Shake Out

January 13, 2018

There are rather a number of thoughts on diverse subjects I have had recently.  I’m sure I will forget half of them.

Before I forget:  John Carter Kickstarter is going on right now!  Finally, the Dotar Sojat has returned to Jasoom!

Steak and Shake in Campbell closed recently.  It was open four months.  It was designated to be opened for far longer.  Its closure was sufficiently notable to not only be in the paper (that would be newspaper for you young ‘uns) but also be on the radio (that would be … um … radio for you young ‘uns).

We went to it.  I’m not remotely surprised it closed.  First, the location was terrible in that it was just East of the upscale-ish downtown.  Second, it was not Steak and Shake.  Well, it was not S&S a la Indianapolis’s S&S is.  One in Indy is a fast food place that’s slow, somewhere along the lines of being at a more focused Denny’s in terms of ambiance.  This S&S was pretentiousized for the hood.

Now, I don’t live in downtown Frisco or NYC or whatever, but we get plenty of pretension in the San Jose Bay Area.  Whole Paycheck is ubiquitous, et al.  Why have another burger chain that competes with Five Guys, The Counter, The Habit, Smashburger, or whatever?  It wasn’t trying to?  Well, then where is the audience?  Best milkshake I can recall, which, admittedly, is not something I think a ton about since it’s kind of effort to screw up a milkshake, I got at Fuddruckers of all places.  5-Way?  Well, sure, not a lot of places to get 5-Ways in the Silicon.  (That’s what all the kewl kids call this milieu, n’est-ce pas?)

Bad fits.

That’s a topic for today.

I’m going to talk about L5R.  At some point, I’ll switch to the LCG.  But, before I forget, I had some RPG thoughts.

Campaign Ideas:

Greek Mythology convention meets L5R.  Everyone has an ancestor from one of the 4e books because they hardly ever see play.  Rather than lose your ancestor over something black and white and rather arbitrary, you incur the ancestor’s displeasure for a time until you get your act together.  Great idea, people.  Make it so number one.

Welcome to the kuge, minorlings.  Widowed emperor decides he’s good to go without a word to say on marriage number two to some minor clan yumyum.  Guess how many PCs are not related to the minor empress?

Not Campaign Ideas:

One of the Friday night LCG players is someone who would much rather be playing the RPG.  Actually, that’s how I met him years ago.  He’s hot for getting into HoR4 or like anything else RPG related but especially L5R R&K.  So, we’ve been talking.

I mentioned Odyssey, TCGMGtCM, and how it related to my running stuff for him and the rest of our local RPG group that dispersed.  We talked about old campaigns.  We talked about how our interest in the LCG is strongly based on the world and not the game [foreshadowing alert, foreshadowing alert].

I may have problems with aspects of Rokugan, but it’s so, so easy to think about playing more L5R.  It’s so easy to think of campaign ideas.  I found my mod attempt for HoR3 that I ran a couple of times and got unenthused by due to my just not having the ability to polish efforts up to the level that makes them acceptable.  Well, also, staff consistently ignored me, so I stopped bothering trying to contact anyone.

It’s such a fleshed out *game* world.  Sure, if everyone knows some book/TV/movie series, you can grok possibilities, but, for us veteran Rokuganites, L5R is just so meaningful.  For instance, I was looking stuff up in Strongholds of the Empire.  I’m perfectly willing to read about towns and cities I don’t plan on using as settings.


Back to the topic of whether the game is any fun.  First, it is.  As long as you are winning.

My experience of going back to playing a two-player CCG  is utterly fascinating to all multi-celled organisms.  I get so much enjoyment out of multiplayer CCGs when the results are inconclusive.  It’s this bizarrely mundane feeling of liking doing better than my opponents in L5R, the LCG, that is palpable.

Or, maybe, it’s just that I hate playing Unicorn, and the fact that I often suck while playing them is incidental.  Except, I played at least one game of Unicorn where I was feasting on my opponent’s soul and it was tasty.

It is “funny” how switching to Crab is perpetually like “Huh, my cards do stuff.  They do good stuff.”

For the others, it also seems to be a game that is enjoyed when you are crushing throats and tearing off limbs.

I read forums.  Multiple forums, in fact.  No, I don’t read Discord.  Not a fan of the interface and I have better things to do, like read the newspaper.  Seems to be a certain level of disenchantment.

Then, I ‘fist with a L5R player, and he’s telling me his group is losing interest.

It’s this like really interestingly designed, very possibly well designed, game that is just so not as fun as we-folk want it to be.  I’m finding that I’m already reverting to my random-game-element meets minimum-threshold-of-viability tendencies with what interests me in L5R.  I’m struggling with the idea of trying to develop superior decks in what’s a very limited environment.  I’m more interested in happy, friendly Scorpion, Lion wall, Cautious Scout.dec, and/or whatever.

I thought of an idea umbrella for trying to put the casual back into causality.  League.  You must play a role that is not the official tournament role for your deck’s clan.  You may, of course, change decks, including changing clans.  Or, some variation thereof.

I played a game last night.  I played Crab, and I had fun.  My first turn Kaiu never left play, having Reprieve that also never left play.  I flopped three Iron Mines in the game, put another Reprieve in play that also never got used.  I Way of the Crabbed once.  Now, my opponent was playing Lion, so his military sucked, and he wasn’t running Feast or Famine, which I kept trying to play around.  Nor was he playing the required 3x Policy Debates.

See, forumites are bitching a bunch.  I think for good reason.  I don’t think it’s a particularly fun game to play, though it’s also not terrible.  The card pool sucks.  Oh, a lot of it doesn’t.  Provinces are mostly the problem.  That Unicorn have so many subpar or oddly narrow cards is kind of antifun.  That Voltroning is such a thing is problematic.  That Iron Mine got added to the mix, so that Crab Voltrons never die seems like poor development.

