On Key

February 2, 2016

Not yet time to insert an M.  Not on Fire, either.

January was a time of doing fun things with great people.  But, it wasn’t much of a month for gaming.

While I was flying back to the US recently, I spent a bit of time thinking about gaming.  Sure, RPG thoughts came to mind.  But, unlike the norm of thinking primarily about RPGs, I actually spent some time thinking about CCGs.  In particular, I thought about V:TES.

For quite some time, I haven’t been playing much.  This led, of course, to not spending much time thinking about the game.  But, for some reason, while I haven’t done much to organize cards and haven’t done much deckbuilding, I’ve still found something more enjoyable about thinking about deckbuilding.

We played last Sunday.  I was still jet lagged and didn’t do anything new, so I played Hatchlings, Pre/Vic bruise bleed, and Jyhad Pre bleed.  In other words, my kind of decks.

I often don’t play my kind of decks.  To stretch, I’ll play decks ridiculously bad for me, like the most recent deck I think I made, which is Tzimisce rush.  Sure, without Bill around or people like him to keep coming up with combo deck ideas, I don’t get around to combo decks, but …

What makes those decks my kind of decks?

They bleed.  Yes, I know I hardly ever bleed anymore.  But, I used to.  Two out of the three hunt reasonably well, by which I mean I can afford actions hunting.  The third even hunts because it really can’t do anything besides bleed or hunt.

And, that’s the thing.  They don’t complicate my game.  Hatchlings has, generally, three different actions to take – Hatchling, hunt, bleed.  The other two just two actions.  Two of the decks bounce.  The third plays cards that both reduce bleeds and give intercept.  They don’t obsess over screwing vote decks.  Two of the decks play combat ends.  They don’t obsess over screwing combat decks, though one of them is a combat deck.

Yes, bruise bleed isn’t my thing, which makes the Pre/Vic deck kind of odd.  But, it does its superior three disciplines thing.  The other two have relatively simple discipline needs.

I don’t try to stop stuff crosstable.  I can’t shut down jack.  But, there are silver bullets.  I won one game due to Sudden Reversal on Palla Grande, though I had my Hostile Takeover on Jost with Ivory Bow Washed.

There’s just something pleasant about how all three function, though they are hardly close substitutes for each other.

I was thinking about how I hadn’t blogged in a while.  By the way, way to go WordPress, right up there with Yahoogroups and others on making your own product annoying to use.  I was thinking and started a line of thought that I don’t remember all that clearly, just that it ran through RPG and CCG stuff.

I invented a card when playing Sunday.  “Master.  Put this card in play.  You may burn this card to give a vampire of capacity five or higher +2 bleed for the current action.  This bleed action may not resolve for more than three pool damage.”  No, this paragraph has nothing to do with anything.

I was thinking about events, though I don’t really care about Anthelios, I only see Anthelios matter when I play out of my region.  Even then, it’s not Anthelios I care about.

I haven’t played any HoR: Nightmare War.  I was up at 1AM China time (well, earlier) waiting for my Gen Con housing slot, which was an hour later, which turned out to be a strong slot, where I got a room, though I think I maybe needed to try a bit harder to get a better one.

If I keep throwing out random comments, what will be unlocked?

I played mahjong on my trip, though only one format – the variant popular in China according to my coworkers I mentioned last time.  We didn’t play the Shanghainese style of all one suit or all pungs, but we talked about doing that next time.  Only one player won.  She seems very lucky in my small sample size of playing games with her, but I’d certainly also say she’s a good player.  Could be better than I.

I need to learn a couple of boardgames for the weekend after this, when I’ll be running convention sessions of stuff that isn’t either a RPG or CCG.

I need a new Fading Suns character, as I still haven’t replaced my dead monk.

Thinking.

