Sunday, December 12, 2010

Treaty Tree (Weekend of Nightmares: Sunday)

Sunday saw 8 players for the Treaty Tree tournament. We were unable to use the Tokai Library as planned, due to an annoying scheduling issue resulting in no one being around to hand over the keys during the week, which hurt the turnout, so we opted to do several rounds of multi-deck play without a final.

In the first round, I played my "Not a Lutz deck" deck, bleeding Simon (!Salubri) bleeding Mike Streathfield (Ravnos Sense Dep and Bleed) bleeding Phillip (Settite S & B). I had a mixed start, with an good opening hand (1st turn Dreams and a Zillah's Valley), but no Lutz in my uncontrolled region. Fortunately, the Dreams and the Zillah's meant I was able to fish for Lutz successfully without losing too much time. Mike Sense Dep'ed Phillip's largest vampire, which slowed him down and gave me a bit of time as well. Once I had both Lutz and Alicia out, I managed to survive a couple of rushes from Simon, which allowed me to get a Secure haven on Lutz, and I was then able to get a sleep unseen on Alicia, which protected her from the threat of a cross table Sense Dep long enough to oust Simon. Mike then bled out Pillip, and did Sense Dep Alicia, which slowed me down, but the combination of A minion tap on Alicia, and Lutz's steady 3 bleeds meant I was able to oust Mike, although it was tight, as I wouldn't have survived another turn.

I feel the Lutz deck is somewhat vindicated, after a troubled debut at Dragonfire. It won despite having a not quite ideal library flow, and having a minion locked down with a Sense Dep, which did hurt. Like many decks relying on only a few minions, it is sensitive to card flow issues, and can lose momentum by not having the cards available, but the option of bleeding for 3 with Lutz is always a useful backup plan. The Sleep Unseen's were a good addition, as the extra defense is really worth it in this deck.

In the second round, I played my HoS wall deck, bleeding James (Assamites), bleeding Simon (!Salubri), bleeding Brendan (Tzimisce with Lambach). The table dynamics, with several nasty combat combo's running around, where a bit strange. I got two Slaughterhouses early, and was thus able to failry consistently bleed James with Trochomancy, although I did lost a minion to a early contract. Brendan was having some serious problems with the !Salubri, so I was never bled that heavily, and generally had the bounce in hand I needed. James did manage to whittle Simon's pool down quite effectively, and I had to Eagle Sight's what would have been an ousting bleed to keep James in lunge range. While this did allow to eventually oust James, it also gave time for Simon to bin all of Brendan's minions and oust him, although he did have one of his minions burnt in the process. The two player game was quite tight, and I came close to ousting Simon, but I couldn't quite deal with enough the !Salubri combat, so Simon ousted me. Unusually, both Simon and I had run out of library by the end of the game, which also contributed to how the end game played out.

The HoS deck is generally working OK, but I need to do something about blood management. It would also be nice to return to the original Black Hand angle, since unpreventable Psychic Assault is just so much better, but that requires further crypt tweaking.

In the third game, I played my Osebo wall, bleeding Brendan (weenie Auspex wall), bleeding Kevin (FoS corruption shennigans with Nakhthorheb) bleeding Richard (weenie Liabon vote). Kevin failed to draw Nakhthorheb, and generally seemed to struggle for stealth throughout the game, so didn't get that much forward momentum. Richard was largely shutdown by my deck, and I was able to prevent several key actions on Brendan's part which kept him under control, although he did return the favour several times. In general, it was a game where nobody's deck really quite took off. My combat package came up a bit oddly, Kevin didn't draw stealth, Richard was struggling to find votes and Brendan didn't see sniper rifles early enough to get one down. The combat package of the Osebo was able to keep putting down Brendan's minions, but, as he was able to bring more out, and recover blood with Lillith's blessing, I never had him down for the ousting bleed. Richard kept bringing out more minions, hoping to eventually be able to swarm past me, but I was generally able to block enough that it wasn't an issue until late in the game. There were a couple of turns of epic table talk, with resulted in Kevin blocking a couple of Richard's votes to help keep me alive, and Brendan Eagle Sighting Kevin when he looked likely to oust Richard, before I managed to eventually bleed Brendan out. At that point, being some way over the time limit, we called the game. I may have been able to take the table, as I probably had enough combat left to keep control of the table, but it wasn't completely clear cut, given the resources I'd expended by that point.

The Osebo deck is now pretty well tuned, and I'm not sure if there are any significant changes I need to make. A few more Eyes of Argus for the extra untap option may be useful, but that's a minor tweak. At some point, I do want to revisit the original ranged thrown junk version, especially given the new Laibon set range tech in EK.

I saw comparatively little of the other games played. One very notable moment was Simon using Santelous to cancel a Gangrel Conspiracy Mike had played, which resulted in Enkidu being burnt in a blood hunt.

Saturday Socials (Weekend of Nightmares: Saturday)

The Saturday socials had a regrettably low turnout, with only myself, Simon and Richard eventually showing up. Thus there were a number of 3 players games, which was not quite ideal.

In the first game, I was playing a deck built out of two Kiasyd / Lasombra starters bleeding Simon (tweaked Anarch Lasombra) bleeding Richard (2 Guhuri starter). I got off to a nice start with the Kiasyd, and, with the benefit of an early Dominate Master, was able to Govern down twice, which allowed me to get to 3 minions quickly and cheaply. The deck generally had decent forward momentum, but struggled a bit in combat, and really does need a couple of conditionings added to it. I was able to oust Simon, but fell to Richard's deck, as I wasn't able to block enough of the votes.

The Kiasyd deck operated much as I expected, and probably can become a decent DOM & B deck. I need to retool the combat package, which is a bit light. Earth Swords would be a good addition, although I may need some more manevours. I need to also examine the other crypt options I have, as I was rather lucky with the Master draw, which did help.

In the second game, I played a deck I'd put together out of two Ishtarri starters, bleeding Richard (2 Akunase deck), bleeding Simon (Anarch Lasombra). I had a nice crypt draw, and generally the deck flowed quite nicely. I generally struggled for blood management, there are a number of expensive cards, but the combination of a Marajavi Ghoul, Heildeburg and Ganhuru's special mean I was often bleeding at stealth, and gained a fair bit of pool from the bleeds, which helped me considerably. Simon had minion torporised and burnt early on in the game, which left him struggling to put pressure on me, which also helped a great deal, and so I was able to sweep.

I'm somewhat surprised at how well the Ishtarri deck did. I've always been a bit meh on Uncontrolled Impulse, due to it's conditional nature, but, if the deck's flowing a bit, it works really well. The crypt needs tweaking, as there are some good vampires who aren't in the starter.

