The Ceaseless Struggle

March 13, 2016

I started writing something I said I was going to write about NPCs, then got distracted by gaming.

Today, had a V:TES day.  Also, had notes from a conversation about formats and mechanics from the prior session.

While I had more hope for winning the first of our three games, I did the most in the second game with Ani/Nec, unfortunately a deck I can’t play in a tournament.  Brandon doesn’t think my lending it out would work all that well, and I would imagine much the same.  The third game ended some 1.5 hours after I was ousted.

Anyway, we talked about a variety of things:  league play; prizes for league play; combat mechanics; rules changes; even some history on stuff like when the NRA rule came into being.

Let me dispense with a few things.

Combat ReWhatever

I don’t have a great idea on how to make combat work the way I’d like to see it work, which is lots of cards played with one person losing one blood and the other losing two, while also having combat serve its purpose in the game.  Combat serve a crucial purpose of not making the game just about bleed for 5 and vote “3 and 1”.

That minions get torped and burnt has uses.

I find additional strikes to be clunky and overly limited to one discipline (Protean’s additional stuff is rather awful, Obtenebration’s is more prevalent but not much for affecting the game, etc.), but something for newer players to keep in mind is that the game started with seven clans, 10 disciplines.  The current, bloated mess is just what happens when you constantly expand CCGs.

I did mention to Brandon, who thought it was my idea, that it wasn’t my idea to change combat ends to “skip to press step”, though I find that an interesting change.  I might have even heard that back in ’97 or whatever playing with Jyhad players, when we all found 14 Majesty to be rather cheesy, but I know I heard it from somewhere a long time back, maybe the newsgroup.

Prizes

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that winning more cards is not a prize I find all that interesting.  I’ve been in the camp that cool beads, good playmats, interesting edges, and other accessories make for better prizes.  Plaques are notable for being different, it’s something Shadowfist events have had, but I don’t find them terribly useful.  I can see things more like trophies for major events, which … I don’t play in.

I tried thinking of what I wanted from other CCG tournaments.  Ultimate Combat!, of course, had the best prizes ever in a functional playmat and a hit point counter, also had a real black belt, though that’s not terribly functional.  Babylon 5 had promo cards that were actually hard to get – I may hate unique promo cards, but I’ll still chase them.  Shadowfist, where I’ve only been playing for four years or whatever, I just like the idea of glory, though I suppose there are promos I could use.

It’s only Magic where I wanted more cards.  Actually, if you have a prerelease or release event, I can see boxes of cards as prizes, as not everyone preorders everything they intend on getting.  But, for the CCGs I was invested in, I was going to end up with everything I wanted from published sets, so more cards were largely meaningless.  That was not the case with Magic, where I never had full sets of cards or anything remotely resembling having the collection to build tournament decks.

Good playmat.  That’s the best.  There are so few good playmats.  A good playmat has the right thickness, is foldable (not just rollable), is largely neutral in color with a color neither too light nor too dark so that you can actually see not only someone’s cards but their counters, it needs to be close to the right size for personal use, though I can see some benefit for ones big enough for two or four players.  My Ultimate Combat! (yes, I managed to discover I had a second one) playmats largely fit, as do other Khalsa-Brain playmats I have.  My Shadowfist one isn’t all that foldable and is way too busy to where you may not be able to see important things.  I might like fantasy art and whatnot, but I’m not into having unrelated gamer art on display – a playmat should relate to the game it was made for.

I’ve actually picked up odd counters – pumpkin power, apple/hearts, costume jewels – to use for games, so something connected to the game has use.  Shadowfist had plastic counters for each of the factions which are cute, maybe a bit spiky, so maybe do a pattern inside a circle, but still way better than the wooden tokens that come with Combat in Kowloon.  Not sure why those aren’t still produced.

Mechanics Changes

Putting aside the usual mantra of “Remove Imbued, Events, promos, and a few other things I hate from the game.” and changing combat, what would I look to change in V:TES?

Couple of things did come up.  Transfers seem like they could work better.  Forums have recently discussed what I think is another old idea with having five transfers.  Contesting.  Contesting/auctions/uniqueness rule/whatever just sucks in every game.  It was mentioned by one of our locals, at a minimum, the idea that contested vampires lose their text.  So, no titles, no specials, no restrictions, just empty shells of hum- … vampiredom, with capacity and disciplines and clan and sect.  That seems interesting.  Contest Anson and you get an 8-cap Toreador with superior guns, superior vote, inferior block, and inferior broken.

Formats

Not this session but the prior, we talked about different formats.  Here are two I like:

Ancilla Antics (better name TBD)

The whole idea is to limit vampire options by capacity to both remove the weenies from the game and get away from fatties, which are providing their own form of tyranny.  What did we settle upon?  Capacity 4-7 or something close.

You can only run vampires of capacity four to capacity seven in your crypt.  And, may Caine have mercy upon the play environment.  I have no idea how this will turn out.  But, I want to try it.

Unfortunately, unlike the next format, this is not something I can just build my own decks to and see any impact.  I may have a lot of decks like this, but forcing it only upon myself just doesn’t seem like I’ll see the games turn out any differently.