I was thinking about card limits.  I was thinking about how I may not give other people enough credit for seeing why card limits are so awesome.  As every right-thinking gamer knows, card limits have nothing to do with the playability of a CCG.  It’s all about the collectibility and collection management advantages of needing fewer copies of cards.  Sure, for Wheel of Time, where I may only have 10 decks built at one time, I still need some 15 Lucky Finds and 15 Invasions.  But, I only need six recruitable Rahvins.  With V:TES, I need 60+ On the Qui Vive just to get by.  Anything less than 20 Villeins, which, by the way, I don’t own 20 Villeins, is a struggle.

I gave away extra Jyhad copies of commons.  I only held on to 40 copies of Jyhad Majesty, as that’s enough to scrape by.  Were there Babylon 5 cards I had problems having sufficient quantities of?  Must have been the case, though I don’t really recall it.  Annex Neutral World was something I could probably live on nine copies of.  Not Meant To Be around the same number.  Wasn’t like I had 20 decks at once for the game.  More of a 12 deck kind of game.  I think only V:TES (ignoring such things as Type P Magic) has ever seen me have 20+ decks built at once, and I haven’t done that in ages (ignoring “experiment” decks).

I still haven’t run part two of Against the Dark Yogi.  I’m beat during the week, though inertia helps me with getting out to do Thursday Shadowfist.  Every week in the month of January was consultants in town, coworkers from out of town, or my being in another country.

Carolina 41, Denver 3.  Why not?  I don’t care.  Whenever I’ve had other things to do, I’ve skipped the Big Bowl.  Plus, Seattle produced two awful results in recent years, just making it that much less worth my engagement.

We didn’t play for money.  We did have chips, though, to make it easier to track how people did in our mahjong session.  I still find it interesting.  I also found it interesting how many times I said to myself “yo, dudicle, you aren’t paying that much attention to people’s discards, like is kind of much of the skill in the game”.  I realized later why the format is so fast.  When every dragon is a flower, the tile pool is vastly decreased, which makes connections in hands and from discards form much faster.  There’s a lot of thought I could put into the format, especially around the payoff calculations of declaring ready versus playing not to lose.

I’ve talked about what I enjoy out of RPGs.  I don’t know if I’ve covered what sort of PCs I like playing enough.  Too good a topic not to save for a more laser sharp blog post.

How come in Legends of Tomorrow, the fire gun never causes fires and the cold gun never freezes things?

Merged Ferox with Tremere demo deck as predator.  Grandpredator wins the game.  But, that’s so unmeta.

There are rarity indicators on Shadowfist cards?  According to an article on drafting there are (or were).  Probably should do a Shadowfist draft some day.  I almost miss V:TES drafting, just because everyone should be forced to learn more about limited play with CCGs other than Magic.

There are a lot of things that don’t enthuse me about making RPG characters.  I’ve talked about my disdain for equipment, and I’m sure I mentioned something about not being into playing magic-users.  That kind of covers Theurgy and Psychics.  But, what about Cybernetics?  I think they come across as equipment to me.  I’m also not a tech guy, except when I’m a software consultant, software developer, technical architect, or the like.  So, what sort of Fading Suns character should I play?  I think I should stretch and actually go with one of these things I normally wouldn’t choose because they don’t sound appealing.

Why aren’t games better?  Another great topic for another time.

I still haven’t posted another solitaire variant I created.  One I created years ago as yet another solitaire game to use a small amount of space but to have meaningful decisions.  I’ll have to get around to this some day.

But, today.  Today is just a day to make a mess before getting back on track with geniusness.

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Giftable

December 20, 2015

Sure, I played Shadowfist Thursday and even won a game because of the power of Li Po.  Sure, had my PC die Friday night in our online Fading Suns game, so I have to think about what my new character will be.  Kurgan?  Without my dude, there’s no religious character in the party, though I think there was too much pressure on my character to hold up the religious aspects of the world.

Sure, I’m supposed to run a game Wednesday night.  I was thinking it was going to be Champions, but I am back to Against the Dark Yogi because I had a clearer idea of plot in my brainial region.  Either way, mechanics need to be explained.  I just actually know something about Hero mechanics.  I’ll report back, I’m sure.

But, let’s talk about gifts.

