Eastern Events

January 27, 2014

Been visiting family.  Got together with DC V:TES group, played some Mahjong, and talked boardgames a bit with a singer/musician.

Pete Oh hosted.  Matt, I’ve played the most with.  Christoph, I’ve played some with.  And, Erik is someone who played back in the day and got back into the game.

We started a four-player but junked it after a few turns after Matt showed up.  Probably a good thing, anyway, as Imbued were doing whatever they wanted.

Game 1:

Christoph (Aus/Obf/Pre) -> Erik (Ravnos w/ Dom) -> Ian (Bio-Ex) -> Matt (BH Nocturn) -> Pete (Ahrimanes 2/3)

Christoph brought out Count Ormonde, who got Sensory Depped.  Francois Villon took forever to get out and didn’t do much.  Erik put out Joaquina, a Tumnimos, Joaquina got Dominate, and Ingrid Russo!  He continued to build his forces with Etienne (with Dominate) and others.  We were wondering where Gabrin was.  For a while, he had The Path of Paradox, but I burned it.  With neither his predator nor prey hurting him significantly, it was going to be bad, even if Week of Nightmares didn’t show.

I brought out Aisling, Magiced up Ankara, and had too many Magics of the Smith all game, which was kind of odd.  I could have used wakes.  Yasmin and Elena Mendoza Vasquez joined things and Ponticulus got Sensory Depped.  This was the same deck I played locally, recently.  First time ever putting Ponticulus into play.  My efforts to reduce my pool were successful, though not so much through Biothaumaturgic Experiment as through Sport Bike, Ivory Bow, and even a late game hunting ground.

Matt went crazy with Appius + Enkil Cog, Saul, Kestrelle, and Lucy.  By crazy, I mean he did stuff that was largely Nocturnal.  Pete seemed good with Howler, Siamese, and Lemon, but Howler got Anarch Troublemaker tapped and Matt bled Pete out.  That was somewhat unexpected.

I had a choice – either try to defend against the bleedy horde behind me or stop Matt from winning.  I deemed the latter more relevant to my winning, but I also figured the table wouldn’t care about my containment efforts and Erik would oust me for 1vp.  I torped a couple of Matt’s dudes, including Appius, but there was a distinct lack of eating Appius with Tumnimos.  Didn’t really matter, eventually, as I died, Christoph died, and Erik took the endgame with his horde.

Still didn’t do the funny thing with my deck, but it’s amazing how annoying permanent intercept and combat can be to other decks.  Good thing I introduced this novel strategy to the game with this deck built around Biothaumaturgic Experiment.

Game 2:

Christoph (DoC/Ventrue) -> Ian (Ventrue?) -> Matt (BB) -> Erik (Dom/Obf high caps) -> Erik (Ishtarri and …)

Matt drops Anarch Revolt, which seems an odd choice to me for a low combat BB deck that doesn’t do anything anarchy.  Tom comes out and goes anarch.  Bunch of the rest of Chicago Circle come out.  As I don’t block stealth actions and Erik’s deck was a mystery as to what it was trying to do, Matt did whatever he wanted.

Erik brought out Etrius and Gilbert and, eventually, Lucian but didn’t do a whole lot.  Pete brought out Barth and Ubende, the latter got Despiral, the former a .44.  There was bleed stuff and Forced March and whatever but it wasn’t clear what was supposed to be going on over there, either.

Christoph and I had issues with crypt overlap.  I brought out Heather Florent and Courtland Leighton and Christoph indicated that was two of his uncontrolled.  He brought out Jazz, and that’s someone I got on decrypt.  I Blood Dolled and mostly hunted, not because I feared going forward as much as I lacked anything I particularly wanted to do.  I could have ignored the threat of contestation and just played things normally.  I did bring out Lucia after a while as I couldn’t decrypt who I wanted and nobody plays Lucia, but it was too late.  Christoph passed votes through Erik’s apathy, which caused me to lose lots of pool.  Matt bled Erik out, giving Christoph vote lock, then bled Pete out right before Pete could oust (assuming Jazz didn’t bounce).  Christoph voted me out for 1vp and conceded.

Not a meaningful test of my deck.  Because I totally expect to run into contestment issues with group 1 vampires not of the Anson variety …

Game 3:

Pete (Nos theme deck) -> Ian (Kiev) -> Erik (Nos/!) -> Matt (Zombo Combo) -> Christoph (Mata Hari)

Pete’s girls get guns.  Erik Havens forward and Deep Song rushes backwards and I Conceal out two Desert Eagles, Octopod, and Immortal Grapple means I only punch for three after we counter each others’ Target Vitals.  I, then, spend much of the rest of the game hunting and Gestalt/Elder Intervention/Pack Tacticsing to block stealth Nos with guns.  Pete and I contest Tasha and J.S.  I ignore Erik much of the time to have him go forward, while Christoph’s only meaningful defensive play is Nightmare Curse backwards before he gets ousted.  Even though Matt has permacept in front of him and permacept (Raptor!) behind him, there’s lots of not blocking his hunts and allymaking, and Pete is ousted.  I finally give up and go forward and have a Kyrylo burned to Archon Investigation, though I can’t block a bunch of stealthed bleeds and die pretty quickly after getting Matt to 1 pool.

Was getting picked up later, so hung out a bit with Matt and Pete as they had some Chromancer things to discuss.

Thanks Pete for hosting and for snacks.  Thanks to the players who were able to make it out when I was in town.

Switching gears, a brother’s girlfriend and a border of my father and stepmother were taught mahjong by the family, even scoring!  Though, we didn’t keep score and didn’t get past playing through South, either session.  We really need to write down our family’s rules, as someday, we won’t remember all of the obscure stuff, since there are a nigh infinite number of ways that people play (more so, score) mahjong in the world.  We do individual meld scoring, for instance, and have losers settle between each other each hand.

