“Complete” Dominion

Dominion and most of its expansions are taken as a whole, one of my favorite games. Its challenging to master, it plays quickly, you can multitask and I can play it online for free here.  Taken as a whole Intrigue, Seaside, Prosperity, Cornucopia and Alchemy* make one game that flows rather well and constitute the ‘complete dominion’ that I am referring to.

There are several reasons why I group them this way but the main reason for this admittedly arbitrary classification is that these sets are all synergistic and play by the same rules in terms of what kingdom cards do and how games play out. There is the initial learning curve of learning the rules, then a second learning curve where you go past learning the rules to learn about say the value of trashing, how fast a game usually is and how fast your engine has to be among other things. Just using these sets won’t create any sort of complication ins learning the game. Everything flows together nicely from some simple rules.

Second reason being is that it fixes the problem that just base dominion has in the sense of Big Money or Big Money plus token action card or two is boring. Action chains are what make dominion distinctive as a game and its what makes them interesting.** With each new set the odds of Action heavy games grow and it becomes a more interesting game to play.***

Finally, Hinterlands doesn’t follow the rules I was talking about earlier. the cards don’t play the same. Without Hinterlands i can feel like I’m playing a perfectly complete game. With Hinterlands I feel like I’m playing a fundamentally different game on some level. I can only imagine that this will be even more true when it comes to Dark Ages. No doubt I’ll play around the cards and get a more informed opinion about them once it gets released on isotropic but I doubt it will change my mind that it is a different blend of Dominion.

 

*Yes I actually like Alchemy, although I have no plans to buy it since I don’t feel like I’m getting enough value.

**It doesn’t even have to be Action chains but interesting choices created by the kingdom cards for that game, I still remember a game where every non basic  treasure card was in play and it was fun.

***When it comes to Dominion I’m a Timmy/Spike. If you don’t know what that means then go read this, the classifications are useful in general

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Down to the Interactive Wire

Last week I talked about how good players make good games, with more emphasis on the ‘good player’ part. This week I’ll focus on one thing that makes a good game: how much interaction a game has. Take BSG for example, a good game of BSG will come down to the wire with both sides having a viable chance of winning until the end.* This is something that I find to be really fun and a good part of the game. Partially because it justifies the game’s length, partially because it gives me a reason to keep playing. In general this is something that I appreciate in games and the exact opposite of it is rather grating.**

Non interactive games aren’t fun in general, regardless of the length. Hexproof from Magic the Gathering comes to mind, especially in constructed formats. In Limited its something to deal with but your opponent can’t build their entire deck around it***. In Constructed on the other hand they can and in Pauper this is a viable deck, albeit it is a rogue deck in Classic Pauper. The idea is simple, play hexproof creatures and other cards that can stabilize the board, throw auras onto the hexproof creatures and bash in. Hexproof makes it so you need a sweeper or other non targeted removal to deal with them and the auras make it harder to kill them in combat. There are answers to this yes, but if you don’t have answers then the game is incredibly unfun as the general answers to problem creatures don’t work. And given how short Constructed matches usually take the time investment isn’t all that big but it doesn’t make it any less unfun.

Give me a chance to win or at least make my opponent earn the win and I can end the game happily, if not then why am I being a nominal opponent for my opponent to show off how cool he is?

 

 

 

*Not all good games are memorable or vice versa.

**Dominion is special in this sense as its usual non interactive nature doesn’t bother me.

***Invisible Stalker aside

Good Players Make Good Games

Good players make good games is a mantra that I consider to be the main guiding principle behind my play, and in the context of non videogames**, I’ll break down what this means in order to be clear. Being a good player means two things: 1. be a pleasant person to be around and game with 2. play to the best of your ability. Note that the order I listed those in is important, no gaming is better than bad gaming** and bad gaming can easily happen with people who aren’t pleasant to be around. However, point no. 1 directly leads into point no. 2, being a pleasant person to game with means that you honestly try your best.Defining good games is a bit more complicated but the simplest definition is that it is a game you enjoyed playing. The central idea here is that to an extent, bad games can be carried by good players. The key word here being extent, Monopoly is objectively a bad game, Mansions of Madness is a game that I’m not a fan of but it has a certain amount of charm that means I’m willing to play it with good players. The idea is simple but has some variance to it in practice, what makes you a good Dominion player doesn’t make you a good Rex player for example, but the basic idea is the same throughout.

