Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Random Pic II: Cribbage

Cribbage is one of those games where 2 people of equal ability very often come right down to the wire on scoring. And when you see a good nail-bitter ending, it's almost like both people are winning. Of course one usually wins slightly more.

Random Pic from the Minotaur Archive

Happiness is a good game of Alhambra.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Target Sleepwear: Checker Confusion

Grabbed from In the above ad, what exactly is going on?

Obviously, this is some type of sleepover. Which I can accept. Of course, no one plays checkers on the floor unless they are in elementary school. And the slightly sideways approach to the board looks ridiculous as well. Both of these factors I can let go because they obviously needed to position each model in a specific way to capture the pajamas, which are the focus of the ad. Suspension of belief, and all that.

But let's look closer at the checkers board. Computer…ENHANCE!

Neither of these people have ever played checkers in their life. Why is the model grabbing to move a black man when she is on the red side of the board? Perhaps she is removing the man BEFORE she jumps it with her red man…except that no one ever does or has done that particular shortcut in the history of checkers, for a fact.

In addition, there are 3 red men taken out of the game. This actually adds up correctly with what's on the board. Except for the fact that none of the black men have advanced to positions where they could have eliminated those red men. All the black men are in their starting positions, like they just started the game.

My only theory is that they are playing "Martian Checkers" and the 3 red men were eliminated via death ray. And then, perhaps the red player is beaming the black man up into the mother ship for further study. Which actually starts making the game sound pretty interesting.

This actually reminds me of James Ernest's Fightopia!, which I have been meaning to print the rules out for.

This is what makes Christmas shopping so hard.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dungeon Twister 2: Meet the Dungeon Crawlers

One thing I greatly admire about Dungeon Twister 2 is the choice of characters. It is evident that Chistophe Boelinger, the designer for the game, spent a great deal of time thinking about classes and abilities. The 8 players on your "team" go, for the most part, beyond the typical D&D party fodder you are used to seeing in these scenarios.

More like the Dirty Dozen, each character comes from radically divergent backgrounds…and finds themselves working as a team solely because that is the only path to survival.

Here are the players in our game:

Loves to dish out the punches!

1) The Colossus - This giant-sized character is the beefiest fighter in the bunch, with a combat score of 5. He is also the absolute slowest, with a movement of only 2. That means he can only move 2 squares per action point, and ensures if he begins the game on the starting line, he is almost certainly not going to get out of the arena before the end of the game.

The Colossus also has the very useful power of being able to bust through locked portcullises, hereafter referred to as GATES. This is great because often you want to start the Colossus in the middle of the board somewhere. And the gate breaking ability prevents your opponent from locking him up in a cell or something, depending on the layout of the room. Unfortunately, he can still find himself placed in a corner surrounded by pits. As Wesley Snipes is fond of saying: Colossuses can't jump…they still have the same vulnerabilities as most other characters regarding pits.

2) The Cleric - This is the dungeon-explorer's classic healer with a little fighting ability on the side. Combat value is 2, with a pretty decent movement of 4 as well. Clerics can fight, and they can also act similar to the doctor in Team Fortress. Run a guy down a corridor with the Cleric right behind, and he can heal you up right after you get knocked down. Unless you run into overwhelming odds, a character teamed up with the Cleric is pretty tough to kill. Seems to be good in conjunction with the Telepath.

3) The Telepath - On paper, the worst character in the game by far. Combat value is 0. Movement is 3. His "telepathic" power means he can command the opposing character in any hand to hand combat to play the combat card of his choice (not zero). This ability leads to 2 different tactics. He can sacrifice himself to pull a 6 out of someone's hand. Or he can automatically win a fight (this is hampered, of course, by his incredibly horrible combat value). Check out Wayne Reynold's awesome Telepath art on the right.

4) The Wizard - The classic wizard of any dungeon crawler. Combat Value of 1. Movement of 4. What I can never seem to remember during the game is the wizard posesses the power of levitation. He goes right over the top of pits! Unfortunately you have to remember that during the game. Maybe if the miniature was riding a flying carpet, things would be easier. He also knows how to operate the super-awesome Fireball Wand. If he can get this artifact into his hot little hands, the Wizard can use the Fireball Wand to obliterate (doesn't even leave a body!) another character in his line of sight. So much fun.

5) The Naga - My favorite! The Naga is the master of mobility. He has a Movement of 6. And a Combat Value of 2. He can slither right through arrow slits. In fact they should probably reverse things and call the arrow slits "snake holes" because I was doing a lot more slithering than I was ever doing arrow shooting. The Naga, at least in my games, has a tendency to become separated from the pack because of his superior scouting abilities…he is your go-to man to discover the contents of each tile so you'll then know how to move the rest of your guys. Luckily he is an expert at getting out of sticky situations.

Ready to run…err…slither like heck!

6) The Backstabber - The Backstabber has lock-picking powers like any thief, but can also gain a bonus to combat if attacking someone from the rear who is already engaged in combat. In my first impressions, this is kinda tricky to pull off, what with the maze-like corridors and all. Usually there is a pit in the way at least, so the Rope can be helpful. Like the Colossus, you want the Backstabber up somewhere she can help other characters escape from cell predicaments and provide backup against rushes.

7) The Mechanork - Somehow a Mekboy from the world of Warhammer 40K has teleported into Dungeon Twister. He has a combat value of 2 and a movement of 3 on account of his arthritic knees. But he does know how to make the rooms twist the OPPOSITE way they are intended to go. This is much more useful than it first appears!

8) The Banshee - The most "terrifying" of characters. The Banshee has a combat value of 1. And a movement of 4. Somehow, the undead can move faster than the Mechanork…and judging from the model this guy has been decaying for a while! He can scream very loudly at someone for 2 action points. His target then become annoyed/disgusted and subsequently moves 1 space in the opposite direction from him. It CAN push characters into pits…which turns an otherwise lame ability into total awesomeness! I wonder how repulsive a scream has to be to force someone to jump into a pit full of grinding gears?

Of these operators, the cleric, wizard and mekanork are the only ones carried over from the original game. All others are new and original creations, modified in various ways from the original game's crew.

Goblin: This is obviously the character that would eventually become the Telepath. They are both weedy, cowardly individuals. The Goblin's only ability was passive…if he made it out of the Dungeon he was worth 2 VP instead of 1. The Telepath on the other hand has his weird combat ability to help do something during the actual game.

Thief: The original Thief could both pick locks and temporarily disarm pit traps. The new Backstabber is a similar rogue, but can only pick locks. She does gain a very useful combat advantage.

the Wall-Walker from the original rulebook

Wall-Walker: Dungeon Twister 1 had a strange fellow called the "Wall-Walker". Not a wizard, he instead had an innate ability to walk through walls and appear out the other side. Strangely enough, he could not walk through gates. The Naga carries the same sort of maneuverability on a more limited scope, thanks to the invention of arrow slits (snake holes), and even gets a bonus on movement.

Troll/Warrior: The Colossus. The Colossus has a big combat score like the troll, with the gate-busting ability of the Warrior.

