Bent Or Broke

November 29, 2011

I am back to fairly regularly following the V:TES forums (at vekn.net).  I just don’t have the same level of enthusiasm for arguing about CCGs as I once did.

The arguments about problematic cards, how to fix things, etc. are the sorts of things I would have been all over back in the day.  I think I gave up at some point on specific fixes because I went from having some say in a CCG to having none.

However, there’s an interesting philosophical element to fixing CCGs that I want to spend some characters on.

Where do you draw the line between metagaming and fixing?

Not really the best example, perhaps, but an example of this is whether to fix Giant’s Blood or whether to play more (master) counterspells (Sudden, Wash, et al).  The extreme case in all of CCGdom that most readily comes to mind is Necro Summer – when the Magic metagame was defined by Necropotence decks.  While the horribly warped metagame produced amazing tech such as the Turbo Stasis deck, such extreme environments don’t have broad appeal.  Magic saw this again with Mirrodin block where Affinity and other features of the environment turned people away from the game.

CCG environments that are dominated by a limited number of archetypes or even dominated by one archetype with various anti-decks are clearly environments that need fixing.  V:TES should, in all likelihood, never have this problem.  While V:TES has a lot more power cards than it used to, hardly surprising with a CCG that doesn’t rotate out cards, individual card plays are still far less impactful than individual card plays in other CCGs.

While not apparently at the top of complaints these days, I’d rate Imbued as the most justified source of a discussion over whether fixing or metagaming should be involved.  Now, to be fair, Imbued did get fixed with the bannings of Edge Explosion and Memories of Mortality, so it’s not the same discussion as might have happened prior.  The one good thing I thought Imbued did when they were unleashed was to shake up the game and force people to metagame.  Except, a lot of people never did.  They still don’t.

I might not want Imbued in the game, but their brokenness is questionable.  The baseline of Imbued decks might be far better than the baseline of a lot of decks people want to play and they may provide matchup issues, but there are plenty of answers in the game that don’t get used.  Do the answers weaken decks against other decks?  Sure, but, then putting in Delaying Tactics weakens my decks when no one calls votes.

There’s a line.  Maybe a line isn’t the best way to look at things, but it’s the easiest.  If some element of a CCG becomes so problematic that the line has been crossed, then fixing is the answer, whether that fixing is banning, errata, rules change, or whatever.  Where that line is often subjective, largely because it’s incredibly hard to prove anything with CCGs.

One of the things that CCG companies have realized is that it’s not all about what’s fair.  It’s about what’s fun.  There may be answers to obnoxious decks, but the answers may not be fun for people to use.  I enjoy metagaming.  I get that some people love taking what is and not into wishing for what can be.  On the other hand, I enjoy variety.  Metagaming might get pushed down such narrow lines that the game is lacking in variety.  Creativity might be expressed by the techmasters in their metagame tech, but the more casual players just lose interest, not being able to express their interests.

I’m a big fan of banning cards.  I don’t like that there are cards that can’t be played.  But, that’s exactly why I’m in favor of banning cards.  CCGs are all about vast swaths of cards being unplayable in decks making good faith efforts to be competitive.  Now, where that competitive threshold lives varies immensely.  With V:TES, it’s rather low, so you can toss Eyes of the Dead in a deck and be little impacted in your probability of winning a tournament.

First of all, I was always confused by people who argued against banning a card by saying they never saw it played.  Well, um, so banning would have … no impact.  Then, there are those who believe that everything can be fixed with errata.  No, not really.  Some cards are structured in a way that they will always either be too good or useless.  I’d argue that Shock Troops is this sort of card.

Anyway, there are two different axes to look at whether something should be fixed or not.  The first is, of course, whether something is so overpowered that the environment gets way out of balance.  The second, and more common situation since people will eventually metagame (at least the people who don’t quit playing), is how much more fun an environment could be if something were fixed.

Unfortunately, only CCGs that have market research can truly say what will impact the popularity of their games.  The polls up on vekn.net are interesting to see what a dedicated segment of the playerbase thinks, but I’ve also found forums to be questionable in terms of what they represent of the playerbase.

Would V:TES be better with changes?  Better for whom?  The reality is that no two groups play CCGs the same way.  Striking the right balance of fixing only what would impact the masses is not an enviable job.  I know that when I called for many changes in Precedence games it was from the viewpoint of a playtester who owned all of the cards and who played with top players.  That’s such a different view from the casual player who wants to be able to participate in a sanctioned event.  Not that the playtesters agreed much, either.  We constantly argued about what was a problem in the game and what was unfun in the game.