When I play a game, I play to win and to have fun. These two points are somewhat interchangeable, I like winning and it can contribute to me having fun; but it isn’t a requirement. What is important that I have a chance at winning and don’t get reduced to irrelevancy or kingmaker. Yet winning in and of itself isn’t the goal, it’s the wins that you had to fight for that are the most fun and most rewarding. I could do teaching games of Twilight Struggle and keeping winning but those wins aren’t meaningful, I do it because it’s fun and it expands the playerbase. If I win against someone who is comparable in skill level at the game and tried then the win means something. As a result I find kingmaking to be tolerable and irrelevance to be horrible. Kingmaking is what makes games work but it isn’t a highlight of a game by any means. Irrelevancy I’m defining as no hope of winning and your actions in the game have minimal weight, at this point I just want the game to end as quickly as possible in order to get it over with being polite. ***

*Videogames and certain games like bananagrams can be good but there are certain physical barriers to being able to enjoy them that makes the phrase a bit more specific.

** For the record this is my second guiding principle.

***Player elimination has a similar problem here.

WotC draft simulator week of August 13

This week’s simulation was less clear than last week’s in the sense of three colors being viable. I went red/white because I was getting more removal that way, and the bots are still terrible. Also I don’t pretend that this day 2 of a GP so I will take money cards or when there’s nothing I’ll run I will take cards I an use in constructed.

This week’s picks:

Round 1:
Pacifism
Chronomaton
Chandra’s Fury
Rhox Faithmender
Divine Verdict
Pacifism
Slumbering Dragon
Healer of the Pride
Wild Guess
Guardians of Akrasa
Tormod’s Crypt
Kindled Fury
Glorious Charge
Angel’s Mercy
Plains
Round 2:
Knight of Glory
Oblivion Ring
Reckless Brute
Goblin Arsonist
Rancor
Rummaging Goblin
Guardians of Akrasa
Rancor
Glorious Charge
Erase
Giant Scorpion
Erase
Unsummon
Duress
Island
Round 3:
Arms Dealer
Goblin Battle Jester
Goblin Arsonist
Searing Spear
Captain of the Watch
Goblin Arsonist
Erase
Ajani’s Sunstriker
Canyon Minotaur
Crippling Blight
Volcanic Strength
Revive
Duress
Serpent’s Gift
Island

WotC draft simulator

Every week Wizards has a new Core Set draft simulator, which can be found here. While there are plenty of sites that have these, the gimmick to this is that all of the packs opened are exactly the same so you can compare. On one hand is kinda neat, on the other hand the bots are really bad so it has only limited value.  I decided to post my results this week and will probably make it a weekly thing along with my other not so well defined weekly post.

This probably isn’t on par with how I normally draft but MTGO makes keeping track of what you already have easy with its sorting and filters. B/G kinda fell into place as I just took playable black cards and then got late Rancor followed by good green and black in the next two packs. My picks are below, feel free to comment or compare and contrast to your own experience.

Round 1:
Knight of Infamy
Duty-Bound Dead
Giant Scorpion
Cower in Fear
Ravenous Rats
Essence Drain
Rancor
Giant Scorpion
Disentomb
Tormented Soul
Zombie Goliath
Farseek
Dark Favor
Bountiful Harvest
Mountain
Round 2:
Ring of Xathrid
Sentinel Spider
Spiked Baloth
Servant of Nefarox
Spiked Baloth
Servant of Nefarox
Liliana’s Shade
Naturalize
Tormented Soul
Duty-Bound Dead
Mind Rot
Walking Corpse
Crippling Blight
Kindled Fury
Island
Round 3:
Quirion Dryad
Servant of Nefarox
Deadly Recluse
Arbor Elf
Public Execution
Mark of the Vampire
Elvish Visionary
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
Plummet
Fog
Naturalize
Reckless Brute
Duty-Bound Dead
Plummet
Forest

Review: Mansions of Madness

What is it: Mansions of Madness is a semi cooperative/dungeon crawl* boardgame for 2-5 people that draws upon the Lovecraft mythos. The Keeper sets up the scenario and runs the monsters and other things trying to kill the Investigators.  The conflict resolution system is a d10 roll under system. It takes at least 3 hours to play.

