The Best of … 2012

December 31, 2015

It’s that time of year, again, where we look back three years and see what was worth highlighting.

Old Time Fan

Timely, in how mahjong seems to be something I’m getting back into.  Whether people care for more non-gaming info about what I do, I don’t know.


As an analyst, I’m concerned with what’s wrong with things.  Negativity is my roti and korma.  Not only was I trying to be positive, I wish I was inspired to write more of these sorts of posts.  I’m also not writing much about V:TES these days, when there’s always something that could be written.  Not building decks as often has a lot to do with that.  Well, and not playing as often.

You There, In The Woods

I’m still in January.  Interesting thing about 2012 – I had a lot of time as I was between office jobs.  This post came from working on designing a CCG and realizing a key aspect of having CCGs be fun.

Barsoom Or Bust

Good post?  Not necessarily.  Sometimes, I just like to call out things.  I’ve reread the John Carter books (again, half of them don’t even have JC do anything) many a time.  As a reader of the Extended Universe of Star Wars, let’s just say I was more finer with The Force Awakens than in watching a questionable effort to bring John Carter into the 21st Century.

Page Of Myth

I’m certainly not going for good posts, anymore, with these Best Of … posts.  I seem to be going for tying the present into the past.  I found an Indian Mythology game and am running it.  Progress.

Egalitarian Experiment #1 – First Thoughts

I should do more of this sort of stuff.  What does it hurt?  I just add variance to my CCG play.

Ultimate Techniques

I often feel like I haven’t played a lot of the in games, these days.  Maybe there are systems that manage this topic, but I don’t see them.  Don’t need to model fiction to have cool stuff happen, but it’s possible that doing something to model fiction better will have cool stuff happen, ironically, more often.

Decision: 3r or 4e or 3.5

I will occasionally use this as a reminder of what I miss from L5R’s previous edition.


Just your typical CCG tournament report.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the one post to read for that year.  Though, if you don’t know V:TES, you won’t understand a lot …  Note that the follow up post for the other three tournaments depends significantly on this one.


A major theme of 2012 for me was trying to explain a variety of different things about how I engage with V:TES.  People drone on and on about building decks, but that’s not what multiplayer CCGs are about.  Wait, this post was all about building decks – doh!!  Even though 2012 had our largest local tournament, I so often see frustration from my fellow players (also true of other CCGs).  Games, people.  Have some fun.  … and build more decks.

Riddle Me This …

The player cares little for combat, but the GM loves it?!?

L5R Combat Guide

This was likely the point when my blog really became a L5R 4e blog with some other posts about who knows what.  Indefatigable is still the post to read for the year … because so many people have already read this one.  It seems obvious that there’s a massive call for RPG analysis in the blogosphere, as this shows up in my stats as a top read post.


Tricky topic.  Another theme of 2012 was my trying to figure out how to be better at GMing.

Annual TWDA 2012

I no longer have the motivation to generate these sorts of posts.  I miss how much The Lasombra kept data for the game.  One would think a database wouldn’t be that hard, but did Precedence CCGs or Shadowfist ever come anywhere close to what was done with V:TES in terms of data collection and display?


The most important post was, of course, the L5R Combat Guide, no matter how much more the topic could have used (fortunately, I followed up with a party combat guide in the past’s future).  While I don’t know about brilliant posts during the year, there were a lot of thoughtful posts, reflecting both that I was designing a CCG during the year and had lots of gaming time.


Season Premiers

October 31, 2015

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

Let me see if I can tie some things together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this all tie together?

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

BattleTech Scenario Building

July 19, 2014

No pretentious title.

I have been creating BattleTech scenarios for months.  I had a Davion/Kurita campaign where I was tracking results but didn’t really do much with those results.  The current campaign we are playing is called “Arms Race”, as it’s about the hunt for Lostech in the 3025-3040 period, where I think around 3033 makes sense for the actual year, though it may not matter a lot.

My faction is Warrior House Kamata.  Gary’s is a merc unit with mysterious backing.  Andy’s is the Atrean Hussars unless he tells me differently (he has only played one scenario so far).  I like the idea of the crap Houses getting advanced tech and changing the course of history, especially Liao not being the whipping boy for those periods I know anything about (which is about to 3057).

Anyway, scenarios.  By anecdotal measure, I’ve gotten a lot better at them.  Some of the Davion/Kurita ones didn’t go over well, though that had something to do with not planning to maps and mechs, not knowing LOS, movement, and water rules all that well, and whatever.  I’m actually quite surprised by how many of the Arms Race scenarios have worked out well.

Experimenting may have paid off.  Of course, the next experiment may end up a failure, but it’s heartening that so many experiments haven’t failed.

Such as?

The only real exploration scenario for Arms Race involved building ruins and random mines and exploration results.  It was quite funny how often Gary failed to find any Lostech early on and got hammered by mines but managed to acquire the almighty Gauss Rifle in the end.  Liao still hasn’t gotten their hands on a Gauss.

That might not be a great technology to introduce since it’s so good compared to 3025 tech and makes for a high percentage of one-shot kills to the head.  Other tech recovered has been Ultra 5, LB 10-x, Artemis IV, Small Pulse, Medium Pulse.  There will never be double heat sinks or XL engines, as those completely change the game.  LB 10-x is the autocannon that should have existed in 3025 play.  Streak SRM-2 and CASE are two clearly acceptable things to add.  Maybe Large Pulse, though I want to encourage ammo using weapons since they are so awful, which, by the way, means that Anti-Missile Systems will never appear.

