Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Feminist Reading of the EC

So, I was in the EC of VtES this year. Thank you, Stockholm, it was great!

And what great greatness it was! The people were great, the venue was located very conveniently and the games were tight, fast and furious. Not super fast, some of those games, but really furious, and full of tough calls and decisions.

Tought calls and decisions are to be expected in tournaments like the EC, of course, and people usually would think that those players who go through the trouble of actually getting there would be skilled enough, or at least confident enough in their skills, that they would be okay with making those tough decisions themselves. Not all seemed to think that way, though.

Okay, here we'll need to be spesific about this: when I said “not all”, I really meant a minority. Not very many; few.

What I'm talking about is how some players had their skills really put to question sometimes in the EC, sometimes with good intents (willingness to help out) and sometimes with little less so (or at least that's how it seemed to me). It's not really a new phenomenon in VtES, and even less so in gaming as a culture. Don't even let me get started with online gaming such as League of Legends, a game that is notorious for its playerbase “just trying to help newbies get around”. What is not what they do. Newbies really do need help sometimes, and need some counseling. The odd thing here is that we're in an EC; it's not really that likely that we'll get many newbs in there.

Who were those whose gaming skills were, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly, put into question then?

If anyone of you have been following some blogs or any other form of discussion about gaming and geekery of females in a very male oriented culture, you might not be too surprised to hear me say “female players”. Before this starts to sound as a feminist rant let's take it easy with the pace. I will try to write down my main concern within as little space I can.

Girl vampirists are players. Players confident in their skills or with a drive to prove their worth or get better go to tournaments. Those even more enthusiastic go to EC's. Girl players sometimes get patronised by some people. Why would we do that?

So there, the main topic of this blog post.

Once again, before going into details of what can be witnessed happening, and how that can have negative impact on the game, gaming groups and the gaming culture as a whole, let's be really spesific about a few important things: the VtES player community is one of the most mature, accepting and well-behaved player bases I have met, most of the issues rise from good intents, and problems are few and far between.

Why would be want to discuss this in that case? Well, the issues are there, and the problems are realistic. It's not a really major issue, but as I usually find myself contemplating on the community and players more than the overall balance of clans or disciplines or whatnot, I really think that it should be discussed, or at least pointed out.

Okay, so, what happens when we play with a female player?

First of all, they are a minority. In the EC Stockholm we had a rough estimate of little less than 10% of the players of the female gender. When you think about it, that's really a lot. They are a minority, sure, but a growing minority at that.

How have many of the female players gotten into the game? Remember it's a really male oriented culture. I wasn't too surprised to hear many of the girls in the EC say that they got into the game through their husbands or boyfriends. In case you're wondering, my girlfriend was really interested in those things. I didn't wander around interviewing people, even though it wouldn't have been that bad of an idea though! Too bad I didn't think of writing this post until after the EC.

We usually get the idea that girls haven't been playing that much in the case they've only gotten into gaming through their boyfriends. Casual, then? Certainly. Probably not too much into the game itself? Possibly.

More questions. Why would they come to an EC then? Well, to travel with their guys, have a go at it. Notice how we forgot to add “--a competitive tournament like EC--” already? Why would we let that slip? Is there a reason? We'll come back to that later. Let us go through some instances of what happens mid game first.

Here I introduce four kinds of attitudes I witnessed, some of which I heard some girls talking about during the EC. The attitudes included patronising, (extensive) explaining of rules and the game state to women even when help was not asked for, playing through their phases (for example in combat) for them, and even – in very minor cases – depreciating their knowledge of the game state.

The first one really includes the rest, but should stand as an independent point in any case. It includes those ideas I already mentioned above: the idea of a casual player, really not that much into the game itself, and probably out of her league in the EC. I will give an example of how attitudes two to four show.

  1. Extensive explaining of the rules and game state.
    I really see this quite a bit, and certainly not only with girl gamers. It's a natural way of trying to help new players do the right things and keep within the fow of the game. Ever heard anyone say “and now after the untap phase you can play a master card from your hand. If you have Pentex in hand, you might want to play it there. Or forwards as well, in case you have combat in hand and can defend it. He will do (a) or (b), or possibly (c) on their turn unless you do that, but even then--”

Let's cut it there. These things might and should be discussed once or twice, and it's a crucial and obvious part of table talk even (and especially) within more veteran players. After the second or third speech of the same kind to the same player it does get a bit old though. And most often these tips and hints are given without anyone really asking for them, which really does say out loud that “you don't know what you're doing, please let me tell you what to do.”

