Thursday, October 31, 2013


Sceadeau recently sent me a multiplayer game on Steam that he likened to a Diablo puzzle game. The basic idea of the game is 2-4 players get together, take one of the four classes, and smash some monsters. There's a tank, and archer, a rogue, and a barbarian style character. Each character will eventually unlock something like 8 active abilities and 8 passive abilities and can choose to use 3 of each for any given level. Combat mostly entails hitting enemies with a weaker ability in order to stack up marks on them and then using a powerful ability with a cooldown to consume the marks and do tons of extra damage. There seems like there's a reasonable amount of interplay deciding which class should be using the marks on which levels and that sort of thing but the combat isn't terribly exciting. Good enough, but not spectacular for the genre or anything.

Where the game really gets interesting is the puzzle aspect of the game. There's a floating orb on your team and each player has a button they can press to 'call the ball' and make the orb go in a straight line from where it is to where the player was when the button is pressed. If someone else hits their button it overrides the old order and the orb will go from where it currently is to the new destination. Then the levels get filled with things to do with the orb. Shrines that get activated when the orb touches them which heal the party, or damage the enemies, or charge the orb into a bomb which detonates the first time it contacts anything solid. Like an enemy, or a wall... Or a player! KABOOM! Some levels make you stand near the orb or take massive damage. Some levels have gauntlet style enemy spawners that can only be destroyed by the orb. We just did a level where we had to charge the orb into a ball but the charge point was buried deep in a tunnel and would explode if it hit the wall. We couldn't enter the tunnel because the entrance has a short ledge we couldn't walk over, but the orb could fly over. So we needed to charge the bomb and then walk parallel down the tunnel on opposite sides calling the ball back and force so it wouldn't hit either wall. Tricky, but doable with some coordination.

There's a leveling system, but it's not grindy the way most leveling systems work. Instead every zone has 3 levels that can be earned in it. One for completing the zone. One for completing the zone under a specified time limit. One for completing the zone while accomplish some challenge along the way. Kill a tough monster within 8 seconds of it spawning. Kill the area boss without getting hit by his stomp ability. Kill 5 enemies with one bomb (on a level where enemies spawn in waves of 4).

This game reminds me of the good parts of raiding in World of Warcraft. Figure out how to do a puzzle, actually implement the plan. Get a reward. Move on to the next level. Ok, in WoW those last two things actually took months to happen, and that wasn't exactly a good part... On the other hand I expect this game will probably only be fun for a couple weeks and then we'll have beaten all the challenges and move on. But maybe that's a good thing too... I have lots of games to play, after all!

We've been playing with 3 people thus far (Robb, Sceadeau, and I) but there are 4 classes and it goes up to 4 people...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blood Bowl: Break Tackle

A few weeks ago my chaos dwarf team had its second bull centaur, Mr Boddy, gain his first level. I rolled doubles and asked on Facebook what people thought I should take. I also looked up the bull centaur info on bbtactics. Duncan thought I should go with dodge because he'd be a better player with it in the long run and he can only get dodge when he rolls doubles. (And probably not on double 6s either, so there's only about a 14% chance of it happening. Better get it now when you have the option.) Steve thought I should skip the double and take break tackle. The bbtactics site had a few opinions but mostly seemed to think skipping the double and taking break tackle was the way to go with a couple options for block instead.

I ended up grabbing block because I like to punch people. He leveled again in short order (turns out he scores most of my touchdowns) and rolled doubles again. I looked ahead, saw not too much tackle, and took dodge. Ostensibly with the plan of taking break tackle next because it combos well with it on top of making him hard to take down. And by this point it was becoming clear he was going to be my ball carrier and making desperation blitzes on him work less often seemed like a good plan.

I just played a game yesterday and got yet another level. On both bull centaurs, actually! One has block and mighty blow and the other has block and dodge. I've skipped what most people seem to think is the obvious first skill on both of them thus far. Should I be taking it now? I rolled normal skills with both of them so there aren't any super fancy options.

The thing is, I just don't get break tackle. I mean, I know what it does. By letting the player use his strength instead of his agility on a dodge roll it turns the bull centaur into someone who needs a 2+ to dodge away instead of a 4+. 2+ is something that you can reasonably expect will work most of the time. 4+ is a disaster waiting to happen. So that seems like a pretty good upgrade. It opens up more options for what the players can do on their turn. They can take shorter paths on movement by dodging by one guy in the way. They can get out of contact with people standing beside them at the start of their turn. And because you choose to use it after you see the roll you can often chain together dodges if you start off with a high number. It certainly has a game effect...

But why am I doing those things? Taking a shorter path is an interesting idea, but bull centaurs can already move 9 spaces by rolling some dice while most of my team only moves 4. Squeezing out even more movement by going in a direct path feels like it's just going to spread my team out and let either the bull centaur or the remaining dwarves get beat up. Dodging away from someone who's marking me just feels wrong too. Why aren't I just punching that guy instead?

I think it may come down to me having a different idea of how to play Blood Bowl than most people. I like punching people, getting a man advantage, and then doing things with the ball. The idea that I might want to not hit someone because I want to go blitz someone else is one that feels like it's letting me hit one fewer guy this turn. I'd rather his the guy beside me and blitz somewhere else. Injuries are a numbers game and you simply need to throw lots of blocks in order to expect lots of injuries. Sure, I'm probably getting an extra hit on someone less valuable... But a hit is a hit! If I keep not hitting the least valuable guy he keeps existing on the field taking up space and forcing me to dodge away. I'd rather hurt him and get rid of the problem.

Now, sometimes hitting someone specific is critically important. The ball carrier took off down the field and will score next turn or something like that. I find that as long as I keep my team together I can probably free up a bull centaur to go blitz him down anyway. And if I have to dodge away... I'm still going to succeed 75% of the time without break tackle! That's not great, but it's not terrible. Besides, mostly I'm happy to let my opponent score if it means I get to hit more dudes. I'll just score twice myself!

That said, there is power in having the option to make that roll 97% of the time instead of 75% of the time. It's also quite useful to be able to easily threaten a score from mid field even if someone gets in the way. I like standing in a pile with the ball a little ways into the enemy territory while just punching people who come to try to take the ball away. A common tactic is to try to bog down movement so the 'cage' can't get close to the end zone, but having a guy who can move 9 spaces means I don't have to get very far before it's far enough.

What are the other options? Well, the mighty blow guy can make a case for wanting all of tackle, frenzy, guard, and piling on. I do have 6 guys with tackle, but they all move 4 spaces. Having one high movement guy with tackle and mighty blow feels like it can potentially do some real damage. I miss having a copy of frenzy on the team. I love being able to threaten the sideline push because it forces the enemy to play in a smaller area and my 4 movement guys like having less space to cover. Frenzy can be a little scary to use, but on a 4 strength guy it feels like it could be gold. Frenzy is also rough on positioning at times, but with just one copy of it I should be able to make it work. Guard is just a good thing to have. I have 7 copies of it already, and it really helps make with the punching. Piling on is something I'd rather have on a dwarf with claw but I have yet to roll doubles on any of those and they do all have guard now. I don't like having both piling on and guard on the same person, so this bull seems like the place to put it if I'm going to take it.

Dodge guy wants guard if he doesn't want break tackle. In my last game I was in a situation where dodge guy had the ball and was beside three enemies with guard. If he'd had guard it would have been trivial to break him free. As it was I had to put a lot of effort into pushing them all away and had to skip a good blitz elsewhere to do it. Of course break tackle probably would have solved the problem 97% of the time, too? Some people also think sure hands should go on the primary ball carrier but I have 4 rerolls and am more than happy to use them picking up the ball. Sure hands doesn't make you any better at picking up the ball it just conserves rerolls and I'm fine with my reroll usage most of the time. It does also protect against strip ball, which could be nice I guess.

My gut feeling for now is that I should take break tackle on the dodge guy. Maybe it will open some plays up that I'm not seeing now because I don't have it, and it will make the turn 8 final push for a score a little safer. I don't think I'm going to be dodging away much just for the sake of dodging away because I hate 1 in 6 chances of failure. Mighty blow guy I'm not sure about, but I think there are too many good options to take the second break tackle. Piling on is top of the list but I'm going to sleep on it and maybe take frenzy instead. I do like pushing people out of bounds... And once I see the order of my opponents in the second half of the season I might decide I really need tackle or guard right away?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Aardwolf Primary Class

Back in the day when I used to mud on Aardwolf the class system was relatively straightforward. You chose a class when you first started and leveled up to the max level of 200. Once there you could do 'end game' stuff or you could start over back at level 1 with a second class. This time through you'd have all of the abilities of both chosen classes and would need more experience for each level to compensate. You could keep repeating every 200 levels. Restart at level 1 with a new class. Once you had all 7 classes at max level you could stop for end game stuff or you could start over at level 1 of just a single class again, but with extra powers. (Some bonus stats and you got to use spells and wear gear 10 levels above you.) You could repeat this up to 10 times! So much leveling!

