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.

Advertisements

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.


[Classic] T-H Rating [3/27/2000]

July 4, 2018

I’m amazed I never bothered to hunt down the infamous … er … insidery … er … virtually unknown outside of a few B5 CCG folks T-H Rating questions.  This is why I hold on so preciously to my AOL personal filing cabinet – I can spew geniusness from yesterdecades upon my devoted readers (shout out Estonia).

T-H Rating, aka TH Rating, aka Turku-Helsinki Rating.

If I was to encapsulate my core nature’s essences, my creating T-H Rating in around March of 2000 would exemplify.

This is a crude way to calculate your local TH Rating – an indicator of the type of metagame you will likely find in an environment. Only answer based on tournament play. I would be amused to have someone keep track of this, but this is mainly for your own benefit. The implications of a high or low TH Rating follow the questions.

10 questions:
What percentage of games go to time?
A. 0-10% B. More than 10%.

In general, rate how useful cards are that allow you to use the wrong ability in a conflict – Level, Fleets on the Border, etc.
A. Not useful B. Useful

Does a player care what the other players are doing if the former is winning?
A. No B. Yes

Does anyone play Ill Fated Reverses?
A. Almost never/no B. Yes

If someone else is playing Growth in Chaos and you play against him or her a second time, do you …
A. Laugh at the player’s lame deck/play for second/reserve in Conscriptions B. reserve in all your Shadow hosers

Does anyone ever put Taunts and Games, Level, or NMTB in the opening hand without knowing what someone else’s deck does?
A. No B. Yes

Since the release of Psi Corps, have you seen any player play with Anti-Telepath Virus, Plague, or Strike at the Heart?
A. No B. Yes

Hidden Treasury:
A. Extra cheese for when one of your 3 STGs or 3 TWs gets hit with NMTB or LR B. Protection from Seeds of Anarchy, Ill Fated Reverses, or the like

How many weapons are normally found in a deck?
A. 0-1 B. 2+

Does anyone ever initiate war conflicts?
A. No B. Yes

Each B answer is worth 1 point. Each A answer is worth zero points. If you aren’t sure, count the answer as one half point.

A low TH Rating indicates a noninteractive environment. Speed is very important. Don’t expect help from other players to stop anyone, so if you want to win, try to win quicker.

A high TH Rating indicates a contentious environment. Both brute force and stealth are encouraged. As are table diplomacy and resilience. Try not to make too many enemies.

Again, this is only a crude way to calculate TH Rating. But, it isn’t easy to come up with a meaningful formula, so it is sort of what we are stuck with.

Why did I hunt this down now?  Well, I also am using this pure, physical geniusness in an article for Traveller where I talk a bit about “race” games, where I always think of B5 as another race game when I think of how we went with Traveller’s primary win condition of 20+ VPs.  (Well, arguably primary win condition until we see how tournament play goes with respect to bankruptcy decks.)

A game like Magic can be analyzed with some level of metagame predictability due to the large playerbase and quick turn around on stealing tech.  However, even with Magic, there are local metagames to consider.  Maybe Red Deck Wins is good at the moment due to lack of hosers, speed of other top decks, and whatever, but the tournament you are going to play in is full of sad, pathetic haters who don’t realize Magic is most fun when it’s a couple “4 to the dome” after some 2/1 beats followed by the uncounterable X burn spell for the kill.

With niche CCGs like … pretty much all of the games I’ve played seriously, regional metagames are far more extreme.  Turku was about the One-AIR decks:  decks that focused on pushing one ability – Diplomacy, Intrigue, Military, and probably not Leadership or Psi which lacked the same number of influence-gaining conflicts – to gobble influence as quickly as possible.  Helsinki was into interaction and throwing out obstacles to opponents rather than just playing your game.

Now, much of Traveller play is two-player, and “negative plays” in two-player games are not the same as negative plays in multiplayer games.  Still, there are plays in two-player games, especially a race game like Traveller, which are more inclined to pushing your victory condition regardless as to your opponent instead of trying to impede your opponent’s march towards second place.

Anyway, an independent creation from the Wayback Machine on an Independence Day.  Now, to go read some of my RPG books to steal session ideas for RPG play.


[Tournament Report] Demented Directions

June 24, 2018

Turns out having V:TES tournaments near Origins is not the optimal way to get folks from Colorado to come out.  Well, lesson for next time.

