Friday, May 31, 2013

More FTL

Yesterday I bought a new game on Steam (DMC, which was on sale) and this morning I wanted to play it, but it hadn't downloaded. I looked at my list of Steam games and decided to give FTL another kick at the can. I played a game with the Engi ship in an attempt to unlock some achievements. There's an achievement for stunning 4 of the enemy systems at once (the Engi ship starts with a weapon that can stun a system, but it can only keep two systems stunned at a time) and the first store I went to had another copy of my starting weapon for sale. Do it up! I played for a bit after that and sunk pretty much all my experience into weapon power in order to get them both running at once. Eventually I had enough power to use them both and got the achievement pretty easily. Woo!

I kept playing, of course, and it turns out having two copies of that weapon is actually pretty awesome. It let me stun down the shields of an enemy pretty much no matter how many shields it had, letting my other weapons start doing damage and shutting down real systems like guns. It worked so well I actually took no damage at all during a particularly hard fight near the end of the game! And then I won! Woo!

I don't know if it was winning that did it, or the achievement, but now I have a couple more ship types I can play. On the one hand I've beaten the game so maybe I'm done with it? But the game is fun, and now I can play a slightly different variant by having a new starting ship. And there are more crazy achievements to earn. DMC is downloaded now, but I think I'm going to start a new FTL game instead.

In an odd coincidence Jeff sent me a message this afternoon asking about FTL. It turns out FTL is also on sale this weekend and he wanted to know if I'd played it and what I thought about it. Looking at the store now it's only $5 this weekend and I think it's definitely worth that much. I've played it for about 12 hours so far, and am going to keep playing. Robb has almost topped the 100 hour mark! I'd say 5 cents an hour is a pretty good price to pay for a game. If you like leveling up, tactical combat, crazy achievements, and space you should give this one a try.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

More Badminton!

Three weeks ago I went out and played badminton for the first time in an awfully long time. I ended up with the entire right side of my body being stiff and sore for almost a week. My knees were bruised and scabbed for about two and a half weeks. And my sleep schedule was shifted such that I was asleep on Thursday nights, so I hadn't been back.

Then yesterday Matt emailed me and asked if I wanted to go again today. I woke up at 8am today like a normal person so I was set to be awake in the evening. And my body was all healed up from last time, so it seemed like a good idea.

It was a fun time once again. I didn't win any of my games, but I did make some good shots and worked up a good sweat again. I didn't reach the point where I felt like I was in real danger of fainting, which is good! I also made a point to drink less water this time since I may have gotten water poisoning last time. I can already feel my right arm seizing up. My right knee is bloody and bruised in the same spot as before. It's almost like I keep diving for birdies the same way! But fun.

The gym was really hot this time thanks to it apparently being summer in Toronto. I hate being sweaty. And yet I realized today I like getting sweaty. Actually moving around and getting tired is great. Sitting around in a drenched shirt and pants, not so much, but I guess it's the price you have to pay. Maybe I should try to play DDR again where I can jump in the tub when I finish to get the sweating part and not the sweaty part. It is also nice to get invited out to do things. Makes me less hermity!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

League of Legends: Blue Ezreal

A new and strange build has cropped up recently in League of Legends. It's termed the 'blue' build for Ezreal as all the items in the build are blue coloured. Most of the items are atypical items for an AD carry champion, but the ADC from Taiwan who won the world championship last year has been using it which immediately gives it credibility in the eyes of the gaming masses. When someone good does something it opens the door for other people to try it without automatically getting yelled at by their teammates. Now, Ezreal is probably my favourite champion. I used to use a similar build on the old 3s map and liked it (maxing cooldown reduction first being the key, though I was AP at the time). And this build uses my favourite item, Manamune! So I had to try this build out.

I've played it a few times, and it was pretty neat. It plays very differently than a normal ADC build. Typically people try to end up with lots of damage with the idea of hitting people with their auto attacks. So you build attack speed, and crit chance, and you try to find a safe spot to attack in fights. Having a team that can help you out and pull people off of you or get great engages helps a lot. If the enemy team gets to jump on you instead it's bad news. That's something with which I've always struggled. This build, however, is all about casting Q. Hitting an enemy with Q lowers the cooldown on all your abilities by one second. If you have max cooldown reduction the base cooldown on Q is 2.5 seconds. Knock one off of that and you can cast the spell every second and a half as long as you keep hitting things. Ezreal's Q also applies on hit effects, so buying items that do things when you auto attack helps him out. Attack speed and crit not so much, but life steal and other on hit items work well.

Possibly the best part is you don't lose much, if anything, by running around like a maniac. The goal isn't to stand in one spot and pound out the damage. Instead it's to stay very mobile and spam abilities. One of the items you buy makes it so your auto attacks leave a big slowing patch after you cast a spell. Q counts as a spell and an auto attack, so hitting someone with your Q leaves a slow patch behind. Couple this with Ezreal's blink ability (and the low cooldown it has thanks to spamming Q) and kiting is something blue Ezreal does better than anyone else.

I really like it. Maybe it just fits my style of play more than a standard build. I think the fact it can stand on its own and defend itself with lots of kiting when I don't have sufficient support from my team really pushes it over the top. But is it actually better? Does it do more damage? Less damage, but enough added control to make up the difference? I'm not sure how to quantify it. Should I be building out a damage simulator spreadsheet like I used to in World of Warcraft? Preliminary testing has me really liking it, so now it's about quantifying it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Double Shootout?

On Sunday I was screwing around on PokerStars trying super cheap things out. (I apparently had ~$60 on my account, probably from when I tried to get a free backgammon set by playing on an affiliated backgammon site?) I was playing 2 tables of 1cent/2cent Omaha to get a feel for what sorts of hands were winning pots. It kept spamming me with messages saying tournaments were starting up so I went to check those out. There was one starting up with a whole bunch of stuff I don't understand in the title but that only cost 33 cents to join. The smart thing to do would have been to do a search for some of the weird terms, but the tournament was about to start and I had to act in an Omaha game so I impulsively joined.

I promptly got confused and made questionable plays in the Omaha games. On the plus side each mistake cost me 4 cents, so it's not like anything actually bad happened. And as long as I take a lesson away it's all good, right? The big one here is that mixing games when I don't really know what's going on is a bad idea. It may well always be a bad idea, I donno. Also, find out what I'm signing up for!

I lost that event, which turned out to be a satellite for another tournament later that day. An $11 tournament which had a ton of different types of satellites going on. I looked into what the most common one was and it turned out to be something they call a double shootout tournament. The basic idea was 36 people pay $1.02 and get split into 6 tables of 6 people. These ones were hyper turbo speed, which meant the blinds started high and got bigger really fast. They didn't reseat people when tables got low, though. Instead each 6 person table played until only one person was standing. Then those 6 winners started over from the start against each other. Top 3 won entry to the $11 tournament, 4th place got $3, everyone else got nothing at all.

Sounded interesting, so I played a few. When blinds and antes cost you 60% of your starting stack in one orbit around the table you have to make a move early. At least it seemed like everyone thought so, with people going all in right away. But even doubling up early didn't seem to be good enough. Now when your only options were all-in or fold. I played around a bit, and started trying raising the minimum to steal blinds instead of just going all-in. And other than the first couple hands of each tournament it seemed to work reasonably well.

Even then, winning the table isn't enough. I then need to finish top 3. With no difference between 1st and 3rd the strategy for the second table seemed to be different. It still opened the same way, with a couple people going all-in with whatever they had. But after that people were a lot more timid. But the hyper-turbo speed was still in play, so winning the blinds was really important. Min-raising to try to steal the blinds worked here too, and better than on the opening table.

I played around 20 of these and ended up winning 3 of them. It turned out after winning the $11 entry you could just go unregister from that tournament and get credited $11 in 'tournament cash' to your account. And then play more satellites to win the entry right back.

So I was up a bit, and learned a little about some of the tournament formats, and had some fun. I feel like I don't have a terribly good handle on how to properly play a double shootout, but I feel like a lot of the other people playing them had no handle at all. Given how fast these things were spawning I think someone who knew what they were doing would probably be making a lot of tournament cash playing them over and over. Tournament cash can only be used to enter tournaments so I'm not sure if that's even a good thing? I guess it wouldn't be that hard to spend it on something that pays actual cash. You'd need to be good at both this weird format and a more standard format, though.

I looked again on Monday but didn't see any tournaments of this type. Maybe it's an extra Sunday thing? Maybe I'll think to look this weekend!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Playing Poker?

If you go all the way back to my very first post on here more than 7 years ago one of the things I mention as a goal is to use the blog as a way to track stats on playing poker to see if it was feasible for me to do it to make money. But it pretty much never comes up after that. Why? What went wrong, and do those issues persist today?

Well, it isn't that I tried and failed. I didn't lose tons of money playing poker, or anything of the sort. Really, I didn't even try at all. Looking back, I think there were two primary reasons that kept that little experiment from even getting off the ground: World of Warcraft and bankroll concerns.

