The Sleeping Mind

March 12, 2017

No, not a Kingkiller reference.

I woke up from a dream this morning.  Twas between 3AM and 4AM (already changed my bedside clock).

The dream may have started with Shadowfist play, certainly the players were Shadowfist players, including one who may not be playing anymore.  But, the end of the dream had to do with V:TES.

I had played someone’s deck.  I didn’t get it.  I told someone how I thought it was odd.  He (how come there aren’t more shes, oh right) went on about how I missed the point of the deck by not using card X to be able to do Y and Z.  I was all like “what?”.  “What are you talking about?  I don’t remember those cards.”

So, I looked through the deck.  I still didn’t see the cards that it was supposed to be built around.  So, I looked again.  I finally saw one of the key cards.

It was a Dominate card.  It had no art, just lots of text.  The mechanic of the card is that you turned Dominate into other disciplines, which is why you could play Melpominee(?) in this deck.  There was some explanation (on the card) about why you didn’t want to give your vampire superior Dominate as that would prevent something to do with the uncontrolled region.  It was said, not by me, that the reason the card existed was to give Dominate more variety without making it stronger, but I questioned that.  You know, turn Dominate into Temporis or whatever may be bad.  Actually, thinking about it now, Dominate into Protean would likely be worse.

I finally got the point of the deck.  Btw, the name of the card kept reminding me of Hymn to Tourach.  Though, maybe that was the other card.

So, I started thinking about how to template this card, as it reminded me of a mechanic that we came up with for some of our Traveller cards.

I, then, fell back asleep, kind of, just so I wouldn’t remember as much to post in this blog.

Yup, gaming has been slight in the last week.  I could expound on True Dungeon transactions, as I’ve been back in token tycooning mode, again, plus I built a Spring 2017 transmute spreadsheet where I created a formula to appoximate the value of a token based on its trade items, but let’s save such unsavory topics for when it’s not early in the morning.

The Ceaseless Struggle

March 13, 2016

I started writing something I said I was going to write about NPCs, then got distracted by gaming.

Today, had a V:TES day.  Also, had notes from a conversation about formats and mechanics from the prior session.

While I had more hope for winning the first of our three games, I did the most in the second game with Ani/Nec, unfortunately a deck I can’t play in a tournament.  Brandon doesn’t think my lending it out would work all that well, and I would imagine much the same.  The third game ended some 1.5 hours after I was ousted.

Anyway, we talked about a variety of things:  league play; prizes for league play; combat mechanics; rules changes; even some history on stuff like when the NRA rule came into being.

Let me dispense with a few things.

Combat ReWhatever

I don’t have a great idea on how to make combat work the way I’d like to see it work, which is lots of cards played with one person losing one blood and the other losing two, while also having combat serve its purpose in the game.  Combat serve a crucial purpose of not making the game just about bleed for 5 and vote “3 and 1”.

That minions get torped and burnt has uses.

I find additional strikes to be clunky and overly limited to one discipline (Protean’s additional stuff is rather awful, Obtenebration’s is more prevalent but not much for affecting the game, etc.), but something for newer players to keep in mind is that the game started with seven clans, 10 disciplines.  The current, bloated mess is just what happens when you constantly expand CCGs.

I did mention to Brandon, who thought it was my idea, that it wasn’t my idea to change combat ends to “skip to press step”, though I find that an interesting change.  I might have even heard that back in ’97 or whatever playing with Jyhad players, when we all found 14 Majesty to be rather cheesy, but I know I heard it from somewhere a long time back, maybe the newsgroup.


I’m sure I’ve mentioned that winning more cards is not a prize I find all that interesting.  I’ve been in the camp that cool beads, good playmats, interesting edges, and other accessories make for better prizes.  Plaques are notable for being different, it’s something Shadowfist events have had, but I don’t find them terribly useful.  I can see things more like trophies for major events, which … I don’t play in.

I tried thinking of what I wanted from other CCG tournaments.  Ultimate Combat!, of course, had the best prizes ever in a functional playmat and a hit point counter, also had a real black belt, though that’s not terribly functional.  Babylon 5 had promo cards that were actually hard to get – I may hate unique promo cards, but I’ll still chase them.  Shadowfist, where I’ve only been playing for four years or whatever, I just like the idea of glory, though I suppose there are promos I could use.

It’s only Magic where I wanted more cards.  Actually, if you have a prerelease or release event, I can see boxes of cards as prizes, as not everyone preorders everything they intend on getting.  But, for the CCGs I was invested in, I was going to end up with everything I wanted from published sets, so more cards were largely meaningless.  That was not the case with Magic, where I never had full sets of cards or anything remotely resembling having the collection to build tournament decks.

