Scattered Thoughts

The Adventure Co 2.0 met last night for its first real session. It went well, despite some technical hurdles with Roll20’s video and audio, plus most of us just being out of practice. Initial session’s are always awkward anyway (in my experience) because players don’t know each other’s characters well and usually aren’t into their own character’s head either. That will improve quickly as we get into the adventure. Regardless, it was a log fun doing some real role-playing again even if my poor Gnome Monk didn’t get to punch anything.

It’s rare that I get to be a proud Hoosier in geeky sense so I was pretty stoked to see that Indiana was number 9 on the list of states with the highest percentage of Star Trek fans.

On the board gaming front Handelabra just announced an October  16th release date for the Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Video Game. It’s a tablet app version of one of my favorite super hero card games. A common complaint about the card version is all of the book keeping you have to do. Sometimes, I like that as it slows down the pace of the game and can become more of a meditative exercise to keep all of the effects going on in mind. But other times, it would really be nice to just pick up a few heroes and go defeat Baron Blade, and it looks like Handelabra’s version will fit that niche perfectly.

Anyway, I’m off to relax and watch my copy of The Winter Soldier that arrived today.

Difficulty

I like to avoid frustration in my gaming hobby. Fighting games especially are something I avoid now, as once upon a time I broke a couch kicking it after a bout against the CPU opponent. The surest way for me to end up putting down a game and never coming back is to suddenly ramp up the difficulty level without warning or preparation. Having said all that, I’ve been spending the last few nights attempting to win the third quest in the Lord of the Rings card game, Escape from Dol Guldur. I’m at about eight attempts now with zero successes, which is well past when I would have give up on a computer game and moved on. Board and card games like this are more like puzzles than tests of reflexes, which apparently causes me less frustration. I’m planning to keep at it until I win.

D20s and Cards

Adventure Co.

Last night was supposed to be the initial session of Adventure Co. 2.0, but Scopique had a water heater emergency and had to cancel. Totally understandable, and I hope he gets it fixed quickly and cheaply, but I’m a homeowner myself and those two things rarely go together. Even without our Dungeon Master, the rest of us (Adventure Co veteran Tipa from West Karana and new comers GrilledCheese28, Oakstout, and Girl Grey) hung out for about half an hour and talked over what kinds of characters we were thinking of playing as well as played around with the tools in Roll20.net. My initial impulse to play another Wizard changed a bit after reading through the Player’s Handbook (PHB), and I’m now thinking of going with a Druid. I’m not totally committed to it yet but I also like the idea of playing a Forest Gnome. I expect to change my mind a few more times before next Thursday.

The 5th edition rules remind me quite a bit of 3.5 and earlier, but there’s also some Fate influence in the rules (or similar narrative driven system). There’s a chapter on personality and backgrounds which helps fill in character details beyond the normal height, weight, and alignment. You now decide on an Ideal that drives your character, a Bond that ties your character to a person or place or event, and a Flaw to make you character interesting. They’ve also added the mechanic of Inspiration, which is given out by the DM as a reward for playing into your character’s personality traits and can be used to gain advantage on rolls. It’s not quite the same but it immediately made me think of Aspects, Compels, and Fate Points.

Reading up on 5th edition and getting on Roll20 last night with the group had me excited to work towards running a Fate Core game. At least once I get my Adventure Co character figured out and we’re a few sessions in.

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Among the many board games in my backlog, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, has been on there the longest. I actually bought it a few years ago before I really got back into board games because I saw it on the shelf of my Friendly Local Game Shop while browsing Warhammer 40K minis (which I like to look at but never buy) and role-playing game books and saw that it was designed for 1-2 players.

So now years later, I’ve attempted to get started with the game a few times, but the game is very difficult and I’ve found that I’m pretty awful at constructing decks. So in March I started reading through and playing decks based on Beorn’s Path. The Hall of Beorn is one of a half dozen blogs dedicated to the game and Beorn’s Path is a nice series of articles that introduces players to building decks that can be used to complete the quests in the base game as well as the first six adventure packs, The Shadows of Mirkwood Cycle. Like most things I ended up distracted and didn’t pick the series up with Part 5 until this evening when I finally managed to beat the second quest in the base game, Journey Along the Anduin, on my third try.

