Book ’em Danaan

November 27, 2015

I reread The Bull and the Spear and The Oak and the Ram recently.  First two books in Moorcock’s second Corum trilogy.

I don’t know if I’ll reread The Sword and the Stallion, as it’s kind of downy.

Anyway, interesting thing about reading fantasy fiction these days is that it’s the reverse problem of playing fantasy RPGs.  For-ever, I have thought about capturing the stuff of fiction in RPG play, being put off (much of the time) when a game was gamey in some way that conflicted with the fiction experience, like the dependence upon armor and nameless magic items or whether you provoke an AOO.

But, a game is a game.  It needs to be able to do things that fiction doesn’t, like have balanced party members (most aren’t into sidekickdom) have unpredictable results.  No, rehashing this isn’t the point.

The point is that I’m now reading fiction with how it simulates gaming, rather than the other way around.  Sure, I see a lot of Moorcock’s repetitiveness in his writing after having to slog through some of his more recent books/stories that can’t seem to get off certain ideas/dialogue.  But, other things have come to mind rereading these two books.

Magic.  As much as the loose explanation is that magic is extraplanar or a function of belief or a corruption of natural philosophies, it’s still magic in these books.  And, it’s loosely explained.  The most consistent element is that things from other planes of existence which are ordinary for that plane are magic in this plane.  Okay, that isn’t a bad concept.  But, is it a bad concept for gaming?

It seems kind of limiting thematically.  “Oh, yes, you can find a magic weapon … that was an ordinary weapon from another plane of existence.  Put on this magic cloak … that phases you somewhat out of reality because it’s … displacing you visually into another reality.”  Certainly, for one shots or the like, I wouldn’t care.  It just seems like it kind of cheapens the magic (maybe Moorcock’s intent since he’s big on the idea that we would do better without gods or other supernatural stuff).

Yes, Calatin does his own stuff and whatnot.  Anyway, moving on to another aspect of magic in the series.

It’s often superspecialized.  See, this is why D&D isn’t high fantasy.  In high fantasy, which I’d say most of the Eternal Champion is (with some sorcery and swords), you don’t get what you want, you get what you need, and it’s arbitrariness is often arbitrary except for how it’s what you need to deal with a particular challenge.

Sure, Elric knows a bunch of incantations to summon gods and monsters to fight for him.  But, does he ever use the same invocation again?  I think he tried it once.  Sure, a lot of pacts can be seen as one time deals, which is a good reason to hold back on using them, which always sounds good in theory for gaming but actually sucks consistently in gaming.  But, when you have like 50 of these, why choose one instead of two?

High fantasy is replete with only ever doing something once.  You know an amazing spell, you use it once.  You have some odd weapon, you use it once (odd being not your two-handed, moaning demon/god sword in this case).  The definition of macguffin isn’t what I thought it was, but you have some utility magic item and it gets used and it’s gone.

It’s part of the drama.  If you could reliably ride a fire horse and see all of creation, then that’s kind of less dramatic.

Not just superspecialized but also world changing.  Yet another reason why D&D doesn’t rate as high fantasy.  Sure, you might be more powerful than a character in high fantasy with way more magic as a D&D character, but your ability to impact the “world” is rather minimal, IME.  In high fantasy, whether the “world” is your backyard or the multiverse, you impact it.  (Yes, I’ve said the same before.)  The Bull in The Bull and the Spear would be interesting to have as a climax to a gaming session.  But, where many players feel like PCs should be the ones who do stuff, the line of losing agency could be crossed.  It’s a matter of expectations.

Setting high fantasy expectations is something that concerns me.  Because, as a PC, you don’t always do the thing.  You may only make it occur that the thing happens.  This is, again, maybe why convention one-shots have often worked better for me.  In a convention game, where you didn’t create your PC and where you may not understand the subtleties of diagonal 5′ steps and where you aren’t getting more Eeps for frontlining the big bad, expectations of simply putting events into motion and having the cut scene play out are higher.  And, maybe, this is why some people hate these sort of games – they feel too much like fulfilling a script for people who are more into doing their own thing in a world.