I was at a bar (the least suitable place for me to be for more than just the fact that I don’t drink) to listen to hip hop/rap/rock mash-ups (um, slightly different from what I listen to on the radio or Pandora) and got to talking to a singer/musician about his boardgame idea.  Yup, that’s a pretty good description of what my life is like.  He was the lead singer in my brother’s previous band, and this was my brother’s band’s last show, so there were plenty of guest stars.  Not much reason to talk about his game, as he’s still developing it.  Maybe I should have developed musical skills to be both nerdy and get babes.  Just another regret I can talk about if I ever write that Regret blog post.


[Classic] CQ – Aching Beauty [9/4/2002]

January 24, 2014

Looks like the last constructed tournament report I did in 2002.  Looking at some of the posts I made in 2002, I sure wonder why I thought people cared what I did that didn’t have to do with V:TES.  Fortunately, now, I have a blog, where the whole point is to get off topic and post about things that interest me far more than anyone else.

I guess it’s once again up to me to report on the tournament.

Round 1:
Greg is first with Ventrue/FoS.  Brian Lugo is playing Assamites with Protean.  Jeff is simple FoS bleed/Entice.  Jim – Samedi SB.  I’m playing … *twirls finger* … Gargoyle Presence.

I don’t get Rebekka in my initial crypt draw nor an Effective Management.  Jim questions my comment that I’m going to die.  No way to block, no way to bounce his deck.  No more way to deal with Jeff if Jim dies.  I thought it made sense.  Anyway, Brian can’t stop anything and can’t get into enough combats, but Greg lays off of him for a bit to whomp on Jeff.  Necessary as Jim is getting pounded, then gets ousted.  I somehow find a Rebekka after much Blood Doll based bloat to stall Jim, then Jeff.  I pitch all my combat but hold on to my bleed, so when Greg got down to 6, I went over the top.  Brian couldn’t do anything, so he made no effort to defend his 1 pool.  All that was left was whether Jeff would run out of cards or kill me.  He didn’t quite run out of cards.

Round 2:
I was first.  Randy was playing Sargon supported FoS with Auspex.  Brian third.  Brad had responsible Giovanni bleed.  Gomi – Ravnos toolbox.

Gomi was on the defensive for most of the game.  I bloated wonderfully.  Brian got a better draw and bloated well with some backwards rushes that worked.  Brad bled for 1 a lot.  I tried going forward.  Partial success, but a lot of defense in Randy’s deck kept me from finishing him off for far too long.  Eventually, Brad ousted Gomi.  A big bleed bounced helped me finish off Randy.  Brian was some more work.  By the time it was down to Brad and me, I was pretty much out of cards and Brad had lots of minions/permanents.  Brad Haunting my Club Zombie hurt a lot in the endgame as that was one of my few permanents.  I tried withdrawing.  Didn’t work.  We were low on time, but Brad ousted me with about 10 minutes left.  Totally screwed me not getting the table win.

Seating position was everything, well, for me.  The final just had awful interaction with Jeff and Jim both having decks that did nothing but go forward, Jim being unable to defend at all against Brad’s bleeds, Chris having no way to put pressure on Brad.  I didn’t do jack to Chris knowing that my only chance was to bloat long enough to play for second.  I should be more specific as to why I didn’t do jack to Chris as I knew I couldn’t block Jeff’s bleeds, so it wasn’t like I needed to stay up.  If I actually hurt Chris at all, we’d fight, and any expenditure of resources – losing blood, going to torpor, etc. – on my part dealing with that would have likely hurt my bloating and kill me.  Of course, Jim pounded Jeff, failing to oust because Jeff put Khobar Towers out and started nuking his minions (which I was all in favor of).  Brad would hit Jim a bit.  Chris tooled up.  Brad ousted Jim and complained about how I wasn’t doing anything so left Jeff alive for a while to oust me.  But, Jeff had too few minions left, so I wasn’t threatened.  Eventually, Brad gave up and killed Jeff.  Chris punked some of Brad’s minions, but otherwise, put no pressure.  So, even if I could oust Chris, I figured I had little chance of winning.  So, once Chris was basically out of cards, I had a completely different strategy.  It was a two-fold plan to play for “second”.  By going after Chris, maybe I could oust him as I still had 30 cards or so left to try and compensate for all of his permanents.  But, even if I failed, I was hoping to beat Chris down to where Brad would sweep and I’d tie for second.  I was also trying for half a VP for a while, but we were playing with no time limit or something, always a bad idea as it means playing differently than you would in other rounds.

People wondered why I was playing the way I was.  Given the deck I was playing, the decks at the table, and the seating position, I was completely screwed.  If I had won the previous round, I would have been high seed, which would have made all of the difference.  If Jeff inserted to my left instead of my right (Jim was always going to be behind him and Brad behind Jim), would have completely changed my game as I could have ignored Chris, who would have died to Jeff or Jim, and work on Brad.  Might not have gotten Brad as he was still a bleed deck with bounce behind a defenseless deck, but if I got him, I was set up well.

Statue of Slavery
x2  Luma
x2  Obsidian
x2  Saxum
x1  Ferox
x1  Ublo-Satha
x4  Rebekka

x1  Archon Investigation
x5  Blood Doll
x1  Club Zombie
x1  Direct Intervention
x2  Effective Management
x2  Fortitude
x3  Presence
x1  The Barrens

x1  Armor of Terra
x6  Enchant Kindred
x1  Force of Will
x2  Legal Manipulations
x4  Restoration

I pulled an Enchant Kindred probably for a Freak Drive.  Not a good idea as the lack of bleeding power hurt every round.  One problem I had in the final was that people thought I had more bleed, like multiple FoWs.  So, somehow, I was supposedly a threat to ousting Chris when he got below about 10 pool.  No, this deck just sucks, but no one payed any attention.  Got to stop playing bad decks.  They rely too much on other people recognizing that they are bad.

x5  Conscripted Statue
x2  Daring the Dawn
x4  Freak Drive
x3  Skin of the Chameleon

This deck was originally built around Conscripted Statue.  I keep taking more out as, while they annoy intercept decks, they don’t oust intercept decks (or anything else).

x4  Bond with the Mountain
x4  Majesty
x3  Rolling with the Punches
x4  Stone Quills
x1  Zip Gun

No real combat either.

x3  Delaying Tactics
x2  Forced Awakening
x1  My Enemy’s Enemy
x2  Patrol
x5  Telepathic Misdirection
x6  WWEF

Just didn’t nail the metagame with these.  More wakes than I needed.  Didn’t need DT at all.  I thought I left 6 TMs, but apparently not.

x1  Tasha Morgan

Just not enough of anything – intercept, bounce, bleed, ways to get bleeds through, combat.  Used to have Razor Bats, but besides sucking, I don’t have room for more intercept.  Could have done without the Delaying Tactics as there were no vote decks, but votes would have been hard to deal with.  About the only thing the deck did well was bloat.  I consistently outlasted or extended bleed predators.  Kind of surprising that there’s only 5 BDs given how often they showed up.

