Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2013 WBC Day 3

Monday had the A Few Acres of Snow demo at 11am as the first thing on my agenda. I didn't want to sleep through it, so I set the alarm in the room for 10am. I ended up actually waking up more around 9 or so, frozen solid despite Pounder's extra blanket, so I once again jumped into a hot bath. Which helped a little while I was in it, but I didn't like getting out of it. At some point Robb started yelling about how it was 11am and I was missing my demo. This seemed odd since I was pretty sure I wasn't in the tub for more than 2 hours. It turns out the alarm had gone off at 10 and confused him and somehow that made him think it was 11 or something. He was probably still sleeping. And apparently the alarm is very hard to turn off.

Anyway, I was up and about and went to the demo area to set up. In retrospect it was probably a mistake to show up to the demo area so much earlier than my start time. I had time to set the game up, which was nice, but then people started showing up. I could tell that making small talk was what was supposed to be going on, and that as the person 'in charge' of the table I was obligated to stay on top of that, but that's just not something I can do. Especially when sick. So I just sat there being antisocial. Eventually enough people showed up that they gave up on me and started talking amongst themselves instead. Yay?

Did the demo in about 45 minutes. I missed some things that came up later (disconnected locations becoming unplayable, the actual legal attack path) but it went reasonably well. I was very susprised at how many people showed up to the demo. Probably in the 15-20 range. WBC is still mostly stuck in the old idea that the convention really starts Tuesday at 6pm so things that run on Monday don't really have that much competition I guess. There was one other demo going on for a much longer, more hardcore wargame. So I guess A Few Acres of Snow was the casual option for the day. Several of the people from the demo came to play in the first round, which was good.

What wasn't good was the mix of people who showed up for the first round. 24 people showed up to play with 3 mulligan round losers showing up, for a total of 29 people for the entire event. Down a little from the 33 of last year, but not down by too much. But of those 24 people only 6 had a copy of the game, which meant 18 people without a copy. I had my copy some people could use, but that still left 10 people with no game to play. One guy knew someone who had a game lying around (one of the mulligan round winners as it turned out) so that took care of 2 more people. Robb ran off to check the open gaming library but no copies were there either. So I told the remaining 8 people that if they wanted to check back in an hour I'd start games there on any boards that had finished up and were available for use. 3 people ended up coming back in an hour and one board was opened up so I got to squeeze 2 more people into the tournament. 6 people got turned away, leaving only 23 actual entrants. My suspicion was that we barely made it into the century last year and probably could have snuck back in with 29 people playing but falling down to 23 is probably a death knell. If only more people owned the game!

Because of all the hassle with looking for games I didn't have good timing down on the rounds. The rounds are supposed to be two hours long. Last year I think only one game went long, or if more did the GM did a good job of controlling them. I did not. Multiple games were brushing up against or going over the 2 hour mark. But I didn't know exactly when people started, and I didn't really know what to do about it. The problem with A Few Acres of Snow is the optimal winning strategy for one of the sides basically ignores victory points. So adjudicating a game based on points on hand is really bad if the British are trying for the auto win with a military victory. Officially you need the GM and both assistant GMs to adjudicate a game to make sure it's as fair as possible, which makes sense. But both my assistant GMs skipped the first round entirely since they won the mulligan round! Pounder also took off after losing in round 2, so I didn't have two assistant GMs after that. I ended up giving most of the games that went long extra time by ignoring them while assigning matchups for the winner of those games. That meant people got to get playing the next round sooner unless they were matched up against a slow winner, but it also meant the rounds got a little out of sync. At other Nick's suggestion I eventually randomized out a whole bracket and posted it so people would know who they were playing in the next couple rounds which made sense. I was trying to avoid doing that because I needed to award byes and I needed to make sure mulligan round losers didn't meet again until the finals but only one mulligan round loser managed to win even a single round of the main event so it ended up being pretty easy.

After all the shenanigans with the half round start and such I ended up with 13 people advancing to round 2. This meant 6 games and 1 bye, followed by 3 games and 1 bye. At WBC you have to give byes at late as possible in order to keep as many people playing as soon as possible. You also have to give byes preferentially to previous winners. This meant I had to give myself the bye in the round of 13 and someone who wasn't me the bye in the round of 7. I shuffled up 6 cards and had other Nick give me a number from 1 to 6. This assigned the bye to Kevin (last year's 3rd place and the guy I beat in the mulligan round) which meant I could build the bracket out with me on the other side from him and just assign the other 5 cards at random.

I was matched up against one of the guys from Quebec who come down for WBC. He let me play as the British for a bid of 1, which seemed really low. He started a quick siege of Pemaquid and I countered by thinning my deck, staying even in that fight, and starting a siege in Port Royal. I made one small mistake by letting him ambush me twice while he still had his Siege Artillery in his deck which let him threaten to win either fight if I commited anything to the other one. What I should have done was not cared about that, put pressure on the Port Royal fight, and kept him from getting off the ambush at all. Instead I guaranteed a win in Pemaquid but lost 7 dollars from his successful ambush. This also meant my bad cards and his good cards recycled into the decks. I was still able to pull off a quick siege and victory in Louisbourg but he got off a couple more ambushes in the meantime. I didn't have the strength to keep going. I tried anyway, jumping into a fight in Gaspe, but ended up losing that one. (Gaspe was still a cube and I wanted to keep him from putting a disk on it while I built up an army again.) Ultimately I bought an Indian Leader and managed to use that to stop the siege bleeding. I then bought some more guns to even us up. His deck was pretty watered down with lots of indians and guns. So was mine, to be fair, but I felt like I had inevitability on my side. Eventually I started a siege in Gaspe again, but only put a couple boats into it to start. He pulled out his reserve and overcommitted to the fight, guaranteeing his victory but taking several military cards out of circulation for one shuffle of his deck. I felt like that was going to be enough of a window, so I jumped into a fight in Trois Rivieres. Note I waited to jump into Gaspe until I was about to reshuffle, in order to be able to attack quickly again after losing the fight. He had no response to the fight in Trois Rivieres since he couldn't redraw enough guns fast enough. I think he had enough in his deck, but couldn't bubble them to the top in time. I won that fight and pretty much won the game as well. He didn't concede so I went through the motions. Attack Tadoussac, win. Raid Montreal from Trois Rivieres. Have 12 points in spoils and end the game that way, with a massive point lead.

In the middle of this game other Nick brought to my attention that one of the other games was going really long. It was a round 2 game still! The last one of those to start thanks to not adjudicating round 1 games, but it was going really long. And they were cheating. So I went over and pointed out the illegal move (putting a disk into a location not worth points) and then looked to see if the game was going to end soon. They'd been playing for way more than 2 hours at this point and weren't anywhere near any of the victory conditions. So I ended up counting the points. The French player, unsurprisingly, was in the lead. But I couldn't see any way to adjudicate the game other than give them the win. The British player hadn't won any fights at all and had bloated his deck with junk so even if he could win with a strategy shift and another 2 hours I couldn't give it to him. I wanted to get other Nick to concur but the British player said he thought the ruling was fair and gave up.

The top 4 shook out to be someone from the bonus round 1.5 game and last year's top three. Myself, other Nick, and Kevin. I was playing other Nick in one semi. He won the randomizer to make the first bid and started with 7 for the British. Here was my thought process... I knew other Nick and Kevin played the game together a lot. I knew they used the WBC bidding system in their games. I saw how close Kevin came to beating me in the mulligan round with a bid of 5 when he failed to use any of the actions. So I was a little worried that 8 for the British was going to be just too high. On the other hand I haven't played much at all, and I was sick, and I know my British game is better than my French game. Maybe I should have bid higher but I decided to just run with the French and see what would happen.

I ended up with a terrible opening hand and used one of my bid actions on the first turn. This let me start a siege in Pemaquid. I was then able to settle Halifax myself and start disking things up while keeping that fight going. My plan was to get close enough to ending the game by the time he broke out of the fight that I could use ambushes to keep him from getting beyond Louisbourg before I could win. Right as he was going to win the fight in Pemaquid I had a decision to make... Spend 7 dollars on some guns to slow him down as he tried to break out, or buy a settler and end the game one shuffle through my deck earlier. At this point I still needed to upgrade Montreal, Fort Frontenac, and settle and upgrade Oswego. I went with the Settler and used a bid action to reshuffle or something. I had used a couple more bidding tokens to get out of some awkward hands and thought I was in a reasonable position.

Other Nick started a fight in Port Royal with enough to win it and I had a choice. I had siege and regulars in my reserve so I could dig them out and throw them in. He had two regulars in his reserve though, so this was just going to eat up time and cost me the regular when I lost the fight. It would also use up all of my money and not get me any closer to ending the game since I would be spending cards from the reserve instead of from my hand. Instead I went with a double ambush. I killed off his reserve, got to draw 2 cards, but spent the money I'd need to play the siege artillery myself and lost the fight in Port Royal. Other Nick was very sad since it turns out he didn't have a settler icon in his hand. Prolonging the fight would have meant he'd draw one for sure, so this was almost certainly the right course of action for me. He'd need to cycle through his deck to get Boston again, and then either attack Halifax or settle Port Royal, and then cycle into that card to attack Louisbourg. I would almost certainly have enough tempo to end the game before all that could happen. Yay!

