Shadowfist News!


She won't be so lonely anymore...

Reprint of Seven Masters vs the Underworld is available NOW.  It’s an absolutely essential expansion if you want to use the Seven Masters (the best new faction IMO) and great for everyone else (Big Bruiser PAP!).

Also, online play will be available via LackeyCCG soon.  Great news for everyone that moved from the nerd kingdoms to hipsterville or the sticks…

Seven Masters Vs The Underworld reprint coming soon

Four Mountains Fist action will again be more possible for newb players

One of the best Shadowfist expansions is getting a reprint in the next few weeks!   No more begging off people on the streets for Shun Dai, Never Surrender or Kun Lun Clan Assault cards (a common no less!).  I’ll be picking up a box for sure to flesh out some of my missing rares and pumping up my uncommons.   If anyone is getting a box and wants to do some trading for the stuff they need, shoot me a message.  With deference to Netherworld 1, this expansion has both the best art and some of the best cards in the game, what’s more it has all but three of the cards for the Seven Masters faction, that is playable with a box and a half or so of this set.  A must have.

GenCon 2011

I actually made it to the Con this year, family in tow just off a weekend+ of strep throat for me and the missus as well as my car getting totaled in a t-bone on the way to work.  We were crossing our fingers up to the last minute that the one uninfected shorty in the family would stay healthy and she did: in her body at least.   After 5-6 hours at Gencon, I will never be sure if she’ll be right again.  As any attendee is well aware, some of the things viewed there can never, ever be unseen.  There was one moment of almost-regret when, while being dragged through the morass in the dealer hall by her and her cousin, we essayed into a dank waft a malodor the likes of which neither of their young, unblanched olfactory organs had experienced before.   While I winced and imagined the sort of lifestyle choices that accompanied such a reek, they just pushed on, dragging me to whatever corner of the dealer hall their fancy took them.

Saturday I was free from the burdens of unprotected sex and I while I missed the Shadowfist world championship by 23 minutes, it gave me ample time to wander around and get some demos and shop.  Here are some of the results I can remember.

Ventura: new game by Fantasy Flight dealing with the Condotierre period in Italy.  Interesting take on the whole ‘hexes make up the board’ mechanic that Nexus Ops, Kings and Things and Twilight Imperium use.  You draw and lay the tiles nearest your own controlled area, so the board builds out form a conflicted center.  All and all, an easy, fairly elegant area control game that I would have picked up immediately had the price point not been… drum roll please: 80$ !  That’s what I would expect to pay for a big box hobby game like Descent or Ikusa.  While it seemed like a good game, the price point is going to crush it.

Blood Bowl League Manager:   An insta-buy when it comes out, this was the belle of the ball for me.  I was highly skeptical they would be able to pull this off, and they did!  It’s a little deck building a bit of bluffing, some luck and the most important part: they integrated the block dice really well into the whole game mechanic.   Essentially, you have a deck of your players and you play them on different games that make up a season.  It’s abstracted but essentially represents you pulling out all the stops for a game with a player position for whatever effect in that game.  If you have more strength than the opponent for each game, you win and get whatever benefits the game provides.  This could be more player cards, some team special abilities or special coaches (or just fan factor).  Whoever has the most fan factor at the end of the league wins.   Looks like it can scale with players and really easy to play a short game or a really long campaign.  Can’t wait to get my hands on this one.  FF ran out of their 300 copies on Friday morning, or so I heard.  Damn.

Rune Age:  Another new one from Fantasy Flight.  I half-heartedly tried to get into a demo of this but after looking over someone’s shoulder and seeing how Dominion-esque it was, I took a pass.   Some will like this a lot.  Unless someone says it’s not like Dominion at all, I’ll take a pass on this one.

Talisman Dragons: it was there, but after the 10 hours worth of games a few weeks back, I was just not ready to pick this up yet.  Definite purchase, just later in the Fall.

Shopping.  I was tentatively looking for some Dreamblade stuff and it was found only at one booth and fairly expensive.  I missed last year’s con, but there was plenty around in 2009 to be had, mostly for a song.  It’s a solid area-control miniatures game and with the figures super cheap, no reason not to pick up a bunch.  As they ramp up in price; not so much.

