Card-inal Rules

December 5, 2018

In the last week, I played Shadowfist, Traveller, and V:TES.

During/after each session, I had profound thoughts on some aspect of card flopping.

I think I’ve forgotten them all.  Let’s see if I remember anything as I ramble …

Shadowfist

In the Shadowfist game, because even though it went pretty quick there’s a dearth of new decks so a second game wasn’t in the cards [ha], I won.

Who cares?

I won with, I believe, 13 power in my pool.

For normal ‘fisters, this may sound like some crushing beatdown against my three opponents and/or I was playing Ascended and there was Bull Market nonsense going on.

In my 50 card deck, I ran 5x Möbius Gardens, 4x Pocket Demon, 2x Spirit in a Bottle, 2x Bloodlust, 5x Auramancer, and … 5x Dockyard.  In other words, 5x Auramancer and 5x search for Auramancer.  Of course, early on, it was Möbius Gardens that powered me through.  Only later did everyone stop caring about my having two Auramancers in play to push me towards being able to dump my hand every turn (not that I did).

Btw, Dockyard to search out Fire Cadets was what gave me enough characters to swing for the win as I needed to do exactly one damage to the final site and my other two dudes could be intercepted.

This game had a high amount of recriminations.  Unfortunately, that seems to be the new norm.  Don’s Napalm Belchers become Brains in a Jar plan combined with Joren’s Jammer site damaging made for a lot of failed attacks as the targets ceased to be in play.

It seems harder and harder to find a game where all four players find the end result fun.  Quick games are unsatisfying.  Long games meant there were plenty of plays that could have changed the results.  While games tend to have everyone have a chance of winning, that doesn’t mean people’s decks are doing what they want, just means you are playing Shadowfist, with its sketchy endgame possibilities.

Traveller

May have heard on the interwebs that there’s a Traveller Kickstarter going on right now.  The irony is that my Saturday Traveller play wasn’t a perfectly timed demo to expand awareness and to inspire backers.  It was getting together with friends to play some games, including Puerto Rico, followed by Mexican food.

I keep meaning to post to travellerccg.com about what I did to create my deck for this three-player game, but there are so many things going on right now that I’m supposed to be dealing with.

I took the Empress Marava Far Trader deck, removed all of the crew, heroic actions, and a bunch of other stuff, and replaced with a vast amount of cards from our Aliens of the Imperium expansion pack.

I wanted to alien as much as possible given little time to work on deck construction.

Usually when I play Sophont Worker’s Union, I get a discount on one or two aliens, take actions to get counters, never use more counters.  Let’s just say that a deck with more than 30 alien crew cards gets a wee bit more use out of the three copies I ran, helped by having Fragmentation Grenades coming in from left and right.

Three-player and four-player Traveller is certainly more … involved.  Eventually, Gary switched to piracy playing my Beowulf connection deck because his son and I were so thin on cards without being that close to winning.  His son got locked to where he had one card left and couldn’t deal with a complication.  I could have kept playing for a bit, but the piracy would have bankrupted me in about two rounds.  I was not a round away from winning.

My deck certainly was not like any sort of reasonable deck.  I made no effort to have a plan for enemy ships, with pretty much just Misdirection to move an enemy ship complication away.  But, it was entertaining.  I got to put out aliens I don’t play all of the time.  I kept wondering about which aliens to care about having in play.  I kept wishing I could generate expert Social so that I could temporarily gain five VPs off of Diverse Dynamics.

How would I build decks for multiplayer play?

Less expectation that crew will remain in play.  There’s just so much crewkill in the game.

Piracy seems like it would be worse with more players as that’s more cards to burn through, but Traveller isn’t V:TES.  Decks naturally burn through cards really fast.  Add in that there are more players to stop someone from racing towards victory, and pushing key players over the edge can, in fact, be easier.

We could have done more or done more sooner to make people aware that Traveller exists.  I don’t expect everyone to love it, but it may surprise some CCG players with how much is going on.

V:TES

Three games at GameKastle Santa Clara.  Three fivers.

Mark (Ass Contract) -> Brandon (!Toreador from cube) -> Rob (Hatchling rush) -> Devin (BB w/ Vic) -> Ian (midcap Thaum w/ Create Gargoyles)

Rob brings out Alabastrom.  Devin brings out Agi.  Agi goes to torpor.  Gets eaten.  Alabastrom goes to torpor.  Gets eaten.  Over in my world, I Society of Leopold Mark’s fat Ass.  For some reason, he blocks my bleed of one.  I theft him to zero.

I bring out many a minion.  Four uniques, Carlton, Create Gargoyle.  The last kills me.  Mark goes backwards with rush and removes my CG w/ Dominate, allowing Devin to get in a bleed of six with Walk of Caine and, then, finishing me off because my CG in torpor also has +bleed for BB card on it.

Rob is helpless and we make a food run.  Mark is taken out.  Brandon has a bunch of guns.

Ian (PRE/FOR/cel/pro vote) -> Brandon (Trem from cube) -> Devin (Dem w/ Tha graft) -> Mark (Guruhi vote) -> Rob (as above)

While tempting at times to try to just get Mark off the table to establish vote lock, the problem with that plan was Devin just getting two easy VPs.  Brandon got to pass every vote he called while Mark constantly failed my votes, then would get me to support his KRCs 2 and 2.  Eventually, Mark got vote lock because everyone let him.  I thought about Banishmenting Eze with his 5 votes before that occurred, but I made a minimal effort to try to keep Devin in the game.

I suppose I should include a few notes about my game.  I bring out Una.  Her first action is to get Polaris Coach.  At a point in the game, I bleed with Una and Brandon blocks.  I don’t use any of the four counters on Polaris Coach.  Gustav Breidenstein did learn Protean and super Forced March.  Ubende tried to take Powerbase: Tshwane using stealth from Instantaneous Transformation but got blocked, anyway.  I kept hoping someone else would fail a vote, including the Ancient Influence that gave me 7 pool or the Reins of Power that I did 6 pool damage with.

Time out with Brandon and Mark with 1.5 and me with .5.

