True Dungeon – Ultrarares 2016

October 29, 2016

Got back from China yesterday.  Swung by Core Game Salon and things are unfortunately slow.  I think the main thing I like about it is that it’s a place where East can meet West.  Compared to the prior locale, a restaurant, I like the space better.  Now, 9.5 years ago, there was a cafe in the Nanjing West Road area that I loved because cheap food that I was interested in and endless drinks, but, even in 2007, that didn’t last.  Hopefully, the scene picks up again.

So, I’m a latecomer to the party when it comes to token accumulation.  Also, while 2016 ultrarares will be available for another year, they have also been out for almost a year.  So, why not do analysis on 2017 ultrarares instead?  Why do analysis on this subject at all?  Because I feel like it.  Because I’ll read reviews of RPG supplements that came out 10 years ago.  Because it’s a snapshot in how I think about TD at this point in time, whether that says I’ve come a long way in the past two months or whether I have a long way to go.  Because how I think about these things may spark … something.

I need to go over some general biases.

My preference is for wizard, followed by elf wizard which I think is better but aesthetically less attractive and whose betterness might be suited for a different player, druid but not open if playing with Andy, bard because I can still avoid shuffleboard, paladin, barbarian, …, ranger, cleric but not open if playing with Dave, fighter, …, and that’s it.  Dwarf fighter strikes my lack of interest in dwarves.  Monk is supposed to shuffleboard twice but has cool defensive abilities.  Rogue, oh rogue, totally my class in RPG play, but I just don’t have the interest in the responsibility of playing Operation for profit nor does sneak attack appeal to me.

So, in general, heavy bias towards casters and not doing anything in melee.  Even paladin is more for guarding someone else.  Barbarian is for hitting hard.  Ranger is only because an entire focus on ranged combat and utterly ignoring dual wielding holds some interest to me, in part because I have an extremely powerful ranged weapon token.

I also expect to play mostly normal (Standard?) level difficulty and play with PUGs (pick up groups – this acronym confused me for quite a while).  So, see my comments about power below.

Skipping Amulet of the Champion for … ?? … aesthetic reasons?

+1 Mighty Sling

Quite mighty, I think.  Slings are pushed hard in recent years.  Is this to give wizards more ranged weapon options?  Well, whatever.  For people who don’t have everything, this has huge damage potential for Strength builds, which is pretty much everything I have no interest in playing.  I cracked this token with a random pull.  Solid value token that means nothing to most of my wizard builds.


+2 Baton of Focus

Does any druid not want to use the best Baton of Focus available?  It is a massive power jump for the druid.  It is a thing for the cleric that addresses Dave’s greatest interest – increased healing prowess.  In 2017, there will be a rare that’s +1, which is something that won’t cost $90 (about how much one can expect to pay for a PYP – pick your purple).  Andy may go after one of these or may just look for the +3 transmute, though the latter is going to be over $300 in all likelihood.  Still available for a year, but I’ve talked to folks and they aren’t concerned about my getting tokens for their builds.


+2 Rod of Persuasion

If I were going to play rogue, I’d likely get this.  See, my kick, having played a squishy wizard for years, is to try to push hit points hard.  Puzzle players don’t care much about damage output, AC, saves.  They need to survive damage in all forms.  Add in some healing bumps for your cleric/druid, and you should be good with taking some poundings, especially as the treasure chests and combat are likely happening at different times.  While I have no rogue interest, Dave’s secondary thought is rogue, so it’s not something to rule out completely.  Note that this and the prior token are both weapons, yet I don’t even pay much attention – doesn’t hurt to have a magic weapon that has better damage than lesser tokens.


