfect) play of Illusions of the Kindred.  As expensive combat defense, it’s kind of paranoid, so there should be some sort of beatings to come out of the illusions.  No, not Horrid Reality, that’s just going to die against decks that don’t fight.

I loathe Sensory Deprivation as the point of CCGs is to play cards, not sit around doing nothing.  On the other hand, I quite like Nightmare Curse.  As the person responsible for two-thirds of the Nightmare Curses in the TWDA with only that well known hater of all things Ravnos David Cherryholmes responsible for the other third, I can claim to be the undisputed expert on all things Nightmare Curse (and how to win tournaments with awful Ravnos decks and …).  Double inferior is why you play the card.  Double inferior is fun because it doesn’t stop people from playing and might do pool damage.  I’m huge, potentially big, on “might do pool damage” plays.  Actually, the Chi version is reasonably useful, the entirety (I think) of its use by DC’s deck, and makes the card not require doing a lot of crypt distortion.

But, anyway, as cute as NC is, Sensory Dep is more brutal since it’s easy to play at superior.  It’s interesting that the card seems somewhat forgotten.  Many claim that they see bigger vampires these days.  Well, the bigger they are, the more they hate lockdown effects.  While I can’t likely bring myself to make SD a focus of a deck, I can bring myself to play 1-3 as a good stuff play.

Army of Apparitions.  I’ve never been that excited since it doesn’t say anything about redirecting a bleed from me to my prey, but I’m sure it was playable.  Now, though, how does it fit the meta?  All sorts are whipping out Marconius Faerie Wards decks, but FW works against bleeds, which is way more than having a minion you control being targeted.  But, let’s see.  Votes to annoy voting decks and a means to stop being rushed by winnies with Animalism.  Just a question of how warped the meta is, I guess.  It’s not like 3 votes may be enough, though one can save up to play two for 6 votes, I suppose.

I’m amazed at how little press Draba gets.  While it may require a bit of setup, permacept and Draba blocks things that only AUS blocks.  It’s such a random hose on crosstable actions where Auspex rarely is.  Sure, I like more defensive Ravnos builds to the once prevalent Clown Car decks, but I can’t be the only one who thinks Ravnos are kind of good at blocking.

Fantasy World only costs 2 blood (assumedly 1 or zero with Path/Gabrin).  But, does it do anything?  It’s another way to tap Aksinya, though it shouldn’t affect the discarding master power if she untaps from Rats’.  It’s interesting to see whether it matters.  I have rarely played it because I think it’s too random whether it does, but maybe, random is okay if it hits often enough for hard enough.

Fata Amria – I do actually know what the card does, I just think too often what that is is nothing.

Ignis Fatuus may not have gotten any press in ages, but it did once seem to get more attention than Draba.  Not sure why, but it’s also a highly interesting effect.  Maybe not that useful if your main concerns are Girls, ANI, DEM, stealth Parity Shift, or whatever, but interesting.

Let’s say you have a lot of Girls and rushy ANI decks to deal with.  They don’t block well.  Yes, I’m sure there are more Raven Spyrrific ANI builds, but let’s assume they don’t block well.  Mirror Image means getting actions through while the superior buys time against ANI.  Sure, MI has always been hot for Chimerstry, but maybe the meta play these days is to load up on them.  Replace Occlusions?  Occlusion doesn’t prevent being murdered by crows.

How good is Gabrin?  Good enough to be one of the five best vampires in the game?  If you look, hard enough, you will find a comment I made to that effect.  Sure, he had the best discipline cost reduction special in the game until Una (arguable) came along.  Sure, he has Dominate, but, then, so do about 436 other vampires.  Sure, The Path of Paradox steals some thunder, though it also synergizes well.  One has to understand the environment pre The Final Nights.  Lots of folks only considered FoS viable.  I added Giovanni to the list.  But, clearly, Ravnos were garbage before TFN.  Chimerstry had cards like Sensory Deprivation and Fata Morgana, but they were insanely expensive compared to what else you could do, and all of the indies had crypt problems.  Chimerstry was atrocious.  Then, The Path and Gabrin got printed.  Suddenly, at one less blood for every card, Chimerstry looked good; add in a few other good cards, like Mirror Image and Draba, and Chimerstry looks awesome.  Oh, and he has Dominate to go with a 6 cap and a 7 cap so that, you know, you have a Ravnos with Dominate deck.

