Mind Tricks

April 29, 2018

You may have heard.  V:TES is supposed to go back in print … again.

VEKN.net announcement.

I feel some enthusiasm.  I felt some enthusiasm last year for having some of the Anthology Set cards get printed.  Mostly, though, I think it’s because it gives something for other people to get enthused about.  I may not be that excited by the tournament scene as I expect the game to continue to be oriented to things I’m not that fond of – fat vampires and bloat.  But, new stuff causes new stuff to be tried in tournaments, which produces some level of increased variety.

We’ve been getting games in every few weeks.  That works for me.  I enjoy playing the game.  As imperfect as it is, it’s a really good game.

Which segues me to playing Magic last night.  Type P.  I have played a lot of Type P and was into it at one point in time.  I think what holds me back from being into it again is the lack of a similar culture. Type P appealed to me far more than normal Magic because of the ability to evolve decks and to strive for particular cards. The old crowd was really into those things as well, where the new crowd seems more focused on effectiveness.

After Type P, most enjoyment I probably got from Magic was sealed deck tournaments.  Maybe success had something to do with that as I won a Mirage event, got prizes in Stronghold prerelease for 5-1 or something, got Urza’s prizes for a free sealed deck tournament that dragged on forever, and came in second in an Invasion tournament where I was a card mule for a far more serious player.  Never all that fond of draft where I may have had decent decks but found the play just tedious.  Constructed could be entertaining at times in casual play, like playing my one copy of Necropotence in my Essence Vortex deck and having that cost me a game.

I don’t know if last night was unusual or I had just forgotten how I generally feel about Magic, but the drawing one card a turn thing was really annoying.  It’s such a bad mechanic that sucks the joy out of what is otherwise a brilliant game.

Of the six games I played, one was actually interesting.  It was the only game that was close and I think we forgot a special ability that would have caused me to lose rather than win at one life.  That’s the problem.  I can play six games of V:TES and find four of them interesting, six games of B5 and find three of them interesting, six games of Shadowfist and find four of them interesting.  There were numerous times I or my opponent could have scooped multiple turns before the game was over.  In a couple of cases around turn two … playing sealed deck.

Maybe the feel of the L5R LCG is a problem because I’m used to multiplayer CCGs where people get to have fun as opposed to two-player games where people just stomp on each other or grief each other constantly.  Of course, I could play some Ultimate Combat! and see if that will rekindle my appreciation for a two-player CCG.

The other players were playing Dominaria.  The set just didn’t seem remotely interesting.  Sagas are fine, but the cards I was seeing just seemed dull with there being not very strong themes in the set.

So, I knew some of the Phoenix expansion cards for L5R.  I got shown the rest of the cards.  So griefy.  I get that negative plays can make for a more balanced game, but it just strikes me as a lost opportunity.  oL5R was a terrible game (IME) because it had terrible mechanics.  But, I would argue I actually like magic samurai in that I like the RPG’s world even if it includes dumb stuff like ronin.  nL5R could have been fun, focusing on thematic elements.  Instead, it seems to be increasing the focus on mechanics over doing cool stuff.  In general, I don’t feel like I’m doing cool stuff when I’m winning, I feel like I’m beating my opponent down to where they can’t recover.

Yeah.

Give me Counter X for 15 to knockout out someone foolish enough not to play Movement.

Could be too late for me.  Could be that I’m only a social player.  A party hearty flopper.  I can’t deal with having a single opponent who is trying to win and not Vorlon Rescue Mr. Morden.

Well, there is Traveller, which can be played two-player.  I’d much rather play Traveller than L5R.  An interesting question is whether I’d much rather play Traveller than Magic.  I could say I think Traveller plays better, but that should be obvious and to have someone prefer a game they helped make over a game they bitch about constantly being nowhere near as good as it should be doesn’t strike me as compelling opinion.

