Several things I want to get to but maybe best to keep this to V:TES. We will see.
We’ve played the Red Sign Storyline twice in recent weeks.
Only two of us have actually been trying to work with the mechanics introduced in the format. Others have metagamed hate. That’s a fail.
One may argue that that’s the players’ fault. Except, it isn’t. If you don’t provide mechanics people want to play with, then you failed at design.
Why don’t people want to play with the new mechanics?
There are too many cards. Not a single storyline vampire has been played with. Why do we even have storyline vampires? Keep in mind that where someone playing their favorite clan can play library cards by jumping through some hoops, a vampire affects the ability to play one’s favorite clan.
Meanwhile, there are so many library cards that it’s overwhelming. The number of mages is way too high. The number of Master of _ are way too high no matter what you think of the thematics … unless you pretty much eliminate pages 2 through 5 of the 6(!!) page library file. I was the only one who noticed that Master of Mind shuts down ally steal. While I find the idea of mages running around with +2 intercept, +2 bleed, damage prevention, combat ends, and whatever kind of amusing – that’s not V:TES. That’s a game of mage wars, oops, can’t use that name, mage battles? Mage conflicts? Mage arguments? Yes, Mage Arguments. I can see playing that game. I can’t see playing this one.
It encourages allies. Allies are already too much a part of V:TES. Not just Imbued. War Ghouls, Shamblers, Nephandi, Tunnel Runners, Ossian, Carlton, Mylan, etc. I like some of these cards. I think one or two Nephandi are really cool. I’m a huge fan of allies, in general, … when they are a sideline. When they rule the roost, spotlight the show, eat the Easter Eggs – screw ’em.
Of course, the worst thing about allies is The Unmasking, followed by any of the other events that promote allies.
This format only introduces the idea of playing a bunch more allies, leading to minor ally hate increases by one player and massive ally hate increases by another player.
Now, mages aren’t all bad. I have a deck written up to play 0-1 cost Outcast Mages. I just have no intention of ever playing this deck until the format changes.
“But, you can ignore allies in this format. You can choke people on their +1 bleed actions!!!”
Which brings up the other fail of the format.
The Red Sign is something everyone except me is trying to avoid. Why? Because they can. That’s a fail. For a storyline built around a card, it’s incredibly easy to just ignore it, stealth bleed everyone trying to do anything different to death, and basically just end up playing a non-storyline game.
So, what are the fixes?
Ban The Unmasking. Oh, people are going to bitch and moan? Then, just ban it from this storyline.
“But d-u-u-u-d-e, then my allies can’t protect me.”
Um, note how this format has +intercept for mages. Note how the game played just fine with decks that played out allies before there were armies of +1 intercept blockers. Note that +1 intercept on a vampire is one of the more game altering abilities. Note how a Sport Bike or Mr. Winthrop or a Raven Spy can screw over decks. That’s a single minion. Carlton doesn’t actually bother me that much, except for how he’s an obvious play in a ton of decks, making him way too common. He’s a single (yes, annoying) dude who discourages diablerie. I’m perfectly fine discouraging diablerie, but that’s getting off topic. The Unmasking is a mass of dudes with built in combat ability or expendability who block and block and block against certain decks. Those decks they don’t ruin may very well be heavy stealth decks. Those heavy stealth decks are unblockable to casual intercept. Also off topic, but the stealth/intercept balance in the game is screwed by the Auspex/Obfuscate arms race.
I was running a minimum of three Direct Interventions and running ally steal in my decks just to protect Goth Band!
Sure, Master of Mind, which I was going to play and which no one has actually played in either event will protect mages. This gets into the second change.
Well, not really. I was thinking of either eliminating or radically decreasing in power ally steal for this format. But, then, I read Master of Mind. Mages shutdown ally steal. So, people can play mage decks. They can’t play other ally decks because the ally hate will be massive, but that’s something I’m trying to change by making allies less good.
See, one would think it would require only a single explanation of this but it doesn’t penetrate – cards that help general areas of a CCG typically help the best strategies in those areas, which causes people to metagame against those areas, which causes less good strategies in those areas to get annihilated. Make all allies better, like The Unmasking does, and you make Shamblers, Reanimated Corpses, War Ghouls, Carlton all better. So, now, I bust out my Courier deck and I run into the 12 Entrancements deck. Or, for a recent example, I bust out Goth Band, showing players the card for the first time in their lives, and it runs into decks with six Entrancements and OBF.
When trying to promote certain things in a game, don’t go general, unless there are no good strategies in that area. Go specific or go clever. Tupdog is the worst vampire idea to see print. While not exactly the top of the list for why that is, one of the reasons Tupdog should never have seen print is that it hurts all other Gargoyles. Yes, you can make cards good for Visceratika or Gargoyles or whatever that don’t help Tupdogs. But, it requires effort. Meanwhile, other slave Gargoyles suck and indie Gargoyles are shafted by the game.
The Red Sign.
Two problems. It’s too irrelevant to winning. The equipment cards that help winning with it only make the format worse. Sounds contradictory? Welcome to how the world works.
For, you see, you will always run the equipment in your deck if you want to win Red. Anyone not running the equipment is far too far away, but everyone needs to act like the player only needs 3 counters, just like everyone needs to act like the deck with Gilbert, Mariel, Didi, and Ozmo is going to bleed for 6 a lot, even when it’s a Potence rush deck. Then, uniqueness. Okay, now I’m running equipment steal/kill to have my versions in play? I don’t, and someone gets there first?
If the format had no new cards besides The Red Sign and a couple of ways to make it realistic you would burn it, then maybe the metagame plays make sense. Instead, the stealth bleed deck just takes it and bleeds people out, not wasting deck slots on anything to do with equipment, Praxis Solomon, or whatever.
So far, we have banning The Unmasking. The second actual rule we are proposing is to eliminate the equipment that makes it easier to cash in Red and allow both a single vampire and a single mage to take actions to put counters on the thing. That encourages mages a lot more, in theory. In practice, let me just stealth bleed everyone to death.
I would go further and add something to the format where having Red matters more. I don’t know what that should be. But, the format should be encouraging its use far more.
Was the Eye of Hazimel a good card to take? I won one of the events because I took it – to get the +1 bleed (using an argument that made people think I was going to rush with it). Sure, there have been a number of storylines where people can just play whatever they want and ignore what’s going on. But, Red is so worthless so much of the time that it’s just a “Looks like you could win next turn, I’ll stealth by you and make this card irrelevant to the game, wasting your actions and efforts to defend it and your deck slots on those books all for the massive cost of one action and some stealth.”
I think this post should probably just stick with the storyline. I can write up are other games, if I’m in the mood, write up Shadowfist games if I’m in the mood, or get into RPG stuff some other time.