Dungeons & Dissonance

July 20, 2019

Two games I don’t write much about in this blog that I … well … I could:

Traveller CCG.  You know, that game I’m the lead developer for and that is available in stores and online.  By online, I don’t mean just our web site, there are huge, potentially, large online providers through which one can arrive at gaining cards.

But, that’s not this post.  This post is about what I’ve been thinking the most about recently.

True Dungeon.  Specificallyier, TD 2020 token development that has been going on for a couple of weeks.

Is TD more like an escape room, a MMO, a CCG, a Gorgriffspidrascorp, a pyramid scheme, or a RPG?

Well, this post, it’s going to be compared to a RPG.  Eventually.  I promise.

Someone playing common to rare level (sure, add in blues) is playing one game.  Ultrarare and up is another game.

And, that’s how a lot of discussions on the forum, including some of the token development discussions, breakdown.

I’m not far removed timewise from being a starter pack level player.  I’m also probably a .1%er TDwise at this point.  One of my blind spots with TD is that I never fell into that intermediate range of rare level player who worked on getting incrementally better over years.

You don’t need tokens to play TD.  You don’t even need to borrow tokens to play TD.  You very well may have just as much or possibly even more fun than the 1%ers.  Possibly.

But, since it’s token development that I’ve been thinking about, obviously going to talk about, um, er, hmmm, tokens.

When I go to analyze the proposed tokens for the next year, for commons to rares, almost all of my thoughts are around technical issues.  Are tokens spelled correctly, have “proper” damage wheels, satisfy trade item creation in a reasonably balanced way, have poor name choices, etc.?  I don’t so much care about balance as much as being within historical norms for what similar tokens do at these rarities because I’m not going to be running any of these tokens, anyway.

Oh, I should state or restate that TD is sort of like CCGs and MMOs in that more money gets you a nicer car.  While some CCGs don’t bother hiding higher rarity = better card, others at least try to pretend that’s not what’s going on.  TD makes zero effort to disabuse someone of the notion that higher rarity = better token.  It’s a central part of the economy, which is why you see signs at the cons letting you know you can get an UR bundle for $250 (and more for more).

When I analyze URs, relics, and legendaries, my focus is more on game impact.  But, in keeping with how there are far more players who don’t have UR builds than those who do and far more UR level players who don’t just end up with whatever legendary they want versus those who do, the game impact is the game being played by UR+ level players.

The first time I played with essentially an UR build, I realized I could just ignore any threat the dungeon had up until room 7’s succeed or lose your soul challenge.  I pretty quickly realized that Normal was not the difficulty level I should be playing at because Normal becomes too easy with UR+ level tokens.

Hardcore may be my preferred level, but my experience with Nightmare is that a group that knows what it’s doing with UR+ level builds is not going to seriously be challenged.  We had a full party (10) play a Nightmare run on a dungeon we hadn’t played before, and we had one newb borrowing tokens solo a fight because he could use the practice.

So, you get players who are moving up to UR, expanding UR, moving up to relic, moving up to legendary versus those who are already at the UR+ level they want to be at, and you get sharp divides on what a good new token is, on whether to reprint tokens or not, etc.

Power doesn’t creep with TD.  It leaps and bounds.  The builds of, say, 2015 are nothing to what is currently available.  Even with limited slots, though the game expands slots by either making possible additional amounts in the same slots that already exist or by creating new slots, the numbers keep spiraling higher.

Now, that *has* been moving down into lower rarities.  Red (rare) builds can be vastly more powerful than they were a few years ago.

But, one can see how on the one hand that most of the discussion around what URs should exist and what legendaries should do are completely irrelevant to most TD players and, yet, on the other see how the forums’ primary posters are the players who are affected by what happens at the UR+ level.

I’ve moved so quickly through the phases of a TD player who made the leap to purple plus that I’m already tired of the power jumps.  It’s boring.  I don’t care about another +2 damage in a slot that couldn’t do that before.  I’m looking for … wait for it …

Variety.

There’s a thread about build diversity and that means different things to different people.  To some, that just means building an equivalently powerful build with different tokens.

I don’t enjoy power.

I enjoy variety of effects, variety of building RPG characters, CCG decks, TD characters.

So, sure, I want all of the tokens, just as I tend to get all of the cards for CCGs, because I want to make any build that amuses me.  I want to play the ranger spellcaster build.

It just occurred to me that the point I’m about to make is way more interesting to other people than my rehashing how things work.

What are players competing against in TD when it comes to tokens?

Not the dungeon.  There are 1%ers who play Greedy Sealed to max out treasure while still having that casual player level experience.

Tokens are all about players competing with each other.

TD is a collaborative game, but the more tokens matter the less collaborative it becomes.

Puzzles.  Hardly any tokens (besides ones that increase HP or increase healing/curing/restoring) are relevant to puzzles.  In fact, the game has moved away from creative uses of tokens because those are hard to adjudicate and numbers are better for token sales than unknown abilities, anyway.  Puzzles are where collaboration matters the most.  Tokens matter least, teamwork the most.

Combat.  1%ers have to worry about ruining other players’ experiences by one-shotting monsters (well, or the difference between I just did 50 damage and you did 3, at least).  Tool up enough and you don’t need other players.  I could solo a dungeon.  I’m not sure what level I couldn’t solo a dungeon at, probably Nightmare because I’m kind of not that great at puzzles or combat or resource management.  When everyone is using a starter bag, every participant in combat matters a lot.  One character may crit for a bunch in one round but miss in another.  As you move up the rarities, now it can get to “I guess I’ll Surge this Call Lightning for 80 damage.  I don’t know.  I could also just wander around the room aimlessly.”  The other players will pick up the slack, to the extent that slack even needs picking up.

So, it’s no wonder the arguments are so divided.  The players who have it all now don’t need better.  The players who want better (or at least as good at better prices than the OOP secondary market) keep pushing for better – shocking, I know.  We are really competing against each other because if I wasn’t competing against Jim, that archvillain, I could just play my 13 token Hardcore build with other pathetic Hardcoreites and never put in more than the $58/run (Origins) or $80/run (Gen Con) cost to play into the game.

Freedom.

Of course, it’s kind of funny that you could also just plan on playing with borrowed tokens all of the time and let others put money into the game while still being as OP as Archvillain Jim.

I said that TD would be compared to RPGs this time around.

In RPGs, character sheets are all about competing against other character sheets.  This is how some games get away with not having character advancement – in reality, character advancement, as it pertains to the world (the GM’s perspective) isn’t really meaningful.  Get more powerful, GM makes challenges harder.  Target number simply moves from 10 to 20.  Monster HP double.  Oh, the competition isn’t just other PC sheets.  It’s also against the “character sheet of the mind”.

We have in our minds the idea that numbers mean something and that our starting numbers aren’t at the level to have us crowned as coolest campaign cat.

For example, I’m still playing my Miya Herald.  I didn’t start out with Kenjutsu-7 because, well, that’s not allowed, for one thing, but also because this is a campaign where you gain lots of XP over the years relative to where you start.  Kenjutsu-7 was necessary to compete against other PCs – without K-7, I would be a drag on more powerful parties in combat.  But, K-7 was also to compete against my perception that any serious Kenjutsuite is going to have at a minimum K-7 in 4e play (can have K-5 in 3e play).  Am I in any meaningful way competing against the world?  Maybe this wasn’t the best example as a living campaign has mod difficulties that become more difficult and stats get increased regardless as to how powerful your PCs are.  Still, I could just play Miya in low mods and play IR-1 tables at battle interactives.