Banshee: completely original, as far as I can tell. No other creature even in the previous Dungeon Twister expansions could scream quite like that. Very few abilities cost the astounding price…2 AP…that this ability does so from the designer's standpoint it must be pretty powerful.

Next post I will jump into some of the mechanics of the game.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dungeon Twister 2: Prison: The Loser

Dungeon Twister 2: Prison.

To begin a journey, you must first take the first step. But even before you take that first step, you have to find a comfortable pair of shoes. This post is about finding those shoes.

Are they comfortable? I don't know yet.

Let me kick back on the therapy couch and just let everything out.

For some reason, which I cannot fully explain, I am absolutely no good at these types of games. I understand what I'm supposed to do. I get the same number of actions/turns as everyone else. It's totally fair. Yet I just can't do it. I squander my opportunities somehow, leaving my board wide open to easy pickings.

This extends to every "miniature" game I have ever played…even the ones without miniatures. The common characteristic seems to involve moving many playing pieces together in a team-like fashion. And its definitely not a matter of "needs more practice" because I have practiced.

During a good stretch of my younger years, I was what they call now a "mono" gamer. I had one game system I devoted my entire mental energy/gaming budget on. And that was Warhammer 40K. In my entire career of playing…game after game, basement after basement, I won maybe 2 battles. And on the other side of the scales maybe lost 40, 50 times, I don't know how many times I played. But I kept losing, and I never got any better. I have hundreds of miniatures.

And this lackluster performance continued into the smaller Games Workshop games like Blood Bowl, Necromunda and Mordheim.

I still play Blood Bowl today, mostly in the electronic form. And I still lose, just as much. That's about 20 years of solid losing experience.

And you know what, I still love playing. The part of me that gets upset at losing was burned away long ago in a crucible of infinite defeat at the hands of a dedicated Space Wolves player.

Of the Games Workshop games in my databanks, the closest parallel to Dungeon Twister is Blood Bowl. Despite the lack of a ball, the argument can be easily made Dungeon Twister is at its heart a sports game. Your "team" works together to achieve the two different game-winning objectives: to kill/knock-out opposing players and to escape the Dungeon Twister field. Each completed objective earns you 1 victory point, and the first player to score 5 points wins.

Much like Blood Bowl, the careful Dungeon Twister player has to cover the entire field, because players are constantly looking for a quick avenue past your defenses into the end zone/freedom.

Unlike Blood Bowl, the "playing field" is not a dirt pitch but instead an awesome Deathtrap-style dungeon complete with pits, arrow slits, locked gates, rotating rooms and labyrinthine corridors. The actual path to the end zone is never very clear, and usually involves quite a bit of team work. There is one rope, one key, one bow/arrow set, etc. allocated to each side and only one object can be held at one time by any character.

The typical Dungeon Twister room

Obstacles tend to stack up in such a way that no single player can get through on their own. For instance: one character has to operate the rotating room mechanism for another player, who then uses the newly open corridor in front of him to run along and crawl across a pit using his rope. Hopefully someone has already unlocked the gate on the other side of the pit. There's a lot of teamwork, and a lot of carefully figuring things out.

My dad, upon seeing the game, immediately wondered if "Prison" referred to the level of fun or the game length. Indeed, one of the problems I am having with this game is the length. Because if neither player knows what they are doing and there isn't any pressure to finish, the game can go on indefinitely.

I can understand tactics. I can understand using my Backstabber to sneak up on a Colossus who my Cleric is fighting. But there is inevitably a pit in the way, and the rope is on the wrong side of the board. And my Naga (who is the speediest and most maneuverable of characters by far) is already halfway to freedom…screw the rest of these poor suckers.

I leave you now with Dungeon Twister 2, in the native French.

My next installment will cover the unique character selection of this game.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

7 Wonders for 7 Players

Most board/card games cap out at about 4-5 players, and very rarely 6 players.

And here's the thing…the ones that say 6 players rarely play with 6 players in a a FUN way. Every additional player invariably increases down time, increases the amount of stuff that happens OUTSIDE your turn, and increases the variability (chaos) of the game in general.

In a game of conquest, someone might be attacked twice before they take their turn.

In an economic game, there might be 5 trading sessions, or buying sessions. 5 decision-making processes will have to make it to completion before you get to do your stupid little action again. Hooray.

So 6 player games, in general, are no good. In most situations, if you are sitting around the house with 6 or 7 people, you are splitting off to play 2 different games. It's the sane choice.

7 Wonders takes a theme, empire-building and makes it fun for 7 players.

I had heard a bit of buzz on Board Game Geek about the game but didn't really devote very much brain energy about it until I found myself actually playing it. Then I saw what people were talking about.

7 Wonders has war. It has building improvements. It has trading and empire building. But all the action happens simultaneously so there is zero down time.

Zero down time in a 7 player game. You are always thinking and always acting, and the only drag comes when someone is unsure of the card they want to take. But being the last person left holding your hand is a pretty big motivator, as you feel the burning stares of 6 other people upon your sweating brow. I don't think analysis paralysis here is really that big of a deal.

Would I want to play 7 Wonders ALL NIGHT LONG with the same group of 7 people? Probably not. In fact, the very simplistic nature of the game that makes it so speedy can turn around and start to drag you down game after game.

A powerful military is going to score you 18 points maximum, no matter how good it is. A weak or even non-existant military is going to score you -6 points at the very minimum. Science is a fantastic multiplier of points, well-worth it if you get more than a few green cards. Blue cards give you huge points, and chain really well if you can get the small ones early in the game. They all end up being just another number to count up at the end of the game.

But with the variety in card selection in hand, I would say the game is good for at least 2 or 3 rounds a night. And that's not even very long! The interaction between players is even good, since you are "drafting" from common hands to get your buildings. Your opponent wants to thwart you as much as possible, while you want to deny the winning card to the opponent YOU are passing to.

I only had a chance to play 7 Wonders with a large group, but by the way the game is structured I can see it is probably is just as good with smaller numbers of people. You only ever interact with the people to the left and right of you, so at 3 players the passing, trading, and warring must indeed by a tightly wound little engine.

And here's another great bit about playing with 7 people…in 7 wonders, you don't have to reach anything in the center of a board. We played on a HUGE table, two banquet-size folding tables stuck together, and we all had ample room to lay all the cards of our empire out as lazily as we wanted to. There wasn't a draw deck we had to all be reaching for. There is only a pile of tokens, and in our case we made two piles so that everyone could get the ones they needed.

Here's what the game looks like on a small table:

A little cramped. But here's the thing…you still know who's stuff is what. Everything has a common orientation and you never tap or manipulate your cards once they're laid down. All pieces are static, except for the money, war, and debt tokens in the middle of your own player board.

How old do you have to be to understand 7 Wonders? This is going to be something I hope to find out in the near future. My guess is…not very old. There's some simple addition and subtraction but not a lot of reading and not a lot of confusing actions during your turn. And the game goes so fast there's little chance of people getting bored. I'm going to try it with a 7-year-old, because that's what I got. But 7 years sounds about right for 7 Wonders, from a purely numerological standpoint, so we will see.

