KublaCon 2012

May 29, 2012

Was going to post something about registering for Gen Con events on May 20th, but I’m losing interest in commenting upon that.  Meanwhile, KublaCon ended yesterday, so while things are relatively fresh in my mind.

Friday

I give Eric a lift and we get to the con a bit before 2PM.  Briefly talk to Brad, who had shown up Thursday and noted the large number of people for an unofficial day of gaming.  I totally don’t get why these cons keep moving things earlier.  It’s almost like there’s rampant unemployment to where people have plenty of time to game on weekdays.  Oh, right.

I don’t bother trying to get into a 2PM game, even though there are more RPG events I’m interested in at that slot then any other during the weekend.  Just not mentally “there”, yet.

I chat with people I know for a while, then get dinner at a Japanese place in Millbrae that I go to for potato croquette curry.  Now, some may wonder at this.  I have asked a number of people who have lived in Japan, and they know nothing about potato croquette being served there.  Yet, I have seen it at other Japanese places.  I could search online to see if it’s a dish found in a particular place due to trade/immigration with/from other nations, but it’s more amusing to be one of life’s mysteries.

I wander about a bit longer and then go home a bit after 7:30PM, when the commuter lanes are open.  Yes, I bleed the con dry of all its precious vitae!  Or, not.

Saturday

I figure there’s a good chance I’m in a 9AM game.  I pick up Andy, who had spent Friday working on his Flames of War army for Sunday’s tournament so hadn’t been to the con yet.

Even though I do plenty of L5R already, there weren’t that many things on the schedule that interested me that weren’t at 2PM Friday.  I’m in the L5R game, the only one on the schedule and my first choice over something I don’t recall.

It was not either of the two things I was mentally prepared for.  I was figuring either that the game would be very rooted in the world with a lot of social challenges or that it would get L5R junkies.  I know that sounds kind of similar.  In other words, either the GM(s) would be junkies or the players would be.  I kind of forgot that I’ve played a number of L5R convention games and that it’s common for there to be people who just aren’t that into the world, if they know anything about it at all.  My immersion in all things Rokugani is showing.

The game was a fairly straightforward fantasy RPG experience.  There was only the lightest touch of the society of L5R.  Honor was the main thing that was specific to the genre, and, you know, that’s actually a pretty good thing for a con game, maybe even a takeaway that can be applied to home play.  It’s so easy to get bogged down in all of the details of L5R’s history to where it detracts from simply playing a game.  One other player and I actually seemed to know L5R much better than the GM.  I played the only shugenja since most of the players were new to the system and/or world, and it was an effort to refrain from abusing the power.

Plotwise, one player was the second son of a Crane daimyo.  The rest of us were retinue or friends.  A village got burned down by mysterious attackers and we were off to investigate.  We stop at a village on the way, where the locals speak of strange lights at night.  We check out the nearby hills.  At one abandoned bandit camp, we find a mysterious brass coin.  At the other bandit camp, there be bandits.  We fight a bit, then we find out that they use maho to teleport away.  I Commune with a strange Air kami.  With some other info, we get the picture that the daimyo’s banished brother has learned gaijin magics and returned for vengeance.  We go to the burned village and find a giant sand/rock mound.  We get closer.  It explodes.  We wake up the next day in the bodies of bandit types.  We figure out the need to get back to the castle and restore our bodies.  We get back, sneak in, get some equipment, get attacked by illusionary wraiths that I Spock to irrelevance.  We are short on time, so we don’t fight out the fights against ourselves and the daimyo’s brother who switched bodies with the daimyo, we bust the mirror ball that enables the body switching.  The end.

The GM had frontloaded the combat, an interesting idea for a con game.  The one combat I wish we had fought was against a sand monster that had attacked the village.  The party duelist didn’t really do anything and had to leave early – other than people who hate a game and are trying to flee from it, I don’t understand why people don’t plan to stay until the end of a game.  Other people have trouble getting into stuff, so leaving the slot open for them makes more sense.

Also, the characters were crazy powerful.  Just another example of how higher rank characters are broken.  In 3e, somewhere in rank 2, the game breaks.  In 4e, I think it’s in rank 3.  I rolled a 60 on my first Divination roll.  I rolled a 63 on a Perception/Investigation roll and only tied the party magistrate.  My Commune with Air roll started at 10k5.  I healed 42 wounds with the only Path to Inner Peace I cast.  Someone commented about a “mere 32” when rolling for something.  I think our magistrate hit 69 twice on Investigation rolls.  For context, a Target Number of 30 is extremely hard for a lot of rank 1 characters and about a challenging TN for many rank 3’s.  I had like 5 skills at rank 5, Spellcraft at rank 7, and several skills at rank 3.

I have plenty of time to kill before running V:TES at 8PM, so I wander around and talk to folks.  Andrew, Brad, and I go to my favorite Chinese restaurant (in the world).  We get our own stuff, so I get tan tan mian.  We get back.  I park in my parking space (the closest one to the hotel outside of their parking lot).

I set up for V:TES.  Tom and Kat, who show up every year to play in my V:TES event, even though they live in Reno, which is insane by the way, show up first.  Geoff, who I hadn’t seen in maybe 6 years, is the only one signed up on the sheet and I spy him.  Rich, who I played some with ages ago, and Brad fill out a five player table while I wonder whether others are going to show since there’s only at least seven other people I know at the con who have played the game a significant amount.  Jeff is around, in between RPG coordinator duties, and the two of us talk while the five play.

They play for 2 hours with no one being ousted.  Brad was playing Akunanse, Rich borrowed Tzimisce, Geoff some Sabbat Pre/Obf vote deck, Tom 419, Kat Lasombra.  To make things a bit more interesting and because Jeff offers, we set up two four-player games with Jeff playing in each.  I go first in my game playing my “collection” !Toreador deck, Kat plays her Lasombra deck, Geoff plays Jacko throws cars and launches RPGs and other flung crap, Jeff borrows my Blessed Resilience deck.  In the other game, Rich plays some Stanislava bleed deck, Jeff borrows my “dudes with agg hands and Potence” deck, Tom plays weenie something, and Brad his Akunanse deck.