So, how to decide?  Create some criteria?  A criteria I can believe in is to look at what gets played at major tournaments.  As far as I’m aware, every CCG management team has done this.  I recall a table where one player played Break the Code.  The next two players discarded Break the Code on their turns.  If only it were that easy to identify what’s broke.

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If Only All Problems Were So Trivial

November 27, 2011

Four day weekend.  And, I have little idea of what my primary gaming thoughts are.

In the world of RPing, while I played Friday night for the first time in a while, my mind is much more in the realm of GMing.  In particular, I keep thinking of how to do a superhero campaign.

Problems with … supers

One can agonize as much as they want over what system to use for a supers game.  I’m sure I’d just stop and use Champions since I’m more familiar with it and it’s long history suggests that it actually works.  Though, I have thought about how I’m not really so familiar with any particular system to be entirely comfortable for a game with so much variety of abilities as a supers game.

No, my greatest concern is suspension of disbelief.  I just have such a hard time believing in the plausibility of a world with supers.  It’s not the “Why doesn’t a more powerful team deal with this problem?” sort of issues so much as it’s things like how ordinary people would react to supers.  For the most part, mundanes in comics act like having godlike beings around is no big deal.  Deciding just how the law views supers, by itself, is painful to think through.  The point of supers isn’t to be caught up in minutiae.  It’s to do cool stuff with obscene power as part of a soap opera.

So, while Merge World might have been my previous idea, my latest idea is actually reasonably clever.  I’m sure it’s been done before.  The idea is that supers don’t exist in the present, then time travel solves that problem.  Still going to gloss over the historical impact that supers should have.  Time travel and what ifs are such a pain because you have to put so much work into explaining what happens as a result of the change in history, even if the results look much like the present.  I just don’t have the will to build out elaborate histories.  It’s amazing those that do.

Problems with … role-playing

RPing is so often not what one would think it should be.  In that, a lot of the time, people just sit around while others are doing stuff.  One of the big advantages that combat focused games and the tactical wargame style of play that D&D is designed as is that the participation level is so much greater.  No waiting for one player to have a long conversation with a NPC.  Or, whatever.

I don’t believe everyone has to be involved all of the time.  I know I can enjoy the time that others spend doing things when it’s interesting what they are doing.  However, when it isn’t interesting or when there’s too much down time, I feel that there’s something wrong.  So, I’m of the mind to try to figure out ideas for how to increase engagement level.  At times, having someone play a NPC can work.  More combat can work, assuming the party hasn’t split up or simultaneous combats can be run.

I could go into other problems I find, but it ends up being more of the same sort of “Are people’s expectations the same?” issues, which I’m not in the mood to get into in detail.

Problems with … decks

Dominate is oppressive.

Gear switching – activated.

I said that the last time we played.  I had to clarify that I didn’t mean it was oppressive to play against, which is just an ordinary experience, but oppressive from a deckbuilding standpoint.  It’s just so much easier to put Dominate into a deck than do other things.  I often go out of my way to avoid it, such as with my con-dom decks that use a clan with Dominate as a clan discipline but play no cards requiring Dominate.  From a game management standpoint, this has been the greatest flaw in the game since, well, actually, to be fair, Sabbat.  Hardly fair to Dark Sovereigns and Ancient Hearts that they should fix the dominance of Dominate.  Sabbat actually tried.  In theory, if you only played Sabbat, you wouldn’t have to deal with Govern, Conditioning, or Deflection.  On the other hand, you wouldn’t have Telepathic Misdirection, either, nor did the game come up with a lot of “this is as good as Scouting Mission, Threats, and Redirection” stuff for other disciplines and strategies to use, so the game was still afflicted.

Anyway, the game is what it is.  There will always be stronger and weaker.  Animalism is also oppressive in the modern game.  There are even some similarities for why.  Deep Song has flexibility like Govern.  Efficient combat offense/defense for one compared to efficient bleed offense/defense for the other.

Putting aside that it’s too easy to fall into playing Dominate and frequently a pain in eschewing it, there are two other aspects of the game I’ve been finding difficulties with.

Blood denial has been a fourth strategy to bleed/vote/combat.  While I can think of good blood denial cards, well, at least one off the top of my head in Free States Rant, it’s the relative merits of blood denial vs. combat that has me questioning what sort of strategy I’d be sufficiently interested in.  It doesn’t help that I’m really tired of voting, as voting opens up a lot of possibilities, good or bad.

