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.


Nordliga Riter

January 26, 2017
Day The First

Day The First

Got back from Stockholm yesterday Monday.

Shout out to Henrik who made the trip so much better by providing a local’s milieu.  Was at his friend’s birthday party Friday night and told people “I’ve only been here 1.5 days, but it’s been an amazing trip already”, which made me realize I had only been there 1.5 days and it felt like 3 days with all of the sightseeing I did the day I arrived and Friday during the day.

From Gamla Stan to ...

From Gamla Stan to …

I used both my phone and my camera.  Phone often takes better pictures for me to look at.  Camera seems to do broader shots well.  Many of the phone photos were to send to coworkers, which is why all of the food photos are sitting on my phone.

... To Södra Djurgården

… To Södra Djurgården

Friday night was Henrik’s friend’s birthday party, which had many folks appear over the course of the eve.  His friends were quite nice to this tourist and conversations that included book publishing (fantasy/horror), boardgames, politics, criminal justice, Egypt, and … wax?? … and who the hell I was since I had only met Henrik the day before occurred.

Of course, the reason this trip ended up happening is because I looked at the V:TES tournament calendar and saw that there was a tournament on the 21st.  So, I get up and look outside my window to the cemetery across the street, as is standard operating procedure when going to Sweden in the Winter.

Morning Vista

Morning Vista

And, off to Kungsholmen to hit the Lair of Dragon’s.

Some building that wasn't the game store ..

Some building that wasn’t the game store ..

Once enlaired, V:TES was played and we can move into something about … wait for it … gam-ing.

*sigh*  The mat is so much better looking than the balding dude.

*sigh* The mat is so much better looking than the balding dude.

But, before talking about gam-ing, let me talk about nuts.  Nuts for the nutty.  I took nut bars, peanut bars, pistachios (gift), macadamia nuts (was going to be a gift), and pecans to Scandinavia.  That was not optimal.  Nut (and peanut) allergy concerns are rather high – I’m seeing a day when eventually nutlike drupes/legumes/seeds will not even be allowed in public places.  On the flight back, I think it was the pilot who asked everyone to not eat any nuts due to someone’s severe allergies.  Well, whatever, 10.5 hour flight without food is quite drupey.

Fourteen players (one drop after round 2), 3+F.  I have phone photos proving I took a fan and used it while on every one of my Winter vacations in Sverige.  Remember kids, take antihistamines and take a fan.  Speaking of life saving devices or something approximating such, Henrik helped me find a beanie on my first day and I now understand why people wear them – people have ears and Greenland hasn’t become the hot new housing market yet.

Round 1:

Ian (Ishtarri Bamba) -> Michael (Kiasyd SB) -> Randal (Nakhthorheb Eternals SB) -> Peter (fat FoS with votes) -> Jonas (Sticklike Mennish)

Peter calls a Reckless Agitation doing one to me.  Peter doesn’t survive much longer.  Not sure why Jonas didn’t try to burn out stealth with Eyes of Argus, but his mostly bleeding didn’t do much for either of us, as he was choked on combat and losing pool was unhealthy for my endgame prospects.

Michael did bring out a lot of dudes as I did little forward.  He went to 2 pool as so many of my prey do for reasons that escape me.  He damaged Randy to a degree but not enough.  I considered later that maybe I try to survive one more round and let him go all forward on the non-bouncing Settites so that my endgame is easier, but I took my one VP under the philosophy that I could use more pool and that it was early in the tournament.  The latter is possibly a bad way to think.  I don’t play much in the way of 3+Fs, so I haven’t figured out whether to pluck low hanging fruit or go big, early.

I also kind of sucked at playing, forgetting my own Perfectionists repeatedly, not even realizing I played DI on my own turn due to Randy’s Enkil Cog bleed, not managing priority to where I take my 5 bleed and get the edge back before ending my turn.

Round 2:

Eric [Erik?] (Aus/Tha/Vic that’s all the rage these days, only more fighty) -> Kim (Kiasyd) -> Ian -> Ivan (Goratrix and friends wall) -> Eric [Erik?] (Matasuntha Anarch)

Where the first round, I got out Blood Dolls and Vessels to pretend I had a chance in the endgame against being bled for 7 a turn or whatever, I played a Tribute to the Master this round.  Not playing in NoCal, where that would mean a timeout with my surviving to the end.  I only survived to around the one hour mark with the only bleed deck behind me and three wall decks in front of me.

Matasuntha got Amaranthed by prey.  I took a shot at bleeding for 3 when Ivan was at 3 and he bounced with his Pentexed Goratrix.  Sha-Ennu Eric killed Matasuntha Eric with Ancient Influence.  He later killed Kim and Ivan with Reins of Power when Ivan had no ready minions.

Inauspicious.  I figured 2.5 VPs might get me to the finals, as I knew Ivan was leaving and he had a first round GW.  Had to play for 2 VPs in the third round, at a minimum.

Round 3:

Eric (Matasuntha above) -> Randal -> Eric [don’t think Erik] (!Gangrel intercept bleed) -> Ian

So, V:TES, I hear from people who know something about the game, is like a game that is played with a massive number of participants.  Sometimes 17 (which I will not do again).  Sometimes less.  Only the nutty play mano a mano.

Yet, consider.  Going into the tournament, Randal and I had 13 tournament wins apiece (my recent advancement led to this tie).  I was in the endgame against him in round 1.  Spoiler alert – I was in the endgame against him in round 3.  (He blew through Eric even with Eric having Marked Territory, Abbot, whatever.)

One might almost say … one who is quite full of his beanie and French jacket bought in Shanghai … that the entire tournament was simply a duel to the undeath between 14% of the participants.

On the L-eft, L-oser.  On the R-ight, R-enniw.  Uh, I mean, winne-R.

On the L-eft, L-oser. On the R-ight, R-enniw. Uh, I mean, winne-R.

I had seven masters in my hand of nine cards in the endgame.  Yet again, trying to bloat wide didn’t actually wide or bloat.  Though, to be fair, if I wanted better consistency, I should have had more focus or more cycle.

Two VPs weren’t going to surpass five players who had GWs.  I know, shocking.

Finals:

Randy did not get ousted.  He ousted some folks.  At some point, (assumedly) I will show 13 tournament wins and he will show 14.  It’s like all I do is hand victories to better players.  Well, it’s good to have a goal in life.

Pickup:

My only pickup.  I lent a deck to my prey.