World of Warcraft was a big time sink for me back in 2006. I was probably logged in 16 hours a day, though not actually playing a good chunk of that time. I would be logged in while working on a second computer, but just to run an auction house mod or chat with Byung. Beyond that I was raiding 6 nights a week, and running dungeons with my roommates, and watching them raid, and PvPing. There was so much stuff to do, and I wanted to do it all. Part of me actually misses that now... But the idea that I would be able to work, and play World of Warcraft as much as I wanted, and learn to play poker at the same time? Not enough time in a day. Something had to give, and that something wasn't going to be WoW and it couldn't be work for the second reason.

That second reason is that, frankly, I was fairly poor. I had enough money to pay rent and eat. I had internet access. I could pay a WoW subscription. Don't get me wrong, I was happy. I had enough money to do what I wanted, assuming what I wanted was to barely pay my bills and play WoW. I still had ~$20k in student loan debt floating around that needed to be dealt with. I couldn't have just quit my job to try something else for a while as doing so would have meant I couldn't eat. And probably I would have just spent that time playing WoW anyway! But even if I'd wanted to play poker for reasonable stakes I couldn't have found the money to get started.

Do those two problems persist now? Not really. I'm not playing WoW or any similar game right now. I'm playing plenty of games, but they all need smaller chunks of time. Two hours for a Blood Bowl game, 45 minutes for a League of Legends game. I could sit down and play a ton of a Final Fantasy game, but even if I did that for two or three days straight it would end in short order. Time is really not a problem. Money isn't really, either. I have no debt right now, and I have enough money saved up to pay living expenses for a while.

It certainly feels like a fine time to do some more reading and research at the very least. Experiment a bit at super low levels and see what's going on. Because when it comes right down to it, I'd like to think I'm pretty good at games, and at working out the right play in a similar situation, and at spending a lot of time doing the same thing over and over. I don't think I have the sort of tilt issues that cause the big problems. Not to say I don't flip out sometimes, but that I think I know when it happens. I just want to run away when I get into that sort of state, and that's actually a fine thing to do. You can't lose money when you're huddled in a corner!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 2

Board 2 – Dealer East – NS Vul

Opponents convention card: Majeure cinquième.
Opponents playing strength: Adequate.

My hand: ♠ K 8 6 5 3  J 9 7 6  8 7 6  3

East and I pass. West opens 2 clubs, strong. Partner passes. East bids 2 diamonds showing 0-7 points. West bids 2NT, East goes to 3NT which gets passed out.

Partner leads the 7 of clubs.

9 4 2
T 8 5
J 9
A J T 6 5

K 8 6 5 3
J 9 7 6
8 7 6

West North East South
Pass Pass
21 Pass 22 Pass
2NT Pass 3NT All Pass
20-7 Points

7-5-3-K. Declarer likes clubs so much he keeps playing them. 2-8-T-6 of diamonds. Now he leads a spade off of board. 2-3-A-J. And now diamonds. 5-4-J-8. Back to clubs. A-7 of diamonds-3 of hearts-4. Back to spades. 4-5-T-2 of diamonds. 7-3 of diamonds-9-K. I'm in! I doubt we can cash any hearts off the top. But setting up a spade doesn't help unless I have a heart entry, which is really only true if we have all the hearts anyway. I also don't know that I want to be the one breaking hearts here. Eh, toss him in with a spade then. 8-Q-4 of hearts-5 of hearts.

Declarer cashes a diamond. Q-T-9-6 of hearts. And another. K-9 of clubs-6 of clubs-6 of spades. And another. A-Q of hearts-8 of hearts-7 of hearts. Then the A of hearts. Finally I get a heart at the end. Making 5.

 K Q 4
T 4 3 2
Q 9 8 7 4

A Q T 7
A 3 2
A K Q 5
 K 2

9 4 2
T 8 5
J 9
A J T 6 5

♠ K 8 6 5 3
J 9 7 6
8 7 6

Professor Jack agrees with me all the way. We could have taken more tricks if partner had lead a heart I guess?

4 of the pairs held 3NT to just in. 1 held it to +1. 3 of us were +2. So I get 2 of 14 MPs.

Ranking after board 2/60: 16/16 with 7.14%

Friday, May 24, 2013

Trying Too Hard

I am confused. Not as badly as last night, where I was confused, overwhelmed, and stressed out, but still confused. It's the sort of feeling that has lead to my current lack of employment. At least here I was able to walk around at 2 in the morning and then take a hot bath to try to unwind instead of having to pretend everything was fine while trying to work for another 5 hours or whatever.

It all boils down to one statement. "I don't get why you're trying so hard." It confuses me. To me if something is worth doing at all, it's worth doing at full speed. I don't understand how trying hard at something became an insultable state. I don't understand berating someone who is trying. I don't understand letting up, or giving up.

Maybe it just boils down to a lack of empathy? Or of understanding empathy? I just don't understand why I should feel bad about getting ahead, or of winning, or of leveling my guys. It reminds me of the loot drama Sky went through in World of Warcraft. Lots of stuff dropped that only he could use, and it was bad that he asked for it all. In my case it was a Blood Bowl game where pretty much everything was going my way. I was up 3-0 on the scoreboard and 11-5 in players with 5 turns still to go. As far as experience earned went it was something like 17-0. I wanted more. My opponent didn't like that I wanted more. With 5 turns and 6 more guys I should likely be able to score again, or get a couple more casualties. Or get a pass. There's a good chance of hurting some more of his guys. I had 2 crucial guys 1 experience from leveling, a fresh guy who was 3 experience from leveling, and a rough match coming up in the finals with Robb's human team.

To me it made a lot of sense to pin in my opponent's 5 guys, punch them, and try to score with my fresh guy. To my opponent this decision was trying too hard, was unsporting, and was worth badgering me about. I guess he would have been happy if I stood back and let him get 5 passing experience. That would be fairer for sure. He'd suffer no more injuries, and he'd get some experience, and I'd still win the game. Does that make sense? If everyone always played that way I guess it might? But the game is called Blood Bowl. And in my experience most people don't pull up and let their opponent farm experience uncontested. I consider that to be pretty unsporting in a league sense, actually. I'd hate it if I was about to play against a team that got a bunch of unearned experience. So if my opponent had run away from the ball I don't know that I necessarily chase after him to kill his guys (and from past experience with my Dwarf team when someone had obviously given up and run away, I wouldn't have). Instead I just try to score twice to level up. But to stand back and let the opposition farm experience themselves? That just feels wrong.

In the moment I didn't really have a chance to think these things through. Getting yelled at for doing the only thing that makes sense to me shuts my brain down. I just wanted to get out of there. Part of me was strongly considering conceding myself and quitting the game entirely. Even now I'm still confused and debating if I want to join future leagues. Two of my last three games haven't been fun, and it feels like my opponents in those games didn't like playing against me the way I play. So maybe it would be for the best to just fade away and find something else to do? Something I can try hard at without feeling bad, since I don't have the ability to do something without trying.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Revisiting Poker HUDs

Last year I posted about a new (to me) type of poker software, the 'HUD' or Heads Up Display. Were these things legit? Were they useful? My brother left a comment asking me to let him know if I found a free one so he could give it a try. Off and on since then I've tried to do more research and find a good free one for him and have come to the following conclusions...

In general these things are actually legit. Poker Stars has a list of 118 allowed pieces of software. But there are also lists of illegal ones as well, and apparently the Poker Stars client does some scans to check if you're running any of the bad ones. (Reminds me of Final Fantasy XI running scans for fishing bots!) The keys to being a banned program seem to be things that share private information (folded hands between players) or things that gather information from outside sources. It's fine if you've played thousands of hands against a given opponent and can glean stats from those games since that's something you could have done with your own brain. It's not fine to download a file containing information on everyone. That last part was one of the biggest things making this stuff seem sketchy to me so I'm happy to see at least one site has come out to say it's not kosher.

In general these things seem to be quite profitable. It sounds like they really help you play multiple tables at once without missing as much. There are some that monitor your historical play compared to your current play and guess when you're on tilt. Then the software locks you out from playing to give you a chance to cool down. This seems like it could save some people an awful lot of money if it actually works. There are scripts which show you your outs, or which give you quick bet options so you don't need to think or drag sliders or whatever to always raise the same amount every time. That'll presumably let you squeeze in more hands or remove bet sizing tells or both which has to help.

How about being free? Well, it turns out in an environment where people understand how to critically look at the value of certain actions that something that makes you money is worth spending money for. And the sort of people who will make good use of this sort of program is exactly that sort of person. So the companies making these things rightly understand they can charge a reasonable amount of money for them and get paid off. It reminds me of the trading bot situation on Magic Online many years ago. And just like back then, there are a few free solutions available, but it sounds like these tend to be poorly supported and are basically just things people who were screwing around put together. There's an entire forum on the two plus two boards dedicated to them. I'm sure there's bound to be some good stuff in there, but also likely lots of buggy junk too.

There's also a way to get the commercial stuff for 'free', in a sense. Poker sites are big into affiliate recruiting it would seem. This is similar to the way Riot gave me some free IP for recruiting Sceadeau to play League of Legends, or how Blizzard gave me a free month for convincing Robb to play World of Warcraft. A poker site will give the software developer a bunch of money for getting you to sign up and play a ton of poker. In return the software developer will give you their software for free. Everybody wins!

