Crunchy Time

April 22, 2017

I have been lax on posting anything.  Some of that is due to the Traveller CG needing me to do things right now.  But, mostly, I think it’s because I’m not in the habit and my game playing is often-impaired.

I was going to post on one thing, maybe Shadowfist, until I realized I’m at a confluence point.

  1. Playing Shadowfist regularly and last session I realized how long this group has been playing
  2. Need to build decks for upcoming V:TES tournaments
  3. Played new HoR4 mod in a long time
  4. True Dungeon transacting

Let’s work backwards as all right-thinking people do.

True Thalersink

I remain invested in investing in building a collection of tokens I don’t need.  If only gaming didn’t have numismatics in the form of things worth way more than the coins I used to numis, it would be less costly.  But, who cares besides my heirs?  No, I got to thinking about how my perception of token usefulness has evolved.

Oh, I don’t want to state what I think is better of the 2017 stuff than I used to, as someone may actually read this blog and I might have some influence on market valuations to my detriment.  After I finish getting what I want of 2017 tokens, I’ll look to post an analysis as I did with 2016 tokens.

Where I didn’t used to be into 2015 ultrarares, I now see how some are more relevant to someone who can’t restrain themselfs to just what amuses themselves.  So, let’s talk about something I won’t impact in a way that is meaningful to me.

+2 Deadly Drow Blood Mace

My non-wizard builds struggle mightily when it comes to choosing melee weapons, since melee combat hasn’t been a thing any of our group has cared about and, thus, we haven’t made any effort to acquire weapons.  Now, if I melee, my preference is Barbarian for obsidian cannonage.  So, one-handers are useless.  But, Ranger gets shafted by having to double one-hand and Paladin might be silly and run a shield in melee for set bonuses.  Still don’t actually care, but it would be an upgrade over +1.

Boots of the West Wind

Now, Boots of the Four Winds is just better (and only some $700 more expensive), but there really aren’t a ton of ways to increase ranged damage for non-Mighty ranged weapons.  I have various builds, some sillier than others, where I want more ranged damage and aren’t going to STR-blast with a +1 Mighty Sling.  Plus, everyone had to have this to make Four Winds.

Bracers of Supreme Archery

I actually want one of these, now, for, uh, increasing ranged damage while also getting a to hit bonus over Bracers of Archery.

Earcuff of Orbits

Before the news about treasure-enhancing Ioun Stones, this would not have been as all that.  Absolutely fascinating to all right-thinking people is that this still isn’t good for my builds.  I actually have significant competition on the ear slots … because that’s a totally normal statement in life.  I don’t have much in the way of quality Ioun Stones.  It’s also only two more slots, which means you are sort of netting one slot, which just seems bad.  Now, if my ideas for INT, WIS, CHA increasing Ioun Stones get made and those attributes did more than increase Will saves, then I might start to care.

Gloves of the Brute

Is this or Gauntlets of Linked Fury better for Barbarianhood?  I still tend to view stat bonuses over damage bonuses, though decreasing DEX isn’t trivial.  I own one of these, so I’ve satisfied my brutishness.

Widseth’s Mystical Lute

Why do I value this more highly?  Because someone who shall remain named Warrior bugged me about how this would be the best Bard instrument to pick up.  I refuse to yield.  I think a Bard airhockeying defeats the true reason anyone would want to Bard – hovering around other players and annoying them when combat is going on.

I didn’t realize til just now that it allows ranged attacks as well as melee attacks.  That’s somewhat more interesting.  Still, if I’m Barding, I want to be casting spells or, possibly, “abusing” my ability to cast more scrolls than any other class.  We also don’t need it because we will someday perfect the perfect party of perfectness and name our own special TD runs using a little token called … auugghhh, not in the neck, not in the neck.

Switching equipment.

HoR4

With one exception, I still have no sense of what HoR4 is about.  The exception?  It is the Mantisliest Mantisfest of all Mantisdom in my play.

I feel like mods are self-contained and don’t really stretch into new territory.  So many of the mechanics changes have trivial impact to me, thus far, except that my Honor doesn’t really go up.  Sure, if Glory did something, not having Glory go up would be different.  I got an option to spend five favors to do something.  Except, now that I have some idea what favors can be used for, I fail to see the desire to spend five favors on something that doesn’t really do anything I care about.  Maybe if I was part of a group that found amusement in doing group mechanical things, I would feel differently.

