TaKtiX: Laurence J Sinclair

Laurence J Sinclair has been playing the Warlord CCG since the release of the game - mainly thanks to that killer Rathe art. He even stuck with it through that dark time involving Campaign Rathe art. Now he is a playtester and a member of the Warlord Story Team - guiding the armies of the Accordlands into an uncertain future.


Tangent #1 - Deadlands!

I shall return to the subject of Warlord in all due course, but with the recent release of Deadlands: Reloaded, I thought I'd give my thoughts on it.

The book itself is exceedingly gorgeous. Not only have Pinnacle looted the back-catalogue of Doomtown card art, but they've commissioned a whole bunch of new art specifically for the book! All you Warlord fans should be aware that there's even a new piece by a certain Mister Engle...

In style it departs wildly from the original books. Full colour for one thing, the space eating margins have finally been gotten rid of, although the rather large size of print means that, overall, we're not netting a lot of extra words per page. Despite the packed 256 pages, the fact that there are so many full-page illustrations means that the actual meat of the product isn't as much as one would hope for.

Having not played the Savage Worlds game system yet, I can't comment on how good an entry this world setting is to the range, but the rules seem solid enough. Fate chips are back, duels become a bluffing game of Texas Hold 'em and all the Arcane Backgrounds are present and correct. There's even the chance to lose your arm to the Veteran tables again!

Then there's the background section. The world has moved on, passing from the 1876 of the original, through the 1877 of the revised edition and the 1878 of the Gomorra era to end up in 1879. Things have changed, particularly regarding the state of the war, the rail barons and the sasquatches. Unfortunately, while the recent events have all been taken care of, a lot of general background has been omitted. The basics of the many plots circulating the Weird West remains, but if you're expecting in-depth explanation of the motivations of many of the villains, or even who they are (Santa Anna and Emperor Maximilian are enigmas, and you'd be forgiven for not knowing who Geronimo is) then you'll be left wanting.

The Marshal's section has all the meaty goods on Harrowed, proper encounter tables for all the many regions and a huge section on abominations and enemies. At almost eighty pages, it's the largest section of the book, and while I appreciate having all the critters described, I'd much rather have had some of the minor ones omitted so that there's more room for that missing background I mentioned earlier.

Or, failing that, some Marshal guidelines. The original volumes contained extensive writings on how to run a proper horror western, to evoke mood and atmosphere and properly creep out the players. Lamentably, there's nothing of the sort here. No hints or advice, just hard rules. Even a page or two of designer's notes would have been nice.

Still, for all my belly-aching I like it. It's missing a lot of stuff that could have been added, but there's only so much that a book can take, and I'm sure that newcomers to the setting probably won't notice. Did I mention how pretty it is? With six plot point books on the way and a healthy amount of free downloads on their website, I'm looking forward to giving it a whirl. After all, the true test of the game is how it plays. With the old system often leading to many drawn-out fights that took too long to resolve, hopefully the Savage Worlds system should speed things up, leaving gunfights as quick and deadly as they should be.

I'm not going to end with giving it marks out of ten, but on the whole I am thoroughly satisfied. Sure, I'm disappointed that it missed so many opportunities, but that's due to my expectations being up there in the stratosphere. It is what it is, and everyone should be glad that Deadlands is back on shelves again. YEEEEE-HA!


Winning with Class

I may ask you the question, 'how many ways are there to win a game of Warlord?'

'Just one,' you could well answer, unless the smartarse in you really considers Negotiated Surrender or A Prophecy Fulfilled viable means of conquering your foes, adding 'and that is to slay the opposing warlord,' if you thought that my question was anything but rhetorical.

Yes, there is one end result to aim for, but so many different paths to take to get there. Each one, in its own way, could be considered to be a different victory condition, ranging from the simple difference between 'my warlord slays mine opponent's 'pon the field of battle' to 'my warlord hangs back and lets his peons carry the day'.

The biggest differences are cut up between the classes, as no self-respecting wizard warlord is going to resort to cracking skulls, and fighters aren't spending their time healing their fellows. That makes for four disparate routes to victory already, but when you factor in the subtle nuances between even decks of the same class - shooty rogue and stabby rogue, etc. - it multiplies up. And each faction has differences as well. And then what of the multiclassers? Or subclasses? Or...

Basically, I intend to run through the general 'archetypes' of decks (and I really am air-quoting as I type) over my next few posts. It follows on logically from the idea of deckbuilding, and should require enough seperate articles as to not require me to devise any fresh ideas for a good long while. As I trawl through each class and its divisions, I'll note play styles and card inclusions that are worth it, whether because they are tried-and-tested or because they are really off-the-wall.

