Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thoughts on the 2012 VTES Leagues

I had intended to blog about the league more, but that fell by the wayside, and got replaced by the game reports. I'll intend to do better for the next league.

Having now run two leagues, I think I can safely say it was a good idea. It's given a bit more structure to the local VTES games, and ensured that we keep having regular socials, which is needed to keep the game alive. It's also allowed me to fiddle with several deck ideas in fairly serious competition without the risks of a tournament.

Keeping the league running is fortunately fairly low-effort, and I've gotten a lot of the score management and tracking reasonably automated (working on which has been a useful "compiling" project). I'm not sure we've quite got the length of the league right yet - people seem to get a bit burnt out both times, so we should maybe shorten it a bit more, but I'd like to avoid long breaks in the game, simply to help keep interest up.

I'm not sure if it's accomplished my other goal of improving my play level. I have had a couple of games where I feel I've played really well, and made some good decisions in some somewhat non-obvious positions, but I've also made a number of really stupid errors, and thrown away a couple of potential game wins as a result.

On the other hand, I did manage to top both leagues, which suggests I'm doing something right. However, I partly topped the league by simply playing a lot more league games than everyone else. I feel somewhat guilty about that, as I feel I've been gaining an unfair benefit from the way the league rules were setup to not penalize people playing lots of games, and, as the main driver of the league, I'm partly responsible for the rules we chose.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pyweek 14: Mad Science

So we've reached the end of another pyweek, and managed yet another game ("Tomorrow, the World!!!"), so it's time for my usual post-pyweek post.

It's not one of the better entires I've been involved in, and I expect us to place very middle of the field this year. I think there's a decent concept here, but we didn't get enough content or game balance to have something that's really fun, and, as a result, much of the early game is a bit random and frustrating. There's nothing unfixable, but it needs a couple of days of people playing and extending the game to get to the point I'd actually be happy with it. It's got its entertaining bits, though, so I'm happy enough to throw it out there to be judged and see what happens.

Due to everyone being busy and / or being out of the country, we had a much smaller team than previous entries. I expected we would need to downscale as a result, but this proved to be more of a problem than I had actually anticipated. There just wasn't space for people to play the game much, which partly accounts for the issues, and there also much less opportunity to riff off other people's ideas to improve things. Everyone being busy in the day didn't help either. There were far fewer of the "ooh, a bunch of cool stuff has happened since I last worked on the game" moments, which also made it feel like more of a slog than past entries. The lack of people was most felt in the final Saturday finishing sprint, for which only 2 of us were available - most conversations were "I'm fixing X, can you look at Y?", and then silence for about 30 minutes while stuff happened. Given how the smaller team affected things, my respect for people doing successful solo entries has gone up even further.

I've now been involved 5 pyweek entries, and they've all been content heavy in various ways, so it's fair to call that as a definite trend. Given the games I enjoy playing, and the high value I place on being amusing, that's not surprising, but it's not a good feature for games with small teams.

On the upside, it was still fun. Coding for pyweek is always liberating, since it's much more important to have something close now than completely correct later. Having now done 3 pyweeks with mercurial, we've now also got the setup and workflow around that reasonably well sorted (which means we're almost certainly due to change to something else now), and past experience means that we're making a reasonable number correct design decisions early, so I'm quite happy with the final structure of the game.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Easter Egg Tournament

Ever since I heard of the idea of playing VTES for ante using easter eggs on the #vtes IRC channel, I've been keen to try the idea locally. So this year, I bit the bullet and generally chivied things along to get the event to happen.

We ended up with 8 players, although 2 only arrived late, so the first two rounds were 6 player games.

In the first game, I tried my weenie DEM/obf bleed deck, which didn't quite run properly. The table was Richard (Ahrimane wall) bleeding Dave (!Ventrue grinder with guns) bleeding me bleeding Simon (Black Hand bleed) bleeding Kevin (Enkidu) bleeding Hendrik (Osebo with 419 operations). I didn't draw any minions with obf or any obf masters for some time, and, combined with several Ministy's from Simon, that caused slowed down my deck considerably. I also lost a minion to a Kiss of Ra on an ill-thought out block attempt. I was able to oust Simon, but then, with the combination of some rushes from Enkidu, DOM bleed and a Smiling Jack in play, was duly ousted. Kevin failed to any significant damage to Dave's minions with Enkidu, and duly fell to the !Ventrue. Richard and Hendrik had spent most of the game tangling with each other, with Richard gradually losing to the potence combat, so Hendrik was able to oust Richard eventually. The end game got a little tight, ass Hendrik put a couple of minions into torpor, but ultimately wasn't able to get the critical action to burn Smiling Jack through and Dave took the table.