Getting back to scenarios that worked, I had a three faction scenario that was 2 v. 1, two Liao mechs, two merc mechs, four Marik mechs.  It got defensive towards the end, after a Gauss Rifle shot decapitated a fresh Archer.  So, it wasn’t perfect.  But, it had a number of interesting things going on and allowed three players to play, where our previous attempts at three player play where everyone was on their own side I found to be incredibly tedious.  I’m writing a scenario that’s a treasure hunt where everyone is on their own side, to see if it’s possible to have a three-sided game actually work.

Gary and I have built out our companies to where we have defined pilots (mine have names, including the one who got killed last session).  Our last session saw interesting negotiation over salvage and not just murdering each other’s mechs/pilots, which is how things would have gone in earlier play before we defined pilots.

That’s probably the hardest thing about putting together scenarios.  Almost all of the ones in scenario supplements I’ve bought in the last 20 years or whatever involve destroying the other side or gaining VPs for destroyed mechs.  That’s really not all that fun when you bother to personalize your mechs/pilots.  Mech destruction should happen.  Pilots getting taken out by Gauss to the brain will happen.  But, it shouldn’t be 50% turnover every week.  For one thing, the harsher combats are, the less incentive to put at risk your forces, which leads to boring defensive struggles.  Thematically, House forces can easily replace but mercs shouldn’t be able to easily replace mechs, though I’m fine with handwaving a lot of this to not produce faction death spirals.

So, as this campaign has gone on, I’ve added more and more thematic content.  I have in mind who the mysterious backer of Gary’s merc unit is, after considering and discarding a number of possibilities the other players guessed.  I see the Free Worlds League/Capellan Confederation alliance breaking down during this campaign.

I’ve also added mechanical content, in that I often didn’t previously specify how maps were going to be set up before play, what happens when you retreat, whether units deploy on to a map or start on a map, etc.  I always had VP conditions, but I introduced a round-by-round score card system, a la boxing, to have more VP possibilities and to encourage aggression.  It has worked really well, so far, flattening out VP acquisition and encouraging me to get aggressive when “behind on the card”.  Gary put together an experience point system for pilot improvement that uses margin of victory.  I think adding unit special abilities would be another good way to use XP.  Individual pilot abilities might make sense, but I don’t know about getting too far into accounting and increasing detail too much.

In the Davion/Kurita campaign, I was seeing a lot of the problems in BattleTech.  Fights could often be unfun due to randomness, rules, movement issues, mech stupidity (even though one of my main goals was to play with mechs right out of TRO3025 to see how they really play, before you fix them).  Player style led to one side being very aggressive and the other side defensive.  Fights were often one-sided as pretty much everything came down to taking out mechs.  How salvage was ever supposed to happen except in one-sided beatdowns was unclear.

In this campaign, I’m seeing a lot of what BT should be.  While I don’t expect to get into Mechwarrior, I feel a narrative in this campaign, even before pilots got defined.  I have to be creative, but I’m finding ways to not have scenarios devolve into total annihilation.  Mech vs. nature effects are interesting to me.  We are probably going to introduce strafing and other pseudo-environmental effects soon.  Mech design/refit is under way, with the group trying to keep reasonable on modifications and with no new design yet being introduced.  I’m taking map configuration more and more into play.  We tend to do three mechs on three mechs as a sweet spot on volume of decisions and volume of firepower.  We tend to play slower, less maneuverable mechs to reduce analysis paralysis.  We avoid light mechs not just because of maneuverability issues but to have more of a slugfest.  We minimize elevation, and I think avoiding woodriffic maps makes for better play.  I hate water, but I’m going to try a scenario with frozen rivers just to use water maps without having to put up with water nonsense.  There’s even some hope for salvage without the result being brutally one-sided.

Due to limiting space taken and to encourage faster engagement, we have been using mostly one map, sometimes two or even 1.5.  I’m thinking two (or 1.5) makes more sense to have the longer range weapons have more play and to create more variety in maneuvering, but we can’t feasibly do more than that and we have only limited time much of the time, so smaller engagements that resolve faster are better.

I usually do a 10 round limit on the scenario to prevent drawn out endgame situations and because I may have to do other gaming after BT.  This has been in use for a lot of scenarios at this point, but it was a huge improvement when it got introduced.  Again, the more we make BT like boxing – win by decision, TKO, rather than requiring a knockout – the better it seems to get.

2012 V:TES Qualifier

December 30, 2012

Because people from outside the area need to get home, we don’t have a Qualifier Weekend, really.  We did have some Friday night play, though, for early arrivals and the South Bayers.

Weak Sauce 1:

Aaron (Kurt Densch blocks it all) -> Andy (Tumnimos) -> Ian (Kiev Circle) -> David (winnie vote/bleed w/ Obf) -> Brandon (winnie Pre vote)

David and Brandon did much raaahhhrrr.  Andy and I did much hhhar-har-har.  Aaron had to defend all day.  I rushed some with Oppugnant Night not being as effective as I was intending due to the power of Fake Out and Dodge against my largely Desert Eagleless Blood Brothers.

