The first round was played using pre-built decks. The decks were:
- Mad Science! : a deck based on the Gladstein conspiracy supported by a Dog Face contingent, because all mad science should have monkeys involved (in this case, Attack Baboons). The deck has plenty of Fringe gear and conditions to boost characters.
- Hermetic Aries : a deck using the Hermetic magic-based conspiracy boosted by Aries gang muscle, because Hermetics have pull but are pretty weak by themselves.
- Big Government : a deck pulling from the C&I, the DBI, and the CPC. Pretty strong, but requires an additional Resource or two to get its characters out.
- Beginners Deck : a deck based on the example deck in the OTE User’s Guide. The base deck is weak and unable to win, so I tweaked it a bit – it is still the weakest of the four pre-built decks. This is the deck I used in the teaching round.
The advantage of teaching with themed decks is that they work immediately (barring a bad shuffle). They show the benefits of having characters and resources that support each other in play and reduce the number of duplicate characters, avoiding the need to discard characters due to uniqueness, which would be frustrating to new players. I should also note that these decks were all ~40 cards each.
The first game ended with the Big Government deck winning after a slow start. In hindsight, the slow start may have helped. By the time the Big Government player was finally able to get characters in play, the other three players had beat each other’s’ conspiracies down. This left the Big Government conspiracy in a position of strength, able to smackdown or resist the other conspiracies’ attacks. It was a good game and everyone had fun, even though it ran long.
Once that game finished, I passed out decks and boosters from the Burger Box starter set. This gave everyone a Standard starter deck, 2 Standard boosters, and 2 boosters each from the Arcana, Cut-Ups, and Shadows expansions. This gave everyone a pool of 140 cards to build a deck with. We did not trade between players before the first game, each player building their deck as a solo exercise. As a result, all four of us had the Aries gang in our deck (they are common cards). This produced some frustration for all of us during the second game, especially for those of us who were unable to get them in play quickly enough.
After the second game (first one with the self-built decks), we all re-tooled our decks to fix their deficiencies. One player doubled down on the Aries gang. Two of us jettisoned the Aries gang entirely and replaced them with different factions, borrowing cards from other players to make it happen. I added in the Kergillian faction [aliens conspiring to take over the world with implants, ala Triffids] and the other player chose the Throckmorton faction as she had both the Throckmorton Device and Angela Reyes [a conspiracy based on sub-quantum interference in reality from the future by the Device making sure it is made so it can give control of the world to Clyde Throckmorton, currently a humble bug exterminator]. I’ve played using the Kergillians before, but I’ve never seen anyone field the Throckmortons before, so I was interested in seeing how that worked out. The fourth player dropped the Hermetics from his deck and focused more on non-Hermetic Astral cards as he had few cards that supported the Hermetics specifically. I should note he was playing with a 60-card deck to the 40-card decks the rest of us were using – it seemed to be no more or less effective than our decks.
The third game was quicker and ended once I was finally able to get my Kergillians in play, especially Fabrissa Melors, whose Surprise ability coupled with a Hostility Channeler allowed me to efficiently pop the heavy hitters and blockers the other players were fielding, exposing their pullers to easy attack. My late start also meant that the other conspiracies were running on fumes after battering each other early. I’m beginning to think that not doing anything but bringing out Resources for the first 4-5 turns may be a winning strategy in a 4-player game.
After a dinner break and a few more tweaks to the decks, we played a fourth game. We were pretty even in Influence and felt we had time until the Throckmorton player brought out Angela Reyes and flipped her to bring out the Throckmorton Device in one turn. The Throckmorton Device is a Resource that can generate Pull for Influence (victory points). None of us had anything in our decks to go after resources, so all she had to do each turn was crank the Device for an Influence and wait until the inevitable happened. Suddenly the table was on a count-down! We thrashed and flailed, but, long-story-short, we were only able to stop each other from winning before she did. After that game was over, anti-Resource cards were quietly slipped into the rest of our decks “for next time”.
After the fourth game, we started cleaning up and talking about what folks thought of the game. Everyone enjoyed playing and we scheduled a repeat in October [I don’t want to have them too often to avoid burnout]. We also noticed that certain cards always showed up in our hands. The Throckmorton player always seemed to draw Atavism: Ninja early from her deck and Rain of Walrus seemed to always be in my starting hand [I used it in games 2 and 4 to great effect].
I really liked the limited resource environment. Players had to field what they could, not necessarily what they wanted. At later events, my shoe boxes of cards will be available to pull from, so certain cards will likely disappear from play because there are better choices and that will be a little sad. On the other hand, I’m able to play a CCG I really like again for the first time in over 20 years, so I have that going for me. 😊