AT-43 was also on my list, and I found one booth with a couple of very cheap items I needed, and another booth with a bunch that was half off retail, but still expensive for my tastes.  Again in 2009 there was  a ton to be had (mostly due to Fantasy Flight’s liquidation) but that well has very much dried up.  AT-43 is an excellent game and I’m quite close to having a Therian and Red Block army of some size to meddle with.  Along with AT-43 is the old 3.5 Confrontation stuff– amazing minatures for the most part and one booth had a bunch, but they just didn’t have anything I really needed.  I may be kicking myself someday for not breaking the bank picking some of it up.   The main issue is, I paint so slowly the stuff will sit in boxes for a decade before a brush hits it at all.

Warhammer: I found a booth that had TONS of bits and I will be hitting that every year that they make it.   I would literally spend the whole con going through their shit. They didn’t have anything exceptionally old, but had a mess of stuff for any and all of the big box GW games (Necromunda, Blood Bowl, BFG, Man O War, etc).

Sadly, I didn’t buy a single ‘new’ game to say, like most years,  “a ha! I got this at Gencon, we must play!”  This is due to blood bowl league manager being sold out and Ventura– well 80$ was just too much to spend.

"I'm not sure what that smell was my childe, let's move on quick!"

Shadowfist.  Though I missed the nationals Saturday morning, I did make it to the invite-only tournament for past tournament winners, which started right after the morning tournament final concluded after a 4 hour final!   I was able to pull out the win after getting a tie in my first game, winning my second game after a long slough (thank you petroglyphs!) and winning in short order the three man final.   In the final against ascended and architects (least that’s what I saw), I started strong and got a High Noon face off using a foundation character (thank you Yellow Senshi Chamber!) and a ring of gates out (protecting from stuff going back into my hand which my deck hates).  The Ascended player laid out bull market (5 power to all players) as a response to the end of my turn, allowing me the power to lay out a site and be at play and take for my next turn.  Then he announced that he had gotten all Feng Shui in his draw.  Now, getting all Feng Shui at a time like that really sucks, but to announce it in the final of a tournament–it basically said to both myself and the other player that he was pretty much out of denial cards and we needed to go for the win.  The Architect player to my right brought out some little stuff, but couldn’t take a site (thank you Final Brawl!) and after gaining 4 power in addition to the 5 from the Bull Market, I was able to lay out a foundation character, a Big Brusier and have a power left for a confucian stability to stop the inevitable zzzzzap (which came in the form of an Op Killdeer).  Going for the win, the brusier got redirected onto a 9 body site (he’s only 8 fighting) , but my foundation character’s damage was redirected onto that 9-body site via the yellow senshi chamber, reducing it to a feastable number for the big brusier, for which the table had no answer.  All in all, I got real lucky with my draws and was able to capitalize on both the bad luck of the other players as well as some mistakes on their part.

The deck list is here.

My MVP cards:

Character: Big Bruiser

Event: Blue Meditation

Edge: Shield of Pure Soul

Feng Shui: Petroglyphs

State: none in deck

After winning this and the Wisconsin state championship this year after many years of tournaments of just barely not making it into the finals, I’m looking at a long decade or so of getting my ass handed to me in competitive play as I well deserve.  Bring it!

Summer Gaming Deluge

Well I had a week off and gaming got friggin’ done.  A lot of it.  Game after game of Shadowfist, two 5 hour + games of Talisman 4th Edition, Dragon Lairds and a weekend of  handful after handful of D10’s being thrown for Exalted to top the shit off.    Thanks to everyone that suffered through the debauchery, the rump-gasps, rank foists, dank, oppressive basement conditions and cursing as it was probably the most solid week of gaming I’ve had since 2004 or so.   To have two days in a row that consisted of waking up at 10AM, stumbling around trying to find food and the preparing for a few hours for another almost all nighter of the ultimate nerdery is really a gift that one at my stolid age and life-choices shouldn’t be allowed to have.

Shadowfist:  Some great games were played  and beatings delivered (as usual).  My only issue is that 4-player is the maximum enjoyable size.  Five player just starts to break down, not the game engine at all, but the ability for players to play with the intensity that a multiplayer CCG requires for that long of a time.  I’d rather get 2-3 three player games over the same span of time than one big-ass five or six player game.   My decks did OK, with the exception of my A-list deck, which did phenomenally well in the hands of some of the less experienced players (I never played the deck myself).  One player, we’ll call him STEVE, got Ting Ting, the Golden Gunman and Steven Wu out onto the table at the same time.   Even though he didn’t win that game, this was a moral victory forever.    The most interesting deck I saw out of the group was a horrific use of Bonechill by Mouth.

