World Of Command

September 24, 2017

So, I have played some things recently that were outside the norm.

Old boardgame group got together and played two games we’ve played a lot:  Lords of Waterdeep; Scepter of Zavandor.  The latter was something of a teaching game for my friend’s son, who won easily … with emeralds.  You could go look up Scepter of Zavandor, look at prior posts where I contrast it with Outpost, or I could just say it’s a reskinned Outpost that fixes the massive problem Outpost has with snowballing victory or … maybe better way to think of it … lack of snowballing into irrelevancy.  Remember, if you can outproduce everyone, just keep pushing further and further ahead.

I also wrote up some V:TES decks, which is arguably so trivial for me to do that it hardly qualified as gaming related, more of a 10 minute thought puzzle per deck.

My friend and I played through some of a tutorial for the Myth boardgame.  Lots of stuff going on in that.  Because of hanging out with him, I got to thinking about playing/running a simple AD&D game.  So, I went to my stack of old modules and … couldn’t pull out a module from what was a stack of all sorts of things.  Instead, I pulled out Greyhawk Adventures.  Yup.  The AD&D hard bound book for AD&D/AD&D2e.  Because people who write blogs like these have this sort of thing just lying around.

I actually read some of it.  I looked at the adventures – I guess I’m the sort of jaded gamer who is the target audience for zero level play except I don’t have any interest in playing a loser [uh … no comment].  I read some monster entries, glanced at god write-ups, skimmed through some NPCs.  There’s so much potential in RPGs for amazing stuff, yet the yesterworld was just replete with game stats.  I guess it can be inspiring, somehow.

Made me think that I should suggest to TD to use a Gorgriffspidrascorp as a monster some year.

But, the most different thing was playing Magic.  My first play of Commander was in Stockholm because my first “play” of Caylus was in Shanghai, etc.  Rather than ‘fist each other, I borrowed a Commander deck and only played my Commander after two players were eliminated?!?  Might have been right before my prey was eliminated.  I think I attacked with my Commander once in the game.

I can see the appeal of Commander, to a degree.  I would rather play Advanced Squad Commander with Commander rules and 50 card decks or 60 card decks, but I get that lack of reliably is an essential part of people enjoying the format.  It does address some of the problems of playing standard constructed.  But, I realize at certain points in Commander games – all two I’ve ever played – that it still has Magic’s fundamental flaw of drawing one card a turn.

I was mana limited all game.  Finally got an artifact in play to accelerate beyond four mana a turn and had the artifact bounced back to my hand.  Sure, I won.  But, that’s because I have decades worth of multiplayer CCG experience and have some vague idea what the rules for Banding are (white not my preferred color but whatever).

Yet, as much as Magic has this flaw, other CCGs have other flaws and the only perfect CCG is …

No, Ultimate Combat! isn’t perfect.  No, the Traveller Card Game isn’t perfect.  What’s perfect are all of those individual experiences playing whichever flawed game where you just enjoy the heck out of what you are doing.  The Level the Playing Field vs. Not Meant to Be war I can vaguely recall while in Castro Valley playing with one of B5’s designers.  Ousting two players with Jake Washington in a tournament.  And, others that will become harder and harder to remember as I age.

So, I’m fine with playing Commander.  I’m fine with building Commander decks.  But, where other people get off on trying to build coherent Commander decks that abuse their Commanders’ abilities or whatever.

I.  I opened up a pack of Betrayers of Kamigawa and Saviors of Kamigawa to see if I got a legend to use.  I did.  Now, Champions of Kamigawa would make more sense, but I have fewer of those packs lying around, maybe one or two, maybe not even that many.  I am now at a point where I don’t know whether to continue to open Kamigawa packs until I can put together a 100 card deck or branch out so that I can support a 100 card black deck where I couldn’t care less if I ever put my commander into play.

Do I just open packs of things I have lying around until I can make a deck?  Or settle on particular blocks (much harder given what I have in packs)?  Do I try to preserve some way to track what I’m opening out of packs so that I can convert Commander cards into Type P decks?  Would I ever try to construct a real constructed Commander deck rather than a sealed Commander deck?  I don’t see why.  I don’t enjoy actually putting together constructed Magic decks.  Oh, sure, I enjoy thinking about them.  But, where V:TES with its no card limits and numerous close substitutes doesn’t feel onerous to me at all in terms of what I’m willing to play with, Magic constructed has always felt onerous to me, even if I could scrape together an Essence Vortex deck with one copy of Necropotence (and lose a game because I played Necropotence rather than just own with Essence Vortex).

I really like the idea of putting together a mono-color Kamigawa deck from just opening packs, but I don’t think it’s possible.  I’m not even sure how feasible it would be if I had boxes sitting around unopened.  The amount of packs I imagine I’d need to open to have a minimum number of non-basics to field a deck seems to be so incredibly wasteful (unless I can P the other cards somehow) that I can’t justify living such an extravagant lifestyle [quiet, tokens are a new toy].  I, of course, would rather build multicolor Commander decks.  So, maybe I dig through Ravnos or Return to Ravnos packs, except I don’t have like infinite quantities of those, either.  I could breakdown my Type P decks I never play and have little interest in playing to have stock.  I could even write down the contents to recreate the Type P decks if I ever felt that was sufficiently important in my life.

Given that every time I play Shadowfist, I think about how I could build new decks, yet rarely build new decks, can I get fired up enough to build Commander decks?

This is the beauty of Type P.  Five packs, 27 basic land, done.  Megasealed, which is what I’m thinking about, is just so resource intensive.  I already have to hunt for basic land just to complete P decks.  Scary how much land would be needed to field sealed Commander decks.

Interestingly, one of my friends gets me stuff.  Makes me feel guilty for not getting him more stuff.  Now, I’m totally good with my female friends getting me stuff as I do get them stuff, but that’s not gaming related and, thus, neither here nor there.  Anyway, he has gotten me Magic stuff that involves legends that could be used as the bases for Commander decks.  Since I don’t know what else I could do with constructed materials like those, since Type P is the only format I build decks for, seems obvious to make use of stuff people give me that’s, uh, gaming related.

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Labors Of Love

September 4, 2017

Who mentions love in a blog post some almost seven months from Valentine’s Day?  I’m that guy.

