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Von’s Adventures in Hearthstoneland

Time for some liveblogging, I think!

First up, running my Warlock semi-zoo demon synergy deck (codename Kan’trethad) through, deliberately not changing anything until I’m absolutely certain it’s deckbuilding and not player error that’s cost me the game.

Anub’rekhan went squish on the first go (nobody likes being Ragnaros’d in the face).

Faerlina took three; her hero power is a bit rude when it comes to early board clearance (casts Arcane Missile but gets one missile per card in your hand) and she drops a couple of credible aggro creatures.

Maexxna was the difficult one; she plays Deathrattle zoo with two Sea Giants, and her hero power (3 mana to return a minion to your hand) is a bit cruel, plus she has some nice tricks like destroying her own Nerubian Egg (0/2, Deathrattles into a 4/4) and returning it at full health for 2 mana. Had to make four or five attempts at her and it still felt REALLY draw-dependent (two Soulfires back to back and she kept helpfully webbing my Doomguard so I could bring him back at full health, then I topdecked into Drain Life at 5/1 – fluke, really).

The bosses seem to behave pretty predictably (I wonder if they have fixed starting hands?) and, for the first wing, well-timed AOE seems to be the key.

Winning all three wings with Warlock unlocked Druid and Rogue challenge modes. I’m learning Druid and I… have a Rogue deck… so maybe I’ll give those a go after bashing my Paladin decks (codenames: Swagadin – that’s Divine Shield spam – and Paladouche – that’s Secrets) into it.

Also, the rewards are very spidery and mostly Beast class. I sense a spider-themed Hunter meta coming on. Still, I’m in on the ground floor for once!

Also also, the music’s neat.

Swagadin’s up next: 3 4-draws in my first hand and drawing a 4 on turn 1 bodes ill for Anub’rekhan. Plus, he gets a 3/1 and I only get a 1/1 from hero powers. Sad times. Shade of Naxxramas (Stealth, 2/2, gains +1/+1 every turn) is a bit mean – I wonder if it’s a reward? 3 mana for a 2/8 with Taunt, too! At least it summons something of yours when it dies. Still, Swagadin has Silence aplenty! Anub casts Mage and Warlock spells – Frost and Shadow Bolts, Shadowflame. Potential misplay – he gets board control very easily so clearing minions generally better than tunneling him. Beware of Consecration; it hands him free 4/4s if he has the Nerubian Eggs out (yes I realise that’s obvious but I still did it – granted it gave me lethal, but details!)

Faerlina: two sixes and a four? Who the hell built this crappy Paladin deck? Oh… me. That’s right. Aggro and I don’t always get on in CCGs, and by ‘always’ I mean ‘never’. Also, I was wrong about starting hands; it was either luck, or the game was going easy on me the first time through. Anyway, slow deck, slow hand, and that hero power clearing off what creatures I could get out are making tempo very hard to establish. Beware of Worshippers, too; Faerlina growing 1 attack per Worshipper in play has been a nasty surprise in all my games at this stage so far. Also, Divine Shield is really weak against someone who can end up with a free Avenging Wrath for 2 mana if your deck’s having a slow day.

Decided to take Paladouche (Secrets) through on the second attempt, since the Divine Shield deck is hard-countered by her Hero power. Draw 3 4-cost cards, mulligan, get 2 7s and a Holy Light. WELL, I’M REALLY GOING TO NEED THAT, AREN’T I? Also, no daily quest progress in here. It occurs to me that trying to build card advantage here is a really bad idea/turn of luck, and that might explain why my usual decks are stalling; I’d taken 9 damage from the Hero Power by the time I was getting decent minions out. At least I have Mogu’Shan Warders to soak it later on. Also… I’ve never gone second against one of these. I wonder why? Also: my Secrets don’t work too well against someone who spams single points of damage around every bloody turn. Also also: the bosses are not capped at two copies of a card per deck (she just dropped three Worshippers to get 3 attack, fill her board and leave me topdecking… but I’d almost feel safer here if she didn’t have that sodding 5/9 out. FIVE Worshippers now… and I have Avenging Wrath, but too little too late with all those 1/4 Worshippers in play. Loss. Decks need reliable means of dealing 4 damage to every minion in play to get past her cleanly, I think.

