Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been a little quiet for a while.
Well… I’ve recently been in Hospital for an operation. Don’t worry – it was a straight forward procedure; the condition was moderate and the Op will hopefully serve as an improvement to my quality of life – not in any way life threatening.
What this has meant though is;
a. I’ve not played any Dice Masters for a little while and will not be playing any for a few weeks yet, and;
b. I’ve not been writing much as I’ve been in strict “bed rest” mode and done a LOT of sleeping this last week!
Never fear though: today we have some new guest bloggers in the form of Paul Fullwood, UK National runner up 2016 and his son, Seth.
Paul & Seth were a Father & Son pair of Dice Masters players I met for the first time at the UK Nationals and was pleased to discover were local to me. I was interested in Paul & Seth’s experiences as a family of players and asked if they would put something together to share their journey in the game so far.
I’ll be back soon with a looong overdue event re-cap I played before my Op, in the meantime – over to Paul & Seth…
Firstly, thanks go to Chris for the invitation to put together this, our first – hopefully not too piecemeal – blog effort. He mentioned wanted an angle that covered Father/Son gaming experiences, so myself and my boy, Seth, set to it this week. Obviously, there is a heavy Dice Masters angle to our blathering, though be warned I’ll be throwing in references to other games along the way. Any passages that follow that seem dry and ill thought out: I’d like to say that Seth is to blame for those, but to be honest he’s a better writer than what I is.
For me gaming has always been there. Not always board games, even something like charades at family get-togethers would scratch the itch, but putting together a complicated chrome-filled board game construct (Treasure of the Pharaohs – by Palitoy –I’m thinking of you) was always such a thrill for me as a kid. And dice. You weren’t playing a proper game unless you were chucking dice. You’ll have to picture a world here pre-Settlers of Catan, dear reader.
When Seth was old enough to throw dice and not swallow them (!) the poor lad had no chance: he would be my gaming partner. My better-half in this tale will join in a co-op, maybe, with a little cajoling, and as long as it can done within the hour, but is not an “enthusiastic” convert. So, Seth was primed as soon as the rules could be absorbed to play Zombie Dice/Martian Dice (they’re completely different!!). We then moved on to Elder Sign: co-op dice rolling/ace phone app, and the monumentally impressive two-player tile laying Claustrophobia (the “murderers on day-release fighting demon-hordes” theme may not be appropriate for some families) before I went and purchased the game that would open us up to the world of organised play…not Dice Masters, but…
King of Tokyo! A quick, fun, easy to grasp monster-tastic , dice-a-thon. A few weeks after purchase our FLGS – FanBoy3 – advertised a KoT tournament. Seth was nine at the time, I think, and we nervously headed into Manchester with no idea what to expect from a large, hairy cohort of scary, ultra-competitive gamer types.
We were the only two there.
Dave (store owner) didn’t charge us any fee and handed over the promo Space Penguin straight away: best of three death-match (I threw in a winner takes all £3 to spice it up).
End result? To this day Seth remains the King of Tokyo North-West Regional Champion.
At least in our house.
Now… the Dice Masters section! At the UK Games Expo 2014, playing a game of Eldritch Horror, we began chatting about Elder Sign and the pleasure of rolling fistfuls of dice; the demonstrator asked us if we had heard about a new game, receiving loads of plaudits: Dice Masters. We said no, but within a few weeks, despite that initial set always being sooo hard to come by, we had our hands on a second-hand copy of an AvX Starter Set courtesy of Phil at FB3, and we were off.