Ultimately, the game was not much to write about, with Brandon dying, David having something like 10 vampires in torpor at some point between intercept combat in front and rush combat behind, and my realizing after the game that I forgot to put in any strategy for ousting my prey.  Time out with just the one oust.

Weak Sauce 2:

Ian (Art Scam/Flamethrower w/ Obf) -> David (Great Beast) -> Aaron (Dom/Pot/Tha) -> James (Millicent Smith combo) -> Brandon (fat FoS)

I put one on Gabriel de Cambrai.  Turn two, Brandon has Pentweret.   James has Apache Jones, adds Sayshila.  Aaron has Cameron, then Marianna to be all punchy.  David Soul Gems Huitz into Beast, losing Huitz to combat and Brandon’s diablerie.

Gabriel learns the all important master Obfuscate rather than the irrelevant master Auspex and largely fails to stop FoS bleeds for 3-5.  James does pull off his combo of Lunatic Eruption, Millicent Smith, plus lending me intercept with Tourette’s Voice and Babble, but it’s all for naught as Malabranca only steals one pool a turn from my prey and I only play two Art Scams – the turn two one and the same card I pull back with turn three Ashur Tablets (the only card I recurse).  Having forgotten how I built the deck, I realized after looking through it why I didn’t see anything other than Quicken Sight for Auspex cards – there weren’t any.  Top card of Quicken Sight, though, might have saved me and may have not in the crucial “stop Nakhthorheb from gaining Blithe Acceptance when Brandon has Millicent” turn.

Since it was late and the next day was the tourneys, I packed up and went home and found out the next day what happened.  Oddly, I was maybe two turns from ousting my prey as I had Palla Grande in hand and there was a lack of defense against bleeds at stealth to my left.  Of course, it’s often the case that I’m finally ready to inflict grievous injury upon my prey right around when I get ousted, since it usually takes me an hour and a half or so to get around to being ready for the inflict grievous injury phase of the game.

Saturday 1, 20 players:

Round 1:

Ian (ABO Magaji Highlander) -> Alex (Saulot & allies) -> David (Jar of Skin Eaters) -> Adam (Giovanni bleed/allies) -> Andy (Tumnimos)

Having not learned his lesson about playing Brandon’s Tumnimos deck, Andy played it again and somehow failed to get a VP with Week of Nightmares in play.  Alex did a lot of Conviction stuff early, so it looked like it might be Imbued even after Beatrice came up – just turned out to be the usual off-Imbued use of Beatrice, with Ossian joining Saulot.  Ossian was an annoyance because I had to play around him, plus I kept an Invoke Poison Glands in hand from beginning to last turn of the game to randomly annihilate Beatrice.  But, Beatrice, even with Crusader Sword, never fought with me.

Adam did stuff and received Jar-age to the Famed Isabel.  His The Unmasking made a real mess of things between my prey, his Akhenaten(!), and my Tunnel Runner.  I had to keep Tunnel Runner on “D” for most of the game (up until Adam got ousted) because I had only two vampires and TR was my best defender.  The game ground on, with David’s Muaziz getting Sensory Depped, though Rutor’s Hand meant she was functional.  David’s lack of blood and getting beaten down by Ossian made it hard for him to get a pool depleted Andy.  I did mistakenly block Andy’s Raven Spy while Adam was still bouncing/bleeding Andy to death because I just figured he could play a stealth card.  Having tooled up forever with Shaman, Murder, Akunanse Remains, Ancestor Spirit, I finally realized how little time was left in the game and pushed impotently forward.  Alex was very close to the oust, theoretically with Saulot Camera Phone, Uriel, and Ossian Fame rushing crosstable on Andy.  Beatrice had been punked and efforts were made to go after her in convalescent care, but even Sprinkles, the Underbridge Stray, couldn’t feast upon her soul.

Time out for the … eh.

Round 2:

David -> Ian -> Rick (3/4 big Tremere) -> Aaron (Malk intercept) -> Kenneth (high cap Malks)

Like I don’t see the Jar deck all of the frickin’ time.  Kaahh.  By the way, I was quite unimpressed with how many decks people were playing that I had seen before, from within the area and without.  I just can’t understand how people don’t get bored playing the same deck over and over, but that’s me.

This was kind of amusing, though Kenneth was quickly dispatched and Aaron found my lack of prey containment not so enthralling.  David doesn’t get Muaziz right away, so weenie Dom guys bleed me, with whoever 3 cap and his skill card getting Archon Investigated to slow the beats.  Rick puts out Mistress Fanchion.  Aaron blocks many with Zoe the master (Ivory Bow) archer, including Kenneth’s Lutz.  Kenneth is at 4 pool after Lutz, Brandywine, and Helicopter, but is around long enough for David to try to Graverob, Eagle Sight blocked by Aaron, followed by Raw Recruit, not followed by Muaziz chomping as Raw Recruit succeeded.

My Ugadja was offended by active Skin Eaters and decided to Deep Song rush Muaziz, which led to Muaziz’s hands and a Horde of Canine burying the Skin Eaters somewhere safe.  Later Jars were delayed by Aaron’s intercept.