In the second game, I tried the Arika High Stakes deck I put together. The table was Richard (Group 4+5 Kiasyd) bleeding Dave (Group 4+5 Kiasyd) bleeding Simon (samedi wall) bleeding me bleeding Hendrik (Group2+3 !Tor with guns) bleeding Kevin (Group 2+3 !tor vote and bleed). The table was made interesting as Dave & Richard risked contesting, as did Kevin and Hendrik. Simon, at the end of a bounce chain, and with a wall'ish deck, walled up throughly, which caused me issues as I never got to cycle bounce out of my hand. I got a decent start, with Arika and an early Minion Tap, but drew few aggressive votes (although all the High Stakes), and, although I got Hendrik quite low on pool, I couldn't quite get what I needed to finish him off. Dave got a couple of bleeds on Simon, but failed on a lunge with Song of Pan and then failed to draw bounce and was ousted by Richard. I was able to minion tap a couple more times, and a voter cap off a High Stakes meant I was up to able to keep bringing minions out, and keep a healthy pool buffer. Hendrik ousted Kevin, thanks to a steady supply of Palle Grande bleeds, and then Richard was able to top-deck enough stealth to oust Simon. I was able to finally bounce a bleed from Richard onto Hendrik, and banish one of Hendrik's minions, but this was not enough to save Richard's Kiasyd from the !tor. At this point, I finally found my decks ousting package, and I was able to chomp through Hendrik's pool very efficiently for the last 2 VPs.

Caitlin and Adrian arrived for the final round, which saw us play two tables. Table 1 was Richard (Ahrimane wall) bleeding Dave (!Ventrue) bleeding Hendrik (Assamite) bleeding Adrian (Simon's Black Cat deck). I saw little of the game before the end game, but Hendrik held off Dave for quite some time before being ousted, while The brujah were able to tool up to a fair degree. Adrian then drew a couple of Frontal assaults which allowed him to put down Richard's minions and oust him. Adrian decked himself shortly afterwards, but with the hunting ground and the guns down, was nicely setup. In the end game, Dave was unable to cycle intercept to draw prevent and was thus on a losing proposition on every combat, and, after losing 3 minions to the Brujah guns, conceded.

The second table was Kevin (FoS temptation) bleeding Caitlin (Akunase wall'ish) bleeding Simon (DoC Choir / Bleed / Vote) bleeding me (Arika). I had a tricky game. And early Lily Prelude and bleed from Simon meant I only got Arika out, and, as I didn't see a Minion Tap or a Govern until quite late, I was stuck on 1 minion for most of the game. I did get a Legendary Vampire on Arika, which was very important, and, by steadily bleeding of 5, and a couple of votes and voter caps, was able to oust Kevin. Caitlin failed to do any significant damage to Simon, unable to get past the Daughters prevent and access to S:CE, and I was able to Minion Tap Arika and lunge with a Govern bleed for 7 to oust her. At this point, I erred, and decided to bring out a second minion, which left me too little pool to survive the daughters. I should also have remembered that I could have voted away the Command Performance, which would also have helped me. Still, 2 ousts with a single minion on the table was rather satisfying.

Overall, I think it was a success, and fun seemed to be had. I'll probably try to arrange something similar again next year.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cape Town VTEs League, game 6

I already posted a brief report to the mailling list, but felt like reporting on my game in a bit more depth,

The game setup was Me, with my Orlando mob-rule deck, bleeding Mark (Brujah something) bleeding Nick (Aus / Tha / For shennigans with Saulot) bleeding James (!Nos group 2) bleeding Marc (Torrance Circle BB) bleeding Ruan (Gangrel with dominate).

I had a decent start, with an early secure haven on Orlando, an early Rutor's and the Hungry Coyote for bloat, which was needed with dominate upstream. Fortuantely for me, Ruan didn't get off to the fastest start, but was soon putting steady pressure on me, with bleeds for 2 and 3, and form of mist to stealth past blockers. James found himself in an awkward position early, unable to deal with Nick's "Dawn Op / Weather Control" combo, and thus needing to spend actions rescuing vampires, and unable to put pressure on Marc, who used the free ride to tool up nicely, and, with the help of an early blood doll and a couple of Unwholesome bonds, was soon up to 4 minions out with a very healthy pool buffer. Ruan built up to 3 minions, and gradually whittled down my pool.

