Deck Of Many Things

April 30, 2017

I wrote out some four or so new deck lists and managed to get around to pulling together cards for two of them, while also looking back at some of my other possible tournament plays.

Reasons I love CCGs:

One:  Infinite Ideas

While looking over a deck I’ve never pulled the cards for, I was wondering why I hadn’t put Repo Man into it as it ran 4x Sport Bike.  That got me thinking about Repo Man.  That got me to search vehicles.  That got me to thinking about yet other builds for Polaris Coach and deciding that Polaris Coach + Cryptic Mission is totally a deck that should exist.  Then, there’s immediate Helicopters in your PRE/Obf bleed/vote deck.

With every CCG, I think of new decks or card combinations even with a game with as small a card pool as Ultimate Combat! or as focused a card pool (due to allegiances) as Wheel of Time.  Certainly easier with a game with a vast card pool like V:TES, but there are just so many things people don’t do.  Sometimes it’s a clearly less effective strategy, but that may not be a bad thing in multiplayer play.  Sometimes it’s a build that only makes sense for a specific metagame.

There are dozens of decks I can see trying in a local tournament that have never seen the moonlight of night.

Two:  Metagaming

Metagaming isn’t just about trying to win, though that’s quite the driver.  My thinking for the upcoming tournaments goes somewhat along these lines:  the environment will be far more aggressive than our local environment; play will be quicker putting aside deck builds; player skill will be higher; no one will know my play style and I won’t be familiar with other people’s styles.  Doom … d-o-o-o-m …

Just in terms of trying to build to win, I would focus on how Animalism is the best combat, Parity Shift will be played often, Lutz will appear often with some sort of vote, bleeds of 4-6 or permableed of 3 will be common, winnies will probably not be that common but neither will the countermeasures, Imbued will probably show, event decks might appear, tons of fatties, Celerity guns will also likely be notable.

Flesh of Marble plus some sort of hit back should wreck combat decks.  Combat ends should pretty much stop everything if you run enough to get by Psyche!.  Voting may be messy at times with Velvet Tongue, though the chances of much in the way of Daughters screwing around with incentives is low.  The fear with voting, though, is more that tables unprepared for vote should just get run over.  In Stockholm, there was virtually no voting and a vote bloat deck that got going fast enough could have easily won my tables.

Bleed is the easiest thing to defend against, but I find that Auspex bounce is somewhat less valuable due to the commonality of The unnamed decks.

Does what works well versus what works poorly in this crossregional, totally not like my home metagame matter to me?  Of course.  I want to enjoy my games.  If I just get run over then I’m going to find the events boring.  I have plenty of decks that only work locally because I can bank on surviving long enough for them to play out.  My decks show how slow they are in other regions much of the time.  The one deck that did a decent job of getting going, though, even then, it didn’t play in a true crossregional meta, just a different meta, was Living Lolita Loca.  Small vampires allow you to do stuff.  Or, run lots of Zillah’s Valleys and Banishment Santaleous when he appears.

But, there’s more to metagaming than winning, at least for me.  I want to enjoy games.  Maybe an all forward deck would be the best play, but I don’t enjoy those sorts of decks.  I went through several passes on possible decks to play, and I added a fun factor rating that was subtlely different from my usual pros/cons comments on whether to take a deck to an event.

Fun was interesting because it highlighted the difference between fun results and fun play.  In local play, I can believe I can win with anything better than Gargoyles with Presence (which had a chance in that finals).  There are many game features I can build decks around to unlock an achievement.  I’ve never won with Serpentis in a deck.  Or Quietus.  Or Abombwe.  I keep building decks that don’t achieve the minimum threshold of viability with these disciplines because I want to avoid boring stuff.  So, I also build some real decks with Serpentis.  And, I can’t imagine enjoying playing them in a tournament even if I unlock another achievement.

So, yes, I have to adjust to a metagame, but I also have to metagame myself to strike the right balance where I can play something that interests me that will interest me in events I’m not likely to make the finals for.

