July 26, 2012

Broad appeal, anyway.

Wasn’t too long ago that I spent a Saturday playing Small World, The Scepter of Zavandor, Dominion, and 7 Wonders.  Last week, the first three.

It’s time to play a new boardgame (including boardcardgames).  The question is:  which one?

Before getting further into that, what’s wrong with the above?

Small World is adequate, in my mind.  I’d rather play it than El Grande or Tigris & Euphrates, two other games that feel more tactical to me, even if the entirety of Small World’s interaction mechanics is really strategic.  It just feels like it’s missing something.  I played Small World Underground at KublaCon, which had more things going on, but I don’t know that more things going on is a good thing.  The elegance (and balance) of the game can very easily be lost.

I’d rather play Chariot Lords and its ilk if I’m going to play a game of armies showing up, beating down stiff-necked people, and going into decline.

I mentioned previously how I feel about Scepter.  Not really changed.  For whatever reason, I enjoy it and still keep trying to do different things to the extent that that is possible.  I really hated playing Outpost, but maybe, that was due to not having enough experience to understand correct play or because Outpost was much harsher.  Scepter is the group’s favorite game, so something with similar features would make the most sense.

But, there’s barely anything left to do.  I played Druid in one of those sessions and never went to the gems track, losing by 2 points that I could have squeezed out somewhere with better play, ending the game with only five rubies as my gems.  We did converse in the car ride home about how unexciting the emerald strategy is, which makes me want to try it.  I so often play an opal, sapphire, production artifact strategy no matter my role that I can’t really remember what it’s like to do emeralds.

Dominion is still repetitive.  Race for the Galaxy would interest me much more, but one of our players hates it.  7 Wonders is a bit programmed with just the base set.

Of course, if we had a more varied number of players, I think the games would show off other features.  We always have four with this group.  I know Scepter plays differently with a different, especially odd, number of players, 7 Wonders uses different cards, Small World has a different board, though I don’t know how much that will change the feel of the game, and Dominion is Dominion.

We have access to other games.  Puerto Rico, though, feels played out to me.  Settlers is Settlers.  I don’t bring Pizarro & Co. as another player hates it.  I don’t bring Age of Empires III because I find it rather dull, even if the figures/ships are aesthetically pleasing.  Caylus is a game I don’t look favorably on.  Etc.  I did bring In The Year Of The Dragon last time, but I just don’t find it compelling.  It actually has a similar feel in mechanics to me of Small World in that there’s just not enough going on for me to care, whether there’s enough going on for the game to be objectively a good game or not.

I would, of course, prefer doing HeroQuest, but that’s not in the same vein as Euroboardgames.

So, I did some boardgamegeek research.  I went to the top of the ratings and worked down to some degree.  I didn’t revisit Power Grid, hoping for something newer to be well suited to the group.  I think we want something on the lighter side, if not necessarily light, with low paralysis by analysis issues, manageable amounts of fiddly bits, low treachery/backstabbing, and maybe the right flavor.

Le Havre has an amazing review.  It’s reasonably positive, has lots of things you can do …  Probably has too many things you can do.  While the suggestion is to simply do something and learn rather than overanalyze, I’d imagine a game with lots going on may lead to AP (analysis paralysis).

Ora et Labora just sounded worse for our group than Le Havre.  In one review, it mentions being more difficult than Le Havre while either being a reimagining of that game or a cross between it and Agricola.  I rather despise Agricola, with only the animal management being kind of amusing.  Anyway, I’m leery of Euroboardgames where the reviewers think it’s dense or the strategy is complex.

I did not look at Through the Ages (this time), but if you read one of my few boardgame posts where I mentioned playing, you can imagine why.  I think it has weak flavor, nonintuitive mechanics, requires memorization unlike, say, 7 Wonders where memorization will make you a better player but isn’t necessary to being competitive, and is too long for the payoff.

Brass sounded like a nice theme.  My notes from reading a review are “too dense, too harsh”.

Dominant Species review makes it sound too mean for what I want to play.

I can see about trying to sneak in a game like Race for the Galaxy to see if the player will hate Eminent Domain and/or Glory to Rome as well, but I didn’t get a chance to read their reviews.

Nor did I get a chance to read Steam’s reviews, though I might have long enough ago that I forgot what they said.

In terms of games I could see playing but not necessarily getting, Stone Age and Phoenicia would both be strong candidates.  What I fear with both is that they too quickly become a bore.  I don’t think Stone Age is all that great a game, I just thought, after a couple of plays, that it’s reasonable as a low stress game.  Phoenicia I’ve only played twice and it seems limited, but it was low stress and otherwise pleasant right away.

While I’d like to play Glen More again, I don’t feel like I’ve played it enough to recommend it, and I’m not sure whether the group would enjoy it.  Galaxy Trucker kind of fits in this camp as well.  Merchants of Venus would probably work for the group, but there’s a reason I haven’t played it in ages – it seemed to quickly become rather mediocre as an experience.  Modern Art would make sense for the group, but I feel like I’ve played that out.

So, what’s the conclusion?  Study reviews of Phoenicia?  Read reviews of the other Zavandor themed games, like The Mines of Zavandor?  Keep looking at games from Steam down on BGG’s rankings?  Play other stuff?  Not like there’s a shortage of boardgaming in the area.  I think it’s nearly every day of the week somewhere in the Bay Area.

Suggestions for a game that would seem to fit this group are welcome.



July 23, 2012

Shoot, just remembered that I wanted to post something about boardgames, but as is the case often enough, Mark Rosewater has inspired me to talk about something.

First Impressions

The gist is that cards/mechanics have either good or bad first impressions and last impressions.  And, that each category is important, even bad/bad.  Exalted is used as an example of a mechanic with a bad first impression but good last impression.

Which got me to thinking about what mechanics in V:TES would fit into the different categories based on my opinions.  To limit the scope of the post, I decided to take a look at bloodlines, with Bloodlines being the first impression (maybe throw in a playtesting comment).  I’m not going to focus much on power level but on how fun the bloodlines are for me.

[Bloodline Clan]:  [First]/[Last]
[Clan’s Defining Mechanic]:  [First]/[Last]

Ahrimanes:  Bad/Bad

It’s been a while, but I think my predominant lines of thinking went something like this:  Spiritus is limited and boring; Ani/Pre has no synergy besides dodge + environmental; the way people play Ahrimanes, why not play Tzimisce and have bounce?; Spiritus is better than it appears, but it’s still dull; even stealth bleed and voting is rather dull.

Now, from a competitive standpoint, for me it would be Bad/Good, Good/Good for those people who started winning with them right away I guess, since Ahrimanes have proved quite competitive.  But, to an extent, I still wonder why people wouldn’t just play Tzimisce, gaining bounce and titles, given how they tend to build Ahrimanes decks as wallish (ignoring that people play suboptimal stuff all of the time).

While sterile, that’s not an important enough mechanic to be defining, nevermind that it’s also a Blood Brothers mechanic.  Better if it just didn’t exist at all for how much it matters.

Baali:  Bad/Bad [changed mind Bad/Good]
Infernal:  Bad/Neutral

Many will question this.  What about Nergal?  What about Cybele?  Sure, Baali have individually “good” vampires.  Baali as a whole, however, are still punished by how the infernal mechanic works, if not to as great a degree, by Daimoinon being a crap discipline, and by many Baali being underpowered for their costs.

Group 5/6 does wonders for the sub-10 caps being worth playing.  That still doesn’t leave me with a good impression.  It comes across to me as an acknowledgement that group 2 and group 4 were poorly designed.  Then, I’m no fan of Cybele because she’s overpowered.

I’d much rather that infernal worked as it did during a phase of our playtesting, where it cost one pool for all of your infernals.  Of course, the game has since evolved to account for the infernal penalty to where, now, it doesn’t feel that biting.  Some decks outbloat it.  Eluding the Arms of Morpheus has helped immensely with mitigating it – my Baali of the Name efforts look kind of lame these days since it’s so much less important to work around infernal with things like Blessing of the Name.  Then, cards have been coming out to try to make infernal a good thing, including Maleficia and Striga, which I enjoy playing with and which are powerful.

Actually, I’m not sure a bad last impression is true.  I do enjoy playing Baali decks.  They made me realize that Failsafe is playable (and fun).  I still find Daimoinon a bore, but I enjoy Maleficia and Striga.  I think The Hordes are cute, even if they don’t produce like I want them to.  The bad impression is more on the principle of the thing and how group 2 and group 4 midcaps are still rather annoying to try to play with.