Eric (Khazar’s) -> Henrik (Ahrimanes) -> Michael (tournament deck) -> Ian (Hermana Mayor w/ Dominate) -> Eric (… um … this is tough, see below)

This was a pretty terrible game, with neither Eric doing anything productive.  However, my prey immediately mastered my deck.  Matthias burns Vial of Elder Vitae for Thaumaturgy and plays Magic of the Smith to get … wait for it … wait for it … Vial of Elder Vitae.  Freak Drive.  Burn Vial of Elder Vitae for Temporis and play Summon History.  Use Mirror Walk!! for stealth to get Ankara.  Yup, he almost saw the light.  Needed to bring out Marie Faucigny second rather than a second Salubri.

Henrik controlled some and tooled up.  Michael did try some bleeds.

I called Randy over to look at my hand.  Standard Blood Sister hand of Oppugnant Night and, em, three Deflections and, er, three Poison Pills.

Store closed after I had 2 VPs and bounced Michael’s final bleed.  I did Disarm Howler and a Salubri.

If only I could have shown the Norra a glimpse of my metagame, but, no, boring old Mayor Bounce and lending out the banal Salubri Vial Summon History deck.  Well, another time.

We got Eritrean food for dinner, which was much more affordable than my forays into Swedish food restaurants (aka touristy places) or even the pub with the waitress from Toronto.  Then, a drinking establishment for me to get a second Zingo.  My first Zingo was upon Freya’s Day, when 3+ hours of walking left me weak and Zingo-wanting.  The first Zingo was far more pleasing, which I’m sure had everything to do with the vintage and not my having spent much of the light of a Winter’s day walking the circumference of an island.

Sunday was Långholmen day.  So, recapping a bit, day one involved Riddarholmen and a stretch of Gamla Stan.  Day two involved Gamla Stan, Södra Djurgården, Beckholmen.  Day three involved Kungsholmen.  Because everyone loves recaps that include information not previously disclosed.

Most of my good pictures are on my phone, including the parting shot of the husky that ran up to me to get petted.

Most of my good pictures are on my phone, including the parting shot of the husky that ran up to me to get petted.

I was looking for beaches.  Because what else is there to do in Europe in zero degree weather with a negative wind chill?  I had been cold at times during the trip.  Took a little rest at a prince’s pad to get out of the wind and get some sun earlier in the trip.  But, I was both exhausted this day and freezing walking across the longest bridge of any bridge ever … that I walked across in Stockholm.

I found two spots that could kind of seem like beaches including where the husky sat on my foot while I scratched it.

I was not much for more touristing, but Henrik kept telling me I should try semla, so I hopped the tube to Gamla Stan only to have my target place be closed and a cafe not carry it.  Had Princess Cake just to do something.

Oh, should probably mention that I never had my Thursday pea soup and pancakes, but I had meatballs (not at Ikea), fläskschnitzel cordon bleu, fishy butter, various breads including tortillalike polar bread, black currant juice, hallon juice, deer sausage (along with lamb sausage and bear’s garlic sausage), and near the end of the trip moose, reindeer, cheese pie, and … semla.

What about gaming?!?

Oh, yes, played Hero Realms for the first time and lost to Henrik.  Lost a Star Realms Colony Wars game to him, as well.  Beat him at two-player Magic Commander, so I wasn’t entirely embarrassing on the trip gam-ing-wise.

Think that was it for gaming.  Talked about V:TES, of course.  Talked briefly about the Traveller Card Game.  Other than superultrarareworthnearinfinitekronor playmat samples, I couldn’t fit much in my lack of checked bags to demo with.  Talked more Babylon 5 CCG than Ultimate Combat! CCG.

Monday was leaving day, but, before leaving, Hagaparken.

Gloomier, eh?

Gloomier, eh?

Not as cold as I was not staying near the water nearly as much as on previous days.

Walked to the train station, off to Märsta and airport.

I could speak of the weirdness of ATMs in Stockholm, where I don’t really need more money leaving the country than entering it, nor do I need a ton of cash at a grocery store, except I lived off of cash because I think it was my optimal rate over going credit card fees.

Everything is close together.  I could walk islands in .5-3.5 hours.  Waterways everywhere.  Nice crunchy snow.  Everyone put up with the monolingual tourist by communicating in a shared language.  Old world feel that I get at times in places like Cairo or parts of China I haven’t been to since the mid ’80s and maybe elsewhere.

Was an amazing trip and a fantastic place to visit.  I want to hit the archipelago and get some kayaking in next time … because there really ought to be a next time.  Maybe I’ll crush in the rematch, too, you know, with Vials of Elder Vitae or whatever.  Forgot something gam-ing related – I was totally expecting votes and only saw one vote the entire Saturday.


True Dungeon – Ultrarares 2016

October 29, 2016

Got back from China yesterday.  Swung by Core Game Salon and things are unfortunately slow.  I think the main thing I like about it is that it’s a place where East can meet West.  Compared to the prior locale, a restaurant, I like the space better.  Now, 9.5 years ago, there was a cafe in the Nanjing West Road area that I loved because cheap food that I was interested in and endless drinks, but, even in 2007, that didn’t last.  Hopefully, the scene picks up again.

So, I’m a latecomer to the party when it comes to token accumulation.  Also, while 2016 ultrarares will be available for another year, they have also been out for almost a year.  So, why not do analysis on 2017 ultrarares instead?  Why do analysis on this subject at all?  Because I feel like it.  Because I’ll read reviews of RPG supplements that came out 10 years ago.  Because it’s a snapshot in how I think about TD at this point in time, whether that says I’ve come a long way in the past two months or whether I have a long way to go.  Because how I think about these things may spark … something.

I need to go over some general biases.

My preference is for wizard, followed by elf wizard which I think is better but aesthetically less attractive and whose betterness might be suited for a different player, druid but not open if playing with Andy, bard because I can still avoid shuffleboard, paladin, barbarian, …, ranger, cleric but not open if playing with Dave, fighter, …, and that’s it.  Dwarf fighter strikes my lack of interest in dwarves.  Monk is supposed to shuffleboard twice but has cool defensive abilities.  Rogue, oh rogue, totally my class in RPG play, but I just don’t have the interest in the responsibility of playing Operation for profit nor does sneak attack appeal to me.

So, in general, heavy bias towards casters and not doing anything in melee.  Even paladin is more for guarding someone else.  Barbarian is for hitting hard.  Ranger is only because an entire focus on ranged combat and utterly ignoring dual wielding holds some interest to me, in part because I have an extremely powerful ranged weapon token.