A different question is whether having V:TES tournaments near Origins, when I’ve gone to Origins, is well-suited for me.  As all things in creation can be determined by single instances, clearly, it’s pain.  Suffering.  And, sleepiness.

So, I got a quick inspiration for a deck and built one on Friday night.  See, this is one of my problems.  I have all of these pent up deck ideas, some of which make sense for tournament play locally, some of which crossregionally, and some of which not ever.  Then, rather than focus on those ideas and knock out some cool, hard awesome, I see something and build a totally unrelated deck.

Saturday morning, I started working on what was needed for the new deck building methodology Andy and I talked about on the way to the airport.  It proved much more involved than what I first thought, much like building a cube is way more effort than I feel like putting in.

I threw together a deck in case we didn’t have 10+ players for the morning tournament.  So, I have two new decks post-Origins.  Both suffer from the same problem.  A problem I keep instilling in my decks.  A problem which will be addressed in a bit.

Carpool up to Berkeley.  Nine players for first tournament.  This is actually why having prize support for events matters – without the magical 10 players to get a deck in the TWDA and to build Hall of Fame resumes, why does it even matter what happens?  Could just be playing casual games.  Part of the reason I don’t push tournament play at conventions, where players appearing is unreliable and people show up late and leave early.

Tournament 1:

Round 1:

Ian (Preternatural Strength w/ Dom) -> Rick (Inconnu Tutelage Prince/Protean/Other) -> Alex (EuroBrujah) -> Mark (Toreador Nightmare Curse)

In both games, no one got ousted.  Welp, that’s NoCal V:TES.  Rick finally got Inconnu Tutelage and almost decked.  Between Alex and me, we got out something like five Preternatural Strengths.  Mark had a Nightmare Curse DIed, had a Will-o’-the-Wisp DIed by Rick that would have ousted me.  Had his final attempt to oust DTed by me.  I didn’t really put any pressure on Rick, with Alex having to do most of the work in the game.  It would have been awful for Alex and me to sit next to each other “Punch for 3.  Punch for 3.”

Round 2:

David (minions) -> Eric (Trem/!) -> Ian -> Mark (Samedi Rush) -> Brandon (Ventrue)

Multideck, where maybe only Mark bothered to change decks.  Mark and I didn’t fight much, but I did Horseshoes his guys some which led to a Fame dunk.  His own Dragonbound was doing two to him late in the game.  Brandon was cruising up until he ran out of combat ends against Mark, three were played in a single fight, for instance.  David got out Victoria, Lazar, Volker, Carlton, Muddled, Jake.  Carlton got Pentexed to give Mark a second VP.

Eric got beaten up some and never really threatened me, which was sort of sad as I did have bounce.

I was Potencely impotent.  See, this is what happens when I don’t think through my deck choices for tournaments.  Because I don’t play a lot of the standard offensive weapons, so many of my decks can’t really hurt anyone (by themselves).  This is a bad habit that I need to get out of as it impacts the experience for other players.

Finals:

Devin (Aus/Dem/Tha) -> Mark (Samedi rush) -> Eric (Trem/!) -> Jonathan (Shamblers) -> Ian

Devin put no meaningful pressure on and would have been ousted if I hadn’t been with a couple of minutes left.  Mark beat up Eric’s guys easily enough.  Eric didn’t have much of a game.  Jonathan had an interesting situation.  Shamblers are awesome sauce against Mark’s deck.  They punch, explode, more get made.  Actually, we saw zombie on zombie action with Reanimated Corpses and Shamblers.  At the very end of the game, Jonathan rushed my guys multiple times, which might have mattered if …

If Devin didn’t DI my third Deflection to get me ousted by The Baron.  I actually could have bounced to Mark as I needed two ousts to win and didn’t really care what happened if I didn’t get two.  Mark, as top seed, didn’t need to do anything after Eric got ousted.

Before moving on to the tournament that mattered, expounding time on not playing offense.

I keep thinking about how long it has been since I’ve played Dementation SB.  I enjoy all sorts of stealth bleed decks, but I think more about Dementation in part because I have no TWDA decks with Dementation, in part because I’ve played far more Dom SB over the course of the last 20+ years, in part because I so rarely play anything remotely normal for Dem SB even when I do come up with deck ideas for the TWDA.

