We didn’t intend to go this year, with the house purchase killing our finances and available vacation time being uncertain. Bu then… we started looking at vacations and thinking “hmm, I guess we could sqeeze in 2 weeks in there”, and “well, it’s not that expensive, all things considered”. And “we really need a proper vacation”. And…
So now we have flights to San Francisco booked, and are heading for the playa once more, along with two other co-conspirators. No huge detours this time: we fly to SF, rent a minivan or some such, shop around (in Sacramento, probably), and head for the desert. On the way back we’ll probably drop by Hot Creek (yay!), Death Valley and (perhaps fittingly) Disneyland. We’ll see. We have a car and several days to fill, no need to make binding plans.
We might be hooking up with the Group W / Math Camp guys this year round, looking forward to that – they were good folks. Also need to email other people we’ve met the last couple of times and see if we can manage to meet up again. It’s always a bit random trying to meet specific people among 35k+, but it usually seems to work out somehow. Serendipity.
This year I think I’ll be walking around quite a bit, with camera and monopod. Methinks this is the ideal workout for our newish 70-200 L-series IS zoom lens. Also want to take some early-morning walks with camera, you get some nice shots that way. Always time to sleep a bit later when the sun is in “deep fry” mode.
Otherwise, life goes on. This weekend I think we’ll start actual work on Operation Cat Alcatraz, stay tuned.
Was out playing VTES at Valtteri again last night. First game I had a new experimental deck out: Alicia Barrows and friends recruit Escaped Mental Patients & Muddles, and Alicia Inspires them to great deeds (4 aggravated / 6 first strike, in particular). Alicia also votes, and Sennadurek uses Emergency Rations (and Consume the Dead) to chow down dead allies and bloat. I actually won the game with that, though largely it was due to fortunate table position. A bit unexpected. Second game also resulted in game win with my Sebastian deck. It works pretty well, but still has trouble reliably getting intercept on the table (and pool gain is also a problem). Will need to tweak some more. Third game had me in a worst-case position, with my Temptation deck between two rush decks. Ouch. Managed to last a while due to table politics, but it was a losing proposition from the start. Good fun, though did get home a bit late (around 1.15am). Yawn.
Good weekend, if a bit strange; I didn’t have anything scheduled, but it still feels like I did a ton of stuff. Most of that was very “mainstream Espoo home owner” stuff… mowing the lawn, doing some garden work, painting some parts of the patio with wood-protection oil stuff, etc. We raided a hardware store and now have 10m of steel netting (meant for mink cages) rolled up and waiting for us to start the cat-proofing of the yard. Halfway intended to start that yesterday, but with one thing and another never got around to it; too many other things to do first. In addition, some people came over last evening and we just sat around on the patio, eating grilled stuff and drinking wine. Life could be worse.
The yard cat-proofing may be a quixotic endeavour, but what the hell… it might just work. We intend to follow a basic algorithm:
1) plug the obvious holes
2) release cats into yard
3) follow cats and find point where yard leaks cats
4) go to step 1
After a while, we hope to have a relatively cat-escape-proof yard. It may resemble Alcatraz at that point and the neighbors might start to complain about the razor wire, guard towers and floodlights. We’ll see.
Watched the end of season 6 of “24”. Not bad, a fairly solid “part 2” to season 5. Leaves things open for another series, but not as blatantly as season 5. Good entertainment, though the series is starting to repeat itself a bit – only natural, I guess.
My copy of Reign has now shipped from Lulu.com. Should be here by the end of this week. Greg Stolze now has a Reign supplement up for ransom here. I’m not sure if I’ve commented on how cool Fundable is… but if not: it’s cool. It allows anyone to set up a ransom model publication (or whatever), allowing people to pledge money to various projects in a safe fashion.
Like what happened with Promethean, the more I hear about the new Changeling (from White Wolf) the more excited I am about it. Also like Promethean, initially the whole thing didn’t spark my interest much at all. There are now some teasers about the new game premise on WW’s site; it sounds like the WW guys have now written a game about the darker side of the old fae myths, instead of the “bouncy fluffy fantasy creatures” all too evident in the old Changeling. I’m all for that. Also, I’m told by one of the game designers that this clip captures the ideal intended feel of the new game quite well (while having nothing directly to do with White Wolf or their games): Never Woke Up. (by Katy Towell). Much coolness.
Things come and go in waves for me. I haven’t touched EVE for ages now (or other computer games, for that matter). At the moment I’m (still) doing a lot of VTES deck tech, trying to figure out new decks that are a) competitive and b) interesting or unusual. The first isn’t that hard, if the only thing I was interested was tournament scoring I’d just put together a stealth power bleeder, a Parity Shift/PTO stealth voter, or one of the other staple “power” decks. Sadly, winning with something like that wouldn’t give me much satisfaction, so I’m stuck with tinkering with weird card tech and trying to figure out something that works. It’s a testament to the flexibility and balance of this game that there’s lots and lots of stuff to play with, but very hard to put together a deck that flows and actually does what it’s supposed to. Especially since every game is totally different and the table position so important.
