Gencon, a whirlwind of a day and a half (usually) of everything gaming– you really feel like you are at the center of the gaming world for a weekend and in a lot of ways, you are. We’re going to have D&D NEXT on display, lots of stuff from Fantasy Flight, Ascension tournaments, a Shadowfist expansion around (for kickstarter people and lord knows whatever else is there for exposition and purchase.
This year I’m heading down Friday to hit the “Classic” Shadowfist tournament and there will be a ton of Wisconsin folks in there (by ton, I mean 6 or 7) expats and current residents of the horrible Walker “please international business, rape my state” regime.
Fist aside, I’d like to get in some games of Seasons, try out some miniature gaming (likely hit the AWESOME Bolt Action tables they had last year) and with Mouth, Matt and Fryburger all being at the con, this should be fairly legendary.
One thing about Gencon is that it’s very much what you make it. You could walk around and around the vendor hall the whole weekend and feel lonely and fat and just overwhelmed with all the shit there for sale and all the fucking people talking, but the real deal is getting in and playing games you’ve never tried before, playing with friends you see only once a year and talking shit about various nerds and their hobbies. Oh and drinking and ripping on star wars and getting fat.
List of stuff I’m looking for and going to play:
Various Dark Elf warhammer bits
Another box or two of On the Edge core
Lamentations of the Flame Princes modules (Fuck for Satan, the God that Crawls and Better than Any Man especially)
Visit Bully Pulpit and tell them Carolina Death Crawl is an awesome game.
Exalted – pester them about 3rd edition and then stand around and talk to my players about the 2nd edition campaign we haven’t touched for years but all jones for (except the combat)
Play some Cortex or FATE (to make sure we are doing it right)
Play some Lamentations of the Flame Princess (i.e. OD&D)
I’ve long been a proponent that Ascension is simply an exercise in random card drawing with a random outcome for the winners. We play this a lot on the iphone/ipad and while I could never imagine putting up with the complete mess of cards that this one likely generates (in comparison with the excellent iphone app that cleans all that shit up for you) but, I now have over 210 multiplayer games under my belt and I can say with 100% pseudo-statistical confidence: Ascension is a random game. Your percentage chance of winning any game of Ascension equals 1 (you) divided by the number of players. 3-man games you will win 33% of the time, 4-man games, 25%, etc. I am not a good player, but I’m not a terrible player either, I know what cards are good and will win you the game if grabbed early or grabbed late, but I don’t use any tactics, I don’t watch what other players play and I don’t really pay much attention except to execute a singular deck combo I’ve started at the beginning of a game (like draw lots of cards or kill tons of stuff).I’ve seen a lot of combos, but there are some I certainly have not seen. The fact is, regardless of 100% knowledge of combos, you don’t know if you will have access to those cards that you feel you need to win. That said, let’s look at my stats:
2 player: 42 wins, 44 losses. This is statistically 50%.
3 player: 16 wins, 47 losses: 26% wins. this should be near 33% where 1 out of every 3 games, I win! (yay!).
4 player: 13 wins 59 losses. So here we have it being statistically low at 18% of wins, it should be 25%. I’m thinking if we had a bigger data set (for me) it would even out.
So what I’m going to do in the next few months is try to get good at Ascension– if that’s even possible. Playing with all the cards in the game (on iphone) and actually paying attention to what I’m grabbing, what other people are doing to actually use some tactics.
I’d like to see all stats for all players that have ever played– I think that would be just as telling as the percentages likely match those above. So here we go, I will actively be trying to kick your ass at this point to try to disprove that this is just like a game of War– totally random winning.
A blast from the past– I found these bits about Shadowfist 2nd edition circa 1996 (hosted right here) a couple days ago and was filled with wonderment. A lot of these ideas are fair but a few seem crazy to me (multiple sets out of a box, starters that are fun to play). Collected from quotes from Jose Garcia himself in 1996, as we approach the same sort of situation it’s interesting to see the parallels (though Jose didn’t have Kickstarter to help limp things along for years until receeding back into the loam again).
That said I’ve got a long post coming on why the most recent kickstarter limped along (still made an outrageous amount of money compared to what they likely needed) and why none of my play group supported it (some were even more against it than I was) and with the crazy ass shit on the Yahoo message boards recently, it’s time to start writing the obituary again. So stay tuned.
