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Petri Wessman's weblog

Still alive...

Long silence here, but the blog’s not dead yet; it’s just been an… eventful time and I haven’t had time or energy to tackle my review backlog yet. As you’ve seen, that’s mostly what’s here nowadays: reviews. The everyday stuff and notes I used to put here now tend to go to Google+ (or Facebook), but I still prefer a standalone platform like this for articles (like reviews).

Anyway, taking care of Saiga (now over 4 months old!) has been a bit taxing at times, even though she’s a sweet and easy kid – whatever the case, it’s still a bit of work and a serious loss of available free time.

Then there was a stupid thing, a serious accident. We were working clearing some lakeside shrubs at our country place, and we got the bright idea of using gasoline to light the bonfire. Well, one thing led to another, the gasoline had time to vaporize into the surrounding air, and I went to light the thing carelessly… boom, one huge fireball which enveloped me. T-shirt protected my body, but my face and arms got scorched badly (2nd degree burns all over). Now, three weeks later, I’m starting to be ok, but it was a painful affair. Could have been a lot worse of course (I managed to close my eyes and didn’t breathe in the flames), so there’s that.

Then we had Ropecon, and the big VTES tournament there. At 90 players it was both a huge success and also one of the biggest ones we’ve had. Everything went really well, and the win went to Otso Saariluoma. I’ll post a tournament report to vekn.net (and maybe link it here) once I get it written, but that will have to wait till next weekend, since…

… we’re now leaving for a week-long sailing trip in the Turku archipelago. First time at sea with Saiga, will be interesting to see how it goes.

So that’s that. Between childcare, a gasoline fireball, and a huge tournament to organize (plus tons of other stuff), my review queue had stood still for a while now. It’ll get moving again, a bit later.

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I went to the Paris VTES EC, and all I got was...

…ousted, mostly.

The EC was a lot of fun, and I’d (again) like to thank the organizers for the huge effort they put into it. Sure, the hotel was more of a youth hostel, but the prices were cheap, the staff friendly and the playing area had enough room. What more could you ask for? Well, decent food, for starters, but there was a reason that we skipped the “hotel” lunch/dinner stuff and went out to seek food in nearby restaurants. Lots of good little restaurants to be found there, after some amount of searching.

Anyway, the actual EC was once more a blast, and a hectic three days of nearly nonstop gaming and very little sleep. I think I slept around 6 hours per night usually, with Sunday night hitting a rock bottom of 2.5 hours of sleep – the end party and casual games just dragged on and on, and suddenly it was 6am with the wakeup call around 8.30am. Duh. It was great to meet people once again, and everyone was really nice both in-game and out. Sure, the EC games did get somewhat intense at times, but the atmosphere stayed very friendly. I like that.

This time around I tried using rush decks for the Last Chance and EC Day 1 games. It didn’t really work, though the games were a lot of fun and I did enjoy the table control and negotiating possibilities the rush decks gave me. Last Chance with g5/6 Gargoyles gave me 1VP, and EC Day 1 with G5 Ahrimanes / !Gangrel got me 0.5VP. So nothing to write home about, point-wise. Well, it was a fun experiment in any case.

The First Chance qualifier was a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t really sure what to play in it, but one of the decks I had along as more a “casual deck” managed to win a table in a casual game, so I decided to tweak it a small bit (added a bit more defense, mostly) and go with it. To my huge surprise it did very well, scoring me 1GW and 5.5VPs; this left me at #19 of around 150 players, which is by far the best score I’ve ever gotten in an EC game… and it also got me a qualification for next year. Yay!. It was not a “power deck” by any means, and maybe that’s why it worked for me: it didn’t look like any sort of a table threat. Based around Obfuscate Black Hands and Marijava Thuggees, it mostly just bleeds for 1 multiple times (with lots of stealth) and tries to look innocent. Sure, luck was a factor here, but then it always is in this game. The last game (which yielded me 1.5VPs) was awesome; for a long time it looked like a zero VP game, but due to amazing twists of luck (a critical Delaying from my prey, top-decking a Ministry, having a Confusion of the Eye on hand at just the right moment, etc etc) I managed to oust my prey and hang on until the timeout, with two players on the table having a deal to oust me. I should have gotten ousted many times over, but somehow I wasn’t. It was a really fun game.