Part of the problem with the card pool is that it’s not a multiplayer game (yet).  In a multiplayer game, I’d be beastmastering and war dogging all over the place because it would be entertaining.  In a throatcutter game, you just do the same old, same old of top tier stuff, with the occasional Miya combo deck or try to do your own spin on Drop Bears, Switchycorn, or whatever.  With Wheel of Time, because so few people actually played, when you ran with an idea, you might have been like one of one posters.  With a game that’s actually kind of popular, just another clone deck with maybe a few cards changed.

If the card pool were bigger, then maybe there would be more interesting variation.  But, I don’t think the card pool needs to be bigger to have fun.  Just to have fun as a throatcutter game.

Would banning Policy Debate make me happier?  Um, no.  I don’t presently care about Policy Debate, except that I do think that the one area of the LCG that is just bad mechanics is dueling.  Dueling is hecka boring and full of NPEness.  Sure, it’s not a guarantee that everyone always chooses 1 in every single game.  It’s just a guarantee that I have so little interest in resolving duels that I’m okay with mentally seeing tables being flipped.

But, wait, that’s actually kind of like the RPG.  In that, duels aren’t guaranteed to go one direction, but the whole concept of resolving anything important with a subgame that’s grossly uneven so much of the time is not strong in the PPE side of the Force.

I played a game the week before where my opponent won when I broke his third province, as he went to 25 Honor.  If he doesn’t win, then, I break his stronghold as my first conflict the next round with my unstoppable Imperials and their Unicorn flunkies.  30 minute game.  Takeaway #1 – it was how CCGs should play in that it was close with decks doing different things and there was interaction.  Takeaway #2 – because I felt I did so little in the game, it felt rather unsatisfying even while I was playing, nevermind the end result.  Would I have enjoyed that game if he only got to 24 Honor and I shred his soul on the next round?  I don’t think so.  Would I have enjoyed that game if he got to 24, I went after his stronghold, he stops me from breaking with all sorts of cards getting played, he does something clever to get to 25 (instead of just declare an Air Ring conflict)?  Poss-i-bly …


We ‘fisted for the first time in months last Thursday.  The first game was terrible.  I spent a number of turns not being able to play a site, then had no characters to do anything when I got sites and a Test Subjects out.  The second game I won in a game where everyone was hanging around at four FSSs, and I used superleap cheese and recurring counterspells.  Because, who is the … Master?  Sho’nuff.  Check Youtube if this exceeds the vertical elevation of your brain.  Some parts are cringeworthy, but I really like that movie.

Third game went to third player.  My Salarymans kept killing unimportant things, and got killed when real characters showed up.

Given how prevalent superleap is and buffs are, I’m surprised Hand isn’t more popular.  Now, there is a weakness against site effects, evidenced by how I got stopped by a site effect in one bid for victory, but there are antisite plays to deal with that.  Character removal from events is countered by, uh, Hand counterspells.  Of course, 7 Masters exists for the classic players, and that’s another level of sleaze.

I enjoyed playing.  Shadowfist is usually fun.  Sure, it has some terrible design, pretty messed up card pool (especially if you play Modern), requires making extremely complicated decisions even if you don’t realize they are extremely complicated.  But, it’s not chess.  You do stuff and stuff happens.  You don’t wonder if you made a mistake putting two fate on some dude.  Now, normal ‘fist does have the problem that you may very well not be able to play anything, which is where it did an even worse job than Magic with forcing requirement cards to be in play to play the game.  But, you might be able to come back because it’s not a one v. one game.

Well, I may have forgotten a few other things that would have made my bad fits topic fit less badder.

Wait.  I had a topic?

Let’s see.  L5R LCG appeals to people who like theme, want to play game where they get to enjoy playing beastmasters.  Difficult and highly “mechanical” card game may be good for some, but it doesn’t end up being most goodest for others.

RPG is a decent fit for those of my ilk.  On the other hand, campaigns like our 20 Goblin Winter campaign were bad fits because we didn’t really get to enjoy anything about L5R while also being unclear on what we were supposed to be doing.  Second City sucked as a campaign; I would say part of that is that you remove the familiar world of Rokugan and fail to replace with something as rich or interesting because you just didn’t develop the Second setting.

Trying to take throatcutting seriously is a bad fit for me, while offgoofing is good fit.  It occurs to me that WoT was a case where I didn’t end up throatcutting that much, as most of my play was playtesting rather than striving for prizes.  So, I’ve never been a master throatcutter, with my two-player tournament wins usually being in sealed deck play, where I focus more on building better decks rather than tier 1 decks.  I’m the guy who played one copy of Necropotence in his Essence Drain deck, rather than the other way around, yet beat a Magic world champion in a sealed deck game with repeated use of Capsize and with a Rolling Thunder with zero cards in my library.

Doh!  That’s what I need to do to get my competitive fix on – only seriously compete in CCGs where sealed deck tournaments occur and have decent prizes.  Octa-libra!  That means I have to take up Magic, again …

Speaking of bad fits, the John Carter movie was a bad fit because it failed to explain why Jesus C-, um, JC is a fun dude to hang with or why sword and planet is a compelling genre or explain how you can do a 21st century movie with a bunch of races defined by their skin color.  Read the books.  Compared to a lot of other stuff, they are better.

Now, will the setting be a good fit for RPG play?  Will it be a good fit for people I play with?


The Best of … 2014

December 31, 2017

Our annual exercise in calling out what was notable from three years prior.


[Classic] Yu-Gi-Oh! meets V:TES [10/19/2002]

I never got much response to this as an email or as a blog post.  Every time I read it I’m reminded that sometimes I entertain myself in profound ways.  Lot of times I only write somewhat along the lines of what I want to; this is a case of writing just the way I wanted to.  This and old tournament reports help justify the [Classic] posts.