I also expect to play mostly normal (Standard?) level difficulty and play with PUGs (pick up groups – this acronym confused me for quite a while).  So, see my comments about power below.

Skipping Amulet of the Champion for … ?? … aesthetic reasons?

+1 Mighty Sling

Quite mighty, I think.  Slings are pushed hard in recent years.  Is this to give wizards more ranged weapon options?  Well, whatever.  For people who don’t have everything, this has huge damage potential for Strength builds, which is pretty much everything I have no interest in playing.  I cracked this token with a random pull.  Solid value token that means nothing to most of my wizard builds.

 

+2 Baton of Focus

Does any druid not want to use the best Baton of Focus available?  It is a massive power jump for the druid.  It is a thing for the cleric that addresses Dave’s greatest interest – increased healing prowess.  In 2017, there will be a rare that’s +1, which is something that won’t cost $90 (about how much one can expect to pay for a PYP – pick your purple).  Andy may go after one of these or may just look for the +3 transmute, though the latter is going to be over $300 in all likelihood.  Still available for a year, but I’ve talked to folks and they aren’t concerned about my getting tokens for their builds.

 

+2 Rod of Persuasion

If I were going to play rogue, I’d likely get this.  See, my kick, having played a squishy wizard for years, is to try to push hit points hard.  Puzzle players don’t care much about damage output, AC, saves.  They need to survive damage in all forms.  Add in some healing bumps for your cleric/druid, and you should be good with taking some poundings, especially as the treasure chests and combat are likely happening at different times.  While I have no rogue interest, Dave’s secondary thought is rogue, so it’s not something to rule out completely.  Note that this and the prior token are both weapons, yet I don’t even pay much attention – doesn’t hurt to have a magic weapon that has better damage than lesser tokens.

 

Boots of Might

Constitution.  One of the things I find kind of odd and terribly not all that helpful about reading the truedungeon.com forums is that the focus is so much on better, better, BiS (best in slot).  For one thing, as much as I’m sinking into acquiring tokens, I’m still not ready for the leap into $1000+ tokens, so BiS doesn’t mean anything to me.  For another thing, everyone seems to be trying to improve their position on a spectrum of power, which doesn’t appeal to me either.  I’m picking up power tokens, but I’m picking them up to meet my minimum threshold of viability and/or because certain builds amuse me.  Gee, I’m V:TESing TD.  So, where the low collection sorts are looking to upgrade to rares and better on a budget and the rare builds are looking for better rares and better and the “I’m willing to spend N dollars to upgrade” are looking to power up, the only builds I’ve seen that embrace diversity of builds desires rather than power desires have been cranky wizard builds and those tend to run thousands of dollars and are, thus, rather useless to me, as well.

So, Constitution.  My first “hardcore” (not to be confused with Hardcore) build is to max Constitution.  I love the 2017 Kilt of Tavernbane.  I want tons of hit points.  I don’t care if I just cast off my card and do nothing else but absorb levels of damage that would have annihilated a tokenless wizard.  As a side effect, maybe a Fortitude save will be required for something and the not-squishy wizard will make it.  Boots of Might are part of this build.  I don’t have an interest in the other Might Set tokens, for the most part, either being too expensive or too pointlessly only used for becoming Might-y.  While Boots of Agility, which we have, or Boots of the Marauder, which seems easy to acquire at a good price, are more offense.  I just want to meet my minimum threshold of offense viability for the level I’m playing at.

Now, when we move up to Hardcore …

 

Boots of the South Wind

Too late to the party to transmute Boots of the Four Winds.  Still, this is a monstrous power upgrade for spellcasters.  Which means, of course, that I was going to ignore it and focus on my wizard-survivor build.  Except, some day, because I actually want to max out experience points, we need to move up to Hardcore, and I feel like I have to pull some weight and not just survive.  So, my plan is to pick these up and use them as an alt build for Hardcore play as I don’t have a lot of options for affordable offense upgrades that I’m willing to pursue.

So, for those who aren’t aware, and I’m sure I don’t have a huge TD audience (yet … ladies), there are limited slots.  Only one set of boots should be obvious.  Two earcuffs, three charms, five ioun stones, two rings, and some ways to expand on various slots.  The brutal slot is the neck slot.  Because we don’t have the best treasure enhancers, we are mostly using neck slots on Amulet of Treasure Finding, which cuts out lots of utility plays and lots of really cool plays.  The 2017 Amulet of Guarding for the paladin is something I’d consider if I ever thought I’d play a paladin often and had the slot open, but I don’t see either ever being that likely.

 

Charm Bracelets

True Dungeon’s powers that be are not dumb.  A lot of tokens come out that encourage people to try other tokens even if the tokenholics or, my tradeitemmarked term, token tycoons just obsess over BiS.  I was not remotely interested in this token.  Part of it was that we don’t have elite charms in our collection.  But, there’s a 2015 token that those in the know can guess that I will always run in the wrists slot over this.

Then, 2017 tokens got spoiled.  I’m now planning on picking one of these up for a specific combo for probably Dave to use, not that I’ve bothered to tell him.  Andy might have some interest, but I think he has more commitments for his druid build than Dave has for his cleric build.

Yup, more money for … for … for the enjoyment of thinking about gaming.  If you don’t love thinking about gaming, well, meet someone who does.

 

Cloak of Blending

Cloak of the Shadowskin is deemed broken.  I wouldn’t disagree.  I think my chances of getting an affordable one are pretty much shot, at this point, but one never knows with niche games.  Cloak of Blending, on the other hand, is pretty bad for most characters.  Then, there’s bard.  This seems crazy powerful for the bard, even competitive with Shadowskin.

Bard is something our group can embrace.  You know, we need a team name.  Team Magic is a bit too pedestrian.  Team Mystic is better.  Team Strange (see upcoming movie I might actually break down and go see) …  I’ll run it by the band and see if they will go with it.  In other words, we all hate melee/missile.  We are the casters and the choir, when casting won’t fly.

So, this is useful, perhaps.  Good thing I cracked one in a random pull so that I didn’t even have to think about buying one.

Now, I just need to consider my song list for when I can’t run wizard (even though wizard seems really low in popularity for some reason – lot of folks enjoy shuffleboard).

 

Divine Echo Charm

I hope our group gets some use out of this.  No, I didn’t pack pull it.  I actually bought one.  In my defense, it was so much cheaper than an ultrarare normally goes for, I don’t feel all that bad about sinking money into it.  Value propositions, something else that’s going to kill the bank account until we decide to get out of the game.  Ha … ha ha … when do I ever give up on games before they give up on me?

