The Draw

October 2, 2016

Other than spending way too much time thinking or transacting for True Dungeon, my focus recently has been on creating a card game.  At some point, I assume I’ll talk about it here, but it’s an actual business venture unlike the solitaire games I’ve written about.

The draw, i.e. the charm.

I’ve written about what I’ve enjoyed about various CCGs.  Maybe I just cover the same ground, maybe not.  The intent is to not get into what makes the game good but what made it charming to me.

Ultimate Combat!

The flow of the game.  I have never cared particularly about the techniques.  I often try to avoid playing with Speed and Strength even though I’m a monstrous fan of how advantages work in the game.  There’s just something about how the cards play out in many a game where the math becomes enjoyable.  You don’t need to think too deeply or track a bunch of text.  Hmmm … you … don’t … need … to … track … a … bunch … of … text.  I hadn’t thought about how different that is, before.  Welp, guess there was value in writing this post, after all.

Magic

Aesthetics.  Not just card art.  Use of components in mechanics.  Color pie.  Multicolor.  Non-basic lands.  Creature types.  I just like looking at Magic cards even for sets that I never want to play with (Innistrad).

That, and potential.  Magic is far more complex than UC!, which isn’t necessarily better, but it does mean that there’s so much more potential for things you can do.  You can build more meaningful theme decks.  You can build all sorts of Johnny decks.  With Magic, much more than other games, you can take one card and consider how you might use it.

Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

What attracted me early on, the Vampire: The Masquerade stuff of clans and disciplines, isn’t what attracts me to playing these days.  Yet, this post is what charms games have, not how much I can revel in silliness.

Disciplines are all about transient effects.  I like how UC! is mostly about transient effects, latched on to events in Babylon 5, etc., so I’m a transientophile.  But, I knew what the disciplines were about in the RPG.  I had my preferences, sometimes carried over, sometimes didn’t.  Hate Dominate in the RPG to where my Tremere and Ventrue characters had zero dots between them.  I keep saying it because it’s so weird for me to like things that are powerful (well, that’s just reputation and not really true but sorta, kinda), but I like playing Dominate in the CCG.

I was far more into clans back when the cardpool was smaller and there were fewer and before I got fixated on how unbalanced the clans were or how tedious it could be to see people play the same stuff over and over.

I like the five-player game for how I can develop slowly and still be relevant, for how there are no clear ways to play against your opponents until things become distorted.  Three-player can be playable, but I never look forward to it.  Four player really only has going for it that it’s faster than five-player, when you want to get games finished.

Babylon 5

Theme.  I do a lot of mechanical themes, so I’m not talking just about Narn Shadow Intrigue or whatever (even though that’s somewhat of a mechanical theme).

I built virtually no decks that used Refa as my starting character.  I actually don’t really remember one such deck, so it’s possible that I didn’t build any, even while playtesting.  Londo promoting Babylon 5, Londo watching the Centauri Fleets murder everyone (well, not really, my military decks were almost always about racing to victory as fast as possible, so it was more like Fleet Week even before Show the Colors got printed), Chosen of Gaim/Drazi/whatever wasn’t Chosen of Squid cheese – these were things that entertained me.

I’ve mentioned before how I like fleet enhancements.  For some reason, I just really like military decks and fleets, even though the show isn’t that much about such things (and Vorlon/Shadow fleets are dumb in the game).  But, why fleet enhancements, which generally sucked?  I also enjoyed putting stuff on characters, like guns on any character.  There’s something about building up things in B5 that I don’t often enjoy in other CCGs.  I think it’s because I feel more of a connection to cards on a narrative level.

Wheel of Time

Card representation of book elements.  While I argued about stats for B5 cards, I was never as into B5 as other people were.  I wasn’t even particularly into B5 until I got heavily into the card game.  I played B5 because it was put out by Precedence Publishing, which put out my favorite RPG (at the time).

I didn’t know anything about WoT when Precedence decided it was going to publish the CCG.  I got caught up.  Fast.  I had the advantage that the series was some five books in or whatever when I started reading them, which meant I wasn’t waiting years to find out what happened next.

I didn’t just design cards, I designed cards.  I did art requests.  I hunted up flavor text.  Birgitte was awesome at the time before she got relegated to boring background stuff.  I had submitted multiple versions of her card.  I used one or two of her lines from the books as email sigs.  Much like B5, there was a connection between source material and cards, but there was a difference.  With B5, I enjoyed more spoofing on the source material.  With WoT, I was more fanboyish, looking to highlight those things I liked out of the books.  When we were testing Illian decks after Dark Prophecies, I eschewed them, as I just didn’t care anything about the Council of Nine or what sort of military they had.

Precedence may not have been perfect when it came to CCGs, but there was something done right when it came to translating source material into cards, even decks.

Shadowfist

I don’t know that Tomb Raider, Netrunner, Tempest of the Gods, or the likes held my interest enough to point out charms.  Shadowfist I picked up very late because it had negative elements to me.

I’m not a crossgenre fan, in general.  I don’t like games that seem random.  A lot of card effects, like Mole Network, Bite of the Jellyfish, Imprisoned, Nerve Gas, Neutron Bomb, etc. just weren’t fun to me.  Mass destruction was particularly unappealing to me for a long time because of also comparing with Wrath of God and Armageddon in Magic.

I’ve mentioned some of the appeal to me, nowadays.  The RPG made me care about the world, so the crossgenre issue was defeated.

Oddly, V:TES helped defeat my issue with mass destruction.  V:TES is a game where permanents can get overly permanenty.  While plenty of games see things that stick in Shadowfist, plenty of games see nothing safe.

Does UC! appeal to my interest in martial arts?  Maybe?  Once upon a time.  I don’t really consider the martial arts aspects of the game these days.  Shadowfist does a better job of connecting to the sorts of things that cause me to take interest in seeing martial arts shows, presently.

With every CCG, there’s something to dislike.  For some reason, I enjoy characters far more in Shadowfist than the equivalent in other games.  Usually, I’m about events in CCGs, whether they are instants, advantages/actions, reactions, or whatever.  Some of the reason I lowball events in Shadowfist has nothing to do with not wanting decks full of stoppage but just because I find characters more charming than events.  Weird.

I think more than anything else that allowed me to embrace Shadowfist was the contrast with other CCGs.  I wasn’t invested emotionally.  I didn’t care if it was balanced.  I didn’t have any favorites (well, I do like some factions better than others, but didn’t come in with having favorite cards).  I didn’t need to be able to build every deck.  And, so forth.  It was something novel for me as a CCG experience.

Horizon

So, the card game I’m doing design/development for.  Will it charm people?  Will it draw upon the source material enough to create a connection, have a good dynamic, flow well, produce satisfying results?  I think one of the partners sent the playtest materials out, so might be soon to see how other people buy into something rather than my write about what I buy into.


Cleanse The Slate

April 9, 2016

I might post next week but won’t be posting for a couple of weeks after.

I don’t have anything on mind that is philosophical.  I just have on mind miscellany.

Shadowfist

We played two games Saturday after I got out of a meeting.