Blood Brothers:  Bad/Bad
Circle:  Bad/Bad

Most boring bloodline?  Blood Brothers.  Most ineffectual bloodline?  Nag- …  Most ineffectual non-scarce bloodline?  Blood Brothers.

There are some really powerful individual plays for the Blood Brothers.  Unwholesome Bond and newer blood/pool gain is mighty.  But, Pot/For is so not a winning combo, any more than Pot/Cel has been since day one.  Nor are they compelling combos.  Before newer cards, the ideal for a BB deck was to sit around, not interacting with anyone, and gain massive quantities of counters with Unwholesome Bond.  Otherwise, for say a rush deck, might as well just play weenie Potence (or weenie Fortitude).  No defense is an even greater problem for BB than DoC, though I did block some stuff back in the day with Gestalt.  At least DoC could vote bloat.

Putting aside quality, they are just so mindnumbingly boring.  Maybe not to everyone, but I’ve built a lot of decks, including various BB stealth bleed and whatnot, and played such glorious decks as Matt Morgan’s Shock Troops BB deck, and it’s just so unenthralling (well, the Shock Troops deck idea I can kind of see stealing for my own deck).  I keep trying to find a Pot/For deck that would run mostly BB, and they just aren’t that great for such a deck, nevermind how bad such a deck is and how not all that interesting it is.  While I’ve killed people with Walk of Caine, it really shouldn’t ever happen, and the only other interaction is to rush, which has never appealed to me.

The circle requirement is less bothersome to me than the inability to add folks to a circle.  You always know how many dudes you are going to have, if you rely on Sanguinus.  There’s no reason to reach outside of BBdom.  Keep in mind that bloodlines, in general, were intended to be played with non-bloodlines originally.  BB have the least reason to cooperate with other clans, unless you just go Pot/For, which I don’t recall seeing others do.

Daughters of Cacophony:  Good/Good (I guess)
Offense Over Defense:  Good/Bad

I’ve always had Daughters higher in my list of favorite bloodlines.  That they can do voting well opens up deck territory that others eschew.  I even liked the idea that you had to think about how to survive, a la Followers of Set back in the day (see Ethan Burrow’s !Toreador newsletter from December 2001).

While there are other decks, my impression is that the most common deck concepts for them are from these three:  Choir, vote, Shattering Crescendo.  I tried my hand at Choir numerous times and it was always a joke.  Vote gets old for me pretty quickly.  I think the only deck I played with Shattering Crescendo wasn’t a SC deck.  Anyway, regardless, while I’m not as interested as I once was in what to do with DoC, that’s hardly surprising given how infrequent bloodlines get support.  I’m still satisfied that DoC make for an interesting clan, as well as a borderline competitive one.

On the other hand, the offense over defense thing gets old fast.  That is, it gets old when people play to it.  Having a DoC deck that can only go forward is annoying as hell.  Of course, vote doesn’t play that way, and Shattering Crescendo is basically a rush deck that will probably go backwards/sideways a fair amount.  Not that a pseudo-rush strategy is any better for stable table play.  Rather than try to come up with workarounds for a lack of defense, I tend to see people embrace the “Faster Pussycat!  Kill!  Kill!” mentality.  Alternatively, I also don’t find bloating as a defense all that interesting – it’s still noninteractive.

Gargoyles:  Bad/Bad
Slave:  Bad/Bad

A mistake in playtesting Gargoyles was thinking they were better than they were.  As Mark says in his article, people are bad at assessing power levels.  So, we could have done more to make Gargoyles less terrible.  This first impression is based on what got published.

Note that Tupdog is really its own thing, being a horribly broken card.  Real Gargoyles are weak sauce.  Again, Pot/For is not a quality combination for doing productive things and/or interesting things.  What’s amusing, in a painful way, is how Visceratika was originally about as unsynergistic as possible with Pot/For.  Combat ends?  Stealth?  Awesome effects … for vampires with Dominate.  Not so awesome with two combat disciplines.

Then, slave is awful.  There’s pretty much no upside while not only forcing ugly crypts but also leading to having dudes in play who can’t play all of your cards (even with the numerous Tha/Vis cards).  I’ve played independent Gargoyle decks and they are slow, weak (without grafting Dominate), boring, and my crypts are incredibly limited.  I can hardly bring myself to play standard master/slave decks.

Harbingers of Skulls:  Neutral/Neutral
Milling:  Bad/Bad

I discovered that group 3/4 HoS are quite reasonable as a midrange play.  If the ratings were just on group 3/4 HoS, it would be Bad/Good as I originally thought group 3/4 was inferior to 2/3.  But, my ratings aren’t.  Group 2/3 seemed okay but turned out to be awful.  The original theme of HoS was weird specials, not milling, since The Slaughterhouse used to have no meaningful impact on games no matter how often people built horrendously pointless mill decks with them, myself included.  Anyway, the problem with the specials is that they didn’t work together to the point that a clan saddled with Aus/For/Nec had enough to do.

While I like Aus/For/Nec, especially the first and third disciplines (the second more so in the RPG), it’s completely lacking in offense.  Not only ousting offense but lacking in combat prowess as well, really giving HoS nothing aggressive to do, beyond putting out Shamblers, which Giovanni do better.  I tried giving group 2/3 guns, having them vote, make babies – it all sucked.  Laibonism was the key to 3/4, giving them many more bleed options while also bringing the capacities down to speed things up and to achieve quantity over (lack of) quality.

Let me say up front that I’m cool with Trochomancy.  Trochomancy is a very interesting hoser and a nice boost.  I did not like it at first.  I was quite annoyed that there weren’t more Aus/Nec cards in the game given that HoS and Nagaraja both needed (and still need) so much help.  Then, Trochomancy got printed and it was like, “Okay, HoS need bleed, Nagaraja don’t.  How about something more compelling?”

But, milling is moronic.  I’m good with it in Magic, where you weren’t going to play those cards anyway and it ends the game in a way that I find satisfying.  I’m good with it in Ultimate Combat!, where it’s even more important for ending games than Magic and provides a ton of tension when digging for kill cards.  It’s probably okay in something else.  But, I just see it being inherently antifun, in general.  I never liked the CCGs where the only victory mechanic was milling someone out.  I hate milling in games where you would get to play those cards if they weren’t milled away.  People play cards to actually play cards, not to discard them (also why hand destruction is offensive).

Brinksmanship is one of the worst cards to ever come along.  It encouraged people to build really bad decks with terrible table interaction, even ignoring decking one’s prey.  It means getting rid of withdrawal, which should have been eliminated long ago, now is more difficult as people point to this card needing withdrawal to matter.  Sure, the days of Brinksmanship decks seem long in the past, with The Slaughterhouse being more of a Trochomancy enabler than being a tool to deck one’s prey, but milling remains a low yield, low enjoyable strategy.

Kiasyd:  Good/Bad
Flexibility:  Good/Bad

Again, I’m less concerned with power.  For power, Kiasyd would be either Good/Good or, for those who seemed to ignore for many years that Kiasyd had Dominate + stealth, Bad/Good.

Kiasyd were one of my favorite clans in the RPG.  I was terribly disappointed when they got Dominate rather than Necromancy as a clan discipline in the CCG, fourth disciplines aside.  It does make sense, though, for them to have Dom and Obt so that they would work well with a normal clan.  Nec/Obt, though, would have been far more interesting.

So, that aside, why good/bad?  I’m bored with Kiasyd and have been for a long time.  What’s funny is that this seems to be the opposite of what other people have gone through.  I couldn’t figure out why they had so few wins, except to believe that people thought they were boring, especially compared to Lasombra.  Now, they are winning far more often, so someone must find them interesting.

They are superflexible in card plays but that flexibility doesn’t extend to the strategic level.  My most common deck archetype may still be stealth bleed with intercept combat on the side, something Kiasyd seem perfect for, but I’ve yet to find myself in a situation where Kiasyd do the intercept combat angle well.  Dominate plus stealth might be fun to play, but it’s a drag when it comes to interesting deck ideas.  Tinglestripe failed to live up to being playable.  Earth Swords rarely beat people down.  The rise of Bats/Crows means ultrarare weapon hosers are less interesting.  Faerie Wards is just an annoying deck.  Ravager is insipid.  I’ve done Kiasyd without Dominate, and it got old fast.

Just like three-ways, the flexibility suggested doesn’t turn out to be what is delivered in actual play.  Not to say it doesn’t exist at all, maneuvering off of Fae Contortion or nuking stuff with Gremlins is not nothing.  I just don’t find Covincraft providing meaningful vote defense, Aura Absorption leading to blocks, or any reason to equip Tinglestripe.

