Friday, September 3, 2010

A trip down memory lane.. and survivng at the end..

The last time I really enjoyed playing card games was when I was playing Magic the Gathering and my Morphlings were still "legal" to play (1998-1999). Those were the good old days playing at the local
comic book store and the not so local game store Neutral Ground (R.I.P) in NYC. In particular I enjoyed playing in pre-release sealed deck tournaments. Where I believed things were more level among the players. It was down to luck and being a better player that would win you match.

Ever since I stopped playing Magic I swore off card games the same way someone swears off alcohol after a particularly nasty bender. It was during that time that I turned heavily towards miniature war gaming as a matter of fact. Warhammer 40k being the drug of choice at the time, it was not long after all my cards were put into shoe boxes and forgotten about just like an ex girlfriend forgotten out of mind and out of sight.

After many fruitful years of war gaming temptation struck again and I looked into card games. The first was Warlord Saga of the Storm a game that uses a d20 (always a plus!) the objective of the game was to kill the opposing Warlord all the while cutting through swathes of other characters. Though I didn't play very long in the game I do have to say I did have fun. Especially when I won a sealed deck tournament solely based on the fact that I didn't roll lower than a 17 for armor for Badu Lutalo!

Despite all of this I felt something was missing and I stopped collecting Warlord out of nowhere. I do have to admit I am quite the fickle creature but I digress. Next came VS. System which was a game about superheros not just any superheroes but those from the Marvel and DC universe.

At first just like any game it seemed fresh and innovative and like every gamer I collected obsessively. After stock piling a mess of cards I thought myself well enough to participate in one of their tournaments at Gen Con. It was right after the opposing players turn that I realized how much fun the game WASN'T. Now I understand that it was a tournament but I have never seen that many mirror matches in my life.

If you aren't familiar with the term "mirror match" it means that your opponent and/or many of the other players brought the EXACT same deck that you or someone you have faced has. Making for quite a boring/repetitive game especially if you have to face it three to four rounds of the tournament. It was right after I finished the tourney that I put my cards into my deck box and haven't touched them since.

Again maybe foolishly I swore off card games yet again and delved deeper into the realm of miniature gaming. In particular during that time I found that skirmish games were the niche where I had finally found the perfect balance of game. But I will save that for another post..

Fast forward to about a month ago where me and the group went on our annual trip to Indiana for Gen Con. It is a tradition that we usually pick up and invest in a new game to play during the year. I have to admit the salesmen are quite convincing in their sales pitch. This year while the group waded through the dealers hall (think a mix of a troll/asian market) we found two games that caught our attention.

The first was "The Spoils" a game that was part satire part fantasy/victorian/steam punk/etc yes those are quite a few parts. Having previously seen The Spoils a few years back I was relieved to see that they came back in force with a new set being released at the convention. It didn't take much convincing to split a starter with Mike along with a box of booster packs and all before knowing how to even play the game!

Once we started playing though everything went smooth the system is very intuitive and straight forward. The cards as mentioned above are hilarious and make many references to popular icons and culture. There are five factions that each play differently: Bankers, Arcanists, Rogues, Gearsmiths and Warlords. Each of the factions is trying to gain Influence over all the others in game you are trying to reduce your opponents Influence to zero.

Each faction has their certain play style and flavor in The Spoils a brief overview based on my findings are:

-Banker- Are good at card drawing and gaining influence, they also have a jack of all trades feel where they can get abilities other factions do but it comes at a high cost. Their story is that they are a bunch of cat people (for lack of a better word) that resurrect the dead to pay off their debts.

-Rogue- Uses the opponents discard pile against them, either through gaining abilities/stats on their characters or simply denying the enemy the chance to gain their cards back. They also sport loads of characters with higher speed, nifty because high speed characters resolve their damage before slower characters. They also boast cards that can take over an opponents characters.

-Warlord- Not very good at playing any "tricks" but what they do they excel in and that is beat down on their enemy. Sporting some of the higher strength characters they have one goal in mind and that is straight attack. Their items and actions support this by giving strength bonuses to their characters to end the game quick and decisively.

-Gearsmith- As their name would suggest have the most items/gear than any of the other factions, they also have the ability to spawn the most tokens (free characters). Along with the ability to look for certain cards (mainly items) which as any card player knows is an amazing ability getting the card you need when you need it. The Gearsmiths themselves are immature elves that talk in 'l33t' or 'net' speak as they say which is quite the novel idea.

-Arcanist- The faction that has the most "covert" characters (covert means the character can only be blocked by other characters with the covert skill), they excel in making the opponent discard and returning cards to its owners hand.

The second game that caught my eye was Call of Cthulhu by Fantasy Flight Games, if you are not familiar with Call of Cthulhu it is based on the short stories by a writer call H.P Lovecraft. I have always been a fan of Lovecraft and his stories so a card game revolving around the mythos had me sold. Set in roughly the 1920s Call of Cthulhu is a game of horror and survival, of crazed man men and monsters fighting against brave adventurers and archeologists all the while trying to stay sane from the sights that they have seen.

Call of Cthulhu is a "living card game" which means that unlike most card games it is not collectible, there is no randomization in the packs you receive. Every set has the exact same cards with the exact same multiples of said card. There is no blind buying, if you need a certain card just look up online what set has it and purchase just that set. Not only will you have the card you need but you also get a play set (2-3 copies of the card) also.

In Call of Cthulhu there are seven factions:

Agency - consists of government officials like police and investigators.
Miskatonic University- an academic group of researchers with great knowledge.
Syndicate- mobsters, journalists and hit men looking to further their ends.
Cthulhu- made up of cultists and monsters who follow the great Cthulu.
Hastur- followers of the "King in Yellow" made up of psychopaths and minions.
Yog Sothoth- learned scholars and cultists who summon trans dimensional beings.
Shub Niggurath- focuses on the many monsters that Shub Niggurath has spawned.

So after many years and false starts I have finally picked up two card games that I am really excited to play. Hopefully in the next coming posts I can post up some of my decks and tactics along with more in depth report on each game. Till then thanks for reading my trip along memory lane.

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