I don’t think the problem was toolboxing, but that Gargoyle toolbox doesn’t get to use as many good cards as another toolbox deck might and/or has too many issues with the clans/vampires having such poor discipline crossover.

On The Ousts

January 19, 2014

To what extent is it interesting to hear about a group’s casual games?  I’ve increasingly lost interest in reporting on casual play, though it interests me more when funny things happen, and I can see some value when there’s something to be learned.

I put together a couple of new decks before we played earlier today.  One was just a Sunrise Service/Recure the Homeland bleed deck that was all about my usual focused, prey-oriented beatdown.  That I may have built that deck previously was evidenced by how many Sunrise Services and Recure the Homelands I had sleeved in preferable sleeves.  I just don’t recall having executed this idea that has been around for ages.  The other deck was based on Biothaumaturgic Experiments, though it never did its funny thing.

Game 1:

Ian (Bio-Ex) -> Andy (borrowed Sunrise/Recure) -> Brandon (Toreador) -> Eric (Ahrimanes, group 4)

Andy had five vampires with reasonable blood levels and 18 pool at one point.  Brandon’s Torries got smacked some by Ahrimanes, as Brandon would occasionally whip out Aire of Elation bleeds.  I did what my deck was supposed to do – tool up and survive long enough to tool up some more.  Eric was under too much pressure and lacked a great plan for getting either by my maneuvering +1 Strengthers or for not just getting bounced.

Andy bounced my first(?) bleed to Eric and a number of my other bleeds.  Since they were all for one, it was a mild annoyance.  To put some actual pressure on, I brought out Muaziz, Eugenio, Blythe, and Aisling.  I mistakenly gave Muaziz The Ankara Citadel and generally made lots of dumb mistakes, including not eating the first time one of Andy’s guys got torped.  Besides Eric walling up, what made me relevant to the game was a Sport Bike on Eugenio, a shockingly effective level of intercept against a prey with Mirror Walk.  Still, moving combat cards was difficult between my lack of desire in hurting Eric too much and Mirror Walk.

Brandon just couldn’t keep enough blood on guys and lacked someone with AUS to bounce with TM rather than the Deflections he ran in his Toreador with some Dominate deck.  So, Andy took him out, still having a couple of Sunrise Services out.  One SS took out Eric.  Andy eventually conceded when we were at minion parity due to my permacombat, Sport Bike, and recently acquired Bowl of Convergence.  Brandon and I didn’t think it was cut and dried how things would turn out, but it would have been a tedious grind to play it out and probably have taken us over two hours, anyway.

If there were any takeaways from this game, they might be that permanents can be harsh even when they aren’t all that and that not all of my decks ignore offense or eschew Dominate-requiring cards.  Those are not terribly compelling takeaways.

Of more interest, perhaps, was analyzing Eric’s deck after the game.  I had forgotten that Eric had wanted me to look over the decklist via email.  At first, things seemed reasonable.  But, then, actually counting cards led to noticing an absurd number of actions in the deck.

Many worry about master jam.  I find action jam just as problematic and have long had a bias away from action cards.  After all, cardless actions can still win games (helped immensely by action modifiers, of course).  I noted that one of the things I look for when I build my decks in FELDB is the shape of card types.  The vast majority of my decks will emphasize action modifiers and reactions and I will often trim just based on card type counts, especially from the total number of actions (Actions, Political Actions, Equipment, Allies, Retainers).

I removed one master and nine action cards.  Eric played the cut down deck in the third game.

Game 2:

Ian (group 6 HoS w/ Obf) -> Eric (EuroBrujah) -> Andy (Scout and votey/bouncey friends) -> Brandon (Ventrue Law Firm)

This was the last go for a deck that could hardly be considered a HoS deck based on how it has performed [sic] in the past.  The deck has never done anything constructive, routinely choking on Cloak the Gatherings because stealth is useless in casual play.  First Tradition came down before I got Elimelech in play, so between Viuda Blanca, Elimelech, Wider View (no time to ever pop), Heidelberg, and a .44, I was at three pool.  I lost a pool to Eric’s KRC, couldn’t afford to take a turn, and was easily bled out.

Just too slow.  When half the crypt is 10-caps and a quarter 11-caps, need far fewer Cloaks and far more acceleration.  Eric was low on pool but ousted Andy, and the endgame was actually fairly interesting with New Carthage being very swingy.  But, Eric couldn’t manufacture a stealth to bleed for a ton past Brandon, assuming Brandon lacked a Second Tradition in hand at the time, and Brandon eventually Parity Shifted back to a reasonable position and got back vote control.

Game 3:

Eric (Ahrimanes) -> Brandon (Toreador) -> Andy (group 4/5 Malks) -> Ian (DBR Decapitate)

I’m also done with my Dragon’s Breath Rounds/Decapitate deck.  Actually, after the previous time playing it, I was thinking of changes and realized the changes I would make to make it less nutpunchery would involve removing the point of the deck.  Unlike the HoS deck, which I gave extra play to since it never did its thing but seemed interesting, this deck got the more standard “only play twice in my life” level of play.

I got blocked Governing at superior by my prey, never having enough facesmash to scare people.  Dr. Julius Sutphen decided to be annoyed by my prey blocking my bleed for one to move his prey’s Edge and went to torpor after punching to the neck region of Muricia.  Brandon Giant’s Blooded and rescued him.  I lacked Deflections, so my predator did not struggle that hard to bleed me, with some bleeds being bounced into me, which didn’t matter that much.  I tried Far Mastery on Muricia’s Raven Spy and … succeeded, much to my chagrin, as the only point to that play was to tap Eric out to bleed for seven when he had seven pool.  Such brilliant play on my opponents’ parts always dooms me.

