What came out this year that was great? Not much. 2018-to-now the majority of board game design has pretty thoroughly descended into extremely formulaic games with three specific traits in all: very little player interaction, a focus on engine building, with a point salad at the end (again, because if you knew who was winning, you would target them, and that’s a no no these days).
Root was a breath of fresh air last year in this rather fetid tide of same-gameness. Root showed to many people that you CAN and should have constant player conflict and this won’t hurt people’s feelings and most importantly, can be extremely fun. The body of my board game collection is held up by the spine of Cosmic Encounter, Dune, Shadowfist, Eclipse, Study in Emerald, Root and now the Pax games with everything else sort of filling in niche interests for me like euros (Brass) or co-ops / dungeon crawls (Massive Darkness). Almost all the games I like the most have direct player conflict and the potential for massive hamstringing, which is in direct opposition to the current trends in design. I’m hoping the success of Root will engender more designers to build COIN style games and gamers to take an interest in Cole Wherle, Phil Ecklund and the COIN series (and offshoots).
For many people this was a tough year to get gaming in face to face, but we managed it quite a bit later in the summer and especially Fall. Due to this, not quite as many games hit the table, especially anything new. Frankly having to learn new stuff this year felt tiresome with the infrequency we got to play– we went for the meat and potatoes this year: mostly shit we already knew how to play. I only played three new games this year, and one was a new version: Eclipse: Second Dawn, Godzilla: Tokyo Clash and Fort. Fort was not my type of game at all, and we only got one play in before I traded it, so game of 2020 that was released in 2020 is definitely Eclipse: Second Dawn... which is really just an update of a 2011 game after all.
Second Dawn is good, but it’s MUCH harsher than the first edition with serious players. You get one shot for the win now that it’s down to only 8 turns, and if you have a bad run of tiles, a really bad dice run in battles, there is no chance to come back into the game– you just can’t pivot to another strategy like in the old game. Some players will like this, others will not. I will definitely need to play Eclipse more before deciding on which of the versions is better. I hate to say it because I absolutely despised Twilight Imperium 3rd edition, but I have to give TI4 a try before calling Eclipse the reigning king of 4X space games. You know, ones that can actually hit the table instead of just sitting on a shelf because they are too complicated or system-heavy to actually play.
The game of 2019 was Root, and I really played the shit out of that last year and quite a few times this year as well, we shall see if lightning can strike twice with Leder games upcoming Oath game– which looks very…. strange.
This year the game I liked most to play was Pax Renaissance, and this isn’t even my favorite Pax game (which is Pax Porfiriana of course), it’s just the one that shows off what this type of tableau and conveyor market type of game can really do. Instead of just drawing cards or chits from a cup (a la Gangland, the Great Khan Game, King of the Tabletop), you can see what’s coming and control events to some extent. This is one of the best aspects of the Ecklund (pretty much everything) and Wallace games (Princes of the Renaissance, Study in Emerald) I love the most. Pax Pamir is a solid game, but because it uses points for victory, which is very strange compared to the other Pax games, it’s out of the running for the best Pax games– still really good though.
In light of 2020, I don’t think there will be much in 2021 that can compete with existing games, hopefully there will be some surprises. Kickstarter-wise I’m waiting on Oath, Bios Mesofauna, the new edition of Pax Renaissance, Pax Viking and what will probably be another mountain of boxes mistake: Bloodborne from CMON.
I pulled out a win in the finals of our 8 deck tournament in a very tight game vs my kid, age 9, after a brutal game vs his sister in the round before. While he was not happy, he steamrolled into the finals with his deck and nearly won anyway.
The deck I won with I’ve always felt was a bit shite, but it was able to pull through in two tight games. First, it has SHADOW with the ever dangerous theft of ember and equalizing card in a pinch. Most of the rest of the Shadow stuff in the deck is useless crap though. Logos is the other faction that has some great cards, but while I was able to forge a key off my Logos artifact combo (the guys that give you ember for using artifacts and a bunch of artifacts on the table of the same faction) that only happened once as my opponent destroyed all my Logos creatures the turn after they hit the table.
What pulled it off for me was a huge Untamed turn where I was able to take out his creatures that increased my key cost and gain a mess of ember for the win. During his last turn, he could increase my key cost by one, but it wasn’t enough because I had seven. Great game.