Where I’m not clear what value I get out of L5R, as I don’t feel any thematic coolness and I don’t like the mechanics, I know I get different value out of Magic vs Traveller.  Magic is about discovery for me.  It’s why I like sealed deck, where I’m trying to think of the best way to build a deck, where constructed just feels too open-ended to me.  Traveller is something where I can learn that cards don’t play the way we expected, but I’m so much more focused on what my opponent is doing to try to determine what the game needs more of or less of through either their deck construction or their play experience.  The massive experience gap between me and everyone besides Jeff just causes me to not take my own play all that seriously.  Magic is also about visual appeal to me.  I don’t mean the card art.  I love things like multicolor templates and various land templates.  I like hybrid mana costs for cards.  Just get striking color combinations.

Change your perspective, change your world.  Maybe I get too far into my existing views on things and don’t try a different perspective.  Maybe I should embrace the idea of the quick scoop in Magic as fun.  Maybe I should roll a die when choosing what Ring for my attacks in L5R or when deciding how much Fate to put onto a dude because random chess is better than chess.

Speaking of painfully unpleasant.  Arrow.  I was explaining recently that the reason you do a Green Arrow show is so that you can knock someone out with a boxing glove arrow.  Can imagine how I feel about the tiresome angstaggedon that the show loves so much.  Flash at least tries for some amusement and Legends of Tomorrow does some amazing stuff along with the dumb.  Maybe the trick is to root for the villains because they pretty much constantly win until Counter X for 15 because … good has to suffer until it wins in some dumb ass way.  I can’t even bring myself to watch Supergirl, yet.  Maybe in May.  Meanwhile, Into the Badlands might get some viewing action – it got rid of its albatross storyline by fridging an idiot.  OTOH, child.  Off the top of my head, that worked in Dragonball Z and nothing else that comes to mind.

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Travelling 东西

April 21, 2018

Efforts to get more consistent about posting run into logistical limitations when I do such things as travell.

In this case, a familiar locale with an unfamiliar purpose.  Due to cutbacks on work travell and my interest in seeing people, asked my mother if she was interested in spending some time in Shanghai.  Since she was, got her a visa and spent a week in the same hotel I’ve used on every work trip, which oddly enough costs a lot more when the company isn’t paying for it.

In a nonchronological sequence, since this isn’t a convention report or whatsit where there’s more than one gaming thing to mention, going to display certain, select photos that I deem appropriate.

One of the things about going to Hawai’i is that buying chocolate covered macadamia nuts is passé as they are readily available in stores locally.  Now, there are types that aren’t commonly seen, so I still get some stuff or, commonly, I share boxes I’m gifted as I should not be eating much candy.

Convenience at what price? Cheap. Cheap price.

These were okay.  I hardly bought them for the edibility factor.  Nor did I buy them because I think it’s weird that you can get something in the largest city in the world (per worldatlas.com).  I just thought it was amusing that I could get it at a chain of convenience stores near the hotel and that it was so prominently displayed.

Speaking of convenience stores.  What do I want to drink when I’m in China?  $4 cokes?  $5 cokes?  $6 orange juices?  $9 milkshakes from Starbucks?  Well, actually, the $9 milkshake from Starbucks was really good.  By the by, did I mention that the first time I ever went to a Starbucks was to meet my French classmate in Shanghai?  Maybe I did.  Not only am I losing it, but I’m still pretty wasted from flying back Thursday and going to work Friday.  Sadly, I now acquire mugs with foreign city branding for people when I don’t know which of my friends who I would give a mug to actually like Starbucks.

Got off track there.  “Chinese” milkshakes that really just have one small scoop of ice cream?  Not remotely my level of sweet smoothies?  The “barely sweet enough” level of smoothie is okay, though, again, much less expensive when the company is paying for it.  Suanmeitang?  Well, suanmeitang is okay.  Sweet enough for me.  Works pretty well with spicy stuff, like when we do hot pot.

