Friday, July 8, 2016

Pokemon - Re-Learning the Card Game with Penny

Summer has arrived and with it a bunch of free time (when I'm not doing housework at least).  This summer Penny is a lot more cognizant of her surroundings and after a year of kindergarten is eager to learn how to read and do math and other stuff.  I've already started on teaching her the basics of game play with games like Tsuro and X-Wing so following a set of rules is getting easier for her.  She does have occasional bouts of why can't I do this but those are getting lesser and lesser.

Anyways, she started watching Pokemon on Netflix a few months back and out of the blue I asked her if she wanted to learn to play the Pokemon card game.  From my perspective this accomplished a few things.  First, she would learn to play a game that I used to play when I was younger.  Second she would learn to count by 10s since for some inexplicable reason Pokemon hitpoints and damage are in 10s and third she would learn to read some words like Cut or Tackle or other simple words that are Pokemon attacks.

So to start the road to learning the game we picked up the new Trainer Kit from Game Quest.
And so it begins...

The set contains two 30 card decks with fairly simple Pokemon, a playmat and all other necessary components for playing the game.  I thought Penny would want to play with the Pikachu deck as Pikachu is so prominent in the series but she opted for the Suicune deck as she liked the look of that Pokemon better.

The first game we followed the scripted game plan.  By scripted I mean that the decks were already pre-ordered and the instructions told each player how to play each turn for the first 8 turns or so.  This pre-scripted game ends up with the Pikachu deck winning.  Needless to say Penny was not happy so wanted to play again.

This time we shuffled up the decks and went at it again.  I kind of got a little unlucky in the second game as I did not draw enough energy cards to fully power my Pokemon (especially my Electrivire) and Penny eventually knocked out enough of mine to win.  She even made good use of Retreat to save her Suicune from my Electrivire and then brought it back the next round (after letting one of her Seakings eat an attack) to finish off my Electrivire for the win.

Penny laying the beats down.
As for the objectives I set out when teaching her the game, all were met save for the reading one.  We will have to work on that a bit more.

The rules for the game were really simple and haven't changed much at all when I first learned them back in 2000.  Penny picked up the rules really easily and she seemed to enjoy the imagery of the cards as well as imagining the two Pokemon fighting each other.  The only hangup we had was when we used attacks that had additional conditions like coin flipping.  She couldn't read the whole sentence so I had to explain to her that some attacks did extra stuff or only hurt under certain conditions.

Penny picked up counting by 10s pretty easily especially with the counters available.  She was even able to do some elementary algebra by figuring out how much more damage was needed to knock out (though she used the term kill) a Pokemon.  Interestingly she understood weakness easily enough (she referred to it as the Pokemon being allergic to certain types) though her math skills were not enough to multiply by 2 yet (admittedly I have not taken the time to show her what doubling means).

I need to figure out how to play the game for 3 players so that my wife can join us too.  My biggest concern is it would end up becoming gang-up on whoever was winning as is my experience in most other card games.

Teaching her the Pokemon card game coincides perfectly with the recent release of Pokemon Go too.  Just gotta wait for it to come to Canada now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Video Games - League of Legends Highlights Sway

This past Tuesday was a Professional Development Day (Pro-D Day) for my district and rather than drive 2 hours to the town where the various Pro-D sessions were held, I instead opted to submit a self-directed Pro-D application to learn how to make a Sway.  Sway is a new presentation app that Microsoft developed as (I guess) an answer to Google Slides and Prezi (both are presentation apps that are natively online).

I originally wanted to learn the program at another Pro-D day but that session was full.  The app did interest me so I briefly looked into what it actually was and initially dismissed it until now.  Neat little program and in my mind, the biggest advantage over PowerPoint is the native online presence Sway has.

However, since I'm not supposed to be making lesson plans or other lesson related activities during my Pro-D day I instead learned how to use Sway and created Mr. Arocena's League of Legends Highlights.

In the process of learning Sway I also inadvertently ran across HitFilm Express which is an amazingly powerful free video editing software package.  I'll end up using it for all my education videos as well as it can do things that Movie Maker cannot.

The only flaw I found (and it's a major one in my mind) is that for some inexplicable reason Sways cannot be grouped into folders.  So for example if I make a bunch of League of Legends Sway presentations, they will just be sitting there ungrouped and unorganized in the My Sways tab of the website.  Huge flaw and the only reason I'm not going all-in on this new tool.