One deck I built recently uses Baleful Doll.  I’ve used it in the past and come to the conclusion that it’s as bad as it seems.  I wanted to give it another shot, more so as a distraction play than a serious attempt to gain an advantage from playing it.  So far, the deck has major problems actually doing anything, which it wouldn’t have if I replaced the Baleful Dolls with Governs.

Meanwhile, combat isn’t really that hard.  I suppose that blood denial is more interesting against Animalism than combat since it’s not that easy to trump Animalism combat.  On the other hand, blood denial is pathetic against Imbued, something I do have to take into consideration.

Speaking of Imbued, my other difficulty of recentness is mixing Imbued with vampires.  While theoretically interesting to consider Imbued builds, in practice, I’d rather games be fun.  So, I’m much more inclined to look into how to meld Imbued with vampires to remove the ickiness of Imbued while still getting some use out of the cards.  I was inspired by the tournament winning deck that ran Maman as the only Imbued.  I could do something like that, but I’m more interested in trying to run a couple of Imbued to make their presence more consistent.  My recent attempt was awful.  I kind of figured that, especially when I changed the crypt to focus on only two vampires to go with the Imbued.  Goldfishing the deck only displayed that I had no real way to get the two vampires out.  Pool gain, pool gain, pool gain.  Have to come up with it.

Of course, with my disinterest in voting, the paths to pool gain are much more limited (outside of the good old Blood Doll/Villein/et al plays).  In general, when I go to build more decks, I keep feeling constrained by the need to do worthwhile things to compensate for the goofy things I want to do.

Which brings up a topic better left for another time.  Probably because limitations breed creativity, limited collections make deckbuilding more interesting.


Freya’s Day

November 25, 2011

Even though I had plenty of opportunities to check my e-mail earlier in the day, I didn’t get online on Thanksgiving until after dinner.  So, by the time I saw a request to write a Thanksgiving post, it was rather late to think about what I would want to say.

I was reading an article about how gratitude is good for one’s health.  Besides being a more positive outlook than the converse, the article was explaining that showing (real) gratitude increases connections between people.

What is valuable?  Someone at work was looking into engagement rings.  Stereotypically, I have no respect for the cost of such things.  I can understand that symbols have value in a way that an engagement ring is far more than just a piece of jewelry.  At the same time, it’s precisely the symbolic value, the value in memories and nostalgia and emotional investment that is worth anything, which has nothing to do with diamonds and their cut, clarity, color, and carat or how many months of salary one is supposed to spend.

To answer the question from the last paragraph, I’m in the camp that it’s experiences in life that have value.  Give me thousands of dollars over and above paying for food, rent, medical expenses, and whatnot and my inclination is to travel*.  I was hoping to make the London Olympics.  But, I was pretty sure I would never be in a stable enough financial situation to make a legitimate effort to achieve that.

*  Preferably travel that involves playing games.

To be thankful.  It’s a bit of an awkward way for me to view it, so let’s try to be appreciative or satisfied.  Besides having more than the basic necessities of life, I appreciate that I’m able to pursue my hobby, gaming.  I appreciate that so many times when I’ve needed help there have been those to provide it.  I’m a relativist, at least when it comes to measuring happiness, so it’s a matter of setting reasonable expectations.  Given how things could be, possibly should be, I should be a lot more grateful.

Anyway, I try to stay on topic – that this blog attempts to analyze subjects that relate to gaming.  I’m sure I could ramble on about a few things.

Why do people play games?

This seems easy, but then, you realize it’s more nuanced [nuanced is my overused word at this time].  Games are for enjoyment.  We play games because we want to have fun.  But, fun for people varies.  Some people enjoy the competitive aspects to gaming, where others are not so much inclined.  Some enjoy griefing others, others not so much.  And, so it goes.

It’s just interesting to observe how often people don’t seem to be having fun playing a game.  If it’s not fun, why bother?  I used to be heavily into trying to persuade people to play the games I wanted to play because one can’t play without opponents.  At some point, I gave up.  Sure, there are those who don’t realize how fun something is and will never realize it unless encouraged, but I’ve run into far too many situations where people do play something and don’t enjoy it.  There’s always something else.

I had a lot of bad games of the Babylon 5 CCG, but I miss it.  I miss two-player CCGs.  My Feng Shui campaign was awesome.  I … perhaps … miss creating hundreds of characters that will never see play.  But, there’s always something else.  It’s fantastic that I still get to play V:TES.  It’s the last CCG I play that I’ve wanted to play.  Without it, I might have to learn to like Magic or give up on CCGs all together.  I may GM more and play less RPGs than I used to, but then, there were many years when I played no RPGs at all.  I may care far less about boardgames than RPGs and CCGs, but they all share the element of getting together with other people.  Everyone I choose to interact with outside of family is due to gaming.  My last two jobs came about because of someone I met through gaming, for instance.