  1. Playing through other players' phases.
    A combat is really a prime example of this, where there are plenty of phases with sub phases that need to be responded to even if you're not really doing anything. It's a really good idea to ask the player you're confronting if they want to play pres or manouvers, but sometimes a third player from cross table involves and asks those same questions. “You're not really playing any manouvers in that deck, so you'll just want to skip this. Now since you have off-clan potence you need to say if you're playing grapples. You don't? Okay, what's your strike then?”
    “Acutally, I'm the acting--”
    “Oh, okay, so he says first. But you get to say then!”

    I saw this attitude for a couple of times in the EC, and I as really surprised to see players govern others like this. Of course, once again, it's really good to go through these things with new players, and help them out with the ropes, but even they do learn best when not really hand-held for more than a few games. And, if the things are happening in your cross table, it's not really your business if they're taking some time or not to go through the correct phases.
  2. Depreciating someone's knowledge of the game state.
    This is actually a story I heard from a friend, which actually happened in an EC game.This girl tried to make a deal with someone about a crucial point in the game where they really would need to diablerise/cross-oust/something similarily drastic to avoid all dying to a single player. Frankly, these kinds of deals are hard to make, and more often than not are not made at all, but the interesting part here is that the man (as I heard it) really turned the gal down, and refused to discuss anything.

    Well, take three turns and the game had flown exactly how the girl and anticipated. “I told you so” wouldn't be enough, but once the game had turned into a position where her only chance of winning would be cross-ousting this other guy, she made a deal with her predator to go into 3-way with some peaceful turns in between, and at that point the insolent guy turned into pleading for his life. It took a couple of minutes of discussion to assure the dying man that there was nothing he could offer her, and his friend telling him to “just shut up and die” from outside the game, before he let go, and witnessed her predator actually keep the deal, and the game went on.

    I can't really remember if the game turned in her favor from there on or not, but the situation was really interesting. Obviously this was really a one-of-kind situation, and ignorant, arrogant people are everywhere. We shouldn't doom any group because of a single player. But it is an example we should study.

These are attitudes I have witnessed. So, why do we find ourselves acting through those attitudes then? Mostly because we want to help. If we, as I explained earlier, really see a female player as a casual player, we want to help them get by the tight, tough and powerful tournament decks. Sometimes we think that the casual player will drag down the game if s/he doesn't know the rules that well, and the discourse of communication hasn't settled in yet. In those cases we will want ot speed up the game by going through each step with the newb to avoid those awkward silent moments of “okay, what do I say during this step?”.

While there is nothing wrong with this in particular, it does pose some problems when we take into account that we are actualy playing an EC, European Championships, where, by default, all of the gamers are, if not veteran players, familiar with the game and its discourse. If we would accept this as a face value, why would we need to 'help' other players with their playing?

If we remove the topic from the context, we can find more issues. As with most feminist readings of topics we need to evaluate what could in worst case scenario happen to the patronised female player.

  1. The problems to the female image of self are obvious.
    The issues are obvious in the sense that if a person is patronized, and his or her ability to function – in this case play the game – is questioned, their growth within the context will be diminished. In other words, if you accept that girls need more attention when they play the game, you at the same time might be saying 'you can't survive on your own'. Anyone suggested something like that for a long time will eventually become dependant on others' help. Even though this might sound really drastic, it could be viewed from another angle: what if the player was left to make his or her own mistakes, and help was offered only when asked for? What I'm aiming at here is independency.
  1. The problems to the game as a hobby are the threat of female players eventually being left in the margin, and not being able to develop to tournament starndards.
    This has a lot to do with issue number one above. Let's pick up where we left. If players are not left to learn by themselves, with aid given when they think they need to get better and survive (as in, when asked for), they will not learn to think for themselves or learn the game for themselves, and eventually will not be able to judge the state of the game, their decks and others' decks on their own. Independency is key to tournament play and succesful play in general, and it is a crucial part to bluffing and deal making – parts of the game that are beyond doubt crucial for success. If girls get more attention in terms of help than they really ask for or even need, there is a chance female players will eventually not reach the level where they enjoy tournament playing, which could lead into a decline in variety of tournament play.
Really polarized and far-fetched dangers, agreed, and these issues do not take into account the female player's active role in pointing out the faults of the male player in discourse. Chances are, however, that neither the male nor the female player really aknowledge what might be happening at a given time, aside from a chance of general irritation. Then again, most of the time just pointing out that “I know how to play the game,” should suffice.

There is another problem with the extensive aid issue as well, and it has to do with the tournament game and time limits. We remember those attitudes 2-4 I discussed earlier on? Let's have a look at how the game itself will be affected by the presence of those attitudes.

The problems to the game at hand are as follows: The game will drag on by the lengthened table talk (2. Advices not asked for), the players might be tricked to reveal knowledge of their decks/hands (3. Playing the game for someone), the game state might swing in balance if the female player's argument is not considered valid (4. Depriciating). Finally, some players will be really annoyed by the attitudes.