Dragon Lairds:  Becoming a favorite, though one person, we’ll call him SCOTT, wins every game all the time.  While this is derivative of another game (can’t remember the name), I wouldn’t play without the Tom Wham (and friends) art work.

Talisman 4th Edition:  Like Shadowfist, if you have more than 4 players, you’re just not going to be able to sustain the intensity over 5 hours of play.  Though the two games we got in were fun, I think that’s quite enough Talisman until the Dragon expansion is released this Fall.   The new horse deck is great as well as the trinkets and non-item rewards you can get, though I am still wrestling with the ability of players to gain Craft from monster trophies.  Overall though with more than 3, I would say this is just not going to be on the menu for a long time to come.   Notable is that someone tried to play the Monk (who got awful nerfed in the new version) and failed.  This is understandable when your only power is to have +3 to normal Combat.

Exalted: What can I say, I know the issues everyone on the internet has with this game and yet when we play it, it’s  hellaciously fun.  Not as much combat happened during the sessions we played compared to the last session with these characters, so only a hundred dice hit the table instead of hundreds and hundreds.  I’d been planning to run one of the (very few) published adventures (with some tweaks) for the game and it worked out well, inserting some of my own characters in here and there and decreasing the difficulty when an experienced RPG gamer pulled a Steel Reserve fueled newb mistake and wandered off during a dungeon crawl portion only to be jumped and nearly destroyed by one of the most obvious traps ever conceived.  While the combat has an awesome amount of crunch, I’m still not totally sold on social combat.  It’s interesting, but one of my players mentioned immediately: “if this is dropping my willpower, why wouldn’t I just instantly attack?”  Exactly.  In two instances of social combat from published adventures, both have antagonists that speak through other mediums so they cannot be instantly attacked (Return to the Tomb of Five Corners and Daughter of Nexus).  That’s telling about what players are apt to do during social combat when up against an actual enemy.  From reading the interweb tubes over the last year or so, and my shock at antagonists from the Scroll of Exalts with 50+ charms, I was thinking of converting the whole campaign to Feng Shui or FATE, but after these sessions I just don’t see the point.  I won’t mince words though that Exalted is a heavy bitch of a game to prep for and run as a GM, and as you get to higher power levels, well nigh impossible.

Ooops, I won!

Look at the part that hits.

Nodamage and I headed out to Plattcon yesterday and though it’s a smallesque nerdcon, it had a very big game for me– the Wisconsin State Shadowfist Championships organized by John Monett.  The board game room was dead (where were the free-rental board game guys that made it to the similarly sized Gaming Hoopla?) so Nodamage was dragged into 5 hours or so of Shadowfist as an almost n00b.  Not expecting it at all but I pulled enough points to get to the winners table and then caught a few breaks in the final for the win.  I’m the Shadowfist Wisconsin state champion for 2011, the big cheese as it were.

My first game was horrible with just a spew of foundation characters coming from my hand and I figured I wouldn’t be able to do anything during the tournament, but game 2, even without any Dragon resources, I was able to rapine through defenses with everyone’s favorite dude with a rock chained to him: Shun Dai.

The final was a mosh, Decks were (as far as I can tell): Dragon/Monarchs, Monarch Fire deck, Jammer Deck and my Hand/Dragon.  The Monarch Fire player got to 4 sites really fast with two Fire Mystics who were also hurting everyone’s cards whenever an event hit the table, what’s more, the Jammer deck had Frag the G out for more site damage– so sites were falling fast to smallish characters.  Three turns to the end I had no sites on the table and one in my burned for victory pile with what looked like no way to win.  But the worm turned and I got a couple sites out and a Big Bruiser who started hitting the damaged sites with no blockers that could stand up to his beats.  A big part of the endgame was that Ting Ting, played by the Monarch/Dragon player, got toasted by a card I had never even seen before— ouch.