I feel so much like I’m meandering.  I’m also sucking.  Yet again, I’ve played a mod with a bunch of INT rolls.  I love the irony of my playing a moron in an INT campaign.  Playing a non-Moshi in an INT, Mantis campaign.  I rule like a fool.

V:TES

I need to both capture the quintessential meness of my deckbuilding ways while also understanding that I’ll be in a metagame where I can’t just hunt until my inevitable victory.  It can be something of a struggle as I seek to play a clan burdened with Dominate while trying to find a way to bleed effectively.  Guess I’ll have to Presenceless vote or whatever.  Graft Presence … wait, okay, solved my deckbuilding crisis!

I’m not expecting to play much in the way of pickup games, so there’s only so many decks I really need.  Will single box it of probably seven decks.

Shadowfist

What’s impressive about the Shadowfist group isn’t that we’ve played for years, it’s that we are consistent about play when people are not traveling or lack specific events that interfere.  Weekly play is the tame of the game!  Never antiremember this.

Now, because we did lose a player who hated our house rules, we have been playing more three-player games.  Three player has been very different.  For one thing, we are burning for power.  Now, is that because people’s decks are not playing all of the standard power gen cards out of boredom or is it because you can’t keep your site structure as intact when only two people can stop you from successful attacks?

Then, games feel far more vicious.  You kind of have to either wall up or beat down, rather than just hunting until inevitable victory.  It’s a disturbing world of … of … aggression that violates all of my principles of game maiming.

We played three games Thursday.  I played my new 7 Masters deck and it lost, thus breaking the stricture of the omniverse that 7 Masters can only lose to 7 Masters.  I did cancel a Dance of the Centipede on my The Fox Outfoxed on a Haunted Forest duping a Mobius Gardens.  Then, I played an old Warriors deck, which has sucked a lot more than it did early on.  I just had dudes, which didn’t stop people who had other dudes but did prevent the player who didn’t dude much from winning.

Finally, I won the last game off the brutal power of an Exorcist in a Long Black Hearse, an Imp, and a Jian.  I was dudechoked for when bids for victory could be made because I kept holding on to cards I never played, like Spirit Wrack, Poisoned Wound, and Underworld Coronation.

So, yeah, I do do things that are gamingishlyable.  They just are kind of coin-flippish in consistency.  Did I mention that I played Aztec Pyramid in one of those games and it supposedly influenced an opponent’s decision to play a card.  Rule like a fool.  Rule like a fool.

 

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Thrice Guarded

March 5, 2017

Three days left for the Abaarso School Documentary Kickstarter.

The Abaarso Story


Now, I’m just going to ramble a bit.

Played Shadowfist last two Thursdays.  Last Thursday was one game that lasted close to 3 hours.

Ian (Lotus Site Damage) -> Don (Feast of Souls/Palace Guards) -> Justin (Ascended/Architects Cops) -> Joren (Monarchs Site Damage/Heal)

Much Rain that Killing-ed.  Though, I can only find x3 Killing Rain in my modern cards, so not all KR all of the time.

There were complaints about site murder.  Here’s the thing.  If Shadowfist were a different game, one with more moderate effects, I would probably despise Killing Rain as a blunt tool that just made games tedious.  Shadowfist is not a game of moderate effects.  In particular, I need battlegrounds to explode into fine cardboard mists because they are dumb.

Interestingly, because Joren could heal sites, sites weren’t bloodbathed left and right.  It took quite a while for me to lose any of my own sites, for instance, as my Thousand Sword Mountain got healed multiple times.  Of course, my Diamond Beaches weren’t terribly bothered.

I put out a Zhenmushou at the beginning of the game.  I played a second.  Quite the annoying card and not to me a fair effect, but, then, how much of Shadowfist is all that fair?

I might have been able to win.  I could have made one more bid for victory than I did.  Multiple attempts to nuke Don’s Feasts of Souls were defeated or he Dance of the Centipeded his own Feast.  Two Underworld Coronations went off.  Beaumains got toasted.  Players went from close to winning to being at 1 FSS.

