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.