Nagaraja:  Bad/Bad
Eat Stuff:  Bad/Bad

I’ve played a lot of Nagaraja decks.  There’s still no point to it besides playing bad decks.  I try to play the clan cards since, you know, they don’t even have their own discipline, but they rarely seem to make it off the paper.

Salubri:  Bad/Neutral
Vampire Screw:  Bad/Bad

I’m happy that there are more things to do with Salubri than Renewed Vigor and vampire screw (steal, lockdown).  I’m still questioning of the game value of a refill card.  I still hate Spirit Marionette.

As for power, I think the Salubri story is complicated.  I think they seemed much stronger at first impression, then people built Spirit Marionette decks and found them limited or tried to find other things to do and came up empty, then more Salubri got printed, with Saulot being tantalizing to those who like superstar decks.  Up until group 6, I’d be inclined to believe they were consistently overrated until played.  But, group 6 is buff.

Salubri antitribu:  Bad/Good/Neutral
Melee Weapon Combat:  Bad/Bad

The first thing I discovered with !Salubri is that melee weapon combat didn’t become viable.  Outside of Weighted Walking Stick plays in decks that have good stuff, like Dominate or weenie Auspexness, melee weapon combat remains the worst possible non-esoteric combat strategy.

While Brother in Arms helps viability and some like Death Seeker, I don’t see them having progressed all that much.  Upgrades here and there with Sense Death, Hide the Heart, or whatever still don’t fundamentally change the nature of the clan.  The only reason I don’t find them a bore is because I do weird things with them, something that I can’t even generate interest in doing with Blood Brothers.  At least I enjoy Blissful Agony and guess I do for Blessing of the Name since I’ve played it so often.  I’m still inclined to do odd things with them rather than the fruitless melee combat strategy so many still want to pursue.

As for the tri-rating, first impression/middle impression/last impression.

Samedi:  Bad/Neutral
Stealth?:  Bad/Bad

What is the defining mechanic of Samedi?  Four disciplines (a terrible idea unless you actually give them all those disciplines)?  Equipping?  Which is one card.  Having the most nonsensical discipline in the game?  The worst discipline in the game?

What offended me about Thanatosis to begin with was not how bad it was.  After all, Quietus was pathetic for the longest time.  What offended me about it was that its best plays were completely redundant to what For/Obf offered.  Hag’s Wrinkles – untap … stealth.  Dust to Dust – combat defense for a clan that no one is going to block and that has Fortitude.  Then, you get some of the worst “offensive” combat cards in the game – certainly a top priority to me to stop additional strikes.  Compress would be cool if it cost one less.  Then, what’s the best HttB Thanatosis card?  Right … stealth … because becoming impossible to block is so fascinating.

Then, its expansion has hardly been all that.  Transfusion is only good for Giovanni.  Sure, Reanimated Corpse is a stud and opens up a whole other angle, synergizing with Shamblers as well.  And, Samedi cards got far better.  Little Mountain Cemetery addressed a real weakness of lack of defense (gee, lot of bloodlines seem to be lacking in this regard) with bloat.  Off Kilter does the same.  Each piece of equipment they can play does make Hag’s Wrinkles better.

I’ve always thought Samedi were underrated, once they were published and I played them.  Group 2/3 do stealth bleed just fine, even with their hefty capacities, with a little help from good ole Dominate.  While possibly monotonous, RC and LMC gave quality things to do that could be played with or without Dominate.  Group 4 was the worst set of new vampires for any clan ever, but I’ve found some use for Macoute.  Being underrated, though, isn’t the same as being good or interesting.  By process of elimination, i.e. I played the other bloodlines out, they have become one of my top clans to try things with, but I’m still struggling to find the fun things to do – their best plays are rather monotonous, Samedi vote didn’t end up working out as well as I hoped.

By the way, I’d really like to see a Path style card for Thanatosis to try to make the awful 1 blood cards less awful.  Though, sadly, most folks will just use it for Reanimated Corpse discounts.

True Brujah:  Good/Bad/Good
Untapping:  Good/Bad

All hail learning superior Auspex.  All hail.  Stealth doesn’t hurt, either.

Why did Trujah fail?  Lack of defense (gee …) and lack of stealth.  No bounce plan or intercept plan mixed with scarcity is always a recipe for quick demise.  Lack of stealth hurt their defining mechanic of untappiness.

HttB changed everything.  Now, we have a clan that can get actions through without pretending to play Lapse combat or relying on Majesty, which I hear a few other vampires can also play at superior.  Now, we have bounce and intercept.  Now, I can pay 15 pool for a vampire and still think I won’t be ousted.

On the other hand, while Lapse was kind of interesting for what it couldn’t do, Outside the Hourglass is incredibly annoying, even without Domain of Evernight.  Though, with Pocket Out of Time (and various Trujah having a stealth discipline), OtH+DoE enables getting cool actions through, like Kiss of Lachesis or Summon History.

People play Kiss, don’t they?  No?  OK.  Summon History is broken?  You know, I thought that but wasn’t sure and never got around to it before others showed that.  Broken is bad, right?

Anyway, untappiness, as much as others value it more than I, still doesn’t appear to be as promising as it originally did nor all that important in the grand scheme of things.  Though, some day Shalmath will get his Starshell Grenade Launcher and go to town.  Maybe Dennis Lien has already done that.

And, so …

After all that, I realize my post has little to do with Mark’s article.  Where he is talking about how impressions change immediately, I’m talking about how impressions have changed over a decade in which new cards have been added.  Also, personal views on what is fun are always going to be a problem because I get bored easily.  Everything pales over time for me because of the “been there, done that”, while I may rediscover an interest in something after having ignored it for long enough.  And, fun views are more mercurial than views on power.


July 16, 2012

Had eight yesterday for casual play.  After two games, two left, and we played a six.

Anew, too many deck ideas.  Those eight decks written up July 6th/7th?  Yet to pull the cards for any.  Pulling cards – going through unsorted piles, finding the right sleeves, etc. – comprises the effort of deckbuilding.  Built new deck Sunday morning.  Built deck for another.

Andy (Lutz & Friends) -> Ray (Toreador guns) -> Ian (Seterpenre Dabbler) -> Rich (Gangrel w/ Dom)

Ray and Rich have not kept up with the game, nice to have them show and play.

Seterpenre gains Celerity, Fortitude, superior Dementation, later Dabbler and Blood Doll.  Zero stealth, superior Madman’s Quill blocked by Angus, Seterpenre Amaranthed, Angus Bloodhunted.  Pentweret holds down the fort until Seterpenre Jr. gains Celerity, Fortitude, superior Dementation, later Dabbler and two Blood Dolls (plus prey’s The Rack), superior Celerity and superior Fortitude.  Lutz Soul Painted by Seterpenre, rendered impotent.  Rich backousted immediately after Renegade Garou recruited.  Game times out.  Lilith’s Blessing never used – too much blood on Setites.  Guide and Mentor used twice.

Ray (same) -> Ian (Pre/Pro Jyhad/DS/AH-library) -> Eric (Kiasyd SB) -> Brandon (!Trem Eternally Vigilant)

I discard Shackles of Enkidu but decide to bring out Roman Alexander, then discard Backways.  Don Cruez and Kallista gain PRE/PRO.  Igo has Giant’s Blood, Claws’ Kiasyd, Kallista diablerie blocked.

Eric bleeds.  Brandon bounces.  Ray dies.

I finish off Eric.  Brandon tooled up.  I lose.

Jeff (Seterpenre Dabbler) -> David (Petaniqua ally) -> Eric (Imbued) -> Ian (Foul Blood, The Final Nights style) -> Andy (Lutz & Friends) -> Brandon (Shamblers)

Eric recruits Ossian.  David contests.  I lose Ubende to Society of Leopold.  Brandon rushes Imbued and Bloody Mary.  Jeff sits and spins.  David recruits Infernal Servitor and Muddled Vampire Hunter, puts Madness Network in play.  Eric bleeds some.

I discard core of deck – Foul Blood, most The Final Nights, XTC-Laced Blood.  Lutz gets AK-47.  I recruit Impundulu, who sends Imbued to hospital where she is pillowfaced.  Eric’s game sucks.  Shambler rushes Petaniqua as Brandon expects oblivion.  Petaniqua eaten by Gregory Winter.  David’s game sucks.  Jeff finally gets deck going, bleeds with Madman’s Quill.  Andy ousts.  Jeff ousts.  Lutz sent to torpor by Seterpenre’s Coma while blocking Soul Painting – no Fortitude on Seterpenre, no Soak, Society of Leopold claims another victim.  Jeff’s game sucks.  Fame on Lutz and Imbued bleeds oust me before I can diablerize Lutz.  Andy recovers.  Andy wins.