Though, to be fair, Week of Nightmares is responsible for so many Ravnos wins.  Why isn’t WoN broken anymore?  Perhaps because of Scourge of the Enochians, though I hardly see the card played.  Perhaps because people started metaing harder against winnies, with random Anarchist Uprisings in decks.  Or, maybe, it’s still broken.  Midcap Ravnos dodge Scourge and still kind of like the one time Palla Grande.

Ezmerelda has Dominate.  Ezmerelda can play newer Chimerstry cards that only go on younger vampires.  Ezmerelda is a terrible Ravnos.  She’s not a terrible vampire, being a reasonable Ventrue, though the Ventrue don’t need her.  Have we seen little of her due to rarity?  Perhaps.  But, somebody out there must own enough to build decks.  I’m more interested in her after seeing what she can do in my Ur-Shulgi Has No Presence deck.  Living the dream is Villein for 10, Deflection, gain 11 on untap.  Have I mentioned recently that I won a game when my final opponent scooped to my bringing out Ezmerelda … contesting his?

I’ve played a fair number of Ravnos decks, not so much recently, probably because I got tired of newer cards I hadn’t played turning out to be uninteresting and not having a love affair for Mata Hari, though I have more Mata Hari decks to play.  What might be interesting is to try to keep my streak alive of winning every tournament I’ve ever played with a Ravnos deck, though, as with many tournament related aspects of my playing career, that requires that we actually have tournaments.  The thing is is that I really need to get into a crossregional meta where I think Trapparition is a strong metagame choice, something that eludes me as I fail to make the effort to travel.

Meanwhile, for those who fear the Girls, is there anything to be mined from the Ravnos?  They tap minions well.  They can do a ton of pool damage if willing to risk a Clown Car deck.  I think they give more trouble to stealth vote and ANI, which are two of the decks that have better game against Girls, which may only end up helping Girls if we had sophisticated enough metas to where enough decks of one archetype were played to shift entire tournaments.

Ultimately, whatever someone wants to hate on or not, I still see Ravnos being a largely forgotten viable option.


The Magic of CCGs

July 1, 2011

A trend started a few years back is to eschew the CCG model and go with a LCG model of fixed sets of cards for a given product.  Obviously, there was an economic reason for this.  The CCG industry didn’t just have a shakeout to where you no longer saw the ridiculous CCG of the Month launch situation but an environment where only a couple of handfuls of CCGs could even be considered surviving.

I’ve talked before about what a huge investment a CCG is … of time and thought.  I’d also add finding opponents for niche CCGs.  Certainly, the model of having regular releases of hundreds of new game components puts a great deal of pressure on the customer base.  Even putting aside any needs to remain competitive by acquiring either considerable cards for each release or very specific cards that everyone else would likely be interested in as well, a very real reality for most CCGs, there’s the ballooning of collections and mechanics/rules.

I’ve also mentioned how mechanics bloat ends up being a problem, the greatest being that the barrier of entry to new players keeps getting greater and greater over time.  But, even the constant and significant increase in how many cards someone owns becomes a downer.  I have boxes lying around of various CCGs that were never integrated into my collections’ organizations – Crusade for B5, Sword of Caine for V:TES, Visions for Magic are just some examples.

Without critical player mass and some selling point that keeps a player committed, it’s easy for someone to leave a CCG.  It may be easy to return, as Magic and V:TES often see, but if there’s nothing to return to because the playerbase crumbled away, then the game is essentially dead.

Not being a LCGer, I can’t say how the model in general or the marketing plan for specific games has panned out or will likely pan out.  While the perception that a game is no longer a treadmill may be strong enough to get someone to buy in to a LCG, how does the game not retain the longer term problems that CCGs have had?  New cards still means more things to remember, whether text or mechanics/rules, more things to store, more components to use for a game that someone may not have time for.

It’s not like you stop at just one set.  After all, that doesn’t make more money.  Dominion is a good example of how boardgame-cardgames can steal from the CCG model and keep putting out expansions.  The speed of those expansions as well as the importance of them is quite different, which is likely how they get away with it.  While my original Jyhad group didn’t allow expansions, believing there was sufficient variety already in the game and that expansions would only reduce the awesome, far more CCG players I’ve run across desperately want new cards on some sort of regular basis.