Good playmat.  That’s the best.  There are so few good playmats.  A good playmat has the right thickness, is foldable (not just rollable), is largely neutral in color with a color neither too light nor too dark so that you can actually see not only someone’s cards but their counters, it needs to be close to the right size for personal use, though I can see some benefit for ones big enough for two or four players.  My Ultimate Combat! (yes, I managed to discover I had a second one) playmats largely fit, as do other Khalsa-Brain playmats I have.  My Shadowfist one isn’t all that foldable and is way too busy to where you may not be able to see important things.  I might like fantasy art and whatnot, but I’m not into having unrelated gamer art on display – a playmat should relate to the game it was made for.

I’ve actually picked up odd counters – pumpkin power, apple/hearts, costume jewels – to use for games, so something connected to the game has use.  Shadowfist had plastic counters for each of the factions which are cute, maybe a bit spiky, so maybe do a pattern inside a circle, but still way better than the wooden tokens that come with Combat in Kowloon.  Not sure why those aren’t still produced.

Mechanics Changes

Putting aside the usual mantra of “Remove Imbued, Events, promos, and a few other things I hate from the game.” and changing combat, what would I look to change in V:TES?

Couple of things did come up.  Transfers seem like they could work better.  Forums have recently discussed what I think is another old idea with having five transfers.  Contesting.  Contesting/auctions/uniqueness rule/whatever just sucks in every game.  It was mentioned by one of our locals, at a minimum, the idea that contested vampires lose their text.  So, no titles, no specials, no restrictions, just empty shells of hum- … vampiredom, with capacity and disciplines and clan and sect.  That seems interesting.  Contest Anson and you get an 8-cap Toreador with superior guns, superior vote, inferior block, and inferior broken.


Not this session but the prior, we talked about different formats.  Here are two I like:

Ancilla Antics (better name TBD)

The whole idea is to limit vampire options by capacity to both remove the weenies from the game and get away from fatties, which are providing their own form of tyranny.  What did we settle upon?  Capacity 4-7 or something close.

You can only run vampires of capacity four to capacity seven in your crypt.  And, may Caine have mercy upon the play environment.  I have no idea how this will turn out.  But, I want to try it.

Unfortunately, unlike the next format, this is not something I can just build my own decks to and see any impact.  I may have a lot of decks like this, but forcing it only upon myself just doesn’t seem like I’ll see the games turn out any differently.

Distinct Directive (this is even worse of a title, how about Mine Is Only Mine)

The only unique library cards you can put in your deck are clan cards.  Kuta was building decks with no unique library cards to make decks less “chase”.  I liked the idea.  I think this idea, though more complicated, has some benefits over no uniqueness.  Having the game push back towards more clanness is not a bad thing.  We talked about this today, as well as many other times in the past, but V:TES has a draw of people who actually like Vampire: The Masquerade or WoD stuff.  Part of my hope for getting more players through shrinking the card pool is refocusing the game on the core clans.

If you can’t play any unique cards, you lose Hunting Grounds, EcoLibraries, etc., which means you lose clan flavor.

What this does do is kill Dreams, Ivory, Info, Barrens, Bowl, number of top tier allies/retainers, Heidelberg, the occasionally played Subversion, Coven, Montreal, and the like.  Two downsides to this.  One, Brett pointed this out, it takes out intercept locations.  I don’t see them much, but they have a lot of impact when they are in play.  Two, it makes anarchs weaker.  Other than that, it takes out a ton of overly played cards.  Note that unique titles from Crusades and Praxis Seizures are a different type of ghoul.  They aren’t unique cards.

I can see how my just building decks under this rule would impact play.  I would never be contesting ubiquitous plays.  I lose card cycling, which I often don’t bother with in casual decks anyway, but which I too often overlook for tournament play.  Obviously, if I knew others weren’t going to play these cards, that removes some location control and equipment control considerations.

I just like how much it forces me not to go to boring wells, plus there are so many obnoxious cards among the uniques.  Carlton and Mylan don’t bother me anywhere near Bowl, Montreal, Ivory, and Coven.  I’m not even that much of a hater of Pentex.  Still, I don’t think any of those cards need to exist in the game.  I’ll miss J.S. and Tasha, but, without Heidelberg, why do I even care that much?  I’ll switch to Laptop/Camera tricks to get multiuse out of +bleed.  Coyote being gone is kind of sad, though I only like Coyote when I play it and not when others abuse it.

Card Ideas

I forgot some other card ideas.  We were talking about Forgery today.  I like the capacity limit, but it’s just too weak.  If it was a +1 Stealth action, it would probably be a bit good.  While text heavy, aka way too much text, adding the line “Vampires with a capacity below 5 and allies have -1 Intercept when attempting to block this action.” would be a direction to like.

Voter Captivation.  It just makes the Presenceless weep.  We were talking about how pointless !Ventrue vote was, that it was only more common back in the day because Stickmen and the like weren’t options due to lack of quality midcaps.

Overwhelming Popularity
Action Modifier
Play when a referendum called by this vampire succeeds by three or more votes.  This acting vampire gains 2 blood from the blood bank.

No Presence deck would ever play this.  Yet, it throws some red, drippy stuff to the less Captivating.

