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Subject: Still trying to figure the game out... rss

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I've had the game for several years and have all the but the latest expansion. In all that time though I have only played it a couple of times. However, I recently got the iOS version and was enjoying that so I brought the cards out to the table again last weekend for my gaming group. While it was enjoyable, none of us is really sure we are 'getting' it yet. I thought I would outline some of the strategies that I picked up from the iOS version, and some of the things we talked about after the game to see what opinions/advice people have to offer.


Drafting
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- The first couple of times we just used the base set on its own. This past weekend we mixed Blood County and Cold War IIRC. Didn't use any of the moon phases cards or avatars or anything special, although we did use a combo of the wound cards (base, martial law and cold war). It seemed to work ok but there didn't seem to be a lot of synergy building up in anyone's deck. Is it better to mix sets or just stay within a set, especially when learning the game? Are the sets balanced unto themselves, so each set is good when played on its own but maybe drafting cards from other sets threw off the balance? Are there particular sets that are good to play together?

- Is it better to concentrate on the specific moons (thinking about the chains that can be created) or the cost/power/life or specific text/ability? Probably all of the above right I guess this is where the first part of the deck building comes into play, and maybe where being more familiar w/ the cards would be helpful. The recommendations I gave, from playing the iOS app, were

* First look at the moons that are available from the known common cards and the draft cards in your hand and think about what chains can be created.
* Next look at the cost/power/life of the card in itself and then finally think about the text/ability last. Unless there is something you just really want to have. For example; having a card that lets you draw cards on another person's turn seem to be a good idea. Also cards that directly give people wounds seems to be better than doing damage.
* It seems to me getting one minion and one action card (unless the common decks are leaning one way or another) is a good idea. Similarly getting a 2 cost card and then something more expensive seems to give a good balance too.



Game Play
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- The first couple of rounds it seems like a good idea to play one card, maybe two, just to get something out (especially if it is some form of blocker) but then dump the rest of the cards for influence and purchase as much as you can as soon as you can. Once the 'paid' cards start coming out, then you start looking to purge the starter deck cards.

- One the debates we had (and maybe why we feel we aren't 'getting it') is trying to figure out whether it is better to try and create long chains of cards or are you just trying to get one or two cards into each chain. I guess the main problem was when you try to create long chains of cards (especially on other people's turn) you end up w/ few cards to play on your turn. However when you try to hold on to cards to play on your turn your minions are dying off so you have little to attack and defend w/. I suspect it is a matter of personal play style and there really isn't a "recommended" approach to this.

- Similarly, if you go w/ the empty hand approach, it always seems like you are the most vulnerable to the person on your left since you have blown all your cards, your minions are discarded after the attack and now you have nothing to play before the draw. Is this just something you have to be mindful of or is there a way to avoid this that we are missing?

- Do people generally use some sort of external wound tracker or do you think that spoils the game? On the one hand not tracking seems like it lends itself to a little more strategy/"gaming" the game in trying to convince people you have taken a lot of wounds when you haven't. I guess tracking can also lend itself to kingmaking a little bit too. Not tracking though seems like it penalizes those who don't count cards. In the iOS app I usually play w/ the wound counter turned on, maybe I should try it w/ it off.


That's probably enough for now. For the most part we are enjoying the game. I think the main complaint though is that for a deck builder you don't really feel like you are building anything. I mean ultimately it feels like a loose connection of cards that may/may not eventually lead you to victory. Maybe we'll try the avatar cards next time (maybe w/ the moon phases too) to see if that helps.

Just my $0.02 and looking for other opinions...
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Joe Prozinski
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In my limited play, I think you have to be flexible from round to round depending on what cards you've drafted, purchased, and what cards you draw. You have to be mindful of the current state of the game. Some times it will be better to play out a lot of card on someone else's chain and sometimes it will be better to save them for your own chain. I think that knowledge will come with more plays and a better understanding of the cards.

As for knowing the current number you definitely shouldn't know how many wounds are remaining, at least not be 100% sure. That's all part of the strategy. If you decide to go for the win, but there are one more wound cards in the wound deck than can be dealt, you may just give someone the chance to burn some wound cards and snatch the win. Not knowing how many are left adds another level of uncertainty that makes for a more entertaining game.
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Craig Groff-Folsom
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I've been pushing the physical game for at least a few months among my friends after becoming addicted to the iOS game. Here are my thoughts on the process of getting familiar with the game:

Drafting
As you mentioned the initial public archives can drive some of your drafting strategy. I start by looking for the most basic combination available: two cards that chain back-and-forth off each other. Sometimes I also look at what might prove to be a popular card (which, like so much of this game's strategy, can be driven by your opponents) and see if I can get a back-and-forth chain that uses that card's two chain colors.

