Friday, January 15, 2021

Entering the Golden Age

 My twin sons, Wilmick and Terrjo, are 12 and will be 13 in March. Although I'm not looking forward to the attitude and growing pains that come from raising teenagers, I have to admit I'm entering a kind of Golden Age because the twins like board games. Not just any board games, but complex board games like I like!

Last year we started playing and enjoying Terraforming Mars, and this Christmas I got Tapestry for a present and turns out the twins like that game too.

Tapestry Learning Game

Only one of the twins has a lot of interest in Twilight Imperium, but the other twin *loves* Axis & Allies and owns three of the games now (World 1941, Europe 1940 and Pacific 1940) and we played his new one, Pacific 1940) twice over the Christmas.

Twilight Imperium

Terrjo also got Carcassonne as a smaller board game pickup and its a hit with all the family, something that can be in and done in a hour and lots of fun.

Ah, all those years of missing board game nights and giving up Warhammer are finally paying off....

Monday, January 11, 2021

Zendikar Rising Sunset Post

 


As we enter the spoiler season for the next Magic the Gathering set, Kaldheim, which is due out at the end of the month, its time to set aside Zendikar Rising and start hordeing gold and gems. 

Zendikar Rising (aka ZNR) was by far my most drafted format, with 51 total drafts compared to 24 for Ikoria. Part of that is due to a slightly better win rate and a much better trophy rate, and part of it is that I really enjoyed the tribal / party decks a lot and had a lot of fun trying to put them together.


This is also the first set I dipped my toe into Best of Three and while my success rate there was not so hot, I find I enjoyed the games there more as the variance monster's effect is lessened by the multiple chances to face an opponent. 

My slight improvement in wins and trophies I think can be acreditted to finally starting to see the signals in the draft and read the table better than I used to. I still can sometimes tunnel vision into a colour pair but I think overall I'm getting better at paying attention and finding my lane for my seat. The next step is to actually trying to evaluate the cards and keep the valuations in mind as I draft.

Courtesy of 17lands.com, my most drafted cards are: 



Grotag Bug Catcher? Makes sense, I loved red/X party decks in this format. Utility Knife? I didn't want it a lot, probably just left over a lot in packs.

Uncommons:

Types!!!!!

And rares:


My favourite deck archetype? I did like the BW Clerics and UB Rogues, but my favourite by far was RW warriors with Kor Blademaster, Grotag Bug Catcher, Goma Fada Vanguard, and friends. Four of my eight trophies were that deck.

With that we bid ZNR adieu, and look forward to shenanigans with Vikings next month!


Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Visiting the Shipyards

December was crazy, but I'm back! And this post we visit my painting progress on my Battlefleet gothic ships.

My slow, slow, .... slow progress.

Back in August I was finishing up my Heavy Cruiser with its modular weapon bays and had primed the four cruiser that would form the bulk of my fleet. Time for an update!

Here is the four cruisers with their base coat of Cardinal Red paint.


Next we have them with their coat of Nuln Oil which is different than then black wash I used on the heavy cruiser. The oil paints accumulate more in the crevices and corners and give some definition to the model.

Closer look at the effects of the oil.

The next step is to highlight the raised and flat parts with the original base red to give the definition even more pop.

With that done, I moved on to the details of the contrast black markings and weapons.

If I'm lucky I'll have this fleet completed by next August!

Monday, December 07, 2020

Board Game Review: Tapestry


From the website, Tapestry is described as "a 2-hour civilization game for 1-5 players". Which is a lie; its not a civilization game, its a victory point generating mechanics game with a fake veneer of a civ game. Don't get me wrong though, you could change all the civ game trappings to gibberish and you would still have a great fun game.

At its heart it is a game where you compete to put together the best engine at generating victory points based on the civilization you start with. There are four different engines and you can invest in any of them but its usually best to invest heavily in one to get the most benefits.

The first time you play it is overwhelming. The sheer number of symbols, options, mechanics, it is truely gobsmacking how much there is going on. Even though the game starts slow and simple, the actions and choices build up until you either find your engine humming along or stalling in the starting blocks. There is some element of luck too, based on the civilization you start with and the tapestry cards you draw that give different bonuses throughout the game as you go through the rounds.