Well, in a sense. The poker site and the software developer certainly win. If you win remains to be seen. The thing is there are tons of different affiliates kicking around and it's entirely possible that you could sign up through someone else who will pay you enough cash to buy the software with some left over. There doesn't seem to be a single spot listing what all the different options are, so it's hard to tell. I guess it's the sort of thing you'd need to research if you were really into it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blood Bowl: Huge Team Value Gap Reversal

Turbo 2 finished up yesterday with my stupidly high valued Skaven team bringing home the gold. The semifinal featured an opponent who concede on turn 5. I'd kicked to him, scored once, and was in position to likely score a second time. His two wights were badly hurt and had failed to regenerate. I'd used my apothecary and was pretty worried that some of my good players were going to die if the game continued. But I guess my opponent was on tilt and just didn't see any point in playing on. (His comments on Facebook beforehand certainly implied he didn't see any way he could possibly win. Which tends to generate self fulfilling prophecies I think! He couldn't win because he didn't think he could win.) Afterwards he said if I keep playing this team he won't play.

The finals were closer (I kept breaking saurus armour, but could never do more than KO them and the bloodwiser babe did her job getting the guys back up) and ended 3-2. We couldn't stop each other from scoring every time we touched the ball into right near the very end when I stopped his tieing drive. After the game he also asked if I was going to keep playing this team. Not as blunt about refusing to play against them, but definitely would rather play against a different team of mine rather than this 2140 beast. (One of my gutter runners got +ST after the game! The team is pretty insane.)

On the one hand this makes me sad. I really like my theme for the team, and this was my first Skaven team so I want to keep playing them and learn about what's going on with them so I get a better handle on how to beat them myself. But I do also like my lizardman team, and I like playing Blood Bowl in general, so I'm fine with switching teams for the next continuing league. I would like to play my Skaven team again at some point, but maybe we'll reach the point where enough other people have really high TV teams and will be willing to play against me.

My experience thus far has only been being the high TV team. I'm about to get a chance to play the other side of the equation. Duncan helps run a big league on FumBBL and they had someone quit in the middle of the season. Teams were allowed to enter the season with 1500TV and 100k in cash on hand. They've since been able to play 7 games. So these teams are pretty much in the same state as our Spring season teams. There's a team over 2000TV and 6 more over 1800. Most teams are around 1500. I can tag in, but it has to be with a brand new team. So I get a chance to play down a bajillion team value!

The league runs with team caps so my options for what team I could create were very limited. I could play one of the 5 worst teams in the game (Ogres, Halflings, Goblins, Underworld, and Vampires) or I could play the best low TV team (Amazons) or I could play the best mid-high TV team (Wood Elves). Not a lot of armour available in those options! Vampires would be the 'toughest' team, but they hurt their own guys! Amazon is probably the actual toughest team of the options and I have wanted to give them a try to see if I could figure out why they're the highest winning team at low TV in the box. I worry that playing against highly developed teams means lots of people will have tackle and block and my gals will just get knocked over and die, but it's not like any of the other options would live longer! At least Amazons are only 50k!

The league has vague theme rules as well. It emulates the NFL in layout so every team needs to be from a (potentially fictional) city. I decided I liked my Dwarf theme of musicians I like, and decided to see if I could find a city related to music to use. Detroit or Nashville for motown or country would make sense, but I don't really like those styles of music. There's a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame somewhere though, right? Turns out it's in Cleveland. It also turns out it's a pretty male biased institution with a very disproportionate amount of inductees being male. Heart was only just inducted this year and it's pretty ridiculous that it took that long! But I went through the list and was able to get a team together of all female inductees who's music I like.

But now what to call them? Is there a good term for female rock and roll stars? While thinking about that I decided to check out the existing teams in the league to see if anyone else was from Cleveland. (I knew from reading about the league that there were two Detroit teams and that is annoying to Duncan who writes the match recaps but isn't illegal.) It turns out there is a Cleveland team. It's a human team, and is simply called the Cleveland Men. Well, that solved the issue of what to name my team! The Cleveland Women are definitely better at Blood Bowl than the Cleveland Men!

Match assignments for the next 7 weeks of the league just came out. I think I get credit for my predecessors record, so I get to start out at 1-2-4. The top team in the division is 3-3-1, which actually isn't that far ahead. It's not inconceivable to catch up! Ok, maybe it's pretty unlikely, but it's worth a shot. Perhaps a bigger concern is just surviving and leveling a bit for the next season. My 7 games are against 2 Dark Elf teams, 2 Undead teams, a High Elf, a Necromantic, and smelly Dwarves. All much higher TV, but other than Dwarves probably survivable. The first match is against a 1360TV High Elf team and I used my entire million starting cash so I'll have 360k in inducements. The Cyanide inducements don't exist, so I can't get agility potions. On the other hand all the star players do exist, especially a guy with a chainsaw for only 110k. I think my options are going to be chainsaw, 2 bribes, and a bloodwiser babe or chainsaw, bribe, 2 bloodwiser babes, and a random card. My goal would be to keep the chainsaw in play for both halves, which means I need to keep 11 gals and the chainsaw around in order to avoid fielding him at the end of the first half. The second babe will help with that. Or I can just use the second bribe to cover that up. Bribes can also be used if I foul. I mean when I foul. I love fouling! And with my opponent only having 11 guys on his roster it seems like I can probably get a numbers advantage if I foul with bribes.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Plants vs Zombies Adventures

A new game just came out on Facebook and Ike pretty much immediately linked to an article about how this game merged two popular time wasters into one awesome game which was going to kill workplace productivity. The two games in question were Farmville and Plants vs Zombies. I actually played Farmville for a fair amount of time (basically until they removed the ability for me to give pigs to all my friends) and never really played the original Plants vs Zombies but really liked the World of Warcraft quest that spun off of it. And I love tower defense games in general. So even though I hate Facebook games with a passion after several of them bombed on me (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire stole my money, Scrabble started pausing games to serve ads, and Mystic Warlords of Ka'a took people's money and then shut down) I decided to give this a try.

On the surface the game starts off as a standard tower defense game. They moved away from the core Plants vs Zombies gameplay of having straight lines and infinite range plants and switched into a preset zombie path with finite plant range system. Not a big deal, but it is a change. You have peashooters and sunflowers and it all makes sense. Then the first twist gets thrown at you... Plants that you put down during a tower defense mission don't just cost you sunpower that you have to collect as usual. You have a finite number of these plants and when you use one on a given map it's gone forever. In order to keep playing map after map you need to generate a supply of these plants to use on each new map. The way you do this is by playing Farmville. Your town has 10 planter boxes and you can pay an ingame currency (coins) to grow more plants. The type of plant determines how many coins it costs to grow and how much time it takes.

How do you get coins to buy plants? Well, after each map any plants you use explode into a few coins, so you get a small amount of recycling that way. You can also build houses on your map that generate coins over time. Go to your town and click on the houses to get your coins out of them. They only build up coins for 3 or 4 hours though, so you better keep coming back often to get all of your coins! You also need to keep coming back often so you can grow more plants!

How do you get more houses? You spend another ingame currency (zombucks) on them. How do you get more of those? You do the tower defense missions and kill zombies! So it has nice interplay going on there. Play tower defense to get currency to play Farmville to get currency to play tower defense. Nice if the numbers are balanced properly, anyway. Terrible and frustrating if they're off in some way...

And off they are. I was able to play the game for maybe 45 minutes before I stopped being able to play. Part of this is not understanding what was going on. I gained the ability to make a new seed so I immediately planted a bunch of those in my farm garden. Turns out those seeds take an hour to grow, so half of my plots of land became worthless. It also turns out that the asparagus plant is strictly superior to the pea plant. (It shoots 4 square instead of 2 squares for the same amount of damage and same attack rate.) But it also turns out asparagus takes 10 minutes to grow instead of 1 minute. And costs twice as many coins. So while the tower defense missions are 'easier' with asparagus, you just get to do fewer of them since you can't grow enough plants to keep playing and you can't afford to buy them all even if you wanted to. So either I play with worse plants or I don't play as often as I want.

Or I pay them a bunch of money. Because that's what this game is designed to do, after all. Encourage microtransactions. There's a third type of ingame currency that you seem to only get by paying real money for it. You can spend this currency on pretty much anything you want. More planter boxes so you can get more plants? Done! Tons of coins? Done! $2.50 will get you a planter box. $20 will get you enough coins to buy 336 asparagus plants. Want a garden gnome for your town? (DO I?!) $1.50 and you can have one! Want to use beeshooters instead of peashooters? (They have more range and I suspect do more damage or attack faster.) You can't grow those at all. But you can buy them for a mere 40 cents each!

The numbers could be set up to make this a fun game I could play for a long time. Instead the numbers are designed so that I can pay them a lot of money in order to play for a long time. Or I can play for half an hour every 4 hours for free. It's set up to tell me when my friends outlevel me though, in order to guilt trip me into paying money when they do.