Lots of ideas come up when we talk about how weak various cards are or how much we’d like to weaken various cards.  Unfortunately, the pure geniusness of us will never be revealed due to not bothering to write stuff down.  A bunch of the ideas are no-gos because of adding too much card text, though, so some ungeniusness will also never be revealed.

Deck Ideas

I have this thing I often carry that sucks for phone calls but does allow me to look up restaurants and map stuff and crap.  It has a memo app.  I started writing down all of the many, many deck ideas I think of when I play.  Now, let’s see if I get around to building some of these decks.

I was playing a deck that brought out Vignes, played two damage prevent cards as its first two plays, Concealed a Desert Eagle right before it died.  I was telling my prey I was struggling to recall what the deck was supposed to do.  He called it “No Bruise, No Bleed”.  I love that deck name.  I’m not sure this is that deck.  I need to build that deck, assuming I haven’t already built it in one of the myriad decks I’ve written up and never pulled the cards for.

On Key

February 2, 2016

Not yet time to insert an M.  Not on Fire, either.

January was a time of doing fun things with great people.  But, it wasn’t much of a month for gaming.

While I was flying back to the US recently, I spent a bit of time thinking about gaming.  Sure, RPG thoughts came to mind.  But, unlike the norm of thinking primarily about RPGs, I actually spent some time thinking about CCGs.  In particular, I thought about V:TES.

For quite some time, I haven’t been playing much.  This led, of course, to not spending much time thinking about the game.  But, for some reason, while I haven’t done much to organize cards and haven’t done much deckbuilding, I’ve still found something more enjoyable about thinking about deckbuilding.

We played last Sunday.  I was still jet lagged and didn’t do anything new, so I played Hatchlings, Pre/Vic bruise bleed, and Jyhad Pre bleed.  In other words, my kind of decks.

I often don’t play my kind of decks.  To stretch, I’ll play decks ridiculously bad for me, like the most recent deck I think I made, which is Tzimisce rush.  Sure, without Bill around or people like him to keep coming up with combo deck ideas, I don’t get around to combo decks, but …

What makes those decks my kind of decks?

They bleed.  Yes, I know I hardly ever bleed anymore.  But, I used to.  Two out of the three hunt reasonably well, by which I mean I can afford actions hunting.  The third even hunts because it really can’t do anything besides bleed or hunt.

And, that’s the thing.  They don’t complicate my game.  Hatchlings has, generally, three different actions to take – Hatchling, hunt, bleed.  The other two just two actions.  Two of the decks bounce.  The third plays cards that both reduce bleeds and give intercept.  They don’t obsess over screwing vote decks.  Two of the decks play combat ends.  They don’t obsess over screwing combat decks, though one of them is a combat deck.

Yes, bruise bleed isn’t my thing, which makes the Pre/Vic deck kind of odd.  But, it does its superior three disciplines thing.  The other two have relatively simple discipline needs.

I don’t try to stop stuff crosstable.  I can’t shut down jack.  But, there are silver bullets.  I won one game due to Sudden Reversal on Palla Grande, though I had my Hostile Takeover on Jost with Ivory Bow Washed.

There’s just something pleasant about how all three function, though they are hardly close substitutes for each other.

I was thinking about how I hadn’t blogged in a while.  By the way, way to go WordPress, right up there with Yahoogroups and others on making your own product annoying to use.  I was thinking and started a line of thought that I don’t remember all that clearly, just that it ran through RPG and CCG stuff.

I invented a card when playing Sunday.  “Master.  Put this card in play.  You may burn this card to give a vampire of capacity five or higher +2 bleed for the current action.  This bleed action may not resolve for more than three pool damage.”  No, this paragraph has nothing to do with anything.

I was thinking about events, though I don’t really care about Anthelios, I only see Anthelios matter when I play out of my region.  Even then, it’s not Anthelios I care about.

I haven’t played any HoR: Nightmare War.  I was up at 1AM China time (well, earlier) waiting for my Gen Con housing slot, which was an hour later, which turned out to be a strong slot, where I got a room, though I think I maybe needed to try a bit harder to get a better one.

If I keep throwing out random comments, what will be unlocked?

I played mahjong on my trip, though only one format – the variant popular in China according to my coworkers I mentioned last time.  We didn’t play the Shanghainese style of all one suit or all pungs, but we talked about doing that next time.  Only one player won.  She seems very lucky in my small sample size of playing games with her, but I’d certainly also say she’s a good player.  Could be better than I.

I need to learn a couple of boardgames for the weekend after this, when I’ll be running convention sessions of stuff that isn’t either a RPG or CCG.

I need a new Fading Suns character, as I still haven’t replaced my dead monk.


I was thinking about card limits.  I was thinking about how I may not give other people enough credit for seeing why card limits are so awesome.  As every right-thinking gamer knows, card limits have nothing to do with the playability of a CCG.  It’s all about the collectibility and collection management advantages of needing fewer copies of cards.  Sure, for Wheel of Time, where I may only have 10 decks built at one time, I still need some 15 Lucky Finds and 15 Invasions.  But, I only need six recruitable Rahvins.  With V:TES, I need 60+ On the Qui Vive just to get by.  Anything less than 20 Villeins, which, by the way, I don’t own 20 Villeins, is a struggle.

