EC 2017: Veni. Vidi. Suxisti!

May 24, 2017

So, I went to the 2017 V:TES European Championships.  An obsession with Eyes of Argus (on my banned list), Enkil Cog (banned list), er …, Deep Song (banned list) …  Okay, it was cherry juice.  Cherry juice was the driving force behind going to Berlin.  That and Australian women.

Maybe I should start over.

Before V:TES ceased to be a thing, I wanted to hit a EC and a NAC in Columbus.  I had worked out in my spreadsheet how to have enough hours (stealing from my future accruals) to accomplish both.  Then, I used up more hours than I planned, so I let NAC drop for this year.  Still, with everyone under the Moon, even those who don’t actually play, wanting Anthology Sets and my mother figuring out whether she was going to vacation in Europe, Berlin was booked.

As was London because I didn’t see the point of going for less than two weeks and I didn’t see a point in spending two weeks in Berlin.  My mother had spent a few years going to school in London, so, in theory, we could visit places she knew.  Nigh 60 years absence kind of made that not part of the trip.

We arrive.  In the East End.  To the pub!

See the mustard. Too much mustard.

As is the norm among all middle thinking people, the pub is where you go to drink water and eat.  Yes, every single pub in England I’ve been to I’ve just had water to drink.

My hope was to have localish food in England, pub burger, pub fish and chips, kind of forgot about pub meat pie.  Meat pie.  It was good.  The mustard tray came with dijon, whole grain, and English.  Not liking either of the first two, I figure English would taste … whoa!  Okay, I guess it’s just Statespeople who like sweet mustard that isn’t remotely horseradishy or wasabii.

We only had four days fully open to tourist.  We did not effectively use them all, however I could say we reasonably touristed three days.  We did hit the Childhood Museum a block away from our room.  We did have ice cream at Harrods.  Before getting into other touristing, I should note that my breakfast lasagne at E Pellicci was some of my best food.  Thing about hole in the wall places there – crowded and loud.  I’ll comment more on food hither as I’m sure my insights will sea shanty your world.

Llort! Llort?!?

Yessim.  The key to going to London is to go to Cambridge and do what everyone does in Cambridge – get some Babylon 5 CCG in.  We played two very long games with some cafeteria food lunch and a bit of a crisis averted.

First Game [this is a gaming blog, wrong?]:

I played Ivanova Death Incarnate.  I completely mangled the opening.  I was supposed to Rapid Growth on turn one and sponsor Susan.  I forgot how Rapid Growth/Airlock Mishap openings work.  I set myself probably two turns behind.

Other decks played were home faction Narns, Minbari with intrigue, Non-Aligned.  Narns, for some reason, didn’t develop any infrastructure.  What was interesting was one of the last few groups to play doesn’t use standard openings that get you to 10 influence rapidement.  I didn’t seem terribly threatening, mostly because I couldn’t draw any conflicts and was mostly screwing around with putting things like Spin Doctors out while the Non-Aligned seemed out of control.  I finally started on conflicts.  The Narns Allianced us.  I attacked some with Ivanovas since I could just replace them all.  I brought out Diplomacy characters.  I Rally the People and have enough with A Rising Power to win.

Second Game:

I switch to Llort.  Not Chosen of Llort.  Llort Fast Learner Bodyguard and Non-Aligned Fanatic Llort.  Maybe the spiritual realm was trying to tell me something about playing ineffectual decks as I was ineffectual, actually going back to 10 influence from being above 10 influence.  Home Minbari, Home Centauri Shadows, Bester opposed the righteous Llort.  Centauri should have won.  Then, for some reason, he put Forced Evolution in play to make it harder for him to win and the game times out with a Minbari/Centauri tie.

Crusade cards suck.  I don’t care that they played The Fen constantly and even adapted their play to The Fen.  I care about undercosted or zero costed cards coming into play and dumb turns like making Probes be less huge and just general getting away from what the game was supposed to be about, like Llort.  Oops, argument fail … argument fail!

The highlight of London … em … England was punting on the Cam.  It was relaxing and touristy and our punter was entertaining.

Next day, Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge.  Interesting observation.  No effort to leave time for shopping.  It just felt odd to be rushed about.  Sure, you could shop, but, then, you didn’t spend much time castling or bathing or hengeing.  The guide also didn’t guide much.

Bath was the weakest part of the tour as it was far too museumy for me.  Windsor was wandering around a castle.  Stonehenge was a bright day in the countryside without any interdimensional portals opening up or whatever.  Oh, I should mention that while there was a decent amount of Sun in London, most days it was chilly due to wind.  Sunday, the day when we spent much of the time indoors and on a bus, was warm.  Now, I’m not a warm person, running rather hot [oh nevermind] [see enjoying Scandinavia in January], but we wanted to Thames at some point and warmth on water body not terrible.

As anyone can get pictures of Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge, here’s (of course) a Bath picture.

Nicer looking than broken stone.

Monday, we did get on a ship cruising the Thames, hit Greenwich just before Royal Observatory closed but didn’t think to go to Average Time until time was annihilated into the past.

So, food.  Food was surprisingly cheap in London.  In that, we ended up eating very oddly and kept missing out on pubbing or tourist-fooding.  We had fast food.  It was bad.  Every single time I’ve had fish and chips in England it has been rather awful.  Speaking of chips.  Every single time I’ve had chips [sic] in England, they have been gross.  Soggy crap like you get from fast food places in the States.  Every single time I’ve been to Greenwich, I’ve gotten a burger and French Fries [sic] and it was good.  Now, I did ask them to crisp up my French Fries [sic], but they were better cooked to begin with (I didn’t notice any difference with my mother’s).  Plus, Peanut Butter Cup milkshake was good.  So, secret to eating in London is pay for the extra privilege (aka quid) of having Americanized food.  Or, seek out your breakfast lasagne, whatever.  To be fair, our only pub food was good.

I need to move on … to Berlin.

We get into Tegel, I stupidly have us use public transportation to get to our service apartment.  Not only did that fail when we got to Alexanderplatz because heaven forbid that you put information counters in major public transportation hubs where tourists can find them, but the trek to Alexanderplatz was pain.  Even the better, less stoppy bus, would have taken you through awful looking town in unenthralling weather.  I like overcast, but going from London’s bright and cheery and woodsyness to drab and boxy and congestedness of our bus trip made me hate having to spend so much time in Berlin.

Then, we settled in and wandered a bit and the city was much more pleasant.  We were a five minute walk from Museum Island.  We had the Magic Museum on our block (I eventually didn’t bother due to its reviews).  Walking to U-Bahn stations not so bad.

Speaking of bad.  I hated public transportation besides U-Bahn.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s underground subways and everything else is misery.  Tube – fine.  Metro – my hood.  U-Bahn – same old, same old.  Buses?  Nein!  Trams, S-Bahn, regional trains, trains to other cities?  Icksome.