Boots of Might

Constitution.  One of the things I find kind of odd and terribly not all that helpful about reading the forums is that the focus is so much on better, better, BiS (best in slot).  For one thing, as much as I’m sinking into acquiring tokens, I’m still not ready for the leap into $1000+ tokens, so BiS doesn’t mean anything to me.  For another thing, everyone seems to be trying to improve their position on a spectrum of power, which doesn’t appeal to me either.  I’m picking up power tokens, but I’m picking them up to meet my minimum threshold of viability and/or because certain builds amuse me.  Gee, I’m V:TESing TD.  So, where the low collection sorts are looking to upgrade to rares and better on a budget and the rare builds are looking for better rares and better and the “I’m willing to spend N dollars to upgrade” are looking to power up, the only builds I’ve seen that embrace diversity of builds desires rather than power desires have been cranky wizard builds and those tend to run thousands of dollars and are, thus, rather useless to me, as well.

So, Constitution.  My first “hardcore” (not to be confused with Hardcore) build is to max Constitution.  I love the 2017 Kilt of Tavernbane.  I want tons of hit points.  I don’t care if I just cast off my card and do nothing else but absorb levels of damage that would have annihilated a tokenless wizard.  As a side effect, maybe a Fortitude save will be required for something and the not-squishy wizard will make it.  Boots of Might are part of this build.  I don’t have an interest in the other Might Set tokens, for the most part, either being too expensive or too pointlessly only used for becoming Might-y.  While Boots of Agility, which we have, or Boots of the Marauder, which seems easy to acquire at a good price, are more offense.  I just want to meet my minimum threshold of offense viability for the level I’m playing at.

Now, when we move up to Hardcore …


Boots of the South Wind

Too late to the party to transmute Boots of the Four Winds.  Still, this is a monstrous power upgrade for spellcasters.  Which means, of course, that I was going to ignore it and focus on my wizard-survivor build.  Except, some day, because I actually want to max out experience points, we need to move up to Hardcore, and I feel like I have to pull some weight and not just survive.  So, my plan is to pick these up and use them as an alt build for Hardcore play as I don’t have a lot of options for affordable offense upgrades that I’m willing to pursue.

So, for those who aren’t aware, and I’m sure I don’t have a huge TD audience (yet … ladies), there are limited slots.  Only one set of boots should be obvious.  Two earcuffs, three charms, five ioun stones, two rings, and some ways to expand on various slots.  The brutal slot is the neck slot.  Because we don’t have the best treasure enhancers, we are mostly using neck slots on Amulet of Treasure Finding, which cuts out lots of utility plays and lots of really cool plays.  The 2017 Amulet of Guarding for the paladin is something I’d consider if I ever thought I’d play a paladin often and had the slot open, but I don’t see either ever being that likely.


Charm Bracelets

True Dungeon’s powers that be are not dumb.  A lot of tokens come out that encourage people to try other tokens even if the tokenholics or, my tradeitemmarked term, token tycoons just obsess over BiS.  I was not remotely interested in this token.  Part of it was that we don’t have elite charms in our collection.  But, there’s a 2015 token that those in the know can guess that I will always run in the wrists slot over this.

Then, 2017 tokens got spoiled.  I’m now planning on picking one of these up for a specific combo for probably Dave to use, not that I’ve bothered to tell him.  Andy might have some interest, but I think he has more commitments for his druid build than Dave has for his cleric build.

Yup, more money for … for … for the enjoyment of thinking about gaming.  If you don’t love thinking about gaming, well, meet someone who does.


Cloak of Blending

Cloak of the Shadowskin is deemed broken.  I wouldn’t disagree.  I think my chances of getting an affordable one are pretty much shot, at this point, but one never knows with niche games.  Cloak of Blending, on the other hand, is pretty bad for most characters.  Then, there’s bard.  This seems crazy powerful for the bard, even competitive with Shadowskin.

Bard is something our group can embrace.  You know, we need a team name.  Team Magic is a bit too pedestrian.  Team Mystic is better.  Team Strange (see upcoming movie I might actually break down and go see) …  I’ll run it by the band and see if they will go with it.  In other words, we all hate melee/missile.  We are the casters and the choir, when casting won’t fly.

So, this is useful, perhaps.  Good thing I cracked one in a random pull so that I didn’t even have to think about buying one.

Now, I just need to consider my song list for when I can’t run wizard (even though wizard seems really low in popularity for some reason – lot of folks enjoy shuffleboard).


