Mind Tricks

April 29, 2018

You may have heard.  V:TES is supposed to go back in print … again.

VEKN.net announcement.

I feel some enthusiasm.  I felt some enthusiasm last year for having some of the Anthology Set cards get printed.  Mostly, though, I think it’s because it gives something for other people to get enthused about.  I may not be that excited by the tournament scene as I expect the game to continue to be oriented to things I’m not that fond of – fat vampires and bloat.  But, new stuff causes new stuff to be tried in tournaments, which produces some level of increased variety.

We’ve been getting games in every few weeks.  That works for me.  I enjoy playing the game.  As imperfect as it is, it’s a really good game.

Which segues me to playing Magic last night.  Type P.  I have played a lot of Type P and was into it at one point in time.  I think what holds me back from being into it again is the lack of a similar culture. Type P appealed to me far more than normal Magic because of the ability to evolve decks and to strive for particular cards. The old crowd was really into those things as well, where the new crowd seems more focused on effectiveness.

After Type P, most enjoyment I probably got from Magic was sealed deck tournaments.  Maybe success had something to do with that as I won a Mirage event, got prizes in Stronghold prerelease for 5-1 or something, got Urza’s prizes for a free sealed deck tournament that dragged on forever, and came in second in an Invasion tournament where I was a card mule for a far more serious player.  Never all that fond of draft where I may have had decent decks but found the play just tedious.  Constructed could be entertaining at times in casual play, like playing my one copy of Necropotence in my Essence Vortex deck and having that cost me a game.

I don’t know if last night was unusual or I had just forgotten how I generally feel about Magic, but the drawing one card a turn thing was really annoying.  It’s such a bad mechanic that sucks the joy out of what is otherwise a brilliant game.

Of the six games I played, one was actually interesting.  It was the only game that was close and I think we forgot a special ability that would have caused me to lose rather than win at one life.  That’s the problem.  I can play six games of V:TES and find four of them interesting, six games of B5 and find three of them interesting, six games of Shadowfist and find four of them interesting.  There were numerous times I or my opponent could have scooped multiple turns before the game was over.  In a couple of cases around turn two … playing sealed deck.

Maybe the feel of the L5R LCG is a problem because I’m used to multiplayer CCGs where people get to have fun as opposed to two-player games where people just stomp on each other or grief each other constantly.  Of course, I could play some Ultimate Combat! and see if that will rekindle my appreciation for a two-player CCG.

The other players were playing Dominaria.  The set just didn’t seem remotely interesting.  Sagas are fine, but the cards I was seeing just seemed dull with there being not very strong themes in the set.

So, I knew some of the Phoenix expansion cards for L5R.  I got shown the rest of the cards.  So griefy.  I get that negative plays can make for a more balanced game, but it just strikes me as a lost opportunity.  oL5R was a terrible game (IME) because it had terrible mechanics.  But, I would argue I actually like magic samurai in that I like the RPG’s world even if it includes dumb stuff like ronin.  nL5R could have been fun, focusing on thematic elements.  Instead, it seems to be increasing the focus on mechanics over doing cool stuff.  In general, I don’t feel like I’m doing cool stuff when I’m winning, I feel like I’m beating my opponent down to where they can’t recover.

Yeah.

Give me Counter X for 15 to knockout out someone foolish enough not to play Movement.

Could be too late for me.  Could be that I’m only a social player.  A party hearty flopper.  I can’t deal with having a single opponent who is trying to win and not Vorlon Rescue Mr. Morden.

Well, there is Traveller, which can be played two-player.  I’d much rather play Traveller than L5R.  An interesting question is whether I’d much rather play Traveller than Magic.  I could say I think Traveller plays better, but that should be obvious and to have someone prefer a game they helped make over a game they bitch about constantly being nowhere near as good as it should be doesn’t strike me as compelling opinion.

Where I’m not clear what value I get out of L5R, as I don’t feel any thematic coolness and I don’t like the mechanics, I know I get different value out of Magic vs Traveller.  Magic is about discovery for me.  It’s why I like sealed deck, where I’m trying to think of the best way to build a deck, where constructed just feels too open-ended to me.  Traveller is something where I can learn that cards don’t play the way we expected, but I’m so much more focused on what my opponent is doing to try to determine what the game needs more of or less of through either their deck construction or their play experience.  The massive experience gap between me and everyone besides Jeff just causes me to not take my own play all that seriously.  Magic is also about visual appeal to me.  I don’t mean the card art.  I love things like multicolor templates and various land templates.  I like hybrid mana costs for cards.  Just get striking color combinations.