In my game, I’m not terribly threatened, so Loonar comes out, learns Auspex and gets a Sawed Off Shotgun.  She also acquires a members only Leather Jacket.  Redbone comes out.  I Effectively Manage and get Malabranca, so I work on him; later, he goes pool stealing, including when my prey is at 3 pool!  Jeff keeps discarding the combo cards for the Force of Will bleeds that is all the deck does, including Forces of Will.  My prey is somewhat contained because I’m oh so spooky [wiggles fingers].  Jacko tries to beat up folks with varying ability – one of Jeff’s guys gets torped and Jeff diablerizes with his other vampire who gets burned by Kat’s votes!  Geoff’s KRCG gets used a lot and even leads to a block or two.  My hand goes from too much intercept to too little and back.  Kat tries to vote, I generate four intercept, she gets five stealth.  Jacko gets bounced to me and it’s on.  Jacko goes long and dodges I think.  He additional strikes Molotov Cocktail.  Loonar additionals Sawed Off Shotgun.  Jacko presses with Flash, I press with Read Intentions.  Jacko presses with Psyche!.  I press with Nimble Feet.  For the win!

I get Kat down to 1 pool after Pentexing her Antonio, leaving her with no blockers as she only has him and Ambrosio.  I fail to kill her and she ousts Geoff.  Jeff breaks the Pentex.  Kat Villein’s and Giant’s Bloods to go to lots of pool.  Jeff finally kills me with Force of Will.  Kat crushes Jeff in the endgame as he can’t block anything she does at stealth and she has vote lock and this little thing we like to call Dominate.

In the other game, Jeff plays most of it with just Thetmes, somehow outbloating Stanislava bleeding.  Jeff ousts the weenies and Brad and Rich gang up on Jeff, Brad gets 3 VPs.

Geoff shows Jeff and me the game he’s been working on for years, so we play a dungeon crawl themed card game.  It’s good.  Definitely polished like he said.  I don’t like that you can only win on your own turn, though, and we didn’t see the party forming mechanic used virtually at all since it was just a three-player game.  I was surprisingly out of it by this point, slept horribly Friday night even though I was in bed around 10PM.  Drive home.

Sunday

I get in before 9AM, wondering whether I got into a 10AM game.  There was talk of playing some pickup Babylon 5 CCG, so I hung around the area where one of the game’s designers, Edi, was running Diplomacy.  Amusingly, two of the game’s original five designers were present at the con, though I never ran into John (Hart).

For some crazy reason, 10AM (and 11AM) games were in a slot that had event registration close at 9:30AM.  I get into my game and we decide that I should play in it rather than try to get a game of B5 going, maybe after my game ends we can see who is around.  When I get to my room after seeing my name on the posting at 9:50AM, the room is full of people who don’t know whether they got in or not.  One person comes in with a written out list.  One person gives up his seat so that a crasher can play as some people are having good luck getting into games and some people aren’t.

The game is Unhallowed Metropolis.  Obscure game where the small print run of the first edition book and obscurity means that the first edition books are apparently quite valuable.  The genre is post apocalyptic zombie/undead Victorian England in the 22nd century.  I wanted to play the “mourner”, a profession that means guarding a dead body for three nights from bad stuff.  A combat profession.  In fact, all three of the characters I was interested in were combat characters as playing an aristocrat or a doctor would be too much the sort of thing I usually play, and I’m not interested in playing a criminal.  I end up with my second choice, “undertaker”, basically a professional bounty hunter of the undead.  Third choice would have been dhampir.

We are hired to acquire the grandson of a nobleman from an orphanage.  Our first challenge is that the area near the orphanage goes under quarantine where the military comes in and cleanses the area.  We are in London, by the way.  Supposedly, it’s worse in the wastelands, but it seemed rather sketchy in town.  We jump a dumpster and blow away some zombies with our aristocrat fleeing towards destruction.  He gets corralled and we enter a building that seems like the orphanage, which it turns out to be.  We go room by room clearing out zombies.  We find paperwork and other stuff that gives us clues as to what’s going on.  I check out an obvious escape by some of the people who were at the orphanage/asylum/genetics lab/etc. and nothing comes of checking out the sheet rope from the window to the roof of the nearby building.  We go to the basement and come across prometheans – form of Frankenstein monsters.

Should comment upon combat in this game.  It’s crazy deadly.  It’s hard to say that 4e L5R is truly a deadly system like the L5R GM and others say, but the GM for this game was certainly right about it being crazy lethal.  I was in six combats.  I shot six times.  Twice, both times with my shotgun, I missed.  The other four times I blew the heads off my targets.  The dhampir got four attacks a round with his swords and the mourner got four attacks a round with her knives.  With essentially one exception, they killed everything they fought in one round.

The aristocrat nukes the first promethean with a pistol.  The mourner slices up the other two.  We find a tunnel but choose to ignore it as we have a location already.  So, we cross town.  Undead follow us out of sight.  We get to a warehouse.  In the warehouse are a bunch of zombie test subjects that we ignore.  We come across a vampire feasting on some corpses and the criminal and aristocrat flee while the dhampir takes him out in a round of combat.  We open another door and come across the kid as a boy cyborg with a big cyborg companion.  This is where I miss with my shotgun.  The doctor throws an acid grenade and somebody dispatches the cyborg’s head, probably the mourner, as the dhampir takes a wound that was one off killing him.

We leave, even though the doctor wants to use the lab in the warehouse as we are fairly sure the cyborg is going to explode.  We walk right into a bunch of zombies.  What’s funny is that they give us our toughest fight in that they swarm the mourner and give her all sorts of wounds.  I do waste my major ammo – I had switched clips in my pistol for the cyborg – blowing the heads off of zombie children.  We limp to a safehouse.  The aristocrat speaks to our employer about the state of the kid, the employer doesn’t want him, so the aristocrat plans to off the kid, which the doctor objects to.  While they argue, the military shows up and blows the head off the kid and arrests the doctor.  We get paid.

Grab food with Jeff at my favorite Chinese place, more tan tan mian and some xiaolongbao – place is known for dumplings and those two dishes are the standard ones I get there.

I don’t get into my evening game, so I wander, running across Rich, Ray, Tom, and Kat.  We play a game of Smallworld with the Underground mechanics.  I play horribly, not having enough experience, and the game quickly becomes a two-player race, though Ray makes a good showing at the end.  There is pounding on Rich, but unfortunately, no pounding on Kat.  She wins by a lower margin than I thought she would.  We play a pickup game of V:TES.

I lend out my 3-cap Lilith’s Blessing Thaumaturgy bruise deck to Rich and my “collection” !Tremere deck to Ray, so I decide to play one of my non-collection decks and play my Archon/Anathema/random weapons/Potence deck.  Tom, my prey, brings out Beast.  Rich brings out Masika St. John.  Kat is playing a goofy Lasombra deck, not her deck.  Ray brings out Malgorzata.  Tom threatens to rush my Nikolas Vermeulen if I don’t say I won’t bleed him (for one?).  He eventually decides to rush forwards and I retain my hand of multiple Torn Signposts and Undead Strength.  Turns out Tom has a fair amount of ranged strikes to go with Carrion Crows.

