Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 24

     The alien's body was like something out of a horror movie.  It had four arms, each ending in a claw, as well as four spined legs.  It was definitely an insectoid being, with large compound eyes and drooping antenna.  Fortunately it was only about four feet total in length, so that diminished some of its ferocity.  That, and the fact that it had been dead for several days.

      "Initial indications are that they are actually physically weaker than us individually.  An average specimen, judging by the four we have, has approximately two-thirds the lifting capacity and one half the endurance of an average Pyranid."  Doctor Vicalso said, removing part of the creature's abdominal plate.  "They metabolise nitrogen, needing at a minimum 30% gaseous concentration to survive.  From the remnants of this one's digestive tract it looks like they are omnivores, though their stomach acid is strong enough to dissolve some metals and minerals."

     "How intelligent are they, Doctor?"  Prallan asked, looking at the creature's head.

     "Definitely intelligent enough for interstellar travel and building starships.  Individually they are what you might consider below average, relatively speaking.  However, they have a mild hive mind, which can make them very intelligent in a group, moreso than a similar group of Pyranids.  However, as their numbers thin, that shared intelligence weakens."

     "Interesting."  Prallan said.  "I want a details report on their physiology.  Anything we know can help when we have to fight them again."

      "Of course, sir."  Vicalso said, removing a pair of purple blobs from the creature.  "I haven't been able to dissect an intelligent creature since medical school, this is very fascinating."

      Prallan left the medical bay very swiftly.  He was certain the Doctor was a good physician, but he also gave him the creeps.

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Party Raid - Fighter and the Fighter Cards

    The fighter is the meat shield of the group.  He's supposed to take damage and deal out melee justice, however the first role is the most important one (note: I'm debating between calling this class fighter or warrior as both represent very similar ideals, so sorry if I've interchanged the names in previous post, we're going to call it fighter for now).

    Health: 20
    Attack: 4
    Defense: 2
    Trait 1: Pay 1, intercept one attack directed at another player (spell, ability, or regular attack) and make the target of the ability this fighter.  All effects and damage are calculated as if the fighter was the original target of the attack.  Can be used once per round as a free action.
    Trait 2:  Reduce damage taken by this fighter by 1 for every defense point sacrificed.  This can be used at will.

    With this setup, it is clear that the warrior is all about buffing his defenses and intercepting attacks.  He is the meat shield and the tank of the group, soaking up damage, and letting the priest heal him and the rogue and wizard deal damage.  It wouldn't be unusual for him to make a melee attack just to give the rogue his flanking bonus.  The fighter works best when there is one or two targets, as he only gets one trait intercept per round, but has other cards that can work similarly.

    Take the Hit
    Cost: 3
    Instant - Can be played at any time.
    Effect - Counter one attack (spell, ability or regular attack) that would strike an ally.  Resolve the attack against yourself instead.

    Cost 2
    Effect: Counter one regular attack made against you this round.  Make a free basic attack against that enemy.

    Shield Wall
    Cost 4
    Persist 2
    Effect: At the start of your turn gain 2 block.  Your attack is reduced by 2 and your defense is increased by 2 while this card is in play.

     The Art of War
     Cost: 0
     Effect: Discard this card.  Put one Tactic into play, tapped.

     Defensive Stance
     Cost: 1
     Effect: You gain 5 block.

     Cost: 2
     Equip: 2
     Effect: Increases your attack by 2 while this card is equipped.

     The downside to fighter is that while he has a lot of good defensive abilities, most of them prevent him from becoming a powerful offensive weapon unless he has help.  As seen in the play test, after getting buffed by both the wizard and the priest, he was able to dish out a lot of hurt and stay safe himself.  He is very reliant on team support, but once he has it he is nearly unstoppable.

    The fighter's greatest weakness is the lack of any spell resistance.  Spells will rip right through his health quickly, and while he can use block to reduce the damage, it will eat through this secondary resource very swiftly.  This means he has to be selective about the damage he takes and the abilities he intercepts.  It might hurt the wizard more to take a sword to the face, but a lightning bolt is another matter.  The fighter's player must be aware of the entire situation, and play accordingly.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Casual vs Elite Gaming

     When I started playing MMOs and other online games, I was very much an elite gamer.   I sacrificed hundreds of hours of sleep and study to pursue my goals of being great at playing the games I loved.  I beat certain games over and over again until I could conquer them in my sleep.  I saw failing at something as a challenge, not a reason to give up.  It was a very different time in gaming, and the stark contrast to modern days is interesting.

