January 25, 2015

So, Gen Con housing opened up today.  I was hardly shocked when the new system, with its random slotting of when people get a chance to book a room, put me in a slot not remotely resembling when I normally book a room.

Where it used to be event registration that led to frustration and disappointment at missed opportunities, housing has just gotten to be absurd.  Last year, I ended up with a third choice with fewer nights than I wanted.  I don’t get it – why is it harder to book with Sunday night included than not?

Oh, right, perhaps because rather than clear the docket of other events going on at the same time, Indy has liked to have three or four things that get mentioned in the newspaper as occurring at the same time as Gen Con.

So, what does randomness look like rather than a fevered rush to book anything remotely plausible before everything is gone?  Lot like coming in fourth in the Olympics in that you still get to participate, just your results are irrelevant.

The closest hotel for five nights is 10 miles away.  For only four nights that shaves 3 miles and gains nothing in terms of enjoyment of the experience.

Sure, I’ve been off in my own little world of Gen Con planning for ages.  I just don’t know enough people.  While tons of people go from California, the number of people I can get to commit from the Bay Area has often been zero.  While I can theoretically stay with people from elsewhere, the ones I know often have their own groups figured out, and I’m really not that enthralled with piling a lot of people in a room … to the point where far too often I’ve been the only person in a room.  Four is my limit because, when you get old, sleep matters.  Three is optimal.  Two is fine with me.

If I was part of a larger group, we would just game the system best us nobodies can and everyone would try to book separately, hoping someone gets a real time slot and not the time slot I got.  But, somehow, I think everyone is aware of this and I think there’s a larger issue than people who don’t just try things like this getting screwed.

Gen Con has grown.  Other groups are taking advantage of discounted hotel rooms to have their own events at the same time.  A few years ago, I had no issue booking five nights at the Hyatt.  I did that 2005, 2007-2012.  It might be the case that there are so many people who either gaming the system much better or have ins or whatever that the actual available space is greatly diminished.

Not that I see a lot being done.  How many more hotels are going to open up?  It’s not like you have the Indy 500 and Gen Con year round.  It’s not like a bunch less people are going to decide that they won’t go because they have to commute where they didn’t have to before.  It’s just a sign of popularity.  Why should GC or Indy give a crap about me when I used to be one of 25k and am now one of 50k?

If volume doesn’t increase, why not price?  The average cost is around $200/night before the 30% bump for taxes and so forth.  I’m sure an average starting price of $300/night would slow down some of the bookings.  Does that really help me?  I don’t know.  I’ve gone to Gen Cons before where I had to commute, though I believe only in Milwaukee.  It was not the end of the world.  So, I spend probably much less staying at some distant hotel as long as I can get transportation somehow that isn’t prohibitive or I pay even more than what I’ve been paying for the downtown convenience or I hope to have more roommates?  Which matters most?

I guess I’ll find out, unless something comes up.  My first commuting to Indy GC means I’ll get a better feel for what it’s like and maybe decide I really don’t mind at all not being at the center of things.

Building L5R Characters – Origins

January 24, 2015

It’s surprisingly common how often someone asks on the AEG forum for advice on designing or advancing their L5R characters.  Why do I find it surprising?  Because why would I care what other people think about my characters?

It’s actually my most common first reaction when people post deck ideas or decklists on CCG forums for multiplayer CCGs.  Sure, two-player CCGs are all about optimizing decks (still have metagame considerations but whatever), but my inclination for advice with multiplayer CCGs where it’s all about manipulating people into doing your bidding is “What do you want the deck to do and what do you enjoy playing?”

Given that CCGs are competitive (usually) and that there are many more instances of clear superiority in card choices, the questions “What do you want your character to do and what do you enjoy playing?” seem that much more relevant.

What’s so strange is that so often the original poster doesn’t give clear ideas what the answers to those might be.  So, advice is out of any sort of thematic or mechanical context.  It’s almost like people think that RPG characters have some sort of native mechanical relevance.

Which, if someone said “I’m going to be playing in HoR7, The Ocarina of Memory, and I want my Squirrel Clan character to own all others at Divination Duels”, well, that’s way, way more info than what I typically see.  Just the idea that a character is being played in something besides a home campaign is, of course, relevant.  Because, hey, mechanics – there is such a thing as objectively better, like how Luck is just better than any other 3xp expenditure in the game and the first question with a new character that is optimizing to the rules set is whether they can get by with only two ranks of Luck.

The subject of building L5R characters strikes me as one with a number of parts, which is why I named my post the way that I did and which is why I’m not going to get into a lot of things until (hopefully) later.


Do I consider mechanics when creating characters?  Ofacourseim.  But, context is everything and mechanics are not.  No, really, context is everything as I argued in a college philosophy class.  Without context, there is no meaning, though how you give meaning to context is next stage philosophy stuff that … well, I got my degrees in economics.

Maybe for other people they can be satisfied with a character sheet being a character sheet.  I guess giving my advice to such people is wasted, though:  never take Touch of the Void or Consumed by Perfection, always take three ranks of Luck, blah, blah, blah.

My L5R investment began with HoR2.  What were the inspirations for my main in that campaign?  Well, HoR1, where I played two mods with an Omoidasu, but that was not really what got me into the character.  Ikoma.  No, not the family.  The Ikoma.  Once upon a time, the only clans that I really felt a connection to were Dragon and Phoenix.  I kind of lost the sense that I can play a Dragon correctly.  But, then, I read Way of the Lion.  I finally got Lion.  And, I loved Ikoma.  Now, the Lion are stereotyped as a bunch of uptight prigs.  Well, I can see beyond that even for others, but why would you ever want to play an Ikoma that way when you got a drunk, lecherous brawler as your perfect ancestor?

