Tea cupcakes, People Wars, climbing

I made tea cupcakes today. Om nom nom nom. I wanted something light (especially since it was tea), so I didn’t want the usual buttery cupcakes. After mixing everything, I realized it needed something to make it moist (usually the butter or oil), so I added some applesauce. I think they turned out decently, actually. I would probably use something less flavorful than applesauce next time (vegetable oil?).

Brew teas, leaving in a little longer than usual (I did green tea and chai tea). Reduce each on the stove by about half to about 1 cup liquid total (so 1/2 cups each if you’re doing two like I did).

2 c flour
1 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c reduced tea
1/4 c applesauce or oil
2 egg whites

Combine dry ingredients. (Separate into equal amounts for each tea flavor if required.) Stir in tea and applesauce and egg and mix well.
Bake at 325 for 20 minutes.
Makes 18 cupcakes or two cakes.

I sprinkled green tea on the green tea ones and cinnamon on the chai ones before baking.

In other news, the latest People Wars expansion has also been completed and posted. You can download it here. One of the expansion’s themes, other than the “give and take” of the various abilities, was to further highlight the specialties of each subject trait. Of all the cards in the set, there are a couple I think are particularly interesting.

This card (and the Program variant) can be really good for task decks if you get them out early. This may be weakened to only place on one task, pending playtesting and balance.

This card grants a powerful skill that reduces an opponent’s kill counters while increasing your own. It’s expensive, but can be really strong. To help meet the item requirement, we have

and the Fine Art variant “Modern Art” that can turn into any item you want (similar to “Crab Cakes” from the Activities expansion, but without the discard).

And here’s a couple examples of the give-and-take effects in this expansion (which is the theme for BayArea characters):

It’s also exciting that, after the next expansion, People Wars will have more cards than Student Wars, which currently holds the distinction of largest card base with 963 distinct cards. (This will be true even if you exclude the re-released item cards and event cards in the Exchanges and Starter sets.) Yay.

In other other news, I went climbing this week on Monday and Tuesday. This ended up being a terrible idea, and I spent most of Tuesday doing VBs and V0s because my arms were incapable of holding myself up on a wall. And then I spent most of yesterday unable to grip things with my fingers. So climbing is great, but doing it too much is not so great. Hopefully I’ll have managed to recover enough by Friday that I can do V2s again… there are some awesome new routes going up that I want to try.

Yay life.

San Francisco, climbing, Kickstarter games, and People Wars

It’s been over a month since my last update. Given I keep telling myself I should write in here more, doing so at least once a month seems reasonable.

I recently traveled to San Francisco to check in at work… given I hadn’t been there in 10 months, it was about time. It was mostly an uneventful trip. Managed to see pretty much everyone except for Sharon, which was sad. Afterward, I did my usual stop in Phoenix to see my parents. Our travel plans were cancelled due to both of my parents being sick, so the week was also uneventful. Went to bar trivia and played some games with Isaac, but no one else around was answering emails.

There are more photos of the trip here.

I’ve also been climbing regularly for the past couple months. A group of us first went for Michael’s birthday back in December, and we’ve been going weekly since then. After starting with VBs and V0s in December, I’m now pretty comfortably into V2s and looking at attempting some V2/3s. It’s nice to see improvement from week to week.

More rock climbing photos are here and here.

In other fun news, the Kickstarter games I backed have started arriving. Ground Floor arrived while I was in San Francisco (like two days after I left), and My Happy Farm arrived today. Here’s the unboxings.

My Happy Farm had previously been played many times (as a print-and-play game) and enjoyed. Ground Floor met a bit more resistance.
Our first attempt at our weekly games night ended early when it was 11 PM (about 2.5 hours in) and we were still only 2/3 of the way through the game. The second attempt the following week was about a 3 hour game (quicker since half of us had played before) and went fairly well.
I think Ground Floor accomplishes what it set out to do very nicely. It’s a much heavier game than My Happy Farm, or even many of the other Eurogames we play. But I like that it’s so open ended, and there are so many decisions you can make each round. I also like the trade off between more actions (employees) and money, since it’s not a matter of “get as many actions as you can” like most worker-placement games end up as. (In fact, at the end of our game, not one player had the maximum number of employees, despite having had many chances to hire and despite the job market being at the cheapest possible level.) That’s a good sign.
It actually reminds me a lot of Through the Ages, even though they’re entirely different genres (moreso than even Agricola, which is also a worker-placement game). It’s a fairly long game, and it has so many things you can do each round, and it’s about planning well but also reacting properly to other players’ actions and the changing nature of the game (the row of cards in TTA, and the economic forecast in GF).
Definetly enjoyable for me.