Obviously, there are huge problems with any Eternal Champion stuff for campaign play because I somehow doubt every PC is going to be the most special of them all.  “I’m not going to touch your cool toy, demigod dude.  Why?  Because you are a demigod and I isn’t.”  Yeah, that doesn’t seem to be any RPG experience I’ve ever had.  I’m more used to “I should totally have that magic boomerang to go with my three magic swords and my magic cap and my magic socks and my wand, staff, and rod.  Do you want it?  No?  Great.  I’ll solo demonicus rex and you hang back and cast cure wound boxes on me.”

Which gets into how sparse magic items are.  I’m all for eschewing the D&D magic item paradigm.  But, I can also see the problem of one person having Godwrecker and someone else having a finely made left gauntlet.  On the other gauntlet, it’s less high fantasy when you lack the Godwrecker Collection – Divinity Decimator, Holy Hijacker, Awe Shucks, etc. – to set apart from the ordinary.

That books are scripted doesn’t seem to me as big of a problem.  Linear adventuring is fine when what you do is interesting.  The problem point with how it’s scripted is villains.  The villain who keeps escaping just annoys players for some reason.  The invincible enemies who are vinced in some specific way rather than with a series of Delayed Blast Fireballs just annoys players for some reason.

Some even have problems with coincidences, seeing them as arbitrary rather than the core of making storytelling more relevant.

But, let’s get back to villains.  I’m much more questioning when it comes to villains who suddenly break off attacking or who leave a hero for dead when there’s not a good reason.  Even more problematic, because there could be secret reasons for villains letting heroes survive, is when heroes get suddenly rescued by “NPCs”.  If you want to offend players, having NPCs prove more capable is a proven way to do it.

With rewrites, a game could be made out of recovering The Spear.  A game could be made out of getting the high king and curing him.  It wouldn’t be much like the books, though.  For instance, which PC will carry The Spear?  How many infiltration devices do you hand out?  How do you script revealing new lore to the players so that it doesn’t seem videogamey?  Who gets to remember the one way to fix everything?

So …

Many of the problems with syncing up fiction and gaming are obvious:  one versus many; scripted results; specialness; tactical stupidity of fiction characters and/or lack of ability reliability; heroic versus mercenary.  These particular books show some of the additional problems.  Where is the fairness with having few magic items?  How does everyone be special without someone being clearly more special?  How can you have cut scene events without taking away agency?

Here’s a thought.

Fantasy RPGing is the worst RPGing in my experience.  True?  I’d say both Conan and Princess Police worked well, overall, and very well in particular sessions.  Those were both fantasy, though L5R a lot of the time doesn’t feel particularly fantastic.  Now, when I say FRPG, I’m not including such things as Feng Shui or a host of modern supernatural.  Going more for the preindustrial genres.

The interesting thing about Conan was that we weren’t murderhobos.  I’m not sure why we weren’t.  Oh, sure, in the beginning, it looked like it could go that way, but, then, we ran away from Picts and were more pulpy in treasure hunting than what I find in D&D or RuneQuest, the latter two being all about treasure-accounting.  Curious.

I know I rerehash on how high fantasy is its own thing.  But, even medium fantasy, like portions of the Deryni books or portions of Wheel of Time or portions of the Spellsinger series, swords and sorcery, and possibly other genres of fantasy fiction have core elements that my gaming usually lacks.  I’m not entirely sure why.  It very much comes across to me that people who run/play FRPGs haven’t read much fantasy, which doesn’t seem plausible.  Maybe I just missed a lot of series that other people think of as typical fantasy – I certainly have no desire to read A Song of Fire and Ice based on how it sounds more like political drama than fantasy based on what I’ve heard.

Yet, Hobbit/LotR.  So, maybe it’s less not experiencing similar tales to what I’ve read and more segregating the game experience from the book experience, which I don’t easily do … partially because I don’t know why I would even want to keep them separate.

Advertisements

Goat Droppings

November 22, 2015

Been playing with Year of the Goat cards for a couple of weeks.

Maybe it’s a sign of change in general philosophy.  More so, I think it’s an indicator of how Shadowfist is a different hooved animal for me than other CCGs.  Sure, I picked out a list of three to five star cards to figure out how many copies of the precons I wanted.