Now, it would be an interesting role-playing stretch for me to play a drunk.  But, Ikoma Jun was all about wanderlust, meeting exotic folks, babes, and exotic babes, and mixing it up (keep in mind that this was 3e/3r where I didn’t even bother learning the grapple rules, so mixing it up meant Kenjutsu and, uh, … War Fans … because war fans are cool).

Now, the interest level in hearing about other people’s characters tends to vary from low to nonexistent, so I’ll try to move this along.  It wasn’t hard to play Jun.  Then, as things happened, it became really easy to play Jun because in game events tied into themes developed from deciding to play a “true” descendant of Ikoma.

Mechanically?  That is, what did Jun need to be good at mechanically?  Um, nothing.  Well, let me be a bit more specific.  Obviously, Storytelling was something to have some ranks in.  But, the character started with Awareness 2 and ended the campaign at IR-4 with Awareness 2.  Even the bonus to Honor Rolls from Balance only came about when 3e became 3r.

The mechanics that did matter were his advantages and disadvantages but not because of their mechanics.  I took Balance back when it was pretty much worth 1cp and cost 5 because I wanted to play a character that could justifiably play with any sort of other PCs, this being a living campaign where I didn’t have a group I played with.  Fascination: Odd People/Places and Gullible also made it easier to seek out adventure with a ragtag fleet, though Gullible has always been to me cheese.  Would I have bothered with any of these in a home game?  Maybe.  But, metagaming, bro, metagaming.

So, you are saying he was useless?  Um, no.  Perception 3, Intelligence 4, some miscellaneous INT skills.  Party brain.  Reasonable investigator, if not interrogator.  How he advanced was … different, but time to move on.

My first alt for HoR2 was predicated on mechanics.  I needed a character who could play in Battle Interactives, which was so not what I was going to do with Jun until he got Earth 3, which was far, far down the line.  Because I’m actually quite the fan of resilience, that makes me a fan of Earth, which meant Earth 4 newb, baby!  Since this is an alt and alts are going to be behind the curve, what’s this?  Mirumoto Bushi is not only horribly broken but also lets you choose any Trait to bump (in 3e/3r).  Well, since I’m now officially broken and are sinking all of my points into Earth 4, Different School (*Isawa* Ryota), Jurojin’s Blessing (never used), and Strength of Earth (who cares when you are rolling 3k2?), who needs Agility 3 or like any Trait/Ring above 2 outside of Earth?

Then, there was Doubt.  Doubt is top tier cheese.  If you can’t find a school skill you will virtually never or never roll, try looking again.  In HoR play, where mods have no idea what sort of PCs are going to be playing, there’s always something irrelevant to Doubt.  So, because my cheese always comes with crackers, not only am I playing a Mirumoto Bushi with an attack roll of 3k2+3 (at SR-2, when he had two attacks he was all the way up to having a 5k3+5 attack roll) but I’m playing with Doubt: Kyujutsu and Unlucky x2.  I figured that he would suck so much at rolls in the first place and that resilience would keep him alive, that Unlucky would be relatively painless.  But, as much as Doubt hardly mattered mechanically (it did actually come up because … newsflash … Kyujutsu is some good), it defined the character thematically.  Why did he Doubt Kyujutsu?  Because he totally killed his best friend with an errant shot.  Oh, how unfortunate.  While we are making for a sad luck loser who is unkillable, why don’t we have his mom die giving birth to his happy go lucky (… and Momoku) brother?  Where Jun was upbeat and curious, Ryota was morose.  Helped me distinguish them in my head.

Anyway, the point of all of that character explanation was that there are many ways to work with mechanics.  First of all, what is the campaign (or one shot) about?  You can take 10 ranks in Perform: Tuba, but if you never roll it, you aren’t likely to be happy with your decisions.  But, there’s way more to metagaming than living in your own little world of character design.

Our Princess Police campaign probably won’t run much longer.  My initial character was a disaster.  Why?

Long before the campaign started, I realized one of the biggest problems I had with campaigns was that the parties made no sense.  PCs who should never adventure together did, and it affected party collaboration.  So, when this campaign was floated, I suggested some cooperative party creation.  We created a Google Spreadsheet and everyone put their character ideas on the first tab.  Typical L5R party, with your paladin and your assassin, a priest here, a ronin there.  Yes, there were two Scorpion, … and everyone else had at least Honor 5.

But, of those non-Scorpion, only my character really needed to have a high Honor for my Lion Paragon concept.  Now, in my HoR experiences, massive Honor discrepancies are easily glossed over (it helps to have the high Honor character have Gullible … metagaming!).  So, maybe it will be the same.  But, my concept wasn’t just a Paragon but a Kensai.  See, because most of my L5R play used to be HoR, I’m used to living in the IR-1 or IR-2 world.  I figured that a home campaign would be an opportunity to not only plan an advanced character but play mechanics that might require effort in HoR (certainly, the way HoR3 went for me, I would have just given up and stayed at like IR-2 forever rather than beat my head against the wall of trying to get approval for paths, though, to be fair, see below for the much harder to get approved mechanic).

Prodigy – 12xp.  Paragon – 6xp.  Virtuous – 3xp.  I should probably mention that while I tend to hate the ancestor mechanics in the corebook, there are some I love in Great Clans … like Kitsu – 6xp.  Yup, 40xp character with 21 points of advantages and an ancestor.  Our ronin was similarly afflicted with “here’s what I’ll be like with 100 more XP” disease.  That could have worked – a party full of ridiculously Advantaged characters bumbling their way to competence.  I could have even recovered from my mechanical, self-inflicted wounds.  Instead, I continued down a path of mechanical hopelessness.  I got to IR-2, created the Jade Legionnaire technique (didn’t exist in our timeline) for extra cheese, and had the crackers of playing an IR-2 bushi with Earth 2, Reflexes 2.  Every fight should have killed him because, amazingly enough, the rest of the party had spent XP to get better at combat.  Actually, the only thing the party was suited for was combat … and I was playing a bushi.