Distinct Directive (this is even worse of a title, how about Mine Is Only Mine)

The only unique library cards you can put in your deck are clan cards.  Kuta was building decks with no unique library cards to make decks less “chase”.  I liked the idea.  I think this idea, though more complicated, has some benefits over no uniqueness.  Having the game push back towards more clanness is not a bad thing.  We talked about this today, as well as many other times in the past, but V:TES has a draw of people who actually like Vampire: The Masquerade or WoD stuff.  Part of my hope for getting more players through shrinking the card pool is refocusing the game on the core clans.

If you can’t play any unique cards, you lose Hunting Grounds, EcoLibraries, etc., which means you lose clan flavor.

What this does do is kill Dreams, Ivory, Info, Barrens, Bowl, number of top tier allies/retainers, Heidelberg, the occasionally played Subversion, Coven, Montreal, and the like.  Two downsides to this.  One, Brett pointed this out, it takes out intercept locations.  I don’t see them much, but they have a lot of impact when they are in play.  Two, it makes anarchs weaker.  Other than that, it takes out a ton of overly played cards.  Note that unique titles from Crusades and Praxis Seizures are a different type of ghoul.  They aren’t unique cards.

I can see how my just building decks under this rule would impact play.  I would never be contesting ubiquitous plays.  I lose card cycling, which I often don’t bother with in casual decks anyway, but which I too often overlook for tournament play.  Obviously, if I knew others weren’t going to play these cards, that removes some location control and equipment control considerations.

I just like how much it forces me not to go to boring wells, plus there are so many obnoxious cards among the uniques.  Carlton and Mylan don’t bother me anywhere near Bowl, Montreal, Ivory, and Coven.  I’m not even that much of a hater of Pentex.  Still, I don’t think any of those cards need to exist in the game.  I’ll miss J.S. and Tasha, but, without Heidelberg, why do I even care that much?  I’ll switch to Laptop/Camera tricks to get multiuse out of +bleed.  Coyote being gone is kind of sad, though I only like Coyote when I play it and not when others abuse it.

Card Ideas

I forgot some other card ideas.  We were talking about Forgery today.  I like the capacity limit, but it’s just too weak.  If it was a +1 Stealth action, it would probably be a bit good.  While text heavy, aka way too much text, adding the line “Vampires with a capacity below 5 and allies have -1 Intercept when attempting to block this action.” would be a direction to like.

Voter Captivation.  It just makes the Presenceless weep.  We were talking about how pointless !Ventrue vote was, that it was only more common back in the day because Stickmen and the like weren’t options due to lack of quality midcaps.

Overwhelming Popularity
Action Modifier
Play when a referendum called by this vampire succeeds by three or more votes.  This acting vampire gains 2 blood from the blood bank.

No Presence deck would ever play this.  Yet, it throws some red, drippy stuff to the less Captivating.

Lots of ideas come up when we talk about how weak various cards are or how much we’d like to weaken various cards.  Unfortunately, the pure geniusness of us will never be revealed due to not bothering to write stuff down.  A bunch of the ideas are no-gos because of adding too much card text, though, so some ungeniusness will also never be revealed.

Deck Ideas

I have this thing I often carry that sucks for phone calls but does allow me to look up restaurants and map stuff and crap.  It has a memo app.  I started writing down all of the many, many deck ideas I think of when I play.  Now, let’s see if I get around to building some of these decks.

I was playing a deck that brought out Vignes, played two damage prevent cards as its first two plays, Concealed a Desert Eagle right before it died.  I was telling my prey I was struggling to recall what the deck was supposed to do.  He called it “No Bruise, No Bleed”.  I love that deck name.  I’m not sure this is that deck.  I need to build that deck, assuming I haven’t already built it in one of the myriad decks I’ve written up and never pulled the cards for.


Fisticuffs and Fangs 20150423 and 20150426

April 26, 2015

Thursday, we played a six player Shadowfist game because there wasn’t interest in two, three-player games.

It lasted four hours.

I enjoyed it.  But, you see, I’m a V:TES player.  I’m used to very little happening in a two hour game.  I don’t know that people who are Shadowfist players appreciate non-activity like I do.

We adapted Cardiff five player rules for six players.  You had to win by teaming up with either the person two doors down or across the table.  This was to create asymmetric situations a la the five-player rules.  Teams of three in a triangle pattern would have been too symmetric.

Joren (Lotus/Monarchs Fire Ants) -> Justin (Cops) -> Don (Fire Monarchs) -> Ray (Hand) -> Earl (Purists) -> Ian (Sea Dragons)

There’s no way for me to capture the highlights of a four hour game with six players.  Ray didn’t do much but won with Justin.  Earl put out Purist hitters.  Joren’s Fire Ants smoked very few characters.  Justin smoked two FSSs and took the third for the win.  Don’s Summer Fire Palace changed hands, while his Flambards nuked some sites to prevent them from being burned.

Me?  I had an opening hand of Smiling Heaven Lake and five foundation characters.  I, then, drew Dockyard.  What was most notable for my game is that about three times during the game I had nothing in play.  No characters, no sites – no permanents.  One of those times, I had just Avenging Thundered … a character I can’t find on Chimpshack – it’s a three cost unique character that gains fighting from magic and loses it for tech.