Card Faction Stars
Agency Support Ascended 3
Agent Provocateur Ascended 4
Aimee Sprigg Jammer 4
Ancestral Home FSS 4
Angie Dao Dragon 3
Balancing Stones Site 3
Baxter’s Irregulars Dragon 3
Betrayers of the Crane Ascended 4
Desolate Mountain FSS 4
Bustling Metro Station FSS 4
Cat Stance Chi 3
Clueless Heroes Dragon 3
Corners of the Mouth Hand 4
Death Masque Magic 3
Decked-Out Moped Tech 3
Defending the Innocent Hand 3
Disintegration Blast Magic 3
Double Feature Dragon 5
Ejector Seat Malfunction Tech 4
Empire of Evil Lotus 3
Extortion Ascended 3
Faith in the Halls of Power Ascended 3
Familiar Spirit Magic 3
Firework Display Jammer 3
Frenzy Monarch 3
Grave Robbers Lotus 4
Heroic Rematch Dragon 3
Hidden Sanctum FSS 3
Highway Ronin Hand 4
Honor and Glory Monarch 3
House Arrest Ascended 5
Huang Yi Hand 4
Humble Beginnings Chi 5
Journey’s Reward Hand 4
Just Getting’ Riled Up Dragon 3
Kitsune Hand 3
Knight Templar Monarch 4
Maze of Little Passages FSS 3
Mesmerism Lotus 5
Mobius Portal Site 3
Mogwai Lotus 3
On the Wire Tech 5
Operation Hidden Tiger Ascended 5
Operation Tethered Goat Ascended 4
Plague of Moths Lotus 2
Political Favors Ascended 3
Rainforest Bridge FSS 3
Reformed Bandit Hand 5
Remix Artist Dragon 4
Renewal Chi 3
River of Lights FSS 4
Roar of the Lion Ascended 5
Rocket Launcher 5
Salamalah Sade Monarch 4
Scroll of Pain Lotus 3
Shadowed Ascended 4
Sky Burial Chi 3
Snap of the Crocodile Ascended 4
Snapping Turtle Cove FSS 4
Song of the Nightingale Hand 3
Sorcerous Return Lotus 3
Spirit in a Bottle Magic 5
Spontaneous Combustion Monarch 3
Stone Gargoyle Lotus 4
Sublime Melancholy Lotus 2
Sulphurous Cenote FSS 2
Touch of the Abyss Lotus 3
Twin Thunders Monarch 3
Underground Lake FSS 3
Undisturbed Meditation Hand 4
Wei Tian Hand 2
Weird Scientist Jammer 2
White Wolf Monarch 3
Wired to Blow Jammer 4
Yanyuedao Blade Hand 3
Zhuha Lotus 3

But, I didn’t do that for this blog or for some argument on a forum or to send out to a local list.  One knows.  Like I have done for other CCGs.  I did it to figure out where to spend money because somehow FCGs (fixed card games, to explain my own term) are [supposedly] less annoying than VCGs (variable card games … genius).

That list might have been pre changes to certain cards like Bustling Metro Station.  Actually, though, the earlier BMS should have been a 5, so maybe not.

Anyway, actual play.

I thought card images were available.  Oh well, guess I won’t have cool graphics to break up the monotonous letterings.

Netherworld Trickster

I hate this card.  I find the art disappealing.  I hate the effect.  I hate that it’s a foundation character.  I get that foundation characters are getting better so that people feel less bad about including them or drawing them late.  Dockyard is interesting in that it vastly reduces the need to play them, yet also makes ones you want to play that much more valuable.  The list of ones you want to play is surprisingly long.  Razor’s Hotties has counter action.  Imp is just another Rattlebones grower.

Anyway, back to the card.  It’s just antifun.  Balanced?  I don’t know.  I’m not an expert on Shadowfist’s competitive environment.  It’s griefy.  On Reddit, mention how it seems too much like an Ascended effect.  There’s a reason I don’t like Ascended and don’t play many of their best cards.  I’m not into griefing people.

On the other hand, some people like that sort of thing.  That’s the thing about CCGs – they do want to cater to a variety of players.  Cuz, business, yo.  Fair number of people like locking other people out of games.  I’m somewhat more tolerant of that in two-player CCGs because then you just concede and the irritation ends.

Oh, I should mention that I’m not going into everything, just some thoughts on some cards.