How to make this less bad?  Let’s see.  I hardly ever see scrolls used, one.  I hardly ever see healing scrolls used.  Scrolls don’t benefit from healing bonuses from things that generically increase healing.  Now, the one plus side to this at this time is that 2017 is pushing scroll use hard with the new scroll tubes.  It’s kind of wasteful in a lot of ways, but maybe I can encourage us to blow a scroll every once in a while so that this does something.

Interestingly, I think this is something for the healers to use.  Because healing scrolls are limited so much by class, the healers are the ones who control when they get used.  Do the new tube with some planned scrolls and you heal yourself while improving Team Strange.  Reduces healer need to heal thyself.  Without organization, this will never see value other than buffing the 2017 Charming Set (Trio).

 

Gloves of the Cutpurse

Next on my want list.  While not BiS for wizards, consider how this hurts them not at all.  TD is very much divided between Strength classes and low grav world classes.  Outside of cranky wizard, which doesn’t interest me, I can bury my Strength six ways to Solarday.  I can do this not only with my caster builds, but I’ve got a ranger build plan (or whomever since nothing is funnier than, say, a ranged paladin build, am I right?) where STR should be meaningless.

Since it’s always a possible PYP and it can be had by trading in Gloves of Dexterity, I’m looking for getting this at a reasonable price, which is the main reason I haven’t already invested.

The DEX buffs you can get in TD are just ludicrous.  It’s almost tempting to look at doing the all DEX, all the time as an alt build to all CON all the time.  The robe in 2017 only adds to the lunacy (pun!!).

 

Goggles of Instant Analysis

I’m not superfamiliar with the eyes slot, even though there aren’t that many options and lists are easy to find.  This was another random pull.  I thought our random pulls were actually quite solid, just not that useful for our interests.  Dave can go pure healing/buff and use the Cloak of Blending, but Andy and I have to murder stuff … with magic.

This is the sort of thing that doesn’t even help my fighty builds, as I’m only interested in ranged combat at this time, except maybe a barbarian build for when I start embracing my inner shuffleboarder.

Tradebait.  If I can move this for comp monetary value and superior play value, I think Team Strange will find it strangey and strange it.

For meleers, seems pretty solid.  Certainly, secondary market value looks good, which gives me hope.

 

Kvothe's Bloodless

Ties into the new arc tie-in with the book series I might actually look into reading.  The author will donate to charity anyone who selects this as a PYP.  And, this just seems incredibly good!  Slotless.  Slotless and huge damage reduction.  I have no idea why this doesn’t go for more on secondary markets or why it doesn’t get talked about as a part of top level builds.

I want it.  But, I don’t get everything I want.  It’s just not a priority.  Hit points absorb puzzle damage.  Hit points absorb push damage.  In a world of limited options, this rates behind some other things.  Also, there’s such a thing as defensive paranoia overkill.  I might want to be untouchable in practice, but, in theory, having some risk is kind of more exciting.  Embrace danger, otherwise, might as well live real life and skip the gaming.

 

Lenses of Sage Speed

Push scrolls?  Good.  Use scrolls?  Bad.  This is an awful ultrarare because we haven’t achieved the point of token overkill where we are into blowing consumables.  Maybe it will get some like because of 2017 transmutes.  I just know I carry around like 20 scrolls and never use them and will stop carrying all of that crap around right in time for scrolls to be marginally less sucky.

Besides, there are other eye slot tokens for Team Strange.  Rather get more damage spells or higher damage without using consumables.

I’ll still wander around with Stone to Flesh just in case, but I don’t expect to do virtually any scroll casting.  Just need them too much for Alchemist’s Parchments.

 

Pantaloons of the Deeperdark

A lot more appealing before Kilt of Tavernbane and the knowledge that there will be more ultrarare kilts coming down the road for those who want to wear tokens in that region.  I do find it kind of odd how quickly this went from “there aren’t many pants options and this one is so much better” to “eh, other pants options”.

Given that none of our Strange builds have to have high DEX, I can’t see why any of our caster builds wouldn’t go for Tavernbane.  Sure, wizards do gain from DEX because our crappy shuffleboard spells use DEX modifiers to hit (perhaps worth mentioning in the Cutpurse comments), but there are so many ways to pump DEX that CON is our anti-squishiness friend.

Still good.  Forum posters keep going on about how free action (forgot the new official name) effects are surprisingly good.  As a caster, though, I don’t know if it’s as good, and my “unlikely to ever see play though it would mean getting to use a $300 token” ranged build might not care as much, either.

 

Ray's Ring of Remembrance

I considered this.  But, it just seems bad.  Sure, I took a ton of puzzle damage in 2016.  But, is that normal?  Only two ring slots and probably going to use one of them on Ring of Heroism as the single most important thing to Team Strange is playing at 5th level.  That means a fight for the other, and this just doesn’t seem like it can win that fight.

Sure, I wouldn’t cry if I cracked it, but I considered it long enough as a PYP to realize it would never be a PYP.  If it goes Divine Echo Charm cheap on eBay or something, who knows how crazy irresponsible with money I’ll be.

What it does make me think is that there really should be more tokens for puzzlers.  TD tokenmania caters so strongly to combat, where lots of people like puzzling.  But, you need to move the rarity down to levels where puzzlers, who are likely just playing a ten-pack can actually see the rainbow.

Even at rare, Ri’s Ring of Replenishment … no, that’s a regeneration ring … Ri’s Ring of Restitution … nope … Ri’s Ring of Rejoicing … nah … Ri’s Ring of Reason … bingo, Ri’s Ring of Reason that reduces damage from puzzles by one point each time sounds like a thing to do to expand the game to people who aren’t into $300 weapons.

 

Redoubt Helm

It interests me how much rangers get cut out of helms, in that I’d rather not wear a helm but have to with a paladin build.  Yup, ranger right around the corner … as Harry Wells would say “not!”.

Anyway, I hear that AC is not as important as saves on the level that forum posters play at.  OTOH, helms rarely (ha … ha ha … puns … ladies) give these sorts of bonuses, and you would only run this as part of the Redoubt Set, so your AC is going to be obscene.  As Wisdom bonuses are among the hardest in the game …

Rant aside:  Why didn’t the game already do more with INT, WIS, and CHA?  There are ungodly number of tokens that modify physical attributes.  I’ve been thinking of token ideas specifically because INT is only used for one token in the entire game, and WIS and CHA only do extremely narrow things.

