Skullduggery

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.

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Strength

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.


Impuissance

November 13, 2017

Saturday

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.

Done.

Food:  Decent.

Hot chocolate:  Expensive, not sweet.

Ambiance:  Good.

Drive:  Bad.

Sunday

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.

CCGs

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:

Bye.

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.


Loyalty

October 21, 2017

I’m not sure why it’s surprising given that I’ve been on the periphery of L5R VCG play to a degree.  I guess not to enough of a degree to be impacted.

L5R CCG players are way, way, ultraway more devoted to their clans than anything I’ve ever seen with the RPG.  Sure, there are people who play the same clan all of the time, though even people I know who love to play the same clan over and over still play other clans.  But, I have never seen the obsession with a clan, where someone feels a personal stake in their clan.

But, then, while I may have said that having players have impact in the storyline was something that set L5R apart, I only ever heard about results much later.  V:TES storyline events were often disappointing as people chose poorly in what clans they wanted to do even better.  I’d imagine I would have hated the oL5R environment not just for how much people didn’t care about the big picture but also because of the bounties, the miscellaneous FUing to others, and whatnot.

Why doesn’t the RPG see the same thing?  Of course, some players play both.  Is it the lack of ability to impact storyline?  Is there more of it in the HoR LARPs that I rarely play in?  Even in HoR political interactives, I don’t feel the obsession with a particular clan, though, of course, there’s the hatred of clans.

Being a hater, I get that.

I have done some development on a Failures of the Five Rings campaign where multiple clans get obliterated.  If this sounds worrisome to you, embrace tranquility as the families survive to join other clans in ways that I’m sure will grossly offend fanatics.  Don’t worry, this paragraph is getting to the point.  The only clan I see having any purpose in Rokugan is the Crab, yet Crab is one of the clans that cease to exist … because logic.  I increasingly am cognizant of how much I like Crab … since they have the only job in Rokugan of the various clans that needs doing.  But, I’m not so attached that I would feel put out by them getting what they deserve for being such incredible failures (any time drama is needed in history).

Btw, the clans that don’t do anything besides make things worse – Dragon and Phoenix – are freed up to have to actually be responsible for providing value to the Empire, but I’m sure the Failures of the Five Rings idea is a topic for another time.

I’m obviously not clan loyal.  I’m willing to various degrees to play anything besides Scorpion.  In the RPG, I’ll even play Spider just for the absurdity.  I don’t care which of the six clans I splash in my conflict deck.  Speaking of which, for tomorrow’s single core tournament at Game Kastle, I ran through all of the five options for what splash to make in my deck trying to see if I could find something I thought was better than what I ran in the one game I’ve ever played of the LCG.

There are actually minor clans I’m not in favor of.  Boar-ing.  Fly away Dragonfly.  Back in the box Ox.  Forsake the Snake (though, this is more because I feel they have so little development that it’s hard to feel like they ever existed).  I’m no go on Otomo most of the time, which is why Otomo Kidai was that much funnier.  So, so fun-ny.

On the other hand, I’m game loyal.  I don’t die on games, they die on me.  I never invested in Netrunner or Dragonball Z (or 7th Sea or Buffy or Hyborian Gates, Tempest of the Gods, Guardians, Highlander, etc.), so my having dispensed with my meager card totals for those games didn’t strike me as giving up.  At this point, I’m not committed to the LCG.  I’m really curious as to whether tomorrow will be fun or not.  Also, where single core makes for awful deckbuilding, since there isn’t any for Dynasty Decks, triple core now also looks to me to be awful, as the choices are far, far too marginal.

Now, there is such a thing as subtle mindblowing, like having your courtier run around with a weapon skill of 10 at, um, Rank 1.  But, the current cardpool just forces so many Dynasty choices where people are still running Wandering Ronin and Miya Mystic, that the whole point of CCGs – customization – feels like it’s waiting until the long, long … wait, correction, erelong of November.

There are good reasons for me to get into the LCG.  I don’t think I’ve played a two-player CCG competitively in the last 15 years.  I know the genre.  I have opinions on the IP.  The game seems pretty well designed at this point.  I might be way more enthusiastic about deckbuilding for a game where deckbuilding matters more than it does in your typical multiplayer CCG affair.

There are two reasons I haven’t already preordered six copies of every card, which is what I consider a basic buy in to a 3CL CCG.  One, I’m not sure I will enjoy playing the game.  Two, I get concerned about the fanatical “loyalty” that the game seems to engender, not because everyone is as myopic in person as some people sound on forums, but because there’s an element of repetitiveness in play that concerns me.  Also, will the management of the game suffer from players caring too much about factions?

More than anything else, to me, CCGs are about variety.  I manage to somehow even find it in Ultimate Combat!, which had all of one expansion.  If you know you are just going to play against Scorp Dishonor, Crab Dishonor, Crane Dishonor, Phoenix Dishonor, … [okay, maybe the game is a bit off in terms of design at this time, hopefully not be so easy to win through a mechanic that is so negative] … every time, bor-r-r-ing.