I kept leaving the area during games two and three, so I wasn’t sure how things ended up the way they did, but Andy ran out of deck and didn’t think he could push through for a second VP, unless something happened to Eric’s pool or minions, while Eric had trouble doing anything to Brandon’s Felicia with an Ivory Bow.  After Andy was ousted, Brandon did get blood poor and Felicia went down, and Eric finally could bleed through with his four dudettes.

The Ahrimanes deck did seem to flow better.  Another aspect of it is that group 4 sucks, I mean, it sucks.  I mean, it lacks SPI and, therefore, sucks.  Relying entirely on Speak with Spirits to wake when having only one minion out with SPI has all kinds of issues.  So, I finally responded to Eric’s email about other possible changes and sample tournament winning decks.  Actually, group 4 has done okay, in recent years, tournamentwise, so whatever.

We also looked at his EuroBrujah deck, which also had the too many actions problem and the too little combat problem.

What was the theme for today?  I suppose it was a theme of deck construction.  Neither of the new decks I had interested me a lot, though the Bio-Ex deck is certainly worth another run.  I’ll have to think of something I can do with Sunrise Service that doesn’t involve Dominate bleed.  Then, there was taking established archetypes and looking at proportions (the actual card choices almost all made sense).  Then, there was the need for me to give up on some wacky decks from recent months.  One because I lack the interest in trying to make it more functional, the other because I lack interest in the idea, anymore, and pretty much lost interest after the first time I played it.  So, there’s an interesting contrast between my being bored with obscure decks and being interested in helping tune well known archetypes.  I would never want to play EuroBrujah or wallish Ahrimanes, myself, but hey, whatever floats people’s boats – I can find tuning Malk94 (for someone else to play) interesting.

Might, Right, Or Contrite?

January 17, 2014

When it comes to gaming, it’s easy to get things wrong.  Imperfect information is always a thing.  Uncontrollable variables, such as player personality, impact competitive games rather significantly.  Sample size.  Incomplete data to analyze.

A primary source of analytical failure is simply lack of sufficient experience.  In a way, this is a good thing, when applied to CCGs and RPGs.  Discovery, as mentioned recently, is a major draw to CCGs.  Anyone who has played everything in a RPG has probably either played a very limited RPG or overplayed a single RPG.

While I could speak to analysis weakness with CCGs, that’s not what I got inspired to post about.  My interest, at the moment, is to speak of analysis failure with RPGs.  Sure, to a great extent, analyzing RPGs doesn’t really get you anywhere, since they aren’t competitive (normally) and are so dictated by environment – GM, playgroup, setting, nature of challenges.  In fact, where CCG challenges may be fairly objective – the cards don’t change by GM fiat, RPG challenges are typically determined by a single person who accounts for PC abilities.

Still, as difficult as it may be to nail down what is better and what is worse, such things are noticeable during play.  And, the more you play, the more possibility for reassessing views.  That’s my goal today – to note where I reassessed my beliefs around L5R 4e mechanics.  Why?  Because the more I’m wrong about things, the less frustrated I’m likely to be by others actions and opinions.

One of the major biases in my L5R experience is how much I play characters from starting through Rank 2 (R-2) compared to other people’s experiences.  This has been changing.  Whether it’s the campaign I’m running that started PCs at 150xp or just playing in campaigns to the point where my characters are in R-3, I’m seeing much more of the higher end of play.

Getting off on a tangent, I noted recently on the forums that the reason for seeing play so often at R-1/R-2 was the rate of play and the rate of XP.  HoR is structured around 4xp/mod.  HoR has a bit more than a dozen mods/year.  That puts annual XP at a bit more than 50, higher if you attend interactives.  While I’m very much against starting a campaign with PCs who have 40xp – I think 60xp is pretty much the minimum to get more definition and 80xp makes more sense to stop the “I’m twice as good after I play 10-12 sessions as I was to begin with” feature of my play that I find unrealistic and counterproductive, what 50xp after a year of play means is that a 40 point character is roughly defined and borderline R-2 after a year of play.  Of course, HoR also slows Insight Rank (IR) advancement by not giving Insight to Rank 1 skills, so it’s a bit different from most home play experience.  Anyway, the other comp for advancement is my Saturday campaign, where I’d say there’s around 2.5 sessions/month and just about 3xp/session.  That’s 90xp/year.  That takes a 40 point character to 220xp in two years of play, which is hefty.  On the other hand, there are those who play weekly, say 50 sessions/year, and get more than 4xp/session.  No wonder they wonder about advanced schools, what to do with characters at IR-6 and whatnot.

What do I see being an optimal rate of advancement?  Really depends upon how often the group likes to switch or reboot campaigns, but I might look at a model of starting with 80xp and getting 2-3xp per session if I were going to play multiple times a month.  In our Saturday campaign, starting with 40 additional XP would be rather significant, but it’s really the #(sessions)*(xp/session) that ramps characters so dramatically.

Okay, getting back on topic.  So, I’m seeing more of higher level play.  That Simple Action attacks is huge for bushi was always a consideration for rebalancing bushi/shugenja vis-à-vis combat.  I continue to maintain that shugenja are far more effective at combat than bushi until SAA are achieved.  What I got wrong about SAA was not realizing that they are even better than I thought.

When GMing, I noticed how easy it would be to murder PCs with baddies who had SAA (or the like).  SAA don’t mean doing double damage – the effect is greater.  Obviously, due to Void Point (VP) expenditure, it’s already more than double damage.  But, the concentration of damage in a single round goes beyond that.  While the people I play with underutilize Path to Inner Peace in combat, when someone gets hammered, it does get used.  What doesn’t get as much use is using it on someone Down or Out, for the often good reason that doing so probably just sets that PC up to get killed by the next attack.  Then, two hits in one round may just outright kill a PC.  I’m a fan of SAA for PCs (up to a point) because it means clearing out baddies faster, shortening combat – making it more like 3e/3r combat, which I enjoyed much more.  That does come at a cost that significant baddies get hammered by PCs, but, once you adapt to that, it probably works out.  What’s very hard to adapt to is holding back from just mowing down PCs with a big bad.  SAA and lower damage is rather different from SAA and higher damage.