There is some player versus player interaction. On the map itself you can do a little "fighting" over tiles and controlling tiles is one of the engines you can operate for victory points. And on each of the four tracks there are three landmarks you can earn to place in your capital city for more points or resources that you can spend, but only the first player to get to that landmark's spot on the track gets that landmark. This is the biggest source of competition as those landmark buildings are invaluable to building up your city and not only gives you more resources, but is another one of the four victory point engines.

Besides conquering tiles and building up your capital city, the other two engines are developing technologies and exploring tiles. Each of the engines is closely tied to one of the four tracks and often a player will pick one track to invest heavily on and a supporting track to supplement growth and development as it gets more and more expensive to climb a track as you proceed.

This game is available on Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator as well as a physical board game. My friends and I have been playing it recently on a weekly basis on the latter and it is a big hit with my group. I have definitely added a physical copy to my wish list for Chirstmas.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Friday, November 20, 2020

Haven In Space

 I was looking for a new game to play when Magic The Gathering was not in the cards (Pun Alert!) and one game that I've had my eye on is Space Haven by BugByte.


What is it? From the Steam page:

Embark on a space voyage with your ragtag crew of civilians in search of a new home. Build spaceships tile by tile, create optimal gas conditions, manage the needs and moods of their crew, encounter other space-faring groups, and explore the universe in this spaceship colony sim.

You start off with a group of survivors on a bare bones ship, some supplies, and a universe to explore and extract supplies from. Over time you add to your crew, expand your ship and capabilities, and try to survive.

Its only still in Alpha but there is a lot of game here regardless. I've played over 11 hours so far in two different games. My first game I was going OK unitl I took on some refugees from a space station attacked by pirates and then got into a downward spiral where I was scrambling for food for everyone and did not realize I ran out of energy fuel until everything shut down, I lost my crops, and people started to freeze and starve to death. My second run has been more successful so far.

This is not my ship.

I like the micromanaging aspect of the game plus the fact you can choose to not micro manage too much. I love designing and redesigning the interior of the ship as it grows and new machines are added to increase my capability. I do not like how if I do not pay close enough attention I can lose a crop of food in a blink of an eye if the temperature goes out of control. Thank goodness for autosaves.

I'm looking forward to future updates.

I reccommend adding this one to your wishlist and maybe picking it up sometime when you need something relaxing like a fidget toy to fiddle with.


Friday, November 13, 2020

WHOOPS

 I really enjoyed the Witcher series on Netflix with Henry Cavill so I became kind of interested in buying the Witcher III: Wild Hunt video game.



It went on fantasic sale on Steam a couple weeks ago and I snapped it up. Open world, fighting monsters, swords and sorcery? Sign Me Up!

I bought it, made some space on the old hard drives, and installed it. Started it up, lots of scenes to set the mood, I'm fine with that, I came for the story too. 

Ok, fighting scene.... ok, magic, neat.... Dream sequence? Ah, backstory sequence, ok... what? Oh. UH OH!

This game has nudity. I'm 15 minutes in and there is a naked woman's buttocks on my screen.

Now I'm not a prude or anything, after all I watched the show and there is plenty of nudity in it, but its one thing to watch a show on a tablet where no kids could stumble up the questionable content and another altogether on a big computer screen. Plus my wife and I are trying to raise the Boyz with more respect for women and less objectification of womens' bodies, and having casual nudity in a video game is not exactly in line with our goals here.

Fortunately, I was able to get a refund for the game and uninstall it. Thank you Steam.

I can see thinking "how did he know know? the game has been out for years and one of its big selling points has been the sex and nudity..." Well, like I said, I only became interested in the game because of the show and I honestly never looked anything up about it online. I don't follow gaming sites or read gaming news so I was unaware. I guess I'm showing my age for defaulting to assuming a video game is not adult content only.

Make no mistake: these games are not including the nudity as part of the "art" of video games or telling a story. As my wife asks, "How does this make the game better?" and in my opinion it does not. 