I avoid Pacificon because I don’t think it’s a good con and because I don’t think it treats GMs well.  When Celesticon was around, I got to the point of avoiding both because they split the gamerbase and made everything too much effort for what weren’t particularly good experiences.  I don’t have that justification anymore, yet I feel no particular desire to start attending Pacificon, which long long ago was my favorite of the local cons.

Close to the con, I was informed we were going to demo Traveller with actual sample cards.  So, I dragged myself the ten minute walk to the con that I normally make just to go to dinner with my friends and got a weekend badge.

Hmmmmm … let’s see.  I looked at the Conan RPG corebook for a bit.  I watched Arkham whatever (they all run together in my mind since it seems like pretty much a money grab to just make another variation of the same game).  I watched some AGoT 2e Boardgame play barely, glanced at some wargaming.

Mostly, I made myself available for demos.  Jeff had run a con listed event on Friday, which attracted more interest than our plop ourselves down wherever we could find space demoing.  Jeff and I talked about stuff, made some notes about next ship deck inclusions based on what we think the game could use more of.

It’s theoretically weird that I eschew saying much about Traveller here, but it does make more sense to post thoughts about the game on our website when we decide to launch it with content, which I expect to be soon.

No, the point of posting about the con is to give … insight … into my predilections, I guess I suppose.  I’m willing to actively oppose the activity of playing games when I feel like it.  I could have played Type P, but didn’t.  I could have played boardgames, but didn’t.  I could have suggested something, but didn’t.  I could have pushed for us doing something with the Conan RPG once I had a better idea when I was going to be at the con, but didn’t.

And, yet, I consider what I do as an activity of gaming.  Before I got into Shadowfist, some 20 years after it came out, I would watch people play because I knew the people.  I also played every few years, but, mostly, I watched people play.  I didn’t glean a ton from that, but I may have gleaned some tiny amount and I could have more-gleaned.

There are some games I ultraglean from watching.  Then, there’s discussing.

As an aside, I don’t have much desire to watch V:TES games, as I find them frustrating to watch, much like I find watching pretty much any CCG I play frustrating.  I realized why at the European Championships while talking to a Swedish player.  For games I know, I want to point out what people are doing that doesn’t make sense to me.  That totally doesn’t work.  Yet, I’m perfectly happy to watch games I don’t know and seek just to learn because I don’t have opinions on what people should do.  It’s not just CCGs, it just happens that CCGs are more likely to be games I know well enough to think I’m more brillianter than the people playing.  I can tolerate watching mahjong being played better because I used to do that a lot and, possibly, because I don’t care as much whether people make good decisions in simpler games.

Discussing games can be far more fun than playing them.  I never liked 1e A Game of Thrones Boardgame as a game, but I found it interesting as a puzzle.  Since it wasn’t terribly random, what moves should you intend on making as each position?  It’s like figuring out optimal moves for whatever boardgame given some particular set up.  Like how people talk about chess and bridge, et al.

Obviously, terrible play can also make for good stories.  I value my terrible RPG experiences for the ability to bitch about them forever.  The “mostly the game consisted of shooting our own mechs” Mekton game that prevents me from playing Mekton locally, the “when do the PCs get to do something instead of watching the NPC do stuff” Maelstrom game that solidified the unbreakable law that Brad and I are not allowed to play in the same scheduled RPG events, the “yup, this is a pretty typical way people play D&D” D&D games that mean I never will sign up for D&D at any con, etc. all offer something besides con strategizing.

Similarly, awful CCG experiences can make for stories that I’m sure everyone is utterly fascinated to hear about many times in their ephemeral lives.

Had two meals with con-goers and shed some enlightenment upon them as to the Truth.  What was that about not playing but still gaming?  Oh, yeah, probably 99% of my True Dungeoning is not actually playing it but wondering whether to sleeve more tokens, deciding when to jump into auctions, and adding builds to the app for various different formats of play since I now have to have significantly different builds for normal versus hardcore/nightmare, possibly different builds for hardcore versus nightmare, different builds for Grind, and do this for a bunch of classes I probably won’t play but might.

I guess the point of this post is not just that, yes, Traveller is progressing and Pacificon annoys me, but that we do things that sound suboptimal because we care enough.  Love, yo.

Extended credits:  Couple of us are going to Gamehole Con to play True D/G.  Since I both have real looking cards (and it would be very possible that I would have final print cards by November) and not anything to do in the mornings when there are no True D/G events, I expect to set up shop in open gaming or wherever and demo Traveller to those who wish to be exposed to a game so brilliant it like radiates UHEGRs or UHECRs or whatever (latter is more searchable if you don’t 说 my lingo).


KublaCon 2017

June 3, 2017

It seems like each year KublaCon is less and less convenient for me.  I don’t know if it’s because I do monthly financial reporting for work that is timed toward end of month/beginning of month or what.  Well, even with my previous company, where I didn’t have such things, there were things like doing training on the East Coast, so maybe what.

Add in how less enamored I am by local con RPG play and add in how Gen Con did something dumb and scheduled event registration on a holiday weekend, and what I get is a barely there fare.

I skipped Friday to try to get rest and/or something done for the Saturday evening Traveller demo.  I skipped Monday, even though there were two RPGs I had interest in, because of old man disease.

Saturday

I move slow.  Build my Shadowfist Classic deck, figure I’ll play it multiple times rather than switch decks between games, so I bloat it to an absurd 45 cards to give me lots of extra options.  Base it on my ole Aerial Bombardment, Fire in the Sky deck that sometimes worked … somehow.

I get to the con about 11:30AM and find out CCGs are in a different room this year.  Get to the room.  A good room!?!

Maybe trying to separate CCGers from mainstream sorts is a new goal, and we just got the benefit of isolation’s blessed windowfulness.

Watch Earl and Jason finish up on Star Realms.  Then, we get five players.  Earl keeps offering to sit out so that we don’t have to endure five, but he-y-y-y, it’s all good, who doesn’t love five player CCG play?