Yet, I did stuff.  Not much, but …  I played two Sea Dragons in one turn, the first took down a site, the second caused a Discerning Fire.  I played Thermobaric Explosion to do 16 damage to everything, dropped a Fire Warriors (who were 5-F), and came up one short of taking the winning site as I had no power, though I did have a Jellyfish Lake in case my target played something that didn’t hurt too much.  I would have failed, anyway, as someone had an event to stop my bid for victory.  But, it was amusing.

I find the longer games have lots of interesting things happen but also drag.  I don’t think it’s so much the time between turns as it’s a mental drag having to deal with so many others’ abilities to stop you from winning.  Team play is certainly far better than five player free for all.

We played three games of V:TES today.

Eric (Ani/Dom/Tha) -> David (Ravnos) -> Andy (Toreador extras) -> Ian (For/Obf Force of Will) -> Brandon (Tzimisce Ani)

I ousted Brandon as he had only 8 pool, DIed my Robert Carter, got two Forces of Will and a Leverage.  My further bleeds only got bounced into David, setting him up for death.  Andy ousted me when I had one pool and zero blood on my three vampires.  Eric conceded the endgame.

What was most interesting was probably Andy and Brandon fighting crosstable.  Andy bounced a bleed over to Brandon and Brandon Pentexed Masika.  For everyone else, I don’t think a lot interesting happened.

Eric (Aus/Cel/Pre guns) -> Brandon (Form of Mist) -> David (Trem without Dom) -> Ian (Illusory Rapist Clowns) -> Andy (Malks w/ Pro)

Brandon didn’t get all that fast a start and got Vampiric Diseased right away so fiddled with clearing that.  David got out small dudes, which I largely ignored.  I wasn’t offended by Golconda on my Diego Giovanni.  I was offended by Charnas on my Saul Meira when there was a horde behind my predator, so I Decapitated Javier Montoya.  Andy put out some Homunculi.  I kept trying to Mind Rape his vampires, trying to ignore my predator, and my lack of stealth or Illusions of the Kindred meant getting blocked with nothing much happening.  Until Victoria blocked one of my vampires, and I did seven agg to her with an illusory Servius and Greger went to torpor from guns where I Graverobbed him.

David went to one pool and got ousted.  Brandon stealthed by me as I had virtually nothing for pool.  Brandon and Andy conceded to Eric’s guns.

David (Cel/Dom Assault Rifles) -> Andy (Malk SB) -> Ian (Aus/Pre/Vic) -> Brandon (Giovanni Talbot’s)

I had an early decision as to whether to Entrancement away Ambrosius.  I decided not to, in the hope that someone would murder Malks.  In the short term, though, David and Brandon had too much fighting to do to care about my rapidly decreasing pool.  I did steal Tye Cooper because I’m a genius – after Brandon ousted David, Brandon got Andy down to 2 pool with one minion left with bleed.  Andy stole Ambrosius.  Before the lack of Talbot’s suckers could hurt Brandon, Andy got bounced to Brandon and pumped the bleed to finish him off.  Andy drew up to 11 cards off of two Dreams but came up one pool short of ousting me, so he conceded with no wakes in hand to my Tye Cooper, The Rose, Matteus board.

I can’t remember failing to win a game playing my deck.  I managed to get into combat with Bloody Mary and double Starvation of Marena her into “not bleed me for 2+” land.  The deck is pretty poor at ousting and pretty poor at defending, but, maybe because casual games are more fighty, it somehow does what it needs to do.  It’s also probably because the deck suits me in terms of how it plays.  It’s kind of fighty to be a toolboxed stealth bleed deck, though that was what prior versions of this sort of build likely were.  It’s almost a toolbox bruise bleed deck the way it’s built.

Certainly, fighting the deck is often unproductive as it either Inner Essence Majestys or flings Marenas at you in a not remotely predictable way.

Commonality between the two events?

I keep thinking I need more aggro decks … not illusory rapist clowns style aggro … decks that push towards winning faster.  Where much of my Shadowfist style has come from either my V:TES style or fighting my V:TES style, I think a desire for resolution that I didn’t used to have with V:TES is coming from my Shadowfist play.  In other words, I want people to die, even if it’s me.  Having five players go around and around with lots of stoppage is just not as appealing as it was.

It’s almost like I should play Dominate, again.  (I don’t have banned lists in the same way for casual play as I do tournament play.)  Rain down some Conditioning action just because “Conditioning kills people”.

Meanwhile, I’m not quite sure with Shadowfist how to push my decks more towards someone winning.  I already run low stoppage, which should make it easier for other people to win.  Dust Storms and stuff, I guess, are events that push towards winning without stopping others from winning, but I haven’t played Lotus in quite a while because everything just seems too powerful.

I’m feeling lazy, so I’ll get around to posting the Sea Dragons deck (bad) and the Inner Essence deck (perfect?) some other time.  Meanwhile, I do plan to get back to L5R character building, at least talk about skills even though skills are pretty simple.