Brandon (borrowed Valkyrie) -> Mark (Children of Stone) -> Rob (Salubri/HoS) -> Devin (Shattering) -> Ian (!Gangrel w/ Thaum)

So, amazingly enough, I tended to win combats with either Aksinya or Mimir playing a deck where my first discard was Shotgun Ritual.  I also discarded Cauldron of Blood at some point.  The table forgot that Mark’s Gargoyle had Armor of Terra on it and we had to roll back a 2 agg punch into diablerie which really messed things up.

Brandon Revolutionary Counciled more times than it actually resolved.  I spent a lot of time at 1 pool.  Through poor play of Aksinya’s ability, I went from 3 pool to zero.  Devin eventually conceded to Brandon.

Common, One Might Have Said … Neutral … Ground … Back In The Day

I don’t build decks often enough.  So many cards or archetypes I could play or play more of.  I play V:TES and next day start writing out some deck lists.  I keep having the same sort of thoughts with Shadowfist decks, one of which is building the all foundation character deck (with no Queens).

I was vague on Keyforge and became somewhat more knowledgeable.  I find it funny that the whole point of the game’s existence is to not allow deck construction, which is kind of the reason CCGs are the most awesomest form of competitive gaming.

I hope I never become one of those folks who complains about deckbuilding, that I just complain about my laziness/procrastinating that causes me to not do something that’s just ultra cool.  I even have interest in L5R deckbuilding and I gave up on the game in a galaxy far, far away.

Certainly, playing Traveller multiplayer brings player psychology into it.  But, I think the last week was less about the commonality of play experiences between the games and more about the essence of CCGs.  They (the decent ones) have depth of play, variety of deck construction, unpredictable events, and flavor text.  Well, V:TES flavor text owns flavor text in the other two.  I’d rate Traveller as having the best art on average.  Shadowfist has the most interesting theme to me these days.

They also aren’t easy.  Shadowfist may have the hardest decisions.  V:TES may have the hardest to remember rules set.  Traveller may be the hardest sell because it didn’t come out in 1994/1995, when CCGs were first Rage-ing and There Can Be more than One.

But, easy isn’t necessary.  I’d much rather that choosing health care options or mobile phones or hotels to stay at were easy.

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Digital Travel

November 27, 2018

The plan has been in place for quite some time to have an electronic version of Traveller.

Yesterday, Horizon launched a Kickstarter to expand play beyond the rectangular cardboard into the world of zip zap that is the fu-ture …

Traveller CG Digital Edition

Posted about the KS on the VEKN forums, pointing out how our programmer is one of the most successful V:TES players in history.  I thought it was an interesting bit of trivia.

Only 28ish more days to back, back, back.  It could go all the way … with your help.  (Gratuitous sports jokes are all part of the payoff.)

I can, of course, be doing more to advertise the game.  So, with the theme of travel, I thought of how 2019’s convention schedule can be impacted now that cards are available in retail establishments and/or through their distributors.  If anyone has any suggestions outside of Origins and Gen Con, I’m interested in getting a better sense of which cons would have the most impact for exposing to people who don’t know the game is available.  International suggestions also welcome.

So, with the theme of digital, while Jeff and I were at GobbleCon Saturday to do some late notice demos, my Thanksgiving, besides being a blogging day, because one can be thankful of the opportunity to blog about gaming as well as write absurdly run on sentences, was a day of catching up on Rokugan 1600 fictions.  Not written with quill and squid but with the dread power of a keyboard while peering at a monitor.

I finally wrote something from a villain’s perspective.  I should just write those to begin with.  Though, thinking about it, are the villains really the villains or are they just antagonists to a messed up society of sword worshipers?

I wrote some other NPC stuff, too.  I could write all month (next month) and still not cover all of the NPC possibilities.

Yup, too many NPCs.  I knew there were from the start and, yet.  And, yet, you know what is fun for me?  More NPCs.  More stories that have nothing to do with the players or even really the campaign’s focus.  Well, rein it in, myself, rein it in.

Don’t rein in your end of year Kickstarter backing of the Digital Edition of the Traveller Card Game.

I know things I want to happen in the next installment of R.1600, I just foresee two problems.  One, too many things.  Two, how to adapt to player action.  Three … foresee three problems … everything is cooler in my brain than it normally ends up being in play.

It is funny, like when I read some reddit stuff on too many NPCs, how my problems aren’t special snowflake problems but rather mundane difficulties GMs routinely face.  It’s almost like there’s this human nature thing that happens that makes things suboptimal as, even though we know about a potential trap, we walk into the trap anyway.

Why is it so difficult?

You know who travels?  The Doctor travels.

I watched The Witchfinders and, then, hurriedly went to read reviews expecting to see comments supporting my one and only truth – that episode was atrocious.  Only to have people say they liked it.  Ye gods.  Hath Satan taketh controlleth of the interwebseth?  I kept wondering whether there was some clever audience manipulation thing going on that would make the tonal whipflash make sense.  It was like there was a parody running interlaced with the episode.

I’m not a fan of this season.  It does make me recall oldWho.  That’s not bad.  But, there was a lot of not so great oldWho, too.  And, there’s been plenty of newWho I haven’t thought highly of.  It’s like there’s untapped potential.

The Traveller Customizable Card Game is replete with untapped potential.  Potential that could be tapped … I mean … exerted with a few heroic actions.  All totally not pitching aside, there are some deep interactions in the card game, a lot of which have to do with how cards are money.  There were times I played complications on the contracts I was going to pursue just to be forced to bounce permanents back to my hand to use as money for going after more contracts.  It didn’t exactly work as I was far behind my opponent and had no way to really slow him down, but it was techy in a way that a lot of Magic puzzles want you to think.

Wow, haven’t mentioned Magic in a bit.  I guess that comes from not playing it or reading about it or having other people talk to me much about it while at the same time playing/running other games.  It’s almost like I’m stating something so keenly obvious that it has already sliced through the fabric of destiny.

Digital.  Travel.  Oh.  Nevermind.  For the one and only time in the history and future of this and every other creation, I managed to stray from my topic.