Chi Bomb is really annoying, much more so than I expected.  It’s easy enough to work around once I remember that Jammers are being played, but I’ve gotten annihilated by it, like Thursday, when I played Crown of Thorns and lost three dudes and had sites take four damage just because I didn’t bother revealing all of my sites first.

Jenny Zheng multiattacked for the win.

In the second game, I played Purists and had three Quantum Sorcery in play at the end.  I had two revealed Great Walls, an unrevealed site, played Kisa Serkov, and she got Killdeered.  Then, someone ran into her until she died.  We were supposed to play a quick game so that we didn’t have to move tables when the store section closed, but we can’t seem to choose to play a quick game.

Which brings me to my thought on Shadowfist.  How to speed up games without making them boring?  More power is not the way.  Our house rule of playing sites to new columns for one less power is good for this sort of thing – opens up a lot more targets of attack.  Obviously, people could play decks with less stoppage.  People could play more superleap.  Both of those sound not that great, in that, for the former, the average amount of stoppage isn’t that high.

I don’t know.  We tend to like the amount of stuff that happens in our games, we just don’t want to play for more than 3 hours, so we rarely start a third game.  Superleap does a good job of ending games, but it can often end them in not very satisfying ways.

I was mentioning how the fastest games I tend to play in are ones where one or two players get rolled over by someone, which is like the opposite of fun.

V:TES

Stick with CCGs for the moment.  The tournament got me thinking more about V:TES.  There’s something of a discussion on vekn.net about tier one decks, which I don’t really have anything to say about since I’ve never played in an environment where you could define best decks nor am I even sure such a thing as best decks exists.  Better decks, yes.  My Ass SB deck is not as good as stealth plus Govern plus Conditioning.  Whether that makes Malk94 more likely to win a tournament or less is not as clear, but, if Kate and I had switched decks, she would have likely had no VPs where I could have ended up with the same or more without that much difficulty.  But, best?  I much rather prefer playing against decks like Malk94 or Dembleed because I actually bother to put bleed defense in most of my tournament decks.  They win the argument of “if a newb can win with this deck, then that makes it better than …”, but they lose often.  Lot of time they lose because I think newer players are more likely to be the pilots.

Anyway, what always comes up when I play is just how many decks I’ve yet to play.  It’s not always cards I haven’t played, sometimes it’s combinations of cards I haven’t played to a significant level.  I still haven’t gone hardcore Preternatural Strength plus Spike-Throwers, for instance.  Nor have I done casual Clan Impersonation.

I haven’t embraced my suggested variants, whether Ancilla Antics or Distinct Directive.

Magic

Type P for me is not the same thing as it is for most of the people who play it.  I’ve got some new “wizards” together, and I become reminded of what actually interests me and what doesn’t.

What I’m most enthused by is a deck that has clear and limited goals.  A card pool that is too strong and/or that has little you would want to change just doesn’t have much long term appeal.  I have an all Journey Into Nyx wizard that looks like a lot of fun to play, but it may get boring fast because there might not be enough interesting ways to evolve it.

Meanwhile, a wizard that has good enough cards to function but no hook is forgettable.  Type P wizards are a bit like RPG characters in that they have successes and failures and should have character development.  Just getting your 2/2 for 2 that can’t block upgraded to a 2/2 for 1 or a 2/2 for 2 that can block just isn’t compelling character development.  My Nightstalker deck can be hilarious, which makes it structurally interesting.

It’s not that I hate all of my good decks.  I have a blue/red deck that is extremely oriented to how I like to play, that also comes across as quite the beating (I haven’t played it anywhere near as much as 30 or so other decks).  It doesn’t have any coherent evolution plan.  If anything, its distinctive cards actually run counter to what makes it good.

I’m increasingly cognizant that any new wizard needs to build around the cards I’ll enjoy building around and not just trying to be good … since I don’t aim for just being good … trying to be good at whatever falls into some middle ground of balancing being good at something specific.  I really need to just pick those cards that are the most fun and really ignore whether the deck is remotely functional playing them.  Well, I might play a build that can win some useful cards to make it more functional at playing them.

Of my new wizards, one has an obvious, interesting goal – become mono-red.  It has some awful creatures in it even in a more viable R/U/w configuration just because I needed more creatures.  It would love 2/2s for 2 that can’t block, as a huge upgrade.  I know what packs I’d pity pack it with.  Winning something interesting might alter its path.  My dragon-collecting deck didn’t have a dragon-collecting plan until someone was fine with losing a dragon to it.

But, it’s these sorts of “this deck will be known as the deck that does …” things that makes me keep playing so many of my wizards.  With everything from Alpha to Shadows Over Innistrad available as potential antes to win, can end up with creations that no one would ever see, whether it’s because constructed play would weed out to many weaker cards or any popular format of limited Magic wouldn’t have the ability to end up with cards from any set.

Heroes of Rokugan

I still have yet to play any Nightmare War module.  I no longer really have any interest in trying.  If people I game with want me to play, sure, whatever.  But, I just don’t have enough interest to justify putting a bunch of effort into getting tables together.  Then, so much time has passed at this point, that I would rather just find out what the plan is for HoR4.

I wonder if Gen Con will have any HoR event that isn’t NW.  If it’s only NW, I very well may not end up doing anything L5R at Gen Con for the first time in a long time.

A format that opened up ancestors, not having to ask about kata, playing any minor or imp you wanted, any path or advanced school.  That format holds some interest to me.  Nonhuman PCs and guns really don’t.  That’s not L5R, anymore.

I do have interest in playing L5R characters.  I suppose if I were playing I’d have that much more interest.  As should be obvious in my pattern of posts, whatever I’m playing at the time is what I spend most of my time thinking about.

I have my HoR4 characters planned, I just have no sense of what’s going to happen.  I assume 4e will continue to be the mechanics – the buyout by FFG probably simplifies timing, though knowing that 5e isn’t around the corner in advance may have seen HoR4 follow right after HoR3.

Since L5R RPG posts are far more popular than my other posts, I could try to figure out what else I think about 4e.  I’m just not sure there’s that much more to say.  Do people have things they want me to opine about?  They sure seem to keep looking at the same posts over and over, so I don’t know if I’ve said everything I could usefully say or not.

Things I haven’t written much or anything about:  supplement mechanics – schools, paths, advantages/disads; advanced schools, in general; much about paths, in general; ancestors; kiho (because these don’t actually exist in my play); ninja stuff (might as well ask someone else who actually finds these sorts of characters interesting); and whatever.

BattleTech

I played a week ago as a demo on mechanics.  BattleTech, in the absence of narrative, is actually a pretty not good boardgame.  It really needs the story.  Whether you care about your pilot who got an Awesome shot out from underneath her, so she’s stuck with a Charger or you care about your Charger that went XL with double heat sinks and Gauss (or, even dumber, stole clan tech to effectively just be a clan mech) or you care about the scenario you are playing with its ice floes and explosive decompression rules while every third round someone bombs you, the resolution system is actually kind of a weak point in that it’s rather random for attacks while movement/terrain rules kind of suck.