Mark brought out Count Germaine, and then attempted to Arson the Secure Haven [1], but was firmly told no via an Obedience, before bringing out a 9-cap as a second minion. I bounced a bleed which forced Mark to tap out, and then was able to pull off a lunge to oust him in my next turn (voting and bleeding with Orlando for 8 pool damage, and then finishing t off with a Kine). The table stabilised for a while at 5 players - Marc gradually whittling down Ruan's pool and Ruan whittling down mine somewhat faster via bleeds and bounces. I was struggling to get actions though against Nick's intercept, not helped by the lack of votes, but was able to bounce enough bleeds to keep afloat. I managed to get up to 3 minions, and, with Orlando's vote doubling, 8 static votes, but with 9 other votes on the table, I didn't have the vote lock. James rushed both backwards and cross table, which also did interesting things to the table dynamics. I'd whittled Nick down to 3 pool, but my attempt to oust him via a Kine was foiled by the rest of the table. Ruan however eventually ran out of bounce [2] and blockers and was ousted, and the changed vote dynamics with the removal of Ruan's prince allowed me to oust Nick. At this point, however, both James and Marc had enough static intercept to shut down my votes, and, although a Giant's Blood / Minion Tap combo delayed things, I fell to the blood brothers bleed. Annoyingly, my two stealth locations were both right at the bottom of my deck.

James was always struggling in the end game, as the battle with Nick had left him with not much pool or blood on his minions, and was not able to put down enough of Marc's minions in time. MArc did run out of library at the end, and was starting to lose the combats, but James just couldn't quite scrape up enough untap to stop all the bleeds.

The Orlando deck is starting to work. I'm still unhappy with the combat module, which needs to walk the fine line between being effective in the Cape Town environment and not getting in the way of ousting people. I should also try to find space for a few telepathic vote countings, for that extra occasional vote push.

[1] IIRC, this was the only action Mark attempted the entire game.

[2] I bounced a bleed back onto him to accelerate this, since I needed the breathing space.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cape Town VTES League, game 2

We held the second league game at the social at the Rondebosch Library.

5 players played in the league game.

The table setup was me, playing Kaisyd group 4 & 5

bleeding Richard, superstar deck with Lucian the Perfect,

bleeding Anthony, playing Evan's weenie CEL guns deck,

bleeding James, playing a group 2 !Nossie deck,

bleeding Evan, playing Malk 94.

I didn't see the Arcadian in my opening crypt, which is never ideal for the deck, but got off to a decent start, with an early Govern down and a Villein to help bolster my pool. Richard, with the aid of an early Zillah's Valley, had Lucian up early, and soon attracted the table's attention by bleeding Anthony for 9. Anthony played a Haven Uncovered on Lucian, and almost all of his attention rushing backwards, which left James free to tool up with little interference. James got an early Nossie Kingdom, which helped him build up. Evan gave me a little breathing space by Governing out a couple more minions, and then started to bleed seriously. With Richard not blocking me, I wasn't able to cycle stealth out of my hand, and so didn't draw enough bounce - it got so bad I rushed Lucian on the haven just to get a Earthswords out of my hand. I did manage to bounce a bleed for 6 onto Richard, and then followed that up with a couple of Govern bleeds for the oust, but was left with a hand full of action modifiers.

I was now up to 3 minions, but not great on pool, with 4 obf/dom bleeders upstream of me. James had gotten up to 3 minions, with Cailean out, and was gradually building up to a 4th, while Anthoney was stuck on 2. Anthony, worried about the bounce, proceeded to put down one of my minions, and then wasted a couple of rushes against James without much effect, as each was blocked by Cailean. I was able to bounce a significant bleed onto Anthony, but was not able to survive the Malk swarm long enough to captilise. Anthony rushed backwards to put down one of the bleeders, and James, who had now brought out Beast, put down 2 more, but this was not enough to stop Evan sneaking through for an ousting Govern & Conditioning and a second VP. James, however, soon put down the reamining minion, and was quickly able to oust Evan for the last 2 VPs.