If you haven't yet, check out 7 Wonders. And if you are a hard-core 7 Wonders veteran, go ahead and tell me how you got burned out…because I can see that happening too. Right now, though, I'm really excited.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Budget Pack Analysis I

My lunch hour was spent at the local gaming shop. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I did run into my old nemsis, The Deal.

Probably a pretty good deal for the shop, these "Deals" were 3-packs of previously opened cards of various rarities offered up for the bargain price of $1. You are guaranteed a rare, from my understanding.

So I felt I had to take one for science, as always.

Here is what $1 got me:

1) Pursuit of Flight

Pursuit of Flight bestows on your creature the same abilities as Goblin Balloon Brigade or Stream Hopper, and with a snazzy +2/+2 bonus in addition. Would be much better if the ability boosted power and defense as well. And if it had flash. Then you'd have a card that really rammed victory down people's throats. Without those two upgrades, this is going to be a tough sell when the next deck building palooza begins.

2) Trained Caracal

Seems like a good creature for the casting cost. But I might be out of the loop on that. I suppose they are about the same as Tundra Wolves come to think about it. And I don't think Tundra Wolves is used much anymore for anything.

3) Finally the budget rare of the pack…Pallisade Giant.

I got mildly excited about Pallisade Giant to begin with. When you see a big creature like this, the first instinct is always to find some way to wedge it into your EDH deck. But I tempered that enthusiasm quickly. There are WAY better creatures than this at 6 casting cost, especially stuff like Sun Titan.

If only there was a way to make him indestructible.

Okay, with the possibility of Darksteel Plate on the table, Pallisade Giant might, just MIGHT be a candidate for my Zedru EDH deck. It's already kinda laid back and sort of a prison setup…but I don't know how much I like that. Will have to sleep on it!

Despite the slim pickings in this card selection, I feel like I got my money's worth. It's been years since I've even opened a booster pack, and I got exactly the same range of "pickings" there for 4X the cost.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To the Hobbits and Back Again

For briefly a second or so, the breaking news of the day was that a judge had ruled "Age of the Hobbits" too similar in its use of Hobbits to the current movie rights holders…Warner Brothers, New Line Cinema, Saul Zaentz, the Tolkien estate and whoever else.

For those familiar with the fantasy genre, the move should probably come as no surprise. While the network of rights regarding the Lord of the Rings intellectual property has been divided many, many times (check out the list of licensed board games), it is certainly without a doubt that the term "Hobbit" belonged within the Tolkien umbrella, and was pretty aggressively defended from the very beginning. In 1976, 2 years before I was born and back when Tolkien still walked this Earth, Gary Gygax knew he had a pretty good deal going with AD&D. But the original Monster Manual, while it may reference elves, dragons and orcs; lists only the term "halfling" as the name of the beardless, curly-headed furry-footed creature shorter than a man who's favorite meal is second breakfast.

And this is pretty consistent. I know in the "Wizardry" game franchise one of the races is "Hobbit" but I'm pretty sure Sir-Tech really just got extremely lucky on that one. I've done a couple web searches and the term has now been effectively scrubbed from just about all of their sources. If you find one, let me know.

I'm currently reading The Hobbit to my 7-year-old son. We've made it out of the Shire, and are currently wondering what Bilbo is going to do about the Trolls. His choices, offered up by Tolkien, are:

1) run back and tell the rest of the party
2) stab the trolls to death and take their mutton
3) pickpocket their money bags while they are distracted

I do remember what choice Bilbo eventually picks, and the very unexpected way his choice is interrupted. But the fact that these are the choices Bilbo selects for himself illustrates just how different the young Bilbo was versus his later nephew Frodo. In particular the role of "burglar" places The Hobbit firmly within the trope of the traditional dungeon crawler.

To my son, these are all strange new things…in fact I had to explain to him what exactly a dwarf was when Bilbo's house started to get invaded. Which is why I pulled out the 'ol Monster Manual, of course. I'm sure this will continue as the story goes on, until the foundation of his fantasy knowledge is finally established and we can move on to other things. And then he can watch Snow White.

Really looking forward to reading the book again, as I'm sure there will be plenty I do not remember whatsoever. The fact that Gandalf found the Secret Map inside the lair of a necromancer was news to me, and I'm excited to see if this will show up in the movie. I imagine it must, since they are probably using every second of book to stretch the story out over the THREE movies.

Anyway, if you have little kids around, make sure you read to them. Because they aren't going to learn about this stuff until someone teaches them. You don't want anyone walking around, thinking Blizzard invented Dark Elves or something. What are the other kids going to think in school?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tsuro: The Path to a Game

Hearing Tsuro mentioned on Tom Vasel's 2012 top games list (actually the people's choice list) got me thinking about the game again. And despite Tom's quick dismissal, there is some meat on Tsuro's bones for the enterprising strategist to pick through like some kind of board gaming hyena.

First, I should probably mention that there is indeed some history behind this game. Boardgamegeek mentions the "squiggle" game was patented back in 1979. And to be honest, this is an incredibly simple mechanic at the heart of Tsuro.

On the plus side, "linking lines together" is pretty easy to explain to just about anyone. The first time I explained the rules to this game, it took less than 5 minutes.

The Grand Tsuro F.A.Q.

1) How many tiles do I get?

Three. Begin your turn by placing a tile and end it by drawing a fresh tile from the supply.

2) Where can I place a tile?

You can only place your tile in one spot, directly ahead of your dragonstone so that your path is extended.

3) How do I move my piece?

After you place your tile, your dragonstone is moved to follow the path in front of it as far as possible, taking it off the board if the path extends that far.

4) How do I win?

The last person with their dragonstone on the board is the winner. As the game progresses and the board fills up with tiles, it will become quite impossible to avoid sliding down a path and off the board.

5) What happens if I run out of tiles?

The last tile at the bottom of the deck is the dragon tile. The person who takes the dragon tile will be the first person to get tiles when a new supply opens up. A new tile supply is created when a player is taken out, their hand becomes the new tile supply.

The game scales from 2 players all the way up to 8 players.  8 players is a chaotic, random down-and-dirty slug-out where the one remaining at the end is often the one that managed to stay the heck away from everyone else the longest. Even at 4 and 5, there is a lot happening each time around and it is not uncommon for 2 or 3 unlucky people to find themselves slammed together by a 4th player who just happens to be in the right place at the right time.

With just two players, Tsuro morphs into something else entirely.

In a way, the game reminds me of the light cycle racers from Tron. Opening strategy is obviously to stay away from each other and try to cut out a larger territory to move in. Once the board starts to fill up, how you laid the tiles behind you means the difference between life and death. More than once I've filled my area with tiles, came in close to my opponent, only to swerve back in on my path and fly across the board to another open area.

My 7-year-old son came up with a piece of low animal cunning I never would have thought about on my own. My father-in-law absent-mindedly started his dragonstone off in the corner of the board. My son plopped his piece down right next to him, and then proceeded to run the poor man's piece off the board using his very first tile. So lesson 1 is definitely "spread the starting pieces out a little bit."

