For A New Generation

Over the weekend, had both boardgames and V:TES.  Will take a while to get to V:TES.

For boardgames, played Outpost twice to start things off as it was recently discovered that it had been reprinted and we all were curious as to what it would be like to play it for the first time in like a decade.  Outpost is especially relevant to us due to The Scepter of Zavandor being one of our favorite games, arguably our favorite game.

For those that don’t know, Outpost has been around since 1991 and uses an engine of buying production thingies that generate money in the form of cards that, in turn, are used for more production or bidding in auctions for upgrades that improve production directly or indirectly.  In other words, the game is all about making money to make more money.  Things you buy generate victory points, so there is some distinction between production power and end game results, but better production is the strategy.

What I remembered about playing Outpost was that it was a harshly unforgiving game, where an early mistake crippled your long term production and left you irrelevant.  Then, with no brakes on leaders, the game was very snowbally.  When we started playing Scepter, I was amazed at how different it was from Outpost even though it had the same core engine.  Scepter addressed the problem of leaders running away with built in brakes – artifacts (upgrades in Outpost) cost more for the first two players.  Scepter also made some other changes that produced a much more forgiving game, which I prefer, such as being able to make change.

Anyway, the first game we played without the expansion, to refresh our memories and/or learn the differences in rules.  For the most part, I was reminded of why I prefer Scepter, but some of the arguable improvements in Scepter do affect play in such a way that one could argue that Outpost is a better thinking game.  Not that spending a lot of time thinking is all that appealing to me with boardgames.

For instance, not being able to get change, roll together buys of different types, and not having the ability to sell assets all make money management require more planning.  In Scepter, “megas”, what you can get if you could get four of the same type of resource card, are always the correct play, returning more value and having less of a burden on hand size constraints.  In Outpost, they are optional because they don’t give any relief on hand size and you can’t make change.  On the flip side, that Scepter has a relatively predictable artifact replacement system and Outpost has a rather random upgrade replacement system makes planning ahead in Outpost a lot riskier.

Speaking of hand size, I find it to be largely irrelevant in Scepter.  Only if you start on a low hand size track should it matter in the early game, and, then, it just stops mattering as you rarely get stuck in the game.  Meanwhile, Outpost, where you can’t buy something and sell it off later at half price, and where you can easily get stuck by one of your constraints or by how random the process is for needed upgrades to appear makes hand size a significant consideration.

The first game, I got two Nodules to eliminate problems with my Colonist population limit.  I tried somewhat to prevent others from being able to get around the starting limit of 5 Colonists, but having three Nodules available and an early Robots meant that I couldn’t do a lot about it.  I couldn’t do Titanium, so used my massive population for a lot of Water.  Brian got an early Scientists and rode that to victory.  The other two were just out of the game, while I bought three Ecoplants for the VPs to stay in first, but Brian’s production easily outstripped mine in the later game to where he bought bigger endgame stuff.  The game was not terribly fun.

But, we try to play “new” games two or more times.  We played with the expansion in the second game, which adds Kicker cards and it had minor impact.  Brian picked up the Wily Trader in the beginning and used it on me mostly for the entire game, only occasionally hitting Christina late, when her production got massive.  The only other Kicker ever bought was the era three one worth 25 VPs.  This game was far more balanced, with the end VPs ranging from 79 to 89.  Christina and I tied at 89.  She crushed me in the tiebreaker.  Notable about this game was that hand size really hurt me.  I desperately needed an Outpost at a certain point as I was discarding cards every turn of the midgame and endgame, which certainly cost me VPs.  Brian got an early advantage on production with a bunch of Titanium, something Christina and I avoided for a while because of Wily Trader – she never got into it, whereas I had no real choice but to take the Wily Trader hits.  But, Christina and Gary had big endgame production strategies.  I made some buys for VPs as I ran into constraints and Scientists and Orbital whatevers didn’t show up until late.  The 5 VP difference between the Kicker and “just” a Moonbase caused Christina and I to tie, with her production being 30-40 higher than mine at the end.

I really like how modern boardgames put mechanics on player tracking boards and on the game pieces.  Outpost is much less of a fog of constraints to me, now, with playing a lot of Scepter helping immensely with the basic ideas in the game.  Though some aspects might have some advantages, I still find Scepter a vastly more fun game to play.  Change is good.  Being able to sell gems to have higher auction limits is good.  Penalties to the leaders is good.  Not being able to jump back into auctions after passing is very, very good, as it’s just annoying to have auctions go on and on.  And, not being utterly hosed by missing out on a key upgrade/artifact just makes for a better game.  I can tolerate Outpost, but I don’t see ever embracing it.  Kickers were pretty much meaningless to the enjoyment of the game.  It’s sad that Scepter doesn’t have an expansion.

We followed up with the short game of Le Havre, had dinner, then played Settlers.  Really none of my preferred games.  Le Havre because there are too many things you want to do.  Settlers because it’s not really that compelling of a game after you’ve become familiar with it.

Okay, 1000 words and still haven’t gotten to V:TES.  Try to quick this up a bit.

Had four players Sunday.