Is it better to watch episodes of YGO! first or read this first?  Note that I don’t think you need to know anything about V:TES besides that it’s a card game for this to have some level of meaning.

Might, Right, Or Contrite

I don’t feel strongly about this post, but, given how popular my L5R mechanics posts are, this seems like one that the 4e players might want to take a look at if they haven’t.



Profound?  Not so much.  I didn’t analyze courtier schools as much as analyzed them for my own interests, which has little application to others.  However, I did settle on my two HoR4 possibilities being a Miya Herald and an Asako Loremaster, with the latter maybe being a better choice in hindsight and the former working adequately.

Finish Line

A callout because I don’t think this got a lot of attention, though I may have lost so much of my old V:TES audience that anything V:TES is not going to get as much attention.  While I didn’t aim for solutions to other people’s problems, I thought I did a good job of pointing out reasons card floppers seem to struggle building V:TES decks more than they do other CCG decks.

Btw, while I’m fine with V:TES continuing as was, if I were going to reboot it, card limits.  Card limits produce a far more digestible game.

Orccon 2014

I was really getting to like how California decided to play with each other.  The reason to highlight this post was not only because it was a last hurrah of sorts but because it’s good balance for me to point out when I suck, even when it doesn’t involve wandering around Berlin.


That I may read Xanth novels or watch Inuyasha or whatever may not be touchstoney enough for my audience, but one hopes the audience knows something about Sherlock Holmes.  I thought this did tie together something important about gaming with an important observation about more mainstream entertainment.


Review – Book of Water

It’s long, therefore it must be good.  Insert banal joke.  Why call this out and not Book of Fire review in the previous Best of …?  Well, I did kind of call out Book of Fire by not calling it out.  My frustration with the rather poor series got me motivated to explain why I thought early 4e supplements were superior supplements.

Eject The Tape

If you understand why this report of casual V:TES play is … important? … interesting? … entertaining?, then I think you get more value out of my blog.  If you think this was dumb, especially the play reporting, then I’m going to disappoint at times.  If I beat a zombie pony with certain comments in various posts, this sort of post cuts to the heart of the matter (in a far more subtle and therefore geniusy way).

Bushi Analysis – Extended

Is it heartening or disheartening that so much of what gets read in my blog are posts like these?  Did I ask this question before?  I used to have an audience for V:TES, and I get why that doesn’t seem to be as important because I don’t play as much and, thus, spend less time talking about the game and people I used to play with don’t and, maybe, there are fewer people playing in general.  I wonder what V:TES players do consume.  Regional forums?

Anyway, I rated stuff.  I’m not aware of anyone else rating this sort of stuff, therefore I win the blogosphere?  I could try to clickbait by putting this sentence in my preview – Kim K. or Haifa Wehbe hotter in her prime?  I’ve never used a picture of the former for a NPC, I did use the latter (also Adriana Lima in a very different campaign).  All I got was comments about how HW wasn’t what people thought of as a “girl next door”.

I haven’t really changed my opinions on how bushi rank.  Maybe I’d get more argument from folks if I posted on forums instead of in a place where I can control the message.

Generic Bushi School

Speaking of winning.  Look, everybody has bad ideas and a lot of people have good ideas.  I just happen to have good ideas that occasionally get shared (when I’m not sharing bad ideas).  And, no, I don’t think the R-5 technique is overpowered compared to other R-5 techniques in 4e.

Strong Sorrows?

I had a coworker note that I was dead inside (recently).  Is that better than being dead outside?  Seems like it.  I enjoyed putting together this post.  Again, I got really, really tired of doing the Zodiac posts back in the day.  I should have fun on rare occasions.  Harkening back to yesteryear pleasures me (well, when it’s about things like gaming).

That aside, what’s the importance of this post?  Look, I have done things others haven’t.  Sure, I’m not likely to be a Hatamoto in the L5R LCG and I was never a World Champion at any CCG I was ranked in the top 10 in the world for and I’ve never been credited with breaking a non-playtest play environment and I have lots of opinions on things I don’t know jack and diane about.  But, I’ve also taken a number of CCGs seriously.  There’s some probability I may know something rather than just blogging made up words.

On another note, I stopped reading Magic articles because they became hard to read.  Why do people do that?  I may not particularly want to play Magic, but I find Magic interesting.


HoR Strategy

Is HoR important to me?  Right this last day of 2017?  Today, no.  Yesterday, no.  Day before that, no.  Pretty much since Gen Con 2017 ended, no.  And, that’s become the norm.  This post addresses why it’s so easy to lose the plasma on HoR play.

That being said, I’ve gotten a lot out of HoR.  I really like 3e/3r/4e basic mechanics.  I’ve had some great play experiences.  I’ve met some people I really enjoy doing things with.  I played in an epic home game because of HoR.  So, at some point, I’ll look to ramp up, again.  We might be able to play some missed mods next weekend.  It’s just brutal how disengaged I become during the months when there isn’t anything going on.




BattleTech Scenario Building

I did post stuff in May and June, in case you want to relive more of my 2014.  This post has to be great … cuz I’ve seen it get some continuous reads in 2017.  BattleTech is such an interesting game in that it’s often awful to play yet is so evocative.  Well, it can be fun … and I tell you how.


Sure, my Gen Con 2014 post was long.  They usually are.




Ah, a rant about gear.  Or, is it?  Maybe I just feel like calling out one of the easiest to read pieces of Statesish, ever.