Great what does that mean: The Keeper picks a scenario and then takes a multiple choice quiz in order to determine the exact details that will be used this time. Each scenario has three different win conditions and at least two more variables after that in order to make the game more repeatable. Meanwhile the investigators select their characters and their specific build for the game.  Then the Investigators set up the map while the Keeper places the relevant cards onto the board. Once set up is complete the Investigators are given the opening of the story and play begins. Investigators take their turn collectively with specific turn order being derived by consensus. They’re trying to find clues and figure out how to win the game by taking two moves and an action each. The Keeper then collects threat(his currency) and uses his resources to stop the Investigators and/or fulfill his own win condition. At the end of the Keeper’s turn a time counter is placed on the event card, which means that the game definitely ends and is on a clock for both sides.

Scaling: You need at least two people to play this and 3-5 doesn’t really make a difference assuming one key factor. That factor being you use 4 characters by having people double up. The game handles best in my experience with that and due to a small amount of book keeping it’s not overwhelming to do so.

Production Quality:  This is a FFG game, so lots of tokens and cards. Both of these are what you would expect in terms of quality, the cards seem to be of a higher quality then BSG and about the same as Rex from what I can tell. The boards seem to be durable, for obvious reasons I haven’t tested this but it has withstood 10+ plays so far. The real thing that shines are the minis, which were originally designed as accessories for Arkham Horror. They’re just problematic if you transport the game anywhere since they will fall off and you will have to sort all of them out again.

What’s good: The basic mechanics are good and depending on your playgroup this can be a rather enjoyable experience despite it’s flaws.

What’s not good: To start with, set up is a pain, the Keeper is in charge of doing most of the set up by himself and this will probably take a half hour. I also don’t really see a way to cut down on this without using more space than the box has. To compare, my group has BSG and Arkham Horror down to 10 minutes top.  Next issue is the scenarios are bit hit and miss, it’s generally accepted that only 3 out of 5 scenarios are actually playable. The reason being that one of them devolves into the Investigators rolling every turn and the Keeper not doing much else than forcing that roll and the other has a traitor mechanic for no good reason in a game where you can’t do the hidden traitor thing. And out of the three scenarios that are good, one of them has an objective that is unwinnable for one side.** The next issue is that the flavor is bad, the Keeper only knows what’s going on as the aforementioned quiz provides the answers for the story. The way combat works often leads to complete out of character moments. The puzzles are a frustrating roadblock more than anything resembling fun. My biggest issue with the game though? It’s horribly imbalanced in favor of the Keeper. The Keeper is another player in the game with a specific win condition, not a DM who is responsible for everyone having a good time. I expect my opponents to play to the best of their ability and I’ll do the same. If I wanted a roleplaying game for the Lovecraft Mythos I can buy Call of Cthulthu plus at least one supplement for the same price. If I wanted a boardgame with the same broad roles of hostile player vs. everyone else there are plenty of other choices, such as Fury of Dracula  or Descent. And while it may be thematic for the investigators to lose, it doesn’t make for a fun game. While the game already has one expansion and several PoD scenarios, they haven’t received much praise and there is a sizable group who just use the components for their own scenarios.

Overall: 2/5, there are some things that I like about this game, but everything built on top of it ranges from okay to bad. I can’t endorse actually purchasing a copy of this game either given the steep price tag. I might be persuaded to play a game of it with the right people though.

*The game is basically a dungeon crawler but you can also use the term semi-coop to describe the two teams.

**Scenario 4 is the dicefest, scenario 5 has the traitor mechanic, scenario 3 objective 1b is unwinnable for the investigators if the Keeper tries at all.