Not really stuff that anyone wants to see in their good tournament game. Timeouts are annoying as it is. The crosstable buddy doesn't really want to be a tool for a slip of information which might lead into someone being ousted by accident.
A: “You might want to play your bounce now! Oh, unless you haven't got any. Or, don't answer that...”
C: “Gee, thanks.”
B: “Oooh, if that's the case... Conditioning!”
D & E: //facepalm

So there. A lengthy, lengthy post about something that really isn't even that much of an issue within the VtES community, as it might be in many other games. But, here's the thing; you don't really want to lull yourself into thinking everything's really fine when there's no real, agonising problems, when there is always room for improvement!

VtES players are a really, really helpful and nice lot all around the world, by what I saw in the EC. They really want to help everyone out and enjoy the game to its fullest. What I'm saying is everyone might need to think about the best ways of helping while they're at it. Helping newbies out is really crucial, but next time you're playing with the local girls (and especially if they're not local!) go through what you're thinking about her play and choices in silence and think about if it's really useful to say aloud.

All in all, the girls I talked to about playing in the EC said that 99% of the time the games were great and everyone real friendly, and there were no problems whatsoever. It's just that 1% I found, and some others found, a bit dodgy.

In conclusion, helping's great, and it should be done. Just don't waste anyone else's time during game with it, and it's not really helpful to help someone who doesn't need help.

So, did the post end up as a feminist rant? Probably, and likely the real feminists out there will not really like the words I used or anything. Let's use the final words to say that the girls I played against in the EC were in many ways way better players than I am.

Bleed well everyone! I'll try to write something about how I did later on, and hopefully keep it a wee bit shorter.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Done with the EC

Heja Sverige!

So that was my first EC, and shitloads of fun.

At the moment I have to get back to my daily schoolings, works and worries, but I have some issues I will want to discuss in this blog. Hopefully I will have time to work on those posts a bit next week, and write some drafts and construct my arguments somewhat before that.

All in all, I didn't do really well with my decks, but there were loads of what I should learn from the games. Watching the best play and participating in games with so different views on how the game should be played is really refreshing, even though it really doesn't feel like it while you play. Mostly it's just 'why, god why...' and instense amounts of failure, but at least now I have a fairly good view on where I stand within the game's learning curve.

Thank you all who were there, and a special thanks to Petteri and Sari who took us home from Helsinki, and the very special players in Sweden! Thank god we eventually found the ventilation shaft in the sauna.

Heippa, mörököllit, and hopefully I'll see you in Germany!

Now back to school, practice and music, and more blog posts about how I did and what I learned, and about girl players and how they should be respected later.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Heja Sverige!

The VtES European Championships are rushing towards us. I happened to qualify last Spring, so yeah, going there, the venue being in the neighboring country afterall. But still I'm so very surprised by the fact that it's NOW! More or less. We'll be taking a ferry from Vasa to Umeå to meet with some friends next monday, and taking trains or whatever to Stockholm from there. I have to start packing soon! And even more so, building the decks for all of the tournaments!

That's for the rest of the week, though. What's even more important is obviously: Orientation in discourse! For us Finns Swedish isn't that alien. The others might find it very helpful to get familiar with some basic vocabulary and idioms most likely inclusive in a VtES orientation. Therefor, for me and the rest of Europe, I'll put up some of the phrases I will be practicing before the journey. For best effect, practice in front of a mirror, just so that you'll get the facial and vocal expressions right.

Bleed = Bleeda
In an instance:
Jag bleedar dig för 1! = I'm bleeding you for 1!

Deal = Fördrag
In an instance:
Vi skulle görä en Fördrag! = Let's make a deal!

Block = Blocka
In an instance:
Faktist ska jag blocka alla! = I'll block everything for sure!
Inga blockor. = You're bleeding with a Trujah, what'd you expect?

Help = Hjälpa
In an instance:
Hjälpa! = My 3-cap got torpored, and nooo, it's definitely not Mary Anne I'm influencing out, and nooo, I don't seriously have two Parity Shifts in hand. I'm dying here!
Behöver du Hjälp? = Do you want me to Graverob your Arika?

Hunt = Hunta
In an instance:
Stanislava huntar. = I want to cycle my stealth, please block me.

What the fuck? = Vad i helvete?
In an instance:
Crosstable DI's your Parity Shift.

That doesn't look good. = Fy fan!
In an instance:
Predator influences out the Beast.

I don't really want to discuss this right now (also, we might run out of time). = Gå öch dö (också du luktar).
In an instance:
When discussing anything with the French.

Why?! = Varför?!
In an instance:
Anything anyone does goes against your liking.

No deal. = Bum's Rush för (vampir X)
In an instance:
Self explanatory.

