February 26, 2017

There’s something I’ve tried explaining in recent years a bit more to people I know.

I picked up some fantasy novels in an effort to use up an Amazon gift card.  Because of True Dungeon, I became aware of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle.  It occurs to me those two sentences would logically be switched in order, but, if you read my blog, you may grasp that I don’t always follow logical order.

I finished the first book last week and am a bit more than 750 pages into the second book.

I got into something of a discussion Thursday with the Shadowfist group, mostly around my view that the series purposefully endeavors to merge low fantasy and high fantasy.

And, so, the usual trying to explain what low fantasy is and what high fantasy is.  I was a bit surprised anyone would think Lord of the Rings wasn’t high fantasy.  To me, it’s a classic and illustrative example.

While it’s hard for me to argue against high magic being prevalent in high fantasy, there’s more to it than that.  D&D is not philosophically high fantasy.  It’s videogame fantasy.  You obsess over power, whether through stuff or levels.  You hope some random wheel of fate gives you +5 Strength.

But, I’ve said as much before.

I’m quite enjoying the series.  In fact, it’s addictive.

Movies aren’t.  TV can be.  I’ve said as much before, but let me try it a different way.

Movies are complete.  They are straightforward.  They are bombastic.  TV has more opportunities to twist and turn as there’s so much more content, and they are often incomplete.  At least, for me, they are incomplete, as I often don’t pay much attention to series when they end.  The threat of ending is why I am so reluctant to invest in series that sound interesting.

Books are different.

When I was in sixth grade, the teacher brought a box of books, put them in the side room (storage?, was there a sink?).  The box was full of fantasy and science fiction novels.  She was giving them away.  The other students may have taken more than I thought, but I remember only a casual interest.

I took an armful, a stack.

I may have read some of those books – I believe a few.  I’m fairly sure I didn’t read some.  I’m fairly sure I still own them and could read them at my leisure.

What have I been trying to explain?

Not yet.

I have an affinity to the Kingkiller Chronicle.  Oh, I don’t think highly of my abilities.  I found myself increasingly weary of the obsession over low fantasy concerns, like paying tuition or going hungry.  I don’t embrace entertainment for real world concerns.  I embrace entertainment for adventure, for drama, for melodrama, for another world.

I have fantasy novels that I have no affinity for.  Perhaps I didn’t read long enough.  But, my way of explanation for giving up on them is that they throw too many fantasy names of people and places at me too soon without my caring a jot about the characters or the plot.

I have some … criticisms isn’t the right word because writing is hard and different people have different tastes … hindrances to elevating the series to some lofty perch.

I said an addiction.  Books do that to me, even ones that aren’t so great.  I’ve read a good number of Xanth books, and they become much more childish over time.  One of those books I read when on vacation with family in Honolulu.  A day or maybe one and a half.

An addiction because stories do more then tell stories.  They inspire other stories.

RPG play is more like TV to me.  I don’t mean RPG campaign ideas or whatever, I mean the actual play.  The actual play lives beyond itself to a degree but not the same degree.  It’s too much one thing.  The value in the long running campaigns, with the PC development, is that they expand beyond one thing.  I still think of Usagi Kidai beyond the Princess Police.  Ty maybe not as much, anymore, but Ty and Rald and Hak and Smed and so on.

But, books, they inspire me to riff.

Being incompetent with music besides knowing what’s good, bad, and interesting better than anyone else who has ever lived, I imagine that musicians feel that way with music.  They want to riff.

I will stop reading.  I will peer into that other world and I will construct my own story.  The characters may be much the same or the scene may be much the same or the concept may be much the same.  Sometimes, it’s an idea for a novel but usually it’s dialogue.  I so love dialogue.

Eventually, I will return to reading.

The more I riff, the more entertainment I will get from a book.  Even bad books, which is why I continued with bad series long after they stopped being decent series.  I’ll forego naming names, as I can respect those who have abilities beyond my own.

I’ve been riffing a lot more with this series than I have in a long, long time.

I’m starting to remember something, something important, but that’s either going to sound ridiculous, pretentious, or will not elicit enough reaction to bother.  People don’t listen to me, but it’s not my job to force them.

I suppose one piece of that, though, may sound not so ridiculous.  I perceive the world differently at the moment.  Sure, Star Wars movies can do that, too, and music does that, and so can other things.  The mind is rather malleable when you let it be.

I have his children’s(?) book to read after day two.  I have a series my sister had on her Christmas list that I decided to try out for myself afterwards.

So many distractions.  So much time.

DunDraCon 2017

February 20, 2017

Should be reasonably quick.

