Breaks & Brakes

June 2, 2018

Now to transition into Origins mode, where I will metagame hard against antiSalubri and Samedi rush.  Might have to play Blood Brothers now that they have bleed reduction??  I figure take about 10 new decks to Origins, see if I can get two boxes worth (14 decks) for “variety”.

Before Kubla, I ran my skirmish combat session of Rokugan 1600 and it did not go as planned.  Rather than find the cast abstracted into assistance mechanics where I was hoping would make them feel like folks the party would find endearing, the party hardly used my table of NPC mechanics.  The skirmish rules were terrible for the set up, as the set up didn’t have clearly defined distances and everyone was on horseback.

Got into a long discussion on players and GMs not connecting on mechanical expectations.  Basically, I want people to do different things because doing the same actions over and over bores me, but the players don’t feel like they can judge the value in creative solutions to problems, and encounters end up being far harder (seeming) because nobody tries a literature solution.

I make up all sorts of one-off mechanics, and they don’t often work well.  Well, duh, they aren’t playtested.  A little bit of that goes a long way to messing with players.  Then, in this case, introducing both skirmish battle rules and abstracted NPC mechanics charts and a host of unexplained antagonist abilities.

Was it terrible?  It was just a waste.  Rather than add any depth or caring to the campaign, it was an exercise in murdering named enemies whose names didn’t matter to anyone.  Boring combat that came across as largely meaningless combat.

I’m going to try to focus more on personal stories and maybe actually try to build up to big set pieces rather than rush them on stage.  Plus, peasants and Yobanjin because everybody else seems to love … Yobanjin.

Following up from the last post and switching gears hard, Shadowfist has an advantage in just enjoying play over various other CCGs to me in that it’s less predictable to me.  Sure, a player can get locked out of a game due to insufficient power or lack of resources, but players can get nerfed hard when they get out of control.  Of course, I could argue that V:TES has an advantage over Shadowfist for me because I’m psychic and will know every last thing that will happen except half the things, so I can make informed decisions, where I mostly try to do something in the moment with Shadowfist and fail.

I need to get around to doing my 2018 True Dungeon builds.  Going to consider some metagaming for the Lorigorgon and Into the Shadowlands events.  Then, we need to decide what to pack to transmute some of our crap.  And, I should make sure I can actually find my ultrarares and other hard to replace tokens.

Not running out of time just this day but going to be running out of time soon if I don’t start actually prepping for a major event.  And, I need to write some adventures, including side adventures.

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KublaCon 2018

May 30, 2018

Kubla went about what I expected.  That’s not a superior thing.  I was committed to running five events.  I had done essentially zero prep for the con.  I was going to have to be there Friday and Monday, where I didn’t particularly want to be there Monday and didn’t want to be there Friday.

See, besides having a job where management doesn’t get specific ahead of time about leaving early going into holiday weekends, Memorial Day Weekend happens at the end of a month, which is right when I’m focusing on my primary reporting output.

Friday

I hope to get home early enough to nap because I’m old and I figured I would get less sleep than normal.  That didn’t work.  I picked up V:TES, Traveller, L5R 4e core book and headed up to Burlingame.

I ran my V:TES event which was talking to someone who had never played and probably still hasn’t and playing a couple of games with two people I don’t often see.  That’s actually a primary benefit of going to cons.  I may not game nearly as much as I used to, but I don’t have to con to game.  I do have to con to see a bunch of people I used to game with.

I forget to take my Black Chantry cards to the con, losing precious talking points for building brand new, heretofore discomprehended decks that will inspire our insect successors until the Sun reddens.

Saturday

I’m unsure I’m running something at 9AM.  I end up running a HoR mod for three people who know what HoR is plus a deadhead.  It’s okay.  The mod is amazingly lacking in material if you skip the inn.  It has an amusing monologue.

Anyway, food time afterwards.  By the time we get back, I have to run a 2PM mod for people who aren’t invested in HoR.  It seems to go reasonably well.  I eat some.  By the time I’m getting together with Jeff to get dinner, I have just finished lunch.  By the time I finished my Shanghai Dumpling Shop food, we drive over to Shanghai Dumpling Shop for food.  Why couldn’t the tan tan mian and lei sha tang wan be as good as they used to be?  Why?!?

Jeff wants me to play Lords of Hellas as a reference point for our designing a game we’ve talked about.

I understood the point.  Now, I didn’t want to play a 3 hour game at 8PM because I knew it would not go well the next day, but here are some pros and cons:

PROs

Turns can go quick.  It’s a game with a variety of things going on that you can play fast enough for people to keep engaged.  Multiple paths to victory does allow for interesting possibilities.  Players never seem out of the game and can come back.  Jeff has played a number of times and he finds that most players have a chance of winning.  While I prefer a pure mythological aesthetic, good aesthetics with pretty minis and play pieces.

Every game I’ve ever played of Lords of Hellas, I’ve ended the game with a Strength of 1, had multiple Blessings that rewarded hunting, and would have won off of the usurp action even if I didn’t win off of hoplite beatdown.

CONs

Your turns are kind of vaguely explained.  Your hero doesn’t have enough to do, though I ignored quests to the point that I don’t even know what the ones in play required, so maybe that was an option.  I don’t find hunting interesting mechanically.  Seems to be a game of lots of holding someone back from winning off of a third monster too much of the time.  Praying is not fun … when you don’t get to do it.

Every game I’ve ever played of Lords of Hellas, I started the game with no priest making, didn’t get a priest on my second turn, nor on my third turn.  Meant I could ignore injuries, of course.  I felt completely outclassed in terms of abilities, where my massive army didn’t assuage my ability envy.

Sunday

I sleep in because I can.

I arrive before the 2PM HoR political interactive we are running and find out which NPC I’m playing.  It doesn’t have that many players, which might be a good thing, where there was good diversity of clans.  It went fine.  Andy’s borrowed wig worked well.

I remain convinced that LARPing isn’t my thing as I find them tiring.

Finally, I get to play in the only event I played in.  Shadowfist Modern.  We were going to play with time limits in such a way that we could play a bunch of rounds.

We played one game in the tournament.  One, 3.5 hour game with four players.  The winner left and we played two pickup games of three.

The tournament was a good game.  It wasn’t fun.  None of the games were, though the third game had an amusing ending for me.

