It’s a long weekend again, something always to be cherished! I’ve been celebrating with some games, which is unsurprising to long-time readers – Arkham Horror and Lord of the Rings LCG have both made an appearance thus far, and I don’t doubt that many others will join them before the weekend is over!
May has otherwise been a pretty sparse month for gaming, I think due to other commitments that have engulfed me – namely, the degree. Yesterday, however, I had a day off, and after getting a new tire for the car (I know how to live), I popped along to the local games store for a couple of games.
First up, I’d been asked to give a demo of Android: Netrunner, which appeared on my blog not too long ago, and was utterly decimated by my opponent in his very first game! I played as the Runner (as per), with my classic Shaper deck, while I gave him a Haas/Bioroid deck that was basically the list from Creation and Control, with a couple of other cards added in. We played with open hands, and all his cards were played face-up so as to explain the game as it went along, but yeah… decimated!
I suppose that shows the beauty of how this game works. The deck is really well-made, so pretty much runs itself: a lot of ice, and just enough agenda points, and I just couldn’t get in. That said, I did have some pretty bad draws, only ever drawing two icebreaker programs (despite using two Diesel cards). I’ve only ever played against Weyland Consortium, so it was interesting to see how another corp plays. He liked it, anyway, and hopefully we’ll get some more plays in.
Following that, I had two games of X-Wing, the first using the squad above that centred around Vader. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while now, since I started on this X-Wing rediscovery and all! My usual strategy, of ‘just fly around and shoot stuff’, worked really poorly, as I couldn’t do anything to stop Matt’s usual reliance on Biggs. I lost, but it took time to lose!
That was followed by an impromptu game where I made the following squad up on the fly:
Luckily, there were some other X-Wing players in the store, one of whom suggested Fel and loaned me some upgrades to use. It ended wonderfully badly, as the interceptors were picked off quickly, and Echo, while doing some damage, still didn’t do enough before following them. My Obsidian Squadron Pilot, however, turned into something of a star turn – at one point, he managed to score three critical hits when targeting Horton Salm at range 1, the Y-Wing only evading one! However, it still wasn’t meant to be, and he followed his fellows into the cold void.
Looking back over previous games in general, a trend emerges of me doing really badly. These two X-Wing games in particular have just served to highlight that. Being at the store however, with other folks there offering me advice and stuff, it occurred to me that my poor track record doesn’t actually bother me in the slightest. And I think the pep-talk before that second game really underlined the fact that I’m just not a serious gamer.
I’ve probably mentioned, dozens of times now, that I’m not a very strategic player of games. I will usually attempt to put some sort of strategy together in card games like Lord of the Rings or Android Netrunner, but my past experiences have shown that it is so very rare that any kind of strategy will actually come together, so nowadays I tend not to bother with those sorts of things. Part of me feels that card games like these have a much higher luck aspect than most people give them credit for – while you can build a deck that looks perfect, you’re still going to shuffle that deck before you begin, so there’s no way you can reliably get those cards that you need into your hand to allow your chosen strategy to unfold. While many such games will include cards that let you search portions of (or even your whole) deck for cards, you’re usually limited to the number of specific cards you can include in your deck, so if you don’t draw any such “scrying” cards, you’re going to be hampered.
I read a lot about people who have unmitigated success with games like Lord of the Rings, who espouse their chosen strategy as The One etc, but I often wonder how many games they’ve actually abandoned before the first turn is over, because their opening hand (and mulligan) didn’t contain those key cards. Personally, I never mulligan in card games – maybe it’s something I should start thinking about…
Returning to the X-Wing example, the upgrades I was loaned for Soontir Fel were clearly designed to do some pretty awesome strategy, but that guy was shot out of the sky on the second turn due to poor dice rolling on my part. Dice hate me anyway, of course, but that’s by-the-by. There was a look of some horror as my fighter ace was shot out right from under me, almost like I had betrayed that upgrade combo I’d been given. Or worse, that I just didn’t get the game enough to play it properly. Whatever. I actually had more fun playing with my Obsidian Squadron Pilot than I did with that strategically-perfect Fel, because it gave me the chance for some role-playing, as I told the story of a pilot, fresh from the academy (so he remembered all of the lessons because they were still fresh), wanting to make a name for himself by flying alongside the legendary Fel but, when he was shot down, decided to go out for revenge and show that he was a legitimate part of the Empire’s finest. He rolled those three crits on his first attack after going in for revenge, which really just fueled the story.
But you know what? When the game was over, the one thing we were all talking about was how that nameless pilot managed to survive for round after round, trying to avenge Fel – not the wonderful upgrade combo that should have let Fel last longer than just two rounds.
This is why I’m not interested in power-gaming. This is why I will always play the theme decks over the power decks. The opportunity to create epic storytelling adventures will always appeal to me over the opportunity to win. I may not be classed as a serious gamer, but I definitely have fun with these things. And I think my opponents do, too.