Perspective.  Perhaps it’s a sign of ego, but I perceive a lack of perspective when it comes to gaming.  If our fellow players aren’t enjoying themselves, which in and of itself causes a lack of enjoyment for me, there may not be fellow players.

Take, for instance, cheating.  This is just a philosophical ramble rather than anything based on actual experiences, by the way.  I used to understand cheating.  I don’t so much, anymore.  I just don’t care.  The gaming results that matter are those of interactions, whether mechanical, thematic, social, or whatever.  I suppose cheating can make things more interesting, rather than less.  After all, many stories about contests have the bad guy cheat to make the good girl’s victory that much more epic.  If I see myself as the protagonist when I play, maybe I should encourage cheating as a way to define myself as the hero of the tale.  Course, I generally see myself more as the jester or fool … possibly a good subject for another post.

Bit of a diatribe, but the point was to be appreciative of having other players so that we can pursue our interests.  I usually use the term “playerbase” when I talk about those who play a particular game, but in truth, games and gaming create gaming communities.  And, that’s nifty.


Out Of Focus

November 13, 2011

I was reading an article about a Magic deck someone was promoting as the best metagame choice for some upcoming tournament.  In the comments section, someone said that the deck is trying to do too many things.  That has quite a bit of resonance with me.  Not so much because it reflects a common problem with my deckbuilding but because it’s a common enough problem I see others run into … and sometimes I run into the problem, as well.

My most common question when offering suggestions with V:TES decks is “What’s important to this deck?”, which is a bit of a broader question than “What do you want this deck to do?” but in the same vein.  Usually, someone wants to build a deck around a particular concept.  That concept can be broader or narrower.  Sometimes, someone wants suggestions for how to tune a known archetype.  Sometimes, the interest is in making a specific card – crypt or library – work.  And, a whole host of other concept types.

Frequently, though, it’s not clear what the important concept is.  Without knowing the goal of the deck, there’s no way to productively suggest ways to change or build a deck.  For instance, it’s common for people to post a deck list for a weak strategy in a weak clan.  Is it the strategy that matters?  The clan?  Both?

My most common goal with tournament decks was to figure out the best way to win with a crappy or underplayed clan.  The essential feature to the deck was that it had to be a clan deck.  Not the TWDA’s definition of a clan deck.  My definition, which is a minimum of 50% of the crypt being a clan, no other clan being 50%, at least two members of the clan in the crypt.  Note that my goal has nothing to do with the library.  I don’t care about what a clan is supposed to be good at or what clan cards they have or how to best use their clan disciplines.

A perfect example of focusing on my goal was !Salubri vote.  !Salubri aren’t nearly as bad nowadays as they used to be.  Valeren and clan cards did nothing that contributed to winning, so I moved on to figuring out what a mostly weenie Sabbat crypt with no disciplines could do that would oust people.  I ended up treating the crypt as overcosted Embraces that could become archbishops.  To add some synergy to calling votes with no extra stealth, I added the Saturday Night Special, Concealed Weapon, Dragon’s Breath Rounds module to discourage blocks.  After all, I had plenty of slots available.  Would such a deck have been strictly better with a Presence crypt?  Of course.  But, the goal wasn’t to build a weenie vote deck.  The weenie vote deck arose out of having no better option available for achieving the goal of building a winning !Salubri deck.

Taking an actual deck as an example:

Deck Name:   101214  Nagaraja Obtenebration Qualifier

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 12, Max: 30, Avg: 5.41)
———————————————-
2  Anarch Convert                     none           1  Caitiff
1  Bartholomew                        AUS dom MYT NEC obt8  Kiasyd
1  Beatrice L`Angou                   aus dom MYT nec5  Kiasyd
1  Ian Forestal                       AUS DOM THA    8  Tremere Antitribu
2  Kanimana Belghazi                  AUS DOM NEC pro7  Nagaraja
2  Le Dinh Tho                        aus dom NEC    5  Nagaraja
2  Raful al-Zarqa                     AUS dom nec obf6  Nagaraja
1  Valois Sang                        AUS DOM nec tha6  Tremere