In the tournament, I got characters beaten down constantly, with my first hitter getting toasted as it was coming into play and another hitter getting toasted, this was after I discarded multiple hitters at the beginning of the game in order to get the two mandatory resources required to play Shadowfist without the GK house rules.  I would have decked, after Earl decked, as I had zero characters left in my hand or deck when Ray won.  Sure, I had chances to win, but they were pretty terrible chances and my experience with tournament Shadowfist play is that it often involves removing someone’s ability to win without the remover winning, which is just all kinds of antifun.  It’s like playing against rush combat constantly.

In the second game, which was a “20 minute” game even if it probably lasted longer, I had my first hitter toasted as it was coming into play and never played a character with cost above 1.

In the third game, I discarded a bunch of cards on the first turn and passed.  I discarded a bunch on the second turn and passed.  I discarded a bunch on the third turn and passed.  Maybe the fourth turn, maybe the fifth, I played a FSS and an Arcanomoth.  In the end, I Information Warfared my predator’s Abysmal Wyrm into my Manufactured Island which got replaced with a Gambling House and intercepted the Wyrm with … (playing Architects) … CHAR.  I then attacked Eagle Mountain for the win.

See.  I think the L5R LCG helps show, if not conclusively showed, that I’m really a multiplayer CCG player at this point because I don’t care about results.  I care about card interactions and making good choices.  My two opponents both failed to have anything to do for a while in that third game, then ended up wrecking each other to stabilize the game long enough for me to even participate.  While I might have made a good decision or two, that’s about all I had time to do in a game where both opponents were spent because I didn’t play half the game.

Sure, having chances to win is crucial to playing an enjoyable game, but it should come about due to good decisions and interesting card plays, not just because you are so pathetic no one cares what you do.

Monday

Get in early for my Traveller demo.  Show a bit of Traveller to those who aren’t familiar.  Build a deck and play Andy’s piracy deck.  I’m at 15 VPs after three rounds.  On round four, before I go to 19 VPs, he bankrupts me.  Just vicious play along the lines of what I’d expect competitive play to be like, where the contract deck and the attrition deck race and race fast.  More comments about this in the Traveller forums when I get a chance to post there.

Hit the donut shop for a burger.  Burger is pretty good.  Well, the onion ring and bacon on it helped a lot.  Once upon a time, Burlingame had some of the best donuts I’ve ever had.  I’m not sure that’s true, anymore.

Watch the Rockets/Warriors game.  I should never gamble on sports (except NFL, where I’ve only ever won money in Vegas) as the Warriors didn’t win by 25, like I expected.  Well, at least we got the finals every middle-thinking person wanted.

As an aside, no, not about His Airness versus the King, even though I’m a fan of both, nor about superteams crushing when they bother to remember that they have far more talent than anyone else or whatever, this season has been terrible.  I don’t mean the results of the playoffs, which ended up exactly the matchup I wanted in the finals.  I mean the season has been terrible.  So many stars or key players going down with injuries, sometimes right in the middle of conference finals.  Horrible playoff games where one team eviscerates the other only to be counterviscerated in the next game.  Were some bright spots, like Utah and New Orleans.  Then you have what fans call “awful coaching”.  Because everyone knows fans know more about how to play and lead teams than players and coaches.  Still, just ugly ball much of the time I bothered to catch games.  The high scoring potential of modern play with the frequency of three-point shooting probably does lead to more variance of results, but it’s the “could you just run some offense instead of holding the ball?” that gets repetitive.

Aftermath

I ran two events for games I care about with sparse attendance.  I played all of one scheduled event.  I played a game that I’m probably fine with starting at nearly my bed time [la-…].  What used to be my favorite restaurant isn’t nearly as good as it once was.  The days of great donuts seem to now require getting them near work, where I’ve never bought a donut at the donut shop but have bought dozens of sandwiches.  I had to drive up to the con on two days I had little interest in attending.  My one play event involved three bad games.  I didn’t see one of my friends at all and seem to be growing more distant to people I used to game with often enough.

Was it awful?  No.  It was about what I expected.  Too busy with no time to prep or to appreciate anything.  I already knew SDS’s food quality had declined.  Casual Shadowfist is far more fun (when people don’t steal your power).  Positive thinking might have led to more positive results.

Of course, I could put this in perspective.  Memorial Day isn’t just about gaming and basketball.  If suboptimal gaming is the worst problem in one’s life, going strong at first world probleming.  The car engine didn’t explode even though I ran low on oil and had to top it off.  No speeding tickets.  No muggings.  Didn’t lose or break the laptop.  Still able to walk up and down stairs at my advanced age while carrying 35 pounds of gaming stuff in backpacks.


Egg On

April 7, 2018

Once again, Easter V:TES happened.

Then, Thursday night played Shadowfist, where two of the local players played with the current owner of Shadowfist.

But, what you really want to hear about is my experiences recently with solitaire play.

So, let’s dwell on that for a while.

Flower Garden Solitaire.  Deal six columns of six cards and can use the rest of the cards to build up from aces to kings.  This was terrible.  Barring a lucky tableau, I fail to see how it’s possible to win and decisions are, therefore, largely meaningless.  I hate solitaire games that are hard to win and where decisions don’t tend to matter.

Eight Off Solitaire.  Deal eight columns (have no idea why the book’s author keeps talking about rows when dealing out cards in columns) of six cards, remaining four are in a card pool.  Build up from aces to kings where you can move cards from the tableau to your pool as long as you don’t have more than eight cards in your pool.

This was interesting.  Then, I realized it was way too easy.  Then, I tried six columns of eight and found that too hard.  Then, because I’m full of geniusness, I went 7×7 with a 7 card pool.

I give you 77-7, the latest solitaire game in no way created by anyone else and totally unlike any game someone may call Seven Off Solitaire.

It’s still kind of easy, but, then, so is the best solitaire game I’ve ever played (if you care about a game of skill that has a binary result of win/lose, unlike my solitaire bridge game which I play more often at airports).  While there’s a luck component to be sure, that’s true of all solitaire card games otherwise they would be pointless.  What I have been liking, before I get bored with it, is that there appear to be key decisions to be made at certain points.  Actually, it’s probably similar to FreeCell only this game doesn’t have a 99.99% win rate as FreeCell has.

It’s not entirely intuitive, but neither are other solitaire games.  Once you get that you don’t want long chains and have to build up from aces ASAP to clear tableau chains, get the gist of it.  When to clear a column to place a king is what I’m working on, while the possibility of replacing a king with another king in a column was an “a ha” moment for one sweet, sweet victory.

