[MtG] Duels: Origins – Pain and Gain

There’s a new Stainless produced Magic the Gathering game out on Steam and Xbone after having started earlier in July on fancy i-Things. It no longer follows the earlier naming conventions of Duels 201X, and now it is simply called Magic Duels. Even watching hipster Magic players get to romp around a few weeks before me, there has been a lot of salt that has hampered a really good trajectory that Stainless is taking the game.

The Free-est MtG

Magic Duels is free-to-play. Of course you are instantly wondering where’s the catch or paywall. In Magic Duels, which slightly mirrors the paper card game, the gaining of new cards is in the form of boosters. 150 gold per booster, and each booster gets 3 commons, two uncommons, and a rare+.

Playing the story (more on that), playing random matches, and doing daily quests all net you more gold. The limit is 400 gold gain / day, which is more than 20-25 games / day. You can of course spend some cash to get more gold. Very Hearthstone-y. Continue reading [MtG] Duels: Origins – Pain and Gain


The vendor hall is one of the big draws at Gen Con. See the latest games, get the latest games, look for discounts or stuff you did not know you wanted but now desperately need. I seem to be unusual in that I can say, “I should not spend money on this,” and then I do not spend money on it.

For my friend group that attends Gen Con, the vendor hall is more or less what they do. You can spend all day playing demos with the developers. You can learn classic games you have not played, try the latest releases, and even try games that are still in development. Last year we loved Asmodee and Hyperborea. This year, friends are all about Cryptozoic and keep saying, “Attack on Titan is in hard alpha.”

I find myself in the Steam sale dilemma. I have trained myself not to buy (almost) anything on Steam unless it is 75% off or I will play it that day. I tend to group game prices at Gen Con into three brackets:

  1. Full price, new release or early release: potential buy because it is not available elsewhere and we likely will play it tonight
  2. Full price, 30% off on Amazon: do not buy unless I know we will play it tonight. Fun now is worth some money, but otherwise I can have it delivered to my house before I would otherwise play it. The later we get in the con, the less likely we are to play it tonight because of games from #1.
  3. Discount, better than I can find on Google in a minute: potential buy, double bonus if it is an older game/book that is hard to find at a reasonable price and it is on discount

That is for commodities like boxed games you can get from dozens of sources (although the con sponsors reportedly have it in the contract that they get exclusive rights to sell their stuff in the vendor hall, which means almost everything from Paizo and Mayfair is in #2). If you are looking at clothing and game accessories, you might prefer to try them in-person rather than shopping online, and many people start wearing those hats, goggles, T-shirts, and everything else immediately.

And I remain resolved to get Geek Chic furniture for my next home.

: Zubon

Changing Trends

Either the market for zombie-themed everything is so saturated that few new zombie-themed games came out this year, or the market for zombie-themed everything is so saturated that I do not even notice zombie-themed games anymore.

This year’s trends that I notice at Gen Con are sequels and saturating the options. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like there are more expansions, add-ons, and otherwise building on previous successful games this year. I know, that is always happening, but it feels like the balance this year has shifted somewhat more towards building on existing games than launching new IPs, converting non-game IPs to games, or trying existing game IPs as a different sort of game. Maybe everything already got its deck-building game in the past few years. Still lots of new things, maybe we are just having a year a little more like the movies or video games.

By “saturating the options” I mean trying a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” variant. If you liked Werewolf more with 12 roles instead of just villager/werewolf, how about our online Mafia with 150 roles? Coup: Rebellion G54 has 25 roles instead of 5 from the original game. The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is currently marketing a subscription for monthly class deck releases, with variants in each class. I like more options, but at some point you have more than the game can handle, and when you get into the dozens of options you are inevitably going to have some serious balance issues, which can get worse as combinations can multiply that problem. Says the man with so many Dominion expansions that he needed a “storage solution.”

: Zubon

My People

I am not much of a con-goer, but there is something special about arriving at Gen Con and seeing my people. Most of you are on the other side of your monitors, and I game with fairly few people in person, whereas Gen Con has 50,000 nerds. I appreciate enthusiasm, and there are few more enthusiastic than nerds.

I have decided that I am more excited about outfits than costumes. Some people are dressed up as characters, but you have more who look just a bit unusual, because this is the sort of place that embraces that. Fox ears? Celebrated, not mocked. Steampunk hat with goggles attached? Many, and more as people visit vendors that sell them. Any kind of hat? Yes. Real life has too few grand hats. This is a place where you see more corsets and kilts than usual, some people wearing both. Lots of hair outside the normal human spectrum, lots of little details and accessories. I know some people who might cosplay at work, but coming from a differently professional environment, you see few people visibly out about nerd interests.

I played two new gamer games, which I will review at greater depth later. Tesla vs. Edison: War of Currents and Blood Rage are both Kickstarted strategy games with multiple paths to victory. There are broad similarities despite the very different themes, as the former has you developing technology to build projects across America while the latter has you upgrading vikings to pillage villages across Midgard. Both have more variation than randomness.