No, what I most desire is some Wanglaoji/Jiaduobao.  Sweet tea.  It’s what I mostly drink at home.  For only like $2.50 at restaurants (the kind I’d rather eat at in Shanghai), which is what you pay at the local grocery store here, can have sugary goodness that’s totally “healthy”.  Ningmeng cha also tends to work well (rather pricey at Starbucks in Lujiazui, but I guess you pay for river views and for being tourists).

Getting to the point.  At a convenience store, 5 RMB, or less than a dollar.  See, where I have travelled with folks who like blowing $100 on alcohol after arriving at the hotel, I have different tastes.  The tastes of the noble, virtuous, handsomeyishlikemaybeish, and geniusy common man.  Who toils in the cubicle many hours out of a weekday.

Speaking of tastes … [redacted]

Pretty, good.

Could have tried going to a Din Tai Fung.  But, one, reviews I’ve read about the one in this area lead me to believe in marketing over being better than the usual place I go for xiaolongbao.  Two, I thought we could use occasional breaks from Chinese food for Western food.  See, I don’t get on the alcohol types for wanting good steak or good Italian food when travelling, I just don’t see the point of doing that three nights in a row when you are in … uh … China, which has other options besides steak and pasta and pizza.  Oh, I did have lasagna and pizza on the trip.  And, two burgers.

Did I care about eight flavors of xiaolongbao?  No.  Eight pieces of garlic xiaolongbao would have been more my style.  I did have the Szechuan one, which tasted different but not better, and the foie gras (by accident), which was good.

Two of the things I ordered weren’t great at this meal.  The spicy beef vegetable soup wasn’t all that, being a lot of bean sprouts and just being too much food to go with the seven or so other things we ordered for three people.  The breaded pork was light on flavor and just inferior to the breaded sweet/sour fish that I didn’t order.  The shengjianbao were quite good.  I may be honkyish (especially in China if less so in the US), but I’m all for dumplings as long as they lack any recognizable seafood component and vegetable ones aren’t too vegetabley.

This was my favorite meal (don’t take offense other Chinese women I ate with) because it was my kind of Chinese food in a very relaxed atmosphere.  The roast duck meal was one of two times as an adult I was good with eating duck, but it wasn’t as relaxing a setting and involved wasting a larger amount of tasty food.

Not that this is a food blog, so let’s get to gaming …

Pretty, not good.

Er, the perfect transition?  Yellow pea flour does not make for a good dessert.  I took a picture of the menu because I didn’t want to eat this, but my friend liked it.  I don’t know what would have the correct firmness that I would like.  Cookie base would probably be too crumbly.  Mochi could probably be formed in some way, though I don’t know how much I’d like the end result.

Would you call this a “duck hand” – ha, ha ha?  Get it?  No?  I’m sure someone will out of my legions and legions of faithful readers.

Finally, we come back to Core Game Salon!

Traveller travel.

I just assume that you all know what Core Game Salon is or can read my other blog posts where I mention it.

While my demo was sparse, as I waited until the last minute to let Laurent know and chose a weeknight because I was waiting for decks to get shipped to the office for me to pick up, I like touching base with Laurent, George, and whoever else is in the 24th floor hood near exit nine of the Xujiahui Metro Station.  I had two other opportunities to hit CGS that might have seen more gamers, but, Saturday, after dinner, we felt pretty wasted and I didn’t have my package with giveaways, and, Tuesday, I thought there would be even fewer people, yet Tuesday is apparently a new day for a certain crowd to appear.

Laurent did explain to me some of how The 7th Continent works.

Well, that was my intensive, deep dive, into the seedy underbelly of gaming in the harsh streets of Shanghai.  If you are in that hood, might be able to get a Traveller game in.  Oh, I did miss out on playing some mahjong for unfortunate reasons.  I did play tons of Ultimate Yahtzee on the flight back to the US as well as a plethora of other e-games on the flights, but, other than not really getting some of the games and not having any sort of new solitaire game to publish, I also didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about our L5R campaign or other existing gaming.