Did I mention his disadvantages?  Maybe I should mention those.  Compulsion: Keep Secrets, yeah, that’s party friendly.  Overconfident.  *drops mike* [That’s not when *drops mike* is used.  Oh, okay.]

My second character was a direct response to my initial character.  My second character had to be morally ambiguous because I just grew weary of “Where’s the Scorpion?  I guess he’s off doing something … important.”  My second character had to be able to survive, not just not being the bushi with Earth 2 and Reflexes 2 who charges the enemy by himself but survive without any assistance from the rest of the party as party combat tactics were rather atrocious early in the campaign.  My second character had to be more sociable not because the party ever socialized much with NPCs (outside of, ironically, my loner Lion) but because the PCs just didn’t seem to enjoy being around each other that much.  To facilitate getting along with wildly varying PCs, playing a subordinate style character was perfect, say hello to our minor clan buddy.  The one thing my Lion did provide the party was Perception, so I had to continue to be the party perceiver (when another player started playing, that niche was taken away).

Using this campaign as an example, the point is that one’s role in a group is fundamental to deciding how to construct and advance a character.  My Hare lost his perceiver niche but seized the talker niche as no one else cared, he was already Reflexes 5, Awareness 3 to start with, and Iron Forest Style is really good for someone with Agility 2.

Without the context of what the rest of the party looks like, how does advice matter?  Okay, you are playing a Hida Bushi.  If everyone else is going to run around with Awareness 2 and your campaign involves, I don’t know, interacting with NPCs, why not buy Awareness 4 and own the talker role?  “But, d-u-u-u-de, then I’ll just play a Doji Courtier.  I’m playing a Hida Bushi.”  Okay, whatever.  My sense of humor is different from other people’s.

We can make some assumptions of what people want to be good at based upon their school choices.  At the same time, what you should be good at and what you will be good at don’t have to relate at all.  But, that’s me.  I wouldn’t bother making a Kakita Bushi with Iaijutsu above 1 because I’ll already win any duels with my one rank and I have more interesting things to do.  Now, my Daigotsu Bushi who had Iaijutsu 5 … and never dueled, that was classic.

Let’s say you like making boring characters and build to stereotypes.  This is purely a judgment upon your worth as a human being, so don’t take any offense.  There are certainly ways to play to strengths and to synergize.  There’s also the concept of “good stuff”, which I talk about with CCGs.

Luck is good stuff.  Reflexes is good stuff unless you never plan on fighting.  Because Reflexes is so powerful, Kyujutsu becomes good stuff beyond just adding a ranged component to your attacks.  Our Princess Police party sees nobody with Reflexes below 4 in the core group and multiple PCs at 5.

Bit more on the side of synergizing with what your player gave you:  If your Intelligence is or will ever be above 2, then Sage is required (stop being recalcitrant – it’s required, I just find it painful when my fellow PCs can’t be bothered to Sage up).  If your Perception is or will ever be above 2, then you always take Hunting (every character already always takes Investigation) and you likely spend that precious single XP to take Battle.

But, hold on, I skipped over something.  Or, more accurately, I’m jumping ahead to what should be a subsequent post.  This post should really focus on originating.

Here’s another origination consideration – you don’t need to define your character until you have enough XP to define your character.  I know this runs counter to my Princess Police Lion example, where the character was designed as an IR-4 character with 40xp, but 40xp is just absurdly low.  You not only can’t buy everything, you can’t even buy key elements to your character.  Obviously, if your campaign makes advantages cost more after character creation, you must focus on advantages to the exclusion of all else.

Really, beyond advantages and disadvantages, which may not only be problematic after character creation but which are far more character defining than Traits/Rings/Skills, there are rarely priorities.  Tattoos, kihos, and the like, sure.

I find it concerning when people suggest a 40xp character should be buying up a bunch of skills to 3.  No, really, this is atrocious advice for the dedicated powergamer.  Newb characters are mechanically pathetic.  Skills are the easiest thing to buy after character creation.  After you spend 9xp on Luck, 3-4xp on Sage, 24xp on Traits, and something to make your character not entirely a cookiecutter, who can afford any skills above R-1?

Does that mean all of my characters always start out with no skills above R-1?  Of course not!  Crackers with your cheese!


I find it surprising how often players want mechanical advice on creating RPG characters.  But, you know, RPGs do a really awful job of giving such advice, so I guess there’s a reason people need help figuring out what works well and what sucks mechanically in RPGs.

I don’t see where thematic advice is actually useful, but, then, I like building my own characters, my own decks, and whatnot.

So, within the realm of mechanical advice and without getting too spreadsheety, which is another post for another time where we go through and assign ratings to all advantages and disadvantages or whatever, things to consider include:

What are the challenges my character will face in the campaign?

Should my character be the best or one of the best at facing those challenges?

How do I differentiate myself from other PCs?

How do I work cohesively with other PCs?

Why am I building a character in a vacuum when that’s not what play is actually like?

Can I get by with just 2 ranks of Luck?

What abilities are worthless?


Which skill is irrelevant for Doubt?

How can I be mechanically relevant now when I’m a pathetic 40xp loser without making wasteful buys that will impact my awesomeness later?

How can I set up my advancement so that around the 80xp mark I’m not only defined (hopefully get defined in the 60-70xp range) but am actually resembling my vision?

How can I avoid having such a rigid view of who my character is before I even start playing it to where when I get more XP I can spend them on things like Games: Pachisi?

Board? Card? Ramble …

January 18, 2015

I have been having trouble thinking of one thing to write about.  I could write about V:TES games today, boardgames yesterday, rolling the Games: Mahjong skill in my last L5R session, forum posts, my latest attempt to elicit what other players want most of campaign RPG play, etc.

Given that V:TES struggles with having an enthused playerbase just like Shadowfist, I feel like I should write as much as I can about it, so I’ll probably get to today’s games in a bit.