I gave away extra Jyhad copies of commons.  I only held on to 40 copies of Jyhad Majesty, as that’s enough to scrape by.  Were there Babylon 5 cards I had problems having sufficient quantities of?  Must have been the case, though I don’t really recall it.  Annex Neutral World was something I could probably live on nine copies of.  Not Meant To Be around the same number.  Wasn’t like I had 20 decks at once for the game.  More of a 12 deck kind of game.  I think only V:TES (ignoring such things as Type P Magic) has ever seen me have 20+ decks built at once, and I haven’t done that in ages (ignoring “experiment” decks).

I still haven’t run part two of Against the Dark Yogi.  I’m beat during the week, though inertia helps me with getting out to do Thursday Shadowfist.  Every week in the month of January was consultants in town, coworkers from out of town, or my being in another country.

Carolina 41, Denver 3.  Why not?  I don’t care.  Whenever I’ve had other things to do, I’ve skipped the Big Bowl.  Plus, Seattle produced two awful results in recent years, just making it that much less worth my engagement.

We didn’t play for money.  We did have chips, though, to make it easier to track how people did in our mahjong session.  I still find it interesting.  I also found it interesting how many times I said to myself “yo, dudicle, you aren’t paying that much attention to people’s discards, like is kind of much of the skill in the game”.  I realized later why the format is so fast.  When every dragon is a flower, the tile pool is vastly decreased, which makes connections in hands and from discards form much faster.  There’s a lot of thought I could put into the format, especially around the payoff calculations of declaring ready versus playing not to lose.

I’ve talked about what I enjoy out of RPGs.  I don’t know if I’ve covered what sort of PCs I like playing enough.  Too good a topic not to save for a more laser sharp blog post.

How come in Legends of Tomorrow, the fire gun never causes fires and the cold gun never freezes things?

Merged Ferox with Tremere demo deck as predator.  Grandpredator wins the game.  But, that’s so unmeta.

There are rarity indicators on Shadowfist cards?  According to an article on drafting there are (or were).  Probably should do a Shadowfist draft some day.  I almost miss V:TES drafting, just because everyone should be forced to learn more about limited play with CCGs other than Magic.

There are a lot of things that don’t enthuse me about making RPG characters.  I’ve talked about my disdain for equipment, and I’m sure I mentioned something about not being into playing magic-users.  That kind of covers Theurgy and Psychics.  But, what about Cybernetics?  I think they come across as equipment to me.  I’m also not a tech guy, except when I’m a software consultant, software developer, technical architect, or the like.  So, what sort of Fading Suns character should I play?  I think I should stretch and actually go with one of these things I normally wouldn’t choose because they don’t sound appealing.

Why aren’t games better?  Another great topic for another time.

I still haven’t posted another solitaire variant I created.  One I created years ago as yet another solitaire game to use a small amount of space but to have meaningful decisions.  I’ll have to get around to this some day.

But, today.  Today is just a day to make a mess before getting back on track with geniusness.

Season Premiers

October 31, 2015

There’s not much for me to talk about with Halloween.  It’s not like I play a card game based around vampires or taking on a persona is relevant to roll-playing or …

Let me see if I can tie some things together.

New TV seasons/shows started a bit ago.  Supergirl was okay.  Arrow is far better than it was most of last season.  Flash is kind of slow.  Doctor Who is far, far better with multipart episodes.  And, the best TV show on air remains the same – Open Court.

Yeah, not a lot of people are NBA TV watchers.  As moneymaking as the NBA is, it’s not like a show about it is going to captivate people the same way that … uh … NCIS Helena will captivate people.

Different people have different flavors.  Some people can stand listening to local news, and the rest of us can’t.  And, so forth.

Open Court is like the PBS, “Taste of the Bay” or whatever it’s called shows for people who find sports more interesting than food.  It’s not Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption or the far inferior Mike and Mike and the two arrogant guys (just remembered, First Take) shows.  All of those shows deal in superficiality and a bunch of meaningless crap, like whether someone said something politically incorrect.  It’s not Sportscenter or even Baseball Tonight (which I should probably watch more) in that it isn’t “reporting”.

What it’s kind of more like is Siskel & Ebert.  In that, it’s people expressing real opinions.  Except, unlike S&E, it has people telling stories.  It just wins TV.

Well, said the same thing before.  Just need replication, er, reminders.

I didn’t post anything about Sunday’s V:TES besides foreshadowing, dum dum dum.

In the vein of new, and that’s what Halloween is all about – the split between the past and the less past, I came up with a new experiment.  I had created it a while back but only got around to implementing it Sunday.

It’s called Dirty Dozen.  The entire point is to test the brokenness of Govern the Unaligned.  You run 12x Govern as your only Dominate cards.  You, then, pick four other cards you play 12 copies of because all decks must be perfectly symmetrical and can only ever be 60, 70, 75, 80, or 90 cards.

