July 16, 2016

Let us begin with the fascinating world of solitaire.  For what could possibly be more interesting than playing card games that involve neither your cell phone nor another person?

Because I’m likely to lose people fast, I will also talk about V:TES and Shadowfist and may or may not talk about L5R after I scintillate your cerebrums with sultry solitaireity.

I have a book from 2005 (that confused the hell out of me when one of the trivia questions has Michael Phelps as a possible answer) called Games For One.  A possible indictment of my lifestyle, but anyway.

It has a large variety of solitaire games that use one or two decks of cards, with of course lots of other solitaire games that don’t.  I tried two of the solitaire variants.  At some point there will be a metaphysical certitude that this will either become more interesting or not.

Stalactites is a game I’m finding worthy of adding to the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or so solitaire games I play while watching TV or when traveling.  Deal out four foundation cards.  Decide whether you are going to play cards up in ones or twos (suit is unregardable).  Deal out the rest of the deck in eight columns of six cards.  Bottom card of each column is playable.  Three times per game, you can select any two cards and put them in a separate play zone to play any time you want.  The three times per game thing is not elegant, but everything else is.  It’s straightforward, doesn’t take up a ton of space, and it rewards good decisions while not being something you have to obsess about if you don’t want.  It reminds of playing FreeCell.

But, this would be a rather prosaic post if that was what inspired it.  That game didn’t.  The other game I tried was Strategy Solitaire.  You play cards from a single deck out into eight piles.  As you hit an ace, you set it aside as a foundation card.  You can play each card into any of the eight piles, but you don’t play cards up from the aces until you “heap” the entire deck.  Once you have heaped the entire deck, you can play the top card of each heap up from the aces by suit.

What is wrong with this game?

Do you want some time to think about it?

Either way, I’m about to tell you.

It’s a two stage game where the second stage is unregardable.  You know whether you are going to win or not once you have formed your eight heaps.  Actually moving the cards to the aces serves really no purpose.  I don’t think it’s a bad game, at least not yet, but it’s certainly not a very interesting one because all of the decisions are front loaded.  The reality is is that most solitaire games are dictated by the sequence of cards.  What makes a good one stand out is when you have enough decision making ability to adjust to the sequencing of cards, which is why the one I play the most is so good.

Put another way, you can just remove the aces from the deck, shuffle, and play the game, and it plays identically.  That’s inelegant.

Which brings me to an inspiration point for this post.  I’m helping design another game right now.  Don’t include things in games that serve no purpose or detract from the play experience.  It’s like writing.  Don’t write sections into your epic novels that nobody gives a crap about like witches tugging on their dresses (well, unless they tug really hard … and other forms of tugging follow).

Sure, telling someone to remove the aces from the deck before doing anything is its own form of lack of elegance, but I’m just turned off by the idea that the game is decided before it ends.  Actually, that’s a factor for why I don’t enjoy Magic much, as so many other CCGs are not as easy to project to a conclusion.


So, last Sunday, Brett played his last session before his move to Nebraska.  We played three games.  A couple of people I met at KublaCon showed up at various times to contribute to us having a playerbase.

Game 1

Brandon (merged Dancin’ Dana + Leandro) -> Brett (borrowed 13 Daggers) -> Ian (Hatchlings) -> Rob (Salubri) -> David (Skin Eaters) -> Andy (Toreador Alastor)

Nobody got ousted at time.  I don’t think that’s because it was six players.  I think it’s more that there was a lot of combat cards played and entered.

I built two decks that morning because Brett was leaving.  I rebuilt my 16 Daggers deck into a 13 Daggers deck and made it a “24” deck (i.e. x6 Govern, x6 Conditioning, x6 Deflection, x6 wake of your choice).  That … made my life difficult.  We fought a lot.  Playing Gargoyles, I took the brunt of Tension in the Ranks, at first.