The Road To Mana

This has very little to do with gaming.  But, it hints at something that I’ll mention because I doubt other people would make the same connections.  I’m quite fortunate to be able to have a variety of first-world problems.  Gaming in the form I consume it is a first-world activity.  Gaming can be really easy.  Bust out Advanced Squad Leader and make up some homebrew rules for simultaneous turns and you are platinum.  But, sometimes, you can run into problems of people having other things they need to do besides play games, like raise children or work.  Here, my problem was that I was getting closer to living an adventure yet couldn’t make a connection to improving my gaming experiences, something so ridiculously first-worldy that I get … amused.  Now, that’s not all downside since I get to Beware of Invisible Cows, keep it real, et al.  This is not the post to get much out of, unless you want something from this blog besides gaming thoughts, like tourist suggestions on the Islands.

I do seem to have some portion of audience who finds travel log stuff more interesting.  Btw, would you be shocked to hear that my ideal lifestyle would be “travel the world and play games”?


Exploring Villainy

It has been said that actors prefer villains because those are meatier roles.  While this post isn’t likely to be helpful to others, it does clarify why I’m a villain vegan.

Lo, The Fun

Do you play CCGs?  Do you enjoy them?  Why are CCGs the best form of competitive gaming ever?  The Fun.

L5R Campaigns

I believe there’s plenty of room for other types of L5R campaigns.  Now, I don’t see the people I play with being into some of the types, but they exist.  Where this has maybe a touch more value than it seems is that it was before I started running LBS – Black Water Lake [sigh], and it helped inform things I tried in that campaign, a campaign I was actually more happy with than most.  I’m still into the idea of LBS as a setting (well, part of a setting) because it addresses some of the problems Rokugan has a setting.  (Topic for another time?)


Clan Cards – Camarilla

I do try to use my analytical awesomeosity to be helpful, even if nobody cares.  *weep*

Note that there are two other posts in this series, but I don’t feel energetic enough to link them.

RPG Fiction Guide

You know what else my two long-running campaigns had?  My writing fics for them.  It adds so much to the experience.  So much of game time is spent on combat, rolling dice outside of combat, arguing about what to do, arguing about treasure splits [not really but sadly this has actually happened], looking up rules, etc.

Well, that was a lot of posts.  As much as I feel like I’ve lost some of the magic early on with more profundity, I also can see where I can keep going far, far into the future.  As long as I throw numbers into more posts.

Imperial Sizing

December 24, 2017

So, I got my L5R Imperial Cycle cards.

I’m not going to rate them for playability in this post because:

  1. Some of them have been available for quite a while.
  2. People other than me have played with them.
  3. I haven’t.

I am also affected by groupthink.  On the other hand, there are some cards I think are better/worse than forumites have said.

So, if I’m not going to enlighten you, the reader who could be doing other things than reading a blog, on how to Porg [sic] your local meta.

Cards I want to play:

Yasuki Taka
Kakita Yoshi
Disdainful Remark
Implacable Magistrate
Guard Duty
Ikoma Ujiaki
Test of Courage
Seal of the Lion
Seppun Ishikawa
Miya Satoshi
Isawa Kaede
Prodigy of the Waves
Magnificent Lighthouse
Shrine Maiden
Henshin Disciple
Gaijin Customs
Windswept Yurt
Moto Juro
Public Forum
Frostbitten Crossing

Interesting thing about cards I want to play in this game, this two-player game.  Pony-beating – good cards are more fun when you actually are trying to win.  Oh, a couple of these I rate as 2’s, and Seal of the Lion is crap, but I have a specifically convoluted deck, I may someday post, in mind that may make use of it.

Five Lion, five Phoenix, two Crane, three Unicorn.  So, I’m usually the “Why not play everything?” guy.  Interesting thing about this game.  Where I’m all for trying everything in V:TES, generally a two hour game where other people have challenges building decks quickly, I’m not so excited at the idea of building tons of decks for this 1.5 hour game, even if throwing together some cards is actually quite easy.

In fact, I’ve mostly lost interest in playing Dragon, while Crane/Phoenix seem like boring/effort, respectively.  I love ponies, well … Jun did.  Lion are so overpowered that it’s difficult to play them until they are no longer “the crutch”.  Wait, that’s just groupthink.  Actually, they don’t easily play Cloud the Mind and Phoenix interactions are so convoluted maybe Phoenix have a good matchup somehow, while Crab seem to have a viable game plan.  I may want to feel Kachiko, but it’s unlikely that’s going to happen, and the other new stuff doesn’t pour my tea.

More neutrals, FFG, more neutrals.  Actually, I do think Phoenix needs to see some play when the 6/6 for 6 gets published.  But, I gurgitate.

In the “maybe” camp of what I want to play is another five Unicorn cards, four Crab, and four Lion.  Gee, it’s almost like I prefer some clans to other clans.  Maybe I’ll make a horrible beastmaster Lion deck for casual play.

By the way, here are some numbers because they amuse me.  Average point scores for:  Crab, 2.36; Crane, 2.29; Dragon, 2.15; Lion, 2.43 (only!!); Phoenix, 2.75(!!); Scorpion, 2.07; Unicorn, 2.07; Neutral, 2.75.  Of course, who cares about the low end of coasters and “casual” cards?  Top five of each:  Crab, 3.4; Crane, 3.2; Dragon, 2.8; Lion, 4; Phoenix, 3.6; Scorpion, 3.2; Unicorn, 3.4; Neutral, 3.8.  Whew!  Back to the norm of Lion brokenness.  Thank Amaterasu!

Holdings seem rather good, though some are clan specific so that reduces decisions.  Dynasty fare better than Conflict in general, which is good as conflict decks are already easy to vary and have an abundance of decisions, where dynasty really needs to see more divergent archetypes.

I still feel like there isn’t much variety in deck construction, but that could be because I’m used to playing games with large card pools.  However, then there’s Traveller, where I feel like you can make a lot of different sorts of decks.  Of course, Traveller has no factionalism in deck construction like L5R, V:TES, and Shadowfist do.  If you want to make a Scout Cargo deck with 58 crew cards, you can make a Scout Cargo deck with 58 crew cards.  Subsidized Merchant with zero crew may not be good, but, hey, maybe it could function off of just upgrades and events.  Would be techy against crew control decks.