Oh dear god no. = Herre gud, nej.
In an instance:
Someone actually plays a combat deck in the EC and just happens to sit to your left. For additional effect add continuous head desks.

Cheers! = Skål!
In an instance:
After the first game at the bar.

I probably need to refine these a little bit, and I'm hoping to come up with more before the weekend.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Ropecon tournament report for \'Avenger\' Time Management Co.

Hi all!

It’s been AGES since my last update, I know. I’m not going to ramble on about that, however. I just haven’t had the time, nor too much to say for the last… half a year, perhaps? I mean, there’s always something to say, but if a hobby feels like more work than it’s worth, then it’s not really worth it. That goes with writing a blog as well. The main idea was – and is – to do this for myself, and other things have just kept me occupied enough.

That’s a shame, though, since there would’ve been loads to write about around the Finnish National Championships we hosted in May! Let’s just say that it was a great success, and not dwindle about the topic longer, since I’ve something else to talk about.

I participated in the major tournament in Ropecon, and this time I wanted to do better than my usual tournament scores. Usually all I get from three rounds is 1,5 points or something. I know I can do better, so this time I decided to let the shit hit the fan.

There’s something a very good friend of mine said, which might explain my choice of a deck a bit:

“You know, I’ve always been proud of how we (that’s me and my mates, the five of us) have always had this distinct way of doing things; how we’ve always been independent, and haven’t gone with the flow and latest trends all the time. That’s just what we do, and doing anything else just goes against our nature.”

I just nodded, and knew he was right. This was after the tournament, but even before that it was pretty clear that I would not even bother with a stealth bleed, voter or anything of sorts. It’s just way too obvious, and in my experience way too random. I was thinking about a G2 Lasombra bleeder with titles to help me against voters and Entombments (a deck that has done well enough in the past), but eventually decided to go with my first love after G2 Toreador – Al’Muntaquim the Avenger.

There’s just something about True Brujah, and I wanted to show that things can be done without stealths, bleeds and bounce as well. It’s hard as hell, but it’s doable. After the tournament I also learned a valuable lesson: how much I really love to maintain a level of control over the whole of the table.

So, the deck I was playing is listed below. It’s basically a multi-rush, which has been tooled up to work mainly against light to no combat at all. Outside the Hourglass is nearly a broken card, and disarm deals with the rest nicely. I don’t have to worry about combat ends anymore.

Deck Name: \'Avenger\' Time Management Co.
The Caitiff do the dirty work, and if they get too careless, they have a good home in the freezer - and after feeding, Al\'Muntaquim can eat their hearts for extra bleed.

Crypt (Capacity min=1 max=8 avg=3.33; 12 cards)

Al-Muntaquim, The Avenger 8 obf pre FOR POT TEM True Brujah:4
Andy 1 for Caitiff:4
César Holfield 1 obf Caitiff:4
Dirk 1 pre Caitiff:4
Lisa Noble 1 ani Caitiff:3
Nedal, The Careless 1 cel nec Caitiff:3
Sandra White 1 -none- Caitiff:3
2x Anarch Convert -none- Caitiff:any


Anarch Revolt
Archon Investigation
Carver's Meat Packing and Storage
Dreams of the Sphinx
Pentex(TM) Subversion
Tabriz Assembly

Big Game
Bum's Rush
Clotho's Gift
Kiss of Lachesis
Path of the Scorched Heart, The
Preternatural Strength
Summon History


Mylan Horseed (Goblin)
1x Carlto van Wyk

Action Modifier
Domain of Evernight
Freak Drive
Pocket Out of Time

Delaying Tactics

Outside the Hourglass
Rolling with the Punches
Taste of Vitae
Unflinching Persistence

What I found out afterwards is that I was playing one Disarm too many, and I should’ve had 12 Outsides the Hourglass. The rushes and freaks were mostly fine, and the masters worked well enough, but I still lacked a bit of raw power. Outsides would’ve dealt with that. What I’ll change for the future is:

-1 Disarm
-1 AK-47
-1 Ossian
+3 Outside the Hourglass

The problem is that I don’t own Carlton, so he was borrowed from a mate. I’ll probably need to play Ossian in his stead until I manage to find a copy of Carlton somewhere.

I don’t remember the players on each table by name, so sorry about that, but you’ll know who they were once Orava posts the finalized Archon. You’ll most likely find that on VEKN, as well as Extrala’s blog.

Table 1

Timo Rekola – AUS CEL guns
è Me – Avenger Time Management Co.
è ??? – G1 Malkavian voter
è Ari Lensu – Eurayle Tap&Bleed with !Ventrues
è ??? – Mind Rape Stanislava

Once Timo sat behind me I knew that my game would be pretty tough. The only thing I was really afraid of was another combat deck, and guns with celerity would definitely make things difficult. I was more than fine with Malkavians being in front of me, though, even though I was afraid that they’d start pounding me with their KRCs.