Friday, head from work and get to con at 5:30PM, which is not long but felt long in the rain and with a missed turn.

No dinner plan.  Jeff and I do two hours of Traveller CG play.

Saturday morning, I did my usual pastrami (unfortunately on a bagel) and peach smoothie.  Ran my Rio Grande games.  I taught Cardcassonne, Assyria (which ran surprisingly long).  The Assyria game was incredible for how close it was.  At times, it looked like someone was behind only to develop in a way that allowed for catch up.  The game ended with the winner being one point ahead of second (140-something to 140-something) and last place only being maybe 6 points behind.

I show Loch Ness to one player, when we sit around waiting to see if more people show up.  He’s not enthused.  We play two player Assyria, which I hadn’t done before.

Then, V:TES.  So, I’m all in favor of new players or returning players, but it’s not fair to anyone to throw people who don’t know how to play into a five player game.  In hindsight, quick hindsight as I realized when the game ended, the way to teach someone is with three player games.  The more time other players take, the less the learning player spends doing things and seeing what happens.  Also, never give a new player “toolbox” Gangrel or Brujah or Nosferatu or any of the other clans that don’t bleed for a bunch.  It’s incredibly frustrating to be trying to bring out allies and retainers or to bruise bleed or to rush or whatever when a player could have been learning Govern/Conditioning.

It’s not just being a simple deck.  My +1 STR deck with Sport Bikes that I played wasn’t complicated in what it was trying to do.  An inexperienced player needs to see and learn bleed.

We really need more demos and casual learning games to recruit.  Alternatively, throwing someone into a fire can work … if they are not at a con.  If it’s all V:TES, all of the time, only people who attend such things are likely to be motivated to learn all sorts of challenging rules.

Sunday morning, I actually played a RPG.  I put my priority into Feng Shui.  The game was enjoyable, but a few things.

Feng Shui’s mechanics just seem suckier and suckier as I endure them.  Skill rolls are boring because you either have an insane skill that should make rolling meaningless or you have a target number so high that it’s far too unlikely you make the roll.  But, that’s not the big problem.  The big problem is that FS combat sucks.

I loved our home campaign of FS back in the day, and I enjoyed combats where we would all whip out our AK-47s, so it’s not impossible for combat to be fun.  It’s just unlikely.  Mook murder is incredibly unsatisfying.  Named battles are tedious grindfests.

Sure, the set up for the combat can be made to where there’s more to do than blast away over and over again.  But, the thematics of FS lend themselves to mechanical monotony.  See, the action flick is typically about beat down.  But, it’s beat down that doesn’t particularly work.  Named characters take way too long to take out.  Everyone is doing their own thing rather than “ritual rending” big bads into oblivion.

I used a homebrew for Feng Shui Tu Huo precisely because I knew combat was a weak point with FS and not a weak point with L5R.

The GM did have cool cinematic combat that didn’t involve mechanics at all, based on playing cut scene music.  Meanwhile, normal combat just dragged on interminably.

The other thing is that both my RPGs put action-y stuff after breaks.  That’s not the end of the world, but I think it’s suboptimal.  Players who want to use their combat abilities are going to wonder if they ever get to use them.  Players in general are going to get whipsawed by how much the game changes in nature between character interaction and dicefesting.

I keep thinking that the games I should run should be high action, like FS thematically, with an opening of dicefesting and more dicefesting after a reflection point, second reflection point, final dicefesting.

Finally, the party did some really weird stuff.  One group got thrown out of the police station for trying to convince the sheriff that we were in town to help in ways that didn’t lead to constructive discourse.  The other group choked out a forest ranger for unclear reasons.  It was hilarious.  When two PCs got arrested and one of them called our monster hunter team boss to get help getting out, his response was “Just two?”

I had nothing afterwards, so I walked over to try to get curry only for the place to be closed (even though internet said it was open), so I got a burger at the Hopyard, which was okay foodwise but going to restaurants by yourself tends to be rather boring.  So many of the places I wanted to go to or try just had awful hours, being oriented towards breakfast/lunch, which I don’t have time to run around to get.

I played some turns of Paths of Glory with Jeff because he wanted to talk about wargame mechanics.  We played a three player A Game of Thrones LCG 2e game, which had all of the usual elements of what does not enthuse me about the game – inability to play cards, getting annihilated by things I can’t do anything about, having no way to hold on to gains and just getting rolled with no comeback ability.  Now, we were not playing real decks.  But, real decks make me often feel the same way, which maybe is more due to how I wasn’t involved in building something with the economy and permanents I want.