Rob and I didn’t interact that much except how he blocked my Hatchlings early.  We didn’t hurt each other.  I drew four of my five Raking Talons early, so I threatened while facing a deck full of prevent on one side and a deck with combat ends and prevent on the other side.  My prevent did blow up a bunch of Daggers, but, really, who cares?

Meanwhile, David was decrypting.

Meanwhile, Brandon and Andy fought.  Brandon put out Anarch Revolts and everyone went anarch, but it meant everyone was vulnerable to having their one anarch get dirtnapped.  Also, Leandro was annoying some of us, as he is wont to do.  Andy Alastored Alexandra, and Brandon looked to be in trouble, until Rob and David conspired to allow David to get a Skin Eaters online and Skin Eatered Alexandra, who got other-eatered.

Yup, just your typical NoCal game.

Game 2

Andy and Rob leave.  Drew appears.  Brandon helps Drew with his first game in many years.

Drew (Malk94ish) -> David (DoC vote) -> Brett (borrowed !Nos lowcap) -> Ian (3e Malk SB)

David threw a Lily Prelude backwards for four.  He regretted that.  I regretted helping him pass one that did three forward, as David’s deck is just not fast enough to race a focused bleed deck.  Brett was the one who suffered from having back to back fierce predators, not having enough bloat online but having enough bleed to make things dicey for me.  I was an Eyes of Chaos short from winning the endgame race.

Brett has blogged about how awful the !Nos are.  While I agree, I think people spend too much time worrying about what clans are supposed to be good at.  They have Obfuscate.  Just bleed all of the time … and play Fake Out and Dodge … cuz you have Couriers in your deck.

Game 3

Drew (as above) -> Brandon (as above) -> Ian (!Nos lowcap) -> David (Huitz Great Beast bleed)

Brett took off.  Proving that style is everything and everyone has their style, I won with my deck.  Drew was in a bad spot in that Brandon had merged Dancin’ Dana and had WMRH and Bowl of Convergence in play, but, somehow, Brandon ran out of intercept/bounce and Drew just barely took him out.  That was actually kind of good for me in that I no longer needed to worry about combat, but it meant my hand full of Fake Outs and Dodges needed to be purged.

Carlton was just barely enough to keep me alive against Drew (well, just as the previous game, Drew lost a minion to this deck’s Archon Investigation).  I Heidelberg/Robert Cartered away David.  I took out Drew while sitting on a few pool with a final bleed from my Courier.

I was explaining to Brett what would likely be a better !Nos deck – play Badr al-Budur, Count Ormonde, and whatever !Nos you want with Obfuscate and win the old fashioned way – with Dominate.  That sort of thing doesn’t interest him.  That sort of thing was my lifeblood for coming up with ways to win with terrible clans, though, actually, it almost never worked (I screwed up an Abominations win really badly).  My tournament winning decks have defied my attempts to cheesilicious victory, thus my need to actually write down my absurdly expansive personal banned list.


Three games Thursday.

Don (Battleground Jammers) -> Justin (Ascended Power) -> Ian (Year of the Goat Dragon) -> Joren (Architects)

Our house rules contribute well to Hong Kong’s Finest, as we build a lot horizontally.  I tried to police Killing Grounds and Justin, but Justin just gained too much power to do anything about.  Joren kept hoping to get attacked, but everybody was too busy attacking other people to ever attack him.

Justin won.

Justin (Hand states) -> Ian (really old Dragons) -> Joren (Monarch burn) -> Don (Secret Flambards)

My deck has plenty of Thunder on Thunder, which would have helped some in the first game.  The only one I played got Winter’s Laughed.  My Netherworld Vet, with four corrupt damage from Incendiary Blast, never got taken out because of that.  Marisol joined him and a Maverick Cop and winning occurred after people blew their burn on stopping Justin from doing stuff.

Ian (Architects) -> Joren (Lotus) -> Don (Homicide Detectives) -> Justin (Ascended Power)

Everyone hates Homicide Detectives.  I Bzzzzzt!ed one of them but discarded my hand to a Snap of the Crocodile stolen Scramble Suit that held three more copies.  Didn’t draw the fifth.