Then he attacked Halifax with the Pemaquid card. Huh. He'd bought a governor but he'd only ever removed St Mary's from the game. He kept Pemaquid around for some reason (he had upgraded it to a disk for 2 points prior to this, so he probably just didn't have it in hand when he used the governor) and was able to use it to start another siege on this run through his deck. I'd spent my money so I couldn't properly defend this one either. Instead I spent all but one of my remaining bid tokens to upgrade Montreal, grab Oswego, and reshuffle. I was going to lose the fight in Halifax right away, but I was going to be able to end the game on this next go through my deck.

At this point other Nick stopped to count points. If he was able to start a fight in Louisbourg, win it, and settle it then he would have more points than me and win the game. Otherwise if the game ended before he could do it, or if he couldn't settle when he did, I would win the game. My first hand after the shuffle... No settler. His first hand... No Halifax. By this point I'd used my last bid token (to ditch the useless Port Royal card and get one card deeper) and was able to settle one of the two needed locations. His second hand... No Halifax. I was pretty much at the bottom of my deck but still no Quebec. I did some junky actions to cycle deeper. He was then able to start a siege in Louisbourg. I could have ended the game with a different card ordering this time through my deck, but it was not to be. I was able to pull back my reserve to threaten winning the fight in Louisbourg and also put out my last disk. Siege artillery was in my hand now, but I had no money. I burned home support to draw 1 worthless card because it would let me reshuffle and draw 1 new card. (No point in having a hand of Home Support, Priest, Siege Artillery, Louisbourg, and Trois Rivieres with no cards in deck. Much better to have 4 worthless cards and a random one!) I pretty much needed to draw home support and use it to make 3 dollars in order to use the siege. Instead Other Nick ambushed my hand and put something into the fight in order to win it.

On the plus side, I had topdecked Home Support. All my disks were in play so the game was going to end at the start of my next turn if he won the fight in Louisbourg. I had no military strength in hand, so that was going to happen. I needed to score 3 points (while keeping him from scoring any points himself) or I needed him to not be able to settle Louisbourg or I needed to home support into something to keep the fight going I guess. I did use home support, but got no military strength. On the plus side, I did get both Trois Rivieres and a Native American card. I could use Trois Rivieres to make a dollar and spend it on the native to raid! I still had that priest card kicking around so I could get a range of 3. Enough to just barely reach Pemaquid! It had a disk on it, so this would be a 6 point swing and would win me the game. Except he was able to block it. With the Pemaquid card that he never got rid of and which was presumably crippling his hand the whole time.

The fight ended, he had no way to score more points, and he won the game by 3. But it was very close. On the last go through both of our decks my deck was very badly ordered for me (but not too unexpected since I needed to draw 4 specific cards) and his was not ordered very badly for him (but also not too unexpected since he just needed to draw 1 specific card along with a mix of many other viable cards). He was probably in the 60-70% range to win, but it wasn't guaranteed. I'm sure that having 7 bid tokens made a huge difference in that as well. I had several garbage hands over the course of the game and I was able to keep taking good turns by being able to cycle through the chaff. I'm not saying I played optimally, or that he did, but I do feel like the bidding system made this game into one that wasn't a guaranteed British win.

I didn't get to see the other semi, but Kevin won. He faced off against other Nick in the finals. Other Nick started the bid this time with only 6 for the British and won the bid. Maybe he started with a higher bid against me out of respect? Or maybe he saw something I didn't about how our game went and decided I should have won with the 7 bid? I don't know! The game started out very differently as Kevin bought a very early settler card just like he did in the Mulligan round and went to work trying to burn the game out. Nick went to work winning with a military force, but he didn't get the governor as early as I do (or maybe not even at all this game) and kept having to take actions for 3 dollars instead of 6. He did eventually get rolling, and got to a very similar board situation. Kevin was about to disk out, but Nick had just won the fight in Louisbourg. It turned out Kevin was able to put his last disk into play when Nick was about halfway through his deck. If he'd drawn the Louisbourg card and a boat he'd win the game by attacking Quebec. Otherwise he'd lose the game on points. He had the cards he needed, and won. But once again, he was probably only like 60-70% to get it done. A far cry from the base game, where I still firmly believe the British will win every game.

Because I lost to the eventual winner I came 3rd. This was good, since the event has prizes to the top 3. I filled out my forms, submitted them to registration, got my 3rd place plaque, and went off to die. There were lots of games I would have wanted to play in a normal year later in the evening, but I really, really didn't want to play anything. I did find Robb and Pounder in the open gaming room playing Copycat which looked interesting. We went out for food along with the random dude who played Copycat with them. We went to Red Robin because I didn't want to get even more sick.

Afterwards they went off to do something and I went to the room to try to make a blog post. Somehow my computer decided it was happy to connect to the network but that the network couldn't provide internet access. Eventually I gave up. On the plus side I figured out how to turn off the air conditioning in the room and did that so maybe I wouldn't freeze as badly in my sleep that night.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2013 WBC Day 2

Sunday starts off with Through The Ages at noon. All of last week I'd been going to bed around 9pm, so Saturday night I ended up going to bed earlier than Robb or Pounder. Again, maybe that was to get away from Space Alert, but I was also rather tired. I think I went to bed around midnight or so, which was going to leave plenty of time to wake up for noon so no alarm was set. I ended up waking up much earlier than that, since it turns out the hotel room was set to refrigerator temperature. I woke up with the chills and a bit of a sore throat. I assumed that was just because the room was so much dryer than I'm used to, drank some Sprite, and took my standard tactic for dealing with a low body temperature: hot bath! I settled in with my book (Shadow of the Giant) but didn't really warm up much despite a very high water temperature. Eventually I gave up and got up for good. I went to register while Robb and Pounder got up and showered and stuff. I got a nice collared shirt for being a GM. Woo!

In an attempt to bribe the WBCers to keep us from finding a new location (the AC dying last year was a mighty big straw on our little camel's back) the hotel gave everyone a free breakfast buffet for each day they were staying. This sounds pretty typical I would think (the place we stayed across the street in 2007 had free breakfast) but this hotel didn't have it before so one would think it was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately the buffet is really, really bad. The orange juice was so watered down I found it offensive. The bacon was rather cold and slimy. The honeydew was actually decent though, which was a bit of a surprise. Cutting up fruit isn't hard, but I would have thought they'd have found a way to fail. I stayed away from the eggs as I was worried of gluten contamination but Robb told me I wasn't missing anything.

Eventually off to Through The Ages. Randy changed the format this year to get rid of the conceding shenanigan I used last year with only your top two finishes counting this time. Not that it mattered for me, since I would only be able to play one heat anyway thanks to needing to GM A Few Acres of Snow. I showed up because there was nothing I could actually win at the same time, and because I really like the game, and because I was hoping to get put on Sceadeau's table so I could beat him. Unfortunately to use Daniel's term I was up against two stuffed animals. I ended up winning by a really large margin, and it could have been even more if I'd been focused on scoring points at the end of the game instead of on just making it to the end of a slow game without going crazy. One of my opponents had a hard time with making legal plays. I really don't think she was trying to cheat, just that she was sloppy or absent minded or felt rushed by the third player but she kept failing to spend food, resources, or actions to do the things she wanted to do. I had to pay close attention to maintain the game state. That's the sort of thing I like to do anyway (I hope to be able to learn from good plays if I watch the plays as they're happening and try to analyse them) but this game was pretty slow and it wore on me as the game went on. I'd also failed to bring my thermos down to the room with me, so I ran out of water, and my already dry throat from earlier was starting to really get to me. I got Sceadeau to do a water run for me which was awesome of him and helped some.

Despite my game being pretty slow Robb's game was nowhere near done. He was going to play in the next heat and wouldn't have time for food so Pounder and I went out for food just the two of us. Pounder wanted to go somewhere else but I decided I didn't want to risk gastro-intestinal issues while GMing a game so I pushed for another trip to Red Robin. I got the same thing, with a different drink. Burger hold most of the toppings. It's pretty great to start from a menu item and just list off most of the stuff as things to take off. Aaaaand the bun. During the meal I drank a lot of the melonade drink (lemonade and Sprite combined with some watermelon chunks) and discovered it wasn't making a dent on my throat. I had time to stop and think in the restaurant and came to the conclusion that this wasn't just a dry throat. I was sick. Super sore throat, stuffy nose, a bit of a cough, a headache, and a really warm forehead (which probably just meant a really cold hand) to go with the chills from the morning that just wouldn't go away. I haven't felt like this in a while, but it feels a lot like when I used to get throat infections as a teenager. Maybe it's the flu, maybe it's an infection of some kind. I've decided it's actually the plague, and Sceadeau has labeled me Patient Zero. Everyone is going to get to go home from WBC with my plague. I don't know if I picked it up here, or on the trip from Toronto to Kitchener, or what. Maybe I had a bad baked PoTaToE at Wendy's after all. But the bottom line is I felt terrible and didn't want to do anything but find a warm place to sleep.

So... Off to GM my event. Sunday night had the mulligan round for A Few Acres of Snow and I had to be there to run it. Pounder came along to help out and I talked to Nick Henning who agreed to also help out on Monday. Running the event started with a bit of a snag. Each game has a big triangular prism which contains things like the history of the event and a big picture of the event so people who walk into a room have a beacon to know where to go in order to sign up. They were all in the big row outside the demo area as expected... Except mine. The big concern was the registration sheets get stored with the kiosk, so not having it was going to be a real problem. Andy Lotto told me I could steal the one out of Innovation if I needed to in the short term because Don would surely fix things when he found out. A Few Acres of Snow was missing, and registration was closed to go eat. There was a sign saying they'd be back in an hour or so, which would be an hour before my round would start, so no need to panic yet. We had time to kill so Pounder went and got Innovation and we played a couple games without expansions. He blew me out both times. He plays a lot online so he knows what cards are good and which ones are not. I do not.