Looking at the copyright dates from the original Netrunner makes me feel old. Very old. 1996 was a long long time ago and things have changed quite a bit with the hacking and, of course, with CCGs. While they were riding about as high as you could imagine a game for nerds would be in 1996, very few have survived. Most, like the original Netrunner, they died off after a short run or even one set (SUPER DECK!). We can count on one hand the number of CCG’s that are left and active; even the big names are now gone or changed over to the LCG format (Jyhad, Shadowfist). Yet MTG is alive and going very strong– so there is a market for collectible card games out there and Netrunner, now number 6 on Boardgamegeek.com, is scratching away at that itch–and it feels real good.
15 years is a long time–as I said, quite a few of the things that were friggin’ science fiction in the original Netrunner are a REALITY now, such as all the touch screen walls and iPads and whatnotall that we waste all this time with when we should be outside or cleaning the house. Going through the old cards, there are a few choice pieces of art, and the cards themselves are that old school thickness, but overall the design is dark and crappy and the art for the most part consists of a photo of someone that has been computerized (Codeslinger) or some Maya-driven 3d abortion (SeeYa). The beauty (and financial failure) of the original Netrunner is that you could have a bunch of fun with just two starters and two boosters– so much so that there was very little desire to buy anything else for the game. What’s more, the lack of any ‘clans’ type thing did little to inspire– there were just generic runners and generic corporations going at it. I think players with games like this with hundreds of cards NEED some sorts of divisions, however arbitrary, to sort things out for them.
In any case, I went in for the Fantasy Flight version of Netrunner, now an LCG, and I have had the opportunity to play it a few times. While I remember the old game as being solid, we only played it 20 or so times and never bought any new cards. This is the very reason Netrunner is absolutely perfect, probably THE most perfect, game for the LCG format. You will get a ton of play out of the base set and it’s seven potential decks (3 for the runner, 4 for the corps). Granted you have to switch out the neutral cards to make a complete deck, this is a small price for the asymmetric decks on top of asymmetric sides.
How is the new set? Frakin’ Great. The art and design is far better than the rather dark, cloudy cards from the ’96 version, the rules are cleanly and clearly presented. The big difference, and it’s a good’un, is that both the Corp and the Runners now have an avatar card of sorts that has some power or effect (like doing damage when an agenda is accessed). So you start by selecting your faction, then one of the avatars within that faction (i.e.: Wizzard or the Waylan Corporation). The runner side has actual people, and the corp has some different powers for the same Corp. You can surprise your opponent with your choice here, especially due to in my first few plays I forgot to even look at the avatar power before it bit my virtual buttcheek.
I pulled out a win in the finals of the Shadowfist 2013 big cheese tournament. Seeing as I didn’t make a deck for the event and hadn’t played in awhile, this was surprising. What wasn’t surprising was that Steven Wu with Four Mountain Fist went in for the winning attack. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. The decklist (the A-LIST) and for now: cheese.
Shadowfist has had a long, venerable run over the last few decades and it’s time looks like it’s pretty much come, or has it? That said, there are a few brave souls trying to keep it going and turn it into an LCG (Living Card Game) which could be solid IF DONE CORRECTLY (i.e.: getting it into stores for starters).
Last night I got to play with the new starter decks from Combat in Kowloon (that was originally going to come out in 1996!!!!) and Back for Seconds (adding the Jammers and Monarchs). I played as the Ascended, then Hand, then Monarchs. Ascended deck was great and fun albeit ALL Transformed animals (where are the pledged?). The others, tough to judge after one play but I will anyway, were boring. I’ve heard from people two things that I can confirm– the Feng Shui sites and foundation characters are pretty awesome and the set should be picked up for those alone.