Game 1:

Drew (Architects) -> Earl (Hand Monkeys) -> Jason (Architects w/ Napalm Belchers) -> Miguel (Big Bruisers, et al) -> Ian (Blood Eagles)

Actually, I think maybe Miguel went first.  I’d give my deck a better name except:  1, unlike V:TES, there isn’t a bunch of real world flavor text to steal; 2, Blood Eagles.

I lived the cheese dream … I actually make an effort to do strong things in my Shadowfist tournament decks because I don’t have a history of repeated accidental success that leads to winning every tournament I’ve ever played with a Sensory Overload deck … and get Möbius Gardens, Test Subjects, and Manufactured Island out on turn one.  Or, I could be totally wrong and my Gardens was a Dockyard, otherwise known as the only other Modern relevant FSS, but I think it was a Gardens.

Then, it doesn’t take forever for me to get a Blood Eagles in play.  I’m doing stuff … I’m doing stuff.  Miguel also does stuff and I’m not so threatening that he doesn’t backwards or crosstable his stuff.  In fact, his armada of two Good Ol’ Boys is feverishly eager to inflict heinous beats upon my poor partially damaged Manufactured Island.

So, I Bzzzzzt! one of them.

Drew plays Loyalty Officers.  They eventually get cleared by Final Brawl.  Earl has a slow game, lacking Monkey madness but still Iron Monkeys and picks on people who have more power than I.  Jason can’t get any resources so keeps playing sites but eventually gets out a Napalm Belcher and the “fun” part of Shadowfist ensues.

Drew puts out Dr. Jean-Marc Ngubane, so he can unturn a Belcher.  My CHAR gets Tracer Implanted, so I never turn it again, though I considered the possibility of turning it when going for the vic-tor-y play.

Instead, CHAR is an Expendable Unit, and I eventually get down to Assassin Bug, Arcanomoth, Blood Eagles.  I believe Arcanomoth is turned for some reason and still in play but maybe got wiped by this point, then all of this stuff is wiped.  Earl and Miguel have generated heft, with Big Bruisers being kind of easy for my deck to kill if I have the cards but not so much when I don’t have the cards.  Everyone has been a threat except Drew.

I survey the sadness that will come after I pass my turn and decide there’s no place like resting all hope on an Assassin Bug.  Assassin Bug feasts on Ngubane’s soul as nobody has anything to intercept with.  Blood Eagles with two damage and an Arcano- … wait, not an Arcanomoth since my Reinvigoration Process gets undone … my Dark Traveler … my 2-Fighting Dark Traveler go for Drew’s damaged FSS for the win.

And, that’s Shadowfist.  Hey, pun-time.  My deck could have been called Traveler, The Next Generation to … um … to … em … to achieve ultimate dorkiness.

That was not a quick game.  Then, there was game two.

Game 2:

Drew  -> Miguel (Monarchs) -> Earl (Lotus w/ Uniqueness) -> Ian -> Jason (Lords)

This was not a quick game.  Miguel came out fast with Queen of the Ice Pagoda and continued to threaten, though never did the annoying Ice Sword play on her that I see so often.  With his Netherworld Returns, the game got funky at times.  His Monarchs kept getting beaten up, even Darkness going down, but Returns was undermining Drew’s ability to “We Can Rebuild Him”.

Earl just got stronger and stronger over time, though we did manage to toast a couple of his Underworld Trackers and Miguel did turn the Queen of the Ice Pagoda into a ghost before she could get Tortured Memoriesed.

I was not strong.  I discarded a couple of times before playing any cards.  By the time I could get a site and a foundation in play, I had lost something like six characters to discards.  When I finally play a CHAR to have something that isn’t a foundation in play, it gets toasted by a redirected fight of the Darkness Queen, leaving me with pretty much Arcanomoth as my only way to have more than a 4-Fighting character in play, and I couldn’t even do that because I didn’t have three Architects resources.

Seemed to be payback for game one to prevent someone from sweeping to undisputed victory for the Championship of the sixth largest economy in the world.

Miguel was so threatful, only by decking did he ceased being a factor, which also didn’t help me any as I kind of liked his threat factoriness to rein in Earl.  Jason got strong at one point with Lord Shi and Lord Hawksmoor, but he got beset by Wailing Apparitions.  Yes, that’s Shadowfist, and I told Earl I’ve routinely seen their annoying ability matter.

Drew got a Napalm Belcher and didn’t Belch Earl when Earl had one location and lots of little stuff.  Typical Shadowfist stoppage (aka every possible effect) stopped stuff to keep the game going.  Oh, I remember why I wanted Miguel in play – his sites were easier to take than other people’s.  I decked without a real chance to win.

Later, I found out Earl had won.  For you see, I had a Traveller demo to do.

Traveller Demo

We had like seven people, no one who actually knew about our Kickstarter.  We didn’t have great demo product to show people, but things seemed okay.  We are still moving towards putting what we think is a good looking, solid game out.  Mostly need to get things printed at this point.

Bohnanza

As mentioned, I defeat a 10-year old on tiebreakers.  Who’s the Bean Harvester Now?

Game 3:

Back to Shadowfist.  Miguel has stuff he needs to do, so time to play crummy less than five-player Fist.

Ian (Lotus Killing Rain) -> Jason (Reentry Squad) -> Drew (Hand) -> Earl (Purists)

I so hated this game.  It happens.  It happens with V:TES, with B5, with … er … Blood Wars? and all sorts of other multiplayer card games.

Some day, I need to actually have more Killing Rains in my Killing Rain deck since I rarely play them.

Here’s the problem.  Jason’s deck is a site suppression deck.  Drew didn’t play sites but somehow got enough power to keep putting out annoying Hand characters like Buddhist Bellringer and Reformed Bandit.

None of us had answers to Reentry Squad until late in the game, when I was irrelevant.  The thing was that early in the game I wasn’t irrelevant, getting enough fight in play to take sites, but I didn’t know what to do when only Earl had any sites in play.  Oh, sure, if I was the only one with dudes, I could take on the table, but Jason and Drew had dudes, just no sites.  Then, my sites kept getting taken out by either Jammer crap or being attacked, which meant I couldn’t generate any power as my dudes started disappearing, which led to Shadowfisticus Ineffectualitus – an extremely common disease when playing normal rules.

