Last year ended with a high note; the death of my processor cooling fan. After brushing all the rust away from my computer gutting skills, I installed a new one. Now the shambling monstrosity fails to start at the first time when I power it on, but after a soft reset everything functions as usual. Now I know what a Necromancer feels like.
Funny thing; I just bought the new Star Wars Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games, and I can’t decide whether it is good or not. Having played lots of Magic, I am used to the idea that when a player plays a threat, you always have your own turn before the threat activates (unless the threat is designed to be active immidiately). So when your opponent plays a big creature, you can use the next turn to attempt to handle it. In SWCG, every unit card can be used offensively at the same turn it is played. Also, the game has a very static pool of resources, so the game does not grow in the same sense as Magic does (Lands accumulate; In the early game you have to prioritize cards, but in the endgame you can play anything that you draw).
I can’t decide whether this is bad game design or just requires a different mindset. I probably need to play it more. But I like how FFG put a couple of cards of a different faction for a teaser in the core box. Devious.
In a Changeling: The Lost game that I played, my character was mute. In the climax of the game, I slowly walked towards another, mad Changeling with an eyepatch in a blizzard. The rest of my group were hanging behind me. I burned my last Willpower point to just enable myself to speak and implied the madman to give up his plan of turning us all to the Fae and go back to Arcadia. My Persuade dice pool was reduced to Chance Die, and I rolled it. It was a conventional failure; The most boring of all results. Except that this particular failure embedded itself into my memory.
The Storyteller described how the Changeling brushed my weak pleas aside and lifted his eyepatch, revealing a frozen ball of ice, through which the Ice Queen saw this place and was heading towards us. The Ice Queen tried to dominate my mind, but I resisted it by throwing myself to the ground. But this gave my colleague a chance to fire his gun at the eye. It was a long shot… Except that my other colleague used his luck powers and made the shot a success. The eye broke, the Ice Queen failed to find us, and I took the Changeling to a hospital.
That was a perfect instance of a failure which still drove the story forward. From now on, I endeavour to use conventional failures to push the story forwards.
During the generic winter holidays I played Mage Knight, a Heroes of Might and Magic-style board game. I had conflicted feelings about it; In both games that I played, the player who started had a clear advantage over the rest. Usually one lucky break was enough to ensure victory. But the actual playing was fun; Trying to figure out what you can do with your cards, levelling up, exploring stuff and so on. Also, the game had a bucketload of optional rules, which is always good. It made me realize (or just remember) that the games that I most remember are those which are fun to play, and not necessarily those which are perfectly balanced.
I just realized that modern sports games must be nearly divine. Duels of the Planeswalkers, the Magic Online Lite, has reached its third iteration. Each game has made significant improvements, from user interface to deck balancing to fixing minor issues. That, and the fact that The Witcher and its sequel used the money from their initial sales to make an Enchanced Edition, which improved pretty much everything from performance to graphics to content. If those games improve significantly by just two or three iterations, then a game like FIFA must be perfect in its execution. I can’t verify this though, since I possess no interest in sports whatsoever.