That said, there were a lot of reprints, most of which are very good choices throughout the set for most factions. Word of warning though: the Dragon deck is fucking awful crap that no one will want except for a few cards. No Ting Ting, Steven Wu, Golden Gunman NOR the new Red Wedding Big Bruiser? I thought they were joking when someone said it was a vehicle state deck–but it’s true. There are a few good cards in there but for new players only getting these cards, the dragon reprints are pure shit. it’s really a massive failure there that some of the penultimate chase cards in the faction were not included, especially since for new players the Dragons are the most forgiving and easiest to play. Oh and there are no Architects of the Flesh. They chose one of the original JOKE factions (Jammers) instead to include rather than one of the most fearsome evil factions in the game–the faction that was always coming up with the devious plans to fuck everyone up. Now who is left as the big bad? The Eaters of the Lotus sure but the rest of the factions could be perfectly happy SKATEBOARDING OFF EACH-OTHER’S DICKS rather than trying to eliminate each other from the time stream.
Typos. One type in particular is inexcusable. Reprinting an ancient card like Violet Meditation and having a typo that isn’t a spelling mistake, but something that drastically changes the cards effect? You start to think if there was a failure at something so simple as that, where else are there failures? And for new players– HOW THE FUCK ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO KNOW? Terrible.
Last point of contention–the pay for my face on a card cards. The ones before this were mostly tasteful and OK because the artists were good and took a lot of license with the way the person looked. The only one that was spot on was Zev’s card and it was cute because he was hiding behind a wall getting shot at (an not so subtle allusion to us and the playtesters complaining all the time). I can accept that one. There were apparently 6 cards in the set with nerd faces on them and they stick out like tits in a bra at Woodstock. Two of them are OK– the rest are ridiculous and just absolutely SHATTER the suspension of disbelief while playing the game. While this isn’t the worst of the lot, there is a Hand card with a skinny wiener nerd on it who is an EIGHT fighting. Not 3, not 5 as a ramp up or utility, but an EIGHT. Oh but he payed $500? Fuck all. At least back in the day you had to earn it by winning the big tournament at Gencon. The other thing is, once you have your picture on a card, you should never be able to have it on another one. We now have two cards with Jade Willow as different characters for fucksake.
Anyway, despite some failures in the set, the cardstock was far better than the cheapest-possible-to-be-still-considered-a-card cardstock used for the Seven Masters reprint (which to me, signaled the downfall of the game– even when shit was going south with Jose and Shadowfist Games, they never skimped on the quality of the product that badly) and there are some great cards in here that will change the game up a bit when playing with all the cards in the game, I will buy some and probably regret not buying more as it goes out of print. Is this the rebirth or the death-knell (which we’ve heard many times before) for Shadowfist? Do we really need any more expansions or should they just all be set up as Print on Demand? We played for 4-5 years with only Standard, Limited, Netherworld and Flashpoint and it was GREAT.
I was a bit on the mend so decided to drive down to Gencon Friday and see what for. I got to indy about 4PM and had only a couple hours to wander around before the main hall (the MONEY SUCKING HALL) closed. Before I even got in there BAM right in front of me was the BOLT ACTION demo area with an amazing Riechstag set up and a bunch of other boards. Sat around talking about it for awhile but the demos were full– then ran into the MONEY SUCKING hall before it closed up and bought a couple things, but didn’t take the bite on the Bolt Action deals (yet). Wandering around after the hall closed sucked as I couldn’t find anyone I knew so I wandered into a showing of Trailer Park JESUS. Not sure about it but it killed time and featured a girl with breasts that started at the lowest level of the chest that I’ve ever seen.
Got up Saturday morning and played Shadowfist, and Shadowfist, and Shadowfist.. and a demo of Bolt Action and that was it. I took third in the yearly invitational using one of Mouth’s decks but didn’t make the final in the world championship. All good though as I got at least 9 games in.
Bolt Action plays like a combination of AT-43 and Epic 40K and I dig it and dumped 100$ in to get some figs and the rulebook. While I didn’t spend a lot of time shopping, I did get some finds in the hall– not as many as I’d like to have picked up, but solid stuff. No more Crazy Egor but plenty of other places that have gaming trash for cheap.
Stuff I saw of interest:
Fantasy Flight was rocking– big game was Netrunner which I will eventually pick up, but no rush. They demo’ed the prototype of RELIC– the 40K Talisman game and it looked OK.