Finally, Justin had fighting on the board and people lost their stoppage.

I thought it was a very dynamic game.  The bane of enjoyable long games is boredom.  For Shadowfist, it was a high quality game.

Which brings me to a few things about my take on Shadowfist.

I don’t build decks as often as I once did.  Oh, I still have scraped together new decks for the last two sessions, but I rely heavily on my stockpile of existing decks, maybe making a few adjustments.

That’s not a good sign.  However, I don’t feel like I’ve felt when playing with B5 or V:TES players who rarely built new decks.  I’m not looking to prove things with Shadowfist.  I don’t have any idea about future tournaments.

I’m just looking to have some fun playing a CCG.

I know, what a weird concept.  It’s almost like CCGs can provide enjoyment in multiple ways.

Still, I encourage everyone to build two new decks every week.  Then, you will have more fun, much more fun.

One of the benefits of Shadowfist being a pot of crazy is that it’s rather difficult to decide what is good or bad.  I had no power generating events in my quasi-KR deck.  Under our house rules, that ended up working just fine.

I can focus on concepts.  With V:TES, I have two huge problems when it comes to designing.  The first is that I’ve built a thousand decks give or take a few hundred.  Been there, do that again?  The second is that I concern myself over viability.

I don’t have a lot of concerns over viability with Shadowfist.  Having enough foundation resources is about the only thing that actually matters, where we can get by with zero FSSs in our decks.  Sure, having some plan for generating power matters, but just avoiding purposefully playing bad decks can help with that.

The other thing about Shadowfist that could use a reminder is that it’s unpredictable.  Maybe it’s better balanced than it seems, but, then, we play with rules that destroy the usual balance in the game.  Because I rarely need to make good decisions, I haven’t progressed much with making better decisions.  I focus on removing edges and non-FSSs and let other people worry about whether to let me win.

I shouldn’t differentiate between Shadowfist and V:TES too much.  I’ve certainly been in situations where I played existing decks and just focused on playing the game.

Switching gear-inscribed tokens, as we have our 2017 True Dungeon tokens, now, and I’m not the only one in the group acquiring, we have had discussions on what to transmute and what to pursue.  Honestly, I don’t know that I care that much about buying more tokens.  I want to transmute several things, and I can’t get too excited beyond that.

I basically achieved the build I wanted minus transmuting for Starhide Robe.  The thing with TD is that it’s so expensive to “deckbuild” that I can’t be bothered picking up speculative improvements for a barbarian build or a paladin build or any of the other classes I don’t really expect to ever play.  Unlike CCGs, where I acquire everything and thus build everything, TD deckbuilding is for those richer than I.

Not to say I won’t look at picking up more tokens.  I just don’t need any more tokens to feel satisfied.  We should be just fine for hardcore and I don’t care about playing at nightmare level.

Speaking of lack, out of 120 rares, we got zero Defender Platemails.  That’s not terribly important because none of our preferred classes need the Defender Set, but it’s mildly irksome.  I like the idea of a rare set that is actually good.  Gives the pretense that a middle class exists for TD.

I think I’m fond of the 2017 set.  There are good tokens at various rarities.  I am interested in multiple transmutes, though I don’t know about switching cloaks.  Because I’ve finished Wise Man’s Fear, I might also be more engaged with the tokens because I know the references.

So, I’m cool with Shadowfist and cool with TD, what’s wrong?

I’m not gaming enough.  HoR is waiting for more mods.  V:TES requires other people to get motivated for a session.  No home RPG play.  No BattleTech.  No boardgame sessions planned.

There is the Traveller Card Game, of course.  I have plenty to do for that.  More ideas, more testing, more wording tweaks, more keywording.  Yes, I’m being cagey.  When someone has a question, I’m sure there’s a way to track me down.


Strike Fast, Strike Precise

January 8, 2017

Get something out of the way first.  Played Shadowfist Thursday, five player team game.  I made my last bid for victory having five Cobra Clan Stalkers at a seized Humble Dojo.  The expected Neutron Bomb went off, and someone else won.  But, more importantly, I had five Cobra Clan Stalkers in play at the same location, that being someone else’s site.  I’m sure I won some other subgame as well.

Okay, busy, and I’ll get to HoR4 comments next time, even though we played a bunch of mods before yesterday.