Change your perspective, change your world.  Maybe I get too far into my existing views on things and don’t try a different perspective.  Maybe I should embrace the idea of the quick scoop in Magic as fun.  Maybe I should roll a die when choosing what Ring for my attacks in L5R or when deciding how much Fate to put onto a dude because random chess is better than chess.

Speaking of painfully unpleasant.  Arrow.  I was explaining recently that the reason you do a Green Arrow show is so that you can knock someone out with a boxing glove arrow.  Can imagine how I feel about the tiresome angstaggedon that the show loves so much.  Flash at least tries for some amusement and Legends of Tomorrow does some amazing stuff along with the dumb.  Maybe the trick is to root for the villains because they pretty much constantly win until Counter X for 15 because … good has to suffer until it wins in some dumb ass way.  I can’t even bring myself to watch Supergirl, yet.  Maybe in May.  Meanwhile, Into the Badlands might get some viewing action – it got rid of its albatross storyline by fridging an idiot.  OTOH, child.  Off the top of my head, that worked in Dragonball Z and nothing else that comes to mind.

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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.


VCG Salute

July 30, 2016

I had recently acquired a box of Ultimate Combat! starters.  I deprived myself of currency in such an effort.  I would not do so for boosters, seeing as I have unopened booster boxes.

But, why starters?

Because they are playable.  They have foundation (land).  They are far more coherent than Magic starters that lack preconstructedness, as UC! only has four “colors”.  In fact, I have never played a sealed deck event that didn’t use only a single starter.  Admittedly, that’s less than a full handful of sealed deck events, but one gets the idea.

I don’t need them, right now.  It’s entirely possible I’ll never need them as I lack the intention of producing a breed of nextgen UC!ers.

But, I got a feeling when looking at the box, a feeling of nostalgia.

It’s not so much that I remember actually playing the game.  No, it was that feeling I have had with multiple VCGs (variable card games) when I got product.

It was the feeling of having something unknown to play with.

FCGs (fixed card games) don’t elicit that feeling from me, nor do I see quite how they would for others, but I do make some effort to not try to project my own beliefs upon the multitude of heathens who prefer the FCG model.

Once upon a time, it was the norm.  You cracked a deck and you weren’t looking for more rares, you were looking for a play experience.  More so than Magic or Jyhad, where a single starter was too random to be a deck I was interested in playing, whether it was B5, UC!, or some games I didn’t play a whole lot of, there was the allure of the potential.

Not that UC! starters and B5 starters are remotely comparable.  B5 starters were quasi-preconstructed.

No, this feeling was connected to a time when I didn’t have every card, when I made an effort to play UC!, when CCGs were relatively new and far more new to me.

The feeling of possibilities.

CCGs (customizable card games) live off of variety.  Yes, there are those always looking to not have to constantly engage with new cards and want to essentially play a different themed boardgame, but let’s venture into the realm of why CCGs have been printing money.

But, it’s not variety, exactly.  It’s possibilities.  I have ten more possibilities of taking an unknown quantity and handing an unknown quantity to someone who I can Mental Domination into playing a game that died around 1997 and that had hardly any playerbase between 1995 and 1997 and I can play a game.  A game that isn’t Settlers of Catan, a game that isn’t shogi, a game that isn’t rummy, a game that isn’t Dragon Dice.  A game that encompasses both the known and the unknown with a randomizing element that doesn’t come across as all that random even though it is (the shuffling of the deck).

A game that has something of a theme that can be made fun of.  (A core piece of enjoyment for me in most CCGs, whether V:TES, WoT, B5, Buffy, Guardians, and various others, is finding humor in the transactions that occur during games within a thematic context.  Others just find UC! laughable for its art and because it did embrace silliness to a degree.)

If I ever had a game of Rage that felt like an actual game, maybe I did once, even terrible games like Rage would have some element of this.  Shadowrun, Hyborian Gates, Highlander(?), 7th Sea, and others where I had a starter in hand rather than had someone’s built Young Jedi, Blood Wars, L5R, or whatever deck had that feeling, that feeling of embarking upon a unique experience not provided by any other form of gaming that readily comes to mind.

Excitement.

I mention how I prefer CCGs and RPGs so much more than boardgames.  Excitement.  When do you get excited by a boardgame?  Far more often than I, I presume.  Now, sure, I get excited by mahjong because it’s part of the tapestry of my life, but I don’t look at “this is better than Puerto Rico, trust me” boardgames and feel anything.  I may enjoy and often do playing all sorts of games, but there’s something elevating in a CCG.

And, more so in a VCG.  Now, maybe if I were younger and lacked decades of experience playing CCGs and hadn’t playtested a bunch and hadn’t designed and hadn’t spent four hours deciding what three opening hand cards and starting Rand I would play in a WoT tournament, I would feel more excitement for FCGs.