Let’s start with the boring but simple.  What would I want as gaming gifts?

An Ultimate Combat! tournament where I get another chance to win a playmat (the greatest gaming accessory I’ve ever acquired).  I think sealed deck would be more fun, actually.  As much as constructed might be fun, I don’t know if it is as fun in tournament play, where it may be too brutal and too repetitive.

For V:TES to go back into business production and for all of the e-sets to either be junked or turned into printed sets.  Actually, it’s not the sets so much as individual cards that I’d like to see some junking or some changing.

For the upcoming V:TES tournaments to be enjoyed by all.

Heroes of Rokugan: Nightmare War to either start or to never have to worry about … for me; I realize others have already started.  I’ve been away for L5R play for some time, now.  I’m perfectly fine with getting back to playing L5R, but I want it to be coherent.

To feel like the last home campaign of L5R is truly complete.  I mentioned posting stuff from the campaign, but I stopped because there was at least one major thing I was waiting on.  I don’t know what the situation is.  It’s been so long since things ended that I don’t know if anyone cares anymore about my providing some insight into what I was doing.

To be inspired to build more decks for V:TES and Shadowfist.

To have the computer room organized so that I don’t have gaming stuff piled up on the floor as I currently do.  In the vein of being more organized, try to find four or so mahjong sets I own that I don’t currently know the location of just so that I can confirm inventory.  Not like I would fly anywhere with one unless I knew I was gifting a set to somebody, but the interest in the game has been renewed.

To feel like I have time to think and create for RPGs.

To get a plan together for Origins, even though no due dates should be any time soon.  To have a Gen Con hotel option when I know the passkey system is going to be a joke again this year.

To find more playmats for CCG play that I have interest in as my current crop is kind of iffy for covering all possibilities.

For someone else to want to run a long term campaign of something I find intriguing.

What about gifts for other people?

While I’m not inclined to get gaming stuff for family, I have looked at fantasy books.  I ended up at a used book store because:  I’m too late to order things from Amazon; local new books book store doesn’t have most of what I want; when it does have something it’s ungodly expensive in a steal your money kind of way.  For example, first trilogy of Corum is something I could find.  It was split up in three, $10 books.  Or, I could find the trilogy in one $3 book because it’s stupid for such short books to be split up into three separate books, and it’s a sad money grab to charge $10 for what’s a reprint of like a 150 page book.

The problem with gifts for friends is then you enter a reciprocity situation that I just don’t want to get into.  I don’t have any great desire for people to get me things (I’ll just buy any things I want, though, sometimes it’s interesting to get things because I wouldn’t have bought them and they open up a new world of things I’m interested in).  Nor do I remotely enjoy shopping for other people, though it’s amusing how sometimes it’s easy to find things for friends.

If consulted, I could give some ideas for things to get other people.  I’ve played a number of boardgames to where I could envision who might like what.  CCGs are hard to spring on people, though it’s easy enough to gift stuff to someone already interested.  RPG books are something that comes to mind much more today than in the past for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.  For instance, L5R 4e books are just really nice looking.  Even if you don’t like the system or the world, might be inspired by the presentation.  Other books that are more about culture and less about mechanics seem like possibilities, though, again, more so possibilities for gamer friends.  Dice can be an accessory I can imagine actually giving to people and not just gamers – non-gamers don’t understand how common polyhedral dice are in the gaming world.  Mahjong dice are something non-mahjong players might find more interesting.  Using weird six-sided dice for mahjong is a possibility.

I’m increasingly looking at non-stuff gifts because I, personally, have way too much stuff and need to reduce those things that aren’t important to me.  Plus, I realized experiences are the best things in life a while back, anyway.  In fact, my anti-present thing comes from getting presents but not getting experiences to go with them when I was young as toys and games and whatever were in a vacuum of lack of people to play things with.  I sort of realized that tickets to events and whatnot are a legit thing to consider, recently.  Of course, travel is a great thing to have, just a messy thing to gift out of the blue.