Which order you chose the classes didn't really matter. Thief/warrior or warrior/thief were just as good at fighting as one another. I can only remember three ways in which your first class mattered... That was the class you represented in class wars. There was one zone with a room for each class and you could only explore the room for your class (which meant you couldn't explore the whole zone until you'd completed 6 entire tiers of leveling and had started in on the 7th). And your displayed name was a function of your first class and your tier number.

Despite that I can remember staying up late debating the 'right' order to choose the classes with Byung and Tom. You really wanted to be a mage because they had the best damage spells. Thieves had the best opening round with backstab, especially when you had high level weapons. Warriors had the best auto attack damage. Clerics were the best healers, and had great buffs. Psionicists were almost as good as mages at doing damage and brought a bunch of utility and more buffs. Paladins were worse than clerics at healing, and worse than warriors and fighting, and worse than psions at damage and buffs. A fine first class, but once you had 3 classes you really didn't want paladin to be one of them. They did have a couple unique buffs though, so they weren't terrible. Rangers were terrible. The only thing they had going for them was the ability to skin the corpses of every monster you killed which would give you an item with random stats. If you got lucky you could make best in slot gear for several slots at every level. But you were so bad! So there were interesting decision to make while leveling based on what combo you wanted at each number of classes. Mage/thief/warrior/cleric/psion/paladin/ranger may have been 'best', but there was definitely debate to be had. It looks like Byung's last setup was thief/psion/mage/warrior/cleric/ranger/paladin!

When I stopped playing I was midway through my 4th tier. I don't even remember what my first 3 primary classes were but I know I chose different ones because I wanted to explore that entire zone. This time around I was a paladin because the display name was slayer and one of the available races is vampire. So I was a vampire slayer. Woo? And I had to get paladin out of the way at some point!

Things have changed significantly since then. They decided they didn't like that all characters with all 7 classes were pretty much identical and looked for a way to shake things up a little. The solution they came with was to make your primary class much more impactful. Each class now has a few spells/skills that can only be used if you have the right first class. Many of the other skills which carry over are significantly more powerful with the right primary class. For example, I have thief as my third class so I have access to the backstab skill. But I don't have access to the enhanced backstab skill as only primary thieves get that. Also, my backstab is worse than a thief's backstab would be. Right now I seem to be backstabbing for around 12% of enemy health. I'm just guessing here, but I bet I'd be doing more like 40% if I was a primary thief. On top of that change, you also get to pick a subclass for your primary class to get even better at something they do. I appear to have chosen to be a guardian which gives me improved safeguard and rescue abilities in order to protect other people in my group. I bet it's a useful subclass for endgame PvPing, but it's absolutely worthless for leveling and questing. If I was a thief I could subclass into assassin to do 25% more damage on backstab. That's probably 10% off the health of every monster I engage on instead of the nothing I have now!

Because they made this change they've granted everyone the ability to change their primary class once for free. You can also pay quest points to change again after that. This means exploring that one zone is a lot easier, and it means I could switch up to something better for more power. (I've also already visited the paladin specific rooms in that zone, so switching out for free makes a lot of sense regardless.) The way it works means if I switch one of my current classes in as my new primary class I end up just swapping and keeping paladin. So I can be a thief/mage/paladin or a mage/paladin/thief or I could throw paladin away entirely and be something like warrior/mage/thief.

I wish I could remember what classes I've already done for that zone. Wait! I have random logs saved from various clan applications over the years... YES! Tier 1 I was a ranger (got that out of the way early) and tier 2 I was a cleric. I'm 95% sure my tier 0 was mage. So I still need to make my primary class thief, psion, and warrior. But I can do that for a bunch of quest points if I end up exploring all the other zones and really need to get the last few rooms in this one. So probably what I should do is pick the primary class/subclass that I actually want and maybe use exploring as a tiebreaker.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Back To Mudding

Sceadeau has been trying for the last little bit to get Robb and I to start playing on the Arctic mud with him. I went to give it a spin the other day but ended up learning some things that made me uninterested in playing it heavily.

While I was playing I got to overhear a shouting flame war between some other players. It would seem the mud is what they call 'oPK' or open player killing. This means anyone can attack any other player in almost any room at any time. From what I was able to gather about this particular situation one of the players attacked someone else. Said someone else then sent out a request for help via some out of game channel (a Skype chat room or a Facebook group or something) and then 10 people were suddenly involved in the fight. They killed off the attacker, took his stuff off his corpse, and then proceeded to taunt him via shouts.

I find this very disturbing. In particular the idea that a high level player can decide on a whim to kill me and take all my items is very bothersome. It pretty much negates one of the best things about games like this: collecting gear. Either gear is so trivial to come by it doesn't matter if someone takes your stuff or gear is hard to obtain and then the best way to get gear is to find someone with gear and gang up to kill them. I am not terribly interested in being a bully, or in getting bullied, or in having my progress removed on the whim of a stranger on the internet.

Another problem was the inability to log out anywhere you wanted. If you quit the game anywhere but an inn you instantly dropped all your stuff on the ground. If you rented a room in an inn you had to pay an hourly fee based on your gear. So again, either gear is irrelevant and it's ok to lose it or you have to go to great lengths to protect it. The worst would be taking a few extra days off, running out of money, and losing all your stuff.

Now, maybe you can make the claim that this is pretty realistic. Having to watch your back all the time and not being allowed to just quit when you want does make for a more realistic virtual world. My problem is I don't think it makes for a particularly fun one. Sometimes I want to play a hardcore game where I can lose all my progress if I make a mistake or forget to eat or whatever... But then I'll go and play Don't Starve or zAngband or something where if I fail or not depends on my skill and random luck and not on some high level guy having a bad day and taking it out on me.

Maybe the last straw that drove me away was the non-Euclidian geometry in the starting town. I'm fine with weird room layouts in dungeons and the like, but the starting town? Are you trying to confuse me just for your own kicks? Walking in a circle should get me back to the same spot, not get me to a room above the starting room. It didn't help that I'd downloaded a new mud client that had automap software that was really, really confused by it.

After futzing with that client I decided to see about logging into the mud I used to play a lot back in the day, Aardwolf. I finally went and salvaged the hard drive out of my old dead computer and hooked it up to my working computer. I was able to get all my old scripts and import them into the new client. Woo! Most of them didn't work because they changed how brackets and quotes work between zMud and cMud but at least it gave me a framework to work with. I cleaned most of them up and now I have a functioning spellup script and a campaign window like back in the day. I even managed to win a global quest!

So much has changed, with the world layout completely redone (busting most of my speedwalks), the class system changed, and all sorts of new stuff added. I got kicked out of my old clan (probably for not really playing in 6 years or whatever) which is a little sad. I did get a couple tells from people though! One from someone who used to be a clannie in Amazon (I think) and one from someone trying to recruit me into the big evil clan. I'm not a huge fan of random PK, but at least on Aardwolf there aren't really negative consequenced for being PKed. You lose a bit of time casting your buff spells again and whatnot but you don't get any gear stolen or anything like that. There's a lot of new stuff to figure out, but I still have my old gear and all my big numbers from before which is nice. I like big numbers!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 24

Board 20 – Dealer West – None Vul

Opponents convention card: Bridge World Standard
Opponents playing strength: Fair

My hand: J 7 6 2 A 7 Q 4 3 2 K 8 5

Partner opens 1 club. We're playing Walsh, so I'm supposed to bypass diamonds with a bad hand. A fairly balanced 10 count  probably qualifies as a bad hand, so I bid 1 spade which gets alerted. Partner bids 1NT, also alerted. I can't see us making game here so I pass.

East leads the 6 of diamonds.

A 9 4
K J 9
Q J 3


J 7 6 2
A 7
Q 4 3 2
K 8 5

West North East South
Pass 1 Pass 11
Pass 1NT2 Pass Pass
2Strong NT w/o spades

Right, we're playing weak NT, so he has a better hand than I thought he was going to have since he's have opened 1NT with the weak balanced hand. I wonder if that takes away some of the power from the Walsh convention? Oh well. We have 3 diamonds, 2 clubs, 4 hearts, and a spade. So 10 tricks as soon as I lose those minor suit aces. Maybe they can set up some spades first, but the diamond lead makes that unlikely...

6-2-T-J. I force out the diamond A. East returns a club. So much for them setting up spades first... I win, cash my diamond from hand, and pound out the club A. I cash out. Making 4.

♠ A 9 4
K J 9
Q J 3

Q 8
9 8 6 3 2
T 5
T 9 7 2

K T 5 3
5 4
A 8 7 6
A 6 4

J 7 6 2
A 7
Q 4 3 2
K 8 5

The other 7 tables played 3NT. Some made 3, some made 4. So this is a solo bottom board.

Captain Jack disagrees with my pass of 1NT. He wants me to bid 3NT since partner has a strong NT hand. Fair enough.