    Casual today is a buzzword.  It means playing Candy Crush instead of Halo.  It doesn't have anything to do with the time commitment (my wife has put way more hours into a casual game than I have to any of my "normal" games) but skill level.  These games are easy, reward you for doing simple things and playing constantly.  They offer easy ways out, to buy your solutions.  I don't even really see how it can be fun to just buy your way out of your problems in a game....after all you are investing time to enjoy it so why pay to skip parts?

    Then I think about MMOs that exist today.  WoW has gotten progressively easier as time has gone on.  Sure, there are still challenges, but more and more of the game is user friendly, the learning curve is less steep and a child could (and regularly do) play the game.  I've seen raiders who were very young excel at the game (like my cousin's 5 year old....scary thought).  The flip side of this is that it takes longer to get the best stuff.  In order to keep you playing, WoW now (and for some time has had) long faction grinds (nothing like the original ones, though) that are more or less mandatory for raiding.  Everythign is keyed to your gear score, but you can go in the kiddy pool (LFR raids) if you want a lot earlier.

    I don't like this trend towards easy gameplay, but large time investments.  I like deep and immersive games where you have to puzzle and figure things out over time.  The EVE online learning curve is the game I want, where things are easy to start but super difficult to master.  I like games that keep you guessing, that require you to use your brain and not just show up.  However, I firmly realize that i am now in the minority of gamers.  Too many want flashy colors with no content.  Its like a cupcake, it is the sort of thing that is nice, but if you eat only cupcakes, you get no real nutritional value and your muscles and mind waste away while your waistline grows.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Party Raid - Wizard and the Wizard Cards

     Probably the most interesting class from a mechanical standpoint is the wizard.  The wizard card has the following stats:

    Health: 8
    Attack: 1
    Defense: 0
    Trait 1: The wizard may pay a spell's cost in spellbook pages to return the spell to his hand once cast instead of exiling or discarding it.
    Trait 2: A wizard may sacrifice four spellbook pages to draw a card.

     Now, this doesn't really mean a lot unless you look at the wizard's spells.  Most of the damaging spells, except the weakest ones, have the text that they are exiled once cast.  For example, fireball:

    Cost: 5
    Effect: Deals 6 damage to all enemies currently on the field.  Exile after casting.

    This means that if we had 5 spellbook pages on hand, we could return this card to our hand instead of exiling it.  This means, not only can we cast it again, but we could also discard it for mana (keeping it in the graveyard so its available after a reshuffle) or even cast it again normally, exiling it then.

    The grand scheme of this mechanic is to make wizards powerful, but only if they plan their moves correctly.  Using a fireball early might win an encounter, but you may miss that fireball later, when it was exiled and you need it again.  As the encounters wear on, and the wizard casts more and more spells, eventually he will run low on good spells unless he is taking careful account and spending spellbook pages wisely.  Most of the wizard's best cards revolve around this mechanic, like time stop.  Time Stop allows the wizard to cast extra spells, so if he had a lot of mana and a hefty investment in spellbook pages, he could cast the same spell over and over again in one turn.

     Wizards have some support items too.  Scroll, for example, is like a free copy of one of your spells.  When you equip a scroll, you select a spell in your hand.  You can discard scroll and cast that spell for its cost in spellbook pages.  This would be very useful for any spell that would be exiled, as you not only get to keep it in your hand, but you pay its cost in spellbook pages rather than mana.

     Another useful spell is Master's Arcanum.  This is a 4 cost effect with a 1 persist cost.  You gain one spellbook page per turn, and can pay 2 mana to gain 2 spellbook pages once per turn.

    Finally, there is a treasure called the Ring of Wizardry.  This treasure costs 3 to equip, but once equipped you can place a counter on this ring for every turn that passes.  Once three counters are on the ring, you can remove all counters and unequip the ring to restore one exiled spell that has been played this game to your hand.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Party Raid - Card Costs

     In playing through the sample game I noticed something troubling about some of the current card setups.  The Persist costs are far too low.  Many cards, like Immortal Blessing, which adds a 5 DR to the target, is relatively cheap to maintain at a persist cost of 1.  This should probably have a persist cost of 2 or more.  Persist is an interesting ability I'd like to have on more cards simply because it allows more to be done with a smaller sized decks.