… The drawback here seems particularly painful.  However, there will be a transmute that removes the drawback, re-doubt (oh, I kill me, today, hold on, you don’t need to kill me … back away from the keyboard).

Armor doesn’t interest me at all.  To use.  Oh, I find some of the armors have cool names or whatever.  But, I’m a wizard through and through.  I hate weapons, armor, being required to shuffleboard, and not having to memorize things.

I also don’t really have any sense of ACs.  I get that a high enough AC means you ignore a lot of damage.  But, I’m a wizard, and any attempt to AC up runs counter to tokens I actually want to use, have, and/or can afford.  The all DEX build all of the time is the only time I might pay attention to AC.

 

Redoubt Mail

On the other torso, I suddenly realized this is less uninteresting to me than the other Redoubts.  This is usable by my bard build, my ranger build, my barbarian build.  Reflex saves?  I’m still going to have some stupidly high DEX because of the tokens I’ll own for my caster builds, so the drawback here is relatively less painful.

 

Redoubt Plate

On the third torso, this is useless to me.  See, people have said that the Defender Set is pretty awesome, and it’s rare, and it’s being reprinted in 2017, so that means it’s effectively free to us.  I realize people who have the bank accounts and the number crunching interest have calced out that this set can be pretty Templar Set competitive, but I hate armor and I don’t see why I should bother taking the saves hits when my paladin build or Dave’s cleric build will join the Defenders (we can belong to multiple teams, right?).

 

Redoubt Shield

I could comment about transmutation costs, but I re-doubt it’s to my benefit to express my opinions.  I don’t like the Fort saves hit, if I had any interest in this in the first place.  I’m never going to transmute this in the 2017 transmutation to remove the hit.  Yeah, +5 AC is a ton for a shield, but this set isn’t a Team Strange set.

And, that’s cool.  If everyone wanted everything, it would be brutal.  See Charm of Avarice pricing, or Rod of Seven Parts, or Boots of the Four Winds.

 

Ring of Spell Storing

I should talk about how lame this can be, except I have some shreds of integrity.  I’m going to get this.  How many is the question.  When debating what 2016 ultrarares were necessary to acquire at some point, I considered Ray’s before considering this but finally decided this was far more important, even though it’s a combat token for wizards (maybe a heal token for healers, which is why I might not wear one even though I have to own one), and Team Strange has not yet dabbled in mystic fighting arts against the denizens of other planes of existence known as combat runs.

Nor, has Team Strange sought to Grind in a True way.

Unrelated aside:  If you want insight into a Strange life, let’s just say I go to Shanghai to get my grindcore in.

This just seems terribly good for wizards and maybe druid.  Cleric, maybe not as much, though I don’t pour over the spell lists for other classes like I do wizards.

 

Stu's +3 Handy Stein

One of the reasons I didn’t try to do ratings is that ratings for tokens are heavily dependent upon which classes you favor and heavily dependent upon a variety of factors.  I’m sure there are TDers who just love steins, mugs, and other drink holders.

There is nothing wrong with this token, as you get special ability added to offhandedness.  If you polymorph, you want potion speed.  If you burn healing potions like mad because of Nightmare play or True Grind or whatever that people allude to in forum posts, well, maybe you care.

I just don’t care about this token at all.  I’m sure there are tokens that hit my thematic buttons.  I’m sure there could be a lot more, like Tiffiney’s Turban of Thought.

Well, that’s it for today.  A post probably no one was looking forward to.  No V:TES for whomever may still pay attention to V:TES.  No L5R for my core audience.  No boardgames for the mainstreamers.  No Ultimate Combat! for those strange cases of when someone chimes in with a comment about UC!.  No mahjong talk, which seems to get more likes, by the way, didn’t have time on this trip – so many other things to do in Shanghai, including missing meeting up with a former coworker who will be there next week and sent me a hilarious email recently with the subject “Hi, friend!”

For some of us, gaming isn’t just playing games.  For some of us, obsessing over things you hardly ever play is charming …

 


Shanghai Salon

May 3, 2016

Thought about a title in Chinese, but I realized that wouldn’t help with searching or identifying.

对于第一次

While not my favorite weekend of the trip, the second weekend, the full weekend, saw me need something to do as everyone I know tends to be too busy with family stuff or takes vacations in Japan.  I was planning on going to one of the Tuesday night meetups for Shanghai gamers.  I figured, “gee, I need to do something and the acrobatic violinist thing isn’t until Sunday night, so I might as well hang out at a gaming place and see if I can meet gamers and/or play something for a time”.

So, I headed over to CGS – Core Gaming Salon.  Can also find on boardgamegeek’s Shanghai Gamers.

Not a place to buy games since taobao exists, etc.  One of the things I liked was that there were Chinese gamers, expat gamers, and some mixing between the two.  Laurent explains games in English and Chinese (or, even, French).

I get to the place around 2PM Saturday, and I talk with Laurent for a bit, who pulls out mancala.  Okay, guess it’s time to learn an ancient game.  I thought I’d get destroyed quick.  An hour or so later, I finally got destroyed.

I can do old ...

I can do old …

Got together with some others and played a quicker game of Desperados of Dice Town.

Are you sure you want to try and win?

Are you sure you want to try and win?

Every game I have ever played of this I’ve won … when my last remaining opponent attacked me … for enough money-extortion damage to win.

More people, messier arena.  Ultimate WarriorZ with a full boat of players.

See the tall one in the middle ...

See the tall one in the middle …

Yup, I get dragon.  Dragon is full of ruthless beats … and totally gets ganked because of being easy to hit and scoring too high.  After the second game, where I played banzai guy, talked about how to play the dragon, and the conclusion was to go after tiny dudes to not only take out the annoyances who survive too long but also to *reduce* the number of points you generate so that everyone isn’t forced to off you.

Btw, it’s just so much easier to read the rules on boardgamegeek than for me to go into them.

Of the three, mancala is too chesslike for me, UW was too aggressively player vs. player for me to want to play much more, and DoDT was perfectly fine.

At some point, I don’t even remember the order, I played Cyclades and lost horribly, again.  It’s just way too aggro of a game for me.  Was supposed to be a player for Blood Rage, which certainly has aesthetic appeal, but I was in other stuff when the owner arrived.  Greek or Norse Mythology?  Either just keeps enticing the idea of having a mythological RPG campaign.

