“You just had to know how to do it, and when to do it, and most important of all, why to do it. Powerful substance like this, Lowell would explain, it wasn't there just for any casual jack-off recreational urge. It was there to allow you to do things. To empower you, he said, so you could do things and, best of all, finish them.”
― William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
This past Sunday saw the final curtain call for the local Android: Netrunner tournament scene. A great tournament, despite lackluster attendance and a clear indication that the decision to pull the proverbial plug on the game had nothing to do with its quality or potential, but rather more inspid and mundane reasons. Needless to say, it was a very bittersweet experience, and for an old fart like me, the stimulus for more existential self-reflection (i.e. was this my last competitive card game ever? Do I have the energy for another crack at something new? And so on). Also, I realize that it’s been quite some time since I last rambled about cards in this nice site, so I’ll go on and abuse my keyboard (and your time) a bit more. I will also apologize for writing this in English instead of the usual Greek, but several friends from abroad enjoy my generic ramblings on gaming, so from time to time I try to accommodate them as well.
First things first, since this is supposed to be a tournament report, let’s start with that.
2018 Netrunner Nationals
I was really happy that we actually managed to pull that off, as the local distributor has shown a degree of unwillingness to procure FFG Prize kits for events that might not even cover the kit cost (much to the disappointment of the six brave souls that play Armada in Athens, heh), or in some cases in the past actually sell the kits to e-bay sellers instead of running the events (innocent whistles towards the Ionian Sea). Slippery slope and all that.
Turnout was not great, just 10 people, but given the circumstances, the date and people still caught up in Summer jobs it was kinda expected. With some more effort we might have climbed up to 16 brave souls, but that was probably our limit. It would have been nice to have a final clash with our “rivals” of the North, but realistically September is a bad month to run events in Greece if you’re aiming at a local turnout. Apart from that, the field was splendidly diverse, the competition rather fierce (every attendant had won at least one regional level event in his career), the beer was cold and the atmosphere was fantastic. As usual.
Special mention should be made to Rubicon Escape Rooms, the tournament venue as it was one of the nicest places I’ve run events in. Spacious, well-lit playing area, great tables, great service. Now if only someone also came with a deck based on Rubicon Switch to score an inception victory and nerd points 😊 Hopefully, we’ll find another excuse to peruse the place in the future, it’s the next best thing to booking a hotel conference room for small/medium events.
Meta-wise, Argus and HPT based decks were the dominant choice, with Jinteki Glaciers running close behind. My custom Sports Metal insanity (Ioosely based on the Murderball concept in netrunner db) gave a lot of people pause and a lot of high strung moments and crazy plays. On the runner side of things, Smoke and Val were probably the most consistent choices, while everybody else had to really struggle either vs the very taxing Jinteki ICE or the harsh economic game of Weyland PovertyHammer ™. I daresay the end result of the event was fully justifiable – the best tuned decks made it to the final and Lady Luck smiled on the eventual winner. Needless to say, the environment was one of the best this game has ever had, diverse, challenging and definitely not “solved”. Which is more the pity, really.
The GNRL (Greek Netrunner League) was more or less my brainchild, coming into being as soon as the game released way back in 2013, as a group grass roots effort to stir up more support for the game, get more players actively involved in OP, provide people with reasons to explore the game further than simply netdecking the best netrunnerdb has to offer and lastly provide incentives for people to move from store to store and expand their playing experience. At 11 different venues in three cities, 96 tournaments, 172 unique players and over 5000 archived swiss matches, I can safely say it was a successful venture. But the numbers are not that important, the smiling faces are, and I think my greatest reward from that particular enterprise was the overall positive and feelgood atmosphere we collectively enjoyed over these years.