    This got me thinking in general about card costs and what I'm going to have to do to balance them.  Its going to be a complicated mess trying to get everything at that sweet spot, where the card is worth the cost, but not underpriced.  Then on top of that I have to consider the special abilities of each class in these costs.

    This is really where it gets interesting and we have to start differentiating the cards.  Each class has a gimic.  The Rogue is all about avoiding attacks, generating stealth points and dealing burst damage once everything is set up.  The Warrior is all about defenses, batlefield control (with taunt) and staying alive.  The Priest is all about healing, damage reduction, and minor buffing.  Finally, the wizard is about consistent damage, buffing, and some summoning.

    Each class also has its drawbacks.  Rogue, for example, is dependent on others to attack the target in order to deal a lot of damage.  Priest is largely without direct damage, but is great in a support role.  Warrior is great at keeping others alive and dealing melee damage, but lacks little direct damage that is not subject to defense, and will often take a beating.  Wizard is unique in that unless it prevents the effect, most of his powerful abilities are exiled after cast, meaning as the game continues, they will have less and less available (as exile persists throughout the game, and discards are eventually reshuffled).

    There are a wide variety of abilities and effects that each class has access to, which makes balancing difficult.  For example, a warrior card that deals direct damage or overcomes defense is probably more valuable than the equivalent damage in a wizard card.  This causes direct balancing problems.  There are some general guidelines.  Each class has a 1 cost card that adds 5 of their resource (faith points, spellbook pages, stealth or block), as well as a zero cost card that adds an extra tapped "mana" to their pool (though this should probably be a 2 cost card as it bypasses the normal one per turn addition of "mana" I need to figure out if I like the increased speed the card adds).


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ghash.io Was Capable of a 51% Attack on Bitcoin's Network

     I've written in the past about Bitcoin's vulnerabilities, and among those is a 51% attack.  This is, to put it in laymen's terms, a situation where one group of miners has over 51% of the hashing power of the entire Bitcoin network, and can more or less decide what is and isn't a legitimate transaction.  This is, of course, an exceedingly dangerous vulnerability as anyone who has that power could quickly cash in on it or cause general disruptions (for example, they could simply spend money then delete the transaction, so that the bitcoins effectively never left their wallet, but most likely they would have the goods/services they bartered them for, and leave the merchant in the cold).

     I'm bringing this up because Ghash.io recently hit the 51% mark.  There's a lot of rumor mills and speculation going around about what they did in the brief window they had at 51%, but the reaction was very clear.  Their sites are now under DDoS attacks, and their hashing rate is down to about 30% of the network total.  Because of the way coins are mined (in that the first one to solve the puzzle wins the whole block, and the more hashing power you have the more likely you are to do so), there is great incentive towards group mining, which leads to large power blocks of miners.  This will not be going away anytime soon, either.

    What is interesting is the effect that the DDoS attacks had on the hashing power of Ghash.io.  It dropped it by about 40% of their original value, from 51% to 30ish%.  Naturally, this means all the other networks increased their share by about 40% of their original value.  This could lead to mining pool "wars" where the number 2 or 3 mining pool launches DDoS attacks against one another to secure a 51% stake and initiate an attack.  Now, it would take a lot of prep work, but even if it fails, its not like you are out anything.  If anything, you still are mining more blocks because of the relative increased power of your hash rate.  There's no reason not to DDoS your competitors, except for the resources expended and the potential good will loss and retaliation.

     If you are in Bitcoin, it might be time to evaluate your investment.  The next month or so will be telling as to the future and stability of the currency.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Party Raid Sample Turn 2

Continued from Party Raid Sample Turn - 1

    The fighter, having four tactics previously, discards a card to get another tactic for a total of five.  He plays Total Defense, by tapping two of them, which increases his defense by 2 with a persist cost of 1.  He is out of cards, so he makes a basic attack, dealing 2 damage due to the wizard deciding not to persist the Bear's Strength spell.  The ghoul is still alive, however.

    The rogue doesn't discard this turn, instead he plays Cloak of Darkness, which gives him one extra tapped energy.  He uses his three energy to play Deadly Poison, which allows his equipped throwing dagger to deal 4 damage instead of 2.  He unequips it (free) to throw the dagger at the ghoul.  With the poison, it would deal 4 damage, which would be negated by the ghoul's overall defense of 4.  However, the rogue has a special ability that allows him to deal 2 extra damage whenever another player or minion not controlled by the rogue has dealt damage to the creature.  He could also sacrifice his stealth points for a chance to deal even more damage, but he choses not to.

