A large portion of the week was spent on the road, as they say. I was unplugged in most of the usual senses: I didn’t even check my email from Wednesday afternoon until Monday morning. That may be the longest I’ve gone without digital communication since high school. I did intersperse a few Twitter text messages in there; it’s not like I traveled back in time. But being away from it all meant, among other things, that my typical games were not accessible nor were the people I engage to play them.
I did squeeze in a game of Blood Bowl last Monday night, at a pizza parlor no less. It was a hasty ordeal organized in a clandestine manner with comically ancient technologies (telegram) but necessary if I wanted to retain my streak of league games. I didn’t win, but I did manage to draw a tie. So far the (undead) Spoilers seem to be slow out of the gate and only their tenacity to fill the available roster spots late in the second half allows games to be close. I need to get better at not playing “down” since I frequently lose the coin toss and give up an early touchdown; the best I’ve been able to do is identify a need for fewer squishy players I’m afraid of losing on defensive drives. Specifically I need to stop loading the defensive line with Regeneration-less ghouls. We’ll see how this week’s game pans out armed with that insight.
The one thing I did have on my travels was my DS filled exclusively with Etrian Odyssey II. If you want to understand why I continue to marvel at how engaged I am with this game, you must comprehend that I expected to be this enraptured by hard-hitting next gen titles like Grand Theft Auto IV and Mass Effect. What we’re comparing to, essentially, is a game that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Pentium (one) PC in 1996 that has transitional animation (that is, only the key frames) and consists almost exclusively of menus. I really have a hard time putting it down.
I reached the 2nd Strata over the weekend, playing on the plane and in the hotel room on mornings while I waited for my companions to wake from their sleep. The palate swap to autumn colors in this stage of the game was enough to force a tiny squeal of glee from deep in my chest. The unwitting passenger in the seat next to me was forced to glance at the screens and saw me almost slavering for the chance to unleash my mad cartography skillz on a new floor of the labyrinth. He immediately asked to be re-seated, and I barely noticed he was gone.
Short and sweet like the last few weeks. I’d blame the travel more adamantly, but I doubt it would ring particularly true.
- Blood Bowl – I played against Aaron’s Dwarf team which was interesting. He threatened to score very early (especially for a “slow” team) and while I was able to delay him for a few turns, it wasn’t enough. He was getting really excellent die rolls so I can’t pinpoint any specific strategic thing I could have done differently except that, as noted above, I placed all three of my ghouls on the starting defensive line and left two zombies sitting in the Reserves box. I need to learn to prepare for the situation at hand and not what I wish it were. In the end I managed to clear the pitch enough to score but I left enough time at the end of the second half to permit a last ditch effort to score. I was saved only by two botched dodge rolls so it could have been a 1-2 loss as easily as it was a 1-1 tie.
I can’t help but feel like there is an untapped vein of strategic gold that I need to locate to help push me past this hump of close-game-tie-game outcomes but I have yet to determine what it is or even what it relates to. I’ve made incremental improvements in my game just by sheer volume of experience in the last few weeks. Maybe I need to have an opportunity to play more teams outside my familiarity range or maybe I need to play with teams that lend themselves to different strategies to break the mental deadlock, I’m not sure. My window for such a change may be opening soon enough.
- Etrian Odyssey II – By the time I reached Chimaera, he was a little disappointing. Not that I didn’t have to work a little to get past him, but it certainly wasn’t as troubling as some of the lesser FOEs have been (Stalkers, for example). I did raise in skill and ability high enough to handle the Furyhorns on Level 2 but it wasn’t until I had a fairly impressive run through and got my Ronin’s Force skill active that I could at last live long enough to defeat a single Stalker.
Meanwhile I’ve found that the Beast character class is rapidly becoming one of my favorites; it offers most of the long-term benefits of the War Magus and the FOE interrupts of the Troubadour while maintaining a powerful front-line presence. I’ve carried the Troubadour and Beast together for the last few hours of play since I have the Troub’s Divinity XP-boosting at Mastery level and I want the Beast to catch up with the rest of us. So far the strategy has paid dividends, but meanwhile I’ve left some of my other characters in the dust.
Anyway, three weeks, 2nd Stratum and 7th Floor. I now know there are 30 floors in presumably six Strata so my initial estimates to complete the game are not that far off.
Gaming may have been necessarily light due to the weekend trip, but when we returned I found the Shadowforge female elf Blood Bowl team I had ordered was waiting for me. I wasted no time in getting the base team (11 players) assembled and primed and I picked up a striking bottle of purple paint for their uniforms as well as some replacement flesh tones (since my old ones were miserably dried out and goopy). I don’t know how long it will take to get the team into operational condition, but I hope to enter them in the Friday night tournament at ConQuest SF which is in 25 days. I guess it will be a race to the finish.