I was thinking of analogies for putting together RPG campaigns, like a sandwich analogy.  But, what was more interesting to me was talking about what sort of sandwich I like and I’m sure some web search can bring up various articles akin to this.

I was considering a V:TES post about how the game would differ if certain things were removed.  That seems like it should be a fuller post when I’m more interested in the topic.

I considered trying to write something about the L5R RPG, like maybe getting into character design, as a lot of people seem to want help with their characters, even thematic (or, at least, I think of them as thematic) aspects.  But, that should be a focused post.

The most unusual thing was learning some new boardgames.  Actually, I have been playing a number of new boardgames in the last month, with getting together with my friend Cedric and playing such stuff as Temporum.  Playing boardgames has caused me to think about ones I might have more interest in playing, like Phoenicia.

But, anyway, I’m going to be running some Rio Grande games at the next convention, so I got my boardgame group to help me try out Loch Ness, Cardcassonne, and O Zoo Le Mio.  I figured Cardcassonne would go over best as it’s the most Euro-y of the three.

To my surprise, Loch Ness turned out the most popular.  It’s a horrible sounding premise – taking pictures of Nessie, but the mechanics hold together fine.  The worker placement and (move) card play were more important than just glancing at the game made them seem.  Light, quick (especially if you want it to be), with minimal setup/teardown.

Cardcassonne was still considered good.  The main complaint I’ve read and that one of our players had was that it had nothing to do with Carcassonne.  Since I’m not that big a fan of Carcassonne (even if it did get played at my apartment in China … without me), I don’t care.  For those who can’t be bothered to look up on what the game is like, you place cards in four rows and place a dude to scoop up all of the cards in one row to that point and score based on what cards you get.  I think it’s perfectly playable with replayability.  It also has very little setup.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to play it, but it’s a lot more interesting to me than games I keep ending up playing, like Dominion.

O Zoo Le Mio wasn’t considered bad, just not good.  I don’t understand why the income mechanic works the way it does at all.  A lot of games build in a catch up mechanic, where OZLM can easily snowball.  I think it’s an auction game that really punishes not planning your auctions carefully.  As a tile laying game, it has all of the annoyances I find that games like … gee, Carcassonne … and others have where you spend too much time trying to spin the tile around to find the optimal placement.  But, getting back to the income, I’m not clear why income isn’t a fixed amount, like three coins a turn.  In general, whoever has more tiles has more scoring potential, so giving them more money every turn seems kind of wacky.  Then, the scoring system is just so limited.  It just seems like a game meant for children.

What do all of the games have in common?

They all involve reading opponents.  Loch Ness has some bluff potential but is mostly a matter of matching math with whether you think opponents will go low or go high.  Cardcassonne is all about how greedy you think other players will be to adjust your level of greed.  OZLM is blind auction.

Maybe that should have been my unifying topic – reading opponents.

For, you see, reading opponents is a huge aspect of V:TES, Shadowfist, and pretty much any CCG where you have significant play from hand ability (or, even those CCGs, like Magic, with limited play from hand ability).

Brandon (HoS do things to the prey’s ash heap) -> Andy (borrowed Starvation of Marena wall) -> Ian (Aus/Pre/Vic) -> Eric (borrowed Porphyrion) -> Sergio (Tzimisce high cap wall that votes)

Andy found the deck he was playing annoying.  He didn’t like how inconsistent combat was.  But, he also was wasting combat cards on minions he didn’t need to nuke.  While he expressed verbally his lack of ability to fight at times, it also wasn’t that hard to figure out when he couldn’t fight at other times.  Yet, because I played recklessly when time was running out, he got a VP and would have eventually won an endgame.

Brandon got pretty beat up sitting between two Tzimisce wall decks.  While he tried to oust Andy, Andy had plenty of wakes with permacept to stop any of that nonsense.  Meanwhile, due to his Anarch Revolts, I got ousted.  Anyway, his deck was playing both Trochomancy and Victim of Habit, which is not terribly synergistic.  The first VoH got blocked to stop brutal On the Qui Vive pool loss.

Sergio’s deck often just draws cards off of advanced Sascha and tools up until it can beat people up.  Even though his predator has no offensive combat and the two hardly interacted, Sergio had all of one blood between Sascha and Lambach, then a torped Lambach, then an empty, Sensory Deprivationed Sascha.

Because everyone knows that Ogwon should Restore himself while Porphyrion Dark Mirrors of the Mind before dropping Sensory Deprivation.  Eric nearly got ousted, though, as I had put only minimal bleed in the deck, and, even with a prey at one pool and a grandprey at two pool, it was a struggle.  He eventually got his two VPs before time.  Since Eric’s most striking experience borrowing one of my decks and trying to grasp how I can possibly ever win at this game was when he played my Treaty of Laibach deck, did a crosstable rescue, looked up at some point and noticed his prey was at one pool and couldn’t block a one stealth bleed from Porphyrion and his predator had a ton of pool and no ready minions … this sentence has gone so long, I should have avoided starting it with “Since …” …, Eric should play Porphyrion all of the time – it shall heretofore be his totem crypt card.

I got out Enid Blount, The Rose, and Velya.  None of my vampires went to torpor fighting Andy.  Enid learned superior Presence, Vicissitude, Auspex.  I put out Matteus at the end of the game and that was the only reason I was ousted before time.  Fights with Andy were funny.  Brandon had built the Starvation deck due to the discussion, while I killed Andy’s first Raven Spy with one of my five “I haven’t played Starvation of Marena in a while” Starvations.  I also did the ole Inner Essence + Majesty thing a couple of times.  I even bled Eric, bleeding for three once or twice and bleeding with three minions for two in one round.

Why was that notable?

Because one of the reasons for the deck, besides how amused I can be by Inner Essence + Majesty or how interesting I can find discipline mixes like Presence/Vicissitude even after playing with them, is that I wanted to build a deck more akin to the decks I used to build, where I actually have some ousting power and where I take actions … hunting.  Too many of my decks these days just sit around doing nothing rather than taking the glorious hunt action as a precursor to a bunch of bleeds.