Maybe, my doubts are overstated.  Didn’t I achieve enlightenment when it came to Shadowfist?

Just play it, Willamette!

I don’t care that Shadowfist has all sorts of problems.  Why should I care about L5R?  Can’t I just be in it for the groupies, the free airfares to Chiang Mai, and the gold medal when it becomes an Olympic event?

I’m hunting you, Black Widow.  If you get this reference, well, maybe you game too much.

Art doesn’t offend me.  Some of the mechanics are really, really similar to Traveller, which I’m not surprised by.  Just like many early CCGs were similar to Magic, veteran floppers have experienced a lot of the same mechanics and draw upon that experience.

Bidding may get tiresome over time.  I said in a post “I think I mentioned something about auction games in a post this year.  If I haven’t, I need to.”  That was 2015, by the way.  What I may have never said is that I like auction boardgames.  I’m not sure why.  I don’t love every auction boardgame and I’m sure there are ones I don’t like.  Ra is an auction game that I don’t care for, for instance.  But, the big problem with auction games is that some people are really, really bad at them.  Now, in a two-player game, if you bid better than your opponent, you win and move on.  Wait, that’s not better.  Bad games are bad games.

So, I guess I’ll see how bidding works out.  It may be enjoyable.  I have some doubts, though, because one of the aspects of the LCG that I feel presently is that it’s too harsh a game.  Just like how every single move in chess matters, I feel like every decision in the LCG is important, and that’s not appealing to me.

I like goofing off when I play games.  Multiplayer CCGs are inherently forgiving in that you have other players to beat down the clear leader.  Two-player CCGs are all about deck construction and/or in play decisions.  That’s not a bad thing, but, curiously, perhaps, I actually care about deck construction.  Curious because I think it’s relatively unimportant in the two CCGs I play the most often these days – V:TES and Shadowfist.  This is why not playing a two-player CCG is so counteryeah for me – I like building decks.  I like seeing how my decks play.

If I can gain a substantial advantage through deck construction, then the pressure to play optimally is reduced.  Yet, L5R might be so balanced at the moment (outside of Unicorn) that all of the pressure is in guiding the deck to victory through *gasp* decisions.  So many decisions.  No “Hmmm.  My 16/4 triple striker attacks your soul.” but lots of “Gee, I really want this ring, but I need another Fate from that ring, and I have to account for conflict type switching or Display of Power BS.”

So, in a way, the LCG isn’t ready for what will appeal to me.  I’m really interested in deckbuilding and care far, far less about managing the play.  This isn’t something new.  I kind of approach Magic this way, Babylon 5 could be this way, Wheel of Time (especially building Children of the Light decks versus playing their neg-game) might have been rather this way, though I did enjoy playing my decks.

So, sometime in the near future, probably hear about me pulling the trigger on getting into the LCG or not.  I mean, pretty much as soon as I have three copies of every November expansion pack, I’m pretty much going to be a lifer, as that’s what happened with every CCG besides, arguably, Magic, though I never had complete Magic sets.

In some side news, we played two, five-player Shadowfist games Thursday and five-player is losing its appeal to me.  The correct way to play, in my mind, is to take someone out of the game and go hard with collaboration with an ally.  Instead, I tend to screw around because it’s more fun to let people actually play the game, but it’s still likely to get unbalanced situations where our four-player games usually have more interesting interaction.  I guess it’s not worse than three-player play or other possibilities, but it seems to have become too … vicious.

 


Flopping – Part One

October 14, 2017

I don’t do pithy posts.  It’s not just having something gaming related to think about, it’s about having enough to drone on for an hour plus about.  I had two stronger ideas inspired by recent events that lack any mechanical connection but have a thematic connection that may not be obvious, so my intent is to follow up with the second post soon, while I’m still inspired.

First up, let’s talk CCGs.

Shadowfist Kickstarter is live:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2113976333/shadowfist-a-better-tomorrow?ref=discovery

Am I excited?  No, not really.  Seems like it should have come out last year, when you could have had a Fire Monkey theme and appeal to all of those icky people who like monkeys.  [Should be noted that I only hate monkeys in Shadowfist and possibly other places, like RL.  L5R Monkeys are win.]

But, I like playing Shadowfist.  Building decks has gotten harder because I only get inspired after playing and don’t immediately start building decks after our Thursday night sessions.  When I go through cards before Thursday night sessions, I’m like “Where are all of the cards I thought of building decks around after last time?”

I think there’s some good in how the KS was done – always offer a high end option.  I think there’s some lack – offer more than one high end option.  I’m also not interested in any of the cards on the main page.  I have no particular feelings about resource edges.  I guess it encourages more Thunder on Thunder plays, a not so well designed card that nevertheless fills an important hoser function.

Speaking of Shadowfist, we played Thursday as we often do, and we had one reasonably entertaining game.