   The wizard discards a card to gain an untapped mana for a total of five.  He casts Mana Vent to increase his total mana to six.  Then he plays Summon Monster for 3 mana to create a 4 health 3 attack minion with the ability "Once per turn change the target of an attack or spell to this creature".  This spell normally would be exiled after cost (removed from play) but the wizard decides to use his special ability and pay 3 spellbook pages (cost of spell) to keep the spell in his hand instead after casting.

     The priest dismisses his Immortal Blessing.  He casts Divine Intervention with 4 of his 5 divinity.  This spell allows a target to ignore the first 6 damage dealt this turn, and gives the priest one faith point per damage prevented in this way.  He also used 1 divinity to persist Well of Divinity.  He has two faith points: one for the start of this turn and one for playing Divine Intervention from Well of Divinity's effect.

   Its the ghoul's turn.  He attacks the wizard, but the wizard's minion intervenes.  He would deal 4 damage, but the priest's Divine Intervention reduces the damage to 0, generating 4 faith points for the priest.  Diniloth casts a powerful spell called Necrotic Burst which deals 2 damage to all living enemies and heals the damage dealt to his minions (split however he likes).  Two damage is dealt to each player, and none to the minion because it was prevented (generating another 2 faith points for the priest for a total of eight faith points).  This fully heals the ghoul.

    The fighter persists his Total Defense, leaving him with four tactics.  He choses not to play any cards, and makes a direct attack against the ghoul, dealing 2 damage.

    The rogue, also low on cards, pays 1 to equip his throwing dagger.  He makes a basic attack against the ghoul, and uses his stealth points to make a sneak attack (5% per each of his 6 points for a 30% chance), but fails.  The attack deals normal damage, but 2 normal damage + 2 damage from his special ability is not enough to overcome is defense.

     The wizard persists his minion, and then casts Ray of Frost for 3 mana.  He uses three spellbook pages to keep the spell from being exiled.  It deals 4 damage to one target, and he's selected the ghoul.  Diniloth pays 2 to activate his ghoul's mirrored shield's special ability.  He flips a coin and wins, which means he can redirect the target of the spell.  He chooses to reflect the spell back to the wizard.  The wizard's minion intercepts the attack, which kills it.

    The priest persists Well of Divinity by paying 1.  He pays 4 divinity and 1 faith point (from the effect of his Well of Divinity) to cast Champion of the Light on the fighter.  This powerful spell allows him to infuse one player or minion with +10 health, +3 attack, and gives him 1 regeneration.  With 9 faith points left, he uses his special ability to heal people at a cost of 1 faith point per health healed.  He heals himself and the wizard for 2 damage each, costing a total of 4 faith points, leaving him with 5.  He needs 5 faith points at the start of next turn to persist Champion of Light.

   The ghoul attacks the wizard, but the fighter pays to intercept it.  He takes no damage, thanks to his Total Defense.

    The fighter starts his turn, persisting his Total Defense.  He plays Sundering Blow for 2 tactics, which allows him to destroy a target item whose cost is less than his total attack power + 4.  He destroys the ghoul's Mirrorred Shield.  However, it also uses his attack for the turn.  Unfortunately this move also has destroyed the item, preventing them from getting the treasure.

    The rogue gets a bad draw, and doesn't have anything to play.  He grumbles a bit, and ends his turn.

    The wizard casts fireball, a 4 mana spell that deals 6 damage to all enemy targets (in this case only the ghoul).

    The priest spends five faith points to persist the Champion of Light, and one divinity to persist Well of Divinity.  He gains one faith point at the start of the turn.  He casts Purgatory, using four Divinity and one faith point.  This causes divine fire to strike the ghoul, dealing 4 damage (2 + 2 if the target is evil, demonic or undead), and killing it.  He uses the faith point generated by the casting of Purgatory (from Well of Divinity) to heal the fighter of 1 of his 2 damage.

   The party survives the encounter, but has several more to go before finally facing down Diniloth.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Party Raid Sample Turn 1

     Here's a sample of the first turn of play of a Party Raid game.