Ian (borrowed HoS deck from above) -> Andy (Dem SB) -> Eric (Toreador guns) -> Brandon (weenie Assamite fight) -> Sergio (Giovanni Powerbleed)

I won the race for first Nagaraja.  Though I stopped Sergio’s first Govern, that was the only intercept I drew all game.  Govern + Bonding killed me, though I could have not brought out Gisela after already having a Convert, Egothha, Mylan, and Raful out.  I actually had very little impact on the game even while taking a bunch of actions.

Eric only got out two minions and didn’t completely destroy people with guns, also didn’t stop being bled for a bunch.  Sergio had pool loss, then got beat up.  Brandon had tons of dudes in play and beat up Andy’s Malks in the endgame.

It was interesting to play the deck I borrowed.  It actually wasn’t terribly different from decks I’ve built, though I’ve built hundreds of decks.

Unfortunately, this game doesn’t tie into my read opponents theme.  Well, not for me.  Maybe someone else had to make decisions based on their opponents, though it seemed like a game with minimal interesting interaction.

Switching gears, because this post never really was coherent, two of my RPG campaigns are coming to an end.  It makes me wonder what’s next.  But, I guess that should really be a post for another time.

Fisticuffs [20150108]

January 9, 2015

Five-player tables are the best for V:TES … in theory.  Actually, if you care about games ending before two hours and play in an environment like mine, you might be interested in four-player tables just to see resolution.  But, the five-player dynamic is so much more interesting.

For Shadowfist, five-player is something some people just don’t want to do.  It’s understandable.  When the game is mostly about bids for victory and stoppage after subtle jockeying for position, yet another player adds a massive amount of stuff going on.

We played two, five-player games last night.  What’s funny is that the first ended after about an hour.  What’s less funny is that it wasn’t all that easy to tell what was going on, more so in the second game, when there were many more characters in play.

Ray (Dragon guns) -> Joren (Monarchs) -> Justin (Monarchs & Jammers) -> Ian (Daughters … of Nu Gua) -> Don (Monarchs)

I didn’t get the memo that we were doing the one foundation, one FSS site pull out for the opening hand, so I started with no sites.  I played Chanting Monks and kept discarding until I got a FSS.  My prey just kept playing Fire Acolytes.  Ray beat on Joren with guns.  Joren brought out a few foundation Monarchs.  Justin brought out some Edges and got out one Flambards to go with various characters that couldn’t block Daughter of Nu Gua.

I finally got a site structure, put out two Daughters, who were mostly unblockable, and burned a site for victory.  Without being beaten down (neither of my 4-fighting characters got smoked and my sites kept taking damage but some recovered with Chanting Monks help), I made a bid for victory and nobody could stop it.

Just not a lot happened, which was weird.

Ian (I Believe I Can Hop) -> Don (same deck) -> Ray (Purists) -> Joren (Thunder) -> Justin (same deck)

This game was quite different and more like 2.5 hours.  There was a ton of fighting in play.  Justin gained 14 power off of Bloodlust towards the end of the game.  Ambushing Thunder Berserkers wrecked stuff when they weren’t being Larcenous Misted.  Beaumains made 2-3 appearances.  Burn, Baby, Burn! lasted a couple of rounds before Symphonic Disciples did them in.  Mouth of the Fire Righteous made a couple of appearances to my left.

Also to my left, Khalid Al-Haddad with an Ice Diadem and Johnny Red and that mastermind of masterminds, Atourina Baktiari, appeared.  Oh, and the Queen of the Ice Pagoda.  Ray got out Mutators, The Blind, a Memory Spirit, and stuff.  Ray also Math Bombed twice, once taking out Jayne Insane and a bigger Fire Horse to my right.

My max fighting in play was something like a Flesh Eater, 3x Hopping Vampire, and a Wailing Apparition.  I triggered Flesh Eaters three times to get back Cloud Walkings.  Yup, that’s the deck.  I believe I can fly; I believe I can hop into the sky!  Cloud Walking, of course, led to many, many intercepts that wouldn’t have otherwise happened.

But, we all ran out of stoppage and Ray took my heavily damaged FSS when everybody was a threat to win on the next turn, assuming no site removal.

My deck badly needs more punch through.  I realized that I had one hope given the waxy buildup on the table.  I would have drawn it on my next turn.  I just couldn’t even try to win prior, lacking significant fighting or clever things to do.  Another issue with my deck is that it doesn’t push through very easily early on, so it has power gain problems.  A lot of people were running into power stalls, even with The Hungry in play to my left and my grandleft.

I don’t see much reason to post these two decks, as one is going to get tweaked for more aerial beatdown and the other is probably going to stay together until I want to show how water > fire, again.

So, what are the takeaways?

Five-player games can end.  Many Monarchs decks means that metagaming might need to occur.  Joren hasn’t mastered “Auramancer is the biggest character in play” tech, yet, somehow.  I guess I’ll have to play them more to show how it’s done.  Math Bomb may require patience, but it’s da bomb … uh bomb.  I seem overly fond of 3-cost, 4-fighting, non-unique characters.  I do need to play an event heavy deck, since I actually like transient effects even if it means I’ll have stoppage.

Oh, and I guess that we have a growing playerbase for weekly play.  That’s something.

VTES Winter Qualifier 2015

January 5, 2015

I’m not sure why we got into having qualifier weekends in the Winter, but it probably had to do with people being off for the holidays and being far enough in advance of the Summer events to have qualification matter.

We had two tournaments Saturday.  Four players came up from SoCal.  Including our Portuguese player, we had six from the South Bay.  Five from the Berkeley environs.

Friday, we had most of the players already in place at the Haas residence, as most were going to crash there.  I played one pickup game before heading home to not be out too far past my bedtime.