The game started with a Pentex (by Ari) on my Prey, and his game slowed down enormously. Stanislava player was very concerned with Eurayle from the start, since Ari had drawn Heidelberg at the start, and had already stolen the Malkavians for a couple of bleeds. So, Eurayle got an insane amount of stuff on her head – Mind Rapes, Banishments, you name it, and that made Ari less of a threat in my eyes. I was happy ‘bout that, to be honest, since that would help me double oust pretty quickly.

Timo kept bleeding me for one or two each turn, and I had to take out a couple of his minions before moving forwards. I also learned that Andre Leroux can reduce his own bleed for two extra, so he’s basically a bleeder for two! He had to go from the start.

Once I got my Anarch Revolts people started going Anarch instead of voting them away. This was exactly my plan, even though I took a couple of pool damage from them myself. The only problem at my first oust was that I didn’t draw one rush more, so that the Revolts took out Stanislava before I could react to that, and that effectively gave Ari a free VP. I got myself an AK about this time, and that forced Timo to play more carefully. He was bouncing back and forth from torpor, but his growing lot of minions worried me a lot, and I started thinking that it would be well possible that he’d oust me before I’d get a sweep. Thus I decided to torporize his anarch, giving Ari another free VP, but it was a trifle to decimate his vampires afterwards and get myself 3VP and a GW.

This game was pretty easy for me in a way that I got basically no resistance from my left side, but I grew so low on pool by the end (just slightly too slow ousting) that I had to hand a couple of VPs to my grand prey. It was mighty close to a sweep, but got no luck here.  It was a good game, none the less, and a nice start. I got more VP from a single game than I had had in any tournament before!

Second game

??? – G3-4 Malkavian S&B
è Niina Stenberg – Nakherhotep
è ??? – G4-5 Ventrue/Daughters of Cacophony voter
è Jussi Hattara – Undele and Armin Brenner
è Me – Avenger Time Management Co.

Once I saw what was being influenced out I was pretty much as confident as I could ever be – no combat on the table what so ever! I can’t screw this up, or I’ll have no chance to get into the finals. And everything seemed to go nicely once the Daughters took three Lily Preludes to Jussi before he got Armin up. This should be my game.

I was afraid everything would go wrong if the Malks saw what I was up to, so I tried to play it slow and gather a decent hand. Niina was struggling, since she played radios, and Naggy and all her tool up cost her plenty of pool. Roughly during the fifth turn things started going slightly against my way. First Niina agreed that it would be a good idea to play Giant’s Blood on Avenger to help me torporize the malks, but the malk player saddened that it. I was still pretty confident ‘cause I got Jussi to Kine me only for one or two a couple of times (the rest went backwards) so that I wouldn’t need to rush him (and his Carlton) and still let him cap for pool. But then my oust was delayed by a turn ‘cause my Anarch Revolt was saddened (again by the malkavians), and even though I tried rescued the famed vampire I had already torporized that turn, the second rush was blocked by a wake. This gave the malkavian player a chance to bleed me for four with a Kindred Spirits (something I had dreaded), and this diminished my resources annoyingly.

I was still pretty confident at this stage, and thought that now it was time to go backwards. I played my own Carlton to contest, since Jussi was doing well better than earlier, and equipped with an AK-47. However I was only at 1 blood, since I didn’t draw an Outside on time as I rushed Armin, and couldn’t do anything about his Majesty.

Next I had to make a deal with Niina that I’d let her do whatever until she got her first oust if she wouldn’t play Temptation of Avenger and steal my AK.  On the next turn I got banishmented by Armin (after Undele voted it back to his hand!), even though I really tried to block the vote with Niina’s help (I had promised to see to that we two would be in the heads up, and practically promised her two VPs for her radios), but an unexpected Forgotten Labyrinth decimated my dreams of a GW.

At this point I was really frustrated, since I was delayed by those couple of turns that the malkavian player suddened those crucial masters, and that I was so close to being saved (the radios, that rush a turn before, and even a delaying tactics I had played just a couple of turns before to save me from a KRC!), but what can you do! Even then I made a mistake of paying Carlton’s contest for one or two turns instead of saving that pool for bringing Avenger back up. I could’ve done exactly that with the help of a newly played Dreams of the Sphinx, but just as I was about to get him up (in 1 pool), Niina contested the Dreams and everything was hopeless again.

By this time I had already given up hope, but tried to survive to the last. I rushed Armin constantly with my Caitiffs, and forced him to play majesties and kept him in a hunt loop. Eventually Niina swept his preys off the table, and I was the last waiting for the Setites at roughly 5 minutes on the clock. Finally the finishing blow came as Dirk was put under a Temptation, and he bled my last two pool with an entrancement! Oh, the cruel world! It was great fun once it was clear I couldn’t rise anymore, however, so the game wasn’t wasted at all.