I stayed in Paris for an extra day along with some other Finns, so on Monday we did around 12 hours of touristy stuff: the Père Lachaise Cemetery, the Louvre, Notre Dame and finally the Eiffel Tower at night (we took the stairs to the midpoint level, quite a climb). Nice day, but our feet were killing us by the time we got back. The initial idea was to (finally!) grab some sleep, but as luck would have it yet another Finn had a problem with too many bottles of wine etc in his room which needed drinking. So we did the civilized thing and helped the guy out, and suddenly it was 2am again. Ho hum.

Tuesday, we hit the Catacombs in the morning, and then headed towards the airport. Good trip, all in all, and I do like Paris. My French remains extremely primitive, but even in that primitive form it was handy now and then. In a group in which nobody else speaks any French at all, even simple French gets you pretty far. Oh, and I managed to snag a copy of the new French version of Call of Cthulhu’s “Beyond the Mountains of Madness” (Par-delà les Montagnes Hallucinées ). Looks awesome. Now I just need to (significantly!) improve my French in order to read the thing…

Marko Saari has a pile of pictures from the EC online.

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Off to the EC!

So far so good. Despite warnings from the airline about the French general strike, our flight to Paris is still showing up as scheduled. Near midnight today we’ll hopefully be set up at the EC site, drinking something cool and alcoholic and playing a casual game of VTES. Or not. Baji-naji.

…then it’s up sometime before 8am, some breakfast, and the first of three full days of tournament play. Sleep is for the weak.

Back next week.

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VTES going into torpor, again

As most people who care will already know, White Wolf is ceasing production of VTES. While not totally unexpected (I had heard rumors of licensing issues before), it’s still sad as hell. I’ve played this game on and off for 16 years now, and have been organizing increasingly large tournaments for the last 10 years or so. In addition, during recent years I’ve also attended European Championship tournaments (in Torino, Göteborg, Prague and Mallorca) and have met a bunch of very cool people (and gotten my ass kicked in-game by them). After hearing this news early Saturday morning, the rest of the weekend went by in a fairly melancholy mood. I’m far from the only one; Ben Swainbank writes about his feelings on hearing the news, as does extrala.

As far as I know, the final nail in the coffin (so to speak) was the expiration of the game license (from Wizards of the Coast, for the Deckmaster rules). Apparently WotC would have wanted significantly more money than before, and even though VTES has always been profitable for White Wolf, apparently this would not have kept it profitable enough. In addition, VTES does not fit in very well with WW/CCP’s new mostly-digital publishing direction, and of course it’s based on the old World of Darkness to boot. White Wolf did try to find licensing partners for the game, but apparently that fell through; companies are wary of CCGs, and this one comes with two separate license issues. So… in the end, WotC managed to kill this game twice, once directly and once indirectly.

Sure, it’s still possible that it will rise from the grave sometime in the future. It did so once in the past. However, the chances of that are quite slim; you’d need a company willing to juggle two licenses and invest quite a bit of money. I suspect White Wolf would be quite willing to give decent deals on the license (provided a reasonable business plan), but WotC/Hasbro is another matter entirely.

All that said: the sky is not falling. The game still exists, we have tons of cards (there are an amazing twenty expansions to this game, in addition to the original Jyhad/VTES set), and many of the sets are still available in game stores and via the net. It will take a while before that dries up, so newcomers will still be able to get cards quite easily. Of course, selling a new gamer on a game which is no longer being produced is a bit of a hard sell… but the reason VTES has survived this long is that it’s simply a damn good game. That counts for a lot, in the long run. Right now, right here, the cancellation of the game means little in practice. Some years down the road, when card supplies run low, getting new players will be difficult. On the other hand, it’s already a bit difficult, VTES needs an investment of time and money to get to grips with, and an interest in complex social game mechanics. It’s not an “instant gratification” game, and never was.

