Keyforge tournament semi finals!

We got a Keyforge tournament up in here and we are down to the final four.

The first few games were pretty chaotic as players wrestled with new decks or ones they hadn’t played for months, as well has not having played for awhile and being rusty on the rules. We got the hang of it quick and I think the best decks/players got into the final four.

Looking at the spread of factions, there are three decks with Shadows, which one of my kids favors for the stealing of amber and equalization cards. Logos is a very tricky and odd faction, and I was surprised it was in any of the winning decks, but there it is. In addition to Shadows, there is a clear favorite with Untamed as there’s a lot of both creatures and damage potential vs enemy creatures.

Both of the Dis decks use the Dominator Bauble with one deck having THREE of them. One of the Dis decks uses the Logos ‘draw a card for each card played’ along with Dis Library cards that allow archiving to create the potential for massive card plays during a turn.

The last deck of the four is the only one that made it in from the new set, and it is crazy good. Star Alliance coupled with tons of Brobnar and Untamed creatures makes for a real heavy hitter. When you are reaping to check a couple turns in a game, that’s nuts.

Next up is the Broken Locksmith vs S. Donohue Aeronaut of the Hyper Retreat and Betar Spawn of Saviborn vs Laney, Brilliant Tunnel Weirdo.

We’ll see what happens!

Remnants of the Precursors now in BETA

You like Master of Orion don’t you? You think the first game from 1993 is the best? Yes?

Here you go.

Remnants of the Precursors is described as ” intended as a strict feature clone of the original Master of Orion game from 1993.  “

Yessssss.

I’ve played earlier versions and they were good. I’m PUMPED to get rolling on this update, despite my current Stellaris addiction which could very quickly fall into a Crusader Kings addictions.

Juan Gimenez

Juan Gimenez passed away last week. He was the illustrator on Jodorowsky’s METABARONS among many other comics. For me he represents the style of marvel’s EPIC magazine and Heavy Metal from the 80’s in it’s best form.

METABARONS is totally insane sci fi. Reminiscent of DUNE in it’s parts, but taken to a totally new level of extremes. Like most of Jodorowsky’s comics, it gets a bit TOO straight to the point without much in the way of sub-plots or supporting characters (similar to Royal Blood). However, it’s highly recommended and pretty cheap to pick up. The art is, of course, over the top awesome.

Stuff you learn from Aphex Twin

Have to make up your own mind about this stuff but when I see data starting to look better before it’s even possible that social distancing has had an effect-– I get real fucking confused.

Aphex Twin has been posting stuff to soundcloud and in it was this link. And while that site certainly has it’s focus and bias, when you start to look at ALL the links and sources and videos referenced in addition to the Stanford Group (Michael Levitt, et al) info, it paints a different picture than the one you would find on Facebook. And this:

While could end up being 2-4 times worse than the flu, it’s possible that all this insanity is due entirely to the internet.

Root – why the Vagabond is meant to be the best

Having followed and played Root for almost a year now, I highly suspect from a thematic perspective that the much balance-maligned Vagabond is absolutely meant to be the strongest ‘faction’ in Root. I realize some of the vagabonds are stronger than the others, but for simplicity, I’m going to treat him as a singular faction.

First off, what is the vagabond mechanically?

He’s a timer. The way his points escalate and the fact that he can only be mitigated, never ‘beaten’ times the game. Whether it’s killing all meeples or doing quests the vagabond WILL win the game unless someone else does first. While this applies to all of the factions, many of them require certain board conditions to score that are opposed directly by other player’s faction goals, the Vagabond does not.

He has no board presence. When you look at a ROOT board, you see Cats, Cats, Cats and one area with a lot of birds. This remains this way until mid game where there are TONS of cats in one corner and quite a few birds (or moles or lizards) in other areas. The vagabond isn’t easily noticed on the board and doesn’t raise alarms because he can co-exist with other factions either in the forest or in clearings.

He’s a force multiplier. The vagabond can give other factions much needed cards and help in other ways if allied (move armies around for example). If you are friends with him, he can help you a lot– but at the cost of helping him win the game.