In this way, I think CCGs have “won” in a perception sense for their marketing strategy.  The CCG model is predicated on the idea that there must always be something new that shakes up the play environment, even though the play environment for CCGs often is far more diverse with premier sets or few expansions than people think, since the number of possible decks with 300 unique cards is effectively infinite.  Sure, some strategies will dominate and many cards are chaff, but there is often really interesting metagaming that can occur with limited options, and there’s always the option of playing different formats that limit what cards can be used or that have special rules that change the metagame.  For instance, with V:TES, if you never had anything past Sabbat, but you had storyline events like Eye of Hazimel, you wouldn’t need to ever print new sets.

If there’s one thing about Magic, from a marketing standpoint, that I would say it has annihilated most, possibly even all, of the competition at, it’s that the game is awesome for limited play (even taking into account my views on the funness of playing Magic).  If niche CCGs had anything even 10% as good as Magic for limited play, maybe they wouldn’t be niche and maybe they’d still be “alive”.

This is another area where I’m struggling to see the advantage of a LCG.  Sure, it’s possible to have some sort of limited format, even do some sort of randomization in special products to enable sealed/draft environments like those seen for CCGs, but this does kind of contradict the nature of LCGs.

So, what prompted my writing about this now?

I played some Legacy format Magic recently.  I could probably write a great deal more about this, but one of the main things that came away from my trying to build decks was that I have a large, disorganized, incomplete Magic collection.  A key card I couldn’t find was a common from a set I had cards from*, a card reprinted a decent number of times.  Do I feel bad about the limitations of my collection?  Sure, I was never competitive in constructed because there were virtually no tournament decks I could ever build.  But, I also find it interesting.  I find the completely imbalanced quantities of which sets I own tell a story of my participation in the game.

*  Back in the day, one of the local cons had a free sealed deck tournament.  Though it was like 8AM on a Monday, people were obviously going to show up for free Magic cards.  One year, it was Urza’s Saga, and I thought I was going to be done quickly to do stuff with people I knew.  In one of my few Magic successes, I played for like 9 hours, coming in second in the tournament, not only getting a couple of starters and some boosters for the sealed portion but a bit more as prizes.  I don’t know if I ever bought any Saga outside of that.

More important, at least to what I’m writing about today, is that I have some unopened product lying around that was meant to be used for Type P decks, and I opened a couple of boosters from Guildpact and, after playing, Dissension.  The idea was that I could not only get inspired for some additional Legacy decks but that newer cards are more powerful on average than older and maybe I’d crack some constructed worthy cards.

I hate opening boosters most of the time.  Why?  Because I buy enough for games I’m invested in to have everything and it’s just a matter of making sure I’m getting my fair share and cataloguing my quantities of chase cards to figure out what to trade for.  So, every pack is just an accounting exercise.  Good rare?  k, that’s what I’m looking for.  Bad rare?  Sucks to be me, hope the box gets better.

Magic isn’t like that, for me.  I’m never going to have everything.  There has never been a set that I bought enough of to have four-ofs of every card I care about.  This is what it’s supposed to be like for all CCGs.  The gambling element of whether you get good cards or bad cards is a huge part of the card crack addiction.

I might consider launching a CCG these days even with the huge hurdles of marketing and distribution because I think the CCG magic is still possible for a CCG besides the current crop that have proved themselves fit enough to survive.  An awesome limited environment is what I would focus on because the number of benefits limited provides a game from a marketing standpoint are just so great, including the lack of need for people to hop on a treadmill and invest in every set ever.  Of course, some CCG (Spoils?) took this approach and it didn’t work, so it’s not like this is the magic bullet of how to publish rather than perish.

It’s just amazingly frustrating to still enjoy opening Magic packs and thinking about how cool the cards are and how they could be used, when I don’t even want to play the game.  Why can’t other CCGs capture that magic?  (Part of it is that Magic actually has a really high coolness factor, what with awesome art, better new mechanics, etc.)

I’ve missed having a two-player CCG for quite some time, for those times when I didn’t want to care about table politics.  I’m now getting to the point of missing cracking packs to see what random cardboard I may never play with.  I have no idea how LCGs and boardgame-cardgames compete with that.  That they do suggests, yet again, that maybe I fall into a category of gamer too small to support the games that interest me.