Three:  Not Every Deck Is Gargoyles With Presence

I started pulling cards for decks, then realized my builds didn’t make sense.  I overlooked vampire specials.  I forgot to put in a hoser.  I overestimated how many vampires I could have in play.  In some cases, it’s annoying to have to change geniusness.  But, in some cases, like realizing Inbase Discotek is h-u-u-u-g-e tech for a deck I want to play, fun can be had by actually trying to construct a well crafted deck.

Now, building for two-player CCGs is usually more interesting for this sort of thing as, again, deck construction is typically much more of a thing in two-player play.  But, maybe I do have room for Force of Will in my Fortitudeless deck.

Four:  Weird Stuff Happens

More so with multiplayer play, where opponents will mess with other opponents, but the nature of vast possibilities of card interactions is that sometimes you aren’t psychic.  Sometimes, you just find the situation amusing.

We played two games of Shadowfist last Thursday.  In the second game, I ended the game with 13+ power realizing my 7 No Masters deck had not that many characters in general – my smoked pile at the end of the game consisted of something like 10, maybe 12, events.  The first game, I proved that multiplayer CCGs are lunacy.  My three Betrayers of the Crane went for a Dockyard and through the power of Butterfly Swords achieved victory.  Yes, three, 1-cost foundation characters seized control of the world.  In both games, I only ended up with one character in a smoked pile and that was the turn I won the first game.

I can only hope some weird stuff happens at these tournaments.  After all, why bother playing games that are chesslike … uh, doh, some people like those sorts of games.  Hey, CCGs are better!

Speaking of CCGs, we are going to check out the L5R LCG and see if it’s more enjoyable than the VCG was.


Crunchy Time

April 22, 2017

I have been lax on posting anything.  Some of that is due to the Traveller CG needing me to do things right now.  But, mostly, I think it’s because I’m not in the habit and my game playing is often-impaired.

I was going to post on one thing, maybe Shadowfist, until I realized I’m at a confluence point.

  1. Playing Shadowfist regularly and last session I realized how long this group has been playing
  2. Need to build decks for upcoming V:TES tournaments
  3. Played new HoR4 mod in a long time
  4. True Dungeon transacting

Let’s work backwards as all right-thinking people do.

True Thalersink

I remain invested in investing in building a collection of tokens I don’t need.  If only gaming didn’t have numismatics in the form of things worth way more than the coins I used to numis, it would be less costly.  But, who cares besides my heirs?  No, I got to thinking about how my perception of token usefulness has evolved.

Oh, I don’t want to state what I think is better of the 2017 stuff than I used to, as someone may actually read this blog and I might have some influence on market valuations to my detriment.  After I finish getting what I want of 2017 tokens, I’ll look to post an analysis as I did with 2016 tokens.

Where I didn’t used to be into 2015 ultrarares, I now see how some are more relevant to someone who can’t restrain themselfs to just what amuses themselves.  So, let’s talk about something I won’t impact in a way that is meaningful to me.

+2 Deadly Drow Blood Mace

My non-wizard builds struggle mightily when it comes to choosing melee weapons, since melee combat hasn’t been a thing any of our group has cared about and, thus, we haven’t made any effort to acquire weapons.  Now, if I melee, my preference is Barbarian for obsidian cannonage.  So, one-handers are useless.  But, Ranger gets shafted by having to double one-hand and Paladin might be silly and run a shield in melee for set bonuses.  Still don’t actually care, but it would be an upgrade over +1.

Boots of the West Wind

Now, Boots of the Four Winds is just better (and only some $700 more expensive), but there really aren’t a ton of ways to increase ranged damage for non-Mighty ranged weapons.  I have various builds, some sillier than others, where I want more ranged damage and aren’t going to STR-blast with a +1 Mighty Sling.  Plus, everyone had to have this to make Four Winds.

Bracers of Supreme Archery

I actually want one of these, now, for, uh, increasing ranged damage while also getting a to hit bonus over Bracers of Archery.

Earcuff of Orbits

Before the news about treasure-enhancing Ioun Stones, this would not have been as all that.  Absolutely fascinating to all right-thinking people is that this still isn’t good for my builds.  I actually have significant competition on the ear slots … because that’s a totally normal statement in life.  I don’t have much in the way of quality Ioun Stones.  It’s also only two more slots, which means you are sort of netting one slot, which just seems bad.  Now, if my ideas for INT, WIS, CHA increasing Ioun Stones get made and those attributes did more than increase Will saves, then I might start to care.