Game 1:

Brandon (Hektor Eats the World) -> Ian (Dive Into Madness redux) -> Andrew (borrowed Samedi Force of Will) -> David (Dominate Crypt Machine)

Brandon had to go backwards, giving me some time to develop.  Artemis got a Dive.  Andrew brought out only Jorge and played Little Mountain Cemeterys.  I should note that I didn’t have time to put together new decks, so I modified around three existing decks.  I pulled Lilith’s Blessing from my Dive deck, though I brought up the idea of playtesting a change to LB.  Andrew’s deck was my old tournament winning Samedi deck with quite a few changes as the original deck was not only goofy but not really interesting for people to play.  Still, hardly what I would do today.  David didn’t go forward hard enough to prevent Hektor from annihilating his position and turning his Amaranthing eyes upon my minions.  I lost Jason and Theron in one turn.  At this point, lot of wondering why the Hektor deck isn’t seen more often and my pointing out that it really isn’t all that good at winning, which others disagreed with.  Andrew kept complaining about the Samedi deck, playing the midgame with just Jorge.  Brandon was low on pool.  I was not but only had Artemis.  Andrew finally brings out Reg.  One Force of Will bleed with bounce can kill Brandon.  David doesn’t have a wake but ousts Brandon on his turn with Bonding.

I start working on a new minion now that combat isn’t relevant.  Andrew bleeds out David, finally drawing some Forces of Will.  I have six bleed on the table between Artemis with two Dives, Ian Forestal, Tasha Morgan, and Heidelberg.  Andrew Minion Taps a couple of times, putting him out of reach, and his four Samedi bleed me out.

Andrew keeps wondering how my old tournament winning decks actually won.  Now, the Ravnos deck was horrid.  That was a matter of barely getting into the finals and having winnie Dominate as my prey such that everyone at the table ganged up to kill my prey.  But, the Samedi deck was utterly dominate in the tournament I won with it, having 9.5 VPs going into the finals, 1.5 of that coming in the third prelim round when I was the only player to oust anyone.  Sure, it didn’t Dominate in the finals, but I was one action from ousting my prey, and the only other person in trouble was arguably in less trouble than my prey – nobody really did much in the finals.  Sure, the Samedi deck had terrible card choices in terms of running Ashes to Ashes, but the reality is that the metagame was very different at the time.  Early on, in my tournament life, decks were very aggressive and people looked left all of the time.  When I started winning tournaments was a time when decks became a lot more diverse and less intent on ousting.  I metagamed heavily against combat and hardly ever expected to get diablerized, so Ashes to Ashes was not quite as absurd.  I even nuked a War Ghoul with one of my two Compresses in the tournament.  I would say that these days players have a much better idea of how to be dangerous, such that the limitations of the Samedi deck could matter a lot more (like zero vote defense).  But, whatever.  Mindless forward decks from the 90’s would likely suck these days, as well.

Game 2:

Brandon (Ani/Pro) -> David (as above) -> Andrew (borrowed !Ventrue Grinder) -> Ian (LotN Assamites)

I couldn’t put any pressure on Brandon all game.  In hindsight, once I realized the match up, I could have used Blood Awakenings forward to try to clear some of the Losses in my hand.  But, I played a defensive game that repeatedly stymied Andrew as I would just Nest of Eagles bounced bleeds and when he bled me, taking only 1 pool damage from a 4 bleed through much of the game.  I also had plenty of wakes to keep stopping stuff.  David brought out Chas Giovanni Tello and we made fun of him, rightly so as Andrew Sudden Reversaling Chas’s bleeds stopped David from ousting.  See, I’ve been around long enough to know how bad Chas is in actual play.  Yet, people don’t believe me on stuff.  Brandon rushed David, never bleeding to clear David of bounce.  Smiling Jack came down, though it didn’t matter much to me, except my attempts to get rid of it were blocked.  Andrew finally ousted me, though a Famed, torped minion helped.  David finally got taken out, and Brandon easily won the endgame.

Game 3:

Andrew (Scout and friends) -> David (Horde) -> Ian (LotN Ravnos) -> Brandon (Khalid Night Moves)

I had David test my thought on Lilith’s Blessing.  I’m not enthused about making major changes to the card, and I’m perfectly happy for promo cards to suck, so I knew my change was going to be weak.  The question was whether it would be so weak that no one would ever play it.  David’s deck wasn’t a bad deck to test that theory.  Certainly, he wouldn’t have played LB with my changes.

I bring out Neel.  Neel, on turn two, got a Vessel.  I put out The Path of Paradox.  And, Neel got Karavalanisha Vrana … look up Neel for how funny that is.  The plan was to move it to Chavi, later.  The card is a coaster, even when you put it on a vampire with Chimerstry and have younger vampires in your uncontrolled region.  My guess is that it was too good at some point in playtesting and got overnerfed before playtesters could point out how useless it is.  While trying to get my defenses in order, David bled me for a lot.

With Brandon burning my Path right away and preventing me from taking the Edge, predictably, I had no way to survive after Andrew Shattered away David’s game and ousted him.  The rest didn’t take that long, as I was Fame Shattered and no longer had any intercept to stop stuff.  Brandon spent much of the game fishing for Khalid, so he was far too slow to put any pressure on Andrew.

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