Heroic Shoulder Wound

In the vein of adding more alternate power to the game so that people don’t get locked out of playing it, we have a goofy way to do this.  I don’t know.  How about just giving people more power or having cards cost less rather than jumping through weird hoops to generate enough power to function?

I don’t feel strongly about it, but Möbius Gardens was already the best FSS.  Not superclear on what the intent with the metagame is.  Maybe, it gets to the point where power is so abundant that people stop trying so hard to acquire it.

Turf War

This was just brutal.  Get a couple victories, have some starting Toughness, even dorks become insanely hard to remove.

On the Wire

I have a build already written up to try to accelerate power as much as possible.  Will it work?  I’m not that clever when it comes to trying to break CCGs because I find brokenness rather boring.  Still, it’s almost like playtesting, where it’s your job to figure out brokenness.

Rocket Launcher

I’m really unclear on how some of these cards got made.  Where a bunch of cards require a bunch of hoops, this is just 1 power to do 3 damage to anything in play, assuming the card doesn’t “fizzle”.

Humble Beginnings

Speaking of adding power to the game, I don’t get why this card is so much worse than the others.  With tons of alt power generation, why develop a site structure?  This is antiparasitic in that your Chi opponents and you are going to be trying to undersite each other all game, while Bottle Spirts and Wire Ons continue to pay off.  Note that I would downgrade this card to like a 3 at this point, possibly even a dreaded 2.

Pacifists

One of these got to 7 for me.  They are weird.  I threw one in front of Guerilla Nihilists (see below) to Quixotically Defend.  I have a hard time imagining why I’d bother in constructed play, where I’m already Fu Lionsing my Humble Dojos so that no one sane will ever look my way.

Gao Family Banquet Hall

Does offering more of the same (Fox Pass, Kinoshita House, etc.) mean anything?  In other words, does it make things suck more?  I used this a lot, I guess because people weren’t paying attention to what it did.  That you don’t unturn is rather wicked.

Well, whatever.  It’s not like my environment currently is into the attack-failers.

Quixotic Defense

This it totally my kind of card.  It is rather silly, though, to sacrifice a dude just to get this out of hand.  Sure, can Iron and Silk or about 300 other things in Shadowfist not to lose somebody, but it’s just going to get me to play dumber cards and just keeps feeding M. Gardens.

Kitsune

Such an amazing thematic fail.  When I first saw this card listed, I was intrigued.  Then, I read it.  Then, I saw the art.  What is so hard about putting out some foxy chick who does spirited things?

Yeah, he comes back … like a spirit.  Yeah, I actually like the art.  It’s just a misnamed card.

Journey’s Reward

Alt power.  Toasting.  Event stopping.  These are things I see a lot of in the set, with event stopping being seen in a bunch of character abilities.  Some alt power I can see to balance things.  Not sure the rest of this stuff is all that great an idea.  On the other hand, have to do something with new cards.

Extortion

More affecting than I thought.  I expect to see a lot of edges in play, what with Empire of Evil and the Ascended deck.

Quanqiu Wishing Well

This ended up getting a lot more power than I expected.  Hidden Sanctums are making smashmath harder.  Just more power everywhere.

Campaign Manager

Steal.  Beget antisteal, I suppose.  That and ways to toast annoying characters like Netherworld Trickster.  Yet again, I just don’t feel the Ascended’s CCG role.  They are actually kind of interesting in the RPG (not the humans).

M.A.D.

What is the only precon deck I have won every game with?  After removing all of the monkey cards?  (There’s a reason I didn’t just get 5x every precon – Jammers have much more limited appeal due to my antimonkey stance.)

This is another obnoxious card.  I get that there are tons of ways to stop attacks in ‘Fist, but why add more?  It’s such a frustrating experience when someone can not only shut down a bid for victory but can do so in a way that additionally helps them.

Remote Temple

This just seems bad.  Why does it need to be in a back row other than first turn plays?  Could have just said “If you control at least two sites and control no characters at this location, turn :: Play a Character at -1 cost.”  I guess it encourages you being the one to play site movers.

Guerilla Nihilists

I already hate this card.  I wasn’t a fan of Dark Traveler, which to me is undercosted.  Not only is this undercosted, but it’s easy to play, triggers off of any sites, and helps a faction that doesn’t need more Fighting (unlike, say, Ascended).  I guess it will encourage more Discerning Fires, as putting two 12 Fighting dudes in play for 6 power is harsh on my decks.