In the first game, my Obtenebrators had to wall up against !Salubri bleed (the only noncombat deck, you know, what happens every game), so I only ousted my prey by his transferring out with 11 minutes or so left.  My predator, then, poofed, and we had a table split.  My other four cards?  Sudden, Arms of the Abyss, Target Vitals, and Shadow Strike.  My combats with my second prey, a gun deck, were inconclusive.  I Suddened four Blood Dolls, methinksies.

Having little time, I played my second DDD.  The other four cards were Zip Line, Skin of Rock, Skin of Night, and Freak Drive.  This died pretty fast as I had three decks that could stealth bleed behind me.  Ophidian Gaze gave my prey the lock in the endgame.  Not good design, in my mind.  I realize it’s too much card text, but a more appropriate (if less good) effect would be “Reduce a bleed against you by one.  Put this card on this reacting minion.  You may burn this card for +1 bleed.”  Why give FoS something they don’t really care about?  Because just shoring up a weakness makes clans more alike, while bleed reduction is not a good effect for the game.  Don’t want to reduce offense, want to redirect offense to another player because that keeps games moving towards resolution.

So, what did I prove?  As is always the case, two V:TES games reveals the truths of the universe.  The truth is that Govern is not broken in the broken sense (rather than the “broken” = top power level sense).  You cannot just play Govern and win all of the time.  To win all of the time, you do need to play Deflection, as well.

We continue to try different things with Shadowfist.  Thursday, we did Mooks/Sacred Grounds/+1 power per turn in a … four-player game.  It was terrible.  On turn two, one of the players had six power.  One player could drop his hand and still have power left.  One player played Queen of the Darkness Pagoda and Beaumains in the same turn and was just irrelevant to the game.  I failed a bid for victory with three Burning Mans, Mistress of Blotted Moonlight, two Floating Teeth, and a Skin and Darkness Bats in play.  Now, only two of the Burning Mans, the Mistress, and the Bats went for the final site.

Game two, we went with “FSSs cost you one less if you play them to the front row.” in addition to Mooks and miscellaneous FSSs open to all.  I played my 36-Legged Horror deck.  That has 5x Great Wall.  I had six power generating sites in play, including three 20-Body Great Walls, and my sites never got hurt by a character with fighting greater than 1.  There were double digit sites that could be attacked at times.  I liked this format.  You don’t have to use the rule, unlike the extra power every turn rule, but you can.

How does this all tie together?

Freshness.  Sometimes something fresh isn’t good, something I blogged about years ago.  Sometimes, it is.  By good, I mean entertaining.  I have been more entertained by Arrow and Doctor Who than in the previous annum.  I constantly need to find something different to do with V:TES – note that because Govern is on my personal tournament banned list, my concept decks are irrelevant to my post All Soul’s Day competitions.  Shadowfist house rules have often worked fine for making entertaining, if not plausible in tournament play, games.

The Cookbook

November 4, 2014

I mentioned that I spent some time on my recent trip thinking about ideas for anarch cards for V:TES.  I just care less than I used to about designing cards.  I realize that it’s often a futile process for “just some player” to throw out card ideas.  And, my interest is more in removing cards from the card pool than in creating new cards.  The game is incredibly bloated, as CCGs will get.

Looking through my notes, there are some general concepts behind my thinking.

What is important in decks?


Combo decks and whatever can break the guidelines on what makes decks work, but there are some things that are pritnear universally desirable.

Bounce.  If the game needs anything, it needs Deflection for everyone.  My anarch Deflection idea kind of steps on the toes of the idea of just print “Deflection 2:  Everyone Bounces”, but I thought it had an interesting feature.

Signal Scramble
C = 1b
Requires an anarch who possesses two or more disciplines.  Only usable when you are being bled, after blocks are declined.  Tap this reacting vampire.  Choose another Methuselah other than the controller of the acting minion.  The acting minion is now bleeding that Methuselah.  If this reacting anarch possesses four or more disciplines, do not tap this vampire.

The one sort of vampire I don’t want to have easy Deflection access to is the 1-2 cap.  This doesn’t prevent that, but it does make it less likely, then rewards fat anarchs.  So often, more than three disciplines on a vampire adds no value to a deck, just counting disciplines seems to me to be an interesting new mechanic.

Stealth.  Let’s ignore permanents outside of the vampires themselves for a moment.  With just vampires, you can bleed, hunt, punch, block as common things to do.  With stealth in this world, you can eventually win.  Without stealth, someone can hold you off forever.  Plenty of decks don’t use stealth cards.  Without stealth, though, the path to victory is so much more difficult.

Convenient Alley
Action Modifier
Requires an anarch.  Only usable on a D action.  The acting minion gains one blood from the blood bank.  Once this action, the acting minion may burn a blood to gain +1 stealth.