Monday, I played in a Changeling game.  It’s a recurring con game where many of the players were used to playing specific PCs.  I had little choice and took the leader.  Oh my … it actually worked out fine.  While I hate being party leader, I could play a somewhat subdued leader who mainly stepped in when there was a reason to step in.

It was really good in certain ways early on – both my RPGs had really good role-players in them.  Hilarious, meaningful feeling.  But, when we left town, too much worrying about trivial things, like whether to eat a restaurant or a fast food place.

I didn’t feel a lot of Changeling to the game.  I hadn’t played Changeling in a long time, plus I haven’t played Changeling much, so the mechanics of how your powers work were mostly lost on me.  While there’s the struggle between growing up and wonder in the ethos of the game, there wasn’t much of that conflict in this game.  This was far more about interpersonal relationships, which I don’t have a problem with, as I like soap operas, but I can see someone wondering why there isn’t more magic.

Admittedly, if you have 10 player games, you kind of need the players to interact with each other a lot to give everyone time to do stuff.  Apparently, I played my character the way he is normally envisioned.

Getting back to mechanics for a moment.  In both games, there were lots of things on the character sheets that never ended up mattering, including a bunch of “this is what sets you apart” stuff.  Even if the stress is on character interaction, still seems to me that it’s good to make use of abilities characters have.  My PC had True Faith, which is supposed to be rather rare, and at no point was it mechanically relevant, as an example.  Of course, in the FS game, a couple of my abilities were used at the end in what was far more of a cut scene than actually resolving things, so that made the abilities irrelevant (to play).

Or, choose a different system that doesn’t give PCs these abilities.  Now, I guess it’s a lot of work to mix and match systems, plus the GM may really like part of the system and just not care about other parts.


Amusingly enough, it was my mother who asked what score I’d give the con.  I’d give it a 6 out of 10, as something pleasant but close to mediocre.  I’d give the gaming a lower score because of the non-RPG stuff.  The RPGs were enjoyable but could have been more so if there was a faster tempo and/or more plot.

I got into both RPGs I tried to get into.  As both were series, I find the parties interesting.  But, I just don’t really care about playing con RPGs at local cons, anymore, because I’ve had the awful games, I’ve had the amazing games, I’ve had a bunch in the middle.  I’m just not engaged at the level that I can get engaged with trying out something new at Gen Con, playing HoR, playing certain home games.

Nostalgia kicked in to some degree.  What I miss with gaming is more the small group V:TM game, Conan, doing research for FSTH/LBS/Solomon Kane.  I don’t think it’s because I was wrong about con games being on average better, but it’s that I’ve done enough of them that there’s not the same level of resonance that sets in.  They are increasingly blurring together, might even get that way with Gen Con games at this rate, though 2017 is a big HoR/TD year (in theory), so I won’t have as many miscellaneous RPG sessions.

500 Ways To Read Your …

February 12, 2017

I almost forgot this was post 500.

I was thinking of talking about the last Shadowfist session, which didn’t go particularly well.

I was thinking of talking about a book I’m reading.

But, that would not be calling out a milestone.

I’m not going to link back to a bunch of posts as some sort of retrospective.  I essentially do that at the end of each year.

I started a blog because I was not satisfied with how much opining I was doing to local gaming groups and on game forums.  I got tired of the substance being lost in the argument.  Those don’t sound like terribly positive things, but negative motivation is motivation.

Whether as motivation or as a result, I got an opportunity to talk about things I only talk about with those I game with and family and friends … who probably don’t pay much attention since Ultimate Combat!, the craziness of niche CCG playtesting, the craziness of my V:TES tournament play, or whatever isn’t nearly as important to the audience as to the person who pursues gaming as a way to be amused.

More so with stories but also other posts, I entertain myself.  I reread my old posts.  Sure, I hit the same areas with many of the same opinions more often than is probably useful.

Over time, one can see clearly what I’m playing and what I’m not.  Can see batches of V:TES for a few months become a bunch of L5R, see references to whatever I’m running – Solomon Kane, Legend of the Burning Sands, Feng Shui – for those brief periods I end up running anything.  Can see how trips to China got me playing more mahjong than I had in decades.  Pretty obvious what TV shows I watch.  Get an idea of what books I read or were inspired by when younger.  Can see when I got into Shadowfist and started backing things on Kickstarter (the two coinciding).  Can see when BattleTech became important and when play dropped off.  Can see where I suddenly started paying attention to the True Dungeon economy.