Everyone was out of control.  Joren kept building sideways.  Don Kiii-YAAAH!ed him, Great Wall, Kiii-YAAAH!ed him again.

Justin’s out of control was decisive.


Really need to go into more detail some other time, as this post is extensive enough.  I have been working on projected HoR4 builds and am running into challenges.  I should always be 1.5 ranks behind everyone else once people start ranking up, which will concern people when mods start going mid, mid/high.  I don’t end up playing much in the way of highs, anyway, so that’s less of a concern.

Besides that, there’s fun and there’s funny.  The original inspiration for my main was funny.  I need to focus more on the fun and be less obsessed with milestones of funny.


Flaming Falcon

August 23, 2012

As mentioned in my last post, I created a solitaire game on the flight back (the second leg, from Cleveland).  No, it’s not called Flaming Falcon, though …

I was asked what it would be called, and I think “544” is good enough, though 544 Flaming Falcon came to mind.  This is a joke nobody could possibly get.  It involves the Q Manual from the James Bond 007 RPG, the entry for the Ferrari 512 Berlinetta Boxer, and how I wanted something with better stats.  Thus was born the Ferrari 540 Flaming Falcon.

Anyway, 544 refers to the maximum number of points that can be achieved in the game.

What inspired this?

I’ve really become a fan of the philosophy that restrictions breed creativity.  The restriction here was that the airplane tray is small, too small for a number of solitaire games I play or even dealing poker hands.  I needed something that took up a minimal amount of space while doing something new and different, as I wasn’t in the mood for a bunch of solitaire bridge.

Also, too many solitaire games either have the problem of obvious decisions or no decisions.  For instance, if you play Microsoft’s solitaire game, a tableau may have no decisions.  In contrast, while FreeCell is solvable if you spend enough time studying the tableau, that’s boring and it’s interesting enough to just start moving cards around.  Actually, I suppose I could say I hate Spider Solitaire because the decisions are undermined so by the randomness.


Shuffle the deck.  Draw 5 cards.  Each turn, until the last, draw a card, reveal a card, and either try to match the revealed card or bury it.  You can match the card in one of two ways.  You can either match it on suit, in which case it goes into one scoring pile, or you can match it on its numerical value, where it goes in another scoring pile (I did numerical matches face up and suit matches face down in one pile to save space).  You continue to do this until you get down to one card in the draw pile, which you reveal rather than draw.  You may match cards in your hand based on value or suit, burying any that you don’t match.


Cards have values equal to their face value, with aces being one and jacks, queens, kings being 11, 12, and 13, respectively.  Cards matched by value are worth 10 points each, regardless as to their face value, so 20 points for a pair.  Cards matched by suit are worth their face values.  Cards buried subtract by their face values.  The total number of points available is 544.  The total number of points if matching all cards by value is, of course, 520.  The total number matched by suit is only 364.

Based on a number of plays, it seems that 400+ points is a good score.  My high is 446.  My second and third high scores are 444 and 440.


There’s nothing terribly complicated about the strategy.  The point of solitaire games is not to agonize and create paralysis by analysis problems but to eat up time that is otherwise mindnumbing while feeling some sense of accomplishment.  Well, I like having some sense of accomplishment, which is why I rarely play games where you just run on autopilot.

Yes, there’s a luck factor, that’s not a problem to me.  You will likely lose some cards early, before your hand gets huge.  The decisions early on about how to match on suit are the most agonizing, however, there’s an element of how to play the hand at the end when you have a wealth of options.

Memory can play a part, if you care enough about maximizing score.  I’m not big on memory challenges in games, but I find that it’s a low hurdle for this.

If I seem vague about how to maximize scores, I think it’s worth allowing people to discover a bit on their own.  I definitely got better at the game as I thought through what should be done.


It’s easy enough to vary:  change hand size, change value matching points (down, up would be less interesting, methinks, increasing the luck factor, though I think there’s an optimal point and 10/20 seems like it might be about it), etc.