Weird Scientist

Too random?  As much as I’m not big into weird cards, this effect does odd things, almost like how Math Bomb does even things.

Bottles?

I’ve opened up a Lotus deck.  Played against both Lotus and Monarchs.  Can’t say it’s thrilling to have yet more Lotus character steal or have them toast a bunch of cards.  As I consider Lotus the greatest recursion offender, would rather see recursion control in other factions.

I don’t know.  Worrying about metagaming Shadowfist doesn’t seem like an issue.  I metaed a lot for other CCGs because I cared about what was effective.  In ‘Fist, I’m just prone to playing cards I like or find interesting and have so many of those that it’s only really an issue when I’m not pulling enough weight.  For tournament play, maybe I go simple decks that just try to pop out Fighting and lose to Tortured Memories.  Then, in real play, I go back to trying to find the all-Loyalty deck.


CCG 103

November 15, 2015

So, there I was, beating up on an eight-year old at Type P Magic.  He had Assassinate, Lightning Axe, and Sulferous Blast in hand at one point and should have played them differently.  I drew a Swamp in time to Cruel Revival his Evil Eye of Urborg.

Curve.  Card advantage.  Card synergy.  Managing cards in play (e.g. blocking sometimes).

There are plenty of things to learn.  I don’t recall picking up a game nearly as complex as Magic is at that age.  I was only playing mahjong, rummy, chess (badly … hasn’t changed), and the like.

So, I wouldn’t put a lot of expectations on my opponent.

But.

I got to thinking about other CCGs I play and how there must be a lot of subtle things about them that it takes people time to learn.  Well, duh.

But.

To make this post useful, what are they?

Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

Somehow, I doubt I’ll be able to articulate without having an example situation in front of someone.  I’m certainly not going to build some intricate examples in the next hour and a half.

Pool totals.  For some reason, people don’t seem to pay as much attention to them as I would.  I could very well be wrong.  But, the pool is the Spice, er, …  Then, comparing those totals against stuff, you know, bleed stuff is something to do.

Everyone knows that Samson can bleed for 5.  Do they plan around that?  Do they plan around the likelihood of that?  I’m not talking about HoFers, I’m talking about people developing their winningnesses.

I’m constantly amazed … well, no, I’m not.  Amazed isn’t the right word, nor does constantly come in.  Let’s say I’m occasionally surprised when I assess that someone will win unless something significant happens and others don’t consider the player to be in the penthouse position.  The flip side is that it’s occasionally easy to see how someone dies in one to two turns and yet is considered worthy of added dyingnesses.

Bleed bounce is not given enough respect in terms of how it interacts with pool totals.  Someone without bleed bounce probably has 8-12 less pool than someone who has the greatest thing in the history of cardboard vampire proclivities.  Yes, that means someone sitting on 15 pool very well might be dead before their turn.

Deck focus.  Huh?  Focused decks are more predictable, thus why I try not to play them.  I’ve been stunned by a rush deck pulling out a wake, before, so sometimes you just don’t know.  But, let’s use the example of how lots of decks generate zero intercept.  That’s a big deal.  Whether you are running no stealth boost, some stealth boost, or are nothing but stealth boost, you kind of want to know how much you need to do things so that you can math your way into ousting damage.

Combat survivability.  Combat tends to blow, I mean, suck in V:TES.  It’s not the awesome, “I play six cards and we each lose one blood” mechanic that is should be.  I often get nuked in combats I don’t need to get into, though sometimes that just makes me look weak until my inevitable victory.  Sure, it takes time to learn about all of the combat possibilities as well as the probabilities of them occurring, but it shouldn’t take that much effort to learn to not block when you have a lot to lose and little to gain or don’t take that trivial action that will get you blocked and ‘schrecked.

I guess that gets into a broader concept of what actions matter and which don’t.  I’ve noted on multiple occasions that the reason hunting can be so strong is because it’s an action with little appearance of significance.  In a two-player CCG, “bleed, bleed, bleed, and … bleed” might be constructive, certainly endgame situations see a fair amount of this.  But, optics matter.  Yup, optics.