I can't say that I disagree with the design from a business point of view. The game was pretty fun for the 45 minutes I was able to play. I was able to unlock new things, and see achievements, and blow zombies up with plants. I'm sure there are plenty of people who will spend some money in order to play more often. But I hate this business model. Maybe because I'm a game locust who wants to play it all in one sitting and this business model is set up to get all of my money. It's not that I don't like paying money for games; I do. Even for free to play games, like League of Legends. I just hate having to pay extra in order to play at the rate I want to play, and I hate paying extra to be better.

So I'm not going to pay, and as such I'll probably end up not playing either. But if you're someone who plays games in shorter chunks than I do, or who wants to give the Popcap guys all of your money, give this one a try. It seems fun.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Blood Bowl: Mixing Fresh Teams In?

Our little Blood Bowl group has started running mini 8-player round robin leagues. The first one required all teams to be completely new which put everyone on even footing. Some people then wanted to keep playing those teams, but not everyone did... What to do? Ultimately we decided to start a new league for just fresh teams and then a new league for continuing teams or fresh teams. There wasn't really a better option if we wanted to let some teams keep playing, but how bad was the idea? Going forward should we have this sort of mixing or should we try to avoid it?

The mixed league had 3 teams continuing on and 5 fresh teams join in. In the games between a continuing team and a fresh team the continuing team had a record of 12 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss. If everything else was equal this would indicate the continuing teams had a huge advantage. I'm not sure everything is equal necessarily (I went 7-0 with my continuing team, but that same team had 6 wins and 2 draws in the first league). Teams 1 and 3 from the first league continued and finished 1 and 2 in this one. The top 4 of this league were the 3 continuing teams and the guy who came 2nd in the first league (and rolled a new team). So while there's certainly a relation between continuing on and winning there's also a relation between winning in the first league and winning in the second league.

Inducements are supposed to be a balancing factor, and in general I think they are, but there are a couple of factors at play in this particular situation that don't quite help. The first is that the TV gap was actually really big in some cases. My team is now over double Robb's in TV and when we played it was almost that big of a gap. And while some of the inducements are pretty good value there aren't enough of them to buy with a million bucks. You have to really scrape the bottom of the barrel.

The second issue is an even bigger deal, I think. Most teams right out of the box are not real teams. Either the team doesn't start with any skills or you don't have enough money to buy all the rerolls and positional players you need. Or both. A true starting team is struggling to be a team. A continuing team (especially one that has consciously chosen to continue as opposed to reroll) is going to be a real team. They'll have enough rerolls that they can make plays. They'll have an apothecary. They'll have block on a fair number of dudes, and probably some other important skills too. It's possible that they'll have mighty blow, or tackle. They'll have a guy with kick if they think it's important. If they're a team that fouls they'll have a guy with dirty player. The fresh team won't have any of those things at all. They may all be little things that give you small edges in a game, but those small edges will all add up to be a big difference in win chance.

Perhaps the biggest problem is people didn't seem to be having as much fun. My game against Sky was a Skaven mirror where my team was awesome and his team had 3 games experience. He'd pretty much given up before we'd even started. I only won by 1, so it was close, but it didn't sound like he liked the game as much as he would have liked a game against a more reasonable team.

As such, I feel like running a mixed league again is probably a mistake. On the plus side with 3 finished leagues now we have 21 possible teams to carry over instead of just 8 so we're unlikely to get into such a situation again.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 1

Board 1 – Dealer North – No Vul

I've decided to start up a matchpoint game in Jack Bridge and see how that goes. There are a few settings that can be changed when setting up a matchpoint game but I'm going to leave most of them alone. Competition difficulty is set to 4 (on a scale of 1-10) and I'm starting off in Flight D. So hopefully winning is a possibility! I'm going with 60 deals in a round, and there are 16 teams. Top 4 get promoted to Flight C, bottom 3 get demoted to Flight E.

Opponents convention card: Majeure cinquième.
Opponents playing strength: Adequate.

My hand:  Q J T 9 7 A T 6 3  A 6  J 8

Partner opens 1 diamond. I respond 1 spade. The opponents say nothing at all. 2 clubs from partner. I bid 2 hearts (4th suit forcing). He bids 3 diamonds which is alerted but I don't know what that's for. I have hearts stopped and no reason to suspect we have a fit anywhere so I bid 3NT. West leads the 4 of hearts.

 K 4
Q 9
 Q J 8 5 2
K Q 5 3

Q J T 9 7
A T 6 3
A 6
J 8

West North East South
1 Pass 1
Pass 2 Pass 21
Pass 32 Pass 3NT
Pass Pass Pass
14th Suit Forcing
22 of fewer spades, exactly 4 clubs

I have 1 heart and 1 diamond. I can easily set up 4 spades, 2 clubs, and at least 1 diamond. With the heart lead I have those double stopped and will get a second heart trick as well. I will definitely lose a spade, and a club, and a heart, and probably a diamond too. So I need to make sure I don't lose a second trick in any suit.

Hearts first, since that's what they lead. 4-Q-7-3. I definitely need to set up spades. K-A-7-5. East goes back to hearts. 8-6-J-9. West decides to just exit his hand with a spade. 6-4-3-9. I have hearts stopped two more times if West leads, so I'm happy to lose a trick to him but not so much to East. On the other hand I'm almost stranded from board now. If they hold up diamonds and clubs then I can't get over there to cash extra clubs or diamonds. I think I need to make them discard some on spades to see if I can get some information. Q-2-2 of diamonds-8. J-5 of hearts-5 of diamonds-6 of clubs. T-7 of clubs-3 of clubs-4 of clubs.

They pitched a heart. So they only have 2 hearts left between the two of them, and can't set up a heart anymore. If the last two hearts are split they have nothing to set up. If they're together whoever has them can't play them without giving me a heart. They also pitched 3 clubs and no diamonds. But I still don't know the right way to go. I feel like the safest play is to cash A of diamonds, out a diamond. This sets up a diamond and then I can cover my J of clubs to force an entry to said diamond if they force me back into my hand with a heart. And I don't really see a way to get 10 tricks unless they've misplayed and set up both my hearts. Run it! A-4-8-3. 6-9 of clubs-J-K. East returns a diamond. Hmm. I fear I've set up their diamonds. T-T of hearts-2 of clubs-Q. I play a club, East has the A. And two more diamonds. Oops.

 K 4
Q 9
 Q J 8 5 2
K Q 5 3

6 5 2
K J 5 4 2
T 9 7 2

♠ A 8 3
8 7
K T 9 7 3
A 6 4

Q J T 9 7
A T 6 3
A 6
J 8

Professor Jack disagrees with bidding 3NT. He wants me to bid 3 hearts and force to game. I don't want to play in a 4-3 heart fit and it's really hard for me to imagine his hand is exactly 0-4-5-4 which is the only setup which makes his bidding make sense while giving us a heart fit. But I guess it's possible. He also disagrees with cashing the A of diamonds and wants me to play on clubs. The play that actually makes sense since that's what they'd been pitching. Especially since it turns out East didn't have a low club left and therefore couldn't have held up on my J of clubs lead.

3NT - 2 was the worst score on the board and was worth a total of 0 MPs. 5 of the 8 pairs made a NT contract and 2 others went down a mere 1.
Ranking after board 1/60: 16/16 with 0.00%

Friday, May 17, 2013

League of Legends: Sona

I recently picked up a new champion solely because she had an awesome skin on sale for essentially all of the RP I had lying around. Arcade Sona was the skin, and it's pretty sweet. Instead of playing a piano like the normal Sona skin she has an arcade console. But most of the people I've been playing with recently have preferred to play support, so I haven't had a chance to bust her out. This morning Sceadeau and I ended up playing for about 12 hours and a fair number of those games I was playing support.

Sona has changed since I last played her a year or two ago. Back then she had a 2 second global cooldown on her three main abilities so it was really important to choose the right button at the right time or you'd be locked out from casting what you actually wanted for a couple seconds. That seems to be gone now, which is probably a good thing. You end up with a passive aura from the last button you press, and your auto attack gets modified by the last button you press, so there's still a lot of things going on in terms of the order you press buttons and such. But those buttons cost a fair amount of mana and being able to hit all your buttons in short order can be quite a drain on the mana pool.

My first couple games I built a mana manipulator, a chalice of harmony, and two philospher's stones. Mana still felt tight for most of the game, and buying all that mana regen felt like it was setting me back in terms of buying wards and getting aura items. Sceadeau suggested maybe getting a tears of the goddess even though he didn't think it built into anything good for a support. Tears has probably been my favourite item in the game so I gave it a spin. It seemed to work reasonably well, and I even upgraded it into an archangel's staff a couple of times. I still built one philosopher's stone (I think shurelya's is practically a mandatory item for support) and found mana wasn't much of an issue in the mid to late game with the tear build. It's also cheaper than the other stuff I was building, which meant I could buy pink wards and the sightstone on a pace more like what I'm used to.

Has anyone else tried tears out on Sona? Do you have a built that works better for you?