On the box, the Tsuro people (apparently some place called Calliope Games) suggest the game lasts approx. 15 minutes.

I would agree with this assessment, the games are indeed very short. They start out slow, build to a finger-biting conclusion, and then leave you wanting to play again. I haven't played the new Tsuro of the Seas yet, but the increased amount of time it supposedly takes to play is a bit of a turn off.

If you've had different experiences with Tsuro, go ahead and let me know. I'm always interested other opinions.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pret-a-Porter: How to Run a Business into the Ground

I've run through Pret-a-Porter a few times now. Enough to generate an opinion on the topic. Enough to understand the rules, and maybe cook up a little of the underlying strategy. Thankfully, constant failure can often be the best educator.

The lessons I received were comprehensive.

At its black venomous heart, Pret-a-Porter models the successful running of a business. And knowing the backstory of the game, it's easy to understand why.

You could be selling lemonade, or widgets, or whatever. The basic "feel" remains the same…you invest in a product, buy raw materials, manufacture said product and then sell it to potential customers. One of the places the uniqueness of fashion shows through is the design process…each product you show is its own prototype. After you have sold the line you have slaved over, you get to begin back at square one next season with brand new untested and unrealized designs.

Otherwise, the "fashion show" at the end of every quarter could easily be a trade show of any kind, with popularity measured by how well your product tests with the distributors and journalists swilling free drinks in the pits beyond the stage.

And if you like that kind of thing, and I'm starting to think I do, Pret-a-Porter is right up your alley.

Back in elementary school, I ran lemonade stands off the classroom computer like a champ. Or, at least, I felt like a champ. Chances are other kids were probably raking in a little better money over on their screens.

Unlike those black and green screened businesses of yore, however, Pret-a-Porter has no mercy. No mercy whatsoever.

If you don't follow a business plan and keep things tight through the process, this game will eat you alive and make a lampshade out of your skin. And perhaps there again the fashion industry finds a way to peek through.

If you spend too much on fabric, or hire too many employees, or invest in too much office space…you will be screwed for the rest of the game, no joke. There's no "catch up" mechanism or way to slow down a "runaway" leader. While your pals keep cranking up the profits on their larger and larger vintage and boho collections, you are going to be dodging creditors and racking up an impressive history of poor borrowing practices.

At the end of my last game, the biggest revue stream I had going was from interior design work at a furniture store. A furniture store!!!

Here's what I can tell you of the strategy, from carefully noting what I did and then reverse-engineering the exact opposite actions.

For starters, always remember margins are SLIM! The fabric you need to complete any particular design is very close to the amount you end up selling the design for. Don't try to just sell clothes and think the big payout you get at the end of the fashion show month is anything special. It is probably very close to what you started with at the beginning of the prep months, assuming you didn't piss any of it away on stupid stuff…in which case you probably have even less.

What you have to do is go after "stars". At each fashion show, your collection is compared to other players in a number of categories depending on the location. Quality, trendiness, public relations, quantity of designs, can all determine how the buyers react to your clothing line. 1st and 2nd place are going to earn some stars. 3rd place almost never earns anything.

3 accumulated stars, for instance, mean your design is going to earn 3,000 more Pret-a-bucks from the buyers because of the extra demand for that particular line. Which might make all the difference.

"Might" is a very important distinction, because what you also need to know is 3,000 bucks by itself is chump change. It's the same you might spend on maintenance for a single employee.

What you really have to do is combine these stars with QUANTITY of designs. If you are going to earn a lot of stars this round, you want to make sure you have a huge fashion line coming down the runway at the exact same time. Because the "stars" bonus applies for each design, it multiplies up quickly to a serious sum. Do this and you finally find that sweet sweet tipping point. Your business stops grinding away at bare profitability and booms up to a higher plane of money making.

With more profits, you can buy more material, complete more designs and keep the ball rolling all the way to the top.

Here are my helpful tips:

1. Get a sales agent early in the game to cut down on material costs. This is where most of your money goes each turn, and how your designs are completed. If you can squeeze just a little savings out of the process every turn, its going to equal a big difference in the long run.

2. Find a way to develop more designs. By default you can assign a worker to "gather" a single design each preparation phase (there are 2 between each fashion show). As the game moves along, workers become more and more valuable and it helps greatly to buy a building or an employee who can come up with designs off the usual track. Then you can use your workers for buying materials, finding even more designs, or just help out where needed to smooth the process along.

3. Finally, if you need to do so, take out a loan! There is nothing wrong with taking out credit at reasonable interest rates if you can put the money to good use expanding a fashion line. Bad uses of credit mostly come from borrowing money to pay maintenance costs. This is still better than taking out a higher-interest "emergency loan" later in the turn, but still generally is a sign your business is in the middle of a slow transformation from dependable revenue generator to haunted sleigh ride of destitution.

4. Maintenance costs can be killer. Especially early in the game, scooping up a building or employee better be worth the investment. A small salary or upkeep cost each turn saps your cash reserves and keeps you treading water or below. There is nothing worse than owning a building you can't use because you can't spare the money because you are spending too much money on maintenance costs each turn. And there is no bulldozer or arson option. Unlike employees who can be let go (with a severance package) poor building choices remain with you, draining your resources like a vampire, until the end of time.

With all said and done, I am looking forward to my next game. Hopefully this blog post will serve as a helpful player aid when that day finally arrives. Or I can just sputter around, throwing money in every direction. Because my previous experience seems to indicate this can be fun too. Furniture store and beret factory, here I come!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Malfegor's Mindslaver Engine

The final cards making up my Malfegor EDH deck. 6 mana cost cards, plus the last few higher-ups I just threw in for good measure. Feels good to have the entire deck done, now I can work on something else!
Steel Hellkite - You can't get much more awesome than this artifact creature. Colorless mana pumps him up, and colorless mana is all you need to wreck your foes with his second ability. The removal covers just about any concievable threat, from artifacts to enchantments to even planeswalkers. Very rarely I might even be able to knock out a few cards at once. Very similar to Engineered Explosives,  widely considered a holy grail for removal. But unlike the explosives, Steel Hellkite won't touch my own gear. And its a big 6/6 beater all on its own.

Mindslaver - Wrecks havoc with the opponent of your choice. You take his turn, and hopefully use as many of his cards as inefficiently as possible. Best saved for the late game, when people have lots of creatures, lots of mana, and plenty of dreams to stomp on. Might be a good combination with Trading Post and any other creature I can get back into play easily.

Wurmcoil Engine - Ever since I received a copy of this card at the Scars of Mirrodin prerelease, the Wurmcoil has had an honored spot in my deck. Another great card to make copies of.