Many Dabbler possibilities, too many.

Previously tried to get others to build decks I lacked time for, didn’t work – too many decks.

Seterpenre should be played more often.

Allies squeamish near Pentweret.

Decks that contain random cards, e.g. Shackles of Enkidu, and oust players more fun.

Soul Painting … broken.

More Than A Blood Doll

July 12, 2012

I think I have an idea why I had more than the usual number of deck ideas at the end of last week.  Between playing some tournaments the weekend before and setting aside my experiments for a moment, I felt free to explore ideas, new or otherwise.

So, Friday, I wrote up three decks, all group 5/6 bloodlines because I like bloodlines and I like limitations on building decks and I like playing cards I haven’t played before.  Then, Saturday, I wrote up five more decks.

I’ve grown tired of complaining.  Not to say I won’t do it, but I used to complain about CCGs a lot.  There have cropped up a fair number of threads on about individual cards, whether to fix them or not, how to fix them, etc.  I’ve not chimed in all that much.

Yet, something about these decks got me agitated.

How many of the decks do you think, of the eight, have Lilith’s Blessing in them?

How many Villein?

In general, I’m anti-staple.  In my mind, the fewer required cards, the more deck diversity.  On the other hand, there is something to not having too much diversity, and it makes things a lot easier when there are staples to pump out decks.

V:TES has always had staples.  Kids today may look down upon it, but Wake With Evening’s Freshness was all we had for generic wake effects until Sabbat.  Even after Forced Awakening, I survived almost entirely on WWEF.  Blood Doll, of course, with Minion Tap being a closeish substitute and Tribute to the Master being a distant substitute.  Each discipline has staples.  Etc.

Vessel produced arguments about Blood Doll’s use, now, largely irrelevant.  On the Qui Vive is just better than WWEF, though I’ve started putting Wakes back into decks as I do get tired of OtQV’s drawback for certain decks.  But, I’m rambling.

Seven and five.  Those are the number of decks, of the eight I wrote up on July 6th and 7th, that run, respectively, Lilith’s Blessing and Villein.

I can almost say that LB + Villein is the new Blood Doll, except five of those decks also run Blood Doll.  Now, at a certain point, I think I just got tired of putting LB and Villein in decks, which is why one deck has neither and why a couple of the decks may run Blood Doll instead of Villein.

Given that I’ve been okay with doing crazy stuff like put Blood Dolls (or Minion Taps) in “every” deck and putting The Barrens and/or Dreams, when serious about a deck, in “every” deck and seemingly putting Information Highway in every deck and putting wakes in every deck that played other reaction cards and putting bounce in every deck with Dominate and/or AUSPEX, I’m not sure what is so bothersome about the idea that LB + Villein is a staple play.

Maybe it’s due to hating unique promos – LB shouldn’t exist.  Maybe it’s due to hating how Villein used to hose Minion Tap while being better than Minion Tap, an arguably overpowered card, the vast majority of the time.

Or, maybe it’s because I tend to run five Blood Dolls in decks that rely on Blood Doll for moving counters around, where I typically run more Villeins and some number of LBs, eating more slots on masters when the competition for masters has only gotten more fierce.

Or, maybe it’s because I’m still irritated at Villein’s availability, namely that I should have had a lot more than I have.  Villein’s relative scarcity impacts how many decks I have built at a given moment.

Or, maybe it’s that LB + Villein is so much more powerful than old school, rely on Blood Doll for some pool gain, days.  LB means netting counters.  That’s obvious.  Even without Villein, it’s incredibly efficient, synergizing well with Blood Doll and numerous other ways to empty vampires.  One copy is often going to result in six or nine more counters, minus the one for the cost of the card, minus the opportunity cost of not playing another master, but plus the skill card searching benefit, which is relevant to quite a few of my decks.

I detest tedium.  What I crave out of games is so often variety.  Boardgames can be interesting for a while, maybe up to 20 plays, but eventually run into a dearth of variety for me.  CCGs are most perfectly excellente for their vast variety, in certain cases, essentially infinite variety.

So, I get annoyed when “my game” (CCGs overall) loses variety.  It’s why I occasionally feel that Dominate is oppressive in V:TES.  And, it’s why I’m getting tired of LB + Villein or just LB by itself.  Sure, I hamstring myself all of the time with V:TES deck construction, so I can just ignore them.

But, there’s something Dominate and LB have in common that other plays that I do ignore on a regular basis – Second Tradition, Parity Shift, etc. – lack.  I enjoy playing Dominate cards.  I enjoy getting three blood, whether as part of putting vampires into play for free or more subtlely as a recovery mechanic.  I enjoy these things, but I want to enjoy other things as much.  It’s becoming hard to moderate the use of LB.

Though, I never found Blood Doll offensive.  Well, not in practice.  In concept, it’s kind of offensive for being way too good and generic.  WWEF would fall into the same camp of just being part of the game, like Meditation in Babylon 5 or Lucky Find in Wheel of Time or Mantra of Power in Ultimate Combat!.

I was reluctant to post about Lilith’s Blessing and Villein bothering me because a post ranting about cards really doesn’t do any sort of service.  I try to actually post content that might be of use to someone besides myself.  And, yet, I never found anything else to write about in this post, contrary to my intention.

I could say something about these eight decks beyond that some are bloodlines decks.  I could say something about where ideas come from.  I could say that I was thinking about writing something about the role of Primogen in the game, but I’ve basically bitched for a 1000 words, so maybe tomorrow or the weekend I’ll be inspired to write about something else.

Decision: 3r or 4e or 3.5

July 8, 2012

So, I am of course talking about editions of Legend of the Five Rings RPG and not D&D.

I had a surprisingly developed idea for a L5R campaign come to me.  I don’t have any investment in the canonical storyline, and I’m most comfortable with Rokugan 1500 (HoR2) as a setting, where everything pretty much exists except the absurd Spider Clan, yet where there isn’t some Empire destroying threat every few years/decades.  So, my idea was a natural for being set in the HoR2 storyline, after the HoR2 campaign ended.  About 100 years after, in fact, to give time for things to reshape themselves and to move away from some of the events of HoR2.

Three major clans are annihilated, Rokugan fights on two fronts and isn’t sure what to make of a new Gaijin people on a third, etc.  HoR2 does indeed have a legacy that seeps into my idea.  In fact, I plan to start the campaign with one of the HoR2 mods to not only provide an intro into history of this Rokugan but to have ancestors for the PCs based on the events of the mod.  This particular mod is one I never got close to running for the local group, so shouldn’t be any issues with repetition for potential players.

Since this campaign wouldn’t happen any time soon, as things appear to be going, filling in more thematic details lacks urgency.  On the other hand, while I think I can keep thinking up cute details to flesh out the thematics, I am at a loss as to what mechanics to run.

I much prefer Third Edition Revised (3r) to Fourth Edition (4e).  On the other hand, 4e is a much better managed game that will continue to see mechanical expansion, and it’s the edition that I’m likely to use for other play.  Ideally, I can take the best elements of both editions, which is where a 3.5 would come in, however that might be a lot of work, something that only makes sense if there’s some real payoff.

What are some of the differing elements between the two that I like/dislike?