He has ridiculous action economy potential. While the vagabond cannot be stopped from winning eventually, the core issue is that mid to late game, he can take a shocking amount of actions, especially if factions have built items and the Vagabond has created spaces for the other players by exploring ruins (many experienced vagabond players don’t do this). Once he gets an item, unless he’s extremely unlucky with an attack on his turn, he can basically never lose that item.

He punishes the heavy crafters. While the other factions may be scoring points by building stuff (looking at you Alliance), they are also making the Vagabond that much stronger. If players don’t pay attention and suddenly two of them built swords in the same turn– watch out world.

In fighting games like Virtua Fighter or Samurai Shodown, or miniature games like Warhammer 40K or Necromunda there is always imbalance and the designers have to decide what characters or factions are better than the others, because it’s nearly impossible to balance all the sides– so they must pick some to be stronger. They usually do this due to theme.

A great example is Ken and Ryu from Street Fighter. Ken is by far the strongest against the entire roster than Ryu is. However, Ryu is basically built to beat Ken.

In some cases, sometimes designers choose the factions with the most learning curve to be the strongest– IF the player is willing to put the time in to learn them. Izayoi from Blazblue Central Fiction is a good example– very difficult to play as a new player but in the hands of someone who has put the time in, probably the best character in the game. Akira from Virtua Fighter is a very difficult character to learn and use, and while VF has no tier list (it’s just that well designed), Akira is a good example of this.

The Vagabond is the most difficult faction to learn in Root with the most word-count in rules and very ticky-tacky. However, I would argue that rules mistakes with the Vagabond usually HELP the player of that faction rather than hurt them, which is different from the Alliance which needs all of the minutiae of their mechanics to work together for the win.

While there have been some tweaks to the Vagabond since the first printing, it’s nothing major DESPITE all the weeping and crying of players when they lose time and time again to the vagabond (especially Alliance players!). Why is this? THEME.

a real jerk

I think the designers very much want to have an extremely strong (strongest in fact) Vagabond faction thematically. The Vagabond is Yojimbo. Siegen Irako. Ryunosuke Tsukue. The man with No Name. Kibagami Jubei. Patrick Bateman. This is the essential protagonist (or antagonist in some cases) in the stories they inhabit. Bateman is literally trying to destroy people’s lives to draw attention to the absurdity of modern existence. Ryunosuke is so troubled by his past crimes and compartmentalized by society (literally and figuratively at the end of the film) that he just goes ahead and tries to kill EVERYONE. Yojimbo, Jubei and the man with no name waltz into control-machine factional conflicts and tip the balance so that the entire local system collapses onto itself. This is what the vagabond’s role is in Root– upset everyone else’s systems. If you ignore him, he wins. If you attack him, it’s usually to no advantage to your own faction and may even weaken you so you are at the mercy of the other factions. This is how it’s supposed to be.

I actually posted about Irako Siegen and ROOT on board game geek a while back after finding this quote while reading the Manga:

ALL of the other factions represent hierarchical societies and fixed class systems (yes, even the Covids and the Woodland Alliance). The vagabond, like Irako Siegen, is there to repudiated them ALL.

So, the next time you get your ass handed to you by the Tinker prancing around fulfilling quests and tinkering away or one of the psycho killer vagabonds wrecking the Lizard rabble for massive points and bitch about it to everyone: remember, it’s supposed to be that way.

Welp, nutso time, game time

Here we are in a global pandemic with no end in sight (yet) outside of China, everything is locked down for the most part. Who would have thought?

People are going to stay at home and wait to see if they get sick then furtively go out to places they have to and then wait to see if they get sick. Luckily for humanity itself, many people are immune (or, based on projections before quarantine, all of Wuhan would have gotten infected: which it didn’t).

Here are some articles that have helped me put things into perspective. I freaked out about a month ago when I myself had a cold with some shortness of breath and cough. I’m sure it wasn’t corona… except….i’m around kids a lot, I was at a couple chess tournaments with some very rich (ie: world travelling) people and tons of kids…scouts, etc.