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Back at the start of the year I bought a big bundle of 'indie' vidoe games on sale on Steam. It turns out two of those games were games that made use of music files on your computer in order to build levels based on the music. I wrote about the first one, Symphony back in January and was not a fan thanks to difficulty level issues. Would Audiosurf fare any better?

Audiosurf is essentially a racing/puzzle game set to your music. You're on a three lane highway and different coloured blocks appear in the lanes. If you drive over a block you collect it and store it in a 3x7 grid of collected blocks. Get 3 or more connected blocks of the same colour in your grid and they disappear and score you points. Play a slower song and you drive uphill and get fewer blocks. Play a faster song and you drive downhill and get tons of blocks.

The game has many different modes/difficulty levels, and they're all unlocked right from the start. Considering that I gave up on Symphony because it wouldn't let me jump ahead in difficulty levels this is a very good thing. On the other hand I have a hard time processing which blocks I want to get and which I want to skip at the speed of the game, so I actually don't need the harder difficulty levels! I'm likely to just play the easier ones anyway. (One of the modes gives you extra random power-ups which help me clear out my grid without making a plan, so I'm liking that one so far.)

If there's one complaint I have with the game (and it's one that Symphony shares) it's that I have to keep picking a song each time I want to play. I don't want to have to choose my song; I want the ability to get a random song from my collection. MP3 players have had a random shuffle option for as long as I can remember! Why can't these games work that technology in? Also, I have to choose a game mode each time too. It would be really nice to have it keep the same game mode going unless I say I want to change in a menu instead of making me choose every time.

I currently have the high score for the medium difficulty across all people who have ever played "Dancing On My Own Ground - Gowan"! Woo! Don't you mind the fact that only 4 people have ever played it at all!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Popeing Consequences

A few years ago I posted some thoughts about 'Popeing', the practice of using potentially deceptive words during a game to convince an opponent to take an action better for you than the one they're likely to choose on their own. I certainly am guilty of doing (at least) my fair share of Popeing, and I actually really like games where Popeing is a key part of the game. (Diplomacy is pretty much entirely Popeing with a little bit of tactical movement. Battlestar Galactica has a really core Popeing component while there are unrevealed cylons.) But I tend to get annoyed when otherwise 'normal' games devolve into a Popefest. Puerto Rico is like that for me. I don't like playing the game when every move has comments from every player because I find it adds too much time to the game and makes it mentally draining in a way I don't enjoy.

A couple of situations have arisen recently where someone said things and/or made 'deals' that they later rescinded when the game state changed favorably for them. In both cases I'd argue that the game state only reached that position because of what they'd said, and that by then taking the actions they did they broke their word and acted unethically. In neither case were there any in game consequences for their actions, and I don't even know what could have happened. Both cases were very distasteful for me, but both are things that could well have happened in a Diplomacy game and would have been hailed as great plays there, and not as cheating in any way at all. So maybe the problem is just with me and my black-and-white way of looking at things. Maybe I need to learn that just because someone says they'll do something doesn't mean they actually will and that I have to analyze a board state assuming they'll go back on their word?

The first one happened in a game of Risk Legacy. It's a Risk variant where you play to 4 points instead of to global conquest, and where you play 15 games in a row and the goal is not just to win an individual game but to have won the most games after 15 are played. In one of those games Pounder established a treaty with someone else to not attack each other. The other person didn't defend that border and left a juicy path to their home city (and a victory point). Pounder hit 3 points from other sources and went for the 4th by breaking his truce. He did it, won that game from out of nowhere, and is in a good position to win the entire campaign thanks to the snowballing effect of wins and the fact the rest of us are unwilling to properly punish him for his lie. I want to lower Pounder's chances of winning a given game, but I'm not willing to significantly lower my own to accomplish it. That would just help Sky win, and we can't have that now can we?

So the moral of that story seems to be that breaking a treaty for a win carries no consequences at all. In fact, it mostly seems like the end result of Pounder breaking a treaty isn't that no one makes treaties with Pounder. It's that no one makes treaties at all. The unwritten social rules of our games have changed to line up with the way Pounder played. So it seems like his play was just a smart one. Treaties clearly weren't something the table actually cared very much about, so his willingness to break them worked well for him.

The second one was in a game of Blood Bowl that I was watching. Brent and Robb were playing and Robb was in a commanding position. Brent was down on men (he had 7 left in play and 2 in the KO box), Robb was up 1-0 and had the ball in an unassailable position. He was able to score trivially and Brent didn't even have a low percentage shot to stop it. All but one of Brent's guys were on the ground and Robb was about to hit the last one. Robb is a methodical player and tends to take the full 4 minutes for his turns. Brent sounded frustrated over voice chat and asked Robb to not waste more time than he needed to. With 6 turns left this request would probably save everyone 15-20 minutes of time. But even in such a dominant position there's lots of things the winner needs to consider:

  • Can I prevent my opponent from getting any 2 die blitzes with his guys on the ground? (Important because having guys get hit risks getting them injured.)
  • Can I prevent my opponent from getting any 1 die blitzes with his guys on the ground?
  • Do I even want to score a second time? Scoring means having to kick off, which means three of my guys are going to get hit. I think the answer is going to be yes almost always, but it's still something to consider.
  • If I score, when should it be? Can my opponent score 3 times to win? Can they score 2 times for the tie? Are they so beaten down that I can reasonably score again myself?
  • Can I choose who on my team is going to score? Personally I like scoring with 'unlikely' guys like the agility 1 saurus on my Lizardman team. 6 of my 8 touchdowns on that team have been scored by such players. (You do this to level up important guys since scoring a touchdown is a key way to earn experience.)
  • Should I foul someone? A successful foul on a good player will often change some of the above answers. I could totally see fouling a dude and then scoring fast if it works and stalling until the end if I got kicked out because the difference in player numbers will have a big impact on my odds of scoring the third touchdown versus their odds of scoring twice.
Robb was going to end up taking a lot of time thinking about these things (and probably more). Brent didn't want to sit around while he got dominated. So he told Robb straight up that his plan was to leave all his guys on the ground. If somehow his one standing guy stayed standing he was going to dodge around until he fell down too. Robb has been on the receiving end of some brutal games (my Skaven beat his Dark Elves up pretty badly recently) so I imagine he felt a little sorry for Brent. No need to prolong suffering in people, especially if it might drive them away from the game. So Robb stopped thinking about most of the positional stuff. He decided to score with his Ogre (after a little pressure from Sceadeau and myself) and tried a risky hand-off. It failed and the ball ended up in a somewhat vulnerable position. But that shouldn't matter, because Brent was going to just pass his turn...

Nope. Brent stood a guy up and went for a 1 die blitz in an attempt to get at the ball. The ball was in a vulnerable spot, but only because Robb didn't bother spending time to secure the location first. Because Brent asked him not to waste time. Brent justified his play by saying he only told Robb what his plan was, not that he'd promised to go through with that plan. Now that the game state had shifted (it was now entirely plausible for Brent to tie the game) he didn't feel like he should be tied down with his previous statement. And given the board state at the time it's absolutely right to try to get the ball and score. If Robb had made a catastrophic misplay then absolutely you should pounce on it. My problem is that Robb didn't really make a catastrophic misplay. He played quickly to do Brent a favour. Is there really a difference between the two? For me there is, but maybe that's a greyer area for other people.

It ended up not mattering since Brent's 1 die blitz resulted in an attacker down result. Robb then took the time to set up better positioning and went on to score with a blitzer instead of the Ogre after several handoff attempts to the Ogre (closer to the end zone) failed.

Will there be consequences from this one? Maybe the metagame should shift the same way the Risk Legacy one did, with no one giving their opponent the benefit of the doubt. But I think Blood Bowl is such a relatively long game and causes such intense feelings of despair in some people when they get into a bad spot that going skate to throat on them isn't really a good idea. I've had people say they were just going to end turn with all their guys on the ground in the past, and they've done it, and I think it was good for the health of the league that I let that happen. So I hope things don't shift to prevent that from happening. On the other hand, if I ever get Brent into such a situation I'm going to assume he's just playing possum and plan accordingly. He's shown the willingness to ask for mercy and then stab for the win if it becomes viable. Which is an awesome trait for a Diplomacy player to be sure, but maybe not so good for a Blood Bowl player who might actually want mercy at some point. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blood Bowl: One Turn Touchdowns

Way back in the day when we played Blood Bowl in Comfy Prime there were only three teams with the possibility of scoring in one turn (and I don't think Byung really went for that play with his Goblins). Sky had a guy who could move 13 spaces in one turn and I was happy to risk killing off my Halflings by throwing them down field on the chance of a quick score. Everyone else had to take multiple turns to score, and therefore stalling your score until turn 8 would have been a great plan.

When I first started playing again on the Cyanide game I again started with Halflings. I remember making some comment on Vent about liking how they could possibly score in one turn when they had to and Sceadeau said something about how with proper pushing even a guy with 6 movement could potentially score in one turn. Well, that's weird enough, and an interesting factoid, but I didn't really see how and mostly ignored it.