Life's Finale - Malfegor gives me plenty of opportunity to wipe the board. But Life's Finale is the only wipe to also attack an opponent's deck. And with a cost of only 6 mana, I should be able to get this into play fairly early, leaving room to use those creatures to their fullest.
Charmbreaker Devils - These guys may seem anti-synergistic. I've counted the number of instants and sorceries in this particular deck, and it's not a very large number. But the peculiar wording of the Devils actually makes sparce numbers of instants/sorceries a good thing. "Return an instant or sorcery card at random from your graveyard to your hand" means you don't want a wide selection of little problem solvers to choose from in your graveyard. Because you aren't choosing at all. What you want is one haymaker you can draw out of your deck again and again. And I've tried to make all of my instants and sorceries count.

Sheoldred, Whispering One - Here's a dream. Turn one Entomb. Turn two Reanimate. Sounds like a pretty good deal! Sheoldred will do terrible things any other time as well, helping get my creatures out of the graveyard and putting my opponent's creatures right back in.

Avatar of Woe - Kills creatures of all varieties, over and over again. Usually only costs 2 mana to get out. If you've never sat across the table from an active Avatar of Woe, you are missing out on a great deal of, well, Woe.

Lavaball Trap - Mild boardsweeping power, plus the ability to blow up 2 lands is actually a pretty good deal for 8 mana. But how often am I going to have 8 mana? EDH games almost always go long, so yeah eventually I'm going to have 8 mana. For 5 mana I can also cast it, provided one of my oppoents plays 2 land in 1 turn. This happens far more often then you would think. All the tutor lands will eventually produce this effect, assuming your opponent is staying on his mana curve. And there is even one way in my own deck to push the situation.

Chandra Ablaze - My one planeswalker card. Lets look at the abilities one at a time. 1) Discarding a red card to do 4 damage is pretty good, especially when it gains me loyalty for the other abilities. 2) There will be many times I will have less than 3 cards, and the ability to draw 3 fresh cards out of my library is an ability too good to resist. While I'm drawing cards, my opponents will be discarding cards…since most of them try to keep a full mitt around. 3) This is a problem, since I don't have any good red instants/sorceries in this deck. Except for Lavaball Trap, which would be HILARIOUS to cast from my graveyard, maybe not for the cost of 7 loyalty points unfortunately.

Finally, my deck's general is the mighty Malfegor.

 Malfegor dumps your hand in the graveyard and forces your opponents to sacrifice an equal number of creatures. Your creatures, people usually don't realize, remain exactly where they are. No protection or shroud effects work against this ability, since it does not target. And he's even a flying 6/6 beater all for 6 mana.

Discarding your hand is normally a really grueling penalty. It's terrible, and having no hand to look at afterward gives you absolutely nothing to do. But I've tried to build my deck around this effect as best I can…there will be a silver lining to keep my mind on the bright side. And I've got ways to get a few cards back into my hand fairly quickly.

I think the overall result will be fun, if not necessarily victory.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Malfegor's Diabolic Phoenix

After a bit of a struggle with 2 cards wanting to be in the same slot, I finally have the 5 drops all laid out.
 Diabolic Revelation - Another new addition, this spell might be reaching just a little too far. 5 mana to get it started, plus additional mana to get your tutor effect. And I better have more mana available than just the one. But there are a few ways my deck might get extra mana, and this is a good way to spend the windfall.

Corpse Connoisseur -Yet another creature tutor. I would be bothered by all the creature tutors in my deck, were it not for all the other awesome creatures. Corpse Connoisseur does his job, and he can even do the job twice. Slight problem is the creatures go to the graveyard. But only slight, since I have so much stuff to haul them back out again. A great card to cast if my Diabolic Servitude gets low on targets.

Hoarding Dragon - An artifact tutor! When he's not flying around, this Dragon is dying and delivering an awesome toy at my feet.

Living Death - Another way for the game to end. Casting Living Death should only be done after carefully examining the contents of everyone else's graveyard. But if all lights are green, this little 5 mana sorcery gets really mean.

Magma Phoenix - I almost used Kudoltha Pheonix in this slot instead. The Kudoltha bird is a little bigger and a bit easier to cast out of my graveyard. But the really nice bit about Magma Phoenix is you can cast him at the end of your opponent's turn. Paying for spells during the upkeep phase is a good way to wreck your turn unless its something very efficient. 4 mana is not efficient enough! I would much rather spend 5 (and be forced to deal with 2 of that being red) if it comes before my actual turn begins. Plus…there's the whole board sweeping effect. If I don't want/can't handle the sweeping effect, I just need to NOT cast Magma Phoenix. My game must be progressing well in such a case.

Siege Gang Commander - A source of 2 11 goblin tokens. The official line, which I am happy to take, also says he can sacrifice himself. It's what the card reads, even though the idea itself draws a very perplexing picture. If he were to somehow be copied…I would have 5 goblins. If I did it again I would have 7. Plus the ability to do just 6 points of damage in one go can be pretty good too.

Worldslayer - Sometimes you aren't looking for profit. Sometimes you aren't looking to win. Sometimes you just want to strap a Worldslayer to a 0/1 Goat and watch the world burn. Whether I'm actually using it, or I just want to have my finger on "the button" for a while, I am confident I can come back from zero land faster than anyone else. And once I get the land, my graveyard has all the creatures I need. A good combination with a suspended Greater Gargadon.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Malfegor's Boldwyr Processor

Part V of an ongoing series.

Now it's time for the 4 drops!

Abyssal Persecutor - A 6/6 flying trampler for only 4 mana? There must be a big downside. As long as this creature is on the battlefield, every opponent is safe from losing. As he flies around and beats on stuff, most people are going to avoid using actual targeted removal on him. On my side of the fence, I have a number of ways of getting rid of him if the need comes up.

Boldwyr Heavyweights - A card in my deck purely for the LOL's. An 8/8 trampler for only 4 mana? Surely this card, too, must have some kind of drawback. In fact, depending on the deck, this drawback might get me into more trouble than its worth. But I like my opponents casting big creatures, and why not let them do it a little faster. Who knows, I might have some non-targeting mass removal waiting in the wings.

Diabolic Servitude - Repeatable reanimation is a pretty good thing. Bad part is this can only target creatures in MY graveyard. So we will see if I can keep it filled with critters. On the plus side, if Malfegor should ever end up in the graveyard, Diabolic Servitude is ready to yoink him right back into the land of the living. And if Mafegor gets removed from the game with Diabolic Servitude...he's just have to fly right back into the command zone where he belongs!

Fleshwrither - A poor man's tutor for 4-drop creatures. You may have noticed I have a couple extra-tricky creatures here to search up for special situations. The bad part is, the tutoring happens as a sorcery leaving the door open for a good removal spell. Hrumph!

Greed - Lots of card drawing, not quite as good as Necropotence but its what I have in my collection.

Horn of Deafening - An oldie but a goodie. Legends provided a host of really weird artifact effects that haven't been replicated in modern sets. Horn of Deafening stops most creatures in their tracks, preventing all damage and even effects triggered by damage.

Null Brooch - A repeatable counterspell. Pretty sweet to use when you don't have any cards in your hand. People normally forget I have this until they try a spell and it doesn't work.

Pestilence - A nice little boardsweeper you can keep on the board (and out of your hand) until the need arises. If I have Reassembling Skeleton out, I just have to leave enough mana to get him back into play and Pestilence stays on the board!