Yesterday, two V:TES tournaments, my first tournaments in a long time as I missed the August tournaments.

I built three decks yesterday morning.  By built, I mean pulled the cards.  I designed them either weeks ago or months ago.  Of course, design takes all of 10-30 minutes, where pulling the cards takes an hour in many cases.

We had 12 players for the two events.  Brandon organized.  Only Chris came up from SoCal.

Tournament 1

Round 1:

Ian (To Perish Uncreated) -> Dave CK (Cel/Pro bruise bleed with rush) -> Eric S (Trem Burst and bleed) -> Alex (Vlad and friends)

Key play.  I play Precision and name Sideslip, thus sealing Dave’s doom.  Dave was hurt immensely by how Eric had Merrill out, who could avoid so many aggpokes, plus Merrill got Ivory Bow giving the poke.  Alex was screwed, sucking bleeds right and further right, only having Vlad in play.

I had two Quira and two Gwendolyns in my uncontrolled, brought both out and stealthed by Dave consistently, avoiding beatings with Swallowed by the Night or Celerity.

Dave Villeined some and Golcondaed Anson, but he had problems fighting forward and I just kept bleeding.  Eric ousted Alex.  I had Appolonius as well in play and ousted Dave by just enough, then didn’t have too much problem in the endgame as Alex’s last significant play was burning Muaziz in combat, so Eric was playing with two dudes.

Round 2:

Chris (Undue Influence with Spoils of War) -> Ian -> Dave A (Shattering Crescendo) -> Dave CK

This was an easy collapse.  Chris could only go forwards.  Dave A’s first Daughter got diablerized before Shattering anything.  By the time he transferred someone who wasn’t Scout (that he could have transferred a round earlier), he Shattered once and I took my VP.  The endgame wasn’t impossible for me for a bit, as I had Quira in play as a 3 bleeder and Gwendolyn in play as a 6 bleeder, but Dave had too much pool, too many minions, and too much combat.  Not a surprising ending.

Finals:

1GW and 4VPs only put me second behind Brandon, which made things difficult in terms of seating choices.

Alex and Dave CK were low.  Mark was playing a Malgorzata deck, like Alex was, so they didn’t want to sit next to each other.  I would have been fine with being Dave’s predator since I could stealth by him consistently and I had enough ways to deal with rushes, but, if I placed behind him, Brandon would have likely been behind me and that seemed bad, with my not knowing how much I probably didn’t care about Brandon’s deck.  It would have been bad as Dave likely would have rolled Alex, though maybe that wasn’t terrible as Dave would become the enemy and Brandon might let me just go forward.

What did happen is that I inserted as Mark’s predator and Brandon as Alex’s predator.

Ian -> Mark (Malgorzata, Capuchin, Lord Tremere, whatever) -> Dave -> Brandon (Brujah limited collection deck) -> Alex

Early on, Alex was under pressure and I ignored his token bleeds.  Brandon had about the same number of minions as Dave, and the two fought with both getting beaten up.  Dave was strong early on with pool and minions and because Mark’s deck just grows high caps before he does anything.  But, he got torped at times.  Mark became the biggest threat once he had Malgorzata, Capuchin, Lord Tremere, and Carlton in play, but time was running out and he had limited success on removing Dave’s pool.

Nevertheless, Dave was in danger.  Alex was potentially in danger but not so much.  I had Famed Quira (I got Famed like five times during the day and never once went to torpor), who got Pentexed, Kalinda with Tasha Morgan, Appolonius, and a very late Darrell Boyce.

Time was running short.  I talked about who should remove Pentex for me to interact with Mark.  Alex seemed to be the player.  Alex bleeds me, bleeds me, I’m at 5, bleeds me with Vlad for 5.  I bounce with Quira, of course.  Mark Eludes Morpheus.  I DI.  Mark takes 5.  I bleed him out.  Time runs out.

Key play?  Precision naming Eyes of Argus that gets blocked due to Eyes of Argus.  Between that and my being Obedienced like five times as I never bothered stealthing by Mark’s four +1 intercept minions, Mark had no chance … unless Alex just burned Pentex like we “hoped”, which meant Brandon would have likely won on time, though maybe Mark had enough bleed to oust Dave.