When I started playing on FumBBL I went through their help files and one of them was a summary of one turn touchdowns. Including one for the 6 movement guy! A blitz, a move, and 7 blocks! All of the hits need to be pushes except the last one. Then two go for its and you're in the end zone. No problem!

I read about them, and I kept my eye open for ways to do it, but rarely would my opponent set up in the position listed on the pictures and I didn't really understand what was going on so I couldn't adapt. I tried a few things with my human team without much success. I tried something against one of Brent's teams but messed up the opening blitz. But all those missteps helped to figure out a little bit about what was going on.

Here's the basic idea... You need to get yourself into a position where you can make a block which pushes an enemy parallel to the end zone. All 3 legal push squares need to be occupied by units of some kind. One of those squares should be the potential scorer (or I guess he could be further down the line?). Because the initially blocked dude went parallel to the end zone you can push your scorer diagonally toward the end zone. This will get you one of the 13 needed spaces. I did just this last week against Sky. I had a guy who could move 12 spaces but needed that one extra space. I probably could have made a couple more pushes to get rid of the go-for-its, but I was just happy to get that one step along.

How do you get into that initial position? Unless you rolled a quick snap you probably need to use your blitz to push someone on the line of scrimmage into your team. If the enemy clumped up in a pile this is pretty easy. Get behind them and push them diagonally into your line of scrimmage. That's the position shown in all the pictures on the FumBBL page. If they set up split up the twist I had to add was to leave an empty hole on your line of scrimmage. Then you can blitz the guy backward into that empty hole without needing to occupy all 3 potential push locations. Grab would also work great for this. Leave an empty hole and you can push the guy into the hole on your side of the field without using your blitz. That seems like it gives you an extra chance in case the first one fails. (You need all these hits to result in pushes so the guy stays standing and you can keep blocking him. Knocking him down is actually bad for you, oddly enough.)

Hmm... My Dwarf team has a guy with grab and a 7 movement dude... Also some dudes with frenzy which can probably help make multiple pushes! I should come up with some sort of plan for scoring in one turn with my Dwarves! Wouldn't that be surprising!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Actual Heroes VI

Three days after submitting a ticket to Ubisoft with regards to my Might and Magic: Heroes VI issue where they sold me a non-functional game they got back to me. The ticket contained no useful information, and basically just told me that they made some changes on the back end and I should try again. It turns out they did fix some things on the back end and the content I should own has been unlocked. Frustrating that it took a few days to get my old game working but I guess it's a good thing that it works now.

I started up the campaign and managed to lose the first tutorial mission in an hour and a half. I'd set it to hard difficulty despite not having played a version of the game in a dozen years and paid the price. It turns out when you have a limited number of units it really hurts to lose some early. Those early losses get compounded over and over again as it takes too long to win every future fight which lets the enemies kill even more dudes. I immediately had to restart and try again. This time went much better now that I knew where the unit pickups were so I got all my spare orcs before doing the midboss fight which cost me all my archers the first time around.

Then I went into the second mission and had the game crash on me. *sigh*

I had a couple people comment on my first post that I should just go buy Heroes III instead of worrying about getting Heroes VI working. That may well have been the better idea. I'm not blown away by the upgraded graphics in VI and I don't like when my games crash randomly. I wonder if VI has a good auto-save feature or if I'm stuck restarting the mission. I wasn't very far in, so it won't be a big loss, but if the game often crashes I'd need to start saving a lot and that just sounds annoying.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blood Bowl Missing Player Bug

There's an issue with the Cyanide Blood Bowl client where sometimes one of your players will just disappear while setting up for a kick-off. You'll only have 10 guys on the field while setting up, but after you finish setting up the 11th guy will show up in a random spot. This can be merely annoying (unimportant lineman who shows up near the front lines) to fairly crippling (your guy who is supposed to pick up the ball spawns on the line of scrimmage in tackle zones). No one really knew what to do to stop it from happening and mostly we just complain about it when it happens. A while ago I found a thread on the official forums talking about how if you click on a player while your opponent is setting up it can confuse the game and cause the bug to happen. Since reading that thread I've tried my best to stop clicking around and have pretty much managed to avoid getting hit by the bug. It is SO tempting to click around and see what my opponent is doing while he's setting up, though. I really want to start making my plan and in order to do that I need to know who he's putting where. I've found since I started doing this I'm not getting hit by the bug, but I am coming closer to timing out since I need to spend more of my 2 minutes of set up time on looking at his dudes. A small price to pay, I guess.

Earlier this week I got hit by the bug, but I knew exactly what I was doing when it happened. I was looking at my own team! I had one of my guys selected and my opponent finished his setup. Then my players all moved around into the 'default' kicking setup and the guy I had selected was gone! But my cursor was in the 'place a guy' state instead of the normal 'pick a guy' state. I guessed that maybe I still had my invisible guy selected, so I right clicked an empty square. The invisible guy appeared! Woo!

I don't know that this is the only way the bug can occur (I wouldn't be surprised if there were lots of setup bugs) but it seemed like really useful information to share. If one of your guys disappears the very first thing you should do is right click an empty square. If the disappeared guy was selected you'll be able to place him down and save yourself a lot of annoyance and frustration. You'll have to do this right away, since if you left click anywhere else you'll lose the selection on the invisible guy. This seems like a fairly hard thing to do, since the initial temptation is going to be to start clicking and moving guys before counting to 11. So maybe the right play is to get in the habit of just right clicking an empty square before doing anything else regardless of the state of your setup. I don't think it can hurt if you aren't hit by the bug, and it could help if you are.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Might & Magic: Heroes VI

A new expansion was recently released for Might & Magic: Heroes VI. I really liked the old Heroes games, so I asked Sky if he knew anything about this new version. He said it was like the old ones but without any real improvements. Well, that was good enough for me! Steam had the base game on sale (this is how I found out about the expansion) so I figured it was a reasonable thing to pick up. Not the expansion, not any of the DLC content... Just the base game that came out in 2011. I don't need cutting edge here, and actually tend to actively avoid cutting edge games because they tend to have bugs or be unfinished...

I download the huge game (11 gigs!) and settle in this morning to give it a spin. Steam launches some other game service (uPlay) which in turn launches Heroes VI. I eventually get into the game and find a bunch of options... Campaign, custom game, load game, options, unlock content... Those sorts of things. I want to play the campaign! Click on it and get given a list of locked campaigns and get prompted to go buy them. That's weird... I bought the game, right? It must have come with a campaign! Each of the locked campaigns has an 'enter your key here' window, so maybe I need to use the CD key again? Nope. When I try it says the key was already used (when I registered it in uPlay). Huh. Maybe when I bought the base game on Steam it didn't come with any campaigns?

Oh well, I can still figure out how the game works on a custom map, right? Wrong. It turns out every single custom map is also locked. I don't own any maps at all, but uPlay is happy to give me a link to the store so I can go buy them if I want. I don't want. I already paid money for the game and it should let me do SOMETHING!

Maybe I'm just missing the 'obvious' button that lets me play my game? I donno, I'm generally pretty good about figuring out new UIs. Eventually I turned to searching the internet for a solution. It now sounds like a patch Ubisoft put out for the new expansion completely broke the base game. uPlay isn't passing the CD key through to the game itself, so while it took and used my CD key it didn't actually do anything. So despite buying a game that's been out for a year and a half I've been burned by shoddy DRM and a buggy release.

How is this so hard? I should be able to buy an older game and just play it. I'm all for paying for games, but when garbage like this happens it makes me just want to go pirate the game. I can't play the game I paid you for because of your bad attempt to keep me from stealing it. It isn't actually keeping anyone in the know from stealing it. It's just pissing me off.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


I got an email in response to my post on Monday from Aidan who let me know he plays badminton every week at a school pretty near where I live. I was welcome to tag along even though I'm completely out of shape and don't really have the gear to play. I've decided saying no to things is a bad idea, especially when they're things I want to do. So, off I went!

It turns out I really am completely out of shape. By the end of the first game I was pretty close to complete collapse. I'd brought a water bottle with me, so I took a break, lay down for a bit, and drank a stupid amount of water. I figure I drank close to 3 liters of water by the end of the night. Apparently that's as much water as an average man should drink in a day, and I chugged it down in a couple of hours!

I did end up recovering, and I played 3 more games. I feel like I'm going to pay the price for this tomorrow since my elbow is already sore and I have a skinned knee. (And a melted section of my pant leg to go with it!) I simply don't have an analog setting for how much I'm willing to try at things. I am playing badminton, so I am going to do everything I can! If that means diving for a birdie I can't possibly get to because I'm rusty, so be it! But it was good to actually get out and do something!

I'm reminded of playing badminton in gym class back in junior high and high school. (15-19 years ago...) I tended to hate 'phys ed'. Super book nerd with no physical skills to speak of did not like getting marks based on how many push ups I could do or how fast I could run around the city. But I loved the part of the year where we played badminton. I would team up with Adam Mutch and we were surprisingly good. He was a pretty big boy, and I was super unathletic, but we both wanted to win and we were good complements. He always played far back and had the power to make the deep to deep hits and the foot speed/wing span to cover the whole back of the court. I played up front and made good use of my diving and drop shot skills. Good times in a generally terrible class.