Both games also came with Kickstarter bonuses.
Ground Floor came with a dice-rolling game Skyline, which we found very light and enjoyable once we started playing it correctly. (Note for other people playing that don’t read the rules carefully: When you complete a building, the dice used all move to the construction yard. They don’t go back into the supply.) It fills the same niche for me as Farmageddon or Malta!… a quick game to pull out when waiting for people to arrive or when people are tired and have started leaving: quick to learn, quick to play, and not much thought required.

It also came with a bunch of different small expansions, like a Great Depression economic forecast card, various “event” cards, and a new game board area. We haven’t played with those yet, but it looks like it’ll be fun to break them out.

My Happy Farm came with four new animals to play with. I was expecting enough copies for all four players to use, but it only came with one of each. Still, it’s a cute little extra for the game. I’m looking forward to playing the real version, hopefully at the next games night.

We’ve also played a few games of the print-and-play of another Kickstarter game, Viticulture. I’ve really, really enjoyed this one, although I admit the wake-up track mechanic ended up being less revolutionary than I was expecting it to. (Most people ended up taking the #1 spot when they were first to pick, and the winner in the few games we played were the people that were first or second to pick in the last round of the game, when competing for wine order spaces was most important.) The only issue was with our print and play… it was black and white, meaning the different card icons were very difficult to distinguish, the board was hard to read, and the white and blush wine glass icons looked too similar. But that aside, the game itself is awesome, and I think everyone that played it enjoyed it.

We had a rather interesting game where Austin decided he wasn’t going to make wine and would win by other means. He actually came very close… he managed to cause the end of the game (by hitting 20 victory points) with only his starting three workers and without having made a single bottle of wine the entire game. Yay for breaking games?

In other, other news, I’m finally continuing work on the next People Wars expansion (last talked about here) now that I actually have more up-to-date photos of San Francisco people. (This makes sense given it’s an expansion themed around Bay Area people.)

The set is also going to have new versions of the twenty basic item cards, because it’s bothered me enough that they don’t match the new card design. Here’s Board Game, which features Michael playing (and eventually winning) Ground Floor.

Other things have been happening too (like awesome AoJ in KoL and awesome vacation planning for this summer and another SF trip in June), but I’ve probably rambled on enough for now. Yay long-but-infrequent journal posts.

Election, Facebook, RPG Get, and internets

There was an election on Tuesday. It was my first time using a no-paper-trail electronic voting machine, and that made me more nervous that it should have. I then spent the entire day worrying about the results. In the end, it turns out my worry was for nothing, but it was still not a great experience.

To be clear: I am not a Democrat, and don’t (and didn’t) vote along party lines. That said, I think Romney is a terrible candidate (since his campaign decided they would just ignore facts and say whatever they wanted), the Republicans as a whole are an unreasonable party taken over by the far right (like in the general party denial of science, desire to increase military spending while cutting everything else, and goals of cutting taxes for the ultra-rich). It wouldn’t have been the end of the world had Romney won, but I think we would have been set back many years and would come out the other end worse off for it.

I don’t know. I think this article does a reasonable job of summarizing my views on Republicans. I often feel like, had I been born 20 years earlier, I would be a Republican. As it stands now, it seems I identify more with the Green party (90% agreement with Jill Stein) and Libertarian party (80-ish% agreement with Gary Johnson).

I think the lack of an ability to contact friends is getting to me enough that I’m going to reactivate Facebook (probably tomorrow). That said, I still plan to keep it blocked like it is now to prevent it from doing horrible tracking across the web on me, and I don’t plan to actually use it since I still disagree with the short blurb style of modern social media. I just think it would be useful to make sure I always have a means of contacting friends. Stupid Facebook.

Progress continues (slowly) on RPG Get. I have a text-only test deck created, so I should soon be able to see if the mechanics work at all. If so, I can tweak and refine them. I’ve also been feeling the Photoshop itch lately, so I might start designing card templates. We shall see.