In the meanwhile though, Sway is great for special projects like the one I made.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Video Games - New Gaming PC Built!

My birthday came and went and with it an opportunity to build a new gaming PC.  I hadn't actually built a new PC from scratch since my university days, instead relying on pre-built systems and just upgrading the video card from it.

That sufficed for the most part but recently I've been experimenting with streaming and recording my gameplay and the pre-built systems I had been buying just weren't up to the task (part of the reason I haven't posted many video game related things or even streamed any game play).  With the opportunity to build my own PC again I spent a few days researching parts and finally decided on the following build

I scavenged the case and HDD from the existing computer so that saved me a bit of money.  Although in hindsight I should have picked up a new case anyways as I could then have a 2nd PC.  What I would do with the 2nd PC I have no idea but it would at least be working.  Maybe sell it or give it away to someone I guess.

Anyways, the new system was arrived last week and was fairly easy to put together compared to when I last built a computer.  Installing Windows 10 wasn't too bad either and I managed to activate it with an old Windows 7 key I had from an ancient laptop we had kicking around.  The computer operates much quieter than the previous one and is ridiculously fast in comparison as well.

My old system (running on an AMD A8-6500 with a Radeon R7 240 graphics card and 6gb of RAM) struggled to play Final Fantasy 14 at 1080p resolution on ultra low settings with an average of 20 FPS.  My new system runs it on maximum at 1080p while averaging 60 FPS.  There is no noticeable drop in FPS during gameplay while recording or streaming either so I think I'm going to be more inclined to stream/record my games now.

Obviously the PC is nowhere near top end but man is it ever a huge improvement over what I had before.  I have a potential significant upgrade path as the 7th generation Intel processors will use the same socket and I have a power supply large enough to power a beefier graphics card if I need to upgrade that later.  Given the current benchmarks though, my system should last a few years before needing any major upgrades (so says every PC builder).

Friday, April 1, 2016

X-Wing - First Tournament Report

First X-Wing tournament under my belt and I went a respectable 2-2 with 2 blowout wins and 2 losses.  Not bad for my first go around against opponents who can read and use the full rules.  The tournament took place the weekend before Wave 8 released so no one had any of those ships.

The list I took on the day ended up being

Colonel Vessery - Veteran Instincts, Heavy Laser Cannon
Omega Leader - Juke, Comm Relay
Carnor Jax - Push the Limit, Targeting Computer, Royal Guard TIE (for flavour)

I like flying the Defender and the Interceptor and Omega Leader is just too good not to use.  The list has good synergy and when Carnor gets close, enemies can't help but eat the heavy laser cannon shots from Vessery.  Omega Leader does a good job cleaning up as well and his damage is pretty consistent.

Anyways on to the matches!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

X-Wing - Getting Closer to Tournament

Tournament is less than two weeks away and I've gotten a grand total of 3 games in against opponents who can read the pilot cards.  For context, the majority of X-Wing games I've played were with my 5 year old daughter where we just played with basic rules and were mostly to get her to think and plan, basically to just help her develop intellectually and she is learning to really like Star Wars as a by-product.  Not that she needed any nudging she took to the Star Wars universe like a moth to a flame and is often the reason we get new ships ("Daddy I think I need a Y-Wing for my Rebel alliance." "Ok Penny, let's pick one up, but I need a new TIE fighter to fight it." "Ok")

Anyways, on Saturday I played 2 games with a list similar to what I used the week before.

  • Colonel Vessery - Heavy Laser Cannon, Stealth Device
  • Darth Vader - TIE X1 title (borrowed for the day), Fire Control System
  • Omega Leader - Juke, Comm Relay
First game was against a Scum list packing

  • Trandoshan Slaver - Gunner, Bossk, Tactician
  • Laetin - Heavy Laser Cannon, Heavy Scyk, Stealth Device
  • Kavil - Autoblaster Turret, Engine Upgrade, Veteran Instincts
I played pretty badly mostly because I didn't quite know what his list did.  Quickly found out that getting into range 1 of autoblaster turret is bad and range 2 of the Slaver was also equally bad.  His list had good shots at all ranges so was hard for me to decide how to engage.  It was also the first time I played against a stress list and that totally messed up my aces.  With no one able to paint targets for Vessery or get tokens it made getting hits through a little more difficult.