Not a brutal victory, but I could have reasonably gotten Dave next, which would have been more convincing as to the true power of playing one Walk of Flame in a deck.  Mark was constantly worried about my combat because … of geniusness.

Deck Name:   To Perish Uncreated
Created By:  Apple’s sidekick – Ian Lee
Description: Apple bleeds, Quira and friends Cloak and Revelate and Precision.

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 22, Max: 42, Avg: 7.66)
———————————————-
2  Appolonius                         CEL for pot PRE10 Brujah
1  Darrell Boyce                      CEL OBF PRO    6  Gangrel Antitribu
1  Greta Kircher                      AUS CEL obf PRE7  Toreador Antitribu
2  Gwendolyn                          aus CEL FOR POT PRE tha11 Brujah
1  Kalinda                            CEL OBF tha    6  Assamite
2  Quira                              AUS OBF obt tha6  Malkavian Antitribu
1  Tansu Bekir                        cel OBF        4  Assamite
1  Vasantasena                        AUS DEM dom OBF pot9  Malkavian Antitribu
1  Zahir                              CEL OBF qui tha6  Assamite

Library: (80 cards)
——————-
Master (21 cards)
1  Barrens, The
5  Blood Doll
1  Direct Intervention
1  Dreams of the Sphinx
2  Heidelberg Castle, Germany
1  Legendary Vampire
2  Obfuscate
3  Perfectionist
1  Villein
4  Wider View

Action (9 cards)
1  Computer Hacking
4  Precision
4  Revelations

Action Modifier (15 cards)
9  Cloak the Gathering
2  Elder Impersonation
1  Leverage
3  Veil the Legions

Reaction (17 cards)
3  Confusion of the Eye
1  Delaying Tactics
1  Fillip
5  On the Qui Vive
5  Telepathic Misdirection
2  Wake with Evening`s Freshness

Combat (5 cards)
4  Vampiric Speed
1  Walk of Flame

Retainer (2 cards)
1  J. S. Simmons, Esq.
1  Tasha Morgan

Combo (11 cards)
4  Resist Earth`s Grasp
7  Swallowed by the Night

With that out of the way, I felt like playing something different.  Though my second deck was different, my third deck was much more different, being full of beatings, I mean, whiffings.

Tournament 2

Round 1:

Rick (Le Dinh Tho supports Dem bleed) -> Ian (CEL +1 STR) -> Kenneth (Lasombra SB) -> Alex (as above)

Kenneth blew through Alex, not that long for Rick, decked, but he had just enough stealth to get by my two +2 intercept minions – Carlton Sport Bike, Blaise Sport Bike and Mr. Winthrop – to not have all of his dudes murdered by my combat.

I never beat anyone down, discarding Blurs, Sideslips, Tastes.  I did make a terrible mistake by not giving Blaise (or Carlton) Mr. Winthrop a turn earlier.  I’m not sure if having Carlton at +3 was better or not than having two +2 interceptors.  But, between Shroud of Absence and combat ends, I never touched Kenneth’s dudes.

Pickup1:

I played my King of the Mountain deck with no Tastes.  I’m unclear what I was thinking.

Round 2:

Andrew (Malk SB) -> Rick -> Mark (Lucian, The Perfect bleed) -> Ian

This didn’t last long.  I couldn’t generate enough intercept to stop Lucian, so I took several bleeds of 7.  Andy ousted Rick.  Mark had more pool and more bleed in the endgame.

Well, that wasn’t all that.  Again, losing is fine.  Not doing anything is the bane of good games.  But, whatever.  I already won an event and had allergy issues all day so chilling was cool.

Pickup2:

Five player, I played a Jyhad only Pre/Cel deck and had the only oust, bringing out my sixth minion afterwards.

Great to play V:TES again.  Great to still have enough players to have meaningful events.  We talked about a V:TESlike game that relied less on cards in hand.

Congratulations to Kenneth for winning his first tournament.

Thanks to Brandon for organizing, to Andrew and Eric and their family for the use of their house, where we get our biggest events.  Thanks to all three for getting sandwiches and burgers.

Good times.  Hopefully, just a start on my playing a bunch of V:TES in a bunch of places this year.