One can get deep on, say, the value of getting a weenie torped and having it sit in torpor as a sign of how pathetically loserville you are before you oust a couple of players, but let’s not get esoteric.

Babylon 5

I haven’t played B5 in quite the years.  But, a great problem with B5 was predictability of who was where at winning.  Can reasonably count potential influence/power gains.  So, not the most interesting thing to mention.

What about who has Secret Strike in hand?  What about those few aftermaths that actually affect winning, like Rise to Power?  What about someone having a chain of replacements for Londo or whomever in hand?  What about the guarantee that someone will You Are Not Ready you because you actually want to do things?  So, maybe don’t overcommit to your conflict.

Wheel of Time

I can talk about dead CCGs if I want to.

Overrun.  There’s not that many cards that will just rip your characters to shreds.  Play around Overrun.  In fact, many of the Last Battle events were rather predictable.  One Power events were kind of unpredictable because it was such a crapshoot whether you would generate enough OP symbols to play them effectively.

When in doubt, leave all of your characters home and recruit.  After all, that’s what the game was mostly about.

But, actually read what control of contested advantages will do, as that can be a huge headache if you just let your opponent play their game.

Not quite hitting the theme of the post?  Okay, this is a case of bringing up deck construction – every search and card draw and force your opponent to discard effect is worth considering, no matter how tortured it can be to generate politics to play “Draw 2 cards.”

Ultimate Combat!

Speed and Strength.  There are not a ton of things you can do to mess with math.  Power Drain is an interesting one.  But, chipping against attacks is a way to just barely not lose.

There aren’t a ton of rules to UC!.  Actually, some things are just not explained at all.  On the other hand, there are a surprising number of rules written into the double sided foldout sheet that comes in starters.  Like, that defenses higher than attacks reduce attack values for all subsequent attacks.  Making the decision to overload a block when not playing a Counter is … damn, I keep trying to go with simple things for people to be aware of, yet this is techy in a “one more tournament and I hit black belt status” way.

While possibly one of the most challenging aspects of the game, thinking about when and what to discard is a key element of being less outmathed.  How many techniques do you need to win?  How many advantages?  If you draw Adrenaline, what happens?

Shadowfist

Me dumb player.  Me not know how to factor in burn for power.  Me forget Underworld Tracker in smoked pile.  Me hold on to three resource-requiring card until not me wins.

Reset

Okay, this post is all over the place.  Let’s get back to learning principles of such things as curve, card advantage, et al.

Card advantage is not the dominant feature that Magic makes it in many other CCGs, which is actually fairly interesting.  Yes, Shadowfist can see it, once you factor power advantage.  V:TES can only occasionally see it like with minion advantage or permacept.  It’s probably one reason I enjoy UC! more than Magic – so many of the differences between the two mitigate card advantage; then, you have Favorite Technique to remind you of how much it sucks that one card can just own you.  B5 certainly had card advantage, though how much it mattered as a practical matter was hard to say.  I mean, there’s a reason multiplayer CCGs work as well as they do when they often have inferior mechanics and card design to two-player CCGs.

Curve.  I haven’t figured out the curve in Shadowfist, though our numerous house rules mess around with this quite a bit.  UC! has a more severe curve than Magic in some ways, at least with respect to techniques versus creatures.  In UC!, if your technique costs more than one, you may just be screwed (unless it’s your “Favorite”).  I used to think three cost techniques were competitive.  Ha.  Ha ha.  WoT has a goofy curve to it due to Pattern cost reduction, though if you expect Whitecloak play, then you probably need to focus more on being able to get your recruiting infrastructure together ASAP.  B5 often had an anti-curve with characters.  It was really about whether you were (Support of the …) Mighty or not, first, then about how massive you were.  Now, fleets were different.  I hadn’t considered it before, but, maybe, I liked boring old fleets because their costs were more interesting.

Try another angle.  Let’s say I’ve lost a lot of games of every CCG I’ve played.  What caused me to lose?

UC!  Getting behind in power.  Not defending enough.  Not discarding the right number of cards.