I do wonder what would happen if he was 2-4-2-5 or 2-2-4-5 with 11 points...

Ranking after board 24/60: 8/16 with 51.19%.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Grand Prix: Toronto 2013

At the end of November there's going to be a big Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix out by the airport in Toronto. I assume it's going to be big because apparently there was a PTQ in the same location that got in the neighbourhood of 350 people. That's an insane number of people for a PTQ! The last event I played in was a PTQ in Toronto back in 2011 and it only had 84 players. The last limited GP Toronto that I went to, in 2010, had 1361 people in it. If it goes up at the same rate you'd be looking at more than 5000 people! I can't imagine that actually happening, but I'm expecting a really large number of people to show up.

I haven't played Magic in person in more than 2 years and I haven't played much online either, but I still feel like I should head on out to a local GP. Last time around I had two byes thanks to my limited rating but unfortunately that system went out the window since then. Now byes are awarded based on recent Planeswalker points of which I have none. I could get 2 byes if I find and win a GP trial, or I could show up with no byes and need to go 7-2 or better to make day 2.

Finding a GPT is unfortunately easier said than done. There's a link on the GP overview site but it doesn't seem to do what it says it does. Searching Google is no better. Eventually my brain suggested I look on mtgontario and lo and behold they had an event list. No idea if it's comprehensive or not, but it at least has SOME info, which is more than I could get out of the Wizards site. There are GPTs on the 27th of October and on November 3rd and 17th. There's also a PTQ on Nov 9th. I have plans to stay awake for 25 hours until 8am Nov 3rd so that trial is probably out. This weekend is probably too soon, and there's an online PTQ too. But maybe I can fit the one on the 17th in... Of course the listing on the mtgontario site doesn't say where it is... *sigh*

I also need to, you know, learn the new set. I get a brief overview of things by reading Matt's Facebook posts but playing enough to understand the tricks that exist seems important. I did a swiss draft online last night and went 2-1 with what felt like a terrible deck, but this format might just be really screwy. I sided in land destruction in all three of my matches because people seem intent on paying 8 mana for things. Of course my deck mostly cost 4 and 5 so I can't really talk. I drafted several rares that ended up being underwhelming, like the new Fact or Fiction. I had the red mythic god and won the game I played him on turn 4 but every other time I drew him he had no impact on the game. Devotion is weird, and I think I needed to ignore a second colour entirely and just play a lot of cheap red creatures to power him up. Try to win before people can pay their 8 mana! I liked the red common monstrous creature who cost 4 for a 3/3 trample and then 6 more to power up to 6/6. He's probably even better in a deck with cheap stuff so you have something to do when you hit 6 instead of my super slow deck that had other 6 drops competing for time.

There's an online PTQ this weekend. I'll need to wake up early to play in it (it starts at 10am) but it's probably worth doing just for the experience with sealed deck.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

SNES Top Licensees

16 months ago I started playing through all of the US released games in the SNES library on my other blog, Ziggyny's SNES Adventure. I've been assigning a personal rating to a game each week and I've been wondering which company is going to end up having made the best games for the system. And how would that even be defined? Average rating? Sheer quantity of games with a high rating? Percentage of games with a high rating? I wish I'd thought of this when I started up so I could have made some predictions before getting involved with some of the games.

I feel like my initial guess would have had Square end up at the top of the heap. I know of four incredible games they put out at least! Koei would have been next since I spent a ton of time playing some of their simulation games. Aerobiz, Uncharted Waters, PTO, Romance of the Three Kingdoms III... And more! Third would probably have been Nintendo since they put out some really spectacular games. But they also put out a lot of games and there's bound to have been some stinkers. So if I'd be using an average metric it probably falls down below Square and Koei. Then there'd be the other game companies I remember putting out lots of games. Capcom, Konami, Electronic Arts...

One company I wouldn't have put on the list is Enix. Why? Because my mind thinks terrible things about them from when they merged with Square. The internet likes to blame that for the 'downfall' of the Final Fantasy series. So those thoughts aren't actually grounded in fact, but in internet bias. That's not good!

The reason I started thinking about Enix is I've spent all week playing the next game to be posted: Soul Blazer. Which happened to be put out by Enix. The only other game thus far in the adventure put out by Enix? ActRaiser. The single game I was most psyched about playing again when I started running the adventure. Ok, so they had a couple good early games... They must have put out a lot of junk afterwards to justify my not liking them, right? Well, it turns out they put out 10 games total on the SNES according to my list. And the next one after Soul Blazer is EVO: the Search for Eden! Another game I really, really, really want to play again. Later on they have 2 RPGs my brother had growing up which I remember liking (Paladin's Quest and Robotrek), 2 hard/annoying games I finally beat after sinking a ton of time into them (The 7th Saga and BRAIN LORD), an ok sequel (ActRaiser 2), a game from a series I've heard good things about but never played (Ogre Battle), and a game I've never heard of (King Arthur & the Knights of Justice). That is quite a line-up. Depending on how I feel when digging into the frustrating games Enix could end up putting up a really high score in any metric.

Enough to pass Square? Well, looking at that list I have to say there's no way. Square only put out 7 games for the SNES. Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Chrono Trigger, and Breath of Fire. Yowsa! Soul Blazer is fun and all, but it is no Final Fantasy VI...

I ended up putting together a static page to go on my other blog listing the companies, the total number of games I've played thus far, how many got at least an A rating, and the average rating thus far. Most companies only have one game played thus far, so things could easily change, but the top two right now are Enix and Square. SunSoft is number 3, I guess because I really liked Lemmings. I don't recognize any of the other 11 game names though so they may end up tumbling down the list. Nintendo is far and away the leader in terms of A or better games with a full third of all good games coming from them. It's their forays into terrible sports games which are dragging them down in terms of average. Nintendo is also below Culture Brain, LJN, Acclaim, and Data East. Acclaim even has 3 games in the clubhouse and still average out to A-! Acclaim actually put out the second most games of any company to Nintendo, though I don't recognize very many of them.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Space Empires V

Every now and then I peruse the list if games on sale on Steam just to see if anything catches my eye. Yesterday I saw something called Space Empires and it sounded like it might be a game similar to Master of Orion which I've had an urge to play recently. A little searching on the internet revealed it is a 4X game in space, and it is a more complicated series than the Master of Orion games. Complicated fiddly bits? That's what I wanted! And at $5 for both Space Empires IV and V how could I say no?

The internet made it sound like SEV has real compatibility issues with newer computers so for some reason I decided to try it first. Turns it does have problems, but some poking around got them mostly smoothed out. I have to play on lowered graphic settings and it gets very confused when anything pops up in another window but it played reasonably smooth after I got that sorted out.

The game has a tutorial which I ran through. It took a couple hours on its own and only covered research, ship construction, exploration, and founding new colonies. It completely ignored diplomacy, espionage, and combat! A couple hours and it left me with no idea how to deal with enemies should I ever find them. Now that's complicated!

Fiddly bits? Has this game got them. You need to build your ship from scratch using parts you've researched. Each type of ship has a limited amount of weight and item slots allowed on the ship. I built a cruiser which can hold 750 kT of weight and has room for up to 12 armour modules and up to 105 other modules which weight between 5 kT and 200 kT. Shields, engines, weapons, scanners, crew quarters, life support, a bridge... Auxiliary control in case the bridge gets damaged. Emergency engines. Cargo holds. Ammo holds. Satellites. Point defense drones. Presumably cloaking devices. Short ranged weapons. Long ranged weapons. Missiles. Weapons to use on planets.

Research is also insane. You can research each thing multiple times which gives you slightly better versions of the old thing. Sometimes it unlocks a new research tree entirely. So far I have 75 different tech trees I could spend research point on, though I think one is completely finished.

Combat seems to be completely automated. There's a spot for inputting what tactics you want your fleets to use but I haven't even looked at that yet. The AI seems to have a thing for stacking a bunch of ships on the other end of a jump gate thing so I can't tell there will be a fight until it happens and I die. So I think I need to stop sending out individual scout ships and start sending out massive fleets? I haven't even considered invading a planet. I wonder how hard that's going to be?

All that said, I'm not sure super complicated with fiddly bits is actually what I want to play. It hasn't hooked me into taking one more turn the way Civ does. Or maybe that's just because I haven't hit a limited level of mastery yet? I figure I should at least play until I get killed, right?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

League of Legends: Get Jinxed

Riot has been experimenting with different ways to introduce new champions for a while now, and the most recent champion came out a couple weeks ago with a pretty sweet music video:

They went out and got the lead singer from Djerv, a Norwegian heavy metal/rock band, to do the vocals. I think it's pretty great!

I finally got around to trying the champion out today (I built up enough IP to buy her at the 'no longer brand new' reduced price) and she feels good. I rarely got to play against her in games because she seems to get banned a lot. This tends to happen with new champions since people who don't know how to deal with them would rather just ban them than lose to them even if they aren't necessarily too good. Often they are too good because the test server isn't the best place to find a competitive balance, but sometimes it's just unfamiliarity.