Thematically weird?  Perhaps.  There’s a bum in every “convenient” alley to fill you up.  Why you pay blood to gain stealth isn’t terribly clear.  The intent is really more of a stealth card that can give you blood instead but is worded as a gain blood card that can give you stealth instead so that it’s always cyclable.

Though anarchs have blood gain cards, I actually find that having enough blood is a problem for lots of decks.  That has something to do with how expensive certain anarch cards are.  Monkey Wrench just isn’t a good card, even though it seems like it should be an answer to one of the problems with playing anarchs without playing the normal good stuff in the game.

Speaking of overcosted cards, some of those require disciplines.

Steal the Secrets of the Ancients
Unique Master
C = 1p
Put this card in play.  Cards that require both being an anarch and one or more disciplines cost anarchs 1 less blood.  Any minion may burn this card as a D action; if that minion is a vampire, he or she takes 1 unpreventable damage when this card is burned.

The problem I see with cards like this is that they just make better stuff better.  Power of One is already a useful card.  Steely Tenacity becomes way better.  Interestingly, there really aren’t that many cards this would affect.

One thing I don’t like about effective anarch decks is that they tend to be focused on using only a narrow range of anarch requiring cards.  Could say the same thing about everything.  There is value in different decks playing different cards – opens up more deck builds.  But, at the same time, I get easily bored with repetitive decks.

Variety is the Very Spice of Undeath
Unique Master
C = 1p
Put this card in play.  Your ash heap is not a legal target for cards or effects.  Cards cannot be removed from your ash heap.  Each time one of your anarchs plays a minion card that requires an anarch that is not in your ash heap, put a blood counter on this card from the blood bank.  Tap this card to move any number of blood counters from this card to an anarch.  Any anarch may burn this card as a D action that costs 1 pool.

This is a card text mess.  My favorite part is probably the ash heap “protection”.  I could see an event that stopped cards from being removed from ash heaps since that’s totally like the sort of mechanical effect a global effects card would have in other CCGs.  But, then, I want all events to go away.  Still, incentivizing diversity seems to me to be a thing to do in a world where 14 Governs or 13 Carrion Crows is routine.

Anyway, I don’t really care about designing new cards for CCGs I play, all two of them.  I just think that it’s better to bring up thoughts than not to spur more ideas and to have something to talk about.  There are an infinite number of possible cards that could be made, the trick is narrowing that down to what should be made.

In The Box

May 6, 2013

So often in life, we hear people want out-of-the-box thinkers.  But, Mark Rosewater’s column today got me to thinking about in-the-box thinking.

Much of new set design for CCGs involves coming up with new mechanics.  It’s not sexy enough to simply expand on what is already part of the game but to change the nature of what are among the most customizable games in existence.

I haven’t been impressed with how V:TES has been managed, but it’s not so much the ideas as it is the execution of those ideas.  Sure, I don’t see a compelling need for Black Hand in the game.  And, Imbued and Red List and various bloodlines drawbacks are detrimental to the play experience.  But, there are more than a few interesting concepts that got shafted at the execution level when introduced:  Anarch, Laibon, Events.

But, I’m getting off topic.  What I started thinking about was how it isn’t just OOTB thinking that the world needs but better ITB thinking.  Too many CCGs have mechanics already present and manage to not develop them, undermine them, or take them into unproductive directions.

As one person put it recently on, Trifle was supposed to be a mechanic to boost up a weak effect that wouldn’t likely justify a card to an acceptable level.  Switch sects to Sabbat?  Sure, trifling.  Minion Tap as a Trifle?  Well, we know how that went.  Admittedly, there aren’t many other offenders – only Life in the City and Wider View strike me as arguably too good, and the former would be bad without Trifleness and doesn’t seem overplayed, anyway.

But, Trifle isn’t at the heart of the issue, either, as it is a mechanic that sees continued use.  If I were to pick the most underdeveloped mechanic in the history of the game, there’s an argument for Primogen.  Not because it deserves more development than other mechanics but because it has been around the longest with some of the least support.

Some other mechanics that could easily see development:

Ally Types

Sure, there are four Changeling allies.  Still haven’t seen Black Forest Base get taken out, Ravagered Kiasyd get blocked, or anyone besides myself use Song of Pan with multiple changelings.  There are various references to wraiths and zombies, but why print Tainted Spring and not print more animal allies?


What?  We have tons of archetypes, way too many.  We even have Guide and Mentor.  Actually, in truth, it’s not about archetypes, it’s about vampire special abilities.

There is such a ridiculous design space for vampire specials that aren’t revolutionary but logical extensions of concepts in the game.  One such special could be a vampire that searches out an archetype when it comes into play, maybe a specific archetype, maybe a group of archetypes (e.g. Trifle only).

Electronic, Haven, etc.

Decided to introduce the idea of electronic equipment.  Okay, how about some tutoring effects for electronic or something that makes it not just a drawback (on a card no one plays)?