Divine Echo Charm

I hope our group gets some use out of this.  No, I didn’t pack pull it.  I actually bought one.  In my defense, it was so much cheaper than an ultrarare normally goes for, I don’t feel all that bad about sinking money into it.  Value propositions, something else that’s going to kill the bank account until we decide to get out of the game.  Ha … ha ha … when do I ever give up on games before they give up on me?

How to make this less bad?  Let’s see.  I hardly ever see scrolls used, one.  I hardly ever see healing scrolls used.  Scrolls don’t benefit from healing bonuses from things that generically increase healing.  Now, the one plus side to this at this time is that 2017 is pushing scroll use hard with the new scroll tubes.  It’s kind of wasteful in a lot of ways, but maybe I can encourage us to blow a scroll every once in a while so that this does something.

Interestingly, I think this is something for the healers to use.  Because healing scrolls are limited so much by class, the healers are the ones who control when they get used.  Do the new tube with some planned scrolls and you heal yourself while improving Team Strange.  Reduces healer need to heal thyself.  Without organization, this will never see value other than buffing the 2017 Charming Set (Trio).


Gloves of the Cutpurse

Next on my want list.  While not BiS for wizards, consider how this hurts them not at all.  TD is very much divided between Strength classes and low grav world classes.  Outside of cranky wizard, which doesn’t interest me, I can bury my Strength six ways to Solarday.  I can do this not only with my caster builds, but I’ve got a ranger build plan (or whomever since nothing is funnier than, say, a ranged paladin build, am I right?) where STR should be meaningless.

Since it’s always a possible PYP and it can be had by trading in Gloves of Dexterity, I’m looking for getting this at a reasonable price, which is the main reason I haven’t already invested.

The DEX buffs you can get in TD are just ludicrous.  It’s almost tempting to look at doing the all DEX, all the time as an alt build to all CON all the time.  The robe in 2017 only adds to the lunacy (pun!!).


Goggles of Instant Analysis

I’m not superfamiliar with the eyes slot, even though there aren’t that many options and lists are easy to find.  This was another random pull.  I thought our random pulls were actually quite solid, just not that useful for our interests.  Dave can go pure healing/buff and use the Cloak of Blending, but Andy and I have to murder stuff … with magic.

This is the sort of thing that doesn’t even help my fighty builds, as I’m only interested in ranged combat at this time, except maybe a barbarian build for when I start embracing my inner shuffleboarder.

Tradebait.  If I can move this for comp monetary value and superior play value, I think Team Strange will find it strangey and strange it.

For meleers, seems pretty solid.  Certainly, secondary market value looks good, which gives me hope.


Kvothe's Bloodless

Ties into the new arc tie-in with the book series I might actually look into reading.  The author will donate to charity anyone who selects this as a PYP.  And, this just seems incredibly good!  Slotless.  Slotless and huge damage reduction.  I have no idea why this doesn’t go for more on secondary markets or why it doesn’t get talked about as a part of top level builds.

I want it.  But, I don’t get everything I want.  It’s just not a priority.  Hit points absorb puzzle damage.  Hit points absorb push damage.  In a world of limited options, this rates behind some other things.  Also, there’s such a thing as defensive paranoia overkill.  I might want to be untouchable in practice, but, in theory, having some risk is kind of more exciting.  Embrace danger, otherwise, might as well live real life and skip the gaming.


Lenses of Sage Speed

Push scrolls?  Good.  Use scrolls?  Bad.  This is an awful ultrarare because we haven’t achieved the point of token overkill where we are into blowing consumables.  Maybe it will get some like because of 2017 transmutes.  I just know I carry around like 20 scrolls and never use them and will stop carrying all of that crap around right in time for scrolls to be marginally less sucky.

Besides, there are other eye slot tokens for Team Strange.  Rather get more damage spells or higher damage without using consumables.

I’ll still wander around with Stone to Flesh just in case, but I don’t expect to do virtually any scroll casting.  Just need them too much for Alchemist’s Parchments.


Pantaloons of the Deeperdark

A lot more appealing before Kilt of Tavernbane and the knowledge that there will be more ultrarare kilts coming down the road for those who want to wear tokens in that region.  I do find it kind of odd how quickly this went from “there aren’t many pants options and this one is so much better” to “eh, other pants options”.