There’s this massive struggle between feeling like I’m missing out in enjoyable play with my extensive banned list and feeling like I achieve nothing by winning with boring stuff.  I mean, sure, winning the NAC or the EC or the SAC or whatever would be an achievement as my resume is poor when it comes to major tournament wins, but I have my “code” and it amuses me to stick to it.

Jay actually said that to me when I was playing a pick up game:  “You have your code.”  Some people like to win more than anything else.  I like to amuse people more than anything else.  Though, to be fair, I do have a tournament winning deck with Protect Thine Own in it and another with Pentex in it.  But, that’s ancient history.  I become more and more restrictive over time and I’m not sure it’s the most fun way to go.

I really have to think about what sort of limitations I place on myself, though I doubt I’ll suddenly unban a lot of cards.  It is sort of absurd that I could play Gremlins and Murmur of the False Will in decks and not play Scouting Mission and Threats, but absurdity is all part of the game I play.

By the way, I was asked what card is my most banned card.  I think I mentioned Eyes of Argus.  I was really tired.  Actually, Deep Song would be more banned.  But, the obvious superban is Enkil Cog.  Gods, I hate out of turn actions.  It’s so obnoxious to suddenly be playing a different game just because of two stupid cards, one of which should have never been made and the other of which should have been banned a long time ago.

Yes, they reward skill.  Yes, helps you Shatter the Gates and achieve numerous other combos.  They are so dumb in terms of how they alter the natural flow of the game.  I would also ban Reversal of Fortunes as I’m not into effects that cause you to be playing a different game, but the need would decrease quite a bit if the Madness would go away.

Tournament 2:

Round 1:

Ian (CEL/PRE Fifth Tradition) -> Alex (Brujah group 34 P/J) -> Mark (Emerald Legionnaire) -> Devin (Valkyrie vote Undue Influence) -> Eric (!Ventrue intercept combat)

Crypt was three 10-caps and a 9-cap.  I had no masters to play for a while.  I brought out Andreas and had a hand full of wakes.  Andreas got a gun.  Anneke came out.  Anneke got Giant’s Blooded so that I pretended to be relevant.  I was irrelevant.  I had a dumb decision to make.  I could have contested the Brujah Justicar title to stop Alex from Second Traditioning with Jaroslav which would just shut me down.  I probably would have, but Eric had Owain in play and the correct thing would have been to feed Jaroslav until I give up, so I didn’t.

And, maybe Jaroslav can keep Mark under control.  He did.  Thing about Erlik and Erebus is that they are Sabbat and Jaroslav hates him some prey Sabbat.  Mark almost got Devin, but stuff happened including my using Anneke at the very end to block ELs.  Eric further shut down my game by getting Owain with a Sniper Rifle, The Rack.  I just couldn’t ever impact him and Devin had to defend too much to force Eric to use resources.

NoCal play – .5 VPs for all.

Round 2:

Devin -> Rick (Nos/! Horseshoes fight) -> Alex -> Brandon (Tupdog) -> Ian

I transferred to my two 10-caps for a long time, considering whether my 9-cap would have mattered and not considering my 8-cap.  The reason for one of the 10-caps was Justicar title.  The reason for the other was built in press.  Meanwhile, Brandon bled me for one a lot and used Tupdog rushes to fight the superfighty Brujah.

With no predator, Devin did stuff.  Only having Brunhilde advanced Archoned when she went for the five bleed kill stopped his ruthless bleeds of two at one stealth.  Amusingly, Devin could actually pass a vote past both Anneke and Alex’s four votes.

After I finally brought out minions, one of my 10-caps got diablerized, which I thought was weird.  I expected all of my minions to go to torpor even with a hand of six combat cards, but the diablerie slowed Brandon down, if anything.

There was a brief window when Devin needed to bring out another Brunhilde that I could have bled for 5 and probably gotten it through with him at 6 pool.  Nobody bled into my bounce during that window to reduce his pool to 5 (or, better, 2).  I’m sure I would have been Archoned, anyway, so it hardly mattered, but Devin got Rick finally, did heinous damage to Alex even after I gave Alex 13 pool with Golconda and Political Stranglehold, bled out Brandon who was at 1 pool, bled me out without effort after I Golcondaed my only minion.