Confrontation Phoenix edition was on display and I listened in for a bit but didn’t get a demo. While the miniatures are great, they have some work to do consolidating the rules from 3.0 to 3.5. Great highly detailed miniatures game that I would love to see ‘alive’ again in the 3.5 form as opposed to the simplified mass produced version.
Forgeworld at the Con. I mistakenly thought it was Games Workshop returning after many many years, but it was Forgeworld–who has never been to Gencon before. They were showing off their awesome stuff and with 40K 6th edition out, that was the focus. They did have the Chaos Dwarf army in full effect for 8th edition.
Not much for D&D. There was an area, but it was pretty toned down. Cool Drow strider sculpture but other than that– nothing on the impending 5th edition that I saw at all.
In contrast, Pathfinder everywhere. That brand is hugely on the rise, not just for PNP roleplaying, but spreading out to everything else.
The new Fate core version was around but I didn’t get into any demo’s of it.
The new Marvel RPG was huge, but they had these little demo tables and the entire table was covered with dice dice dice. I was pretty silly. You play the game with no screen for the DM so it can work, but it was funny to see. While the rulebook is pretty economical, the first campaign book is pricey and huge. While I’ve gushed about the initiative system, I’m not sure the dice mechanic is all that great overall.
No White Wolf. Sadly I didn’t even find the White Wolf booth and didn’t even know if there was one. So no perusing the Exalted books or asking questions about it. I don’t think there’s much to tell there since version 2.5.
Shadowfist of interest:
Dragons + Lotus is still the best combo of factions FTW
Great Walls were everywhere, so even less reason to play straight Ascended. If you hit a front site in a tournament, it’s going to be the Great Wall.
Monarchs were everywhere (as usual with all the love they’ve been getting in sets)
There were no Ascended decks in the tournaments at all
Syndicate still did nothing (but at least people played the faction)
I played against a very good Jammers deck a couple times. It had some glaring weak spots, but wasn’t the usual shite you usually get from Jammers.
With the Magic: the Gathering resurgence, you’d think some of the others would rear their heads as well to get some attention and here we are with a big one: Netrunner.
While a great game from back in the day it was too was fun to play with just a starter deck– so fun that no one bought any more cards and the game didn’t have a long lifespan, or any lifespan I can remember. There were towers of Netrunner cards along with the MTG land cards at Gencon one year, and that was sad because there’s nothing like Land in the netrunner card sheets. Announced today, Fantasy Flight has gone ahead and removed the CCG part of the equation with the new edition, in the Living Card game format, branded to their “Android” universe. Looks like a must buy if you like that genre– I for one loved the old Netrunner, but never got in more than 20-30 games, which was still at great deal for an 8$ starter deck.
Ah Shadowfist, I predicted after 2011, and that year’s kicking ass by me, that I would have it done to me in 2012 (and probably for a long time after). This weekend, I lost the right to call myself the big cheese as we were beaten in a heated final at Plattcon to Jim Sensenbrenner and a deck he made that morning (!?) (featuring a rather unique alternate power generation engine that I will go into once he releases his decklist). Due to my own laziness, I just used the same deck I won with last year and though I never got my meaty combo out in any of the games (big bruiser has to come out, and he only did once) I was still able to get into the final with the rest of the jank stuff in the deck.
The final had TWO Ascended-only decks in it which is a milestone for the faction, at least from what I’ve seen. They haven’t been competitive as a stand alone faction for over a decade now since their domination in the early days of the game. While Op Killdeer is still the best card in the game, it has to be saved for the absolutely most important moments or it’s just wasted on trifles. The rest of the faction (alone) typically does not have the punch through to win in the fast, power stealing, denial heavy environment these days. Yet, it warmed MY cockles to see the EASTERN KING hit the table in a tournament. The raw shock and awe to have a size 11 Golden Gunman ready to lay some beatings was awesome. The only answer the table had was a Neutron Bomb when he brought his huge fighting to bear on the Architect player. I’ve been collecting Eastern Kings for years now, but have yet to put him in a deck that worked so I think it’s about friggin time.
All told, it was a great tournament with a pretty good turnout (8 players) and a lot of intense and friendly Fist. Now I hope to actually get some games in to practice and even make a new deck before Gencon rolls around and I defend my other 2011 title.