Then, there are plenty of other differences arising from having SAA, such as Knockdown being less devastating (i.e. not making you useless on attack) and grappling being not as awful (in that timing becomes a bit more important for your grapple auto-kills).  Does this mean I think bushi are better at combat than shugenja once they get SAA?  Not really.  Bushi have nothing comparable to Jade Strike, Fires of Purity, Path to Inner Peace, Tempest of Air (as GMs, including myself, generously allow it to easily hit multiple opponents), Touch the Emptiness, Be the Mountain, nevermind spells like Wall of Earth, Heart of the Water Dragon, The Kami’s Strength, and other higher ranking spells.  What SAA do mean for making bushi relevant is how important it is for bushi to get them earlier than R-3 and, especially, earlier than R-4.  While I have my “You can use each tech above your rank once per session” fix to somewhat address this, I’m increasingly wondering about simply having all bushi start with SAA, though the forums had another spin, which was everyone gets SAA but can’t attack twice a round, which I would modify to all bushi get SAA and can’t attack twice a round until they would normally get SAA, with maybe some additional modifications.

Another feature of RPG play is that no two groups play the same way.  While there are plenty of intentional house rules, there are tons of unintentional house rules.  It’s quite amazing how many rules differ from GM to GM in my L5R play – it would probably be the same if I played other RPGs with lots of different GMs, but that’s not a typical experience for me (all of those convention one-shots tend to be different systems, many of which I’ve never played before and may never play again).

Even things I point out repeatedly are gotten wrong.  Take VP expenditure.  So many people overlook that school techniques are not limited in VP expenditure.  What I got wrong was almost the opposite.  I knew that only the uses of VPs on page 78 were limited to one VP/round.  I took that to mean that there was no general rule about one VP/round.  But, actually, repeated reading of the somewhat ambiguous wording and the later paragraph that exempts school technique VP expenditure from the limitation makes it clearer that there is a general rule of one VP/round, but that school techniques and possibly other unstated uses break the general rule.

Dueling.  Dueling/Iaijutsu is easily the most overblown element of L5R play, in that it’s nowhere near as common as people act like it is.  I’m currently playing two R-3 bushi.  Okay, one isn’t fair to use.  Of the one I’ve played up from 40xp, he has never been in a duel.  In my 3e/3r play, my R-4 Matsu Duelist was never in a duel.  I still find it absurd how much people care about dueling, though maybe it’s just a feature of mostly playing HoR, where you have Iaijutsu competitions rarely and pretty much have to force a duel otherwise.  Though, it’s not like I go out of my way to encourage duels in my GMing, and our Saturday game hasn’t seen much dueling since the Topaz Championship.

But, there is an element of dueling I got wrong.  I never considered duels to be that dangerous, probably because I’ve seen so few meaningful duels – I can count the number of lethal duels I’ve seen in all of my L5R play on one hand.  The reality is, with the high possible variance only exacerbated by how much variance there is in building to be good at dueling, you can get a solid damage roll that, of course, can get out of hand.  10k4 or 10k5 or whatever (plus Feint) that arises from Free Raises from the Focus roll, using Center Stance for damage, and spending a VP on damage may be in the 30’s, which is significant, or it may be in the 60’s, which is dead.

In general, I have missed miscellaneous bonuses to damage, as they have not been (reasonable) options for my own characters.  I pretty much would never consider spending a VP to do more damage with a katana because I don’t get into one-on-one fights, I’m rarely in a situation where I think the 6.11 average additional damage is going to be as important as +10 ATN or -10 wounds, and I very well might not be using a katana in the first place, since they kind of suck.  Still, something like 7k2 from a katana, plus Feint, +1k1 from VP, plus exploding 9’s is solid, just not as solid as 7k3 from a no-dachi, plus Feint, plus exploding 9’s.  Except, so many schools don’t get SAA with weapons better than a katana, so again, it’s more of a higher Rank thing.  Then, R-7 Kenjutsu or Heavy Weapons, while doable at lower IRs, is more common at higher IRs.  I build my characters to be rounded, which is funny when you consider how much a proponent I am of having a Ring that never will go above 2, so R-7 in a skill tends to be a low priority, even though I love exploding 9’s.  I finally got there with my main HoR3 character, and my first attack did 55 wounds.  Really should just prioritize such skills more to be combat relevant.

Small ATN bonuses are something I’m reassessing.  With the curve of results on attack rolls, small ATN bonuses can have massive impact.  It just depends so much on whether you are going something like 20 to 24 versus 25 to 29, or whatever that maps to what sort of attack rolls you see by the enemy.  Then, it starts getting really complicated once you put an enemy into wound penalties, as, suddenly, that crappy ATN of 24 or whatever isn’t so crappy.  I still think War Fans mastery abilities are a joke, but the kata that give a bonus when in a stance, dual-wielding, and other miscellaneous ways to eke out a few more ATN are becoming more interesting.  I even realized that when my Hare Bushi is not archering and, instead, Guarding how much sense it makes to dual wield a knife and something else; after all, if I’m in a Guard mode with that Agility 2 character, the chances that I’ll go berserk and attack anybody are quite slim.

Wound Penalties (WP) and close substitutes from spell effects/whatever are another area that I’m reassessing.  As I repeatedly mention, I despise the inversion of the wound chart between 3e and 4e.  Far too often, people don’t have any WP, which is annoying when you just hit them with a cutty thing.  But, WP get harsh on shugenja, much like how Fear appears to hurt shugenja more per my Christmas post.  Suddenly, the R-2 spell that was probable to cast with 6k3 or whatever becomes kind of dicey, and the R-4 spell that you really want to get off becomes that much less likely to fire.

There are many school techniques I could probably reassess, but we get back to how you just don’t see everything in operation.  Someone even came up with a scenario that makes Imperial Legionnaire’s tech not useless, though it’s a scenario I can never see happening in my play.