Ian (Squad Faceoff) -> Joren (Monarch States) -> Don (Ascended Discard w/ Punishments) -> Justin (Hand Swords)

I bring out Black Helicopter Squad and Hit Squad after putting Waterfall Sanctuary in play.  On turn two, I put “broken” Gardens in play behind Waterfall Sanctuary.  On turn three, I put Weeping Willows out.

Over an hour later, the Mobius Gardens never received any damage.  *shrug*

The Waterfall Sanctuary was never revealed the entire game!!

The Hit Squad I played on turn one was hanging around on the turn I won!!!

Miguel!?!  See, I use cards responsibly and people don’t go insane no matter how much they complain about Hit Squad being used against them.

Even though my Jan Zvireci got used multiple times, mostly against Don’s discard deck, never took damage or left play.  My Sacred Wigwam did get seized!!  I considered this a key to my victory.

I could not keep a second location in play as every attempt to have multiple columns ended up with people attacking me and every turn of sitting on one location saw other people getting attacked because they had lots of Fighting in play and could often win on their turns.  Justin had like three NFSSs out for quite a while.  His Rice Paddies got seized by Joren, then by Don.  I never got my Sacred Wigwam back.  By not being close to victory and not having much of a site structure or anything particularly threatening offensively in play, I had the ability to regulate towards victory then pick up the pieces after hitters kept getting stopped.

I, of course, could retire this deck undefeated.  Or, I could play it again and hope to play the various cards that never saw play.

CCGs.  So, there’s this new FCG based on magic samurai.  There’s a tournament coming up, single core with roles, I plan on playing in.  Single core just seems awful with how you have no real ability to customize your 30 Dynasty Deck, defeating what I am excited about – deck construction for a CCG.

I love Influence (not Shadowfist Influence, which is terrible).  Given the tiny card pool, it still has me thinking about stuff.  I don’t love the tiny card pool for Dynasty cards.  Now, I hear people may “quit” [internet verbiage for whine about nothing in a way that just calls attention to how more important you are than people who make their financial decisions without saying “look at me”] because of the release schedule to have more cards to work with, but more cards kind of necessary or the game play is going to be really stale.

Am I committed to getting into this version, unlike the version I thought was a terrible game?  Nope.  But, I may end up committed soon.  I almost got into the VCG.  Now, I have read a review of the LCG that sounded very relevant – I’m not interested in “chess”.  I enjoy slam, bam, thank you ma’am two-player play like UC!.  I enjoy two hour dice-rolling fests of two-player play like WoT.  I enjoy a variety of multiplayer CCGs for their humorously inconclusive interactions.  Do I really want to get owned repeatedly by people who think harder than I do at card games?

On the other hand, if I can afford buying True Dungeon ultrarares, a new CCG is hardly going to be much of a financial drain, and it does give me options for things to do at cons or even maybe get back to having more regular card nights at game stores.

I’ve already created my personal ban list …  Oh, by the way, I’ve yet to actually play a single game of L5R LCG.  I haven’t even watched people play.  I’m knowledgeing myself entirely by [gag] reading rules and play guide and by reading from the interwebs.

Of course, at this point, it might be a tentative ban list.  I might sacrifice my personal honor.

Actually, I can only think of two clans I’d want to play at this time – Crab and Lion.  Crab, of course, is the only clan that has any reason to exist in Rokugan.  Lion appeals to my interest in aggro.  Oh, sure, I like Lion in the RPG, but that doesn’t translate well in my experience, i.e. what I like in RPGs and CCGs tends to diverge quite a bit.  Take Dominate – hate it in the RPG, only eschew it in the CCG because it’s a crutch.

Dragon has lame attachment theme, maybe get interesting when monkage expands.  Phoenix has lost interest to me due to RPG play …  I mean, I guess there’s some connection.  Just not interested in shugenja.  Would be interesting to have a Phoenix focused RPG campaign to make Phoenix less extreme between the boring and the psychotic.

Crane may be acceptable in CCG play where they are unacceptable in RPG play.  Unicorn suffers in CCG play from being terrible.  In theme.  In play, sounds like they suck, but I haven’t played the game, yet, so that’s just hearsay.  Unicorn reminds me of Jammers.  They will probably have cards I want to play, but I will need to dodge what they are intended to do because what they intend to do is antifun.

Imperials may have some possibilities.  I’m a hopin’ FFG doesn’t screw minor clans.  If anything could keep me wanting to play the CCG, it’s minor clan play.  Besides, gots to do what everyone does and make broken Monkey Clan stuff.  What might kill me is what they do with Shadowlands.  Shadowlands is both a great boon to the L5R world and a huge bane to rationality.

So, Shadowfist is chuggin’ to some degree.  I like that I can still play it and new cards may not be bad (unlike V:TES, where I think new sets generally make the game worse since they don’t expand on what should be expanded upon and expand on stuff that gets more annoying over time).  L5R is a possible into the 違反.

Flop, flop, flop.  Maybe I can get some V:TES play in some time.  Oh, and, of course, Traveller is the best FCG I have actually played.

As Otomo Kidai may have said a time or two back when he was Usagi Kidai, “I’ll keep my ears floppy.”


World Of Command

September 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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