Anarchs was printed a long time ago, at this point.  Goblinism for Zaire River Ferry is a bombo, unless you manage to do some pretty weird stuff to get a Lasombra MYT.  Sure, Goblinism + Polaris Coach is going to be all of the rage, some day, but instead of random mentions of Haven on scattered cards, most of which don’t see significant play, would like to see some thought put into this being a meaningful mechanic.

Government, Inquisition, Transient

Everybody knows these are woefully ignored by the game, except maybe transient.  Transient almost means something, but not really.  Why not a tutor for a card with Transient?

I won’t complain about Research Area, but it could easily go down the same path of irrelevance.

Vampire Specials

Thanatosis really needs a Path and not just one dude, but I’ve wanted a dude who paid one less for reaction cards for a long time (with AUS and CHI and, sure, NEC).  Similarly, could have someone who paid one less for action modifiers.  Someone who plays disciplineless action cards for free to bring Blood Bond back into the game.  Etc.

How about vamps that break the model of older = more disciplines in major ways, arguably like Nakova only with useful specials?  More Chaundice style vamps only younger, with less disciplines and not being crippled by being a slave is one way to go.  Something like a 6 cap with no disciplines and +2 Strength and prevent up to 2 damage each combat is extreme and not the most exciting thing in the world, but it should give the idea.

There’s doing more with vampire pairs that doesn’t involve named vampires.  Now, it may be undermining Hugo/Greensleaves, Onaedo/Otieno, and the Blounts, but these combos aren’t all that enthralling (I haven’t seen the Blounts in ages), where something like a vamp with “If you control a ready scarce vampire, Friend of Weirdoes gains two blood each of your untap phases.” is quite the path that one could go down.  Another variant, “If you control a changeling ally, Fantasy Fool has +2 bleed.”

Advanced Vampires

I recognize that having everybody under the Sun have advanced versions not only is messy but also makes existing advancies less special.  But, Epiphany is a lot more interesting when you have multiple advancies in a deck, so there should be more “I play 3+ merge opportunities” in a deck.


Instead of constantly moving forward with grouping, why is there no effort to move backwards and fill in group 1, 2, and 3 with Laibon?  Could make the argument for Imbued, except who wants to make that argument?

Speaking of Laibon, there should really be a massive increase in the number of Laibon vampires and not just of the Laibon Clans.  There should be a whole contingent of Lasombra and Tzimisce Laibon.

Could also say that there should be group 1 Sabbat, indies, and bloodlines.  It’s not like group 1 vampires are hard to find – Jyhad was way overprinted.  And, if the game does actually go to print on-demand, then they are just as easy to get as anything else (ignoring art issues).

Not everything is worth developing just because it already exists in the game, but all CCGs seem to have such a massive amount of unmined design space, which is evidenced by how Magic went from thinking of its non-evergreen mechanics as throwaways to bringing back an old mechanic with every block.

Bloody Fast

October 16, 2012

We were talking at dinner after playing Sunday about something when I noted that tool up actions for Assamites were not productive.  Specifically, Succulent Vitae (an action modifier but one that requires a hunt action) and Retain the Quick Blood are both conceptual failures.

Assamite decks, in general, lack time.  Forcing them to use up more time to be productive down the road is unhelpful.  As to why they lack time, no real bounce, sketchy intercept, challenges to multiacting.  I used the example that a “Retain the Ventrue Blood” card that took an action and got counters for blood costs from Dominate/Fortitude/Presence combat cards (obviously, lacking the combat card limitation would be insane) that slowly returned would be great.  Great not because it would make Thoughts Betrayed more playable or Armor of Vitality/Hidden Strength or Presence combat ends that much stronger but great because the Ventrue who plays the card would just Freak Drive after playing it.  Or, if no Freak Drive, then Deflection, Parity Shift, Second Tradition, etc. would all keep the Ventrue deck alive long enough to see the card pay off.

As I’m working with indie decks more than normal at the moment with Experiment #2 running, I got some extra inspiration to come up with some card ideas.

As always, I don’t know every card idea someone has come up with (I mostly ignore the card idea submissions, for instance), so it’s always possible someone came up with these already.

Tasty Vitae
C = 0
Only usable at the end of a round of combat.
<qui>: This vampire gains an amount of blood equal to the amount of blood or life lost by the opposing minion to damage during this round. A vampire may play only one Tasty Vitae each round.
<QUI>: As above, but this vampire gains an additional blood.

Some of the inspiration for this came from pointing out that Wake With Evening’s Freshness is a Thaumaturgy ritual in the RPG and how different the game would have been if only Tremere had real wakes out of the original set.  Taste of Vitae is an effect open to all, and Quietus is the blood discipline, so why shouldn’t Quietus get a strictly better Tasty?

And, yes, it was intentional to drop the line about not being able to play when being burnt or sent to torpor.  And, yes, this Tasty can feed off of allies, which is the far more important difference.

Good?  Um, yeah, just kinda amazing when you think about how much better than Taste it is.  That’s sort of the point, though – Quietus doesn’t need okay cards or cards that halfass addressing a weakness, it needs great cards, especially if the idea is to get people to play Quietus combat rather than the far better strategies of stealth bleed and stealth bleed + vote.

