Shadowfist bites it again!

After the last Inner Kingdom kickstarter (which I backed) didn’t make it’s goal last year, one could surmise that something was going to happen as they just couldn’t fire it back up and expect it to do much better without a major change.  Instead, Shadowfist died.  Again.

Never published Battlechip Potempkin card art.

We’ve been through this before Shadowfist fans! While the statement is that the game has been purchased by a guy in Europe, the game is now in the dead zone with no certain future and no concrete news about what will happen. This is the same as 1997 when Daedelus filed for Chapter 11, same as when Zman stopped making the game and it went to Shadowfist Games (an oligarchy of fans!) and similarly when Shadowfist Games went defunct and the game was taken up by Braz King (RIP) and Daniel Gregio to form Inner Kingdom games and shift the game to an LCG.

For some, the game has been dead since 2012 (once they cut the architects, many people quit playing -follow that link and look at how many architect decks there were in the 2002 tournament compared to the other factions) for others since 1996 (where do I find cards? They aren’t in my FLGS so the game must be dead!).  Some when the Gatling Engine (online CCG engine) went down suddenly.  For myself and my group, scattered as we are, we have given every new iteration the college try to a point and we typically welcome the new masters…

Yet, unlike last time the game died and was taken over by IKG from Shadowfist Games, we have the additional issue of a split player base– Modern players who play with the new sets of cards, and us, who play with the Zman/Shadowfist Games expansions plus the Combat in Kowloon stuff from Inner Kingdom.

While I limped along for awhile accepting the LCG and the ‘modern’ format, this is really the moment when I was just about done with the modern version of the game– when I pulled this card out of the starter deck:

You talk about a game’s art invoking a feeling and how important it is to a game, and you look at a 5 for 8 Fighting with Toughness 2 and it should be a big ass bruiser or one of the most badass martial artists you’ve ever seen: instead? …. it’s a nerd card and not a nerd card where the person won the Gencon world tournament which sometimes gets your face on a card , it’s one that a person paid for– and the developers of Shadowfist and the art director, instead of giving this guy a support character or background in an event card, gave this poor sad sack an 8 fighting hitter with toughness 2. Someone that DIDN’T PAY THE IRON PRICE for a card with their face on it.  When I saw this I thought: oh boy, if they are doing this wrong what else are they doing wrong with the cards, with the system, with the direction of the game itself.  After seeing this, I started questioning everything and talking to people I knew in the playtest groups about what was going on.  Needless to say, from the moment this card was printed, the game had already slid down hill and now here we are.  In the Zman game, I cannot recall a single nerd-card hitter (6+ fighting) even with the tournament winners.

Unpublished art for the queen of the ice pagoda.

Here are a few things I want to say about Shadowfist in it’s current state:

1) We don’t need new cards, don’t need more meta, don’t need any new sets for the game we have. As of Empire of Evil every single faction was fairly built out, with the old factions having tons of options for deck strategies. The Jammers and the Purists, while not the strongest factions, were strong enough to win tournaments (maybe not the jammers actually). The Syndicate got ALL of the most powerful cards in the final expansion from Shadowfist Games so yes, you can do stuff with them (they just aren’t that great even with that boost IMO). The game at the point of the release of Empire of Evil is complete.  There’s a reason Zev quit working on Shadowfist and that’s because it was a complete game when he stopped, and 3 expansions after that had such a wide meta game as to be near infinite. If the game goes on, it needs to totally break from the old game.

2) Modern did not retain the old player base and did not grow a new one. We purchased the modern cards until the end of the Rebirth Cycle (2013) and then stopped buying cards or allowing the new modern cards into our games. A couple of our group are pretty mellow people, but a few of us are not and did not like the power curve change since we played with the classic cards plus the modern ones, the typos, the lack of playtesting with all the old cards (how could they do this? probably impossible given their limited testing group).

3) There was a group that was interested in picking up the game after Shadowfist Games was done with it that would have done a better job of it than Inner Kingdom did. There is a person that fucked that all up out of their own petty greed and ego and they know who they are. If there’s one person that we can point to that led Shadowfist to current death #4 it’s that guy. It’s anyone involved in IKG.