My MVP cards were:

Character: Shun Dai (got me into the final)

Event: Blue Meditation

State: No states in the deck

Edge: Chinese Connection

Sites: Tomb of Angry Spirits

I didn’t take notes like I do at Gencon about decks, but there was a scary Jammer deck there and of course, whatever Willow puts together usually hits like a ton of bricks, but I only played her in the final and didn’t see enough to know what her combos were about.  All in all some great games and looking forward to seeing everyone at Gencon for some more beatings.

The Big Man Now?

Wisconsin state championship in Shadowfist this coming weekend at Plattcon.  I’m either going to play my Dragon ‘A List’ deck or the Hand/Dragon big Bruiser cycler.  Neither deck has done great at the Gen Con tournaments, but I’ve just missed getting to the final by a few points with both.   I’m thinking of stripping out the legendary Iron Monkey from the aforementioned Big Bruiser cycler as he really is just has a giant target on his chest any time he hits the table and what I’ve found over the years is that he just doesn’t take sites all that often.  I only got one box of Empire of Evil so far but there are some juicy tidbits in there to throw in to each deck– it’s just deciding which NOT to put in that is the challenge.  One thing I love about the Shadowfist tournaments is that they are friendly and fun AND hardcore competitive.  It’s a very tough blend to hit for a game, and a game community as getting walloped is usually never fun in a game–and Shadowfist has a lot of walloping all round.

Blood Bowl CCG?

“a standalone game of deck-building action that takes 2-4 players through the cutthroat excitement of an entire Blood Bowl season, all in about an hour.”  Well this looks interesting and it’s being designed by the dude who made Chaos in the Old World so that’s cooking with gas.  Is it a CCG? That’s the question.  I doubt it as the game is certainly not infinitely expandable with a limited number of teams.  Like Dungeon Quest and the oodles of Talisman expansions, this is yet again something from Fantasy Flight that my money won’t be able to avoid.

Shadowfisting, 1996, guilt

ouch time
Harbinger, bare-chested Hero of the week!

With pretty much everyone I know that plays Shadowfist moving to the four corners of the country and beyond, it’s been tough to keep the faith–even with my whirlwind of playing during Gencon every summer– it’s just not enough!  So thanks to everyone that got in on the 5 or so games we threw down this week.

That said, it’s still difficult to even discuss getting new players into a game like this except casually.  There has to be massive trepidation on anyone’s part who remembers the 90’s around getting into a CCG for any reason– even one as fun and accessible as Shadowfist.  Even if someone hands a new player a deck and a shoebox full of cards, if you want to really get into it, it’s still shockingly expensive compared to board-gaming and even miniature gaming.  New expansions cost around 120$ to get a full set (with the commons and uncommons you need to flesh it out) and the search for various rares can get both frustrating and expensive.

The advantage of Shadowfist is that, unlike Magic, cards have become more powerful as the years and expansions go on– most early cards that are difficult to get have either been eclipsed by new cards or have been reprinted: this is the exact opposite of Magic, where the most powerful cards are never reprinted.  Rares, typically, are cards that you only need one or two of unless you are building something really weird so though you may chase down Ting Ting (‘The’ chase card until her reprint in 2001)– you really only need 1-2 copies if you are building a single deck around her (which MANY people have).  I run out of cards while making decks a lot (mostly uncommons) but I have 20+ decks lying around, I can’t imagine playing the game focusing on just one faction, or just a couple of decks– but that’s what new players are faced with: it’s prohibitively expensive to collect to a level where you are focusing on multiple factions in relation to the current big deal: boardgames.

So every worm turns and eventually people will probably get back into the CCG’s a bit as a gaming culture, but probably long after we stop seeing Yugioh packs in Walmart. Magic, while I have no interest in the game itself, is keeping the faith by it’s tenacious continued existence.   Back in the day–well, 90’s, there were miniature gamers that had no qualms about dropping a shitload of cash (and time) on their armies and a lot of that attitude translated to the CCG’s when their time in the sun came.  The issue I see going forward with the board game crowd is that a gaming group collectively can amass a gigantic board game collection for fractions of the cost to truly get into a CCG.  A single boardgame may not get even near the play of a CCG, but since there are so many boardgames owned by a group, there’s a ton of variety.