Speaking of dumb.  I got us Welcome Cards for Berlin, figuring 8 days was enough to tourist.  I was wrong.  We only used the discounts once on the entire trip.  Either too busy, too tired, or the museum or tour we had to pay for didn’t give discounts.  The only good thing was that we never had to get transportation tickets due to the timing of when we validated the Welcome Cards and when we were leaving.

In the hood.

So, food.  London cheap.  Berlin expensive.  Of course, we did mostly sit down restaurants in Berlin in our hood.  Also, what killed the pocketbook wasn’t food.  It was cherry juice.  Every single time I’ve spent more than a week in Germany I’ve never had a beer.  Oh, I should mention that I had no tea in England, not even in the room.  Drinks aren’t just expensive – $4.50 Cokes, for instance – but the volume is weak sauce.  In the US, you pay $2.50 or possibly more these days in a sit down restaurant for a Coke, but you get free refills.  I had like $3.50 juices of .2 liters.  How can someone eat food with .2 liters of drink?

Now, KiBa was really good both times.  My Coconut Kiss was really good and not horrendously priced at the place near the EC.  But, tea, coffee, water outside of the local places near the EC were just incredibly expensive relative to the volume.

Then, there was the EC’s hood.  Pop out of the Birkenstraße Station and you get a coffee/pastry shop with decent sized cafe au lait.  You get döner kebap sandwiches that are huge, may have amazingly good bread, and cost like $4.  And, there’s markets around to get drinks from if you take your food to go.

Oh yeah, the EC.  I played 8 competitive rounds, a storyline pickup game, and three casual games.  This is my tale.

Because we have a limited tolerance for wandering around, we go by the EC on Thursday to see what’s going on.  I get into a pickup game with Rudolf as my predator, Ali as my prey, Dean as my grandprey, and I can almost remember my grandpredator – Peter, maybe.

I borrow Dean’s !Toreador Embrace deck because I was touristing and didn’t bring decks.  I didn’t draw Embraces until the game was essentially over.  I can try to search my mind for who started my games, but, since I didn’t post this when I got home last Wednesday, I’m just going to rush through by listing myself first in every game.

Pickup 1:

Ian (!Toreador horde) -> Ali (Pot/Pre/Cel vote) -> Dean (Pot/Pre/Cel vote) -> ?? (??) -> Rudolf (Tzimisce high caps)

General observation – Armin, Dmitra, Hektor, Tara, Jan, et al were extremely popular across all of the events.  What was somewhat different was how fighty the versions were I saw.

Dean brings out vampire.  Ali stops transferring to same vampire.  I bring out dorks, I Palla Grande a couple of times, Ali has no game.  Dean ousts his prey somehow, not entirely sure how.  I go ahead and oust Dean.  I concede after a couple of fights in endgame.  If I wanted to play a better game, I would have played differently, letting Dean work on Rudolf harder, but it was not a great game, so might as well end it.

Storyline:

I didn’t build specific storyline decks.  I happened to have a deck that could work for End of the Line, which a lot of people couldn’t play due to the low cap crypt requirement.  I did have leftover decks that were clanny, so I played Samedi, taking out some of the cards that didn’t work when I played my LMC/Groaning Corpse deck prior.

Samedi -> Ravnos Fatuus Mastery -> Ralf playing !Toreador with sticks -> Ben playing Matasuntha -> Tito playing Aabbt Kindred (storyline!)

I had no predator early on, as only Aabbt came out and started Camera Phoning.  My prey tried SensDep forward.  Tito had no predator.  I ended up with three Samedi SensDepped.  Yup, my two times in life having three minions SensDepped were the time I played a Regaining the Upper Hand deck and the time I played Samedi Groaning Corpse in a storyline event.

My prey did get two VPs, so it was the right play.  Tito, of course, won, once he could start bleeding and I had like three Deflections in my hand at the end of the game having played none all game.

Samedi -> Bart playing with an Archbishop of Berlin! -> blanked -> Kari still blanking -> NewJah

This was maybe my most irrelevant game, as NewJah just rolled over me with stealth bleed as is its wont.  This game timed out with only my being ousted.  It shows how weak my frail mind has become that I don’t recall what other people were playing, just that titles mattered across table and I’m pretty sure Kari was Governing.  I think she was playing !Trem because I expected Oriandus to pop, probably a Malgorzata deck, but I could be making things up.  It’s really bad that I can’t even picture anything of my grandprey’s deck anymore.  Tzimisce, I think, as it torped Bart’s dudes reasonably often, maybe advanced Sascha was in play.

I didn’t feel the storyline flavor of this event.  But, then, ever since the first one, I never understood why people play good clans in storylines.  That someone likes a clan is not an argument for seeing Malks, Ventrue, et al.  I like Tzimisce but don’t play them in an event designed to make the world more interesting.

I was surprised that it was just a 2+F event.  Not that I want to play 3+F events, but I was surprised.

Pickup 2:

I hung around to play a rather Americanized pickup game, where James played his Corrupt Construction deck, Kevin played some Ravnos deck that didn’t do much.  Some Swiss guy was my predator.  Phillip was my prey with Tremere.

Yes, I went to Europe and all I got to play against was a Los Angeles/Taiwan Corrupt Construction deck I’ve played like five times against.  What did I play?  Standard Matthias gets Temporis and Summons History.

I got 2 VPs just before time as I beat down Phillip’s board mostly due to Ivory Bow as Ponticulus was in play.  Pickup game 2 VPs – that was towering crescendo of effectiveness.

Day 1:

I thought about metagaming harder against hyperbleed, but I just wanted to play my deck.  I didn’t realize it was a sloppy 90 cards until I counted it up.

Ian (Aus/Dem/Obf/Vic) -> Gines (Giotto, Nos Princes) -> (Grinder) -> Peter (Thucimia) -> (Winnie Dementation)

I should know my predator’s name as I talked to him on Day 2 quite a bit, but I’m actually fading writing this post.

Gines was going to win unless my predator crosstabled him.  I thought about suggesting that and didn’t bother.  I did hang around a little bit longer so that I could play a Madman’s Quill on Giotto with only three Dementation bleed decks at the table.  Gines got rid of it, right away.  My predator ousted me because he didn’t want to be ousted.

Gines got too fast a start for his prey and I didn’t control Gines in any way, though I had the cards in the deck to kill Parity Shifts.  Gines 4.

Ian -> Frank (small cap Tzimisce wall) -> Dean (Gangrel Animalism) -> Michael (Carna and friends) -> Kari (Trem/!)

This was surprisingly NoCalish, in that Dean took three actions to burn the Pentex on my Gravitnir and they all got blocked by my prey.  Kari gave me some rope to push on the wall, but I was largely ineffectual.

How ineffectual?

I bring out Gravitnir.  My prey places The Erciyes Fragments.  I take an action to steal it.  We fight.  I don’t maneuver.  He uses Dean’s Aid from Bats to maneuver.  I Breath of the Dragon.  I continue to try to take Erciyes or play Madman’s Quills on my prey, and every single attempt gets blocked.  Did I do any pool damage?  After the game I thought naught.  But, maybe I did Changeling bleed once.