3r – Like

  1. Start with 45 points to make characters rather than 40, though this isn’t a major thing since I would start my PCs at something like 60.
  2. Void Ring is the same cost to increase as Traits.  Is this going to lead to characters with a high Void all of the time?  Sure.  That doesn’t bother me.  Void, to me, is a major way to separate PCs from their enemies.  I also want to see Void Points spent often (see below).  Also, the less Void costs, the more points PCs will have for other things.  4e really shafted PCs on character points between the lower starting value and the increase in the cost of Void.  The only thing I don’t really like about high Void is that I want to restrain going to higher Insight Ranks.
  3. Ability to increase a Trait (and assumedly Void) two ranks above starting, rather than be capped at 4.  Again, as GM, this can be ignored, but it was cool to come up with character concepts with a Trait of 6 out of the gate when playing in other people’s campaigns.
  4. Honor only has 5 ranks.  If you start at Honor 3.5 (or even 2.5), you can see a way to rise to Honor 5, where 10 ranks of Honor means Honor (upward) mobility is that much slower.  Does it make sense for someone to be at 5?  Not really, but that should be covered by how it gets harder and harder to gain as you go up rather than just ignoring the possibility of ever being a paragon of Honor.
  5. I like the idea of skill subtypes, but it never worked well in practice, so can probably leave this out.
  6. Raises being limited by Void or Skill Rank.  It’s ridiculous to me to limit raises only by Void, even if that’s what has been done in multiple editions of the game.  For one thing, it yet again punishes skill buys.  For another, I don’t want raises to be that limited.  I’m fine with people calling 5 raises for stuff or whatever.  Then, my master (rank 7 skill) artisan with a Void of 2 is a pretty terrible artist compared to Joe Void, with his Void of 4 and single rank.
  7. General skill mastery abilities.  Skills get shafted in 4e for reasons I’m unclear on, though it seems like one reason may have been simplicity.  3e was a huge improvement in balancing skill buys against Trait buys.  While there’s still too much emphasis on specific ranks, that rank 5 gives you +2 Insight and a Free Raise and that rank 10 gives you +5 Insight and no limit on Raises (which is pretty much meaningless) are real incentives.
  8. Specific skill mastery abilities.  Further screwing over people who want to buy up skills, 4e eliminated all but two Insight bonuses from skills, and for some reason, gave them to two skills that get used all of the time!  3r was kind of a mess with bonuses, but having Artisan skills, Games skills, Performance skills, Storytelling, Theology, and Craft skills give Insight bonuses justified wasting XP on (often) low yield skills.
  9. Medicine mastery abilities makes Medicine far more useful for healing.  Healing is something I think all heroic RPGs need to be incredibly easy and powerful, as it’s tedious to spend time recovering between dangers.
  10. General weapon mastery abilities.  Wound penalties were common in 3e/3r.  Going to rank 5 in your primary weapon skill was crazy powerful – Free Raise, -rank to wound penalties – which was fine with me.  Rank 10’s damage explodes on 9’s was the only reason to ever consider going to rank 10, still largely an XP boondoggle.
  11. War Fans rank 7 mastery ability.  Essential to the whole War Fans build.
  12. Defense skill increases your TNtbH (ATN in 4e) at all times.  Can go into this more when speaking about 4e, but that Defense is often useless to a bushi but great for a shugenja in 4e is weird, where 3r has the more logical “people who want to fight, want Defense”.  Plus, it’s easier to create interesting TNtbHs for antagonists where ATNs in 4e are so often multiples of 5.
  13. Balance in 3r (less so in 3e).  Bonus to Tests of Honor.  3r bonus to Honor Rolls.  Will talk more about these.
  14. Advantages, general.  A number of advantages are far better.  Advantages should be strong to get people to purchase them.
  15. Magic Resistance, arguably.  While it says kami are reluctant to do stuff to you, I would play MR as applying to Maho and Gaijin magic.  Otherwise, it’s just a disadvantage pretending to be an advantage, as L5R is a RPG where far more magic comes from PCs than from enemies.  In particular, making Path to Inner Peace harder on a PC is awful.
  16. Unlucky is worth a more reasonable number of points.
  17. School techniques, in general, aren’t so boring and weak.  While this could be a very long subject, just an example, since it’s first in the 3e book, the Hida Bushi rank one tech adds Earth to attack and damage rolls and has the heavy armor thing.  That’s cooler (more thematic) and scales, where 4e’s +1k0 to damage, only for Heavy Weapons I might add, is dull, not particularly good (ends up being 2-3 extra damage on average in most cases), and doesn’t scale.  And, Hida Bushi is one of the best 4e bushi schools!
  18. Mirumoto Bushi adds +1 to any Trait, thus creating all sorts of interesting double stack builds.  Now, the school is horribly broken, and this exacerbates that, but I like Different School a lot, nevermind in-clan double stacks.
  19. Toku Bushi 3e.  Just kidding.  I now have my spiel for how broken this school is by going on about how broken the Mirumoto Bushi school is and the punchline being that the Dragon school was left alone and the Toku Bushi school majorly nerfed.  Interesting that the change is not mentioned in my doc of revisions between 3e and 3r.
  20. Void Point uses.  Yes, Encouragement is kind of broken.  But, I like being able to help others, especially when I have a surplus of a resource and the others have a dearth.  Final Strike – cool if awkward.  I’m not sure about gaining an action, which was broken.  Persistence – awesome; why in the world would you get rid of this, even more so when making the mistake of inverting the wound chart as 4e did?
  21. Being able to spend any number of VPs in a round.  Who in the world thought it was a good idea to limit to one VP per round (for basic uses) in 4e?  Keep in mind that you essentially decreased everyone’s number of VPs by one because of the Void Ring cost increase.  Maybe 4e just wants combat to be tedious rather than explosive.
  22. Speaking of explosions, I like the idea of recovering Void Points while doing stuff, but I realize that pretty much any rule, including the triple explosion rule, is subject to abuse.
  23. Declaring stances normally, rather than the lack of timing in stance declaration in 4e.  Of course, I’m also for eliminating Defense Stance and Center Stance.  The former is mostly of benefit to shugenja, who don’t need to be better at combat, though it is kind of interesting to have a way for folks to take non attack actions in combat and be harder to hit.  The latter is just a bunch of unnecessary complexity.
  24. Being able to call raises to keep extra damage dice.  I know this is horribly broken.  I would probably actually do this differently, maybe use 4e’s misnamed Feint mechanic to deal extra damage, but it utterly blows to use a weapon with less than 2 kept dice.  And, I enjoyed doing over 100 damage with a war fan …
  25. The 3r wound chart.  No, it’s not perfect.  But, it does result in wound penalties from pretty much everything that isn’t Voided off.  That’s a good thing, a very good thing.  It means fighting one on one battles makes sense rather than the typically correct tactic of ganging up on enemies in 4e.  It makes the Permanent Wound disad actually work, rather than being guaranteed death as it is in 4e.  It makes anti-wound penalty stuff much sweeter.  It puts chumps down fast, a major problem I’ve seen in 4e, where every random bandit becomes far more threatening as nobody goes down fast.  The padding at the end of the chart means that you can live without being in combat, which sounds lame but actually is a boon to keeping PCs alive, as they are likely to stop fighting (stop being a target) much sooner.
  26. Iaijutsu.  Well, okay, this is another messy mechanic that ideally would be done better.  But, whereas 4e duels are a dull roll off, Iaijutsu duels in 3r are dramatic affairs.  You also avoid some of the problems with ties.  I’m not that excited that Agility and Reflexes matter a lot more than they do in 4e (where Agility doesn’t matter at all), but it’s kind of better than everything coming down to Void.  I do dislike how you have to balance your stats, though there are some benefits – it helps prevent characters from getting too good to ever duel – while it hurts in other ways – it’s really easy to suck at dueling because you don’t have the XP to increase everything.
  27. Weapons have special abilities.  Yeah, too much of this sort of thing is kind of annoying, and it radically increases complexity, and I’m the one who doesn’t like there being any differences between weapons normally in RPG play.  But, if you are going to have people use different weapons, something I’m oddly in favor of with L5R, then you should make the weapons distinct beyond just how much damage they deal.  And, no, staves having a disad against armor is not what I’m talking about (doesn’t even make any sense as avoiding blunt trauma is not the primary purpose of armor).
  28. Item quality.  Again, has issues.  I’m not a huge fan of item quality for combat items since it gets cheesy what people do, but it makes tons of sense for kimono, fans, et al.
  29. Glory actually does something.  I was amazed to find that Glory actually has no mechanics in 4e.  Adding Glory rank to social skills vs. people who know you is intuitively obvious.
  30. Tests of Honor and Honor Rolls.  Okay, this is a huge mess of confusion for people.  Yes, you can dispense with Tests of Honor as a separate mechanic and simply say that any Honor Roll that prevents dishonorable behavior nets Honor, but there is also the fact that Tests of Honor are unlimited.  Considering how rarely I ever made a Test of Honor, I’m kind of okay on having limitless Tests of Honor.  After all, each time you fail, you lose a lot.  On a separate issue, which would go into a dislike category, Honor Roll mechanics in 3r, with substitution, are way too complicated and weird with the only upside being that the better a character is the worse Honor Rolling is for the character, and that’s something of a dubious upside, being more mechanical and less flavorful.
  31. Kata are broken in 3r.  But, at least they have flavor.  There must be some way to get kata to work right.  Maybe 4e general mechanics with a lot more flavorful effects.
  32. Sort of 3r mass combat.  In reality, I’m not familiar enough with how mass combat works to say I like the mechanics.  However, I like the concept, much more than I once did.  And, 3r does it far better than 4e – you actually get to fight fights!
  33. Fear is not utterly crippling and reasonable levels of Fear are easily countered if you have a decent Willpower and a decent Honor or high in one of the two.  Not only is being afraid unheroic, it’s amazingly unfun to have 4e’s penalties.