Gloves of the Brute

Is this or Gauntlets of Linked Fury better for Barbarianhood?  I still tend to view stat bonuses over damage bonuses, though decreasing DEX isn’t trivial.  I own one of these, so I’ve satisfied my brutishness.

Widseth’s Mystical Lute

Why do I value this more highly?  Because someone who shall remain named Warrior bugged me about how this would be the best Bard instrument to pick up.  I refuse to yield.  I think a Bard airhockeying defeats the true reason anyone would want to Bard – hovering around other players and annoying them when combat is going on.

I didn’t realize til just now that it allows ranged attacks as well as melee attacks.  That’s somewhat more interesting.  Still, if I’m Barding, I want to be casting spells or, possibly, “abusing” my ability to cast more scrolls than any other class.  We also don’t need it because we will someday perfect the perfect party of perfectness and name our own special TD runs using a little token called … auugghhh, not in the neck, not in the neck.

Switching equipment.

HoR4

With one exception, I still have no sense of what HoR4 is about.  The exception?  It is the Mantisliest Mantisfest of all Mantisdom in my play.

I feel like mods are self-contained and don’t really stretch into new territory.  So many of the mechanics changes have trivial impact to me, thus far, except that my Honor doesn’t really go up.  Sure, if Glory did something, not having Glory go up would be different.  I got an option to spend five favors to do something.  Except, now that I have some idea what favors can be used for, I fail to see the desire to spend five favors on something that doesn’t really do anything I care about.  Maybe if I was part of a group that found amusement in doing group mechanical things, I would feel differently.

I feel so much like I’m meandering.  I’m also sucking.  Yet again, I’ve played a mod with a bunch of INT rolls.  I love the irony of my playing a moron in an INT campaign.  Playing a non-Moshi in an INT, Mantis campaign.  I rule like a fool.

V:TES

I need to both capture the quintessential meness of my deckbuilding ways while also understanding that I’ll be in a metagame where I can’t just hunt until my inevitable victory.  It can be something of a struggle as I seek to play a clan burdened with Dominate while trying to find a way to bleed effectively.  Guess I’ll have to Presenceless vote or whatever.  Graft Presence … wait, okay, solved my deckbuilding crisis!

I’m not expecting to play much in the way of pickup games, so there’s only so many decks I really need.  Will single box it of probably seven decks.

Shadowfist

What’s impressive about the Shadowfist group isn’t that we’ve played for years, it’s that we are consistent about play when people are not traveling or lack specific events that interfere.  Weekly play is the tame of the game!  Never antiremember this.

Now, because we did lose a player who hated our house rules, we have been playing more three-player games.  Three player has been very different.  For one thing, we are burning for power.  Now, is that because people’s decks are not playing all of the standard power gen cards out of boredom or is it because you can’t keep your site structure as intact when only two people can stop you from successful attacks?

Then, games feel far more vicious.  You kind of have to either wall up or beat down, rather than just hunting until inevitable victory.  It’s a disturbing world of … of … aggression that violates all of my principles of game maiming.

We played three games Thursday.  I played my new 7 Masters deck and it lost, thus breaking the stricture of the omniverse that 7 Masters can only lose to 7 Masters.  I did cancel a Dance of the Centipede on my The Fox Outfoxed on a Haunted Forest duping a Mobius Gardens.  Then, I played an old Warriors deck, which has sucked a lot more than it did early on.  I just had dudes, which didn’t stop people who had other dudes but did prevent the player who didn’t dude much from winning.

Finally, I won the last game off the brutal power of an Exorcist in a Long Black Hearse, an Imp, and a Jian.  I was dudechoked for when bids for victory could be made because I kept holding on to cards I never played, like Spirit Wrack, Poisoned Wound, and Underworld Coronation.

So, yeah, I do do things that are gamingishlyable.  They just are kind of coin-flippish in consistency.  Did I mention that I played Aztec Pyramid in one of those games and it supposedly influenced an opponent’s decision to play a card.  Rule like a fool.  Rule like a fool.