In the third game, I played my Off Kilter + Enticement deck, bleeding Simon (Thaum Cel Trophies) bleeding Richard (Guhuri bleed). Simon maanged to red list and burn one of Richard's minions early, which allowed him to get permanent untap and intercept. I got off to a reasonable start, and had got up to 3 minions and SER on one by the mid game, but hadn't quite seen enough pool damage or any of the Freak Drives, so hadn't really pressurised Simon. Simon then burnt my third minion, and I wasn't able to bloat or bleed fast enough to survive the Guhuri deck. Simon wasn't able to keep enough blood on his minions to survive the potence from the Guhuri, and eventually fell to them as well.

The Off-Kilter deck continues to feel as if it will almost work, but doesn't. The deck just doesn't generate the actions it needs to continually keep it's prey under pressure, and, although I did have Simon down quite low at one point, I didn't have the push needed to oust him. More Freak Drives would help, but I think I need to retool the Master package to include some Effectives or Coroner's Contracts, so I can gain more use out of the Little Mountain Cementaries. Sprinkling in a handful of Corpses is probably not a bad idea either, as a few extra 2 bleeds can't hurt.

At this point, we decided to play a couple of rounds using decks built by other people.

In the first game, I played Richard's Akunase deck, bleeding Simon, playing a weenie'ish Liabon vote deck of Richard's, bleeding Richard, playing my Ravnos weapons deck. Simon had a failry bad game, as the combination of my getting out a magagi before he passed a vote, the small minions all being vulnerable to the Abombwe block fails tech and the wall'ish nature of the Ravnos tech resulted in him not being able to go forward, and he was unable to defend against the Akunase. The Ravnos deck did fairly well, getting decently setup and blocking several actions, but the fortitude of the Akunase was enough to stay alive. I managed to oust Simon without two much difficulty, but there were a couple of tight rounds against the Ravnos were I drew into a couple of combat cards at just the right time, and was able to trade minions going down with Richard, but, as that left it as 2 minions against 1, I was then able to win the endgame, although not completely comfortably.

The Akunase deck was fiddly to play, largely due to my unfamiliarity with the cards, but, with small'ish minions, and some strong action modifiers, it works quite well. Reliquary: Akunanse Remains is also really strong. The combat package needs a bit of work - on several occasions, I had a rush card in hand, but no good combat options available to me. ANI support, for crows, and some of the new Abombwe tech from EK will help that at lot.

In the next game, I was playing Simon's Nergal deck, bleeding Simon, playing Richard's two Guhuri starter deck, bleeding Richard, playing Simon's Samedi wall. Despite an almost prefect start for the Nergal deck (1st turn concordance, merging Nergal immediately), I found myself constantly struggling to get actions through, and, when I did land a bleed, the bloat of the Guhuri deck eradicated the effects almost immediately. Consistent bleeds from the Samedi deck eventually ousted me. The Guhuri deck, while bloating quite effectively, wasn't able to generate much forward pressure, so it couldn't prevent the Samedi deck getting setup, and, after I was ousted, the Samedi deck was able to whittle the Guhuri deck down with consistent blocks, and thus swept.

The Nergal deck is again just not fast enough. Once setup, it has some nice combos, but probably needs either a little bit of permament stealth, or some more block fails tech, and, if the untappy thing is working, it needs some additional damaging actions for Nergal to take. I'd be tempted to sneak in a Heart of the City and a couple of D'habi Revenant's, so Nergal's bleed continues to tick up, relying on Nergal's special and the Spying Missions to deal with bounce.

Simon's Samedi wall continues to be surprisingly effective. Having played against it a few times now, I've come to the conclusion that the stealth, which allows it to get almost all the setup actions, is a key component. This allows it to run mainly off permanents, which is always better.

Fee Stake Cape Town (Weekend of Nightmares: Friday)

Friday evening was the Fee Stakes tournament. We got going a little late, due to various people, and were annoyingly one short of the 10 required for a TWDA entry, so we opted to go with a multi-deck tournament.

In the first round, I opted to play my Anarch vote deck [1]. The game was Hendrik (Assamite blood control), bleeding Phillip (group 1 Gangrel) bleeding me bleeding Marc (Stanislava and friends) bleeding Simon (Lasombra Anarchs Hell-for-Leather). I got a slightly weird crypt draw, with 3 Anarch Converts, which meant I didn't get going that quickly. Initially, Marc looked like the table threat, pulling out Stansiliva and another minion, and, while not going for huge bleeds, consistent 3 bleeds from Stansilava were whittling through Simon's pool quite quickly. Phillip was bleeding consistently, but was slowed down by Hendrick's blood denial actions. I made an early miscalculation with a Voter Cap, and left Raphael Catarari stuck tapped on odd blood total without a Crimethinc in play, and thus spent a couple of turns effectively down a minion. I did manage to get a Fee Stake down, and scrape through a Reckless Agitation, which, with a combination of Marc voting away the Fee Stake, and then having what would have been the ousting bleed blocked by Simon, who was able to Immortal Grapple to prevent the Form of Mist, left Marc in lunge range for the next turn. The next turn, I was able to play a Dreams, and the increased hand size allowed me to get what I needed to oust Marc, and was able to oust Simon almost immediately as well. The game then folded fairly quickly in my favour, as I had the stealth and Crimethinc's needed to oust both Hendrik and Phillip. It was a bit tight for a couple of turns, and, had Marc ousted Simon, I may not have been able to keep him from running away with the table, but the table was quite favourable for my deck, and I had a couple of lucky moments.

I didn't see much of the second table, but it had James (Imbued) bleeding Yancke (Tzimisce wall) bleeding Brendan (Lasombra vote, I think), bleeding Richard (Akunase wall). At the point I saw the game, other than the imbued, the only minion up was one of Yancke's vampires, who had been Pentexed. Richard was ousted by his own Smiling Jack, giving Brendan a VP, but then James swept up the rest of the table.

In the second game, I decided to play the Harbringer's of Skull deck. The table was James (!Salubri) bleeding Brendan (Big cap vote with Rafael de Corazon) bleeding me bleeding Hendrik, bleeding Yancke (!Ventrue grinder). An early Antediluvian Awakening by Yancke, and an early bleeding for 6 from Brendan left me somewhat low on blood, and, as I'd drawn the fat end of my crypt, I ended up being far too defensive, and I only brought out 1 minion. In general, I just played this game badly, and really should have gone fishing for a small second minion. James, however, was able to block enough of Brendan's actions that Brendan could never really get the farm going, and a couple of Eagle Sight's from James helped keep me in the game for quite some time. I did manage to whittle done Hendrik to almost in lunge range several times, but was always an action short of being able to oust him. Yancke eventually ousted James (after a couple of turns when he should have ousted James, but misplayed things, such as not saving a bonding for the minion with DOM), and swept through Brendan and myself quickly, but then timed out against Hendrik. I didn't see anything at all of the other game, but Marc collected the most VP's and made it to the final.