I played with two vampires (Luc).  I got Pentexed by my prey, my predator’s first Magic of the Smith was for Signet of King Saul when her predator was kind of already strong and the only 8+ cap that hit play was mine, I got ‘schrecked when playing a combat ends.

General observation backed up by some other people agreeing.  People would rather lose to Govern/Conditioning and Kindred/Confusion than face the unknown.  People expect Dementation bleed from Zettler and Gravitnir?  Why would anyone bother?

I pontificated about my lack of success and in what way my beliefs are wrong about the game.  Does deck construction matter more than I think?  Am I suckier than I think?  Is my play style all wrong?

Play style for the moment.  I rely heavily on other players realizing that I’m virtually never a threat and that someone else is.  I rely on people not crippling the weak.  General observation – a lot of players in crossregional metagames don’t go after the strong but cripple the weak and seemingly play for 1 or 2 VPs.  This is interesting because one thing I’m pretty sure about is that I don’t build decks oriented to multiple game wins and you need multiple game wins to win 156 player tournaments or even 88 player tournaments much of the time.

I had my Sanguine Instruction between two !Malks … for Vicissitude … blocked.  My prey feared my !Malky bleed possibilities – my prey had bounce.

Dean, Frank, and I just beating on each other meant Michael had an easy game.  Kari finished me off, I played Extremis Boon, Michael spent some time calculating the amount of pool to give me, Frank Suddened the Extremis Boon.

Ian -> Bart (Winnie Auspex Anarch) -> Jaakko (Kiasyd SB) -> Enrico (Malk94) -> Jan (!Brujah beats)

Jan Havened and IGed backwards but gave up on eviscerating his predator.  Enrico didn’t bounce early but just kept bleeding and being torped.  Jaakko had sporadic bleed.  I kept trying to Madman’s Quill Bart, but it didn’t work.  I tried Concealing his Bowl, that didn’t work.  I lost a variety of cards to Constant Revolution, which didn’t really hurt me, I wanted one more round to discard 3 cards at random.  I lost Extremis Boon and Personal Scourge.  I did Inner Essence/Coma one of Bart’s dudes, but we mostly just handsed each other.  Yet again, someone tried Pentexing me, though I did bring out three vampires for a change.

Enrico ousted Jan.  Jaakko took the rest.

Did two wall decks in front of me hinder my VPing?  I don’t think so.  Walls are to be expected.  You need a game plan for getting through them.

Actually, with The unnamed doing really well (foreshadowing), Auspex is just not as good as it once was.  I would have vastly preferred Deflection as my bounce of choice from a metagame standpoint.

End of the Line

We finally got a four player together for End of the Line.  Petri was my prey with !Gangrel.  My predator played Kiev Circle.  I played Hermana Mayor.  The other deck was Tupdog.  I actually had a plan for dealing with Tupdog.  Everyone failed me, including my predator who didn’t bother blocking a bleed that ousted him, leaving me tapped out with 4 pool and my new prey having a minion with Groundskeepers.

An awful game, and I think the format has some strong potential for awfulness, yet another game going on during ours was like five player and the Corruption deck won at time or something.

Sunday

Obviously not qualifying, I played in the side event, with its 88 players.

Ian (Pre/Vic BB?) -> (Pot/Pre/Cel vote) -> (Forestal anarch) -> (Kiasyd combat?) -> Luis (unnamed bleed focus)

I had no way to defend against my predator.  My bounce got cancelled as predicted.  His predator did nothing.  My grandprey didn’t realize Forestal can only fake one discipline at a time.  My prey was the only one who could stop the Baali but didn’t.  Luis swept.

Ian -> (Pot/Pre/Cel vote) -> (Kiasyd SB) -> (Lutz/Maris) -> (Aus/Tha/Vic)

This was the only talk game I had.  This was what I kind of expect in Day 2 of big tournaments.  There was like a 10 minute discussion that led to not playing a Parity Shift.  Malks Deranged backwards, ended up on Dmitra.  Never left Dmitra as afraid would end up on Hektor.  My prey had to deal constantly with Dmitra’s ability.  I had Velya in play, so I was vote relevant.  I Starvation of Marenaed my predator’s Malgorzata to torpor but didn’t interact much after that.  Kiasyd just kept trying to bleed.

Because Malks were in danger of death, kept dealing to get off Parity Shift.  One Parity Shift was possibly four different targets before eventually going backwards.  My prey asked me afterwards when the game went to my predator.  We agreed it was when he brought out Sha-Ennu after Malgorzata and Mistress Fanchon.  Malks called Reins of Power to bring me to 3 pool, first 3 bleed by predator killed me.  He deemed that his only clear mistake.

It was rough with how to deal the votes.  Yet, it didn’t time out.

Ian -> Kari (Aus/Chi bleed) -> (Shadow Court Satyr w/ Dominate) -> (Winnie Dom/For) -> (Winnie Dom/Pre)

I asked for the time twice.  The other players said something like “with two weenie Dom decks, I don’t think the game is going to time out”.  I considered giving my reason for asking about time.

My first action of the game was Creamy Jade rescues my predator’s Ingrid Russo.

In the first 50 minutes of the game, I played one card – Enchant Kindred (Matteus to Enid Blount).  My predator did 3 pool damage to me all game with his four minions, a bleed I let through hoping he would bleed for more.  I did not Entrancement my grandprey’s SCS.  Misdirection killed me as I was out of wakes for my second predator.

Competitive play was done.  I enjoyed my games, actually, parts of all of my games.  Well, maybe not the second round storyline, thinking about it.  But, I was useless.  I was going to get into why in this post, but I think I need to finish up with the reporting and get into analysis in another post.

Pickup 3:

Ian (!Toreador blocky) -> Peter (Samedi, Genina focus) -> Rudolf (Tupdog) -> ?? (Rudolf’s Montano) -> Ali (Rudolf’s Tzimisce)

Rudolf wasn’t as scary as one expects from Tupdog.  He didn’t draw any Raking Talons for a while.  He didn’t Graverob that much.  I did Soul Painting his Selena, which somehow didn’t instantly burn her, but maybe I’m wrong about Soul Painting as well as many other things.

Peter Nightmare Cursed at double superior my Greta late in the game.  That didn’t hurt too much, as I had Majestys.  Ali didn’t threaten me much.  Montano did one Baltimore Purge and ended up in torpor when it went off.

Rudolf ousted as his prey couldn’t keep minions ready.  Peter ousted.  I should have been able to oust Peter but couldn’t get the right combination of Unholy Penanced, Melanged, Aire of Elationed, Palla Grandeed bleeds lined up before we timed out.

Yes, I was that sad.  Multiple Unholy Penances, a Melange, Palla Grande, like four vampires with Presence, and I couldn’t do like 2 more pool to my prey’s Samedi with Auspex deck when I needed to.