And, that’s where I’ll leave off.  The point was really that I don’t know everything and that I can keep learning about the RPG I play most often.  This means I really should try to branch out more and try different character types, with different techs, kata, etc.  In particular, I should really play a shugenja to see if there’s anything I’m missing about the brokenness of shugenjahood.

[Classic] Total Insanity … [7/21/2002]

January 10, 2014

Not one of the most interesting posts to our local group I found while mining, but I think it brings up a couple of things and is relatively chronological.  First, it gives a hint of the metagame in the Summer of 2002 and how it might compare and contrast with the modern metagame.  Second, while not as bad in this post as others, when I read a lot of my old posts to this group or to the B5 playtest group, I sure sound incredibly arrogant and patronizing.  I know I had much more of a “prove me wrong” mentality back then, where I just don’t really care anymore about the endgame of arguing over what’s good and bad (in V:TES), since I don’t see any endgame (i.e. changes made to the game based on my opinions).

*  *  *

… just one loser’s perspective.

So, we had the perfect tournament.  Twelve people.  I wasn’t playing.  Then, Jim and Jason showed up.  Then, we almost had the perfect tournament.  Fourteen people.  I wasn’t playing.  Then, it all went to hell when everyone was convinced that we should start from scratch.  Fifteen people.  I was playing.

First Round:
Randy went first playing Lasombra/Giovanni.  Ian Kemp went second with Gargoyles.  Vincent, third, with what wanted to play like a weenie Presence deck but with bigger minions; it used Brainwashes, for instance, to slow its prey down.  Jeff went fourth with Disguised Assault Rifles on the likes of Ellen Fence and Francois and lots of ways to draw cards.  I went … fifth.

I probably didn’t transfer optimally for the situation.  I saw Ellen, so I thought of how I would avoid being tapped for a while.  I could have brought out Marconius, the most important vampire in my crypt, first, but I wanted to make sure I could drop Secure Haven on him before he got rushed and I didn’t know how rushy Jeff’s deck was.  Also, after Randy brought out Gratiano, he brought out Pochtli, so I wanted to get Carlotta out before we ran into problems as our decks had tremendous superficial similarities.

Early on:  Randy wasn’t getting much pressure from me and could bleed some; Ian was rushing in various directions but not having much luck; Vincent was decrypting and bloating; Jeff occasionally rushed someone; I had it all and had it right then, though, to survive Blurred Assault Rifles with combat ends and most amusingly Darkling Trickery, of which I played two in one combat, though I forgot I had a Saturday Night Special on Marconius and didn’t shoot Ellen for one at long range to empty her minor as that would have been.

Deeper into the game Randy and Vincent were able to put some pressure on their respective preys.  Ian was getting Obedienced when rushing the invincible Gratiano.  Jeff started looking backwards more intently after Vincent got some good bleeds through.  My pool sucked as I got jack for blood management, but I drew wakes often enough to put some bleeds through without fearing sudden oust syndrome and Randy’s pool was fairly low.  I got one turn before Ian would descend into the ousting abyss to put Randy down, but my lack of ability to cycle throughout the game meant I didn’t have the plus bleed everyone likely expected and reduced him only to 1 pool.  Ian fell.  One of Randy’s larger bleeds (3) got bounced to Jeff when he was at 4 pool, and contentiousness flared such that Randy stealthed it by which enabled Vincent to oust shortly afterwards.  With time running out on us, I just went forward and ousted Randy.  Vincent and I agreed that a withdrawal was in order.  A stolen (from Jeff) Fragment would have aided going through the motions, but no one really cared to force us to do that.

Second Round:
Paul went first with his alternative vote deck.  Joel was second with Gangrel Royalty.  Jim went third with some Chimerstry based deck that didn’t end up doing much.  I went … fourth.  Alex went fifth with the latest version of his Eurobrujah deck.

Jim spent a bunch of pool without help from Joel’s Judgment: Camarilla Segregation.  Fated to die or something seemed to be the motto of the day.  Paul’s Gilbert got quickly Disarmed when he blocked Mr. Winthrop.  My Julia got similarly torpor advantaged blocking Alex’s J:CS.  Jim Suddened Alex’s KRCG and a Blood Doll (as I recall) while he tried to find a way to survive.  Earlier, Jim Cursed Angus at the double inferior level, which didn’t have a huge impact.  Paul had a vote problem with Alex getting out three Princes and Joel having four or so votes.  Command of the Harpies on Donal passed as did Camarilla Threat which Paul immediately lost a pool to as he discarded.  I got tired of having Alex around and didn’t mind having some more pool, so I ousted him but got Julia Archoned in doing so, which ended up hurting more than I expected as I couldn’t get someone I didn’t have in play when I decrypted.  This gave Paul vote control which he used to take out Joel and Jim with Anarchist Uprising.

The two player showdown saw First Tradition and Camarilla Threat hurt us both while Paul’s Etrius got big bleeds through (with stealth) and my lack of drawing plus bleed saw, uh, a lack of getting big bleeds through, so I eventually failed to survive.

Final Round:
Vincent was fifth seed with 2.5 VPs.  I was fourth with 3 VPs.  Brandyn had 3 and a TW, I believe.  Paul did as well? but won the coin toss?  Chris went in as the first seed.

Paul inserted to my left.  Brandyn followed Paul.  Chris followed Brandyn.  I went first.

I didn’t do much as I had Pentex Subversion played on my first vampire, which kept him from acting for a couple of turns and (in total) had three Brainwashes played on my guys.  Paul’s votes started with Might of the Camarilla.  Brandyn bled Chris like crazy.  But, Chris bloated like crazy and put out some wee folk.  Vincent bled me hoping for a quick oust, but I drew Deflections when I needed them for a change and I knew he couldn’t get through once I was able to block.