Shadowfist.  Not generating enough power reliably to play cards.  Not having enough resources to play cards.  Not discarding aggressively enough.  Not paying attention to effects.  Making a bid for victory when I knew it wouldn’t work.  Not manipulating other players.  Not burning for power often enough.  Not playing more “I win” cards.  Playing Ascended to try to find something about Ascended that was remotely interesting.

WoT.  Playing a proxy in the only major tournament I ever played in.  Not playing more Murder of Crows.  Actually, I don’t really remember losing much at WoT.  I’m sure I did, I just don’t remember it.  I know I didn’t win tournaments, though we had so few of those.  I don’t really recall who won our locals.  So much of our play was playtesting that I can’t recall our real play results hardly at all, and playtesting inferior cards wasn’t my fault.  I did own with Forsaken.dec and Maidens at times in playtesting, but that just got cards changed so that those decks weren’t as degenerate.

B5.  Playing stuff that was less boring.  I’m sure I made play mistakes, but I don’t recall those so much as I recall losing to mindnumbingly straightforward decks.  Also, another case of spending a ton of time playtesting.  Not abusing Crusade Piles, Techno-mages, and whatever.  Not playing more hosers, like ways to stop a Support of the Mighty win.

V:TES.  Playing against better players.  Yup, really.  When I play against better players, my winenergy is reduced dramatically.  So, what’s better?  Knowing cards better.  Yup, I actually sometimes get owned by other people knowing cards better.  Thinking of a possibility, then not playing to it.  Mark Loughman newbed me in one tournament game when I knew he could play Change of Target, but I blocked, anyway, … as his predator.

Also:  not playing more wakes; more bounce; more acceleration; more Blood Dolls/Minion Taps/Villeins; more winnie-kill.  Relying on other players to do sensible things, which is a dumb thing to do as many of my tournament wins have come about because other players didn’t do sensible things.  Losing concentration in endgame situations.  Not willing opponents to do my bidding.

Hey, you didn’t talk about tempo!  Tempo can answer card advantage.  Yeah, whatever.  Other than WoT (and Conscription based B5 decks), I generally avoided tempo – too much multiplayer play.

Okay, I have no idea what I was trying to accomplish.  I started with an idea of learning basics in managing CCGs better both deck constructionwise and playwise, and I just threw out a bunch of observations.


Brought By The Number 7

November 10, 2015

One

One coworker from China joined us in Arkansas for some software training.  She has now had one fortune cookie in her life … at a Thai restaurant.  One American style pancake in her life.  She has been to one hobby game store (Gamer Utopia in Rogers), has one set of polyhedral dice, and …  And, on the way back to the hotel, has experienced one US kids’ carnival (if not any funnel cake or cotton candy – we had way too much food on the trip).

One thing can be different for one person from the next person.  I have only been pushed into duck tongue once, lotus seeds once, etc.  Experiences vary.  There are many RPGs I’ve never played and RPG situations I’ve never been in.

Two

A cousin is having twins.  Twins aren’t that rare in the family.  Along with a couple of others at the family get together, I correctly guessed that they would be girls.  Guessed be the operative word.

I’m not an expert on twins, but let’s say that they tend to be more alike, yet can have substantial differences.  Two games can be very similar yet significantly different in some way that one is vastly preferable to the other.  Ultimate Combat! is vastly preferable to Magic.  Scepter of Zavandor is vastly preferable to Outpost.

What distinguishes these differences – that’s a good place for analysis.

Three

Three beaches.  Yes, when I’m in my father’s homeland, I do go to beaches.  Shark’s Cove was interesting, if always bleedy, too (if you plan on going and haven’t been, let’s say there’s a lot of sharp rocks).  Waimea Bay was abbreviated.  I told one of my brothers about a FSTH session I set there.  Rain had us head back early.  Waimanalo (where Magnum P.I. was filmed) was choppy.  Each time I go there, I explore a bit further to just have something different to do.  I know, some people wish they had my problems.  Some day, might try swimming out to Bird Island.

I belabor the point about having similar expectations to make campaigns function.  For a change, I’m going to bring up differing expectations.  You don’t always want to do your favorite things.  There’s more to cuisine than Zippy’s Chili, crispy gau gee mein with cake noodles, and dim sum from some better place.  Now, I’m willing to try a trip where all I eat are these things, but, uh, I suppose I can suffer through some shave ice and a hamburger club sandwich at Like Like Drive Inn or whatever.

