ch expansion sci fi Card Hunter is now on Steam, free to play with cash shop (same as in browser). The new sci fi-themed Expedition to the Sky Citadel expansion is also live, free unlock once you’ve completed the main campaign, with free loot daily for launch week.

The Steam client seems less responsive than the in-browser client. [ETA: I was wrong. The game is now running more slowly in the in-browser client as well. It is a problem with the game, not Steam.]

: Zubon

“Harbingers of Failure”

Admit it, you know some of these gamers and might keep a couple in your feed as negative indicators:

We show that some customers, whom we call ‘Harbingers’ of failure, systematically purchase new products that flop. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that a product will fail – the more they buy, the less likely the product will succeed.
— Eric Anderson, Song Lin, Duncan Simester, and Catherine Tucker, “Harbingers of Failure”

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution, where a commenter says:

My wife thought I should open my own market research firm where I’d be proprietor, sole employee, and entire sample size. Big companies would show me mockups of products they were considering launching, and if I’d say “I’d buy that!” then they’d cancel the program, fire the guy who came up with idea, and bury the mockup at Yucca Mountain under concrete and steel.

: Zubon

Town of Salem Team Balance

Still playing Town of Salem. I have switched to the Chaos – Any/All game because it is the only way to consistently see all the roles. The problem is that it really does mean any/all chaos, so the game might be randomly unwinnable for one team or another. Not technically unwinnable, but practically so.

If the town has less than half the population, the town loses. It is not technically impossible for the town to win, given good luck and/or incompetent opponents, but I have yet to see the town win with less than half the population. I have been in a game with only 3 people in the Town. Being mayor of a three-person town is just waiting to die. Other times, the town will get a stack of roles that cannot synergize or help find the Mafia, like 3 mediums and 3 transporters. A 2-person mafia is also likely to lose, but I have seen them pull it out occasionally. A game with 3 serial killers and/or arsonists is going to be rough for anyone except the neutrals.

The standard game uses a standard set of roles to better ensure a balanced game, but you lose out on variability and seeing all the game has to offer. You will never see about half the roles in the standard game. Chaos takes that to the other extreme. There needs to be a balance with variation but constraints on randomness. Maybe make some of these official?

: Zubon

[TT] Necessary Complexity?

I have an oft-stated fondness for elegant rules mechanics, which give rise to games that are easy to learn and have surprising depth. Checkers is more “simple” than elegant; chess is pretty elegant, because you know almost all the rules if you know how the pieces move. Settlers of Catan is elegant, a classic strategy game where most of the important information is contained in the little card that lists costs. Games that come with books of rules are rarely elegant.

The Awful Green Things from Outer Space is being re-released. In my youth, this seemed really awesome for its lack of elegance. Lots of little tokens! Different stats for the whole crew! Randomized weapon effects! Lines of sight and zones of control! Special rules for a dozen special circumstances! Extended rules for fighting outside the ship!

Basically, it is the sort of game that could work really well as a computer game, but for a tabletop game it is way more complicated than it is worth. As a young nerd, grasping that complexity was a game of its own, but I cannot recall ever getting anyone to play a full game with me. It just is not worth the time commitment to learn the rules to play maybe a few times and still need to check the rules every few minutes.

“More complicated than it is worth” does not mean “unnecessarily complicated.” I really do think all those details are important to the game. Not in the sense that you could not build a streamlined version, but rather that the developers made it for people like themselves, like that young nerd I was, for whom the complexity is a virtue. It is worth it for them, and I imagine they have a great time playing.

Once you have accepted that you want that much complexity, the game is surprisingly elegant in its retention and presentation of information. You can reference things like differing hit points and movement rates per unit and what each weapon does this game. And as the old joke would have it, the amazing thing is not whether the dog can do it well but that he can do it at all.

: Zubon

Rollers of the Realm

Pinball-RPG hybrid. You have a standard RPG story: start from humble beginnings, collect a motley crew of allies, realize your initial foe is part of a scheme to take over the world, save the realm. You have RPG character advancement, whereby you can level up, select new party members, and upgrade them with equipment. The twist is that each map is a pinball table. Instead of standard RPG combat, your characters are pinballs that bash your enemies down. Each character has a special ability and different stat mods, so the knight breaks things and has a shield, while the rogue does more damage from behind and has a dog multi-ball, while the ranger shoots arrows as he passes by enemies and has a bigger multiball of animal companions.

The campaign mode is a few hours of content, so not a lot. As pinball, it is as replayable as your enjoyment of pinball. The achievement checklist suggests the “real game” is playing for gold medals on the arena maps. Those seem to be variations on “complete this map quickly” and “get a high score on this map.” I have only briefly sampled that part of the game.

If you like virtual pinball and character advancement mechanics, this certainly seems to be for you. I enjoy it in small doses, so I’ll check out the arenas gradually.

: Zubon

Order of Operations

Minor virtue of Card Hunter: the end of round steps put “check victory squares for points” and “check if someone has won” before “discard excess cards.” It is a small thing, but it saves annoyance. It is a good practice to check “is this necessary” before “has this been done.”

: Zubon