In hindsight, should have stayed at range 2-3 and picked off the Autoblaster first, then closed on the Slaver and finally the Scyk.  I probably should have also danced around a bit more and tried to get behind the slaver or the Scyk instead of closing in as soon as I could.

The second game was against a Rebel aces list

  • Keyan - Push the Limit, Stealth Device, Advanced Sensors, Mangler Cannon?
  • Jake Farrel - Push the Limit, Autothrusters
  • Gemmer - A-Wing Test Pilot, Push the Limit, Autothrusters
I played this one better.  Vessery ended up jousting Keyan on one end of the map (everyone else was on the other side) and won off of a bump.  I planned on Keyan slow moving towards Vessery so instead of doing the same, I just rocketed Vessery forward with a 5 straight, then the following turn a 2 straight which put him right in the path of Keyan who did indeed bump him.  A k-turn after that bump and Vessery was stuck to Keyan like glue and finished him off in short order (rolling 4 dice at all ranges is huge even without a target lock to help)

On the other side of the map, Omega and Darth danced around Jake and Gemmer.  My opponent made a few bad mistakes which put Vader behind Gemmer which quickly resulted in a dead A-Wing.  Jake couldn't fight off the entirety of my squadron and was caught in the crosshairs of all 3 at one point which ended him pretty quick.

After those 2 games, I definitely need to get more practice.  The list was also not quite doing it for me so back to the drawing board.  Omega Leader did well and I'm thinking of bringing Omega Ace with Push the Limit instead of Vader for more guaranteed hits.  Vessery was good, but not great, but that could be because of how I flew.

For now I am thinking of the following
  • Krassis Trelix - Heavy Laser Cannon, Agent Kallus
  • Omega Ace - Push the Limit, Hull Upgrade
  • Omega Leader - Juke, Comm Relay, Hull Upgrade
Krassis basically replaces Vessery and is pretty action independent so stress lists like the Scum list I played won't hurt as much.  The Firespray has a pretty stress-friendly dial with no red turns.
The TIE F/O aces should also be pretty reliable for plinking away at any range which should hopefully let Krassis just blast away at hull points.

The other list I was thinking of using is
  • Krassis Trelix - Heavy Laser Cannon, Agent Kallus, Hull Upgrade
  • Mauler Mithel - Veteran Instincts
  • Scourge - Veteran Instincts
  • Wampa - Targeting Computer
A pair of high pilot skill TIEs to hopefully pick off a weak target or strip some shields.  Wampa to get some guaranteed damage and Krassis as a big target capable of putting the hurt at different ranges.  This list is also pretty action independent and has some good maneuverability (plus more bodies to fight against swarms)

I'll have to get a few games in this weekend to test both lists and if I can't, I'll try out the Mark 13 AI program I ran into a few days ago.  Practice is always good before a tournament.

Monday, February 22, 2016

X-Wing - First Game Against a non-5yr old

In preparing for the upcoming X-Wing tournament I went out on a limb and asked for a game against one of the locals through our local X-Wing group.  My schedule never let me go to the gatherings that happen every two weeks so I had yet to actually play against an opponent who knew the full rules.

It was quite a different experience as one would expect.

Anyways, I only had time to play one game because I think we actually played longer than regulation would normally allow but we didn't care as it was quite fun and intense.

The list I used was as follows

  • Colonel Vessery - Lone Wolf, Heavy Laser Cannon (HLC), Stealth Device
  • Zeta Leader - Wired
  • Zeta Squadron Pilot
  • Zeta Squadron Pilot
and the list he used was

  • Soontir Fel - Push the Limit, Royal Guard TIE, Autothrusters, Stealth Device
  • Zeta Squadron Pilot
  • Zeta Squadron Pilot
  • Zeta Squadron Pilot
  • Zeta Squadron Pilot
Lots of evade dice on both sides but the I figured the HLC on my side should give me the advantage when shooting at his TIE F/Os.