To their credit, White Wolf has announced that they’ll still be providing tournament support for a year, and tournaments have always been mostly fan-run anyway. Perhaps now that the game moves even more into the “fan-supported” bracket, we’ll finally get a working ranking system and all the stuff White Wolf failed to provide. The rules are in great shape, thanks to diligent work by LSJ and the rules team, and the tweaks needed to the game are very few. As discussed in the newsgroup, we may want to do something about group 6 vampires (to make them more playable now that we’re not getting more group 6 support), but that’s a minor issue. I’ll still keep organizing tournaments and playing, I think this game has many, many years left before it’s really gone.

It’s only dead when people stop playing, and I don’t see that happening for a good long while yet.

Oh, and to state the obvious: a huge thanks is in order for all the people who helped make the game what it is today: LSJ, Oscar, Robyn, Lasombra, Robert Goudie, and everyone else. You know who you are. And I expect to still play some games with you in the future. :)

(Awesome ‘Crying Ossian’ design is by Jozxyqk, sorry about forgetting to credit it originally).

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Survived vacation

Well, I’m back at work, after a (short) 2-week vacation. It’s nice and peaceful here, as opposed to the hectic (but very fun) vacation schedule. And the office has air conditioning, which is a win these days.

We spent the first weekend in Joensuu, at Isosaarirock. Very nice rock festival, and nice trip overall. The hotel was an “eco-hotel”, which proved to be bad on Friday when we arrived: “eco” meant no air conditioning and poor ventilation, resulting in a room temperature easily in the 30s (C). We finally managed to sleep without dying of overheating by (also) leaving the room door open to the corridor. The temps dropped a bit the next days so it wasn’t so bad, but… that place really wasn’t built to handle heat waves. Nice enough otherwise.

The festival itself was good. Nice selection of bands and a wide cross-section of genres. We listened to everything from big band jazz to heavy metal and (Finnish!) rap. I primarily went there to see Imogen Heap (she was good), but many other gigs were also very much worth seeing and listening to. My feet were killing me near the end; 12 hours or so of standing / bounding about in soleless shoes (Feelmax) starts to get to you. We got a bit of a sunburn, but nothing too bad… and the beach there was awesome. You could wade in the water or go for a swim, while seeing and hearing the band on stage at the same time.

Imogen Heap seemed happy about the very positive reception she got (she hasn’t been here before), so I’m hoping she’ll do a “proper” tour with a Finnish concert at some point. It would be great to see her in a more focused environment.

The following week our house started filling up with guests. A lot of EVE players were coming to Finland for Ropecon, and we housed some at our place. Actually, we still do, I think the last of them leaves tomorrow. We also got well-known VTES “celebrity” player over (I’ve met him before at ECs), who got crash space on the floor on a mattress since our guest bedroom and sofa were already occupied my others. Fun guys all, and it’s fun to have the house full of people. Well, now and then it is, anyway ;)

Last weekend was Ropecon, of course. I ran the big VTES tournament on Friday, and it went very well. Excellent turnout with 93 players, and we also had a record number of foreign players attending. The win went to Otso Saariluoma, with the final round ending around 3am. It was a good final round too, with lots of stuff happening all the time. I’ll write up a full tournament report during the next week or so, with details on all that.

On Saturday I played in the VTES draft (fun, but only got 1 VP total), then caught some random program events and finally stumbled home to sleep for an all-too-short while. Sunday back to the con area to listen to Guy Windsor’s traditional “Realities of Steel” thing, and then an 8-hour info desk shift. So the con went well, though this year most of it went towards VTES for me.

…and now it’s (slowly) back to normal routine. That’s not a bad thing, as such. The kittehs will miss having a million people around the house, though, they’ve grown used to always having a human around who has time to pet them.