With Uchenna, Ugadja, Bamba, and little pool because of constant bleeds from my predator, I did little to my prey except burn his Mob Connections.  My prey, on the other hand, bled Aaron some and contested Ivory Bow, depriving Aaron of combat threat value.  Aaron’s game went from hefty to shifty after Kenneth was gone due to Pulsed Aleph being consumed by Skin Eaters and the lack of Ivory.  I had a way to survive Fame on Uchenna, bleed, and a Skin Eater rush, but I was so low in pool that I had to block a stupid Gargoyle bleed after being bled to one by Muaziz’s 5 bleed, meaning I couldn’t wake, intercept Muaziz rush, Skin of Night in combat the Skin Eaters.

Shame for Aaron and my reputation as an effectual player.  I had been sitting on Fear of Mekhet almost all game, not being sure of what to do with Kenneth still in the game, then having to wait for Fanchion to get below 5 blood.  I also just drew The Kiss of Ra, so possibly on Rick’s next turn, Fanchion would have been gone.  Then, a turn later, some Tremere fattie, like Oliver Thrace takes a nap over some pathetic action of mine.

Game times out.  Then, things get cra-a-a-zy.  Twenty person tournament.  Only two of the finalists had game wins.  Three finalists had 1.5 VPs each round, including Aaron and David.  Dennis Lien won with a Tariq deck.

I played two casual games with mostly Davis players.  First was quick with a bunch of Anarch Revolts.  The second was slow and we cleaned up when it was apparent that no one was going to be ousted before the qualifier.  I did get amused by my Lucian, The Perfect not being threatened by !Toreador to the right or Blood Brothers(!) to the left (both group 2 circles were being played in the game, neither was all that threatening in combat, playing lots of Shell Games and whatnot).  I had a hand of Make an Example, Eyes of Argus, Telepathic Misdirection, and four Tastes of Vitae at one point.  Sadly, this deck’s highpoint over the weekend was this game.

Qualifier, 21 players:

Round 1:

Ian (Ass intercept combat) -> Kenneth (Obeah/Tha) -> James (Iron Glare) -> Jeff (Nos Royalty) -> Chris (big Tzimisce War Ghoul?)

I don’t know what James’s deck was trying to do as he brought out Shemti and Nana, but I know he voted.  Kenneth brought out Saulot and Elena made an Infernal Pact to learn the evil that is Obeah.  He Spirit Marionetted some but took so long bringing out Saulot, I bled him a couple of times with Loss and then ignored him as I dealt with the menace.  Chris was not a menace, simply a speed bump as I blocked Dragos bleeding with Evan Rogers because, seriously, a 3 cap with Cel/Qui does not fear anything, and then, I ignored him as Jeff rolled through him with the power of voting and Selma, the Legendary Vampire, bleeding.

When Jeff got to me, I not only was Blood Awakening low due to having discarded a couple thinking Chris would survive longer but really didn’t have an answer to more than two stealth anyway.  I could have reduced bleeds, but Jeff cheated by playing a vote deck when no one bothered with vote defense.  Jeff may have swept, it hardly mattered.

Round 2:

Steve (Aus/Dem/Obf bleed/vote) -> Joel (Pot/For/Dom rush) -> Ian -> Brett (The Eternal Mask)

Ah, four players, such a different experience.  To my benefit in this case.  Joel got hammered by bounced bleeds and Alicia Barrows and Stavros bleeding.  Steve didn’t vote before Stavros between Joel’s Lazverinus and Amenophobis.  Both were not so good for him for obvious reasons.  Laz rushed a lot but couldn’t finish off Alicia or Stavros when needed, leaving Joel to be a non-existent predator.  Brett worried me as he could easily sweep if he got Steve.  I happened to have Bakr pop up, and, much to my surprise, Bakr went on a killing spree, napping Amenophobis to prevent bounce, napping Alicia, waving his Weighted Walking Stick angrily when not Tasting of the Death.  Who would have guessed that rush would be so useful?

Meanwhile, with no predator, I got out other dudes, so I ended up with Evan with Quietus skill card, Monty Coven, and two Webs.  I had four Blood Awakening in hand at one point and untapped three guys with Eluding and two Sunrises when Brett hunted to annoy Steve in a turn after he finally got Joel.  With Brett largely bloodless and just Renenet and Waters doing Eternal bleeds, I wasn’t worried he would get Steve.  Nor was I that offended by his Suddening my Agent of Power on a Web.  I bled them both out in the same turn, two Loss bleeds for Steve.

GW and 3 VPs was only enough in this event to tie for seventh with Ben Peal of all folks.  David lost a coin flip to Dennis for fifth with a bunch of folks at 4 VPs.  Jeff Kuta won the finals fairly quickly while I was running home to look for cards to trade people, including Shorb who was going to leave early the next morning.

Played a casual after doing some trading, and had to face Brandon’s weenie Presence vote deck and David’s Great Beast deck and Brandon’s fat FoS deck for the umpteenth times.

Chris (Lutz and Herbert) -> Ben (fat FoS) -> David (Great Beast) -> Ian (The Perfect friend for Osebo) -> Brandon (winnie Pre vote)

Lucian, The Perfect got Heroic in his Might, Marked Well, and put on the Leather.  But, I basically did nothing all game as I kept getting bled and didn’t draw any bounce, unlike the casual earlier where I drew something like five TMs.  Brandon did oddly Pentex Lucian and burn him with Justicar Retribution, the only effect of the latter being to deprive me of bleed reduction with Ancestor’s Insight and the former being irrelevant to my inability to block FoS after David dies.  At least I was able to keep Lucian perfect and never bleed with him in either game.