Ray quickly has five votes, having brought out Polly Kay.  That makes my game awkward as I need votes from Kat’s Aurora Van Brande who became the Archbishop of Philadelphia to pass votes.  My first Archon fails.  I do bring out some Progeny.  She helps me get an Archon on Selma.  I Bloodhunt Malgorzata, torp her, and Selma eats her.  Meanwhile, Tom keeps torping Masika, but Masika keeps coming back with more stuff – Mr. Winthrop, Zip Gun, Weighted Walking Stick, Blood Doll, Camera Phone.  He had put out Lilith’s Blessing early, so he just kept refilling the dorks who were rescuing Masika.  Rich finally is able to Flames of the Netherworld Beast and eat him.  Kat’s Ignacio gets torped and never comes back out, so she’s ineffectual.  Ray does not kill me with Dominate.

Tom goes to 2 pool for another Beast.  He goes to 1 pool to DI something.  I oust him.  Rich ousts Kat and Ray.  The endgame is completely in question for round after round after hour.  After 3+ hours, with my having 3 cards in hand and five vampires in torpor and Rich having all four of his vampires in torpor, I win.  At one point, Nikolaus had four Grenades and a Deer Rifle, only one of the Grenades being thrown for a simultorp.  Murat had Disguised an Ivory Bow to torp Masika.  Two of Rich’s vampires had been Anathemaed to oblivion.

An interesting game for the first hour or so, but it degenerated and, then, became kind of endless as we were so limited in what we could do to each other in the endgame.

I ran across Andy, Eric, and Jeff playing Die Hanse on my way to the car, figured out when I had to be at the con on Monday, and drove home.

Monday

The question was whether Andy and I were playing in Eric’s game.  Another question was whether Eric was running his game.  Two of the three people signed up had crossed their names out.  The third never showed.  However, a crasher showed, so Andy and I filled out the party and we played Eric’s Hunter: The Reckoning, using Savage Worlds rules, game.

I was born to be a wayward nun, so I played the wayward nun.  Andy played a retired park ranger.  Jay played a burglar.  We had to find a fellow Hunter who had gone into the upper Klamath River area, looking for something.  Hiking.

We talk to a park ranger, who doesn’t help.  We hike a couple of days upriver.  We find some tracks and the river is oddly polluted.  We decide to go for a thinner forested area to get a better view.  We spot a cabin.  In the cabin, the burglar finds a claymore mine.  We find lots of weird stick bundles strewn about.  We go upriver and find uranium barrels corroding in the river.  We find more.  We camp away from them and get attacked by werewolves in the night.  Our ranger does heinous amounts of damage to the brain of one of them without felling the creature.  I fail my fear roll and roll badly on the table, getting a major phobia of wolves, rather inconvenient since everything we fight ends up being werewolves.  True Faith protects me as the other two shoot the enemy.

We head Eastward, going further up into the hills, and find more barrels and more stick bundles.  We find a cave which the burglar’s second sight had said was a likely place for who we were looking for.  By the way, I was Judith, the ranger Jim, the burglar Jennie, and our fellow Hunter John.  We find John and I Rejuvenate away one of his wounds and do the healing thing I do.  A rift starts opening up in the cave while the mine we took blows up a werewolf.  Two more werewolves attack us and I do my usual thing of True Faithing while I tend to Jim.  John and I leave and the others finish off the werewolves and join us.  A great sound can be heard behind us.  I’m the only one not afflicted with radiation poisoning.  We get back to the ranger station, find out that he’s a naughty dude, and we report our findings on Hunter.net so that a larger force can come in and deal with the werewolf nest and extradimensional monster thing, while someone needs to clean up the random radioactive waste.

I thought using Savage Worlds (with mechanics Eric came up with) for Hunter worked well.  I’m much more okay with World of Darkness mechanics when playing a human than when playing a monster as the high variance and tedious failures seem more reasonable to me, but other than playing around with how Powers work, like one of mine was fairly useless though True Faith made up for it, things seemed smooth and appropriate.

All three of the RPGs I did were similar in that they were all solid con games.  By con game, I mean that they were reasonably straightforward, kind of fighty, things moved logically forward.  I’ve told some people recently that I actually find the average con game session better than the average home game session, and they seem shocked.  While I’ve had a full spectrum of con games, from the most painful and disturbing examinations of my fellow humans to awesome games, usually my con games are much brisker and more productive than my average home game sessions.  That’s kind of funny when you think about how strangers tend to work better together than people who know each other, though I think the fact that con games are known to be one-shots and tend to be more linear and/or focused has a lot to do with that.  It’s not just more combat, which is an inherently cooperative activity, either.  In con games where I talk with PCs and NPCs a bunch and fight little or not at all, things go much smoother.  Investigations are much smoother.

*shrug*

Eric needed to get home to run a game online, so I drove him and Andy home fairly soon after Eric’s game ended.  I did finally run into Eric P. right before leaving, so I saw most of the people I usually see at the cons.

Summary:  No B5, no Type P Magic, only two games of V:TES though one was outside of my event which was nice, boardgame and cardgame, three RPGs, all of which were good, food I wanted to eat, conversations with people I pretty much only see at cons, and my parking place was always prepared for me.  I feel like I’m missing something that I did.  Oh well.


Egalitarian Experiment #1 – First Plays

May 20, 2012

Got a good group of five for some V to the TES earlier today.  First chance for me to bust out the new collection – see this month’s post on May 6th for more info on the experiment.

Game 1:

Ian (!Trem BB) -> Eric (AAA) -> Brandon (borrowed Kiasyd SB) -> Andy (Cavalier Malks) -> Gerentt (Shattering Crescendo/Tourette’s)

I drop Tension turn one.  Eric moves 2 blood to Alexandra.  Kiasyd pop up.  Sean Rycek is joined by Lutz.  Daughters appear.  Daughters get Ossian, which I let go as I find it interesting to see whether it will come back to burn me later.

I block Muse and put out Weather Control and Theft, intimidating Ossian for much of the game.  I block Muse later, who is only a Minor Irritation to Janine(!!), hunting because I could.  What I don’t do is find much in the way of bleed cards, only getting a Threatsed bleed from Frondator through before Alexandra appears.  Very slowly, Anson also appears and ends up being the bane of my existence with his silly Second Tradition nonsense.

