If you’ve read Rosewater’s article today about the needs of a game, you have similar interests. Anyway, interaction. There are plenty of solitaire games that involve one challenging oneself against something. For me, it’s a variety of single 52-card deck games.
But, such are of little concern to others. What is of much greater concern to me is quality interaction in CCGs. Any sort of interaction is easy – enjoyable interaction more difficult. Since I played V:TES for the first time in a while yesterday, it’s not a bad time to take a look at examples of interaction.
Andy (Ass BH) -> Jeff (The Slaughterhouse of Judas) -> Ian (Gargoyles) -> Brandon (Imbued)
Andy’s game was easy to describe. He brought out a guy slowly. Then, he got ousted. Truth in Ink was a dead draw. His interaction in the game was virtually nonexistent.
For the rest of us, it was much more involved. I was playing a rather straightforward Gargoyles deck with a number of Heirs to the Blood cards that I had rarely played with. So, I could beat people up. I just sucked at it. Raking Talons was a dead draw since fighting my predator served little purpose. I did get a Preternatural Strength and a Razor Bat out, so I could inflict, but the Imbued got out a number of combat ending effects, so I rarely smashed. Scry the Hearthstone was actually hard to get rid of due to lack of directed actions. I really needed more generic intercept to interact with the Imbued.
Though, I did interact with them. Not a lot. With my predator being mostly about either bleed for 1 or Trochomancy, I didn’t really care on that side, so I was often free to take at least one bleed action a turn. My predator interacted with the Imbued by blocking low stealth actions. He milled me with Slaughterhouses, successfully played Masque of Judas at times, used Tapestry of Blood. He wanted to Trochomancy the Imbued, but it took a while for me to have a Deflection and an untapped minion with Dominate. When I did have one ready, my predator thought I’d block his bleed. So, we missed a couple of turns where we could have coordinated to rip out many of the Imbued’s Conviction.
The end of the game saw the Imbued at 4 pool with 6 Imbued, my predator with 3 tapped vampires after I encouraged him to bleed to see if I could topdeck a bounce card, and me with Forestal, Ferox, and Erinyi. I had a Camera Phone on Erinyi and Heidelberg. Imbued were out of deck. I Dive Bombed the only untapped Imbued, incapacitated him. I bled for two, succeed. Heidelberg, bleed for two, Determine. Imbued survive to oust second prey. I’m pretty sure that if I oust, my predator kills me as I’m at 8 pool after ousting and he has double Trochomancy while I’m tapped out.
I was fine with the interaction in the game, except for one thing – trying to get my predator to bleed me at the right time so that we could purge the Imbued’s ash heap. While correct to do and ganging up is the nature of the game, it was still uninteresting to be so blatant about it, which is why I wasn’t blatant enough. The table would have been very different if I was the prey of the Imbued with the mill deck as the predator of it. Would have had to build up stealth to make sure a Trochomancy went off, but it was likely to eventually. Meanwhile, I would have held out far longer than the Black Hand deck.
Do Imbued get away with tons of tooling up when not seated next to a deck with real intercept? Sure. “Look, another Power.” The Church of Vindicated Faith will trigger every turn. I just don’t see them being invulnerable, if people are willing to work together. Then, kind of the whole point of Imbued in the game is that you must have a plan for them or you will suffer. We had a Trochomancy deck at the table, which was enough. There are other decks that get as out of control when not specifically countered.
Jeff (as above) -> Andy (Dem SB) -> Ian (It Is Personal) -> Brandon (Dom/For/Pre)
I play The Parthenon and Ashur Tablets on turn one. I follow with double Storage Annex. A few turns down the line, I start doing what my deck does with double Personal Involvement. For some reason, the Malks have no stealth. So, I keep blocking with Tim Crowley and Anson the likes of Hagar and Bloody Mary. I do a Personal Involvement to go down to 2 pool, call Parity Shift, it gets blocked. I survive to my next turn due to the lack of stealth, and I Liquidation and play a third Ashur Tablets, pulling back every Deflection, both Parity Shifts, Failsafe, etc. I take Deflection into hand. I play Failsafe on my next turn – the one I already have in hand. It never triggers. I think my tombstone could read “Failsafe didn’t trigger.” as an accurate assessment of my fate when playing with the card.
Meanwhile, Brandon is free to Govern out an army of Dominators. Jeff’s Byzar is Pentexed. Even if Andy did bleed me at the right time, my Deflections would have likely just cycled Brandon’s. Jeff gets ousted. Andy’s first Madman’s Quill was burned right away, his second sticks, so my playing the game at 2 pool means having to deal with every bleed, which I do for quite a while due to that whole lack of stealth and Majesty enabling me to untap. I run out of blood, though, from all of that Majestying and Deflectioning, so I get ousted. Andy draws stealth and quickly bleeds Brandon out.
Interaction? It was hilarious. There was lots of epic failure with Andy not getting bleeds past zero intercept and Brandon not being able to get Jeff earlier than he did. Funny is good, in my mind. But, was it a good game? It was an interesting one, and I think that’s good enough.
Personal Involvement didn’t end up being terribly psychological – no one was willing to cancel one. But, it was a lot less suicidal than I expected. Sure, I’d get down to 2 pool, but I could recover. What I couldn’t do was anything productive with my minions, except defend (and they shouldn’t have been nearly that good for defending). Also, Distant Friend is a lot more interesting than I thought.
Andy (Baali bloat) -> Jeff (still same) -> Brandon (!Tor anarch) -> Ian (Shatter the Gates)
This was epic failure on my part. All I got were The Hordes and Anarch Converts, neither of which are relevant to the function of the deck. I knew that The Hordes should be dropped since they failed as chumps, but the other deck I had some interest in trying had been an even worse failure in the past.
I did nothing of consequence. Because of that, it’s easy to say that there was an interaction problem with this game. Now, I did have an implausible shot at ousting my prey, but my predator kept costing me pool, so I had no flexibility for doing things like contesting Unleash Hell’s Fury.
Then, Jeff had little impact on Brandon, but Brandon found being Slaughtered annoying, so he Pentexed backwards. Which brings up something. Pentex Subversion doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it does others, possibly because I’m no fan of superstar decks. But, in terms of interaction, it’s a major interaction reducing play. With some patience, it will kill someone by making it challenging for someone to defend. In this regard, it should offend me far more than it does. Removing someone’s ability to defend makes for a boring game. Just as rush decks removing the ability of people to act makes for a boring game.
It’s actually not clear what would have happened in the endgame between the infernal and the anarchs, but it was going to be such a grind and the game was getting late, to where Brandon just let it go.
In general, over the course of the day, I’d say I was entertained by two of the three games with the minion interaction not being great – little fighting when playing a fight deck, too much bizarre blocking when playing an interceptless deck – but with the deck interaction being quality. The final game was why people should avoid playing decks they know are bad. The deck isn’t as bad as it played in that game, but there’s no reason the deck should be as badly designed as it when I learned how useless The Horde was as a support minion.
Now, we just need to get to playing more regularly, so that there’s more opportunities for quality interaction.