Lutz didn’t slow Brandon’s voting down much, only accelerating pool damage to Brandon’s second prey.  Brandon got vote lock, a bunch of dudes, and I didn’t interact with him all game as my deck didn’t have that much intercept and Osebo Kholo didn’t end up mattering.  Ben got me without too much trouble – see lack of bleed bounce.  Then, the endgame was an interesting match of Brandon’s winnie swarm with no library and FoS big bleed.  I figured Ben had it due to pool counts, only Ben Daring the Dawned Porphyrion to be able to play Redeem the Lost Soul, only to have Nakhthorheb Pentexed for lockdown.

Thank yous, of course, to Andrew and Eric Haas for hosting, Brandon and Andrew Haas for organizing and running and getting food and drink (though I didn’t partake of either), players showing up, especially those who traveled far, such as the SoCal players.

Was there a lesson to be learned from the events?

First, I’m done with Experiment #2.  Still have sample size issues with saying whether my Ass deck was viable, since it performed in only a single game, a game in which I had no predator.  It was amusing, though, to have Bakr run around killing folks.  It was amusing to put a hunting ground in play with a deck with no master pool gain and not feel bad.  Sadly, I can’t say I was playing a rush deck as Bakr is just in there for disciplines.

I may do some more experiments, but the Lords of the Night one was so discouraging with how many things don’t exist in the set to make diverse decks that I don’t know if I can stomach playing more boring decks that can’t play staples of the game, like Blood Doll.  I might do something like a precon and open up some boosters every once in a while just because I have so many loose boosters from so many different sets lying around.

Second, is there anything to be drawn from how I sucked at these tournaments where I played decks I built specifically for tournament play and won 50% of the tournaments when we trekked down to SoCal playing decks only built for casual play as I was too lazy to build some dedicated tournament decks?

Experiment #2 – Less Is Less

October 15, 2012

Played some games yesterday, not all of which involved decks from Experiment #2, so will toss in some other comments.  First two games were three players, last two were four.

First game, played a new !Gangrel deck that did some stuff but not what it was supposed to.  Unfortunately, to do what it is supposed to do, it should really be a rush deck, but then, it will just fall over and die.  While choking horribly on actions.

Second game, played the experiment’s Assamite deck with minor changes.  Did nothing all game as I choked on maneuvers, Nest of Eagles, and Haqim’s Law: Leaderships.  Got blocked by Second Tradition a lot and was no threat in combat, so all my guys died.

Third game brought up something a bit more interesting.  I lent out the experiment’s Ravnos deck.  Now, the person playing it does often complain about my decks, but the complaints in this game were a bit more of the “why aren’t you playing better cards” style of complaints.  This was a similar refrain to when I lent out the Giovanni deck during our previous playday.  This game did have a couple of amusing situations.  I played Skin Trap against my prey’s minion with Treasured Samadji just to cycle as I went to long to wave, only to have him play combat ends.  Horatio, with VIC, Breath of the Dragoned a blocking Underbridge Stray, which was about my only effective combat all game.

Fourth game, we wanted to end quick.  I lent out a deck from Experiment #1.  While I was fine playing the !Brujah deck when I tried to make it as functional as possible, this was a more combat oriented build that was far inferior to the votey build I was running during the experiment.  Predictably, it did nothing and died.  The complaints about it weren’t that surprising because high cap rush is usually garbage.

Taking the bitching and moaning from lending out decks from these experiments into account, it seems a bad idea to lend any more out.  The question, though, is whether this frustration with playing with inferior card choices due to limited options would extend to players who weren’t experienced.

Not quite the same words I used the last time I commented on Experiment #2 but the same sentiment – while I feel like I can build different decks with just a box of Lords of the Night precons and a box of boosters, that’s the thing – they would be different decks.  This is completely unlike Experiment #1, where I felt like I could modify a particular deck in a variety of ways, especially with regards to masters.

With Experiment #1, the !Toreador deck could have been less intercepty, combat could have changed, could have voted, could maybe have bled more, etc. and still felt like it could play and be a variation of a single deck.  With Experiment #2, making the Assamite deck less bloaty, intercepty, or reactiony just seems to produce a different deck.  First, I wouldn’t make it less dependent upon HQ:L as that’s the primary way a LotN deck can survive given the master options available.  What I could do is make it more stealthy so that those go through more often but at the cost of being either less blocky or (even) less fighty.

I could spend more time thinking about how to build the Ravnos deck differently, but it’s not all that exciting an exercise given the crap Ravnos in LotN.  The Giovanni deck I can see going in some very different directions, but can I see making substantial changes to the build I already have and calling it the same deck?  Maybe, as the Giovanni deck has better individual cards, which means playing around with quantities is more of an option, though there’s still little to do with master selection.

I’m already thinking about a different experiment, as I don’t know how long I can stay interested with the limited card choices LotN offers.  I have in mind a few things.  One would be to take a precon from some set and allow the use of commons (or, I guess, fixed cards) from that set and the next two sets, as that better captures the idea that people don’t just pick up cards from a single set.  And, it addresses how many sets are missing crucial cards for producing “normal” (if still limited) builds.  Another idea was to specifically take the Ventrue precon from KoT and evolve it, since I’ve been playing a KoT precon and it both has more game than most other precons, just as the CE Ventrue precon did, while also having glaring weaknesses – bunch of cards that require Prince/Justicar and lack of reliability in getting one of those creatures in play.