I kept hitting the same left arm with a single large laser against a heavier mech, taking out half the AC/10s on my opponent early on, and our one on one was just kind of dumb after that.  That would make for good fiction, but it makes for a crap competitive game.  Sure, with experienced players, much like a two-player CCG, just call it and start up something new, but BT requires far more setup IME than shuffling up another deck.

TV

I read a lot of reviews of the shows I watch, most of which are superhero shows.  I find criticism interesting, but I also find myself thinking “okay, it’s not perfect, maybe not even well acted, well plotted, well staged, but … did you find it entertaining?”

A big difference between young me and old me is that young me watched a lot of TV and only really cared whether he enjoyed it or didn’t, where old me thinks about wasted opportunities, plot logic, acting, dialogue, fight choreography, special effects quality, etc.  On the other eye, I still decide to watch flawed shows just because they are entertaining.

I don’t know if I’d enjoy a high quality show, but, then, I don’t watch any high quality fiction.

Since pretty much all of the fiction I watch are DC superhero shows, one thing does come to mind.  Look.  The things that happen are often because the producers are trying to emulate comicbook logic.  Sure, it’s dumb the sort of things characters decide to do or the situations they may find themselves in.  Sure, a guy who can run fast enough to travel through time should never be threatened by anyone who can’t move that fast.

Yes, plenty of people will post comments along the lines of “The reason this happened this way in this show is because it’s a trope/genre feature/CW show.”  So, I’m really just adding support to them rather than being all uniquely special.

Where I can see it being frustrating that time travelers with a variety of superpowers can’t take out some guy who lives a long time and has nebulous street level superpowers, I do respect that Berlanti and crew are not giving me Smallville, Lois & Clark, or whatever that felt more like a TV show with superheroes rather than a comics style superhero story on TV.

May

What should I write about in May?


Card Superiority

March 28, 2016

This post also could have been called “Your Better Third” cuz …

Looks like I’ll be P-ing, again.  Type P Magic, that is.  Not sure if I ever linked to rules for it.

Type P

When is cracking packs fun?  When you are playing limited.  As much as I don’t see any advantage to the LCG model, it’s not like opening three boxes of boosters to get enough copies of tournament cards is somehow enjoyable.  It’s often tedious and frustrating, only made more so when you get sets that don’t have nice even distributions of rares or power uncommons.

As prizes?  Nah.  I buy enough boxes of cards to get everything I am interested in or, for games with card limits, enough to trade to get what I’m looking for.

What’s the payoff with limited?  Obvious, right?  Card variance.

So, what are the thirds with CCGs?

Better Player

Better Cards

Better Deck

Inspiration for this post is a combination of the last two.

I often have wanted to crack better cards when playing limited.  I know there exists generally a great deal of interest in cracking better cards, even if it was a myth (to a great degree, anyway) once upon a time that Magic sealed wasn’t as skill intensive because you had greater randomness of card pool.

But.  This idea runs counter to how I play multiplayer CCGs.  Sure, I once played two-player CCGs competitively, even Magic, if at a minor level.  They are a different animal for reasons I’ve mentioned at various times.  But, let’s continue on with the thought.

In multiplayer CCG play, I specifically don’t try to build best decks.  With rare exceptions, I’ve never tried to.  Sure, Conscription, “win in 20 minutes” B5 decks were something I found appealing.  Can go into reasons why, but I’ve either mentioned them or they distract from the gist.

Assuming I’m not driven to victory at all costs, wouldn’t I rather have weaker cards than my opponents in limited play?  After all, if I win, it comes down to skill, one or both of two types.  (Ignoring luck and limited sample size issues.)

Either play skill, which is not the topic, either.

Or, deck construction skill.  Which kind of is.

The best deck isn’t necessarily the one with the best cards.  That applies to constructed, as well.  Affinity might be all the rage, but, if everyone maindecks artifact hate at ungodly levels, maybe want to play red control or something.

My experience with not playing the best cards, coming up with my own personal banned lists either for cards or for decks, has soured me on the idea of cracking better cards.  (With V:TES, it’s much more cards.  But, I didn’t play certain decks with B5.)

I still want tons of burn out of Magic packs because I enjoy burn far more than anything else, despite it being really good and even better in limited.

But, the idea of “OMG!, double White Eyes, Black Magician” to wreck people with is … just … hollow.  It’s a fluke.  I don’t plan on selling cards, though I should probably sell a bunch of my Magic cards I never intend doing anything with.  So, foil, mythic planeswalkers of a Jacey bent don’t really amount to extra value.

Not to say I want to analyze a set’s commons to death so that I can build the optimal metagame deck (not that Type P has a metagame, given that it’s essentially sealed Classic) and have pure joy in how my common 1/1s with some annoying special carry the day off of inspired, heroic, bushido flanking.

I guess, at least until I find some reason to think competitively again, I’m just interested in getting random cards that are cool.  Might be cool ability, cool art, cool name, cool cost.  But, it’s almost a commander mentality without remotely getting into playing commander.

Yet, the reason for this post is that there’s still an interest in building a better deck.  Sure, it might not be the best deck for a card pool but a best deck that does what I’m interested in doing.  The last time I played P, I sided in a second Coral Eel and a couple of Giant Octopuses to go Octopus configuration, figuring 3/3s and a 2/1 for two can annoy morphs.  Deck was way too slow in the second and third games, though.

Magic really did do certain things right.  Limited is just so good because there are so many facets to it.  Sure, you will not have some of the consistency and card combinations that constructed provides.  But, you get flex your brain around having a specific card pool that is not predictable.  Sealed is even more this way than draft, which is part of the reason I vastly prefer sealed.

Draft has its own skill – um, drafting skill.  It’s interesting to me, though likely far less fascinating to me than a lot of Magic players find it.  I’d rather spend my time dwelling on how I force a red splash to play two burn spells when all of my other colors are vastly better.

I actually favor redundancy in my Type P decks because it’s a format that can get absurdly redundant.  I have seven Llanowar Sentinels in a deck, though I could imagine someone going crazy with just trying to build the most redundant Type P deck ever could find a way to get a ton of Raging Goblins or something.  The appeal, though, of redundancy tends more towards the “OMG!  I cracked five Scornful Egotists in five packs!”, with a bit of a “Are you sure you don’t mind losing a Shivan Dragon to this deck that already has two?”

And, draft kind of requires having a draft pool and playing out that event, where something like P has the advantage of my 15 year-old decks still being intact and all ready to acquire more dwarves.

Oh, well, yes, Type P is also different from common limited in that your card pool universe changes over time.  Though, I did do with a couple of P-ers a sealed league where it was just about adding a booster every week.  That had some interesting elements.  Magic – so many ways to play.  V:TES, B5, WoT, UC! – not so much.  Actually, Shadowfist might have more functional formats because people will buy into the idea of playing variant formats far more than V:TES players ever have.  Stronger theme.

Better Player?  I defer to my betters most of the time.

Better Cards?  Sometimes cool cards are better cards, and 3-mana, 4-damage, cannot be reduced or redirected or countered to chump or brain is always very cool, or, like, a real card that has some of those features.