So, Easter V:TES.

Played two games as we only had four and someone had to go around 2PM.

Ian (POT/Obf) -> Rob (borrowed Hatchling) -> Devin (Shamblers) -> Brandon (cube Tremere)

I lent Rob a deck with prevent.  In our fights, not a whole lot happened.  In Shambler fights, he got beaten down a lot.  I held on to Horseshoes a lot as I don’t philosophically understand rush decks or pseudo rush decks.  Brandon went from in trouble to sweeping.

Ian (Aus/Tha/Vic) -> Devin (Thucimia mostly bleeds) -> Rob (borrowed Tzimisce) -> Brandon (Akunanse)

Rob got wrecked by Brandon.  Brandon constantly intercepted both of us, but I generally avoided a lot of flak through the power of Blood Rage, maneuver, Read Intentions, Rego.

Thucimia kept bleeding and Rob couldn’t really defend given that he lacked a ready minion with AUS.  A My Enemy’s Enemy came my way, which would have ousted me, I bounced to Brandon, who could have DI2ed it but didn’t.  He Rat’s Warninged only to have that DIed by Rob for the kill.  Then, Devin bled us out.

My deck amused me.  Standard plan of getting Sasha Vykos Advanced out and getting a Veneficorum Artum Sanguis.  Then, bring out Forestal and have him get a Vicissitude skill card.  Then, finally bring out Quira, who takes the VAS and gets two Vicissitude skills.  Now, it was typical in that I had zero offense for the first hour or so as I was busy tooling up and getting blocked by my predator.

Shadowfist

Looks much the same at Gen Con.

So, we have six because, of course, we are a group who still actually plays Shadowfist.

Rather than the much talked about possibilities for a six player game, we do three-player games.

Because gaming, like sports, isn’t predictable, Daniel, Joren, and Earl played one 2.5 hour game where Earl won because the other two decked.  Earl played a mostly Lotus deck with Monarchs, Daniel played Monarchs, and Joren borrowed Daniel’s monkey deck because monkeys don’t fly in our meta.

Meanwhile, Don, Justin, and I played 3.5 games.

The last game I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to because of time and so my Accupressure Masters didn’t really do a whole lot by the time we had to pack up with Justin winning.  Amazingly enough, when you don’t defend them with Hand counterspells, they are kind of terrible.

The game before that, I won off of Blossoms of the Black Lotus that didn’t get murdered like they often do.

The game before that, Justin won with cops because Don didn’t have another Nuked in hand after playing two earlier in the game.  I had four Cobra Clan Stalkers in play and was going to play a fifth before one got Imprisoned and I ran out of turns.  Don’s Project Apocalypse almost got stolen for the win with Locksley Station!!  That was when Nukeds happened.  We smoked it after that bid for victory failed.

In our first game, it was quick and lame as Justin kept putting out FSSs and made some lame bid for victory we couldn’t stop, as I was playing an Architect/Syndicate ambush deck where Don attacked right instead of left at a certain point, softening up one of my two Moebius Gardens to make any sort of damage enough.

I showed the Prince and Earl our actual Traveller product, as Earl hadn’t seen real product.

I probably should mention that they played standard Shadowfist, while we played all of our usual house rules.

What is the point of this point?  OKA, why did I start off with solitaire, when only ancient dinosaurs born in the 20th century, like myself, even touch decks of normal playing cards?

Rules changes.  They aren’t always a bad thing.

Sure, you eschew house rules for tournament CCGs because you want to play the game that’s going to see play when groupies are on the line.  But, I’m the only one who competes (and succeeds) at becoming the Champion of the Six Largest Economy in the World at Shadowfist out of our weekly group.

Shadowfist is perfectly fine to me played straight.  I think it’s more fun, on average, played with at least one of our house rules.  Shadowfist is a dual resource requirement game where players can end up doing nothing and never get into the game.  With our house rules, that’s really hard.  Now, we don’t abuse them.  Sure, you probably could just win off of superleap constantly with some events because there are so many sites to attack and it’s so easy to just run out a site whenever you want to make a bid for victory.  Plus, I’ve considered that our high power games could have decks built where there are far more hitters and less other stuff because you could consistently get them out.

In 20+ years of playing V:TES, I’ve played under a variety of house rules, as I’ve mentioned.  I’ve also played a variety of variants, including all of the meaningful storyline events, including Prophecies of Gehenna.  I’ve enjoyed variant V:TES, routinely not any less than straight V:TES.  I didn’t care that I needed to build 4cl decks for Pleasanton or couldn’t play normal vote decks in what I can only think to call the Bertram Group without expecting a rain of pain.

I already play house rules on deck construction in every European Championship I’ve ever played in with my extensive personal banned list.  And, I’ll do the same in the North American Championships coming up.

I’ll try Prehensile Tail, Ancilla Antics, Distinct Directive, or all sorts of other formats.  And, maybe, one of those formats is a better game.  Actually, maybe just Jyhad is a better game for some because it’s faster, more streamlined, and more action focused with a lower potential power level but a much higher power level than my usual casual play.

Sure, Battle For Earth, the Babylon 5 CCG format we only played to get promo cards was crap.  But, hey, CCGs are complicated and messing with the rules is even more complicated with all sorts of unintended effects, so the only way you figure out what’s fun and what isn’t is to play … a lot.


Shake Out

January 13, 2018

There are rather a number of thoughts on diverse subjects I have had recently.  I’m sure I will forget half of them.

Before I forget:  John Carter Kickstarter is going on right now!  Finally, the Dotar Sojat has returned to Jasoom!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/modiphius/john-carter-of-mars-the-roleplaying-game?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=john%20carter

Steak and Shake in Campbell closed recently.  It was open four months.  It was designated to be opened for far longer.  Its closure was sufficiently notable to not only be in the paper (that would be newspaper for you young ‘uns) but also be on the radio (that would be … um … radio for you young ‘uns).

We went to it.  I’m not remotely surprised it closed.  First, the location was terrible in that it was just East of the upscale-ish downtown.  Second, it was not Steak and Shake.  Well, it was not S&S a la Indianapolis’s S&S is.  One in Indy is a fast food place that’s slow, somewhere along the lines of being at a more focused Denny’s in terms of ambiance.  This S&S was pretentiousized for the hood.

