Sunday, 19 January 2014

Android: Netrunner - My Journey in a Dystopian Future - Part 16: Is Jackson Howard the problem?

In my last post I outlined the potentially broken combo that appeared in the game of Netrunner on the release of the Mala Tempora data pack. All the fingers are pointing at Power Shutdown – the unrestricted ability allowing it to combine with Accelerated Diagnostics to flatlining affect.

But here’s the thing – none of this would be possible without Jackson Howard.

Jackson was released as in the Opening Moves pack and was held aloft on the shoulders of the Netrunner community as a hero of our times, the greatest card the game had yet seen.

His abilities:

Draw 2 cards for a click, allowing the Corp to work through his deck and get to those cards he wants.
Remove Jackson Howard from the game to put up to 3 cards from archives back into R&D and shuffle R&D.

While this second ability could be used for all manner of things, such as dropping your 3 Hedge Funds back into your deck; it has ultimately been used to protect Agendas.

But did Jackson make the game better?

He ruined the follow-up run after a successful Indexing – was Indexing a powerful enough card to warrant Jackson’s introduction?
Jackson single-handedly took Noise out of the game, many virus decks becoming redundant overnight.
He took the risk out of Accelerated Beta Test’s optional ability – a delicious risk that made its use exciting.
And he makes the Power Shutdown/Accelerated Diagnostics combo possible. Without him, it would be nothing.

Up until now, Fantasy Flight Games’ modus operandi has been to introduce a powerful card and then give you the tools to combat it. Scorched Earth has Plascrete Carapace; Atman has Swordsman; so does Jackson need his own nemesis? A friend of mine and regular opponent has suggested a Runner card called something like “Communication Blackout” that prevents the Corp from using his Executives (communicating with them if you will), for, say, a turn or even until the Corp finds a way to trash the Runner’s card.

I suspect FFG consider the Power Shutdown combo to be too situational with too many moving parts for it to come together and become prevalent enough to warrant restriction. I also suspect Jackson Howard will remain as he is, smiling behind his desk of cuddly toys; but time will tell.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Android: Netrunner - My Journey in a Dystopian Future - Part 15: Control, Alt, Delete

I wouldn’t have noticed this myself, but it was mentioned on a Netrunner podcast and I’ve since looked it up on BoardgameGeek.

There’s a potential “broken” combo in Netrunner – i.e. too powerful and could be a candidate for restriction.

It involves the following cards: Jackson Howard, Sea Source, Scorched Earth and the new ones from Mala Tempora – Power Shutdown and Accelerated Diagnostics.

•    In his previous turn, the Runner makes a successful run.
•    As the Corp’s turn begins he rezzes Jackson Howard (already in play).
•    Click 1: He plays Power Shutdown for 1 credit – Play only if the Runner made a run during his or her last turn. Trash X cards from the top of R&D. The Runner trashes 1 installed program or piece of hardware with an install cost of X or less. What the Runner trashes doesn’t really matter because that’s not why the Corp is doing this here. The Corp trashes his entire R&D.
•    The Corp trashes Jackson Howard and puts a Sea Source and 2 Scorched Earths back into R&D from Archives.
•    Click 2: The Corp plays Accelerated Diagnostics for 1 credit – Look at the top 3 cards of R&D. If any of those cards are Operations, you may play them (paying the install costs).
•    Having looked at the only 3 cards now in R&D, he gets to play them all:
1. Sea Source for 2 credits – Play only if the Runner made a successful run during his or her last turn. Trace 3 – if successful, give the Runner 1 tag.
2. Scorched Earth for 3 credits – Play only if the Runner is tagged. Do 4 meat damage.
3. Scorched Earth for 3 credits – Play only if the Runner is tagged. Do 4 meat damage.
•    Flatline……………..

There are a couple of variations. You might have to do it in 3 clicks if you don’t already have Jackson Howard installed for example.
So, do we think it’s going to get restricted?

It’s reliant on quite a few things – Jackson Howard being in your hand or in play; Power Shutdown being in your hand; Accelerated Diagnostics being in your hand; having enough money to play these cards and succeed with the Trace from Sea Source; being able to kill the Runner with the Scorched Earths.

Also, would a deck designed to do this combo (3 of each of these cards to increase the chances of success), be affective at anything else? Or would the Runner be all over the Corp while the Corp was waiting to get this combo set up?

The combo could be easily broken up with a restriction – i.e. you can’t use Power Shutdown in conjunction with Accelerated Diagnostics or Jackson Howard.
Or a card errata – Accelerated Diagnostics cannot be used to play a card that gives the Runner a tag perhaps? Or it cannot be used to play more than one copy of an Operation?
Or simply a restriction on the number of cards you can trash with Power Shutdown.

But should our attention be focused elsewhere? Does the problem actually lie with someone else? I'm looking at you, Jackson.

We'll explore more in the next post.

JD's Gaming Awards 2013

Here are my awards in gaming – including only titles I have personally owned and that were released in 2013.

Best Graphics
With beautiful looking games like Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider and Splinter Cell Blacklist being released on 7th generation consoles in 2013, it seems unfair that the winner goes to a game on the brand new console sneaking in at the end of the year. But there is simply no ignoring Ryse: Son of Rome. The line between cut-scene and gameplay has not just been blurred, but wiped out completely. Stunning visuals.

