Thursday, October 27, 2011

Star Trek: Expeditions

So I haven't been playing much Magic lately. So I'm afraid I'm going to fulfill a long-standing threat I've been making. I'm going to start talking about other games, too.

I'm just now fully recovering from a heck of a weekend. So going this route, I have plenty of material.

First Up: STAR TREK!

Star Trek: Expeditions is cooperative. Each player assumes the role of one of the iconic characters: Uhura, Bones, Kirk or Spock. The scenario is pretty familar to anyone who has watched Star Trek. A planet is petitioning to join the Federation. They are rich with natural resources, in particular large quantities of sweet, sweet dilithium. It was supposed to be a routine diplomatic mission.

But of course, things go horribly wrong when the away team beams down. The President is acting strangely. And rebels on the planet are now almost to the verge of civil war. Oh, and there's a Klingon Battlecruiser orbiting the planet.

The crew wander around, slowly uncovering clues and solving dice-based challenges.

Which brings us to the current situation.

The actual difficulty of the game leaves something to be desired. When I play a cooperative game, I expect not to win the first time through. Games like Arkham Horror and Red November live up to those expectations, starting you out on turn one to the gentle caress of slimy tentacles or the sharp scent of burnt gnome flesh.

In Star Trek: Expedtitions, any moderately organized group of adventurers are going to get things figured out.

But then that creates some additional issues.

The unchallenged mind wanders. It looks for things to keep it occupied. What you see in this picture are two grown men getting into an small argument about loot hoarding. Seems someone has a few too many klingon clues he's sitting on and not doing enough with them.

It's classic Spock vs. Kirk in-fighting.

But while Spock and Kirk are doing their normal thing, no one expects Uhura. I didn't realize it during the game, but looking at the picture I seem to have collected a few things too. And not only objects, but a sizable number of away team members. Transporter Officer, Security Officer, some type of Liaison Officer.

And even a Medical Officer. Which seems totally pointless when one of the other players is BONES MCOY. The guy who fixed the Horta with some quick-dry cement. He already has the "Medical" skill. Twice. I kid you not.

Beam up to the enterprise. Beam down to the surface. Woo the High Priestess. Every act you perform will give you some serious deja vu in regards to the typical Star Trek narrative. You even need to spend some time dog fighting with the Klingon Battlecruiser.

But nothing is really tough, and I strongly suggest laying some ground rules before you find your crew mutinying, or at least going on the occasional flight of fancy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Traitorous Blood

I completely missed Traitorous Blood.

Through all the previews and speculation, I hadn't really considered the card much, just another Threaten type effect in a long line of vaguely similar spells.

The card is a sorcery, which might have had something to do with my obliviousness. Released in a block right after Act of Aggression, it's hard to go back to looking at sorcery-speed effects as worthy of my attention.

But we definitely should. Or at least I definitely should.

Because Traitorous Blood gives the target creature evasion in the form of trample. Better than flying, in fact, because trample gets around any of the OTHER creatures who might have flying.

There are creatures who just sit around and get fatter in EDH. Kresh is one guy I can think of right off the top of my head. Vulturous Zombie is another. But there's really a whole class of them.

The reason for their slothful ways usually involve the large quantity of potential chump blockers hanging out around the field. Small flyers, utility creatures and more are always ready to dive in front of a potentially killing maneuver.

But now the damage gets through in most cases. And heaven help you if you have a copy of Nicol Bolas out.

Is it better than instant speed? Might be worth considering.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Fresh Look at White Borders

Back in the day, we didn't use fancy "webs" or "Internets" to get our cards.

We didn't have price lists.

We didn't have checklists.

I was still hoping for a dual land a year after they stopped printing them.

A couple days ago, after a grueling walk UPHILL, I decided to go through the bulk collection down at the local game store. I came up with a couple interesting finds.

Without a blink of an eye, you could probably buy Evacuation and Worldslayer from any online store worth its druthers for less than 50¢, plus shipping.

And if I had ordered online, I might have ended up with the original Mirrodin printing of Worldslayer.

And even more so, I probably would have ended up with some black-bordered variant of Evacuation.

Instead, here I am with a white bordered CORE SET printing.

Ugly, you might comment? Perhaps unsightly?

You would be WRONG.

Here's why.

I'm going to throw it out there…WHITE is the new BLACK.

I am no stranger to white bordered cards. When I started, all the magic cards I could lay my hands on were white bordered. The ones in the packs were white bordered. The ones I traded with my friends were white bordered.

If for some reason you ended up with a black bordered card, you were probably holding some form of ELITE WEAPONDRY in your hand. I know I had a Fellwar Stone from The Dark in my collection, and I must have indeed traded away a great many cards for such a jewel. Even if now its worth is a little to the left of nothing.

Then they started printing more expansions, like Ice Age. The market was flooded with black bordered cards. We started to see the Core Set/Expansion White/Black border printing cycle for the first time.

From the get-go we, bright-eyed magic collecting innocents, were conditioned by The Man to prefer black bordered cards over white bordered cards. The black bordered ones always came out first, and were always harder to find because the inevitable core set reprint would flood the market.

All the way through ninth edition, we got white bordered cards as the "second best" option every time a new core set came out.

So where are we today?

The expansions come out. What color are the borders? BLACK.

The core sets come out. M10. M11. M12. What color are borders? BLACK.

Duel decks come out. What color are the borders? BLACK.

Everywhere you look, there are the black borders, staring you back in the face. Do the cards do anything different? Nope. A white bordered Evacuation is still going to suck all available creatures off the board in one fell swoop.

The only thing holding white-bordered Evacuation down is the perceived rarity. And by "perceived" I mean how often you see a card in circulation, either in someone's collection or in a deck being played on the table.

When you play a game of Elder Dragon Highlander, what version of Evacuation do you see?

Short answer: no one plays Evacuation you dolt, that's a terrible card.

Long answer: the original stronghold version. Or the tenth edition Franz Vohwinkel one.

If you play me, what are you going to get?

A windmill-slammed white bordered Evacuation, blowing all your stinky creature cards back into your slimy mitt where they belong.

Two more core set printings (and they are bound to happen sooner or later unless they design a better Evacuation that costs 1 less or something) and the white bordered Evacuation will be numerically MORE RARE than black bordered versions as a whole. The circle will be complete. And I will have triumphed!

Try getting that level of satisfaction through the mail, ladies and gents!