Phyrexian Processor - A couple posts back I decided 8 was the magic number to pay in life when the Processor comes out on the board. A big enough goon to be a threat to most creatures on the board. And I can make him over and over again.

Plague Sliver - A marvelous 5/5 for only 4 mana. The 1 damage per turn is almost inconsequential. Occasionally you run up against a sliver deck, but that hardly ever happens. Fun fact: this card is actually a reprint of Juzam Djinn in disguise.

Rakka Mar - Makes tokens for not very much mana. These are very similar to Spark Elementals, except they don't have trample and they don't get sacrificed.

Splinter Twin - Makes copies of things. This can be a really convoluted way to get rid of a general. Of course, a lot can go wrong while you gear up to make that one fatal copy. In other less crazy uses, Splinter Twin makes a dupe of just about anything else awesome in my deck, perhaps even Sheoldred.

Trading Post - Finally, the newest addition to my deck. I can use each one of these abilities at different times to give my deck a little push in the right direction. My favorite part is the artifact recursion.

So that's it for the 4 drops. Even crazier than the 3 drops? I believe so. Next up are 5 mana costing spells, which should be coming relatively soon. See you then!

Malfegor's Loxodon Mauler

Part IV of many...

Here come the 3 drops!

Ashnod's Altar - Ashnod's Altar is a endless sacrifice outlet. If I want to kill one of my creatures (say Reassembling Skeleton) I can do it without spending mana, and I even get 2 colorless mana back. This rescues any of my creatures from being stolen from me, or suffering an embarrassing exile due to Swords to Plowshares.

Buried Alive - tutors for 3 of the best, most easily resurrect-able critters in my deck.

Cadaver Imp - I wanted one Gravedigger-type creature in this deck, and Cadaver Imp also flies which helps a ton. You really never know how the battlefield is going to play out, and if you are the guy with the flyer, perhaps wearing a Loxodon Warhammer, you might be able to hold your ground.

Jar of Eyeballs - A brand new card I am trying out. If my creatures start dying left and right, Jar of Eyeballs turns into a pretty decent tutor. And even when things are pretty deadlocked, 2 eyeballs is still a Scry 2 effect, same as a Crystal Ball.

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage - This legendary "spellshaper" wrecks other cards left and right. You are always going to run into blue permanents, guaranteed. Guaranteed! Don't even worry about that part. And the few non-blue creatures you find you can still roast. As a last resort, you can use this card as an Inferno to wipe the board. I've used all 3 abilities, and plan to use all 3 many more.

Loxodon Warhammer - A "broken" hammer to strap to any of your disposable creatures who seem to sink back into the earth as fast as you can raise them. The life gain is huge, and almost unavoidable since whatever creature you are using also has trample.

Pawn of Ulamog - Gets me more advantage out of my creatures dying. People are always trying to kill the creatures. Pawn of Ulamog gives me both a chump blocker and more mana. In some sort of dream scenario where I have Pawn, Reassembling Skeleton and Ashnod's Altar out, every single black mana I spend counts as 2 creature kills and generates an additional 3 colorless mana.

Phyrexian Arena - I draw another card every turn. Which helps rebuild my hand after Malfegor comes down. Really drawing cards is always good.

Rockslide Elemental - This is a fairly new card to my deck, so I'm still undecided how well this will work. Either dies immediately, or get really big. Multiplayer games multiply the bonuses, since more killing is generally happening. And who knows one turn I could make this 40/40, equip the hammer and kill someone.

Skull of Orm - Brings enchantments out of my graveyard. Black has lots of awesome enchantments, and normally doesn't have any way to get them back again. With one simple artifact from The Dark, now you can!

Stronghold Rats - This card was added to my deck for pure fun factor. These Rats are completely unblockable, and they force discards around the table. They might die pretty fast, but if they get left on the table for a couple of turns I will be laughing all the way to the bank. Ideally, they would also be wearing Lightning Greaves.

Taurean Mauler - Again, gets pretty big in multiplayer games. Dies right away or does a whole lot of damage.

Wheel of Fortune - Dumps all my awesome cards in the graveyard, and gives me a fresh hand. Sometimes my hand is exactly zero, in which case I just get 7 new cards. Sets me up with reanimation targets in other people's graveyards.

So there are the 3 drops. I've noticed this bunch of cards is significantly more exciting than the previous more utility-minded 2 drops. From here on out, should be mostly crazy explosions and money falling out of the sky. Next up are the 4 casting-costers!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Malfegor's Animated Abominations

Part 3 is here already!

2-Mana-Cost Spells for fun and profit…and my Malfegor EDH deck.

Animate Dead - One of the game's more complicated cards, describing a fairly simple interaction. Animate Dead is very efficient, costs me no life, and is recurable using the delightful Skull of Orm.
Demonic Tutor - Another piece of glorious nostalgia. I am quite positive the most common target for this Tutor over its life still remains Sengir Vampire. Here's a fun fact: from the moment you learn MTG, start filling a jar with pennies. Put a penny in the jar every time you play a game of Magic. After about 5 years, start taking a penny out instead. The interesting part is that the jar will already be empty at this point since you used all the pennies to buy Sengir Vampires. And then you will not want them anymore. In the bright new future of this deck, I have plenty of awesome tutor targets.

Dragon Breath - Interestingly, this card cares about casting cost, not strength or toughness. So in addition to many monsterous creatures…similarly powered wizards get the same haste effect as soon as they enter the game. Tapping Avatar of Woe as soon as it comes into play (after paying only 2 black mana!) is probably going to be as awesome as it gets…but you never know what you might animate out of someone else's graveyard.

Exsanguinate - I have fond memories of cleaning up at a 2-headed Giant competition with this. Until the other team used one too…no fair! If I end up destroying the whole table with this more than once, it may have to come out in order to keep the fun factor at the right level.

Gate to Phyrexia - A good way to get rid of artifacts, especially if I have a lot of token creatures laying around. I remember finding this card in a bulk bin at Shinders back in the 90's and being amazed at the black border. Black on black…can't get much darker than that!

Goblin Tinkerer - Blows up artifacts, If you blow up a 1-mana-cost artifact you get to do it again!

Lightning Greaves - A good piece of equipment, drawing this quickly accelerates the deck into "kill by general damage" mode.

Rakdos Signet - A mana stone with all the colors I need!

Reassembling Skeleton - The ultimate recursive creature. What Drudge Skeletons should have been, it only took 18 years for them to get right. I can discard Reassembling Skeleton, sacrifice him, chump block with him, he don't care he just wants more.

Twisted Abomination - Another piece of land searching, and he's also a decent sized creature in a pinch.

Only 10 2-mana spells? Hope this deck doesn't end up being too top-heavy. Oh wait, this is Commander, Bwahahahaha!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Malfegor's Demonic Voltaic Power

Coursing through the Internet tubes, here is Part 2 of my Malfegor EDH Deck Presentation.