Sure, it was funny when I took one damage to each of my FSSs and I revealed two Diamond Beaches to go with my third Diamond Beach, but, after that, I was sitting around waiting for Earl to win.  For, you see, Earl’s decks tend to have long game play, so they will keep getting Mutators out or whatever and no one will board wipe.  I did try an Underworld Coronation on my Exorcist, but, predictably, Jammers players always have Who’s the Monkey Now? in hand when I play character removal.

Drew eventually ended up winning after spending much of the game attacking right, with a decent sized horde that included some superleap.

The Thursday night group whines about superleap constantly, but it doesn’t really bother me that much.  I find sitenuke far more annoying not because it’s more powerful but because it undermines the basic nature of the game of putting sites in play and having characters attack them.  I find power steal far more annoying because it can easily lock a player out of the game.  I find edges far more annoying because the power level on a lot of them is way too high for a repeatable effect when there’s really relatively little edge removal in the game.

Pretty much every Shadowfist game really needs one Final Brawl played, one Thunder on Thunder played, maybe one Neutron Bomb played.  Instead, either feast or famine on these sorts of plays, though only the first gets really annoying when it happens multiple times.

Sunday

Gen Con event registration, the second most stressful day of every year, though, actually, my wish list hardly mattered due to how many HoR events I was signing up for.  When I saw Don Thursday, he said he didn’t get into anything he tried to.  I just assumed I’d get into everything except Friday 2PM because I wasn’t our group’s True Dungeon guy.  Dave had the lamentable task of trying to get us into TD and True Grind.

We did well.

I go back to sleep.  I eat something at home.  While I did have tan tan mian from Shanghai Dumpling Shop, I will say this – I’m disappointed with what was my favorite restaurant.  Both tan tan mian and the sesame dumplings in crushed peanuts are nowhere near as good as they used to be.  Yeah, I can continue to get savory dumplings from them, but I miss what were two of my favorite dishes in the panverse.  Also, Zorba’s pizza way overpriced for what it was.  So many places could drive to in the area that would interest me.

I roll into the con 3:30PM to be available for pickup V:TES and to drop off Anthology Sets.  I sit around for a while with only Brad and Rob being around to talk about stuff.  I also unload some 30,000 cards I was sitting on to be passed to needful players.

Seriously, I don’t know if it’s because of shipment costs, but anyone in California can effortless have a 30,000 card collection just by waiting around until someone leaves the game.  V:TES staples are not remotely hard to get.  I could probably drop 10,000 extras on someone if I felt so inclined.

My V:TES event starts half an hour after the Shadowfist Modern tournament.  I have no chance to prove I dominate at all multiplayer CCGs that lack Dominate.  I was the defending Modern champion from last year’s Kubla.

We have seven players at first.  Yes, multiplayer CCGs are a Bear Market when it comes to having the right number of players.

I don’t try running tournaments at cons anymore, just too unpredictable who is playing, how long anyone is playing, etc.  So, I give away my precious boosters as table prizes and let people play for a pack.

I win my first game with like 11 Hermana Mayors in play or it timed out or whatever.  I remember the last game, when tiredness was kicking in, that I killed my predator with Can’t Take it with You to table split with my prey.  My predator had like double digit pool.

It’s not that I’d rather play Shadowfist.  It’s just that getting to play CCGs is rare enough that I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to play all of the CCGs I could.

Long, boring drives home after midnight.  I’ve got to start scheduling my events at 8AM, when I’m up and at ’em.

Traveler, The Next Junction Point

Faction: Architect
Size: 45

Architect Cards (24)
Characters (14)
3x Arcanomoth
2x Assassin Bug
4x Blood Eagles
2x CHAR
3x Test Subjects

Edges (2)
2x Reinvigoration Process

Events (8)
3x Aerial Bombardment
2x Bzzzzzt!
1x Expendable Unit
2x Fire in the Sky

Generic Cards (21)
Characters (2)
2x Dark Traveler

Events (8)
1x Ejector Seat Malfunction
1x Salvage
5x Scrounging
1x The Algernon Effect

Feng Shui Sites (10)
2x Dockyard
5x Möbius Gardens
3x Manufactured Island

States (1)
1x Disintegrator Ray

You know, just because Imprisoned, Nerve Gas, and Neutron Bomb are on my personal banned list doesn’t mean I don’t love me my Architects.  Yeah, I actually find Architects very pleasing, sometimes even more pleasing than Lotus for when I’m tired of same old, same old deck building with Lotus.  That’s me – the removal guy.  Yup, I’m a Red/Black kind of player.  I Shake Up.  I … I … have a hard time continuing the theme though B5, WoT, et al do have character removal.


DunDraCon 2017

February 20, 2017

Should be reasonably quick.

Friday, head from work and get to con at 5:30PM, which is not long but felt long in the rain and with a missed turn.

No dinner plan.  Jeff and I do two hours of Traveller CG play.

Saturday morning, I did my usual pastrami (unfortunately on a bagel) and peach smoothie.  Ran my Rio Grande games.  I taught Cardcassonne, Assyria (which ran surprisingly long).  The Assyria game was incredible for how close it was.  At times, it looked like someone was behind only to develop in a way that allowed for catch up.  The game ended with the winner being one point ahead of second (140-something to 140-something) and last place only being maybe 6 points behind.

I show Loch Ness to one player, when we sit around waiting to see if more people show up.  He’s not enthused.  We play two player Assyria, which I hadn’t done before.

Then, V:TES.  So, I’m all in favor of new players or returning players, but it’s not fair to anyone to throw people who don’t know how to play into a five player game.  In hindsight, quick hindsight as I realized when the game ended, the way to teach someone is with three player games.  The more time other players take, the less the learning player spends doing things and seeing what happens.  Also, never give a new player “toolbox” Gangrel or Brujah or Nosferatu or any of the other clans that don’t bleed for a bunch.  It’s incredibly frustrating to be trying to bring out allies and retainers or to bruise bleed or to rush or whatever when a player could have been learning Govern/Conditioning.

It’s not just being a simple deck.  My +1 STR deck with Sport Bikes that I played wasn’t complicated in what it was trying to do.  An inexperienced player needs to see and learn bleed.