Incarnatable

October 4, 2015

I’m sure everyone basically has a progression of:

Thursday – Shadowfist with random FSSs in the middle of the table and only one from your deck that starts in your opening hand.

Friday – Fading Suns where ambushes kept almost happening.

Saturday – Read Against the Dark Yogi only skimming over some geography sections.  Designing a BattleTech scenario based on reading AtDY.

Sunday – Instead of BT, play three player Magic with my friend’s decks as he is trying to teach his son how to play.

Yup, pseudo-Indian fantasy inspiring BattleTech play that leads to playing Magic.

Let’s be a bit more specific.

Shadowfist

The goal of our numerous house rule tries is to make the game smoother but endier after a certain point.  The “Mooks” rule and the Sacred Ground rule are designed to allow someone to always have the resources and FSSs they need.  These have worked fairly well.

Actually, stepping back, the “take one non-unique foundation character and one FSS into your opening hand and draw 4” rule was intended to prevent crippled starts.  This has worked fine, possibly well.

The intent with the “here is a pile of face down, random FSSs that you must use instead of any from your deck except for your opening hand one” rule was to create an inevitability to someone winning.  For, you see, Shadowfist is one of the few games that doesn’t build towards a higher probability of winning in the way that most games do.  It was also to see some FSSs you would never see.

The first game was awful.  It was five player team, one of the players used the “if you don’t have a FSS in play at the end of your turn, you are eliminated” rule and left, leaving the game a four-player free for all.  Not much longer later, it ended.

The second game was an entirely reasonable four-player game where if I only had Mountain Retreat in front instead of whatever, the game would have lasted slightly longer with a funny event.  Actually, the game ended at a good time.  The player to my right was too strong, the player to my left swooped in for the win.

We are thinking of a mechanic where you look at the top two cards in the stack, put one into play and put the other on the bottom of the stack.

Two things about this format.  One, if you build decks to use certain sites, you will not be happy with your random “this may do nothing” FSS.  Two, not having any FSSs in your deck means you draw way more action.

I really don’t care about it one way or the other.

The prior session had cards in play that gave you some additional effect, like the starting card that gives you an additional power each turn.  I think we are overcomplicating things.  Why don’t we just have everyone generate a free power every turn, like we’ve talked about?  Probably because it sounds kind of stale.

I’m a bit worried about a too quick jump on turn two or three, which is why I wonder about something based around turns in the game.  For example, at the end of the last player’s turn on round three, everyone gains a power.  Could then have this keep happening or could have it kick in every three times around the table or whatever.

The reality is that we aren’t trying to be competitive, we are trying to play a game where lots of wacky stuff happens, so people just aren’t abusing these various variants, so simpler might just be best to identify whether it’s a more fun way to play.

Fading Suns

If you read RPG.net, you will find comments about how bad FS is mechanically.  Quite true.  It’s rather absurd, a game of failure with a bunch of unnecessary attributes and a nonsensical skill list (though, natural skills is a good idea).

Friday’s session was one of a few where I didn’t feel like it was just a string of accomplishing nothing rolls.  There was the ladling soup at a soup kitchen opportunity to fan the Inner Flame of some bread thief.  Oh, maybe I should mention that my PC is an Eskatonic who knows no theurgy, is no longer trying to be an alchemist because I could never figure out what alchemy actually did, and whose contribution in combat is absorbing hits to the jaw.

I’m beginning to see things that PCs can do, where before I just had no sense of what PCs were supposed to do.  Some investigation.  Some dealing with a murderer.  Some hearing confession.  Other PCs get to smuggle, an activity that seems incredibly weird for the primary aspects of the setting, but whatever.

Against the Dark Yogi

It uses cards from hand.  Great.  It only gives you two to choose, possibly more if you are Karmarrific.  What?