All 1-Mana-Cost Cards

Death Spark - Looks pretty worthless, doesn't it? Death Spark is included in this deck because it has AMAZING synergy with my general, Malfegor. Playing Malfegor causes me to discard all my cards. If I have at least 1 creature in my hand, Death Spark can be easily recouped into my new now-empty hand on the next turn. This gets me back into the action faster, and provides extra "not important" cards for discarding purposes as the game continues.

Devil's Play - I am trying this card out. It provides a useful Blaze effect you can cast again from the graveyard. Very useful if I end up having to discard it to Malfegor, as the card will still give me some benefit later down the road. The three red mana for the flashback cost is a little heavy, but should be manageable later in the game.

Executioner's Capsule - Threatening Terror-style effect I can get out of my hand quickly and onto the board. Once on the board, the effect is mostly uncounterable so even blue generals will have a problem with it. Only big weakness I see is the target creature has to be non-black. This has fouled me up previously against both Sliver Legion and Sliver Overlord.

Entomb - New addition I'm trying out. A tutor for graveyard-synergistic cards, this could even pull out a tucked general who could then be animated with any number of spells.

Evil Presence - More land destruction, creatively executed. Am I going overboard?

Expedition Map - Land searching done right. I can go find any land…colored sources if I need it or Volrath's Stronghold if I already have my mana on track.

Greater Gargadon - A 9/7 tank, and it costs me only 1 mana to cast. While the Gargadon percolates in the "suspend zone" you can sacrifice creatures, land, artifacts, just about anything that was going to die or get blown up anyway.

Goblin Balloon Brigade - The best 1 drop goblin ever created…that can fly. The perfect card.

Sol Ring - 2 mana springs from 1 mana. As amazingly useful as it is nostalgic…this card has grime and grit on it from my first days playing Magic in my high school cafeteria and in the back of Math Club.

Reanimate - Just got this card. I fear the possibility of sacrificing too much of my life for something really cool. I will have to see what my friends put into their graveyards.

Voltaic Key - I have nothing game breaking to use this with, so Voltaic Key will work in my deck as intended…providing extra uses each turn for my many cool artifacts.

Malfegor's Spinerock Stronghold

Thus begins a 6 or 7 part post of concentrated EDH format deck building FOCUS!

Once again, I feel compelled to undertake an examination of the card choices of my Malfefor Commander Deck. Last time, I seperated the cards by use. This time around I'm going to go by mana cost. Could be a mistake. Could be less informative. We will see.

Today you get: The Lands (there are no other 0-mana cost cards)

For starters, there are 8 Mountains and 6 Swamps. I like Mountains and Swamps because they come down on the battlefield untapped and ready to go. They count as basic land if you are into that kind of thing. They make colored mana which is almost always useful. Yep, land is really awesome.

But sometimes, you want to sneak a little more utility into your land, so you want colored mana producing land, with benefits.

For producing red mana, I include Spinerock Knoll and Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep.

Spinerock Knoll, aka Ol' Gassy Pants, is for casting big spells fast. I have a couple of big spells I would love to whip out at uncomfortable times for my opponent. The 7 points of damage requirement is usually easy to meet. Especially in multiplayer Magic, as the damage does not technically have to come from you. As long as an opponent takes 7 damage, you are good to go.

Shinka is awesome. Almost better than a basic mountain in every way. Comes into play untapped, and turns any large legendary creature into a formidible blocker/attacker. 

For producing black mana, I include Spawning Pool, Bojuka Bog, Crypt of Agadeem and Shizo, Death's Storehouse.

Spawning Pool gives you a 1/1 regenerating blocker very early in the game, which is nice to immediately stop attacks of opportunity. Doesn't fly, unfortunately. Sometimes your opponent will choose to use something like Swords to Plowshares on your skeleton, exiling the land in the process. It feels bad at first, but this is probably a best-case-scenario in disguise after considering what else in your deck he could be exiling.

Speaking of exiling, Bojuka Bog exiles a graveyard pure and simple. Sometimes this will be really good, and other times you'll hardly notice it. The 2 times I want to exile a graveyard:

1) When my opponent is doing something degenerate, usually in green and sometimes involving Eternal Witness.
2) When I'm almost ready to cast Living Death and I don't like the quantity or quality of monsters in an opposing graveyard.

Crypt of Agadeem will make a lot of mana, assuming I get plenty of black creatures in the graveyard. But if I can't, at least it will reliably produce 1 black mana every turn.

Shizo, Death's Storehouse is similar to Shinka in total awesomeness. Granting "unblockable" to a general (anyone's general!) is a quick way to knock out other players.

Perilously close to the writing of this blog post, my deck also included Ebon Stronghold and Keldon Megaliths. I originally added them simply because I had the cards, but after considering it…the effects really just aren't worth it. Sure, it can be fun to ping things sometimes. But both of these lands come into play tapped, and especially for Ebon Stronghold, I can see myself drawing it at a crucial time and ruing the day I ever put it in a sleeve. This has happened to me in the past with another terrible-for-EDH card, Shivan Gorge, and there was not a high enough roof I could find to release it from.

I also used all the dual color mana sources in my collection: Rakdos Carnarium, Graven Cairns, Blood Crypt, Sulfurous Springs, Dragonskull Summit, Veinfire Borderpost, Akoum Refuge, Tainted Peak, Auntie's Hovel.

For Tutor Land, I have Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse and (proxy!)Bloodstained Mire.

Finally, the icing on the cake. The Colorless Sources. Land with awesome abilities that I am willing to trade in my ability to reliably cast my spells for.

There are 4 cards I winnowed it down to.

1) Mystifying Maze

A pretty good land for stopping the random assaults!

2) Strip Mine and Ghost Quarter.

I'm having a tough time deciding if my deck really needs 2 land-destruction lands. Especially since they both only produce colorless mana. The problem is that when you really need to destroy a land, you need to do it as soon as possible. Sometimes a crucial land can mean the difference between success and failure. So they both stay in for now.

 3) Volrath's Stronghold

My deck dumps an incredible quantity of creatures into the graveyard. In just about every deck the Stronghold is good…in my deck is is above average in goodness. If you can make the game last for any length of time, this land is a tutor for whatever card you want out of your graveyard. And you can use it every turn!

And there you have it. The most important part of a deck, the foundation to your dark MTG tech. This list does not include mana-generating artifacts, which will be covered soon in their respective posts.

Next up, 1-mana-cost cards!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tyranny of the Vacant House: Santiago De Cuba

Another brutal game of Santiago De Cuba under my belt, and a feeling I must write again of the woe brought by letting your pesos run out.

Pesos are used in a couple of different ways. In fact, exactly 2.

1) Paying your driver advances the car one space for every peso. When you move the car, you get one free space and every space after is peso time.

2) Paying the pickpocket (poor, misguided El Zorro…he robs his victims, then gives the spoils to someone else?) is a fairly painless way to avoid having to give up something more valuable, like a good or a victory point.

Since the gamers on are often clever gentlemen, the more debased and unholy a strategy the more likely it will be picked up and used at every opportunity.