We really need more demos and casual learning games to recruit.  Alternatively, throwing someone into a fire can work … if they are not at a con.  If it’s all V:TES, all of the time, only people who attend such things are likely to be motivated to learn all sorts of challenging rules.

Sunday morning, I actually played a RPG.  I put my priority into Feng Shui.  The game was enjoyable, but a few things.

Feng Shui’s mechanics just seem suckier and suckier as I endure them.  Skill rolls are boring because you either have an insane skill that should make rolling meaningless or you have a target number so high that it’s far too unlikely you make the roll.  But, that’s not the big problem.  The big problem is that FS combat sucks.

I loved our home campaign of FS back in the day, and I enjoyed combats where we would all whip out our AK-47s, so it’s not impossible for combat to be fun.  It’s just unlikely.  Mook murder is incredibly unsatisfying.  Named battles are tedious grindfests.

Sure, the set up for the combat can be made to where there’s more to do than blast away over and over again.  But, the thematics of FS lend themselves to mechanical monotony.  See, the action flick is typically about beat down.  But, it’s beat down that doesn’t particularly work.  Named characters take way too long to take out.  Everyone is doing their own thing rather than “ritual rending” big bads into oblivion.

I used a homebrew for Feng Shui Tu Huo precisely because I knew combat was a weak point with FS and not a weak point with L5R.

The GM did have cool cinematic combat that didn’t involve mechanics at all, based on playing cut scene music.  Meanwhile, normal combat just dragged on interminably.

The other thing is that both my RPGs put action-y stuff after breaks.  That’s not the end of the world, but I think it’s suboptimal.  Players who want to use their combat abilities are going to wonder if they ever get to use them.  Players in general are going to get whipsawed by how much the game changes in nature between character interaction and dicefesting.

I keep thinking that the games I should run should be high action, like FS thematically, with an opening of dicefesting and more dicefesting after a reflection point, second reflection point, final dicefesting.

Finally, the party did some really weird stuff.  One group got thrown out of the police station for trying to convince the sheriff that we were in town to help in ways that didn’t lead to constructive discourse.  The other group choked out a forest ranger for unclear reasons.  It was hilarious.  When two PCs got arrested and one of them called our monster hunter team boss to get help getting out, his response was “Just two?”

I had nothing afterwards, so I walked over to try to get curry only for the place to be closed (even though internet said it was open), so I got a burger at the Hopyard, which was okay foodwise but going to restaurants by yourself tends to be rather boring.  So many of the places I wanted to go to or try just had awful hours, being oriented towards breakfast/lunch, which I don’t have time to run around to get.

I played some turns of Paths of Glory with Jeff because he wanted to talk about wargame mechanics.  We played a three player A Game of Thrones LCG 2e game, which had all of the usual elements of what does not enthuse me about the game – inability to play cards, getting annihilated by things I can’t do anything about, having no way to hold on to gains and just getting rolled with no comeback ability.  Now, we were not playing real decks.  But, real decks make me often feel the same way, which maybe is more due to how I wasn’t involved in building something with the economy and permanents I want.

Monday, I played in a Changeling game.  It’s a recurring con game where many of the players were used to playing specific PCs.  I had little choice and took the leader.  Oh my … it actually worked out fine.  While I hate being party leader, I could play a somewhat subdued leader who mainly stepped in when there was a reason to step in.

It was really good in certain ways early on – both my RPGs had really good role-players in them.  Hilarious, meaningful feeling.  But, when we left town, too much worrying about trivial things, like whether to eat a restaurant or a fast food place.

I didn’t feel a lot of Changeling to the game.  I hadn’t played Changeling in a long time, plus I haven’t played Changeling much, so the mechanics of how your powers work were mostly lost on me.  While there’s the struggle between growing up and wonder in the ethos of the game, there wasn’t much of that conflict in this game.  This was far more about interpersonal relationships, which I don’t have a problem with, as I like soap operas, but I can see someone wondering why there isn’t more magic.

Admittedly, if you have 10 player games, you kind of need the players to interact with each other a lot to give everyone time to do stuff.  Apparently, I played my character the way he is normally envisioned.

Getting back to mechanics for a moment.  In both games, there were lots of things on the character sheets that never ended up mattering, including a bunch of “this is what sets you apart” stuff.  Even if the stress is on character interaction, still seems to me that it’s good to make use of abilities characters have.  My PC had True Faith, which is supposed to be rather rare, and at no point was it mechanically relevant, as an example.  Of course, in the FS game, a couple of my abilities were used at the end in what was far more of a cut scene than actually resolving things, so that made the abilities irrelevant (to play).

Or, choose a different system that doesn’t give PCs these abilities.  Now, I guess it’s a lot of work to mix and match systems, plus the GM may really like part of the system and just not care about other parts.

Score

Amusingly enough, it was my mother who asked what score I’d give the con.  I’d give it a 6 out of 10, as something pleasant but close to mediocre.  I’d give the gaming a lower score because of the non-RPG stuff.  The RPGs were enjoyable but could have been more so if there was a faster tempo and/or more plot.

I got into both RPGs I tried to get into.  As both were series, I find the parties interesting.  But, I just don’t really care about playing con RPGs at local cons, anymore, because I’ve had the awful games, I’ve had the amazing games, I’ve had a bunch in the middle.  I’m just not engaged at the level that I can get engaged with trying out something new at Gen Con, playing HoR, playing certain home games.

Nostalgia kicked in to some degree.  What I miss with gaming is more the small group V:TM game, Conan, doing research for FSTH/LBS/Solomon Kane.  I don’t think it’s because I was wrong about con games being on average better, but it’s that I’ve done enough of them that there’s not the same level of resonance that sets in.  They are increasingly blurring together, might even get that way with Gen Con games at this rate, though 2017 is a big HoR/TD year (in theory), so I won’t have as many miscellaneous RPG sessions.


Forgive And Remember

February 6, 2017

This is my 499th blog post.  I think I have an idea about the next one that makes sense as a milestone post.  But, when it comes to real world, this is more important.

My youngest brother is part of a team Kickstartering something that doesn’t have virtually anything to do with gaming.