I went through today and cleaned up my legacy online presence, which mostly means I went through and deleted old pages from Angelfire. I remembered I had http://www.angelfire.com/dc/alan, but it surprised me when the password reset indicated my email address was also associated with http://www.angelfire.com/pro/gildershadow. It’s kind of interesting to look at the old version of the Shadow and Gilder Shrine. It kind of makes me miss video games. At some point, I should bring my Gamecube (or Dreamcast) back and play more Skies of Arcadia.

Speaking of Angelfire, it’s become rather terrible, but I guess that’s the norm for free hosting sites these days. Its interface is super cartoony, its password reset functionality doesn’t even really work (it errored out on me every time, but apparently the password had been properly reset?), its control panel is super sketchy (throwing errors pretty regularly for things like deleting files), and you can’t change any account information (more errors). It makes me glad I have my own domain now.

I’m bored, so have some quick and horrible Photoshops.

Life in general goes.

RPG Get Version 2… 2

The weather decided to get nice again, so Greg and I joined up with Owen for some wandering and photographing today. Fall seems to be in full swing, and pretty.

But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about here. For the nonexistent people following the RPG Get Version 2 revamp, you haven’t seen any updates in well over a year because, well, I haven’t done anything with it in over a year.

This seemed like a bad thing, so I decided I would revamp the revamp and start out slowly this time, with text cards to test (and tweak) the new rules before starting on anything graphical. And the rules are getting quite a revamp.
RPG Get! Version 2 was pretty much designed to be a complicated card game. The character and enemy cards have stats (representing things like melee strength, ranged strength, spell strength, defense, and speed), and things like spells are filled with symbols describing them (potential users, spell element, general class, etc). I decided to fully embrace this complexity, and also do something I haven’t tried before with a customizable card game: eliminate the randomness in decks.

So. I wanted to discuss some of the changes in the new rules (that obviously are subject to more changes)

Each player has two preordered decks: One deck of mission cards that is not shuffled at any point, and one deck of all other cards that is not shuffled at any point.

  • The goal of the game is to complete all 10 3 or 4 of the missions in your mission deck, in order. Each mission card has an ordering value from 1 to 10. This has a few advantages: No potential deck screw with your “starting” mission at the bottom, more control over when a mission attempt happens, and more ability for your opponents to see what is coming up next.
    • Since there is now always a “current” mission, this allows for interesting varied effects based on how far in your mission stack you are. For example, the top mission may let you replenish a few MP every turn while it’s current, or enemies you play matching it might gain an attack bonus.
  • The main deck is preordered. Cards have values 1 to 100 40, and the deck must be ordered in increasing order. Deckbuilding means picking one card of each number and building the deck with that.
  • Having the main deck be preordered also has advantages. Doing this eliminates the need for a “cost” with weapon and spell cards… as soon as you can draw them, you can play them. I was never a fan of the way RPG Get! dealt with equipment versus spell costs (basically, the same way, with a recurring cost each time they were used in combat) since this didn’t feel true to RPGs. But there wasn’t otherwise a good way to prevent players from loading up their decks with only the best weapons. Limiting where in the deck they can appear is a much more effective way to gradually “improve” characters’ abilities over the game.
    • Doing this also frees up counters to be used as “money” for recurring costs (like purchasing items or MP to use spells repeatedly). This, again, feels truer to RPGs where spells can have a recurring cost for each use, while things like weapons are freely reusable. (Weapons don’t break in this world. :P)
    • Doing this also opens up the possiblity of “rare” equipment, with numbers after 100 (and therefore not reasonably accessible by drawing) and corresponding things that allow access to them. For example, defeating a boss or completing a mission could allow searching for a card in the 101-110 range.
    • Doing this also allows a “next area” mechanic where completing a mission will let you draw all cards up to a certain number. For example, completing the first mission could let you immediately draw cards until you have all your 10 or below numbered cards.
  • This also seems like a good way to eliminate deck screw. Each player draws a card each turn, and has the opportunity to reorder the top few cards to prepare depending on the current game state. Mages won’t be stuck with bad luck on their spell card draws, and melee attackers won’t be stuck getting their strong weapons before they can reasonably use them.
  • The deck ordering combined with counter cost changes makes it so you can’t “screw” yourself by putting yourself in a situation where you have no reward counters (and therefore no means of using non-standard attacks), and are unable to complete a mission to get more.
  • This also opens up easier avenues of “you’re behind, catch up” mechanics, where you could jump to a further section in your deck or automatically score a mission card from your pile.
  • This also means things like characters and enemies will be playable as soon as you “find” them (or the leveled up version of your current characters), simplifying the way limits are done on missions.
    • Mission cards can limit enemies played during the attempt to “enemies under value 20” or something similar, to prevent someone from getting too far ahead in their deck and making missions impossible. Rules relating to enemies haven’t really been fleshed out yet.
    • Right now the assumption that any hand limit in place will only be to limit enemies (and events) in hand, and non-boss enemies can return to your hand after a combat. This makes sense thematically (infinite stream of same- or lower-level enemies) and also makes decks less reliant on a huge enemy:other card ratio.