I have a feeling she may be too good, and it's mostly because of her passive that basically does nothing for the vast majority of the game. What it does is gives her a massive speed boost for a short period of time after killing a turret or champion. So it feels like she should be able to hang back safely in the big team fights and then hunt down all of the wounded enemies trying to run away at low health. She just needs to get one of them and she should be able to get them all. It helps that her ult has unlimited range so there's even a chance she can pick one off at quite a distance and then use the speed boost to close on the others.

She doesn't have an escape which is rough for an ADC, but she does have a pretty good slow and a root wall. Her other ability drains mana on each attack to make her autoattacks do AoE damage. I've only played the one game against bots so far to get a feel for it, but I never had mana to use that ability and her low cooldown high damage slow nuke. It makes me wonder if maybe she should build mana of some kind... Like a Manamune! I remember wanting to build that on Ashe back in the day to fuel her mana draining autoattack and eventually discarded it because it was a terrible plan. But Manamune has been buffed since then, and AoE damage with extra range is better than a slow anyway... Maybe it's worth a shot!

Monday, October 21, 2013

CastleCon Recap

I want to make Andrew sad, so here's what went on for me this weekend...

I played a bunch of games, some new, some I knew before. In particular I believe I played Mage Tower (x3), K2, Timeline (x2), Suburbia, Viva Java, Bora Bora, Galaxy Trucker, Dominion (x5), Pack and Stack, and The Capitals. Sadly no Battlestar Galactica, though.

I didn't sleep terribly well. I'm not sure if that was the air conditioner making a racket, going to bed too early, or just a consequence of setting an alarm on Friday to wake up in time to head in. But I was still around for a lot of games, so it was all good.

We ordered out for Swiss Chalet one night, and I ate stuff I brought with me the rest of the time. In particular I found some gluten free mushrooms muffins that were surprisingly good, and I brought a couple granny smiths along. I didn't get sick, which beats Niagara earlier in the year. Woo!

There was a problem in the venue of there not being enough garbage cans and no one emptying the ones that were there. I've noticed gamers tend to be pretty good about throwing out their trash when they can, but we're really not interested in going above and beyond. So we filled up the garbage cans, and then we just built a pile of garbage beside the cans... Ew!

The new games to me this year were Mage Tower, Viva Java, and The Capitals. They were all very different, and all had flaws, but I had fun with each of them. Mage Tower is a deck drafting game that simulates a tower defense game in that you get swarmed by monsters until you die and you're just trying to outlast the other players. Viva Java was a team game where the teams changed every turn. You had a tech tree, and you were trying to accumulate resources in order to spend them with your current teammates to randomly build poker hands. The Capitals is a more complicated take at Sim City: the board game than Suburbia where you draft a new unique building every turn which gives you points on different resource tracks and has a special ability that might combo with other buildings you have.

Mage Tower had the flaw of forcing every card in the draft to get played in someone's deck which meant Robb had a completely unplayable card one game and we were stuck playing attack cards with no personal benefit which only served to accelerate game end with no way to avoid doing so. Viva Java had the flaw of requiring the ability to track the public private contents of 7 other player's bean bags in order to figure out who you wanted on your team. The Capitals suffered from random tiles coming up each turn so the ability to plan ahead wasn't really a thing. Close your eyes, cross your fingers, and hope the buildings you want show up when you need them and when you're high in drafting order. I also fear it may suffer from the flaw that optimal strategy will involve just paying 6 points per turn in order to always go first. And it's a first printing of the game and had a lot of misprints and there was no way to tell what colour each player was. Fortunately three of the four players in my game had 'known' colours to me (Duncan is always black, I'm always green, Sara is always purple/red and the last colour was blue and left for Robb).

That said, all three games were fun, and I want to play them all again. And I think Andrew wants to play them all, too.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 23

Board 23 – Dealer South – All Vul

Opponents convention card: Bridge World Standard
Opponents playing strength: Fair

My hand: A J 2 T 8 7 A 5 3 2 9 8 4

Partner opens 1 heart in 3rd seat. My super flat 9 count is only worth a 2 heart bid. Everyone passes.

East leads the 6 of diamonds

Q 6
Q J 5 4 3
K J 7


A J 2
T 8 7

A 5 3 2
9 8 4

West North East South
Pass1 Pass 2
PassPass Pass

Well, I have 2 hearts, 2 diamonds, 1 spade, and 1 club. I need to find 2 more tricks. An extra heart will come if they split 3-2. A spade can be obtained by brute force. I can finesse clubs twice to try for an extra trick. Oh, and I can get a third diamond if East leads a diamond like he just did. I should have enough tricks. Do I have too many losers? I have 2 heart losers for sure and maybe a third. I could lose a spade and two clubs. But as long as I play spades before clubs I can get rid of a club loser even if the finesse fails. So that shouldn't be a problem either.

Lets see if things play out well. 6-2-Q-K. I need to draw trump. 3-6-T-K. West switches to a club. Very sneaky, West. Very sneaky. 3-T-J-4. East comes back with another club. Woo! 5-8-7-Q. I draw another round of trump. Q-A-7-2. East draws trump too. 9-8-9 of spades-J. I now have 3 tricks in and 6 more tricks for sure. I can get the last trick either by setting up the last diamond or by finessing a spade. Might as well see how diamonds play out first... They split 3-3. I'm up. Making 4.

Q 6
Q J 5 4 3
K J 7

K 9 8 4 3
K 2
Q T 9
7 3 2

T 7 5
A 9 6
8 6 4
K J 6 5

A J 2
T 8 7
A 5 3 2
9 8 4

There were 7 different results this time around. 3NT making, 3 hearts making 4, 2 hearts making 4, 2 hearts down 1, 2NT making 3, 2NT making 2 (twice), and 3NT down 3. Our result is good for 11 of the 14MPs.

Professor Jack agrees with me all the way!

Ranking after board 23/60: 6/16 with 53.42%.

Friday, October 18, 2013

CastleCon 2013

This weekend is CastleCon, a little board game convention held out in Oshawa. I went last year for 2 days and we drove in each day. It's not very far away so that wasn't so bad, but the 4 of us who went in the car have very different ideas of the right times to be asleep and I live far away so coordinating the drives wasn't the best. This year Sara and Duncan are getting a hotel room and I will be bringing my air mattress to crash on the floor. So if Sara wants to wake up at some stupid early hour like 6am or 10am or whatever she's welcome to do so, and I can sleep in until 4pm! Woo!

I did have to wake up early today in order to be ready for the ride in. Who knows what that will do to my sleep schedule (or lack thereof). On the plus side there will be lots and lots of games played. GAAAAAAAMES!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I can remember back in high school buying a 4 pack of Microprose games. Master of Magic, Master of Orion, XCOM, and XCOM2. Such an awesome package of games. Even now I'm not sure which of those games was my favourite... Not XCOM2, since I refused to really play it until I beat the first one which I never did manage to do, but the other three were all incredible in their own ways.

Last year Firaxis put out a remake of the original XCOM game. I heard good things, and wanted to play it, but for some reason never got around to picking it up. Probably I was playing too much League of Legends or something. Patience paid off as I was able to pick it up on sale during the Steam summer sale. It sat there in my 'want to play' category on Steam for a while and yesterday I finally got around to installing it and giving it a shot.

I haven't put in all that much time so far, just long enough to lose one game to a crash and then actually lose one game. It's not just a graphical update, it's more like a reimagining of the game. It's still a turn based tactical combat game with aliens and research and the like, but it feels a lot more streamlined. Far fewer finicky details. Which may be a good thing, more time will tell, but it may well be a bad thing. Finicky details are part of the charm of those old Microprose games!

Squad size on a mission is down to 4 instead of the 12 or 16 from the original game. When you have 8 extra dudes in the fight you can afford to lose a few and not care. With only 4 dudes it's a real problem when one of them goes down. You lose a lot of your firepower. Even worse when they get turned into a zombie! Night time doesn't seem to be a thing anymore in terms of vision. Each person in the squad gets to carry around two weapons and one extra item which is a big change from the past where you got to load your ship down with as much as you could fit in and then load your dudes down with items. It might slow them down if they weren't strong enough, but you could do it!

Movement is drastically changed. You used to have a number of action points to spend and could use it however you wanted. Move a bit, shoot, move some more. Shoot multiple times. Stand still and reaction attack a bunch of times instead. Now you get two actions, but if the first is an attack your turn ends. So you can attack, move and attack, or move and move. You can still skip an action and reaction attack. It felt like there were fewer options on things to do, but there were still relevant decisions to make.

The maps seemed significantly smaller and less exploration based than before. All the maps I was on at least were pretty much a straight line. Start at one end, move forward to the other end killing the enemies on the way. Of course with only 4 people I guess that makes sense. Splitting up is a bit of a disaster so having 3 or 4 ways to explore would be deadly.