Now, I don’t live in downtown Frisco or NYC or whatever, but we get plenty of pretension in the San Jose Bay Area.  Whole Paycheck is ubiquitous, et al.  Why have another burger chain that competes with Five Guys, The Counter, The Habit, Smashburger, or whatever?  It wasn’t trying to?  Well, then where is the audience?  Best milkshake I can recall, which, admittedly, is not something I think a ton about since it’s kind of effort to screw up a milkshake, I got at Fuddruckers of all places.  5-Way?  Well, sure, not a lot of places to get 5-Ways in the Silicon.  (That’s what all the kewl kids call this milieu, n’est-ce pas?)

Bad fits.

That’s a topic for today.

I’m going to talk about L5R.  At some point, I’ll switch to the LCG.  But, before I forget, I had some RPG thoughts.

Campaign Ideas:

Greek Mythology convention meets L5R.  Everyone has an ancestor from one of the 4e books because they hardly ever see play.  Rather than lose your ancestor over something black and white and rather arbitrary, you incur the ancestor’s displeasure for a time until you get your act together.  Great idea, people.  Make it so number one.

Welcome to the kuge, minorlings.  Widowed emperor decides he’s good to go without a word to say on marriage number two to some minor clan yumyum.  Guess how many PCs are not related to the minor empress?

Not Campaign Ideas:

One of the Friday night LCG players is someone who would much rather be playing the RPG.  Actually, that’s how I met him years ago.  He’s hot for getting into HoR4 or like anything else RPG related but especially L5R R&K.  So, we’ve been talking.

I mentioned Odyssey, TCGMGtCM, and how it related to my running stuff for him and the rest of our local RPG group that dispersed.  We talked about old campaigns.  We talked about how our interest in the LCG is strongly based on the world and not the game [foreshadowing alert, foreshadowing alert].

I may have problems with aspects of Rokugan, but it’s so, so easy to think about playing more L5R.  It’s so easy to think of campaign ideas.  I found my mod attempt for HoR3 that I ran a couple of times and got unenthused by due to my just not having the ability to polish efforts up to the level that makes them acceptable.  Well, also, staff consistently ignored me, so I stopped bothering trying to contact anyone.

It’s such a fleshed out *game* world.  Sure, if everyone knows some book/TV/movie series, you can grok possibilities, but, for us veteran Rokuganites, L5R is just so meaningful.  For instance, I was looking stuff up in Strongholds of the Empire.  I’m perfectly willing to read about towns and cities I don’t plan on using as settings.

LCG

Back to the topic of whether the game is any fun.  First, it is.  As long as you are winning.

My experience of going back to playing a two-player CCG  is utterly fascinating to all multi-celled organisms.  I get so much enjoyment out of multiplayer CCGs when the results are inconclusive.  It’s this bizarrely mundane feeling of liking doing better than my opponents in L5R, the LCG, that is palpable.

Or, maybe, it’s just that I hate playing Unicorn, and the fact that I often suck while playing them is incidental.  Except, I played at least one game of Unicorn where I was feasting on my opponent’s soul and it was tasty.

It is “funny” how switching to Crab is perpetually like “Huh, my cards do stuff.  They do good stuff.”

For the others, it also seems to be a game that is enjoyed when you are crushing throats and tearing off limbs.

I read forums.  Multiple forums, in fact.  No, I don’t read Discord.  Not a fan of the interface and I have better things to do, like read the newspaper.  Seems to be a certain level of disenchantment.

Then, I ‘fist with a L5R player, and he’s telling me his group is losing interest.

It’s this like really interestingly designed, very possibly well designed, game that is just so not as fun as we-folk want it to be.  I’m finding that I’m already reverting to my random-game-element meets minimum-threshold-of-viability tendencies with what interests me in L5R.  I’m struggling with the idea of trying to develop superior decks in what’s a very limited environment.  I’m more interested in happy, friendly Scorpion, Lion wall, Cautious Scout.dec, and/or whatever.

I thought of an idea umbrella for trying to put the casual back into causality.  League.  You must play a role that is not the official tournament role for your deck’s clan.  You may, of course, change decks, including changing clans.  Or, some variation thereof.

I played a game last night.  I played Crab, and I had fun.  My first turn Kaiu never left play, having Reprieve that also never left play.  I flopped three Iron Mines in the game, put another Reprieve in play that also never got used.  I Way of the Crabbed once.  Now, my opponent was playing Lion, so his military sucked, and he wasn’t running Feast or Famine, which I kept trying to play around.  Nor was he playing the required 3x Policy Debates.

See, forumites are bitching a bunch.  I think for good reason.  I don’t think it’s a particularly fun game to play, though it’s also not terrible.  The card pool sucks.  Oh, a lot of it doesn’t.  Provinces are mostly the problem.  That Unicorn have so many subpar or oddly narrow cards is kind of antifun.  That Voltroning is such a thing is problematic.  That Iron Mine got added to the mix, so that Crab Voltrons never die seems like poor development.

Part of the problem with the card pool is that it’s not a multiplayer game (yet).  In a multiplayer game, I’d be beastmastering and war dogging all over the place because it would be entertaining.  In a throatcutter game, you just do the same old, same old of top tier stuff, with the occasional Miya combo deck or try to do your own spin on Drop Bears, Switchycorn, or whatever.  With Wheel of Time, because so few people actually played, when you ran with an idea, you might have been like one of one posters.  With a game that’s actually kind of popular, just another clone deck with maybe a few cards changed.

If the card pool were bigger, then maybe there would be more interesting variation.  But, I don’t think the card pool needs to be bigger to have fun.  Just to have fun as a throatcutter game.

Would banning Policy Debate make me happier?  Um, no.  I don’t presently care about Policy Debate, except that I do think that the one area of the LCG that is just bad mechanics is dueling.  Dueling is hecka boring and full of NPEness.  Sure, it’s not a guarantee that everyone always chooses 1 in every single game.  It’s just a guarantee that I have so little interest in resolving duels that I’m okay with mentally seeing tables being flipped.

But, wait, that’s actually kind of like the RPG.  In that, duels aren’t guaranteed to go one direction, but the whole concept of resolving anything important with a subgame that’s grossly uneven so much of the time is not strong in the PPE side of the Force.