I’ve seen this with a variety of RPGs.  The greatest complaining in a D&D 3e campaign I played in was by players complaining that their class mechanics weren’t as good as other classes.  That’s not a player vs world, that’s a PC sheet vs PC sheet.

I’m rapidly losing interest in competing against other .1%ers in TD for awesome sauce builds.  I can play Nightmare, the best monetary rewards level, with what I have.  I don’t even need to try that hard.  I could do a 15 token build and feel comfortable contributing at NM as long as I didn’t need to carry other players.

This is a potential long term danger.  Once you get to a certain level of play, you see that constantly buying more doesn’t really buy you anything except bragging rights.

“I could get a Lamborghini, but I guess my Civic gets me to work.”

Meanwhile, the gap between the starter bag player and every other level just gets wider and wider and wider.  Can see .1%ers already looking for a level above Epic to feel challenged, but that shouldn’t be the biggest problem.  The biggest problem seems like that it’s completely unclear who should be playing Hardcore and who should be playing Nightmare.  Supposedly, there are more players jumping from red to purple.  Do they stomp on Hardcore?  Do they stomp on NM?  Do they get annihilated by NM because NM is made more challenging to compensate for better character builds?

The difference with a RPG, at least a home game, is that you can change the challenges to compensate for PC power imbalances.  TD is more like a living campaign in that you are supposed to have standardized experiences by player choice.

Since I don’t post that often about TD, I’ll throw out another tidbit.

Where is the value that I get out of TD?

Not so much in playing, which is a rare experience and very inconsistent in enjoyment.  It’s thinking about the game, collecting, considering deals that don’t get made, seeing my tokens of different colors that don’t stack very well and are far too slippery and heavy and wondering which to keep and which to hope to get rid of.

So, as frustrating as other people’s weird opinions are, it’s still pleasure I net accumulate from the arguments.

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Show Me The Game

July 5, 2019

There were times I was home on a weekday when I was youthful.  Before court shows, mayhap before getting into the triumvirate of All My Children, One Life to Live, General Hospital, I would watch game shows during these periods of playing hooky, I mean, being ill or it being Summer break.

Mostly due to travel in the … air(!), I have partook of the Game Show Network recently far more than I had ever partooken before recently.

Some of these shows are rather terrible … in format.  But, whatever, wasn’t like everything from the Bronze Age was a paragon of entertainment value.  Some shows have gotten worse – Wheel of Fortune, for instance, due to how chaotic it now feels.  Some may have gotten worse due to changes in stars or may not.

Anyway, you can see variety in moving from Match Game (hilarious how a returning champion had only $100 in winnings) to The Price is Right to … whatever.

Where am I going with all of this?

Well, I’m streaming brain action as I write.

So, resolution systems.

Sure, let’s start with The Price is Right.  It’s an auction system of sorts for significant portions of the show.  However, it’s also an economic guessing game, er, I mean, home economics game in other parts.

Let’s make this more exciting by focusing on RPG resolution systems.

So, how many RPG resolution systems use bidding?  Some.  I’m actually not that familiar with the intricacies of established games with bidding.  In the beginning there were hot blondes … uh … there is competitive bidding and in the end there is competitive bidding.  Since RPGs are usually cooperative, is there a way to avoid going competitive and using bidding in an us v. them paradigm?  Well, sure.  Can bid against the GM.

I have a hand of cards.  GM has a hand of cards.  We bid for … for … initiative?  To hit?  Rewards?

See, I started with pretty much no topic and I get into all sorts of brillianceosity.  Problem with to hit is that the resolution system is getting overused.  Unless, of course, you have a system that focuses on scene resolution rather than action resolution, which is something I have enjoyed … in one-shots.  But, let us superficially skim the surface of the concept of rewards.

I play my seven of clubs and the GM plays a nine of diamonds.  I lose.  But, the rewards for the session/scene/other? are nine frickin’ diamonds.  Medium-phat loots.  Well, that’s about all I have to say on this completely defined and utterly functionally perfected mechanical system.

In the middle, you get home economics or pseudo home economics challenges.  So, instead of murder-dicing to victory, you have to choose a number that is somehow associated to something.  While we could consider RPGs where economic activity rule at the cost of doing cool things, but let us put D&D and its ilk to the side for the moment.  Ha.  Ha ha.  Sadly, there’s some truth to this.

Suppose you had a resolution system where you needed to make completely absurd guesses (what is the third digit of the price tag on this brand! new!! car!!!) to achieve.  Oh, wait, that’s what puzzles are.  You either gnome them or you nguess them and either way you feel a little deader inside.  Bring on the murderdice!

Well, okay, let’s move on to Card Sharks.

Wait, Card Sharks is just a series of probability calculations.  Okay, High Rollers.  Yes, High Rollers.  Where people who understand dice probabilities … divine entity damn it!

So, Family Feud, Common Knowledge, the basically Family Feud ripoff that is often on are all based on knowing crap (in a somewhat different way than Jeopardy).  Well, not only do I question the fun of having players have to know crap, the horrid imbalances between the moreknowers and the lessknowers just sounds like pain beyond pain.  Bring on the murderdice!

So, Hollywood Squares.  Octo-libra, I don’t remember Hollywood Squares that well.  But, it and Match Game are of an ilky ilkiness.  A resolution system based on thinking alike, almost like Password or The $10,000 Pyramid, seems exceedingly gimmicky as a resolution system.

To a certain extent, there’s already a game within a game of thinking like the GM thinks v. not thinking like the GM thinks.  Gee, these bone demons aren’t taking much damage from what you guys are doing but they seem to be burning easily … … … okay, roll your bardiche damage for the sixth time.

But, let’s ponder the ludicrous, something I have a limit approaching zero connection to.  What about a resolution system where the players got awesomed by thinking alike and eviscerated by not?  Doesn’t this sound grand?  Like piano grand?

Sounds like you are spending more time playing a resolution system than you are playing a shared storytelling experience.  Bring on the murderdice!

So, The Dating Game.  Uh …

Name That Tune was annoying to me.  I guess annoying to other people as well as it’s hard to even find when searching game show info.  It’s a bidding game that also makes use of knowledge.  Like the most perfect combination of resolutioning ever.  As much as this is a fatal mismatch for most games, I somehow intuitively feel using the power of my intuition that there should be a resolution system that could make use of the combination of bidding with knowledge.

Well, I don’t know.  I managed to get almost a 1000 words just blindly throwing word darts at the internet.  If only RPGs had a random sequencing thing that stopped at critical junctures and either brought great riches or abject failure.  If only there was a way to turn Press Your Luck (the portion I remember) into a resolution system.

Well, nobody likes manageable randomness that seems a lot like gambling.  Instead, we all really just want to be adored for knowing a bunch of useless trivia.


Wan-Ting

June 30, 2019

你喜欢玩游戏吗?

Past couple of Sundays I’ve gotten together with an old friend that I have gone months without seeing even though it takes like 15 minutes to get to his hood.  As part of these get togethers, my mother has tagged along.  Even though my friend and I are both gamers, there’s a casual, social element as evidenced by how we go to lunch before playing anything at the game store.

My mother is not a gamer.  I don’t think of anyone in my family as being a gamer.  Sure, I have a sibling who talked to me about owning Codenames when I was visiting earlier this year and much of the family plays mahjong and my father taught me chess and xiangqi and my mother and I played rummy and hangman while waiting for food at restaurants.