Oh well, voting with my money I guess.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Risk Versus Reward When Drafting

 Drafting on MTG Arena is very fun but has a frustrating aspect to it. It costs money. 

I know, the nerve of Wizards of the Coast wanting to be paid for their online product! 

The good news is that it can be free to play even for drafting because you can earn gold (and rarely gems) through playing normal games of Standard or Historic and achieving daily quests. Its not fast, but its doable. It takes about a week of grinding in order to get the 10,000 gold you need to enter a draft.

The good news is that the drafts offer rewards and the more you win in a draft the larger your reward. In fact, you win enough and you earn enough gems to enter another draft and have some left over! If you are really good, you can draft infinitely and never put any more effort into grinding Constucted. 

But how likely is that?


First off there are multiple limited modes, you can read all about them here. I'm discussing today are drafts against other humans, Premier Draft which is Best of 1 (aka Bo1) match play and Traditional Draft which is Best of 3 (aka Bo3).

In Bo1 you face your opponents in a single "winner takes all" match and the draft ends when you get 7 wins or 3 losses, whichever comes first. Your rewards are:

- No wins — 50 gems and one pack
- One win — 100 gems and one pack
- Two wins — 250 gems and two packs
- Three wins — 1000 gems and two packs
- Four wins — 1400 gems and three packs
- Five wins — 1600 gems and four packs
- Six wins — 1800 gems and five packs
- Seven wins — 2100 gems and six packs

Since it costs 10K gold OR 1500 gems to enter a draft, at 5 wins you have made your investment back and essentially played for free. Now getting 5+ wins before 3 losses is not easy, in 18 tries in Zendikar Rising Bo1 drafts I've managed it only 4 times. But even getting to 3 or 4 wins is a big deal as the amount of gems you receive puts you very close to affording another draft. 

As you can see from this graphic from 17 lands for Throne of Eldraine drafting, most drafts end below the line but still in the 3-4 win range (usual disclaimers about self selecting data, not whole playerbase, etc).

Courtesy of https://www.17lands.com/

I want to highlight the massive jump in rewards between 2 wins (250 gems) and 3 wins (1000 gems). That is the largest jump in reward of all the levels and is the difference between feeling like "I wasted my money" and "not bad, almost enough for another draft!". In fact, assume a player starts a format with 40K gold, enough for 4 drafts:



As you can see in the table above, the number of drafts you are able to do increases exponentially if you are a better than average drafter, to the point where the best drafters can draft while never paying another dime. Now I realize it does not work out that way in reality because the Bo1 is a ranked queue, players in bronze play against other players in bronze and players in diamond or mythic play each other as well, leading to the type of graph you see above where most results are in the 2/3 and 3/3 range, indicating that the win percentage trends towards 50%.

However, what it does mean that boy does it suck to be a bad drafter.

What about Traditional Draft, i.e. Bo3? Bo3 is not ranked so who you play is random and thus the better drafters can rise to the top more easily in theory, but there are two limiting factors related to each other that impact that.
1) The rewards suck if you don't get 3 wins.
2) Lower skilled drafters stick to Bo1 as a result.

Why do the rewards suck so bad? Well, for a 10K gold or 1500 gem entry fee you can earn:
- No wins - One pack
- One win - One pack
- Two wins - 1,000 gems and four packs
- Three wins - 3,000 gems and six packs

As you can see, even winning 2 out of 3 matches fails to earn you the rewards to do another draft. But winning all 3 matches wins you enough gems for 2 more matches! I'm not exactly sure why they chose this reward structure compared to Bo1. Is it because Bo3 is seen more as "real magic" and they expect players to pay a premium to participate? Is it because its not ranked so there are more 2 win and 3 win players (i.e. the distribution curve is slanted more to the right), and if rewards were higher on the 1 win and 2 win slots that too many people would be making too many gems?


Regardless, this reward structure makes it very hard for me, an average player, to justify paying for Bo3 with a 50% record on good days when that record can earn me twice as many follow up drafts in Bo1.



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