I played a game the week before where my opponent won when I broke his third province, as he went to 25 Honor.  If he doesn’t win, then, I break his stronghold as my first conflict the next round with my unstoppable Imperials and their Unicorn flunkies.  30 minute game.  Takeaway #1 – it was how CCGs should play in that it was close with decks doing different things and there was interaction.  Takeaway #2 – because I felt I did so little in the game, it felt rather unsatisfying even while I was playing, nevermind the end result.  Would I have enjoyed that game if he only got to 24 Honor and I shred his soul on the next round?  I don’t think so.  Would I have enjoyed that game if he got to 24, I went after his stronghold, he stops me from breaking with all sorts of cards getting played, he does something clever to get to 25 (instead of just declare an Air Ring conflict)?  Poss-i-bly …

Shadowfist

We ‘fisted for the first time in months last Thursday.  The first game was terrible.  I spent a number of turns not being able to play a site, then had no characters to do anything when I got sites and a Test Subjects out.  The second game I won in a game where everyone was hanging around at four FSSs, and I used superleap cheese and recurring counterspells.  Because, who is the … Master?  Sho’nuff.  Check Youtube if this exceeds the vertical elevation of your brain.  Some parts are cringeworthy, but I really like that movie.

Third game went to third player.  My Salarymans kept killing unimportant things, and got killed when real characters showed up.

Given how prevalent superleap is and buffs are, I’m surprised Hand isn’t more popular.  Now, there is a weakness against site effects, evidenced by how I got stopped by a site effect in one bid for victory, but there are antisite plays to deal with that.  Character removal from events is countered by, uh, Hand counterspells.  Of course, 7 Masters exists for the classic players, and that’s another level of sleaze.

I enjoyed playing.  Shadowfist is usually fun.  Sure, it has some terrible design, pretty messed up card pool (especially if you play Modern), requires making extremely complicated decisions even if you don’t realize they are extremely complicated.  But, it’s not chess.  You do stuff and stuff happens.  You don’t wonder if you made a mistake putting two fate on some dude.  Now, normal ‘fist does have the problem that you may very well not be able to play anything, which is where it did an even worse job than Magic with forcing requirement cards to be in play to play the game.  But, you might be able to come back because it’s not a one v. one game.

Well, I may have forgotten a few other things that would have made my bad fits topic fit less badder.

Wait.  I had a topic?

Let’s see.  L5R LCG appeals to people who like theme, want to play game where they get to enjoy playing beastmasters.  Difficult and highly “mechanical” card game may be good for some, but it doesn’t end up being most goodest for others.

RPG is a decent fit for those of my ilk.  On the other hand, campaigns like our 20 Goblin Winter campaign were bad fits because we didn’t really get to enjoy anything about L5R while also being unclear on what we were supposed to be doing.  Second City sucked as a campaign; I would say part of that is that you remove the familiar world of Rokugan and fail to replace with something as rich or interesting because you just didn’t develop the Second setting.

Trying to take throatcutting seriously is a bad fit for me, while offgoofing is good fit.  It occurs to me that WoT was a case where I didn’t end up throatcutting that much, as most of my play was playtesting rather than striving for prizes.  So, I’ve never been a master throatcutter, with my two-player tournament wins usually being in sealed deck play, where I focus more on building better decks rather than tier 1 decks.  I’m the guy who played one copy of Necropotence in his Essence Drain deck, rather than the other way around, yet beat a Magic world champion in a sealed deck game with repeated use of Capsize and with a Rolling Thunder with zero cards in my library.

Doh!  That’s what I need to do to get my competitive fix on – only seriously compete in CCGs where sealed deck tournaments occur and have decent prizes.  Octa-libra!  That means I have to take up Magic, again …

Speaking of bad fits, the John Carter movie was a bad fit because it failed to explain why Jesus C-, um, JC is a fun dude to hang with or why sword and planet is a compelling genre or explain how you can do a 21st century movie with a bunch of races defined by their skin color.  Read the books.  Compared to a lot of other stuff, they are better.

Now, will the setting be a good fit for RPG play?  Will it be a good fit for people I play with?


Loyalty

October 21, 2017

I’m not sure why it’s surprising given that I’ve been on the periphery of L5R VCG play to a degree.  I guess not to enough of a degree to be impacted.

L5R CCG players are way, way, ultraway more devoted to their clans than anything I’ve ever seen with the RPG.  Sure, there are people who play the same clan all of the time, though even people I know who love to play the same clan over and over still play other clans.  But, I have never seen the obsession with a clan, where someone feels a personal stake in their clan.

But, then, while I may have said that having players have impact in the storyline was something that set L5R apart, I only ever heard about results much later.  V:TES storyline events were often disappointing as people chose poorly in what clans they wanted to do even better.  I’d imagine I would have hated the oL5R environment not just for how much people didn’t care about the big picture but also because of the bounties, the miscellaneous FUing to others, and whatnot.

Why doesn’t the RPG see the same thing?  Of course, some players play both.  Is it the lack of ability to impact storyline?  Is there more of it in the HoR LARPs that I rarely play in?  Even in HoR political interactives, I don’t feel the obsession with a particular clan, though, of course, there’s the hatred of clans.

Being a hater, I get that.

I have done some development on a Failures of the Five Rings campaign where multiple clans get obliterated.  If this sounds worrisome to you, embrace tranquility as the families survive to join other clans in ways that I’m sure will grossly offend fanatics.  Don’t worry, this paragraph is getting to the point.  The only clan I see having any purpose in Rokugan is the Crab, yet Crab is one of the clans that cease to exist … because logic.  I increasingly am cognizant of how much I like Crab … since they have the only job in Rokugan of the various clans that needs doing.  But, I’m not so attached that I would feel put out by them getting what they deserve for being such incredible failures (any time drama is needed in history).

Btw, the clans that don’t do anything besides make things worse – Dragon and Phoenix – are freed up to have to actually be responsible for providing value to the Empire, but I’m sure the Failures of the Five Rings idea is a topic for another time.

I’m obviously not clan loyal.  I’m willing to various degrees to play anything besides Scorpion.  In the RPG, I’ll even play Spider just for the absurdity.  I don’t care which of the six clans I splash in my conflict deck.  Speaking of which, for tomorrow’s single core tournament at Game Kastle, I ran through all of the five options for what splash to make in my deck trying to see if I could find something I thought was better than what I ran in the one game I’ve ever played of the LCG.

There are actually minor clans I’m not in favor of.  Boar-ing.  Fly away Dragonfly.  Back in the box Ox.  Forsake the Snake (though, this is more because I feel they have so little development that it’s hard to feel like they ever existed).  I’m no go on Otomo most of the time, which is why Otomo Kidai was that much funnier.  So, so fun-ny.