Where (and indeed when) I begin I shall leave a mystery for now, but them's the basics.


Shuffling and Such

Now, this post may seem to be a little 'late' compared to those I churned out last week, but bear in mind that this is not going to be anywhere near the daily blog that it may have seemed to be at first. This is merely a short entry to celebrate the fact that the inernet is back up down here, and also to mention something that all good Warlord players should be aware of.

When shuffling, it is probably best to hold the deck so that your opponent can only see the backs of your cards, and not glean an advance hint at what cards it contains.

This only came to my attention when I noticed Chris doing just such a thing on Friday, giving me a minor heads-up relating to what to expect him to play. I've always subconsciously concealed my decks from the opponent, but some people just need to be trained to do so. Discipline yourself, in a similar way to the practice cuts that you make in friendly games to get into the habit for tournaments.

And typing of cutting, there is an art to that also. Why go for a simple random grab for a centre split when you can be much more creative? Shitfing the bottom card to the top, or vice versa, is enough to constitute a cut and still worry your opponent over whether or not that little difference will cost them in the long run. It's a totally unfounded worry, but you'd be surprised how easily some people can be rattled. Yes, even intellectual Warlord players.

Also, always spend your items, characters and such to the same direction, either clockwise or anti-clockwise. To do so is evidence of a calm, measured mind that will unnerve your opponent. To turn all your cards higgledy-piggledy will only result in you looking like a messy fool who is falling to pieces. No one wants that.

Keep your discard pile tidy as well. Not just for appearances, but the easier it is to pick up at the end of a game, the quicker you can move on to the next. It may not seem like much, but a lifetime of litter picking after every game will rob you of countless extra games.

Finally, while many people may boast of backing their decks, it's not as cool as it sounds. Those double-thickness piles of cards are a right pain to shuffle, and the thought of impressing everyone you play against with your excellent taste in trades must be measured against the potential risk of wearing out all the bones in your hand and wrist. There are deck protectors with pictures on them; settle for those.


This rambling treatise on treating one's cards properly is merely filler; now that I have devised a suitable connecting theme for my next few posts, this whole thing is gonna start looking more professional.


An Obsessive Desire

So, where to start with the first proper post here? Rather than dive randomly into some obscure fancy, I'm merely going to follow on logically from what I started with. Easier all round.

How to build a deck is one thing. Why to build a deck is something different altogether. What is the inspiration? Is there a new warlord that has caught your eye, promising to be flavour of the month or maybe just to render obsolete a previously decent competitor? Have you spotted a card combo that you're sure that no one else will have noticed, and you want to show it to the world for a single, slightly comedic, game?

Whatever the inkling that's got you thinking, one thing you can be sure of is that your first idea will not be the best. As with any endeavour, practice makes perfect, and often you'll find yourself redrafting your deck multiple times until the finished product bears only a superficial resemblance to what you started with.

Examples? I'm glad you asked. Case in point, the mighty Crucin Bascar. Around him have many plans revolved, all of them rubbish. At his first release, he was a godsend; finally, I would not need to rely on Jehrico to get my Lady Tornhawk combo off! It was bad enough that I'd lost access to Loot and Demonslayer when Campaign rolled around, but Sneak Attack was restoring hope to me!

The deck sucked mightily, but there's an example of how an idea I'd had ages ago resurfaced later, no better than it was originally. But the fact that Crucin was involved, in fact was the instigator of the resurgence, meant that he was now automatically included in all future ponderings.

Take, for example, tthe Exeter groups acquisition of enough Bascarite Vermin between us to finally field a deck composed entirely of them, plus a starting line-up. Crucin was our go-to guy as first choice of warlord. Many were the times that Chris' rendition of the deck duked it out with my own, often to a result of mutually assured destruction. The fact that front line clerics don't work was weighed down on us all the more. And I'd been so proud of finding a use for Ellyah's Children...

Teufeltiger's Lies, that gem from Hero's Gambit, was an excuse for us to go back to the Vermin and their master Crucin. Now he had something that would turn them into an effective fighting force!

Oh, they were that all right. But they still sucked.

The internet told us of someone using a similar deck to place highly in a tournament. Only they'd gone beyond us, to use Atu Amani in place of Crucin, with Anguli Mala replacing the Vermin. Much quicker, and with a more resilient front rank warlord, it was miles and away simply better than anything we could do with our decks. Had we not still been obsessing over Crucin, we ma have made the leap of deduction to find Atu in our own time, but the simple truth is that we wouldn't.