Can see the posts that were struggles and may be able to glean those that weren’t.  (Hint:  tournament reports often aren’t a struggle, trying to stay on theme, though …).  Can see where I, unfortunately, stopped reading Magic articles.

Lot of things can be seen.  But, as much as I feel pressure to try to post often enough to maintain interest which is not great, it may not be as obvious how enjoyable it can be to write when I’m “feeling it”.

As I don’t get much in the way of feedback, the most I can glean is that people are really, really starved for L5R RPG analysis, with a side dish of travel log.  Still, hopefully, there’s enough audience for other things, like how many times is the correct number of times to eat at Steak & Shake in Indianapolis.

I might enjoy reading my own thoughts, but I hope that I also provide something to the audience.  I appreciate the reader, who inspires the writer to actually write.  And, while not the Thanksgiving time of year, I’m grateful that I get to do what I get to do, including struggling to find a Gen Con hotel room.

No promises that I’ll get better at this or even that I won’t beat more dead pegasi, but I’ll endeavor to keep spewing non-unregardable geniusness upon the world.

The Best of … 2013

December 31, 2016

I almost forgot about the need to post my annual look back three years.

Sadly, with my poor timing, I’ll have two posts on the same day, which I feel like doesn’t give the other post enough visibility.

Here we go, the callouts I want to make from 3 years ago.


Deck Choice

This post is relevant to me now, as I expect to have far fewer tournaments unless V:TES goes back in print, even maybe if it does, as the local, local group has fallen apart, failing to replenish the people who have basically stopped playing.

Chunin Exams

Wow, I was so much more fire style back three years ago.  Maybe I’ll get back some of that gaming passion.  True Dungeon, for the wind style?

Anyway, advancement is … hmmmmm … relevant again.  What I like about this post was I used examples.  Examples are meatriffic.

Review – Book of Earth

Relevant not in that this book was ever relevant to my play but relevant in that most of the 4e books aren’t relevant to my play.  I was mentioning how for our upcoming mod playing trip, I don’t see why I need anything besides the core book and largely don’t even need that, anymore, because I know enough about the game.


Roll With It

If January had lots of “hey, this is still important to me” posts, the beginning of 2013 was very heavy on my challenges being better at GMing.  I tend to not be mechanically inclined as a GM and, in my feeble efforts to promote campaign play, started learning some nonobvious things about how to provide for players.

Kata Analysis

Just because tons of people view my L5R crunch posts doesn’t mean that I should skip over calling some of them out.  Do I, as of today, know everything about 4e kata?  Oh, yeah, totally, I’m the kata king, the master of the maneuvernot, the lord of lechery … wait, ignore that.

I crunched numbers.  When someone crunches RPG numbers, pat them on the head and tell them they are pretty and will make a good homespouse.  After all, how many people even bother?

Of course, it’s still largely opinion.  Not like I crunched numbers on how much +3 ATN will reduce damage in 1000 fights or whatever.

Book of Fire for more exciting kata, Book of Fire.



This sounds like a pretty terrible post … up until the point where I use numbers.  Numbers, the only true way to play RPGs.  There are so many ways to quantify RPG play that I just don’t see done, though maybe I’m just overlooking other people’s contributions to mathing your way to storytelling.

RPG death seems to be a topic I talk a lot about given how infrequently it happens in my games besides the Friday group’s slaughterfest.  Studying death so that it can be managed in a reasonable way, therefore, became an interesting topic to me.


Challenge 4 – Zayyat

I had to pick one of the Challenge posts.  Why?  Because I don’t interact much with my audience and this series actually saw some interaction.  While I may not have come up with brilliant decks, especially given that my inclinations tend towards things other people find difficult to play (e.g. hardly any ousting power), perhaps the series allowed me to share a bit about how I range through different possibilities, mostly coming up with junk, occasionally winning too many tournaments.

This post saw comments, which felt like I was doing a bit more service than sermonizing.



And, so it begins …  Shadowfist, Kickstarter, wait, I was part of five gaming groups back then?  Oh how I need to get out and socialize through the playing of … anything.  I’m part of like one gaming group at the moment, with maybe some potential for a HoR group coalescing.


The Elemental Party

Besides being brilliant comedy and a pure example of all that is right with the world, this post has colored my thinking on characters ever since.  I’m all about exploring the extreme in Ring/Trait.  I’ve done Air 5/Water4/Earth 3/Fire 2/Void 2.  At some point, I’ve got to stop dumping on Water and do a Water 5/whatever build.


Deconstruction 01

Fascinating?  Not likely.  But, I think there’s things I could say that aren’t boring, repetitive, or repetitively boring about deckbuilding, and this was some of them.  Strategic commitment, comrades, strategic commitment.