I do think that mixing up building my usual decks with running an experiment makes me less interested in the experiment.  If I were using these experiments to build stock decks that could be lent out to newbs, that might be one thing, though that’s fairly pointless since we don’t have newbs.  Instead, I play them like I would any decks I have built, which means I tire of them exceedingly quickly.  If only playing decks from the experiment, I can suspend my disbelief to some extent and live with the limited variety.  When having unlimited decks at hand for contrast, it’s hard to remember to embrace an environment with many fewer options.

Then, I might be more enthusiastic about playing an experiment deck if I could play one in a tournament, as that provides a far more rigorous test, but we haven’t had any conversation about tournaments in quite some time and may very well end up having the next in December.

Experiment #2 – First Contact

October 1, 2012

So, I was a bit less rigid about gathering cards for this experiment.  I had two nearly intact Giovanni precons lying around, and I really wanted to understand its strength and weaknesses more, so I decided to use both.  Though, I did decide to limit myself to only one copy of each booster Giovanni.  I had a virtually intact Ravnos precon.  I had some strange Assamite precon dregs that involved cards from two Assamite precons.  I decided to take out the second precon’s cards and planned to restore the Assamite precon to its full complement of cards.  But forgot.

I have rares tallied for the first seven boxes of Lords of the Night I opened.  I used box #1’s rares.  For simplicity, I assumed x5 of each common from the box and x2 of each vampire/uncommon since I didn’t track such things.  Really, only Third Edition was worth tracking to that level because of its uneven distributions of more common cards.

I didn’t actually pull two of each vampire/uncommon and five of each common because I didn’t have that kind of time and didn’t need a bunch of the cards in the set to do initial decks.  I pulled the ones I thought might get use in my decks.  Here is what I played yesterday:

Deck Name:   Experiment 2 – Assamites
Created By:  Bakr
Description: Intercept “combat” with pool gain and bleed.

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 14, Max: 31, Avg: 5.66)
2  Bakr                               CEL OBF QUI dem pro8  Assamite
1  Bertrand d`Anjou                   auscel qui     4  Assamite
2  Evan Rogers                        cel qui        3  Assamite
1  Hafsa                              OBF QUI aus cel6  Assamite
2  Kashan                             CEL OBF QUI obt pre7  Assamite
2  Layla bint-Nadr                    CELOBF qui     5  Assamite
1  Monty Coven                        CEL OBFQUI dom for pre8  Assamite
1  Sajid al Misbah                    QUI            4  Assamite

Library: (63 cards)
Master (7 cards)
2  Agent of Power
1  Black Throne, The
2  Path of Blood, The
1  Quietus
1  Underworld Hunting Ground

Action (12 cards)
6  Haqim`s Law: Leadership
6  Loss

Action Modifier (1 cards)
1  Into Thin Air

Reaction (16 cards)
3  Black Sunrise
4  Eluding the Arms of Morpheus
2  Lost in Translation
6  Nest of Eagles
1  Rooftop Shadow

Combat (16 cards)
1  Baal`s Bloody Talons
1  Mercury`s Arrow
4  Pursuit
4  Selective Silence
3  Taste of Death
3  Weighted Walking Stick

Combo (11 cards)
7  Blood Awakening
1  Resist Earth`s Grasp
3  Swallowed by the Night

All things ever can be determined by a single game of V:TES.  For instance, I’m sure it’s normal throughout the world that one plays in a game with two vote decks at the table and the only titled vampire in play is Kashan … up until Darlene Kill-Ian gains PRO & Pre and acquires a Fee Stake.

What’s the funniest thing about all LotN, all of the time?  So far, it’s that Assamites rule.  Sure, FoS can bleed at will and gain pool from it and have Sirius Eternals, but Assamites have reliable (hope for no other Ass players) pool gain in the form of HL: Leadership.  Pool gain is something horribly horribly missing in LotN.

Note how not pulling all of the cards to restore the precon’s contents kind of was major – no Market Square for my intercept deck.  Webs don’t work for me as well as they should, but with so much pool gain, should have had them in here, as well.

It’s always nice when one’s prey has no intercept or bounce, thus meaning that every single Loss lands.  Would have been interesting to see what would happen in a more normal situation.  Really should have more fearsome combat and could totally steal the Giovanni deck’s Tastes of Vitae.  On the other hand, I got 3 VPs while getting into combat once(?) and punching for 1 … against my prey!!

Deck Name:   Experiment 2 – Ravnos
Created By:  Brian Thompson
Description:  Block, stealth, don’t hurt me.