On the plus side losing all my dudes didn't also cost me my ship. It was still terrible since I'd lose 4 leveled up dudes, and wouldn't get the reward for the mission, and would suffer terrible terror related consequences. They did add in a leveling system with classes and talent trees which seemed like it could be really interesting.

Perhaps the worst change is the inability to buy scientists and engineers. I'd researched some better weapons but I couldn't build any because I needed to have 10 engineers on hand to start the project and I only had 5 and couldn't get any more. I may well have skipped a mission that gave them early before I figured out what was going on? But it meant I couldn't gear my team with reasonable weapons and eventually hit a wall where I couldn't win and eventually got overrun by aliens. Live and learn for next time though!

I found the new XCOM fun, but I have more of an urge to play the old one than the new one now. Actually, what I really want to do is play Master of Orion...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

League of Legends: Season 3 Ending

The end date for League of Legends' season 3 is October 31st. So there's about 2 weeks left to level up in order to earn the end of season rewards. Silver is worth a ward skin. Gold is worth an Elise skin (and the Elise champion if you don't have her already). On top of that, each tier is worth a different coloured banner for the loading screen.

Looking at things I'm currently gold I in solo queue, silver IV in 3s, and bronze I in 5s. I feel like we were in silver in 5s also, but since we haven't played a game with any of our teams since before WBC they've all gotten degraded down. I don't know that I really care about the 3s or 5s banners. I'd like to have them as high as possible, of course, but I'd want that to happen because I was actively playing them. That hasn't been the case, so having them be low isn't that big a deal.

The solo queue one, on the other hand, I might well be able to get going. For the last couple months I've been bouncing around in the 20-60 LP range, but in the last few days I've been playing a lot more and went on a bit of a winning streak where I've been able to play a lot of Renekton. I got up to 94 LP and won for +3. I've been here before, back in silver I, and was sad. At that time it was still possible to get 0 points for a win and I got up to 99 and got the 0 point win and got really bitter. This time I lost at 97 and went back down to 94. Won and back up to 97. Won again and got to 100! Woo! Promotion series time!

I've played one game in the series and it featured the guy picking 4th who spammed the team chat with "ONLY TOP", "BAN RENEKTON", "TOP OR FEED" until we gave in and said he could have what he wanted. He then proceeded to yell at each person on the team for every mistake made for the entire game. (Who knew that someone making all caps demands in champion select would end up so toxic?) We still almost won, but I know I played worse because of all the yelling and it was probably the difference in this particular game. Getting yelled at for doing no damage on a mid game Tristana is a little silly, I think, since she's not very good mid game. I was blowing people up late, but I didn't cleanse in the last fight that we lost because I wasn't thinking straight and it may well have been all the difference. I was so flustered I had to walk away and watch TV for a while instead of keeping on trying.

Will I win 3 of 4? Will I get promoted out of gold in the next two weeks? Stay tuned to find out...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

League of Legends: Corki

One of my favourite champions due to available skins in League of Legends is Corki. He's a Yordle with an awesome handlebar moustache who flies around in a little plane. I have a skin that turns his plane into a Red Baron biplane which is just awesome. I've always liked playing Corki and he's recently received a bunch of personal and item related buffs. He was probably the top AD carry at Worlds and they kept bringing up on the streams how he uses a different set of boots than most people at his position. Most champions use the boots that make you autoattack faster since most of their damage comes from autoattacking. Ezreal has a build that uses cooldown reduction boots and that was really surprising to me. I have to assume all these pros know what they're doing when they're building the spell penetration boots, but I wanted to test and math it out myself to see what was going on.

I've played a few games recently as Corki, and I looked at the match summary screens afterwards. It seems like my damage done to champions was about 67% magical or so. 10k physical, 22k magical, 1k true... that sort of split. So the spell pen boots would be amplifying 2/3rds of my damage and the autoattack boots might be amplifying 30% if they're lucky. It really feels like they have to be better!

What does the spreadsheet say? The spreadsheet really makes it look like I should be doing a lot more autoattack damage. I think I'm failing really badly at modeling how Corki does damage. The problem is he has a huge range spell so often he'll be hanging in the back of the fight not able to auto attack at all. Also his spells do big area of effect damage so it's possible to hit multiple people at the same time with the spells and not so much with the autoattacks. I even went so far as to put in a full AP build but it couldn't come out better than an auto attack based build with trinity force.

Ok, so my spreadsheet is a disaster here. What about logic? Well, with that much of my real reported damage being magical it really seems like the spell pen boots are important to have. I should likely also run spell pen runes and masteries as well. Well, probably hybrid runes if I ever got around to buying them. But I think the big thing Corki has going for him is his ability to do damage at the start of a fight with his long range spell, but to still do a ton of damage up close in a skirmish or as cleanup. He needs to build a lot of standard AD items in order to make that happen. His passive doing 10% of his AD on each auto attack is pretty strong, but only if you're building normal stuff.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Battlestar Galactica: Blatant Unrevealed Cylon

This weekend I played another game of BSG as the cylon leader (in a 6 player game) and I ended up getting 2 cards for each side and was able to satisfy all 4 conditions without much effort. (I did need to damage Galactica a couple times to make one of them work, and I needed the humans to not repair the initially damaged vipers.) At that point it was a matter of just ending the game and I went to work with the cylons. We ended up destroying Galactica primarily with raider shots which is something I'd never seen before. It's pretty rare for a raider to get even a single shot on Galactica let alone to get 9 hits with them. (We had 19 raiders in play and I used Al's once per game to activate all raiders 3 times in order to wipe out all the civilian ships.)

On the way home I was talking a bit with Dave about the new version of Gaius Baltar. His downside is the inability to reveal himself as a cylon unless he's in the brig. Normally I just reveal as soon as I can, but if I was playing as Baltar that wouldn't be possible. So I wanted to think a bit about how much damage you could do while staying as a human. Dave said he just stood around trying to throw other people in the brig and consuming their cards trying to fight off those skill checks. That seemed like a reasonable enough thing to do, but could the humans fight that by just not defending? New Baltar only draws 2 cards that are positive on that skill check so even if the humans never throw in a card he probably needs to throw in 5 or 6 cards to succeed. So once every three turns he can pull it off? Maybe he spends one turn playing consolidate power to get two more cards and then the next turn trying to brig someone? The big problem with trying to defend is he gets to go last, so you have to commit all your cards first and then he can just hold off for next time.

What else can he do? Obviously he can go around and steal once per game tokens from a couple people. He can give out a mutiny card, which might be a better way to try to brig someone. Hand out some mutiny cards and then use admiral's quarters when he can actually make it pass could be strong. He can use communication to shift civilian ships around, but that's always seemed weak to me. He also gets to throw in as many cards as he wants on skill checks, which may be the best thing he can do. Especially the one on his own turn, if blue is negative for it, he probably gets to make it fail. Again, the humans are probably better off just sacrificing the skill check on his turn. But then that means they're failing one per time around the table, and he gets to keep his cards and probably gets to make another fail every other turn or so. If they get lucky his crisis won't be a skill check at all. Water shortage or something!

One thing having a blatant unrevealed cylon is it makes some skill checks irrelevant. Pass the check or send someone to sickbay? That's quite the cough you have, Gaius. The main reason I reveal when I'm found out is to prevent this from happening. Giving the humans an easy person to send to sickbay or execute or brig is really strong for them. Gaius doesn't really care about getting executed or brigged because at least then he gets to reveal so he's not as bad off as a normal cylon. But it does still save them the cards to pass it, and the consequence by having an easy target, and it shuts down any annoyances he's providing. And since in order for him to be really annoying he wants to have a threatening number of cards in hand executing him is extra good.

None of these things sound nearly as good as being able to activate the cylon fleet spaces. Having the cylon remain human means they keep getting the 55% of a jump prep on his crisis card and don't lose the 38% of a jump prep from the cylon fleet so keeping him around is worth almost a full jump prep per round. I continue to assert that jump prep is really all that matters for the humans.

The one thing that may be useful is if one cylon is already revealed and built up a hand of super crisis cards. Then having a human cylon who can throw in a ton of cards to said check could be really useful. But I've been in games where a cylon has just drawn super crisis cards and I've never been impressed by it. I'm not sure that having two people taking suboptimal actions is going to work out well for them, but maybe the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in this case.

Having now thought it through a bit, I think if I'm in a game with cylon Baltar I'll advocate just letting him do what he wants and see what happens. I feel like we'll be better off having him draw crisis cards than wasting cards dealing with him. Maybe execute him if we get a free shot to do it from a crisis, but ideally sending him to sickbay to keep his cards under control while getting jump prep from his crisis cards sounds really awesome.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 22

Board 22 – Dealer East – EW Vul

Opponents convention card: Bridge World Standard
Opponents playing strength: Fair

My hand: ♠ 7 4 Q 4 3 9 8 6 5 3 A J T

East opens 1 club. I pass. West responds 1 spade. Partner passes. East retreats to 1NT. West bids 3 diamonds, East bids 3NT.