Meanwhile, Andy is under the fearsome shadow of Dame, Isanwayen, and Omme.  Gerentt has to worry about either Lutz getting offensive or the Kiasyd ripping through.  Tourette’s Voices get played or threatened.

Eric puts Toreador Grand Ball out to make Alexandra less blockable.  But, Anson is not so free to act.  I do Walk of Flame Alexandra at some point, but she doesn’t suffer much and comes back right away.  Gerentt does finally do actions forward, torping my Frondator and depleting my Paul Cordwood with Crescendoes.  Andy’s fortunes improve dramatically as the Kiasyd keep failing to kill him and Eric’s Ancient Influence succeeds.  Tryphosa makes an appearance, taking Andy to 4 pool.  Gerentt taps out to play Carlton, going to 2 pool.  Andy kills him after one of Eric’s votes takes him to 1 and Andy Restructures away Carlton.  I bounce Lutz bleeding who unhelpfully runs into Anson’s domain.

I lunge at Eric, but it becomes a mess as he has Second Tradition, Eyes of Argus, Telepathic Misdirection to screw up my math.  Actually, it was kind of annoying to draw two Governs in the middle of my lunge as they didn’t help at that point and I would have maybe done better if I knew I would be able to Govern four times in the turn.  Probably wouldn’t have mattered.  Eric got Brandon, somehow finishing things off with a bleed of 2 at one stealth right as 2 hours was up.  I was at 1 pool when we stopped.

My timing was just off.  I kept expecting Majesty from my prey and only recall one, though how that mattered isn’t so clear.  Never drawing a Harass was kind of annoying but would have not been good if Eric did play more Majestys.  I didn’t use Paul’s ability much, which was not a good sign since it’s so good, but then, people didn’t want to fight me.  I did end up taking as much damage from Tension as my prey did.  In many ways, a very normal game.

Game 2:

Eric (fast War Ghoul) -> Gerentt (Lasombra w/ Pre) -> Andy (Cybele Great Beast) -> Ian (!Malk SB) -> Brandon (!Salubri Brothers)

As I had two Blood Dolls in my opening hand, I put Fabrizia in play on turn one, figuring there was a good chance I could hunt farm for a while.  In fact, she spent almost the entire game hunting back to 4 blood.  Persephone was my second vampire only because she was the only one with Auspex.

Brandon was a threat to rush, so I tried to ignore him, which led to amassing a horde of dorks.  Eric got a War Ghoul out but struggled in a lot of other ways, though he did get to Camera Phone bleed a decent number of times.  Gerentt went crazy with voting and Governing early to achieve Moncada, Polonia, and Gratiano with tons of pool.  Even when Brandon crosstable rushed Gratiano and ate him, another just came up and there was still much pool.  Andy bloated lots but didn’t draw The Great Beast.  He did try Entrancement on the War Ghoul and I sadly had to use my Great Beast stopping DI on Entrancement.

Due to a lack of bounce, I got bled a bunch by Cybele but usually had 15+ pool due to Blood Doll farming.  Starting in on using Kindred Spirits didn’t hurt.  Though Isabel de Leon and Adonai both had the power of the big eye in front of me, there was quite the lack of bouncing.  When Brandon went to 4 pool for another guy, I ousted him.  War Ghoul came for Persephone and ran into White Lilly’s Saturday Night Special + Deny(al) of Trap.  I oust Eric with Persephone, Fabrizia, White Lilly, Bloodfeud, and General Perfidio out.    Persephone gets Banished.  I Pentex Polonia because I didn’t expect to get Gerentt and Andy was low on pool and end up ousting Gerentt.  I bleed Andy out.

Does getting 5 VPs in every game I’ve ever played with my experiment’s !Malk SB deck say anything about this experiment?  Nah, I’m always an advocate for questioning results based on insufficient sample sizes; in this case, I had a good seating and things played out well for how I wanted to play the game.  Of course, I did already think this deck, of the three I’ve built out of this card pool of about 750 cards, was the best.  Far more useful to see what can be done with a less efficient archetype to try to get at the issue of whether decks of sufficient viability are possible with such a small card pool to work with.

While this experiment is hardly vigorous in the scientific method, I do feel that it’s unnecessary to take into account how much better I am at playing stealth bleed than other archetypes and how much experience I have with decks like the second deck.  It’s not a question as to whether a newb will be competitive and interested with this card pool but whether a newb could be competitive and interested with this card pool.

Mostly addressed being competitive to this point, talk a bit about being interested.  I have three decks.  The third, which I haven’t played yet, may not be viable.  Still, the decks do largely different things, which should satisfy some desire for variety.  The !Trem deck was more interesting (of course) than the !Malk deck; I will probably get bored with it quickly, but, then, I get bored with almost all of my decks after one or two plays; it doesn’t seem too boring at this point.  What I should try is to see whether I can cobble together most of a fourth deck that isn’t some well known archetype or, at least, doesn’t use the crutch of relying heavily upon one of the Third Edition precons.  This will help give me a better idea on what variety is really possible at this level of cards.


Cardinality

May 19, 2012

Occasionally, I wander into less philosophical areas to speak about.  I was doing some V:TES deckbuilding searching on Cardinals and got kind of interested in the data.

Clan Group Total
Lasombra 2 2
4 1
Malkavian Antitribu 2 1
4 1
Nosferatu Antitribu 2 1
4 1
Toreador Antitribu 2 1
4 1
Tremere Antitribu 2 1
4 1
Tzimisce 2 2
3 1
4 1
Ventrue Antitribu 2 1
4 1
Grand Total 17

If we take a look at a table of Cardinals in the game by Clan and group, certain features readily pop out.  Of course, there are two advanced version Cardinals not included in the totals and I did include Sascha Vykos even though it would need to be merged to achieve Cardinaldom.  If that seems wrong, I can understand.

The absence of three clans – !Brujah, !Gangrel, and Pander – means what?  Does it matter?  Pander reasonably don’t have any on thematic grounds.  The other two also have some thematic sense with being either rebels or being flavorfully apolitical.  On the other hand, if we pull in Archbishops and Prisci, there are some interesting numbers as well, like how few (6) !Toreador and !Ventrue have any of these three titles while !Brujah jump ahead in total numbers (7) and !Gangrel don’t (5).

Getting off topic as I wanted to focus on Cardinals.  Why?  Just kind of interesting to examine one minor slice of a CCG and see where it leads.