 


Lost Opportunities

April 2, 2017

Been traveling, work conference, then vacation immediately after.  That was poorly planned, as a lot of early mornings, with travel, with time zone changes, with 50 degree (F) temperature changes leads to health suboptimality.  But, that has little to do with gaming.

Work conferences and family vacations do not lend themselves to much in the way of gaming.  However, I have books to read, so I read on flights, something I should do more often as it really does reduce the discomfort of flying.

I read the first Grisha Trilogy book on one of the flights and most of another on another flight.  I have since finished the trilogy.

Wins.  Losses.

These are necessary things for drama.  Literature is replete with such.  Gaming?

As an aside, women’s college basketball is interesting for the first time in a long time.  Friday is why sports is sports.  As wagerable as it is, weird stuff happens, and that drives the future interest.

You have to both lose and win or gaming is boring.  Even competitive gaming.  Why do I value some of my achievements?  Because I lose often enough.  Why do I disdain certain achievements?  Because the challenge wasn’t there, the win didn’t come from doing anything more than showing up.

Losses can sting, but they build (player) characters.  If all you do is “17, hit, 6 damage, any more orcs, open chest”, well, I guess that is a videogame and videogames and videogame RPing have appeal, but it’s not the same level of appealing.

I like reviews.  I prefer movie reviews to movies.  I read reviews of TV shows I watch.  I read reviews of the Grisha books.  Why?

When I finished Wise Man’s Fear and got bored reading Auri’s book, I decided to start in on the Grisha Trilogy.  It seemed goth.  I was expecting dark fantasy.  I was not expecting young adult.  Not even romantic fantasy, though maybe I could have made a bit more effort reading blurbs.

Tonal whipflash.  What is romantic fantasy, btw?  I was thinking about it.  I differentiate a romance story with fantasy elements from a fantasy story with romance elements (aka all fantasy I am aware of).  To me, Grisha is in the former, but, then, I’ve read very little young adult.

I was not fond of the first book.  The rest of the series felt more pleasant, but that could be because I reset expectations.  Low expectations – enjoy life.

Wait, what’s the point of all of this again?  Well, I’m going to continue reviewing the series and maybe include something spoileriffic, but let’s take a moment to get back to wins and losses.

Kingkiller has wins and losses, as one might expect.  Grisha just feels like endless losses.  It’s morose.  That’s a turn off to me.  I don’t just want happy endings, I want “this is pleasant” at other times.

Which brings me to Arrow.  Arrow is better.  Prometheus is better.  It’s still way too dark.  Just stop.  Superheroes should have fun.  I know.  That seems weird when everyone thinks the only way to have drama is to be dark and when comics do get into bad stuff.  But, you don’t dwell on the bad stuff in my comics like TV shows love to dwell on bad stuff.  For all that soap operas are a model for superhero shows, I often found soap operas to be less dark.

I’ve played in campaigns that were just misery after misery.  That wasn’t fun.

Challenges, setbacks, losses – they don’t have to be a murderfest of murderyness.  They don’t need to involve torture and imprisonment and disfigurement.  Actually, if you think about quite a bit of fiction, the loss is just not getting a lot of money.  Having the potential love interest hook up with someone else, not scoring a big haul, getting assigned escort missions, having the regional map borders redrawn – these can be losses.

So, interesting reviews for Grisha3.  Some people absolutely hated it for how it resolved.  For many (I presume), the Darkling is the favorite character.  The complex bad boy who is oh so sexy.  Except, he’s neither complex nor bad boy.

Deeds Not Words.

More than anything else, L5R’s value to society is that.  Not a new concept, but it needs to be a mantra.  This is why I get so frustrated with sports talk shows.  I like sports talk shows.  Some of them are the most relaxing thing I usually do.  But, they obsess over comments athletes, coaches, and owners make.

Why?  I mean, why bother?