Keeper/Seeker and “[element] only” just further reduce available card pool.  More minor clans FFG, more minor clans!  Then, maybe I’ll be actually enthusiastic about building a few decks, whereas …

…  I feel like my latest rant about FCG vs. VCG deserves … stay on target … an entire blog post!  Because everyone likes a little whip action to their ponies, er, …

Merry Christmas, missed Hanukkah, Winter Solstice passed, later on New Year’s as I indulge in the Best Of …



December 3, 2017

No, not a card of the weak entry.

Friday, played two games of L5R in like 3.5 hours.  That was not thrilling.  In fact, after we were done, the question was asked, “Do we enjoy playing this game?”

It’s unclear whether we do.  I continue to compare the game to chess.  Everything you do is a “move”.  While not impossible to come back from being behind, it can be draining to try to come back from behind – more so than the game already is.  A significant difference is that it’s not so clear when the game is essentially unwinnable, for one thing when is a game essentially unwinnable?  10% chance of winning?  5% chance?

I played Crab in the first game and my opponent conceded with something like one province broken.  I don’t think we broke a single province in Lion vs Crab in the first three rounds.  My first round Hida Kisada was still in play at the end, with both of us down to one card in hand at one point.  He sent three Lion, including Matsu Berserker and a dude with a Fine Katana in against my revealed province, Charged Toturi in, and I still won the conflict.  I got down to 5 Honor and, then, had like twice as much Honor as the Lion not long after, being around 14.

One of the big differences for me with playing this game versus the multiplayer CCGs I’ve been playing is that I enjoy far more when I’m doing well.  As long as I can do amusing things in multiplayer CCGs like … well, see below … I don’t need to be winning or end up winning to enjoy the game.  But, I find that L5R isn’t much fun when you feel like you are losing.  So, I’m not surprised that we called the game where his board would be clear and I’d still have Kisada in play for another round.

Second game, I played Unicorn vs Dragon.  This was very entertaining to me as it’s obvious that Unicorn should have a board of four characters – two courtiers, a shugenja, and a monk, with no cavalry.  That Unicorn should have three out of four guys honored.  That the attack on the stronghold can be 24 military with Cavalry Reserves in hand because a one cost dude is a 6/6 and because hardcasting Moto Horde is totally normal.  I am down on Ide Trader.  Just inclines me to jump through a bunch of hoops to trigger ability, though that’s what Unicorn is mostly like – spend lots of effort just to get back the cards and fate you spent trying to get cards and fate, while your smallish dudes can be easily stopped.

Still, I have cards coming, so I might find deck construction interesting enough.  Actually, thinking about it, L5R is being a lot like constructed Magic to me – fascinating from a deck construction standpoint, relatively unpleasant to actually play.

I don’t like chess.  I don’t like agonizing over decisions.

Saturday, we drove to Berkeley for a couple of games of V:TES.

Game 1:

Rick (POT/Pro high cap Amaranth) -> Ian (Mimir Will Survive) -> Mark (Lydia and Aus friends) -> Carol (!Malk SB) -> Alex (Ahrimanes) -> Brandon (Cube Toreador)

Brandon brought out Anneke, which led to Mark and Brandon “talking”.  I had lots of ways to deal with agg, so I often was blocking Baron Dieudonne, Adana, or Lydia.  Mimir did eventually get Disarmed as did Aksinya, but time ran out by the time the latter happened and Mimir came back to agg hands someone after being Disarmed.

I couldn’t put any forward pressure on, but that was a function of lacking ousting power in the deck.  I did Theft of Vitae someone, though.  Carol was doing fine until Mark got Talbot’s out and just murdered everyone.  Brandon lost a dude because of Adana and Mark wouldn’t help bloodhunt her, so Brandon blocked Lydia getting Preternatural Strength, and Anneke got diablerized.  Brandon got ousted.  And, that was it for the three hour game.

Game 2:

Brandon (as above) -> Ian (New Anarchs) -> Mark (Mata Hari does it all) -> Rick (Shatter the Gate/Parity Shift) -> Alex (as above)

Mark played Vaticination, looked at five players’ hands and discarded my Skullduggery.  You can have a lot more fun playing in NorCal.

I repeatedly blocked with Monica Chang because she was my most effective defense, playing Diversion at Thaum and being able to play Crawling Chamber.  I got out The Medic and Laura Goldman reasonably early.  Yes, that was my board.  Three vampires in play with a total of eight disciplines, where no two vampires shared a discipline.

Rick Shattered two Gates and got hit with Sensory Deprivation and, later, Pentex.  I called Reckless Agitation and ousted Mark, going to 20 pool.  Rick gave us shattered counters because nobody once tried to remove a Shatter the Gate.  Alex died.  I brought out Alabastrom, who in this deck Forced March.  We ran out of time, but, after time, I got Rick low and Brandon caused me to go to zero pool, where Rick Life Booned me and I tried to oust Rick which made it impossible for him to Parity Shift Brandon.  In a replay, if we were going to play it out, Rick and I probably talk about how to play out the endgame so that Brandon doesn’t just win.

I also Free States Ranted with a 3-cap to reduce two vampires to zero blood.  My Diversity got blocked when we all had shattered counters by not my predator.

So, V:TES can be played a number of different ways.  I was commenting to Brandon on the drive back that I enjoy it most when it avoids being completely noncompetitive and when it’s too competitive.  Would I ever play this deck in a tournament?  Of course not.  I’m just trying to play cards I’ve never played, like my entire Anthology Set crypt.