We did talk about teaching English, as the EC was less an opportunity to get VPs and more an opportunity to speak with people who learn multiple languages about how a middle-aged American be less monolingual.  It was kind of funny that Peter mentioned that people count in their own languages, when I find numbers the easiest thing to remember in other languages, though I was in an elevator trying to remember how to count backwards from 100 in French.  Learning a little bit of Mandarin constantly screws up my remembering any French outside of memorized phrases.

My mother and I went out to eat with Hung-ary Peter (you know, it could be that some of these Peters spell their names Pieter or whatever, but I hope I’m getting their names right) and a bunch of Swedes.  Large contingent of Swedes.  They may think I’m a goofball, but I quite enjoy hanging out with them.

Only two people mentioned my blog.  Ralf.  Tomas (sp?).

Rudolf, Ali, my mother, and I arranged to meet Monday for touristing.  We did a hop on, hop off bus trip, finally using a Welcome Card discount (still kind of expensive compared to … foreshadowing).

Speaking of my mother, what was she doing while I was playing cards?  Fortunately, Martin’s mother also wanted to do some sightseeing.  So, his mother who doesn’t speak English and my mother who doesn’t speak German had a good day of sightseeing on the weekend, including a river jaunt.

Martin, his mother, Rudolf, Ali all really helped make the trip better.  As did Michael (B5), organizers, opponents, people I spent some time with outside of play – had lunch with a couple of Italians and Dean, lunch with Kevin who I had never met in the US (to our knowledge), etc.

 

Symbolic.

Tuesday, went to Potsdam on a guided tour.  Interesting thing about this tour.  Unlike the UK tour, where we were just sort of dumped into places to look around at stuff, this tour didn’t have much in the way of going in palaces or churches or whatever but had a lot of history.  Like our punter, the tour guide was entertaining.  We still didn’t have time to shop on the 6 hour tour.  We hit Sanssouci with various pauses along the way.

My phone doesn’t do wide shots all that well, so all of my palace photos show only parts of the palace.

Ironicful.  Best touristy thing in our trip to London was in Cambridge.  Best touristy thing in our trip to Berlin was in Potsdam.

Good size group – 12 + guide.  Guide was Australian.  No, he wasn’t a woman.  But, there were a coincidentally disproportionate number of Australian or Australian-connected women on the tour.  They hung out with cool Spanish/Portuguese guys rather than uncool Statesperson guy.  I can’t blame them.  Who wants to hang out with a guy who talks about logic puzzles and racist pidgin languages?

Foreshadowing1:  unnamed was in EC Day 2 finals, in Shadow Twin finals.

Foreshadowing2:  Tour to Potsdam was 15 euros apiece, 1 more euro than hop on/hop off bus.  Can’t say the latter was bad in any way, just seems like a bus ride with audio guide should be less demanding than live guiding.  Of course, compared to the W/B/S tour in the UK, which was over a 100 sterling apiece, maybe bus rides are superoverheadful.

Well, I think I failed to write in the way I wanted to write, but I have to get this published and get back to Traveller and work and getting on a normal sleep schedule.


Dead Sign

March 16, 2015

Several things I want to get to but maybe best to keep this to V:TES.  We will see.

We’ve played the Red Sign Storyline twice in recent weeks.

It sucks.

Only two of us have actually been trying to work with the mechanics introduced in the format.  Others have metagamed hate.  That’s a fail.

One may argue that that’s the players’ fault.  Except, it isn’t.  If you don’t provide mechanics people want to play with, then you failed at design.

Why don’t people want to play with the new mechanics?

There are too many cards.  Not a single storyline vampire has been played with.  Why do we even have storyline vampires?  Keep in mind that where someone playing their favorite clan can play library cards by jumping through some hoops, a vampire affects the ability to play one’s favorite clan.

Meanwhile, there are so many library cards that it’s overwhelming.  The number of mages is way too high.  The number of Master of _ are way too high no matter what you think of the thematics … unless you pretty much eliminate pages 2 through 5 of the 6(!!) page library file.  I was the only one who noticed that Master of Mind shuts down ally steal.  While I find the idea of mages running around with +2 intercept, +2 bleed, damage prevention, combat ends, and whatever kind of amusing – that’s not V:TES.  That’s a game of mage wars, oops, can’t use that name, mage battles?  Mage conflicts?  Mage arguments?  Yes, Mage Arguments.  I can see playing that game.  I can’t see playing this one.

It encourages allies.  Allies are already too much a part of V:TES.  Not just Imbued.  War Ghouls, Shamblers, Nephandi, Tunnel Runners, Ossian, Carlton, Mylan, etc.  I like some of these cards.  I think one or two Nephandi are really cool.  I’m a huge fan of allies, in general, … when they are a sideline.  When they rule the roost, spotlight the show, eat the Easter Eggs – screw ’em.

Of course, the worst thing about allies is The Unmasking, followed by any of the other events that promote allies.

This format only introduces the idea of playing a bunch more allies, leading to minor ally hate increases by one player and massive ally hate increases by another player.

Now, mages aren’t all bad.  I have a deck written up to play 0-1 cost Outcast Mages.  I just have no intention of ever playing this deck until the format changes.

“But, you can ignore allies in this format.  You can choke people on their +1 bleed actions!!!”

Which brings up the other fail of the format.

The Red Sign is something everyone except me is trying to avoid.  Why?  Because they can.  That’s a fail.  For a storyline built around a card, it’s incredibly easy to just ignore it, stealth bleed everyone trying to do anything different to death, and basically just end up playing a non-storyline game.

So, what are the fixes?

Ban The Unmasking.  Oh, people are going to bitch and moan?  Then, just ban it from this storyline.

“But d-u-u-u-d-e, then my allies can’t protect me.”

Um, note how this format has +intercept for mages.  Note how the game played just fine with decks that played out allies before there were armies of +1 intercept blockers.  Note that +1 intercept on a vampire is one of the more game altering abilities.  Note how a Sport Bike or Mr. Winthrop or a Raven Spy can screw over decks.  That’s a single minion.  Carlton doesn’t actually bother me that much, except for how he’s an obvious play in a ton of decks, making him way too common.  He’s a single (yes, annoying) dude who discourages diablerie.  I’m perfectly fine discouraging diablerie, but that’s getting off topic.  The Unmasking is a mass of dudes with built in combat ability or expendability who block and block and block against certain decks.  Those decks they don’t ruin may very well be heavy stealth decks.  Those heavy stealth decks are unblockable to casual intercept.  Also off topic, but the stealth/intercept balance in the game is screwed by the Auspex/Obfuscate arms race.

I was running a minimum of three Direct Interventions and running ally steal in my decks just to protect Goth Band!

Sure, Master of Mind, which I was going to play and which no one has actually played in either event will protect mages.  This gets into the second change.

Well, not really.  I was thinking of either eliminating or radically decreasing in power ally steal for this format.  But, then, I read Master of Mind.  Mages shutdown ally steal.  So, people can play mage decks.  They can’t play other ally decks because the ally hate will be massive, but that’s something I’m trying to change by making allies less good.