Direct link to Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/71323644/somaliland-the-abaarso-story

Link to Facebook post (then click to share): https://www.facebook.com/somalilandfilm/posts/1268242429935727

Expanding educational opportunities and developing the international community is something far more noble than anything I spend my time on.


I did have some thoughts on gaming.

I played three games of Second Edition A Game of Thrones LCG yesterday.  It got me thinking.

But, first, some comments on AGoT card games.  I played the CCG when it was new.  I was amazed at how similar it was structurally to Babylon 5 and looked at the designer credits only to not recognize the names.  Not to say it played anything like B5 or Wheel of Time, but it was e-e-rie.

I hardly played in the next 15 years.  I’ve not read any of A Song of Fire and Ice nor have I watched a complete episode.  Nothing I’ve ever heard enthused me (okay, one thing I’ve heard about the TV series might interest a dude …).

These games were far more comprehensible than anything I had played previously.  In part, that is likely due to each time I play I get more familiar with the strategies.  I think it also helped that I wasn’t just suddenly handed a deck for an impromptu beatdown but knew I would be playing and was handed relatively simple decks (limited card pool).

So, I got to thinking.  Not so much about AGoT.  I got to thinking about decisions.  Yup, decisions, again.  I don’t mean deckbuilding decisions, though I whined about a deck I played not having enough economy and cheap characters.

The impact of decisions on play.  Why do I find games like V:TES and Ultimate Combat! more fun than games like AGoT and L5R (card game)?  Why do I kind of hate Outpost, yet find The Scepter of Zavandor to be like my favorite EuroBG?

Probably for multiple reasons, but it occurred to me that a reason could be that mistakes are far more forgiving in the games I prefer.  Outpost is a game, in my experience, where, if you make one mistake, you are waiting for the game to end.  Defend that province?  Oh, sucks to be your lack of any characters.  Don’t defend that province?  Oh, economic shortfall ruins you.

Can put aside some of these games as not being terribly relevant to hardly anyone.  Let’s bring V:TES into the discussion.  You can lose a game by making a bad decision in the beginning.  You definitely lose games by making bad decisions at the end (by you, I mean, a lot of people and me, or I would have had the first Abominations win and couldn’t have put Conditioning on my personal banned list).  However, because there are so many players and the game isn’t a race (like B5), mistakes often not only go unpunished but provide advantages.  Get Kissed by Ra early on?  Hey, hang out in torpor for a bit and have people gang up on the table threat.

AGoT has always felt like a game where decisions mattered too much.  Not that it’s alone.  Magic makes me feel like decisions matter too much, which might not be the case if you drew more than one card a turn.

I don’t just look to be able to play odd decks (aka forgiving deck construction) but also look to be able to enjoy playing without the pressure of always having to make an optimal decision.  Oh, gee, note why I don’t like chess.  The randomness of card draw with hidden information feed the idea that you aren’t always going to make the correct decision.

Note how this angle on game features ties into how I’m not really that into playing Dragon Dice or CMGs, where there’s a lack of hidden information and the randomness is still calculable.

Branching off into RPGs, why I got so annoyed with Conan d20’s lack of viable character builds is that a poor decision just assigning attributes was crippling.  Meanwhile, the much less rigid [sic!!] character building of L5R has always appealed to me.  Yup, L5R less suicidal character creation than Conan – that’s molybdenumic.  Yes, Stamina 4, Willpower 2, with Intelligence 3, and Spears 4 is probably going to feel masochistic, but you can get out from under this awful by leveling off Earth and “remembering” that you are a Boar who Mai Chongs like mad.  Or, if not a bushi, can find some excuse to Multiple Schools into shugenjahood.

Some people are into the intensity that can come with gaming.  I’m not.  I want to be able to guess what to do and, while that may mean I lose, at least I still have a chance to come from 25 points down in the second half while not having shown the ability to stop the run.


North Orléans

November 14, 2016

So, wedding Saturday took a few hundred people to Leesburg.  Very nice wedding.  I know, this sounds like a strange way to articulate one’s perspectives when it’s the first marriage for any of my father’s children, but this is not the place for meaningful thoughts.

I did consider how the intersections of people in real world environments can be a model for RPG campaign world building complexity, but I don’t know where to go with this that isn’t obvious.

I happen to know people besides family and friends of family in the DC area.  Whether it’s V:TES, B5, friends of Dave’s, HoR, there are just people I could game with.

So, I gamed with some.  The remnants of the V:TESers gathered to play a couple of boardgames.

Orléans

I quite enjoyed the way this plays.  I don’t know if it’s balanced, more balanced using the expansion that sets events, which we used, or how the base game/other scenarios play.

While I never understood why Precedence thought Sack Armies was a good idea for a collectible variant from CCGs, I’m okay with games where you draw from a bag.  I think I made some terrible plays and ended up in second, where it wasn’t all that close.  Does that mean the game is hard to figure out?  The game is more forgiving than it seems?

The disparity in results is concerning.  I just find boardgames where players end up far apart even when they aren’t far apart in skill to be problematic.

But, the forming of worker sets was fine.  There were a variety of things to do.  I was the wool master, Baron von Wool.

I’d certainly go for a replay and see if actually understanding what you are doing makes it better or worse.

Shipwrights of the North Sea

You make viking ships.  You draft cards.

I was not as pleased with this game.  The interactions in the game felt distant and griefy at best.  The way you can know that you are going to lose and maybe another element gave me a Settlersesque experience.  I don’t hate on Settlers like a lot of people do, but it’s not something to be looking forward to.

The card play and actions just weren’t all that compelling.  It was okay.  But, I’d have serious concerns about replay experiences being any more interesting.  Part of it is that the cards are often really dull.  Sage just seems awful.  Gaining one resource compared to two or three gold compared to five is a case of clear lack of elegance in that other games often provide weaker effects that are attractive in other ways.

Not much else.  At the bowling alley, bowled rather than play any arcade stuff.  Solitaire when traveling, of course.

As social circles expand (not that some of these folks even know I’m capable of speech given my social peculiarities), maybe try to visit more often, which isn’t likely to rekindle V:TES play but may lead to something else, something exciting and new or dull and old, whatever.

Shadowfist Accessories Kickstarter going into final days.  Pondering what to do about it.


