Out Of The Shadows

September 19, 2018

So, Shadowfist has a new owner.  The impact of this is so slight in the interwebs that it’s not easy to find references to the new ownership company … even when I include Vetusta Games in my search.

It feels like we are some of the few players left (by players I mean people who play).  Had a couple comments about missing out on the opportunity for our game company to own Shadowfist, but that was rather unlikely.

Yet, why not muse about what it would be like to own a game with a long history rather than a game we are hoping builds some history?

What would I do if I suddenly became in charge of Shadowfist?

Bring back Architects right away and get some control over effects Lotus get?  Probably not.  I like playing Architects (zero interest in RPG, though as a villain they are okay).  Abominations are often cute.  I play the goofy removal rather than the staple removal.  I just don’t care nearly as much as others do.

Bring back Syndicate or 7 Masters or do more faction stuff?  No.

Ban Netherworld Trickster and other ridiculous Modern cards that don’t need to exist?  Hmmm …

What does Shadowfist need besides more players?

Better conclusion to games, of course.  One could say that requiring two resources to play the game and being able to get stone aged on power during play is what makes games the most unpleasant, but the lack of clear endgame is something I find increasingly offputting.

Have I seen the game at its best?  What is the best Shadowfist?  I’ve been playing for years more often than most and I still don’t have a great sense of what the game sold itself on.  Theme?  What do really good players playing each other get out of games?

V:TES doesn’t sell me on theme.  It sells me on the lunge.  It sells me on the comebacks.  On a zero intercept deck holding the Edge in a five-player game multiple turns.  It sells me on winning tournaments with Ghouled Street Thug in a vote deck, Mercury’s Arrow in, uh, a Mercury’s Arrow deck, Chalice of Kinship in a vaguely !Gangrel deck.

Daughter of Nu Gua with Butterfly Knives and Blade Palm for my first tournament win.  That’s what may sell me on Shadowfist.  More than a game focused on WoD vampires and numerous allies, Shadowfist is open, in some ways far more open than Magic, in others not so much.

There are plenty of rarely seen cards that amuse me.  I had five Cobra Clan Stalkers in play at the same time.

So, besides hoping someone comes up with a great way to market the game and run bunches of demos and tournaments across the planet (almost like every CCG needs this, almost …), I want interesting.  Shadowfist is wildly diverse.  Netherworld and pop up junctions can do anything.  70’s, Wild West, whatever.

I’d make “my” card.  Lotus magistrate because someone needs to be the Lotus good guy.  I’m not a punmaster, Baron von Pun, but I’d greenlight card ideas that sounded funny more than sounded good.

Would I adopt our house rules?  Specifically, the new location cost reduction?  It’s so good for the game in so many ways that I’d want to sanction it as a format and see if people could break it.  Choose a FSS and non-unique foundation for opening hand?  Yeah, probably.

I was talking about Traveller recently to a non-gamer.  I think it’s a good game.  I think you can try a variety of other games and note that there are usually problems in every CCG because CCGs are complicated and openended.  Sure, Ultimate Combat! may be more fun to play than anything else, but that’s mostly out of a starter box and the card pool is rather limited and some people care that the art isn’t spectacular.

Shadowfist has Difficulty at the Beginning and Difficulty at the End of Things.  Lot of the old time players want to play games that are much faster than what I want to play for multiplayer CCGs, so the game is not going to be that amazing for one or both of us.

But, I enjoy it.  I even enjoy games with obnoxious cards played, like monkeys.

I think Modern doesn’t do it any favors and maybe the concept of Modern needs to be rethought.  Modern has way overpowered cards in isolation with what feels like a pretty limited environment.  Maybe that’s not that different from when the game was new.  How often do I see the Queen of the Ice Pagoda in classic play?  A lot of cards just aren’t that good in your typical CCG and players gravitate towards the best cards.

I’d try to make the Ascended more interesting.  There’s just something about their characters that tends to grate on me.

I’d try to find a way to even out power because there’s just insane levels of alt power generation and … Möbius Gardens needs to be nerfed.  Is Jury-Rigged Dynamo a necessary play in your meta?  It’s pretty much a single card reason to play Jammers in our meta as it’s infinite power.  Of course, you are also playing Monarchs so that you can Twin Thunders your Wrath of the Monarchs to double nuke Gardens.

Is Superleap fun?  Just gets constant complaints in our play even though the reason it so often works is because there isn’t a lot of character/attack screw.