While I didn’t agree with what IKG did in many cases (LCG, nerd cards everywhere, counter madness, typos, terrible cardstock for the Red Wedding reprint, burned powercurve led to near incompatibility with the Classic game), we still bought the cards and played the game and I did like Combat in Kowloon quite a bit.  IKG definitely TRIED. and I give them credit for it. They just had some bad advice from their inner circle, the vote for the CCG vs LCG went the wrong way, and generally made a lot of avoidable mistakes, especially in the art direction area.  Making any board game is difficult, maintaining a CCG is HARD.

4) The LCG format was a mistake. I usually want to get 15 or so foundation characters and important feng shui sites (like Whirlpool of blood) so I can make multiple decks with them.  That’s 15 sets of cards at 15$ a piece.  That’s not too bad except now I have 15 copies of hitters and specialist cards that I could never use in decks.  If the foundations were removed from the game (which a group in Chicago does) that would have made the game way more LCG friendly for large purchasers/ tournament players.  This format killed the Whales’ interest in the game.

5) Changing costs for some of the cards that had been in the pool of cards since 1996/2000 was a bad idea. Zman /Shadowfist games handled it just fine with a lower cost mentor and 0 cost final brawl– why couldn’t Inner Kingdom?  The PAP and (1), (2) on cards worked just fine and shouldn’t have been changed. If they were going to increase the cost of Shadowy Mentor by 1 power, they should have added an additional effect (like everyone character in that character’s location takes 2 damage or something).

6) The fact that VTES still has a player base and Shadowfist really doesn’t is sad because ‘Fist is the FAR superior game.  I have played both at the tournament level and I can barely stand to play VTES anymore at all, even for shits and giggles.  Somehow the decisions the VTES people made were better than what the Shadowfist people made.

Hopefully the blood is from having killed Sifu Beumer

The Future

Here is my advice for the future of the game.

  1. Remove Foundation Characters
  2. Think about a Re-theme of the game to something other than Shadowfist/Feng Shui
  3. Get rid of the Jammers, don’t bring back the Syndicate.
  4. Get rid of all counter-creating cards
  5. Re-institute damage redirection
  6. Come out with a big 300 card set in boosters plus preconstructs (like VTES did)
  7. All expansions should be booster + preconstructs (again like VTES)
  8. Allow play to change the win conditions based on how many winning attempts their are (like a for-the-win counter)
  9. NO PLAYER FACES ON CARDS EVER FOR ANY REASON.
Never published Quai Li card art.

 

Mouth’s words

Mouth lived in Austin and he experienced some things with Inner Kindom first hand. I wanted to interview him as an addon to this post.  He has different opinions as to what should be done with the game, if anything ever actually happens and his assessment of the IKG era is different than mine a bit.  He also makes superdick decks basically trolling the meta.

My History with Shadowfist:

I started playing Shadowfist back in 1998, when the game was dead, but there were tons of cards available in the Standard and Flashpoint expansions, Netherworld was a little tougher to come by but not impossible.

Of course I was originally a MTG player, but that game was best suited to dueling, and any multiplayer was often quite lopsided.  Some of my fellow MTG players would start playing Shadowfist in the evenings after the shop closed, telling me it was just a much better multiplayer experience… and it was.  So I bought a box of starters and some boosters of Flashpoint and Netherworld, traded MTG cards for some of the rare stuff I was missing, and played when the opportunity presented itself.  That was it, until around 2000 when Z-Man brought it back from the ashes with Throne War… and the game experienced a rebirth.

When it transitioned to Shadowfist Games, three more expansion hit the table…. All solid, the game was still in good hands.

Then it went to Inner Kingdom Games (IKG), and it all took a turn for the worse, but more on that later.

Through the years I have grown my collection to thousands of cards, played countless games, entered tournaments… and even managed to even come close to winning a few.   So I’ve been around, and I think I have a decent idea of how the game works.