Better Deck?  Magic isn’t the only CCG where this occurs, I find that I usually have the second best draft deck in any V:TES draft I play, but the decisions are rather more interesting when you have some bomb demon with double black but just really need to play R/U/w until you ditch blue and go R/W until you ditch white and go mono-red.

Yup, scary as it is.  Where I hardly enjoy cracking packs for CCGs I play, I still enjoy cracking Magic packs.


Draw, Lose, Win

February 6, 2016

I’ve now forgotten what got me to thinking about this, but I got to thinking about success and failure.  Oh, not in RPGs.  In CCGs, though the principle could apply to boardgames.

Not how to succeed or fail.  Not on the strategic level.  On the transaction level of the game.

I speak of transactions during CCG play because I needed some term to describe the events that happen during play that entertain me the most.  Results don’t generally entertain me.  Of course, a result can come from a transaction.

Anyway, I’m going to do my usual “here are the CCGs I played the most and why Ultimate Combat! is the best CCG ever” breakdown.  The general idea, to reiterate, is … wait, I don’t think I got to what the point of all of this is.  The point of all of this is that I enjoy CCG play when you have interesting, one might say compelling, successes and failures within games.  Probably, I’m also of the bent to be more interested in successes than failures.

Magic

I can say that drawing one card a turn is the worst thing about Magic.  But, that’s independent of actually enjoying playing.  I don’t enjoy Magic less because I draw one card a turn.  I enjoy it less because drawing one card a turn reduces how many things I do during a game.

Speaking of doing things during a game, this topic goes to why I enjoy Magic so much less than other CCGs.  I don’t feel like I succeed during play, at least not in any sort of compelling way.

What are points of success/failure in Magic?  My creature deals damage or not.  My spell is countered or not.  My counter counters your spell or not.  My removal removes or not.  I burn your brains or not.  I sac land to create mana to force you to draw your deck or not.

In a lot of ways, in other words, my cards do something meaningful or not.

Turn two, I tap two land and cast a 2/2.  Turn three, it attacks.  That is okay.  But, what if you cast an equivalent 2/2 on your turn before I attack and I decide not to trade?  That’s not succeeding at something.  Maybe that’s not failing, either, but nothing happening* is pretty boring.

*  Which makes one wonder why I spend so much time doing nothing during V:TES games, but I’ll get to that later.

So often, what happens in a game of Magic is something that doesn’t produce any sort of interesting, one might say dramatic, success or failure.  I bring out a 4/4.  It gets bounced, destroyed, even possibly buried since Type P still uses bury, or removed from play.  That’s a “removal success” on my opponent’s part, but it’s rather uninteresting to me.  Of course, the worst situations in Magic tend to be of the “I really need a card to deal with the board position, but I just drew a … land/card I can’t afford/other irrelevant card”.  Yes, mana screw is a variant of this, where I often see games where you don’t get one of your colors or enough mana to keep up.

It could very well be why I gravitate towards to fast decks with low mana curves.  You are more likely to play something early.  That early play may not win you the game, but it’s likely to do something.  Plus, shooting people in the noggin might make up for being in some sort of board position lock.

I’m probably not alone in the idea of wanting to DO THINGS when playing games.  After all, hand destruction, land destruction, and counterspells are three of the things players have expressed the most hate for.

Not to rag much more on Magic, but, even when I’m winning, I’m often bored with what is going on.  Oh, look, my auto creature generator keeps generating another dude my opponent can’t stop.  Or, whatever.  Not always the case, but far too often.

Ultimate Combat!

I don’t recall Mindslaver going off in any game of Magic I’ve played.  The older, yes, printed earlier, Mental Domination has gone off a bunch of times.  It would seem like the ultimate unhappinesser.  It’s weirdly not.

Actually, most of the time, Mental Dom just speeds your opponent towards decking.  The board impact is rather minimal as there’s little ability to prep or follow up with something nasty to an eight-cost play.

Now, Shake Up has to be a better card because it’s far more effective at deciding who wins.  But, I’m getting off topic.  Suppress is more like what Mental Dom would seem to be.  The ability to deprive someone of playing the game is, of course, not terribly enjoyable.

Attacks are far more interesting in UC! than in Magic.  Because techniques are one-shot plays, you lose something by deciding to attack or deciding to defend, unlike some 1/6 wall in Magic just sitting there sucking up damage every round.  Sure, Favorite Technique and weapons break this big time, though weapons are too unreliable or require too much effort in my experience, just leaving the potential for hideous lock situations with Drunken Favorite Techniques.

Yet another reason that UC! might actually be a better game without the expansion – Drunken Style is just way too much of a hose.  Whether it’s combinations, Adrenaline, doubled Speed/Strength, X advantages, or … well, other advantages are kind of too esoteric to worry about, Drunken techniques just fail too many “progress towards winning” plays.

Oddly, perhaps, you can get by with many fewer techniques than Magic decks will creatures.  Though removal barely exists in UC! and every use of a technique means it goes away, a lot of games are won off the back of three or so attacks.  Attack, combination, combination, with some help besides just a movement card can get you there, though probably have to do a bit more than just swing three times.

While Healing Mantra isn’t the best thing ever, it is rather discouraging on how it undoes successes.  It’s not like you really stop it from resolving unless you get into an unexpected Psychic Delay counter war.  On the other hand, for the more controllish player (in practice, but is this true in theory?), the success of getting back some hit points in a game that can often be – beat, beat, beat, over – may very well be an interesting success.  I know I’ve thought about holding off on attacks to choke someone on Healing Mantra until I could go over the top in one round.  That’s possibly interesting.

You rarely fail to play your cards.  They often do something.  Limited play has a strong technique management element to it that shows up very differently in constructed play.  Just putting out some random 3/2 technique may decide the game because so many UC! games come down to “if I don’t win this turn, you win next turn”.  When you do come up short because someone had the Speed/Strength to survive or had some bizarre play, like Banana Peel, to do so, that’s rather interesting.

Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

Every action is a possible success/failure.  Really, a hunt action can be quite dramatic, though usually just more setting up something down the road.  So much of my enjoyment in the game is seeing whether my bleeds will succeed or fail or seeing whether bleeds against me will succeed or fail.

But, tool up actions can decide games.  Votes are annoyingly swingy much of the time.  Though, to be fair to voting, I often have the view that most KRCs should succeed.  After all, someone invested cards and capacity into doing something, so it feels more failuretastic when a vote fails than when a bleed fails.

Combat is far less interesting to me than to others because I see it falling into a closer to Magic paradigm of success/failure not being all that interesting.  The best combats are the play a bunch of cards but little actually happens sort.  Those are pretty rare.  What’s interesting about “I rush you, Carrion Crows, Bats til you die”?  I still get beaten up by Trap decks, and it’s routinely boring as hell.

If Magic is a game where I feel more like the interesting bit is the result, V:TES falls into the camp, along with most other CCGs, where I’m living in the transactions.  (UC! tends to have fewer transactions and they tend toward being the same sort much of the time.)

Shattering Blow on Assault Rifle – yes, combat can be amusing – is living in the trees.  That should both be an interesting success for one player and an interesting failure for the other.