A reminder of how crucial it is to go backwards even though it might seem at a point that it’s not that useful. If I could’ve, I would’ve decimated Undele, but at every turn I was delayed by a very minor setback. And, ironically, the easiest table for me was lost by a card I had feared the most: Banishment. Oh dear…

Third game

??? – Lutz and Presence Malkavians
è ??? – G2 Tzimisce
è Me – Avenger Time Management Co.
è ??? – Anson with guns and Tablets
è Tomi Sillanpää – Black Hand Lasombra bleeder

What to say here... I was first off very tired, as we all were I suppose. Also, I was playing behind of a Swede, and we all know how well they play, and how good decks they play for that matter. Sorry I can’t remember your name, mate!  Anyways, I knew already what Tomi was playing, since we had talked about our decks in advance. Coming from the same town does that, I suppose. Anyways, Tomi’s a wonderful player, and his skills in deck building dwarf mine by far, so I had to be extra careful here.

The game for me started after Stavros was brought up by my grand predator, the Tzimisce brought a 8-cap with clan disciplines with the help of Powerbase Montreal, and I burned said Tzimisce after he blocked my attempt to steal Montreal. I really needed the pool, I knew, and if I could get rid of my Prey’s vampire at the same go, I was more than happy to do that. I apologized pretty quickly afterwards, since I knew how that would wreck his game, but I really didn’t want to risk him playing Changeling bleeds on top of bouncing both Tomi’s, and Lutz’s bleeds to me.

I pretty much despaired once the first Ashurs were played, and I knew what to expect from my Prey – Anson and guns. Oh shit, how in hell would I be able to fight through gun combat and infinite amount of pool, combat cards and Pentexes?! An early Anthelios didn’t help me at all, but giving up wasn’t a part of my plan.

I brought Anson to very low pool with superfast aggression and Anarch Revolts, but once the first Ashurs and Villeins started things slowed down a lot. My aggression kept Anson pretty much occupied, and Tomi got to be by himself a lot, and the rest of the table was pretty much playing under his shadow. I even tried to rush him once (I knew I could do nothing about Anson), which agitated him to no end, but eventually he just used a DI to my rush. I know, and I think everyone else knows, why I rushed him, and I’m pretty sure he knows as well, but he was pretty pissed off anyways.

We kept dueling with Anson, and my two Rolling with the Punches’ saved me from a couple of crucial combats, but Ashurs just kept him on medium pool all the time, and even though his 2nd traditions grew him low on blood, he just wouldn’t die, nor was he close at any point. Bringing out Marcellus in the later part of game, and Villein + Giant’s Blood on him helped him a lot as well, even though some of that blood was used to save Anson from torpor where my Outsides had put him.

By this time Tomi had already gotten his first oust, and the second came soon enough. I gave Anson some room to rush and torpor Tomi’s vampires (or most of them at least), and after surviving for about an hour and a half and three pentexings (fucking Anthelios!), it boiled down to being just three of us, less than 10 minutes on the clock, Tomi with two VPs and me in a Pentex.

I had five pool, Mylan, a single Caitiff and Avenger with permableed of 5, my Prey had his smaller minions, Marcellus and Anson all tapped and on one or two blood, and Tomi had a single vampire with some blood. I told him to make his decision quickly – either bleed me for 5 and get Archoned, or help me rid my Pentex on Avenger, let me rush Anson and friends and at least give him a chance. After a minute or so, which felt like ages, he helped me with the pentex, which gave me a chance to get my shit together, a turn for Anson to torpor Tomi’s minions and bleed for a couple, and once again a turn for me to Fame Marcellus, torpor him and bleed for 6. There was a minute on the clock, I believe, by the time I bled Tomi for six after and got a GW with 3 VP.

What I learned from this game: Play more Outsides, for f’s sake! They’re so good I should have way more than 9. 12 should do, I think. Also, be glad that Anson didn’t play a single Taste of Vitae. One of those would’ve ruined my game even more that insane master tech ruined it now. I would’ve been okay with Presence Anson, but those guns really gave me a royal headache.

I don’t think Anthelios and Ashur Tablets were supposed to be a part of this game, to be honest. They’re just frustrating and annoying, so they are.

I was also very concerned about being a bleed sink in this game. I think I did well by burning the minions on my right, but still an irresponsible turn by any of the other players could’ve brought me to an early grave. Also, it wasn’t really an option to start rushing both Lutz and three of Tomi’s four minions to make the game possibly easier for me. So, this time I just had to prey, and some vampire gods were on my side.