So we will probably play casual for a week or so here and then have another tournament with some of the unplayed or crappier decks. I must say the NAME of the deck may be the most important initial thing.
I think I like Logos the best, maybe because my initial decks did not have them so I had to go farm for a couple that did, but also they just have some crazy cards. Dis is also awesome. Shadows are the guys everyone hates but wishes they had in their decks!
If you are looking to get into Keyforge, the new expansion is out this summer. I figure you need about 3 decks for each player overall– just so you don’t get into a rut going one deck vs one other due to the possibility of power disparity.
This con went FAST, which usually means we were having fun or we were drunk or a mix of both.
We got in our Shadowfist draft after many years, which I will detail in another post on it’s own, Matt and I played in the Keyforge sealed tournament, we played a lot of ROOT, some Runequest and Mutant Crawl Classics.
This was damn fun and the people were great. It’s hard to be a complete pysse-ant when your decks are randomized and no one knows what they are going to get. My deck was absolute shit, and since I’m a n00b player, I didn’t do well. Really, I can blame the deck on this one for sure which is how the cookie crumbles. Fun game, cool expansion and really cheap buy in with the core set and two random decks. And they had a fuckn vending machine for decks.
One thing to remember is that you can MULLIGAN if you don’t like your first draw.
Mutant Crawl Classics
MCC/DCC: you can be nearly certain that you’re going to get a good GM, a good CON adventure and a romping good time when you sign up for one of these games, and we did. The scenario took place on the Metamorphosis Alpha mothership and involved our (funnel) characters being ejected from our home area to the “death zone.” A bunch of us got robot parts (my pure strain human got a robot head!), we defeated some mutant cyborg hippo and then had all but two of the 18 characters wiped out by someone failing to learn to use a grenade properly while we stood on a ledge with no railing (I had gone off to piss when this happened, so I can’t be blamed!!). Only my manimal Squirrel with her bubble helmet survived. Looking forward to more of this one once Matt fires it the fuck up!
This is the Chaosium RQ and not RQ6, so heavy Glorantha throughout. It was the second time I’ve played and it was OK, the combat system is not on the same level for easy of play and intensity as Mythras (RQ6) at all, but Glorantha can be interesting. I’ve had RQ GM’s that have shown up with just a piece of scratch paper, some pregens and dice and it was fantastic, but this wasn’t one of those, it was just OK and for four hours of your con, that’s tough.
We played two games, one 4 player and one massive 7-player game at the Hyatt. Both Patrick Leder and his ops manager came by to say hi during the (5 hour?) game which was awesome. The 7-player game is absolutely insane and some factions just don’t stand much of a chance (i.e.: the area control ones). While the vagabond didn’t win, it was the Lizards at 29, Vagabond (Ranger) at 26 and the Otters at 30 in the end FTW, which should tell you a bit about how the game went. The Cats and the Birds had to simultaneously chase the vagabonds around, destroy sympathy as well as trading posts while at the same time trying to score a few points here at there. While certainly a bit unbalanced for the area control factions, 10/10, would play 7 player yet again.
Other stuff I saw
Other than gaming, I did a share of wandering around the dealer hall and the various areas.
DUNE is really coming out, and soon! GF9 really got on the horse and produced the game quickly–I figured based on the past that they would take long into 2020 to get the game out but, nope, it’s out next month. The new set looks good and I am very interested in the rules changes. I do think the leader pieces are too small, but the art is good and the map and box both look beautiful. We will be able to play this again rather than our 1980 copies sitting in the safest shelf possible in our houses only to be brought out every few years!
Having the board game ‘check out’ be a ticketed event SUCKS, it’s much better at Gary and Gamehole con where you just walk up, give your drivers license and play whatever.
Pathfinder 2nd edition was a big release during the con and again, like 2008 or so, they had MASSIVE stacks of books. It’s got to be tough when you build a direct clone of an older game and then do a second edition of that clone.
Harassment signs. I’ve been going to GENCON every year since 1993 or so and I think it is the most accepting convention for ALL types of people, freaks, deviants, nerds, etc. one can imagine. It just goes without saying that it’s completely unacceptable for people to be mean to the weird or normal alike, so I’m not sure why these signs are necessary to put up on every single door in the entire convention center. Do they really mean ONLINE harassment?