People say untactful things.  Politicians get crucified for it in many cases, though I don’t know why we are so concerned about what people say.  Is it insight into their souls?  Perhaps.  But, people aren’t paragons of virtue, nevermind that people don’t agree on what is virtuous.  I, for example, am not enthralled by sales tax increases, but I have no problem with gas tax increases (with credits or whatever for the trucking industry because, you know, the country is dependent upon trucking).

What’s important in sports is numbers.  Focus on numbers.  111-1 is a number that should have been a bigger story.  There should have been all sorts of sociology analysis on how losing saved the sport.

Darkling’s deeds – murder, torture, mind control.  That’s it.  Can say stuff, but that’s it.  There’s nothing complex there.  There’s no bad boy, just an awful man.

Sure, the series wasn’t suited to me.  I’m not opposed to romance being the primary driver … or am I?

I tried to think of what I read that was more romantic fantasy than not.  Spell for Chameleon?  Nope.  That’s somewhat comedic fantasy.  Anita Blake?  Now, here’s romantic horror … in classification.  But, I think the better description of the series when I enjoyed it was hard boiled detective novel meets supernatural romance.  There was a balance.  And, btw, if you want a real dark, sexy bad boy, Jean-Claude is that archetype.

I got to thinking about how you can identify romatic fantasy from fantasy with romance.  The romantic object in the latter is often underdeveloped.  John Carter/Barsoom books are romantic.  They are driven by the need to rescue love interests.  Hardly unusual when they were written.  But, still, the love interests are objects, something that reflects character rather than being interesting characters in their own right.

Spellsinger.  Love interests are bit players.  What of second Covenant series?  Better balance, for sure, but I don’t put the romance at the heart of the story, though there’s a relationship at the heart of the story.  The two lovers who struggle to just be happy together is so common that even when it’s huge, it doesn’t necessarily strike me as the point.  Well, maybe that’s more Covenant, which can be a burdensome psychological examination of victimhood rather than “I’m so jealous slutty empress batted her eyelashes at you, boyfriend material”.

Anime I often watch has similar balance, of it being more about fights or humor or whatever than true love.  Magic girlfriend shows so often are episodic humor.

Anyway, I enjoyed aspects of Grisha.  I would agree that it was a pageturner.  That doesn’t speak well of the term pageturner, though, as I was mostly waiting for some sort of resolution rather than looking forward to the next chapter.

I wasn’t bothered by the faux Russia culture.  I would agree that the worldbuilding was off.  It was neither overly missing nor done well.  I would say the problem is that the worldbuilding had the wrong focus.  I have no sense of one place versus another.  I don’t know why the various cultural elements are the way they are.  I didn’t care about NPCs (nor most of the PCs).  The politics wasn’t given room to develop.  And, everything was miserable, which might be a stereotype for Russia, but fantasy is about living in a world you prefer to live in to this one.

There was an opportunity to do something far more appealing to me, even given tropes that may get overplayed.  But, was I supposed to be the audience?

Reviewers hated Mal.  I didn’t.  I thought he was okay.  Third love interest?  Okay.  Neither OMG, so sexy.  Nor, seems a little marysue.  But, I’m not into guys, so maybe those characters were more appealing to those who are.

Pacing.  Having stuff happen is good.  Dwelling on certain narrative building things, like Covenant’s wife, is not enjoyable.  Grisha had maybe even a good pace.  I’m trying to tie back learning something from this series to gaming – give me more rope.

Anyway, I’ve talked about wins and losses before, but it’s my main takeaway from the series – it could have been so much more appealing if the PCs won more often.

Meanwhile, challenges in any sort of gaming don’t need to be torturefests.  They can be “I just realized if I dropped my lance on C-5 instead, I could have promoted it next turn and feasted upon your soul”.

Also, keeping love interests constantly fighting is not necessarily.  You know what’s great about soap operas?  Everyone hooks up with a ludicrous number of partners over time.  Who doesn’t want to see Kara and Oliver date?  Thea and HR?  The appeal?  Humor.  Soap operas are at their best when they are funny.  True love can survive until the show’s finale.

Well, the next series to work on is last Covenant series.  It’s a drag just trying to reread Runes of the Earth, which I hadn’t read in years.  I’m sure that will manage to prevent me from writing more about L5R character builds and combat strategies.