Anyway, you try different things.  You get suboptimal experiences.  You still sometimes like them.

Four

Four days of vacationing means focusing on the essentials.  Oddly, it also meant a lot of downtime.  Not every session of a RPG, CCG, BG, mahjong/cards, whatever is going to encompass the panoply of pleasures.  We had four of us staying at the house, yet no mahjong.  No local game store visit.  No hiking (for me).

While I can be satisfied with less, I think I think too much about pulling every lever.  Maybe more so from the GM side, where I can’t satisfy myself, so I get tired of trying to satisfy my players.  Sometimes, can just do less and save the rest.

Five

Hours in the air.  My most dreaded length, as the 13.5 hour flights I just give up any chance that they will end until a third of a sudoku book is completed.

Just as not everything good will be accomplished, not everything bad can be avoided.  Shadowfist timing sucks, while reliance on two different basic resources (in normal play) can suck so much more.  V:TES timeouts where nothing really happens are fangless.

Six

Six of us went to breakfast Monday.  First time my sister met one of my father’s friends (from high school).  Opinionated opinions.

Connections come in different forms, from the new to the reconnecting of the old.  I’ve played with a variety of gamers in the area.  I still do, to some degree.  I used to do three or so CCGs on weeknights at Matchplay.  I see some folks once or twice a year at conventions that I saw much more often, even weekly.

If I mentioned a variety of experiences above, there’s also a variety of players.  I often really enjoy getting together with, say, V:TES players from other locales just because it breathes freshness into things having a different perspective.  Besides, people I hang out with probably are superbored with my repetitive stances.

Seven

Double oh, to be more precise.  One may wonder why one should care that I saw a movie recently.  After all, I did see another movie earlier this year, exceeding my annual average (per my guesstimating) by 100%.

Spectre was okay.  I find it interesting how a lot of people loved Skyfall and hated this movie or hated Skyfall and thought this was much better.  I don’t exactly hate Skyfall, I just didn’t like its narrative nor its action and thought the ending’s payoff could have been done with a better lead up.  Some commenters on review sites summed up my highlights for Spectre – terrible villains, wasted Monica Belluci’s participation, missed opportunities, humor/fun is really missing.

On my grandfather’s bookshelf was a Bond novel by John Gardner.  I’ve read a number of Gardner novels, though not for decades.  I don’t recall them having major problems.  I do recall liking things about them.  Death is Forever is atrocious.  The characters are awful.  The characterizations are awful.  The villains are awful.  The plot is awful.  The payoffs or lack thereof are awful.  The dialogue is awful.

It’s less half-assed than double-oh-seventh-assed.  Did he just need to throw something out to hit a deadline?  I’m curious as to whether I’ve changed and just didn’t notice some of these problems in Icebreaker, For Special Services, and whatever else I’ve read of his.

Compare and contrast – nice school words.  As not great as Spectre was, it was at least not terrible.  The medium changes the storytelling – Bond is constantly falling for his harem in the books where you don’t really have that feeling in the movies unless the woman dies.  The focus on the quality of the food at some obscenely expensive hotel or on some luxury transportation in the books is shockingly (or not) absent in the movies I recall.

Games are about entertainment.  Now, some like their entertainment to be competitive, some like it to be random, some like it with more whips.  If we roll together some of the other comments above, we look to see that gaming can hit some but not all chakras and still entertain.  To be perfect is to be unlikely.

But, at the same time, it has to hit something.  I enjoy some bad books (looking at some books written by a LKH or a RJ) because they give me stretches of enjoyability.  How does this translate to various games?

The ending of Shadowfist games is often not enjoyable.  The combat in V:TES is often not enjoyable nor a lot of table talk.  Putting on armor because the camp got attacked during the night is not enjoyable.  Constantly failing to launch in your Almost-Night Struggle is not enjoyable.  Getting all lefts when you just need a move back one is not enjoyable.

But, I regress.  Was there a theme song to all of this?  Btw, didn’t really get Hunt’s theme song and don’t recall thinking Adele’s was the wasp’s whiskers.  Who cares?  Sometimes, you ramble because you want to toss things out.  At least I didn’t dwell on how I didn’t get a warmed up cookie or on the quality problem that prevented me from buying …