The Blood is the Life
C = 1b
+1 Stealth Action.
<qui>: Put this card on this acting vampire.  The vampire with this card pays one less blood or pool to employ retainers.
<QUI>: As above, and the vampire with this card pays one less blood or pool for recruiting allies.

Quietus is a fairly silly discipline in the RPG.  Well, maybe if Thaumaturgy didn’t exist, it would make a bit more sense, though how a blood manipulation discipline makes an area silent is not entirely clear.  The flavor here is that the master of blood gains mastery over those things that have it, feed on it, or, in the name of simpler card text, have little to nothing to do with it, like wraiths.  Maybe it’s intimidation – “Serve me or enjoy heart attacks!”  Maybe it’s more subtle – “I’ve been feeling very Viagra-y lately without pills, must be that new dashing friend from the Middle East I’ve been hanging out with that’s got my blood flowing.”

A tool up, investment action that leads to value only down the line?  Yeah.  But, I thought it was interesting, anyway.  An alternative for a speedier card would be to make it an action modifier instead.

The Blood is the Life
Action Modifier
C = 0
<qui>: Play when employing a retainer.  The cost of the retainer is reduced by one blood or pool (to a minimum of zero).
<QUI>: Play when recruiting an ally.  The cost of the ally is reduced by one blood or pool (to a minimum of zero).

That does make a lot more sense, given my rant above.

Flavor matters.  Being distinct matters.  When it comes to disciplines, some are flavorfully fast and some flavorfully slow.  I don’t mean Celerity.  I mean that some disciplines would normally be used immediately and are better represented with transient effects, especially combat cards and reaction cards.  Other disciplines are flavorfully more of a “work at it a while” nature and that should be represented with more actions cards.  Potence is an obvious fast discipline, reflected well with only 9 action cards in the game.  Quietus could be categorized as such or not.  Dominate and Presence are “slower” in flavor, especially the former.  Both disciplines have a lot of action cards relative to other disciplines.

Anyway, two disciplines are obvious slowpokes – Thaumaturgy and Necromancy.  That the former only has 8 actions is criminal.  But, that’s a concern for another day.  Today, I’m more concerned with Necromancy.

As the recent thread about Harbingers attests, while Giovanni have gotten awesome support in more recent years, Necromancy hasn’t.  Strange when you consider that the three other clans with Necromancy could all use help that Giovanni don’t need.

From a balance perspective, it’s okay to have slower, action-based investment plays for the Necroclans, as two of them have Fortitude to Freak and two have Dominate …

Giovanni have always been about allies and retainers.  But, what about Necromancy?  Kind of interesting that Necromancy has only one retainer.

Undead Bodyguard
C = 1b
Zombie with 2 life.
<nec>: You may burn this retainer in combat to prevent up to 2 damage to the minion with this retainer.
<NEC>: As above, and when the minion with this retainer is in combat, the opposing minion takes 1 damage during strike resolution if range is close.

Harassing Wraith
C = 1b
Wraith with 1 life.
<nec>: Harassing Wraith is immune to damage that is not aggravated.  The minion with this retainer gets an optional maneuver each combat.
<NEC>: As above, and the minion with this retainer gets an optional press each combat.

Original?  Not terribly.  One is very similar to Zombie, hopefully enough better than Zombie that it might actually see play.  The other is rather similar to Shadow of the Beast.

Both do play into the idea of making Necromancy more relevant in combat.  The latter is perfect for all of those Torment the Soul decks people have been wanting to play.  The timing on the Undead Bodyguard is kind of ugly – “I burn it between resolution of the strike and resolution of the damage to gain both effects.  I can do that, right?”  Maybe, that’s why Zombie works the way it does.

Anyway, not every one of these ideas was equally inspired.  I’m less concerned with the specifics than I am the concepts of making “fast” cards for Quietus that support Quietus combat decks (as annoying as such decks might be) and “slow” cards for Necromancy that have more relevance in tournament play.

Though, the Necromancy ideas really aren’t that helpful.

C = 1b
+1 Stealth Action.
<nec>: Put this card on the acting minion and put one Defilement Counter on this card.  The minion with this card can burn a Defilement Counter instead of paying the cost for a combat card.  Burn this card when it has no Defilement Counters.
<NEC>: As above, but put an additional Defilement Counter on this card when it is put into play.

A bit cuter.  What’s the point of this?  Not Burning Wrath or The Death of My Conscience, though maybe those would happen.  Breath of Thanatos and Mercy for Seth aren’t that costly, so it doesn’t help Harbingers swing, though Hidden Strength for infinite is something and King of the Mountain … well, I don’t know if anything will get people to play King of the Mountain.  It’s really intended to make Compress less overcosted, maybe even get some of the other crummy Thanatosis cards to see play, while making Groaning Corpse better, which just doesn’t bother me all that much.