Library: (90 cards)
——————-
Master (25 cards)
1  Anarch Railroad
1  Anarch Troublemaker
1  Archon Investigation
3  Blood Doll
1  Direct Intervention
1  Erciyes Fragments, The
7  Obtenebration
2  Path of Lilith, The
1  Powerbase: Los Angeles
3  Storage Annex
4  Villein

Action (10 cards)
1  Computer Hacking
5  Descent into Darkness
1  Far Mastery
1  Gear Up
1  Scouting Mission
1  Shadowed Eyes

Action Modifier (13 cards)
1  Bonding
1  Call of the Hungry Dead
1  Conditioning
2  Foreshadowing Destruction
1  Leverage
2  Shadow Play
2  Shroud of Absence
2  Tenebrous Form
1  Trochomancy

Reaction (25 cards)
1  Car Bomb
4  Deflection
2  Delaying Tactics
1  Eagle`s Sight
5  Eyes of Argus
1  Friend of Mine
1  Obedience
4  On the Qui Vive
1  Redirection
5  Telepathic Misdirection

Combat (5 cards)
1  Shadow Body
4  Spiritual Intervention

Ally (2 cards)
1  Carlton Van Wyk (Hunter)
1  Mylan Horseed (Goblin)

Equipment (4 cards)
1  .44 Magnum
1  Bowl of Convergence
1  Deer Rifle
1  Seal of Veddartha

Event (1 cards)
1  Scourge of the Enochians

Combo (5 cards)
4  Spectral Divination
1  Steely Tenacity

My general belief for quite some time has been that any deck I build to 90 cards is sloppy deckbuilding.  In casual play, I’m more inclined to let it go, though below I’ll address this in more detail.

Yes, this was meant for qualifier play.  I didn’t play it in the qualifier.  I did play it in the other tournament.  This is a case of my trying to do too many things.  Having tried lots of Nagaraja decks, I was getting cute with trying the Descent into Darkness gimmick with them which I had previously tried with Salubri and Trujah to no success.

For me, this qualifies as a stealth bleed deck.  I’m sure those who are used to 10 Governs and 8 Conditionings will wonder where the bleed is.  The only thing the deck actually does well is bounce.  Perhaps someone remembers what happened in the second round from my post from December 20th of last year.  If not, at one point, rather than bouncing or reducing, I ended up Archoning a vampire.  See, this is where I can’t get that annoyed by stealth bleed decks – there are plenty of easy answers that don’t exist for other decks.  Just play bounce, baby.

All sorts of low yield tech.  Steely Tenacity for repeatable bleed.  Car Bomb for random screwage.  Gear Up for one-time recursion.  Bah.  Even though the deck “had” to be a Nagaraja deck and “had” to do the Descent into Darkness thing, it didn’t have to try so hard at being clever and passive-aggressive.  To reliably pull off DiD, it should have been no more than 80, probably couldn’t get much below that and still do anything that interested me, but I really didn’t bother tuning this.

I’m not an evangelist for playing smaller decks.  I really don’t care if people play 90 card decks.  In theory, it only helps me if I think 90 is suboptimal, but I don’t even really believe the deck is all that important to success, so whatever.  However, a comment I made a long time ago is still quite memorable to me.  I was playing star Magic – five players, monocolor decks, try to eliminate the enemy colors – when someone brought up how his casual decks were often over 60 cards or bigger than his tournament decks or something.  I quickly rejoined that my casual decks are smaller than my tournament decks.  I went on to explain that my casual decks are typically trying to accomplish something specific that goes beyond just trying to win.  In order to accomplish this side goal, I want it to be as reliable as possible.  Now, with Magic, assuming a 60 card minimum, there’s no way to make a casual deck smaller than a tournament deck as every tournament deck is going to be 60.

However, with this game, we can find examples of the “casual mentality” in a deck like this one from 2003:

Deck Name:   Transmission Overload

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 19, Max: 27, Avg: 5.83)
———————————————-
1  Agrippina                          OBF pot        4  Nosferatu
1  Beast                              ani cel OBF POT7  Nosferatu Antitribu
1  Calebos                            ANI cel OBF POT8  Nosferatu Antitribu
2  Christanius Lionel                 ANI OBF pot    6  Nosferatu Antitribu
1  Grendel the Worm-Eaten             ani OBF pot    5  Nosferatu
2  Olivia                             OBF POT vic    5  Nosferatu Antitribu
2  Ox                                 ANI OBF POT    6  Nosferatu Antitribu
1  Tusk                               ani OBF pot    6  Nosferatu
1  Tusk                               ani pot OBF    6  Nosferatu