On a die roll, I opted to play the Anarch Vote deck for the final, but I made a very poor seating choice. James had decided to play the Imbued, and as I was worried by their ability to interfere with my setup, I didn't want to sit next to them. I also thought that Marc would be playing the Stansilava deck again, so I didn't want to be downstream of it, so I opted to sit as Marc's predator and Brendan's prey, not realising that Brendan would be playing the Lasombra deck, and not realising that Yancke, Brendan's predator, was going to play his PRO DOM deck. Marc turned out to be playing his Assamite Black Hand deck, and, although I got Raphael Catarari early, and was able to start getting the Anarch cycle going, I didn't see the Fee Stakes our Crimethinc's I needed to really get going, and a few heavy bleeds early left me unable to get the number of minions I needed out. An early Yawp Court from Marc meant that I was also going to struggle to get a vote to hit the table, since I saw little of my combat package. My involvement in the final was thus fairly short-lived, and, although I did land a couple of 3 bleeds on Marc, he farmed most of it back so I had made little impression on his pool. James was being largely left alone, so was able to tool up fairly nicely. Marc was up to through minions, and around 10 pool when I was ousted, but fell quickly afterwards, thanks to a couple of heavy bleeds that were deflected onto him and a single bleed for 4 from Brendan, and, given that James was fairly low on pool at that point, I thought Brendan had the game. Brendan though, didn't have the cards that he needed to force the actions through past the Imbued, and suffered a critical bounce failure on a turn when Yancke bled for 14. This wasn't enough to oust Brendan, so Yancke fell to the Imbued, and, as Brendan was unable to draw into enough stealth, James won the two-player shootout.

In retrospect, given the decks involved, I should have sat as James' predator, as I may have been able to negotiate vote support of the basis that the Imbued are always a threat, which could have given me a VP, but I didn't have anyway of dealing with permanent votes of the Lasombra, so it's doubtful if I could have really done better than that.

The Anarch deck is probably about as good as this version is going to get. The addition of the Reckless Agitations has helped a lot, as it's a significant amount of pool damage that is less resource intensive than the Revolutionary Councils, and the Revolutionary Council, Crimethinc, Reckless double is a scary combo, but it is ultimately a fragile deck build, and vulnerable to heavy bleed or serious vote.

[1] Given that it was "Fee Stake: Cape Town", someone had to play a Fee Stake deck, after all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Slachter's Nek tournament

So 5 of us made it to the November tournament (which unfortunately clashed with a number of other things). Due to the small size, we opted for a multi-deck tournament, and ended up cutting it down to only two rounds due to time constraints.

So the first round saw Richard (Akunanse wall) bleeding Bredan (weenie group 2 & 3 AUS wall with sniper rifles) bleeding Marc (Guhuri bruise vote and bleed) bleeding me (!Brujah bruise vote and bleed) bleeding Kevin (FoS corruption antics with Nakhthorheb).

Brendan got off to a fast start, with an early Lilith's Blessing and getting a minion setup with a sniper rifle and sports bike early. I got Smash and Hektor out, but didn't draw much of the farm of my deck. I was able to land a couple of early Kines and then bleed with a Iron Glare to weaken Kevin considerably, but he was working through Richard at a fair rate, so I ended up burning his smallest vampire with a rush from Hektor to slow him down. Marc & Richard each had more votes than I did, and with Marc and I both looking to call votes, and Brendan able to block Marc most of the time, the was a lot of negotiating about during the game. Kevin also played a fair bit of vote defense, which all combined to slow me down once I had Kevin low on pool. Kevin did get Richard down to a couple of pool, but Richard managed to get a No Secrets down, and Kevin wasn't able to stealth over it after that (which, given that he was playing FoS, rather surprised the rest of the table). I blocked one of Marc's bleeds with Hektor, and a Death of My Conscience & a Burning Wrath from Marc later, both minions were burnt, which slowed me down further. Brendan then played an Antediluvian Awakening, and I was able to last long enough for it to kill Kevin. The game timed out shortly after that. It's not clear quite how the table would have folded from where the game timed out - Marc would have probably had me, but Brendan was able to block several of his actions, which would have made it a slow process. While Richard wasn't really able to go forward strongly, he was pretty well setup defensively and no-one had the stealth to go over his no secrets at that point. Marc had managed to generate a lot of pool via Voter Caps, so that probably would have given him the game eventually.

The second game saw Kevin (!Brujah rush) bleeding Marc (Kiasyd power bleed) bleeding Richard (Guhuri Brutual Influence bleed with OBF) bleeding me (Groteques) bleeding Brendan (old school Lasombra politics). This is the first time the Groteque deck has really struggled in a game - while I got Gerald Windham out (whose vote special was really influential), I didn't draw a location early and so struggled to bring out the Grotesques. An early "Blood Weakens" from Richard also made life awkward for everyone on the table. Brendan got off to a very fast start, with a first turn Info Highway and a second turn Zillah's valley. Kevin's deck struggled, without the vote push available to get votes through and not enough ways for Hektor to get into combat. Marc's didn't draw into the power part of the power bleed combo, and so Richard was able to build up fairly easily. While I was able to block him several times, I mainly drew prevent from the combat package, so I was never able to serious inconvenience any of his minions. Gerald's votes from other titles scattered around the table, and the presence of 3 prisci, meant that Brendan didn't have the vote lock, and thus wasn't able to push through Kevin that quickly. Kevin also played a Protected Resources, which delayed Brendan bleeding him out a few turns.

I eventually fell to the Guhuri. Brendan probably should have ousted Kevin, but didn't draw out stealth on a couple of bleeds before bouncing them on, which meant Kevin was able to block, and allowed Richard to Majesty and them farm or hunt to setup for the next turn. This allowed Richard to oust Brendan and then Kevin in quick succession, and the pool and minion advantage meant he was able to win the two player contest with Marc, despite having exhausted his library, although it was a close run thing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hinkey letter is Hinkey

Scams intrigue me [1]. While e-mail scams are a dime-a-dozen these days, paper based scams are less common, and thus stick out more.

Which brings me to the "SARS" letter I received last week. The letter itself was quite interesting stylistically, being a "Your deductions from 2006 are being re-examined, please send supporting documentation or call to query this", and mis-stating the income tax act in various threatening ways. The letter was a pretty good effort, with the correct letterhead, correct tax number, a valid return address and it arrived in what looked like an official SARS envelope. The tone and number to call were enough to make the letter hinkey, but it was convincing enough that I ended up calling SARS to check that it was actually fake. It was also accompanied by a "please call to confirm you've received the letter" SMS the day before. The amount of correct information is both non-unexpected proof that this information is not at all secret and represents a reasonable amount of effort on the part of the scammers.

I assume (based on very little evidence, but inferring from the tone of the letter and the emphasis on phoning them) that this is a "pay us to make this all go away" scam. If that is true, the people running reckon that there are enough people who are somewhat guilty about the deductions they've claimed and/or sufficiently convinced about the corruption in the system that this strikes them as an acceptable approach to getting rid of the problem for the scam to be profitable, which is an unflattering assessment of modern South African society.