To further put it in perspective, I even live in TX, close to where IKG does their regular playing and testing, but I wanted nothing to do with this group as they continued to grind this game into the ground.  To be fair, not everyone in their circle was a complete misguided idiot or mindless sycophant, there was at least one person that I felt knew what was up, and didn’t necessarily agree with the direction, but when you are on a ship of fools, you had best play along, less they decide to throw you overboard.

The current State of the game:

Where to start, it’s in a right shit state, part of it is the way it is marketed, part of it is the lack of fan base (due to marketing), and a large part of it is the terrible IKG design decisions and leadership exacerbating the previous two issues.  Z-Man and Shadowfist Games had left the game design in GREAT standing, when it was handed off to Inner Kingdom Games (IKG) all they had to do was push out the latest expansion.   From what I understand, it was pretty much complete, but may have needed a bit more playtesting and art direction.  Instead they went the route of trying to completely reshape the game, and it was a disaster!

To me IKG was like what a whiny brat would do if they got to create their own game.  Like when your friend takes his toys away from you because you are not playing with them the way he wants you to, to me that was the sense of IKG Shadowfist… a petulant child that wanted to “fix” what “they” didn’t like about the game.

To start with, they pissed off a good portion of the already small fan base by killing off 4 factions.  That was a terrible move.  If you had to reduce the factions, you should have gone back to the basic ones from the initial release… Hand, Ascended, Dragons, Lotus, and Architects… and if you needed 6, then pick one of either the Jammer or Monarch, or don’t and sprinkle some of them in as a minor faction for one or two decks.  Killing the Purists was kind of lame, but they were pretty new, so not the worst move [this couldn’t be helped unfortunately-ed.].  7 Masters and Syndicate, were barely flushed out… and easy to just loose, so again no major foul.  But the Architects of the Flesh, WTF, they were core, and along with the Lotus the real bad guys of the game.  With those two factions you had a true evil duo to threaten the world.   Instead you replace them with the Jammers, who know just have a death wish and the Monarchs who should only care about the netherworld and their rivalries.  At this point the Lotus has to be feeling all alone, and should think about changing their business model so as to better compete in this brave new world without a bosom buddy to share in all the carnage.

In the end they should not have killed any of the factions, but instead just played favorites in their releases.  If you want to show love to only 6 factions in one set, fine, but in later expansions spread it around.  You may not want to focus as hard on a faction like the 7 Masters, but a card or two in an action pack down the road seems reasonable.

Play balance, so they want to reshape the game, nerf some old cards, add some new cards, and completely standardize terminology… OK, fine.  Even adding all the counter bullshit is not a horrible idea… if done correctly.  This all resulted one big failure in playtesting.  They focused balance on the new “Modern” format, but most of the existing fan base were seasoned players, who were not all that interested in going only modern, so it was “Classic” for the vast majority… and thus the power balance started to shift.

And Mobility, lets spam mobility… WTF?!?!  What a terrible way to make the game last forever.  I’m not a fan, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have a place in the game… but the deficiency in Shadowfist was never a lack of Mobility.  The issue was to make it beneficial enough for me to leverage it.  The amount that this ability showed up in IKG releases is insane… it was obvious to me that someone really wanted every game to last 3x as long as necessary.

What do I want to see in the future:

Don’t reinvent the wheel, and try to return some balance to the game.  If you try to reboot it again you are bound to loose what few fans remain.  Here is what I suggest:

  • Create a new core set from all of the pre IKG cards… sure there are some decent IKG era cards, but they need to be seriously reevaluated. Take all these cards and create a new core set, like 75% old cards (with updates) and some new cards, random boosters, and starters to encourage booster drafting tournaments.  Old players will want to enhance their collections, and new players will have a great place to jump in.  For the next several expansions you can just keep this formula to reinvigorate the fan base.
  • Don’t change the backs, if you change the backs you are asking all of the existing fans to not support your game. You need to create a path for them to come with you, don’t burn a bridge like IKG did.
  • Bring back all factions.
  • Bring back the art from the classic artists, stop the nerd art, and please no more of the shit that looks like it was drawn by a 7 year old. If a nerd gets their face on a card, make it from a tournament win, and not because they have a few thousand to burn on a Kickstarter…. Or a least severely limit it.