KublaCon 2016

May 30, 2016

I’m not a fan of posting two posts on the same day, so I could have scheduled this to post tomorrow, but I won’t since the UC! post I made earlier today is only relevant to, I’m sure, a very small number of people.

I have become even less invested in local cons.  Because I usually commute back and forth to KublaCon, I don’t have to be there all weekend.  Much of my enthusiasm, actually, is to go to my favorite Chinese restaurant and get my favorites, though it seems to be always really busy these days.

I had work Friday, like a lot of people.  I went home and built some Shadowfist decks and realized I didn’t need to be at the con until noon Saturday to do anything I cared to do.

Saturday

After getting tan tan mian, I get to the con at about the perfect time, finding a close by parking spot on the street.  Why do I mention this?  As far as I’m concerned, the parking situation has been resolved and people should stop complaining about it.

Shadowfist classic.  Top prize – box of 7 Masters versus the Underworld.  How fitting.

Because, I have sucked in Shadowfist tournaments.  I may have won a game or two but was never a credible threat to win a tournament.  I decided to play coherent decks for a change to see if all that really matters is building the best deck possible, like how all other multiplayer CCGs are entirely about building the best deck.

I had won every game I ever played playing a 7 Masters deck (I had Kunlun Clan Assault in one or two other decks that didn’t always win).  That is no longer true.

Game 1:

Miguel (Virtuous Hoods/Proving Ground), Ian (Master of None), Earl (Purists)

I get a terrible start where I can’t really play any cards as I get a lack of 7 Masters resources.  Miguel and Earl fight a lot, balancing the table some.  I eventually can start playing cards, including a free Red Bat and a free Jade Willow.  I win.

Earl’s tiebreakers are crap.

Game 2:

Steve (Monarch Battleground), Miguel, Ian

Steve got lots of battlegrounds in play that I wanted to eliminate, he also got a couple hitters in play.  I kept playing hitter after hitter until I won.

Steve’s tiebreakers are crap.

Finals:

I convinced Earl to have a finals rather than a third round as I didn’t see any way I don’t win if there isn’t a finals.

Earl, Steve (7 Masters, no foundation *characters*), Ian

I get out strong, Monkey Fools the Tiger wrecks me.  Earl has a very weak early game, so it’s just me and Steve trying to cripple each other.  I get out Jade Willow.  She’s gone.  Steve gets out Jade Willow.  She’s gone.  Discerning Fire kept Steve in check by taking out multiple masters.

Steve gets out Ghost Wind.  We don’t have enough left to stop him.

To beat the Master, you have to play the Master.  I have won every game I have ever played with this broken faction except when playing against this broken faction.  And, I’m not that good at Shadowfist.

I pick up promos I didn’t have.  Yeah, promos.  Ian loves promos.  He so loves promos.  Promos are the best thing ever.  Remember, Disarray and Destined to Be is a bombo and should not have won me that Babylon 5 tournament to get me placed into Worlds.  Yesss.  You cannot combo two promo cards and make other people incapable of winning unless you play Dragonball Z or whatever.

Actually, I don’t play promo cards in my Modern decks because I don’t know which are legal.  I also largely don’t play promos at all because they aren’t organized to where I know where they are.

V:TES

So, the tournament ends and I play some Dresden Files Coop Boardgame that I just find really weird because it just seems incredibly limited.  All coop games are somewhat solitaire like, but the randomness in this game is so low, that this game feels like playing extremely fancy solitaire.  Like, you don’t need any of the actual rules and could just get a deck of 52 cards and play solitaire and it would be about as interesting.

Anyway, V:TES.

We had 8 people.  We still couldn’t play a tournament because people won’t commit to playing tournaments at cons in any semblance of making them meaningful.  Some guy left after the first round and we had 7.

We played four games.  Brad swept two.  I got the same number of VPs but didn’t sweep my two, so he won.  Promo cards for everyone and packs for table winners, which is kind of meaningless for me since the prize support is all stuff I own.

I did play my Ani/Nec/Trochomancy deck both games because it’s … fun.

I talked to a few people about the demo that was happening Sunday morning.  None of those people showed up for it.

Sunday

I got into a Slayers d20 game.  I was not all that enthused because I kind of just don’t care about most things, but it was an opportunity to play a RPG at the con.  The GM didn’t show up.

I hung out with Brett for his V:TES demo for hours, he did a demo, we went to have lunch.  I’m just not that enthused by rice cake.  I ordered stir fried rice cakes to try them, even though I know a friend of mine from China had ordered rice cake when we went there and I didn’t care much for that dish, either.  I did get the all important sesame balls rolled in crushed peanuts, which ranks up there with ice cream as an elite dessert.

It was unclear how many we were going to have for the Shadowfist Modern event, so Earl and I played some Star Realms while the others got started.

To be blunt, I hate Dominion.  I find it a bore.  I hate Thunderstone, same reason.  Lots of chrome for virtually no game.  Star Realms is actually a good game.  I’d rather play a CCG than a deckbuilding game, but it’s just what a deckbuilding game should be like.

Earl beat me in the two-player.  I won a three-player off of exactly enough damage.  I left off midgame to play in the Shadowfist event and my sub won the other three-player with a very Blobby deck.

Shadowfist Modern

Ian (Queens of Nu Gua), Drew (Lotus), Andy (Ascended Insurance Policy), Paul (Jammers)

What was funny was that my Daughters of Nu Gua were fairly easily blocked as many of Drew’s characters didn’t have magic.

I got three sites in play with little on the board.  Andy was struggling hard to play anything.  I put out a Daughter and Deadly Fansed her to take Drew’s Emerald Mine.  She didn’t die due to a lot of help from Medicinal Flower Garden.  I played a second Daughter and had event stoppage and Andy’s damaged Dockyard game me the win as Drew had just too little to clear it out earlier.

Same group, same decks.

I didn’t get out to a fast start just an efficient start with a Temple Guards and Butterfly Swords to burn for power.  Andy couldn’t play much besides sites that no one took, so he had lots of power but only foundations in play.  Drew got out three sites.  Paul benefited from no one being concerned about him.  Andy on four sites in play and power was a threat.  He could have made a bid for victory with Tears of the Crocodile but didn’t, knowing Drew had a bunch of character kill.