Eventually registration opened and it turns out my kiosk was just sitting in registration. In order to help out the events being run that day they'd set aside those kiosks in the registration room. Which would have been great, if it hadn't been locked when we wanted to pick it up. Oh well! I was able to collect it in plenty of time before the event started so no harm done. I was a little stressed out about it, so maybe a little harm done, but it all worked out in the end.

The mulligan round ended up attracting only 8 people which was a drop from last year's 16. A 9th person did show up, but they didn't know the rules. Rather than let them play I told them to come back tomorrow morning for the demo and maybe the real first round. There was nothing else the guy wanted to do, so he just stuck around to watch games. 6 of the 8 people had copies of the game which was pretty great. I wrote people's names on index cards and used those to generate pairings. I ended up playing against Kevin Lewis, who came 3rd last year. He was not happy to have to play me until he thought about it a bit more. Because I don't want the 2nd best person to get knocked out by losing twice to the best person I said I'd split up people who played in the mulligan round onto opposite sides of the bracket. If we were to play again it would be in the finals.

The game itself was over in very short fashion. He let me be the British with a bid of 5, but then forgot to use any of the bid tokens. That or he was saving them for a big flourish at the end which is entirely possible. He bought a very early settler card and I was quite scared that I he was going to be able to settle out before I could kill him even with him putting up next to no effort to stop me at all. He even let me ambush away his starting regular (though he later said that was a mistake)! Unfortunately for him the first card in my deck after my first military victory was the Port Royal card which let me attack Louisbourg quickly. He had fortified it (and Trois Rivieres) but I was still able to take it out in short order. And then my first card on the next shuffle was Louisbourg, so I was able to hit Quebec and win. The game took maybe 15 minutes from start to finish since we both had a plan and knew what each other was doing.

After that the guy who was watching asked if I'd play him a game for fun to teach him the rules. I had to stay until all the mulligan round games finished anyway so I didn't see why not. Rather then blow him out the same way I went a full British expansion strategy and ended up barely winning. Against a complete newbie who took many random actions, and had no bid tokens. Yeah, that's not actually the way to win a real game. Conquer or lose!

One game in the mulligan round went pretty long and one of the guys suggested I could just leave and he'd tell me the result later. That seemed super sketchy. I stuck around until the bitter end, and they ended up running right into the 2 hour mark. The guy who made that suggestion is someone who had emailed me a bunch of times with rules questions in the months before WBC, which was interesting.

Anyway, mulligan round over. Attendance down, but there was still the next day to boost that back up. I think Robb and Pounder wanted to play games (Hanabi I think) but I'd given in that I was sick and therefore should go to bed. The room was still cold, and I was still shivering outside the room, so Pounder gave me the blanket off of his bed. Sheet, comforter, super warm blanket, extra hotel blanket... Would that be enough to keep me warm through the night?

Monday, July 29, 2013

2013 WBC Days 0 and 1

Friday was a bit of an adventure. I don't have to work, and Pounder does, so the easiest way to get things done was for me to take a bus from Toronto to Kitchener and spend the night in Pounder's basement. The downside is I bring a lot of things on a 10 day trip so I ended up having to lug a suitcase, backpack, and duffel bag around two cities. I ended up leaving some non-tournament games behind, but since we full up Pounder's trunk anyway maybe that's not such a bad thing. The first bus was full so I had to wait around for the next bus to come and it ended up being around 6ish hours from leaving my house to getting to the Google offices in Kitchener. I didn't play any games on Friday, but I did teach Robb and Pounder to play A Few Acres of Snow so Pounder could pretend to assistant GM it for me. We did go to a couple of grocery stores where I loaded up on gluten free tasty things like two bite brownies and ginger snaps. Also some terrible granola bar things that at least won't kill me so they're better than nothing.

Saturday brought the trip itself. It was about 10 hours door to door, with little in the way of getting lost. We stopped to eat at Wendy's along the way and I risked having a baked PoTaToE. It didn't make me sick. Hurray! We ended up getting into Lancaster right around the supper rush so the lineup at Texas Roadhouse was over an hour to get a table. We aborted to Red Robin since a cursory look at their webpage last month indicated I could probably eat there. It was a half hour wait for a table, but I wanted to go to Staples in the same complex so it wasn't so bad. I got some index cards and some pens to help run A Few Acres of Snow. Red Robin featured eating their main cheeseburger but with the tomato, onion, relish, sauce, and bun removed. I got their lettuce bun instead, and replaced the fries (which may be cross contaminated and are hence scary) with steamed carrots. It ended up being both tasty and didn't make me sick, so a win all around!

Back to the host where we had 10 people who wanted to break into two games of 5 each. Space Alert and Vegas Showdown. I don't much like either game, but I really hate Space Alert and I'm willing to play Vegas so I went with that. Then two more people showed up, turning 10 into 12. Rather than do the smart thing of becoming 3 4 player games we went with the same 5 player games and a 2 player game. On the plus side I got to slide out into the 2 player game, where I played Innovation with both expansions against Andy Lotto which was both a learning experience and quite fun. I ended up winning with a broken leader who let me achieve cards off of my board whenever I tucked a card with an industry symbol.

I am apparently old or something, as rather than stay up late hoping to get into another game I went to bed. It may have something to do with the fact that the most likely game to start was going to be another Space Alert game.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 11

Board 11 – Dealer South – None Vul

Opponents convention card: Jack
Opponents playing strength: Adequate

My hand:  K 5  A Q 7  K T 7 6 3  J T 6

I open a weak 1NT. It gets passed around to East who bids 2 clubs to show both majors. I bid 2 diamonds which gets alerted. That's scary. West jumps to 3 spades and East continues to 4 spades. Partner leads the 2 of diamonds.


A Q 4 2
 K J 6 5
8 5 4
 5 3

K 5
A Q 7
K T 7 6 3
J T 6

West North East South
PassPass 21 22
3Pass 4 All Pass
25 cards

2-4-K-A. Declarer draws trump. 8-6-2-K. I fire back a diamond for partner. 7-Q-9-5. Declarer draws more trump. 9-7-4-5. T-3-Q-3 of diamonds. Then he plays a low heart. What does that mean? I can hop up with the Q and have 3 tricks. Where is the 4th coming from? Maybe partner has a club trick. We can't have a diamond trick since if partner has the outstanding J then declarer can ruff it. Maybe we actually have 3 heart tricks if partner has the T and hoping now throws away the contract. For that to be true declarer would need to have 3 hearts without the T and the AK of clubs. Can ducking hurt? When declarer has the T of hearts and only has 1 or 2 hearts, yes.

Why is he even playing a low heart here? If he has fewer than 3 hearts in his hand he could just finesse twice. Unless he doesn't have hand entries. But if he doesn't have hand entries, we have club tricks. I feel like it probably doesn't matter which I do. But maybe we can set them more if I duck and let partner score his T. Run it!

5-7-8-9. Partner tries to cash his high diamond, which gets ruffed. Declarer finesses a heart to the J and my Q. Looks like they're down. How can we make sure to take all our tricks? Pounding clubs through seems like the way to do it. J-Q-K-3. Partner returns a club to my T and declarer's A. Declarer plays a heart to my A. Dummy is up. Except declarer decides that rather than ruff my diamond and cash his high heart he'd rather pitch his high heart and lose an extra trick for funsies. Down 3.

7 6 3
T 9 2
J 9 2
K 9 7 2

J T 9 8
8 4 3
 A Q
 A Q 8 4

A Q 4 2
K J 6 5
8 5 4
5 3

K 5
A Q 7
K T 7 6 3
J T 6

+150 was a top board. Other results were 3 spades being down 1 three times, 3 spades making once, 2 hearts making twice, and 1NT down 1 from my side.

Professor Jack agrees with me all the way!

Ranking after board 11/60: 9/16 with 49.35%.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Departing for WBC

This year's iteration of the World Boardgaming Championships starts tomorrow down in sweltering Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I sure hope they've gotten the air conditioning working since last year! Everyone seems to be getting excited about going. For some of my friends this is the best week of the year. I even bet Andrew, who has never gone and isn't going this year, is excited. I should be, but I'm not. What I'm feeling is better described as dread. Maybe that's because I'm unemployed right now so I don't desperately need a vacation like I would have the last few years? Maybe it's because I have other things I could be doing this weekend? More likely, I think, is that I have to GM an event at WBC and it's freaking me out.

It's easy to say everything will work out just fine, and things will be better because they have one more quasi-competent volunteer. That may even be true. If I end up making someone unhappy with the job I do, who cares? Easy to say. But I'll care. And I'm not set up properly to get things done. My big worry is that I don't have the infrastructure in place to really let myself play in the event along with GMing it. I have no assistant GMs, and I don't know anyone who intends to play the game or even knows the rules. I've been pretty vocal in my belief that the game isn't balanced and that's kept most of my friends from wanting to play the game. Couple that with the fact it's running opposite Through The Ages, a game my friends do want to play. And that the event is single elimination, so optimally the assistant GM would have to stand around for many hours while the whole thing plays out even if they themselves were eliminated. So the plan, if you can call it that, is to hope I can sweet talk some of the people who show up into being assistant GMs for me. But I'm no good at talking to people at the best of times, especially to people I don't know. Hence, getting freaked out.