I lead the Q of hearts.
A K Q 5 3
8 6
A T 4 2

7 4
Q 4 3
9 8 6 5 3

West North East South
1 Pass
1 Pass 1NT Pass
3 Pass 3NT All Pass

Q-5-7-A. They switch to diamonds. Q-3-2-J. And now to spades. 2-7-Q-9. Back to hearts. 6-2-T-3. Spades. 6-4-K-8. Diamonds. 4-7 of clubs-K-5. They have 6 tricks in, and 3 high cards on board. I don't think we get to set them! They proceed to cash those 3 tricks and then give up the lead and we cash 4 tricks. Just in.

J T 9 8
J 7 2
K 7 4 3 2

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

6 2
A K T 9
K Q 7
Q 9 6 5

♠ 7 4
Q 4 3
9 8 6 5 3

3NT just in is good enough for a shared top board, for 13MPs. It turns out all 8 tables played 3NT but they made up one 3 times and up two 3 times. I imagine most teams played clubs early and gave them the club Q? Or maybe most declarers set up the 5th spade?

Captain Jack disagrees with my Q of hearts lead. He wanted me to lead the 3 of hearts. I was worried doing so would confuse partner about how many hearts I had. On the other hand leading an unsupported honour didn't feel right either. My assertion was that it was the unbid suit and therefore hopefully wouldn't hurt too much. But I would have chosen a low diamond over a low heart I think.

Ranking after board 22/60: 6/16 with 52.27%

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cherry Tree High Comedy Club

Lino made a cryptic post on Facebook asking if I wanted to start a comedy club. It included a link to a game on Steam, which I went to check out. It sounded like an interesting enough single player game with Steam cards, so I decided to give it a shot.

It turned out to be a 'life simulator' game where you choose what three things to do each day over the course of about 50 days. The actions you take can earn you money, or let you spend money to level up your skills, or let you talk to other characters in the game to level up your friendships with them. The goal of the game is to get 3 of the 6 targeted characters to become very good friends with you in order to convince them to sign your charter to create a comedy club at your high school.

The game was really short (I beat it in around two hours) but I enjoyed playing it. It had good music and nice art. It wasn't nearly as funny as I was expecting for a game about a comedy club, but there were some good puns spread out over the course of the game. It also claimed to have a 'better ending' if I played again and acquired all 6 friends in the course of a single playthrough. Getting 3 friends was pretty easy and pretty much just required ignoring 2 or 3 of them entirely and working on the remaining ones but getting all 6 feels like it would be pretty hard. I couldn't really figure out what  leveling up my conversation topics was accomplishing but I imagine being better at talking about the things people liked would trick them into being my friend quicker. So there's bound to be an optimal progression of things to learn first and why to talk to about those things first. On the other hand it did say some stuff would carry over if I loaded my save file from a finished game so maybe working out an optimal progression doesn't matter and I just need to play through a couple of times to build up a big enough stock of carried over stuff.

I've always liked 'life sim' games (like Princess Maker 2) and I'm not really sure why. Maybe because they boil down making friends to a nice easy formula. Figure out what stat someone wants you to max. Max that stat. Show them that you maxed that stat. Profit. It reminds me a little of the Big Bang Theory episode where Sheldon creates an algorithm for getting Kripkie to become his friend. Actually talking to people is scary and hard. Following a formula is easy!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Guns of Icarus Online

Earlier today Robb sent me a message about a game on Steam that had gone on sale that he wanted me to come play with him. It was a team based shooter where your team pilots a steampunkesque blimp loaded with weapons and tries to fly around and destroy the enemy blimp. Each blimp is piloted by a crew of 4 people and each team has 2 or 3 blimps on it making it so there are upwards of 24 people in a single game.

It sounded interesting enough, and it had Steam cards, so I agreed to play. 10 hours of play later we stopped to go to sleep. Sceadeau, Elaine, and Snuggles also played some games with us, though not all at the same time. The game has AI players to fill out the teams, and it also has a rudimentary matchmaking system so we'd get random dudes joining the team too.

One of the interesting parts of the game is that there are three different roles on your team. Someone has to be a pilot and fly the blimp. They make decisions about what speed to go in each of 3 dimensions and are pretty much in charge of the whole operation. They need to track where the different blimps are the locations of the guns on each blimp in order to properly position the blimp in order to kill enemies without dying themselves. Being the pilot class also gives you three special flying abilities that make you better at controlling the blimp. Note that it is still a blimp, so maneuvering isn't so much a matter of split second decisions so much as proper planning. Then you have the gunners who get to carry around 3 extra types of ammo in order to maximize the damage from the different guns. The difference between 4 ammo and 2 ammo (which the other characters can use) didn't seem terribly relevant though, and it felt like gunner was just the worst class. The final class is engineer and they get to carry around 3 support abilities meaning they get to put out fires, repair items, buff items, and spy for enemy blimps. They still get one extra ammo type so they're just fine at shooting the guns too. Gunners get to have one support ability only which meant I could put out fires, or I could repair things, or I could buff my weapon. But not all three, and if my gun got hit by something I couldn't deal with I was screwed.

Another interesting aspect was it felt like one blimp could never kill another blimp. Repairing abilities seem to be good enough that you can outpace the damage that one blimp can throw at you. We could keep a blimp busy, and with some setups could keep all their weapons damaged and out of commission, but we could never seem to solo an enemy. Teamwork is key, and getting another blimp to join in and help out was often all it took to kill them. It was pretty astonishing how quickly we could go from full to dead if we wandered into a bad spot and got lit up by 2 or 3 blimps at once. In most of the games we were playing no one really seemed to have that level of coordination though. If we saw someone on our team fighting someone else we'd try to join in but setting up a proper engagement was way outside the realm of feasible. But it makes me think that a full team game could be really interesting in terms of positioning and pulling off baits and ambushes out of the clouds or out of a gulley or something.

It also had a level system, but you didn't get experience in a normal way. Instead you'd have up to 9 achievements you could be working on at any given time and you'd need to complete some number of achievements to gain a level. I like the way this worked out because the achievements were often things that were teaching about how the game worked. Having to kill 30 weapons with a rocket launcher meant I needed to keep in mind where the weapons were positioned on each model of blimp, for example. Needing to help a teammate rebuild the balloon 16 times means I need to be paying attention to the health state of our balloon and coordinate running off to fix it. Having a broken balloon is pretty devastating (it turns out a blimp with no balloon sinks like a rock and takes falling and collision damage when it hits the ground) so training your team to pay attention to it by giving them an achievement and a level for doing so is a really neat idea.

On the downside, the very idea of playing this game with a random pilot makes me cringe. The guns all have a pretty narrow cone of aiming which meant as a gunner I was pretty much at the whim of the pilot in terms of if I was allowed to shoot or not. But by playing with people I knew, on Skype, I was able to keep funneling information about where my target was relative to my targeting cone in order to make sure I could keep shooting. And if they wanted me to do something else they could just tell me over voice chat. The game does have a built in voice chat system but I don't want to talk to random people on the internet. After all, it only took two games before I had to block someone for just repeating the word penis over and over and over again on voice chat.

I had fun, and I fully expect to play again. Must get more achievements to level up my terrible gunner!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Final Fantasy XIV: More Crafting Skills

On the weekend I went searching for a list of gear with 'control' stats so I could make sure I was keeping my crafting gear up to date. It took a while to find such a list, and along the way I stumbled across a thread where someone was talking about how they get a high quality (HQ) result on every single crafting attempt. I pretty consistently get around a 20% chance at a HQ result, so clearly I'm doing something wrong. Or it's possible the person making these comments was max level already with optimal gear? One way or the other, I want to find out. Each crafting class has 3 skills that can be used by the other ones, so there are 24 different skills that will be earned as I level up that I need to consider. They get unlocked at levels 15, 37, and 50 and I have all of the 15 ones and some of the 37 ones. I got into a nice rhythm using a couple of them and stopped really looking at the rest. Maybe there's a combo hidden in there that I'm missing? The way to find it is to look over what they each actually do!

The first thing to consider is how there are two aspects of crafting. You have a progress meter that you need to fill up in order to complete the item. You have a quality meter that you want to fill up in order to gain more experience and have a better chance at a HQ result. You always have to fill the progress meter and any extra resources you have can be used on the quality meter. As far as I can tell there are no abilities which help with both aspects. So you want the most efficient way to get through the progress section in order to have the most resources left for the quality section, and you need to use your last action to finish off the progress meter.

There are a few abilities that help with progress. 90% chance at 100% efficiency. 90% chance at 150% efficiency at a cost of 15 CP. 90% chance at 40 progress at a cost of 15 CP. 100% chance at 90% efficiency. 100% chance at 120% efficiency. 50% chance at 250% efficiency. 90% chance at 1/3rd of remaining progress at 15 CP cost. All of these cost 10 durability as well. Then there are the two ingenuity abilities which either lowers the level of the recipe to my level for the next 5 steps for 24 CP and no durability or lowers the level of the recipe to three less than my level for the next 5 steps for 32 CP and no durability.