VTES [2018/11/18]

November 22, 2018

Last Sunday, I played V:TES.  Yup, weird.  In a race of how many times I leave the state versus how many times I play V:TES this year (counting, say, all of Origins as one instance), I have to actually think about the relative totals.

I worked on decks in the morning, having my Rokugan 1600 Saturday evening and some non-gaming [boo] stuff to do Saturday morning.  I’m hardly building new decks at all for any of the three card games I’m “playing”.  Yup, becoming one of “those” people.

And, yet, as soon as we start playing, I think about decks I haven’t built before.  Just need to be playing more often to keep the fire burning.

So, I managed to not put my refurbed decks into my game bag.  So, we played three games and I borrowed from a different player each game.

G1

Devin (Shamblers) -> Mark (Ass BH) -> Alex (Akunanse) -> Ian (borrowed Children of Stone)

Mark never really got going.  So, Devin Conditioninged him.  Devin lost five minions in one round around the table.  Carlton got Pentexed, Deep Song rush blew up a Shambler.  I blocked a hunt by a vamp emptied from Conditioning.  I Stone Dogged a Giovanni I Famed.  Devin diablerized his own vamp for reasons not entirely clear to me and got bloodhunted.

Without any defenses at all, I used the power of having actions to bleed and Anarch Revolt and stuff until Devin was out.  Alex eventually conceded because nobody owns Alabastrom and his trio of Batfriends in combat.

I find Children of Stone interesting for Gargoyles, but I’m not a fan of the Thaum level.  Still totally unenthused by playing Trem/! and Gargoyles together (outside of Create Gargoyle).  It’s just not interesting to have the added clunkiness.  I had a bunch of Dominate and no Dominate cards, which sounds like one of my decks, but the reality is that the deck could just Conditioning and Deflection like all true decks do.

G2

Ian (borrowed Akunanse from above) -> Mark (as above) -> Alex (borrowed Al-Muntathir) -> Devin (Valkyrie)

Thought Devin was in a good position and maybe the game would time out or time out with my being ousted.  My problem was lack of permacept.  I could wreck Ass, but Mark stopped blocking and focused on bloating to counteract my pressure.  So, I eventually got a hand of all combat cards.

Devin got ousted as he didn’t get quite enough action going on and Al-Muntathir could bleed for a lot.  Alex got ousted when he ran out of ability to stop a horde of Ass bleeders.  I didn’t have anything to defend myself at the end.

G3

Ian (borrowed Thucimia) -> Mark (Eze/Nana) -> Devin (Nos winnie swarm bleed w/ Embraces) -> Alex (borrowed Valkyrie)

My game was short.  By the time I had taken one action with Thucimia, Mark was helping Alex kill me, and we both fell pretty quick.  The endgame was interesting with Devin’s horde of bleeders against Valkyrie bleed/vote.  In the end, Alex cycled enough to draw an Eat the Rich to do the one pool damage necessary to finish off Devin.

It was kind of weird playing.  The game came back naturally – that’s what 20 years of experience does.  The experience was kind of off from the norm – I wasn’t as engaged, wasn’t playing my own decks, the air quality in Berkeley was atrocious, and our locale was too hot inside.  I felt less like me playing and maybe more like what it’s like for other people who aren’t as invested.

I’ve had years where I’ve hardly played.  Then, years I played a lot.  I would prefer the playing a lot.  It’s just that we lost some players that I actually do other things with, so it’s kind of different than when we lost players before that impacted how often I played.  In the latter case, I seek out other V:TES players.  In this case, I just hang with friends who are former V:TESers.


Out Of The Shadows

September 19, 2018

So, Shadowfist has a new owner.  The impact of this is so slight in the interwebs that it’s not easy to find references to the new ownership company … even when I include Vetusta Games in my search.

It feels like we are some of the few players left (by players I mean people who play).  Had a couple comments about missing out on the opportunity for our game company to own Shadowfist, but that was rather unlikely.

Yet, why not muse about what it would be like to own a game with a long history rather than a game we are hoping builds some history?

What would I do if I suddenly became in charge of Shadowfist?

Bring back Architects right away and get some control over effects Lotus get?  Probably not.  I like playing Architects (zero interest in RPG, though as a villain they are okay).  Abominations are often cute.  I play the goofy removal rather than the staple removal.  I just don’t care nearly as much as others do.

Bring back Syndicate or 7 Masters or do more faction stuff?  No.

Ban Netherworld Trickster and other ridiculous Modern cards that don’t need to exist?  Hmmm …

What does Shadowfist need besides more players?

Better conclusion to games, of course.  One could say that requiring two resources to play the game and being able to get stone aged on power during play is what makes games the most unpleasant, but the lack of clear endgame is something I find increasingly offputting.

Have I seen the game at its best?  What is the best Shadowfist?  I’ve been playing for years more often than most and I still don’t have a great sense of what the game sold itself on.  Theme?  What do really good players playing each other get out of games?

V:TES doesn’t sell me on theme.  It sells me on the lunge.  It sells me on the comebacks.  On a zero intercept deck holding the Edge in a five-player game multiple turns.  It sells me on winning tournaments with Ghouled Street Thug in a vote deck, Mercury’s Arrow in, uh, a Mercury’s Arrow deck, Chalice of Kinship in a vaguely !Gangrel deck.

Daughter of Nu Gua with Butterfly Knives and Blade Palm for my first tournament win.  That’s what may sell me on Shadowfist.  More than a game focused on WoD vampires and numerous allies, Shadowfist is open, in some ways far more open than Magic, in others not so much.

There are plenty of rarely seen cards that amuse me.  I had five Cobra Clan Stalkers in play at the same time.

So, besides hoping someone comes up with a great way to market the game and run bunches of demos and tournaments across the planet (almost like every CCG needs this, almost …), I want interesting.  Shadowfist is wildly diverse.  Netherworld and pop up junctions can do anything.  70’s, Wild West, whatever.