But, I would posit that there are such things as people who play games, which is many a-folk, and gamers.

Last week, we played Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective.  This week, it was some Escape from Elba, Deadwood, a full game of Forbidden Island, two games of Codenames Duet, and two of No Thanks!.

For a non-gamer, which of these do you think was most appealing?

Two are cooperative.  For those who are inclined to play party games rather than strategic games, Codenames Duet would seem to make some sense.

The answer is Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, but, then, my mother has been in the process of unloading hundreds of mystery novels, so this is not exactly shocking.

What defines a gamer?

I’m used to playing games with gamers.  We gamers don’t like every game.  We don’t like every game in game genres we may love, e.g. I quite detest certain CCGs (well, in some cases, I just detest playing them – I don’t detest playing Magic, I just don’t often enjoy it, but I’ve often detested playing L5R or Game of Thrones).  Even games we may not dislike or may like we bitch about.  Is there any game I’ve had fondness for that I haven’t criticized?

However, as much as a gamer may not like a game, a gamer doesn’t IME say things like “I don’t understand why I’m doing this.” or the like.  A gamer grasps on a fundamental level that a game has rules and accepts that there is some goal and that one plays a game to … to … well … to *play*.

Games have been around for a long time, like at least since the 20th Century, because humans enjoy entertainment.  Gambling and sports are related in that there’s some challenge that isn’t stalking dinner.

Not everyone enjoys the same things, of course.  Which is how we have a world with gamers and nongamers.

What makes games appealing?

As stated, not everyone likes the same games.  Someone was saying Towers in Time was a fun CCG.  That person … well, people have opinions.

The games we played today weren’t ones I cared about.  I would rate Kill Doctor Lucky as a far superior game to the similar Escape from Elba.  I knew there was some problem with Deadwood, but I forgot that the problem was that it was slow and often tedious.  I’m not really into coop games, with Forbidden Island highlighting one of my biggest issues with them (why are they not all just solitaire games?), though Codenames Duet was a far better model for doing a coop game.

Codenames Duet is not a perfect example of something but is the closest for this observation – I prefer math to words.  I like doing acrostics.  I might do a crossword if I’m particularly bored.  I like Scrabblegrams, for the most part.  Etc.  But, I see the underlying challenge in games I tend to prefer being one of math, whether something more along the lines of arithmetic and algebra or, kind of ironically, games reliant on probability, as CCGs are and most RPGs are.  (Ironic in that probability was my weakest area in math up until the point that my calculus teacher bored me with explaining the underlying logic of limits.)

My friend was mentioning Cheat Your Own Adventure as something he liked.  The description reminded me of something I blogged about a few years back in my Gen Con post – a pure storytelling game.  To reiterate, I don’t dislike such things and was interested when I had less experience with them, but my interest really isn’t in a bunch of people making up a story.  It’s too arbitrary for my current interests.  I don’t have a problem with RPGs having dice or cards or some other method to handle resolution (though I’m no fan of janken or d100 or d20 or lots of specific resolution systems) because an objective challenge element is created.  Pure storytelling may be challenging, but I again go back to arbitrariness.  If I create a story element I like, maybe others care maybe they don’t.  If I roll 10k10+32 with 15 Free Raises on my attack roll, there’s a basis for that that is universally accepted.

Put another way, I mentioned to him that while I may enjoy things in the moment, what produces enjoyment outside of the moment are not such freeform activities.  I mentioned to him that I may enjoy getting together with people I know and coming up with a story *if* we then wrote these things down and published in some way, as that would give some lasting return.

Gaming isn’t just playing games.  For some folks, certainly not me, painting minis is gaming.  For some folks, researching famous Yemeni is gaming.  Or, trying to figure out where rivers in Mexico run.  Or, trying to figure out which online image of Adriana Lima best represents the 17-year old the party is supposed to protect from kidnappers.  Or, sorting and sleeving piles of cards.

I read a Lord Peter Wimsey novel recently.  While my mother may have accumulated (and possibly read) hundreds of mystery novels, other than Sherlock Holmes or Encyclopedia Brown or a few other things oriented towards children, I’m not much for partaking in mystery stories.  James Bond is really more adventure stories.  Anita Blake was, yes, once upon a time before it became primarily about kinky sex, supernatural romantic hard-boiled detective stories.  So, add a supernatural element and I’m more interested.  Actually, Gary Gygax wrote some fantasy mysteries that I generally liked.

Besides needing some mental stimulation as I’ve oddly had relatively free weekends since Origins, I’ve taken more interest in mystery novels not so much for trying to puzzle out the mysteries, i.e. playing the game that mysteries often offer, but to have a different perspective on RPG stories.  I don’t feel like I know well how to write an investigation adventure, for example.  And, so, I figure reading mysteries provides some research.

Also, I’m a bit curious about well known detectives as I know so little about them as a way to study character.  Arrowverse, et al, provide an opportunity to analyze character while waiting for the next boxing glove arrow scene.

But, to somewhat get back to what I was talking about, even when the numbers aren’t obvious, many a strategic game has math.  Probability of effects occurring at a given time doesn’t rely on those effects using numbers.

Not to say math in and of itself is compelling.  No Thanks! is a highly mathematical game that just doesn’t matter to me in any way and doesn’t strike me as having much in the way of replay value.  Meanwhile, I keep playing my 77-7 solitaire game over and over even though it routinely frustrates me when I lose.

I may expect to dislike a game for some reason before playing it, but I will work through what the game is intended to accomplish and consider strategies to the extent that the game allows for strategy.  I don’t question why a game exists or why it works the way it does.

And, thus, one has a possible method for distinguishing gamers from nongamers.

I suppose I could write more about how games are appealing in a general sense or in my case, but that seems like fodder for follow up while my primary observation for this post was how there’s a fundamental difference in perception between groups of humans as to the relevance of games.


Deck Dreck

June 25, 2019

So, what I forgot in my Origins 2019 post was a philosophical thought I had.  I know, I know.  Philosophy is so 2009.

My thought hit home when I was playing against a Baba Yaga deck I hadn’t borrowed.  A hand destruction deck.

I’ve been striving for “tactically interesting” in deckbuilding when I’ve lost sight of “strategically interesting”.

Once upon a time, I actually tried to build thoughtful decks.  I think I’m getting ahead of myself.

What sort of geniusness am I spewing?

“Tactically interesting”, in that I am defining terms I use because it’s pretty hard for anyone else to understand how my mind works, means that I try to build decks to achieve through the play of individual cards.  Zip Line, Polaris Coach, Laecanus, or whatever are being run to play those cards not to play decks that maximize the use of those cards.  There’s a spectrum, of course.  In theory, there are optimal decks for given cards and where the deck falls on the “interesting” axis is not noir et blanc.

“Strategically interesting”, in contrast, is trying to build a deck with an interesting philosophy.  Now, V:TES is a competitive game, so we aren’t talking about Adira Strikes! or The Deadliest Sin.dec.  Is Baba Yaga hand destruction better than Baba Yaga eventually stealth bleeds you out of the game?  Not the point.  The former is trying to accomplish a strategic objective through the cards it runs that takes advantage of how CCGs have nigh infinite variety.  The “tactically interesting” philosophy is trying to accomplish a tactical objective that doesn’t actually end up being interesting because the supposedly interesting part is just being bolted on.