Given that none of our Strange builds have to have high DEX, I can’t see why any of our caster builds wouldn’t go for Tavernbane.  Sure, wizards do gain from DEX because our crappy shuffleboard spells use DEX modifiers to hit (perhaps worth mentioning in the Cutpurse comments), but there are so many ways to pump DEX that CON is our anti-squishiness friend.

Still good.  Forum posters keep going on about how free action (forgot the new official name) effects are surprisingly good.  As a caster, though, I don’t know if it’s as good, and my “unlikely to ever see play though it would mean getting to use a $300 token” ranged build might not care as much, either.


Ray's Ring of Remembrance

I considered this.  But, it just seems bad.  Sure, I took a ton of puzzle damage in 2016.  But, is that normal?  Only two ring slots and probably going to use one of them on Ring of Heroism as the single most important thing to Team Strange is playing at 5th level.  That means a fight for the other, and this just doesn’t seem like it can win that fight.

Sure, I wouldn’t cry if I cracked it, but I considered it long enough as a PYP to realize it would never be a PYP.  If it goes Divine Echo Charm cheap on eBay or something, who knows how crazy irresponsible with money I’ll be.

What it does make me think is that there really should be more tokens for puzzlers.  TD tokenmania caters so strongly to combat, where lots of people like puzzling.  But, you need to move the rarity down to levels where puzzlers, who are likely just playing a ten-pack can actually see the rainbow.

Even at rare, Ri’s Ring of Replenishment … no, that’s a regeneration ring … Ri’s Ring of Restitution … nope … Ri’s Ring of Rejoicing … nah … Ri’s Ring of Reason … bingo, Ri’s Ring of Reason that reduces damage from puzzles by one point each time sounds like a thing to do to expand the game to people who aren’t into $300 weapons.


Redoubt Helm

It interests me how much rangers get cut out of helms, in that I’d rather not wear a helm but have to with a paladin build.  Yup, ranger right around the corner … as Harry Wells would say “not!”.

Anyway, I hear that AC is not as important as saves on the level that forum posters play at.  OTOH, helms rarely (ha … ha ha … puns … ladies) give these sorts of bonuses, and you would only run this as part of the Redoubt Set, so your AC is going to be obscene.  As Wisdom bonuses are among the hardest in the game …

Rant aside:  Why didn’t the game already do more with INT, WIS, and CHA?  There are ungodly number of tokens that modify physical attributes.  I’ve been thinking of token ideas specifically because INT is only used for one token in the entire game, and WIS and CHA only do extremely narrow things.

… The drawback here seems particularly painful.  However, there will be a transmute that removes the drawback, re-doubt (oh, I kill me, today, hold on, you don’t need to kill me … back away from the keyboard).

Armor doesn’t interest me at all.  To use.  Oh, I find some of the armors have cool names or whatever.  But, I’m a wizard through and through.  I hate weapons, armor, being required to shuffleboard, and not having to memorize things.

I also don’t really have any sense of ACs.  I get that a high enough AC means you ignore a lot of damage.  But, I’m a wizard, and any attempt to AC up runs counter to tokens I actually want to use, have, and/or can afford.  The all DEX build all of the time is the only time I might pay attention to AC.


Redoubt Mail

On the other torso, I suddenly realized this is less uninteresting to me than the other Redoubts.  This is usable by my bard build, my ranger build, my barbarian build.  Reflex saves?  I’m still going to have some stupidly high DEX because of the tokens I’ll own for my caster builds, so the drawback here is relatively less painful.


Redoubt Plate

On the third torso, this is useless to me.  See, people have said that the Defender Set is pretty awesome, and it’s rare, and it’s being reprinted in 2017, so that means it’s effectively free to us.  I realize people who have the bank accounts and the number crunching interest have calced out that this set can be pretty Templar Set competitive, but I hate armor and I don’t see why I should bother taking the saves hits when my paladin build or Dave’s cleric build will join the Defenders (we can belong to multiple teams, right?).