The reason I didn’t encourage helping me to deprive Devin of round two existence is that I didn’t see how Brandon had any interest in my ousting him.  Devin did far more pool damage to Alex than we expected once Rick was out of the way, so it didn’t seem like he was going to sweep like he did.  The only window for me was when Rick was still around and Brandon was close to ousting me with my 2 pool, which would have been far better for him.  That’s the problem with suppressing players and not ousting them – their maximizing VPs means sitting around and surviving and putting no pressure forward.  All hail SB that won’t mess up people’s games but will eviscerate the players’ existences.

Those were two horrible games of V:TES in terms of my being remotely relevant to my prey.  Now, that’s not unusual in a lot of my games for reasons mentioned, but it furthers the idea of just going small and ousty.

See, in, say, EC play, my fat dudes people don’t typically see make me impotent because I get hit too hard too early from my right and get Pentexed by even the likes of my prey who I haven’t actually done pool damage to.  In local play, that’s not as likely, instead, the problem is having way too much combat for my not totally focused on combat decks to have to deal with.  Not because everything is combat – finals involved The unnamed, for instance, a deck that only hits for 2 with its 4-caps, and a deck with a horde of allies that hit for 2, beyond the two actual combat decks.

I was so tired on the way back, didn’t even have much to talk about on the ride back.

It was a decent experience.  Got to spend time with people I don’t see all of the time.  Got to wander around Berkeley some to find a place open at 11PM (not actually hard).  Just felt like my V:TES play was pointless.  Far more relevant in games I cared nothing about, while taking up space in games that will impact generations for millennia.

Congratulations to Mark for winning the second tournament.  Thanks to Mark for making stuff happen.  I’d be good with more tournaments.  Thanks to Brandon for driving.  Got to talk to people about stuff, which was nice.

Well, if this experience taught me anything, it taught me that my next Elixir of Distillation deck needs to be far more potent.  Actually, harkening back to yesterparagraph, the lesson may be to just play more stealth bleed.  It puts pressure forward and doesn’t do weird things to games like voting and combat and … weird stuff.


Origins 2018

June 20, 2018

I hadn’t been to Columbus in 20 years.  And, that trip to Origins was as a Precedence volunteer where much of my time was spent demoing the Babylon 5 CCG.  The RPG schedule was so boring I didn’t even try.

This year was for two things:  V:TES, True Dungeon.

Even the TD was limited, so let’s start … with Tuesday.

Tuesday, I go to sofa around midnight, not really sleep, and get up at my 2AM alarm.  Quarter to 4AM, Athena and Andy pick me up and we are off to Oakland.

Flights happen.  We arrive before 4PM in Columbus.  We wait a long time for the hotel shuttle, which is aggravating as I’m not sure I’ll make it to the 6PM V:TES tournament on time.  We check in.  We walk to Fabian’s, and we order a deep dish pizza.

V:TESing happens.  I may not have the starting players right in all of these rounds.  I knew some of the names when I was playing but have since forgotten.

Round 1:

Will (Sabbie 2 caps) -> ?? (Trem stuff) -> Mark (Summon History) -> Ian (HoS 3/4 toolbox) -> Jay (Nos prince/support)

As Mark said, I didn’t have much of a game.  I hung around for a while with potential answers to being rushed by Remnant of the Endless Storm, but it wasn’t like I was flowing cards.  Actually, I shouldn’t have gone in for the terrorism that is Outside the Hourglass and Domain of Evernight and just made some effort to block things, especially once I was never going to be a predator in the game.

Mark was not in a great position, but I got ousted and continued to eat pizza.

The pizza was not good.  I like Fabian’s well enough and they were good to us, but the crust was too dry, the cheese was overwhelming compared to the toppings, the toppings were very meh.  I’m willing to try thin crust, probably without cheese.  Then, Andy didn’t get a chance to eat any until it was coldish.

Round 2:

John (SB) -> Maria (Newjah) -> Ian -> Andy (borrowed FoS SB)

This was set up ludicrously well for me in that John kept continuous pressure on Maria, keeping her from dominating.  I got out a couple of Emerald Legionnaires, almost completely botched bleeding Andy for 3 with permanents on my HoS by playing Call of the Hungry Dead needlessly at superior rather than inferior emptying one of my dudes.  Drew a Blood Doll, pushed, killed Andy, ousted John after fending off attempts to keep him in the game, then raced Maria in the endgame where I played around Archon Investigation and could bleed for 11 or whatever on my turn with three HoS and Emeraldness.