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 13, Max: 27, Avg: 4.83)
1  Anjalika Underwood                 ANI aus chi for5  Ravnos
2  Brian Thompson                     ani chifor     4  Ravnos
1  Chavi Oraczko                      ANI CHI FOR nec7  Ravnos
1  Gwen Brand                         auschi         3  Ravnos
1  Jayakumar                          ANI FOR chi tha6  Ravnos
1  Johann Matheson                    ani auschi     4  Ravnos
2  Neel Ramanathan                    anifor         3  Ravnos
1  Papa Legba                         ani chi for obt5  Ravnos
1  Vasiliy Vasilevich                 ANI CHI for pro8  Ravnos
1  Vassily Taltos                     aus cel chi dom for obf6  Ravnos

Library: (63 cards)
Master (12 cards)
1  Agent of Power
2  Chimerstry
2  Path of Paradox, The
2  Svadharma
4  Vessel
1  Week of Nightmares

Action Modifier (10 cards)
2  False Resonance
4  Fata Morgana
1  Freak Drive
1  Leverage
1  Mirror`s Visage
1  Will-o`-the-Wisp

Reaction (14 cards)
1  Army of Apparitions
4  Fillip
1  Forced Vigilance
3  Ignis Fatuus
3  Instinctive Reaction
2  Lost in Translation

Combat (13 cards)
2  Amria
3  Carrion Crows
4  Indomitability
1  Mayaparisatya
1  Skin of Night
2  Soak

Ally (2 cards)
2  Underbridge Stray

Retainer (3 cards)
3  Raven Spy

Equipment (3 cards)
1  Karavalanisha Vrana
1  Talith
1  Treasured Samadji

Combo (6 cards)
2  Mirror Image
4  Occlusion

While reviewing the Ravnos precon contents, I couldn’t help but think about my tournament winning Ravnos deck.  It too seemed inclined to try to block stuff and have no real other plan for what it did.

The two extra Vessels could have been stolen from the Assamite deck or the FoS deck I didn’t bother pulling cards for.

The crypt of the Ravnos precon is unplayable.  I hoped for better from boosters.  While better, the Ravnos really got a mess in this set.  I debated running Ganesh.  Sadly, the deck could really use both ANI and CHI.  So, that I got about as perfect a crypt draw in the game I played, with Vasiliy, Chavi, Papa, and Anjalika, does not bode well for more table sweeps.

I did choke on stealth at times, but since some of the stealth doubles as combat defense and I liked having a bunch of combat defense against my Flurry of Action/additional strike predator, it worked out well until Week of Nightmares dropped for the automatic win.

One thing I thought about is taking the Ravnos precon without booster supplement and simply using a crypt of x2 of each of the group 2 Ravnos I would want to play with – Gabrin, Joaquina, Vaclav, Khalil, Salbatore, and Sarisha.  Still would have a crippling lack of pool gain and wakes, but at least, the crypt wouldn’t be a joke.

So, you may be wondering why I didn’t run Sense the Savage Way since I had five of those to play with from “boosters”.  That would have helped the wake problem.  On the other hand, that would have required playing more awful high caps in a deck with no pool management.  I decided I’d rather run chumps who couldn’t do hardly anything but might get a Raven Spy and who could be targeted by Karavalanisha Vrana for some supposed pool gain.  When you are relying on a rare that I might not have gotten in my “box” that costs 2 pool for pool gain, hope to drop Week for the win.

Deck Name:   Experiment 2 – Giovanni
Created By:  Giovanni del Georgio
Description:  I bleed, I bruise, I block?

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 12, Max: 34, Avg: 5.5)
1  Accorri Giovanni                   DOM POT ani nec6  Giovanni
1  Diego Giovanni                     CHI DOM NEC POT ani8  Giovanni
1  Eric Milliner                      pot            2  Giovanni
1  Gianmaria Giovanni                 POT dom nec obt5  Giovanni
1  Giovanni del Georgio               DOM NEC POT PRO8  Giovanni
2  Guillaume Giovanni                 CEL DOM NEC POT obt9  Giovanni
1  Kay Polerno                        dom necpro     4  Giovanni
1  Margaret Milliner                  dom for nec pot pre5  Giovanni
1  Nunzio Giovanni                    nec pot        3  Giovanni
1  Primo Giovanni                     domnec pot     4  Giovanni
1  Stephen Milliner                   necpre         3  Giovanni

Library: (75 cards)
Master (8 cards)
1  Giant`s Blood
1  KRCG News Radio
2  Necromancy
4  Vessel

Action (13 cards)
3  Divine Sign
4  Dominate Kine
1  Graverobbing
3  Harass
2  Sudario Refraction

Action Modifier (12 cards)
6  Call of the Hungry Dead
6  Conditioning

Reaction (8 cards)
5  Eluding the Arms of Morpheus
3  Fillip

Combat (19 cards)
4  Brute Force
4  Immortal Grapple
3  Slam
4  Taste of Vitae
4  Torn Signpost

Equipment (1 cards)
1  Camera Phone

Combo (14 cards)
7  Murmur of the False Will
7  Spectral Divination

For anyone familiar with the contents of the Giovanni precon, might be wondering where all of the Shambling Hordes are.  After all, with two precons to work with, that’s a reliable eight to work with.  But, I had an interesting discovery.

After cutting the offensive chaff that is the melee weapon angle, I realized that there’s a nontrivial amount of intercept in the deck between Divine Sign, Spectral, and KRCG.  Since I so rarely play with Divine Sign and Shamblers would have made the deck even busier, I decided to go with the three-fold path of bleed, bruise, and gain intercept.  I should have played the fourth to be more serious about committing to the intercept angle.