Every trip to a FLGS, from there on in, ended up with us coming out with a clutch of boosters, the two us simply playing at home until the first OP came around, a few months down the line. We were both thrashed, from memory. Truth be told: I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience. I can’t speak for Seth, though he remained keen to return to future OP events. From his point of view: rare cards on offer for turning up as well as 24 more boosters for our collection. Back in the day: certain (Super Rare) cards ruled, and without them your chance of success was limited. The third tournament, I think, is where we took it seriously: we turned up with a Tsarina and Gobby each, to build our teams around. The event – hybrid constructed – was attended by a store-high turnout of 18 players, and because of this Seth and me barely saw each other during six hours-plus of play. I did OK-ish, but my jaw hit the floor when the winner was announced. Seth had gone and swept away every team he came up against! I was staggered and couldn’t have been more proud. He was 10 at the time, and I know Dice Masters is hardly Mage Knight or Twilight Struggle, but it isn’t Ludo either. It is a relatively complex, nuanced and tactically rich game and he was the youngest there by ten or fifteen years. A warm round of applause followed as the card prizes were handed out. After that performance it became the game we played together nearly exclusively and we set out to collect every card we could lay our hands on. My wallet has never recovered.
We saw the announcement of the DM tournament at Expo 2015 and nervously entered. Except at home, with the two us, we almost never played constructed. The store was Rainbow draft nearly exclusively and even without hindsight I knew we were woefully under-prepared. Websites and podcasts were our only source of tips and strategy. We knew that the Constantine Hellblazer super-rare was going to be a really, really useful card for any build and sorting through our second of two gravity feeds, with no red striped Constantine in sight, Seth opened the penultimate pack as depression was setting in and out popped John! Ace! He is also one of my favourite comic characters, merely adding personal value to this card. We still needed a second copy and the wallet was prised open with two weeks to go, forking out £45 for the duplicate. Imagine my delight when Seth put his team together and did NOT include Hellblazer in it. He is a stubborn boy (Mum’s fault) and simply would not budge. He had a team, he had a plan. Unless the Reserve Pool podcast said otherwise there was no way he was listening to me, screaming at him to put in the Hellblazer! This has become a theme. We argued/debated about team construction for days leading up to the Expo. Playing games that were finishing at 10.30pm on school nights; Bad Dad!!
At midnight in the hotel, the night before the opening games, we were still changing our teams with late inclusions from the newly released Faerun set (thanks, Wizkids). We were setting ourselves up for a fall. We fell. Crushed.
When I read Ben’s blog entry (he is this year’s UK winner) referring to the 2015 Expo I was amazed/amused to see that we had both built teams around the rare Colossus – Piotr Rasputin; a year later and we would end up building very similar teams again. There will be a great team with him involved at some point still, I’m sure. In fact I was still making variations on a Piotr team within a few weeks of this year’s event (Seth’s stubbornness comes ONLY from his Mum don’t forget!) but at the moment Piotr is simply too slow against tier one teams.
We had a good time overall and not making top-cut certainly didn’t put Seth off wanting to continue with the game (continually trying to drag a couple of school friends into the murky dice rolling world) and we were always going to try again the following year, bank balance dependent.
Over the next year we still only played rainbow draft in OP events with our (too small) set of hard-core players and not putting in the hours of team building/testing required. Then we discovered VASSAL. This became a great resource to throw teams together and play test with each other fairly easily, once the clunky controls were mastered, and we could even play against, and watch games played by, the folks we were taking top tips from in the world-wide (US/Canada) DM community.
The big down-side for me was that the cards we were amassing in huge numbers, as the sets kept rolling out, no longer needed sleeving/binding and we were drowning in unsorted cards for the whole period of VASSAL use. When travelling to the Expo this year: good god, I regretted this. We simply had to cart around so many unsorted boxes of cards and lunch boxes full of dice to make sure we had the majority of potential team combinations covered when it came down to final team selection. I still miss the fact that VASSAL is no longer updated, but at least Seth has put the hours in to sort through our collection!
Despite our Father vs Son practise sessions having begun far earlier than 2015 I was still sure we up for trouncing in this year’s National (a fun trouncing, but still: a trouncing). I was struggling to put together over-complicated team constructs involving the OP reward card Apocalypse – Earth 295 or a new version of the Piotr Rasputin team from 2015 or even a team revolving around two iterations of Obelisk from Yu-Gi-Oh. I could never decide whether to go with the super-rare or the uncommon; either way – too slow!