I had fun.  As I said recently, V:TES is something I can look forward to because it is so often enjoyable the way I play it.  The question is whether L5R can be played in a way where it’s actually fun for everyone.

If I didn’t have to do something soon, I’d probably post my decks since it’s unlikely I’d ever play either again.  Both decks need more ousting power, and the latter’s crypt may be funny, but it isn’t that interesting to me.  The Medic also needs way more Freak Drives than what I was running.  I should have played Skullduggery with him before it got discarded, but oh well.



November 19, 2017

I got inspired to develop a theme, on the way back from the park this morning.

Plans for physical exertion got cancelled, so I did something I do a couple of times in the Fall/Winter, I went and shot some hoops.  Aside1, I don’t play basketball – I enjoy shooting hoops, by myself, when it’s cold, don’t care if it’s raining or if there is ice on the ground.  Aside2, one might think I think to do this because it’s NBA season, but I don’t think so.  I think it has more to do with weather and vague recollections of going out on Christmas mornings and shooting some while food was being prepared.  There’s Spring when it might not be hot and, yet, I don’t recall thinking too often about it in the Spring.  Well, also, I suppose in the last decade or whatever, there’s my allergies to keep me from going outside.

So, I was walking back and got to thinking about my coworker struggling to carry a 50 pound bag of rice around for our company’s annual food drive (to give context, that’s around half her weight; half my weight wouldn’t be that easy for this decrepit body).

In this world, there are applications for strength.  Moving furniture/books/whatever.  Opening bottles.  Tightening and untightening whatever.  Sports.

Because I’m prone to bad habits and didn’t stretch afterwards, I’ll likely be sore tomorrow as I can feel my shoulders, back, and abs work just expending these meager efforts launching a ball into the air, unlike when I was younger and more resilient.

So, gaming.

Will get to CCG play in a moment.

I tend to avoid STR builds in RPGs.  I found Conan d20’s focus on STR to be dull.  I’ve never been all that interested in STR in L5R, even when I got to STR-4 with my Hare.  I had a STR/Potence character or two written up in Vampire, but I don’t think I played them.  I will have STR when the game virtually requires it, of course.  I just don’t find it all that interesting.

Yet, it’s a foundation attribute.  While some RPGs will do Body or Physical or whatever that incorporates strength, agility, and/or endurance, it’s extremely common to distinguish between STR and DEX.  One of the simplest games I have that is kind of a RPG (but not really) is Melee, and it has STR and DEX and, with those, STR builds and DEX builds and balance builds.

What RPG do I enjoy STR in?  Not Champions, though, to be fair, I’ve spent almost all of my Champions energy building characters and virtually none playing.  Still, I’m not into straightforward bricks, though superstrength is so common that there are concepts I could probably get behind.  I do like gods, after all.

In Stormbringer 1e, INT and POW attracted me.  But, I digress.

To me, even given how versatile comicbook strength is, STR just comes across as simplistic and inflexible and blatant.  I’m not into blatant.  It’s not even necessarily subtle abilities so much as surprising abilities.  I like fight anime, where abilities keep getting unlocked.

So, CCG play, which is something I was going to write about before I got to philosophizing.

I have now played as many L5R games outside of tournaments as in tournaments.

Andy and I played new decks.  I played Crab for the first time.  He played Phoenix.  While his deck may have been challenging, it was such a change to play a clan that wasn’t Unicorn level difficult.  I get to play good characters.  I don’t just spend lots of actions to replace the Spyglasses and Favorite Mounts I put on wusses.  I Way of the Crab away Kaede and others.  I flop triple Kisada on the last round.

In the second game, I played Unicorn against someone newer to the game than I.  I won, but it still had aspects of “I’m not really scary in, like, any way.”  Of course, I was still playing a deck with no 4’s and 5’s.

I have been saying and will likely beat this dead pony many more times that it’s good for me to play a competitive two-player CCG because it forces me to play good decks, something multiplayer CCG play has never really forced me to do.  Good being powerful.  Good having strength.

I’m supposedly a Spike, but I’m sure there’s some Timmy (and Johnny).  Big numbers don’t excite me.  Efficiency excites me.  I like ruthless beats in my friendly two-player play (doesn’t appeal that much to me in tournament play, a sign that I will never achieve Hatamoto or anything notable).  I just like doing it with a bunch of weefolk, removal, and reach.

So, I rejiggered my Unicorn deck to put 4’s and 5’s back in with some new tech to try to be more scary.  But, while that happened, I keep trying to figure out how to avoid playing 4’s and 5’s with other clans in the name of weefolk efficiency.  I’m so not Voltronesque, even if it amuses me for Jake Rattlebones to get up to 17 Fighting.

In L5R, having reach without 4’s and 5’s seems to be the issue.  Sure, one can lunge with a multitude of cards, especially Banzai, but it’s so card intensive when your dudes are running around with strength two, that it fails even being viable.  Maybe changes in cardpool will do something about making doofi scarier, but I have a feeling I actually become more dependent upon big stats as I try to cut down on Fine Katana and Ornate Fans and any other buffing attachment dependencies.

Speed, agility, surprises, tech – I strive for these things even when I’m trying to win.  Only when brute force amuses me, like my Type P deck that is collecting dragons, do I embrace raw, unbridled hugeosity.

Even if I get more competitive, I still will likely find a way to be unsatisfied winning off of the backs of Shoju or Kisada or like any champion besides the purple, sucky one.  On the other hand, I might have to break down and play Scorpion, as Kachiko might even seduce someone as principled as I given that I’m already a big fan of Scorpion Dropbears and find possibilities for amusing Scorpion splashes out of triple core.



November 13, 2017


V:TES.  Berkeley.

We wander.  Victory Point Cafe.  Power outage.