The Gencon App was really helpful– and saved a lot of paper with those big con books with their (outdated) event lists. Get it for sure if you go.
BIRDS and LIMES. This was a fantastic addition to the Con. We had one incident where Matt parked the car and JP forgot his badge, and instead of having to walk 45 minutes to the car and back, we tossed a few bucks at the BIRDS and it was really and excuse to ride a motor scooter for 15 minutes total! In Milwaukee, everyone had to have helmets and ride on the road and stuff, which is fine. However, in Indy you can ride all over the place, no helmets no nothing. I would only say people SHOULD have to ride with a helmet, but then be able to go all over, on sidewalks, whatever. Sure there will be drunken accidents and all that, but no different than people riding a bike around.
Gencon Auction! I hadn’t been in this thing for years and it was great. I may spend most of a day in there one of these cons. So much shit for cheap and the consignment store had some ridiculous deals.
Triumphant Entrance Man. We saw him again at an MTG booth looking and triumphant as ever (and lost some weight as well) and took some pics.
The new Shadowfist owners were at Essen and did a short interview with OneTableTop on the plan for the game. Watch it here.
Don’t feel like watching? Here is the core info:
Architects will have a preconstruct deck along with 3 other factions (not sure which but you can probably guess)
There will be a kickstarter relatively soon.
So yep, until that kickstarter launches, Shadowfist is still dead, but the moment it does hit, let’s see what happens. I backed the last kickstarter on account of the archies being back in the game so the new one will be no different.
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.
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.
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 not 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.
Here is my advice for the future of the game.
Remove Foundation Characters
Think about a Re-theme of the game to something other than Shadowfist/Feng Shui
Get rid of the Jammers, don’t bring back the Syndicate.
Get rid of all counter-creating cards
Re-institute damage redirection
Come out with a big 300 card set in boosters plus preconstructs (like VTES did)
All expansions should be booster + preconstructs (again like VTES)
Allow play to change the win conditions based on how many winning attempts their are (like a for-the-win counter)
NO PLAYER FACES ON CARDS EVER FOR ANY REASON.
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!
This game has been around a long time and has survived as a CCG for nearly as long as MTG. I’ve played it with the kids and it’s actually a fine game but there are traps when buying cards/playing. I’m not going to go into kids scamming cards off each other in kindergarten and grades above, that’s the subject of another post (i.e.: how did my 6 year old get about 60$ worth of EX foils when he had a couple packs of cards to start?). What I am going to go over is how to save money and have fun with the game while your kids are interested in it (likely age 5-9 or so). While this is potentially a CCG money pit, Pokemon is not a video game or some iOS bullshit, even though it is still an indoor thing for kids, so it should be encouraged over other indoor activities just like pen and paper RPG’s should be.
First, there is a LOT of stuff in the big box stores that kids will want you to buy for them. They will ask for a “TIN” which is a tin box with some cards in it. They will ask for trainer boxes which are bigger boxes with cards in them. They will ask you for EX and MEGA EX pokemon cards they see in the store. Expect it, but don’t buckle.
This is because the way kids play in school is to slap down the best pokemon they have and compare it’s damage to another pokemon’s health and call it a day. The big EX’s and GX’s have large numbers on them (some of them at least) so the kids want those. They also look cool, foil, distorted hyper anime art, etc. This is fine and if your kids want to keep doing that, there’s nothing wrong with it, but that means they will only want a few cards (all EX’s) and there’s no point in buying packs — those are VERY rare in the packs. Buy them singles they want for as cheap as you can and you’re done.
However, if your kids want to actually play the game, there is more to it. If you’ve played any CCG or even deck builder, it’s pretty simple:
decks are 60 cards exactly.
You have to attach energy cards to pokemon to get them to fire off their damage powers. These are also uncommon in random packs.
You play to 6 points (represented by prize cards). Each point is acquired by destroying enemy pokemon.
One pokemon is ‘active’ as in it can attack and up to 6 others are ‘benched.’ Normally only the active pokemon can be attacked or attack.