There are five library cards a Cardinal can play that an Archbishop can’t.  I’m less interested in the ones a Priscus can’t play, but the list is longer for them.  In general, I’ve found that Titled Sabbat cards are a pain to get much use out of.  There’s not nearly as much of a concentration of titles within a given clan and the payoffs are lower to where mixed clan is less interesting.  Sure, Cardinal Benediction is always a way to Cardinal-up!  But, eh.

Auto-da-fé

I’ve put this card in decks.  I may have even passed one.  I just don’t recall all that clearly.  I just can’t get that excited by it, even in theory.  Which is good, since Protect Thine Own was one of the dumbest cards ever.

Chalice of Kinship

Seems simple enough:  put a bunch of Creation Rites in play or otherwise create a horde of dudes, invigorate them.  In practice, even when I put this card in a deck, possibly even when I equip it, I don’t recall ever using it.  With The Hungry Coyote, stimulating a horde is rather easy.  The hoops here are tiresome hoops to jump through for payoff.  Probably need stealth, which you don’t with The Hungry Coyote due to there being no single key action.  Need to get it into play.  Need to have nothing better to do with your Priscus/Cardinal.  Blah.

Gurchon Hall

I do recall having this in play.  It’s far more complicated than it seemed at first.  The lack of control is really annoying.  The unhappy face when having only one ready minion is … unhappy.  It has all of the disadvantages of being a hunting ground:  targetable by anti-HG plays as rare as those may be; not stackable with other HGs.  I probably should try it in a more wallish build – Tzimisce would be obvious.  I see it being a cut above the two cards above.

Harzomatuili

Now, we are talking.  This is one of the most efficient ways to self oust in the game.  Wait …  Doh!  I have actually seen Hazmat in play, if memory serves correctly, though it was out of an Ahrimanes deck.  I may have hired him, right before being ousted, or may not have.

Investiture

I’ve also put this card in one or more decks.  And, I never considered playing it.  What the-?!?  Why are Cardinalistic cards so awful?  Does point out why people aren’t so bothered by the distribution of Cardinals in the game.  Far more want to have Cardinals for their votes than for specific card plays.

Thanks to secretlibrary.info, by the way, for card text.

I didn’t actually intend to get sidetracked on Card-inals (my super awesome, totally not pretentious way to define cards that require Cardinals).  Getting back to the vampires.

Only one group 3 Cardinal.  Well, group 2 kind of made a mess of things since the grouping rule wasn’t foreseen when group 2 was being published.  Lasombra and Tzimisce do relatively well for Cardinality out of group 2/3 – “well” being kind of a stretch, but oh well.  Makes sense – helps define them as leaders of the Sabbat.

If we look at discipline crossover to get “Friendly Clans”, Ayalea is Lasombra friendly, making for a coherent strategy of putting out fat dudes with titles that aren’t that important.  At least DOM/OBT mitigates the lack of necessity in being a Cardinal (can upgrade fairly easily, could just live life as an Archbishop/Priscus).  There are a few other friendlies.  I’ve certainly seen Velya’s PRE used and I have a tournament winning deck with Melinda, but I never really thought about a group 3/4 AUS/PRE Cardinal deck running all three.  Did have something like that that was Third Edition only, so obviously sans Velya.

Then, there’s unfriendliness (to one own’s clan).  Radu, Radu, Radu.  I can’t say you are the worst of the bunch, but you sure try hard.  I can squint and see some sort of AUS/DOM deck use maybe with !Ventrue if it were a !Ventrue vote deck and not a grinder.  Except, !Ventrue vote seemed to die as a played archetype ages ago, even the stealthy kind.

The worst?  !Nosferatu for the lose!  It’s just such a pain to play these gigantosaurs lacking AUS or Dom.

I don’t know that a lot can be said about the capacity distribution of Cardinals.  For instance, how !Toreador seem to get young-uns just doesn’t seem to really matter, certainly not as much as the general lack of (meaningful Sabbat) titles.

Does any of this matter much?  Wouldn’t say so.  I hardly notice given how much less important Sabbat title breakdowns are to Camarilla title breakdowns.  Nor do I feel much of a thematic sense of how the Sabbat is put together.  I’m still far more likely to build a clan focused deck that has a mishmash of titles when I’m running some Cardinal or another.  Even Radu kind of ends up getting used for reasons that are highly questionable, though when you build Third Edition only decks where you want to run cards you never see, like Gurchon Hall, you kind of lack more exciting choices.


Samurai Squad

May 13, 2012

I’ve played an unusual amount of Heroes of Rokugan recently, two mods in the last week.  I commented recently to people I play with online that, while it’s obvious that the more you play the more you get into the campaign, I didn’t realize how pronounced the effect was.  I’m constantly in touch with the campaign due to weekly local play, where I either GM or superfluously hang out while another GMs an adventure I’ve already played.  But, I haven’t been as jazzed about my (main) character in ages.

Then, I had a few other observations from the unusually prolific recent play.  There are my usual views on party composition – unlike home play where a GM can adjust challenges, the living campaign challenges are largely out of a GM’s hands, so metagaming party composition is important.  Combat tactics was something I spent a good amount of time thinking about.  Sure, it may be ironic that someone who favors combat as an activity so much less than others thinks more about it, but it is an outlet for analytical thinking.

I guess I’ll start with some comments on recent mods.  I will do a new set of rankings on subjective desirability and attempted objective quality for what I have played to this point.  But, first, I enjoyed both recent mods I played – Cold Hands, Stone Heart (SoB15) & Tear Away the Darkness (SoB22).  I especially enjoyed the former.

One of my complaints about HoR3 – yes, I have a variety, no, I’m not trying to grief staff by regularly pointing them out – is that too many mods are underdeveloped.  The underdeveloped ones tend to just be short at least one scene or major challenge.  Some play okay but seem to hint at far more than what you end up doing.  I got really tired of investigative mods from HoR2 because they felt like they dragged, but it wasn’t due to having too much to do, simply that what you did had too much sameness to it.

SoB15 was not one of the underdeveloped mods.  It gave me plenty of opportunities to do the things I enjoy … going to try to avoid being spoilery.  The rolls in the game made my character useful mechanically.  It had one or more themes that speak to me.