On a similar topic, I decided I should weigh in on the Wii Fit before starting to exercise again. It turns out I hadn't hoped on there since mid October. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I feel like that was around when I decided to go really hardcore into avoiding the glutens. Which meant cutting out most cookies and chips. I was really close to the 'overweight' category back then, but it would seem I've lost 10 pounds in the last 7 months just from eating differently. Woo!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Minimal League Points

When the new league system came out in League of Legends I was winning 25 points with a win and losing 17 with a loss. Get to 100 to become eligible for promotion! It didn't take all that long for me to get promoted a couple of times. I then stopped playing as much (mostly playing a lot of Blood Bowl) and they made some changes to the way league points are calculated. I haven't been able to find any details about how it works, but how it's working for me makes me very sad.

You're not allowed to get demoted below a league type so they've made it so it's hard to get promoted into a new league type. I'm right near the very top of the silver leagues, and when I slowed down I was at about 80 of the 100 needed LP. I've started playing more ranked games again, and the number of points up for grabs seems to have drastically changed. I now seem to win 3 when I win and lose 4 when I lose. I guess this means I don't actually deserve to be up in the gold leagues based on my hidden matchmaker rating?

It's a little frustrating. I'd like to have a chance of getting promoted or demoted, but as it currently stands it looks like I'm pretty much stuck at the top of Silver 1.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Revisiting Piling On

I crunched some numbers a couple months ago and came to the conclusion that piling on is the best skill for taking people out. It has downsides, but if all you care about is getting a numbers advantage piling seemed like the way to go. I've now played a fair number of games with the piling on skill and am probably in a better spot to look at the downsides.

The biggest downside for me is that typically my guy with piling on is going to be the one I most want to hit with. He probably has mighty blow and/or tackle and few other players on my team are likely to have those skills. This means I really want to be blocking or blitzing with him every turn in order to get the numbers advantage. But if he piles on he removed himself from blocking on the next turn, and he makes it harder to blitz with since he has to spend 3 of his movement standing up. This restricts how far he can walk, which limits his potential targets on the next turn. Also, if piling on didn't pierce armour, the guy he hit last turn is going to be standing beside him this turn. This means blitzing is going to require a dodge, or having someone else clear away the other dude.

Getting fouled has actually not been a terribly big deal. I can do a reasonable job of putting other guys in the area to take away potential fouling assists, and it turns out most people just don't have dirty player on their team. This is a big mistake I think, but I'm happy to take advantage of it. On teams that do have dirty player they tend to become target #1 for the piling on dude. Typically dirty players won't have other skills or defensive stats so they're easy to take out! And if I end up having to stand beside an enemy in order to get the blitz in I actually find I'm happier being on the ground instead of standing up where I can be trivially hit back.

One of my piling on dudes did spectacularly well. He scored up 7 casualties in one game, leveled again, rolled doubles, and got jump up. That guy was incredible. He could piling on every turn, and then if the enemy stood up he could just do it again without eating up my blitz action. Of course he was also a lightning rod for the enemy teams and died not too long afterwards. Oh well!

For the most part I feel like the downsides of piling on are actually downsides. When it works out and guys fall off the pitch it's such a huge advantage, but if you piling on a couple times without removing anyone (which is an entirely reasonable outcome) I find positions tend to fall apart. I want to have more guys standing every turn if I'm going to win positioning battles, and I want to be able to blitz down key targets. It's definitely a high risk, high reward skill. I would never take it over mighty blow. Even though mighty blow has slightly worse numbers the fact that you stay standing and can therefore keep blocking them if they stand up makes it better I think. My dwarves still don't have anyone with piling on, but have 4 guys with mighty blow, and have no problem winning games by just punching as many times as possible every turn.

But once you have mighty blow, piling on is still really good. It's risky, and I now feel like just using it every opportunity is probably wrong. If you knock a generic dude down and don't break his armour then you may well be better off staying standing in order to hit him again next turn instead of piling on and hoping. But if the target is important it may totally be worth going all-in and trying to hurt him right now. My human team often wins by getting a man advantage so having piling on and trying to get lucky seems like a reasonable course of action. On the other hand my Skaven team probably shouldn't be winning via attrition (though it totally is) and therefore may not have been a good place for piling on. On the other hand they can get claw too, so I can get the best killer in the game! And while it may not be game winning to piling on a few zombies or something I can see winning games by selectively removing my opponent's best football players. Piling on into ghouls or skinks would be pretty hot!

Monday, May 06, 2013

Unemployed. Woo?

Today marked my last day on the job. I'm a creature of habit and routine so no longer needing to wake up every morning to get on the subway is going to be quite a change, but hopefully my (temporary?) 'retirement' will work out for the best. I know a wide variety of people who expressed some level of interest in an update on this matter, and it'll have some impact on the blog going forward, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to post about.

First of all, I will now have even more time to play games! I have so many games I want to play and haven't had nearly enough time to play them all. I still won't, but it'll be closer!

Playing off of that, I hope to now be able to spend more time out playing games with people. I feel like I have a limit to how much time I can spend around people without getting stressed out, and work took up most/all of that limit. Not having to ride public transit for a couple hours a day and spend 8 hours in an office building should be a big help. On the flip side, I suspect I could easily turn into a hermit if left to my own devices and that's probably not a good thing either. So, more games with real people! Woo!

I feel like I have a very high level of 'sleep inertia'. I hate going to sleep, and I hate waking up. So the plan, at least to start, is to not set alarms anymore and just get up when I wake up. I expect this will screw with blog timings, but I refuse to let that get in my way. As I said, I am a creature of routine, and I need the regularity of daily blog posts. But with my 'days' going to end up in a weird spot with odd sleep schedules things may get wonky. So I've decided that if I end up getting a post for a day up at 3am 'the next day' that it's ok. I'll backdate it to 11:55 on the right day and not think twice about it. I'll get 7 posts up each week, spaced out to be pretty much one per day, and with a SNES post on Saturday.

Some people may be worried about where this will lead. As Pounder will say, I don't exactly have good life skills. I joke with my sister that I'm going to become a hobo and live in a box. But that's not actually going to happen. I should be eligible for EI, but even without it I have enough money saved up that I can live as is for quite some time. I may look into finding a cheaper place to live (no need to pay a premium to live at a subway station when I don't go anywhere) but I'm here until at least the end of July thanks to Ontario rental laws. So plenty of time to figure things out in that regard! And I have a ton of confidence that I can find a job if/when I need to. I haven't neglected myself to death yet, and I don't plan on starting now!

I hope to use this time to find a doctor and really figure out what is going on with this gluten junk. Stupid glutenses. I also plan to actually exercise since I keep reading everywhere that it makes you feel better. My initial idea is to get an exercise bike and ride it while watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I would like to start playing badminton or tennis again, but I am so abysmally out of shape that just doing something aerobic first is probably a good idea. Maybe I'll even finally get around to taking some sort of dance class? That may be too ambitious.

So... Games? Games??? Games! Send me an email or something and let's play some games!

Sunday, May 05, 2013


Randy posted a link to a web game on Facebook last week with the warning: "Those of you who are vulnerable to getting sucked into random games may not want to click this link, but here it is in case you're feeling brave:" An evil warning, that one. Maybe some people could turn away, but I see it more as a taunt than a warning. I'm not a coward!

The game turned out to be an interesting game harking back to the old days of BBS door games. It has similarities to Facebook games I despise in that the actions you can take are time limited. It isn't nearly as annoying in this game since there's no way to spend money to bypass an artificial time gate. A game with timing and pacing set by the developer with the only goal being to set pacing is actually just fine by me. Odd as it may sound to most people I actually liked the idea of having to wait for a boat in Final Fantasy XI or World of Warcraft. The ability to just teleport straight to more action is appealing to many people but I liked the way it was. The reason Facebook games frustrate me to no end is they put in artificial gates not for timing, or pacing, or realism but for annoyance. They want you to pay them money and they can't think of a way to make you pay them money except by threatening to annoy you if you don't. Me, I just don't play those games anymore.

At any rate, Candy Box is actually a pretty reasonable game. There are relevant decisions to make, puzzles to figure out, and tricky combat scenes to work through. Just like the good BBS door games of old. The combat is a little too fast for me (I think I must be getting old) so I don't know that I'm going to actually finish the game, but it is certainly worth checking out if you like seeing numbers go up, or if you like candy!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Better Lucky Than Good?

Something I've been running into a lot lately while playing Blood Bowl, both on Cyanide and on FumBBL, is people getting really bitter at the dice. They'll fail at something they think should have succeeded, or I'll succeed at something they think should have failed. But instead of remembering this is a game with small numbers of dice, or buckling down and trying to push through, they'll start complaining about how lucky I am. In some of these cases the dice were actually pretty skewed in my favour (we run a program on Cyanide at least that lets us parse the log after a game to see what was actually rolled over the game) but in many cases things just worked out in a reasonable manner.