I’m not ready to review the game yet. I haven’t played it nearly enough and I’m still at the novice stages of being able to build decks and learning all of the available cards even out of the relatively small core set. My initial impressions though are that the game is very tough and unforgiving. Luck feels like a big factor to me, but I have the feeling from what I’ve read that feeling is more because of my beginner skill level and because of the game itself.

Return of Fleet Night

Last night was our second fleet night. It went even better as we had a full team of five and were able to run all of the Defera hard quests, Into the Hive, and the Voth ground battle zone. The Borg Queen gave us some trouble again in the Hive STF (normal mode still) but we eventually succeeded. We ended up playing from 9 until midnight, which made for a rough morning for me getting the boys up for school and daycare, but was totally worth it.

We also added some Mercy Gaming members to the fleet. Warren joined us for most of Fleet Night, Jaren and Torek hadn’t unlocked access to the Dyson Sphere yet unfortunately.

This is only the second organized night, but I couldn’t be happier with how well it went. I’m looking forward to playing Sunday night. Now if I could only remember to hit my Fraps hotkey to take screenshots.

Three Dev Blogs! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Cryptic release not one, not two, but three dev blogs today. The biggest news by far for me are the additional Voyager cast members doing voice work. Robert Picardo’s The Doctor was my favorite character from the series and I really hope he’s heavily used in the new content. In addition to Tim Russ as Tuvok and Garret Wang as Harry Kim, Jeri Ryan will be back as Seven of Nine (although I believe she goes by Annika now) and Ethan Phillips as Neelix.

The second dev blog us about a new Space Event involving the conflict between the Borg Collective and the Cooperative. This one interests me more from the lore discussed in the dev blog than in thinking about playing the actual event. Seeing this contrast between two versions of the Borg is fascinating to me and I’m very interested to see where Cryptic takes it.

The third blog outlines what Cryptic is calling the Delta Rising Operations Pack, which is the equivalent to the Legacy of Romulus pack that was released for the last expansion. At $125 it’s too expensive for me. I’ll wait an buy ships and equipment piecemeal like I did with Romulus. Despite that, there is some good new information in the dev blog regarding the new type of ship.

The new type of ship will be called Intelligence. There will be three for the Federation, I assume in Tactical/Engineering/Science flavors, and one each for Romulans and Klingons. There will also be an additional Intelligence ship for each faction that is based on the theme of Voyager’s journey home. The blog mentions in passing that Intelligence ships will be able to launch drones to scan enemies for weaknesses which the Intelligence Bridge Officer can exploit through powers. This sounds to me like a combination of the current Science scan power plus the singularity powers that Romulan captains can charge up and unlock.

The screenshots of the new Intel ships look really good. Unfortunately the Science ship is my least favorite of the three Federation ships. Hopefully that changes when I see it in game, sometimes screenshots don’t do these ships justice.

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Tier 6: Intel Cruiser, Tactical, and Science Ships

Fleet Night

Blaugust is over! Huge thanks again to Belghast for organizing this, it was just the motivation I’ve been needing. Also congratulations to the Survivors and other Winners.

Star Trek Online is the only MMO I’ve really stuck with on a regular basis after hitting the level cap. That’s not to say I haven’t taken extended breaks from the game, which I have, but it’s the only MMO that I actually return to unlike LotRO and Champions which I want to play but never seem to actually login to.

Unfortunately STO isn’t too popular among my circle of Internet friends, so I often log in do some stuff solo and log out. Our small Fleet of bloggers and friends generally only gets active in the months leading up to and following a content release. In an attempt to correct that a bit, I’m trying to push myself to organize some events, the first of which was last night. I’m hoping to make this a semi regular thing, depending on people’s schedules, to try and get the Fleet to be more active.