Been tinkering with my current decks some more, and last night I put together a !Salubri rush deck. Or, to be more precise, a !Salubri wannabe rush deck; I found out that I’m seriously lacking in Sense Death – I would have liked 12-14 in the deck, but found out I only own 7 copies. Sigh. The deck turned into something more toolboxy that I had intended and probably won’t work at all. I’ll try it out once and probably dismantle it until I get more Sense Death. Annoying that LoB was such a huge set that getting enough copies of even the commons can be a chore…
I also have a new(ish) idea involving a certain !Malk, the Nagaraja clan, and other components. It uses some unconventional tech but might even work. We’ll see.
Totally unrelated to card games, I planted my melon seedlings in the ground, hoping that the weather will now stay warm enough. Never tried to grow melons before, this will probably end in disaster but what the hell. No harm trying, unless I manage to grow Zombie Mutant Melons From Hell – I’m assured by multiple movies and tv series that this is always a possibility when playing with biotech. I’ll need some sort of covering to keep the things warm (until they flower, after which the bees need access). I’ll also need to trim them according to the instructions on the packet – which read like gibberish to me. Why don’t these things come with color PDF instructions, with pictures and diagrams?
So yeah, summer is slowly here. That means I/we need to slowly work on the summer todo-list: decide if we want our house warming on Juhannus or not, clean and oil the patio wood covering, get some wire netting so we can catproof the yard (yeah, right), do something about the cumbersome current physical Internet connection, start proper regular exercise again, get plane tickets for Gothenburg, get Burning Man tickets and associated plane tickets… the list goes on. One thing at a time.
Would help if I had lots of money, but atm I don’t… so that needs some balancing, too. Lots of stuff we’d love to buy for the house, but they will have to wait in the priority queue for a while.
Nice weekend. Even though it was pretty busy and at times exhausting, I had a lot of fun. We headed out Friday evening to Janne’s summer place, packing some VTES tournament decks and lots of card trade folders. Sauna and swim in the lake (about 10 C, brrr), was nice – first lake swim this summer for me.
Anyway, after an soundly slept night at the cabin and some breakfast, we headed to Turku and the EC qualifier tournament. Lots of people there (56 players I think), with people coming from all over Finland.
All in all, I did poorly; only got 0,5 VPs due to a timeout – a combination of my deck not being quite good enough (yet) for that tournament environment, some bad luck, and some mistakes on my part. On the other hand, all the games were lots of fun and the general atmosphere was nice and relaxed. I also got lots of ideas to improve my deck, which is also good.
I was playing my Serpentis/Temporis Temptation machine, which might have been a mistake (or not, hard to say). The first game started up very nicely and I was just about to get to speed when my predator (who had looked about to get ousted by a Lasombra s+b deck) suddenly played Palla Grande and I found myself facing 5 minions, all of which bled for 2 at stealth. In hindsight it was obvious, but I really didn’t see that Palla Grande coming. I had also overextended myself a bit, should have played a bit more conservatively. Oh well.
The second game had me in a nightmare position: predator was a pure Obf/Dem stealth bleeder, and prey was a Tzimisce intercept wall. Between a rock and a hard place, I managed some delaying action (partly thanks to some nice Banishment action from across the table), and almost managed to hold on enough for my Temptations to activate on all of my predator’s vampires (which might have changed the situation a slight bit). Almost doesn’t count, and I got ousted. No real mistakes on my part here, it was just a really crappy starting position for this deck.
The third game went on the longest and gave me my meager half VP (which almost became 1,5 VPs). It also uncovered my stupidest mistake: I had misread a certain Temporis action mod and hadn’t noticed that it also requires Auspex. Head, meet wall. Since my bleed power was based on that card and it was suddenly partly unusable (bleed reduce still worked), I was badly lacking in forward momentum. My predator was Teemu’s Imbued deck, which went on to win the whole tournament – and to my suprise my deck did pretty well against him, staying in the game until timeout. However, because of my lack of bleed power I was unable to oust my Dominate bleed + voter prey, even though I had him on the ropes and he was down to 2 pool when the game ended and I had Temptations ready to activate on his minions; had I gotten my turn, I would have ousted him without problem.
This game also had me do all sorts of mistakes, some stupid and some sort of understandable:
- I forgot to take pool from the edge twice. Stupid.