Of course, it would be greatly remiss of me not to mention all those great people that I sucked down the rabbit hole of my insanity, without whom things wouldn’t have worked out. First and foremost, I need to thank master craftsman Vangelis Galanis, whose custom prizes and creations made all the difference. My partner in crime Manolis Trachiotis who helped resolve many difficult situations while setting up large events, despite having succeded in the saving throw vs ANR’s irresistible allure. From the store owners, Chris Grountas for feeding the league with kits even when situations actually caused him to lose money, John Paraskevopoulos, George Karabinis and Petros Panagiotidis for supporting the game and the community in its twilight stage and of course everyone else that graciously opened his place for us to go and play without actually having to rent it (various Kaissa Stores, Fantasy Shop, DragonPhoenix Inn, Playstories, This House Rules, Rubicon). Special mention needs to go to Kostas Retalis, Panagiotis Zinoviadis and everyone else I am forgetting that contributed actively to the community and the article section of Crypsis.gr. Lastly, a deep bow should go to all the players for bringing their best behavior in our events and Ioannis “Iron Man” Reppas for actually attending more league events than me and always lending a helping hand with running things and those dreadful extend double elim finals. Love, peace and pitbulls.
So what about Tomorrow?
Hm, that’s a really difficult question – one that I cannot possibly answer at this moment. Obviously the next contender for my gaming time and money is Keyforge. Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve already been hit by the hype-wave. It looks great on paper, but there are too many fine points that haven’t been made public yet that will determine the game’s actual appeal, ability to create a vibrant and enjoyable community and most importantly… its longevity. Keyforge might provide an interesting tournament scene and a healthy secondary market, but I doubt it will manage to scratch that particular itch all long time card gamers have. Lack of deckbuilding and evolving meta is probably going to be the limiting factors of the game. Still, cautiously optimistic on this.
As far as the rest of the available games are concerned, I am not overtly enthusiastic either. I won’t touch MtG with a 10-foot pole, AGoT 2.0 is only fun for me on a casual level and DoomTown: Reloaded looks a lot of fun but there are probably 2 more players in a city of 5 million. That says a lot about the game’s prospects /sadface.
In all this, I didn’t mention the obvious choice: L5R. Despite a phenomenal launch and a technically flawless game, interest in Legend of the Five Rings seems to be declining rapidly across the board. While post-launch drops are the norm in all LCGs, L5R’s prospects don’t seem to bright. It’s a great game to sit down and enjoy with a friend, complex and rewarding – but I feel like something is missing. I have the impression that the designers, in their effort to produce a balanced product have designed themselves in a corner. There’s scant room for more “fun/fluff” cards and interesting mechanics as is, and unless FFG takes a page from AEG’s book and changes something drastically (e.g. replacing the dial with a dueling/focus deck or adding something entirely new to the mix) there’s really not much room to design interesting cards. I fervently wish my fears will be proven wrong, but for the moment that’s what my crystal ball shows. As far as the OP side of things goes, I doubt I need to express my unhappiness with the current system again. It really provides me with zero motivation to attend any large event outside of Athens, and sadly a lot of the old hands seem to feel the same (so we can’t even meet for beers and random campfire tales of yore). I’m not dropping L5R, still plan to run as many events as I can, but I doubt it’s going to replace the vacant hole the end of ANR has created. Maybe I’m just tired after so many rapid changes in the status quo of card gaming that I need some time off. Dunno.
Finally, I see that there are several people that are excited about the player-driven Nisei Foundation. While it’s a great initiative, I doubt it will get much mileage outside Jinteki.net – or a small group of people. Given my great dislike for all things online when it comes to card games, I can’t really see it in a positive light. Again, as before, I really hope my projections are wrong. At the moment, I think this set of lyrics describes the situation perfectly:
A blackened shroud
A hand-me-down gown
Of rags and silks, a costume
Fit for one who sits and cries
For all tomorrow's parties
-The Velvet Underground, All Tomorrow’s Parties.
I know that this article was a bit more somber (or bleak) than my usual rants, but it’s kinda fitting. As with the end of OldL5R, and other terminal events of similar sort, after the short term depression I find that it’s more constructive to focus on the good times and the good people everyone met in each particular journey with a now defunct game. It’s always about the people and rarely about the cards, so who knows, maybe somewhere later down the road the stars will align again and the opportunities to gather and have a great time will present themselves anon. Even if it means dusting off your Warlord: Saga of the Storm collection and having a gruff looking dwarf introduce your army to his Lady.
/End the Run