Also, given the times-scales involved - probably a week to allow for letters to arrive, a few days for the people who are going to call to call, and them some time to talk them into something that will pay money, it look likely to tie them to an potentially identifiable number for at least a few weeks. Since they cannot be assuming that no-one will realise this is fake and report it, either this needs to move to the paying money part quickly (and I'm not seeing how they'd do that) or there's something in the risk mitigation part I'm not seeing.

[1] Based on the success of the various con caper films, I'm probably far from alone in this.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pyweek 11: Caught

After the success of last year's entry, we decided to do another one this year (we skipped pyweek 10, as none of us had time available then), with a slightly tweaked team.

This years entry ran rather differently. We met on Sunday to discuss things, and,. although we settled on a point and click adventure game fairly early, we spent a lot of time converging to a basic premise and initial plot, although we did manage to get this largely settled by Sunday evening.

Another serious issue was the colds several members of the team (including me) were battling with. This added a layer of fuzzy thinking in several places, and was just generally not helpful.

The development ran rather differently to the last pyweek. I think because of the previous experience, the pace of development, while equally fast, wasn't nearly as startling. We also used a different toolkit, albow, which, while not perfect, was easier to get on top of than pgu had been. The game, being point and click, is also less busy than fox assault was, so from that point of view the code base was easier to manage. As a result, the basic engine part of the game actually shaped up fairly quickly, and we were generally able to extend it as needed with little trouble.

On the other hand, as an adventure game, we needed to generate a lot of content before we could hook up parts of the game. This was the largest stumbling block for the game. By Thursday, it looked like we would have something workable, but we only got rid of the last of the text placeholders quite late on Saturday. This meant we didn't have a reasonably playable version of the game until quite late, and thus never got much feedback as a result of other people playing the game. This helped contribute to the annoying bugs in the final submission, as, by that stage, we weren't testing unexpected interactions enough.

Notes on things that happened along the way:
  • My quick 20 minute hack to help layout rectangles grew rather more features than I expected.
  • Finding sounds with decent licenses is a painful and tedious exercise.
  • The same is true for fonts
  • But writing a little sine wave tone generator using just sys, math and struct was amusing
  • Hooking up humorous descriptions and interactions is why to kill compiling time

While not as fun for me as the first pyweek, largely due to the cold, this was still enjoyable, and the game, while quite a simple little adventure game, is amusing, and has promise as a more general adventure game engine.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dragonfire 2010

I spent the long weekend mainly at Dragonfire, which, for me, consisted of several VTES social games of mixed success, a less enjoyable run in the tournament, an rather lengthy game of Arkham Horror and some enjoyable role-playing modules.

Running chronologically'ish. Friday was the newbie demo games - I went to kibbutz and also play in a few social games. A somewhat mixed evening deck success wise.

The slightly retooled Jann Berger deck actually swept the three-player table it was one, although it did bottom out at around 4 pool, and struggled more than I expected in combat, although it did manage to dunk a few minions. Table dynamics helped, but being able to drop an Iron Glare on a presence bleed card can whittle through pool at quite an impressive speed.

The tweaked Samedi Corpse deck didn't really get going, and I think I was first ousted in the game, but the deck showed some signs of promise.

I then played two games with the very reworked Spell of Life deck. In the first game, it crashed and burnt horribly. I didn't get Nakahoteb until I'd drawn 3 crypt cards, and had to bring out a different minion, which didn't help the deck flow. Nobody tried to block the Spell of Lifes, so I jammed on stealth, and, with only 1 minion out, I didn't have other actions I could use the stealth on. I was ousted after only getting 3 Spells down, even though I only had 1 turn were I didn't have one to play.

The second game with the Spell of Life deck was rather more successful - I didn't draw Nakhoteb in my opening crypt, but was able to pull him immediately with an Effective. I brought out the 5 cap, so I could start Spell of Life'ing earlier, and, even though I ended up contesting Nakahoteb with Kevin cross table, my single minion was able to get the Spells down in time. I did have to frantically pull cards from my crypt - by the time I had 4 Spell of Lifes down, I could only have brought out 2 mummies that wouldn't contest. When the Spells did go off (for 4 mummies), they performed impressively. My prey (Yancke, playing Simon's Aching Beauty deck), had just ousted Kevin, and was sitting on 12 pool. However, 4 Mummies, a Dream World, a Psychic Veil (cunningly stored in a Storage Annex early in the game) and a couple of bleed mods I could use with the mummies saw me oust him in a single turn. I was then able clean up, largely by using the mummies to rush everyone else and smooth out the path for the Settites to bleed. While not yet a particularly good deck, the 12 pool in a single turn showed considerable potential.

Saturday was the SA VTES Nationals. We had a decent turnout, with 15 players, even though the Fishhoek crowd couldn't make it, and no-one from Joburg traveled down. I've had a Alicia Burrows/Aristole vote deck idea knocking about in my head for some time, which I finally decided to build and play. It ended up becoming a Lutz deck, as he had the overlap on PRE and pot I was looking for. In theory, the deck should work OK. In practice, I badly misread the meta-game, and didn't have the combat defense I needed.

In the first game, Dave (Toreador wall with guns) was bleeding Hendrik (!Tor toolbox), bleeding Richard (Guhuri ANI & POT rush), bleeding me, bleeding Matthew (old school Brujah rush). I was a vote deck between two POT immortal grapple rush decks, so things did not go well for me at all. I had only a single action (with Lutz, which admittedly did do 5 pool damage) in the game, and had both minions I brought out burnt, one by Matthew, and one by my predator. Richard. The game stayed static for a long time after I was ousted, although that's largely because Richard did not go forward as hard as he could have done. Dave was eventually able to oust Hendrik, who never got setup enough to really make an impression on Richard's farm, and Richard cleaned up the rest of the table.

In the second game. Dan (weenie DOM & THA) was bleeding me, bleeding James (Imbued), bleeding Simon (!Salubri rush) bleeding Phillip (!Ventrue toolbox). The deck did a lot better, and I had James' imbued down to three pool before Simon rushed me cross table and put Aristotle in torpor and burnt Lutz. I should have had the Imbued though, as I made a couple of serious errors. The first was not bringing out Aristotle as my second minion (I brought out Alicia instead) - the extra stealth would have saved me a couple of blocks by the imbued, and allowed me to oust James, and the combat defense saved might have been enough to survive against Simon for long enough to oust him. Then, after playing a Zillah's Valley at a point when it wasn't ideal for me to do so to cycle cards, I brought out Aristotle as a third minion, when I should have just stayed on two minions and looked less threatening (although that might not have been enough) [1]. Simon was able to oust Phillip, who never drew enough combat defense to survive against the !Salubri. I didn't watch the rest of the table unfold, as I went to play a social game, but eventually James cleaned up the rest of the table.

Dan proceeded to win the final with his weenie deck.

In between, I did also play a couple of social games - in one, the Venture deck got up and running, and pretty much steam rollered the table. In the other, the reworked Samedi managed one oust, but them got smashed by Phillip's red list combat deck.