- I forgot to put Temptation counters on the cards once. Slightly stupid, but no big deal in that tactical situation.
- I totally forgot about Carlton’s special ability (burn Carlton to burn diablerist), and went on to diablerize Marcus Vitel so I could get his Helicopter. Poof goes Hesha, next round. Annoying, but I don’t blame myself that much for it – not many people remember that special, and at least it got rid of both Vitel and Carlton.
- I tried to steal one of Teemu’s Imbued with an Entrancement, even though I fully knew that he had the Conviction card that prevented stealing. No idea why I did that, total brain fart. Stupid waste of an action and an Entrancement that I could have used to bleed.
Sigh. The good thing is that I probably won’t make the same mistakes again soon. Some different ones, sure…
Kudos to Teemu for excellent play, as always, and especially for playing Memories of Mortality on my Synesios. Due to the card wordings, it actually prevents Touch of Pain also, which Teemu realized when he played it and I found out when I tried to use Touch of Pain. Nice (well, not nice for me, but a clever thing to realize).
Janne also did pretty poorly (1 VP total I think), so we decided to call it a day and head back towards Helsinki instead of staying to watch the finals.
The next day I slept pretty late, did some stuff in the garden, and then headed toward town with Janka. We tried to go to see Footlight’s student show (some friends had an acrobatics performance there), but it turned out we had the wrong place; we were at Aleksanterin Teatteri when we should have been in Hakaniemi. Duh. We didn’t have time to make it across town, so we went to Plan B and walked to see the remnants of the “World in the Village” festival, had a few drinks at the Kaisaniemi terrace, and finally walked to Jäähalli to see Placebo in concert.
The concert was ok, but not great. The song selection was ok; Janka liked it but it was missing many of my own favorites and concentrated on their newest album which is ok but not my favorite. The biggest problem, however, was the volume. Either by mistake or by some misguided purpose, everything was turned up way too loud, and Molko’s distinctive voice tended to get drowned under the distorted wall of guitar and drum; the end result was a sonic mush, much of the time. Earplugs would have been a good idea. Some nice moments, though, I really like their version of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”, and at times things rocked nicely. Mostly, however, I much prefer them on CD compared to this. Nine Inch Nails proved last time that you can do a wall of sound without everything getting distorted into mush, at precisely the same concert venue. For generally melodic stuff like Placebo, I think going the “this one goes to 11!” route is/was a mistake.
In any case, it was a fun day and it really felt like summer in many ways. When the concert ended the heavens opened, with a major thunderstorm and heavy rain crashing down. We got a taxi after some small hassle but were still soaked. Soaked and not minding it much, since the rain was warm. Another sign of summer, I guess.
Been playing and designing decks for VTES a lot lately, largely thanks to the upcoming European Championships Qualifier tournament, to be played this weekend in Turku. The top 25% of the players there get EC qualifications, we’ll see how it goes. I’m going to the EC in Gothenburg in any case, if I don’t manage to qualify now there’s a second chance in Tampere this summer, and of course the last-chance qualifier at the EC itself.
The EC will be full of quality playtime even if I don’t qualify at all, the side tournaments should be pretty fun too. Perhaps even more fun that the EC itself, where people tend to play very, very seriously. So, I’m not too bothered by the qualification or lack thereof. Would be nice, of course.
Still haven’t decided on a deck, at the moment I have three candidates:
One is a fun Serpentis/Temporis toolbox, with a lot of multifunction cards and a pretty solid core strategy (which I’m not revealing here :). A bit slow, but it should be able to keep others guessing since it uses some fairly nonstandard strategies. Won’t instantly die to any one deck type, but a good rush deck would probably kill it dead, as would a fast power-bleeder. Doesn’t look too intimidating until it gets rolling, which can be good. Not sure if it has enough forward pressure – I’ve added some after my last playtest, but…
The second is an aggravated damage -oriented affair that makes heavy use of Sebastian Goulet in both of his incarnations. Dominate bleeds + bounce, with aggro-poke for defense and intimidation. Vulnerable to votes, and to anything that can kill off Sebastian of course – losing him would put a major dent in my plans. Needs a bit of setup, but I’ve tweaked this to hopefully get off to a faster start thanks to ideas I got from the other players after my previous game with this (thanks, guys!).
The third one is the latest incarnation of my anarch Daughters of Cacophony vote deck (“Anarchy at the Opera”), which I also played last EC. This version features better card and vote flow (one hopes) but otherwise keeps the same idea – lots of actions, lots of votes, some amount of toolbox. Dangerous if it gets going, but can have a hard time establishing vote dominance and a good intercept deck can seriously hurt this one… I have some amount of stealth, but it’s not a true stealth voter deck.