I’d make “my” card.  Lotus magistrate because someone needs to be the Lotus good guy.  I’m not a punmaster, Baron von Pun, but I’d greenlight card ideas that sounded funny more than sounded good.

Would I adopt our house rules?  Specifically, the new location cost reduction?  It’s so good for the game in so many ways that I’d want to sanction it as a format and see if people could break it.  Choose a FSS and non-unique foundation for opening hand?  Yeah, probably.

I was talking about Traveller recently to a non-gamer.  I think it’s a good game.  I think you can try a variety of other games and note that there are usually problems in every CCG because CCGs are complicated and openended.  Sure, Ultimate Combat! may be more fun to play than anything else, but that’s mostly out of a starter box and the card pool is rather limited and some people care that the art isn’t spectacular.

Shadowfist has Difficulty at the Beginning and Difficulty at the End of Things.  Lot of the old time players want to play games that are much faster than what I want to play for multiplayer CCGs, so the game is not going to be that amazing for one or both of us.

But, I enjoy it.  I even enjoy games with obnoxious cards played, like monkeys.

I think Modern doesn’t do it any favors and maybe the concept of Modern needs to be rethought.  Modern has way overpowered cards in isolation with what feels like a pretty limited environment.  Maybe that’s not that different from when the game was new.  How often do I see the Queen of the Ice Pagoda in classic play?  A lot of cards just aren’t that good in your typical CCG and players gravitate towards the best cards.

I’d try to make the Ascended more interesting.  There’s just something about their characters that tends to grate on me.

I’d try to find a way to even out power because there’s just insane levels of alt power generation and … Möbius Gardens needs to be nerfed.  Is Jury-Rigged Dynamo a necessary play in your meta?  It’s pretty much a single card reason to play Jammers in our meta as it’s infinite power.  Of course, you are also playing Monarchs so that you can Twin Thunders your Wrath of the Monarchs to double nuke Gardens.

Is Superleap fun?  Just gets constant complaints in our play even though the reason it so often works is because there isn’t a lot of character/attack screw.

Should Loyalty be more common?

On the one hand, I think I’d struggle with making cards for the game as I don’t have a great sense of the mechanical balance in the game.  On the other, I might design cards that aren’t intended to address a mechanical need but just ooze flavor.

Would I hose Lotus recursion yet not Dragon recursion?  Maybe just reprint The Crucible with another name so that you can run ten cards that toast all demons in play.

Monarchs faction probably has the most potential for interesting cards as factions like Hand and Lotus are pretty focused on their thing.  Yet, I’ve become pretty bored with Modern Monarchs characters.  Actually, I’ve just generally become less enamored with Modern play, with my main way of keeping engaged with Modern decks being going multiple factions.

Shadowfist can have stories.  I know stories can annoy players who don’t like their factions changing, but it is an opportunity to shake up the environment.  “All apes/monkeys/gorillas have been wiped out through time, but mermaids and golems are appearing everywhere.”

I don’t know.  Is there a different CCG I’d rather have control over?  Well, Wheel of Time would be interesting but only if it somehow sold, which I think is unlikely at this point.  I wouldn’t want to control Magic, Pokemon, or their ilk.  L5R might be interesting if I could say “Forgot that unpleasant game that was put out, I’ll take the cool of the IP and come up with passable mechanics so that the game is actually fun.”  But, then, would I want to hear endlessly about adding Spider or some such?  I wonder if I could make the Scorpion fun in the CCG while it remains the opposite in the RPG, much like how Dominate works in V:TES or Architects in Shadowfist.

The irony of my current situation is that I have control over a card game and could, theoretically, have more, yet what I’ve always wanted with the CCGs I’ve played is influence, not control.  I guess going into what it’s like to be a designer/developer/manager versus being a player would make for a good topic some day, but today is more about giving Shadowfist some exposure.

Oh, reprint Shadowfist, the card.  That’s the top priority.


Long Absence Releasing Product

September 9, 2018

So, I’m still capable of typing.  In fact, I’ve even played one or more games since August 20th.

August was just exhausting, having early Gen Con run into when I do monthly stuff at work, into V:TES tournaments, into getting back to normal cadence of Rokugan 1600/Shadowfist/whatever.

So, September rolls around and … Pacificon.  I went two days.  I wore my two vivid Pacificon shirts from the 90’s.  When I wore the black one, another con goer I sat at a table with had the same year’s shirt upon his torso.

Gamingwise, there was running a Traveller demo which was well attended and running a Traveller tournament that wasn’t.  I wasn’t shocked by the latter, but it ties into how it’s time for us to ramp up building a player base of active players.  And, I played something.  I played a prototype game, Treasuremania.  It reminds me of something a lot, but I can’t quite think of what.  My friend suggested some advanced rules to the designer and those rules remind me of playing RoboRally, though I guess the basic game has similarities to RoboRally already, though the game is very different in that RoboRally messes with people like me a lot where the movement mechanics of this game don’t.  I am undefeated at Treasuremania [ladies].

There was some nongaming stuff at the con, like seeing people and talking/eating.  Discovered nearby strip mall replaced Chinese restaurants and the new one is very much like restaurants in Shanghai.  All restaurant food seems like it’s getting expensive enough to me to encourage just cooking my own food, but, if you accept that Chinese food isn’t a lower medium cost option anymore, this place seems worth going to occasionally.

Anyway, back to gaming, I’ve also played Shadowfist a couple of times or so, with our games taking a long time such that we get one game in in nearly 3 hours.  I think the ideal is about 75 minutes per game.  Considering how open our environment is for targets to attack due to our house rules, would think sudden victories wouldn’t be so hard.

And, I’ve run a couple of Rokugan 1600 sessions in recent memory, though one of them may have been prior to my last post.  I was happier with how the Bridge session went than the Mountain session.  But, I think my latest problem is that I’m still writing sessions for when our group tried to play in a 3 hour or so block on a weeknight, so the sessions actually don’t seem set up well when we know we have 4+ hours to play on a weekend.  To retain flexibility, I think that means I need to have multiple sessions worth of material available at a time to be able to run less or more, which isn’t a terrible idea anyway, though thinking through how to adjust things on the fly for how first parts turn out requires … more … thinking?  More preparation is a good thing to do, but it’s more work.