I tried playing Guy-rush and the Parallax-Gobby combo, as well as the Lantern Ring construct, but I’m simply not a technically competent enough player to win with them reliably. Seth had no such doubts. He wanted an Avengers-based team. Tsarina was in, as was Green Goliath in a combo with Nick Fury – Patch. Silver Sable (Hero for Hire) was the character that would provide the potentially unblockable double damage. The newcomer to this team was Civil War Loki – Black Sheep. In a store draft Seth had played with this version of Loki and noticed the key addition of the “Avengers” team affiliation on the card. That settled it. Seth has always been a Loki fan (within this game, but especially from the movies), add in his defence switching ability which fits in so well with Patch and Sable, and Seth was good to go!
I should mention here a call-back to the Hellblazer (“We NEED two, Dad!!”) farce of the previous year. This year’s super-rare “we need one each, definitely” card was Magneto – Magnetic Monster. I didn’t fall for it this year (the eight red-stripe cards per set meant the days of having a card each for every card were over… unless I won the lottery). As predicted, Seth had no place for Magneto in his team when it boiled down to it, but I was determined to use the card in whatever squad I had: a £30-plus newly acquired card was not sitting unused in a binder yet again.
I knew, though, having seen the Bard (B*&^!*d Bard!!) team articles and heard the podcasts that the teams built around him were going to be hard to stop. I put together my comedic Apocalypse team and even won a couple of games against Seth’s Avengers’ build. I knew his team was not quick enough to be totally competitive. This was the Wednesday before we played at the expo on Friday, and I set about putting together a Bard team for Seth to play with: THAT Bard card, Elf-Thief (Lesser Harper) and Oracle (Master Investigator) were a fabulous core, for reasons that everyone who has played the game will be familiar with. Magneto was in, as was Constantine. The dilemma for the both of us this year with Constantine was do we ditch the Hellblazer for Antihero? I know I was worried about the Ring teams out there, even though I had only seen one in competitive play at an event in Sheffield, as well as things like Imprisoned and Prismatic Spray that were doing the rounds. We took two of each and would decide the morning of the game which ones to go with. Slight spoiler: I think I chose the wrong one!
The rest of the Bard team I was hoping Seth would take was, initially, filled out with Clay Golem (Lesser), Dwarf Wizard (Paragon), and Prof X (RYM). I ummed and aahed about incuding Nightwing (Flying Grayson) rather than Magneto, and Ronin (Between Employers) became a late replacement for Clay Golem in Sunday’s team after having seen him perform so well in Draft against Seth on the Saturday. My Basic Actions on Friday were, IIRC, Magic Missile and Transfer Power. I changed the latter for Teleport on Sunday to give me a chance of correcting any poor rolls of that single Magnetic Monster die. Unlike Polymorph my opponent could not use my own BAC against me. Possibly a ”dead” card though, in this team to be honest.
The Bard team was good. Very good. Even in my hands (as Seth would repeat ad nauseam: “You’re playing it wrong…. again”) I could win many more games than I lost against his Avenger build, but still he refused to change his mind (his Mum is the stubborn one, remember). It was now the Thursday night before the tournament start. Nothing I was saying was going to make him try this team out in competitive play. Fair play to him: he had a team that he had made, no net-decking of any description and he liked the Avengers’ synergy he had assembled (pun intended) and he just plain liked Loki.
So, I ditched the Apocalypse and Piotr team ideas that would have been fun, maybe, and definitely given me plenty of time to explore the expo trade halls, with lots of free time (!) and I decided I would pilot this Half-Elf Bard collective, if only to show Seth that I could play it “right” now and again.
Our build up to Expo was so much better this year, even though we were only a fraction more organised; we had begun to practise far earlier, we had settled on our teams before midnight (!) and played out games, pointing out aloud our tactical decisions and thinking behind different dice picks. You know, the kind of thing that every other player has been doing since the day after they opened a starter set…
Part Two coming soon…