Eventually, I had stabilized and was trying not to put Paul down until he could do something fruitful.  Course, my delaying meant getting Beatrice burnt by Protect Thine Own which only had two possible targets.  Nevertheless, Paul had minimal pool and nothing useful to do.  Brandyn was strong but spinning his wheels going forward as Chris just kept bloating.  Chris eventually got out enough minions that Vincent was screwed.  Vincent had been bloating and wasn’t a threat to me anymore, though was losing the ability to wall up.  Chris ousted Vincent, and I figured some pool, a VP, and having Brandyn have a predator was useful, so I ousted Paul.  From there, Chris simply had too many minions and too much pool for us to do much, and we eventually got ousted, I about the time Chris ran out of cards, Brandyn a few turns later as Chris had eight or so minions.

My attempt to build around a coaster and still do something –

Shocking Nec-ed Guys
x2  Beatrice L’Angou
x2  Julia Prima
x2  Bartholomew
x4  Marconius
x2  Carlotta Giovanni

x5  Blood Doll
x1  Dreams of the Sphinx
x1  Giant’s Blood
x4  Necromancy
x1  Regent
x1  Secure Haven
x3  Shock Troops
x4  Storage Annex

x6  Govern the Unaligned
x4  Jar the Soul
x1  Kine Dominance

x3  Bonding
x1  Call of the Hungry Dead
x3  Conditioning
x1  Foreshadowing Destruction
x2  Seduction
x2  Shadow Play
x4  Shroud of Absence
x4  Stone Travel
x2  The Sleeping Mind

x3  Darkling Trickery
x6  Oubliette
x4  Spiritual Intervention

x2  Saturday Night Special

x5  Deflection
x2  Eyes of the Night
x2  Forced Awakening
x5  WWEF

x6  Aura Absorption
x2  Spectral Divination

The point of the deck is to drop some Necromen to play Jar the Soul (at zero stealth, of course, cuz God forbid Shock Troops have any redeeming value) to tap out my prey so the real vampires can bleed for large amounts.

Here’s what I learned.  There’s no way to overcome the supreme coasterness of Shock Troops.  Until recently, I completely overlooked that they have -1 stealth on every action.  Best guess that whoever posted to the newsgroup about using it for Protean agg rushers overlooked this as well as empty Protean dudes hunting at zero stealth will fall over and die leading to that most glorious of situations where you spent pool and used up master slots in your deck (this, of course, assumes the Shock Troops card isn’t Suddened) to have a bunch of them sit in torpor.  BTW, I do have a fourth; I just couldn’t bring myself to play with that many copies.  Every single time I had one in hand, I ended up discarding it.  This deck doesn’t have enough bleed, which has something to do with putting in cards that a serious deck wouldn’t be playing.  When I was writing it up in the ELDB, I was very close to ditching the stupidity, but I found some way to get the deck down to 90.  I didn’t nail the metagame with the notable exception of Darkling Trickery (which isn’t saying anything really as the card is always useful to the Kiasyd) as I was constantly having problems with card flow.  And, remember, every deck is better with ultrarare weapon hosers.


Edge Of Education

January 5, 2014

I played Shadowfist Friday night.  After the last game, I was asked “What did you learn?”  “What’s the preview of your next blog post?”

I’ve been thinking on and off about that.  I don’t feel like I learned anything new from that session about strategy, tactics, deckbuilding, or anything substantial about what cards I haven’t seen before do.  At one point, I thought to myself, “Is it important to learn something every time I play?”

Thinking more about the night, I gravitated towards perspective.  Miguel, the host, is very much into playing the game, even though he has played it for a long time.  A number of the other oldtimers don’t seem to get that much enjoyment from the actual play of the game.  Whereas, I do enjoy playing.

Once upon a time, I came up with a wild guess as to what percentage of games for different CCGs I thought were good games or enjoyable games.  I used this benchmarking to try to articulate why Ultimate Combat! is so much better than other CCGs.  I may not recall correctly, but I believe it was something like 20% of my Magic games were fun/good, about half (or maybe it was 40%) of my Babylon 5 CCG games were fun/good, and something like 75% of my Ultimate Combat! games were fun/good.  Don’t recall if I ever tried to blindly guess about V:TES percentages, but I’d probably say two-thirds.

To pick on Babylon 5, as I think it’s an important contrast, we played a lot of rough games.  There were numerous, tedious cheese, Shadow, Vorlon, Alliance of Races (I was the main offender), unrest, Drakh, ISA, Conscription (I was the main offender), Tu’Pari kills everyone, etc. games.  We did not eschew annoying strategies or annoying cards.  It’s funny for me to think about how much more we embraced brokenness, abuse, and stuff not that good but highly unpleasant than in my playing any other multiplayer CCG.  That certainly helped when it came to playtesting, of course, to the extent that saying something is unfun and seeing it printed anyway was being helpful.  Until Wheel of Fire introduced Drakh and ISA, though, I was pro B5.  In fact, I consider the post Severed Dreams environment the best overall environment.

Why go on about B5?  Because the point of playing games is to do something fun.  Winning may be the internal goal of a competitive game, but it’s the expected fun value that makes choosing one game over another or even just choosing gaming over doing something else the correct choice.  It may make me sad to not have more opponents (or any opponents for certain games I like), but there’s no point in playing a game that isn’t fun, so I get that I enjoy certain games to the point of being interested in playing them where others don’t have that level of interest – I no longer worry about trying to convince people about how great something is.

B5 was probably a coin flip as to whether it would be fun for any given game.  Now, more than one game was usually played, so you could view it as an expected value of half a fun game per game played, leading to one or 1.5 fun games per play night.  Then, a vast amount of my enjoyment with games doesn’t involve playing them.  I enjoyed thinking about optimal moves in the Game of Thrones Boardgame, even though I thought the game sucked.  I thought about how to build Hyborian Gates CCG decks (I even built one!) or Tempest of the Gods CCG decks (I actually have some decks built even though I don’t actually understand how the game works).

Shadowfist is being far more enjoyable to me, right this minute, than B5 was, on average.  Actually, Shadowfist is being more enjoyable to me, right this minute, than anything besides UC! and maybe the Wheel of Time CCG, on average.  But, it’s not a fair comparison.  Newness is a thing.  Being able to relive learning a new CCG is a thing.  Not having to care about how good the game is or how good a tournament game it is or whether I can corral enough people to fill up a tournament is a thing.  I’m in a post-curmudgeon mindframe.  When B5 was new to me and before the first expansion, maybe even after the first expansion, I probably enjoyed it as much as I do Shadowfist, right this moment.