First is the Levitt article. This one, when things looked REALLY bad, was an important analysis and remains so today. What he says about the media and many other viral experts is dead on and of course, those same experts can’t rescind because they’d have terrible egg on their faces if their projections are totally wrong. Remember when this was written (well over a month ago) and put it in context. He was doing analysis when his friends in China were very scared and hit the numbers almost exactly, which is really crazy if you think about it: here is his Slowdown article

Levitt’s data analysis in detail. This is a more recent PDF of his findings. One thing that really helps if you are having anxiety about this– look at the data rather than the news. The 80% infection rates with 3.4% death rate that the media has been reporting and leaders are quoting is criminal. Of course, no one but total idiot trumpers are discounting that this is dangerous and action must be taken but the other extreme is just as bad.

Already spread everywhere article. This is basically saying, before you have your first TESTED death of corona, it’s already spread everywhere as 40% of people that get it (which is probably less than 10-5% of people in a population anyway) don’t show symptoms at all. So shutting down everything isn’t really going to do much– though social distancing, hand washing, masks, in some cases like when you are sick, will.

Japan’s data. Japan is the most crowded yet ultra-modern society on the planet. Their applied technology is likely second to none and the people are happy and care about each other. They know they live in a place with terrifying natural disasters which can also fall quickly into famine and were the only country so far that has been nuked (ok, Ukraine got nuked too, but differently). I’m very interested to see how this plays out there. If the ‘already spread’ article is accurate, then there’s a massive amount of people there that have been exposed, and few deaths because of it so far.

Everything is crazy and the challenge here will be to stave off boredom at home (and starvation if you are workers in types of work that cannot work from home or aren’t salaried) and that leaves LOTS of indoor games to be played, including, of course, le video games.

What I’ve been playing.

Stellaris

This game is a fucking beast with so much crap to keep track of. I never thought after playing it for a couple hours that I would be able to stand the pace, but it has grown on me a lot and I dare say I’m starting to love it. I have played it many, many more hours than the newMOO and the other MOO clones, though not even close to MOO1…

The main thing is to just focus on a few planets as research only planets and have the rest of them support those two, then bust out onto the scene with terrifying ships. The economy in this one can be really hard to balance out and it’s very different than MOO with the wars vs normal opponents (you can’t just wipe them out) so be warned.

Torchlight 2

We have been hammering away at the best ARPG ever made (you know, because diablo 3 is a total failure) on the LAN and online. It’s a great game and totally stands the test of time. I just wish there had been an expansion to this with a couple more character classes to the base game. Someday, we may get a comparable torchlight 3. We’ll see about that shit.

BRUTAL DOOM

Playing this with my son is awesome, the pixelated gore is just incredible to witness and everything looks so good. I think he will get used to the pace compared to the slow-ass Fortnite that he’s used to. Where it all began.

Board Games

DungeonQuest

This is my son’s favorite game and it’s awesome, random and has tons of cards. Dying on turn 2 is great, making it to the dragon and dying is great. Making it out of the dungeon and winning with a mere 50 gold is great. It’s just a really fun experience every time: a dice with death where your choices matter but…. then they don’t at all. You can get ground down by the dungeon or instantly get killed or skip through the dungeon like it’s a field of daisies with no problems at all with all the treasure you can carry.

The quest for El Dorado

This is a deck builder race game by Knizia. Excellent, tight and fun with the different board set ups. This has grown on me every time I’ve played it. I think about the expansion and then realize that Knizia’s stuff almost never needs an expansion and forgo the thought.

COSMIC ENCOUNTER

Cosmic is one of the few games my whole family will get in on. This is really the crown jewel of social interaction games. Sure there’s a bunch of mechanics and you need to make sure that you keep the number of expansions you use very low or it becomes overwhelming. Cosmic is the art of the deal in space war format. I’ve got every expansion of course, an while it is fun to have so many, lots of them are just not that useful for casual play. When we play I just cut out all the red lantern aliens and most of the yellows and totally it’s fine. 100 or so aliens for this game is PLENTY so that you never have the same game twice and have good variety.

So stay home (for a bit), wash your hands and do some gaming.

Eclipse ! Root! (pax)

Eclipse 2nd (printing? edition?) has not only shipped but has arrived to various areas in the USA. I got to play last Saturday and it was fun as always. They cleaned up the rules a bit and it goes without saying in these years of super over-produced board games that the components are pretty great. If you’ve never played, this is going to be a great time to either pick up the new version or get the first version second hand for a song as people dump them off like crazy in the next few months. For new players, if you can get the first edition for cheap, do it and then upgrade to 2 when you want if you love it.