I could have left and still gotten the metro, which is my preferred method of getting around.  I got roped into a game of Skulls & Roses.  While it forced me to take a taxi back to the hotel, it was the only time playing with more Chinesey Chinese.  It dragged on a long, long time.  Too many players suicided themselves.  Bids were way too high.  Finally, Laurent won when there were only five players left of the original 12.  I’m too old to run a biker gang.

One of the guys and Laurent mentioned a D&D 5e game on Sunday.  So, of course, I showed up for that.  The GM didn’t want more players because too much number crunching for him, but I talked to him for a while and he ended up okay with my playing a NPC who wouldn’t fight, rather than me just observing.

Very much a group of players I’m used to.  Concern over PC abilities and a desire to buttkick were most prevalent.  I played a hunchbacked navigator on one of the two ships.  I didn’t try to get into combat, but I latched on to the party cleric, so I ended up in an away mission where the shark feint was followed by the undead possessed Sahuagin and friends followed by a t-rex.  Party sixth/seventh level, my dude not so much.  T-rex not so great after sorcerer blows his nuke attack to clear the Sahuagin.  My BFF nearly got swallowed.

Four and a half hours, though significantly less of on stage time, of first 5e experience ever.  Yup, that’s why I go to China, to play D&D editions I’ve never played.  I hope an observer to the session whose English isn’t so great gets an opportunity to play more.  Since I don’t know when I’ll travel, hard for me to commit to anything, but I might be taking something like Conan d20 or Feng Shui to run as a one shot on some trip.

I didn’t learn a lot about 5e.  The one thing I think d20 did right was skills, which seems to put me into some category of minoritas.  Admittedly, I kind of get why D&D players don’t care as much about skills since magic subs for using skills to do things.

So, first times for mancala, Desperados of Dice Town, Ultimate WarriorZ, Skull (Skulls & Roses), and, of course, D&D 5e.  Totally working on my gamer cred ranks.

Oh, and I made the Tuesday night meetup, as well.  Taught Ghost Stories, badly, think it was the first time I ever lost, but, then, I’m not used to playing four player.  Played Katana (Samurai Sword), which is like Bang.  I got beaten down as the samurai.  Six players, one player seemed like the ronin but turned out to be a ninja, confusing people a lot.  I made the metro before it stopped running.

Not a lot of people for the meetup, certainly nothing like the weekend.  Hopefully, things build up.

No acrobatic violinist.  No nearby amusement park.  I just can’t do things other people find interesting.

The only other thing I could post about that relates to the trip is having some thoughts on thoughts while not doing sudoku on the flight back.


Well Suit-ed

May 1, 2016

There are a bunch of things I can post about now that I’m back in the US.  I just have been trying to recover from the time difference while a pet is rather sick.

I actually thought about posting from Shanghai this post, but I just didn’t have the infrastructure that I do at home.

So, mahjong.

But, first, go.  I’ve never played go.  In a later post, I’ll talk about the games I played on my trip that I had never played previously.  But, it was funny that I woke up from multiple dreams on the same night dreaming about playing my first go match.  I think reading an article in China Daily about a go player had something to do with that.

I was asked what style we should play.  We had done half my family’s style and half a current popular style in China on one trip, followed by only the latter on another trip.  What I hadn’t played in 9 years was a/the Shanghainese style where you can only win with all one suit or all pungs.

One of our players hadn’t played the style before.  He didn’t do well.  I thought there was an additional rule that I had played under, I think something about declaration of being ready, but I haven’t been able to remember it.  So, it was pretty straightforward.

Cons

I don’t know if there’s an optimal style out there.  By style, talking about a combination of rules for what a legal winning hand is and how hands are scored, with the latter often being the greater variance, though having dragons act as flowers is a pretty big deal when it comes to play.

When I first played the style, the big drawback to me was that you knew what a lot of safe tiles were once a hand developed.  You had an incentive to eliminate suits early and play for rather limiting hands.

I still find it kind of odd to dispense with tiles that I’d normally cultivate in other styles, and I think it can be a bit easy to fall into excessively defensive play.  However, having played more, I do feel there are more things going on than what first appears and that there’s some strategic thinking that one can bring to the table.

I was definitely prone to playing far too defensively at first.  Because I could.  Various styles I’ve played don’t reward you much for defensive play, including the style I’ve played the most – my family’s.

I almost wonder if somewhere between my family’s style, where who discards the winning tile usually doesn’t matter, and a lot of other styles, where only the person who discards the winning tile pays exclusive of self-picked victories, there is an optimal middle path.  I kind of like the symmetry of discarder pays full and the other two players pay half, but that’s bad math, so discarder pays double would make more sense.

One thing about self-picked wins is that the local styles make these rather valuable.  If I win off of someone’s discard some 20 point hand, I gain 20 at the cost of someone else.  If I pick the winning tile (ignoring possible concealed bonuses), I gain 60 points.  That’s a huge swing.  When I first played with current coworkers, I won one or two hands by drawing the winning tile early, which gave me such a cushion that I could play defensively the rest of the time and pretty much guarantee coming out ahead.

Pros

I compare and contrast with my family’s style.  In my family’s style, all one suit is rather rare and all pungs is extremely rare.  As one of the reasons to play mahjong over cards is the aesthetic appeal of the tiles, all one suit and all pungs are both prettier winning hands.  While all pungs is still only one fan (i.e. double) in this Shanghainese style, it’s still far more common because of how limited winning hands can be.  All pungs should probably be two fans in my family’s style to compensate for the difficulty, though there’s a counterargument that all pung hands tend to be relatively good scoring hands due to how prevalent winds and dragons show up in them and how random flowers are in our style.

One thing I felt this go around but don’t recall the first go around is how you need to be flexible and committed in different ways than normal.  What the players to your left and right are doing matters a ton.  If the player to your left is in your suit, you are going to see hardly any discards of that suit to chow and one less player to pung off of.  If you are on the other side of this relationship, your right hand player is probably screwed unless they get ready off of draws, then your late game discards are incredibly dangerous.

I was generally playing my hands early on, keeping to my long suits even when nothing was progressing.  Later on, I got more flexible to the idea of either giving up on a stronger suit or just holding off to see what sort of draws I’d get, as drawing lots of tiles in a single suit can radically change the winning potential of a hand, where other styles are more prone to general value add from connected suit tiles.

Dragons and winds.  In my family’s style, unless you are going for a big scoring hand or difficult hands that rarely pay off, you discard winds that aren’t your own right away.  In this style (and others), there’s no concept of “your” wind.  In my family’s style, dragons are common early discards, we really play a lot to all chows (i.e. runs) as an easy way to win with a decent score.  Hoping to draw into pairs of winds or dragons is typically a loser’s path.  Also, you usually establish your “eye” (i.e. required pair) before you become ready or have some multiple way call that creates your eye.