Rationally I understand that there probably won't be a rules dispute in one of my games. And if there is, it'll be solved by looking the rule up in the book. That's what I had to do last year when the GM of the event didn't really know the rules all that well. I'm pretty sure there was just one person who'd really played enough to answer rules questions last year, and that was me. I'm not sure anyone will be this year, since I hadn't played a game of A Few Acres of Snow in probably 9 months before this week when I started a few up on Yucata to shake the rust off. But you need the illusion of impartiality, hence why if the GM wants to play in an event they need to get assistants to make the unbiased ruling. Having someone else point at the rulebook just looks better than having me point at the rulebook.

Maybe the answer is to just not play at all. Chalk this experiment up as a mistake, avoid playing in my own event, and learn for next year. I'll still have the rest of the week to relax and maybe win things.

At any rate, I'm about to depart for the bus terminal in Toronto, where I will take a bus to Kitchener, where I will spend the night at Pounder's place before he drives down to the states tomorrow. Woo?

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Another day, another Steam game that went on sale recently and has cards. I saw Monaco described as Pac-Man meets Ocean's Eleven and thought that could be pretty interesting. I like Pac-Man, and Ocean's Eleven is one of my favourite movies. What could go wrong?

Well, the first thing that could go wrong is I could fail to connect to a game server. The game can play with up to 4 players in multiplayer and it seems to want to stick you together with random dudes. It tried to do that for me. It failed. But rather than failing gracefully and letting me play single player or something it got the idea stuck in its head that I really had to play with these other people if I was going to play at all despite the fact that I couldn't seem to connect to them. I even tried quitting and starting the program again but it kept hanging. So I had to give up for the day.

I tried again a couple days later and was able to start playing by myself. You play the game as a thief in a 2 dimensional world and need to run around picking up the little piles of money off the ground, just like Pac-Man. There are different weapons you can pick up, and 8 different character classes you could play as, so there's a lot of variety in terms of what you can do. Dig through walls, or charm people, or use your monkey friend to pick people's pockets. I played for about an hour, and it was fun enough, but it didn't really stand out as anything amazing.

The problem was it didn't feel enough like Ocean's Eleven. Probably because I was playing it single player. There was no team of dudes with crazy abilities coming together to do something awesome. Instead it was just me, playing glorified Pac-Man by myself. I can see how it could be pretty cool to build a mission that required 4 people in exactly the right roles to pull it off. I can see how that could feel a lot like raiding did in World of Warcraft. Figure out the problem, make a plan, execute the plan. Die horribly if and when you screw up any of those stages.

I figure I'll end up playing a bit more to at least collect all my Steam cards, and maybe the single player mode will get more interesting as I get further along the mission chain, but I don't have high hopes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rogue Legacy

Recently I read a post on Super Adventures in Gaming about a game called Rogue Legacy. Then a couple days later Sthenno left a comment on one of my Steam card posts saying we should become Steam buddies to trade cards, even though he doesn't have any cards because all he plays is Rogue Legacy. Then I went to look on Steam for Rogue Legacy and it was on sale. It looked cool, so I picked it up.

In the couple days since then Sthenno has been playing lots of games to gather cards. I have been playing lots of Rogue Legacy. Even though it doesn't have cards, it does have my attention. It's basically a platforming RPG roguelike game where you run around in a castle attacking bad guys for loot until you die. The twist is that unlike a normal roguelike game (where you're acquiring loot and experience to power yourself up) in Rogue Legacy you're acquiring loot to power up your next character. Your current character is going to die. But the cash he picks up along the way gets handed down to the next generation in your family, and they can spend that cash to buy permanent upgrades that make themselves and every future character better. Each time you die you get to pick between three children with different classes, spells, and random modifiers. Maybe you're a dwarf so you fit into small places. Maybe you're colourblind so the game is played in black and white. Maybe you fart a lot. I don't know if that last one actually helps me in any way, but it's amusing.

The one thing I've always hated about roguelike games like ZAngband is the feeling you get when you do pretty well, but then die. You have to start all the way from scratch again, with the knowledge that you're almost certainly not going to get as lucky with early loot drops and you're probably just going to die on floor 10 again. This game completely removes that feeling. Now when I die I get to be happy. I probably have enough cash to make my next try slightly easier. If I'd tried out a new class or trait combination and didn't like it, I get a different one. And since nothing you find in the castle actually helps out your current playthrough I never get that feeling that this was my lucky chance and I've lost it. If I die early and don't have enough cash to buy anything new? Oh well! It didn't take much time to have that happen and I can just try again!

I went to check what year it is in my game while writing this, and got sucked into playing 4 times. My most recent character lived from 2367 to 2386. The SAiG post said the game starts in 760, so my little line of adventurers has been trying to beat this castle for 1626 years. And hasn't even come close to beating the first boss. Poor, terribly family. At least they make lots of cash!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

More DmC

Yesterday I finished my first playthrough of the new Devil May Cry game, DmC. Like I said when I first bought it, it definitely felt faithful to the original game. I don't know how to really describe the genre (action?) but DmC is an excellent game for the genre. It's actually a fair bit like Ehrgeiz, if Ehrgeiz was awesome instead of rather boring.

As the game progresses you unlock more and more weapons and more and more moves for each weapon. It seems weird that I have probably 8 moves on average for each of my 8 weapons and yet I can still pull them off pretty easily with just an xBox controller. A lot of the moves for each weapon are the same combination of buttons, just with a different trigger held down. Forward->forward->Y is a charge attack with a sword. With the right trigger held down it's a dodge and charge attack with my fists. With the left trigger held down it's a charge and sweep attack with my scythe. It took a little bit to get everything back in my mind after taking some time off, but once I got back into the swing of things it all felt right.

Now that I beat the game on the 3rd difficulty I can play it again on a harder difficulty that claims to have different AI for the fights so it all feels different. I don't think I'll have time to try that out until after WBC, but I expect I will do so afterwards. I've complained before about disliking needing to unlock harder difficulty levels but it feels a little different this time. Maybe it's just that I personally liked the game on the hardest option I had at the start? If it was trivial for me then it might have gotten tedious and boring. I think there's a difference between this and Symphony because DmC has a plot going on. Even if it was really easy it would still potentially be worth playing to see the story unfold and watch the cool videos.

The game is rated M, and it seems to embrace that rating. The intro movie has the main character wake up completely naked. You don't quite get to see anything thanks to convenient placement of objects around the scene but I don't know that I can recall even the idea that males could be nude in any other game I've played. It also goes really heavily into profanity. The game is fully voice acted and some of the cutscenes are really laced with language I don't typically enjoy. And yet it never really seemed gratuitous. Even when the main character and a random demon basically spend a minute just swearing at each other. It seemed like how those two characters would actually be interacting. The main character is half demon, half angel, and really doesn't care about anything. That he'd devolve into a cursing match with a demon makes sense. At another point the main character and his brother have just broken into the enemy stronghold, and the following exchange happens:

That's just not the conversation I expected to hear in a video game. And yet it still makes sense for these characters.

The ending credits showed a bit about how they made the game. They used full motion capture to get all the movements down, and I could tell while playing the game. Everything felt right in the movement of the characters. I mean, we are talking about a half demon, half angel dude with super powers and all... But if such a person did exist in the real world, I think he'd move the way Dante moves.

I've been playing a lot of different games on Steam recently. Most of them are games that were on sale for a couple dollars and have a normal price less than $10. DmC is $50. I think the difference in quality makes up for the difference in price. Most of the games I'm playing don't have big FMVs with top notch voice acting. They tend to be 2D pixel and sprite affairs, not games that used motion capture to work out how one would swing a sword. They can still be fun and have good gameplay, don't get me wrong, but I can see how DmC cost a lot more to make and therefore why it should cost more to buy. DmC seems to have done enough to justify that increased cost for me.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Scribblenauts Unlimited

I've always wanted to play a Scribblenauts game ever since Andrew talked about the first one a few years ago. So when I saw it on sale on Steam, and with cards to boot, I gave this version a shot. It's a cute little game that does what it sets out to do pretty well. You encounter a quest and then you have to type in a noun to create that thing. Or you type in an adjective to modify an existing object. Make yourself smaller to fit into a hole, or make wings for yourself so you can fly, that sort of thing. I keep hearing about people typing in crazy random things to beat the quests but I found that wasn't the sort of thing I was really good at doing. Mostly I solved the puzzles with bacon, bacon grease, or a person that could do it for me. Why figure out how to fix a car when I can just summon a mechanic out of thin air? I learned the hard way that when a vampire asks for help in the desert it isn't useful to summon a vampire slayer. Turns out that just results in a dead vampire.

The very first random quest I ran into was a cool dude on the street who was bored and wanted me to entertain him. I couldn't figure out a way to do it. He wasn't impressed with a deck of cards, or with fireworks, or with a drum set, or with a gazebo. Eventually I gave up. I don't understand normal people enough to know how to entertain them I guess. 8(

One of the side quests in the game is to acquire different avatars. Help the ninja brother in the family out and then you can play as a ninja instead of the boring default guy. Or a pirate. Or a nerd. Or a really little kid. The family apparently has 42 kids, so that's a lot of potentially cool avatars. You start with one, and one of the kids has been cursed (the main quest of the game is to save her), and there are 40 others you can unlock. The absolutely terrible part of this is 41 of the 42 kids in this family are male. There's one female. She's the cursed one. So with 41 possible avatars you can use, not a single one of them is female. I don't know how this can happen. Why would you alienate some of your audience by excluding all female avatars? Even if they went full blown stereotypes and only gave you things like a princess and a cheerleader that feels like it would have been better than none at all. But I really don't see why the ninja couldn't have been female. Or why there couldn't have been two ninjas.