Andy (borrowed Porphyrion deck) -> Lex (Infamous Insurgent) -> Dennis (Shalmath & Pals) -> Robert (Shattering Crescendo) -> Ian (Voting Thunderbolt)

Andy was borrowing my deck, all it did was bleed at stealth.  Admittedly, only had two copies of unusual cards in it for a FoS with Fortitude deck, and he never drew them.  He didn’t progress that much … because … never discard plus bleed when playing my decks – they barely have enough to oust people.

Lex brought out three !Ventrue, including Dylan, who got advanced.  He put out three Fee Stakes and kept voting against my votes.  Dennis brought out Shalmath and got Enkil Cog, eventually bringing out titled Brujah, later.  Robert got his Crescendo Vaticinationed away and just did some bleeds.  I voted, often unsuccessfully.  National Guard Support came out early and stuck around until it had six counters.  That didn’t have a huge impact.  Even with my various Business Pressures, I failed a Con Ag, I failed both Persona Non Gratas, failed a Neonate Breach.

Robert couldn’t defend, even with bleeds at -1 stealth.  Dennis got low on pool, but Lex couldn’t finish him off quickly enough for me because he didn’t try to put five pool damage on Dennis with Reckless Agitation, only doing 3/3 on Andy, so Dennis Decapitated one of my guys.  Lex got Dennis.  None of us could push that hard before time ran out.

T1 – 15 players

Round 1:

Ian (Malgorzata Is Missing) -> Dennis (Lorenzo Detuono Steals You) -> Kenneth (Trujah Stealth Bleed) -> David CK (Gangrel fight) -> David A (DoC bleed/vote)

I was ousted around the 1:40 mark.  I never attempted a bleed.  I didn’t realize until this game was over that I hadn’t drawn Malgorzata.  She didn’t show up in round two, either.

Let’s try this again.  In over 1.5 hours of play, I never attempted a bleed … … … playing a stealth bleed deck.

There’s only one thing I was supposed to report from this game – Kenneth played Vaticination fairly early on, looked at five players’ hands and discarded one of his own cards … … … Villein.  But, as much as that trumps anything about the rest of the game, there was a rest of the game.

For instance, the DoC were going to die, as they always are going to in DA’s decks.  I stole DCK’s Carlton, figuring he would finish the deed.  Kenneth, then, just bled DCK out, leaving DA around for another turn to oust me.  DA got multiple minions stolen by Dennis and couldn’t survive.  Dennis got Kenneth before time as Kenneth went down to no functional minions.

It wasn’t like I didn’t bring out Mistress Fanchon, Rutor, and Nickolai.  It’s just that it took forever to bring Fanchon out, and I didn’t discard aggressively, then got jammed on combat defense I was expecting to use against DCK.  In ~25 cards, I drew zero bounce, having a Murmur of the False Will in my hand at the end I think, so every Virtuosa bleed landed on me.

Round 2:

Sergio (Tzimisce intercept combat w/ votes) -> David CK -> Eric (EuroBrujah) -> Robert (Massassi Osebo) -> Ian

I bring out Rutor.  Game over.  … I had scouted after the last game I knew Sergio’s deck.

For some reason, we kept playing.

I held on to combat defense.  I used many a Meld with the Land to stymie Robert’s evil.  Eric got annihilated and was quickly out.  Robert put out an early Pulse, but I drew a good amount of bounce this game, so I never took a bleed of three (to my recollection).  I was less “kill DCK crosstable” this game and DCK got a VP.

Robert – “He has the best position at the table.”  This was referring to me.  At about the 1:55 mark, I bled.  I did three pool damage.  That’s right.  You gnome it.  My deck is so good that it can go an entire tournament and land on my prey with every single bleed action!!  Rutor hunted a few times because of Fame, a Fame that came out as soon as my vampire came out and which never triggered.  Oh yeah.

DCK petered out against Robert and Sergio doing combat stuff.  Game timed out.


Brandon (EveryThing) -> Dennis -> Kenneth -> Robert -> Lex (Giovanni Powerbleed?)

Lex bounced a bleed to Brandon, then bled him out.  There was a DI to stop Robert from ousting.  Dennis got pretty mangled.  And, I don’t know what else happened.  Game time out and Lex won his first tournament.  Foreshadowing alert, foreshadowing alert.

Meanwhile, while the finals was going on, I was demoing Shadowfist to Andy and Eric.

T2 – 12 players

Brandon didn’t realize he could play in the qualifier, and Mark and Nick had to head out.

Round 1:

Ian (Nizzam’s Inner Circle) -> Lex (Tzimisce intercept combat) -> Matt (Nos Royalty fight) -> Eric (Toreador guns)

I’m #1.  I’m #1.  Two tournaments in a row, player #1.

Eric did something.  I blocked with Josef von Bauren.  Eric went to long without a gun.  Josef Disguised a .44 and shot Felicia three times over two rounds to send her to torpor.  Josef got ‘schrecked by Lex but got rescued by Matt.  Matt beat up vampires.  I beat up vampires.  Nizzam took a while to get into play, but finally did some of his bleed reducing thing.  Eric got a Desert Eagle at some point but got ousted.

Lex had no ready minions at one point, with Sascha, Corine, Horatio, Wendy Wade, and Matt’s Uriah Winter in torpor.  I brought out Adana.  I had three pool.  Matt Famed Adana, rushed, Faceless Nighted Nizzam, got dodged.  Matt rushed again and Skin of Steel/Disarmed me dead.  Matt proceeded to forget the more important ability of Warsaw Station and conceded to Lex when Matt had no ready minions.

At least I did something.  As is usual for Inner Circle Members, it’s incredibly important to crosstable rescue?  Thirty-one pool of vampires in play, all full(?), when I died because don’t bother giving me any Villeins or Blood Dolls in my deck with both.