Sometimes you sweep because it’s hard to mess up your position.

Finals:

Kelly (Pre/Obf vote) -> ?? (Mistress Fanchion doesn’t do it all) -> Ian -> Mark -> ??

I blanked on my predator’s name but should be obvious to anyone else being one of two women playing.  Grandprey was the same from round one, I read his name during the first round but forgot.

Kelly ran over the table as his prey didn’t have any game and his predator didn’t have enough intercept and Mark couldn’t get ally rush going fast enough.  I did survive longer than expected, but that just delaying tacticsed the inevitable.

Andy had already left since he wasn’t in the finals.

Wednesday

The day of more V:TESing.

Nobody expects …

Round 1:

Mark (Trem toolbox) -> Kelly (High cap Lasombra w/ Fort) -> Ian (Sea Pirates redux) -> Karl (Wolves Feed !Tor w/ Gerald FG)

Ambrosio takes an action, Mark blocks and ‘schrecks, I had an Anarch Convert out.  I debate what to do.  I mention the possibility of a deal, but I don’t know if Kelly was listening, so I eventually eat.  I play in the dark poorly by forgetting a way to reduce one of Mark’s bleeds and cycle a card and am ousted pretty easily and Mark eventually sweeps.

Just a not good game.

Round 2:

Ian -> Tom (Tunnel Runner) -> Jay (Samedi) -> John (THA close range combat)

I let Tom get a Tunnel Runner and Jay’s game sucks.  My Nadima does stuff but trying to police forwards and fight backwards and not be Pentexed does me in, eventually.

Next tournament, I decide to play the FoS SB deck with some slight changes because I was all about trying to simplify my tournaments.

Round 1:

?? (Una and DoC) -> Adam (!Brujah Undue Influence) -> Mark (5 discipline, including Dom, Nos-ish) -> Ian (FoS SB) -> Ben (borrowed Nos Anathema)

This was pure.  The sacred playing of numerous Delaying Tactics brought righteous glory to some involved.  Mark did hardly anything to me, Immortal Grapple twice in one fight and just hitting for one each time.  I kept getting vote damage aimed at me from other than my predator.

Adam and I dealt with the idea that Mark would go and I’d be unmolested until Ben was gone.  Ben was at 2 pool and had virtually no defense against my bleeding in his deck.  Angela Preston was Famed and in torpor.  Una tried to rescue, Anathemaed Una.  Ben gained 9 pool.  Adam and I talked about his going forward when he was near death and I was fine with it.  I did mention that I had enough bleed to reduce Ben to 1 in hand.  My top card would have been enough to remove Ben.  I played like two DT, Adam played like six.

Round 2:

Ian -> Karl (vote) -> Mark -> Ben -> Adam

My focus was on playing a table with four of the same players, so I didn’t care much about Karl’s deck.  More DTs.  More DTs.

I’m blanking on what happened besides more DTs, Ben calling KRC of 1 on himself and 3 on his predator and the only person displeased was his prey.  Seriously, I don’t remember how things shook out as I was just in DT nirvana.  I did DT, myself, to cycle.

Forgot my credit card at Fabian’s because I’ve never left my CC with restaurants before.  Ben helps me settle my “tab” (even though I got everything I wanted before tournament two) and holds my card for Thursday.  I should mention that my food was much better, in particular the tater tots from the sister restaurant were better than usual.

Thursday

Time to get serious … ly ousted.  While I had options for a tournament I couldn’t play the finals of due to True Dungeon scheduled for after the tournament is supposed to end (but won’t), I settled on HoS FoW as something fun that actually has any ousting power.

Then, I find out there’s going to be another hour taken up with a food break.  Burn.

Round 1:

John (Ass anarch vote) -> Kate (DoC vote) -> Karl (Art of Memory Dom/Obt) -> Darby (“fun” Bribes) -> Ian (Blessed Resilience pure HoS)

Darby kept referring to my bleed deck as an intercept deck.  Having no votes, I was not involved in the numerous discussions on whether to help Darby pass votes or not.  While Karl could theoretically bleed for 18 in one turn, his turns didn’t tend to be 18ish.  So, Darby often had lots of pool or gained back what he lost.  Kate is not all that experienced (we knew each other from NoCal) and probably overcomplicated playing Lily Preludes, as Darby didn’t get permavotes until late and John and Karl each had one (John’s one hurt him as his dude couldn’t anarch up).  John is low at some point, but a vote passes to give him lots of pool and that makes my game unlikely to proceed.