But, I had a question asked of me recently that I’ve been thinking about.

I was asked what I would want to play for a LARP.

I didn’t have a good answer.

What crossed my mind at the time was that sci-fi didn’t sound appealing.  Let me tangentialate for a while.

I’m not a sci-fi fan in terms of the idea of futureosity.  Sure, I like original Trek and watch a fair amount of Doctor Who, but neither makes the science all that important.  It’s not hard science.  oTrek was sci-fi in terms of speaking to the human condition with whizbang tech.  DW is just kind of quirkful.  Games like Eclipse Phase or whatever that seem more hard just hold like zero appeal to me.  I’m not into the tech in Shadowrun.  I find Shadowfist/Feng Shui tech acceptable because they are so unimportant.

Tangentialfuller.  I’ve read Bimbos of the Death Sun.  If you don’t know what that is, it’s a mystery novel set at a game convention that points out all of the nerdglory that actually exists even today, if maybe not to the same degree now that a lot of gamers have aged and produced offspring.  The title is because the mystery solver’s husband (boyfriend?) wrote a hard science novel that his editor forced to be called Bimbos of the Death Sun so that they could put sci-fi appropriate cover art on it, which is the excuse for the pair to go to a con for him to push his book while she deals with gamers and murder.  I think about this novel every time hard science and gaming intersect.  I did enjoy the novel when I read it.  Another piece of conversation lately involving gaming had to do with how different gaming can be in the US versus another place, to where the other person didn’t understand a lot of gamer jokes made by Statespeople until moving to the States.

Anyway, trying to get this back on “topic”, LARP set in the future, where you have tiresome tech like cameras everywhere, does not sound remotely appealing.  If anything, historical sounds more appealing, though I realize this may not be that great for me as the folks into that sort of LARPing probably have costumes and I’m not a costume guy.  That kind of leaves modern, but not WoD modern as WoD LARPing just sounds painful based on the stories I hear.

Thinking about it after I was asked, what came to mind was the idea of doing something collaborative in a LARP, as part of a small team.  What I often find to be the case with LARPs is that I have no meaningful goals in that even if I have goals I don’t really care about them, so I get really tired after about an hour and am fine with doing nothing at that point until it ends.

The only LARP where I can recall being more into things for longer was one of the first, maybe the first, I ever did, where I played a pregnant duchess.  I was given one of the NPC roles, so I didn’t really have a goal, but other players had goals that involved me, so I would interact with people who were motivated to accomplish something.  Then, at the end of the parlor LARP, the big reveal revealed how everything connected together and I was totally not murdered like my husband was(?).  I still grew tired in the middle, so mostly this anecdote is about my awesome pregnant duchess playing skillz.

I played an Immortal LARP once, but I recall very little about it.  Everyone seemed to be trying to accomplish the same thing, so it wasn’t very similar to any other LARP in my vague recollections.

Just not something that holds my attention/vast reservoirs of enthusiasm.  Which is interesting because one-shot RPGs do a good job holding my attention, so why not one-off LARPs?  An obvious reason is that LARPs depend a lot on other players and other players aren’t necessarily all that compelling.  In this conversation I had, the concept of players having actual in-character jobs came up, and I realize that a big problem with HoR political interactives is that hardly anyone has a defined job, which is why so many people can just sit around, with very little of consequence occurring.

Now, let’s say I’m in an ongoing LARP and have an in character job.  Is that interesting to me?  It doesn’t sound like it.  I already have things I want to do and things I do (watch Golf Channel or NBA Channel or whatever while playing solitaire) when I don’t want to do “anything”.

But, then, why play RPGs?  Why run RPGs?  Where’s the difference?  I don’t get into character that much in RPGs, even less so in campaigns.  I’m more interested in visualizing a story over acting one out.  When I do portray NPCs in character in RPGs, it doesn’t last very long.  I don’t have the acting bug.  I’m far more into being entertained than being an entertainer.  Even writing is something where I might spend way more time reading other people’s blog posts than writing my own, except I write 2000 word blog posts and a lot of people don’t and a lot of people don’t post that often for games I actively play.

Also, there’s another reason I can see that would reduce the appeal of LARPing, though I think it would matter far more in an ongoing LARP rather than a one-off, but this seems like a topic to save for another time.

So, to LARP or not to LARP?  Guess I’ll see.  If I’m willing to play wargames and minis because other people want me to, I can probably try out LARPs if people want me to and see whether it turns out better than I expect it to.


August VTES Tournaments

August 18, 2018

It’s a sign of old age that I just don’t recover from Gen Con as fast as I used to.  Of course, there are other factors, but having V:TES tournaments the weekend after GC was not easy.

For one thing, I only built one new deck in the time I had before driving up to Berkeley.  So, for the second event, played boring deck I took to NAC, leaving all of the antivote stuff in [alert, alert, foreshadowing alert … wait, if you call it out, is it foreshadowing anymore?].

T1, R1

Ian (Cel/For/Pre/Pro vote) -> Mark (Emerald Legionnaire w/ Anu) -> Kenneth (FoS merge vote Corruption) -> Jonathan (EuroBrujah) -> Devin (Nos weenies with Flash Grenades)

Since it’s been a week, my memory of details is reduced, but Mark did lots of stuff unmolested as neither Kenneth nor I block stuff and neither one of us did horrible things to him with votes.  Kenneth was okay at first but then just generally crumbled as he got bled for tons and choked on political actions.  Jonathan and I contest a title for a while as he brings out Donal and I bring out Una.  I eventually give up the title based on game state.  I try to ignore Devin as much as possible due to Flash Grenade being annoying to my low minion deck, which means getting bled constantly by a horde.

Since my predator never really got hurt, I had one useful thing to do in the game:  call Anarchist Uprising when my prey had 7 pool and 7 minions after having other actions blocked.  It got blocked.  What would have been funny is even a Forced March in my hand would have seen it go off and correct the game state to something better, as I would have Zip Lined, unlocked, called the vote at enough stealth.  Drew Polaris Coach too late to matter.