Should Loyalty be more common?

On the one hand, I think I’d struggle with making cards for the game as I don’t have a great sense of the mechanical balance in the game.  On the other, I might design cards that aren’t intended to address a mechanical need but just ooze flavor.

Would I hose Lotus recursion yet not Dragon recursion?  Maybe just reprint The Crucible with another name so that you can run ten cards that toast all demons in play.

Monarchs faction probably has the most potential for interesting cards as factions like Hand and Lotus are pretty focused on their thing.  Yet, I’ve become pretty bored with Modern Monarchs characters.  Actually, I’ve just generally become less enamored with Modern play, with my main way of keeping engaged with Modern decks being going multiple factions.

Shadowfist can have stories.  I know stories can annoy players who don’t like their factions changing, but it is an opportunity to shake up the environment.  “All apes/monkeys/gorillas have been wiped out through time, but mermaids and golems are appearing everywhere.”

I don’t know.  Is there a different CCG I’d rather have control over?  Well, Wheel of Time would be interesting but only if it somehow sold, which I think is unlikely at this point.  I wouldn’t want to control Magic, Pokemon, or their ilk.  L5R might be interesting if I could say “Forgot that unpleasant game that was put out, I’ll take the cool of the IP and come up with passable mechanics so that the game is actually fun.”  But, then, would I want to hear endlessly about adding Spider or some such?  I wonder if I could make the Scorpion fun in the CCG while it remains the opposite in the RPG, much like how Dominate works in V:TES or Architects in Shadowfist.

The irony of my current situation is that I have control over a card game and could, theoretically, have more, yet what I’ve always wanted with the CCGs I’ve played is influence, not control.  I guess going into what it’s like to be a designer/developer/manager versus being a player would make for a good topic some day, but today is more about giving Shadowfist some exposure.

Oh, reprint Shadowfist, the card.  That’s the top priority.

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Long Absence Releasing Product

September 9, 2018

So, I’m still capable of typing.  In fact, I’ve even played one or more games since August 20th.

August was just exhausting, having early Gen Con run into when I do monthly stuff at work, into V:TES tournaments, into getting back to normal cadence of Rokugan 1600/Shadowfist/whatever.

So, September rolls around and … Pacificon.  I went two days.  I wore my two vivid Pacificon shirts from the 90’s.  When I wore the black one, another con goer I sat at a table with had the same year’s shirt upon his torso.

Gamingwise, there was running a Traveller demo which was well attended and running a Traveller tournament that wasn’t.  I wasn’t shocked by the latter, but it ties into how it’s time for us to ramp up building a player base of active players.  And, I played something.  I played a prototype game, Treasuremania.  It reminds me of something a lot, but I can’t quite think of what.  My friend suggested some advanced rules to the designer and those rules remind me of playing RoboRally, though I guess the basic game has similarities to RoboRally already, though the game is very different in that RoboRally messes with people like me a lot where the movement mechanics of this game don’t.  I am undefeated at Treasuremania [ladies].

There was some nongaming stuff at the con, like seeing people and talking/eating.  Discovered nearby strip mall replaced Chinese restaurants and the new one is very much like restaurants in Shanghai.  All restaurant food seems like it’s getting expensive enough to me to encourage just cooking my own food, but, if you accept that Chinese food isn’t a lower medium cost option anymore, this place seems worth going to occasionally.

Anyway, back to gaming, I’ve also played Shadowfist a couple of times or so, with our games taking a long time such that we get one game in in nearly 3 hours.  I think the ideal is about 75 minutes per game.  Considering how open our environment is for targets to attack due to our house rules, would think sudden victories wouldn’t be so hard.

And, I’ve run a couple of Rokugan 1600 sessions in recent memory, though one of them may have been prior to my last post.  I was happier with how the Bridge session went than the Mountain session.  But, I think my latest problem is that I’m still writing sessions for when our group tried to play in a 3 hour or so block on a weeknight, so the sessions actually don’t seem set up well when we know we have 4+ hours to play on a weekend.  To retain flexibility, I think that means I need to have multiple sessions worth of material available at a time to be able to run less or more, which isn’t a terrible idea anyway, though thinking through how to adjust things on the fly for how first parts turn out requires … more … thinking?  More preparation is a good thing to do, but it’s more work.

But, I had a question asked of me recently that I’ve been thinking about.