See, one would think it would require only a single explanation of this but it doesn’t penetrate – cards that help general areas of a CCG typically help the best strategies in those areas, which causes people to metagame against those areas, which causes less good strategies in those areas to get annihilated.  Make all allies better, like The Unmasking does, and you make Shamblers, Reanimated Corpses, War Ghouls, Carlton all better.  So, now, I bust out my Courier deck and I run into the 12 Entrancements deck.  Or, for a recent example, I bust out Goth Band, showing players the card for the first time in their lives, and it runs into decks with six Entrancements and OBF.

When trying to promote certain things in a game, don’t go general, unless there are no good strategies in that area.  Go specific or go clever.  Tupdog is the worst vampire idea to see print.  While not exactly the top of the list for why that is, one of the reasons Tupdog should never have seen print is that it hurts all other Gargoyles.  Yes, you can make cards good for Visceratika or Gargoyles or whatever that don’t help Tupdogs.  But, it requires effort.  Meanwhile, other slave Gargoyles suck and indie Gargoyles are shafted by the game.

The Red Sign.

Two problems.  It’s too irrelevant to winning.  The equipment cards that help winning with it only make the format worse.  Sounds contradictory?  Welcome to how the world works.

For, you see, you will always run the equipment in your deck if you want to win Red.  Anyone not running the equipment is far too far away, but everyone needs to act like the player only needs 3 counters, just like everyone needs to act like the deck with Gilbert, Mariel, Didi, and Ozmo is going to bleed for 6 a lot, even when it’s a Potence rush deck.  Then, uniqueness.  Okay, now I’m running equipment steal/kill to have my versions in play?  I don’t, and someone gets there first?

If the format had no new cards besides The Red Sign and a couple of ways to make it realistic you would burn it, then maybe the metagame plays make sense.  Instead, the stealth bleed deck just takes it and bleeds people out, not wasting deck slots on anything to do with equipment, Praxis Solomon, or whatever.

So far, we have banning The Unmasking.  The second actual rule we are proposing is to eliminate the equipment that makes it easier to cash in Red and allow both a single vampire and a single mage to take actions to put counters on the thing.  That encourages mages a lot more, in theory.  In practice, let me just stealth bleed everyone to death.

I would go further and add something to the format where having Red matters more.  I don’t know what that should be.  But, the format should be encouraging its use far more.

Was the Eye of Hazimel a good card to take?  I won one of the events because I took it – to get the +1 bleed (using an argument that made people think I was going to rush with it).  Sure, there have been a number of storylines where people can just play whatever they want and ignore what’s going on.  But, Red is so worthless so much of the time that it’s just a “Looks like you could win next turn, I’ll stealth by you and make this card irrelevant to the game, wasting your actions and efforts to defend it and your deck slots on those books all for the massive cost of one action and some stealth.”

I think this post should probably just stick with the storyline.  I can write up are other games, if I’m in the mood, write up Shadowfist games if I’m in the mood, or get into RPG stuff some other time.


Time Hovers

April 21, 2014

I was thinking recently about how this blog has been around for five years.  I think I’ve said so many of the things I’ve wanted to say that it has become harder to find good philosophical posts.  There’s only so many times you can get into what makes for more fun or less fun when playing a RPG, you can get into how badly CCGs need to remove cards rather than add cards after a certain point, or whatever.

While about as uninteresting a topic I could write about, still in the arena of time, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how we were going to (and did) spend a year of real world time playing four months of in game time in our online L5R home campaign.

Well, I should be a bit clearer.  The uninteresting part isn’t the nature of the difference between in game and out of game time, but, rather, I was thinking of talking about my character in that campaign, and people talking about their characters to people who don’t play in the same campaign are inflicting violations of the Geneva Convention.

So, I’ll summarize and try to move on to something not so painful.

For, you see, this character was first played in the session where we arrived at Winter Court, which was on April 6th, 2013, and our last session, on April 19th, 2014, was our last session at Winter Court.  In that time, just in terms of mechanics, he gained:

  1. Three Insight Ranks
  2. Two Honor Ranks
  3. Nine Glory Ranks
  4. Five Status Ranks

I could go on, but I think those stats have a lot more meaning … to those who know the L5R RPG.

Meaning.  There’s something that I could try to speak to but lack anything profound to say about how RPG campaigns mark the passage of time.  I definitely want to avoid going into XP – starting and rate of advancement.  Talked enough about those recently.  There’s always been the feature of RPGs that PCs advance ludicrously fast compared to what is realistic (for the mechanics), but everyone knows this.

One of the reasons I wanted to have each session of my Gaki Mura campaign to be a month of in world time was to give a more realistic stretch of time for things to develop.  Of course, a key part of that was construction of the village.

One aspect of time with RPG campaigns is that more sessions leads to more experiences which leads to more narrative.  Obvious?  Of course.  But, I haven’t played a lot of long term campaigns.  I’ve been involved in a lot of campaigns that started and quickly folded.  Well, compared to some players, not even “a lot” is true.  Not only do I have a number of story experiences for my character, because of some of them (really more because one led to another which led to another), I have more advancements in mind to purchase for my character than when I created him!  (I also have the same advancement item at the top of my list from before I played him to today!!)

An interesting development of this year long Winter was how the other players got far, far more interested in what was going on with the NPCs only in the last few sessions.  So many of the recent activities and efforts were the sort that we could have expected to begin Winter Court with.  This ties into my various posts on being on the same page, including the one from March 2009.  Clearer communication of expectations would have likely changed the party approach.

With regards to RPG experiences (rather than experience points) and with regards to changing activities, I routinely find that my PCs radically shift priorities.  An extreme example is my HoR3 character who was intended to turbo to IR-3 who will now never rise above IR-1, but that was due to factors that don’t typically exist.  My Conan character picked up interests in animal handling and theology and probably a few other things I forgot.  I see this being a good thing.  Characters should never come into existence complete, even if that’s the way I felt when I created my second Saturday campaign character.  If the character doesn’t evolve, that just suggests nothing the character did mattered.  I suppose there’s an interesting topic of tying thematics and mechanics together when it comes to advancement.  Shoot, should have thought of this earlier, then I’d have something interesting to say.  I’ll see if I can think of what to write on this topic later this week.

Speaking of time, V:TES marks its 20th year this year.  Having a storyline to mark the anniversary is good.  That the storyline has no bite is … bad.  I used to be hugely into storylines because of the illusion that what I did mattered.  Also, because of variant rules that allowed for a lot of metagame thought.  This storyline lacks the latter, but the real problem is that it lacks the illusion that results matter.

Nobody is keeping track of clan wins.  Why should they?  It’s not like you can gift some clan with a special card or promo like you could in the past.  Sure, more e-cards can be published, but I don’t care about any of them nor do I think a lot of others care about them who still play.  Okay, I win a table and get the privilege of playing with some crypt card.  Well, without rigorous tracking, why even bother worrying about whether someone wins a table?  What sort of privilege is it when you don’t care about the crypt card and don’t really see the point in taking advantage of your advantage over the losers who didn’t win a table?