Masters and events – not really interesting successes and failures except in those rare cases when Sudden on a Villein is indecisive.

So, you may be wondering how all of this is any different from my going on about positive/constructive/quality interaction.  I guess it’s not.  I guess I’m repeating myself.  Well, on with the recursion.

Wheel of Time

Why WoT before B5?  Dice?

So, dice is not something I would go with in a CCG.  Oh, sure, die values on cards, like War Cry or 40k is really interesting and has rather sophisticated design space.  But, actually rolling dice?  That’s pretty ugly.

Made even more so by how important your rolls could be in WoT.  Prior to “Fixed Rand”, Lord Dragon giving you a big dice pool, and other expansion mechanics, WoT was way too dependent upon rolling specific things.  Even after the first couple of turns, after you burned Pattern just to bring out your Thoms or Liandrins, you needed certain symbols to continue your snowball of annihilation, your “I draw my deck” (but later errataed) advantages, etc.

Success.  Challenges didn’t become as important until later in the meta.  Suicide Dragon relied on them.  Maidens (not in playtesting where they were the most broken thing ever) relied on them, though that was long after the game had changed dramatically from Premier’s limited viable options.  So, what was success largely a matter of?

Recruiting, of course.  Card drawing.  Searching.  Yeah, there’s a reason WoT wasn’t one of the best designed games ever.  How about Overrun?  Succeeding at nuking characters or not nuking them with Overrun was a key feature of the game.  Last Battle event play to swing things just enough for victory was a key feature.

A strange game by the way I describe what it was like.  Actually, yes, it was just a strange game.  Recruit, recruit, recruit, draw cards to recruit some more.  Then, roll lots of dice.  Every once in a while play against some goofy kill character deck where you had to have your Guarded by Fates a ready or Healing Herbs.

There was certainly something going on during games.  Well, moving on.

Babylon 5

Expansions may have had a lot of bad ideas, but the most problematic environment (other than the Drakh/Ultimate Hoser environment or the “look at all my technomages environment”) was the Premier environment.  For the simple reason that success barely needed to happen to end games.

Sheridan gets a bunch of Doom that nobody can really interact with, Martyr, win.  Centauri/Narn win two conflicts and cheese to 20 power.  Alliance of Races, Forced Evolution, Order Above All just put a clock on the game.  Shadow Marks make Centauri Border Raids unstoppable … unless you You Are Not Ready something into oblivion.

Not Meant To Be could counter some stuff.  You Are Not Ready didn’t always hit “good” conflicts, it sometimes stopped annoying conflicts.  Level the Playing Field may have been annoying in how swingy it could be, but it did make success and failure more interesting.  There were a lot of events, at different points, that someone could play to suddenly be able to pop out a fattie or to buff someone.

Trade counters may not have made trade cheese all that interesting, but it did produce failures where you could expect only successes.

A lot of games weren’t really that good, certainly when it came to producing results.  But, tooling up certain characters or in certain ways was interesting to me.  “Adira Strikes” might have been intended for social play since the whole idea of Inconclusive Strike on Adira to make her bigger was not terribly productive, but the idea of pumping characters other than ambassadors with enhancements, aftermaths, marks, or whatever was a way to get some transactional success.

Unfortunately, the mechanic most intended for transactional success/failure – aftermaths – was normally a waste of deck space.

There’s a lot of B5 play I forgot.  But, for whatever reason, I tend to remember the positive – my amusement – a lot more than the games that just rather sucked.  Enjoyable card play must have been part of the experience.

Shadowfist

To me, Shadowfist is the CCG I’ve played a significant amount of that has the most transactions by far.  I can breakdown the important stuff in B5 games or V:TES games, even with a ton of cards played or in games where stuff happens for two hours.  I can’t ever seem to recall every little notable event in a Shadowfist game, unless the game is horribly unbalanced and over in 20 minutes.

But, are those transactions interesting?

Yes.  Shadowfist also happens to be the game where I have the least feel for what determines the outcome.  Because the outcome is largely removed from my experience, it is precisely the successes and failures in the transactions that I focus on.  Lusignan riding a Fire Horse and wielding the Boundless Heaven Sword is a success right up until he gets shut down by some cheap event, which can be an interesting failure.

Sure, Kinoshita House, Fox Pass, and whatnot make for less interesting failures.  But, there’s often so many things going on, a stack can just get insane, that I’m living in a world of transactional successes and failures.

So, why isn’t Shadowfist the best thing ever?  Because it can be too much to track.  V:TES has a much more manageable amount of effects in play at a time, to where I feel like I have some control over what happens.  I can determine success or, at least, predict it.

Having the player be in control has value.  I notice a lot more the sort of mistakes I make with other CCGs.  With Shadowfist, too often, it’s questionable the extent of a mistake.  I can look back at winning a V:TES tournament after letting Augustus Giovanni get torped right away in a prelim round as a mistake that probably didn’t hurt me any.  It improved the optics on my position of pathetic weakness.  With Shadowfist, I often don’t know whether overlooking something hurt more, hurt less, or didn’t hurt at all.

That lack of knowing does decrease the compellingness of successes and failures.

Maybe I just did rethink the whole concept of quality interaction.  But, I think there’s some point to trying to get at a bit more detail on what’s enjoyable about actually playing CCGs (there’s always deck construction and metagame analysis for other reasons CCG can be enjoyable).  It’s really Magic where I realized that I just don’t feel like success and failure in the transactions engages me that much, and that’s why I would rather play any of the other CCGs I’ve mentioned today.


CCG 103

November 15, 2015

So, there I was, beating up on an eight-year old at Type P Magic.  He had Assassinate, Lightning Axe, and Sulferous Blast in hand at one point and should have played them differently.  I drew a Swamp in time to Cruel Revival his Evil Eye of Urborg.

Curve.  Card advantage.  Card synergy.  Managing cards in play (e.g. blocking sometimes).

There are plenty of things to learn.  I don’t recall picking up a game nearly as complex as Magic is at that age.  I was only playing mahjong, rummy, chess (badly … hasn’t changed), and the like.

So, I wouldn’t put a lot of expectations on my opponent.

But.

I got to thinking about other CCGs I play and how there must be a lot of subtle things about them that it takes people time to learn.  Well, duh.

But.

To make this post useful, what are they?

Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

Somehow, I doubt I’ll be able to articulate without having an example situation in front of someone.  I’m certainly not going to build some intricate examples in the next hour and a half.

Pool totals.  For some reason, people don’t seem to pay as much attention to them as I would.  I could very well be wrong.  But, the pool is the Spice, er, …  Then, comparing those totals against stuff, you know, bleed stuff is something to do.

Everyone knows that Samson can bleed for 5.  Do they plan around that?  Do they plan around the likelihood of that?  I’m not talking about HoFers, I’m talking about people developing their winningnesses.

I’m constantly amazed … well, no, I’m not.  Amazed isn’t the right word, nor does constantly come in.  Let’s say I’m occasionally surprised when I assess that someone will win unless something significant happens and others don’t consider the player to be in the penthouse position.  The flip side is that it’s occasionally easy to see how someone dies in one to two turns and yet is considered worthy of added dyingnesses.