I occasionally remind myself to run more Clan Impersonations in decks.  I could run Clan Impersonation just as a bluff, as a hardy-har-har in a deck unlikely to actually win.  I should mention, not so much in parentheses as this is kind of important, that what matters in V:TES is the deck that wins.  Well, deckwise, it’s the deck that wins.  This isn’t all that different from any other customizable card game competition, but it’s sufficiently reasonable to focus on the winning deck from a tournament and not something like the top 100 metagame due to the size and nature of this game versus, say, a Magic major.

Anyway, Clan Impersonation.  The “strategically interesting” philosophy is to endeavor to get value out of Clan Impersonation as an element in a deck strategy.  While psychological value is a real thing, it’s not likely enough of a thing to justify card plays.  Whether to open up options or to alter game math, changing clans *might* be justified in a deck that has a coherent plan for its use.

Once upon a time, I thought about decks more strategically.  I’m not talking about Conditioning, Deflection, and stealth being a “plan”.  I’m talking about trying to see how cards and combinations of cards provided mechanical value.  I’ve gotten away from doing this.  The problem with getting away from doing this isn’t that I lose more often – other players get paid, too.  The problem is that the play of the game has a more hollow feel to it when card choices are being driven by this “tactical” philosophy.

In my case, anyway.  I’ve built a lot of decks.  I easily get into ruts, which is why it’s good for me to borrow decks sometimes.  The rut I am feeling these days is “I’m playing these cards because I can, not because they are inspired choices.”

It’s not a bad thing to rebuild ideas from yesteryear.  It is a bad thing when I’m doing it for nostalgia or because I never won with some deck and not because there’s something forgotten about how good old strategies could be.

.44 Magnum is a great card.  But, why am I running it in a Tzimisce deck?  On the spectrum, while the idea of it being tech against some allies and it being an endurance play when not Living Lolita Loca is an idea, the deck is not really built with it in mind.  The deck is running it because it can, not because it should.  Not every instance of forgetting “strategically interesting” is running some bad card and hoping it does something.  It can be as simple as relying on Murmur of the False Will for action modifier bleed pump and eating bleeds from 7-caps and 8-caps because lack of olderishness.

Sometimes, I get the urge to not so much rebuild old decks but to try to resee the game from a less jaded perspective.  Currently, that might mean doing something like building clan decks.  I don’t mean Akunanse decks, where I still haven’t won a tournament with Abombwe.  I mean things like Toreador decks to get away from weirdness for the sake of weirdness.  Then, when the palette is cleansed, get weird again.  Weird with a purpose and not as an in-joke.

Even bad ideas can be “strategically interesting”.  The point isn’t that somehow I’m going to be more innovative than anyone else.  The point is that ideas should be ideas and not just whimsy.  Commit to a holistic concept and maybe I’ll find my decks to be more interesting again, which will get me more engaged when I play.

Because that’s the fundamental issue.  RPGs and CCGs appeal to me because they offer personality and variety.  The whimsy that I’ve been embracing for years lacks both in a more meaningful sense.


Origins 2019

June 22, 2019

Summarizing first:

I did what I wanted to do.  It was decent.

It would have likely been better if I wasn’t sick much of the time.  On Saturday, when I finally had a break, after Day 2 of the NAC, I stopped off at the pharmacy for drugs and lay down.

Observation – traveling, in particular flying, is harder on me than it used to be.  I actually think it’s not just the travel as, for instance, every time I take off from work my more urgent stuff isn’t done.  I took a work laptop to the con and, predictably, did very little work.  Normally, I don’t take laptops to cons as I know I’ll be too busy to do anything beyond what I can do on my phone (which is nothing workwise besides talk on the phone).

Still, getting up at 2:30AM to pack, spending all day flying (maybe having so many connecting flights is part of the problem), not eating during the day only to gorge after I arrive, immediately not going to bed when I arrive, not having breaks during trips (unless family trips), etc. are doing me in rather regularly.  I’m still not fully well after getting back from Origins 11PM Sunday night and I’ve had no nighttime activities this week – no, the cheerleader orgies will have to wait.

Before I get to problem number two, let’s sidetrack into an esoteric diversion to speak of something gaming related.

I played six V:TES tournaments.  I made zero final tables.  I had one GW … playing someone else’s deck.  It’s almost like recounting my experiences aren’t going to be that interesting to the kajillions of VTESites who read this looking for how to tablesplit their way to groupies and gold stars.

I’ll make some comments, anyway, because I might as well try to pop out another 3000 word post.

Problem #2 with Origins 2019:  I continue to be incompetent when it comes to managing True Dungeon token weight.

Sure, I hand carried such light things as CCG cards and plastic poker chip sized disks with metal slugs inside of them and neoprene rolled up into nine plus two rolls to play/run my events.  Because I’m only an upper peasant level flyer on my main airline, like a craftsman or farmer or something, I weighed my suitcase and pulled out some token bags to get down to 49 pounds.  My carry on was significantly heavier (my game carry on, also had my laptop bag stuffed with crackers and … uh … laptop stuff).

My hotel was not close to the con, being like 2 blocks or less from my hotel last year.  I still managed to consistently carry 40-60 pounds of cards/tokens every day besides Saturday.  Saturn’s Day, the day of no Traveller and no TD after I finally transmuted a bunch of tokens Saturday morning, was the one day I wasn’t worried about my man bag ripping when I’d lift it off the ground.

Bag with wheels for TD because if there’s one thing heavier than tightly packed cards it’s tokens.  That’s one not so much takeaway as I didn’t think a lot about it but suggestion from a couple of folks.

Also, just stop thinking I’m going to dump extra tokens on folks who might want them.  Sure, it’s possible I run into someone who wants Blessed Pants of the Hare, like I did in the hall outside the transmute room, but why is that worth carrying an extra 10 pounds every day?  I’m inclined to believe it’s not worth it.  Just as my conclusion after last year’s Gen Con is no more trading or buying that requires me to hunt TDers on Wednesday when I should be sleeping at 8PM, no more dragging around sheets of “blues” thinking I’ll somehow be able to move what was a gross overtransmutingfest of transmutingness on my part last year.

Not exactly a problem as it’s not terribly controllable, but I think I would have had more fun if I didn’t fly solo.  Could have distributed weight better.  Could have used rideshare more cost effectively (in a sense, in another sense the cost doesn’t change).  Probably just feel more relaxing.

So, let’s go back in time.  To the long long ago that was the weekend before my Tuesday flight to Ohio.

I had an open weekend.  I had a weekend of deckbuilding and token organizing.  When I was but a tyke, a callow youth full of vim and vis, I would have pounded out five V:TES decks.  I made two.  I jammed some extra cards from a broken down deck in to have some possibility of adjusting my Day 2 tournament deck.

I packed one long box of V:TES, essentially five decks and some extra cards.  I packed my Traveller decks box, my promo card box, nine playmats to give out (given away), two starter set boxes (brought back), various ship decks and expansion packs for demo use or prizes or to exchange for cloth (one might say “mystic cotton/linen”).  I packed some crackers, pistachios, clothes, toiletries, drugs, my hamburger (many of you know what this means), etc.  Two binders of tokens, two tupperware things with tokens, miscellaneous token bags.  Left dice bag at home.

And, so, it commences …

Tuesday was the usual awful early morning flight that happens when I fly West to East.  I rush over to Fabian’s to play in the Tuesday night tournament.  This was arguably a mistake.  Another possibility would have been to save money, take the cheap airport bus instead of an Uber, check in to hotel, drop off 100 pounds of stuff, casually wander over to Fabian’s to hang out and eat a salad while players gotta play.