North Orléans

November 14, 2016

So, wedding Saturday took a few hundred people to Leesburg.  Very nice wedding.  I know, this sounds like a strange way to articulate one’s perspectives when it’s the first marriage for any of my father’s children, but this is not the place for meaningful thoughts.

I did consider how the intersections of people in real world environments can be a model for RPG campaign world building complexity, but I don’t know where to go with this that isn’t obvious.

I happen to know people besides family and friends of family in the DC area.  Whether it’s V:TES, B5, friends of Dave’s, HoR, there are just people I could game with.

So, I gamed with some.  The remnants of the V:TESers gathered to play a couple of boardgames.

Orléans

I quite enjoyed the way this plays.  I don’t know if it’s balanced, more balanced using the expansion that sets events, which we used, or how the base game/other scenarios play.

While I never understood why Precedence thought Sack Armies was a good idea for a collectible variant from CCGs, I’m okay with games where you draw from a bag.  I think I made some terrible plays and ended up in second, where it wasn’t all that close.  Does that mean the game is hard to figure out?  The game is more forgiving than it seems?

The disparity in results is concerning.  I just find boardgames where players end up far apart even when they aren’t far apart in skill to be problematic.

But, the forming of worker sets was fine.  There were a variety of things to do.  I was the wool master, Baron von Wool.

I’d certainly go for a replay and see if actually understanding what you are doing makes it better or worse.

Shipwrights of the North Sea

You make viking ships.  You draft cards.

I was not as pleased with this game.  The interactions in the game felt distant and griefy at best.  The way you can know that you are going to lose and maybe another element gave me a Settlersesque experience.  I don’t hate on Settlers like a lot of people do, but it’s not something to be looking forward to.

The card play and actions just weren’t all that compelling.  It was okay.  But, I’d have serious concerns about replay experiences being any more interesting.  Part of it is that the cards are often really dull.  Sage just seems awful.  Gaining one resource compared to two or three gold compared to five is a case of clear lack of elegance in that other games often provide weaker effects that are attractive in other ways.

Not much else.  At the bowling alley, bowled rather than play any arcade stuff.  Solitaire when traveling, of course.

As social circles expand (not that some of these folks even know I’m capable of speech given my social peculiarities), maybe try to visit more often, which isn’t likely to rekindle V:TES play but may lead to something else, something exciting and new or dull and old, whatever.

Shadowfist Accessories Kickstarter going into final days.  Pondering what to do about it.


The Draw

October 2, 2016

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

The draw, i.e. the charm.

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

Ultimate Combat!

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

Magic

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

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

Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

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

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

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

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

Babylon 5

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

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

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

Wheel of Time

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

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

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

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

Shadowfist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horizon

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


Fisticuffs 20160908

September 9, 2016

While I haven’t played V:TES in quite a while, I have been playing Shadowfist, even more than weekly after a few weeks off from travel.

I don’t remember a lot from earlier games.  Sure, I remember the “battle of everyone play four FSSs side by side” game to some degree, what with my massive character steal failing, multiple Big Bruisers failing, and how this sort of site structure only comes about because of one of our house rules.

I could recreate some events based on remembering which decks got played in which games, but whatever.  Let’s go recent.

Game 1

Justin (Cops) -> Ian (Archaic Architects) -> Joren (Jammers) -> Don (Nukey Jammer Battlegrounds)

At a certain point, we sort of decided Joren and Don had infinite power due to three Jury-Rigged Dynamos being in play (one seized!).  That didn’t stop Justin and me from making bids for victory.

My bids with CHARs kept coming up short as I was overaggressive.  I definitely have a habit of going from one extreme to another with Shadowfist, sometimes knowing failure is an option just to have the thrill of defeat or, if the game is goofy (see below), the agony of victory.

I CHARed up some with many Mobius Gardens plays (feeding the Dynamos, of course).  My last gasp in the game was putting Homo Omega in play and making a bid for victory that didn’t even come close to succeeding.

Don played a lot of uniques which meant my Bzzzzzt!s stuck in hand far too much.  I did Bzzzzzt! one of Joren’s Razor-Clad Fanatics to keep my Gardens a bit longer.  Actually, my main problem is that I had to police Don, since no one else could be bothered, and it didn’t really help me as I wasn’t moving towards victory and was getting Payback Timed repeatedly.