On turn two, Darby vote bled me for 7.  About 100 to 105 minutes into the game, John back ousts me with a vote as it also kills Kate and the game can properly time out at that point.

Round 2:

Ian -> Alex (IC stuff?) -> John (Trem stuff?) -> Alexandre (anarch) -> Karel (!Ventrue bleed)

I doubt my deck could ever play as smoothly as it did in this game.  I get out Erlik who gives me Mina on the same turn.  I bleed, I Rapid Heal, I Summon Soul, I Emerald, I … before the end, my prey brings out Rafael de Corazon, who becomes Legendary, calls Reins of Power, and votes 7 against … bring out Erebus to go to 2 pool.  Rafael gets by my two intercept with a vote and back ousts me to give a Dominate bleed deck a new prey.  Somehow, that worked for him.

Finally, we have True Dungeon happen.  I mean, sure, I had already done transmutes that morning and the transmute room folks were superhelpful for getting me out of the room.

Into the Shadowlands

So, I’m the one who used our patron code to sign up for this patron event.  No point in spoiling anything.  I did prove not useless with the first room puzzle.  I barbarianed to occasionally do damage, though not 60 at a shot like the rogue and there was one fight where I missed like every round with my +16 to hit.  Ah, high level play.

Respectfully, I didn’t find it that interesting.  One of the things that’s very clear is how really uninteresting TD combat is.  I want it to be challenging but also for there to be some context.  Challenging isn’t hard [foreshadowing alert, foreshadowing alert].  The problem I noticed more at Origins, maybe just because I hadn’t played in a while, is how you have no real concept of what’s going on in combat.  Did I contribute?  7% of the damage?  22% of the damage?  How do my choices matter?  At a certain point, if you win, the table just gets wiped clear of sliders and it feels oh so hollow most of the time.

I thought the event would feel more different.  Sure, there was metagamey stuff to rein in brokenness, but I couldn’t even tell whether that mattered.

Break time.

True Raid

While occasionally entertaining and probably much more so for those who 20ed their Death Dies, this became monotonous to me.  I liked what happened to spellcasters because it forced me to do something besides “Spellswap to Magic Missile, MEC, another 36 damage.”  I traitored and, thus, was the last to be slain.  I would have vastly preferred a different set up with more variety to the fights.  It just felt like an exercise after a certain point as victory was never going to happen.

I did something like 300 damage to Lorigorgon, 52 to PCs with my last two spells, 23 to all PCs with my last Burning Hands, had a bunch of spells rejected …, and it felt like it meant nothing.  Sure, I could have more efficiently used my Lightning Storms to do more damage, but it was more interesting filling out paperwork up until the point I was a traitor.  Actually, failing to hit in melee combat because my build was not built for anything besides casting and surviving was mildly amusing.

Andy had more to do as he didn’t have as many spells rejected and he survived a long time as a non-traitor.

We hit a pub near the hotel, which became the norm.  I had the stromboli, which was really a calzone, but I don’t terribly care.  Too cheesy for eating that late in the day, but it was good, otherwise.

Friday

Day one.  The proof is in the puddinghead plays.

Round 1:

Jay (ANI/THA) -> Ian (THA horde) -> Jesper (Nergal Beast) -> James (high cap Ventrue) -> ?? (POT/Dom)

I could have played this game really differently.  I could have played The Name Forgotten on Nergal before Unleash and Beast got out and could block it.  I let Jesper play his game.  He got the game win.  But, what confused me a lot was how little ability to survive James had.  I thought he would vote and fill up or bounce more or something so that he wasn’t taking constant bleeds from Nergal and Beast.

Jay was frustrated by my inability to go forward, but just because I brought out Hannigan and gave him DOM, then Muaziz and gave her DOM didn’t mean I could actually pressure my prey without Create Gargoyles, which Jay blocked.  Lot of bounce, not bounce, whatever at end.