Q&A opinion of IKG Thinking:

I don’t know, it all still sounds like what whiny brats would do if they got to create their own game.

Problem: I hate it when I go for the win and someone stops me with an event.

Solution: No problem, we will nerf all of the good events and give you tons of sites that will stop events.

 

Problem: I hate it when someone wins because every other character is turned and cannot stop it!

Solution: Have you heard of Mobility?  Mobility, mobility everywhere!  Now it will take twice as long to win and everyone will defer to the next person to block!

 

Problem: I like to make 6 faction decks with combos that rely on 7 specific cards that must be played all at once… but I have to shuffle my deck so my combo never comes out!

Solution: We will make cards that will let you pick whatever you need from your deck at any time.  Better yet, we will let you have 5 of each!  Fuck deck building, just smash all your favorite cards together and use these 10 sites!

 

Problem: I love counters, Magic the Gathering had Fallen Empires that made tons of counters!  I miss that… I want Shadowfist to be more like Magic the Gathering!

Solution: No problem, we will make cards that produce so many counters you will forget what is power, and what is damage on the table!  On top of that we will nerf all of the cards that help stop small characters, and take all the skill out of making a deck… just spam counters, counters everywhere!

 

Problem: I hate it when I have been turtle-ing for 6 turns to get out an uber character, people keep attacking me, and I get my sites burned for victory!

Solution: Have we got the card for you, we love to reward the shitty underdog players!  Next time a bully takes your sites because of your anemic play style you can play ANY CARD you want from your hand!

 

Problem: I wish there were more cards that looked like me and my friends.  Better yet, I wish they could represent an art style I could draw myself!

Solution: We will make cards with art that will make you want to gouge out your eyes!

It was a good run.

Nostalgia for the OSR

Since Google+ and the OSR movement are going away in a year after G+ closes down, there’s a lot of pre-shutdown nostalgia already for the OSR, though the movement will go on for another year (until the day G+ shuts down for good, then it will be gone outside of Garycon and Gamehole con).

The questionnaire below was posted as a nostalgia piece that bloggers can fill out to have some feels together now at the end and for the posterity of the movement. The OSR had a good run, and G+ was entertaining to say the least.

In terms of content that the OSR produced, there were some good adventures but I think 90% of the ‘hacks’ people put together were in some issue of Dragon magazine from 1978 – 1985 but people were just too lazy to find them and tell the people that what they were suggesting had already been done before.

OSR Guide For The Perplexed Questionnaire 

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:

Zak S. and RPGPundit, a comparison of the D&D 5th Edition consultants, or “John Tarnowski must feel lower than a legless flea’s taint”

  1. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark:

All of the LotFP Grindhouse GM’s book.

  1. Best OSR module/supplement:

Prince Charming, Reanimator

  1. My favorite house rule (by someone else):

Advantage / Disadvantage from 5E

  1. How I found out about the OSR:

LotFP stuff sitting on the shelf in the game store… I think.

  1. My favorite OSR online resource/toy:

Into the Odd Character generator

  1. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers:

GaryCon

  1. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games:
  • Gamehole Con
  • In person with friends.
  1. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough:

Endless Trash.

  1. My favorite non-OSR RPG:

FENG SHUI 2!

  1. Why I like OSR stuff:

Dungeon Crawl Classics and especially the LotFP stuff by Raphael Chandler

I like Tenkar’s hounding of that pencil dice guy.

  1. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:

Venger Satanis.   Runequest 6.

  1. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be:

Design Mechanism’s blog

  1. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is:

A lotfp pocket mod character sheet. A funnel for DCC.  A monster for lotFP that was never published.

  1. I’m currently running/playing:

Lotfp, DCC, 13th Age, Mythras

  1. I don’t care whether you use ascending or descending AC because:

You’re trying to find players to play Dungeon World at Game Universe.