Game 1

EuroBrujah -> Anarch Aus/For -> Anthology Anarch Instantaneous Transformation -> Mata Hari Chimerstry -> Saulot IC

Uninspired at deckbuilding.  Have Anthology reprints.  Instantaneous Transformation + new vampires.  Use piles of unsorted cards.  90 card deck.  No offense.

No pressure on prey.  No pressure from predator; steals Gas-Powered Chainsaw.  Saulot helpless.  Grandprey and predator ousted.  Field Training with Salvador Garcia “fun”.

Game 2

Trem Bleed -> Aus/Dem/Vic -> Vidal Jarbeaux -> Santa & Serenna -> Baali

Santa suddens.  Predator bleeds.  I bounce.  VJ go away.  Wall up.  Baali broken.  Luc blocked.  Ousted.  Endgame.  Santa wins.

Game 3

Borrowed +1 STR CEL wall -> AAIT -> HoS Temptation -> Gangrelish with Dom -> Prince Kaymakli

Giotto multiacts.  CEL murders predator.  Club Illusion.  Temptations?!  Bleed prey out.  Flesh of Marble predator.  Kaymakli readyless; ousted.


Food:  Decent.

Hot chocolate:  Expensive, not sweet.

Ambiance:  Good.

Drive:  Bad.


L5R tournament.  Castro Valley.

Brunch:  country fried steak (okay), seasonal vegetables (not good), spaghetti (bad).

10 players.

Pickup – Scorpion.  Unfinished.  Five completed LCG games.

Unicorn vs. Scorpion

3-costs.  Hiroue.  Yunako.  Defensive.  Time.  Concede.

Andy (Dragon) vs. Unicorn

Reduce hand.  One break first three rounds.  Andy recovers hand.  Raitsugu duels.  One Honor.  Void = three Keeper Initiates; Voidless.  Unicorn fall.

Dragon vs. Unicorn

Tilt?  Threatless.  Three rounds – three Doomed Shugenja.  Time.  Concede.  Eight completed games; tournament five.

Play:  Weak.  Slow.

Deck:  Fourless/fiveless!  Weak or ultraweak?

Prizes:  Not weak.

Nostalgia:  Talked to Ed of old days.

Mood:  Frustrated.  Unable break provinces.  Unable outwide Dragon.  Opponents’ hands full.

Enjoy cards:  Cavalry Reserves.

Unpleasant:  Dueling.  Defensive play.

Overall:  Fine.


Desire:  Deckbuilding, tournaments.

Skillfulness:  Lacking.  Improve?

Decklists:  Improbable.


Living Legends

October 28, 2017

I’m sure the most fascinating thing I could write about is how Arrowverse shows generally improved after the season openers, especially Flash.  No?  How about about how I’m catching up on season 10 of Doctor Who and I was quite interested in things up until the terrible parts 2 and 3 of the monk trilogy?  Nyet?

What about the Shadowfist Kickstarter that is moving slow?  I guess at some point, games just die.  I certainly feel like there aren’t enough people actually playing to generate enough backers to make it happen.

Okay, let’s talk about something that will stir your soul, well, at least if part of your soul is floppy.

Last Sunday, I played in a L5R LCG tournament.  Single core, which almost everyone is done with, so it’s kind of irrelevant how the decks were built.

I played Lion, not because I’m so into … [redacted].  But, because the first thing anyone should ever learn in card game play is aggro, beatdown, 3 to the dome – one.  Two, Kitsu Spiritcaller could have supplied brokenness in a single core environment to a degree higher than the benefit in a 3x core.  Yup, I was trying to build a good deck.

In preparation for the tournament, I had to deal with family stuff, so I didn’t prepare.

Round 1:


Round 2:

Play against Kenneth with Phoenix/Scorpion.  Single core tech?  Adept of Shadows is a body (not that kind of body, well, who knows?).  I had body problems in the end.  This proved rather important as, when we were getting short on time, I conceded to the overwhelming power of his two Wandering Ronin with fate on them.

I felt I learned some things.  In this game.  My first ever tournament game.  My second ever game.

I felt I learned that I’m not an expert at this game and not only made some serious decision mistakes but forgot card abilities at times, including the Imperial Favor pump.  Here’s the thing as the real world intrudes upon the better world of gaming – I said to our latest hire in my department “I don’t care if people are stupid.  I care if they don’t get less stupid.” or something similar.  Point being, I believe learning is important.  I still make terrible Shadowfist decisions, as evidenced by Thursday night’s play, but I think I make decent decisions within our meta a reasonable amount of time.

I learned that Wandering Ronin is like the best card ever … when the only two characters your opponent can play from their dynasty flop is two Miya Mystics.  Actually, given the format, admittedly an irrelevant format at this point, Wandering Ronin is actually a house.  It can deal with conflict type flipping, which, of course, I ran into playing against Phoenix under the stronghold.

I had 13 fate when I conceded.  It was an amusing game and a key part of my, yes, committing to L5R, so now I’m some fanatic who must pledge his reincarnatable spirit to a single clan as well as a weirdo dice chucker.  I was at 5 honor, with three broken provinces and two cards left in my dynasty deck, though, we could have theoretically survived the round … Kenneth was at 2 honor.  Yup, typical Lion vs. Phoenix – see if you can somehow not honor suicide yourself.  Btw, I never drew one of the Assassinations in this game.  I’ll get to honor more, soon.

Last two cards of my deck were Toturi and Matsu Berserker (useless due to playing against Phoenix).  My Spiritcaller got face down broken pretty early on.

Kenneth’s average card bid?  I figure about 1.2.  I lost honor multiple times bidding 2.  Welp, that’s Shadow- … er … L5R.

Round 3:

Erinn was also playing Lion but went with … hmmm … I should have written this earlier in the week, I actually can’t remember.