Round 2:

Karl (!Tor anarch bleed) -> Will (AUS/Obf) -> Ian -> Martin (PRE bleed w/ AUS) -> Adam (ANI and …)

For a short time, this game was set up really well for me.  Martin had very little pool, Adam never got going.  But, as usual, I couldn’t finish and Martin got Adam, and Will got tapped out by Anarch Troublemaker and couldn’t use his bleed defense.  The endgame ground to a halt with Martin not wanting to go forward with my threat of bouncing, Karl somewhat spinning his wheels, and my being kind of impotent.  Karl contested Carlton and I should have bled for the edge rather than Blood Doll hunt.  Eventually, Karl double bounced and Archoned on the same action and I couldn’t deal with a load of minions.  Martin didn’t have any game by the time I was gone.

Round 3:

Elon (Baali vote) -> Pete (!Tor) -> ?? -> Ian -> Sam

This was odd.  I should have gotten 4 vps with how it played out as I could have saved Elon not once but twice, with the second time ousting Sam while Elon was at 1 pool with two tapped Baali.  My predator transferred low enough for Pete to oust him.  I had Carlton and Ponticulus right away and my predator’s first minion was … Stanislava.  But, I didn’t care.

Sam would bleed a lot for 1.  I bled a lot for 1.  Pete held on long enough for me to oust Sam but had little pool at that point and I had an impregnable wall with my ability to get to two intercept.

What made it odd?  Sam’s deck does like one thing.  Elon got into a position where he couldn’t do anything pretty quickly with just Nakhthorheb and Waters behind him.

N1 – Astral Bliss

Final TD event.  Even more important not to spoil this as many will be doing it for the first time at Gen Con.  There were good things about it.  I didn’t find it to be the best thing ever.  I preferred GC 2017’s Moongate combat.  A question, how interesting is up to the reader, is:  What do I actually enjoy about TD?  I enjoy other people being clever.  I enjoy the camaraderie.  I enjoy thinking about builds (but not so much writing them out as they tend to be very similar to each other).  I enjoy having certain tokens.

My build for this run, btw, was a ranged monk.  I went minimalist, even though my build was kind of more oriented to normal than hardcore.  My damage bonus was too low for hardcore.  I could fix that easily, but it would mess with the aesthetic of the build.  What wasn’t too low was my 39 hit points.  I liked feeling in danger and needing healing.  To play TD and be “Well, I’m down 40, but I’m okay.” is not enough tension.

I still had people use my melee stats, which were like +1/+1 vs. my ranged of +25/+2.  Part of the balance of playing at levels that aren’t that hard.  Fortunately, the six person group had a fighter who could consistently do 30+ to make up for my impotence and Andy’s druid was probably doing good damage.

Saturday

Day two.  Every cat has his day.

Round 1:

Kelly (Cybele and friends w/ Striga) -> Ian (my vampires have Obfuscate) -> Hugh (borrowed Summon History ally) -> Bob (!Ventrue Grinder?) -> Adam (Palla Grande)

The best thing about not having stealth in my first 31 cards is that I got to put out a bunch of permanents that nobody cared about and a couple of my Conceals got through due to the swarm factor.  I burned Ankara three times by the end.  One of those times was a horrible mistake, the kind of mistake that losers make, losers with blogs.  I burned a Renegade Garou with DBR.  I only really got beaten down by a Rock Cat after I failed to topdeck a third stealth card in the first 42 cards which would have ousted Hugh, though I could have swarm ousted Hugh with just my board if I didn’t trust in the heart of the cards.

Of course, my deck with all OBF vampires except one is barely running any stealth, only 22 stealth cards, so it’s understandable that I should have played smart and not like I just got embraced last week.  Not that I think I get Bob, but 1 VP is 1 VP more than 0 VPs.

Round 2:

Karl (FoS anarch vote) -> Jesper (Deep Song bleed) -> John (Trem toolbox) -> Ian -> Robert (Malgorzata and friends vote)

Karl survived longer than he should have, which got him a VP.  Jesper beat John down hard early to where John never had game.  John wasn’t expecting my deck to wake as much as it did, which meant he couldn’t lunge and I wasn’t terribly afraid of combat.  I got out lots of ranged weapons.  Anarch Troublemaker was rather important.

I Concealed Creepshow Casino in the endgame after Robert got 2 VPs, which Robert let through.  He also didn’t play around my weapons well.  Newer than most to the game, some better decisions and I wouldn’t have ousted him after I diablerized all of his guys right before time.  Also, earlier, probably could have played differently to get two easy VPs.  Learning experience.

