TaKtiX: Warlord CCG guest column

Guest and occasional columnists for the Warlord CCG

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Flip Side

So the corollary to my last post is this: you are also human.

And this means that you'll make mistakes, and second guess yourself, and play too cautiously.

What's the solution?

Relax, mainly.

This isn't necessarily easy, but the ability to chill out and just play your game can be invaluable when it comes down to tourney time. How?

Knowing that your opponent is probably having the same issues helps; the monster's never as scary when you know that it's also afraid of you.

Jeremiah already touched on a couple of other things that can help you chill: healthy food, hydration, and prepartion. Feed your body and your brain, and make sure that you are armed with a tuned, familiar deck and have some solid ideas about what to expect in the metagame. No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, but you'll be much better prepared to improvise if you start from a solid foundation.

The really difficult part is setting aside your ego. Because the stakes are too high, if your ego is involved in the outcome of the game.

I'm tempted to say "set aside your ego because it is, after all, just a game," but ego sidelining is a good idea regardless of the "seriousness" of the pursuit in question. Don't build your idea of self worth upon your victories and triumphs; that's far too fragile a foundation for something so important. There is always going to be somebody better, faster, smarter, or just plain luckier than you. And you're going to have to deal. And relax. And play your game.

It'll be interesting, to see how well I follow my own advice, at KublaCon this weekend ...

~ PeteVG
A Rogue Elf

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Human Element

Much good stuff that has been written, on this site, on the Temple, and in other places, about the tactical, strategic and mathematical considerations that one must take into account when playing Warlord.

But there is another dimension to the game, and it's one that's a bit trickier to talk about in concrete terms: your opponent is a human being.

Okay, stating the obvious, right? But the fact that you are playing against a human changes the way that you should think about strategy and tactics in important ways.

Know, for example, that your opponent is afraid of you. Seriously. You're an unknown. You're sitting across the table from them in a competitive environment, which quite likely means that you have a deck that has a fair chance at beating them. This means that they will play cautiously. They'll second guess themselves. And you can help this process along by playing confidently and withholding information about the cards in your hand as long as possible. If you didn't draw movement in your opening hand in your Krun deck, don't sigh and say "oh no, now I'm screwed." Play as much of the turn as you can without revealing the fact that you can't move. Keep Krun ready. Attack aggresively with your other characters. When you're close to running out of juice, try to bluff your opponent into passing and ending the turn prematurely -- that movement you need may be waiting for you in the next hand.

Watch for your opponent to make mistakes. They're human, remember, and aren't going to play perfectly. Keep an eye out for baited traps, but try to capitalize on mistakes when you see them -- the game is partially about building a better deck, and partially about playing a better game. Allow room for opponent-side errors in your strategic and tactical decisions. This can be as simple as playing your minor threats first, hoping your opponent will waste an Exhaustion or Outmatched on them before your throw down your big guns, and as subtle as knowing when to remind your opponent about their options. When playing against a stressed out Devernian with Halo of Secrets in play, I take special care to pause and ask if they have any reacts whenever I play an action that targets one of their characters; I want to give them as many chances to use the Halo on the wrong action as possible.

Don't step over ethical lines, of course. I had a friend in elementary school chess club who used to hum off key during every match that he played, just to throw his opponents off. Don't be like him. You don't want to be annoying. And you need to remember that Warlord is just a game. Being courteous and sportsmanlike goes a long way towards forging out-of-game friendships, which can be much more rewarding than victory.

But there's nothing wrong with playing confidently, bluffing well, and always having a trick or two up your sleeve.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Treyik Is Not an Auto-Include

This is a post by PeteVG, a software issue appears to have corrupted his first attempt

So I play Elves a lot. One of the things that Elf decks tend to do is discard cards for an effect. And I therefore usually include Treyik in my decks, because, he's pretty good in a discard deck, right?