My Samuraimichi

Play with your magic tsurugi.  Okay, maybe there is more to L5R than this.

Set-tling Matters

I think this is still an interesting subject, the idea that sets can be good when full of bad cards and sets can be bad when full of good cards.

I suppose I could have included my Book of Fire review.  It was very long, thus it must have been awesome.  But, it was Book of Earth where I think began the rantfest on the series being pretty weak.

While my 2016 wasn’t as bad as many other people’s, saw a friend I hadn’t seen in 8 years and close family got married and, oddly, pretty much every major US sports championship was won by the team I wanted to win, I can understand the hope that 2017 is better.  Happy New Year!  Already there on the East Coast and much of the world.

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.


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.


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.


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.


August 21, 2016

Still no philosophies.  No reviews.  No how to.

Some ranging thoughts.

Gen Con feels shorter.  While the amount of been there, done that is strong, which makes everything run together, I think there’s another reason it feels shorter.  I don’t take any breaks.  I used to leave an open slot to get some sleep and/or hit the exhibit hall.  Now, I just don’t have the lack of things I want to do to leave any slot open.  Even having HoR slots likely slows things down some because there are fast mods and slow conversations to break up the “well, got to run to the next game”.

I’ve been reading quite a bit about True Dungeon.  That’s not necessarily helpful as so many people on the forums are the types who think nothing of debating which ultrarares/transmuteds/legendaries are the better way to go.  Of course, now that I’ve seen most of the 2016 set of commons/uncommons/rares with my own eyes, I can pretty much figure out what I care about of those.  Still, it’s always interesting – I so ignore shuffleboard that I miss a lot of important things about it.

After GC, I had a family reunion, ironically in a place where I have more family on the other side.  Gaming hits so many notes for me – there’s the story aspects of RPGs, the puzzle aspects of deckbuilding, the gambling aspects of trusting in the heart of the cards or the whimsy of the dice, the analysis in determining component or action efficiency, etc.  No one else in my family is what I’d call a gamer, and many have virtually no idea what I’m talking about, though, to be fair, I game with people who knew nothing about True Dungeon until I started explaining it.

Both of my parents were relevant to my interest in games.  My mother and I used to play rummy or hangman when waiting for food at restaurants.  My father had some interest in chess and poker, but, of course, that side of the family was mostly about mahjong in terms of consequential gaming.

As I think about my mother’s birthday present(s), I wouldn’t consider anything gaming related, even RPG books that are more thematic than mechanical.  Buying anyone gaming stuff is rare, as I try to avoid getting into present exchanges with friends.  Not unheard of, but there are just some ways in which not everything ties into gaming, which I suppose has some benefits.

Not sure why daimyo info for HoR4 was worth posting this early – I would much rather know what character I’m creating than caring about NPCs that likely have no impact on my play experience.  Still leaving the door open to bail out on playing a Loremaster.

Of all the RPG campaigns I could run, would Legend of the Burning Sands be the one I’m most interested in?  It keeps coming to mind.  I think I hit some rich veins, though it wasn’t like I ran it for very long.  I sort of see why fantasy can be appealing to run – you can do strange stuff and it fits the genre.  Solomon Kane was much more rooted, and I get distracted by the mundane when trying to create the adventurous.  Camelot suffered from veering too far into the out of genre with not having enough in genre.

In the realm of solitaire, Card Invaders is too hard and Stalactites too easy.  I’ve come up with yet another way to try to make Card Invaders not be like a 10% win rate game – instead of burning aces and deuces to draw cards, once per turn, after drawing a card, can put a card from hand on the bottom of the draw deck and draw a card.  Seems to add slightly to decision making.  With Stalactites, it’s just too much like playing FreeCell, where you know you will win, you just have to run through all of the possibilities until you find the winning plays.

Kickstarter rewards have been showing up.  I’m not enthused.  One game is way less interesting than I thought; another is something I just don’t know if I’ll play, at least not until I get some session in at a con.  I have so much stuff that it’s just overwhelming to figure out how to manage all of the cards, tokens, books, etc.  Meanwhile, I still have little interest in ebooks for RPGs – I tend to be terrible about learning mechanics without an actual book I can peruse.

In general, my enthusiasm is more for L5R and TD and not with card games or trying to do something new with RPGs.  As the Summer has been eventful and Fall may be less so, maybe I can get some of the house in order and feel more open to additional things, as I’m not gaming that often.

VCG Salute

July 30, 2016

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

But, why starters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The feeling of possibilities.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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