Bleed bounce is not given enough respect in terms of how it interacts with pool totals.  Someone without bleed bounce probably has 8-12 less pool than someone who has the greatest thing in the history of cardboard vampire proclivities.  Yes, that means someone sitting on 15 pool very well might be dead before their turn.

Deck focus.  Huh?  Focused decks are more predictable, thus why I try not to play them.  I’ve been stunned by a rush deck pulling out a wake, before, so sometimes you just don’t know.  But, let’s use the example of how lots of decks generate zero intercept.  That’s a big deal.  Whether you are running no stealth boost, some stealth boost, or are nothing but stealth boost, you kind of want to know how much you need to do things so that you can math your way into ousting damage.

Combat survivability.  Combat tends to blow, I mean, suck in V:TES.  It’s not the awesome, “I play six cards and we each lose one blood” mechanic that is should be.  I often get nuked in combats I don’t need to get into, though sometimes that just makes me look weak until my inevitable victory.  Sure, it takes time to learn about all of the combat possibilities as well as the probabilities of them occurring, but it shouldn’t take that much effort to learn to not block when you have a lot to lose and little to gain or don’t take that trivial action that will get you blocked and ‘schrecked.

I guess that gets into a broader concept of what actions matter and which don’t.  I’ve noted on multiple occasions that the reason hunting can be so strong is because it’s an action with little appearance of significance.  In a two-player CCG, “bleed, bleed, bleed, and … bleed” might be constructive, certainly endgame situations see a fair amount of this.  But, optics matter.  Yup, optics.

One can get deep on, say, the value of getting a weenie torped and having it sit in torpor as a sign of how pathetically loserville you are before you oust a couple of players, but let’s not get esoteric.

Babylon 5

I haven’t played B5 in quite the years.  But, a great problem with B5 was predictability of who was where at winning.  Can reasonably count potential influence/power gains.  So, not the most interesting thing to mention.

What about who has Secret Strike in hand?  What about those few aftermaths that actually affect winning, like Rise to Power?  What about someone having a chain of replacements for Londo or whomever in hand?  What about the guarantee that someone will You Are Not Ready you because you actually want to do things?  So, maybe don’t overcommit to your conflict.

Wheel of Time

I can talk about dead CCGs if I want to.

Overrun.  There’s not that many cards that will just rip your characters to shreds.  Play around Overrun.  In fact, many of the Last Battle events were rather predictable.  One Power events were kind of unpredictable because it was such a crapshoot whether you would generate enough OP symbols to play them effectively.

When in doubt, leave all of your characters home and recruit.  After all, that’s what the game was mostly about.

But, actually read what control of contested advantages will do, as that can be a huge headache if you just let your opponent play their game.

Not quite hitting the theme of the post?  Okay, this is a case of bringing up deck construction – every search and card draw and force your opponent to discard effect is worth considering, no matter how tortured it can be to generate politics to play “Draw 2 cards.”

Ultimate Combat!

Speed and Strength.  There are not a ton of things you can do to mess with math.  Power Drain is an interesting one.  But, chipping against attacks is a way to just barely not lose.

There aren’t a ton of rules to UC!.  Actually, some things are just not explained at all.  On the other hand, there are a surprising number of rules written into the double sided foldout sheet that comes in starters.  Like, that defenses higher than attacks reduce attack values for all subsequent attacks.  Making the decision to overload a block when not playing a Counter is … damn, I keep trying to go with simple things for people to be aware of, yet this is techy in a “one more tournament and I hit black belt status” way.

While possibly one of the most challenging aspects of the game, thinking about when and what to discard is a key element of being less outmathed.  How many techniques do you need to win?  How many advantages?  If you draw Adrenaline, what happens?

Shadowfist

Me dumb player.  Me not know how to factor in burn for power.  Me forget Underworld Tracker in smoked pile.  Me hold on to three resource-requiring card until not me wins.

Reset

Okay, this post is all over the place.  Let’s get back to learning principles of such things as curve, card advantage, et al.

Card advantage is not the dominant feature that Magic makes it in many other CCGs, which is actually fairly interesting.  Yes, Shadowfist can see it, once you factor power advantage.  V:TES can only occasionally see it like with minion advantage or permacept.  It’s probably one reason I enjoy UC! more than Magic – so many of the differences between the two mitigate card advantage; then, you have Favorite Technique to remind you of how much it sucks that one card can just own you.  B5 certainly had card advantage, though how much it mattered as a practical matter was hard to say.  I mean, there’s a reason multiplayer CCGs work as well as they do when they often have inferior mechanics and card design to two-player CCGs.

Curve.  I haven’t figured out the curve in Shadowfist, though our numerous house rules mess around with this quite a bit.  UC! has a more severe curve than Magic in some ways, at least with respect to techniques versus creatures.  In UC!, if your technique costs more than one, you may just be screwed (unless it’s your “Favorite”).  I used to think three cost techniques were competitive.  Ha.  Ha ha.  WoT has a goofy curve to it due to Pattern cost reduction, though if you expect Whitecloak play, then you probably need to focus more on being able to get your recruiting infrastructure together ASAP.  B5 often had an anti-curve with characters.  It was really about whether you were (Support of the …) Mighty or not, first, then about how massive you were.  Now, fleets were different.  I hadn’t considered it before, but, maybe, I liked boring old fleets because their costs were more interesting.

Try another angle.  Let’s say I’ve lost a lot of games of every CCG I’ve played.  What caused me to lose?

UC!  Getting behind in power.  Not defending enough.  Not discarding the right number of cards.

Shadowfist.  Not generating enough power reliably to play cards.  Not having enough resources to play cards.  Not discarding aggressively enough.  Not paying attention to effects.  Making a bid for victory when I knew it wouldn’t work.  Not manipulating other players.  Not burning for power often enough.  Not playing more “I win” cards.  Playing Ascended to try to find something about Ascended that was remotely interesting.

WoT.  Playing a proxy in the only major tournament I ever played in.  Not playing more Murder of Crows.  Actually, I don’t really remember losing much at WoT.  I’m sure I did, I just don’t remember it.  I know I didn’t win tournaments, though we had so few of those.  I don’t really recall who won our locals.  So much of our play was playtesting that I can’t recall our real play results hardly at all, and playtesting inferior cards wasn’t my fault.  I did own with Forsaken.dec and Maidens at times in playtesting, but that just got cards changed so that those decks weren’t as degenerate.

B5.  Playing stuff that was less boring.  I’m sure I made play mistakes, but I don’t recall those so much as I recall losing to mindnumbingly straightforward decks.  Also, another case of spending a ton of time playtesting.  Not abusing Crusade Piles, Techno-mages, and whatever.  Not playing more hosers, like ways to stop a Support of the Mighty win.

V:TES.  Playing against better players.  Yup, really.  When I play against better players, my winenergy is reduced dramatically.  So, what’s better?  Knowing cards better.  Yup, I actually sometimes get owned by other people knowing cards better.  Thinking of a possibility, then not playing to it.  Mark Loughman newbed me in one tournament game when I knew he could play Change of Target, but I blocked, anyway, … as his predator.