Round 2:

Matt -> David CK (Malk Madness fight) -> Alex (Thetmes fights, Dominate dudes die) -> Ian

David put out Smiling Jack.  It got burned reasonably quickly.  Alex put out two small dudes, Muddled Vampire Hunter killed them both.  I became the table threat as my opening hand had 2x Dreams and 2x Zillah’s Valley, so I popped Nizzam and Adana quick.  I largely ignored combat, but I stupidly let a Famed Adana go to torpor because I forgot she could play Acrobatics for free after a Selective Silence/Thin Blood combo.

I eventually swept, though David tried to rally everyone to stop my war machine.  Uriah did have both an Assault Rifle and a .44 for a while and the table had to coordinate my not getting them.  Alex ended the game with no ready vampires.


Dennis and Lex are low seeds.  Robert inserts as Dennis’s prey.  I insert between Lex and Dennis.  Sergio inserts as my prey.  First time I had been in a finals in ages.

Dennis (Ishtarri Trophy) -> Robert (BH Lasombra Descent) -> Lex -> Ian -> Sergio (Giovanni Powerbleed)

Dennis plays Mbare Market and brings out no minions.  Lex puts out an early Carlton to defend well.  I am locked as any Adana bleed becomes Dennis being ousted faster.  I cycle (slowly) to get Alastor or Fleetness to start rushing.  I do have Disguised Weapon and an Assault Rifle, so when I finally start fighting, I do okay.  Adana gets an Ivory Bow.  I finally start rushing after Dennis is dead.  Robert keeps pushing on Lex.  I have a Famed Mistress Fanchon that Robert sends to torpor to get a chance at two VPs.  She gets rescued by Sergio who occasionally looks at Robert’s hand with Le Dinh Tho.  Robert decks but ousts Lex with permastealth.  I reduce a lot but run out.  Sergio’s Marciana Giovanni lets me stop Robert’s killing bleed and the game times out with Sergio winning off of top seed, giving him his first tournament win.

I never had a chance, along with Dennis.  Maybe a Dreams would have gotten me into rush sooner, but I started thinking about bleeding around the 1:20 mark, knowing it would take forever to get through Sergio’s pool.  The game just moved so slowly that only Robert had a chance, and I think Sergio has the endgame by virtue of having a library left, if time doesn’t run out before he gets Robert.  Lex was my only hope, but it must have been pretty boring for him, too, though maybe stopping Robert a lot was interesting.  Carlton probably saved him at least eight pool.

I headed out after the tournaments, around 2AM.  They were playing a pickup.  I returned 9AM Sunday and ended up in a pickup with Andy, Eric, Brandon, and Sergio.  Sergio borrowed my Voting Thunderbolt deck and wasted some The Diamond Thunderbolts with his discard phase actions.  He got out National Guard Support too late to stop Andy’s !Trem BH stealth bleed deck from running through him.  Brandon was stymied by my Chi/Dom/Pot deck’s ability to Mayaparisatya him to torpor and Earthshock away four of his blood.  Andy stole my Heidelberg, which was huge, Diego Giovanni had to go burn it.  I Mind Raped Gerald FitzGerald but had little to do with him, even though I had Saul Meira in play.  My Servius Marius Pustula gave much hand size to Eric and me as Eric cancelled a lot of masters with his Santaleous and Serenna deck.  Brandon kept Priority Contracting me with his BH Assamite deck.  Yes, three players had Black Hand vampires and the ability to untap BH vampires.

Game timed out with my having 10 combat cards in my hand, including two Illusions of the Kindred, Burning Wrath, Mayaparisatya, Increased Strength, Immortal Grapple, Decapitate, Thoughts Betrayed, and whatever.  Since I have no cards that allow me to get into combat with someone, that’s kind of the expected result with this deck.  It was a funny game, though.

After Brandon and Sergio left, we played Castles of Mad King Ludwig, which I won off of the power of my 150m buildings, for they were circular!  I had lots of activity and living rooms but zero downstairs, food, sleeping rooms.  Never bored in my castle – you can bowl, sew, go to the theater, study, go outside, smoke some berchta, have many, many doors that lead nowhere.

So, all in all, since all I care about is sweet, sweet victory, my crushing two-point victory at CoMKL was really all that mattered.  All anyone else did was unimportant and all for nothing.

Thanks to Brandon for organizing.  Thanks to Andy and Eric and their family for putting up with us all.  Thanks to people for showing up and witnessing the incredible bleeding power of my stealth bleed decks.

We should really do this sort of thing more often.

Fisticuffs [20150101]

January 2, 2015

New year, new decks.  We even got three games in, though one of them was a terrible game … if very funny … for me.

Five player

Ian (Unique Dragons) -> Don (Architects) -> Ray (The Hungry Kun Kan) -> Justin (7 Masters and Hand) -> Joren (Lotus/Monarchs Tokens)

Ray got out The Hungry and burned two sites for victory early.  We ganged up to kill his (Infernal) Army, Abaddon the Destroyer, and Kun Kan.  He, then, on the verge of victory, started playing Glimpses of the Abyss so that nobody was close to victory.  Justin got out Red Bat, Sky Dragon (who was deathly afraid of Abaddon), Ghost Wind.  He had good power off of Trade Center for much of the game, started moving closer to victory.  Joren had little going on early, where he didn’t have the resources he needed, but eventually kept putting out a bunch of tokens, mostly by Tortured Memoriesing Red Bat and Fractured Souling him.  Joren’s horde won largely because everyone else lost their characters to Ray’s Underworld Coronation on a Kun Kan and lacked recovery.