Scopique from Levelcapped, Talyn from Pumping Irony, Mindstrike, and myself got together in-game last night and had fun queueing up as a team for half a dozen events. My favorite of the night was the Into the Hive task force. It had some great voice overs of the Borg Queen that really added to the atmosphere of the mission. I never seem to remember to take screenshots when playing games, I suppose I’m just too involved in the moment. Fortunately Mindstrike remembered and snapped this victory shot after we defeated the Queen.

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Blaugust Finale

Today’s the last day of Blaugust. I’m pleased to say I haven’t missed a day, which around the 7th or 8th I wasn’t sure I would be able to manage. In part I think it just took a few weeks to knock the rust off of the mental gears needed to post something everyday, but it was also a matter of having the courage to cover more personal topics than I usually do. a final piece fell into place around the middle of the month when I stopped worrying so much about “was it ready” and got to the point where I started to think “good enough, publish it.”

This last change was the most valuable part of Blaugust for me. I have long had a bad habit of writing up a rant or opinion piece on whatever the current big issue was in the MMO space and then saving it as a draft with the intention of coming back the next day to proof it and then publish it. Except I rarely ever came back to it the next day. Writing provides enough of an outlet that I don’t have the same need to get it published unless I do it right when I’m done.

I know a lot of bloggers struggled this month and maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this on and off for years. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been through the NaNoWriMo experience a few times and that was much more difficult. But I really enjoyed this and having a daily deadline was necessary motivation for me. I hope either Belghast or someone else takes up the idea next year.

Beyond the writing challenges and growth that I’ve enjoyed this month, I’ve also enjoyed the community aspects. I’ve added a few new blogs to the blogroll and my RSS reader, and picked up some new friends and followers on Twitter.

Thanks Belghast!

Day 31 of Blaugust

Broken Token

Marvel LegendaryA big challenge involved with board games is organization and storage. Imagine for a moment that your Steam games library required physical space. After buying a game or ten during one of Valve’s insane sales, and hopefully playing the- sorry I can’t even finish typing that without laughing, you then had to figure out where to store it. Now add the additional challenge of organizing the pieces of the game inside the box. While some board games come with good inserts, most do not. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and Marvel Legendary are two pretty good inserts, but after three expansions the Marvel Legendary one will literally not fit one more card.

The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game from Fantasy Flight just came with a basic cardboard insert, nothing fancy but nothing worse than what an average game comes with. Unfortunately there was no thought given by FF for expansions and LotR the LCG has had a lot of expansions. The original core game started with 226 cards. Add to that 3 Deluxe Expansions, 3 Saga Expansions, 3 full Adventure Pack Cycles, and half of a fourth and the current card count is now 2,290 card. Once the current Cycle finishes and the next announced Deluxe and Saga Expansions come out the card count will be 3,026.

IMG_20140223_213042Initially for storage I tried a plastic organizer, but I wasn’t happy with the results. There was a lot of wasted space in the box and the cards were loose enough that I worried about them getting bowed (something that’s been and issue with my Pathfinder insert). Plus I didn’t like losing the art for the original box.

IMG_20140830_141015Months later, I ran across mention of a company that does custom inserts for games called The Broken Token. Their kits are laser cut from thin wooden sheets and they have a nice once that works with any of FF’s card games either sleeved or unsleeved. It would allow me to reuse my LotR LCG box and was only $19, so it was well worth a try.
I got the organizer today in a flat envelope. The kit contained some directions and four sheets of wood. Assembly only took me about 15 minutes and no tools. From looking at the instructions that can vary a little bit since sometimes the pieces need to be trimmed slightly, but I had no issues with mine. It actually took me longer to get all of the cards organized and into the box than it did to put the kit together.

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The insert allowed me to take the original box and a stack of Expansions, plus the plastic case of Adventure Packs above and condense it all into the original box.

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While I’m super happy with how easy it was to put together and how well it’s organized my game, I’m also about out of room in the original box. Plus I don’t have room in it now for the threat counters and tokens necessary to play the game. So when the remaining three Adventure Packs and two Expansions come out, I’m definitely not squeezing them in. One option would be to get a binder with card pages in it like a Pokemon or baseball card collector uses. Another option is a larger box and organizer. That one is quite a bit more expensive but looks very nice.