Also:  not playing more wakes; more bounce; more acceleration; more Blood Dolls/Minion Taps/Villeins; more winnie-kill.  Relying on other players to do sensible things, which is a dumb thing to do as many of my tournament wins have come about because other players didn’t do sensible things.  Losing concentration in endgame situations.  Not willing opponents to do my bidding.

Hey, you didn’t talk about tempo!  Tempo can answer card advantage.  Yeah, whatever.  Other than WoT (and Conscription based B5 decks), I generally avoided tempo – too much multiplayer play.

Okay, I have no idea what I was trying to accomplish.  I started with an idea of learning basics in managing CCGs better both deck constructionwise and playwise, and I just threw out a bunch of observations.


Double-Striking, Swampwalking Squirrel Pumpers

October 24, 2015

There’s a few things I’ve thought to blog about.  Then, work travel has limited my time, both my travel and my manager’s.

So, Magic.

As I mentioned, my friend is introducing Magic to his son.  We played previously with his old multiplayer decks.  I mentioned Type P.  I was heading over to their place last Sunday, when Gary told me to bring stuff to make P decks.  I grabbed Time Spiral, box with a few Ravnica and mostly Guildpact, and a Dissension box (none of these were full, I don’t have that much random crap lying around).  I figured Time Spiral would have some easier to grok cards, though it also has too many things going on.  The multicolor stuff just has really cool cards.

So, I bartered them Time Spiral tournament packs and boosters for popcorn.  And, I helped his son put together a deck.  While his blue actually looked the most solid!  Based off of the creature base!!  I figured the G/R/b build was easier to process.  He had Stormbind to justify that.  He also had Stuffy Doll!

We played two games.  Both games, he got out Evil Eye of Urborg, a card I just love … see, there are so many things about Magic that are lovable.

In the first game, I played one of my goblin decks.  This was my hardcore goblin deck with only Moggcatcher not being a goblin.  It was in a more serious configuration, i.e. I was playing my Hands of Death.

I beat.  Evil Eye raced me.  I had enough 2/2’s to swarm him for the standard Magic result of a 1-0 (life) victory.  We weren’t playing for ante, this was more to get familiar with both the game and the deck.  Still practicing, I switched to my Llanowar Sentinel deck (it still only has seven) in elf mode, i.e. not playing removal.  As is always the case with Magic, the game came down to us both being at 2 life and his Evil Eye stopping him from flying over for the win, so he had to Stuffy Doll tap, untap with Scryb Ranger, Stuffy Doll tap for the kill.

Doesn’t happen that often IME but, sometimes, Magic works.

So, other than an enthusiasm at looking at some of my numerous P decks and looking around at what sets I have various quantities of, I saved the most recent rules into my P folder.  In my P folder are some challenge charts for what my P decks are interested in facing.  Allow me to paste the first 45 decks.
1
Snow Raven
Colors: U/B/w
Want: Removal, Dark Ritual, enchantments/enchantment return, bounce, milling/decking
Have: Goblins, Seal of Strength, Destructive Urge, Red, Forests, Mountains, Green enchantment removal
Size: 106

2
Hell’s Horses
Colors: G/B/u, G/B/w, (5c)
Want: Mana fix, Dark Ritual, removal, flyers, Pernicious Deed, blue permanents
Have: Mountains, bit of red, Chariot of the Sun
Size: 101

3
Jade Falcon
Colors: G/u/b, maybe W/R
Want: Forests, sac creature effects, soldiers, land destruction, counterspells, elves, zombies, creature generation
Have: Soul Link, some red
Size: 101

4
Ghost Bear
Colors: B/w/u
Want: Mana acceleration/fix, counterspells, Aquamoeba, removal especially that can affect black, clerics, wizards, tap effects, hand destruction, land
Have: Not too good Red and Green, Nature’s Blessing, Energy Arc, Forests, Mountains
Size: 100

5
Blood Spirit
Colors: B/r, B/r/g
Want: Black, Swamps, good Red, Terminate, dwarves
Have: Islands, Plains, bit of blue, possible Green/Forests, Razing Snidd
Size: 114

6
Nova Cat
Colors: W/G/r
Want: Ways to put land in my graveyard, flying defense, ways to deal with regenerators, artifact destruction, Llanowar Sentinels, elf cards
Have: Black, Blue, Islands, Swamps, Redwood Treefolk
Size: 106

7
Star Adder
Colors: W/R/g, G/R
Want: Sorceries, Instants, squirrel pumpers, artifact search/protection, threshold, Mountains, Forests, Flame Burst
Have: Pulsating Illusion, Islands, Bog Wreckage, Black discard, Crypt Keeper
Size: 102

8
Smoke Jaguar
Colors: R/b/g, B/r
Want: Threshold, low end Black/Red creatures, Dark Ritual, removal, graveyard recursion, card drawing, good inexpensive sorceries, tap effects, Swamps, Mountains
Have: Good blue, Mind Burst, some White, Islands, Plains, Dwarven Shrine, Abandoned Outpost
Size: 102

9
Fire Mandrill
Colors: W/B/r (W/R)
Want: Rats, removal, land destruction, mana acceleration, enchantment/artifact removal, graveyard recursion, Shelter, land
Have: Blue not good card drawing, Islands, Green life gain
Size: 102

10
Diamond Shark
Colors: U/w/g
Want: Mana fix, bounce/gating, removal, untargeted trample, Mishra’s Workshop, Green creatures, quick drops, Blastoderm
Have: Mogg Toadys, not good Red, bad Black, Mountains, Swamps, Skyshroud Claim, Fog Patch
Size: 103

11
Coyote
Colors: B/G/r (B/G)
Want: Bombs, swampwalkers, maybe land destruction
Have: Good blue, white, multicolor, Islands, Plains
Size: 101

12
Cloud Cobra
Colors: R/W/u
Want: Mountains, Plains, walls with power > 0, flyers, pro-red, Anarchist/Recoup
Have: Good Green, some Black, Forests, Swamps
Size: 103

13
Snord’s Irregulars
Colors: B/U/r, R/W/u
Want: Foil Crosis’s Charm, removal, Crosis cards, maybe life gain in B or U
Have: Druid Lyrist, Norwood Warrior, Forests, Mind Burst
Size: 102

14
Wolf
Colors: B/W/u, B/R/u, R/b
Want: Goblins, effects that trigger off goblins, land
Have: Some Green, double Blue, Forests, Islands
Size: 108

15
Ice Hellion
Colors: R/W/b, R/W/u
Want: Mountains, ways to turn life into killing opponent, burn, cheap creatures, midsized creatures, late game plays, Swamps, cards that protect artifacts, ways to make walls good, life gain, Plains
Have: Some Blue, couple of Islands, Green life gain
Size: 92

16
Goliath Scorpion
Colors: B/W/u
Want: Counterspells, come into play effects, Faceless Butcher, good enough Red to make playing red worthwhile, weenies, trample or evasion giving effects, Dark Ritual, removal
Have: Little bit of Green, Forests, Militant Monks, Cabal Coffers
Size: 106