I ended up playing the game for 4 hours (enough time to get all my Steam cards) but I don't know that I'll be going back. I liked the novelty of typing things in and seeing it appear, but I'm not terribly good at having fun with the game. I didn't like the interface much (I had to click somewhere in order to start typing... I should just be able to use the keyboard the whole time!) And I really didn't like the gender split. I tend to play female characters when given the chance, and it was really annoying that with 41 options they didn't stick even one in for me.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 10

Board 10 – Dealer East – All Vul

Opponents convention card: Jack
Opponents playing strength: Adequate

My hand: ♠ A K 2  A J 7  K 7  J 9 7 3 2

East opens a multi 2 diamonds, which I think is banned around here. He either has 6-11 points with a 6 card major or a 25-26 count without a 6 card major. I don't know how I'm supposed to defend against this bid. I know he can't have the big hand since I have a 16 count. I'll double and hope that makes sense?

West bids 2 hearts, a non forcing relay. Partner passes. East bids 2 spades. Now what? Is double for penalty? Is it takeout? Would I want to bid it in either case? I don't know. I'll double anyway. It gets alerted and passed out.

I lead the 3 of clubs.

9 8
9 5
A J 9 8 6
 A Q 6 5

A K 2
A J 7
K 7
 J 9 7 3 2

West North East South
21 Double
22 Pass 2 Double3
Pass Pass Pass
2Nonforcing Relay

3-A-K-4. Well, guess I found partner's singleton, huh? That means East should have 3 clubs, 6 spades, and 4 red cards. Partner should have 2 spades, 1 club, and 10 red cards. Declarer decides to draw trump. 8-4-3-A. Time to give partner a club ruff! 7-5-6 of spades-8. Partner returns a heart. 8-K-A-5.

Assuming my distribution assertions are correct we're not getting another spade beyond my K. We're not getting any clubs. We need to take two tricks in the red suits, and declarer only has 3 red cards. And he has the A of diamonds on board. So partner needs both red queens. And I need to not let declarer ruff a heart. So I guess I should draw trump and exit the J of hearts. Trump first. K-9-2 of diamonds-5. That doesn't look too encouraging. Now the heart. J-9-2-Q. Declarer draws my trump then finesses the 9 of diamonds to partner's Q. Partner tries to cash the T of hearts, but declarer is out. Dummy is up. Making 2, doubled.

 6 4
 T 8 6 4 3 2
Q 4 3 2

9 8
9 5
A J 9 8 6
 A Q 6 5

Q J T 7 5 3
 T 5
T 8 4

♠ A K 2
A J 7
K 7
 J 9 7 3 2

We are the only NS pair to get a negative score, so we get a bottom board. 1 NS pair made 4 hearts. 5 of them were in 2NT making just in or up 1. One EW pair was in 3 spades down 1. If we could have set them the double would have taken us from 1MP to 12MP. So a reasonable gamble I guess?

Professor Jack disagrees with my first double. He says it's conventional and I should bid 2NT instead. I don't know what convention we're playing over the banned multi, and he isn't telling me what it is. When I hover over my double it gives me a huge list of what it could mean, and my hand meets a couple of the potential options. He also dislikes my second double and wants me to pass. He then disagrees with my opening lead, which he says is the right one systematically but would rather have me draw trump. Which would cost us a trick. He then disagrees with my second club play. I played the 7, he wants me to play the J. I knew declarer had the T and 8 in hand, so the J wouldn't help. It gets covered and the T in declarer's hand becomes high. It also wouldn't hurt? Unless declarer is dumb and hops with the Q. But that's possible! I shouldn't take that option away for no gain.

Ranking after board 10/60: 9/16 with 44.29%

Friday, July 19, 2013

Moving Factors

Last week I was out playing Battlestar Galactica with Sara and Duncan (yes, I was a cylon) and Sara mentioned that there were units opening up in her building and that I should consider moving downtown into the one bedroom or finding someone and moving in to the two bedroom. I have been thinking about moving since I really don't like my current place very much, but my previous thoughts had all involved finding a cheaper place to live and this wasn't going to be the case. My knee jerk reaction was to just dismiss the option outright because of the increased cost. I've since had time to think about it more, and I hate my initial reaction. I'm unemployed so in some sense trying to reduce spending makes sense. The longer I can go before running low on money the less pressure there is to need a job. But I hate counting pennies, and I don't actually need to do it. I probably shouldn't go for a vacation to the Maldives but if spending a couple hundred extra dollars a month will make me happier then that shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. It's like I'm falling into the progression trap Sky talked a bit about the other day. I'm not working, so I'm a bad person, so I can't have nice things. But I'm not a bad person.

This week that's been thrust to the forefront as we're having a bit of a heat wave right now in Toronto. It feels like it's in the 40s and my apartment is hotter than it is outside. I have a portable air conditioner, but it's not nearly strong enough. I'm stuck sitting around drenched in sweat while I play Civ V. It's not going to kill me by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn't very comfortable. It's also not much of a surprise. This apartment does not have good temperature control. It's always too hot in the summer and the winter and too cold in the spring and fall. I should move at some point, and I've known that all along. But where? And why? Maybe the right answer is to move someplace cheaper in order to stretch my savings as long as they'll go. Maybe the right answer is to move someplace nicer so I can mentally recharge properly in order to get back into a mentally employable state faster. Maybe it's even to decide staying here is optimal. But to make that decision I need information and to critically think about it, not to just go with a gut reaction that I shouldn't spend money. So I figure it'll probably be helpful to write out what I like and don't like about my current place so I can actually assess options. And I should post it here because I have smart friends who might see things I'm missing! And because I have a quota.

First off, what do I like about my current place? The thing it most has going for it is location. It's right on top of a subway station. I initially chose this spot because it was a reasonable distance from the 3 places in Toronto I thought I was going to frequently visit: Drew's place, Sky's place, and my work. Drew moved away, Sky had a kid, and I lost my job so none of those are places I actually go to very often if at all. One thing I learned about the subway is that it gets super busy going from outside town to downtown in the morning, and super busy the other way around in the evening. This worked out fine for me since I worked way north so I was going the opposite way of traffic. My train was always reasonably sparse while the train the other way was always packed to the brim. I don't like being around large groups of people very much, but the sparse train was just fine by me. But if I got a job downtown I'd need to move downtown or arrange it so I didn't work normal hours because I would go crazy if I had to take the busy train every single day. So while my current location was great at the time, and is still reasonable for my current uses, it's not really a big plus anymore.

The other thing that's really good about my place is I live here. Staying at this location means not having to pack, or move, or pay someone to pack or move. Call it inertia, call it laziness... I don't want to actually go through the motions of moving.

The size of my current apartment is a plus, I guess. I don't use the space I have very much so in a very real sense I could move into a smaller, cheaper place just fine. The good thing about having the extra space is I can afford to have people stay over for a weekend or a full week without going crazy. But even then, it's mostly just added convenience for them. As long as I have a door on a room I would imagine I'd be fine. I lived in a house with 7 other people in University and didn't go crazy, and my room in that house was not big.

Probably the only other plus is my bathroom has a tub. There are places with only a shower and that works for some people, but it wouldn't work for me. I can't handle showering very well, and I really like being able to relax and read in the tub. This isn't so much a plus for the current place, I guess, so much as a potential huge minus for other places.

Now, what do I hate about my current place? The big one is certainly the lack of climate control. The heat comes on at some point, and I don't get to control when it comes on or how hot it gets. I have a portable air conditioner but it's not powerful enough for the size of this apartment. Having really high ceilings hurts here. I can barely reach the ceiling when I jump as I high as I can. There's no need for that! It's extra space that I need to cool off!

I don't like that the bathroom sink has two faucets. I can have hot water or cold water, but not warm water unless I'm willing to fill up the sink. I find that annoying. Minor, but annoying. I don't like that the kitchen only has one sink, not two. It makes it annoying to do a proper wash and rinse. It doesn't help that the kitchen sink has no emergency overflow drain so I need to keep emptying the sink of water if I'm going to have a rinse option.

I don't like that this part of town shuts down at night. Especially while I'm unemployed, I'd like to be able to walk to the grocery store and buy food whenever I happen to get hungry. The grocery store here closes for 7 hours and I like to be awake during those 7 hours. I like going out when it's dark. It's less chaotic. But I also want to get somewhere relevant if I go out, and that's not the case around here.

It probably goes without saying, but I need reliable high speed internet access. I have that here, and I expect I'd have it anywhere else too.

It would be nice to have in apartment laundry. I don't like having to go all the way downstairs and hope that no one else is using the coin operated machines. Not a deal breaker, but it would be nice.

One worry is that I'll end up finding a new place, signing a 1 year lease, and then finding a job in another part of town or another city entirely. By staying where I am I can relocate with only two and a half months notice. Which is actually still a really long time. Most likely even if I broke a 1 year lease after 2 months or whatever they'd find someone else within 2 months anyway so I wouldn't actually be on the line for the remaining 10 months, just the same amount as my current place.