I never know how to respond. Nevermind the fact that I can't really tell if I'm lucky or not on the fly, and that I'll have a natural tendency to defend myself from an incoming attack regardless of validity... If I could establish that the dice have come out in my favour what should I do? Apologize for getting lucky? Throw the ball on the ground to make it fair? If I knew the dice were 'fair' what should I do? Argue back about it? Ignore the complaints and hope they stop? What about if the actual situation is that they're getting lucky but just playing terribly? Should I point that out? I don't know how I should react even if I knew what the situation really is so it's really hard to know what to do when I don't know where we stand!

I've tried pushing back by pointing out good rolls they've had, or bad rolls I've had. I've tried completely ignoring the comments. I've tried being snooty and throwing their comments back in their face. (Which resulted in a chat session on FumBBL that escalated pretty badly. He spent 45 minutes insulting me, I spent 45 minutes responding to every line with 'Diced!'.) I've tried trying to diffuse the situation with self-deprecation. "Better Lucky Than Good!" None of it seems to make my opponent stop whining, and I always end up having less fun as a result.

I understand getting frustrated when you think the dice are going against you. I understand getting frustrated when you make a mistake and it costs you. I don't understand what complaining about the dice to me is going to accomplish. I don't understand how I'm supposed to respond.

Maybe I need to find a way to change the way I view the complaints. To me, when my opponent complains about the dice and how lucky I am to be winning I interpret that as them saying that with fair dice they'd be beating me. That once we take luck out of the equation they'd be beating me because they're better than I am. And maybe they are. I'm not yet good enough at the game to be able to say for sure one way or the other.

I do feel like I've been doing a pretty good job, especially with my Skaven team, of putting my opponent into bad situations. People keep making multiple one-die blocks and extra dodges against me. I give my opponent the rope to hang themselves with turnover prone actions, my opponents take the chances, and sometimes they fail. And then Skaven are so fast that I'm in a much better position to take advantage of a turnover than most teams are. On the flip side, I think I've gotten better at planning out my actions to make sure that when I do make a turnover (and I do make plenty of them, despite being 'lucky') they aren't as dangerous. These probably combine to make it feel to my opponents like I'm getting lucky (when their dice fail they get seriously punished) and making it less likely they feel like I'm getting unlucky (when my dice fail it isn't so bad).

Or maybe I need to start taking glee in getting called lucky? I'm going to feel sad when I feel I'm unlucky so letting myself feel bad when I get lucky is just making every state a bad one. Though I am also working on feeling less bad when I feel unlucky, too!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Final Fantasy VIII: Good or Evil?

In pretty much every Final Fantasy game it's very obvious what side your party is on. You are good. You are fighting the obvious forces of evil. Sometimes the big bad guy is obvious, sometimes it's shrouded in mystery and there are plot twists along the way. But even when it's shrouded, like in FFIV, you still know your party is obviously the good guys. Something evil is going on and you're going to put a stop to it! FFVI has lots of plot twists, but it is again obvious that Kefka is _EVIL_ and it's a good thing that you're trying to stop him. Kefka is in favour of committing genocide for power. He gleefully poisons a town of civilians. Eventually he gets godlike powers and shoots laser beams at innocent people for sport. He is evil, you are good, and that's all there is too it.

In Final Fantasy VIII you start off as a student in a mercenary school. Your first mission is to help defend a town under invasion, which sounds like a good thing to do. But it turns out this invasion isn't meant to conquer the city; in fact the army withdraws soon after they arrive. They're only there to repair a broadcast tower they once owned. Were there negotiations involved? I can imagine where the army asked the city to repair the tower, and volunteered to do it themselves, and were rebuffed. Is deliberately suppressing technology from a former enemy something good people do?

Next up, my party gets sent out to help out a rebel group that's fighting for the freedom of their city. Sounds like a pretty noble cause. But there's not actually a fight going on. Instead we're brought in to kidnap the president and browbeat him into relinquishing control of the city. A city that presumably was conquered legitimately in a war many years ago. It's not really clear that the president could even trivially hand over the city even if he wanted to. If a group of Iraqi people kidnapped Obama in order to get US troops to leave would that be seen as an obviously good action?

That doesn't work, and the president in fact uses the broadcast tower from before to reveal that he's got a sorceress as his assistant now. A different sorceress was responsible for the big war in the recent past so people start freaking out. Obviously this new sorceress has to be planning to do the same thing, right? So my party gets put in charge of assassinating her. In a preemptive strike. This poor woman has done nothing except have some magical powers and rather than give her some rope to hang herself like most good parties would, we just head out to kill her off. I guess this is the sort of thing that actually does happen in real world politics, with Hussein and Bin Laden and such. US culture seems to think such strikes are good things. I'm not convinced. I certainly don't think they're obviously good actions.

A bunch of stuff happens. We take out the sorceress and her powers shift to a member of my party, who then gets mind controlled and takes some very poor actions and unleashes a lot of monsters. There's a way to freeze her so she can't do anything bad again. She agrees to do it. The main character decides to screw that. He makes the conscious decision that even if she turns evil he'll defend her to the end and breaks her out of stasis. And then we decide that our game plan is actually to help the ultimate evil person out. Ostensibly because we think getting the evil really close to finishing their plan is what will let us kill them for good. But it really seems like sealing Rinoa and killing Adel would fix everything without risk of having all of time compressed away. I'd almost say our plan is to let evil win.

Is my party good, or evil? Very little of what we've done, if anything at all, have been what I would call an obviously good action. There's no Cecil turning into a paladin moment here. In other games the good guys seal away evil instead of killing it off because murder is wrong. That's not the case here. We think the sorceress should die, so we try to assassinate her. I think my party is trying to do what they think is right the whole time (even when they choose love and friendship over saving the world) but what they think is right isn't always the standard fantasy good. And I think it would be easy to frame the world slightly differently and actually see my party as being evil.

And maybe that's why I like the story in FFVIII so much. It's not just the standard fare. It's more character driven than most stories. And when it comes right down to it, maybe I just like people doing what they think is right more than doing what is good?

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Blood Bowl: Turbo Leagues

About a month ago Sceadeau started up a little experiment... 8 starting Blood Bowl teams in a round robin tournament with people encouraged to play as often as possible. We ended up playing all 7 rounds in 20 days. Tack on the finals and you're looking at about 3 weeks for 29 Blood Bowl games. That's a lot of scoring, and a lot of blood. Woo!

Everyone seemed to have a good time, so we started up two more leagues. One allowed teams from the first league to carry over if they wanted. Three teams took advantage of that opportunity and the other 13 teams across the two leagues are brand new. I'm a little worried that the TV difference between the three established teams and the new ones might be a little problematic but short of trying to force the other 5 teams to keep playing I don't know that there's a solution to that problem. But if we do more of these after this set of two there'll be 21 potential teams to carry over so I expect we'll find 8 to have an established quick league going.

For my team in the first league I decided to try Skaven. I've mostly played bashy teams in my Blood Bowl career and felt like I didn't really know how to play a finesse team, so I wanted to give one a try. It hasn't quite worked, as evidenced by comments from people spectating my games... My Skaven team makes with the punching. Sure, I have some dudes who run really fast and can score but my first focus is how can I inflict some damage on the enemy team and only second how can I go score. I've got a guy with block, tackle, and mighty blow. He's about to level and will get either claw or piling on depending on if he rolls doubles or not. Must kill more dudes!

On the other hand it did work quite well, as my record after 8 games was 6 wins and 2 draws. I scored 22 touchdowns in those 8 games, thanks to having dudes with 9 movement! 26 casualties sustained by my opponents, too. Part of that is playing against halflings and goblins and watching them fall over and hurt themselves. Part of that is my dirty player taking out star players in the finals with foul after foul after foul without getting caught.

I've definitely gotten lucky, but it feels like Skaven are well built for taking advantage of luck. My game against Randy featured him rolling a 1 or 2 on his first 8 'pick up the ball' rolls, needing a 3+ each time. If this had been my dwarf team I might have been able to walk up to the ball by the end of that sequence and I expect I probably could have had the half end scoreless. With Skaven I ended the first half up 3-0. It also feels like Skaven can take a bunch of injuries but still viably keep playing. Dwarves that fall behind in men are done. I still like my Dwarves, and I do think they have a standard game plan that is more consistent. Both are good, and it's nice to be playing a bunch of games with both teams.

I've also gotten lucky with my Skaven in terms of permanent damage. I lost a gutter runner and a lineman early (maybe even both in the first game, actually, to Sceadeau's Orcs) but haven't lost anyone since. I've made a ton of money (including 160k from my last game alone) and I decided to give the Skaven big guy a try. For 150k I get a guy who starts with frenzy, mighty blow, and prehensile tail. I don't know how good he is but I feel like if I keep playing my bashy still game having access to a third dude with strength skills might help. My first game, whenever Robb gets around to playing, will be against a fresh Dark Elf team who is going to get 660k worth of inducements. That's a lot of free stuff!

The biggest reason I want to keep playing the team is I like my naming scheme. It's an Ocean's Eleven theme, playing off the idea that the original Ocean's Eleven movie was made by 'The Rat Pack'. Skaven are rat-men, see...