Y'see, inspiration can be a good thing, but you mustn't let it carry you away, and blind you to the other similar opportunities that are all around. We learned that, then. So now Crucin has been replaced by Teufeltiger's Lies. It is now the new 'must build lots of decks around it' card. Ghed Jaroslav debuted the Deverenian incarnation of the deck, and it's only a matter of time before I sink low enough to come up with some Open Contal/Teufeltiger's Lies/NoThRoG siege deck.

There is a lesson there, somewhere.

My second, less windbagged, example is simpler to relate. In my never-ending quest to make Lord Netheryn a force to be feared, I'd hit upon the Markappal Mire as a way to maximise his huge tripleclass stats. Yet a few days after I'd given up in frustration at the deck's ineffable slowness, Chris showed me his Albrecht interpretation of the same idea. With a FreeK army to support it, the basic theory held. All it required was a little experimentation, searching around for better base materials to make a stronger end product.

By all means go with your heart and build a deck centred around the card with the most beautiful art. But be prepared to compromise if you want your dream to be actualised. Constructive criticism ("That's deck's pants, mate") shouldn't be reason to quit and go back to playing conkers. It should be taken on board to help in the process of deckbuilding.


A Slightly Different Follow Up

I was fully intending to follow up yesterday's insightful discourse with mention of a similarly much-neglected aspect to playing Warlord, such as the merits of ensuring that the artwork on your starting line-up is facing outwards, or making noises at the appropriate time to disquiet one's opponents.

Instead, between bouts of slapping around my dissertation, spamming X-net and the Temple (good thing it crashed when it did, or I'd still be there now), I somehow contrived to write another Warlord fanfic, to follow on from 'Down Among the Beast Pens'. Some sort of 'write dissertation - BLOCK - write fanfic - BLOCK LIFTEED - write dissertation - BLOCK...' process went on.

I hesitate to paste it up here, but assure you all (yes, both of you reading this) that I'll have something more directly related to the game tomorrow. Hmm, since Chris is focussing on how to begin the game, maybe I should deal with its end? A five page treatise on why you shouldn't drag out the process of finishing an enemy warlord. Mortal Kombat still has so much to teach us.

No. It'll be something better than that. Not exactly mainstream tactical insights, but then everyone knows them already. The little points that the big guys miss, those'll be my area of expertise. Until I naturally drift away to some other topic less worthy.

So this entire post has been a big waste of time? Well... yes, yes it has. But if you're still reading by this point, then you've persevered through my annoying writing style, and should be more prepared to trawl through it when there is actual information contained therein.

Bet you're all looking forward to that, yes? Mostly with muttered prayers that it needn't be another snatch of drivel like this one. That does mean that I can only improve though.

Warlord attracts an eclectic group of people to its banner, and I'm here to show you just one of the many wildly different approaches. More fool you for paying attention.



Since I need to be distracted from this dissertation that I'm trying to write, I may as well make my inaugural post here about the other thing that's currently taking up my time.

Seeing as how it's been around a week since I properly got my mitts on some of those fancy new Eye of the Storm cards for Warlord, I've been spending the intervening time trying to put together decks for the new warlords, decks for old warlords that have one or two new cards that could be good for them, an up-to-date Lord Netheryn deck, etc.

I've realised that I need more floor space.

Y'see, when I sit down to slap a deck or six together, I go through a process probably quite unlike any that most o' you happy folk out there do. Rather than dig out the cards that I need to build the deck - although a few eye-catchers that inspired the construction in the first place might jump to my attention first - I insist on going through every card one by one, weighing it up on its merits before adding it to the pile or discarding it out of hand. By the end of this process, I'll have a way-more-than-fifty-cards monstrosity in need of a good shearing.

While this may be a time-consuming process, it does allow me to look again upon previously forgotten cards and bring them back to prominence, as well as perhaps inspiring more decks at the same time, creating a new cycle of events. It also makes the deck-building process itself that little bit more fun. Rather than a boring, mechanical 'plonk in the Exhaustions and Kapix and...' ritual, it becomes something that I actually participate in. Albeit at the cost of a lot of floorspace.

Which is why I'm happy that Epic Edition is coming. 'Cuz it'll cut down the number of cards that I have to sort through at any one time. Not that I find the large number at the moment any less enjoyable. Of course. Taking a picnic lunch makes an afternoon of it.

About Laurence

Laurence Sinclair (Khilkameth) is a member of the Exeter playtest team, has been playing Warlord since the release of the game.