Lock and load agents, Delta Green: Eyes Only became available last night. As noted before, this is a limited run of 1,000 copies. I ordered about an hour after the announcement was posted and my order number was 101. Dennis said that it’s “selling like hotcakes”, despite the hefty shipping & handling costs – $30 s&h to Finland, which results in a total price of $70 for the book. Ouch. Becomes a bit less “ouch” once you realize that because of the strong Euro vs. weak, puny and generally inferior US$ that “only” amounts to about 52 euros. Expensive, but doable. Getting hold of this book once the 1,000 copies sell out will involve eBay, luck and lots of cash; I’ll happily pay 52e now.
In what is obviously a global conspiracy to hike up my credit card bill, Greg Stolze’s Reign also became available this week through Lulu print-on-demand, with two different options for cover art (I like the red Solis design best, myself). Also available as hardcover, and to top it off I understand that Lulu offers semi-reasonable shipping costs for us EU folks nowadays. Heroically, I resisted the temptation, I don’t want to cram anything more on my Visa this month.
For those of you going “what the hell is ‘Reign’?”, it’s Stolze’s new rpg using the ORE/Nemesis engine and focusing on politics and social dynamics in a fantasy setting – in other words, it has crunch that will let the players (try to) take over and run kingdoms. Could be very cool.
For those of you going “who the hell is Greg Stolze?”… you’re reading the wrong blog entry, sorry. Move on now, don’t block the view.
In probably-not-related news, Jerry Falwell is (finally) dead. The world just became a slightly better place, and the warm and sunny weather today just might be a side result. You never know.
Added later: Lulu.com has a promotion with really cheap EU shipping, but in order to get that you have to pay in euros, if you pay in dollars you get charged the normal price. For Reign, “cheap” here means 1,99e and “normal” $13.62. Don’t ask how I found that out. Just… don’t.
Strap on your ice skates and head towards the smell of brimstone, the Delta Green reprint is now actually available from Arkham Bazaar (and probably some other places as well). I didn’t want to risk missing out on this one, and ordered a copy as soon as I got word via the Delta Green mailing list. Huzzah!
In related news, Dennis & the guys are preparing to accept orders on the upcoming Delta Green: Eyes Only opus. Reprinting all 3 of the long-out-of-print DG chapbooks, with new art and some new material, this is high on my “MUST BE MINE!” list. Especially since it will be a limited print run due to contract reasons, and getting hold of it after it sells out will be… tricky (and will probably involve a wetworks squad and some ninja zombies).
I love the fact that Pagan and the Delta Green guys are all experimenting with new ways to publish books. With niche products like this, which have a high demand within their niche, print-on-demand and stuff like the ransom model of financing are coming into their own; they make it possible to publish things that would not make financial sense via the traditional channels. Which is nice.
The only bad part is that you have to be “in the know” to actually get the books. More and more, things like this are “Internet orders only”, you won’t find them in normal game stores and will probably never even hear of them unless you frequent various web forums, mailing lists and whatnot. That’s the price you pay when the middle man is cut off.
Update, later: I just got word that Fantasiapelit is getting a batch of the Delta Green reprint books, arrival in 2 - 2.5 weeks from now. So if anyone local is interested, no need to order from abroad, just check out the Fantasiapelit “new arrivals” section.
So, the net connection moved ok. Obviously. Not visible to the outside, there is still a glitch: it’s hooked up via the most inconvenient wall socket available in the house. Apparently we have a lot of old landline connections running to our house, and of course the default one was not the one we would have wished. I called Elisa and asked about moving it, and the guy at the help desk said it’s something any electrician can do at our end (via the house company phone distribution box). Hmm. So right now we’re at trying to figure out who has the key to that box. Stay tuned.
The May Day snowboarding/skiing expedition to almost-Lapland (Ruka) was fun. It got of to a slow start; on Saturday we “only” spent 3+ hours on the slopes before calling it a day, and then on Sunday there was a near-storm – strong winds and snow whipping past. The good chair lifts were all closed due to wind, and all that was left was some of the anchor lifts. Since I hate anchor lifts on a snowboard and since there was a storm alert given, we only did a few slopes and then decided that the sane thing to do was be inside. Spent the rest of the day with books, card games and the Playstation. Monday turned out to be beautiful, with sunny skies and nice snow, we left for the slopes at around noon and got back around 6pm – a nice day, and my legs were starting to complain (in a good way).
After that it’s been a slow return to normal life, which is nice. The last few months have been quite a whirlwind, some quiet life is very much appreciated right now. The new place is still a bit of a mess, but it’s clearing up one box and shelf at a time. I’m trying to do some (even small) amount of organizing each day.
Right now, I’m looking at a calendar which actually has a lot of empty space in it. Empty space good.