4e – Like

  1. Switching Initiative with Void is cheaper.  All power to PCs and evil GMs.
  2. Actions are better defined.  Free, Simple x2, Complex – much cleaner, if also rather mechanical.  I do miss the days of simply moving without specifying how far and what sort of action I’m using to do so.  I’m not a tactical movement dude.
  3. Guard maneuver.  Guard maneuver was actually pretty dumb in 3r, where you had to successfully attack, which both meant that you might suck at defending someone because you weren’t an offensive build and, as I discovered, you just up and killed the dude you were guarding your friend against.  4e Guard makes way more sense, and it’s actually quite interesting except in the broken Daidoji Iron Warrior’s case.
  4. Conditional effects are much better defined.
  5. Not to pick out every school improvement, but I do really like the change to the Asahina Shugenja School.
  6. In general, schools lack the brokenness of 3e/3r.  Schools are really the greatest problem for my coming up with a rules set.  I can use 4e schools with largely 3r rules, though Kakita Bushi needs Center Stance and the like, but I don’t actually like a lot of the 4e school mechanics.  They are just so dry.  I have considered a way to access the higher level, cooler mechanics to deal with this, but I wonder whether it’s worth trying to merge the more balanced 4e schools with the more fun 3r core mechanics.
  7. Some consolidation of skills.  I actually wish, as I wrote about in another post, that the skill lists were consolidated even more.  But, there really was no reason for Theology or Storytelling to be separate skills in 3r.  Still, there’s no reason to pull out Sincerity, Intimidation, and Temptation in 4e, etc.
  8. Some of the mastery abilities.  I like how rank 3 gets more mastery abilities, where 3r saw too many skills only get mastery starting at 5.
  9. Clearer definitions on certain disads, notably Gaijin Name and Cannot Lie, which gained mechanics.
  10. In general, spellcasting in 4e.  Master casting from 3r was broken.  4e is all about casting rank 1 and rank 2 spells, which isn’t all good but the ease of casting them is nice.  Path to Inner Peace is clean, whether it’s better or not.  Spellcasting doesn’t seem quite as broken in 4e, helped by no Free Raise for Innating and using a scroll (I might give a +2 bonus as Innating isn’t that great, otherwise), lower Free Raises in general, and a lot of ridiculous spells being corralled.
  11. No more double stack Willpower, and +1k0 is the bane of my enthusiasm, but the Toku Bushi school is relatively awesome in 4e.  Meanwhile, the Suzume Bushi School is much less painful due to removing the decisions on what Lore skill to boost in the 3r version.
  12. Paths are much more coherent and much less of a penalty to bushi in 4e.  The replacement rather than add on is massive progress in getting paths to work appropriately.
  13. Reduction instead of Carapace.  Carapace was just too confusing and gamey, even if it did help people with low keep weapons.

There are things in both editions I dislike immensely, of course.  Luck is way undercosted.  A lot of advantages and disadvantages are poorly costed, poorly explained, or both.  Extra attack never seems to work, in 4e not so much because of the mechanics but because of how hard it is to get that many raises.  There are pointless school techniques, e.g. Imperial Legionnaire.  Shugenja are way more useful than anyone else.  Adjudicating Honor changes is difficult.  Grappling rules exist.  I don’t know enough about ancestors in 3r, but ancestors in 4e are dumb; I actually most like HoR2’s system for ancestors where you got an extra Void Point for a courageous or honorable action.

I just don’t know.  Maybe 4e with wound inversion and 3r Void Point use is enough.  Just feels like too many changes either way to core the mechanics on one edition.


Tournament Report – June 30th

July 4, 2012

“Blessed Resilience”

Get to the card in two thousand words or so.  It’s maybe a theme given that we achieved a new high water mark for tournament attendance in the region.  Again, multiplayer CCGs are far more resilient to lack of new cards than two-player CCGs due to the social and political elements.  But, enough philosophizing, on to le action.

Tournament 1 – 29 players

We actually had 30 people around but someone bowed out for reasons I’m not sure about.  Could have had more, but what was so interesting was seeing people I rarely see or people who moved into the area.  I hadn’t seen Oscar (Garza) since he moved out here, for instance.

Round 1:

Robert (FoS anarch vote) -> Kenneth (LMC, Reanimated Corpse) -> Ian L. (!Brujah vote) -> Oliver (Malk anarch vote w/ Lutz) -> Ky (Kiasyd?)

As anyone who reads much of what I write knows, I may jump around in my narratives rather than go in an attempted chronological order.  Ky brought out two Lasombra.  He brought out no Kiasyd.  Ky’s game was not very interesting, so I will say no more about it.

My game was a mixed bag.  Kenneth put out The Unmasking right away, which wasn’t good for my normally stealthless !Brujah, however I brought out DeSalle first and rarely was concerned with blocks.  Robert and Oliver both got Fee Stakes.  I did not get a Crusade off for the longest time, so my vote oriented vote deck was rather impotent while I had DeSalle and Axel Von Anders out and only got somewhat better when Hektor hit the table.  Though, there was one vote I called to do pool damage to the two other vote decks and none (besides Lutz) to the two non-vote decks which passed with Robert’s help without any lobbying upon my part, as I amusedly expected.  Having no defenses, except against combat, which was not something I was able to get into much, Kenneth could drop RCs and bleed at stealth and I had to look at my hand and wish I had more imPotence.  I did blow up Kenneth’s first RC with punch, press (Flash), punch, figuring losing four blood was better than two pool a turn for several turns.

Robert built up his voting some.  Oliver brought out Lutz after two other Malks.  I’m sure there were more key plays that others thought compelling enough to mention, but the game just seemed to grind on to where I have only a few notable recollections.  Oliver’s dudes got Temptationed by Robert and Ky Pentexed Lutz, slowing Oliver down.  Okay, Ky did keep losing pool, including from Robert’s and my votes due to Lutz.  Robert contested a Barony with Oliver, which Oliver gave up, switching from LA to Boston.  Kenneth would lose pool but gained it back with Little Mountain Cemetery.  Oliver brought out a fourth dude to help with being able to take actions while Ky was virtually toast, and, as I hoped and expected, Robert finally got around to Reckless Agitationing Oliver out of the game on his next turn, which also ousted Ky.  Kenneth brought out George Frederick late in the game, which I thought was a horrible mistake, and Robert ousted him.  Time was short, so the meaning to my remaining actions was not being ousted by Robert before time as he had a dominant position.

We spent nearly nine minutes trying to find out how Prisci subreferendum interacts with Fee Stake burning, as I really should have tried to remove all of the Fee Stakes in play, time that was added on to the end of our round.  And, for those who hate timeouts, I can sort of see that camp’s view, but I’m so used to them that I consider them a crucial part of the game.

Robert 1.5 / Ian 1.5 / Oliver 1

Round 2:

James (HoS) -> Ian L.  -> Brandon (high cap +bleed Dom/Obf vote) -> Eric S. (Tremere) -> A.J. (Nakhthorheb)

My uncontrolled is Alessandro Garcia, Marcel de Breau, Hektor, … and Aksinya Daclau.  To do stuff, I bring out Alessandro, even though that messes up Grooming the Protege and Enchant Kindred at superior.  I plan on Marcel for votes, followed by Aksinya so that I can eventually Gang Territory to Hektor, if I draw it.

Meanwhile, Brandon puts out Mistress Fanchion.  Well, guess I won’t vote.  James brings up Egothha, who repeatedly hits master cards while I draw hardly any.  When I do have plans to put Black Forest Base in play, James Revelations me and discards it.  A.J. gets Nakhthorheb action going with Venenation to make it impossible for Egothha to block.  On the other hand, James’s Matthias proves wallriffic.

So, how did this game start looking far better for me?  Brandon got greedy and Fanchion got Archoned.  Nakhthorheb got Golcondaed three times, finally providing 10 pool.  James was never an ousting threat to me as he was just hanging on against bleeds that were often three even with Matthias in play.  A.J. brought out Neferu, which messed up our vote calculations.  Brandon was still getting bleeds and votes through with Laszlo Mirac and Orlando Oriundus.  Though, I still only had Alessandro and Marcel in play, which meant limited vote ability and lack of “swarm” bleed.

Brandon bleeds for four to oust Eric.  I Major Boon.  I try to bleed Brandon for two with Marcel when Brandon is at two, after Brandon had bounced numerous bleeds of mine with Murmur of the False Will, and Eric Eagle Sight blocks.  A.J. goes down to one pool, James goes down to one pool.  I can’t even pass a vote with only Orlando, Carna, and Neferu in play.  Of course, I sat on way too many vote cards I finally started tossing as Brandon’s voting ability kept shifting, so I drew into limited vote push.  Eric ousts A.J. who tapped out at one pool to do more damage to James.  Brandon is at two pool and likely dead to Marcel, but I Golconda Orlando to see if I can still engineer four VPs.  I knew we were short on time, but I didn’t factor in how short, so this was rather goofy.  Just before time, I oust minionless Brandon.  James survives.  I never bring up Hektor, though I could have right at time between Gang Territory and Information Highway.