We both brought asteroids to the field and deployed them in a cluster in the center.  My Zeta Squadron and Zeta Leader were deployed in the center with Vessery off to the left.  His Zeta Squadron was deployed as a group of 4 opposite of my Zeta Squadron and Soontir was deployed in to my right away from everyone.

The game escalated very quickly as by my turn 2 my forces had engaged his 4 TIE F/Os in the asteroid with Soontir hanging out on the wings.  First blood came to me as the Zeta Leader and Vessery concentrated fire on one of the TIE F/Os.  After that it became a tense game of cat and mouse between everyone as I tried to get Soontir in Vessery's sights while he tried to avoid that.  All the while our F/Os were circling each other in the asteroids trying to get shots at whoever they could.

I actually had two good rounds of shooting against Soontir scoring 4 hits with Vessery in both rounds but he rolled really well (a lot of focus results both times and flipped them to evades) but after that I couldn't get him back in my sights.  Zeta Leader unfortunately crashed into an asteroid as I misjudged one of his turns (one of my opponent's TIEs did the same earlier).  Soontir eventually took over and was able to arc-dodge and blow up Vessery (he could have survived that particular round of shooting but he suffered a Direct Hit critical) and then my last TIE.  By the end though he had only Soontir and one TIE F/O sitting on 1 hull point.

Fun game and really showcased my need to get some more games in before I am tournament ready.

Things I learned
  • It's easier to predict where an older player will go with their ships.  I had a few turns where I was able to block some of his ships and avoid getting blocked myself.  Very important for Vessery so he can get his focus action in combination with the target locks everyone else was providing.
  • Soontir Fel is really hard to target and when you do, you better hope he doesn't get focus results.  The interceptor's maneuverability is insane and I kind of want to buy a pair for my own fleet (next to the Defender it's my other favourite Imperial fighter to fly in TIE Fighter)
  • Vessery's HLC was quite good and with target lock and focus he basically guarantees 3-4 hits on whoever he is shooting at.  No crits, but that's ok against most things not on a large base.
  • Lone Wolf was hard to trigger with 3 extra ships around.  Might drop it for Veteran Instincts instead or I just need to learn to fly Vessery on the outside more.  I took it for the defensive re-roll more than the offensive re-roll.
  • Wired didn't work too well this game but that's because I didn't roll many focus results with Zeta Leader.  For 1 point it does synergize really well with Zeta Leader and I'm not sure any other 1 point Elite Pilot talent would be as worthwhile.
I don't think I'd change anything in the list aside from maybe changing the Zeta Squadron pilots for Darth Vader with Juke (and if I get a TIE x1 title I can add Fire Control System) and replacing Lone Wolf on Vessery with something else.  So the new list might become
  • Colonel Vessery - Veteran Instincts, Heavy Laser Cannon (HLC), Stealth Device
  • Darth Vader - Juke (possibly with TIE x1, Fire Control System)
  • Zeta Leader - Wired, Weapons Guidance
I could also replace Zeta Leader with Omega Ace - Push the Limit or Omega Leader - Juke (and give Darth Vader Lone Wolf as I only have 1 Juke card).  Only 3 ships but if they are the right 3, that's all I should need.

One thing I have to keep in mind when building my lists is that I probably wont' have to face a large ship and 4 or 5 small ships.  When Penny and I play it's usually 5-8 ships a side as she likes using as many of her Rebels as she can so I'm always expecting to have to fight huge squadrons.  Making a list with less than 4 ships never seems enough.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

X-Wing - Tournament time!

The local X-Wing group convinced the Game Quest management to hold a tournament in early March.  Great news as I haven't been able to play much X-Wing lately and haven't really had the motivation to go out to the local X-Wing game days.

From what I gather, there is no real meta in the area yet so I don't expect any super-competitive lists or super-competitive people so the list I bring can be pretty much what I want it to be.  This is great as I really have no idea what will work great and what will not.  I can obviously pull up what lists won what tournaments but my game knowledge is pretty limited having only played against Penny and even then without full rules.

I used my knowledge from other wargames I've played and my basic understanding of the rules to come up with a few prospective lists to take to the tournament.  I have a few weeks still and I might try to hook up with a few of the other people to test out some lists.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 Year in Review

This year has been a busy one.  Both in terms of gaming and life in general.  A lot of highs and one gigantic low at the end of the year.

Here's a brief run down of what occurred this year.