Joren didn’t get a lot of fighting.  The Lunatic Fringe did do some stuff, but it was mostly events that stifled others while he couldn’t get fierce enough to threaten.

Don didn’t really move much towards victory, often having few FSSs because his other stuff made him seem threatening.

So, Justin won.  He had 200 Guys to take some advantage of uniques coming down.  His cops would die.  More cops would appear.  Eventually, people couldn’t stop anything.

Some Nukes did blow stuff up.

Game 2

Justin -> Ian (Abominations) -> Joren -> Don

I don’t take advantage of some of our house rules or don’t take as much advantage of them as I could.  I couldn’t get an Arcanomoth to play anything.  So, I put Mobius Gardens in play and had 7 power.  I bought a Mooks to generate an Architect resource, dropped two Blood Eagles.  I took a site.  My Eagles didn’t take any damage.  I played a third Eagles on my next turn and won.

I was entertained by the game, but, then, the winner of these awful games is often far more entertained than the losers, and I’ve often been on the other side in multiplayer games.  Because this game lasted like 15 minutes, we played another.

Game 3

Ian (Minimalist Butterfly) -> Joren (CDCA Scientists) -> Don (Darknessy Monarchs) -> Justin (Hoods)

This was not all that compelling either, but, at least, it wasn’t quite as dumb as play three Blood Eagles and win.

CDCA Scientists didn’t do a whole lot.  Don’s deck did almost nothing of consequence.  Hoods were scary.  There was so many Hoods in play that Justin’s army had to be policed … hard.  This meant …

… I could win having played 13(!!) cards.  Oh, not only 13 cards.  More, wow, that’s … that’s more than 50% of your deck 13 cards.

I still have yet to fill out my 25 card Butterfly Knight deck to 30 cards.  As much as I hate on Miguel’s decks, I do steal ideas from everyone I play against.  The whole point was to go with as streamlined a deck as possible where I could take three sites in one turn.  If my first Butterfly Knight hadn’t been cancelled, I would have tried that path to victory.  Instead, I only went for two sites in one turn with a second Butterfly.

Name:  Basic Butterfly
Faction:  Monarchs
Size:  25

Monarchs Cards (13)
Characters (11)
2x Beaumains, the Mongrel Knight
4x Butterfly Knight
5x Fire Cadets

States (2)
2x Thunder Gauntlet

Generic Cards (12)
Feng Shui Sites (10)
1x Cataract Gorge
1x Eagle Mountain
1x Emergency Room
1x Humble Dojo
1x Nightclub
1x Precious Lotus Monastery
1x The Dragon’s Teeth
1x The Iron Palace
1x The Red Lantern Tavern
1x Tiger Leaping Gorge

States (2)
2x Deadly Fans

What five cards to add (that are Modern)?  I thought about it at one point, but I don’t necessarily care enough to worry about it.

See, to me, in Modern, Monarchs has cool cards but makes uncool decks.  Lotus has cool cards and cool decks but has way too many uncool cards and uncool decks.  Dragon has cool cards and largely uncool decks.  Hand has cool plays but maybe not as cool cards and only has cool decks when you don’t play certain obvious things (Superleap everywhere, counterspells everywhere, combos).  Jammers has cool cards and amazingly uncool cards, and the decks are often really annoying.  And, the Ascended are the antithesis of cool.

Gee, it’s almost like I don’t favor much of the game.  Or, is it just that I prefer Classic?  To an extent, yes.  I make goofy Architects decks as Neutron Bomb, Imprisoned, and Nerve Gas are all on my personal banned list.  I can find plenty of appealing Modern Lotus plays, but Classic just adds other Lotus plays.  Syndicate is green.  No, really, I don’t enjoy playing Syndicate much yet still like them, so it must be because they are green.  I like the effects in 7 Masters, though they are just so broken.  Purists used to be appealing until I found my decks boring and other people’s decks obnoxious.  Reascended are cool.

The best thing, one might say, about Classic is that there are so many more bad cards for me to play.  Ah, I guess some things never change!


VCG Salute

July 30, 2016

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

But, why starters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The feeling of possibilities.

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

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

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

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

Excitement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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