In a 2-player game of Santiago de Cuba, it boils down to this: if you allow your opponent to get any significant peso advantage, you are a dead man. Tthe world suddenly becomes a cold and inhospitable place.

I have dished this out and I have taken it. No matter how many trips your driver might take you around town, if you are peso-poor you always seem to be visiting the same place.

The worst location to be in Santiago: an empty vendor stall.

Empty vendor stalls don't have goods to give you. And you can't even move your pawn to a building to gain any additional benefit. You just sit in the car and wait for your next turn.

The strategy is super effective! And so prevalent. Every game I now play, the first place I "own" with dirty Alonso the Lawyer is the damnable newspaper publisher and his vendor-stall closing abilities.

In my last game, this didn't stop my opponent from winning. But it did force him to use a higher level of strategy which was at least entertaining for me (and probably even more for him). We both won. Although he won more with an actual win. But instead of staring at a closed set of double doors, I got to see a car expertly driven around town raking in an insane quantity of fruit before cashing it in for twice the victory points I was expecting.

Completely broken, I think not. But a communal driver in Cuba's second largest city must be ready for all the sneaky methods of getting ahead his comrades might employ.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A brief study in Pokemon

One of my favorite days in recent memory was discovering that my son was interested in Pokemon: The Trading Card Game.

This, I thought to myself, this is something I can understand.

The rules and makeup of the game are eerily similar to Magic. Energy replaces mana and pokemon replace creatures. Trainers and items replace sorceries. There are no instants.

In other ways, it is an entirely alien game. Both coming from the same root of collectible card game, Magic and Pokemon have branched in their evolution with some completely divergent design decisions.

Do you remember the double-faced card situation back in the first two Innistrad blocks? Pokemon's been that way ALL THE TIME. Only instead of having two faces, you have to have a separate evolution card in your deck to take your basic pokemon up to the next level.

Starts out as Pikachu

Ends up Raichu. I had no idea!

Pokemon is like that in EVERY EXPANSION.

Now if you didn't know this strange fact until now, you're probably next wondering how this could possibly ever be workable. Because Pokemon has been around just as long as Magic, and they continue to dump fresh card designs into the market at about the same pace. A comprehensive collector needs multiple closets to hide his perversion, just like in Magic.

Must be a pain in the butt to match up basic and evolved Pokemon, right? Not as bad as I feared because of the next startling revelation.

There are multiple Pikachus! Instead of taking Lightning Bolt down a notch and renaming it Shock, the madmen down at the PokiPalace or whatever their headquarters is called just kept making different designs with the SAME NAME.

If you search the poki-net, you are going to see the same pokemon have been in tons of expansions, they have the exact same name, and they all have different abilities, energy costs and health points. Total pandemonium!

And evolved Pokemon don't care which version they evolve from, as long as it has the same name you are good to go. The combo possibilities are endless and something I will have to think about more.

Right now, my eternal opponent and I are just fighting it out with the Black and White Training Kit.

I found an unboxing video, which highlights a number of other differences I want to point out.

1) This kit includes 2 "starter" half decks you can later combine into 1 full-size deck.

2) The kit includes a plastic pokemon "coin" for resolving coin flips. There are a LOT of coin flips in Pokemon, a observation I will explore farther in another post.

3) What isn't shown is this kit also includes a double-sized playmat for use by both players. There are spots for all the fields of play. Deck, discard pile, active pokemon, benched pokemon, prize cards, a spot for everything. Both sides have a brief setup checklist to make sure you don't forget anything. And then both sides have a brief checklist for going through a typical pokemon turn. This has been insturmental both in making sure my son doesn't forget anything, as well as making sure I don't forget anything. Because I forget a TON, which can be frustrating to a 7-year-old.

4) Finally, this kit includes COUNTERS. Pokemon keep their damage over turns, and there are about 6 different "conditions" from sleeping to burned to paralysis that can befall a pokmon. So lots of counters are nice to have, and its really nice to see them come in the starter kit. Hello Wizards!

10's, 50's(for the big-rolling Pokemon), as well as burned and poisoned status conditions

Hopefully he gets a stack of pokemon cards for his birthday, then we are going to get down to business on this whole "deck-building" thing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

M13's New Land for Trading Everything

New land spoiled for the M13 set…released in deliciously cryptic German.

4 mana for an artifact is always ok in my book. Especially for a laid back card like this that is only going to work for a "long game" deck…the ideal EDH scenario.

According to the translators at MTGSalvation, "Handelsposten" contains the following FOUR abilities:

1) 1 mana, tap, discard a card: You gain 4 life.

Discarding a card is not a very good trade for 4 life. If this were the only ability, this card would already be in the dumpster, and I haven't even got one yet. I would be throwing other people's copies in the dumpster, and laughing manically while doing it.

But sometimes you do want to get rid of a card in your hand. In this regard, it's a least better than One with Nothing. Say you wanted to put Animate Dead on your Butcher of Malakir or something in your hand. Then it would be good.

And sometimes you want to pump your Rakdos Pit Dragon. I have had this situation happen as well.

But ability #1 is hopefully the least useful of the Trading Post's abilities.

2)  1 mana, tap, pay 1 life: Put a 0/1 white Goat creature token onto the battlefield.

Sometimes all you need is a creature, and any creature will do. This 0/1 Goat is pretty fun just in the fact it's a Goat. But you are also going to be chump blocking with that Goat. And don't forget (at least in my case) giving him completely implausible equipment no Goat should really be carrying around.

This Goat is ready to even things up should an errant Barter in Blood or similar spell come down. Not to mention provide a painless sacrifice target for the numerous other artifacts EDH players love to have around.

3) 1 mana, tap, sacrifice a creature: Return target artifact card from your graveyard to your hand.

Happy Feet! Sometimes you need a creature, sometimes you need to get rid of a creature. This is certainly the most powerful, most useable effect. Sometimes you will get into games where opponents will relentlessly try to steal your creatures. Trading Post offers yet another way to deny them the pleasure of using your own weapons against you.

And in exchange for this valuable service you get to take an ARTIFACT out of your graveyard and put it back in your hand? I love artifacts, and I especially love replacing a creature targeted with lethal damage with a fresh artifact in my hand. What if that artifact is Wurmcoil Engine? Indeed!

4) 1 mana, tap, sacrifice an artifact: Draw a card.

Sometimes evil people blow up your awesome artifacts. Or maybe you just want to kill your Wurmcoil Engine for some reason. When that happens, why not get a card out of the deal?

After carefully reviewing each of these abilities, I can only conclude that Trading Post is the most awesome thing ever.

Yes, yes, not every deck is going to want this. But most of my decks will. Trading Post truly shines (like most artifacts) is decks using colors that normally don't get these abilities. I use a lot of red. Typically poor in drawing cards, token creation and especially pulling artifacts out of my graveyard. Black players take note, too. Ability #3 is a kind of holy grail in resurrection abilities, seen only very rarely.

So Trading Post is now on my watch list. And hopefully the 4 mana cost will keep the chase-y-ness down unlike that awesome land I saw the other day.