Eric 1.5 / Ian 1.5 / James .5

I made a number of important mistakes in the two rounds.  In the first round, I should have aggressively been burning Fee Stakes, for instance.  I also kept holding on to a Wash because I kept forgetting to play it, even after noticing that I had forgotten to play it, though it did eventually stop a Villein on Lutz.  The second round, though, was the biggest error, methinks.  Right after Fanchion exploded, I could have called a Crusade on Alessandro and vote pushed it to pass, giving me two more permanent votes for the rest of the game, yet I did something dumb, like bleed, with him, instead.  Really poor concentration.  Then, I didn’t need four VPs from the second game.  Oddly, the top in our 29 player tournament was 1 GW and 5.5 VPs while fifth was around 1 and 4.  A three VP table would have put me in at 1 and 4.5.  Robert won in a timeout with 1.5 vs. Matt’s 1.5, with Nick, Oscar, and Jeff P. being the other finalists.

But, whatever.  I enjoyed my games.  I played mediocre.  And, my “collection” deck has still always ousted at least one player while never being ousted – testament to how little deck composition matters.  Here’s the !Brujah deck I put together with my ~750 card “collection”:

Deck Name:   I won’t concur
Created By:  Armin Brenner
Description:  Experiment #1 – !Brujah Vote

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 18, Max: 39, Avg: 7.33)
1  Aksinya Daclau                     cel tha ANI FOR PRE PRO9  Gangrel Antitribu
1  Alessandro Garcia                  pot pre pro    4  Brujah Antitribu
2  Armin Brenner                      ani obf CEL FOR POT PRE10 Brujah Antitribu
1  Axel Von Anders                    cel obf pot PRE5  Brujah Antitribu
1  Bela Kardoza                       ani dom CEL POT PRE VIC10 Brujah Antitribu
1  DeSalle                            CEL POT PRE    7  Brujah Antitribu
1  Father Juan Carlos                 aus cel pot tha PRE6  Brujah Antitribu
1  Hektor                             for CEL POT PRE QUI9  Brujah Antitribu
1  Marcel de Breau                    ani pro CEL POT PRE9  Brujah Antitribu
1  Shawnda Dorrit                     obt pot pre CEL6  Brujah Antitribu
1  Smash                              pot pre        3  Brujah Antitribu

Library: (70 cards)
Master (18 cards)
2  Black Forest Base
5  Blood Doll
1  Creepshow Casino
1  Dummy Corporation
1  Gang Territory
1  Golconda: Inner Peace
2  Grooming the Protege
1  Information Highway
1  Major Boon
2  Protected Resources
1  Wash

Action (3 cards)
3  Enchant Kindred

Action Modifier (17 cards)
2  Alacrity
1  Aura of Invincibility
5  Bewitching Oration
3  Bribes
3  Iron Glare
1  Private Audience
2  Voter Captivation

Political Action (17 cards)
1  Anarchist Uprising
1  Consanguineous Boon
2  Conservative Agitation
1  Crusade: Detroit
1  Crusade: New York
1  Crusade: Rome
1  Crusade: Toronto
1  Deploy the Hand
1  Disputed Territory
6  Kine Resources Contested
1  Reinforcements

Combat (13 cards)
1  Catatonic Fear
5  Flash
2  Pursuit
1  Staredown
4  Stunt Cycle

Combo (2 cards)
2  Scalpel Tongue

I played a pickup game while the finals went on.  I played my “collection” !Toreador deck.  This too was entertaining.

Ky (Trujah w/ Aus/For) -> Ian T. (Dom/Pot weenieish) -> Ian L. (!Toreador intercept/combat) -> Rick (Isanwayen & Bruce de Guy) -> Alex CH (Group 4 Ahrimanes)

Alex brings out Kill-ian at a table with two Ians.  It did not save him.  Rick tooled Isanwayen up to hunt unblockably for a lot.  Ky bled and stuff.

I bring out Loonar.  Ian T. Fames her and Rumbles her.  Oscar, er, Paulo de Castille goes to long, Throws Gate, Targets Vitals.  I discard a couple of combat cards.  On my turn, Loonar gets a Sawed-Off Shotgun.  At no point in the game does Loonar go to torpor.  She does additional strike shoot merged Dr. Julius Sutphen and, in the endgame, torps some Ahrimanes, at which point Alex concedes (actually, he doesn’t until I untap and put another counter on Smiling Jack).

Yup, even with rushes and blocks, I have enough Glancing Blows and, uh, Celerity to not be seriously threatened by Ian T.’s combat while I have intercept, reduction, and a touch of bounce to survive the constant bleeds.  Alex and Ky inflict damage on each other with Outside the Hourglass vs. Murders of Crows.  I put Smiling Jack in play that nobody seems to care all that much about and it ends the game with six counters.  Ky does get Ian T. before Smiling Jack pretty much murders Ky.

Deck Name:   Experiment 1 – !Toreador
Created By:  Loonar
Description:  Experiment #1 – !Toreador intercept combat

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 15, Max: 32, Avg: 5.83)
1  Dominique Santo Paulo              pot pre AUS CEL6  Toreador Antitribu
1  Father Juan Carlos                 aus cel pot tha PRE6  Brujah Antitribu
1  Gabriel de Cambrai                 aus cel dem obf pre5  Toreador Antitribu
1  Jonathan Gursel                    aus pre        3  Toreador Antitribu
1  Loonar                             cel PRE        4  Toreador Antitribu
1  Malabranca                         obf AUS CEL PRE PRO9  Toreador Antitribu
1  Melinda Galbraith                  obt AUS CEL DOM POT PRE10 Lasombra
1  Monique Kim                        aus cel        3  Toreador Antitribu
1  Neighbor John                      dom for AUS    5  Ventrue Antitribu
1  Rain                               cel chi dem pot pre AUS7  Toreador Antitribu
1  Redbone McCray                     cel pro AUS PRE6  Toreador Antitribu
1  Tears                              cel AUS DEM PRE6  Toreador Antitribu

Library: (90 cards)
Master (17 cards)
1  Auspex
3  Blood Doll
1  Celerity
1  Depravity
1  Direct Intervention
1  Effective Management
1  Fame
1  Frenzy
1  Guardian Angel
1  King`s Rising
1  Pentex Subversion
1  Powerbase: Barranquilla
1  Slave Auction
1  Smiling Jack, The Anarch
1  Vast Wealth

Action (9 cards)
1  Abbot
1  Intimidation
3  Media Influence
1  Pulse of the Canaille
3  Zillah`s Tears

Reaction (34 cards)
2  Delaying Tactics
2  Eagle`s Sight
4  Enhanced Senses
2  Forced Awakening
1  Melange
1  Minor Irritation
1  My Enemy`s Enemy
7  On the Qui Vive
4  Precognition
4  Spirit`s Touch
4  Telepathic Counter
2  Telepathic Misdirection

Combat (17 cards)
4  Acrobatics
1  Blur
1  Disengage
1  Fast Hands
4  Glancing Blow
3  Nimble Feet
1  Read Intentions
2  Taste of Vitae

Equipment (12 cards)
1  Brass Knuckles
2  Leather Jacket
1  Palatial Estate
1  Pier 13, Port of Baltimore
3  Saturday-Night Special
2  Sawed-Off Shotgun
1  Sengir Dagger
1  Starshell Grenade Launcher

Event (1 cards)

At this point on Saturday, Experiment #1 is over.  There are still a variety of changes I could make, mostly in masters, to decks, and I never did build a Tzimisce deck even though that would be one of the easier ones to build.  I wouldn’t say I feel a lot of variety as I got bored very quickly with !Malks and !Trem; on the other hand, !Brujah was always interesting and !Toreador played very funny with Loonar rather consistently getting a Sawed-Off Shotgun.  In one play of the !Malk deck, I got 5 VPs.  In one or two plays of the !Trem deck, it didn’t do much.  In three plays of the !Brujah deck, two in a tournament, I had one GW (admittedly, three-player game) and twice 1.5 VPs.  In two plays of the !Toreador deck, I had a table split, a GW, and Loonar beating the crap out of people in combat.

Tournament competitive?  I think so, and I don’t see getting a sample size large enough to prove it.