Level 1 - Cleric - Evil
ATK: +2 AC: 10 Skill: +3 Hit Points: 1
Elf * Novice of Bone
After Treyik is discarded from your hand, you may put him into play.
Order: Kill one of your Undead: Give an Elf a +3 ATK and +3 AC.

Then I came across biglazydragon's response to Zechnophobe's recent article on his Caitlyn the Free "Discount dot deck." And I don't mean to pick on biglazydragon, because his overall reaction was basically what my reaction to the deck would've been had I not spent a good chunk of a Saturday afternoon losing to it. But the part that stood out to me was the part where he suggested that Zechno should add Treyik to the deck to "improve" it. Because that suggestion is pretty silly -- there are a lot of better things Zechno can do with the deck than put a stunned level 1 elf with 10 AC into play.

And that got me to thinking: Treyik is not necessarily an auto-include in decks that discard cards from their hand, even when those decks are Elf decks. Assuredly, Treyik is a fine card. He has a decent ATK, and he gives you the nice little bonus of an extra character when you discard him from your hand. The problem is that he doesn't have much of an impact on your typical game. His AC is low enough that he will die quickly if your opponent is even remotely worried about him. His ATK bonus is nice, but nothing to write home about.

And Treyik is downright bad in some circumstances. If you have a Treyik in hand at a time when you don't need to discard cards, he's just a sub-par character, taking up a slot that could've been dedicated to any number of more useful cards. If you're playing an elf deck and are starting Javvyn or Amatria Tansiq -- not exactly an unlikely choice -- you typically do not want to add Treyik to your front rank on the first turn, even if you're in a position to discard him. You want your opponent to be engaged in making hard choices about whether or not to swing at Javvyn/Amatria and reap the negative consequences; you don't want to give them the easy choice of taking out Treyik instead.

This isn't to say that the little guy is completely useless. In Raziel decks, which often rely on "early game" board advantage to swing games, Treyik is a much more significant factor, just by virtue of being another hit point and strike at the happy cost of discarding a card from an opponent's hand. And he's definitely a consideration for any other elf deck that discards cards. But he's not an auto include. If you have better cards, put them in instead.

More generally, there are some cards printed to work with a certain mechanic, but it's a trap to mindlessly throw them into a deck that uses that mechanic. You want to include the best cards for your particular deck. And that sometimes means leaving cards like poor old Treyik by the wayside, sad as that may be.

~ PeteVG
Rogue Elf

Speed Part 2

Here we go...

III. Action speed in general
I already wrote something about the importance of the first actions in the first turn. Now I want to proceed with a few more general thoughts.
Speed (or Tempo coming from [lat. tempus, temporis = TIME]) is always an important part of Warlord CCG. Why do you think Rr'ess is better than Maddawc? Or why do you think Tresven gets more love than Kether?
Kether and Maddawc might have better stats, but they lack of tempo. What advantage does a +4 strike give if it will never happen because Maddawc was slain before?! Rr'ess only has a +3 strike, but he can actually perform it right after entering play.
In fact it's all about ressource denial. Rr'ess strengthens your board position and immediately weakens (might weaken) your opponent's.
Raziel + XYZ won so many double tournaments, because 4 shots from Isadra after the first action (+ possible Magic Missiles with Bronwen etc) give a huge speed advantage and can actually win a game even before the first order has resolved.
Warlord CCG has multiple examples of how speed can have positive impact on your game (Corinne Drac, Flawless Motion etc), BUT please don't think it will win you games with godlike ease. Why do you think Rora Blackmane doesn't appear in the winning decks? Or, if I ask another question, would you play Corinne Drac with only one hitpoint?
The answer is easily to be given: Tempo advantage is not everything. You must not rely on Tempo advantages if you lose the common strength of your deck (e.g. including Rora Blackmane but not Brother Dominy in an Albrecht construct).
Try to be faster AND hit your opponent with the same power (metaphorical and in the meaning of the game!) and you will recognize how cool tempo advantages can be!