Actually, if I think through rest strategy for Origins, blowing off the Wednesday morning tournament might have made more sense as I’m still on Pacific time so getting up at 4AM to get ready for V:TES is maybe not as condign as staying up to 8PM playing V:TES the night before.

I played a rush deck that my opponents didn’t think was a rush deck.  Let’s just say the deck could be called Secret Rising and I never played a King’s Rising …

I told my fellow airport-bound VTESite on Sunday that I didn’t even play a pickup game.  That wasn’t true.  I blanked out that I played one Tuesday night before one of the players drove me to my hotel.  I played my Aus/Tha/Vic deck where I played cards, so it was not a bad game.

Wednesday

The only con thing I plan on doing is to get some transmutes in since the TD volunteers are awesome and make Origins transmuting uberpleasant.  No rush, here.  I’ll get ousted early some round and have plenty of time to pick up my badge and try to convert more tokens into fewer tokens.

I actually couldn’t remember which deck I played in which Wednesday tournament until I remembered my hamburger with tater tots.  I played casual stealth vote in the burger tournament and played Blessed Resilience (minus all of the disgusting Legionnaires, of course, need to update my personal banned list one of these days) in the stromboli tournament.

Keeping with the idea that my tournament results are so tres pathetique that nobody actually cares about who went first or what round I used two counters off of Polaris Coach, I’ll just mention some random events.

Round one, I play The Parthenon and Dreams on turn one.  I put out Pelletier the Justicar.  I play Info Highway on turn two and play Hardestadt pretty quick.  I end up with Breidenstein, Una, Ubende before I call Anarchist Uprising to do 14 pool damage to myself, killing my predator, and pretty much guaranteeing the GW to my axe.

Pretty sad when you have 42 pool worth (arguably 45 pool worth) of minions in play and are stymied by a Demdemeh deck that never got above two intercept.

Round two, Falhu learned Protean, but my game was less scare-inducing.  My burger got cold over the rounds.

I remember the second round of playing Blessed Resilience that day.  My ousting bleed mod got DIed by my predator.  Gee, that sounds like something I might do.  Of the three Harbinger decks at the table, I was the only noble and pure Emeraldless one.  So, I lost.

I can’t remember the first round.  I don’t remember opponents.  I don’t remember seating.  I don’t remember what I did.  I vaguely recall putting out Erlik and using the counters for Erebus.  I think Nicomedes was my first non-Tupdog minion, looking through my crypt and remembering that Nicomedes use was non-trivial.  Some massive block for this game.

Thursday

I thought about throwing something together from what I had, but I thought it made more sense to borrow a deck from Darby.  Since I don’t own all of the various promo 11 caps and don’t proxy, I borrowed Baba Yaga.

First round, my Jake gets J.S.  Since this isn’t Tasha, Jake gets contested immediately.  My prey is playing Darby’s War Ghoul deck.  My predator actually bothered to meta against allies and I see a hand full of Entrancements before I’m ousted.  Didn’t do a whole lot.

Second round, Darby is my grandpredator playing Tupdog.  I thought about rushing crosstable one turn when it wouldn’t have been too spite-inducing for Darby, but my predator was playing DOM/Obt and had a second minion the turn I thought about it.  My grandprey reduced my ousting bleed only to get ousted by my prey on his next turn.  I stealth bled Darby out for my one GW in 14 rounds of V:TES.

Well, you know what I always say, the only thing that matters when it comes to multiplayer CCGs is deck strength.  Next year, I’ll leave the Gargoyles with Daimoinon decks at home and play nothing but … er … well, when I figure out what the good decks are in the game, I’ll play one of those and I’ll eat the big tamale in the sky.  Maybe I’ll fly solo again next year, just knowing I’ll be swimming in groupies.

Finally, the TDForumite comes back to joining someone else’s Nightmare run.  We are six adventurers playing a dungeon we’ve played before.  I get asked what weapon I’m running as paladin and comment “Thor’s Hammer” to which the asker notes the entire party is running legendary weapons.  Truly, I have found my ilk and it is less than 1%.  Have I graduated to being a .5%er?  Is it even possible that since I was lending out three Charms of Avarice for us to ghost the other four players at max treasure that I’m *gasp* a .1%er.

It’s almost like games I invest in I get a lot of harder to get components.  Almost as if.

I took damage; I think I got down to 47 hit points and used Crown of Expertise on my Lay On Hands.  Honestly, my ilk really should be running Epic rather than Nightmare unless the party is really small or we don’t play maxed out builds.

My favorite way to play TD remains Hardcore with 12 token builds.  I realized how annoying it was to carry around a bunch of conditional crap when we just don’t need it, including such low yield tokens as healing potions.  Jumping ahead, I see Nightmare being too easy in a lot of cases at this point, so I’m likely to make more interesting builds.  Maybe actually run Boots of Might again and level up not through eldritch.

Then, had a 9PM run with some of same guys and Laz’s group.  Laz’s family iz gut at puzzles, and I didn’t really need to do anything ever, though I healed some playing druid in the boss fight.

I’m increasingly less interested in 10 player runs.  I’m thinking maybe our next evolution is to buy out runs and run double downs or something.  I’m already very hit or miss at puzzles, but when I can be miss, miss, miss at combat and it doesn’t make any difference, combat is kind of worthless.  This is a major factor in us getting away from PUGs in the first place, to set a difficulty level that isn’t pointless.

I keep doing a horrid job of explaining the irony of TD – the players think they want more and more powerful tokens and, yet, the more fun runs are the runs that are challenging, which more powerful builds defeat.  Was talking to a friend of mine about his runs and he mentioned all of the variant stuff where optimized builds were eschewed.  I don’t want to do greedy sealed at Nightmare.  I want to do ranged monk, 12 token at Hardcore.  But, since the rewards for NM are better, means doing something like maybe 15 token or doing thematic builds like damage reduction or retribution.  Or, double downs and see how they go at NM.

Friday

NAC Day 1.  My first round is set up fantastically for me with turbo Erlik to my left and stealth bleed to my right.  Well, my grandpredator’s bleeding was easy for me to handle.  My predator kept bleeding me with an 8-cap, which was a problem for my bounce.  I screwed up the three-way …  I only ended up with a table split.

My second round, my prey contested my first vampire and did everything possible to get me ousted.  I didn’t do much.  My third round, I had a promising game, but I took too long ousting my prey, sitting on wake bounce most of the time with my second predator not being cooperative even though all his deck did was bleed at stealth.  My grandprey turned the pool/minion count corner, my predator didn’t try backousting with Kindred Spirits, so we didn’t survive.

I qualified easily enough for Day 2, but I was just taking up space in these tournaments.

Last TD run, with Laz hosting again.  Played druid again.  Did actually deal damage with spells.  Did 80 with one spell in boss fight and elf wizard commented “only 80?”, further supporting the idea that trying to get the challenge level right in TD is actually really hard once people have token collections.  Don’t look down on starter pack level play at Normal.  Normal is a better technical game most of the time, IME.

Saturday

After forgetting key transmute components Friday leading to carrying an extra 25-30 pounds of tokens all day Friday for no reason, I put together the last two transmutes I was going to do at Origins and got to leave everything else in a highly secure black ops facility.  Well, and I had my V:TES decks.

Round one was a tedious game.  There was so much talking about nothing.  I should have probably done something about the table talk in a language besides English, but I didn’t really care and didn’t find the end result offensive.

Round two was fine from a table setup situation.  My prey got beaten down a lot by my grandprey.  Time ran out to complete the game, where I would have been in trouble against a wall deck.