So James is still unbeaten in the league, and our revenge schemes need more work.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The 2012 Cape Town VTES League - game 1

In an attempt to try and boost attendance at socials, and just generally play more VTES, I suggested we run a league this year and see what happens. Other people also seemed to think this sounded interesting, and so, probably rather foolishly, I'm helping run the inaugural Cape Town VTES league.

We started with a 7 player game, which was not ideal, but worked out reasonably well.
The "Cap X at 5" rule we stole from the Bochum League works quite well in this situation, and helps keeps things somewhat sane.

I decided to run the weenie vote deck (which suffers from looking scary without actually being effective), which turned out to be a poor choice given the number of other decks with titles on the table.

The game setup saw Simon, playing a Black Hand bleed with light stealth deck starring Al-Muntathir bleeding me (really weenie vote) bleeding Dave (new Brujah bruise & vote) bleeding James (all Jyhad Brujah) bleeding Philip (Lasombra rush & bleed) bleeding Richard (Akunase rush with Dragonbound) bleeding Brent (Gargoyle rush with Fame).

I made my first, and arguably most serious, misplay right on the first turn. With two titles in my hand, and knowing that the deck needs to get titles early to get running, I chose to bring out a two-cap rather than two one-caps. I was able to get a title (Prince of Dublin, IIRC) down before anyone else had minions out and then bring out a three more minions, but, by the time my next turn came round, the number of votes on the table meant I wasn't going to pass anything without some serious sweet talking.

By my second turn, the table was starting to get setup - everyone had a minion out, so I followed this up with my second serious misplay - having drawn a third title, I proceeded to cycle both titles out of my hand knowing that I wouldn't pass them while looking for a bribes. This was foolish, since I should have kept 1 in hand to cryptic rider into play later. I also had my second-turn Creepshow Casino Suddened, which was annoying, but ultimately not that relevant, since almost none of my votes actually got blocked.

Dave, worried by my developing swarm of weenies, stuck on bringing out only 2 mid-caps, which meant he wasn't putting pressure on James, who happily took the opportunity to tool up, acquiring a laptop and a sport's bike. Phillip attempted a couple of rushes without being able to seriously inconvenience Richard's fortitude and Brent got out a !Tremere and Chaundice. After a couple of setup actions, Simon attracted the table's attention by bleeding me for 7 with Al-Muntathir. This actually worked in my favour a bit, as it meant the table allowed me to pass a Autakis Persecution to gain pool (the bribes helped) and that allowed me to cryptic rider a conservative agitation, which, combined with a few nibble bleeds, actually allowed me to make a significant impact on Dave's pool.

I was given a bit more breathing space by Brent Faming Al-Muntathir, and rushing. He wasn't quite able to make the rush stick, but Simon was forced to be a bit more defensive as he sought to protect his star vampire. I continued to nibble at Dave, losing a minion to one of the combats, but getting down a few Saturday Night Specials, but fully expecting to be ousted quickly. The game dynamics changed again when Richard rushed Brent's !Tremere, and was also unable to make the deal stick. Brent responded by rushing backwards and burning one of Richard's minions, leaving Simon alone for a turn. Simon bled forward, leaving me on 3 pool.

I bled Dave for the edge, losing a minion in the process, but putting down Dave's primogen thanks to a Scattershot (after surviving a Grapple by the skin of my teeth). With the votes a bit more delicately balanced, I was able to convince Richard to help me oust Dave, since that was the only way I'd stay in the game, which duly happened, giving me a VP.

The enxt couple of turns weren't that significant. as the people recovered from the previous couple of turns. I attempted to call another Autkis Persectution, but that was narrowly voted down, which left me unable to cryptic rider off it, and damage James. I ended that turn on 5 pool. James transferred himself down to three pool to bring out Don Cruez, and, had I had another turn, I may have been able to swarm bleed him out, although that was unclear. Philip had ran himself down to 1 or 2 pool as well. Simon duly ousted me with a couple of stealthed bleeds, and then James ousted Philip. Richard fell soon afterwards, thanks to a deflected bleed by Simon, and Brent, having spent too many resources tangling with the Akunase, also fell to the Brujah quickly.

Despite having gained 18 pool from 3 ousts quickly, the end game wasn't clear cut, as Simon could bleed faster than James, and was able to successfully farm with Reunion Kamut. Simon however, eventually came up a little bit short (James was on 3 or 4 pool at the start of the last turn) and fell to the Brujah swarm.

So first blood to James, and revenge plotting for the rest of us.