More new games to try today, I am sure. That is a big point of Gen Con for the group I’m hanging with here: spend the day seeing new things and harvest a few, spend the night playing the best of the harvest.

: Zubon

Shifting Balance

Playing Town of Salem in Chaos (any/all) has felt pointless since the last update, but I don’t know if that is the effect of the new scrolls or just a run of bad luck. The new scrolls let you pay for better odds of getting a particular role. Here is what I am seeing this weekend:

  • fewer Town in any/all. I have not counted in games where I am not Town, but my four games as a townie today have had 6, 6, 6, and 5 Town. That is out of 15, and Town’s odds drop towards zero when Town is less than half the population. I have won as a 3-person town, but you’d be a fool to bet that way. You do not play any/all to play Town; you get all the Town roles and more consistently in the normal game, so you play any/all to see the neutral and Mafia roles that do not come up in the normal game. So this is where you play using the new scrolls.
  • 2+ Town suicide immediately. Seeing 5 suicides per game has been common. Maybe the game’s connection has gone to heck, but I’m guessing those are people who did not get their scroll role or were otherwise playing for all the reasons noted in the previous point.
  • Combine the two above and see that it becomes increasingly rational to immediately suicide as Town. The instant you get a green role, you suspect your odds are horrible due to low average Town population, then to drop again due to high suicide rates. You could stick around in your 2- to 4-person Town and hope for luck, or you can see which way the wind is blowing and bail.

Of course, this could just be absurd luck this weekend. But if the scrolls let you raise the odds of getting non-Town roles, they pretty much finish killing any/all.

: Zubon

ETA: I’ve also been disconnected twice this weekend after ~0 before that. If servers are in trouble with post-update downloads, that could speak to some of the suicide problem. I’ve also had an invisible game where cosmetics never loaded.

Town of Salem Referrals

Town of Salem added a referrer bonus system. It’s not a big one, but if you’ve become interested and try out the game, tell ’em Zubon sent you?

Other things in the update: new Forger mafia role, new chaos mode with lots of colors and killing roles, new cosmetics. Not sold yet on the new, unnecessarily long role selection animation.

: Zubon

Deceptive Honesty

Honesty can be an amazing tactic in Town of Salem. No one sees it coming. Almost every time I have gotten lynched as Jester, I told people I was Jester. “Surely no one would admit to that, he’s just trying to avoid getting lynched!”

When people expect lies, truth is a great way to trick them. That works well with people playing one level of recursion below you. The problem is people playing two levels below: they don’t know enough to be bluffed or double-bluffed. This leads to the common and exciting dynamic, “is this person playing dumb or actually stupid?”

: Zubon

Metaphors for Gaming, Metaphors for Life

Plugging in a USB drive the right way on the first try feels like an accomplishment. There are only two ways to do it, but it feels like I am scoring below 50%.

Part of the problem is when it takes three tries. I try to plug in the drive, flip it over, try to plug in the drive, and flip it back over. I had it right the first time, I was just a couple millimeters off where I needed to be.

Other times I realize that is not a USB slot.

: Zubon

Bad, Exciting Changes: Weekend Events

In one of my favorite analogue RPG’s, Nobilis, there is a heaven and hell. Heaven is a place of stark, clean beauty. Rarely are souls allowed in heaven because most are not banally pure. Hell is a place of dirt and passion. Everybody is allowed! It’s the Jackson Pollock blender of creation. Of course, the dilemma in the game is which is better.

It’s a bit waxing, in a poetic and philosophical sense, to bring this high ideal to the living document of MMO’s and online games, but the pale reflection appeared to gleam a bit more this weekend. Would you rather have cold, perfect beauty or dynamic imperfection? Continue reading Bad, Exciting Changes: Weekend Events

Leavers and Balance

For Chaos games, assuming leavers are random (not quite true), game balance should not be affected. The effect is the same as have a game with fewer players. Even if the roles are unique, there is no practical difference between a role that was not picked and a role that suicides. It feels different, but the odds are the same. Similarly, if you held a raffle and randomly picked some losers before picking a winner, it would feel like those people were cheated, but picking WINNER, LOSER, LOSER gives the same odds as LOSER, LOSER, WINNER, or picking 3 and then picking which of those 3 is WINNER.

Quitting in Chaos games looks pretty close to random. I have seen just about every role quit, from Mayor to Werewolf. Some people hate town, some people hate neutrals, or they hate particular roles like Medium or Disguiser. The only real worry is snowballing suicides, say if one Mafia quits so another quits so… The same can happen when Town loses a few important unique roles early.

But still, you’re a jerk if you force 14 people who signed up for a 15-player game to play a 14-player game. 1 isn’t a big deal, but it feels like it is rarely 1, so those 3 jerks just forced a 12-player game on everyone else.

In the standard game, leavers are less innocuous, and therefore more problematic. Every role is random in all/any. Roles are added in a particular order in the standard game, so a planned 12-player game is not just a 15-player game with 3 random roles removed. Also the roles are almost entirely fixed, so one missing role gives a lot more information than it would in Chaos.

: Zubon