IV. Play speed
Ok, first please recognize this is NOT about stalling. Stalling is not sportsmanlike and I'd be really upset if my article would encourage people to stall!
Back to topic, what is play speed? It's the time you take to actually perform your order AND the time you take to achieve a goal (for example: killing the opponent's warlord or start an infinite combo).
To the first point, always take your time to think about possibilities. Nobody will hate you just because you thought 2-10 seconds about a DIFFICULT play situation. And of course you can hurry if you think you are in a dominant board position and you want to finish the game. Play your game and DON'T let your opponent dictate the speed of your play. Quick gameplay allows you to put mental pressure on your opponent, but keep in mind, it also encourages play mistakes.
To the second point, don't hesitate to play Warlord CCG how you like to. Even if you have the chance to finish the game, you don't have to! I want to tell you about a situation at PotS '05. I was playing against a Yedraw Uber Control, my Krun killed 3 characters each round, but that didn't really matter to my opponent. He just threw characters at the front which I tried to overcome.
Yedraw could easily kill Krun, but he hesitated. Just before the end of the round, Yedraw moved forward and finished Krun. 20 min Yedraw had the better position and waited for the final strike.
Again, just because you have the opportunity to win the game, you don't have to do it NOW! (By the way, never hesitate to actually conceed a game and go for the next). If your opponent thinks he can still win the game and refuses to conceed, go on and let the clock run down. That's NOT stalling, that's intelligent game play (or vice versa, not THAT intelligent game play by your opponent).

I hope you enjoyed my blogging about speed and I wish you a nice weekend

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Speed Part 1

No, I don't take drugs. This is not about some weird stuff you take and happen to see funny colours or schemes. Not at all.

I want to write a bit (blogging is fun) about the different kinds of speed in Warlord CCG.

I. Action speed in the first turn
As an active BH I've done lots of Warlord demos (including the Essen Games Fair '05) and basically you see "new" players always making the same mistake.
They do NOT use their given materials (i.e. starting formation) to give their opponent a good measure of pressure right from the start. Often they begin with equipping items (2-Handed Sword as a first action) or even playing characters.
"Blitz wins! " This simple sentence came from a former World Champion (I seem to have forgotten his name, but he was French) and well, it's true.
Even if your deck is not a blitz deck (and you are NOT starting Defiance or playing a weird combo which takes an awful amount of time), attacking or using aggressive orders (e.g. PRINTED ranged strikes from your first level characters) is often a good idea.
Why? That's pretty simple. If you spend your first level character he actually might decrease the attack power of your opponent (if you hit) and your spent character loses the always given "HIT ME"-mark on his forehead.
Thus attacking/spending with your first level characters is a good idea right at the start of a new game. Of course you COULD also use second rank starter to put pressure on your opponent, but mostly your second rank is in a more safe state than your first (exceptions could be: Lorik, Temb'w'bam, Percy Dorn etc.).
Save the cards in your hand for a later situation (reads: until you don't expect your opponent to have strikes left or your characters are all spent), because they might surprise your opponent (why playing Blast if you still have a ready Artheon in your first rank?) and your cards in your hand are mostly (unless you face Raziel or Dallen) safe.

II. Character speed
If you construct a new deck, always think about the impact of characters you include. Most of the level 1 characters are better choices than level 2 characters without ranged strikes or other actions they can take on their first turn. They can DO something in the turn they entered and thus they are "faster". Of course there are examples of level 2 characters (ranged strikes or other impact on the game like Labour) which deny the rule.
In early CE environment level 4/5 characters were better than level 3 characters, because all of them (3,4,5) needed the same time to affect the game from the first rank (again, there are other examples like the Halos which don't need to be in the first rank to be effective). Level 3 characters (without further given ressources like steeds) need two turns to reach the front rank. Level 4/5 characters were often stunned to the front and thus needed two turns to be ready again.
As you can see, both groups (3's and 4/5's) needed 2 turns to impact the game from the front. In EE this will change at least a bit, because the new rule which I like to call "global Cerebrul" (stunned characters falling forward suffer a wound) and we don't know whether the new environment will receive the same amount of readying tech (By Your Word, Sister Amanda etc.), but still level 3 characters will often be inferior to level 4 characters.

to be continued...