What was amusing is that this deck has the best card quality yet was the only three of the decks to lose.  Only deck that got played twice and both times failed to get a VP, though I could have probably gotten one when I played it if I was more cautious.  The bruise thing just didn’t work out.  I do like the crypt options far more than for the other decks (Assamite isn’t terrible, Ravnos is).  Maybe the two of us who played it just didn’t play it aggro enough since it really is meant to be forward looking even if it does have a rather lot of wakes.

Speaking of the bruise thing not working out, I realized that Slam was my only answer to ranged combat while I was designing the deck.  I put back in a copy to not just roll over and die to a single .44 or from Aid from Bats, but I really should have run as many as possible, as getting tooled by run to long and Bats/Crows is sort of what happened when I played the deck.  I like how my booster option of Cold Aura is the exact opposite of what I want with this deck.

The lack of defense, even if limited bleed bounce, targeted intercept, and casual intercept is hardly weak in the LotN world, could be obviously supplemented by blowing up predator’s minions with Shamblers, even if that is terribly boring.  Still, while not being bored is an important element of these experiments, not everyone finds Shamblers as dull as I do, and they are rather good, which plays into the test to see how competitive these decks can be.

With a second copy of booster Giovanni, I would probably play two of each of the 8-caps.  Guillaume was doubled up when I wasn’t sure whether I was going to run Shamblers or not.  He’s okay, big helps with bouncing, but he’s hardly being used optimally in a location low world.

Experiment #2 contrasted with Experiment #1 does show something rather notable about how V:TES has been published.  Third Edition was all about a lot of variance.  Obtenebration wasn’t playable with the cards I had in my pool, for instance.  I had plenty of master options – many terrible ones or, at least, ones I would never do if I had better cards – but it was easy to run 20% masters.  My On the Qui Vives had to move around at times between decks, but I had the “best wake ever” to draw upon.  I could run a full load of Blood Dolls.  Voter Captivation was an option.

Lords of the Night has Eluding and Fillip to provide wakes, if kind of awkward ones, in copious amounts.  But, the master selection is horrid.  I’m running Agent of Power just because I might as well use up a few more master slots.  I seriously was going to run five in the Assamite deck until I realized that the deck needed to be small to more reliably draw The Path of Blood.

There are votes in the precons, and Reckless Agitation is not weak.  But, no Voter Cap and no vote push and such awesome voting power as the FoS having one titled vampire with a mighty 1 vote means I really have no interest in trying.

LotN is a very focused set.  Sure, that’s obvious cryptwise, where you get four different clans.  But, there isn’t a wide variety of cards in the set, and you get a goodly number of copies of the commons per box.  A couple of boxes of boosters and you get four or so Target Vitals, The Eternals of Sirius, and Underbridge Strays as well.  I might have been somewhat fortunate to get Will-o’-the-Wisp and Mirror’s Visage for more Chimerstry stealth, but I didn’t really need more stealth.  Kumpania would have been a more useful rare, but I’m getting off on a tangent.

With LotN, if a common is important, you get a bunch of them.  Since the four clans have so little overlap in disciplines, they don’t fight over anything but the generic cards.  Plenty of Camera Phones to go around.  Enough Lost in Translations.  Enough Leverages that a Shambler bleed deck with Camera Phones and Leverages would be entirely possible.

I can see trying some different things with each of the clans, but I don’t see the complex decisions in deckbuilding that I saw with the Third Edition experiment.

Experiment #2

September 27, 2012

There’s really little reason not to begin another experiment in playing V:TES with a limited collection.  In the past, I’ve mentioned going from Experiment #1’s one of each Third Edition precon and one box of Third Edition boosters to a box of starters and two boxes of boosters – a more normal buy in for a CCG.  That doesn’t enthuse me overmuch.

Instead, I keep wondering about what to do with a Giovanni precon from Lords of the Night.  And, there’s always been the question as to whether the Ravnos precon can ever be used as a basis for a deck or whether you just mine it for Week of Pleasant Dreams and a few other cards.

So, the next experiment is one of each of the Lords of the Night precons and probably a box of boosters from Lords of the Night, as I don’t feel like wasting unopened boosters.  Though, unlike Third Edition, I didn’t record booster results down to the common level, so there will need to be some sort of faking up vampires and commons to go with the first box’s rares.

The questions are similar to those from Experiment #1.  But, the situation is different.  Obviously, LotN is all about the original four indie clans, so there’s only so much clan variety available.  One hopes, though, that the greater focus means that there are more variations with each clan that are viable.

And, obviously, there are some different expectations based on what sort of cards got printed in the precons and boosters.  One reason to go with LotN is that LotN is a strong set for generic effects.  It introduced multiple wakes, generic bounce, Camera Phone, and Target Vitals.  The question is going to be how much the precons will need to provide in terms of other staple effects both generic and staple to the clans and for the disciplines.  I fear lack of pool gain the most as this is the “Vessel” set.

Going in, having quite a bit of distance from when I cracked my first LotN precons, here are some expectations:

  1. The Ravnos will be extremely hard to work with.
  2. Creativity will be how to survive with no Blood Dolls, Minion Taps, or Villeins.  I wonder if decks will bias strongly either to quick ousts or lots of defense to prolong games until Vessel matters.
  3. The FoS will be more tempting than anything else – better high caps, The Eternals of Sirius, better precon, etc.