My prey didn’t do a whole lot.  I brought out a bunch of unique Dragon characters, having more magic in my pool than Ray’s Lotus deck!  My Swift Eagle got followed by Wu Bin of Turtle Island (who got The New Heroes), Yosef Halevi, Bei Tairong, and The Spirit of Kongxiangsi.  Of those, two were the most interesting.  Bei Tairong’s Superleap and +1 damage and +1 Toughness from The New Heroes proved useful for doing stuff.  Yosef Halevi would have taken out both an intercepting Abaddon and the Infernal Army (undamaged) if I understood how all of the effects interacted clearly when playing That Which Does Not Kill Me …

I played The Jackson Gang after Underworld Coronation cleared the board.  They got taken out by Spirit Wrack, and my only other character in the game was Brave Villagers.  My prey did play Homo Omega.  I have no idea whether any of the versions of Homo Omega are any good in the CCG, but I always think about our Feng Shui campaign where he was our neighbor in the Netherworld and dropped by to ask us for some assistance.

Joren did play a couple of Auramancers, but we killed them before they could grow.  Only Justin’s deck that runs Hand to play Into the Light to recurse Red Bat, et al, would have done a lot of fueling of it.

2.5 hours.  Not crazy for a five-way.

Game 2

Justin (Purist) -> Ian (Purist) -> Joren (Demon Hordes) -> Ray (Dragon Guns)

This game was awful.  But, it was funny.  It still lasted something like 40 minutes even though I just dropped Obsidian Mountain, put another one next to it, put a The Great Wall next to that, Math Bombed to take out every character in play but my Memory Spirit, Golden Spiked Math Bomb to clear out any interceptors, and took Diamond Beach and Temple of Angry Spirits with some combination of Uncertainty Spirit, Aether Spirit, Ordinal Spirit, and Zen Logician.  Yup, Ordinal Spirit versus Angry Spirits for the win!

As there’s no way this deck will ever work this well again, time to scrap and play a more focused Purist deck.  This was just to try a variety of Purist cards, and I got to … see virtually none of my deck due to the explosive power of Math!

Game 3

Ian (Ascended Agent) -> Joren (Demon Hordes) -> Ray (Dragon Guns) -> Justin (Purist)

Everyone else kept their decks as they didn’t really do virtually anything in the previous game.  My 40-card Agent deck is incredibly redundant and full of not very strong characters that somehow get murdered constantly by my opponents every time I play this deck.  Maybe playing stronger cards will see people leave me alone more.  You know, like Aether Spirit or Swift Eagle.

Other than put an Insurance Policy on my Rainforest Ruins, I had virtually no impact on this game.  Demon Whiskeys came, went, came back, but Joren didn’t really get anything going.  Justin put out Secret Headquarters and three FSSs.  Ray put out lots of guns on Ranchers, then Senoritas and just kind of walked into winning when there was little on the board and some relatively open sites.  Problem was that there were heavily damaged sites – Mountain Sanctuary with nine damage and my Rainforest Ruins with 10 and a Cave network with two.

Another ~40 minute game, so at least we ended quickly.  I’ve got to stop playing this Agent deck as it really depends upon no one caring about it, yet my vastly more dangerous decks get far less grief.

Of the three decks I played, only the Dragon deck will see another play – after all, there’s a bunch of weird unique characters I never put out, including two I had in my hand when I couldn’t generate enough power to play anything above a one-cost character.

Name:  Pure Domination
Faction:  Purist
Size:  60

Purist Cards (40)
Characters (25)
1x 36-Legged Horror
1x Aether Spirit
2x Arcane Scientist
1x Children of the Sharp Knives
1x Esteban Vicente
1x Fermat’s Soldiers
1x Inoue Oram
1x Jenaya Ou
1x Keeper of Echoes
1x Kisa Serkov
1x Mathemagician
1x Memory Spirit
1x Ordinal Spirit
2x Purist Aspirant
1x Shadow Legion
2x Symphonic Disciples
1x True Believer
1x Uncertainty Spirit
1x Void
1x Void Sorcerer
1x Zen Logician
1x Zen Ritualist

Edges (1)
1x Quantum Sorcery

Events (9)
1x Déjà Vu
1x Delay the Inevitable
1x Echo Cancellation
1x Entropy Sphere
1x Entropy Tap
1x Glimpse of Brief Eternity
1x Math Bomb
1x Paradox Divination
1x Temporal Anomaly

Sites (2)
1x Paradox Archives
1x Paradox Garden

States (3)
1x Origami Handguns
1x Portal Nexus
1x Whispers in the Dark

Generic Cards (20)
Events (5)
1x Curse of Discord
2x Pocket Demon
1x Solar Flare
1x The Golden Spike

Feng Shui Sites (15)
2x Bamboo Forest
2x Hydroponic Garden
1x Martyr’s Tomb
5x Obsidian Mountain
5x The Great Wall

For what is the greatest Purist deck ever designed in the history of creation, I already had a number of ideas for vastly inferior, yet far more focused Purist decks.  Maybe some day, far, far into the future, I will find a way to lose with my Purist decks if I keep building less and less coherent decks than this perfect construction of pure perfection.

5x The Great Wall, baby, 5x The Great Wall.

Name:  Agent 86
Faction:  Ascended
Size:  40

Ascended Cards (30)
Characters (17)
4x Academy Instructor
1x Chief Inspector Pang
3x Cop on the Take
2x Corporate Informer
2x Death Shadow
2x Legal Eagle
3x Recruits

Edges (4)
3x Kickbacks
1x Night Moves

Events (6)
4x Operation Killdeer
1x Realpolitik
1x Secret Handshake

States (3)
1x Insurance Policy
2x SWAT Van

Generic Cards (10)
Feng Shui Sites (10)
2x Crystal Field
1x Humble Dojo
1x Medicinal Flower Garden
2x Möbius Gardens
1x Phlogiston Mine
1x Rainforest Ruins
1x Solar Farm
1x The Hidden Grotto

Totally half-assed.  But, I was actually interested in playing an Ascended deck and, now, I’m back to “what do the Ascended do that remotely interests me besides put out Reascended hitters that get Golden Comebacked?”