Looking at the available cards, I suspect we’ll be driving towards a Deathrattle meta. They’re all unlocked as Minions, although Shade is tied to beating Kel’Thuzad… I suppose that once again I’m going to have to raid Naxxramas, aren’t I?

Off to build that Hunter deck now, I think. More of this malarkey next time I sit down to Hearthstone.

[nWoD] One Page Mage

So I mentioned to Hark that I’d like to run a tabletop RPG again – somewhere outside the house, but not with gamer gamers, if that makes sense. I mentioned that D&D was giving me a headache because I never know how I want to run it. Hark said she’d quite like to give another World of Darkness game a try. Mage sprang to mind. Mage continues to spring to mind. I’ve approached a couple of WoW-RP friends who happen to live in London and they’ve responded with cautious optimism and YES. I’ve found the PDFs of the WoD and Mage core books (I bought them legitimately, all right, but Shiny has custody of them at the moment – in fact I think I sold them to him…). One small problem has sprung up, though.

I don’t think you don’t need seven hundred pages of rules to pretend you’re a wizard.

That’s what it all comes down to, ultimately. All the other stuff I’m about to say, about player accessibility, about buy-in, about self-indulgent logorrhea, about game worlds and gameable concepts – all that’s dust in the wind compared to the central truth that you don’t need all that to play let’s pretend.

We’re grown-ups, so we can’t let ourselves just make stuff up, and imagination generally thrives under constraints of some sort, and if it’s going to be a role playing GAME it needs some sort of rules and structures. That’s fair enough. Doesn’t need to be this many, though. Doesn’t mean that the quick-fix summary for casting a spontaneous spell needs to be a page and a half long.

Vampires have it easy. You bite someone, you drink their blood, they (usually) get off on it, you accidentally or deliberately kill them (or not), the end. It all feels fairly fluid and it’s not that hard to execute. The core, central thing about Being A Vampire is smooth to conceive of and relatively so execute within the game’s rules.

Spellcasting, in Mage, doesn’t feel that fluid. I feel like it should be easy - that casting a spontaneous spell should feel quick and, well, spontaneous, as mechanically graceful as “OK, he’s cast Acid Arrow, save vs. spells or 3d8 damage”. It shouldn’t involve stopping the play while you wade through dense paragraphs of White Wolf fluff-in-the-crunch-and-the-crunch-ain’t-all-that-smooth-anyway page-padding, and while you’ll get to know the system EVENTUALLY that mode of presentation ain’t gonna help you get there.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the process, as such, I just think it needs to be more clearly represented for reference in play. Something like a flowchart, left to right, that you can execute in about a minute; that’s about right, I think, for a sense of bullet time, for the events in game to hit slow-motion and the mage to hold out their hand and say the words and extend the mind and then KAZAM, resolution.

That’s got me thinking about all the other padding in Mage. As usual, I’m running for one tabletop novice and one player who’s only ever sat in on a few sessions of diceless Mage. I need those new players to understand what the Mage setting is about without having to trudge through four pages on each of the bloody Paths or Orders. Less Fantasy Encyclopaedia, more key words and core concepts and stimulating hooks. TVTropes manages to do the background very succinctly indeed – not a hundred per cent accurate but good enough for jazz – and so I want to do the same thing for the rules.

Here are the principles I’ll be abiding by as I create and run One Page Mage. Some of them are writer’s rules, some of them are guidance for storytelling, all of them are focused on eliminating the Things I Don’t Like About Mage and cutting through to the Things I Like About Mage.

  • Everything must fit on a single A3 or A4 page. The DM screen comprises one A3 and two A4 panels and should include the essential rules and references.
  • Systems must be described in simple, easy-to-follow terms – commonplace actions should not take more than sixty seconds of real time to resolve.
  • Fluff must be kept to an effective minimum – where possible, it should be expressed via gameable concepts or short, inspirational hooks.
  • Character generation should be possible through actual play – no new player should be told that we have to fill out forms for an hour before we can start.
  • Players’ electronic devices should be actively engaged in play – those toys with which we fuss and fiddle can be repurposed as tools rather than distractions.
  • Paper character sheets should be integral – they encode that we are Playing A Game, not Sitting Around Fiddling With Our Toys.