    We have four players (fighter, rogue, priest and wizard) and one raid boss (Diniloth, the Necromancer).  This is the start of the game, so Diniloth builds an encounter by placing some monsters and equipment on the field.  He plays a treasure chest with some cards beneath it, a table, and a hoarding ghoul with a card underneath it.  These cards could be treasures, traps, or spells, but he had to build the encounter using only ten power, so anything is possible.

   The players draw their cards and the fighter starts.  He discards a card to give him one untapped tactic.  He taps this to play Defensive Stance, which gives him 5 defense point (the fighter's chosen resource), and then plays The Art of War, a zero cost spell that gives him a tapped tactic, so at the end of the first round, he has two tapped tactics and five defense points.  He chooses to play cautiously and not attack the ghoul or the treasure chest.

   The rogue plays next, discarding a card to give him an untapped energy.  He plays shadow bomb, a 1 energy card that gives him 5 stealth, and ends his turn without attacking.

    The wizard plays next, discarding a card to give him one untapped mana.  He uses it to play Library Research, a card that gives him five spellbook pages.  He then uses one of his wizard's abilities to sacrifice four of those pages to draw a card.

     The priest is up next, sacrificing a card to gain one untapped divinity.  He has a good first hand, and plays two Divine Favors, which similar to the fighter's Art of War, gives him a tapped divinity each.  He ends his turn with two tapped and one untapped divinity.

     The monster goes next.  The hoarding ghoul reveals that he has an uncommon treasure: Mirorred Shield.  Treasures allow the raid boss to play more powerful encounters, reducing monster costs by their cost (3 in the cast of the mirrored shield).  The hoarding ghoul has a special ability where it can equip any treasure assigned to it for free, and it increases its health by each point of the treasure's cost (3 in this case).  The ghoul attacks, hitting the priest for 2 damage (4 damaged reduced by 2 because of the priest's 2 defense), bringing him down to 14 health left (having started with 16).  Diniloth also plays a spell, Desecration, which gives the ghoul (and any other undead type monsters) +1 damage reduction.

   Turn 2 starts.  The fighter discards again, and uses two of his three tactics to play Parry. This card gives him the ability to make a basic attack against an enemy that strikes him.  He also makes a basic attack against the ghoul, dealing 4 damage, but since the ghoul has been placed behind a table, the damage is dealt to the table first, destroying it.

   The rogue discards to give him two total untapped energy.  Seeing the treasure chest, he decides that whatever treasure is in it could be useful, but there's a chance it is empty and the card beneath it is a trap.  He uses his two energy to play disarm, which can destroy all basic traps.  The spell fails, and Diniloth reveals the treasure chest is actually a mimic, which gets a free attack against the rogue when it is revealed.  The rogue takes 4 damage, but decides to use his special ability.  He discards all his stealth counters and has a 5% chance per counter to evade the attack.  He rolls and succeeds, leaving him at 12 total health (his initial total).

   The wizard discards to gain a second mana token.  He uses both to cast Bear's Strength on the fighter, giving him +4 attack.  This is a powerful spell, but has a persist cost of 1, requiring 1 mana each turn to keep it in effect after it is played.  Luckily this cost won't be paid until next turn.  The wizard also has drawn a Mana Vent card, which he plays.  Similar to The Art of War, it is a zero cost card that gives him one tapped mana.

    The priest goes last.  He discards a card to bring his divinity total up to four.  Then he casts Immortal Blessing on the fighter.  This spell costs 4, and costs 1 divinity per turn to keep in effect, but the target can ignore up to 5 damage per round.  Because by default he only deals 3 damage, and the ghoul has 3 defense thanks to the mirrored shield, he doesn't attack.

    The ghoul and mimick both get ready to attack.  The ghoul attacks the priest again, dealing another 2 damage (health 12/16), and the mimic goes after the wizard.  The fighter uses his last untapped tactic to use his special ability: intercept, which allows him to redirect a melee attack to target him instead.  The mimic deals no damage, thanks to Immortal Blessing, but the fighter gets a free attack thanks to Parry.  His base attack is 4, +4 from Bear's Strength gives him 8 attack.  The mimic has 4 defense, meaning it takes 4 damage (with 10 total health, it is down to 6).  The raid boss plays no spells this turn.

   The fighter starts his turn, discarding to give him a total of four tactics.  He plays a broadsword for 2 tactics, and equips it with another, this raises his base attack to 6.  The wizard has decided to persist his Bear's Strength, and the fighter decides to attack the mimic again, dealing 6 damage, and destroying it.