After the tournament and some supper, we ended up playing a 6 player game of Arkham Horror, with the great old one being Zhar. An early 2 extra counters on the doom track, and an environment preventing us from sealing gates for most of the game left us always chasing the game, and, indeed, in 10 turns Zhar awoke, and duly devoured us (although we did defeat him once). We erred by not getting more people blessed near the end of the game, but there were numerous amusing incidents, though, and the game was quite fun.

Sunday saw me play in both modules. They were both enjoyable, although I was a bit disappointed that the first module's big surprise was as predictable as it was. As I wasn't playing in the LARP that evening, I went home, but failed to catch up on sleep, being distracted by a link to tvtropes.

Monday was the long two-session Innocents module, which was great fun, despite the length. As a result, I didn't do have much to do with the newbie tournament, although it attracted 9 players, and generally seems to have been a success.

I did fit in one final social game, with the Grotesque deck. It ended up with the table win, although this was largely due to weaknesses of the other decks and the inexperience of a couple of the new players we had involved. The deck does gather some impressive momentum when rolling, but it takes time to get going, and still needs a bit more combat oomph to be really scary.

[1] The Lutz deck was seen as the table threat on a table with an imbued deck and a weenie dominate deck. I'm not quite sure what to make of that.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

ICON 2010, Sunday

The coffee shop was open again on Sunday, so that was a good start.

I opted to play in another module, rather than watch the VTES final, so I saw very little of the final.

The module got going rather late, and ran a bit long, despite our GM valiantly cutting various bits from the module. It was not a bad module, but suffered a bit from a table of slightly drunk and crazy. The table didn't quite gel, and I often felt I was having to force myself into the game, rather than having space to work with. Also, as my first experience of the infamous ICON tent, I now understand years of complaints about that venue from friends.

The module itself wasn't bad, although, as a Call of Cthulhu module in a medieval setting, it did feel a bit D & D'ish. It was a vast improvement on Friday's modules, though. It felt as if it didn't need all the characters, although that might have just been because of how our table worked.

After the module, I managed to get in another social game, trying out my Alan Sovereign investment idea, which didn't work well - I was left with the feeling that the idea could work, but I'm not sure how to balance things to make it happen yet. With the module running long, this took us well into the afternoon, so the rest of the afternoon was spent in a few conversations before leaving to drop me off at the airport.

Edit: Mish-mash of photos now up here.

ICON 2010, Saturday

Saturday got off to a poor start, as the coffee shop was closed, so we ended up decamping to a nearby Wimpy (having been led astray by my GPS, which promised more options at the location).

I signed up for the VTES tournament, and, while waiting for the tournament to start, got in my second partial VTES social. I was playing the !Brujah deck. which seemed to be doing OK, although we called the game before the table really shook itself into shape.

As I thought the deck was quite solid, I opted to play my HoS deck. This turned out to be a pure choice, and I probably would have done better with a more combat focused deck, as there wasn't that much combat defense around.

The first round was one of the odder games I've ever been involved in. I was bleeding Victor (Assamite BH toolbox), bleeding Jan (!Ventrue farm), bleeding Alex (HoS wall), with Victor starting, IIRC. My predator, Alex, brought out Agaitas, and was thus able to draw and use cards from my deck most successfully. Since Alex's deck was much more wallish than mine, he used this a lot to cycle into block fails and bleed to run me down. He also played a Anarch Troublemaker from my deck, which he should have been able to use to oust me, but forgot about it when he should have lunged. I almost had an awesome play, as I played a second Anatch Troublemaker to contest, but Victor Suddened it. It didn't matter, as Alex fell to a bounced bleed, and I fell to Jan shortly thereafter. Jan was able to whittle down Viktor gradually to take the sweep.

In the second game, I was bleeding Neville (!Ventrue anti-vote wall), bleeding Simon (Malk CEL/DEM combat), bleeding Jan, bleeding Josh (!Malk fast sneak bleed with Malkavian Games) (can't remember who started). I didn't draw enough bounce or intercept to deal with the very forward focused deck (I don't think it had a single reaction card), so was duly ousted first. I hadn't had a chance to bleed Neville before being ousted, so he was somewhat setup, and with a combination of Villeins, a well-timed Giant's Blood, some votes, Neville farmed up considerably, but eventually fell before the !Malks. Jan, who had minions Coma'ed by both Josh and Simon, eventually fell to Simon, but Simon couldn't quite hold on to stop Josh, although it was very close, as Josh almost decked himself on the last bleed.

The third game saw me bleeding Josh, bleeding Willem (Ventrue vote) bleeding Marnik (Tremere slave Gargoyles) bleeding Victor (I started, I think). Willem fell to the sneak bleed quite quickly, but I was able to put in a couple of solid hits on Josh's pool, and almost had him in range before he ousted Willem. At this point, with Josh on 6 pool, he lost a Malkavian Game, and, as he misannounced the effect, he thought he'd lost 6 instead of 4 pool. This, annoyingly, probably cost me a VP, as, had the effect been properly applied, I would have almost certainly had Josh the next turn, and would have hit the Gargoyle deck after an extra turn of being bled by the Malks, rather than with 12 pool, and would have probably been able to win that battle. Victor, who had been largely left alone to tool up, as everyone focused on the !Malks, was able to mop up the table.

Between the tournament and the start of the second LARP, I got in one more social game. I played my Nocturn deck, bleeding Neville (HoS), bleeding Gareth (Nergal power bleed), bleeding Vleis (Gangrel aggro-poke), bleeding Simon (!Salubri). The game had several amusing events - Neville played a Tension in the ranks early, so I wasn't in a position to recruit Nocturns, as the cost for them burning would have itched mightly. Gareth bled forward heavily, and Vleis had something of a bad game as a result. Simon was able to bring out a couple of smallish minions, and burnt one of the Gangrel early. At about this point, Gareth discarded a Majesty, announcing that he had too many in his hand. Simon, seeing that Gareth was about to oust the Gangrel, rushed cross table. It turned out that Garther considered two Majesty's in hand too many, and, having played the one combat card in the first rush, promptly had Nergal burnt by the !Salubri (which, given the old WoD mythos, seemed very appropriate). I got good use out of the DOM/OBT plan B gear of the Nocturn deck, and. with combat flying around cross table, was able to keep my head down and stealth bleed past Neville's defenses. Gareth, although he managed to oust the Gangrel, was running short on minions, and soon fell. Fortunately, I had enough S:CE in hand to survive a turn of rushes from the !Salubri, and, with bleed in hand, had little trouble finishing off Simon's deck.

The LARP kept the vampire theme going, as it was a Dracula LARP. I was cast as Renfield, who was fun to play. His goals were never particularly achievable, but I feel I managed a creditable level of creepy, and generally had a good time. I also managed to get killed twice - both times by Simon's character - which gave me a better than 100% record for dying in the weekend's LARPs.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Comic punting

I am a big fan of Christopher Baldwin's various works. His current strip, Spacetrawler, is being tremendously entertaining - the madcap nature is very well summed up by this strip. Well worth the read.