The problems in Shadowfist don’t really bother me.  I’m not invested in its history, as I’ve been invested in the history of a few CCGs.  I haven’t had a chance to become jaded, like I have with B5 and V:TES.  I just build decks, play the game, and don’t get caught up in any angst over the game.

At the same time, it’s a CCG experience.  What does that mean?  It means, there is so much to discover, so many things to try, so many ways to bring my personality into the game that you don’t get with boardgames (for instance).  I sit in a weird position of, on the one hand, understanding completely the gripes of veterans about the game because I’ve been through those wars with at least two CCGs.  On the other, those aren’t my fights and I am going through much of a newb’s discovery phase.  I might have been knowledgeable about CCGs enough to not be “gee, whiz” when I took up B5, but I also hadn’t gone through the playtest wars or the design wars that I went through after getting into that game.

So, what did I learn?

I learned that I can be in a position to both embrace the possibilities in a CCG without being a cynic while also not being naive about the issues the game faces – rules, balance, paucity of players, infrequency of play, staleness of decks.  It’s a pretty cool position to be in.

[Classic] Yu-Gi-Oh! meets V:TES [10/19/2002]

January 4, 2014

As promised.  This even has relevance to a conversation I had last night.

*  *  *

Overheard at a game convention …

J:  YG, you shouldn’t have tapped all of your minions on your last turn.  Now, you can’t block my bleeds.  For my first action, Ozmo does a Scou-ting Mi-ssion bleed!!  You lose three pool YG.
YG:  J, you’ve fallen into my trap.
J:  What?
YG:  While it’s true that normally I couldn’t block you because all of my minions are tapped, I play this card – Wake With Evening’s Freshness!  Wake With Evening’s Freshness allows the chosen vampire to attempt to block and play reaction cards as if untapped.  And, I choose Aisling Sturbridge … who attempts to block.
J:  That’s a strong defensive card YG.  But, you haven’t successfully blocked my attack yet.  I play Swallowed by the Night to give Ozmo plus one stealth.  Now my vampire has one stealth and yours has zero intercept.  I guess my attack gets through and you take that three pool loss after all YG.
YG:  Not so fast J.  You forget that Aisling Sturbridge can also play reaction cards due to the Wake With Evening’s Freshness.  I play Enhanced Senses for intercept …
J:  Then, I’ll play Cloak the Gathering for more stealth.
YG:  J, you should have let me finish announcing the terms of my card before playing that Cloak the Gathering.  Aisling has superior Auspex, so I play Enhanced Senses at superior.  At inferior, Enhanced Senses adds only one intercept.  At superior, it gives plus two intercept to the reacting minion!  You’re going to have to raise your game to another level if you want to beat me J.
J:  Plus two?  That means Aisling’s intercept matches Ozmo’s stealth, which means that Ozmo will get blocked.
YG:  That’s right J, unless you have more stealth.
J:  No … The attack is blocked.  We go to combat.
YG:  Do you have any prerange cards J?
J:  No.
YG:  Neither do I.  Do you maneuver J?
J:  I don’t maneuver.  I strike …
YG:  Wait a moment J.  I play Apportation at superior!  At superior, Apportation provides my minion with a maneuver.  I maneuver to long range which means that Aisling Sturbridge won’t take any damage from a hand strike.
J:  Well YG, I wasn’t going to strike with hands, anyway.  I play Dodge!  A strike:  dodge means that Ozmo won’t be affected by Aisling Sturbridge’s strike.  As I’m sure you were planning to play a strike effective at long range, I think I win this one YG.
YG:  You’re right J but not about winning.  I *was* going to play a strike effective at long range.  I still am!  I play Theft of Vitae, a strike that can steal blood or life at long range.
J:  But, it won’t do anything because I played Dodge.  Seems like I’m not the only one who makes boneheaded rookie mistakes YG.
YG:  So, you think it’s a rookie mistake J?  It isn’t and you’ll soon see why.
J:  Uh, okay YG, whatever you say.  For my next action …
YG:  Hold on J, this combat isn’t over yet.
J:  It isn’t?
YG:  No.  During the press step, I play Apportation at inferior.  At inferior, Apportation provides a press only usable to continue combat.  If you don’t press to end combat, combat goes another round.  Do you press to end combat J?
J:  No.  I guess we go to another round of combat.  I have no prerange cards.
YG:  Nor do I.
J:  I don’t maneuver.
YG:  Nor do I.
J:  I strike …
YG:  Just a minute J, I have a card to play before strikes are declared.  I play Blood to Water at superior!
J:  Blood to Water?  What does that do?
YG:  Blood to Water, in this case, burns blood off of the opposing vampire.  At inferior, it would burn three blood off of Ozmo.  But, I’m playing it at superior, so it burns five blood off of Ozmo.  Because you moved one blood from Ozmo to your pool during your master phase using the Blood Doll you played on Ozmo earlier this turn, Ozmo is now empty of blood.
J:  Ouch!  I don’t have another Dodge, so I strike with hands.
YG:  Very well J.  Now, to complete the combo, with this card I just drew replacing the Blood to Water I just played, I play Walk of Flame! at superior!!
J:  Walk of Flame!  That does aggravated damage, doesn’t it?
YG:  Yes J, it does.  Walk of Flame at inferior wouldn’t have made a difference as the first point of aggravated damage would only send Ozmo to torpor and the point of damage from a hand strike would have done the same.  But, at superior, Walk of Flame does two points of aggravated damage.  Because your vampire is empty, the second point of damage will burn your vampire!  I’m sorry J, but Ozmo is … destroyed.

… After this action was completed, the remaining three players searched their libraries and collections for Garrote cards and proceeded to messily and slowly slit the throats of YG and J.

Everyone, trust in the heart of the cards [especially your ultrarares and watch an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! sometime if you haven’t to watch a show about playing a CCG].  Jim, archive if you want.