Eventually I was very surprised I got the GW from the last game, and that I now stood at 7VPs and 2 GWs. Once I heard that it could well be that it might be enough for a final seating I kinda poofed, and called my friends and was pretty much out of it – and I was kinda crushed once I heard that the lowest that got into the finals was 2+9, and I had 2+7! If just that second game would’ve gone my way, I would’ve been there, or there was a fair chance – and a super star multi-rush for that matter!

Anyways, once I saw what kinds of decks they were playing in the finals I decided it was good enough for me and my mates that I got so close. At least I was saved some major ass rape they would’ve offered me in the finals. So, we had some late dinner from the grill and enjoyed the moment that one of us had gotten so close. And I was beaming, I can tell.

So, there, I eventually DID follow my instincts and decided not to play some half-assed stealth bleed. They’re just so not worth it, I’ve gathered. I can’t really play them, I can’t feel I’m in control, I don’t really even WANT to play them, so the best chance would be to just maim them in the ground so that I could finally play the game MY way. That went fine, really, in the end, and I’m sure to try this deck again in some major tournament.

Maybe even in Budabest, really, now that I’ve qualified… Hmm…

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Surprise FC-call


I'm in a bleedin' hurry, and buried in work, and it's night time and I still haven't finished this one presentation. Anyways, I'll just leave this hanging and get back to it as soon as I can:

Guys discussed at the European Championships where the next Finnish Nationals should be held. And guess twice if I did or didn't get an email today advicing to start looking for a place for 40-50 players for next Spring.

A hint: the answer's closer to the former.

Feel free to imagine dozens of different jumping and hooraying smilies here.


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Lernean is a bitch


A couple of months back we bought a couple of booster boxes of 3rd Edition for me and my mates to share. I pulled a set of Lernean among other things, and fell in love with... him?

Let's have a wee look at... erm, Lernean.

There are plenty of different kinds of decks one could plan for... our star this week. Celerity is pretty easy as there are some Tremere packing celerity in groups three and four. Fortitude goes very well with some Sabbat Tremere, but protean was my way to go.

I mean, how could you not notice how well Lernean and Eric Kressida go together?

You can almost see them walking hand in hand in the dark, empty corridors of the local university at nightfall, moonlight filtered to the walls and bloodred carpet through satin curtains. Every night, when no one is there to see, the two MEN unite, and let themselves loose together into the dream they share every long, long, passing day.

But, eventually, my most fabulous homo-erotic Tremere fantasy was ruined when I just had to make sure if Lernean actually was a he instead of a she. We had had debates of this matter in Joensuu before, and the opinions were divided rather evenly. My most helpful collegues at VEKN were ready with an answer when I needed it the most:

"FYI: Lernean is a woman. Several years ago (back in 2007) I actually asked Jeff Holt (the artist for Lernean) that question. Just dug up that e-mail, his response was:

'Lernean is a type rarely seen in fantasy art... an unattractive woman. Harsh featured and scowling. She holds a large, glowing gemstone which she is polishing. I suspect that the smooth gem may actually be solidified blood but I don't think that was specified in the notes.'

One of the mysteries of the VTES world is now solved!"
-echiang, VEKN, 20/10/2011

So damn you, Jeff Holt, for now I have to disassemble my protean+thaumaturgy deck. What's the fun in playing Tremere if you can't make gay jokes of them while waiting for your turn?

Anyways, thank you very much, echiang, for making this clear! Seldom do we encounter such dedication that someone would actually have thought of asking an artist about these kinds of things. It was hilarious to see the right answer literally handed to us on a topic where I was absolutely sure to find only opinions and humorous debate.

So, once again, I thank you all for your input!



Friday, 14 October 2011

Divided Interests and Serious Newcomers

God, has it been a while?

The obvious answer: Yes. Yes it has.

I think I wrote a wee paragraph about my fears of this blog, and writing in general for that matter, getting lost in the lack of time, interest, my fears of failure or something similar. The former has gotten me this time. The latter is not that far off either, but that's a cronic dilemma I am going to face every now and then - and most likely until the end of time.

I titled this post with two different topics. The first one, "Divided Interests", has to do with my lack of time. The lack of time presently is caused by the Conservatorium. Actually, I think I should add that to my list of education I'm working with at the moment.

At the start of September I realized there was something amiss with my life. Or something like that. I couldn't exactly tell if something was missing, I was doing something wrong, or if I just needed to pursue something of my own; possibly I needed to justify the existance of my flute in the corner. I had been thinking of starting playing seriously again for the whole Summer, but it didn't occur to me before the last minute that I really, really needed to do something quick, or else I'd never be able to pick up music again for real.