Round three, I worried my predator, so he bled me for 9, then for 6 to oust me.

Nap time.  Well, eventually get back to room and turn on ESPN and hope to get over chills time while worrying about packing the next day and running Traveller demos the day I fly out.

I suppose I could mention that I’m such a “_” player that my first VP at Week of Nightmares was my prey transferring out to spite my predator and my second VP was from playing Golconda and my prey just no longer caring what happened.

Sunday

Traveller and traveling.  My demos went fine.  I got rid of playmats but very little of my decks.  I forgot to take pictures (predictably when I have lots of things on my mind).

My flights were much later than I thought, so I hung out briefly in V:TES zone.  Then, recycled air and tight seats for hours.

Oh, what decks did I play Day 1 and Day 2?  Loser decks.  Decks that can’t oust fast.

Thank you to the VTESites for doing WoN, NAC, for hanging out or chatting or whatever.  Thanks to Laz, Matt, et al, for transmuting and hosting my runs.  Thanks to those who talked to me about Traveller, John also helped me have enough playmats to give out to everyone who wanted one.

I did what I planned to do.  Did what I wanted to do.  Did what I was obligated to do.  I hope I enjoy Gen Con 2019 more, though, and Origins 2020.  Sadly, while it was my intention for more than a year to go to the EC this year, work makes that not a possibility.  Guess I won’t take up space in those events, either.

Not quite 3000 words.  Hmmm … my Columbus Airport food experience was vastly inferior to the year before.  I don’t know why I bothered getting anything before my flight.  In the next 200 words, I’ll get into the math of how many Polaris Coaches to run in a 75 card deck …

Oh, just had one last thought.  Hugh, maybe I would use a V:TES playmat if I could win one sometime, also might give me a reason to endeavor more vigorously at the whole winning a tournament thing, which just means ending up feeling disappointed by failure rather than reveling in it.


Once Every Decade

June 8, 2019

What is the most notable thing to happen on March 1st, 2009?

Is it Chang’e 1 striking the moon?

I’m sure for someone who I gamed with a fair amount between 2018 KublaCon and 2019 DunDraCon, would have been the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute’s work with embryonic-like stem cells.

Now, just like I can’t probably keep straight my history, this blog’s history is a bit odd.  Four posts show up for March 1st, 2009.

Ten years of blogging with every year getting more and more grand … up until the point that I slowed down playing V:TES and L5R 4e mechanics were not as relevant and I’d post less frequently and post about the same sort of things.  Maybe Arrowverse reviews didn’t enthrall the multiverse.

This is my 603rd post, I believe.  Does mean I average more than a post a week even if I haven’t been hitting that in the last year.

Time

As we all know, as folks age, the mind views things differently.  As we all know, when you are waiting for something to happen, your perception of time is rather different than when you are in the moments of activity.

I’ve had dreams after falling back asleep where it felt like hours passed during the dream, but, then, conk out for what seems like hardly any time and an hour is gone.

Blah, blah, blah.  Stating the obvious is so cold-take.

Every 11 years, a friend of mine in China picks out a new jacket for me.  The one in 2007 has worked out far better than the one in 2018, so far.  Every 11 years.

For reasons I have a hard time wrapping my head around, I didn’t see my aunt and uncle for more than a decade.  Sure, it’s virtually impossible to find a way to get from Midcal to the exotic frontier that is Mid-Oregon.

I’ve lived in the same house for something like 18 years.  That doesn’t sound too strange to someone growing up perhaps.  I lived in a former murder capital of the US (by some measurement, I suppose, as I don’t know if I have proof of this) for more than 10.  While my feeble mind may be ready for retirement, my financial accounts aren’t, so it isn’t like this is the retirement play, either.

It was seven years between my working at my current job and working for the same company previously.  That doesn’t change.  It’s been four years since I’ve been back.  I used to say “12 years ago, things worked like …”, where it’s now “14 years ago, such and such worked in …”

Baseball

I had thought to do a post just about my interest level change in baseball and why I think …

Sure, MLB will probably survive five more years.  I suppose.

There was a time when I clipped box scores for my favorite team because of my favorite player.  If you can guess my favorite baseball player, well, if you can guess my favorite baseball player and are a smokin’ hot babe, maybe we could hang out, sometime.  You know, play some Traveller CCG or whatever.

I choose not to watch baseball, anymore.  While the reasons aren’t earthshattering epiphanies, I do view them as the overwhelmingly important reasons for why I’d rather hope for Australian Rules Football, darts, or cornhole (the game, oh, nevermind) on the TV.

The reason why MLB mattered back in the day and NFL/NBA didn’t was stats.  Baseball’s history is a history of stats.  Can only be wistful for so long about Ross Youngs’ hitting or whatever.  Through stats, you appreciate stories.  Some dude crushed it before being blacklisted from the game and was an all-timer statwise, therefore some dude mattered and his running around barefoot was charming.

Decade after decade of stats.  Sure, racist stats.  Amphetamined stats.  But, record book stuff.

Any present day play was within the context of the stats.  Deadball era, you aren’t going to rack up 500 wins anymore stats.  Before mound lowering, after mound was moved back to 60’6″, whatever.

The Steroid Era was kind of a problem for what it did to elevate numbers, but the lasting impact is that it generally undermined caring about stats.  This cripples the relevancy of what players are doing.

The true results:  home run, walk, strikeout.  Of course this makes baseball even more boring to watch.  So, I was into baseball stats in the ’80s.  Back then, dudes who walked a lot but didn’t hit 300 (see below) and, therefore, had better onbase percentages than dudes who did hit 300 but didn’t walk much had to be called out by Bill James, et al.  Now, it’s all about walks and dingers.  When the exception was the Human Rain Delay, then the exception was interesting.  When the norm is “Take the first two, foul off a couple, take, ooh, just outside, walk to first.”, then bor-ing.

The most exciting thing in baseball was never a home run.  It was a shot in the gap or down the line with the hitter streaking around the bases.  If anything, a home run is a rally killer, even if it does get runs in.  String together a bunch of singles and doubles and you go crazy like a cucumber.  Maybe baseball can be saved by moving the fences out to force more players to deal with doubles and triples.  Not because we hate home runs but because the incentive to focus so much on them needs to be changed.  Even in the playoffs, what has more drama, more tension – took the lead off a solo/two-run shot or hit a double and see if the run can get in?

It has been said ad nauseam that soccer isn’t more popular with Statespeople because we like scoring.  Actually, barring a major change in the way futbol is played everywhere, it’s not more scoring that I’m interested in, it’s more scoring chances.  Putting a crooked number on the board isn’t dramatic.  Hitting the crossbar when the score is 1-0 is dramatic.  Some baseball fans enjoy the pitcher’s duel.  I’m not so sure I’ve ever enjoyed a pitcher’s duel, but the principle is similar.  “Well, it’s 7-3, we need a couple dudes to walk, three-run dinger, then hope for a solo shot.” – not exactly what I think of when I think of Ye Olde Pastime.

Finally, reason three for how I can’t watch baseball anymore is … the best thing about MLB once upon a time.  I should have been a sabermetrician.  Perfect.  Numbers.  Sports (without being all that athletic, er, ladies).  Growing industry, maybe they score the big bucks.  Don’t end up in accounting.