You have to flip a damn coin a LOT during the games. Little kids can’t physically do this, so use a six sided die instead.
Now, there are a lot of buying options and I flat out recommend not buying Tins, not buying boosters, not buying the “theme” decks and not buying trainer boxes unless your kids get super hardcore and even then, maybe buy singles. The decks you can build and play using the cards from any one of these sources will suck to play and not be fun for anyone. I wasted some money there (probably about 30$ all told) before I realized this looking at tournament decks online. Their composition was VERY different from the Theme deck I have…and very different from what comes in the packs you get.
Instead of all the various stuff on the shelves at Target or Walmart, you want to buy the Battle Arena decks. These are usually two decks in a pyramid type box that are full on ready to play out of the box. These is pricey right out of the gate (about 30$), but in contrast to the boring Theme decks or random card packs, each one is tuned up with an economic and combat engine centered around a single EX type pokemon (each deck has two of these cards) that work very well and are fun in play. While nothing to the level of tournament decks, the Battle Arena decks emulate their structure and solve the critical problem with the “theme’ decks and tins and boosters in that they have WAY too many pokemon compared to other cards. Perusing actual decks, you need only about 12 pokemon in a 60 card deck, about 12 energy cards to fuel them and the rest are the cards the kids just throw on the ground when they get them out of a pack: Trainer cards. Trainers are the gasoline that fuels a deck: extra card draws, denial, flipping pokemon from the bench to the active area, moving energy around — all the critical stuff you need to do to make the attacking pokemon effective and the deck efficient.
We have the (above) Keldeo vs Reyquaza deck and it’s a solid competition between them. There are two other battle arena decks out there (another one coming in a few months) so your kids will have something to select among what looks cool. While it won’t be easy, it’s possible to switch out the EX and pokemon of specific types with another GX and other pokemons, leaving the trainers in place to support the deck. If your punk kids have SPECIFIC GX’s they want to run, this may be the only way.
It will take a bit for your kids to grok the combo/engine in each of the battle arena decks, but when they do, they will know how to set it up and then later, how to block the other punk kid’s combos if possible. This leads to a lot of exploration of depth that would take months or years of just playing with stuff out of the tins or theme decks. Most importantly, it will make you as the parent NOT BORED instead of terribly BORED with the game. They still may just slap pokemon down on the table when they are at school, but at home you will have fun with the real deal.
Lastly, sleeve the cards. While this may seem lame to the kids, it helps them shuffle and handle the cards and it keeps what could be a 30-50$ card from being destroyed and driven into the mud on the playground, or lost and spilled upon under a car seat (both of which I’ve seen first hand).
That said, you may have a kid or kids that just do not like the game when actually played for real, but still want the cards to look at. This is OK too, but due to their desire for ALL GX/EX foils, can get very expensive.
Along with my normal house stuff like clothes and books (so many books), I had to pack up and move a shitload of games and gaming related materials. I have… a lot of gaming stuffs, some of which I haven’t physically seen in years. It’s a bit ridiculous really.
The first thing I did was drag a bunch of old World of Darkness books to sell them. I kept the core Vampire and Werewolf books for nostalgia, but for some reason I had a ton of those books and we played maybe once–and it sucked. Owning these was likely due to RAGE and JYHAD fandom for the most part.
Speaking of which, I have a massive Shadowfist collection (for good reason), but I also have a massive VTES and Jyhad collection, large amounts of RAGE, On the Edge, Blood Wars and still have my tiny MTG collection (most of it) from back in the day. With Netrunner, I really can’t see playing any 2-player CCG’s other than that, yet it’s difficult to part with a mere stack of Legends of the Burning Sands or Legends of the Five Rings cards let alone a massive set like VTES— I just don’t know why: we no longer play these games.
I did find some stuff that I forgot I had, or forgot how MUCH.
Mojang was sold to Microsoft for a lot of money recently and while that should be actually GOOD for Minecraft, what about this other game SCROLLS? The one that caused such a dust up with Bethesda Software a year or so back (with the awesome challenge to settle LEGAL differences with Quake 3 Arena!!!). The game has been in beta for awhile (open like your sister’s legs) and last week it actually came out for everyone at FIVE BUCKS.