Redoubt Shield

I could comment about transmutation costs, but I re-doubt it’s to my benefit to express my opinions.  I don’t like the Fort saves hit, if I had any interest in this in the first place.  I’m never going to transmute this in the 2017 transmutation to remove the hit.  Yeah, +5 AC is a ton for a shield, but this set isn’t a Team Strange set.

And, that’s cool.  If everyone wanted everything, it would be brutal.  See Charm of Avarice pricing, or Rod of Seven Parts, or Boots of the Four Winds.


Ring of Spell Storing

I should talk about how lame this can be, except I have some shreds of integrity.  I’m going to get this.  How many is the question.  When debating what 2016 ultrarares were necessary to acquire at some point, I considered Ray’s before considering this but finally decided this was far more important, even though it’s a combat token for wizards (maybe a heal token for healers, which is why I might not wear one even though I have to own one), and Team Strange has not yet dabbled in mystic fighting arts against the denizens of other planes of existence known as combat runs.

Nor, has Team Strange sought to Grind in a True way.

Unrelated aside:  If you want insight into a Strange life, let’s just say I go to Shanghai to get my grindcore in.

This just seems terribly good for wizards and maybe druid.  Cleric, maybe not as much, though I don’t pour over the spell lists for other classes like I do wizards.


Stu's +3 Handy Stein

One of the reasons I didn’t try to do ratings is that ratings for tokens are heavily dependent upon which classes you favor and heavily dependent upon a variety of factors.  I’m sure there are TDers who just love steins, mugs, and other drink holders.

There is nothing wrong with this token, as you get special ability added to offhandedness.  If you polymorph, you want potion speed.  If you burn healing potions like mad because of Nightmare play or True Grind or whatever that people allude to in forum posts, well, maybe you care.

I just don’t care about this token at all.  I’m sure there are tokens that hit my thematic buttons.  I’m sure there could be a lot more, like Tiffiney’s Turban of Thought.

Well, that’s it for today.  A post probably no one was looking forward to.  No V:TES for whomever may still pay attention to V:TES.  No L5R for my core audience.  No boardgames for the mainstreamers.  No Ultimate Combat! for those strange cases of when someone chimes in with a comment about UC!.  No mahjong talk, which seems to get more likes, by the way, didn’t have time on this trip – so many other things to do in Shanghai, including missing meeting up with a former coworker who will be there next week and sent me a hilarious email recently with the subject “Hi, friend!”

For some of us, gaming isn’t just playing games.  For some of us, obsessing over things you hardly ever play is charming …


Reign Needed

October 8, 2016

I haven’t checked in to Kickstarter for a while.  After backing Age of Legends, Conan, Aquelarre, I could use the break.

I did back Ninja Crusade 2e’s expansion Kickstarter, but it didn’t fund.  It did relaunch.  It’s already funded.  The game sounds like my sort of thing, in that I’ve played 1e and wasn’t that thrilled with the mechanics but like the sound of 2e’s changes.  Where Feng Shui ended up being a huge disappointment because it focused on things I didn’t care about and ignored addressing things I did, to the point where I consider 1e a better game for campaign play, I have hopes based on the description of the ethos the game is going for.  Since I missed the initial 2e launch, I’m mostly backing for getting the 2e corebook.  I doubt the stretch goal will hit, but that would be more useful to me than worrying about expansion materials.

Empire’s Reign

When is the Shadowfist Kickstarter going to happen?

In other realms, there’s a bit lacking in reins.  Nothing is really holding my attention outside of my latest fixation.

I’m well aware that I’ve always been this way – enthused by the latest thing I turn my weary gaze to.  When I play a campaign, it’s typically the campaign.  When I play a CCG weekly (or playtest or design), it’s typically the CCG.  But, the interest in V:TES is weak, Shadowfist is very undemanding (which is a good thing), Nightmare War isn’t moving very quickly and HoR4 will likely have the same experience of waiting around for the next session.