With this style, because you are more limited in what can win and because winds and dragons always go with all one suit or all pungs, they have a lot of late game value.  Actually, a wind or dragon that has been discarded once often makes for a good eye.  That’s usually an awful call in what I’m used to.

Again, aesthetics.  Winds and dragons shouldn’t be automatic discards 90% of the time.  That loses flavor.

As mentioned, you can play this style very defensively, if you want.  I kept losing chips, winning no hands until about half way into our three hour session.  That came from focusing on not discarding winning tiles rather than realizing that it can be really hard for other players to make ready, too, and focusing more on giving myself a chance to gain chips.  In aggro styles, like my family’s, it’s usually a tactical decision to play defensively, with the possible exception of how the North player has added responsibility to “move the bank”.

A pro, in that interesting decisions are interesting, is how pairs of suit tiles have extra value.  Punging in a suit doesn’t commit you to the suit or to all pungs.  A number of styles don’t really encourage pungs because they break connectivity in your hand (and prevent all concealed bonuses).

Kongs are often not that exciting in my family’s style.  “Ten” more points or whatever just doesn’t usually matter and the odds of picking the winning tile from the flower garden for that fan are low.  But, in these styles, it can be rather scary if someone completes a kong and has a chance for the extra fan as even just the base score increase is nontrivial.

Lot more pros listed than cons, but I still wouldn’t say this style is normal.  And, whatever additional rule I played under before or that I think I played under before left me thinking that the format was a bit more luck based than what we were playing this time.

Shifting Winds

One thing I find interesting is how we go to MaiDanLao for dinner before we play because the place we go to is just down a driveway from it.  This would not likely be the case after the office moves, if it moves.

It cost all of 60 RMB for the four of us to play for three hours.  That’s like $2.25 per person for getting to use an automated table, having chips provided, not having to clean up our MaiDanLao waste, having privacy with no real cigarette smell even though there are ash trays.

So, how did I, supergrandmaster (a joke no one will get, let’s just say certain sudoku collections top out at a level higher than grand master), fare?  I lost 20% of my stack.  I was done to like 20% of my stack, maybe 10%, at one point before I shifted to focusing more on trying to win … and finally won a couple of hands.  The last hand, I had three possibilities for winning.  I don’t say chances because that means something a bit different.  I was down to one tile.  I chose to discard North and keep an eight of characters, as I didn’t want to be forced to discard a wind/dragon later in the hand.  Two other players cleared out their single copies of North immediately after my discard.  I agonized over keeping the eight or switching to a one of characters, neither had any copies in play.  I discarded the eight and immediately drew another eight.  I forgot what the other possibility was, maybe just that someone could have discarded a one but didn’t.

If I get a discard for the win, I’m up a bit overall.  If I kept the eight and picked, I’m big time up.  The math on whether to go eight or go one is not the sort of thing I bother with calculating.  I think there were sevens out somewhere, making me believe there was a good chance someone had a pair of eights in hand, but I could be totally not recalling.  I just figured an end tile discard was a bit more likely, though an eight wasn’t an unlikely discard.

It felt like we played for a very long time.  Maybe three hours is a pretty good chunk of time, especially when I’m adjusting to the time difference and would normally go to bed between 6PM and 8PM if I had nothing to do.  It was just really pleasant.  We don’t play for money, so there isn’t much pressure or frustration (at the randomness of higher scoring hands).  It was a good level of randomness.


A Mouse’s Donkey

December 5, 2015

While a work trip, I’m hardly going to talk about the work aspects here.  I could rant and rave about shopping, but that seems out of place, as well.

So, after being too tired on Tuesday to go gaming (a last minute decision after I RSVPed the MeetUp) and generally not adjusting to the time difference (trip was to a little hamlet called Shanghai), I was presented with the idea of playing mahjong Thursday night.  We got four players together from work, organized by the BP manager, and hit the second story mahjong parlor, well, room with a mechanized table.

Like this, only not exactly.

Like this, only not exactly.

It was my first time using a mechanized table, and I just find them amazing in how efficiently they work.  It does mean that there’s little reason to own your own sets – sets are damn heavy.  I was gifted one and it made my suitcase noticeably heavier.

I really need to get one of these tables.  Well, in theory, more than one to reside at multiple domiciles.  I’m still unclear on how they precisely work, but I can look that up.

On the walk over to the place, we talked about how there are numerous variants of the game, such that people have to discuss what rules (and scoring) they are playing.  One of my coworkers started describing the Shanghainese style of only winning with all one suit or all pungs, and I mentioned having played that style, before (want to guess where the banner picture for this blog comes from?).

We started with my teaching my family’s style of play, with its rather convoluted scoring system (for modern play).  Note that I speak of similar things in this post – Old Time Fan.

In trying to find someone online explain the rules for the other style we played, I came across this website – http://mahjongbritishrules.com/scoring/overview.html

Ignoring the special hands and some of the special bonus rules, this is basically how my family does scoring (though we do more rounding and are inconsistent about what base we use).  I didn’t see whether the British count nonwinning hands, but my family does.  So, for instance, I won the first hand sitting North and East scored way more points because she had her own flower, dragons, and I think East because I know her score for a nonwinning hand was 480.

http://mahjongbritishrules.com/scoring/examplehands.html has some examples that I can see.

Do I think my family’s style is a better one?

Because we don’t make discarder pay for everyone, except under specific conditions, generally when someone threatens a maximum hand or all one suit pure, our style is very aggressive.  There’s rarely an incentive to reduce your chances of winning to stop someone else from doing so.  And, I’m really not a fan of flowers and their randomizing effect, though this is an issue with a ton of variations.  Also, I think all pungs, which is often really hard (well, more so really randomly based upon having a lot of unrelated pairs in your hand early on), should be worth two fans and not one.

Change to where only the discarder pays, and I’m … not sure.  It might throw things off a bit too much.  I wouldn’t want too defensive a game.

After we played through a full set of prevailing winds, we switched styles.  I did win about 40% of the hands playing the first style.  It’s hard to benchmark anything, but I’ve always held my own playing mahjong, except when I got bored or “gambly” and started not playing optimally to win.

So, the next style.  I haven’t found a description, yet, online.  One of the group said he thought it was the most commonly played variant in China.  Okay, if so, that’s cool.  Definitely not like any Cantonese or Hong Kong style I’ve been around.