Enjoyable level of variety?  To a degree, mostly in terms of what masters to run.  Of course, I’ve played hundreds of decks in thousands of games, so variety is a lot harder for me than someone who would have a collection like Experiment #1’s.

I’m not sure what to do for Experiment #2.  I can see building on #1.  I don’t see doing something else with Third Edition, so building on #1 is a major way to go to make use of my vast Third Edition resources that mostly don’t get played.  I can see using my copious amount of precons and unopened boosters for various sets to do something similar to #1 without using a base set.

For tournament #2, why didn’t I continue the experiment?  Just felt played out.  And, we have tournaments so rarely that there were some other decks that were important to play under tournament conditions that I either had built or put together Saturday morning.

Tournament 2 – 20 players

Interesting how many people left.  We do seem to get more for the first tournament in a day, whether because it’s draining to do two in a day or because late starts are less desirable.

Round 1:

Ian L. (Blessed Resilience) -> A.J. (Tzimisce 2/3 high cap) -> Rick (Daughters pool loss) -> David (Daughters beatdown) -> Eric S. (Tunnel Runner)

This was horrid in setup and how things looked.  I’m actually getting tired of writing, so I’m going to be short on detail.  The two Daughters decks were different groups, so no issues there, but they both were very forward looking.  That meant I had to try to contain A.J., which looked implausible for most of the game.

Stravinsky comes out and gets The Rack … and Blood Dolls.  Stravinsky is followed by Meshenka, John Paleologus, and Sascha Vykos adv.  And, my prey has plenty of pool and tons of blood!!

For, you see, Rick’s deck plays a bunch of Benefit Performances and Madrigals, so A.J. just kept getting blood, which turned into pool.  Rick did do a bunch of pool damage to David who barely hung on, only really because A.J. Eagle Sight blocked a couple of bleeds.  David’s deck was not hardcore Shattering Crescendo but a mix of things with Catatonic Fear+Target Vitals.  Eric was under pressure for much of the game, so even though he beat me up a bit, I actually wished he had been bleeding more often at certain times in the game.

Meanwhile, I was left to burn A.J.’s superior Revelations, to go after his Army of Rats, to go after Smiling Jack, to steal The Rack once, only David’s taking it another time helped contain the monster that was my prey.  Oh, and I started bleeding for 4-7 every turn with Forces of Will.

If Rick had called a Lily Prelude backwards, I might have been able to get A.J. before he got Rick.  Instead, A.J. got Rick and David before bleeding repeatedly for 7 and Smiling Jack ousted my prey.  I did a non-Force of Will bleed with Trochomancy, Daring the Dawn to get by Eric’s vamps and Call of the Hungry Dead to get by Tunnel Runner to finish off Eric.  Yes, I played Blessed Resilience at times and did the other stuff the deck does, like discard useless Villeins.

Ian 3 / A.J. 2

Meanwhile, at the nearby table, there were four Tremere decks and a Summon History deck that, of course, ran Ankara Citadel.

Round 2:

Rick -> Ian L. -> Jeff K. (Loss + vote) -> Brett (Tzimisce vote w/ Pre) -> Robert (Summon History Obt)

Four vote decks at the table, with Robert having Giangaleazzo, Brett having Velya and Lambach, Jeff Kuta predictably having Olugbenga and Alamut, later Amaravati.

This game was my one uninteresting game of the day.  I was happy not to have to talk to people when votes came up, as it was rather tedious.  Jeff didn’t want to burn Alamut counters, which others kept wanting him to burn.

I brought out one dude – Mordechai.  I did little, though I did Force of Will, Rapid Healing early to move some cards.  When I finally decided to bring out Morlock, I got killed because Brett didn’t like my lack of pressure and voted for Rick’s killing vote and Robert had not ousted Rick to this point and Jeff didn’t care enough to save me, since I was about as great a threat with my two dudes as Rick’s four Daughters.  Maybe Brett had other reasons.  I thought the move was correct not so much because I hadn’t pressured Jeff, who I could have theoretically ousted in two turns, but because Rick needed pool to not get ousted by Robert.

Voting happened, Loss bleeding happened.  Jeff ousted Brett.  Robert ousted Rick.  Game times out as both players were able to bloat a bunch.  Robert did finally get his Summon History engine going to bring out high cap vampires.

Jeff 1.5 / Robert 1.5 / Rick 1

Jeff’s failure to get a GW, means I’m ahead of him.  Brandon got two GWs, so I get into the finals fine with 1 GW and 3 VPs.  Fourth seed.


Brandon (weenie Dementation) -> Matt (Stanislava but it hardly mattered) -> Ian L. -> Brett -> Garet (Tremere)

Matt discarded three Antediluvian Awakenings, finally brought out Stanislava, and got ousted on Brandon’s next turn.

Brandon bled and didn’t get ousted until it was too late for me.

Garet did stuff but didn’t put a lot of pressure on Brandon even with Brett’s help and my encouraging an alliance against madness.

Brett could have been ousted, but I asked Garet whether he could get Brandon, and he said no, so I needed Brett’s votes and Legendary Lambach’s bounced bleeds in the game.

I started the game with six masters.  Wider View, Heidelberg (largely irrelevant).  Wider View, Storage Annex.  Villein, Storage Annex?  I don’t know, I drew more masters.  I quickly had three Wider Views and ended up with three Storage Annexes.  I also got Carlton.  I did not ever try a third vampire because I needed pool.  Between occasional hand moving Force of Will bleeds, taking Fragment of the Book of Nod from Garet, Mordechai’s permacept, Carlton, and some bounce, I did stuff and fended off Brandon for quite a while, which almost worked.  Brandon was down to 2 pool and 1 pool at times.

I made a subtle but major mistake.  I am really, really bad at remembering to burn Wider View for pool when I have multiple out.  I’m kind of bad at remembering when I have one out.  In this game, I needed that one extra turn’s worth of two pool and I might have survived one more turn.

I did do quite a bit to burn through Brandon’s deck, so Brett decided Garet was no longer useful and took him out (I don’t know the details, just assuming), and got Brandon before time.  Of course, those who already saw the tournament report on already know Brett won this event.

It occurred to me while playing that Brandon was probably best off killing Brett (with Kindred Spirits, of course) rather than focusing on me.  Just as I needed Brett in the game to kill Brandon, Brandon’s greatest threat was Brett.  I talked to Brandon about this.  Always interesting to wonder about the correct play.

I really am losing steam at this point, so I likely forgot some amusing tidbits.  Thanks for Brandon for organizing.  Thanks to Andy and Eric for the use of their place and arranging food, tables, and chairs for what was a ridiculous number of people.

Blessed Resilience deck that I’m probably done with, though I might consider a combat Blessed Resilience deck because doing stuff with no minions in play and a strong desire to burn my own dudes is highly entertaining:

Deck Name:   Blessed Crypt, Willful Resilience
Created By:  Macoute
Description:  In which the designer does indeed design a deck that you don’t want to be the prey of.

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 25, Max: 32, Avg: 7.25)
3  Babalawo Alafin                    ani AUS FOR NEC7  Harbingers of Skulls
3  Macoute                            FOR obf NEC thn6  Samedi
3  Mordechai Ben-Nun                  ANI AUS FOR NEC8  Harbingers of Skulls
3  Morlock                            FOR NEC THN obf8  Samedi

Library: (90 cards)
Master (25 cards)
4  Blessed Resilience
1  Coven, The
1  Heidelberg Castle, Germany
2  Life in the City
1  Lilith’s Blessing
1  Parthenon, The
6  Storage Annex
6  Villein
3  Wider View

Action (15 cards)
9  Force of Will
1  Possession
3  Rapid Healing
2  Restoration

Action Modifier (30 cards)
4  Call of the Hungry Dead
8  Daring the Dawn
14 Freak Drive
4  Trochomancy

Reaction (14 cards)
4  On the Qui Vive
7  Telepathic Misdirection
3  Wake with Evening’s Freshness

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

Combo (4 cards)
4  Spectral Divination

I played a pickup game after the tournament in which I played Merely A Trifle.  Haqim’s Law: Judgment did not achieve much.  Suffice to say that this deck is not ready for real play even though it’s one of my most inspired deck builds.  Since it’s so dumb and it’s funnier to figure out how the deck works on one’s own, I will deprive you all from its precise contents.

I suppose there’s one final comment that needs to be made (that I can remember).  I said recently that I don’t try as I used to in terms of table politics.  I did make much more of an effort to shape games Saturday.  In particular, it didn’t seem like Brett and Garet would cooperate sufficiently to slay Brandon until I badgered them.  It’s just sometimes really hard to keep quiet.