Another worry is that I'm unemployed and therefore may not get allowed to rent a new place at all. I know when I got this place I needed a reference from my job to show I could afford to live here. Maybe having money saved up and being on EI is good enough? I guess in this case it doesn't really hurt to look around anyway. Worst case they say no. But is it a reason to not just give notice here without finding a new place first? Probably.

As far as location goes, Sara is correct that moving into her building would be awfully convenient. Other than the grocery store it is pretty much the only place I seem to go. And that's with it being 35 minutes away. Not that I mind the subway or the walk. It's just a barrier to playing a small number of games. Think of all the extra games I could play if it was a 1 minute trip, not a 35 minute one...

And dealing with this heat wave thing is a big deal. This last week has not been great and it's got to be worth at least considering paying a little extra to not have to worry about it happening again next year. Or in the winter, when my apartment also feels similar to the way it does now when it gets warm, because I can't turn the heat off.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Steam Cards: Auction House

I was talking to Lino yesterday about how hard it actually is to complete sets of Steam cards the 'real' way. I was asking about how to get the random booster packs to show up (I've played a lot of Civ V in the last few days without seeing one) and he didn't think there was any way to get them to show up. Eventually as people complete sets more booster packs get dished out randomly to people but playing the game more doesn't seem to impact your odds of hitting the lottery. In fact all you need to do is have played enough to get your base drops (which feels like an hour or two) and then log in to Steam every week. That's it. Leveling up (by completing sets) will increase your odds of getting a booster pack, as will earning all the base drops from more games.

How are you supposed to complete a set then? Trading or buying cards with other people. I've traded a few cards with Lino and my brother and have ended up trading away 3 of my 4 Civ V cards to get 3 FTL cards. I'm now only one away from that set, and apparently Robb has it. If only we were ever awake at the same time I could try to trade him for it! Collecting things and trading them can be interesting for sure. I used to collect hockey and Star Trek cards when I was a kid, after all, and this isn't that different. I also used to do a lot of Magic trading, but I wasn't a big fan. The problem there was the cards had drastically different values and you could easily get 'screwed' if you weren't paying attention. I've asserted to myself that all the Steam cards have the same value so if someone wants to trade a Civ V card for an FTL card I don't see any reason to not do it.

Other than trading with actual people you can go to the Steam card auction house and buy/sell your cards. Steam takes a cut of the sale, of course, like any good auction house. There was an achievement piece for using the marketplace so I sold one of my cards. A foil, because I couldn't see myself buying enough stuff during the Steam sale to get all the foils. I listed it for $1.75 and gained $1.53 when it sold. I was expecting to need to use that money to buy other cards when I got around to it but then my sister convinced me to buy Alan Wake and Steam used the $1.53 in my wallet to pay for part of that $3.99 charge. Woo! It looks like normal FTL cards are worth about 15 cents. Civ V cards around 12 cents. So I've been coming out marginally ahead by trading the way I have. Of course selling what I have and buying what I need would actually just result in Steam coming out ahead because of all the fees they'd collect along the way.

Lino commented about how he wasn't going to be buying or selling to complete sets, and I think that is an excellent stance to take. The problem is there's no real end to the amount of money you could spend. There are card sets for all kinds of games, and then foils too, and the system is designed such that you'll need to buy half of all the cards (or trade and only complete half of the sets) unless you get lots of booster lottery hits. It reminds me of the many 'Free 2 Play' debates, or of the Diablo III auction house drama. Collecting things and trading can be fun. Opening your wallet and just buying everything bypasses a lot of the fun and just gets you to the pointless end of the line. When it comes right down to it there isn't much point in collecting sets of Steam cards. The end result of having all the cards is you have all the cards. Hopefully you had fun along the way, and maybe you get a sense of fulfillment for having stuck with it and gotten stuff done. But that stuff goes away when you just buy them. All you get then is a sense of satisfaction that you have more money than other people. And while that seems to be a real thing for many people it's just not for me. I'm nothing like the Joneses, why would I want to keep up with them?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Civ V: How Many Cities?

A question I find myself asking over and over as I'm playing Civ V is how many cities I want to found. Way back in the 'good old days' of earlier Civ games the answer was as many as I could get my grubby little hands on. More cities were just better! Each new city that you founded would give your empire more money, more research, and another place to build military units. At some point happiness and corruption would become an issue, but because both happiness and corruption were local to each city the worst that would really happen is the newest cities would suck for a while. The rest of your Civ would be chugging along just fine. More recently they've added mechanics to punish you for making too many cities. Now it's no longer just awesome to have more cities. It may even be a big problem to get extra cities. The question I have is where is the line between awesome and terrible? To answer that I need to know what changes when you found an extra city.

First off, social policies become more expensive the more cities you have. The amount it goes up is based on the size of the map and is somewhere between a 30% or a 15% boost in cost per extra city. This cost increase is additive, not multiplicative. Unfortunately a lot of the culture gain in the game doesn't scale with number of cities at all. You can only build one copy of any given wonder, after all. City states only give you a flat amount of culture, not an amount conditional on how many cities you have. In my current game I'm getting 18 culture from happiness, 214 from city states, 99 from a golden age, and only 263 from cities. A given new city would be able to bring in 16 culture total if I built every possible culture building I can currently build, including the one that would require the new city to convert to a specific religion. That's about a 2.7% increase in overall culture generation. I currently have 4 cities, so it would increase the cost of a new one from 1.45x base to 1.6x base, or a 10.3% increase in cost. So founding a new city would be a big set back on getting a new social policy. Puppet cities, on the other hand, don't increase the cost but do provide culture so they're a strict upgrade. Not a very good one (the puppet is unlikely to build all those culture buildings right away) but still a net positive on social policy cost.

It also turns out research gets more expensive as you get more cities. It's a 2% increase per city, and looks to include the first one. Puppeted cities are counted against you this time. Just like with culture there are non-scaling sources of research. 241 of my 1122 research is coming from city states, for example. An awful lot of it is coming from one city I build to be the super science city. 5 great scientists have built buildings in the area, and it has an observatory and the multiplier national wonder. I am getting 2 science per specialist though, so any new city that grew to a reasonable size would be adding a fair amount of science. My worst city (size 23) is making 114 science per turn and has nothing special going on. Another copy of that city would be a 10% boost in science earned while only a 1.85% boost in science cost. It would slow me down a little while the new city got up to speed and built all the buildings and grew big enough to have a lot of specialists to be fair, but once it got running it would be a net positive unlike with social policies where it would just be terrible. Puppets here are probably going to be worse since they do increase cost and I can't direct them to build the right buildings to either grow fast or make lots of science. And if I didn't have the rationalism social policy tree it would probably end up hurting since the AI likes to use specialists and they're bad for science without those policies.

Happiness can be a big problem with number of cities. You get 3 unhappiness for every individual city, and 1 unhappiness for every citizen in a city. There are lots of buildings that can help offset that happiness problem, and if you build beside a luxury good you get 4 free happiness right off the hop. Religion added in some new ways to get happiness. I feel like I need to build a bunch of buildings and pick up some social policies, but that adding an extra city beside a luxury good would be a net positive for happiness. It's something that needs to be managed, but it can be done. Even without a new luxury having the people spread out is better than all together because they can build two colosseums if they're in two places!

As far as I can tell everything else gets better the more cities you have. You just earn more faith by having more cities. You can produce more things at the same time. You earn way more money by having more cities, especially if you focus them on making money. You can build more military units at once. You can grow your population faster in multiple spots than in one.

Most of the time I'm playing I care about social policies. They just seem cool, and I want as many of them as I can get. So having fewer cities feels better to me. I need enough cities that I can build ALL the wonders to keep the culture production flowing, but tacking on extra cities just seems bad. Beyond social policies it seems like lots of cities could work just fine. Maybe I should try a game where I build a bunch of them to see what happens. I fear that I won't be able to get the social policies that give the happiness in time and I'll just end up a very unhappy civ though.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Civ V: Winning The Game

Yesterday I played a lot of Civ V, and got close to the end of the game in my first go with the two expansions. I'd managed to survive without getting wiped out and I felt like I had a reasonable economy/science/infrastructure going on. I missed all of the mid game wonders but got a couple early and late game ones. The question then became how was I going to win the game. My default method of winning the game in Civ V is to fill out 5 of the policy trees but that victory condition was removed in one of the expansions. Which meant I didn't know what my winning options were, or which ones I could try for... There are 5 ways to win now, but could I get any of them to work?

The first is to have the highest score when time runs out in the year 2050. I'm getting close to that end point, but I don't have the most points. I'm in 3rd, because I stood around trying out new mechanics while the Persians and the Americans waged wars to conquer most of their respective continents.

The second is the old science victory from before. Research a lot of things, build a space ship first. I did a lot of research but along a difference branch of the tree, so while I've done enough research to get all that stuff if I'd applied it right, I didn't. And the Americans did. So if the game ends this way it's likely to be them winning, not me.

The third is the old domination victory. Be the last person to own their own capital. I'm playing as Spain which had unique units in the mid game, which is when I was being aggressive. But I have no edge now, other than being smarter than the AI, and I have no army, and I have no time. It seems more likely to win by attacking by getting the most points via American cities, not by actually taking over the last 7 capitals.