On the other hand, I’m game loyal.  I don’t die on games, they die on me.  I never invested in Netrunner or Dragonball Z (or 7th Sea or Buffy or Hyborian Gates, Tempest of the Gods, Guardians, Highlander, etc.), so my having dispensed with my meager card totals for those games didn’t strike me as giving up.  At this point, I’m not committed to the LCG.  I’m really curious as to whether tomorrow will be fun or not.  Also, where single core makes for awful deckbuilding, since there isn’t any for Dynasty Decks, triple core now also looks to me to be awful, as the choices are far, far too marginal.

Now, there is such a thing as subtle mindblowing, like having your courtier run around with a weapon skill of 10 at, um, Rank 1.  But, the current cardpool just forces so many Dynasty choices where people are still running Wandering Ronin and Miya Mystic, that the whole point of CCGs – customization – feels like it’s waiting until the long, long … wait, correction, erelong of November.

There are good reasons for me to get into the LCG.  I don’t think I’ve played a two-player CCG competitively in the last 15 years.  I know the genre.  I have opinions on the IP.  The game seems pretty well designed at this point.  I might be way more enthusiastic about deckbuilding for a game where deckbuilding matters more than it does in your typical multiplayer CCG affair.

There are two reasons I haven’t already preordered six copies of every card, which is what I consider a basic buy in to a 3CL CCG.  One, I’m not sure I will enjoy playing the game.  Two, I get concerned about the fanatical “loyalty” that the game seems to engender, not because everyone is as myopic in person as some people sound on forums, but because there’s an element of repetitiveness in play that concerns me.  Also, will the management of the game suffer from players caring too much about factions?

More than anything else, to me, CCGs are about variety.  I manage to somehow even find it in Ultimate Combat!, which had all of one expansion.  If you know you are just going to play against Scorp Dishonor, Crab Dishonor, Crane Dishonor, Phoenix Dishonor, … [okay, maybe the game is a bit off in terms of design at this time, hopefully not be so easy to win through a mechanic that is so negative] … every time, bor-r-r-ing.

Maybe, my doubts are overstated.  Didn’t I achieve enlightenment when it came to Shadowfist?

Just play it, Willamette!

I don’t care that Shadowfist has all sorts of problems.  Why should I care about L5R?  Can’t I just be in it for the groupies, the free airfares to Chiang Mai, and the gold medal when it becomes an Olympic event?

I’m hunting you, Black Widow.  If you get this reference, well, maybe you game too much.

Art doesn’t offend me.  Some of the mechanics are really, really similar to Traveller, which I’m not surprised by.  Just like many early CCGs were similar to Magic, veteran floppers have experienced a lot of the same mechanics and draw upon that experience.

Bidding may get tiresome over time.  I said in a post “I think I mentioned something about auction games in a post this year.  If I haven’t, I need to.”  That was 2015, by the way.  What I may have never said is that I like auction boardgames.  I’m not sure why.  I don’t love every auction boardgame and I’m sure there are ones I don’t like.  Ra is an auction game that I don’t care for, for instance.  But, the big problem with auction games is that some people are really, really bad at them.  Now, in a two-player game, if you bid better than your opponent, you win and move on.  Wait, that’s not better.  Bad games are bad games.

So, I guess I’ll see how bidding works out.  It may be enjoyable.  I have some doubts, though, because one of the aspects of the LCG that I feel presently is that it’s too harsh a game.  Just like how every single move in chess matters, I feel like every decision in the LCG is important, and that’s not appealing to me.

I like goofing off when I play games.  Multiplayer CCGs are inherently forgiving in that you have other players to beat down the clear leader.  Two-player CCGs are all about deck construction and/or in play decisions.  That’s not a bad thing, but, curiously, perhaps, I actually care about deck construction.  Curious because I think it’s relatively unimportant in the two CCGs I play the most often these days – V:TES and Shadowfist.  This is why not playing a two-player CCG is so counteryeah for me – I like building decks.  I like seeing how my decks play.

If I can gain a substantial advantage through deck construction, then the pressure to play optimally is reduced.  Yet, L5R might be so balanced at the moment (outside of Unicorn) that all of the pressure is in guiding the deck to victory through *gasp* decisions.  So many decisions.  No “Hmmm.  My 16/4 triple striker attacks your soul.” but lots of “Gee, I really want this ring, but I need another Fate from that ring, and I have to account for conflict type switching or Display of Power BS.”

So, in a way, the LCG isn’t ready for what will appeal to me.  I’m really interested in deckbuilding and care far, far less about managing the play.  This isn’t something new.  I kind of approach Magic this way, Babylon 5 could be this way, Wheel of Time (especially building Children of the Light decks versus playing their neg-game) might have been rather this way, though I did enjoy playing my decks.

So, sometime in the near future, probably hear about me pulling the trigger on getting into the LCG or not.  I mean, pretty much as soon as I have three copies of every November expansion pack, I’m pretty much going to be a lifer, as that’s what happened with every CCG besides, arguably, Magic, though I never had complete Magic sets.

In some side news, we played two, five-player Shadowfist games Thursday and five-player is losing its appeal to me.  The correct way to play, in my mind, is to take someone out of the game and go hard with collaboration with an ally.  Instead, I tend to screw around because it’s more fun to let people actually play the game, but it’s still likely to get unbalanced situations where our four-player games usually have more interesting interaction.  I guess it’s not worse than three-player play or other possibilities, but it seems to have become too … vicious.

 


Flopping – Part One

October 14, 2017

I don’t do pithy posts.  It’s not just having something gaming related to think about, it’s about having enough to drone on for an hour plus about.  I had two stronger ideas inspired by recent events that lack any mechanical connection but have a thematic connection that may not be obvious, so my intent is to follow up with the second post soon, while I’m still inspired.

First up, let’s talk CCGs.

Shadowfist Kickstarter is live:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2113976333/shadowfist-a-better-tomorrow?ref=discovery

Am I excited?  No, not really.  Seems like it should have come out last year, when you could have had a Fire Monkey theme and appeal to all of those icky people who like monkeys.  [Should be noted that I only hate monkeys in Shadowfist and possibly other places, like RL.  L5R Monkeys are win.]

But, I like playing Shadowfist.  Building decks has gotten harder because I only get inspired after playing and don’t immediately start building decks after our Thursday night sessions.  When I go through cards before Thursday night sessions, I’m like “Where are all of the cards I thought of building decks around after last time?”