17
Lion
Colors: R/b
Want: Red, Mountains, decent Black creatures or removal, Swamps, lots of (mass) creature removal, Barbarians
Have: White or Blue, not good Green, Forests, Islands, Plains
Size: 109

18
Steel Viper
Colors: G/r/x
Want: Mana acceleration, ways to get more creatures in play, trample/evasion, ways to deal with regeneration, flying defense
Have: 8/8 Black flyer for 11, Plains, Islands, Swamps, Tainted Isle, double mana cost stuff, maybe a color
Size: 103

19
Scorpion
Colors: B/U/g
Want: Nightmares, Black and/or Blue for a possible two color config, Swamps, (enchantment) search, maybe White
Have: Red, Mountains, maybe White/Plains
Size: 99

20
Dragon
Colors: B/R/u
Want: Land destruction, good way to blow up my own critters over multiple turns, maybe zombies
Have: Good White, some Green, Forests, Plains, Armadillo Cloak
Size: 102

21
Wolf’s Dragoons
Colors: R/B/u
Want: Graveyard recursion, Dragons, threshold producers, mana fixing, creature protection
Have: Green, White, Temporal Spring, Irrigation Ditch, Wax/Wane
Size: 98

22
Nosferatu
Colors: B/G/u/(r)
Want: Black and/or Green, ways to discard or sac a creature, ways to achieve threshold, Braids
Have: White, Plains, Krosan Verge
Size: 96

23
Ventrue
Colors: B/W/u/r
Want: Legends, nonGreen color fixing, good Red, enchantments/creatures that bounce from the graveyard, card drawing
Have: Decent Green, some multicolor, Forests, Riftstone Portal
Size: 94

24
Crab
Colors: U/R, G/U
Want: Forests, Squirrel stuff, threshold, ways to get back land from the graveyard or put land into play, counterspells, land destruction, mass creature pump
Have: Touch of White, Touch of Black
Size: 96

25
Naga
Colors: B/U/g, B/U/r
Want: Madness in any color except White, infinite mana, infinite cards, good instants and sorceries, sac creatures
Have: Some White, a Plains
Size: 95 (beat Shiva 2-1 and got two land for it *twirls finger*)

26
Crane
Colors: G/B/U
Want: Mana acceleration/fix, Goblins, reason to play Red and White
Have: Multicolor, Wirecat
Size: 97

27
Unicorn
Colors: W/G/r
Want: Rebel searchers, enchantments, removal, land destruction
Have: Blue, Black, Mercenaries
Size: 96

28
Brujah
Colors: G/W/r
Want: Flyers, ways to achieve threshold, permanent creature pump, card drawing
Have: Black, maybe Blue
Size: 96

29
Phoenix
Colors: B/R/u
Want: Mana acceleration, creatures, flyers, Anarchist
Have: Bit of green, lot of white, forests/plains
Size: 98

30
Assamite
Colors: G/r/b
Want: Nightstalkers, mana acceleration/fix, goblins, beasts, zombies
Have: Some blue and white, islands/plains
Size: 99

31
Samedi
Colors: W/B/R(r)
Want: Goblins, Lightning Rift, soldiers, zombies, clerics
Have: Elves, beasts, wizards, forests/islands
Size: 101

32
Gangrel
Colors: G/U/r
Want: Beasts, mana acceleration/fix, Feral Shadow, Breathstealer
Have: Some white, plains
Size: 97

33
Blood Brothers
Colors: W/B/u
Want: Clerics, Accumulated Knowledge
Have: Unknown
Size: 98

34
Toreador
Colors: G/R/b
Want: Unknown
Have: Black/Blue, white, islands/plains
Size: 97

35
Ravnos
Colors: W/U/b, ?/b/r
Want: Pumpable creatures
Have: Green, treefolk, Harrow, forests, Elfhame Palace, Irrigation Ditch
Size: 100

36
Followers of Set
Colors: B/U/w, 5C?
Want: Mountains, excuse to play red – its strongest color, mana fix
Have: Unknown
Size: 97

37
Tzimisce
Colors: B/R/g/(u), 5C?
Want: Creatures, mana fix
Have: Maybe white
Size: 95

38
Brujah Antitribu
Colors: B/U/G
Want: Creature generators, Urborg Elf, way to generate two white mana without playing white, ways to make use of massive card drawing, life gain
Have: Red, multicolor red, probably white, goblins, Martyr’s Tomb
Size: 99

39
Tremere
Colors: B/G/r
Want: Threshold producers, graveyard fillers, minions
Have: Some white and blue, islands/plains
Size: 99

40
Eridani Light Horse
Colors: W/G/r
Want: Creatures, creature pumpers, bird cards, red
Have: Skyshroud Claims, Black, swamps, Barren Moor
Size: 97

41
Baali
Colors: B/R/w
Want: Zombies, creatures, raise dead effects, Anarchist/Recoup, life gain
Have: Green, blue, Aether Burst, forests/islands
Size: 94

42
True Brujah
Colors: R/B/U
Want: Goblins?, beasts?, land, infinite mana
Have: Slivers?, unknown
Size: 95

43
Pander
Colors: R/W/u, R/G/u
Want: Slivers
Have: Wizards, black, swamps
Size: 98

44
Giovanni
Colors: B/U/r, G/W/r
Want: Zombies, land
Have: Unknown
Size: 93

45
??
Colors: G/R/u
Want: Beasts, double strikers
Have: Unknown
Size: 95

I didn’t ever get around to detailing out my interests for my other ~50 Type P decks.  This is from 2004, by the way.

One may wonder about the difference between wanting “infinite mana” and wanting to “generate 2 white mana without playing white”.  Such is the nature of the “South Bay Style” of Type P.  The “North Bay Style” is this bizarre arena of trying to make your “wizards” better.  That sort of nonsense doesn’t fly down here.  Our culture was all about trying to make our decks evolve into what we wanted them to be.  Dave actually had a creatureless deck.  My dragon deck doesn’t care if it gets more (than 2) Shivan Dragons, it would be fine with some changelings just to have more dragons, though only two cards currently key off of dragons.

My rat samurai deck has two Blazes.  I often leave them in the sideboard.  Rat samurai!!

Before I work on my next post, should say something about Portal.  Portal 2 is arguably my favorite set for making Type P decks – just one-sided(!!) Wraths of God, flyers, burn, and fatties, and Nightstalkers.  But, anyway, the advantage of Portal sets is card text.  I actually think this is a case where Magic does far better than most CCGs – the card text level is much more manageable.  It’s still too much for my tiny little brain to track cards in play that have tap or, Pan Creator forbid, untap effects, but, compared to the encyclopedias that are V:TES cards or the ridiculous number of effects to track in Shadowfist games, it’s something someone might be able to learn when eight years old.

I doubt I have base set packs lying around.  That would have made sense.  Well, whatever.

Btw, did you figure out (assuming you bother to understand how Type P works) why some of the above decks are named after mercenary units rather than clans?


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.