So this is a goddamn online CCG. You get a basic deck of cards and can ‘buy’ more with in-game gold that you earn by playing. It’s a typical model that everyone is using these days with all these fucking iOS FREE games and Blizzard’s Hearthstone. While the economic model for getting cards is sort of lame, really this isn’t different from any type of regular CCG like Netrunner, EXCEPT for the fact that you can get more cards by just playing the game. This means if you spend FIVE BUCKS and play, potentially you can get a ton of cards without spending any more. This is my plan.
The key thing here is if the game sucks balls and is just a semi-magic clone with +1 /-1 effects that are super boring. Since Magic itself has this same model of buying in game cards, if you really are going to play one of these games, you better play the best one. Since there isn’t one of these games out for NETRUNNER, I would say SCROLLS is probably one of the better games. I have not wasted money or time on Blizzard’s IP cash-in trash Hearthstone game but per Lord Lobo after 10 minutes in SCROLLS he mentioned it was “Way better” than Blizzard’s feeble offering.
Anyway, after about 7 games, this is what I think in BULLET LIST form.
I like the MAP a lot. It’s got this Heroes of Might and Magic vibe plus DREAMBLADE (which I’m waiting for my kids to get old enough to play). It puts context around playing cards instead of just this amorphous mass of cards on the table. Protecting a location is also very SHADOWFISTY, and that’s good.
The interface is quality. Mojang ain’t fucking around here. There were a couple things a bit wonky (like starting in windowed mode) but during the game it’s very nice.
Cards do interesting stuff. I really think the drive for GAME BALANCE has fucked up modern CCG’s a bit so the mechanics boil down to +1/-1 like Hearthstone. It’s sort of like how Diablo 3 didn’t take ANY chances with any powers PROC’ing because that would rely on some luck and not raw DPS. This made diablo 3 a really shitty and boring game (except for the sound effects).
The factions are generic, but the little miniatures on the board look cool. Each faction is named for a single word– GROWTH, etc. and the cards in each have pretty generic feel to them. When you’re used to JOHN FUCKING BLANCHE and ERIC SABEE art all over the place, it’s hard to get a woody about a faction that has some wolves and stuff in it. The ‘miniatures’ though are sweet.
I’m interested in the tactical depth possibilities. The main thing about a 2 player CCG is if it’s fun to play even if you are getting fucking schooled repeatedly (since this is how you learn). Netrunner is WONDERFUL in this way because it’s always a bit of a nailbiter at the end. Shadowfist is just nearly always fun to play regardless of who wins.
So that’s enough points for now. if you want to dip your toes in, there is a demo of the game, but at 5$– what the fuck. For the next two weeks or so (some of you know how my attention span is for games) I’ll be playing quite a bit. My username is: ajdghlkajhclkA. Not joking. I had to try 3 times to find a name that wasn’t taken (littlemute? seriously??) and it became a random string of letters.
Steve the Burger and Fries was the winner of this year’s World Championship at Gencon of Shadowfist. He played with a Purist/Architect deck (below) with write up.
Total Cards: 51
Feng Shui Sites (10)
Martyr’s Tomb (2)
Gambling House (2)
Foundation Characters (10)
DNA Mage (5)
Other Characters (10)
Dr. Timbul Damiri (3)
Shards of Warped Reflection
Nerve Gas (2)
Expendable Unit (2)
Uncontrolled Mutation (2)
Pocket Demon (2)
IKTV Special Report
Material Transendence (2)
Evil Brain in a Jar (2)
Rise of the NeoBuro (2)
Here’s how it all played out……I needed to get some tuning in before the tournament, so the night before, we played 4 games, all 3 man with Matt and Mouth. After taking serious beatings from both of them in 3 of the games, and barely eeking out a less than impressive victory in the 4th, we looked at slimming the deck down a bit. I ended up taking out 3 vivisectors and 2 Paradox Gardens, and adding an IKTV special report.
So I rolled into the tournament far from confident. There were nine players, so It was three-man the whole way….another problem for my less than fast deck….