Meanwhile, SoB22’s enjoyable experience had a lot to do with relief.  I keep telling folks that I really want to read the mod to see whether it’s as harsh as it seems and how it scales for different groups.  I’m a big fan of smiting evil in L5R – as the first Shadowlands mod for the campaign, there was evil to be smited.  I didn’t have as much of a thematic experience, but I got to use my analytical mind …

Latest thoughts on HoR3 mods:

Scenario Stars Rank – Quality Fun Rank – Fun
SOB07 3.5 1 4 2
SOB00 3.5 2 3.5 4
SOB18 3 3 3.5 6
SOB15 3 4 4 1
SOB06 3 5 3.5 5
SOB09 3 6 3.5 7
SOB13 3 7 3 10
SOB12 2.5 8 3.5 8
SOB20 2.5 9 3 11
SOB11 2.5 10 3.5 3
SOB19 2.5 11 3 13
SOB01 2.5 12 2.5 16
SOB14 2.5 13 2.5 14
SOB08 2.5 14 2.5 15
SOB21 2.5 15 2 17
SOB04 2.5 16 3 9
SOB16 2.5 17 2 18
SOB10 2 18 1 21
SOB03 2 19 1.5 19
SOB02 2 20 1.5 20
SOB05 1 21 0.5 22
SOB17 n/a n/a n/a n/a
SOB22 pending pending 3 12

Moving on, party composition.  Fairly sure I mentioned some elements to an effective party in another post.  Some additional comments and some reminders.

First, the more shugenja, the better.  Shugenja are just superior to other schools for the usual reason that magic is almost always better than the lack of it.  Supernatural stuff dies to Jade Strike like it totally doesn’t to a lot of other things.  Tempest of Air, though I believe GMs are too generous with how many enemy targets and how few friendlies get hit by it, wins fights, including fights that wouldn’t otherwise be winnable.  Fires of Purity is broken.  Path to Inner Peace is essential.  Commune is broken.

After that, we get into specific roles.

Always want a talker – Awareness at least 3, preferably higher, at least 3 ranks in Courtier and Sincerity with Etiquette being important if less so.  Why Sincerity?  A lot of adventures come down to convincing someone to shake off possession or the like.

Hunter – I used to call this the Perceiver but most folks realize the importance in Investigation where too many people don’t value Hunting highly enough.  Picking up trails is essential in a number of mods, more so in HoR3 than HoR2.  The Hunter will have Perception at least 3, preferably higher, at least 2 ranks in Hunting, preferably at least 3, at least 2 ranks in Investigation, preferably 3, should have Battle too since Battle is the only other Perception skill.

Brain – Intelligence 3+, Sage, Commerce, Medicine.  Engineering makes sense but isn’t rolled that often.  Yes, a number of party brains get by without Sage, but Sage is so stupidly good that it really should be part of any character who plans an INT of 4+ and gets the party by while the character works up from INT 3 to INT 4.

“Ranger” – a new category for me, someone who can control range, more specifically, prevent a target from getting out of range of the party when in pursuit and who can affect enemies at range when melee isn’t effective.  This isn’t as essential as the others, and shugenja typically fill this role by accident what with Tempest of Air or Water spells increasing actions/movement or Earth’s Stagnation/Grasp of Earth.  Fire has a harder time with this as Fires from Within is actually not that effective damagewise.

Grappler – grapple is broken, sometimes it’s the only way to deal with problematic enemies.

Murderer – massive damage is the party’s friend, good to target with buffs from shugenja.

Taking my characters’ roles as examples, we can see a bit why I’m so reluctant to play my alt (nevermind not wanting an XP suck for my main).  Typical online party for me is:  Utaku A’Nen, Kitsuki Ketsumei, Ide Xiao Xi, Kitsu Kagami, and Moshi Shigeo (moi).

Ketsumei is the talker.  Xiao Xi and, now that Ketsumei has Hunting, Ketsumei are the hunters.  Xiao Xi and Kagami are shugenja.  I have become a much more useful brain now that I’m INT 4, though I lack Sage.  I don’t think Kagami has Sage, which means no Sage in party.  I think Kagami can ranger, though my recollection is that we don’t ranger well.  A’Nen is a mild grappler (less mild outside of combat).  Xiao Xi can probably grapple well.  Xiao Xi murders well; I’m okay at slaughtering.

Now, my alt, Hoshi Takumi, is best at talker but inferior to Ketsumei.  Two talkers is okay but not thrilling, depending upon what is given up.  For instance, two Air shugenja talkers would be fine because they have shugenja brokenness.  Takumi recently went to INT 3 and is a Sage!  But, he’s been pretty much behind Shigeo at all times as a brain.  Takumi is only a demibrain and will likely never rise to quality braindom.  Takumi also offers nothing else in these categories, though he is a moneypockets, which is a category that’s occasionally useful.

Bottom line, a solid talker and demibrain isn’t as useful to my typical group as a demibrain (Shigeo lacks Sage!), front line fighter, and demimurderer.  Take Ketsumei, though, out of the party and Takumi’s value rises astronomically due to not having niche overlap.

Combat tactics.  I’m not going to go into a lot of depth on combat tactics in this post.  More, there are some bad tactics that amaze me.

Frequent bad tactic – attacking someone who has already gone in the round when there are enemies who have yet to go.  Another, though this is more of a 4e phenomenon due to the awful inversion of the wound chart from 3e – not murdering the wounded, aka spreading damage rather than concentrated fire.

Spellcasting – yes, any spellcasting tends to be highly productive, but not splitting Jade Strike, splitting is far more damage output than calling raises for damage, wasting spell slots on easily winnable battles, and not healing the damage sponges, er, bushi are the main criticisms I have.

Initiative and stance manipulation should be much more common; I’m particularly guilty of forgetting that Center Stance exists, though I rarely see it being a good idea for my character.  Typically, initiative is going to be manipulated by Void Point expenditures, well, speaking of spending Void, people seem to overlove spending VPs for damage soak when ATN boosts are likely to be better defensive return on investment.

Everything is situational.  Most fights aren’t deadly enough for a total party kill, but that’s what gets people dead.  Fight a tough fight and all of those bad habits actually matter.

And, those are my primary HoR thoughts today.


Egalitarian Experiment #1 – First Thoughts

May 6, 2012

Following up from my last post, I have pulled the cards (or opened unopened precons) for one of each Third Edition precon and my first box of Third Edition boosters.

I suppose I need to clarify the point of these exercises in collection limitation.  Here are the questions I’m looking at:

  1. What level of buy-in would a player need to compete at the tournament level?
  2. What level of buy-in would a player need to have a reasonable diversity of decks to enjoy the diversity that the game has to offer?
  3. What does the game feel like when you have a modest collection?