Icon 2010, Friday

So, in the company of Simon, Adrianna, Mike & Beth, I went up to ICON. I flew up with Simon and Adrianna on Thursday evening, and, with some "not quite following the GPS" navigation (which included a loop around the block in a series of confusing one-way streets, where we may have ended up going the wrong way down one), we made it to the F1 hotel and met up with Mike and Beth.

Friday got off to a bright and early start. Early successes were finding a decent coffee shop for breakfast near ICON, and a source of wasabi coated peas.

I duly signed up for two role-playing modules. We were informed that two modules, one of which I had been considering playing in, had been canceled due to "severe technical weaknesses".

Before role playing started, I got in most of a quick social game with two Pretoria players and Simon. I was playing my Unnamed bleed deck. The game was interesting, as, with the unnamed bleeding, I ended up with a surprisingly large amount of pool without actually doing that much damage. I also had my Enkil Cog DI'd and my Metro Underground Suddened, which left me feeling a bit picked on.

The first role-playing module was more than a bit dire. The group I was in took some time to find the actual character descriptions, which were cunningly hidden as a couple of lines amongst walls of stats and system descriptions. The module itself wasn't much better, as it was equally sparse and lacked essential elements such as a basic plot. Our GM, Naas, took us seriously off script to add some structure - it ended up playing more as a Call of Cthulu module, but ended up being reasonably enjoyable.

The afternoon module was probably less dire, although it was a close call. The character sheets were more fleshed out, but the module was again lacking in basic plot and the characters lacked any motivation for acting in the way the module writer clearly intended. This weak setup also made it almost impossible to do any sort of real horror, and my group played it a bit for laughs, so it was quite entertaining, but not, I suspect, the module the author had intended.

Given the poor quality of the modules on show on Friday (the second afternoon module was apparently also a bit dire), the quality of the scotched modules was a source of some speculation.

Between the modules and the evening LARP, we went to the Edenvale Spur. They were having a very busy night, so this resulted in a quick dinner dash becoming a leisurely, frustrating dinner dash, and us getting back a bit late for the LARP.

The LARP was quite fun. The plot involved nearly every applicable daytime soap cliche, and several that weren't strictly applicable, but were thrown in anyway. My character came quite close to achieving his objectives, largely by presenting a completely false face of reasonable sensibleness, before dying from an unfortunate series of events - it started with poisoning and went a little odd from there, to end in a case of spontaneous human combustion.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July tournament

After playing a number of socials leading up to the storyline tournament, I think I only attended one social between the storyline final and July's tournament. Consequently, I didn't have any new decks I felt confident in [1], and, although I seriously considered trying one of my political decks, I opted to go with a completely untried and ever so elegant in its simplicity the unnamed Enkil Cog bleed and bloat deck.

The first game saw me (starting) bleeding Anthony (a new player, playing Malk S & B & insanity) bleeding Hendrik (!tor vote & bleed) bleeding Simon (Samedi wall [2]) bleeding Kevin (Settite S & B & enticement). I got off to a decent start, and actually drew the Cog before I had the unnamed out, which saved me one fishing attempt. I was able to start bleeding my prey, but a early Malkavian game which saw my prey gain 6 pool before I got going, and steady bloat from Kindred Spirits meant I wasn't really getting through my prey very quickly. Simon, facing both Hendrik's forward pressure and flicked bleeds, wasn't able to bleed Kevin often, so I was steadily whittled down. The bloat module did work well enough to keep me in the game, but I made a couple of bad plays immediately after having a bleed reduced to 0 (so I couldn't bloat off it). I misjudged Kevin's likely lunge potential, and a) brought out an extra minion I couldn't afford at the time, b) tapped the black hand minion who could play the black reduce in my hand and c) failed to use the cog for additional bloat before Kevin's turn. In all likelihood, it wouldn't have saved me from being ousted, but I should have been able to hang on for at least one more turn. The rest of the game timed out, as a couple of Malkavian Pranks added a considerable amount of pool to the game.

In the second game, Simon (starting) was bleeding Marc (Assamite black hand) bleeding Richard (Eze bloat) bleeding James (!Sal breed) bleeding me. I had an unfortunate crypt draw, and had to fish for the unnamed, who fortunately was the first card I pulled, so it only slowed me down a turn. This did allow James to get in a number of small bleeds, but by the time he had a camera phone down, I did have a blocker/bouncer out. I was able to Tongue the Enkil Cog, and get it onto the unnamed in good order, but I then had a long delay while trying to draw into either the Metro Underground or a second Tongue.
James kept bleeding me (and very occasionally Simon) in small packets, but also couldn't go forward too hard due to the threat of Richard's deck. Marc and James tried to run Richard out of S:CE, but, although they did put Eze down a couple of times, weren't able to make the deal stick, and, although Marc did land several big bleeds, Richard's bloat was too effective. Simon gradually whittle away at Marc, who was also slowed down by a Banishment, and, after Marc had tapped himself out, was duly ousted. I was, at this time, whittling Simon's pool down fairly well, but under quite some pressure from James, who was up to 7 minions at this point. I was able to get the Ashur Tablets off for some much needed additional bloat. There's was a tense sequence where I had to bleed with the unnamed during Richard's turn to ensure I stayed far enough ahead of James, with Simon in lunge range, and then had the unnamed Pantexed by James shortly afterwards. Some top-decking of stealth, though, allowed me to burn the Pentex, and, as Simon had given James intercept from the WMRH radio, the extra pool loss meant Simon wasn't able to reduce my bleed enough and was ousted. James fell to Richard, and the table timed out shortly afterwards, leaving me with 1.5 VPs, which was unfortunately not enough to make the final table (although it was close, as there where a lot of timeouts in the tournament).

The deck idea is honestly very simple - the unnamed, with an Enkil Cog, bleeds with social charm a lot. The support tech to set this up is less so - !Malks with Sybil's Tongue to fetch the Cog and the Metro underground, Ashur Tablets for additional bloat and to tune the deck later in the game, and a smattering of bounce and vote defense, and the lack of discipline overlap in the crypt meant I was short one more minion who could bleed effectively. I managed to prune the deck down to 75 cards (the best compromise between my "let's add more stuff" inclinations and the need to have reasonable odds of the Tongues coming up I could manage), which is still a little on the large side for the deck to really run smoothly, but, for an untried concept deck, it put in a decent showing. I had more fun playing it than I actually expected - it was nice to finally get some use out of my Enkil Cog, and after several attempts in a couple of different decks, I finally got a Ashur Tablets sequence off.

I didn't see much of the final, being involved in a couple of social games with the reworked HoS deck based on my storyline deck. The modified version shows some promise, and a few of the changes (such as the addition of a few Anarch troublemakers) worked really well. I also discovered that Trochmancy'ing Imbued convictions is far more satisfying than it probably should be.

[1] A good case can be made that the Nocturn Dom/Obt deck would have been a decent choice for this tournament.