Busy

It’s been a semi-hectic few weeks. Oh, fun, and almost all of the “hectic” part has been due to various hobbies and stuff like that. Still, I’m left feeling a slight bit frazzled and thankful that this week looks more sane. Maybe I’ll just get time to curl up with a book, or something..

The weekend before was spent mostly in the forest, at a paintball war weekend organized by a friend. Good fun and nice exercise, and some of the scenarios were especially cool (notably the VIP escort one, where I was gunned down by “terrorists” but the VIP survived by doing an very fast “duck and cover”). Extra thanks to the cooks on site, the food was delicious and there was tons of it.

This weekend was also full of stuff: on Saturday I ran the Battle Lines storyline VTES tournament in Otaniemi. We has 16 players and the win went to Aleksi Nuora with his True Brujah deck. Nice work. I’ll post a short tournament report about that in the newsgroup soonish. Yesterday I ran Exalted for most of the day, which is always fun but also pretty exhausting. The previous week went into a combo of game prep, toying with the new “Planetary Interaction” thingy in EVE, the Roxy Music concert on Thursday, and just… stuff.

I’m slowly gearing up to run a limited Dark Heresy campaign, based on the fairly interesting Haarlock’s Legacy pregen campaign series. Character generation is next week, after that we’ll see what happens to mutants, aliens and other Enemies of the Empire. It’s possible that all that happens is “they get nice things to snack on”.

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10 trillion boxes of cards on the wall...

Though it was a pleasant weekend as such, I was feeling seriously under the weather with some lightweight-but-tiring flu strain… not properly sick, but tired, head-achey and generally “meh”. That meant that I also stayed in for most of the weekend.

…which meant that on Sunday I finally got around to doing some organizing on my tons and tons of VTES cards. Oh, they were more or less in general order to begin with, but I had 3 boxes of new(ish) cards waiting to be filed and my card storage space is/was running low so I needed to weed out extra cards. Started “work” sometime before noon, and I was still at it close to midnight (with some breaks in between). Did manage to sort most of the stuff, though, and now I have a huge pile of commmons (& some uncommons) I’ll probably just donate to someone. Some cards I have way too many of.

Now that the heavy lifting has been done, I can finally get around to building some new decks based on the new Heirs to the Blood cards. Lots of potentially fun stuff there.

Otherwise, I’m waiting for this white stuff to disappear from the ground. Winter is fine and all, but I’m really looking forward to actual spring and summer now. Our yard still has ridiculous amounts of snow, and the kittehs are quite annoyed at us since their yard is full of cold, wet crap. I also want to get a new set of summer tires for my car, but most shops are still only showing “prices will be up Real Soon Now” signs and anyway, I can’t switch tires before it’s reliably above zero at night (ice and summer tires mix badly).

Oh, and I caved in and bought Mass Effect 2. It took most of Sunday to load (via Steam), I had that going while I was doing card organizing. Only got around to playing it around midnight, played around an hour before going to bed. Looks pretty nice. The controls have changed a bit, but otherwise the gameplay seems similar and the initial plot twist is interesting. We’ll see how it develops.

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Gaming weekend

Busy weekend.

On Saturday I ran a release tournament for the new Heirs to the Blood set. Went well; we had 19 players and these release tournament things are always fun. I had personally avoided reading spoilers much at all so for me the cards were largely new surprises, but even for people who had bought some the previous week (when it went on sale) it was probably the first chance to actually play with them.

The win went to Tuomas Vuokko, playing with Salubri Antitribu. Tuomas has been in torpor for almost a year now due to suffering a bunch of pretty horrific real-life events… but he decided to join this at the last minute and proceeded to win the whole thing. As an amusing side, all the players with game wins were playing Kiasyd/Lasombra, Tuomas was the only one able to get a game win with something else. Impressive.

Sunday I ran another segment of my ongoing Exalted game. I had done quite a bit of prep, due to having no real certainty of how the players would react to the things I threw at them… so even though I suspected they’d go for Plan A, I also had to have Plans B,C and D available in some form. Mostly things went as I had suspected (though there were a few surprises). The gang is now in the Northern Wyld Borderlands, planning an assault on a massive Pale Hunter fortification, all because a young Lunar managed to land on their lap.