Library: (75 cards)
——————-
Master (17 cards)
1  Barrens, The
6  Blood Doll
4  Charisma
1  Coven, The
2  Direct Intervention
1  Nosferatu Kingdom
1  Rack, The
1  Shanty Town Hunting Ground

Action (15 cards)
10 Computer Hacking
3  Psychic Veil
2  Scrounging

Action Modifier (22 cards)
16 Cloak the Gathering
2  Elder Impersonation
4  Mask of a Thousand Faces

Combat (11 cards)
1  Sacrament of Carnage
4  Thrown Gate
2  Thrown Sewer Lid
4  Undead Strength

Ally (10 cards)
10 Courier

While not just doing one thing, what with the Potence combat, the deck is still not trying to do too many things.  I enjoyed this deck once and not so much more than once.  What it’s trying to do isn’t that boring.  What’s boring is how little ability it has to interact with the table.

My point wasn’t all that sharp.  No doubt this is due to starting this post on one day and finishing it on another, losing some of my initial thoughts along the way.  I believe I wanted to say something about knowing what your goals are when building a deck and how it’s okay to do everything you “need” to do but realize that what you decided you need to be able to do is often less than what you end up trying to do.  Also, that if you seek assistance with tuning a deck, make sure you are clear on what the goals are and what the deck must be able to do.


[Classic] Weekend Assignment

November 13, 2011

Continuing with finding old posts to the Wheel of Time CCG playtest list, in the Summer or 2000, the playtesters were given an assignment to try out various errata for cards identified as being problematic.  Not a very common playtesting request, in my experience.

“Weekend Assignment”  [July 31, 2000]

Dark CotL v. Dragon
Pattern: 1/7/12
LB totals: 6/31

This game was played using the discard to use for Lines and with one Decrees per challenge, though no Decrees were played because only one was drawn and B&A was in play.  Light wins by 29.

Same
Pattern: 0/6/14
LB totals: 34 dice to 88 dice

Lines banned. One decrees played for 22 support on top of whatever would have been rolled.  We were already sick of these decks to bother rolling.

Dark Illian v. same Dragon
0/8/12
37/30

Lines banned.  Decrees played for 14. Light 3 damage away from all of its characters dying (ignoring using Pattern for damage prevention).  Light won by 5 … with Decrees (14 point).

Same
0/11/11
32/37

Same match up with Lines back in deck.  Decrees for 22.  Light wins by 38, 16 without Decrees.  First turn Genocide by Shadow important.

In the last two days, the Light has *averaged* 12 Pattern during the LB.  The Shadow has averaged ZERO.  Thought I’d mention this before taking an interlude to comment on the seven cards *we* considered errata for.

Decrees – 1 support/opposition per target, once per challenge.  Or, this has got to go.

Lines – Mixed.  I’m still concerned about selective use of the discard to use version.  That option certainly changes my deck.  Enough that I’d probably pull it for some other way to draw cards.  Not having Lines in that deck at all was an incredibly important change.  Lines allowed for searching for the important characters – Elyas, Prophet – who search for most of the troops.  Without it, the deck had a lot of problems achieving critical character mass.  Good.  Means that I’d have to find some other way to exploit Pull openings.  Wasn’t like a deck built around the card lost or anything without it.

Elayne – General dislike for removing text, removal is considered counterintuitive.  Couldn’t really agree.  Not the first change we’d make with DP cards as trying to test the proposed errata is virtually impossible as it completely changes the opening hand and tends to mean building a completely different deck.

Pull – In anticipating future replacements based on Pattern, we didn’t have a problem with reducing the blow up ability to either search or reduce – the prepostplaytest version.

PwP – Shouldn’t go get itself.  Couldn’t agree beyond that.  Bill’s feeling was no card should be able to search for itself.  He finds Rahvin for Rahvin as annoying.  Suggests a blanket rules change to that effect.  A card we could use more time looking at.

Genocide – Where to begin?  How about that Genocide may be the Shadow’s only chance.  That it is better for the Shadow out of the opening hand.  Though, Decrees gives the Light the ability to shoot down midgame Genocides, which is interesting.  Suggestion that we could live with:  remove from game after it resolves.  A complete thematic failure no matter what is done with it in my mind, but limiting it to the Shadow may help the current game and Bill thought it was more thematic.  In its favor, Genocide’s effects give a strong reason for both sides to participate in the same challenge.

Invasion – Remove from game once it finishes resolving seemed to be the most popular fix.  Other suggestion called for reducing the third ability to 1 card to prevent infinite Invasion combos.  But, remove from game seems more elegant.