Scoring is based upon:  2 points for winning; 2 points for each flower; dragons are flowers, so they are *not* part of your hand; no flowers means 40 or 80 points; kongs are worth 2 points; winds pungs are 2 points, kongs 4; certain things double your score, like not having any melds in play before you win and picking the winning tile from the flower garden; discarder pays; you must signify when you are calling and you cannot change your hand (just play out more flowers) nor decide not to win (though why you would decide not to win is unclear when you can’t change your hand).

What do I think?

I think the scoring system undermines the flavor in mahjong.  It makes suits meaningless.  All one suit is no different than not all one suit.  I think the inability to change your hand has some interesting tactical decisions but is generally suboptimal, as it means you can’t play defensively nor improve your hand.  On the other hand, because discarder pays, you can decide to give up on hands and just not be the one to pay, which I think makes for a more cerebral and less luck-based game.  (I know the Chinese love luck, but there are plenty of gambling games for that.)  Removing dragons from hands loses a bit of flavor, but, actually, there’s a bit too much going on with both dragons and winds in terms of luck based plays.  On the other hand, this style heavily encourages dumping any of the winds, with no wind meaning any more than any other, which makes them less interesting.

It’s fine.  I don’t mind how dragons become flowers at the point where you are playing with flowers at all.  Flowers in my family’s style are way too swingy, being either just 4 points or that plus doubling entire scores (East with a 1 in play “must not win” is rather random).

It’s certainly vastly easier to keep score.  Since we didn’t have chips, I kept point totals, and point totals for the first style were a pain to track and add up, to where I didn’t balance on first pass and just didn’t care enough to resum the numbers.  Definitely a system for using chips.

Without home style advantage, my results were somewhat different.  I won seven hands and only paid out twice.  The final spread was +156, +26, -90, -92.  In both cases, the manager came in second.  Certainly, after winning the first hand by picking the winning tile from the flower garden, I played rather defensively most of the rest of the time to sit on my massive lead.

When she and I were talking the next day, I mentioned that I had an amusing story.  Since I’m going to link this post for her, I might as well tell it here.  I’ve alluded to it, but I don’t think I went into much detail.

I taught some friends how to play (and/or how to play my family’s style).  One of those friends happens to be a former Magic: The Gathering World Champion … because this just makes everything funnier to me.  We were sitting across from each other.  At one point, he agonized what to discard.  I suggested the four of … circles, maybe it was bamboo as I figured he could have either four (he had both).  Not only did that psyche him out, but he discarded something else and would have won the hand (probably, discards might have been different) if he discarded what I suggested.  (Instead, I won that hand.)  So, he pointed out that not only did I know what was in his hand, but I told him how to win the hand without actually seeing any of his tiles (I’m pretty sure he had no exposed melds, and it wasn’t very late in the hand).

So, yes, you can be psychic in every game with hidden information.  You can also study people’s discard patterns in such a way as to craft what they have in hand and what is more likely to be relevant to them.  You can also study people’s tells, but I find that boring and invasive, which is why I will always suck at f2f poker.

Sure, mahjong is better when played for money, even tiny amounts, because you become invested in what happens.  But, this was just immensely enjoyable.  The milieu was somewhat interesting, being not remotely a den of iniquity but also not being three-star hotel.

The BP team has been really nice to me on my three visits this year.  The old teams, from my 2007-2008 trips were also really nice (it was huge that one of them was a gamer).  My coworkers really got me through stays, providing opportunities to do fun and interesting things (there are three places in the world I’ve picked strawberries, outside Shanghai would be one – this is not a euphemism in case it crossed your pervy mind).  I keep wanting to thank the current team, but, especially, the team’s manager, who has really helped me out a lot with logistics and with non-work activities.

As for the title, well, sometimes, I do give a mouse’s donkey about things.


China Game Balance

June 6, 2015

Okay, this has nothing to do with balance within games.

Amount of time I spent actually gaming in my recent trip to China == 0.

I did talk about a game store, about the ability to buy Magic cards, about Yu-Gi-Oh!’s (parody) world and the best episodes of them all – the Dungeon Dice Monsters episodes.  I had a conversation that involved bridge and 7 Wonders.  I did give away four decks of cards – just playing cards.

There were ideas – travel always seems to hit my superhero nerve and my Feng Shui nerve, of course the latter is in mind due to 2e, anything Chinese relating to it, etc.

Sure, I failed the “24 hours” test.  Whenever a “real” gamer goes to another country, failing to find a local game within 24 hours is pathetic.

So, that’s kind of where I’m going.  As it’s highly probable I’ll be going to China 1-2 times more this year, what sort of gaming do I want to get in?  Can play cards, probably, without too much difficulty.  Mahjong is an obvious thing to try to generate because it’s always funny to play with people outside the family.  I don’t really care about getting Magic cards in Chinese as I still have half a box of Invasion I haven’t bothered doing anything with, but it would be interesting to hunt up any game stores.  I wonder if that boardgame store I went to still exists.

I can speak virtually no Mandarin and understand that much less, so RPG play is out with the sort of people I’ve gamed with (and I have little interest in repeating my Werewolf (Mafia) experience).  CCG play would be a thing, but I’d probably have to teach Shadowfist or V:TES to people as Magic is kind of unnecessary to do again.  Shadowfist might be easier to sell, though most of the people I already know aren’t the type I can imagine being that interested.

Boardgame play should be relatively easy.  The question is whether it’s funnier to learn a new game or more productive to play something I don’t need to read the instructions for.  Poker was always highly profitable for me, but I think I’ve done that enough.  Chinese chess would be a checklist item to do, but I’ve never enjoyed the game much.

There is, of course, a Meetup group.  That seems like the easy way to go for playing with expats and others.  That’s even something where RPG play could be possible, though being someone who drops in for one session is likely disruptive, anyway, unless it’s just a hack and slash fest.

The question is whether there’s any point to trying to promote games or just to find the local groups and play something to socialize and for the humor value.  The latter means likely just playing Euroboardgames or regular card games.  Where boardgames are considered acceptable, mahjong has some negative connotations and is far too much of a gambling game to want to play with strangers.

I certainly don’t want to carry much.  I suppose a box of CCG decks is feasible.  I doubt there’s any boardgame I care enough about to actually want to put into my luggage.

And, that’s kind of that for what I can think of in terms of trying to get some gaming in 在上海.

As for using Shanghai as inspiration, such as setting a game there, well, that seems like effort.  Maybe if I keep going back enough, I’ll get more motivated.