As I've taught many of my friends recently, I've heard almost all of them suggest to each other this very important point: don't build for the kicker. Opportunities will present themselves to capitalize on the kicker, but exerting too much effort to make it happen doesn't really pay off.

Another good wrinkle, especially for some color combinations, is to add a third color that chains into your other two. For example, consider adding a blue card that chains into red and purple if you are going back-and-forth on those two colors. This lets you get into other chains on three colors instead of two.

As for card synergy, I feel like most cards perform relatively equally based on their price. If you chain two 4-cost cards, they will be powerful but you will have a slower time of integrating them into your deck. If you build a chain around two cheap actions (like Mesmeric Presence and Dark Awakening) you probably won't be as successful because the strategy required is much less straightforward. Generally speaking, minions and damage-dealing actions are the keys to victory. Other effects can support, possibly in that secondary role in a two-color chain as noted above. Occasionally you'll get two cards that share a focus (player damage, minion damage, evasion, etc.) but looking for that specific type of synergy is difficult due to the draft.

Another good color chain mix is to draft two two-color sets that overlap on one major color. For example, center around two powerful red cards and set up a red-yellow chain with a red-purple chain. If you find a card that has all three colors on it, this can be a good keystone.

There are times where, no matter how hard you try to set up a pattern, your second private archive just doesn't support your first private archive and the public cards. This is why the last public archive is important. Still, sometimes it just doesn't line up. Between the three cards you draft, though, you should be able to set up a two-color chain if nothing else.

Game Play
The common AI approach in the iOS game is to open with Yuri Koroviev. If Yuri isn't available, open with Charlotte Reyes. Both of these cards increase your starting influence (either directly through effects of indirectly through drawing cards) so you can start replacing your base cards.

JJ McTeague and Enraged Wight are good 2/1 minions that also deal some quick damage. McTeagues can backfire if you stack them without valid targets (causing them to shoot themselves) but generally speaking these two minions are good to unload early to get some shots in.

Bad Smoke is naturally very useful. Depending on the type of game, I either get him out early (2-player) or hold him for later (5-player). Genesis One can be played to thin these other starter cards out of the deck, but generally speaking you'll want to discard him for influence until you have wounds.

The costs of the cards you drafted will come back into play here. If you chained two 4-cost cards, you're going to struggle to get two cards into your deck each turn. This can lead to a very small deck in the midgame, if you're playing two or more starter cards between each of your turns.

Emptying your hand on an opponent's turn or holding your cards for your own chain can be a matter of preference, dependent upon the cards themselves, or influenced by the type of game you're playing. In a two-player game, getting your minions out on your opponent's turn gives you essentially a sneak attack and is a good way to victory. You'll be doing damage faster, and typically keeping your opponent on the defensive. With four or five players, this can also be useful, but you'll probably want to chain off of your opponents on the right instead of chaining off your left-hand neighbor and watching each player in turn punish you for your display of power.

Targeting becomes a very important part of the game as more players are added. Two-player games are a simple race to inflict damage, but three or more players demands a bit of finesse. The aggressive wound variant (detailed elsewhere in the forums, and in the rulebooks) can mitigate the political aspect a bit, but there's still a certain consideration to making yourself appear to be too much of a threat.

It is my experience that the AI on the iOS game uses wound totals to determine who is attacked, so I tend to play with it on there. However, on the tabletop, I generally let players count for themselves. Of course there is some benefit to sharing what you've counted, whether it is true or false.

A lot of the strategy in this game extends into your opponents' play preferences. Often I see the potential of a longer, more tactical game, but at times someone's reckless play generates a bunch of wounds and shortens the game. I think this is where the theme fits very well: the 'political' aspect popularized in this type of genre fiction (especially the White Wolf series of games) plays up the importance of manipulating your own reputation and position to be on top at the right time. As you alluded to, it doesn't always feel like a deckbuilder; in fact, my group has talked at length about how this is a "next-gen CCG" with its variety of play styles and creature combat.
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