Sabermetrics has been poisoning baseball.  Whereas in days of yore, you could focus on hitting 300, 100 ribs, 30/40/50 dingers.  Now, it’s not just WAR, which in and of itself is only mildly toxic, it’s the plethora of exotic metrics that just removes anyone from tracking what’s actually going on.  Sure, papers – I mean – newsfeeds/microblogs/YouTube/podcasts could report how someone’s 0 for 3 with a walk affects their in season WAR ranking vs. other players in their position, but who cares?

Temporal Anomalies

Oh, look, I ranted about a sport, rather than a game for quite a while there.

Interests change.  Actually, quite a few of my gaming interests haven’t changed at all, at least in a general sense.  I still enjoy creating characters and envisioning campaign ideas or PC adventures.  I may look down on systems I used to enjoy creating characters for, but that seems a minor change as I started being interested in different systems from D&D almost as soon as I picked up other RPGs.

It’s more that lifestyles change.  I haven’t played V:TES since, I think, DunDraCon.  I don’t feel like I have time to organize.  Given that others haven’t, either, imagine their time feels similarly impacted.

I notice that my BattleTech Scenario Building post still gets more views than most.  I have a hard time imagining having the time to put into even something like that.  I used to play RPGs on Friday nights, even in those odd times when I had a job, and I view Friday nights as crash time, now.

20 years ago, I went to Origins and Gen Con as a Precedence volunteer.  I had midnight shifts for demoing B5.  20 years ago.  I was able to stay up after 10:30PM without being useless the next day.

Ancient “Wisdom”

I mentioned no longer providing the wisdom of an UC! pack.  It occurred to me that I was forgetting the wisdom of The Ancient Fighting Arts of China!

Ultimate Combat! essentially lasted from 1995 to 1997.  22 years ago was the last tournament I can recall playing in.

22 years ago, one could get such wisdom as:

Seize your opponent’s advantage and make it your own.

This is a laughably bad gold belt card in that I’ve never seen someone put it into a deck.  Sure, you would run it in limited play just in case.  But, weapons were never as good as not running weapons, not even when they never went away and only gained one counter when used.

Let your mind absorb his attack.

Again, in a modern CCG, I’d imagine the wording would be “her” attack or possibly even “their attacks” or something.  This card is terrible, as well.  This probably wouldn’t even make the cut in limited play.  Would have to be metagaming against psychic damage decks, which I’ve built but were never an important part of the oh-so-well-established metagame.

The more you attack, the more damage you deal.

Can see what putting flavor text on every card does – leads to rather insipid flavor text.  On the other hand, this is kind of ironic in that it isn’t for the fighting style that has built in combination attacks and it’s for a technique you would pretty much never play due to how expensive it is and, thus, would be attacking more often with some technique that didn’t suck.

Accepting risk is part of battle.

I suppose I could squeeze some time to show pictures of these cards if I was more motivated to provide visual presentation with my ramblings.  I tried a browser search and couldn’t find this card’s art.  While I mostly don’t care about how unappealing most UC! art is, this card could easily be called out for how it would not get younguns or most others to embrace the best two-player CCG of all time.  The mechanics are also unplayable.

Which brings up an actual important point and highlights that as much as I facetiously tout the wisdom of the flavor text in this game, one of the common features of CCG expansion is to come up with useless mechanics.  Sure, Wheel of Time did wonders with its first expansion of not making a bunch of coasters, and WoT even made some coasters playable later, but just because a mechanic is possible in a game doesn’t mean it should be utilized.  Jeff and I often question the playability of cards (Jeff usually asks whether something is playable, then I conclude it isn’t after thinking a bit about it).

The power of the beast foils the threat.

This could be on a Magic beast creature, though unlikely.  What makes this funnier in context is this card is Gi Patch: Rhino.  I summon my rhino totem to foil … some of the most broken sounding cards in the game.  Mental Domination, aka Mindslaver (well, actually, Worst Fears is a closer analogy).  Suppress, probably a better version of Mental Domination.  Of course, would probably run …

Grasp an extra moment to prepare yourself.

Psychic Delay was my choice for second best card in the game with TAFAoC included in the cardpool.  Yet, curiously, I don’t autorun 4x in every deck as I run 4x Mantra of Power in every deck.  Of course, I don’t have any real opponents besides me, myself, and I, anyway (you know, a smokin’ hot babe who wants to play Ultimate Combat! is probably someone I could make an effort to hang out with, just sayin’).  This is more playable than Gi Patch: Rhino while Mental Agility is about as playable as the Rhino.

I don’t want to quote every card in this pack, but I feel I have to call out:

If you turn your back on your opponent, do so quickly.

This is a cool card with decent flavor text.  No, really, UC! had cool cards besides Mindslaver before Mindslaver.  Torque is just funny.  My Torque deck was one of those cases of just having fun with a CCG in a way that CCGs were meant to be fun.  It wasn’t trying to make a stupid card functional even though Torque is borderline stupid.  It was trying to make an esoteric play less esoteric.  Actually, +2 damage for one power is not a terrible ratio for a single attack.  It’s just far better to have +8 (overkill) damage on a Favorite Technique with, even better, a Coach Card in play to maximize rotation rate.

Fast and agile, the wyvern strikes.

If you know anything about UC!, you can assume that this is on Gi Patch: Wyvern.  You may also know that the creator of the Wyvern CCG is on this card.  If you didn’t, there you go.  The industry was a lot more fun back in 1995.  One hopes that if you know that Mike Fitzgerald is on this card you know that Richard Garfield is on Touch of Magic.

Finally, there are two cards in this pack, Alter Destiny and Clear Vision, that have flavor text but, more importantly, bring us back to the idea that just because you can make an effect doesn’t mean it’s worth doing.

Both have the same cost (the “wisdom” cost of Knowledge and Experience).  One lets you look at the top card of an opponent’s deck and the other rearrange the top four cards of a deck.  These are Magicish mechanics that are way less meaningful in a game where you may draw four cards on your turn and discard seven to draw seven more without needing a special card in play.  I’m sure powered up versions might be relevant.  A “Look at the top 10 cards and rearrange them.” card would be worth playing and be incredibly annoying to someone who can’t get a power engine going to burn through cards, nevermind that it would set up your Adrenaline combos to some degree.

Term-inal

No, I’m not going to stop blogging.  While I don’t like to announce travel plans, anyone reading my blog should know I plan on being at Origins next week.  My abode protected by relatives and a needy cat.

I hope to blog for another decade.  I hope to have my friend pick out a new jacket for me in 10 more years.  I hope next year is more like 10 years ago rather than 20 years ago.  I hope that future episodes of Doctor Who are better.

While highly unlikely I make it to the VTES EC this year, sadfaces, it feels so so long ago that I went to Berlin.  Got to figure out a way to mentally slow down or will turn around and …

 


KublaCon 2019

May 27, 2019

So, I have a business trip Monday to Friday before the con.  Mostly due to having to get up at 3:30AM for one flight and 4:05AM for another but also due to other various stressors, I end up getting sick.  Friday, first flight is okay, but second flight is obvious not wellness.

I never had any plans to go to Kubla on Friday night.  The only two events I planned on playing in were the two Shadowfist tournaments, so I didn’t need to be to the con until noon Saturday.

I didn’t feel horrible.  I felt like reducing my plague-ridden footprint at the con and seeing if resting until I needed to head up for my Saturday night demo would help.  It probably did.

I didn’t feel bad so much as easily was losing my voice Saturday night.

We had good demo attendance.  Everyone showed up at the same time, pretty much.  This is not really optimal as even with Jeff and his brother helping, it was hard to walk through things for everyone.