I think there’s some good in how the KS was done – always offer a high end option.  I think there’s some lack – offer more than one high end option.  I’m also not interested in any of the cards on the main page.  I have no particular feelings about resource edges.  I guess it encourages more Thunder on Thunder plays, a not so well designed card that nevertheless fills an important hoser function.

Speaking of Shadowfist, we played Thursday as we often do, and we had one reasonably entertaining game.

Ian (Squad Faceoff) -> Joren (Monarch States) -> Don (Ascended Discard w/ Punishments) -> Justin (Hand Swords)

I bring out Black Helicopter Squad and Hit Squad after putting Waterfall Sanctuary in play.  On turn two, I put “broken” Gardens in play behind Waterfall Sanctuary.  On turn three, I put Weeping Willows out.

Over an hour later, the Mobius Gardens never received any damage.  *shrug*

The Waterfall Sanctuary was never revealed the entire game!!

The Hit Squad I played on turn one was hanging around on the turn I won!!!

Miguel!?!  See, I use cards responsibly and people don’t go insane no matter how much they complain about Hit Squad being used against them.

Even though my Jan Zvireci got used multiple times, mostly against Don’s discard deck, never took damage or left play.  My Sacred Wigwam did get seized!!  I considered this a key to my victory.

I could not keep a second location in play as every attempt to have multiple columns ended up with people attacking me and every turn of sitting on one location saw other people getting attacked because they had lots of Fighting in play and could often win on their turns.  Justin had like three NFSSs out for quite a while.  His Rice Paddies got seized by Joren, then by Don.  I never got my Sacred Wigwam back.  By not being close to victory and not having much of a site structure or anything particularly threatening offensively in play, I had the ability to regulate towards victory then pick up the pieces after hitters kept getting stopped.

I, of course, could retire this deck undefeated.  Or, I could play it again and hope to play the various cards that never saw play.

CCGs.  So, there’s this new FCG based on magic samurai.  There’s a tournament coming up, single core with roles, I plan on playing in.  Single core just seems awful with how you have no real ability to customize your 30 Dynasty Deck, defeating what I am excited about – deck construction for a CCG.

I love Influence (not Shadowfist Influence, which is terrible).  Given the tiny card pool, it still has me thinking about stuff.  I don’t love the tiny card pool for Dynasty cards.  Now, I hear people may “quit” [internet verbiage for whine about nothing in a way that just calls attention to how more important you are than people who make their financial decisions without saying “look at me”] because of the release schedule to have more cards to work with, but more cards kind of necessary or the game play is going to be really stale.

Am I committed to getting into this version, unlike the version I thought was a terrible game?  Nope.  But, I may end up committed soon.  I almost got into the VCG.  Now, I have read a review of the LCG that sounded very relevant – I’m not interested in “chess”.  I enjoy slam, bam, thank you ma’am two-player play like UC!.  I enjoy two hour dice-rolling fests of two-player play like WoT.  I enjoy a variety of multiplayer CCGs for their humorously inconclusive interactions.  Do I really want to get owned repeatedly by people who think harder than I do at card games?

On the other hand, if I can afford buying True Dungeon ultrarares, a new CCG is hardly going to be much of a financial drain, and it does give me options for things to do at cons or even maybe get back to having more regular card nights at game stores.

I’ve already created my personal ban list …  Oh, by the way, I’ve yet to actually play a single game of L5R LCG.  I haven’t even watched people play.  I’m knowledgeing myself entirely by [gag] reading rules and play guide and by reading from the interwebs.

Of course, at this point, it might be a tentative ban list.  I might sacrifice my personal honor.

Actually, I can only think of two clans I’d want to play at this time – Crab and Lion.  Crab, of course, is the only clan that has any reason to exist in Rokugan.  Lion appeals to my interest in aggro.  Oh, sure, I like Lion in the RPG, but that doesn’t translate well in my experience, i.e. what I like in RPGs and CCGs tends to diverge quite a bit.  Take Dominate – hate it in the RPG, only eschew it in the CCG because it’s a crutch.

Dragon has lame attachment theme, maybe get interesting when monkage expands.  Phoenix has lost interest to me due to RPG play …  I mean, I guess there’s some connection.  Just not interested in shugenja.  Would be interesting to have a Phoenix focused RPG campaign to make Phoenix less extreme between the boring and the psychotic.

Crane may be acceptable in CCG play where they are unacceptable in RPG play.  Unicorn suffers in CCG play from being terrible.  In theme.  In play, sounds like they suck, but I haven’t played the game, yet, so that’s just hearsay.  Unicorn reminds me of Jammers.  They will probably have cards I want to play, but I will need to dodge what they are intended to do because what they intend to do is antifun.

Imperials may have some possibilities.  I’m a hopin’ FFG doesn’t screw minor clans.  If anything could keep me wanting to play the CCG, it’s minor clan play.  Besides, gots to do what everyone does and make broken Monkey Clan stuff.  What might kill me is what they do with Shadowlands.  Shadowlands is both a great boon to the L5R world and a huge bane to rationality.

So, Shadowfist is chuggin’ to some degree.  I like that I can still play it and new cards may not be bad (unlike V:TES, where I think new sets generally make the game worse since they don’t expand on what should be expanded upon and expand on stuff that gets more annoying over time).  L5R is a possible into the 違反.

Flop, flop, flop.  Maybe I can get some V:TES play in some time.  Oh, and, of course, Traveller is the best FCG I have actually played.

As Otomo Kidai may have said a time or two back when he was Usagi Kidai, “I’ll keep my ears floppy.”


Privilege

August 13, 2017

On August 5th, 2017, I was in Washington D.C., watching the premier screening of the Abaarso School movie at an event where cocktail attire was expected.  I borrowed a blazer, but otherwise I wore what I might wear to a game convention.

The piano bar after party had singing (by the pianist) so painful my musician brother and I desperately wanted to go get pizza elsewhere.

Let’s start with the first reason this has anything to do with gaming.  The students trying to get placed in US high schools, prep schools, universities are coming from a situation that I just can’t process.  The 60 Minutes (yes, the TV show) producer who did a panel after the screening asked Harry (my brother who made the movie with Ben and Kate) to contrast the opportunities available to someone who went to Thomas Jefferson High School in the NoVa area with what the Somaliland students had to deal with.