That’s it. Let’s see how it works out.

[WM/H] Retribution of Silvermoon vs. Fairy Power Spray, Part I

While I was pretty pleased with myself for getting the Retribution army almost painted in time for SmogCon – I could field a fully painted 35 point list, just not quite the one I’d originally set out to do – I was never really happy with it. A few pieces – Garryth and the Arcanist – were obviously rushed and visibly flawed, while others – Ossyran and the Invictors – were victims of my poor choices, and at least one – the Phoenix – hadn’t quite come out how I’d imagined it and I wasn’t sure why.

I was also tempted to flog on a few bits – casters I’d added just to make up the numbers and who didn’t synergise too well with the collection – to make more space for the mountain of Cryx I’ve recently snaffled second-hand, and which needed paint-stripping anyway, as did some of the metal models from my old Vampire Counts army (which I’ve decided to downsize for storage’s sake as much as anything else; I’m keeping the plastics, which I actually like, and hocking off the out-of-production metals if I can).

All this stuff needed a quick dunk in the stripper and I wasn’t too keen on handling more NitroMors – and then I remembered about Fairy Power Spray and Dettol fluid, and how they was supposed to make acrylic paints peel off miniatures like greasy flan (thank you, Mr. Webb, for that charming turn of phrase). Took me long enough to find any – none of the guidance online actually tells you useful stuff like what colour the bottle is, leaving me standing bewildered in several supermarkets trying to work out which Dettol product I was actually looking for. Eventually I snapped, went to Wilkinson’s and just asked someone, and I walked away with two bottles of Fairy Power Spray.

For reference: it looks like this and is available, like this image, from Wilkinsons in the UK.

Tell you what, though; they’re not wrong, it DOES work. I must have run about six batches of models through the stuff in the last couple of weeks, and almost all of ‘em have come out paintably clean. A few – the Thralls which had been primed with some super-thick paint-rejecting goop which was assuredly not a proper primer, the awkward models with lots of recesses, and the gloss-varnished ‘Grave Guard’ – needed a couple of goes around, but it’s done a damn good job and, as a plus, has dissolved the various things on the models’ bases as well. Stings a bit if you get it on your hands, and I’ve gone through a couple of pairs of gloves with all the vigorous scrubbing, but you can’t have everything.

The process is basically “put models in box with airtight lid, liberally squirt with Power Spray, leave for a day or two, then scrub with damp toothbrush, rinse and scrub until relatively clean”.

Anyway, while I’m still faffing about deciding exactly how I’m going to paint the Cryx (a process complicated by the impending release of the Cephalyx, and I’ve cracked; I do want some!), I’ve decided that it’s about time I actually painted up my Banshee and repainted those Retribution casters and solos who weren’t too well served by my earliest efforts, and maybe had a go at tidying up the weird tones on the Phoenix.

Here are the inspiration images; I hope to have some actual paintjobs to show y’all this time next week.

Phoenix/Hydra (Sunreaver Micro-Sentry). Note: much more red than my original. Not sure but suspect this may demand FREEHAND. >.<

Banshee/Sphinx (Menagerie Construct). A gift from the player whose character will be inspiring my Elara, when I get around to painting her.

Lord Arcanist Ossyran( Absolution Regalia Recolour). Ties him in with the blues and purples of the Vyre myrmidon, and uses a deeper red than anything else in the army. He’s different.

Adeptis Rahn (Sunwell Mage Regalia, trousered version) – I’ve actually already done this once, but I paint-stripped him (tempted to sell) and then decided actually, no, I wanted him to stay.

Not sure what I’ll do about the Battle Mages yet. They might end up as Sunreaver Guardians, in exactly the same outfit as Rahn, with him presented as a first-among-equals type; the other option is a version of the Tirisfal Mage Regalia which brightens the red and replaces the purples with deep greys, tying them to Rahn rather than Ossyran. That’d be much less effort. I’ll probably do that.

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