The fourth one is brand new and replaces the old policy victory. They added an entirely new resource, tourism, to the game. There's a ton of new stuff centered around generating tourism and modifiers so that different civs get impacted by your tourism in different ways. The way you win is you need to have generated more tourism over the course of the entire game than every civ has generated culture. I didn't understand tourism at all until the end of the game and hadn't generated any until near the end of the game when I built the Eiffel Tower. I've really ramped my tourism generation up, and I will definitely end up dominating a couple of civs. But the Persians have still generated more than 7 times as much culture as I have tourism against them, so I have no hope of winning this way. Knowing how it works now it is intriguing to try to make it work right from day one though.

The fifth one is basically the old economic victory. Get voted the winner by enough of the city states around the map! In order to really do this you need a ton of money to bribe them, and probably should have a lot of policies spent making your bribes better. They added a cool 'World Congress' feature that makes buying votes useful the entire game instead of just for winning. Definitely my next game I'm going to try to focus on playing the city state game. Even this time around it may be my only hope. I'm not sure if I have quite enough money or time to pull it off, but I'm getting pretty close and it's my only shot. Every 10 years the UN meets to try to vote for a winner so I have 2 more chances before the year 2050 hits. I'm worried that the Americans will win via space shuttle before the second chance though, so I'm going all in this time around. I hope it works!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Steam Trading Cards

Recently Steam added a new feature to their overarching metagame system. Select games available on Steam now have 'trading card' sets associated with them. All you have to do is play the game a bunch and you'll get give cards at random from the set. But only up to half of them! To get the rest you need to either trade with other people or get lucky and have a random booster pack drop with more cards to help you out. Why do you want to collect these cards? Because they're cards you can collect! And collecting all the cards from a given game gives you a badge! Which raises your Steam level! Which seems to have no impact except letting you get booster packs faster!

It all sounds so worthless when you really sit down and think about it. And yet I really want to collect a full set. And I know when I collect a full set I'll want to collect ALL the full sets. Must make the number bigger!

I read an article yesterday talking about the Steam summer sale, and Steam trading cards, and how the two of them are working together to use mental tricks to convince people to buy more games. I thought it was interesting and worth checking out. And now I need to go see if there's anything new on sale on Steam that I can get tricked into buying! I'll get more cards if I find anything!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 9

Board 9 – Dealer North – EW Vul

Opponents convention card: Jack.
Opponents playing strength: Adequate.

My hand:  T 8 5 3  6 4  J 9  J 8 7 5 3

Partner opens a weak NT. I wish I knew/remembered what system Jack uses over a weak NT. With my 2 count the opponents have the points for game, and they're vulnerable compared to us being not vulnerable. So I want to chew up bidding space. With Andrew I'd bid 3 clubs to play. Lets see if Jack agrees. Looks like no, since he alerted it. That's scary. He then bid 3 diamonds. I'll pass that out. I feel like we're about to go down a billion.

East leads the A of spades.

 J 4
A Q T 2
 A 7 2
Q T 6 4


T 8 5 3
6 4
J 9
J 8 7 5 3

West North East South
1NT Pass 31
Pass 32 All Pass 4
1Transfer, weak or game forcing

Well, they have 8 trump. I will be taking 1 diamond, and 1 heart. And I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if that was all we took. They take the first spade and switch to a diamond. I win and play a second spade in the hopes of somehow setting up a ruff. They win, draw a second round of trump, and return a third spade. So I get my ruff after all. I then play a club and East is nice enough to win and draw more trump. They win some more tricks and eventually lead a heart through my AQT. I go with the Q which wins. I also get the A later. Down 5.

 J 4
A Q T 2
 A 7 2
Q T 6 4

7 6 2
K 9 8 7
K Q 4 3
A 9

♠ A K Q 9
J 5 3
T 8 6 5
K 2

T 8 5 3
6 4
J 9
J 8 7 5 3

Professor Jack disagrees with my 3 club bid, but for a very cryptic reason. His complaint is that with two five card suits I should bid the highest first. I don't have two five card suits, Jack. And my bid made perfect sense if we don't play transfers! We're still down which sucks since they didn't have a game, but it seemed like a reasonable gamble at the time. Though if I pass 1NT I feel like they should be able to find a part score at least? Or maybe this is the big advantage of playing weak NTs in that they might not find a good spot to end up. If I'd had just a little more than 2 points I would have passed I think.

It turns out that despite having 25 points the opponents don't really have a good fit and can't really make game. At other tables they went down twice in 3NT and once in 2 spades. They made 2 spades, and 4 diamonds. They did make 3NT up one once, which was the only result worse than mine. At one table my side even made 1NT. So we get 2 MPs. Not bad considering the disastrous bidding! I guess Jack tries to play constructively over a weak NT?

I went into the convention card and turned off transfers over 1NT. I then tried bidding it again, and we end up in 3 clubs. I went down 1 as expected, which was still a bad board. I tried passing out 1NT, but we went down 2. I don't see how we can either make the opponents bid and go down or make anything we bid ourselves. Oh well! At least down 1 or down 2 is better than the two times the opponents made partscores, so we would have done a little better without the bidding mistake.

Ranking after board 9/60: 9/16 with 49.21%

Friday, July 12, 2013

Civ V Expansions

My brother pointed out this morning that Steam had put the two expansions for Civ V up on sale. The first expansion was a mere $5, the second was $20 which is a pretty decent price considering it only came out very recently. I shrugged and went to pick them up but ran into problems. I couldn't buy the first expansion because Steam was convinced I already owned it. Eventually I gave up and booted the game to see what was going on and it definitely had the first expansion installed. I've never played it, so that's a little confusing. Did I buy it a while ago and forget about it? Buy it and have trouble getting it installed? Did it just randomly show up one day? I don't know, but I can't really complain that much. And I'm happy Steam was smart enough to keep me from buying it a second time if I had actually bought it in the past!

I started up a game with a random civ and got assigned the Spanish who I don't think were in the game I used to play. There's a ton of new stuff going on so I just did some stuff at random and was pretty happy with the results. It was definitely fun! I like trade routes. I like the larger variety of city-state quests. I like the way religion works. I don't know if the AI is nicer but no one declared war on me early on even though I was pretty weak. Eventually I got bored and had to attack someone! (Ok, not bored so much as I had built 4 of the Spanish specific unit and felt I needed to use them to get an advantage out of my random civ.)

Oh, and Sky will be thrilled to hear they finally buffed the bank so it isn't strictly inferior to the marketplace. Woo!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ehrgeiz: Conclusions

Ehrgeiz got tossed to the side when my Kobo died a few months ago and I decided I wanted to play Final Fantasy VIII on the bus. I feared doing so would mean I wouldn't play Ehrgeiz again, and it turns out I know myself pretty well. After finished FFVIII I tried loading Ehrgeiz back up again but I didn't really remember how to play and quickly found myself game overed. It wasn't much fun the first time around and I have no desire whatsoever to play it again from the beginning. So, that's the end of that.

How was the game? Well, the fighting game mode seemed almost reasonable. It was an early 3D fighting game, which is a genre I'm not a big fan of. I can play older RPGs and like them fine, but the flaws in an older fighting game really bother me. It's apparently seen as a top tier PlayStation game though (73rd best according to some Japanese magazine) so maybe it's just me who doesn't like it. The dungeon mode stapled RPG elements onto the fighting game, but it was still the fighting game at heart. Slow, awkward combat is not my idea of a good time. I actually do like some games in the fighting game/RPG genre, like Devil May Cry, but this one was just too slow, too incomprehensible, and maybe too hard for me to like.

I couldn't bring myself to plow through the game and finish it, so it can't get a very good spot on my chart. I think it has to fall down with Final Fantasy Legend III as games I didn't complete. Is it better or worse than that? I think for someone who likes older fighting games in the slightest it's way better than FFLIII, but I am not one of those people. So I have to put it all the way in last place. Yesterday brought a new best game to my list, today brings a new worst game. Huzzah!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Final Fantasy VIII Conclusions

I ended up deciding not to reload from a previous save in order to farm up the items needed to beat Omega Weapon. Instead I just pushed forward to Ultimecia who I took out on the first try. She has an interesting mechanic I'd forgotten about. Like in Final Fantasy VI they put in a way to use all of your characters in the boss fight, not just one party's worth. In FFVIII the way that works is you get given 3 characters at random. When one of them dies you have a short window of time to bring them back to life or they get lost in time and replaced by a different character. I hadn't set up for this, so I had 3 worthless characters and 3 awesome ones. I ended up losing all 3 worthless characters in time, and 2 of the awesome ones, but Squall managed to finish her off. It was an interesting final boss fight for sure, and I could have easily lost with the no-prep I put in. With a save point right outside the fight I like it.

The game ends with a pretty fantastic FMV cutscene. Switching to the PlayStation really was a great deal for the series as the extra room for movies like this is a big boost. I've linked it below. One great thing about the movie is they use the full song "Eyes on Me" which was apparently the first video game song to win a mainstream music award in Japan.

I like how the ending cutscene ties into the intro cutscene. At the start of the game you really don't know why the pretty dark haired girl is standing alone in a field of flowers saying she'll be waiting there. But the final dungeon of the game takes place in a time compressed area. Once you kill Ultimecia time goes back to being a normal continuum but the characters in the party need to find their way back to the right time. Most of them have no problem with this, since they have actual ties to their time. Squall does not. He's a perpetual outsider, emotionally detached from his world. So how would he find his way to the right time? He wants to go to the right time. He wants to be with Rinoa. But he can't figure out a way to do it. They tried to set up the flower field as the place to go, but he fails. She ends up having to leave the field and find him lost in the desert, but once together they end up in the field after all.