What’s more the Root expansion is in the house with the Moles and the newly redesigned Corvids (very different from the playtest packet). I’ve gotten one game in so far and probably won’t get a play in until Garycon. While moles are solid, I think it’s important to have the right matchups on the board for them to be really interesting. They cannot easily take the place of the Cats for policing the board from the more powerful factions like the Vagabonds ore Alliance.

Let’s talk about overproduction. In the 80’s or 90’s– even into the early 2000’s– the level of components, pieces, cards, box sizes, miniatures would have been absolutely unheard of compared to today. I look at my game shelf and the only games that come close in size /components from the old days are Samurai Swords (used to be shogun) and Dark Tower. Some of these games I pull out to play are simply ridiculous– Rising Sun, Blood Rage are obvious (luckily these are both excellent) and the new Eclipse is similar. Just a mammoth amount of components that could have been just chits or simple pieces. It makes the game feel more epic, but fuck does it take up a lot of shelf space.

Looking at Fantasy Flight’s Talisman–it’s another highly overproduced game in one particular way– board size. The boards, while beautiful, are far, far bigger than they need to be. The table space needed for Talisman with a couple of corner pieces is ridiculous. Heuristically, players have to ask other players to move their pieces in Talisman 2nd edition, but in 4th– it’s nearly all the time unless you play standing up (usually players only stand up at the very end of the game, say the last 10-15 turns or so).

Contrast this to the Sierra Madre games from the Eklunds. When I busted out Pax Transhumanity in it’s tiny box, one of my friends was like “THAT’S IT?” And Pax are BIG games, sweeping, epic, massive in scale all in a small (Pax Porf) and even tiny (Pax Ren, Pax Trans) box that I can put into my backpack and play anywhere on most size tables.

Farewell Fritz

Fritz Buchholtz passed away last week at the age of 73. He had the best game store in the city for a very long time in Napoleon’s. We had fantastic times there in the basement including many Blood Bowl tournaments, Mordheim, and one fateful Friday Night where we played Mega Supremacy…

While I did get down to the Dungeon in Lake Geneva once, Napoleon’s THE magical hobby shop to go to, even as an adult when it was right up the street from where I lived. A lot of people moved to that part of town just because Napoleon’s was there if you can believe that. I would tell stories of it to my FLA friends as we existed in the no-game-store wasteland of southern Florida.

I bought my first Warhammer book there (40K) and, it being summer, the pages promptly fell out of the binding and I tried to take it back. My dad even came with me and they said it had to go back to the manufacturer which was not the best answer. I still have the book on the shelf of course since what was I going to do at age 14? Mail it to England? I think I got all my Warhammer stuff there. My beaky marines, my WFRP books until I moved to Florida and the nearest game store was over 2 hours away….

I remember Fritz had the best smelling pipe smoke ever and he would come from the back office and talk to his friends about God knows what while we babbled about 40K or Blood Bowl. He would talk to us from time to time and give us advice on some subject none of which I remember.

One time when I was working at a local florist, they had me make a delivery to the North West side. I pretended to get lost on the way back and ended up at Napoleon’s (way East side) for a bit of a browsing session. I worked two jobs, so was never able to get down there except a rare weekend. Unfortunately for all involved, the delivery van wouldn’t start and I was obviously WAY the fuck off course. They had to drive all the way to the East side to get me and try to fix the van. I never did deliveries again.

So many gaming denizens I met and interacted with or simply observed in that place, including the very old school Advanced Squad Leader players who would sit in the back and read the source books as well as the real old school Napoleonics guys who played massive battles on the gigantic sand table in the basement.

There was the MTG guy that lived at home would talk to the clerk while buying boxes of MTG and probably to this day has 100K worth of MTG in his mom’s place. I don’t even know if he played, but he certainly loved collecting.

There was the social studies teacher that wandered in to play a game and got sucked in to what was probably the most disturbing game of Mega Supremacy imaginable, both from an olfactory perspective and how foul and backstabbish everyone was. We stunk up that basement with rump-gasps hours before it was opened up for a 40K tournament!

And of course the goddamn 40K crowd who’s competitive and tournament driven style of play shot the fucking magic out of that game for me forever.

Anyway, fond memories of an inspirational man.