Mansions of Madness at BGG

Mansions of Madness at Amazon

First M13 Draft, looking back and impressions

Go humanity for Curiosity landing on Mars and my prayers go out to the victims of the Sikh temple shooting

On the insistence of my friend I ended up drafting m13 last night on MTGO. I ended up going 2-1 running B/R aggro. Overall I found it to be fun; the cards don’t have a sharp contrast in quality, what I lost to I theoretically had answers to, splashing is totally possible and the colors are all good. Or in other words, it’s everything AVR wasn’t.  The drafting and games are both fun.

the bottom of this post has a draftcap, I’ll be referring to it and I encourage you to comment on it.

Looking back on the draft: p1p1 was going to be a black card, specifically Vampire Nighthawk or Disciple of Bolas. Since Disciple of Bolas isn’t a money card, and it requires more to build around I took Nighthawk as the deeper commitment to black was easier to work around. Most of pack 1 was getting solid black cards and flirting with other colors a bit.

P2 presented a magmaquake, will it can be a good card, I didn’t feel I was in the right deck to take advantage of it. So I took the duskmantle prowler. After which I got very little black but decent red so I went into that. While double pacifism is nice I didn’t see any other good white so I feel vindicated on that point.

Pack 3 I opened was value for a lot of people. I took the Volcanic Geyser as it was a win condition/removal. Firewing Phoenix has expensive recursion and the amount of double black. Since I won a game off of Geyser I feel good about that.  The rest of the pack was rather uneventful and it was more rounding out my deck than anything else.

In general I was really conventional and didn’t try any sort of creative or fringe ideas, partially because I ddin’t see the cards to do anything like that and partially because I wanted to do what works and win.

The Games: Match 1 was against a durdly B/G deck that never came together for my opponent, easy win.

Match 2 was against a G/W aggro deck that just had threat after threat. Between Akroma’s Memorial, Elvish Archdruid, Serra Angel and Rancor the only way I was going to win was boarding in artifact hate and luck. I was not lucky in this game and lost.

Match 3 was a B/G deck and this match was my closest. I got lucky enough to pull off the win here. He didn’t have anything bomby and the most I remember about this was that it was close. I enjoy playing games that come down to the wire, and I enjoy it even more when I win.

Overall: Having actually played M13 instead of just watching it; I find it to be a fun format.

Continue reading

Review: Fiasco

What is it: Fiasco is a GMless cooperative roleplaying game by Bully Pulpit Games that handles 3-5 players. The players create a situation based off scenarios that can be found in the book or online for free. They define the relationships between their characters, speical locations and objects as well as the driving force of the session in the form of needs. It takes about 2-3 hours to play and be described as a Coen Brothers Movie turned into a game.

Great what does that mean: You start by choosing a scenario, for example the book comes with a Western one, a suburban one, a rural town among others. You then roll dice(4 times the number of players, with half being one color and half being another) and use these results to pick details from the tables provided. Once you’re done with this you use this information to create your characters and firmly define the situation. The game consists of people setting up and acting out scenes with an intermission and tilt in the middle and an epilogue at the end. The goal is to just have fun.

Scaling: The number of players listed is accurate, 3 is good, 4 seems to be the best in my experience while 5 makes it hard to include everyone. this doesn’t work at 2 players and I can’t imagine going above 5 is fun.

Rules: The rules are rather lite, although I’m still not convinced that my group is doing it right. On the other hand; given the nature of the game the rules really just facilitate  a framework to play in. It’s a lot more important to have a group that makes this fun by not following the golden rule of not being a dick.

Book Quality: It’s a serviceable softwork with solid production values and a pdf version. Last time I checked they were offering the pdf and physical copies a bundle; which is really nice and something I wish was more common.

What’s good: It encourages you to do crazy roleplaying session and requires little prep(you need dice and index cards). It plays in a reasonable amount of time and there’s a lot of support in terms of scenarios that you can use outside of the book.

What’s not so good: The rules are light but are a bit tricky to fully grasp. The wrong group can make this a very unfun experience.

Overall: 4/5, Fiasco does a lot of things right with solid production values. It can be really fun but like with many games, the group you play this with makes or break it.

Fiasco at RPGgeek

Fiasco at Amazon