Best Gameplay
You know what to expect from these games by now, so it’s no surprise that Grand Theft Auto V takes this one.
Best Sound
While they actually have to sort out sound bugs in multiplayer, the Frostbite 3 engine ensures that Battlefield 4 remains at the forefront of game audio.

Best Music
Combining original score with songs old and new, Bioshock Infinite uses music to brilliant affect.

Best Story
A story told without words, yet Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons manages to be an emotional experience.
Best Acting
An award that used to be “Best Voice Acting” needed the name change as so many more games now are using motion-capture instead of simple voiceovers. For flawless and believable performances, this goes to all involved in Grand Theft Auto V.

Most Innovative
While the PS4 is cleverly sending its games to the PS Vita for remote play, I can’t see why that is so great. Why would I spend so much on a new console, just to switch it off and play on a small screen? 
With its snap feature, Upload Studio, cloud-powered features like Drivatar and voice technology, Most Innovative this year goes to the Xbox One.

Best Local Multiplayer
Could have gone to FIFA 14, but this year’s local multiplayer winner is NHL 14. The best in the series so far.

Best Online Multiplayer
In maps, action, player count, and environmental destruction - Battlefield 4 is multiplayer on a massive scale.
Best Dashboard app/feature
Upload Studio (Xbox One) - This allows you to edit, customise and upload your gaming moments to the rest of the Xbox community and has been one of the best features of the console since release.

Special Mention
It might not have won in any of these categories, but it certainly deserves this special mention. A brilliant reboot, amazing visuals, gameplay and story, it’s Tomb Raider.

Best Game
Combining the best of Chaos Theory with the slick new direction of Conviction, Splinter Cell Blacklist was everything I’d hoped for after Conviction rose to the very top of my favourite games. Only Blacklist could topple it, and it did it in style. Brilliant game.

JD's Film Awards 2013

It’s awards season here on JD’s Blog - Based on the films I’ve seen that were released in 2013, here are my picks:

Best Score/Music
Musicals are not for everybody. In fact, they aren’t for most people, but I really enjoyed Les Miserables, full of moving and rousing songs alike.

Best Screenplay
Richard Curtis might not be for everyone either. Those people have no souls. About Time is brilliantly written.
Best Effects
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – You could argue that too much is now CGI, but when it’s this good, it’s hard to complain. Great throughout, but the showcase is the simply stunning sequence when Smaug reveals himself in his full glory.

Best Story
About Time – I came out of the cinema beaming and it lasted a good few weeks before the weight of the world crushed my spirit again. I can’t wait for this to come out on DVD. I’ll probably melt it down and inject it.

Best Actor
With a spot on accent and look, this goes to the great performance of Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda in Rush.
Best Actress
Conveying the unfathomable terror of being adrift in the most hostile environment you can imagine, Sandra Bullock in Gravity takes this one.

Best Director
Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity). Just….wow.

Best Film
It’s very difficult for me not to give this to About Time, but in many ways it relies on what you are like as a person and whether its themes are going to push your buttons. While I might not want to be around anyone who could dislike this film completely, I concede that such people are out there.
And so my Best Film award goes to Gravity. And well-deserved it is. With the best 3D I’ve seen since Avatar; an amazing central performance from Sandra Bullock; truly jaw-dropping effects somehow achieved without low-gravity – this movie is a cinematic marvel. Such a film comes along only once in a while. You could argue that Inception was the last, but you might even have to go back as far as The Matrix to pinpoint one of those cinematic experiences that just stops you in your tracks and make you realise you are witness to something truly special. Gravity – Take a bow.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

New Years Resolutions 2014

So 2014 has landed and people everywhere are making New Year’s resolutions. Self-improvement is always at the top of the agenda and gyms around the country will be full for a couple of weeks and then tail off again as people realise they simply can’t be bothered.

I tend not to make resolutions like exercise more. Instead I just make a list of things I’d like to do or achieve in the coming year.

In 2014 I’d like to cook more. I make dinner almost every day, but it isn’t always what you’d describe as cooking. So there’s going to be more of that this year – fresh produce, food and recipes I’ve never tried before.

I’d like to expand the subjects of this blog. Films, videogames and Android: Netrunner will remain at the forefront, but I’d like to branch out into other subjects too. I’d like to write about food, fashion, being a 30+ male in the 21st century.

With the discovery of Fantasy Flight’s LCGs and the arrival of the Xbox One, my Warhammer hobby really tailed off this year. I should have finished painting Dreadfleet and I hardly got any games of 40K in. Well that’s going to change in 2014. Dreadfleet painting is going to kick off again this week and as soon as funds allow, I will be getting the new Space Marine codex (yep, that’s right, I haven’t even bought that yet).

The main thing on the agenda this year is buying a house. Things have been a little fraught these past few months and there have been many house viewings. I’ll tell you the whole story once we’re sorted and can look back on it all and laugh. Until then, it’s going to be a hectic few months.

Whatever 2014 has in store for you, I hope it brings you health and happiness.