Reward cards are split into types: equipment, items, and spells

  • This seems truer to the RPG feel, since all of these things are very different. Equipment (weapons, armor, accessories) are reusable and generally are used constantly in battle. Item cards are used once and have the be refound (or repurchased). Spells are castable infinitely (at a small cost each time) once found. Splitting them makes sense from a narrative point of view.
  • With the new ordered deck mechanic, this also makes sense from a gameplay perspective. Spells are stronger ways to attack, or reusable ways to heal, but have a cost each time. Items are free but can only be used once. Weapons have no continued cost.

A player’s inventory is now limited to 5 cards.

  • As stated above, I was never happy with the “use a weapon or armor, pay its RC cost” mechanic. It existed only as a way to limit use of stronger items to later in the game. The new “you find it, you can use it” mechanic is more effective, but could make it so that a character can never take damage (for example, because they have 10 armor cards in their inventory for use and just use them all whenever they are attacked). This is boring.
  • Forcing choices is always interesting… you found an awesome new shield… do you ditch your old shield, or use both of your shields and throw out the armor? Maybe the new defense is enough so you can throw out the old healing item you found.
  • It’s worth noting that spells don’t count toward this inventory limit. Which, you know, makes sense since you learn spells and can use them from that point forward.

I think this should make for a more interesting card game, emphasizing player skill over luck of the draw. Which, really, is what games should be about.

The goal is to get some basic cards knocked out and start testing the mechanics by next weekend. Undoubtedly, this will meet with further delays. But if you find this at all interesting, you should let me know, because this can use all the playtesting it can get.

Edit: Another few thoughts…
– I can limit cards in the deck by only allowing one of any given numbered card. This is another good way to force decisions (the rifle and gifoie are both numbered 25… which do I want in my deck?). Doing this means I would probably want base numbers 1-200 (so 20 “slots” of deck cards for each mission card).
– Mission cards should probably have an upper bound of what numbered cards can be played. This obviously makes sense for enemies, but applying it to all cards makes sense to prevent players from loading up their decks with only the highest n cards (where n is the deck size). (This problem would self-correct to a certain extent as they would have no enemy cards playable during early mission attempts, but seems like it could escalate into an arms race to see who can get the highest cards fastest and block the others at the end of their mission stack.)
– Equipment cards probably want to belong to a particular character. Since everything should be reusable infinitely (as long as you can pay associated costs), not binding an equipment to a character would allow a player to just play as many characters as they can (with unique numbers) that can all use the same basic weapons. I do want players to have more than one character, but I don’t want it to be so necessary that every time you can put a character in your deck, you have to.
– Equipment or inventory or the way characters work may want to be tweaked though. I’m not against the idea of mages being behind for a bit (and then finding their awesome spells and plowing through everything), but this seems incompatible with the upper bound of cards on a mission.
– Maybe these issues can be solved via one time use NPC character cards that are much stronger than their current area, but go away after the attempt ends.
– Bounding what number cards you can play during a mission shouldn’t cause permanent blockage because other players will keep drawing, eventually getting enemies that can’t be played, so you can complete the mission without opposition. But delaying is also bad because the limited hand size will mean you discard your better cards instead of playing them. So this *seems* like it should be okay.
– All of this really needs extensive playtesting. I should get some cards created up through the fourth mission (so deck cards 1-80) to try out some of the base mechanics.

Edit edit: I’m wondering now if it doesn’t make more sense to start this game off as a fixed card game. I can more easily design a couple decks with fixed cards (maybe a Hunter deck and a Ranger deck, since the base set will be PSO). This will make it easier to playtest the game also. After things are working, I can expand it into a full CCG. This is perhaps a better idea.