After that failed bid, Mark ousted and became unoustable.

R2

Devin -> Lev (unnamed) -> Rick (Trem/!(?) no bounce) -> Ian -> Kenneth

Rick reduced bleeds (he put Narrow Minds in play!!), which made Lev’s game more terrible.  Kenneth was allowed to pass votes, which made Devin’s game more terrible.  Pentexes and deals between Lev and Rick made this game meaningless to me, though I was pretty uninvested from the beginning as I was tired, had too much hot chocolate and ruffles, and still had post-GC things on my mind.

I guess my highlight in this game was bringing out Hardestadt and not having horrible things happen to him.  At one point, I tried Banishment on one of Kenneth’s dudes to stop a likely oust and Rick voted it down, so I just stopped caring what happened.  Kenneth’s stealing of Devin’s dudes through merged Sarrasine and whatnot plus Devin’s inability to block nor beat up Kenneth’s dudes meant there was inevitability at work even if I remembered to Scourge of the Enochians one of the stolen dudes.

After that happened, the game ground down to nothing as Lev just used his resources to stop Kenneth or me from going forward.  I’m not sure what Rick’s deck was supposed to do, though it played many of the usual cards in Aus/Dom/Tha except for bouncing stuff to me.  I can understand how reduction may be tech, but Narrow Minds is just a bad card that, to my aged and feeble recollection, has never actually helped the person who played it in my games and don’t get why people find it so appealing when they could put in better cards and not just create random distortions in games.

F

Mark won.

T2, R1

Ian (SER SB) -> Eric (Ventrue/! wall) -> Alex (high cap HoS) -> Jonathan (Shamblers) -> David CK (Thrown Gates)

So similar in terms of my predator and grandpredator both fighting or not that I had a hard time remembering which tournament I played against Devin’s deck and which David CK’s deck.  Shamblers do not do well against Thrown Gates.  Which meant I had to survive some on my own.  By which I mean I let plenty of bleeds through, yet again.

Alex did do stuff that helped and Eric blocked a bunch of Alex’s actions.  Eventually, Eric tried to go forward and ran into 3 Strength often enough to be relevant.  Jonathan could get stronger over time and could get bleeds through, but his game was slowed a lot by vamps going to torpor.

I eventually ousted Eric when he didn’t have a ton of pool and was tapped out in front of my four minions (Mylan may have been one of them).  I would have ousted Alex with more time, Jonathan still had a huge pool amount to go through even after finally getting David below 10.

R2

David A (Shattering Crescendo) -> Rick (Lasombra vote/fight) -> Ian -> Alex -> David CK

I think David A was first, might have been CK.  Anyway, David A sent two Crescendoes backwards, eliminating CK’s game.  Alex didn’t really do hardly anything, as one of CK’s rushes punked one of his dudes.

I ousted Alex.  Rick didn’t vote out David A to make CK more of a pool sack.  I ousted them.  In the endgame, I actually used The Eternal Mask at superior to bring back a murdered Kephamos and bled for a lot until Rick was going to die to Anarch Convert + Anarch Railroad if he didn’t scoop.

F

As high seed, I went with my first inclination though I wasn’t that fond of the choice.  Too much combat or pseudocombat in the finals.  I inserted between Mark and David A.  This meant if I was ousted, Mark, as second seed, would probably win, but I wouldn’t care anymore.  Also, the local players have strong stylistic play and I figured I wouldn’t get as murdered by Crescendoes as CK did in the earlier round.

Ian -> David A -> Jonathan -> Devin (anarch POT) -> Mark (high cap fake vampires – Lord Tremere, Capuchin – brought out by Malgorzata)

Mark’s game started poorly as Malgorzata got beaten down, but he recovered to where I didn’t think he was oustable and could just keep reducing my pool.  The latter was mostly true, the former was oddly not exactly true.

David Crescendoed forwards though I was ready to have my Mylan explode in a fine green mist.  I eventually brought out a couple vampires because I liked bleeding David.  I struggled with the idea of bringing out yet more dudes, but I was pretty worried about pool as I had no Dominate in play for a long time to bounce and had no way to stop votes … yet.

Devin crumbled before the power of Conditioning.  I ousted David with 8 bleed in a turn.  I didn’t fear Jonathan except it did force me to hold on to combat ends in case one of his few Shamblers came my way.  Jonathan ousted and I figured the game would time out with either my winning or Mark ousting me as I didn’t see how Jonathan got through Mark’s copious defenses of permacept and Carlton and Bowl and AUS.

Well, unless he bounced me.  Since I wanted to put the fear of Set in Mark, I got bounced and five-stealthed a bleed through on him to put him lower.  Mark did get down to 2 pool through faults of his own.

Mark figured he would get me.  The bleeds weren’t too bad or got bounced.  On his final turn, he called a vote, I Delayed it.  He bled for one to reduce me to five and called Reins of Power.  I Delayed it.  I took my turn.

Jonathan took his turn, getting a bleed through with the power of Obfuscate (in his Shambler deck, yes) and bled for … 1.  Game over.

It was an interesting ending.  I would have been heavily in favor of Jonathan ousting much earlier and trying the endgame, or, before that, Devin ousting and my double ousting and racing POT against SER in the endgame.  We probably could have played faster, I was actually getting confused as to what actions made any sense for me to do towards the end of the game.  That Mark would have won if not for Delaying Tactics and Jonathan would have won if he had any plus bleed made it thrillful.

Halfway Around
Description:
Blood retention (Path of Typhon, Life in the City) style Serpentis SB.