So, a quick poll in Facebook resulted in my friends pretty much carrying me (mentally) to the last minute audition to get in to the Pop/Jazz department, and it seems the school was happy enough to take a flautist in. I knew it then, and I sure as hell know it well enough now, that it had nothing to do with my skills, but more with the fact that there hasn't been anyone playing anything else than guitar, bass, piano or drums in the Pop/Jazz department for years. Singers excluded, obviously. There're plenty of them.

Anyways, with me struggling with university, desperately trying to find courage to start my BA thesis, and banging my head against a musical wall with my (godamned...) flute, I was near just letting this blog go, and admitting a failure.

But sheesh, if I gave up on my hobbies, how easy would it be to take a next step and give up on my studies when it didn't go as planned with the first attempt?

Pretty easy, especially if I know myself well enough.

So, failures aside, let's move on to the topic you're actually interested in: VtES. We'll also discuss the second part of the title: Serious Newcomers.

I have been craving to get a word out some way. Let's just spill it out: the Autumn has been an utter, major success. There has been a lot of talk in, for example, VEKN about the game dying and only the most faithful of gamers continuing playing. The cards might've been forgotten in the backs of stores, gathering dust and eventually forgotten. We should ask our local distributer, Fantasiapelit, what's the situation now.

As far as I know, 10th anniversary boxes and Blood Shadowed Court vampire packs have been now sold out in Finland. There are no more !Nosferatu starer decks from Black Hand set in the stores. In addition to this, I know very well where they've all gone: to our new embraces here in Joensuu.

I could count roughly 10 new players who've started playing in here since last June. Half of them were friends or friends of friends who I recruited personally, and the rest are friends of those friends. I'm not entirely sure how large a stock of vampire cards Fantasiapelit has, but if the rate with which our embraces have been buying cards keeps up, I'm not sure how long the cards will last.

The boom hit some people a bit more seriously than others, though, and I am still very surprised by how much money some people put into the game. A fellow I've known for a long time, but who got really into the game just recently, spent roughly 100 euro to buy a tournament winning deck from eBay, just to try it out. The deck included cards like Dragonbound and Parity Shift, as well as plenty of Eyes of Argus. This other guy, whose understanding of card values has been largely affected by years of Magic the Gathering, started the game off by ordering cards from eBay to build a Ventrue voter. The value of the stack of cards sum up at 150 euro.

Cards like Monastery of Shadows sold at 40 euro, people ordering six copies of Black Metamorphosis from eBay -- just double check the value of these cards from eBay!

My tone of writing should not be misunderstood, however. I am more than glad that people have taken the hobby seriously. I just hope that these relatively few individuals will not scare off our other newcomers, who have not invested serious amounts of money into the game from the start. In my opinion a random stack of 3rd ed or Jyhad commons to boost two or three well picked starter decks will be enough for almost any player. Others, however, see things differently, and obviously have the money and commitment to invest in more powerful stuff.

As the prince of the city the obvious success has been the recruitment of many new faces, who in part have given a lot to the community by recruiting friends of their own. We also held a successful tournament with a whacking 14 player attendance. This is more than Helsinki had for their latest casual tournament. Now, the next challenge will be keeping the less active players in the circles, and making their life a bit easier. At the moment our older, more experienced players are more than happy to welcome new challenge and serious decks for a change, but to keep the city from dividing into two (or, in the worst case scenario, one group plus dozens of people who just tried it out), I'm afraid it once again falls on my shoulders to make sure gaming is interesting even for the less active parties. It is easy to get left behind, and lose interst in the game if you are beaten to a pulp or ousted in ten minutes every single time.

The atmosphere of arms race is what worries me the most, however. I was always a fan of playing with what I got, and trying to get by. It forces you to interact, and to learn the game better. Sometimes I wish I could just start anew, with two starters or something, and relearn the game. The first years were so much fun.

There is also the fact that people have started to evaluate cards by their eBay values and rarity, not exactly by how useful the card is to them in person. This creates situations where cards are being withheld just because they are valuable in the internet, even if the owner would not exactly need them for any of their decks.

The reasons for these two phenomena are clear, and not to be shunned, banned or critizised. Personally, however, I am not too happy about the turn of events and atmosphere. I am one of those people who try to get by with a bit less, rather than a bit more, and I cannot say I feel exactly at home in the current environment.

Anyways, things are definitely better than they have been in some time. I actually got to write a post. Secondly, we have plenty of new players. Thirdly, we have some serious competition in our town again. Lastly, we are now discussing if the next Finnish Championships should be hosted by us instead of the South of Finland!

And, seriously, how cool would that be?

Thanks for reading, and 'till next time! A lot is happening in here, and I just wish I could write some about everything. There is a lot to say about our decks, how the beginner decks have started to evolve, about player interaction, codes of behaviour and how to deal with people in the same group you just don't agree with all the time.

Probably next time something about jazz? I'm reading this book with these chord progressions, and --

Okay, okay, sorry. Until next time!