Speaking of V:TES and time, I’ve spent virtually no time on V:TES in the last month or so and little since we got back from the SoCal tournaments over President’s Weekend.  That is probably not a shock, given how little I’ve talked about V:TES in this blog since then.

Rambling back to RPGs and time, there haven’t been terribly interesting discussions in a while on the L5R RPG subforum.  Relatively more of the discussion has seemed to go to homebrew mechanics.  The problem with house rules is, ultimately, … time.  Sure, balance is always a problem, with unintended consequences happening all of the time.  But, those are fixable, when you have the time.  It’s figuring out what is worth the effort to change in the first place that I lack the patience for.

Why?  Why does it require patience when you already know changes you would like to make?

I’d like to remove grappling from L5R.  I’d like to change Honor Roll mechanics, repoint Luck and maybe some other ads/disads.  I’d like to add skill masteries to not punish people who want to be known for a particular skill.  And, so on.

And, so on.  And, so forth.  This is the problem with house rules.  Well, the first problem with house rules is getting buy in from the group.  But, the slippery slope of stopping at a good point with “fixes” generally involves a time sink of figuring out where to drive the pitons in.

I’m not inclined to create L5R 3.75, even if the group would go for it.  I’d like to spend my time playing (or will have committed my time to running).

Just to avoid droning on about L5R, I’m not inclined to make much of an effort to get a game going of something else because of time.  I know L5R.  While I may be intrigued by Qin and now own Yggdrasill, it would take time to build a campaign of either, and that’s if I can get someone else to run.  If I’m running something, as lazy as I can get about doing key GM duties, I still feel time-screwed.

Anyway, I’ve probably wasted enough of the reader’s time.  My hope is to have more interesting things to say about gaming as year six of this blog continues.  Or, maybe, I’ll just find some classic posts and regurgitate my “interesting” things from yesteryear.


Card Actions

October 15, 2013

First up, Shadowfist and how V:TES and other CCGs have influenced my deckbuilding.

One of the features of playing my own decks for the first time was that I believe I brought a completely different approach to deckbuilding.  It’s the nature of those who play a CCG a long time to get into more and more esoteric decks in an effort to see variety.  As with most of the CCGs I’ve gotten into, the playerbase for Shadowfist tends to be longtime players.

Meanwhile, with a tiny collection size, I had to play a variety of cards and I was focused on having a minimum threshold of functionality.  I didn’t want to lose to combo decks or goofy vehicle decks, so I tried to get in cards that could handle edges and states.  I don’t think this was expected as I nearly wiped someone’s board with Realpolitik.

In other words, I built toolbox decks in a world of focused decks.

It’s an interesting question as to whether there’s advantage to building more toolboxy decks in a game as swingy as Shadowfist, where one’s board position can be completely nuked.

I’ve since acquired more cards, so I am now able to build more focused decks.  I had some ideas for what I wanted to build around – a good thing, as it displays that the CCG is doing its job of having different cards appeal to different people.  I was building mostly 50 or 55 card decks, embracing the ability to build decks smaller than 60 cards.  Before getting a chance to play them, though, I’ve already started tuning them.  Repeated goldfishing the decks showed that I was constantly drawing cards I didn’t want.

So, I made the decks smaller.  One deck is now 40 cards.  It has a problem with reliably getting a second faction resource, but that’s because I only own so many Dockyards.  At first, I didn’t think much about Dockyard because you “had” to run a bunch of foundation characters, anyway.  Then, I started thinking about how to make multifaction decks reliable and Dockyard became crucial.  Then, I realized that some of my decks only ever wanted to play one of the foundation characters.  By cutting the chaff foundations and running Dockyards, I could shrink my decks and have resource reliability.

Obvious?  Maybe.  But, I think experience with other CCGs has provided me with some feel for the flow of a deck for a game in which I’ve played rarely.

Just as how I tend to prune V:TES decks for tournaments down by removing extra “answers”, I’m making these decks tighter and tighter by removing the “But, what if someone plays _?”  Ultimately, the game is about the ability to take sites.  To achieve that requires power to pay for cards that deal damage.  The rest is control.  Now, I tend to like control effects, so 30-35 card decks don’t seem to make much sense, nevermind that multiplayer games lead to needing more resources and exhaustion in Shadowfist equals elimination.

V:TES

Well, not really.  More, Ragnarök storyline.  What I enjoy most about storylines is discovery when it comes to metagaming for unknown metagames.  While limited in options for Gargoyles if you want to Gargoyle for the event, Erinyi strikes me as bad not just because she can be tapped by one of the adversaries’ specials but because Sebastian Goulet is an obvious play for bringing out cheaper werewolves and for stealing everyone else’s, which is exactly what happened.  Now, -1 STR is not much of a thing, but it’s randomly something.

As a longtime V:TES player, I’m jaded.  I have to come up with my own person restrictions to create alternative metagames.  Even then, other than when I played in Pleasanton under house rules, no one else is playing under the restrictions I am, so it’s not like the metagaming is different, just the way I address other decks through restricted card choices.  So, having a true alternate metagame is quite welcome.

Of course, Danse Macabre is available and I would expect that I’d see some players try those cards, though I don’t know how metagame shifting they are.  Instantaneous Transformation may not be the sexiest new library card, but it’s a natural for various vampires.  I wouldn’t expect Enkidu so much as The unnamed and Stanislava superstar action.  I, personally, see little value in printing the cards out and using them, as I would never expect to use them in tournament play, but it gives other people more variety.

I’ve been lazy about building V:TES decks – the not knowing when we are playing impacts things, as does having gaming going on before V:TES removing my morning window to put decks together at the last minute.  I need to get back to executing on ideas that come up as well as just generally play with some cards I haven’t gotten to.  I think there are some Heirs to the Blood commons I haven’t actually ever played, for instance.


Lost Crown

November 25, 2010

So, I suppose I should have written something by now about going to the Los Angeles storyline.

As usual, I had factored in plenty of time for our drive, only to be screwed by all of the accidents in the hills above LA.  Losing that hour probably didn’t have a huge impact on how many casual games we played, but losing any playing time for such a short trip where more time was spent traveling than actually being awake in LA was undesirable.  The return trip lacked such annoyances.

Anyway, first casual game:

Shane (anarch Ventrue) -> Ian (16 Daggers) -> Matt (Eze) -> Robert S. (Lambach Hazimel)

Not a bad way to start things out.  I Computer Hacked Matt for a while.  Lambach did little.  I could have probably ousted if I didn’t get hit with both Mind Rape and Banishment right before my turn.  Prey bloated back some.  I got ousted.  Robert got ousted.  Endgame went a while due to bloat.  The main thing about this game was I got to do the stuff I was supposed to do even if I hardly fought with people.