Crypt (12 cards; Capacity min=1 max=8 avg=4.33)
===============================================
3x Anarch Convert 1 Caitiff:ANY
1x Celine Chevalier 3 obf ser Follower of Set:2
1x Count Ormonde 5 dom pre ser OBF Follower of Set:2
1x Ezekiel, Lord of Montreal 6 obf pot PRE SER Follower of Set:3
2x Hesha Ruhadze 6 ani obf pre SER Follower of Set:2
1x Kephamos, High Priest of Marrakech 8 dom obf pre SER Follower of Set:2
1x Nepata 4 obf pre ser Follower of Set:2
1x Samat Ramal-Ra, Archon 6 pre ser tha OBF Follower of Set:2
1x Sir Marriot D’Urban 5 aus obf ser PRE Follower of Set:2

Library (90 cards)
==================
Master (28)
1x Anarch Railroad
1x Archon Investigation
1x Barrens, The
5x Blood Doll
3x Dominate
1x Dreams of the Sphinx
5x Life in the City
1x Obfuscate
1x Opium Den
4x Path of Typhon, The
1x Temple Hunting Ground
1x Vessel
1x Wash
2x Wider View

Action (10)
8x Eternal Mask, The
1x Revelation of Ecstasy
1x Set’s Curse

Ally (1)
1x Mylan Horseed (Goblin)

Action Modifier (20)
4x Cloak the Gathering
2x Faceless Night
1x Leverage
1x Lost in Crowds
2x Revelation of Desire
1x Spying Mission
7x Truth of a Thousand Lies
2x Veil the Legions

Reaction (19)
1x Confusion of the Eye
6x Deflection
3x Delaying Tactics
1x Fillip
6x On the Qui Vive
1x Poison Pill
1x Wake with Evening’s Freshness

Combat (9)
1x Cobra Fangs
2x Dodge
4x Majesty
2x Unholy Penance

Combo (3)
1x Form of the Serpent
2x Swallowed by the Night

Besides enjoying playing stealth bleed, an archetype (set of archetypes) I don’t play often enough, this now marks my first win with Serpentis.  So, still a bunch of disciplines to go, including Quietus.  I do want to play more Necromancy especially now that there’s a great way to play Transfusion for free, but it showed up in my Augustus deck.  I think about more Obtenebration decks, but that showed up in my Kiasyd w/ Animalism deck.  So, whatever.  I guess I focus on Quietus or Abombwe to get those over with.  I think the Abombwe build needs to be a graft it on dudes build and go for evasion rather than Akunanse as I just don’t feel interested in Akunanse builds I’ve done.

No, I never played Cobra Fangs.  I did have in hand in the finals and wanted to play it, but I couldn’t reliably get into combat with a vampire.

Thanks to Mark, who enables tournaments locally.  Thanks to the players who showed up and to the person who didn’t play.  I really need to remember that Victory Point Cafe may have other options for chips than ruffles and maybe put in my dinner sandwich order before they run out of rolls.


Subtraction By Addition

July 22, 2018

While my current thoughts are more on Rokugan 1600 since I just ran a session and we had three sessions in three weeks, I was thinking about V:TES and adding cards versus removing cards from the card pool due to the recent threads on the forums.

I got to thinking about what expansions actually made V:TES a better game.  Not a more fun game, since that’s incredibly subjective, but something not remotely subjective since I know all and see all and think all that is what made the game play better.

Dark Sovereigns

Ha.  Ha ha.  Terrible balance with incredibly obnoxious cards like Thoughts Betrayed.

Ancient Hearts

Worse balance.  Note that Giovanni and Ravnos are still awful (more so the one without a lot of Dominate), Ass are more awful than either of those (close with Ravnos), and Serpentis is incredibly top … focused with cards not like Temptation and Form of Corruption tending towards gar-bage.

Sabbat

Finally, a set that seems to be trying to address the game mechanically and may have been playtested a reasonable amount.  Sure, wild imbalances in clans, but this is a step in the right direction even if the path of producing crappier versions of Deflection and Telepathic Misdirection isn’t really the path of making a better game.

Sabbat War

For this post, I don’t see this being significantly different, but it did put cards into the precons that weren’t in the boosters.  My appreciation for this set has grown considerably since I tend to forget how the !Trem got slighted.  Some good additions cryptwise.

Final Nights

Full of gar-bage.  Made Giovanni Shamble.  Made Ravnos Nightmarish.  Not remotely my idea of a good set, but it did make the game better in some ways.  Having indies not be so terrible is better even if I find Shambling tiresome.

Bloodlines

No.  Bloodlines may be superpopular and superinteresting, but I see it only taking away from the game as it expanded the game in a way that made it far far harder to grok and away from core concepts.  For one thing, hardly any of the bloodlines are votey, which means increased variance in how votish tables are.  Plus, just trying to expose someone to a game with a ton more disciplines, outferiors, disciplines that hardly any vampires have, weirdly non-synergistic crossover possibilities that caused many bloodlines decks to ignore mixing with non-bloodlines is not happy times.

Camarilla Edition

Nerf hammer unleashed.  Did that make the game better?  It’s kind of hard to remember how insane free Majesty and always free Second Tradition is.  Ton of new vampires that weren’t out of control powerwise even if some are superobnoxious.  Sure, CE made the game better.  I would have liked The Embrace to be changed in a different way, but some good clarity and nerfing.

Anarchs

Frowny face.

Black Hand

More frowny.  This might have been more welcome if it didn’t come on the heels of Anarchs.  Both suffer from not giving so much interesting spins on what is already possible but pushing towards low yield mechanics in the name of expansion.  The idea of introducing new things weak does not make games play better.  It makes tables more unbalanced as the experimenters get Dominated.

Gehenna

The end times.  Variety of normal cards that are pretty good balancewise.  Saddled with the most obnoxious stuff in existence.  So many games with a bunch of Events in play as people tried out Fall of the Camarilla, et al.

10th Anniversary

Atrocious new cards.  Get 10 cards where at least three never should have been printed (as written).  After initial efforts, I don’t see five played by anyone besides me.  Channel 10 is borderline in my mind as to whether it should exist.  Powerbase: Los Angeles is the one card that, if you think anarchs should be part of the game, deserved being published.

Pretty much a set of unique promos beyond the reprints and I never think that’s a way to make games better.  OTOH, a bunch of important reprints.