    The rogue discards to give him three total energy.  He uses one energy to play a throwing dagger, and another one to equip it (it generates one stealth when equipped and can be thrown for 2 damage, which unequips it).  He also plays another smoke bomb, giving him a total of six stealth.

     The wizard discards to gain his fourth mana token.  He has tapped one to persist Bear's Strength,   He taps another to play library research, gaining five spellbook pages for a total of six.  Finally, he plays Time Stop, a spell which costs 2 but remains in play.  It allows him to play additional spells, but each spell beyond his limit adds a counter to Time Stop.  Time Stop's persist cost is equal to the number of counters on it.

    The priest goes last, discarding to gain a fifth divinity. He pays one to persist Divine Intervention, and uses the remaining four to cast Well of Divinity, a powerful spell that generates one faith point per turn, and allows the priest to use faith points to directly pay for a spell's cost.

    The ghoul goes again, attacking the priest once more.  The fighter uses his ability, paying his last untapped tactic, to intercept, and is dealt no damage thanks to Divine Intervention.  Since Parry only lasted for one turn, he doesn't get a free attack.

More on this later.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Party Raid a Trading Card Game

    So, party raid is definitely a title in progress (and a bad one).  However, the concept is also a work in progress, so it fits.  I've taken inspiration from a lot of games, and I hope to make one that is very fun to play.  I'm wanting there to be two modes, but I'm not sure how to balance them, so I've focusing on the "PVE" or raid format first, because I think this is the primary play format.

    The game consists of two sides: 1-4 players and the raid boss.  The raid boss sets up a series of encounters, until finally the players beat all of them at fight the boss itself.  This is similar to a D&D dungeon, where the players fight through the dungeon until they reach the BBEG and must face him.

    Each player is represented by a class card.  The first set will be a wizard, rogue, fighter, and priest.  Each class card has a health value, representing how much damage they can take, a basic attack value which represents the damage they do without using a spell, and giving them two unique abilities, such as the rogue dealing extra damage against any target that has been damaged this turn by another player or minion.  Each player can cast two spells during their turn, and one instant at any time during the round.  The raid boss can cast a small selection of spells, as well as summoning powerful minions to fight the party.

   Each player has spells that are powered by an energy source.  The wizard uses mana, the fighter uses tactics, the rogue uses energy, and the priest uses divinity.  Each class can use other spells, but they must have a way of generating that energy, and the spells are designed to work with their class, but can benefit others as well.  To get energy, you must sacrifice a spell of that energy type.  It gives the player a token for that energy that they can tap to pay for spells.  These tokens untap every turn, so over time the players can cast more and more powerful spells.

    Each class also has an associated resource.  For fighters it is defense, priests use faith points, wizards use spellbook pages, and rogues use stealth.  At least one special abilities of each class is keyed to their resource, making use of it.  Some spells may use these resources too, making them useful to other classes, but the class that will get the most use out of it will be the class that it is keyed to.

   In addition to these class based spells, there is a common group of equipment and treasure cards.  Equipment cards may benefit some classes more than others, but they can be easily added to any deck.  Additionally, during the course of the encounters, players will receive treasure cards.  These cards offer new and special abilities that are not available for players from the start of the game.  The raid boss uses treasures to reduce the cost of playing monsters in encounters, so while he is giving players more powerful abilities if they defeat the encounter, he is also making the encounter tougher.

I'll explain each of these decks in detail in future posts.  The initial set I am planning consists of 25 cards for each class, 25 cards for minions and the raid boss's spells, and 25 common and treasure cards that fill in the gaps for a total of 150 cards.

Imperial Destiny Page 23

     Four days had passed since they had lifted off of the planetoid with repaired engines.  They had jumped into a system that they had designated Madore.  It was a relatively boring system, with only one star and four planets, but they had detected three other potential jump points.  Few explored systems had this many, making it a crossroads of sorts.

     "Sir, we are picking up signals from the second planet.  Initial scans indicate a class three civilization, several artificial satellites but no indication of ships in system."

     "Compare it to the database, see if anything matches."  Prallan said.  This was an opportunity, potentially a first contact situation.

     "Scan complete, sir....languages do not match anything on record."