I’m not sure why it’s a good idea to be a total badass but still have a bunch of levels of far more badder assness that you could achieve through your reincarnations.  Why start at Enlightenment 2 other than it gives room for you to die into higher power levels?  Or, become Elderly into higher power levels, which is rather bizarre since spending 5 years meditating upon how to achieve Super Saiyan isn’t exactly a long period of time.  Sure, it’s more like spend 18 years as that’s how long it might take for someone to reincarnate into an adult, but it still seems odd to me that you are supposed to be the chosen ones and only hit your peak after you bite it several times.

I suppose I can do this myself or hope that a GURPS India is available some day, but I’d rather just use a fantasy version of India rather than have everything renamed, including the gods.  I know L5R doesn’t take that approach, but, somehow, I’m not expecting 20 years of material for AtDY.

Still, I can imagine adventures.  I even find the story behind the Dark Yogi to be quite reasonable.  I might imagine sessions being more like one-shots in that momentous things happen often.

BattleTech

It’s funny how much story I can produce for scenarios.  But, maybe, that’s why BT works as well as it does.  For all of the silliness of how mechs work/are built, how completely ridiculous the setting is when you spend any time thinking about it or considering various possibilities of characters, or really how not fantastic the actual resolution of mech combat is, the setting did something to take soldiering into a place where narratives occur.

Of course, I also have an interest in war stories, so maybe it’s just that I’m overstating BT’s contribution to the idea of war stories.

Mechwarrior is still painful, though, methinks.  Every attempt to get characters to do things outside of mechs just seems to completely defeat the setting.

Magic

Not particularly great games of Magic, which is normal, and, thus, why I don’t play more Magic.  First game saw child basically play nothing as the deck needed at least four mana to ramp to fatties.  Second game saw elf deck roll over everybody.  Third game was more interesting, could have been even better if Wildfire would have gone off to clear all creatures in play.

But, putting aside how easy it is to have a bad game of Magic, it was different from my multiplayer CCG experiences of late in that how a deck was built mattered, a lot.  Magic hits that analytical bone on what the current card choices are, what your curve needs to look like, how to maximize the value of everything, what cards are making your ability to function worse by their inclusion.

Next time, we might use my Type P decks for games.  Whether those are any better is hard to say, especially since the decks we were using were intended more for multiplayer play and my P decks so aren’t.

The other takeaway is that there’s so much to learn about Magic that isn’t just learning what cards do.  With other CCGs, I think a relatively large amount of understanding how to play better is knowing what cards do and what may see play.  Now, sure, timing is important to everything, but timing seems a more subtle thing in V:TES or Shadowfist or B5 or whatever.  With Magic, timing is crucial constantly.

Epic Combat!

What?!?  More Ultimate Combat!??  So, Thursday, I was watching a game of Epic.  I’m really not a fan of how it forces a “this is s-o-o-o broken” battle, but I looked at the rulebook.  The mulligan rule caught my eye.  I think it should be used with Ultimate Combat!.  Basically, you shuffle back in (not discard) any number of cards from your opening hand, draw up to hand size, and take damage equal to the number of cards you shuffled back in.

So, of course, when I went to goldfish this rule, I kept getting amazing opening hands – play 5-6 cards in turn one sort of hands.

Using the idea of not starting from nothing, another possibility for how UC! should start is something like everybody starts with two foundation of their choice and a gi patch playable off of one of those foundation.  I’m not sure that’s a good idea, in that it gets everyone to swingy cards that much faster.  But, it’s the possibility of incredibly unbalanced starts that worries me about the game.  Foundation, gi patch, Mantra of Power, Bear’s Jaw, gi patch, Elixir of the Gods, Mantra of Power, Yamashita’s Belt, Gi Patch: Rat, Mantra of Power, Dragon’s Fire is a theoretically possible first turn play.  Just getting up two power on an opponent is probably game after players have a first turn.

Meditations

No, not talking about a B5 card.  One of the effects of not doing much gaming at the moment is that I have time to consider ideas.  Too many ideas.  But, who knows?  Maybe one of the ideas becomes doing something.  I might even have some interest in running a one-shot of something, which, normally, I eschew as I like long stories or, at least, recurring characters from my short stories.