But, while I have played Year of the Goat precons and mixed together YotG precons and played various other precons, there’s just something about “hand me a starter deck and let’s check out this game” that opens a portal to another dimension of gaming.

Even a terrible game, a Towers in Timey game, has this dimension when you go to crack open a starter to try something out.

Then, Ultimate Combat! one ups the ante by starter decks being entirely playable, which many a CCG lacked.

I find cracking boosters more interesting than opening Shadowfist Kickstarter rewards.  I said not long ago Magic still holds some appeal to me – more for the nature of it being a highly aesthetically pleasing VCG, but, even more than opening some out of print Shadowfist booster or out of print V:TES booster or “yes, this really did see print” Tempest of the Gods booster, even more than cracking boosters for just published sets hoping to pull recruitable Forsaken or whatever, the starter deck that initiates someone into a game is something magical … er … something that kicks ass.

VCGs appear to be dying outside of certain, well known, industry leaders.  So much of the community hates the model and wants FCGs.  There may not be a lot of us, but some of us will miss the VCG experience.  Some of us will be doddering old fools who show up at conventions and be “Hey, want to try this 30-year out of print card game, I have a half sealed box of starters in my bag?  If you like it, I got a couple boxes of boosters back in the hotel room.  We can … draft.”


Name “That” Game

July 4, 2016

Clear out some comments before getting to some sort of core point.

Started building Third Edition cube for V:TES.  Ran into something I forgot.  CCG companies are dumb.  There are two clans specific to the Sabbat.  One of them got a precon.  The other didn’t.  So, not only are there no Animalism, Fortitude (surprisingly rare discipline in Sabbat only play), Presence, and Protean skill cards.  There are no Obtenebration skill cards.  Obtenebration is required.

How to deal?  Make up house rules?  Make up cube cards?  Switch to Sabbat War for cube?  … mix … a … cube?  The last is just offensive in so many ways because Third Edition is the most offensive set ever printed for any CCG for reasons that have nothing to do with the card pool.

I really want to have a 3e Cube because I hardly play 3e cards, and there are good ones for limited play and I don’t hate all draft text.

This weekend has been gaming deprived, just working on designing another CCG, for reasons.  Last weekend, can’t get that motivated to deepify on The Last Spike, Splendour, Epic Roll.

So, time to name that tune.  Nezumi.

I name it in one, Chuck.  Uh, that’s three syllables.  Shut up, Chuck.  You are Chuck, right?  Uh, no, there’s like a ton of people who hosted this show and none of them are Chuck.

Nezumi Nights

Rattled?  No, Ratling.

It’s Time To Play The Name!

So, I mentioned playing HoR Nightmare War.  The theory was to go full whiskered with the party, but, predictably, that didn’t happen.  Three of us did the tailed beast thing.  Since I don’t really see anything all that different about playing a tailed fighter or a tailed thief, I went tailed wizard.

* Jakrkir looks insulted. “Me not grasping paw.”

<Jakrkir> If time to be killed, find entertainer to learn goblin fire dance.

Still working on our tribe name.  Haven’t come up with better than Fearsome Biter Tribe.  Not that Jakr’kir** is a biter.  Not that much of an igniter.  More of a righter.

**  Why so boring a name?  Sounded decent.  I went through some basic Nezumi words and couldn’t find anything better.  Yup, research.  Even when I’m playing something rather meaningless.

Even though I’ve built tons of newb PCs, it is brutal how few points you get to newb up, even with my 68 points from playing most of HoR3.  Not Earthy, oblivious, stupid.  At least I don’t think I can take Luck, which would have been more of a points suck.

I’m probably going for a rebuild to be a bit more balanced.  Have to N-4 (Name-4), of course, for any shaman.  But, maybe can be somewhat spread in Rings.

So far, got most use out of Bless Name.  Didn’t want to take weird spells.  Named Weapon, thematically, should go to our Nezumi fighter (picking yumi), but it’s kind of wasted as she’s a biter.

I overlooked the actual mechanics around true names.  I’ll roll for those next time.  Didn’t really matter.

Was it fun?  Sure.  Gaming can encompass a lot of different experiences.  Being the only Nezumi would likely be annoying to a serious party, but we can just not be too serious.

Speaking of names, card names matter.  Take Sins of the Cauchemar.  It doesn’t really matter what the card does as long as it doesn’t hurt you because it has an awesome name.  While the design process is at a point where we aren’t worrying about card names, I’m much more cognizant of the importance of them.

And, themes.  But, this post isn’t about CCG design.  This is about a Gnawing Gneed for Gnezumi Feed.