[2] Which worked a lot better than you would expect given the description.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Battle Lines Storyline tournament: Final

The finalists were (in order of seeding) Phillip (Ahrimane bleed and vote, replacing Ruan, who couldn't make the final), Richard (Tupdogs), Hendrik (True Brujah), myself (Hardbringer AUS black hand) & Brendan (Nagaraja power bleed).

Hendrik placed himself downstream of Phillip - I chose to go between Phillip and Hendrik, leaving Phillip at the mercy of the Tupdogs. Brendan somewhat surprisingly chose to be my predator - I had expected him to go downstream, as Hendrik didn't have bounce, but Brendan was perhaps disadvantaged here by not having really seen either my deck or Hendrik's during the initial rounds. The roll to see who started ended up with Hendrik starting, so the table was Hendrik -> Richard -> Phillip -> Brendan -> me.

Richard made most of the early running, binning and graverobbing the first minion Phillip brought out, and working through Phillip's pool quite quickly. Brendan got off to a very slow start, which hurt me, since I drew a lot of bounce, and didn't have anything to bounce. I also didn't draw anything to help me got forward, and mainly drew target vitals, rather than any of the other combat cards, so my deck didn't really get running. This left Hendrik free to tool up his Trujah without problems.

I spent a couple of blocks stopping some tool-up actions from Brendan, mainly to cycle cards (without much effect), and working on getting out more minions. I maybe should have tried to block Hendrik more, but early on I didn't have a decent enough combat package to feel I could risk that.

With Phillip looking very vulnerable at around 3 or 4 pool, and Hendrik's Antediluvian Awakening in play, Richard decided to start putting pressure on Brendan (with a Fame and a couple of rushes), rather than finishing off Phillip. This gave Phillip a window to call a couple of votes and gain blood and pool via voter caps, and also led to Brendan burning his Fame'd minion to get rid of the Antediluvian, which also helped Phillip. Richard then blocked a number of Hendrik's actions, and saw several minions (including the stolen minion) put into torpor, which left him unable to oust Phillip that turn. A Neonate breach from Phillip, and an Ancilla Empowerment from Hendrik then ousted Richard. I could potentially have blocked the Ancilla Empowerment, but opted out, due to a poor combat hand, which was my major misplay of the game, as it gave Hendrik momentum. To pass the Ancilla empowerment, Hendrik had agreed to leave Phillip alone for two turns, which Hendrik spent further tooling up, and this allowed Phillip to land some solid hits on Brendan's pool, but not quite quick enough to beat being ousted himself.

I finally drew into some bleed, so I was able to damage Hendrik's pool, but not enough to offset the gains from the ousts. Brendan also finally bled me, but I was out of bounce, so it left me rather low. I was able to survive until after Brendan had been ousted, but wasn't able to stop Hendrik sweeping.

Because my deck came up a bit strangely, I was overly defensive for much of the final. The current build of the deck is also too focused towards bleed defense. This was a design choice based on what I expected to see, but that didn't end up working that well for me in any of the games. I think there are some good ideas in the deck, though, and I can hopefully make a non-storyline rules version work.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Battle Lines Storyline tournament: first rounds

I put together two deck ideas for the tournament, and Ahrimane Anarch Pre bleed deck, and a Harbringer of Skulls Black Hand deck, and managed to playtest both decks twice. The Ahrimane deck never really gelled for me, as the combat and defense never flowed nicely. The Harbringer deck did reasonably well in the first playtest, and got horribly crushed in the second (Simon's Blood Brothers made for a horrible prey), it did at least seem to be able to pull of the combos I wanted more often, and had access to bounce, which is always good, so, after further tweaking, I decided to run with it for the tournament.

In the first round, Dave (Kiasyd S & B, Bahari faction) was bleeding me (HoS, Loyalist) bleeding Ruan (smallish Daughters bleed, Bahari) bleeding John (Petanique something, Bahari) bleeding Hendrik (True Brujah bruise & bleed, Loyalist).

Ruan got off to a really fast start, and John never got into the game, only managing a couple of actions before being ousted. I failed to draw Sennadurek, but did get the +1 intercept Mordechai into play, and get a blooding early to get the black hand goodness going. Dave didn't seem to be drawing into any bleed, and, with Hendrik in a position to apply a fair bit of pressure early (due to John's troubles), was looking wall up a fair bit. Hendrik put one of Ruan minions down, and I was able to knock another down, to slow him down, and, when Hendrik suddenly brought out two small minions, it looked like he was in a good position to push through. Ruan, however, was able to contest one of the minions with Hendrik, and some Faerie Wards from Dave bought him some time. I had a couple of tight turns when I didn't quite have the bounce or intercept I needed in hand, and was only on 6 pool, but Dave, who had built up to 3 minions didn't draw the bleed push he needed, and I survived. I was able to land a few solid Trochmancy bleeds on Ruan, and whittled him down into lunge range, but I screwed up the lunge royally, needlessly boosting a bleed and having a minion Archon'ed. I was able to oust Ruan that turn, but, having lost a minion, I was left in pretty bad shape and couldn't pressurise Hendrik, who quickly ousted both Dave and myself. Still, 1 VP was a decent start to the tournament.

The second round saw Phillip (Ahrimane Vote & Bleed, Loyalist) bleeding Hendrik bleeding me bleeding James (Salubri Antitribu combat, Bahari) bleeding Richard (Tupdog & weenie dom madness, Bahari). The Tupdog deck got off to a fast start, graverobbing a small minion with a sniper rifle from James, and Fame'ing Phillip's vampire. I was able to Cadet my crypt early, which meant all my vampires came into play Black Hand, which was useful, but I spent a lot of the game trying to draw into my Trochomancies, and wasn't able to really pressurise James. I got a pulse down, but misjudged the amount untap James had and had the vampire burnt by an Eye of unforgiving Heaven. Hendrik played an Antediluvian Awakening and this led to probably the most amusing passage of play from the game. With Phillip on the ropes, Richard burnt the stolen minion to burn Hendrik's Antediluvian Awakening, so he could play his own Awakening, only to have it immediately contested by Hendrik. Richard duly ousted Phillip, but then run out of momentum a bit, and I was whittled down fairly quickly by Hendrik. Luckily for me, James eagle sight'ed an ousting bleed, and I was able to start farming back to hold on. I was able to block a couple of Hendrik's bleeds and drew enough prevent to survive the combats, but, with a Form of Corruption in play, and Sennadurak stuck on 1 blood in a Vessel & hunt cycle to pay for the Antediluvian Awakening, I couldn't afford to bleed James unless I could secure the oust, as gaining the Edge would have been fatal to me. Eventually, I blocked Hendrik who played domain of evernight and my prevent allowed me to torprise one of Hendrik's minions, and, with Richard burning another minion to burn the Antediluvian Awakening, I was in a position to lunge for James, and got that through. Hendrik then fell to the Tupdog deck, but as I was able to bring out another minion, and I had the combat to deal with the Tupdogs for a couple of turns, I was able to finally oust Richard. An admittedly rather lucky game win, but they all count.