It may be odd, but I think organizing board games is an interesting aspect of the hobby. There’s a lot of room for creative solutions either with third-party products like Broken Token’s or DIY crafts like foam core inserts.

Day 30 of Blaugust

Names

twitter bio

I abhor drama. I avoid getting involved in it unless it’s absolutely necessary, especially Internet drama. However, I also think names are extremely important. So when there’s four blog posts in me RSS this afternoon about the term Gamer, I can’t help but weigh in.

I don’t see every changing my Twitter bio. Well maybe I could remove the “lazy” part from writer/blogger if I keep up my Blaugust pace in September. But the “avid gamer” part I don’t see ever changing.

Calling myself a gamer refers to what I like to do with my free time. For a long time that that just meant video games. Initially it was only console games, then for a long time it was only PC games, and then it became both. In recent years that’s expanded to include tabletop games as well: card games, board games, miniatures, and role-playing games with actual pencils and papers and polyhedral plastic dice. Those are all just different types of games even if some are made of bits, some cardboard, and some plastic. So as long as I enjoy spending a good portion of my free time playing games, that label fits. If it picks up negative connotations because of stupid people doing stupid things, well that’s not a new thing. Being a gamer wasn’t considered a good thing when I was a kid either.

Times change and connotations fade. We’re living in a world where a movie made by a comic book publisher about a team of misfit criminals including a walking tree who (usually) only utters three words and a talking racoon has made about $277 million and is still going. Anything is possible.

Day 29 of Blaugust

Tier 5 Upgrades

Yesterday Cryptic released the one dev blog a lot of people have been waiting impatiently for, upgrading Tier 5 ships.

Upgrading is done via Zen through the C-store, for between $5 and $10 (subject to change as is all of the dev blog information). The upgrade is per ship but account wide, although I don’t seem many people flying the same ship on different alts. T5 upgrades are free for special ships, basically anything that came from a reputation event, the lobi store, or a lock box.

Upgraded T5 ships only have four levels unlike the five for T6 ships. Just like T6 though the ships will scale up their hull and shields as they level. Since they don’t have the last level that T6’s do, they cannot unlock a Starship Trait. Of course if you have a T6 and unlock a trait you can still use it while flying a T5+ ship. T5+ ships also won’t have specialist bridge officer seating.

There’s a linked page with a list of all of the ships in the game along with whether they are upgraded for Zen for for free. What I found interesting about the page though was just seen how many ships are in the game now, and those are just the Tier 5 ships.

I’m still having a hard time getting worked up over the new ship tier and the upgrade process. Apparently I’m one of the few based on the 204 page forum thread regarding the upgrade post. T5+ ships won’t get the Starship Trait or specialized bridge officers, neither of which we have details on. There’s also this quote from the blog:

Only the most challenging new level 60 content will strongly benefit from using an upgraded Tier 5 starship or a Tier 6 starship, however it will not strictly require it.

The two bolded sections basically read to me that T6 ships will have an easier time, but are not required for any of the new content. For me, that means that I’ll likely stay with my current ship, a Vesta-class, unless I really like the look of one of the new T6 ships.

Picard Maneuver

Speaking of how many ships are in the game, add one more. The Constellation class is being added to STO. The most well known example of this class being the USS Stargazer, Jean Luc Picard’s first ship. This is C-Store ship that adds a new skin to the Heavy Cruiser Refit, a Tier 3 ship, along with a new console called the Warp Burst Capacitor. This emulates the Picard Maneuver, which involves a ship performing short duration a high warp acceleration directly towards another ship causing them to appear in two places at once. The STO console gives a brief  untargetable status, moves your ship forward a short distance, and gives you a short ambush attach bonus.

The console is nice enough that I think a some players will pay the 1000 Zen, $10, just to get that. Then there’s the ship collectors and role-players who’ll want it too. The majority of the player base isn’t going to buy ships right now anyway given that no one’s likely to buy new ships until the T6’s come out with Delta Rising. Personally I’m tempted by the console, but I don’t think I’ll get it unless I come up with a build where I think it will be handy.

Day 28 of Blaugust