Wandering mentally has had the effect of getting me to reread some books (well, parts of them I find more appealing).  It’s interesting how I’ll come back to a novel after N+ years and find a different take on things.  There is a series that I read the first book for and found it in my wheelhouse, in that I would read modern supernatural stuff.  I never got the second book.  Skimming through it, I now think it’s rather … not so great.  I guess I realized that at the time.

See, it uses astrology, which you may realize I find a rich vein for fiction.  But, it just isn’t cool enough.  The writing now seems extremely repetitive.  The world just isn’t all that.

I kept up with Anita Blake stuff for ages because the world was just so interesting from book one.  Of course, it got sillier, though the world was not as much of an issue as the way the main character was handled.

I skimmed through one of the Deryni books I had only read a couple of times or so.  Far more engaging.  What I took away, though, since it was familiar ground, was just how different from a FRPG campaign it would be.  It’s political, whether religion politics, politics politics, or relationship politics.  One could analyze early books from later books and maybe say that the series has moved away from action and toward soap opera.  But, I don’t recall a tremendous amount of action in earlier books and I don’t recall caring about much of it, anyway.

Whether hinting at l33t swording by Morgan or energy battles, just not the draw.  If anything, the incredible stupidity on the parts of the protagonists in how they use their powers is a frustrating distraction from what’s often pleasant drama.  (I especially have a hard time with any of the books involving Camber because of how dark they get and how easily wizards can own non-wizards if they bother to.)

I did come away, though, with a bit of a new view.  Maybe I’m just really crotchety, but there’s too much “[blank] is the greatest of them all” to characters.  I’m not looking for flawed types who agonize through life.  I just don’t need people to constantly express how great someone else is.  Should be more subtle.  Can convey that someone is respected in all of the 11 Kingdoms without actually having one character state to another character how the person is respected by all.

Of course, this is from someone who can’t even write a short story to submit for publishing.  But, opinions are why blogs are written.

Speaking of opinions, Flash and Arrow premiered.

As I read reviews’ comments, my opinions feel like a rehash, but here we go, anyway.

Both series suffer from repeating annoying things.  That doesn’t make them bad, though I wouldn’t call Arrow good – Flash still has enough humor to be good.

Some folks commenting on Arrow are all thrilled by going back to a season one feel.  Um, look, I found it interesting when the series opened with Oliver murdering people left and right, but to go back to that undermines the supposed character development in later seasons.  I like better action, but I’m still not feeling it.  What was better in season one was the sense that characters were actually doing something interesting.  Even if the filming of action is less bad recently, it still feels like people going through the motions.  What was appealing was how Oliver and The Hood felt like the same justice warrior, not Oliver’s relationship problems and Green Arrow’s bow parries.

Then, Flash’s repetitive superspeed fights is repetitive.

But, back to Arrow.  So, so tired of Oliver having to navigate relationships.  What made for the best scenes in season one were the surprising interactions with folks.  Let me pull my shirt down to show you I’m Bratva.  Let me speak foreign languages to maids, et al.  Let me try to keep my secret in the most flimsy way possible from techbabe.  Oliver the outsider who plays by special rules so much better than Oliver the “oh look, I’m angst-ridden”.  Thea has her moments but is too slight to be credible as a super and too slight to be eye candy, Diggle is nowhere near as interesting to me as he is to a bunch of others, same with Lance.  If anyone, have Katrina Law be in more episodes, but don’t turn her into something else, even though that already started – she was so good early on.

What wasn’t all that was the family drama, the friend drama, the girlfriend drama.  Those things are old.  Be novel, or, at least, be short story.

Flash, meanwhile, has gone the same route of dipping into the well of time babble.  Just stop.  Find something creative to do.  I’m not saying avoid using superpowers, since I actually find superpowers more interesting in superheroes than lack of superpowers.  For instance, what’s a fight between two speedsters?  It’s a bunch of punching and kicking and pushing and throws and tossing stuff.  Gee, that sounds like a fight between two bricks or two martial artists (without cool martial arts moves, which Arrow did better in season one).  Now, there’s a problem.  Psionics is not interesting, probably even less so in TV.  Brick versus speedster can often be problematic interaction.  Teleporter versus speedster is awfully like speedster versus speedster.