As a result of our discussions on the state of the game, we concluded that a good idea for a card would be a starting Forsaken that reduced Pattern requirements by 2, to give Shaidar a chance to see play, to give some reason to play Draghkars, etc.  Another idea was an event that temporarily reduced Pattern requirements.

I liked Bill’s Dark Illian deck a lot.  Opening hand of Sammael, Genocide, Brend, King.  I’ve commented before how I felt Illian was too midgamish.  He fills out the deck with Forsaken for long term punch.  In the early game, Genocide slows the Light.  City of Illian in combination with Invasions and Genocides is a bitch to deal with.  “Oh no, you put all that effort into stopping my Genocide and all I did was win the Pattern and pull back an Invasion which I’ll use to get back the Genocide.”  Pretty good synergy on a number of levels between Forsaken and Illian.

We are all trying to figure out how far Genocide/Invasion goes towards giving the Shadow a chance.  We have yet to build the Light G/I deck.

The no Lines Illian v. Dragon game was incredibly interactive [note:  wrong game, corrected in a later post].  Tough decisions had to be made and challenges were incredibly important.  That the Shadow had 0 Pattern, though, is still rather ridiculous.

I think I’ll post my Dragon deck soon, just to give an idea of what we were using for the vast majority of the games.


[Classic] Perpetuity

November 5, 2011

I was reading my posts to the Wheel of Time CCG playtest list, which still exists amazingly enough.  On the one hand, by this point, I knew how to playtest.  On the other, wow, I was incredibly arrogant at times; plus, I had a vast number of opinions on the flavor of cards, suggesting that, *sigh*, I really was/am a fan of the Wheel of Time series.  Anyway, this was the first that I found that seemed to be interesting in a “this is what CCG playtesting is like” way.  Some of the others, especially from playtest days where we played a bunch of games, are likely more interesting, but unless the group (and my saved sent e-mails) go away, I’m going to try to post more of these.  I enjoy reading them, at least.

Perpetuity [June 29, 2000]

This was a great deal trickier.  I had a sense before playing the card that Perpetual Conflict had the potential for breaking the game (broken in the true sense) as its mechanic allows for different deck designs.

The deck I built was just one of the possible uses for PC (which should probably change titles so that not every challenge is abbreviated PC).  This concept was to initiate anything and everything to slow or cripple the opponent out of the gate.

The deck list …

Sammael
Liandrin
Perpetual *
Into the Fight

A reasonable combination of threat and support to push PC through.  Originally Be’lal, but decided that the one combat wasn’t all that important, whereas bringing C&T out when drawn was.

Battle Hardened x3
Aura of Death x3
The Art x3
Momentum

BH is more for the characters, whom I expect to take damage.

Draw Him Out x2
Genocide x2
Incite Rebellion *
Political Prisoner x2
Prolonged Campaign
Rallying Cry
Rampage x3
Skirmish x2

This probably isn’t the optimal choice of challenges.  I did tinker around with them after rediscovering Assassination Attempt is useless and the like.  Also, playing them in the right order is not a skill I’ve mastered yet.  Generally, I like to get Incite Rebellion in play first to stop card drawing.  Rallying Cry frees up my characters. But, the Light usually isn’t *that* slow.  The most effective was Political Prisoner by far.  DHO didn’t work in killing off Thom like I hoped, though a bunch of these are just good for keeping the Light in the battleground (Genocide, which never won).

Darkhound x2
Eyeless x3
Barthanes
Shaidar x2

Eyeless – good synergy with strategy.

Decisive Tactics
Guarded by Fate x3
Healing x3
Into the Fight x2
Personal Growth x3
Portal Stone x3

Figure Sam and Liandrin will usually be in, so they need all the protection they can get.

Fist x2
Footmen x3
Horde
Raiders x3
War Band x3

How to win, eventually.

So, we got into a disagreement as to what caused my opponent to concede half way in.  I contended that it was the unrelenting pressure (ha ha) of perpetual conflict.  Bill thought Eyeless were ridiculous (got two in play).  As the game played out, the Light had a bit of an edge in recruiting (Aes Sedai), but Thom and eventually Moiraine both got imprisoned.  The game played the way the deck was designed – attack the opponent’s resources, especially the ability to recruit and draw cards, while eventually bringing greater force into play, except I never found out if I was going to bring greater force into play.

This is definitely a rough draft, I wanted to post this to try and give some ideas for something better.  Not having DP cards in front of me in card/proxy form also makes building the best decks difficult.  Anyway, even the concept may not be optimal as it may be preferable to just use PC to go get elite challenges.  A Light version would also be interesting.