A goal is to not focus on what is missing but to focus on what is possible.  The CCG model is such that people aren’t supposed to have everything, though I would tend to believe that this isn’t the case when it comes to being able to build top level tournament decks for people deeply invested in CCGs.

That third question is unlikely to be answerable for me, given that I can’t just forget the last 16 years, though I can try to get some insight into what it must be like for others at times.

The obvious starting point on building a deck suitable for tournament play with this level of investment is !Malk stealth bleed.  I have claimed on a number of occasions that a bad stealth bleed deck is still a more formidable deck than the norm – an argument, by the way, for the power level of stealth bleed when debating the best decks in the game.  I continue to claim such.  I think the deck I put together is perfectly functional at winning.  It might not be as forgiving of mistakes in play as other builds, but then, it’s far more forgiving than most all of the decks I have been playing in recent years.  Regardless, success is going to depend primarily on quality play, including table politics, and certain factors that are difficult to control – card draws, seating, player personalities.

After building the first deck, I became discouraged.  Three of the four precons are for clans with Auspex as a clan discipline, yet between them they only have x2 Telepathic Misdirection – the only Auspex card truly needed to compete.  TM is a common in the set, which is far far better than the many years in which the only TMs available were from Jyhad/V:TES.  Still, want a minimum of 12 for two decks.  Yes, this gets into looking at what’s missing rather than what’s available, but again, this is a necessary card – on the level of Blood Doll, WWEF/On the Qui Vive, Deflection, and a few others being an essential part of the game.

Adding to my discouragement was that my sum total of Obtenebration cards consists of …

x1 Oubliette
x1 Shadow Play
x1 Shadow Strike

I was looking forward to some old school Lasombra stealth bleed.  By the way, this points out two rather significant problems with Third Edition:  the precons are moronic not only in their contents but in Lasombra not being one of them; the distribution of cards is insane, which I’ve complained about before, but which rears its head so eloquently in these experiments.  Once I add box #2 into the pool, three more Shadow Plays and two Shrouds of Night will be “unlocked”, but I’m inclined to believe that, when you are trying to support with one set 10 clans and 13 disciplines, that you can cut some terrible cards to make more decks viable.

Good time to talk about the business of CCGs.  There are those who will argue that all this makes sense.  That giving a player a completely functional preconstructed starter deck will undermine additional sales.  I’m not completely dismissive of the point, but the way I view it is that there are plenty of other ways people can spend money, including spending it on CCGs that are more newbie friendly such as … wait for it … Magic.  Magic may be far less friendly when it comes to constructed play, but Magic became more about limited play a long time ago.  Anyway, I believe the amount of effort someone has to go to to get up to a competitive level correlates to the size of the resulting playerbase (though not nearly so much as popularity of the genre/licensed property).  I’d rather have a higher volume of players with less investment than a smaller group with vast collections.  Give people a solid foundation out of the gate, get them playing often, then they will chase the rarest cards because so many CCGers are collectors or do want to do different things or do want to build esoteric decks that rely on obscure rares.

Or, if you are like Bandai (from what I hear) from years ago, think entirely short term and care only about the first few sets before pulling the plug on a game, while hyping the next anime CCG in the works.  Sucker born every minute and whatnot.

I came back to “my” collection, finally opened the !Brujah precon to see if handling the physical cards would get me more inspired for a second functional deck.  While full of all of the usual problems with a deck with no bleed bounce, I wasn’t unhappy with what I goldfished.  It may not rise to the level of viable for competitive play, but it seems nonridiculous given how much !Brujah suck even when you have tens of thousands of cards to work with.

With that, I became a bit more inspired and went to work on the !Tremere deck.  The advantage of the !Tremere deck, especially over a Tzimisce deck, is that Dominate replaces the need for more Telepathic Misdirections.  There are actually quite a few Thaumaturgy cards in the deck and I got some Thefts of Vitae from my box, so it wasn’t hard to fill things out.  The primary weakness is masters.  In fact, the master selections for each of the decks suck.  On the other hand, I got six On the Qui Vives from box #1 (zero will be in box#2), so I’m okay on wakes … for two decks.

I’m not enthralled by the idea of trying to scrape together a Tzimisce deck.  Besides the dearth of TMs, the Third Edition Tzimisce just suck so bad.  Jane Sims is worthless, as evidenced by how I’ve never put her in a deck e-e-ever (accuracy of this statement subject to my memory not failing).  Where, Lolita Houston is one of my original fly girls.  Duality is perfectly positively presentable and completely failed in support, as well as showing up 50% less than he/it should in the precon.  I do have a good number of Sha-Ennus for some superstarish deck or Tzimisce w/ Obfuscate, but as one can see in the Deck Clinic subforum on vekn.net, going the path of Tzimisce with Obfuscate is a sad panda path while superstaring is likely to be quite the challenge with my < 800 card collection.

Then, we get to clans not supported by precons.  Just not looking so viable at this point.  On the other hand, there might be just enough discipline crossover to do some mixed clan decks around disciplines I have enough decent cards for.  As for low discipline decks, the quality of the generic cards is, of course, low.  The weakness in master options is the biggest challenge, with lack of On the Qui Vives being important if I decide not to share cards between decks.

Which brings up some facets of these experiments.  In truth, it would be fair to share cards as I’ve done that for plenty a CCG even when I had sizable collections.  That relieves pressure in the key problem areas of lacking Telepathic Misdirections, Redirections, On the Qui Vives, and Blood Dolls.  Also, a real player would likely look to focus some, not expecting to play everything, and trade or otherwise supplement sealed purchases.  For instance, if I had this collection and truly loved Lasombra, I could just trade for Obtenebration and trade away, say, Protean cards.  So, these experiments may be quite artificial.  Nevertheless, I’m trying to change my perceptions of the game.  I want to run cards I never currently bother with in decks because I can just play something better and feel no shame.

I’m not sure when I should end this first experiment.  It would be nice to have some tournaments handy to play decks from such a modest collection before expanding to a larger card pool.  On the other hand, one box of boosters and half a box of starters is rather skimpy for anyone who actually likes the game and I’m artifically restricting trading and buying singles, so moving to experiment #2, the full box of starters and two boxes of boosters, might be more reasonable.

I am finding this amusing already, however one looks at it.  I’m definitely putting in questionable cards with metagame thinking in mind.


Less Is More

May 2, 2012

Apparently, continuing a series of … Is …

The subject of availability of V:TES cards came up recently.  Yes, it’s harder to get various packs/boxes/precons then it was.  That has actually been true for ages.  No, I can’t put myself in the shoes of someone trying to get into the game or expand what is possible for them to build.  But, I’d be curious to try.