Role-playing games.  An opportunity to live out, to whatever dicechucking degree you wish, fantasies unrelated to your lifestyle.  For someone who has had it easy (that being me) by growing up in US suburbs, gloss over upbringings that involved true hardship as some characters may have had.  Economic position, educational prospects, ability to make choices, etc., etc. etc.  While RPGs are a great way to just “it’s clobberin’ time” some hours away each week like hitting a sports bar and pounding back some brewskis (I assume people call it that), it’s not a bad thing to take a moment and try to get into the headspace of what it’s like to live in a completely different milieu.

I did not play any games in my 1.5 days in Virginia/DC.  There were scenes in the movie of students playing cards and whatnot.  But, the second way this trip relates to (my) gaming is that I missed out on a V:TES tournament weekend.

I know Mark and Kenneth won tournaments.  Eric sent me a picture of a Sens. Depped Laecanus with Praxis Seizure: Stockholm, which is probably more than at least two injokes you may not get at all, but maybe you will.  But, I have little sense of how things went, probably because lots of people use Facebook and I don’t.

Given how rare V:TES play is, this is a significant lost opportunity.  Now, I obviously prioritize family stuff over gaming, but it’s an unfortunate result that I could have avoided if I had been more on the ball about suggesting when the tournaments should have taken place.  Actually, the weekend before Gen Con is usually going to be okay because it’s unlikely I would have travel I can control, knowing that back to back trips is suboptimal.

I am so disconnected from V:TES play, but, then, this year has been unusually heavy with travel and, er, with Traveller.  That’s … symbolic?

When in town, we usually get together for Thursday night Shadowfist.  In our last session, we played three games.  That’s not a good thing.  Our short games, well, our short four-player games, tend to be bad.  We had two games that felt like three-player games in that someone got out to a strong position, failed to get “regulated”, then won because people’s decks are way too big and inconsistent and/or lack character stoppage.

I completely failed from a metagame standpoint playing a deck full of edge hate in the first game, where no one had edges in play.  I really need to build some new decks.  I keep wanting to play more Final Brawls, but I just don’t own that many that I can find.

Speaking of failure, in the business trip leading up to hopping off to DC, there was no time for mahjong, my VR experience was lacking any actual play, and my friend’s phone cover of “Winter Is Coming” had pretty much no impact because I may be a nerd, but I’m an iconoclastic nerd who has never read Harry Potter nor A Song of Fire and Ice, nor made any effort to watch their visual media unless you count looking at a screen on a plane.  Nor did I hit Core Gaming Salon, as there were two other Americanos in Shanghai for me to have Italian food with, and I was only there for a week.

Been playing around with the True Dungeon phone app, discovering a real bug and a faux bug.  The faux bug is what I want to talk about.

What are the most contested equipment slots in TD?  For me?

Neck.  I was heavy Amulet of the Champion in my builds until I realized Charm Necklace probably does me more good, while Exalted Creeper Amulet is amusing, plus Amulet of Treasure Finding is necessary for our fourth and fifth characters, and a host of other stuff is irrelevant because it’s not as good but sounds cool.

Wrists.  I can’t even decide on wrists for my primary build.  Bracers of Fast Fitness is my preferece, but, if I have to burn stuff like in Grind or Hardcore/Nightmare, I guess I go Bracelets of the Cabal.  For other builds, Bracers of Supreme Archery, Charm Bracelets, Fast Fitness, other stuff all contend.

Feet.  I want to own a bunch of Boots of the Four Winds, but I’d rather play with Boots of Might or maybe even Boots of the Marauder.  All comes down to whether playing normal dungeon or not.  Not a lot of choices but ones that I constantly toy with.

Charms.  This is a recent phenomenon.  For the longest time, charms and ioun stones were two things my collection was really weak in.  Now, the three charm limit is impactful, as I frequently am happy to pump Dex at a cost of Str, yet Vicious Charm isn’t making the cut anymore.  Charm of Enlightenment is taking off as I realize just how bad non-healers want to not have embarrassing Will saves … just in case.

Least contended slots?

Fingers.  Sure, my wizard builds could do more ringing, but I struggle immensely with finding a second ring for ranged fighty builds even using first slot on Ring of Heroism.  It’s currently easy for me to level up builds as I can just Ring of Heroism up some build, except so many of my builds run the Charming Trio that RoH is unnecessary.  Obviously, if I had a certain Legendary ring or a certain Eldritch ring, things would be different, but I don’t.  I’d really like to see a ring that increases physical ranged damage by something reasonable, like 1 point, to avoid making ranged Ranger even more IO’sP (probable gross exaggeration as ranged Ranger gives up double attack Ranger).  I could, of course, pick up the rare saves boosters to have something that is theoretical good stuff – shows what sort of holes exist in my collection that I can trot out more URs than rares that do something.

Legs.  I really don’t know what pants to run when not going Kilt of Tavernbane.  When I go with free action pants, I’m defeated by how Boots of the Marauder provides free action.

Head.  Either Templar Helmet, Defender Helmet, Redoubt Helm, Crown of Iron Will, or Charming Crown.  Charming trumps Iron will, but I only own one Charming.  Templar will normally trump Defender, but I own only one Templar set.  Blessed Redoubt might suffice, but Redoubt doesn’t really at the moment, especially since I won’t own one until Gen Con.  Charming and Templar don’t contend with each other.

Shirt.  I often don’t even know what to run unless it’s Linked Shirt of Healing for everyone.  Shirt of Blessed Strength for those rare STR based builds I do, of course.

Most binary slot?

Waist.  Belt of Blessed Constitution or Girdle of Frost Giant Strength.  That’s it.  That’s all I’m going to run, unless I end up with a Viper Strike Belt at some point.

So, you may have heard that Gen Con is in August.  I wonder if it’s going to be a zoo, given that it’s sold out.  Sold out.  Interesting comments as to why moving to Chicago wouldn’t be better.  I wonder what next year will be like.  Will some folks be so turned off by the excessive number of attendees this year that attendance would actually be lower than recent years?  Unlikely.  Probably get new blood who takes the place and everyone will hope hotel situation will ease when it won’t be GC50.

For most of our group, it’s lots of TD and HoR.  Will let you know how that turns out in a couple of weeks.

Privilege.  Play games.  Travel the world.  Question why people want Italian food when in China.  Get pizza in Georgetown at 1AM.  Afford my TD collection.  Just so fortunate and useful to remind myself that it could be so much worse.