However my favorite type of game– multiplayer asymmetrical strategy– is without a doubt represented best by CCG’s to the point where nothing else comes close to the richness and myriad of choices, situations and metagame.  Even my favorite asymmetrical board games feel like short, clipped experiences compared to the metagame analysis, deck building, tweaking and then (the best part) playing a muliplayer CCG.  Though boardgaming is the rage right now, and people poo poo even the very idea of a CCG due to the perception of predatory pricing and rare card modelling (especially in the case of Magic) I think it’s an amazing form of gaming that captured the gaming world’s attention for more than a decade right when the time of the computer and console game was coming into it’s own as a form of entertainment bigger than television.

Though I won’t sing a lament for games such as Rage, Blood Wars or Arcadia, there are a few CCG’s whose awesomeness as the ultimate experience  in multiplayer asymmetrical strategy games cannot be denied, Shadowfist being the hands down best but Jyhad, Doomtown and Legend of the Burning Sands /Legend of Five Rings are in the ranks of praise as well.

Empire of Evil Awesome

shadowfist - jade willowFittingly, the first post of a new blog about gaming should be about a game I rarely get to play these days that has, since it’s first expansion, been all-holes-filled with totally awesome: Shadowfist.  With the most recent expansion: Empire of Evil, the game gets back to what appears to be a solidly themed, well produced expansion.  While Shadowfist has a long and glorious history of rock solid playtesting, some of the thematic decisions in recent expansions have been downright questionable.  When they announced their Shirikens and Sixguns expansion I almost choked while spewing forth the word DOOMTOWN, which, sadly by the same author of Shadowfist, did the whole weird west thing to it’s rolling thunderous death.  With Empire of Evil, we get straight down to what Shadowfist is about– bands of misfit badasses with good hearts being mercilessly cut down trying to stop the machinations of one of the game’s nasty factions (Lotus, Ascended and Architechs).  The cast of characters, in typical fashion, have awesome names the belie their badassiveness: Alabaster King, Jade Willow (pictured), Iron Jim Colson and last but not least,  the bomb-crossed lovers: Jayne Insane and Johnny Amok.  What amazes me is that this is expansion 13 or so for the game, and, last I checked, it was 2009– over a decade after the CCG explosion rocked the earth to it’s core.

Given my original playgroup have all moved away, gone to jail or–well that pretty much covers it–it’s bittersweet to see an expansion come out this especially awesome for a CCG that for all statistics should be long, long dead.  What is it exactly that allows Shadowfist to live on, not necessarily thrive, but creep along with new publishers taking up the mantle every few years?  First off, it’s the game itself.  Shadowfist plays extremely fast, and has very fluid card play rules compared to other CCG’s of it’s day.  Essentially, if you have the resources, you can play most cards at any time during the game, whether it’s your turn or not.  While turn-angst is still a factor in games with more than three players, a hand full of cards and a few points in power in Shadowfist means you can actively effect the other players actions, so you are always watching the table with that special combination of trepidation and glee that comes from making difficult choices.  My original play group back in the late 90’s would play with 5+ players on a regular basis, a testament to Shadowfist’s acceptable turn-angst.   What’s more, Shadowfist is very much a social game of bluffing, reading the table and over-all skill.

That said, I have read that deck construction is only about half the game, where in other CCG’s, given average luck with the cards,  once your deck’s engine gets going it’s engine-to-engine battle and player choices feel exceedingly scripted by the confines of the deck’s card selection.  To win a game of Shadowfist, you must win against all the other players, so planning an engine that can deal with all contingencies across the card set is difficult, planning for the gamut of players that will sit behind these decks is a true challenge of skill outside sorting through stacks of cards on your bed.

Other elements in the plus column, ‘Fist has no player eliminations (it is possible through some of the crazier cards, but I have only seen it happen a handful of times), so all players lose when one wins.  This triggers a nail-biting end game, where each player, if possible, goes for the win against the wishes of the rest of the table while ganging up with the other players when it’s the next guy’s turn.  The key skill is to know how much you can expend on defense without weakening your own chance for victory, since if you hold back too much, you could be  allowing another player to claim victory.

Last, it’s Shadowfist’s fan-base, who, in many cases, have put their money where there mouth is and invested in the game’s future in more ways than just buying the cards.  There’s no way possible, however much money is thrown at a game, to get the level of playtesting that Shadowfist has a reputation for without absolutely fanatical players as well.

Once I get a stack or two of cards from the new set and actually sit down to play a bit, I’ll post a review– though, that could be after strange eons have long past.