How do those flat abilities compare to the ones that use my craftsmanship stat? No clue. How good is lowering the level of the recipe? No clue. What I do know, at least for now, is it doesn't much matter. I've been using the 100% chance at 90% efficiency ability and mostly only need to use it a couple of times. I find I have 20-40 durability left and all 275 of my CP after dealing with the progress part. The 100% chance at 120% efficiency ability needs me to hit level 50 in weaver to use, and I will switch to that instead. Maybe if I had a ton of CP lying around I could use a skill chance enhancer and one of the other abilities, and maybe using one of the ingenuity abilities makes sense for a given recipe. But I suspect spending my CP on quality is going to be way better.

What about those quality abilities? 70% chance at 100% efficiency for 18 CP. 80% chance at 125% efficiency for 32 CP. Double the efficiency of your next successful ability for 32 CP and no extra durability. 90% chance at 150% efficiency for 48 CP. 90% chance at 100% efficiency for 24 CP. (This one also adds an extra 20% efficiency per stack of Inner Quiet.) 50% chance at 100% efficiency for 0 CP.

Then there are the abilities which make the previous abilities better. +50% control for 3 steps for 18 CP. Inner Quiet, which is +20% control for every future action each time you succeed for 18 CP. +20% chance of success for the next 5 steps for 22 CP. +30% chance of success for the next 5 steps for 25 CP.

The key to my current way of crafting lies in the realization that the 0 CP ability is awesome. I used to have to try to balance out my CP and remaining durability in order to not run out of one or the other first. Now if I run out of CP I can just spam the 50% chance ability. I used to be in a position where I could use 2 of the 70% abilites because I'd have ~40 CP lying around. Instead I could use the +20% success ability, then one of the 70% ability and one of the 50% ability. Costs about the same, but I end up with a 90% and a 70% instead of two 70%s. Awesome!

There's one final type of ability and that's the type that lets me regain resources. These are useful because they let me use more and more abilities, especially more of the 50% success quality ability. I can spend 92 CP for 30 durability. I can get back 20 CP by using up a 'good' material condition. I can spend 160 CP for 60 durability. I can get back 8 CP per step, for 10 steps, for 66 CP. I can spend 88 CP for 30 durability, but it only comes back 10 at a time after the next 3 actions. I can spend 56 CP to spend half durability on the next 4 actions. Or 98 CP to spend half durability on the next 8 actions. I can spend all of my Inner Quiet stacks to restore some CP, maxxing at 60.

Spending all the Inner Quiet stacks is bad if I still have more quality to go, but if I've moved on to the progress phase it's just free CP to use. This CP could be spent on durability if I save a little of my base amount, which should let me finish off the entire progress bar even if I'm practically out of resources. I haven't been doing this thus far, though I have been using Inner Quiet, so I should really look into doing that. I can probably squeeze out a couple more quality abilities by doing that.

When it comes to restoring durability the most efficient abilities are really hard to use. They're the ones that reduce the cost of your next X actions by half, but the problem is some actions cost no durability and still use up a stack of these abilities. 56 CP for 20 durability is really good, but 56 CP for 15 durability is not. 88 CP for 30 durability is the one I'm using now, since the restrictions on it can be worked around. I shouldn't use it at max durability, or at 10 durability, but otherwise it works fine. Getting 60 durability back for 160 CP is more efficient but it only works if I have 60 durability to restore and some items only have a max of 40!

So I can spend CP on more durability... How does that compare to spending CP on quality? The basic way to spend extra CP on quality would be to spend 18 CP to upgrade from a 70% chance to a 90% chance of success. Or I could spend that 18 CP to get back 6.14 durability. So I could gain 20% of a success, or I could gain 43% of a success assuming I have enough CP to use a durability restorer and keep up my +20% success buff. What about the really good quality ability? I could spend 32 CP to guarantee I get 125% of a success. That same 32 CP could get me 10.9 durability. So either I gain 55% of a success or I gain 76% of a success. That's still worse. And that's before considering the extra durability gives me more stacks on Inner Quiet...

What about getting back 20 CP by eating up a 'good' condition. My testing indicates a good condition is worth +50% quality on that action. My current way to play involves using the big quality ability when the good condition comes up, to get 150% or 188% of a success depending on if the +20% buff is up or not. Instead I could use the good condition to get 20 CP and not spend the 32 CP to end up with 52 CP which becomes 23.6 durability which is worth 165% of a success. And I still have the 50% or 70% of a success by not spending the 10 durability, too. That's still way better.

So this is where I've been going wrong. I've been ignoring the ability which eats a 'good' condition, and I've been ignoring the ability which eats my Inner Quiet stacks. I should add these abilities in as cross class abilities to all of my crafting classes and see where that gets me. I think these, coupled with just getting lots of extra Inner Quiet procs by spending all of my CP on durability and buffs, could result in a lot of extra quality. And when you consider how the quality scale ramps up it isn't that much extra needed beyond 20% to get to 100%. Also, if I'm ignoring the quality buffs, I can switch to using the more efficient CP->durability converter when making things with 70 or more base durability.

I also really need to unlock the +30% success buff. It only requires level 37 in cooking and I'm already 33!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Final Fantasy XIV: Jobs

The original version of Final Fantasy XIV didn't have any of the typical Final Fantasy jobs. Well, it didn't have any of the typical job names, anyway. For some reason they'd decided to switch all the names up for the races and the classes. Instead of being a Mithran Black Mage you'd be a Mi'qote Thaumaturge. It was one of the many things they did that may have had a good reason, but that the players universally hated. It turns out one of the things a Final Fantasy game has going for it is all the history from the earlier games and throwing that away for no reason makes people unhappy.

Ultimately they decided to fix that problem by adding a job system on top of the class system. I don't know how it worked in the first version but I looked into how it works now and it's pretty straightforward. There are 8 quests you can do to unlock the different jobs (each of the 7 classes has one, and Arcanist has two) and the jobs share experience with the associated class. So my level 33 Arcanist actually means I already have a level 33 Scholar and a level 33 Summoner. Or I will if I go do those two job quests. In order to do the quest I need to be level 30 of the main class (Arcanist in these cases, which I have) and level 15 in a secondary class. Which will be Thaumaturge for Summoner and Conjurer for Scholar. I don't have those, but 15 is pretty low so picking those up should be pretty quick I think.

What does switching to a job do for you? Well, you keep all your old abilities from the base class and you get some extra ones that specialize you more in one direction or another. You also have your multiclass abilities restricted down to being from only 2 classes instead of from all the classes and you only get half as many. So it seems like you get better at doing one thing but lose a bunch of versatility, but that's generally a fine trade in an MMO. Especially for dungeons, and especially for an Arcanist since Scholar is a healer job. And any experience gained while playing as a special job gets assigned to the base class.

All this means I have more stuff to go do! I especially want to get the Summoner class so I can bust out more than a Carbuncle pet. From the ability list it sounds like I can go beat down with Ifrit! Woo! So I need to go level Thaumaturge up to 15 and then do the quest chain. But first I want to get to 35 and unlock the levequests for miner... So much to do, so little time...

Monday, October 07, 2013

Final Fantasy XIV: More 'Tanking'

There's a mechanic in Final Fantasy XIV where you get 3 'levequests' every 12 hours that you can spend on quests for any of your classes. They accumulate so you can store up to 100 of them, and they're worth a ton of experience, especially for crafting. There's a terrible gating system on them though, such that you need to complete a combat levequest to unlock each of the levequest hubs. My Goldsmith level is 39 and my Miner level is 35. I want to do some of the 36-40 levequests, but I can't open the hub without a combat class of at least level 35. My Arcanist is 30 and my Marauder is 22 so there's a long way to go if I want to get there with my tank class. Ultimately I decided to get my Arcanist up to 35 first, unlock the levequests for my miner, and see where to go from there.

I posted earlier that I didn't much like the Arcanist, but after doing the level 30 class specific quest I unlocked a new ability which helps a lot. It can be used twice every 60 seconds and spreads all of my dots from my current target to all other nearby enemies. It also has a 15% chance to refresh the dots on my current target. So I no longer need to worry about targeting all the enemies in order and trying to track dot timers in my head. I can just target the primary target and chunk out a ton of damage to everything else at the same time. There are no damage meters, but I know I'm doing a lot of damage now compared to at level 29. I do wonder if I really sucked before, or if I'm really awesome now, but it doesn't much matter. Do more damage!