I would like to restate that PC in its current version makes any restriction on challenges in the opening hand – Rampage?, Find That Which Is Hidden – meaningless.  The other deck I’ve begun to sketch out has Lanfear, PC, Liandrin, Into the Fight as its opening hand with the idea of using PC to get the 3 Finds.  Given a choice between which challenge I’d bar from the opening hand, I’d choose PC over Find (obviously).

Also, PC will only go away when there aren’t any challenges left.  Five turns of not playing a CBC, when you are playing PC, is not realistic.  Much better would be something like “If you don’t initiate a CBC this turn, discard PC.”  It requires, then, for someone to think about how they will use it. Not that you will consider this as I believe the intent was to get people to play CBCs, which this certainly does in its current (I consider possibly broken) form.

Ah, but with the other hand, something is taken away.  Though hardly a game breaker type card, Incite Rebellion does seem to go way too far as a hoser.  My Premier Dragon/Mercenary deck would have no chance against any sort of real deck if IR hits the table early on.  It’s mostly built around Taking Advantage, the card that is supposed to be fixed.  Two Pattern may be trivial to some decks, but I think this card mainly hurts the decks that can’t easily gain Pattern.  Might consider an additional or a different mechanic for getting rid of it.


Playgroup Cohesion

November 2, 2011

While there’s the concept with CCGs that as long as everyone is on the same page about how to play the game, it doesn’t matter how you play it.  Yet, CCGs, like other competitive games have defined goals.

I was reading rpgsite.com when I noticed that one of the posters had a link to a quiz for Robin Laws’ system of defining RPG gamer types.

http://quizfarm.com/quizzes/Fashion/ellydragon/laws-game-style/

An explanation of the different gamer types can be found here.

I took the quiz.

You Scored as Storyteller

You’re more inclined toward the role playing side of the equation and less interested in numbers or experience points. You’re quick to compromise if you can help move the story forward, and get bored when the game slows down for a long planning session. You want to play out a story that moves like it’s orchestrated by a skilled novelist or film director.

Storyteller
 
100%
Specialist
 
58%
Casual Gamer
 
50%
Tactician
 
50%
Method Actor
 
50%
Power Gamer
 
17%
Butt-Kicker
 
8%

I think the quiz could be better – I certainly don’t believe that I’m 100% anything and my mental state when I took the quiz might have had significant impact where a more detailed quiz would have weeded out some of the variance.  However, I can see this being an entirely reasonable explanation of my gamer profile.

In many ways, it speaks for itself.  I don’t need to elaborate on how little I care about combat for the sake of combat, and so forth, oh, shoot, just did.  The one thing I sort of wonder about is what sort of specialist I prefer being.  I think it’s “knowledge guy”.  My favorite Serenade in Immortal was the one where you could view the future, but you didn’t necessarily want to tell anybody as it locked events in for them as well as you.  I could see “charming dude”, as well, with “knowledge guy” representing a strength and “charming dude” a weakness.

Well, whatever.  Analyzing myself is hardly useful to anyone else.  The more useful thing to write about is how profiles affect a playgroup.  I sent the quiz link on to my L5R players (and the Conan group but nobody responded there).

Here are some results:

You Scored as Method Actor

You think that gaming is a form of creative expression. You may view rules as, at best, a necessary evil, preferring sessions where the dice never come out of the bag. You enjoy situations that test or deepen your character’s personality traits.

Method Actor
 
83%
Specialist
 
75%
Storyteller
 
67%
Tactician
 
58%
Butt-Kicker
 
58%
Power Gamer
 
33%
Casual Gamer
 
0%

I scored as a Tactician, with Method Actor as second highest.

 

You Scored as Tactician
-2nd and 3rd were tied between Method Actor and Specialist
You’re probably a military buff who wants to have the chance to think through
complex problems.
-Yeah, pretty much.

You want the rules, and your GM’s interpretation of them, to match up what
happens in the real world or at least be consistant.
-I would say consistency is the most important part by far. Though I do find
things frustrating when they’re totally counter-intuitive.

You want challenging yet logical obstacles to overcome.
-I’d say this is a fair generalization.

 

I had a three way tie which was broken into power gamer.  It was tied with Tactician and Specialist, though Storyteller wasn’t too far behind

Given the prevalence of method actors and tacticians, I should adjust the L5R campaign to promote consistency – for the method actor, it’s consistency of character, for the tactician, consistency of the world.  Should be an interesting challenge, given that my number one complaint with HoR mods is lack of consistency.