I was pretty happy with the thing, especially since a major part of it had been written from scratch.

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Back from the EC

So, the VTES 2009 European Championships are now over, and we’re back from Palma de Mallorca (Spain). Us Finns didn’t score too well this time around (with a couple of exceptions), but otherwise the trip was a blast. Flying from cold, dark and drizzly Finland to warm and sunny Mallorca was a nice beginning, and for once the hotel actually did live up to expectations and pictures. The rooms were nice (our apartment suite was close to the pools), the food was excellent, the staff friendly, and in general almost everything went smoothly. The games did have a tendency to start very much behind schedule, but since I could spend that time sipping sangrias on the sunny terrace I didn’t mind too much.

I was already qualified (thanks to running the Ropecon tournament), so on Friday I decided to play in the sideline “Friday the 13th” tournament, organized by Tiago and Teresa. Was a lot of fun, though my Akunanse deck wasn’t quite up to the challenge; managed to scrape together two half-VPs due to two timeouts. The storyline rules did slow the game down a bit, so we had more timeouts than normal. Still, had a lot of fun. I thought I was packing a lot of combat, but the first round stuck between Matt’s Potence rush deck and someone else’s celerity gun intercept deck taught me differently.

Saturday it was time for the EC day one tournament. I picked my Anarch Cry Wolf Khazar deck for this… it has a lot of bounce, some rush, and I thought it might have a chance. Well, it didn’t work out, the day ended with zero VPs. There were a few close calls where I almost got a VP, but “almost” doesn’t count. In the end, the deck (though decent) wasn’t quite resilient enough and it was simply too slow for this metagame. Lots of powerbleed, fast votes (Panders etc) and other fast, brutal decks. Oh well. The games were fun in any case, and everyone was very nice and sportsmanlike. After talking about it, I got some nice ideas from Janne and other people, and have since tweaked the deck to be more efficient – dropped it down to 80 cards, tightened up the combat module, etc.

Sunday was the First Chance tournament, where I tried out my !Toreador/Daughters tap&bleed deck. Still not all that much luck, but things went a bit better: got 1 VP on the third round, and both of the first games had me with my prey at one pool. One is unfortunately a lot more than zero, but still… I’m pretty happy with how the deck performed in general. In hindsight, I probably would have gotten another VP if I had played my hand (a combo of tap cards, Freak Drive, and Siren’s Lure) a bit differently. I’ve since also modified this deck, also paring it down to 80 cards and hopefully making it run a bit more tightly. Will need more playtesting.

Janne had better luck, he was playing his deadly Fortitude weenie horror all weekend. He almost made it to EC day 2, which is very well done. On the other hand, lots of normally high-scoring Finns ended up at around my number of VPs (i.e. zero-to-one). Weird.

As traditional, I didn’t get all that much sleep. Usually went to bed around 2am after playing all day and night and drinking quite a bit on the side…. and then it’s up before 8am, in time to register for the next day’s games and eat breakfast. Still, those 6 hours proved to be enough, I wasn’t totally zoned out or anything. We played quite a few games with Team Denmark (great guys), with some of the games held at out apartment suite – we had a fridge, lots of salmiakkivodka & beer, and two game-worthy tables. Luxury.

So. Great trip, really felt like a vacation (despite lack of sleep and little real “rest” at any point). If was great to meet and play with lots of fun people once again (LSJ&Oscar, we demand that Imbued toilet paper!). Huge thanks to Ginés for organizing this, and to everyone else who helped. Meeting the Portugese guys was great, thanks Tiago and others! Likewise for the Italians, thanks Paolo and everyone for great company and fun games. Even though not everyone could speak all that much English (hey, my Italian is worse!), things worked out.

This was probably the best EC so far, for me. The sunshine and sangria helped.

Extrala brings us some VTES EC essential vocabulary, along with results and some pictures.

Oh, and Scott is a Cylon. Duh.

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