I enjoy owning all of the cards for a CCG.  I enjoy having tons of chase cards others don’t.  I don’t think it’s a good idea when people can’t compete because it’s prohibitively expensive to get tournament necessary cards.  Of course, what is prohibitively expensive is open to question.

I can’t compete in constructed Magic formats with my current collection, with a few specific deck exceptions.  For instance, I could probably get a couple of sideboard cards and compete in Legacy with a Red Deck Wins deck.  I do own x4 Force of Will, though I read that Force is becoming less useful.

Staying on the subject of older formats, I’m missing largely two key things – modern creatures which are much more powerful and aggressively costed on average, multilands.  I have hardly any original dual lands and I’ve never tried to acquire sets of more modern multilands.  To me, fixing the land problem, by itself, seems prohibitively expensive.

In terms of more modern formats, though not so much Modern, I could run out and acquire a bunch of Standard legal cards, trade, pick up key singles, and become competitive only sinking a thousand* dollars into the game.  Again, that strikes me as prohibitive.

*  Based on typical value of singles of modern Magic decks adding up to $300-400 a deck, discounting because I’d buy boxes of cards rather than all singles.  Of course, this is a suboptimal way to compete in Magic from a cost standpoint.  Far better to draft against inferior players for rares, buy what is needed for a single tournament and turn around and sell cards that won’t get reprinted, and so forth – these strategies for cost containment, however, don’t sound appealing to me.

Getting back to V:TES, what is a prohibitive level of expenditure in effort and/or $$?

My recommendation to a new player (to an existing group) is to borrow decks until the player is sure that they want to play it for the long haul, then go find someone getting out of the game or putting a collection up on eBay.  That should give somewhere between 5,000 and 50,000 cards to work with at a cost of something along the lines of $50-$300.  Then, can hunt for harder to get cards to build weirder decks.

That’s not how I got into the game.  I did borrow decks before investing.  I decided I was interested in creating my own decks from my collection.  I started buying Jyhad boxes.  Then, I bought some Sabbat.  Then, I bought some Dark Sovereigns and Ancient Hearts.  At some point, I had a case or more of Jyhad – it being so cheap at various points that we played a single game of sealed box Jyhad.  I stupidly didn’t buy a ton of Sabbat when it was cheap.  I bought lots of every White Wolf published expansion.  I virtually never traded in the 16 years I’ve been playing.  I have bought singles on eBay at times but not for years and, obviously, not before eBay was a thing.

On a tangent, speaking of playing for 16 years, it’s kind of interesting to realize that.  I still enjoy the game quite a bit, testament to the value of CCGs I would say.  Why only 16 years?  I was introduced to the game in 1995 and started playing the following year.

I had an epiphany at some point with the Babylon 5 CCG.  I know I’m rambling, but I’m finally getting to the point.  I had all of the cards, for all intents and purposes.  My collection was defined more by how many autographed rares or chase promos I had.  One day, I thought about how much more fun it was to build decks when I had only a couple of boxes of starters and a couple of boxes of boosters, roughly my initial purchases.

Ever since then, I’ve always kept in mind that there are disadvantages to being a Mr. Suitcase.  Mark Rosewater goes on about restrictions breeding creativity, and I can see that with collection sizes.  I felt much more creative and passionate about decks I designed when I had to struggle to figure out how to compete.  I put this down to thinking way more about each card when:  I had less of them to think about; I couldn’t just play a better card all of the time.  Then, the more thought put into a deck, the more I care about a deck, so the more I’m likely to enjoy a deck.

I frequently restrict myself when it comes to deck construction.  It’s not just because of house rules for play groups I might play with or even laziness.  Nor is it something I do just for V:TES.  I built rareless decks for B5.  I wrote a Scrye article on a rareless, promoless deck for Wheel of Time, a game chock full of power rares/promos.  Likely, it has something to do with Ultimate Combat! being my first CCG and how that CCG restricts deck construction by rarity.  I built iceless corp decks for Netrunner.  Minionless V:TES tournament deck … that got the edge twice in one round.  An all ax kick deck for UC!.  And, so on and so forth.

There’s just something stimulating about limitations.  When I look at V:TES, B5, WoT, or UC!, I can almost build any deck possible.  That tends to inflict me with an ennui.  Why?  Too many options.  Lack of focus.  I can easily put together 20 decks; how am I ever going to be as emotionally invested in 20 decks as I would have been for the 1-2 I had to put real effort into?

Anyway, it’s all great to talk about my own interests, but how does this relate to someone trying to compete in V:TES?

Unlike most CCGs, I don’t see where someone needs much to compete with a reasonable variety of decks in V:TES.  This isn’t Magic, where multilands are essential to multicolor decks.  This isn’t WoT, where even Light decks wanted ultrarare recruitable Forsaken cards for their discard effects.  This isn’t Dragonball Z, Star Wars, or a multitude of other CCGs with similar ultrarare issues.

The more cards you have, obviously, the more options you have.  But, not having every option is supposed to be a feature of CCGs.  It would suck if the only deck someone with under 5,000 cards could build for V:TES that could compete is Malk SB.  But, that’s also not the case.

What is the case?  Again, I can’t really put myself into other people’s shoes.  This most commonly comes up when trying to think of how to recruit new players to games that I’ve been invested in for years.  But, that’s another topic.

If I were limited to around a thousand cards, which is like some starters and two booster boxes, what could I do?  I’d imagine there would be a lot of problems with V:TES at that level, mostly because of the need for wake effects, pool gain (blood conversion if you are reading Darby’s latest offerings over at Inferior Babble), and certain staples that might not come in the particular precons I started with (or I was using starters from the pre-precon sets).

By the way, the starter box + x2 booster box level is the level of investment that I think of when I think of the concept of when I enjoy a CCG most.

V:TES is hard on new players due to no card limits – a primary reason why I would always have card limits, in fact prefer 3cl in my CCGs.  At the same time, it’s a game where a lot of decks can win.

How many?

I’m curious.  There’s probably a tool out there to do simulated booster packs for this game, but I don’t have it.  Precons are easy, I even have a bunch unopened, nevermind how easy it is to rebuild them.  However, precons have largely been missing far too many essential cards, being light on the most important things of quality masters and wakes, while also often having bizarrely unplayable crypts.

In reality, I have enough unopened product or unorganized product (never sorted boosters I opened) that I can run a number of experiments on what it’s like to have a modest collection.

So, I guess I should.