I make demos too hard.  I use my more basic decks for them, but there’s no scripting, there’s not a concerted effort to simplify which cards are used.  Jeff actually did better demos at … Pacificon? … where he had everyone use the same precon matchup and had everyone do the same things at the same time.  Sure, if there’s only like two people trying to play through something, I can be there for that.  But, I did a really bad job of explaining while two games were going on at the same time.

Even simplified decks are not great for demoing to people who just want to see what the game is like and don’t want to go through the nuances of multiple rounds.  So, I’ll look to put together some demo packs to use.  And, some demo decks.  Then, I can just ask people whether they want to run through a very limited experience or a reduced experience or a full experience.

Guess I need to open more ship decks so I have enough copies of cards to do this.  Yes, I don’t actually have that large a collection of my own game.  I can carry my entire Traveller card collection.  That’s not remotely true for B5, Magic, Shadowfist, V:TES.  I might be able to carry my WoT collection.  I’m sure I could carry my Tomb Raider collection.

Nonlinearly, the second demo, Sunday morning, was not heavily attended, and we did what we did at DunDraCon and played a multiplayer game.  In the three-player, Jeff and I tied at 24 VPs and he won on tiebreakers.  My hybrid piracy deck could never generate more than 0 AV to even bother attempting a piracy action against Jeff over the course of the game.

So, Saturday evening, I pick up a sandwich, do my demo, head home.  Sunday, I do my demo, we hit “this used to be so much better” dumpling shop, and I felt up to sticking around for a few hours to play in the Shadowfist event Sunday night if I wasn’t going to be the fifth player.

I played a couple games of Star Realms (basic set) with Jeff and people who did a Traveller demo.  Both times, I ended up with lots of card draw and enough scrapping to where I could run through my whole deck.  In the second game, four player, I was reduced to three cards and drew basically my entire deck.  The two cards I had to discard to get down to three both had … card draw.

I kind of forget how powerful card drawing is in various games.  Foreshadowing alert.  Foreshadowing alert.

So, I was the fifth for the Shadowfist event.  The decision has been made to junk doing Modern tournaments as Modern is a more degenerate environment that isn’t especially interesting.  That won’t stop me from making Modern decks because I don’t make the best decks in the first place.

So, I didn’t even need to defend my crown as California’s Modern Champion.  The last Modern Champion for the fifth largest economy in the world … ladies.

The group dragged in a sixth player for reasons not completely clear to me, but I assume it had something to do with not just playing against the same opponents over and over again.

Saturday, I didn’t take decks as I didn’t want the temptation to play Shadowfist and get sicker.  Sunday, I simply forgot to take decks as I wasn’t thinking about anything besides my commitments [ladies].

So, borrowed various decks.

In the first three-player, I played Jason’s Lotus good stuff.  I noted after the game that the character curve was really odd as the deck only had like two hitters and relied on Evil Twin for midrange.

I discarded my entire opening hand except an Abysmal Wyrm.

I got out an early Abysmal Wyrm and probably could have sealed the deal quickly if Cutting Loose Ends didn’t smoke my two Abysmal Wyrms and I could draw anything else with a fighting greater than …

So, I have a Hungry Ghosts in play.  I have Evil Twin in hand as well as Tortured Memories.  My first bid for victory is the obvious play of Evil Twin Time Bandits to get two fighting.  Then, I Tortured Memories the Time Bandits and swing with the ability to take out a site of five body.  I get chumped, so I can only do four damage.  I rearrange to get a facedown site as my target hoping for LaGrange Four and, shockingly, it’s not a four body site.

Why did I spend Evil Twin and Tortured Memories to gain four fighting?  I had to move cards.  I couldn’t really play anything else, not a FSS when at four FSSs.

Reverend Redglare gets played.  I have Hungry Ghosts in play.  I Evil Twin Reverend Redglare … the *biggest* character on the table … and choose “hero” because Miguel is playing his healing deck.  I shoot the other Reverend in case my next play gets cancelled or retargeted.  I Underworld Coronation my Evil Twin, drop two Stone Gargoyles and swing for the win.

In the next game, I played Jason’s Reascended deck and Miguel got his healing to finally work, while I could barely put out characters having resource and power issues.

We switched up.  I played Miguel’s Eunuchs against Band of Heroes and Hand Heal.  I misplayed by not discarding most of my opening hand, as my draw was just too slow to really matter much.  I kept trying to suppress heroes only for Li Po to show up and double attack for the win.  In the next game, I discarded my entire opening hand.

This is the thing about normal Shadowfist, it really isn’t well-designed.  Veteran ‘fisters can claim it’s the best multiplayer CCG ever, but it has huge mechanical flaws.  Sure, I may discard my entire opening hand with Traveller, but those cards in my discard pile might end up being really useful later, and I may not need any specific card in order to play the game, where Shadowfist requires you to have a power generation ability and specific levels of resources to play most of the cards in the game.

Also, I’m just not much of a fan of three-player play, as good games depend too much on decks coming out at the same speed.  Lot of my threesomes are dominated by a single participant and not everyone leaves satisfied.  Fourways are where it’s at, as you don’t need to conform as much to a particular tempo with fourways.

We folded up the second Eunuchs game to switch up, again.  Jason had already won by this point.  I played Miguel’s Ascended deck.  I got a fast start and had plenty of ways to gain power even if it meant giving power to others, so I punched through what limited character generation my opponents had.

Around 11PM at this point.  Finally, get to end my con.  Yup, ‘nother amazing KublaCon where I ran two events and played in one and maybe did some pickup thing in between for a bit.

Kubla is just a really bad time of year for me.  DunDraCon isn’t near month end, so I’m not as bogged down in financial reporting as I usually am, though, admittedly, these days, I spend about four weeks out of every month on our monthly financial reporting.  For some reason, travel is common near Memorial Day in a way that it isn’t for Labor Day.  So, I have no enthusiasm for doing much beyond running my events and trying to get in some Shadowfist play, which doesn’t even end up working that great due to the vagaries of existence.

Oh, I did show people the Traveller Two-Player Set box during my business trip.  I did talk about the solitaire games I’ve created, though I never showed a coworker 544 Flaming Falcon (for instance).

Due to all of our nights being booked with dinners during the summit, I never got out to game stores while in Bentonville/Rogers, only walking about halfway to one of them before needing to turn back, to see if Traveller was on the shelves.

Going to try to get Traveller regular play going in Fremont on Tuesday nights.  Going to someday get around to building some new Shadowfist decks.  Need to start building V:TES decks for Origins.

Speaking of Gen Con [you weren’t, oh], I need to move three True Dungeon E1 tickets at 11PM Thursday due to our only real opportunity to do E3 overlapping with that slot.  Would be joining seven other unknown players.  If interested in one to three of those tickets, I’d love to sell and transfer rather than eat the drop cost.  I’ll also post to the forums to try to move those, but forumites are generally going to be looking for runs with other forumites rather than unknown players.

The wisdom of UC! is likely waning.  Just as I eventually lost the energy with astrological posts, I’ll probably stop cracking boosters to see what they offer for these posts.

An ancient application of physics multiplies the attacking force dramatically.

One of the more interesting weapons.  No technique has a base attack value of nine.

Failed attacks against the ninja often prove suicidal.

The timing of this card’s ability is likely one of those cases of just intuitively working out when to use it rather than being clearly defined.

The obvious first draft card in this deck is Speed X.  If you already had one, Nunchaku is a force multiplier.

Attacking and ninja.  Well, that’s very Shadowfisty.