On the last turn, I pointlessly went for the win, knowing the table would stop it, but I Blade Palmed one of Andy’s sites to put me at 4 and everyone else at 3.

Yup, no character with fighting more than 4 in my deck, and I win my first Shadowfist tournament.  Here’s the lesson, kiddicos – great art trumps great cards.

Thanks to Earl for running events, Andy for playing in one of them, and everyone else who played.  CCGs are the best competitive games anyone has ever come up with – they should be played, even bad ones.

Monday

It’s Monday, and I never left home.  The KublaCon schedule was just bad.  It’s a bit … ironic? … that Kubla used to be ManaFest and CCGs only and the only events I played in were CCG events.

I didn’t hang out much with folks.  I didn’t talk newConan with Brad.  I just thought about how I could hit my dumpling place as often as possible and had ludicrously overpriced and terrible pizza from a place in San Mateo.

I actually like pizza, from chains.  I just don’t get how anyone charges more than the chains when pizza is the cheapest thing you can have someone else make for you that rates as food.

Grade?  I so don’t think grades even matter anymore.  What I want to do is often not available or is dependent upon people wanting to do pickup games at cons.  The schedules are just so not my thing, unlike Gen Con, where I would have played in double the number of events if I could have.  That I didn’t even play a RPG at Kubla was a torn signpost.

While V:TES has sucked more at other cons, that there’s no stability to how many people are around is really frustrating for having people get a chance to just play more.

I did however have some interesting conversations about CCGs because, you know, Kubla is all about the CCGs.

Magic.  I was doing my usual rant about how the draw one card a turn in Magic is what fails it.  I gave the example that paying 3 life to draw an additional card [in draw step, probably only once a turn] would have made it far more interesting, though it could also be argued that it makes it way more snowbally.  Really, even draw 2 cards a turn is a far better game.  Anyway, this would make life gain far more attractive.

I was talking to Brett and explaining some things about Precedence CCGs – B5, WoT, TR.  He thought the Shadow War mechanic was interesting only in reverse for V:TES.  Instead of making it harder to win, something like Antediluvian Awakening coming up to make everyone die.  I put out the idea of having it happen at 10 turns, then a second at 15 turns.  Of course, what makes V:TES slow is players not mechanics.  Either players who don’t take their turns quickly or players who build decks weak in offense or both.  In other words, everyone in our area I can think of.

The far more interesting thing to me is the discussion about redoing V:TES with no ousts.

My concept is that you get VPs for reducing someone’s pool below a certain threshold maybe to zero and you get VPs for torping vampires and maybe burning allies or maybe not.  You lose VPs for diablerie or burning vampires.

So, how does pool work if it can go to zero?  You constantly regenerate pool when below a certain level.  For instance, you gain pool when below 10, gaining like 3 pool a turn or something.  You gain VPs if you can reduce a player’s pool to maybe something like below 5, maybe more if you go to 0.

How do you win?  Most VPs.  Most VPs when?  Thought about time, but I don’t think time works.  Thought about a race game, like Babylon 5 and a bunch of other games, where 20 VPs wins.  But, that doesn’t interest me.  I think turns is interesting, if tricky.  Have a thirteen turn game.  Most VPs after thirteen turns wins.

Of course, the kingmaking in such a situation is rather problematic.  V:TES does a fairly good job of limiting kingmaking through its ousting mechanic.  But, it can really suck to not be playing for an hour while other people are.  Plus, this rewards beating people up.  Plus, this punishes people for burning vampires, which leads to an interesting assessment on the relative merits of permanent removal versus VPs.

Name:  Master of None
Faction:  7 Masters
Size:  40

7 Masters Cards (19)
Characters (12)
1x Ghost Wind
1x Gold Lion
2x Jade Willow
1x Monsoon
2x Mountain Hermit
1x Red Bat
2x Wah-Shan Clan Warriors
1x Wudang Monk
1x Wu Man Kai

Events (6)
3x Kunlun clan Assault
1x Monkey Fools the Tiger
2x Pao Yeh Pao Lo Mi

Sites (1)
1x Wudang Mountain

Monarchs Cards (3)
Characters (3)
3x Auramancer

Generic Cards (18)
Events (7)
1x Discerning Fire
1x Larcenous Mist
1x Pocket Demon
2x Spirit in a Bottle
2x Violet Meditation

Feng Shui Sites (9)
3x Dockyard
1x Martyr’s Tomb
5x Mobius Gardens

States (2)
1x Boundless Heaven Sword
1x Six Demon Bag

I think I could have played Boundless in one game but didn’t need to.  Mobius Gardens has to get changed.  I guess being changed to Limited is the fix, though that just means it’s 1-2 copies in every single deck ever.

Name:  Queens of Nu Gua
Faction:  Guiding Hand
Size:  40

Hand Cards (23)
Characters (12)
3x Chanting Monks
5x Daughter of Nu Gua
4x Temple Guards

Events (9)
3x Confucian Stability
1x Corners of the Mouth
1x Into the Light
1x Iron and Silk
2x Journey’s Reward
1x Rigorous Discipline

Sites (1)
1x Garden of Peaceful Reflection

States (1)
1x Bamboo Cane

Generic Cards (17)
Events (6)
2x Blade Palm
4x Violet Meditation

Feng Shui Sites (9)
1x Medicinal Flower Garden
4x Mobius Gardens
1x Puzzle Garden
1x Quanqiu Wishing Well
1x Temple of Celestial Mercy
1x Temple of the Angry Spirits

States (2)
1x Butterfly Swords
1x Deadly Fans

It’s even a Garden!!  The metagame is just ridiculous where it’s all about how many Mobius Gardens you seize.

By the way, I tried to give a new player a 35 card deck to play in the classic tournament as it was my simplest deck, and someone thought that was ridiculous.  I have run out of cards in games … when I play against my own decks.  Otherwise, may have happened once, but I don’t recall.

I just don’t get why anyone would ever want a deck bigger than 45 cards unless you like not knowing what you are going to draw.  Admittedly, I quite like decks that play randomly in what cards I get, but that just means I take out redundancy in cards.

This build has won every game it has ever played.  I never had a character with fighting greater than 4.