I was asked what I would want to play for a LARP.

I didn’t have a good answer.

What crossed my mind at the time was that sci-fi didn’t sound appealing.  Let me tangentialate for a while.

I’m not a sci-fi fan in terms of the idea of futureosity.  Sure, I like original Trek and watch a fair amount of Doctor Who, but neither makes the science all that important.  It’s not hard science.  oTrek was sci-fi in terms of speaking to the human condition with whizbang tech.  DW is just kind of quirkful.  Games like Eclipse Phase or whatever that seem more hard just hold like zero appeal to me.  I’m not into the tech in Shadowrun.  I find Shadowfist/Feng Shui tech acceptable because they are so unimportant.

Tangentialfuller.  I’ve read Bimbos of the Death Sun.  If you don’t know what that is, it’s a mystery novel set at a game convention that points out all of the nerdglory that actually exists even today, if maybe not to the same degree now that a lot of gamers have aged and produced offspring.  The title is because the mystery solver’s husband (boyfriend?) wrote a hard science novel that his editor forced to be called Bimbos of the Death Sun so that they could put sci-fi appropriate cover art on it, which is the excuse for the pair to go to a con for him to push his book while she deals with gamers and murder.  I think about this novel every time hard science and gaming intersect.  I did enjoy the novel when I read it.  Another piece of conversation lately involving gaming had to do with how different gaming can be in the US versus another place, to where the other person didn’t understand a lot of gamer jokes made by Statespeople until moving to the States.

Anyway, trying to get this back on “topic”, LARP set in the future, where you have tiresome tech like cameras everywhere, does not sound remotely appealing.  If anything, historical sounds more appealing, though I realize this may not be that great for me as the folks into that sort of LARPing probably have costumes and I’m not a costume guy.  That kind of leaves modern, but not WoD modern as WoD LARPing just sounds painful based on the stories I hear.

Thinking about it after I was asked, what came to mind was the idea of doing something collaborative in a LARP, as part of a small team.  What I often find to be the case with LARPs is that I have no meaningful goals in that even if I have goals I don’t really care about them, so I get really tired after about an hour and am fine with doing nothing at that point until it ends.

The only LARP where I can recall being more into things for longer was one of the first, maybe the first, I ever did, where I played a pregnant duchess.  I was given one of the NPC roles, so I didn’t really have a goal, but other players had goals that involved me, so I would interact with people who were motivated to accomplish something.  Then, at the end of the parlor LARP, the big reveal revealed how everything connected together and I was totally not murdered like my husband was(?).  I still grew tired in the middle, so mostly this anecdote is about my awesome pregnant duchess playing skillz.

I played an Immortal LARP once, but I recall very little about it.  Everyone seemed to be trying to accomplish the same thing, so it wasn’t very similar to any other LARP in my vague recollections.

Just not something that holds my attention/vast reservoirs of enthusiasm.  Which is interesting because one-shot RPGs do a good job holding my attention, so why not one-off LARPs?  An obvious reason is that LARPs depend a lot on other players and other players aren’t necessarily all that compelling.  In this conversation I had, the concept of players having actual in-character jobs came up, and I realize that a big problem with HoR political interactives is that hardly anyone has a defined job, which is why so many people can just sit around, with very little of consequence occurring.

Now, let’s say I’m in an ongoing LARP and have an in character job.  Is that interesting to me?  It doesn’t sound like it.  I already have things I want to do and things I do (watch Golf Channel or NBA Channel or whatever while playing solitaire) when I don’t want to do “anything”.

But, then, why play RPGs?  Why run RPGs?  Where’s the difference?  I don’t get into character that much in RPGs, even less so in campaigns.  I’m more interested in visualizing a story over acting one out.  When I do portray NPCs in character in RPGs, it doesn’t last very long.  I don’t have the acting bug.  I’m far more into being entertained than being an entertainer.  Even writing is something where I might spend way more time reading other people’s blog posts than writing my own, except I write 2000 word blog posts and a lot of people don’t and a lot of people don’t post that often for games I actively play.

Also, there’s another reason I can see that would reduce the appeal of LARPing, though I think it would matter far more in an ongoing LARP rather than a one-off, but this seems like a topic to save for another time.

So, to LARP or not to LARP?  Guess I’ll see.  If I’m willing to play wargames and minis because other people want me to, I can probably try out LARPs if people want me to and see whether it turns out better than I expect it to.


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.


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.