Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Notes from the VTES tournament (Hallowed Tomes)

On Saturday, we held another vampire tournament at Tokai Library. A good turnout of 10 playes, with a few new faces, but none of the Fishhoek crowd, which, given that the Tokai tournaments were originally arranged as being easier for them to attend, is something I find somewhat annoying. I decided to give my Anarch Vote deck another tournament run.

In the first round I started, bleeding (new player who's name I forget) (Tremere antitribu) bleeding Dan (Osebo wall) bleeding Phillip (Tszicme) bleeding Andrew (Old school Toreador guns with bleed). The game took a long time to reach the endgame - Dan spent most of his time blocking bleeds, and kept having his minions dumped into torpor from aggravated Thaumaturgy. Phillip gradually whittled down Andrew a bit via an Army of Rats and a few bleeds, while I took a couple of heavy bleeds from Andrew while fishing for my Fee Stakes and votes, I was able to survive thanks to the bleed reduction of 'Detect Authority'. Eventually, I was in a position to call a Revolutionary Council and force it through, which allowed me to untap a minion and oust my prey with an Undue Influence bleed, but I then hit a run of Fee Stakes without stealth, and was forced to waste a couple of turns trying to cycle through to more useful cards - in the process, I had a minion Fame'd and knocked into torpor, which hurt badly. I did eventually draw a Revolutionary Council and was able to run Dan down to one pool (after he paid for the Fame), but was unable to push the final lunge through and was ousted by Andrew a few minutes before the game timed out.

In the second game, Simon (Nergal agg damage & bleed) was bleeding me bleeding James (old school Brujah with guns) bleeding Rudy (Guiallame hand-size madness Giovanni) bledding the !Tremere. I had a unfortunate crypt draw, without a single Anarch Convert, and erred badly by not paying one to see one early. I did get a Fee Stake down, by my single Baron promptly got a Haven Uncovered slapped on him by James, and was repeatedly rushed, which left me never able to call the vote. I was thus left fairly easy prey to Simon, who ousted me with an unblockable Force of Will bleed in due course. Rudy was able to whittle through the !Tremere, who were unable to deal with the potence combat from the Giovanni. James was at this point rather well setup, and was able to hold off the Nergal deck fairly efficiently, which allowed Rudy to push through Simon, but Rudy then ran into problems with the Celerity combat of the Brujah, and with the Brujah having minion superiority, was unable to stop James.

I didn't make the final (that annoying 1 pool of Dan's that I couldn't get through), but I did pop across to play a couple of social rounds on Monday, when the final was held. The Final saw James bleeding Andrew bleeding Richard (weenie Obf & Dom, and the highest seeded player) bleeding Dan bleeding Rudy. Richard was able to sweep the final table, which was a surprise, as I had expected more ganging up of the table against the weenie hordes.

I managed three games over the course of the evening - 2 3 player games and 1 4 player game. In the first game, I tried the anarch vote deck again, bleeding Simon's tweaked Nergal deck, bleeding Phillip (Gangrel animalism). I struggled initially, as it was a while before I pulled a Thaumaturgy master, but once I had a Crimethinc down, and 4 Anarchs out, I was ale to close out the table fairly quickly, given that I had the vote lock.

In the second game, I played my modified !Nos combat deck (since I finally have enough Immortal Grapples to not need the fragile Celerity sideline). I was bleeding James (Assamite Quietus) bleeding Simon's Nergal deck. Given that I seemed to draw rather more Master cards than I expected, and the amount of Aggravated damage on the table, it worked surprisingly well - I was able to get a Tension in the ranks and a Fame on a small minion of James' early, and as able to successfully push the minion into torpor, and was able to burn another of James'' minions, I did find my minions bouncing in and out of torpor a bit, but fortunately Simon didn't pull the base Nergal, and wasn't able to generate the really big bleeds, so I could survive long enough to oust James. I then drew into another Fame and was able to oust Simon quickly as well as a result.

The last game saw me (playing my Anarch bruise and bleed deck) bleeding James (Brujah deck) bleeding Simon (Kiasyd anarchs) bleeding Richard (playing Simon's Nergal deck). The Anarch bruise and bleed deck is still not right - I spent far to much of the game with bleed modifiers in my hand that I couldn't afford to use and no combat cards. I was also a bit overly cautious as a result, and thus didn't get the forward momentum I needed. Some of the changes worked - adding the Baseball bats made the combat more effective when I had it, and The Anarch Free Press was useful intercept. Richard had a good start, and was able to get Nergal merged early, and, with a couple of vessels to pay for Nergal's infernal cost, was able to work through me. Simon was able to put a fair amount of pressure on Richard though (partly aided by the Club Illusions I put down), so he never got away. This allowed James to get setup, and, after Richard had ousted me, Simon was unable to pull off a lunge on Richard (which he may have been able to make had he done things in a slightly different order), and left himself open to James, who proceeded to clean up the table.

The Anarch vote deck is in pretty good shape now - I think the crypt changes help. Having 4 Anarchs and a couple of Crimethinc's down is a solid position, and being able to do 8 pool damage in a single turn is a solid ousting strategy. I need to fit in a couple of copies of the Barrens or something to help address the card flow problems, but the deck is capable of gaining VP's on a fairly regular basis. The setup requirements do mean the deck is always going to be fragile, but it's fun when it comes off.

The modified !Nos deck shows promise. I need to look at the card balance a bit, and I'm not sure if the Street Cred angle is effective enough to be worth keeping, but it's first showing was quite reasonable. The Anarch bruise and bleed deck needs more thought. I still nowhere close to the balance I need for the deck to work, and the blood management isn't working either, which makes several cards too expensive to play. I'll fiddle further and see what happens.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Code Mainentance

One of the problems with an under-resourced development environment, such as the one I'm involved in at iTL, is the lack of decent code review. Consequently, the code base ends up with dirty little secrets, like the routines to automatically identify the calibration cube, a awkwardly tangled implementation of what still is actually quite a good idea. It's a chunk of code I'm both perversely proud of, and terrified someone else will look at and thus call me out as a total fraud.

Despite this, it actually works pretty well almost all the time, which is unfortunately an "almost" too many, so today was spent debugging this dirty little secret, which is never that much fun. It's easier than it may sound, though. Most programmers will have had the experience of looking at old code and thinking "How could this possibly ever work?", and most programmers will also have experienced looking at bits of old code and realizing "Oh, that actually quite a nifty trick". For me, reading this code tends to be a sequence of a's followed by b's followed by a's and so on. When the sequence doesn't end at b, it's probably a bug. The retroactive ego-boosting and deflating does make it a slightly bizarre experience, though, and not one I'm keen to repeat anytime soon.