It's the sort of thing that gets me thinking. If I was lost in time, where would I end up? Would I end up back here? Sometime random? Or just lost in the void because I have nowhere specific to go? Throughout the game I always felt like Squall was doing things just like I would do them and this is no different. I would be lost. Probably forever, as I have no field to go to and no Rinoa to force me to go there. On the plus side I doubt I'm going to actually get lost in time!

As for the game itself, I had a lot of fun playing it. Playing without gaining levels didn't make the game any harder at all. It made a couple points trickier in terms of needing to run/card/stone enemies but it didn't make things harder. Overall it probably made things easier. Except Omega Weapon, anyway!

I'm still not a huge fan of the spell draw system. I hate consumable items and turning spells into consumable items is not appreciated. The plus side is it tends to be really easy to get more copies of the spells so that it turns the consumable issue from one of hoarding precious resources to one of wasting time hitting the draw command every fight. I actually like the junction system. Especially when you have one spell that's much better than the others, so you have to make a choice between getting lots of strength, intelligence, or maximum health. I like the GF system too, where you choose what skills you gain as time goes by.

The music and graphics are incredible. The FMVs are miles ahead of the ones in FFVII, and those were pretty great too. The sound track for this game is my favourite of all the games. I used to listen to the full OSTs for the different games at work and FFVIII was the best.

I like the story and the characters a lot. Quistis doesn't have much going for her but I like the interactions between Selphie and Irvine. Zell is crazy in a good way. Even the bad guys are pretty great. Seifer is a jerk and a bully and I hate him, but he actually seems like a sensible jerk and bully. It's not like Sephiroth or Kefka who just seem crazy and evil. Seifer feels like he could easily be a real person. The same with most of the sorceresses. I mean, super magic powers aren't real so I guess that's a strike against them acting like real people, but if you take as an axiom that magic is real the way they behave seems to follow. Cid reminds me of Robin Williams for some reason.

The card game is the best mini game in any game I've ever played.

Final Fantasy VIII is tops in practically every category I care about among all the games I've played thus far in this marathon. Music, graphics, cutscenes, minigames, characters, plot... It falls behind in terms of leveling system thanks to the whole draw system. Leveling systems tend to be the meat of an RPG, so is that failing enough to drop this game down in the overall list? No. I can understand how many people would feel that way, but I don't. Welcome to the #1 spot, FFVIII.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Blood Bowl: TV1000 Again

My team in Duncan's FumBBL league has come to the end of the season. 7 games in I've gotten 1 win, 2 ties, and 4 losses. Very few games were close, and my team was repeatedly slaughtered. I finished the season with 4 deaths and 4 skills gained. I have enough money to rebuy my most recent losses so I can barely get back up to 11 players and a TV of 1080. This league has a salary cap after the season so teams need to pare down to 1750TW before next season. Obviously I have no paring down to do. On top of forcing the top teams to come a little closer to the pack there's also a small mechanism to allow bottom teams to catch up. They run little 3 game mini tournaments to give you a chance to boost up. I think you probably have to pare down to 1750 again after those. But how big a deal is 3 games?

I actually have a bit of a sample to pull from for this given that we've now run 5 8 person turbo leagues on the Cyanide client. Across the 26 teams that I could find stats for (some teams played in multiple turbos, one team played a pickup game outside of a turbo afterwards) the lowest TW was 1150 after 7 games. The highest was 2320 after 15 games. Most of the teams gained in the neighbourhood of 40-50 TW per game played. I didn't make a note of it at the time so it isn't in my sheet but there were also several teams that I would call decimated despite gaining TW. These teams are carrying multiple loners which is fine for the short term TV calculations but is bad in terms of building a team up to 1750. Most of the teams were in a position where money earned could still be used to improve the team; the decimated teams were looking at spending money earned to just reduce the number of loners on the team. The decimated teams were entirely Elves (wood and dark) and Skaven.

On the other hand a couple of the teams with big TW gains got a good chunk of their boost from money they can't use. It's certainly better to have extra money than to not have extra money, but it doesn't make a big deal once you've bought your positionals and rerolls. Some of these teams got the extra money from the cash bonuses for winning leagues. My Skaven team (which is the 2320 after 15 games team) earned 160k in cash from winning leagues which is more than 10TW of the 88TW per game they've earned.

I feel like it's probably reasonable to assert that a new or mostly new team getting in 3 games against similar competition will probably end up gaining 150TW or so. So sending my Amazons in to a 3 game camp will probably get me to 1230TW, which is still a far, far cry from the 1750TW the big teams will be running.

I've also decided picking Amazons to join an established league was a big, big mistake. I let myself be tricked by the stats which say Amazons are the best low TV team in the box. The problem is that box games are guaranteed to be even TV matches, and Amazons can be queens there. A fresh Amazon team pretty much packs up to a couple people with tackle, but those aren't going to exist on a fresh team of any non-Dwarf race. Most teams can't even take tackle until they've taken block first, and even then they might be looking for mighty blow or such before tackle anyway. This means by the time a normal fresh Amazon team sees even a single tackler they rate to have a bench of extra players, and most of the team with block, and several people with guard. They'll have the tools to fight back. In my case my opponent would move a couple guys with guard and tackle beside my players and I had no options. Dodge away with 3 agility and no reroll thanks to the tackle? That's bad. Throw a -2 die block because of all the guard? That's bad. Stand still and get punched by someone with block and tackle while I have 7 armour? That's really bad. Amazons need to be able to punish people who just line up in contact in order to survive and they can't do that without a few players with guard. But I could never get any players with guard as my team couldn't earn any experience.

I wish I'd taken Halflings. I may not have won any more games, but I could have at least had fun. Halflings also really like being down a ton of inducement money because they have access to probably the 2 most powerful inducements in the game: cheap master chef and the star treeman. And when a bunch of Halflings die I don't care! I can laugh and cheer and buy some more. I'd also get to inflict some damage back since a team with 3 6+ strength dudes with mighty blow will actually get to throw blocks and knock people down.

Will 3 training games get my Amazon team to the point they can compete against a 1750TW team with guard and tackle? No. Not a chance. On the plus side there is another option. I'm allowed to throw my team away and start a new one at 1000TV which then gets to play the 3 training games. This still feels pretty bad, in all honesty. I still rate to be down 600TW, which is a really big deal. But at least with a new team I can have a race that can maybe fight back at that sort of TW disadvantage. One that doesn't just explode in a shower of blood when a couple good players look at me funny.

But maybe that big a gap isn't actually that big a deal? Our Cyanide league has the new teams beating the old teams. The gap there was more like 1500 compared to 1900 instead of 1150 to 1750, but it was still a reasonably sized gap. Duncan says that 5 of the 12 teams making the playoffs in the league this season were new. I don't know how many of the 32 teams as a whole were new coming in, but that still sounds like a pretty good mix. How were those teams looking after the training games?

Cleveland Men - Humans - 1030TV after 3 games - 1630TV/1880TW and a 10-1-3 record after 17 games
2 teams with 21 games played
Lonely Mountain Miners - Dwarves - 1200TV after 3 games - 1580TV/2140TW and a 6-6-2 record after 18 games
Mackville, Wi Pro Bowlers - Elves - midseason sub like I was - 1340TV/1390TW and a 6-0-2 record after 8 games

I probably don't understand the structure well enough, but two of the five listed teams played more games than seem possible? Certainly they've played more games than the other two new teams? Actually, I think maybe there's a preseason between the training games and the regular season which may be the difference? Those two teams were Chaos Dwarves and Elves.

I don't know. Clearly these guys were winning games with bad teams. 1030TV Humans feel like they shouldn't be any better than Amazons at the very least. Though maybe an Ogre is enough to open up some hits so they don't devolve into being able to do nothing at all? And I guess having 8AV instead of dodge is a really good trade when many players have tackle anyway.

Looking at it now I feel like maybe I can make something happen with a tougher team. Halflings are actually still tempting so I can just go out and have fun and kill some things. But what are my other options likely to be? Well, they're going to draft the teams and I get 2nd pick as the second worst team from this season that chose to start a new team. Options include Chaos Dwarves, Chaos Pact, Khemri, and Nurgle among tough teams. There's also Humans, Norse, and Lizardmen which might be taken by the 1st pick guy. And 2 types of Elves (Wood and High) which really could be options.

Three different races that can easily build the super killer player. Unfortunately two of them start with no useful skills at all, and that feels like a recipe for certain doom in this format. If I could play Nurgle enough to come in close to 1600 or so, sure. But with 3 games under their belt they probably won't even have 2 guys with block. I'll be a turnover machine, and I won't really have a chance to win games. Chaos Pact I could run with 3 big guys, but that actually feels like it'd be worse than just running Halflings with their 3 big guys instead.

Big guys? How about Khemri? They can have 4 of them, and they don't have loner or a negatrait. They even have two guys that start with block. How can I lose? Well, having no players with 3 agility is a start.

Norse are also interesting. At least the skill they start with, block, always works on defense. It's not like the Amazons who had their dodge negated by tackle.

I do also like Lizardmen, especially if the optional rule where tackle doesn't work on stunty dudes is finally working. The league says it uses the rule, but I tried joining a different league with that rule and it definitely didn't work. Heck, if that rule actually works maybe Halflings aren't a terrible idea after all!

I feel like if Chaos Dwarves are still open I should probably go with them. Beyond that... Leaning towards Halflings now. Maybe Norse. It may depend on which team has the better theme for me that fits this league...