     "Take us in closer."  The Hermus glided closer to the planet.  Scanners quickly picked up a debris field around the planet.  "Those artificial satellites....are they active?"

     "No, sir.  Looks like they are junk."  The crewman pulled more data onto her screen.  "I'm not reading anything that detects as intelligent life on the surface.  There are buildings and other constructions, but no intelligent life."

     "Pull as much data in as possible.  Don't get too close to the planet, I don't want to risk any of that debris field.  I wonder what happened here."


     "It looks like most of this debris was from an orbital station.  There are markings consistent with plasma weapons like those the aliens had at Lo-Lorane."  Crewman Tipin, an energy matter specialist reported, pointing out the distinctive scorch marks on an image of the debris.  "The rate of orbital decay and halflife of the radiation indicates that a battle happened here about seven days ago.  Initial scans of the surface indicate some orbital bombardment with similar weapons, and smaller ground fire."

     "Enough to wipe out the entire population of this planet?"  Rickler asked.

     "Inconclusive, sir, but unlikely.  The population was densely populated in city centers, numbering only a billion or so.  A few cities were badly damaged, but there's not nearly enough devastation to indicate the whole population was killed.  Rough simulations put it between twenty and forty percent casualties among the population, maybe ten to twenty percent fatalities, mostly in response teams and armed forces.  We were able to identify a central computer node that we may be able to access if we go down onto the surface."

    "No."  Rickler said curtly.  "Without shuttles we would have to land the ship.  We just got the engines working again, I don't want to scoop part of a space station into the exhaust vents and blow one or both of them out.  I also don't want these things to figure out we are investigating a world they destroyed.  They likely think of this as their territory, and I don't want to piss them off."

    "Sir, its an opportunity to collect very useful data."  Itran said.  "We could uncover something useful about the enemy's tactics."

    "Not worth it if the ship can't take off again.  We are going to finish our survey and proceed to the next jump.  You have ten hours to collect any data you can by scans.  Bring some wreckage into the hold if you want, but we are not setting down on the planet."

     "Aye, sir."  Itran said, nodding to the crewman to be dismissed.  Once he had left, Rickler spoke up again.

     "I also want us plotting a course away from systems we believe the enemy to have come from.  Itran, get with navigation and figure out our best course.  Lieutenant Tigrole, you are to assist the survey crew in collecting data.  You have experience with these beings, so you will have a good idea as to what is useful."

    "Aye, sir."  Prallan said, before leaving with Itran.  Once they were away from the briefing room, Itran whispered to Prallan.

     "I think we could safely land.  There's nothing in that debris field that would damage our engines."

     "The Captain is playing it safe.  I agree with him.  The data might be useful but if we can't get it back to the Empire, then it is worthless.  Better to make the enemy think we were never here."

     "Aye, sir."  Itran said, and headed through the door to one of the other conference rooms where he would be reviewing sensor data.  Prallan continued on to his quarters to begin looking over navigation information.  Itran was correct that this was a good opportunity, but there was a lot to lose.

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How horrible can I be at Hearthstone?

I'm an avid card player.  In my life I've played Magic the Gathering (many, many, many times, and I've given away all my cards way too many times as well), pokemon (most recently a month ago with my brother in law using only the original 150 pokemon), YuGiOh (mostly electronic, but the same brother in law was a tournament player at one point), Scrolls, and probably dozens of little card games nobody has heard of (electronic and print).  In addition to this, I am also working up a card game of my own, which I hope to have on kickstarter this year (and many, many development blogs on it in the interim).

So....about three weeks ago I started playing Hearthstone.  It has a lot of interesting elements, and my decks suck a lot right now (I play to do dailies more or less so I can get expert packs and improve my deck), and I'm ranked a measly 21, with far too many losses to count.  I would be surprised if I get above 15 this season....heck I will be shocked if I get to 20.  My next goal is to simply get all the basic cards unlocked (which I've done for about 4-5 of the classes).  Most of my expert cards are commons, but I do have Doomhammer, which is my rarest card (and inevitably when I play it it gets slimed).

I've decided that the way for me to have the most fun with Hearthstone (and to learn the most from my mistakes) is to fraps it and put it on youtube.  I'm dubbing this project "VG Philosopher Plays Hearthstone....Badly" and it will be available on my new youtube channel, which will be linked for the first video.  Don't expect good play because I am terrible at Hearthstone and have horrible cards.

Until then.