Scion Snag and Shadowmoor Silliness

This week will likely be a very busy one, which means that I will probably not get to write the posts that are floating around in my head at the moment. Still, I wanted to take a couple seconds to comment on a few of the things that happened over the weekend in my Scion campaign and some Shadowmoor online.

My Scion game hit a bit of a snag this weekend when the players faced the Shadow Pup. While I had anticipated this being a rough fight, I had not anticipated their complete inability to damage this creature. I felt rather bad as the fight dragged on, even with my helpful advice about how they might overcome its defenses (advice that included some rules tampering to aid them) they were unable to scratch the creature.

This soon became rather painful and frustrating for all of us. It lead me to think about the fact that unbalanced games like Scion can be fun but when a game is meant to be more role-playing-based and thus does not focus on rules it runs into problems like this where poor rules rip the players out of the story and force those players to worry about the very rules the game wishes to ignore.

In the end the players did some fun creative stuff that caused the beast to be buried beneath a building. Rules-wise this could not possibly have killed it, but at least allowed them to leave the scene without having to be carried in body bags. The other option being they could have run away but that simply seemed out of the question for some of the characters’ personas.

I also got a chance this weekend to play Shadowmoor again and, frankly, I still don’t like it. Essentially the lack of removal is too much for me, and I will admit I haven’t been doing all that well in the drafts I have played.

Besides my problems with the lack of removal I feel that the Shadowmoor set too often feels like you are playing against a goldfish or that you are, in fact, the goldfish. What I mean is most games I played had little interaction between players. The reasons for this are obvious. Wither, as an ability, makes blocking uncomfortable at best and downright foolish at worst. This creates situations where technically blockable creatures are effectively unblockable. Add to this all of the creatures which are completely unblockable, or unblockable by certain creatures, and you end up with very little blocking. In fact the only times my opponent blocked me or I blocked my opponent were born of desperation.

I also find that Persist is a silly ability. The simple fact that another ability (again, Wither) negates this ability makes it rather uncommon for it to be of use. Also this ability lends even more to the “well, I guess I wont block” mentality.

While bombs do make up too much of this set from my perspective there are also simply too many non-bomb power cards that can too easily end games before they begin. For example one game went like this. I got acceleration on turn two, a 2/3 creature on turn three, which I enchanted on turn four. When it attacked on turn four it was a 7/8 double striking, trampling forest walker. 14 damage on turn four? I don’t consider that fun even when I am the one dishing it out. (Can you figure out which three cards I’m talking about?) I was also able to win a game by getting a 5/5 out on turn three when I was on the play. This only took two cards to do. I then played another 5/5 the turn after it. Needless to say, the game was over shortly.

I’m going to play around with Shadowmoor a bit longer but at this point I am still disappointed. I’ve been trying to be a more positive person lately but I find little redemption in this Magic set. Feel free to disagree but realize that I am talking about non-casual limited environments. The set seems like it might be fun in a multi-player environment but I have not tried so I wouldn’t know.

  1.  

    I haven’t played Scion but almost feel the need to sound a note in its defense here. In a game that’s more about role playing a more loose structure is often part of what opens the game up for greater interpretation. It’s almost a natural side effect that such a system would allow combinations which produce untouchable foes.

    I’m not saying that’s a good thing, merely a likely consequence of having greater freedom. Comes with the territory, so to speak. In such a situation I’d probably do the same as many other GMs (or Storytellers): cheat, since bending the rules on the spot is probably easier than trying to ferret out every such combination up front.

    Still, it stinks when it happens. On a similar note, last time I ran a Shadowrun game a player mind-controlled one of my NPCs and caused me significant problems. It was my own fault because I didn’t apply the appropriate modifiers which would have made their attempt far more difficult, and next session I resorted to a cheat to shore things up, though it felt dirty to do so (sorry guys).

  2.  

    Since persist has a built-in safety mechanism, it was hardly in need of muzzling. Yet wither, and the amount of -1/-1 counters in general, make persist’s recursion a rare effect for me too. Kind of a lame ability in this context.

    I haven’t experienced the same problems per se with power cards, but I think casual multi-player also tends to be a very different environment than drafting.

    I will say that with the current game type my mini-league features, Shadowmoor is not my favorite set. We are playing three-player Predator-Prey, first kill = win and game over. This keeps anyone from being stuck on the sidelines and makes the games go relatively quickly, but Shadowmoor’s lack of good defense often means that one player can grab victory easily if they get off to a fast start. We haven’t seen too many comebacks, which may tell you something.

  3.  

    I was wondering if multi player Shadowmoor would be cooler than what I had experienced thus far. I was thinking that perhaps I four or five player Shadowmoor game could be interesting simply because it might actually bring the attrition into real play and limited the “race” effect.

  4.  

    I suspect that in a different multiplayer game type than what my group’s playing now, Shadowmoor could work better. Something like Cutthroat, perhaps, or as I think you’re suggesting four- or five-player Predator-Prey.

    The first kill clause we’re working with puts too much emphasis on racing, for this block, while Lorwyn worked somewhat better under this condition. Lorwyn also felt like a more fun set overall though.