  1. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice:

Greg Stafford the creator of Glorantha has died

Greg Stafford, a huge visionary in roleplaying games and founder of Chaosium passed away in his sweat lodge yesterday.

This is a bit more sad since Runequest and Glorantha got beautiful new editions this year, yet the man had a pretty awesome run as a game designer. While we (unfortunately) did not get into Runequest as kids, we definitely did the Call of Cthulhu and a little bit of Elric. The BRP system (designed by Steve Perrin) is the best RPG system (in it’s modern forms) there is and we all owe a great debt of gratitude for years of excellent gaming with Call of Cthulhu as kids and gaming to come with Mythras and Runequest.

Stafford came up with his ideas for Glorantha while at Beloit College, proving yet again that Wisconsin is where all the critical RPG ideas came from and will come from in the future.

What’s more, without Glorantha/Runequest there would be no Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and likely the Warhammer old world and 40K would be VERY different than it is today (discounting Age of Sigmar entirely as it’s fluff is basically fanfic).

Mandy

Mandy, Mandy, Mandy.  There is one film per year that becomes your gang of freaks’ “movie of the year.”  Doesn’t matter if it’s a quality film, doesn’t matter the genre, the actors or the amount of swords and TITS included (usually prerequisites though…).  It just has to have an effect on your group in a meaningful way, even if it’s arguing.  Examples of this are Fury Road for 2015, the VVitch in 2016, Get Out for 2017, Hundra for 1983, etc.  It’s only September, but I’m feeling like Mandy is already a strong, strong contender.

This film came to my attention when the trailer hit and moreso on account of strong rotten tomatoes score after Cannes. When the trailer hit, I watched it like 4-5 times the first day, then again the second day while whoring around the trailer to others whenever possible.  This film pretty much aims straight at Appendix N people and it hits like a Sniper Elite NUTSHOT.   If you like weird ass horror, HK cinema crime/revenge films and dig a bunch of stuff from Appendix N, you will cream your jeans on this film.  If you grew up in the 80’s as well, this will be an enlightening experience as the film is like an extended music video from 1983 or so.

So go see it. The film will likely be out of theaters until award season at least as it’s likely going to be up for something and then get another stint in the theaters again.  Stop here if you don’t want spoilers.

The Film and stuff I liked

  • Mandy and Red’s bed in the porch room with the greasy windows surrounded by woods.
  • The part where they were in the boat and then Red is looking across the fire at Mandy.  A lot of people have said that these characters are ‘really in love’ but Red has a level of obsessed awe and confusion when he really looks at Mandy that Cage is able to pull off that is different from some Love Actually shit.
  • The scene with Mandy being killed is very disturbing and they linger on it a long time.  This is extremely effective BUT I feel like they did not linger on the deaths of the cult enough when their time came.
  • The bathroom scene with Red in his tighty whities was amazing.  There’s a lot to love about Nicolas Cage’s performance overall, but that scene takes the cake.
  • I really enjoyed the fight in the shitty drug house with a coked up demon biker who was watching a porno on a small TV.
  • You can’t argue with practical effects face melting.  As a kid I accidentally watched this one movie where a woman gets too close to a volcano and her face melted.. then the next summer it was on again and I walked into the room just as that scene was playing so I saw it a second time!!
  • Acid. Every single character is on LSD or something like it at some point in the film.
  • The music

Stuff I didn’t like

  • I couldn’t understand what Red was saying at the end of the movie! Too garbled up.
  • I think the film should have given more of a feeling of time-span between when Red escapes and starts killing people, or spans in between the killings
  • Some of the killing/fighting was a bit boring, granted most of the cultists were petrified non-combatants, but the demon bikers could have been a bit more interesting in the fight choreography /setting (think Freddy Vs Jason or Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness witch fights type of shit).  Red gets all fucked up, but you don’t FEEL it like you do when Ash does in Evil Dead.
  • The film is slow in the beginning and then there is payoff. I was expecting some 2001 style psychedelic trip out at the very end of the film (there’s a small one, but not a huge freak out that I expected) to tonally shift it back to the first scenes of the film.  It shows a surreal flashback of Mandy and Red at a party where Red is staring at Mandy with that obsessed confused look and she is smiling and crying and I would have cut the movie right there and not shown Red again driving in his car through the woods.  His gift for going to hell for revenge is to be able to experience her memory uncluttered with all the ‘crazy evil’ and they should have left him with that.