Kindred Most Wanted

Where Anarchs and BH led to “Something different, I’ll build bad decks!”, KMW led to “I’m going to permarush you with this incredibly bad deck until I can murder your dude!”  Also think it made draft significantly worse by putting out way too much unnecessary draft text.  Reminds me of Gehenna in that there are various normal cards with the set saddled with awful, but are all of the normal cards good ideas?  The Embrace got turned into a pure swarm card, so we get Tumnimos as another version?!?  Waters of Duat?!?  How about just fixing The Embrace to get a skill card if put into play by a 5+ cap?

Legacies of Blood

More bloodlines.  Tupdog.  Plus, let’s add Abombwe to the game.  At least Bloodlines seemed to have a plan.  This just smacked of “How do we sell the next set?”

Mixed bag on crypt cards.  Samedi in this set are just atrocious.  Far more Laibon options if you have to have Laibon even part of the game, something I used to be in favor of but now am not, at least not how it was done.  More Laibon in Tzimisce and Lasombra help open up varied crypts in a way I think the game would be benefited by.

Nights of Reckoning

If Gehenna had never been made, would this set be so hate-worthy?  Could argue that it forced people to build decks differently and punished people playing sketchy strategies.  Except, this isn’t Magic.  This is a multiplayer CCG where a lot of play is not for tournament preparation/competition and the balance was way out of whack when this got published.  Now, what is the balance now?  Is it boring to play Imbued?  Generates too much table hate?  Or, did the better players learn how to cause Imbued not to turn into swarms with permastealth, permacept, permableed, permafreak?

3rd Edition

Heart of Nizchetus.  Did On the Qui Vive make for a better game or just a more powerful game?  Is having a wake for Carlton and friends a good idea or an “Allies are even more annoying” idea?  It did put a bunch of cards into people’s hands, a bunch of misprinted, marked, smelly cards, but that’s not germaine to whether it makes for a better game.  Some good.  I consider Mirror Walk good.  Abbot is arguably good for the game.  I question whether Helicopter is, being mostly a buff to three-bleeders with four votes.

Cryptwise, I’d say pretty good adds to the game.  Overall, then, I’m wishy washy about it, but I guess I’d go with good for the game.

Sword of Caine

Ignoring expanding on BH, something I don’t think substantially added to the game and only became more and more annoying as it got better and better cards to support the trait, what did this add?

Biothaumaturgical Experiment continued to make Thaum more diverse, which it needed.  Epiphany was huge for making a terrible mechanic less terrible.  Nocturn is another ally that strikes me as being too good and can warp the environment, though this gets into a different argument about what role allies are supposed to play in the game.  The Uncoiling was an attempt to counteract a terrible card type, and it does a pretty bad job of it in my experience.  Unexpected Coalition was something to throw at one of the worst clans in the game, possibly the worst at the time.  Veil the Legions is such an unneeded effect for Obfuscate and can contribute to the Aus/Obf arms race.

Sometimes you make overly good cards, but SoC had so few cards in it and the greatest need was far a ton more Sabbie vampires.

Lords of the Night

A bunch of alt wakes, well, that’s not terrible.  I could get into details on cards, but I’d say generally that more help for Ass/Quietus is positive where helping things that didn’t really need it to better at what it already does – Leverage, Murmur of the False Will – is maybe not the best way to go.  Then, there are cards that very well may have made the game better by adding value to weaker disciplines (Celerity, by this time Potence).

It’s less clear to me whether this set made the game better.  If unclear, then tend to side with “Have to add something to the game or it isn’t a CCG.”

Twilight Rebellion

Given anarchdom, sure, this made the game better.  This is a set that I seem to appreciate far, far more than other people outside of Anarch Convert, Club Illusion, Constant Revolution, and Revolutionary Council.

This is the one small set I think was worth publishing.  I’m sure others will complain about how weak most of the cards are and how that doesn’t make a game better when you won’t play the cards, which is as valid as my pointing out how full of gar-bage Final Nights is.

Keepers of Tradition, Ebony Kingdom, Heirs to the Blood

Why group these three together?  Given that I think the game has suffered from getting away from core clans and core disciplines, the latter two wouldn’t be a surprise on my list of “bad for ball”.  KoT is on my list for reasons mentioned in another post – grossly unneeded power jumps in library cards, plus the likes of Lutz and Santaleous.

There do seem to be certain eras to expansion of the game.  The first era is obviously the introduce more clans era, though often leaving clans exceptionally weak against the OGs.  The SW/FN era of making stuff better was logical, though FN suffered immensely from so many bad cards.  Then, you get the “V:TES weirder” era with bloodlines, anarchy, BHness, Events, Red List, Laibon where I get that the game was going down a path of trying to broaden its mechanics.  At the time, I was into the idea of bloodlines.  I was into the idea of Laibon.  BH and anarchy both seem somewhat innocuous and don’t require more disciplines.  But, I just don’t see how the game got better, just more diverse.  Then, you get a power up era with KoT and HttB.

Given that you have to expand the game somehow, what would have made more sense?  Really, Camarilla could use more expansion to do things besides P/J plays.  Vampire expansion was generally good, but each grouping could use more options, especially for certain clans.  Core clans – Cam, Sabbie, Indie – could do with more clan cards, though indies have gotten a ton of love over the years.  More multidiscipline, especially for weaker discipline combinations.  More vampires that share out of clan disciplines for the likes of Lasombra and Tzimisce (besides Dominate and Presence, like the indie disciplines).

Add one new mechanic and it seems like a minor increase in complexity.  Keep adding and you get not only a far more difficult game to teach newbs but a game that becomes even harder for existing players and turns off more casual groups that remember what it was like in prior eras and preferred that.  Then, how many of these mechanics are actually positive additions to the game.  Can say anarchy and BHness are now good additions, but they were terrible additions when they came out.  Events remain a pox on the game.  Aus/Obf arms race was not my idea of making stealth/intercept work better but had the tendency to squeeze out a lot of middle ground plays (though the evidence for this doesn’t seem to exist).

So, V:TES thoughts while in another pretty dry period for V:TES play.  I’m sure negative views on other things will surface, or I’ll have something the same/different to talk about after Gen Con.