The HoS deck is still fragile, and it is more passive than most other decks I play, but it does have some good ideas and is quite fun to play [1], although it does rely on the Storyline's no group restriction rules. I will need to think about how to make the deck work without the storyline rules a fair bit still.

[1] Unless it has Simon's BB deck as its prey.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spontaneous Photoblog

A selection of some recent photos [1][2].

[1] because writing a RSS feed generator for my gallery keeps slipping down the priority list
[2] More over here

Saturday, March 6, 2010

First VTES torunament of 2010

Last weekend was the 1st tournament of the year, the Battle of Paardeberg. Unfortunately, only 7 players showed up, which is one of the more awkward numbers.

Saturday saw the preliminary rounds (tables of 5, 4, and 5).

The first round saw Dan (Osebo wall with thrown junk) bleeding Kevin (!Toreador sneak bleed & vote) bleeding Hendrik (weenie Pre & For swarm) bleeding Phillip (Brujah Trophy deck) bleeding Richard (Guhuri Ani Pot Pre bruise and bleed).

Hendrik got off to a fast start, but was slowed down by a cross table eagle sight from Dan. This allowed Phillip to bin and burn a couple of Hendrik's minions. It was at this point that Phillip discovered that his trophy deck completed lacked any Master cards, which was rather amusing. Kevin got a few bleeds and votes through, and gradually whittled Hendrik down. Richard was able to trump Dan's combat package, as Dan never got the Ayes he needed, or the maneuvers to avoid close range combat. Hendrik was eventually able to bleed through Phillip, but had taken quite a heavy toll doing so. Richard duly ousted Dan. Kevin should have ousted Hendrik, but backed off at a point when he should have just bled Hendrik out, and then opted to allow one of his minions to be Golconda'ed by Richard, which never looked the right play. This allowed Richard to clean up the rest of the table.

The second game saw Phillip bleeding me (!Nosferatu rush with Fame) bleeding Hendrik bleeding Simon (!salubri combat). Hendrik got off to a fast start, which only allowed Simon to bring out a single minion. Simon and I ended up co-operating to rush Hendrik minions into the ground to keep him from sweeping though Simon, but this meant that Simon was unable to pressurise Phillip, so I was also having to try and balance that threat. I was able to successfully burn one of Phillip's vampires, and did torporise a few others, and between Simon and I, Hendrik and 6 or 7 minions either toporised or burnt. However, I didn't draw into a single Fame or Tension, so was never able to really damage Hendrik's pool, and, with Phillip burning my hunting ground, eventually ran out of blood on my minions and was duly ousted. Phillip was able to sweep the table from there, although Hendrik might have been able to oust Simon if he'd played things a little differently.

The third round saw me bleeding Richard bleeding Kevin bleeding Simon bleeding Dan. I got off to a good start, being able to bin one of Richard's vampires early, but then went through a long period of not drawing into my combat, which slowed me down to a crawl. This meant I was also unable to stop Richard gearing up - the leather jackets were a real problem for me. Dan built up fairly slowly, while Sim on back-rushed Kevin a fair bit. This allowed Richard to oust Kevin, after which the table stabilised for a bit. The most amusing incident was the complex deal Simon struck, agreeing to torporise one of Dan's minions for my support, and then later agreeing not to rush Dan for his support, which he was not quite able to fulfill, due to Dan choosing not to block Simon when he had a Kiss of Ra in hand. Richard was able to oust Simon, but at this point he had several minions in torpor (as did I), and was severely hurt by having a few minions diablerised. I didn't have the minions to survive against Dan, and he duly ousted both me and Richard.

I ended up being the 5th player in the final in the roll off.

The final saw me (starting) bleeding Richard bleeding Phillip bleeding Dan bleeding Hendrik.

I had a poor crypt draw, no beast, all three copies of Calebos and one Mateusz, which immediately meant that I wasn't going to get any use out of the Street Creds in my deck. Hendrik, however, opted to go slowly, and thus I was able to bring out both Mateusz and Calebos. I generally tried to keep Hendrik down to two minions by rushing backwards, and tried to put pressure forward on Richard. Richard, however, opted to largely sit tight, leaving Phillip alone, except for a couple of cross-table rushes against Dan. Phillip seemed to have a poor crypt draw, and so didn't put much pressure on Dan for much of the game. Dan played a Powerbase Montreal, which was promptly stolen, and for much of the game, it was traded back and forth between Phillip and Hendrik. I perhaps should have gotten into the stealing act earlier, but didn't really have that many actions to spare, as I was trying to pressurise Richard (without much success). Hendrik eventually lunged, but I had enough untap to survive, and Hendrik left himself to exposed and was ousted by Dan.

This game saw quite a bit of contesting as well. I spent much of the game contesting a fame with Richard (my Fame on Hendrik), and, after Hendrik was ousted, I ended up contesting both a Fame and a Tension with Richard for some turns.

I managed to bring out Beast, and started whittling Richard down, but a Golconda but Richard out of range. Dan stopped on ousting lunge from Richard on Phillip, and I binned one of Richard's two minions the next turn, but was unable to stop the rescue, and Phillip was unable to stop the final bleed. At this point, Richard was out of library, I had both the Powerbase and the Nosferatu Kingdom, so was able to farm up. Dan was down to only 1 minion. I ran out of time to oust Richard (The game ended with him on 1 pool, and a famed minion in torpor), and may have been able to take Dan due to minion superiority, but my minions were looking quite low, so it wasn't that clear cut.

Still, the final was extremely epic at times, and, considering that I was downstream of the fast weenie horde, I was really surprised to not be ousted.

After the final, I was involved in a quick social game, playing my modified Anarch Vote deck. I was bleeding Yancke (Ravanos bleed) bleeding Richard (Kiasyd) bleeding Simon (DoC vote). I managed to oust both Yancke and Richard, but fell to the daughters. Overall, I think the tweaks help the deck, although it still struggles to get going a bit, and is very vulnerable to other vote decks.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How not to setup your firewall

(This is of course an entirely hypothetical set of notes, since it's inconceivable [1] that I would make any of these errors).

For the purposes of this exercise, we assume a gateway machine, running a simple firewall, which we want to use to drop various packets on the floor - such as those from machines particiapting in a distributed brute for ssh attack, for instance. We assume there are several scripts managing the blocked list. For best effect, your gateway box should be mounting a few directories via nfs from another machine.
  1. Ensure that packets between the gateway box and the file server need to traverse the blocked list first.
  2. Don't lock properly when adding new IPs to the firewall. This ensures that, under load, you can add large numbers of duplicate entries to the list.
  3. Have every packet traverse the blocked list twice.
Under smallish numbers of blocked IPs, the results aren't impressive, so, for best effect, you need to wait until a there's a reasonably large attack before the effects are really noticeable. If done properly, however, at a few thousand unique entries, the network performance should slow to an absolute crawl.

[1] Which means exactly what I think it means.