Flash is more appealing because the characters are more appealing.  Harrison was amazing early on, still good.  Cisco may be a tad too forced sometimes but mostly good.  Some of the combinations work out well.  Course, swapping Felicity and Iris on the two shows could be so much better than the relationship slogs we’ve had to endure, as one of Oliver’s best moments involved Iris’s take on him, where Felicity and Barry always was at least decent.

I’m curious as to how Supergirl will go now that it can be better integrated.  I don’t really look that forward to it because it focuses too much on romance.  You know, as someone who actually likes romance in things, it’s not necessary to be beaten over the head with how it has to be a source of conflict.  There are other paths to go.  I’m also less clear what the show should be about.

Legends of Tomorrow actually ended on a higher note, though LoT is really all about certain characters doing fun things.

That’s the thing.  Superhero shows should be about doing fun things.  Make amusing use of powers.  Have conversations full of double meanings due to secret identities.  Fire boxing glove arrows.  Salmon that ladder (aka focus on training).  But, more than anything else, do crossovers because you get out of the quagmires of your own angst and just do fun stuff.  Nyssa showing up is like a crossover.  I do look forward to the Supergirl/other crossover, hopefully with Mayor Handsome being on her list of guys she can make an exception for.

Oh, did I get away from gaming?  Well, probably next time.

The Draw

October 2, 2016

Other than spending way too much time thinking or transacting for True Dungeon, my focus recently has been on creating a card game.  At some point, I assume I’ll talk about it here, but it’s an actual business venture unlike the solitaire games I’ve written about.

The draw, i.e. the charm.

I’ve written about what I’ve enjoyed about various CCGs.  Maybe I just cover the same ground, maybe not.  The intent is to not get into what makes the game good but what made it charming to me.

Ultimate Combat!

The flow of the game.  I have never cared particularly about the techniques.  I often try to avoid playing with Speed and Strength even though I’m a monstrous fan of how advantages work in the game.  There’s just something about how the cards play out in many a game where the math becomes enjoyable.  You don’t need to think too deeply or track a bunch of text.  Hmmm … you … don’t … need … to … track … a … bunch … of … text.  I hadn’t thought about how different that is, before.  Welp, guess there was value in writing this post, after all.


Aesthetics.  Not just card art.  Use of components in mechanics.  Color pie.  Multicolor.  Non-basic lands.  Creature types.  I just like looking at Magic cards even for sets that I never want to play with (Innistrad).

That, and potential.  Magic is far more complex than UC!, which isn’t necessarily better, but it does mean that there’s so much more potential for things you can do.  You can build more meaningful theme decks.  You can build all sorts of Johnny decks.  With Magic, much more than other games, you can take one card and consider how you might use it.

Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

What attracted me early on, the Vampire: The Masquerade stuff of clans and disciplines, isn’t what attracts me to playing these days.  Yet, this post is what charms games have, not how much I can revel in silliness.

Disciplines are all about transient effects.  I like how UC! is mostly about transient effects, latched on to events in Babylon 5, etc., so I’m a transientophile.  But, I knew what the disciplines were about in the RPG.  I had my preferences, sometimes carried over, sometimes didn’t.  Hate Dominate in the RPG to where my Tremere and Ventrue characters had zero dots between them.  I keep saying it because it’s so weird for me to like things that are powerful (well, that’s just reputation and not really true but sorta, kinda), but I like playing Dominate in the CCG.

I was far more into clans back when the cardpool was smaller and there were fewer and before I got fixated on how unbalanced the clans were or how tedious it could be to see people play the same stuff over and over.

I like the five-player game for how I can develop slowly and still be relevant, for how there are no clear ways to play against your opponents until things become distorted.  Three-player can be playable, but I never look forward to it.  Four player really only has going for it that it’s faster than five-player, when you want to get games finished.

Babylon 5

Theme.  I do a lot of mechanical themes, so I’m not talking just about Narn Shadow Intrigue or whatever (even though that’s somewhat of a mechanical theme).