Overall, a B.  I missed getting together with two people, one harder to get together with than the other.  The Suzhou/Zhou Zhuang trip was not thrilling, where I think what my mother and I would like more might be found in Hangzhou.  Hard to say.  But, I saw most of the people I wanted to see and the people I most wanted to see.  Bit too much of the sort of stuff I have time for on work trips, but I’m pretty bad at being a tourist.


Egg On

April 7, 2018

Once again, Easter V:TES happened.

Then, Thursday night played Shadowfist, where two of the local players played with the current owner of Shadowfist.

But, what you really want to hear about is my experiences recently with solitaire play.

So, let’s dwell on that for a while.

Flower Garden Solitaire.  Deal six columns of six cards and can use the rest of the cards to build up from aces to kings.  This was terrible.  Barring a lucky tableau, I fail to see how it’s possible to win and decisions are, therefore, largely meaningless.  I hate solitaire games that are hard to win and where decisions don’t tend to matter.

Eight Off Solitaire.  Deal eight columns (have no idea why the book’s author keeps talking about rows when dealing out cards in columns) of six cards, remaining four are in a card pool.  Build up from aces to kings where you can move cards from the tableau to your pool as long as you don’t have more than eight cards in your pool.

This was interesting.  Then, I realized it was way too easy.  Then, I tried six columns of eight and found that too hard.  Then, because I’m full of geniusness, I went 7×7 with a 7 card pool.

I give you 77-7, the latest solitaire game in no way created by anyone else and totally unlike any game someone may call Seven Off Solitaire.

It’s still kind of easy, but, then, so is the best solitaire game I’ve ever played (if you care about a game of skill that has a binary result of win/lose, unlike my solitaire bridge game which I play more often at airports).  While there’s a luck component to be sure, that’s true of all solitaire card games otherwise they would be pointless.  What I have been liking, before I get bored with it, is that there appear to be key decisions to be made at certain points.  Actually, it’s probably similar to FreeCell only this game doesn’t have a 99.99% win rate as FreeCell has.

It’s not entirely intuitive, but neither are other solitaire games.  Once you get that you don’t want long chains and have to build up from aces ASAP to clear tableau chains, get the gist of it.  When to clear a column to place a king is what I’m working on, while the possibility of replacing a king with another king in a column was an “a ha” moment for one sweet, sweet victory.

So, Easter V:TES.

Played two games as we only had four and someone had to go around 2PM.

Ian (POT/Obf) -> Rob (borrowed Hatchling) -> Devin (Shamblers) -> Brandon (cube Tremere)

I lent Rob a deck with prevent.  In our fights, not a whole lot happened.  In Shambler fights, he got beaten down a lot.  I held on to Horseshoes a lot as I don’t philosophically understand rush decks or pseudo rush decks.  Brandon went from in trouble to sweeping.

Ian (Aus/Tha/Vic) -> Devin (Thucimia mostly bleeds) -> Rob (borrowed Tzimisce) -> Brandon (Akunanse)

Rob got wrecked by Brandon.  Brandon constantly intercepted both of us, but I generally avoided a lot of flak through the power of Blood Rage, maneuver, Read Intentions, Rego.

Thucimia kept bleeding and Rob couldn’t really defend given that he lacked a ready minion with AUS.  A My Enemy’s Enemy came my way, which would have ousted me, I bounced to Brandon, who could have DI2ed it but didn’t.  He Rat’s Warninged only to have that DIed by Rob for the kill.  Then, Devin bled us out.

My deck amused me.  Standard plan of getting Sasha Vykos Advanced out and getting a Veneficorum Artum Sanguis.  Then, bring out Forestal and have him get a Vicissitude skill card.  Then, finally bring out Quira, who takes the VAS and gets two Vicissitude skills.  Now, it was typical in that I had zero offense for the first hour or so as I was busy tooling up and getting blocked by my predator.