Round 3:

Ian -> Alexandre (Vignes) -> Pete (Ventrue Grinder) -> Brad (FoS w/ Dom Corruption) -> Bill (PRO/Dom w/ intercept)

Even with my dispensing with cards that can provide stealth and with a Free States Rant crosstable, Vignes still took out Pete.  If not for that, I would have had two easy VPs as Alexandre wasn’t doing so great.  Meanwhile, I ignored Bill who tooled up with lots of intercept and Brad never felt confident going forward, so I eventually got worn down by bleeds in the endgame.

While I could be frustrated by how my Day One deck couldn’t lunge, what was different about these events is that I was actually capable of threatening my prey most of the time, with the one game of Nergal being a case where I think I just end my prey’s game on turn three if I choose to and end up ineffectual instead.  The plan of lowering crypt capacities and focusing on getting more minions in play seemed to work in general.  Now, the issue remains that with my banned list, there are a lot of ways to improve ousting power I don’t have access to, but that just means I embrace voting … because everyone loves voting.  Everyone.

For all intents and purposes, it’s pink lemonade time as I wasn’t going to play in the finals on Sunday and no more transmuting to do for TD.  To the pub for more lemonade.  I finally got the $4 double burger.  I was not surprised that it was a slider.  It was a very thick slider.  Certainly, I understand the price point.

Oh, speaking of food, didn’t mention my getting Tibetan dumplings (too chewy), brisket and rib tips (kind of overpriced for the quality in my mind), lamb curry with a lassi (lassi was quite good, rest was okay) from North Market, getting many smoothies from the convention center with my first Buckeye being really, really good and the other being kind of watered down, with the Strawberry Sunrise being just too pineappley.  Got food at the airport on the way back and it was pretty good and like $10 for a full size sandwich and a 20oz drink – I’m increasingly a fan of smaller airports.

Sunday

One more tournament I can’t win.

Round 1:

Ian (Indie Gargoyles) -> Mark (Nos Royalty Disarm) -> Peter (Baron something) -> Brad (Ani/Obt)

This was entertaining for how sad and pathetic we all were at ousting our prey.  Ferox rushed Sheldon.  Sheldon got torped.  Peter got Fee Stake: New York with Calebros in play.  Because of the recent forum post on vekn.net, I remembered the contestation penalty barons have, so Ferox had to empty Calebros in torpor.

While Mark and Peter got pool deprived to the point of it being laughable and more laughable, Brad just achieved infinite power.  I kept waiting for a crosstable Parity Shift, which got DTed.  Mark only ousted because Peter did a thing with a Famed vampire.  Mark and Brad stalled out in the endgame.

Round 2:

Darby (DoC vote) -> Robert (Malgorzata again) -> David (Summon History Inceptor) -> Alexandre (Malk anarch) -> Ian

“Darby, if I don’t oust you now, I don’t think I’ll ever oust you.  So, I’m done, go ahead.”  I, then, took a restroom break.  When I got back, Darby was ousted, so, as usual, I’m psychic … because I didn’t oust him.

David got a VP because somehow Alexandre just kept eating bleeds of four from Codex.  Robert got a VP because David’s game was impaired by Washes and Suddens.  I didn’t get ousted with four cards left and one untapped minion against Malgorzata, Oriandus, Polly.

Welp, that’s V:TES.  All things can be predicted at the beginning of every game and you’ll lose games because your grandprey tries to rescue a vampire from torpor.

On the way to the airport, Andy and I discussed my next deck construction method.  Let’s see how secret sauce works this weekend …

While no gaming event at Origins was great, I’d still say the overall experience was greatish.  The best part was hanging out with people better at winning V:TES than I am.  Better hotel next year would improve things.  Trying thin crust might be better, especially with no cheese.  Maybe I’ll even play a Dominate card besides Deflection in one of my decks, like, uh, Autonomic Mastery.

Andy really liked the size of the convention.  I really liked having a two minute walk between V:TES and TD, as opposed to rushing for a 15 minute hussle between hotels to make RPGs.  Still, Origins and Gen Con provide two very different opportunities for me, so I’d much rather have both be the norm.

Thanks to Black Chantry folks and Jay for V:TES events.  Thanks to Mongo for getting my transmutes done faster than they deserved to be.  Thanks to my fellow dungeonites for putting up with my dungeon demeanor.