My main storyline progression was stuck at another dungeon, so I queued up for it while questing. I got in, blew some stuff up, but I kept pulling aggro from the secondary targets and wiping the group. Or at least that's what I thought was going on... It turned out the healer was lagging out, so the tank was actually dying shortly after engaging and then I had aggro on everything else and they would come and kill me. Once we recovered, I think because the healer raised the tank while I was healing myself while tanking all the mobs, so I didn't really piece it together. Eventually the healer disconnected entirely and the other DPSer gave up and quit at the same time. But we still had the tank so the dungeon finder thing got us replacements in no time at all. With an actual competent healer the rest went smoothly and I wasn't pulling aggro on anything, which was good. So I think the earlier problems were just tank deaths and not too much splash damage.

The final boss fight started with a wipe because I wasn't told what I needed to do despite asking before the fight. The second time I knew what to do, did it, and we wiped when the other damage dealer disconnected and we got overwhelmed by adds. At this point the tank gave up too. The dungeon finder found us a new DPSer in short order but no tank arrived for 15 minutes. At this point I started wondering if maybe I should just pull out my tank pet and try to go with 3 people, but I didn't know if the healer could handle that sort of thing. But then the healer suggested we try just that! Run it! 3 people, no tank... No problem! Well, minor problem, in that the healer couldn't keep us all together during the large numbers of adds phase. The other DPSer died, but we'd burned a couple down by then, and I was able to finish the rest of them off. So I ended up tanking the boss on my DPS class. Woo! Undoubtedly it was entirely thanks to the healer being awesome more than anything special that I did, but it was still pretty neat to have happen. I feel like none of the prior fights would have been a problem with a yellow Carbuncle tank either, assuming good play from the rest of the group. The dungeon finder certainly won't let me try it, but I think it might work with the people in our old World of Warcraft low level dungeon group.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Bridge Match 2 - Board 21

Board 21 – Dealer North – NS Vul

Opponents convention card: Bridge World Standard
Opponents playing strength: Fair

My hand: T 8 5 4 2 K Q 9 J T 8 5 4

Partner opens 1 diamond. I respond 1 spade. West gets in there with 2 clubs which gets passed back to me. Given that we're vulnerable it's better to let them make 2 clubs than to go down 1. On the other hand, it's better to go down 1 than to let them make 2 clubs up one. But I'm not sure what I should bid if I want to keep going. What does double even mean here? With one fewer club I'd be happier with double, but I guess no matter what partner bids over double I'll be happy? Yeah, I'll be happy. I double. It gets passed out. I guess I should have decided if I was going to be happy if partner didn't bid...

Partner leads the 7 of spades.


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

T 8 5 4 2
K Q 9
8 5 4

West North East South
1 Pass 1
2 Pass Pass Double1
Pass Pass Pass

Apparently my double was penalty. Unlucky! Well, better find a line of play to set them... Maybe partner has Axx of hearts, that will give us 3 heart tricks. If he has Axx of clubs too then I can give him 2 spade ruffs? Sure! Run it!

The opening spade trick goes 7-3-8-K. West then draws trump, but partner doesn't win with the A. 9-6-2-4. More trump. A-3-K-5. Now declarer switches to hearts. 6-5-3-9. Ok, I'm in, and we need 5 more tricks. I still think we have 2 more hearts. Dummy has no entries except maybe in spades. Do I need to play a spade to get rid of that? What if declarer started with just one spade, then I'd feel pretty silly. Could partner have led the 7 from Q-7-6? Yes. Yes he could have. Playing diamonds through declarer is probably wise. I might even get a diamond ruff if things work out well. Run it! J-K-A-4. Partner has a different plan and cashes a heart. A-4-Q-T. Then a diamond. Q-6-T-2. And another diamond. Partner leads the 9, which is high at this point. Should I ruff it anyway? Pitch my high heart? Both seem wrong. I pitch a spade. 9-7-2 of spades-8. One more diamond from partner. It's also high, but it can't be winning the trick. Partner must have started with 5 diamonds. But ruffing can't help either. Or can it? If I pitch a spade and partner has stiff Q left I give up a trick. I probably need my high heart, too... No, the spade can't matter. Declarer has too many trump in his hand for the 3rd spade to be relevant. 5-7 of hearts-4 of spades-7 of clubs. Declarer only has black cards left, so he is up. Making 2, doubled.

7 6
A J 5 2
A Q 9 5 3
6 3

T 6
K 8 2
A Q J T 9 7

♠ A J 9 3
8 7 4 3
7 6 4
K 2

T 8 5 4 2
K Q 9
8 5 4

2 clubs doubled, just in, is a terrible result. It beat one pair, where NS somehow played 3 spades and went down 3. Every other table was between -100 and -130 points, so 2 clubs undoubled just in would have been a top board. *sigh*

Captain Jack disagrees with my double and would have passed. I didn't think it was going to be penalty or I would have passed. He also disagrees with my play on the opening lead and wants me to signal with the 2 instead of vainly trying to 'win'. I guess that makes sense, but partner really should be able to derive that I have nothing when dummy has AJ and I can't play a good card.

Ranking after board 21/60: 7/16 with 50.34%

Friday, October 04, 2013

Boardgame Trivia

Toronto has what feels like a really large number of places to go and play board games. Stores, cafes, schools, my apartment... But actually getting out to these places is a bit of a problem. I have to really psyche myself up to go on an adventure so it doesn't happen very often. Sara recently got me to join Meetup where all sorts of events get posted. There's an event coming up this weekend that seemed like it could be fun, and was at a place I have yet to check out, so I figured I'd sign up and show up.

The event in question is a trivia night at the Go Lounge, a board game cafe out at the west end of Toronto. The theme is board games... I'm not sure if I really know enough random trivia about board games to do well, but I want to find out! The event description mentions that people are expected to buy food and drink, but the website menu only listed beer. Considering what most places have for sale, I worry there won't be anything I can eat. So maybe I'll end up being the super cheap person in the group and feel bad. I'll have an extra ginger ale or something maybe. Or maybe I'll get lucky and they'll have something good I can eat! One can hope.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Tanto Cuore

Andrew asked me yesterday if I'd ever played the game Tanto Cuore. I told him that I had, and I thought it was a mediocre Dominion clone with a potential offensive theme and Andrew responded that he thought I'd find the theme appealing. My first reaction to that was to be a little offended that Andrew would think I'd like something that I've said was potentially offensive. Thinking about it more though... There are plenty of games with potentially offensive themes that lots of people like, especially with how easily offended some people can be.

Dungeon Lords, for example, is a game where you take the role of an evil overlord and need to build a dungeon filled with traps and monsters in order to kill off a party of good adventurers. It's very tongue in cheek, but at the core it's all about being a very evil person.

Grand Theft Auto is a game about stealing cars, murdering people, and all sorts of other terrible things. But behind the glossy theme it's an open world game with quests, exploration, leveling up, and achievements. All things I really, really like. I wouldn't be at all surprised if someone thought I was a fan of the game. It turns out I haven't played any of the games since the very first one and even that one I didn't play very much. I'm not sure why, really. I've never felt the urge to pick it up. Maybe the theme does keep me from playing it? There are lots of games I want to play that don't involve murdering hookers, after all. And really, I'd hope anyone who thought I'd like the game would think I'd like it for the open world exploration and achievements, and not for the murder and torture.

Tanto Cuore is a game where you take the role of a rich man who is the 'master of a house' and you're building a deck out of cards representing anime maids. The currency used in the game is love and you use it to 'hire' maid cards which work like actions and victory points in Dominion. So there's this big pool of women dressed up like French maids just waiting for a 'master of a house' to show up and offer her some love and she'll run off with him to do whatever he wants. Beyond the theme it is really just a Dominion clone. Draw a hand, play an action, use your money to buy a new card. Repeat until the game ends by some preset condition and then compare the contents of your decks to see who has the most points to win. One of the cards you could buy was a 'bad habit' card, which you gave to another player and was worth -2 points. Because his maids are misbehaving, see, and that's not a good thing. So when I played the game as a 2 player game it devolved into just buying these cards for each other, which wasn't very interesting.

Now, on the one hand, I do like attractive animated women. I just posted about outfits for my Final Fantasy XIV character, after all! If someone wants to dress up in a French maid outfit, all the power to them. On the other hand it doesn't feel like this game is depicting voluntary maids at all. We've herded all the maids into one spot and now, as the man in the game, we're offering them love to employ them. I don't know that I buy the theory that Grand Theft Auto trains murderers and thieves, but I think this game might well be training misogynists. Which is why I said the theme was potentially offensive. And I think is why it bothers me that Andrew thinks I'd find it appealing. Perhaps worse, I did buy this game without looking at any reviews. Partially because of the art when I saw it for sale at WBC a few years ago, and partially because it was at the start of the deck building game bandwagon and I wanted to play more of them. So maybe I did find it appealing? Maybe I still do? And maybe that makes me a terrible person. Heck, I liked playing Princess Maker 2... And that game had you raising your (adopted) daughter by sending her to work in a sleazy bar, had you buy buxomize pills for her, and one of the endings involved you marrying her!

I don't want to be a terrible person.