Edit edit edit: I think maybe trying to fit 10 missions into a 40 card deck seems terrible, especially given that missions now give no particularly special thing on completion. Therefore, I think the game would be better with only 3 or 4 missions, and deck cards numbered 1 through 40, requiring exactly one of each. It would then be easy to build as a fixed deck game (just make 40 card decks) and easy to allow customization. I like this much better. Edits made to the above as well with strikeouts.

So basically, decks should consist of exactly one character (with subsequent level up cards in the deck), three (or maybe four?) mission cards, and a 40 card deck, with exactly one card of each number in the deck. Each deck’s missions will cover just one “area” in an RPG’s plot (such as Forest or Caves, as opposed to all of Episode 1, in the case of PSO).
This will make designing and testing easier, and will also make games shorter.

Edit x4: Okay, still happy with the above ideas, I think. Just a small change for the final CCG aspect: maybe I’ll just have each card say a “minimum” position in the deck (for example, Rafoie has to be the 20th card or later in the deck). Each player then brings a deck of cards numbered (manually) from 1 to 40 with one of each card. (I’ll leave space in the upper left for this.) It has the niceness of allowing complete customization of a deck’s contents (have all weapons if you want to!) while still having the nice limiting of stronger things for later and keeping the preordered decks aspect I think is the best part of this revamp.

Tartan, games, People Wars, photo firsts (Owen, Charles, Mark, Justin)

Today was Tartan production. I was supposed to do layout for sports. What this meant, in practice, was staring at the intranet and its distinct lack of sports articles that were ready for layout. I did manage to get the first broadsheet page to copy though, but that’s because it was a page 3/4 full of ads, so I just filled the remaining 1/4 with a sports commentary and submitted it. Instead, I did some copy and some photography and did some early layout for the special section. Because, oh yeah, the TOC is this week. (I’m not going, thankfully… but this means that some awesome people are back in town and hopefully I will get to see some of them again.)

Afterward, Keith, Dan, Marina, and Owen came over and we played games.

I won the game of Ingenious against Owen in a tiebreaker… up until my last play, we were completely tied (lowest color at 9, next at 11, next at 12, next at 14, and two maxed out). I ended the game with a play that increased my third-lowest color by one and won the game. It was amusing.

Won the (very short) game of CMU Chrononauts when other people patched the timeline to my character’s desired state. It lasted less than four times around.

Lost the game of 6 nimmt to Dan by one point (16 to 17, with Greg in third place at 34).

Then I won the game of Bohnanza by tiebreaker (cards in hand). Dan, Marina, and I all had 14 gold and Owen had 13 gold.

So it was a night with many (very) close games, which was a lot of fun. Friends are awesome, and games are awesome, and I’m glad that games with friends are becoming a regular part of my life.
(There was also an awesome gaming marathon with people last weekend.)

There was interesting funness Friday night when there was a party celebrating Patrick’s successful thesis defense. There will likely never be photos posted from that, because yeah. It’s amusing to me how much grad students can act like undergrads when it comes to alcohol and partying. But there were board games at that too, so I have played lots and lots of board games this month (plus the usual Thursday board games at Yubin’s), and it’s not even 1/3 of the way through the month.

I’ve been working more on People Wars’ new expansion set: Exchanges. The theme of the set is effects that hurt you but grant some larger benefit (like reducing your hand size to 1 but letting you play more items each turn, or reducing work on tasks by 1 but not working when exhausted and letting other players use the character to play cards). I’ve been really happy with how People Wars is coming along… as a game, it feels more mature than its previous variants (PPA TCG, Student Wars), and I also feel like each expansion set has a distinct theme and feel.

In any case, it occurs to me that I never bothered posting the first photo I took of Owen, Charles, Mark, or Justin even though I added them to photo stats, so I should remedy this.

First photo of Owen:

November 2, 2007 in Scotland Yard (with Sully, Sam, and Josh)

First photo of Charles and Mark:

April 27, 2006 at the SCS BBQ (this was before I knew them; can you find them both?)
My first photos of them after actually meeting them were in San Francisco on July 12, 2009 and August 4, 2009, respectively.

First photo of Justin

August 31, 2008 in front of my apartment building (when he was coming over for games)