Questions!

Why didn’t Red kill the young whore-cultist girl?  She was party to everything and didn’t help Red for shit at any point.

What was the double moons and alien landscape at the end of the film supposed to indicate?

Why didn’t they kill Red when they had the chance (twice!)

Where did they get that VAN? Where did they find that HOUSE?

Blood Bowl – identification issues with the new minis

I got some Blood Bowl in last weekend, and it was my first game with the 2016 version of the game.   I know the game back and forth, but man it’s been awhile and I had to look up a few rules.   I forgot that dodging and picking up the ball are automagically +1 at all times and a couple little things here and there.

I used the humans and my homie had the orks.  We used the total stock 11 player teams that come in the box.  Suboptimal? oh yeah.  Still a fun match up? yep.

My complaints about the Human and Ork scupts proved to be true in game.  Even with the human team completely painted, it was nearly impossible to tell the Blitzers from the Lineman.  I like the lineman sculpts a lot for the humans and the thrower/catcher minis are totally fine but it’s critical that the blitzers are easily identified via their model on the pitch — and with the new human team they are not. Also, they are very BORING blitzers.

The Gary Morley humans from 1993 and the later human team by an unknown GM sculptor (~2004) have the blitzers in a different stance than the lineman and that helps a ton to sort out which is which during play.

The 2016 orks are a bit easier to tell apart except the Black Ork blockers and the Lineman look almost exactly the same. Multiple times during the game I had to ask: is that a Black Orc?  Again the 1993 version of the Ork team had very identifiable silhouettes for the Black Orc and Line orc miniatures– despite the fact that the lineman were not very good looking in that set.  The 1993 orc blitzers were awesome looking.  Unfortunately, the orcs in the new Blood Bowl are super-Sigmarized, that is, they look very much like their Age of Sigmar counterparts with their… ‘rock armor’ is definitely not Blood Bowl.

For the Humans, Forgeworld to the rescue with the two new blitzers in their ‘booster pack’ that actually look like blitzers!  With 4 of these, I think the human minis/team is quite good looking and functional, harkening back in terms of design to Ally Morrison’s human art in the original Blood Bowl rather than SIGMARIZING the miniatures like they did with the orcs.  These are great…

 

Aly Morrison – Harry the Hammer

All in all I think it’s a good set of blood bowl yet the newGW take on the miniatures is OK.  Importantly, there are tons of alternate BB miniatures for nearly all the teams out there– nearly a cottage industry.  These guys are where I got my Dark Elves from for the new version of the game.

Lost some posts

Server had a crash and some posts (and some long drafts….) were lost. Going to try to wrastle them up from notes but until then.

Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold – Laurene Landon (Hundra!) in a crazy western.

SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy! what the hell is this… Terry Bogard has been transformed into a girl.

Information, Choice, Impact – from Chris McDowell (Into the Odd)

Importance of Art in RPG’s. This has some other stuff about FATE that you can skip over, but mostly it’s about GURPS and FATE and the issue with ‘generic’ RPG systems and their lack of direction around art.  Mythras avoided this by focusing all art in the game on sword and sandal stuff (the base setting).  Rob Heinsoo lists his artist for 13th Age as one of the GAME DESIGNERS (Lee Moyer) even though he didn’t do the system design– as the art is a huge part of the game.  Think about Exalted 2E vs Exalted 3E for example.  2E is like “what is THAT??” and 3E is like – — ‘oh generic westernized Anime we’ve seen 1000 times before at this point, sans cleavage.’

Common mistakes in board game design. This is an excellent thread for designers.

This is a fucking gold mine of info on balancing a board game and theory (and Excel tips!)

 

non relevant Claudia Cardindale image.