Then:

Robert S. (FoS steal/vote) -> Ian (Perfectly Lucid) -> Jeff (P/J Celerity) -> Aaron (old school midcap Toreador) -> Mike (!Toreador + War Ghouls)

Kind of odd.  As usual, people have the oddest reactions to my bringing out Lucian, The Perfect.  Mike bled Robert a bit, but Robert basically was unmolested.  Lucian got Temptationed, which was kind of annoying, though it mean hunting to stay at 11 blood was something to do.  I didn’t have good targets for Dominate Kine, so Lucian and Elimelech mostly hung out.  Eli got Temptationed as well.  I could have ousted Jeff either by playing The Sleeping Mind on a first bleed or by drawing into something different while bleeding that would have seen me let myself get blocked, but the two Into the Airs in hand tempted me to do crazy things like try to get two bleeds through.  The primary decision for me in the game was to go for the oust on that turn or Golconda Eli and bring up Luna Giovanni.  I could have easily, I think, stalled the game out, but since I hadn’t done virtually anything during the game, I felt a desire to go forward and ended up with both dudes empty in torpor.  I did kill a Parity Shift of my prey since he didn’t offer any pool to me, I guess people don’t realize that my non-threats to disrupt their games aren’t idle.  Not exciting, but it could have been worse.  While Jeff did try to block a hunt, he did only block my attempts to bleed rather than do crazy stuff backwards.

Storyline, round 1:

Brandon (Principia Discordia Edenic Groundskeepers) -> Ian (Laecanus, The Archer) -> Jeff (Nostoket) -> Robert G. (Henry Taylor 10 card deck)

Brandon beat me down early, so I did nothing of consequence in the game.  The Rumor Mill was mostly just a blood loss engine for me.  That left Jeff to do whatever he felt like.  Robert didn’t bring out Henry for a long time so just bled forward for 1 a lot, which almost killed Brandon, but he didn’t finish him off.  A Failsafe kept me around long enough for Jeff to sweep.

Round 2:

Robert G. -> Shane (anarch Ventrue) -> Ian -> Robert S. (Lasombra Corporal Reservoir) -> Conner (Howler wall)

I had a crazy master start with The Parthenon, Dreams.  Followed fairly quickly by Channel 10 and Powerbase: LA(!!).  The interesting thing was how much pool I was losing just bringing up two dudes.  We settled into a long game where little happened.  Going forward was limited because I quickly took the Crown of Angels and whoever got the first VP was not rewarded.  Eventually, with time running down, I went forward, both Roberts ousted, and I stole from Goudie since he was okay with leaving.  I did put out one or two Twilight Camps, use a Failsafe, play Constant Revolution after blocking my predator’s, contest The Parthenon, Dreams, The Rack, The Barrens at some point in the game.  Never did lose or contest the Crown, though I think it would have been easy for someone to do it with my predator’s Ventrue Headquarters help.

Taking from Goudie rather than Scythe meant coming in a guaranteed sixth, so no foreigners at the final table, also no anarchs – they fought amongst themselves quite a bit during the event.  Andy’s Blood Brothers won from holding on to the Crown, though it was finally contested at some point.

Jeff was a gracious host as we crashed at his place.

Not much else to mention, really.  The first game was like the SF storyline all over again where being under constant pressure meant doing nothing and where I couldn’t ever move combat cards because people weren’t into combat.  Overall, though, because I actually did storyline stuff, it was decent.  Laecanus made his bid for Baron of LA, took control of the Crypt’s Sons, had a The Portrait done of himself which looked a lot like Banjoko, bolted to his Failsafe when things turned awkward, and his team was the only one to gain influence in the Powerbase: [that is] LA.  That was really weird when you think about it as it was an obvious inclusion to any anarch deck, though I think the other anarch players having much more limited collections was why it wasn’t more popular.

I suppose some other stuff happened that was notable, though I don’t remember a lot of it.  Andy’s Blood Brothers led by Ilse did a variety of stuff, of course, including actions that required an archbishop that only could be done with the Crown.  Archons Investigated Basir (3 cap, bleeding for 5) and something like three others.  Think there were only two Camarilla decks.  Smiling Jack got up to 2 and 4 in my second round.  Other LA-related cards made appearances.


Nice Hat

October 25, 2010

I just took the multiple choice test for the current Magic designer intern exams.

http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/mm/114

Only 38 right, only maybe 2 I’d argue, so I guess it’s Sad Nature’s Loser* time for me.

* http://www.cracked.com/article_16054_6-endangered-species-that-arent-endangered-enough_p2.html

Anyway, I can’t bring up the issue that question 50 addresses enough when I talk about CCGs. Okay, spoiler for those who want to take the test, so stop reading long enough to do that.

While wasting spoiler space, I can talk about my weekend. Drove an hour, half of that on a single lane road I’ve never been on before, driving so fast I couldn’t see the turnouts in time to get out of the way of the person tailgating me, to get out to P-town for some 4cl V:TES. Two fortitude decks and Enkidu. Not being the type to play nothing but combat cards, I eventually get beaten down. Four player game sees swinginess as I go from just having Elimelech and no ability to afford a second dude, to having Luna, Zelios, and a Graverobbed Aleph after my prey spends down way too low, only to get ground out because I choke on bleed bounce. Saturday, drive about 45 minutes, supposed to play Conan and, maybe run Solomon Kane, ends up turning into just running SK. Sunday, drive about an hour (in the rain), rushing around to finalize my San Francisco storyline decks and then have awful games dominated by bleed decks, mostly packing huge quantities of bounce. I keep imagining some sort of interesting metagame will develop in storyline events, when really, I should never run less than two Archon Investigations in any deck.

So, CCG complexity. This cropped up in the SF storyline, unsurprisingly. One of the reasons design is hard is because of the quest for elegance. Many folks can design cards. But, one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen and had to suffer through with various CCGs where the cards made it to print is overly complicated text, usually because the CCGs I play are based on some material where the designer is trying to capture the flavor of something momentous – major character, unique item, major event, etc.

Take a look at Jyhad/V:TES cards. Yes, there are painful cards. Rotschreck was a disaster to understand. Then, there are cards that don’t have complex text, necessarily, but have complex interactions. But, take a look at Undead Strength, Enhanced Senses, Lost in Crowds, Boxed In, The Barrens, and on and on and on. The cards have straightforward text. Now, is Undead Strength elegant? I would tend to call it simple. The Barrens, on the other hand, is elegant. People use The Barrens wrong all of the time, so it’s clearly a skill card. It’s a terrible beginner’s card because newbs are more likely to think discarding is bad and just grossly undervalue the ability. In fact, my nemesis Sunday was a Dom/Obf deck that was pretty much just bleed, stealth, wake, bounce. It put The Barrens in play with the storyline rule for the Old Guard faction, and the player almost never used it, not even when I stole it. … maybe he had the goods all of the time.

Elegance is not about card simplicity, it’s about text simplicity. The goal should always be to only put in as much text as needed for the card to serve its purpose. This, of course, assumes the designers know what the purpose of the card is, but that’s a separate problem that CCGs tend to have.