Shadowfist

Looks much the same at Gen Con.

So, we have six because, of course, we are a group who still actually plays Shadowfist.

Rather than the much talked about possibilities for a six player game, we do three-player games.

Because gaming, like sports, isn’t predictable, Daniel, Joren, and Earl played one 2.5 hour game where Earl won because the other two decked.  Earl played a mostly Lotus deck with Monarchs, Daniel played Monarchs, and Joren borrowed Daniel’s monkey deck because monkeys don’t fly in our meta.

Meanwhile, Don, Justin, and I played 3.5 games.

The last game I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to because of time and so my Accupressure Masters didn’t really do a whole lot by the time we had to pack up with Justin winning.  Amazingly enough, when you don’t defend them with Hand counterspells, they are kind of terrible.

The game before that, I won off of Blossoms of the Black Lotus that didn’t get murdered like they often do.

The game before that, Justin won with cops because Don didn’t have another Nuked in hand after playing two earlier in the game.  I had four Cobra Clan Stalkers in play and was going to play a fifth before one got Imprisoned and I ran out of turns.  Don’s Project Apocalypse almost got stolen for the win with Locksley Station!!  That was when Nukeds happened.  We smoked it after that bid for victory failed.

In our first game, it was quick and lame as Justin kept putting out FSSs and made some lame bid for victory we couldn’t stop, as I was playing an Architect/Syndicate ambush deck where Don attacked right instead of left at a certain point, softening up one of my two Moebius Gardens to make any sort of damage enough.

I showed the Prince and Earl our actual Traveller product, as Earl hadn’t seen real product.

I probably should mention that they played standard Shadowfist, while we played all of our usual house rules.

What is the point of this point?  OKA, why did I start off with solitaire, when only ancient dinosaurs born in the 20th century, like myself, even touch decks of normal playing cards?

Rules changes.  They aren’t always a bad thing.

Sure, you eschew house rules for tournament CCGs because you want to play the game that’s going to see play when groupies are on the line.  But, I’m the only one who competes (and succeeds) at becoming the Champion of the Six Largest Economy in the World at Shadowfist out of our weekly group.

Shadowfist is perfectly fine to me played straight.  I think it’s more fun, on average, played with at least one of our house rules.  Shadowfist is a dual resource requirement game where players can end up doing nothing and never get into the game.  With our house rules, that’s really hard.  Now, we don’t abuse them.  Sure, you probably could just win off of superleap constantly with some events because there are so many sites to attack and it’s so easy to just run out a site whenever you want to make a bid for victory.  Plus, I’ve considered that our high power games could have decks built where there are far more hitters and less other stuff because you could consistently get them out.

In 20+ years of playing V:TES, I’ve played under a variety of house rules, as I’ve mentioned.  I’ve also played a variety of variants, including all of the meaningful storyline events, including Prophecies of Gehenna.  I’ve enjoyed variant V:TES, routinely not any less than straight V:TES.  I didn’t care that I needed to build 4cl decks for Pleasanton or couldn’t play normal vote decks in what I can only think to call the Bertram Group without expecting a rain of pain.

I already play house rules on deck construction in every European Championship I’ve ever played in with my extensive personal banned list.  And, I’ll do the same in the North American Championships coming up.

I’ll try Prehensile Tail, Ancilla Antics, Distinct Directive, or all sorts of other formats.  And, maybe, one of those formats is a better game.  Actually, maybe just Jyhad is a better game for some because it’s faster, more streamlined, and more action focused with a lower potential power level but a much higher power level than my usual casual play.

Sure, Battle For Earth, the Babylon 5 CCG format we only played to get promo cards was crap.  But, hey, CCGs are complicated and messing with the rules is even more complicated with all sorts of unintended effects, so the only way you figure out what’s fun and what isn’t is to play … a lot.