I built virtually no decks that used Refa as my starting character.  I actually don’t really remember one such deck, so it’s possible that I didn’t build any, even while playtesting.  Londo promoting Babylon 5, Londo watching the Centauri Fleets murder everyone (well, not really, my military decks were almost always about racing to victory as fast as possible, so it was more like Fleet Week even before Show the Colors got printed), Chosen of Gaim/Drazi/whatever wasn’t Chosen of Squid cheese – these were things that entertained me.

I’ve mentioned before how I like fleet enhancements.  For some reason, I just really like military decks and fleets, even though the show isn’t that much about such things (and Vorlon/Shadow fleets are dumb in the game).  But, why fleet enhancements, which generally sucked?  I also enjoyed putting stuff on characters, like guns on any character.  There’s something about building up things in B5 that I don’t often enjoy in other CCGs.  I think it’s because I feel more of a connection to cards on a narrative level.

Wheel of Time

Card representation of book elements.  While I argued about stats for B5 cards, I was never as into B5 as other people were.  I wasn’t even particularly into B5 until I got heavily into the card game.  I played B5 because it was put out by Precedence Publishing, which put out my favorite RPG (at the time).

I didn’t know anything about WoT when Precedence decided it was going to publish the CCG.  I got caught up.  Fast.  I had the advantage that the series was some five books in or whatever when I started reading them, which meant I wasn’t waiting years to find out what happened next.

I didn’t just design cards, I designed cards.  I did art requests.  I hunted up flavor text.  Birgitte was awesome at the time before she got relegated to boring background stuff.  I had submitted multiple versions of her card.  I used one or two of her lines from the books as email sigs.  Much like B5, there was a connection between source material and cards, but there was a difference.  With B5, I enjoyed more spoofing on the source material.  With WoT, I was more fanboyish, looking to highlight those things I liked out of the books.  When we were testing Illian decks after Dark Prophecies, I eschewed them, as I just didn’t care anything about the Council of Nine or what sort of military they had.

Precedence may not have been perfect when it came to CCGs, but there was something done right when it came to translating source material into cards, even decks.


I don’t know that Tomb Raider, Netrunner, Tempest of the Gods, or the likes held my interest enough to point out charms.  Shadowfist I picked up very late because it had negative elements to me.

I’m not a crossgenre fan, in general.  I don’t like games that seem random.  A lot of card effects, like Mole Network, Bite of the Jellyfish, Imprisoned, Nerve Gas, Neutron Bomb, etc. just weren’t fun to me.  Mass destruction was particularly unappealing to me for a long time because of also comparing with Wrath of God and Armageddon in Magic.

I’ve mentioned some of the appeal to me, nowadays.  The RPG made me care about the world, so the crossgenre issue was defeated.

Oddly, V:TES helped defeat my issue with mass destruction.  V:TES is a game where permanents can get overly permanenty.  While plenty of games see things that stick in Shadowfist, plenty of games see nothing safe.

Does UC! appeal to my interest in martial arts?  Maybe?  Once upon a time.  I don’t really consider the martial arts aspects of the game these days.  Shadowfist does a better job of connecting to the sorts of things that cause me to take interest in seeing martial arts shows, presently.

With every CCG, there’s something to dislike.  For some reason, I enjoy characters far more in Shadowfist than the equivalent in other games.  Usually, I’m about events in CCGs, whether they are instants, advantages/actions, reactions, or whatever.  Some of the reason I lowball events in Shadowfist has nothing to do with not wanting decks full of stoppage but just because I find characters more charming than events.  Weird.

I think more than anything else that allowed me to embrace Shadowfist was the contrast with other CCGs.  I wasn’t invested emotionally.  I didn’t care if it was balanced.  I didn’t have any favorites (well, I do like some factions better than others, but didn’t come in with having favorite cards).  I didn’t need to be able to build every deck.  And, so forth.  It was something novel for me as a CCG experience.


So, the card game I’m doing design/development for.  Will it charm people?  Will it draw upon the source material enough to create a connection, have a good dynamic, flow well, produce satisfying results?  I think one of the partners sent the playtest materials out, so might be soon to see how other people buy into something rather than my write about what I buy into.