Game 1 (Monarchs, Jammers)
The Jammer deck got off to a very fast start, getting out 3 big maques and a horde of other monkeys early, all helped by my first hitter destroying himself on an uncovered Temple of Angry Spirits. I was being run off the table. The Jammers burned for power 3 times, and with the monarch deck starting slowly as well, I just couldn’t get going. There seem to be a lot of new cards with monkey designators, and there were hordes of token characters all over the place. I managed, through a combination of my opponents’ unwillingness to just end it & a few denial cards, to hold off an outright win, and we were timed out. Looked like the end of the road for me, with a permanent spot at the losers table.
Game 2 (Monarchs, Hand)
The Monarchs followed me to the losers table, along with a hand deck. I had a horrible start in this one (no architect resources), but was helped by the fact that the Monarch player was using resources to smash the hand player with early events and attacks. Now most of those events were cancelled by Confucian stabilities, but none-the-less, my opponents were stymying each other, and I was able to recover a bit. Another strange thing was that the Hand player had two revealed proving grounds, which didn’t help him. Anyways, it was time for his Iron Monkey to cause problems, but alas, a nerve gas smoked him with no power gained or sites taken. Even with Rise of the Neoburo out, I had 3 or 4 turns in a row where I could not draw any hitters, so I just played sites. Finally, with the table cleared, an exposed proving ground with 1 body, and only 1 fighting characters in play, I went for the win with a mathmagician(!?)……and a cellular reinvigoration……..very silly, but it worked, and I had a chance again with a win under my belt.
Game 3 (Jammers, Lotus)
The monkeys were back, I had a new Lotus opponent, and my deck had not yet shown any signs of getting out any of my combos. Again, the Jammers were out quickly, but we held him down a little to prevent that overpowering start. The lotus looked to be well positioned with a hitter out and one of my sites burned for power. Then, he tried to play spirit wrack on a Jammers character, and had his hitter smoked by who’s the monkey now. This allowed me to get Damon Winter out, and load up on cards. He was smoked, but Bonechill followed several times, thanks to Dr. Timbul, and I settled on toasting a big maque, and turning into a size 14 hitter. Along with rise of the neoburo and material transcending the reverend Adam Wither into a useless edge, I gained some traction. This game ended with time being called also, but I scored good points.
When the total points were added up, John and Willow were 1-2, and I was tied for 3rd with Troy. There was some posturing back and forth about who should get in, and what the tiebreakers were. When no one could decide, John and Willow were ok with a 4-man final.
Game 4 (The final-Jammers-Troy, Monarchs-Willow, Architects-John)
What a game. I definitely appreciated playing with three very accomplished players, and I hope everyone wasn’t too annoyed with my constant fumbling and bumbling of the rules…..Things started with some early attacks that were thwarted. I attacked the monarchs with Bonechill hoping for a lucky site grab, only to reduce it to 1. The Architects were thwarted, but the jammers got the site. With the Monarchs kneecapped, I drew a nice run of cards, played secret pact, which allowed me to throw out Damon Winter. I attacked the Monarchs again, hoping for a squishy site, and found it, burning for power. Then I was able to play IKTV special report right away after that, and had 8 power before my turn started again. That was what I needed, as I played Rise of the Neoburo, Dr. Timbul, Material Transcended him, and played a Paradox Cube (copying Timbul) that turn. That definitely drew some attention. I was very lucky in that no one had edge hate cards, so my stacked Timbuls would remain for the rest of the game. Things went on with no one able to gain the upper hand for a while. An amazing 3 neutron bombs were dropped, and even more amazingly, all were cancelled. Eventually Damon Winter was smoked (along with several Gnarled Annihilators, Fakhir-al-din, and lots of monkeys), but replaced with Primus (and my whole deck was in my hand anyways). A few turns later and I was finally I was able to find the architect’s endless corridor turned, and sacrificed Primus, then returned him to play so no architect nasty cards could be played. I went for the win with 5 or 6 buffed monkeys able to block, but threw down a cellular re-invigoration that couldn’t be countered……and that was it!
I’m back from the con and it was good. I won’t be able to encapsulate my thoughts into a single post, and some of the topics DESERVE their own singular essays– so over the next few days I will try to decompartmentalize the madness. I was planning on posting DURING gencon itself, but other than the few pictures there just wasn’t time or sobriety to do so.
Hillfolk and the drama system experience
Sad news for Shadowfist
OSR stuff and Other RPG’s
Random stuff that looked cool.