My intention when putting together the deck was to play the fate game.  Figure Lion lose on the conflict card side so just manage fate better and have more permanents with better abilities.  I somehow didn’t really play that game in my first tournament game ever.  I did in this game.  At the point where I could Stand Your Ground to keep Honored General in play with multiple other dudes or the round I started with like 5 dudes in play to his zero, I figured I had the game.

We were running low on time because this game plays slow, especially with people who – get this – play tournaments without dozens of games under their belt.  I set up to break third and attack stronghold in last round, Assassinationing his attempt to win a conflict on the round because, oddly, neither one of us was that low on honor.  His average bid?  Maybe about 1.2.

I did cheat to a degree in that I had two Favorite Grounds and a Spyglass on a dude and drew three cards, but I ended the game with like 9 cards in hand to his 3, where his two Ornate Fans didn’t help defend in my military conflict against his stronghold.

What did I learn?  Putting fate on Wandering Ronin is like totally broken …  I should try this play in triple core and see how it fares.  Sarcasm aside, I hated flopping Miya Mystics most of all.  Otomo and Seppun consistently screw me not just because I often don’t have the Favor but … new paragraph for emphasis time …

So much of what I read was how dashes were often better than zeroes as it meant people couldn’t hook you or duel you or whatever.  Well, dueling is not a thing in single core in that I don’t know if a single duel took place during the tournament.  What is a thing is conflict type swapping.  What is a thing is chumping to preserve honor.  I would love for the Imperials to have zeroes so that when I can’t attack with them, they can actually do something besides stand for Favor.

I’m now somewhat katana shy on dashers.  In fact, I’m more excited by 1/1’s for 1 due to dorkiness.  I can murder provinces if I can just get someone to attack.  I can chump block.  Is this relevant for triple core?  For real constructed next month or the month after when something besides a tiny card pool exists?

Maybe.  Actually, bunch of deck ideas already for me, including the all neutral, all the time deck, the Unicorn political honor runner, Dragon swarm, etc.

Round 4:

We didn’t have a round four.  We did have a raffle.  With three tickets in the raffle, I managed to fail to get any of 20 or so raffled prizes in a 15 player tournament.  I think one other player, with possibly a worse record, therefore fewer tickets, shared this honor.

That contributed to a general feeling I had.  I played all of two games.  I lost a game I felt like I could have won if I had made any of a number of decisions better.  I blew out my opponent in my only real win.  I got no meaningful participation prize.  It was just a generally disappointing and frustrating experience.

And, yet, I still decided to go get more cards.

I find that neither V:TES nor Shadowfist metagames matter to me.  Not that V:TES doesn’t have metagames for various tournaments, they just aren’t predictable enough for me to take advantage of them.

Trying to be competitive, trying to build good decks, having card analysis and metagame analysis theoretically give me an edge, playing more games with more people – these are good things.

Okay, so what’s wrong with L5R?

Already went into how easy it is to get honored out of the game.  My concern is that honor will continue to suck, possibly becoming even worse.  Think about it.  In order for a deck to win with 25 honor, not currently realistic, it has to be able to deal with taking at least some honor hits.  In order for a deck to honor murder you, you have to not be rising towards 25 honor.  Sure, FFG can print swingy honor effects so that honor murder and honor happytimes can fight with each other and somehow have a meaningful game, though I doubt it will happen – I think one or the other has no chance.  But, that’s not the biggest problem.  The biggest problem is what happens when one of these extremes fights the middle.  If I can gain like 5 honor a round to make 25 plausible, the deck in the middle which is playing enough honor gain to fight the lose 3 honor a round decks can’t really do anything.  Well, that’s overstating.  They may not be able to do anything.  It is possible to create card pools where players can metagame.

But, how does the middle deck deal with both extremes in a meta?  An honor murder deck isn’t viable unless it can murder an honor runner.  Natural meta reaction is to give up on honor murder if everyone becomes enamored with running, which is its own problem.  But, let’s say that honor murder remains viable.  Then middlers have to deal with even more race to the bottom.

It might have been interesting if the range for honor was like 0 to 15 and clans started at like 8.  The range from 0 to 25 is vast and calls for especially swingy effects.  I guess this is a serious, ultracompetitive CCG, so players adapt and run enough cards to not have the extremes win before you can break dance, plus the extremeys run enough break dancing to have game.

Other than the honor thing, and the offensive tournament rules (apparently standard for FFG because … I have no idea why companies hate so much on players playing things that are supposed to be fun), I don’t really have a problem with the game, based on my vast and near infinite play experience.  Maybe I’ll hate more later.

Because other topics aren’t likely to generate enough inspiration for their own posts because somebody is the antipithy master, a quick comment about RPG modules.

I keep looking at my D&D, AD&D modules from like the 80s, and I am mostly pained.  I realized I despise the layout.  Contrast with HoR mods.  HoR mods have a story with admittedly limited rails.  These old mods have dungeons with treasure and monsters just incomprehensibly allocated to provide challenges largely of three types:  traps, beef fights, special ability fights.  I guess I can comment more on things like UK1 some day, but I just wanted to throw out that I actually kind of like I2, Tomb of the Lizard King.  Oh, I have no idea whether it works mechanically, but it feels like there’s something more than rolling on random dungeon tables for monsters and treasures.  Ironically, for the serious dungeon crawling group, it has a major fail in that it isn’t remotely clear how you move to the end of the adventure.  I suppose a real DM will notice and put stairs on level 2 going down.

May have been something else, but I think that’s good for now.  Got to finish up my Dragon deck, figure out what splash to do for the third of my test decks.  Of course, if those three are my test decks, what’s “my” deck going to be?  Crab?  Crane is too … Craney.  Phoenix may be too Phoenixy.  You know, Unicorn does actually have a few cards I like.  Courtier/monk, honor runner it is.