I hope you enjoyed my first blogging attempt and I hope my style of writing doesn't hurt you native speakers (keep in mind, English is only my third language!)
Next time I'll try to use less ( )

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Lady Luck is a Moody Wench

I am known, in some circles, as a devilishly "lucky" player. While I have witnessed friends ritualistically bless their dice with their own blood in order to bring the luck factor under control, a few basic insights into the way that probability works might suggest more practical ways of coping (and give my opponents some insights into why I seem to be so damn lucky all the time).

Let us begin with a simple idea: Lady Luck is highly susceptible to mood swings. Aside from tasteless stereotyping, what exactly do I mean by that?

Well, say you flip a coin six times. Of the three possible outcomes below, which is more probable?

  1. H T H T H T
  2. T T T T T T
  3. H H H T T T

If you answered "1," you're wrong. If you answered "2," you're also wrong. And "3"? Nope, that's not the correct answer, either.

All outcomes are equally likely.

To see why, let's simplify things a bit. Say you flip a coin twice. There are four possible outcomes:

  1. H T
  2. T H
  3. H H
  4. T T

Each of the four outcomes is equally likely. You'll note that two of them contain one heads and one tails. You've got a better chance of getting a mix of heads and tails than straight heads or straight tails. But no specific sequence of flips is more likely than any other.

I won't waste your time writing out all 64 possible unique combinations of the six flips we started with. But note that there are only two possible outcomes of those 64 that contain strictly alternating heads and tails:

  1. H T H T H T
  2. T H T H T H

All the rest of the combinations contain at least two heads or two tails in a row. Lots of them contain more than that. This means that, most of the time, when you go to flip a coin, you'll see runs of heads or tails.

If we replace "heads" with "a roll of 11 or better" and "tails" with "a roll of 10 or less," you begin to see that you should expect runs of "good" rolls or "bad" rolls over the course of any Warlord game. Unfortunately, since any particular sequence of rolls is just as likely as any other, it's impossible to predict how long the runs will be or when they will occur.

What this means is that you're going to have to build a deck that can deal with runs of bad luck. I don't mean that you should have a contingency plan for the occasional statistical anomaly. I mean that you have to realize that, while you might get about an even number of bad and good rolls over the course of the tourney, they're going to come in fits and starts and runs, and your deck is going to have to be able to suck it up and win anyway, even if you have those first turns where you can't hit anything, and your opponent makes every strike.

In other words, don't plan for the "ideal" situation -- where you're expecting a neat little row of alternating good and bad rolls. I see a lot of people make this mistake; their decks generally fall apart come tourney time. Instead, prepare for the more likely situation, which is that you're sometimes going to roll 3 20s in a row, and other times not be able to roll above a 4 to save you life.

You already know some of the ways to cope: big bonuses to the roll, making as many strikes as possible, using cards to fix the roll to a pre-determined result.

More import than that is to keep in the fore of your mind the knowledge that this is how probability works . Don't get flustered by it. I see far too many players psych themselves out and lose a game because of a few bad rolls.

If you just rolled the 3rd 4 in a row, realize that the Good Lady is just a bit grumpy at the moment. Instead of throwing dice, cards, and/or sharp objects, keep a cool head and play through it. Her mood could change at any moment, and you need to have the presence of mind to see it and take advantage of it when the rolls start going your way again.

~ PeteVG
Rogue Elf

The Guest slot

Alongside our regular contributors, we'll also be inviting occasional columns from other well known or capable players. Sometimes, some of those 'guest' columnists may be selected to have their own, regular column.