Nor, is elegance about reducing text. Note that the use of keywords is not about reducing text. With Magic, yes, sometimes it occurs. But, if you read Rosewater’s articles enough, you know that the benefits of keywording abilities is not in text reduction – typically, Magic will explain what a keyword does on the card, increasing the amount of text. Keywords are to have consistency, to have something that you can reference, to have something you can easily modify, etc. In other words, they produce elegance as they make information to the players more digestible.

The downside of text complexity is that CCGs start complicated and grow exponentially more complicated as more cards are created and played. In my second round game Sunday, three of us lost 5 pool from Ancient Influence because we forgot that our Favor cards were tapped (can’t gain pool while they are tapped is a basic storyline special rule). The game state was not simple, the number of cards in play was large, and we were working under a rule we weren’t used to playing with.

What makes for a classic game? Chess – elegant (boring, but elegant). Go – elegant. Monopoly – not remotely elegant, but, then, it’s only argument for being classic is that it sells a lot and sees a lot of play (often incorrect play). Texas Hold’em is elegant; 5 card draw, deuces wild, not; 7 stud Baseball, not. Bridge – elegant. But, what about CCGs? Can Magic, for instance, ever be a classic game? Is Magic, overall, elegant?

Magic has such a major advantage over other CCGs because the basics of the game aren’t that complex, in fact fairly simple for a CCG. Whereas, the game becomes the most complex at its deepest levels. Now, a lot of that complexity is not from rules but from card text and large card pools. Though, the rules are actually extremely complex and pretty much incomprehensible before the 6th Edition cleanup of timing.

I can’t really see any CCG being elegant in a general sense, however, that just means that it’s essential to keep the complexity level under control. Chess can have Nightmare Chess added to it or be like Navia Dratp and people will still get it. I just gave up on trying to explain how the Babylon 5 CCG worked after around the Severed Dreams expansion. V:TES demoing? Can’t stand it. Pretty much at any point where the typical card has seven lines of text, the game has failed as a product marketable to the masses.

What’s so crazy about CCG design is that there are pretty much an infinite number of elegant cards. V:TES has no Celerity card that’s just maneuver at one level and dodge at another. Of course, there’s also a near infinite number of elegant cards that shouldn’t get made, whether for power reasons or because many variations on the same thing is deadly dull or because the effects simply aren’t needed. But, when talking about two nigh infinities, that still leaves no end to the number of elegant cards that could be made.

Not every card needs to be elegant. Some level of dense card text is not unreasonable. Spell of Life’s failure is not that it has a bunch of text and is complex in how it works; what makes it a failure is that it has draft text. Not because the draft text is broken, which it is, but because there was simply no reason to add draft text to a card that dense and that complicated. Most CCGs try to capture a specific flavor and sometimes the only way to do that well is to have some sort of unusual (therefore, probably complex) text.

Anyway, one can only hope that more designers and developers adopt a philosophy that card elegance matters. While the only CCG I play more than once in a blue moon is out of print, there’s still things like our storyline events where it would have been better if there was more editing of the storyline cards so that they weren’t overwhelming.


Standing In Line

June 30, 2010

Such a long time between posts … due to a rather convenient problem – gaming too much to spend time analyzing gaming.

Battle Lineshttp://white-wolf.com/vtes/index.php?articleid=1190

It’s the last day of possible events, but really, they likely were all done over the weekend.  Having played in four of them, I have some thoughts.  Being an analyst, aka critic, aka negative nabob, I’ll start with my biggest criticisms.

#1  Lilith’s Blessing

I’m so totally in favor of Lilith that if the mechanics were the other way around I’d still be Bahari.  Yet, either way, it’s not even so much the massive disparity in the usefulness of LB vs. G&M, but just how annoying LB makes games.  The amount of bloat in the format was out of control.  Any deck with any sort of pool defense or other bloat was virtually impossible to oust.  I frustrated one predator in a game where I basically had no chance of ousting my prey because of his bloat by gaining “50” pool. 

Well, what about combat to counteract bloat?  Well, what do we know about the efficacy of combat?

The first stage metagame answer was a swath of Suddens and Washes.  I played a deck with 7 of the former and 1 of the latter (and Ashur Tablets) and couldn’t stop prey from gaining pool to the point of inoustability.

It is, of course, a feature of our meta that ousting is less common than most places in the world, so the effect is more sensitive ’round here, but in minimal paying attention to what others encountered, I found similar issues elsewhere.

#2  Tupdogs

Speaking of combat.  All evidence suggests that I play Tupdogs in decks more than most other playgroups combined, even considering that I don’t actually play Tupdog decks.  I’m not bitter because one of the events saw a Tupdog deck make every game pointless.  Tupdogs begin life broken.  Why make them more broken?  Or, put another way, why force people to metagame against something unfun and something easily played in a non-storyline environment?  Sure, fine, remove negative traits of the slave rule, but be cognizant that there are Gargoyles and then there are Tupdogs.

#3  How I Won With Dominate And Stealth

This is not a rant against Kiasyd.  I actually always liked Kiasyd, more so in the RPG where the real Kiasyd didn’t have Dominate.  It’s a criticism of the banal.  Different players have different interests, and you can’t legislate fun.  Yet, it’s always the warped metagames of the storylines that manage to elicit some smidgen of enthusiasm from me.  Why play something you can play in a non-storyline environment?

Nor am I ranting about stealth bleed.  On mostly a tangent, I am amazed at how much hate there is for stealth bleed.  I actually like playing games when I play games, even if they are short.  Stealth bleed allows that where the rush decks and wall decks of the world must inherently prevent people from playing.

I guess I’m ranting about making the meta far less interesting than it should be.  This is a theme with all of these criticisms – the metagame was blown apart but coalesced too much around “can I deal with Tupdogs?”, “oh, right, Tinker Bell is part of this magical world”, “so, gain another 8 pool?”, etc.

Anyway, win with Kiasyd?  Sure, whatever.  But, let’s do something different.  Kiasyd Dauntain Black Magician bleed/rush should be all the rage, right?

Joys:

#1  Something Different

Every deck at the table is a bloodlines deck.  People who may have never played a bloodline, certainly haven’t played them to any significant degree, all of the sudden playing an interesting deck.  Far better than any of the other storylines, this storyline forced variation.

#2  Brilliance Is The Absence Of Insipidiosity

We have the grouping rule, long live the grouping rule – don’t care enough to care.  Scarce is already defined by the grouping rule, what exactly is gained by making the game less fun?

Oh, look, that Horde deck works pretty darn respectably.  Eh.  Oh, look, that Great Beast deck can be even more pool-wise.  Eh.  Oh, look, someone might actually play midcap Baali.  Holy … er … Unholy Moley.  Not that I was going to ever play Baali when there was, like, scarce clans to play, but it’s the principle of the thang.

It’s sad that I only played in four events.  I never got around to a Gargoyle deck, you know, with slaves who don’t pay one less for Visceratika cards.

#3  …

There really should be a number three, but I think 1 and 2 pretty well cover the best things about the event.  Maybe 3 can be that the game is still in good enough shape to even have such an event.