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Subject: Emissaries - Pillar vs. Aqua rss

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Joe Stude
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I only have a handful of plays with emissaries under my belt, all online, so my experience with them is very limited. Needless to say, I was pretty excited tonight when I got to introduce emissary play to my friend Heather in-person, who I've played this game extensively with over the past year or so. In the spirit of fairness, we chose our emissaries randomly, Heather choosing Farquhar the One Hyla (to go with Aqua, one of her two favorite decks) and I chose Nekra-Khati to accompany the Pillar. Just by glancing at the cards included with both, I'd say on paper Farquhar fits Aqua fairly well, but Nekra-Khati really doesn't seem to fit Pillar well, adding a single character (a mutant, nonetheless) out of ten cards to what already can often be a character-challenged deck.

It's worth noting here that my two or three previous games with emissaries have been pretty frustrating. While I'm fine with the slower, more deliberately paced game the addition of ten mostly non-character cards results in, I experienced major hand issues through most of these games, sometimes having to decline to start fights 4 or 5 times in a single game just to get something to play with. At the time I was willing to attribute this with lack of familiarity. Before we started tonight I wondered... Would these games play out the same way?

After explaining the card types to her, we agreed to play a full 5-crystal match so that the crystal cards in the game would be fully functional. Game 1 started, and right off the bat I knew my previous experiences were no fluke - we had nearly instant card problems right from the getgo. I spent two or three consecutive turns just throwing cards away and redrawing, losing dragons all the while. First I ran into a serious character shortage and had to start throwing boosters away to survive, only to hit a massive run of characters a short time later when I had no boosters left to play with them. I felt pretty impotent most of the game, and as Heather neared the end of her deck I countered the Water of Immortality with "How Dare You!" I was down three dragons and knew I'd lost. In a stroke of fortune for me, though, I won a fight, following which Heather lead a final fight with her remaining two cards for 7 earth in the hopes of drawing the lost dragon back for a 4-0 win. Fortunately, I'd saved Wild Unicorn (3/3 with shield) and managed to pull yet another dragon back right at game end, losing 2-0 instead of 4-0.

Game 2 seemed to be more of the same for Heather, but my cards flowed well all game (I don't think I had to decline to start a single time). While Heather battled just to keep characters in her hand, I jumped ahead rapidly and never looked back. Getting the blue crystal card in play made things very bleak for Heather indeed, and the game ended with three dragons on my side, giving me a 5-0 game win and winning me the match, 5-2.

Like me, Heather was a bit frustrated about how difficult it was to have a smooth game considering all the cards we had to throw away. I don't doubt that we could still both use some more experience both in playing with the extra cards and in choosing our emissaries, but I still find myself gravitating back toward standard preconstructed play, because it's pretty rare for a player to be hamstrung by their card drawing luck in that case.

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AxonDomini
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I've tried Emissaries several times, and in each case both players were underwhelmed by the experience. Like your games, they just did not play smoothly and one person always seemed to be totally stuck with their card draws.

I'm sure experience with the Emissaries would help, but given that Emissary games don't play as smoothly as standard games and lack the deck control of constructed games, I don't really feel any desire to devote the time to them. It's a shame, because I was excited about the Emissary concept when I first heard about it. Fortunately, Inquistor constructed games are great (although I've only played a few of them so far), so the E&I decks were still a great purchase.
 
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Jack Wraith
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Agh. Joe, that's why I posted this thread a while ago:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1236039#1236039

entitled 'Pillar with Nekra-Khati not recommended.' You're right. Adding that many non-character cards to a character-poor deck will hamstring you from the word 'go'.

I actually really enjoy using the Emissaries, for the most part.
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Matthew M
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As a counterpoint, I will reiterate that decks with too many characters are inefficient. Most times, any phase you are not doing something is a wasted opportunity. The pre-constructed decks are, in most cases, loaded with extra uselss characters to prevent new players who aren't yet familiar with the hand management issues that comprise good play from feeling frustrated.

Look at the Hoax and Vulca - the starter decks. They both have 18 characters. Out of 30 cards! That's 60% of the deck! Do you really need a 3/2 and a 2/3 textless character clogging your deck? No. They're safety nets to prevent players from getting into character trouble. Being mindful of one's deck and knowing how many characters you have left out of how many cards makes those safety nets less needed - making them spots that could be filled with more powerful cards.

When I'm constructing a deck I usually shoot for around 45-50% characters. This percentage goes down in a Flit deck and up in a Khind or Mimix deck, as one might expect, the the expectation is always that I will play at least one non-character card every turn. It should be no surprise that this ballpark percentage is close to what you get with Emissaries.

If half of your deck is characters and you're playing at least two cards a turn you shouldn't run into too many character problems. You'll have the occasional rough patch early that you'll have to work through, but that's part of the game. You should never have a rough patch late if you are paying attention to how many characters have come out of your draw deck up to that point. Drawing a lot of chracters early should tell you that you need to conserve some for later.

I've typed too much. I need to play more

-MMM
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Jack Wraith
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Octavian wrote:
As a counterpoint, I will reiterate that decks with too many characters are inefficient.

That's fine. I'll gladly reiterate that my 4 favorites are Flit, Aqua, Pillar, and Khind; 3 of the 4 most character-poor decks of the 8 peoples. That being said, combining Pillar, which has to make its characters count, with Nekra-Khati, which brings more non-character devices to the table, is not very functional, in my experience.

Octavian wrote:
Most times, any phase you are not doing something is a wasted opportunity. The pre-constructed decks are, in most cases, loaded with extra uselss characters to prevent new players who aren't yet familiar with the hand management issues that comprise good play from feeling frustrated.

Is this true? That seems to be an incredibly ham-handed method of game design, and certainly not something I'd expect from someone normally so technically precise as Knizia.

Octavian wrote:
Look at the Hoax and Vulca - the starter decks. They both have 18 characters. Out of 30 cards! That's 60% of the deck! Do you really need a 3/2 and a 2/3 textless character clogging your deck? No. They're safety nets to prevent players from getting into character trouble.

Well, of course, but that has nothing to do with a player's experience level. Often, you need to start a fight with something. If you're always trying to win a fight with one character plus a booster or support every turn, you're expecting the deck to function far more finely-tuned than it ever will without reverting to M:TG-like design (i.e. 4 copies of the really important cards.)

Octavian wrote:
It should be no surprise that this ballpark percentage is close to what you get with Emissaries.

But that's the point. You need to balance what the Emissaries bring with what the deck has. Some work better with others.

 
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Matthew M
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Jackwraith wrote:


Octavian wrote:
It should be no surprise that this ballpark percentage is close to what you get with Emissaries.

But that's the point. You need to balance what the Emissaries bring with what the deck has. Some work better with others.


No disagreement here. What I said was intended as a counterpoint that playing with Emissaries makes the game run less smoothly. If you approach the game with the same mindset as you do with pre-constructed decks, then I imagine that may be true. You'll run into character-draw problems if you do that.

It shouldn't be difficult to play a character and a booster/support almost every possible turn. You may not get an ideal pair out there, but you should still be able to play those cards. That doesn't mean the deck is necessarily finely-tuned. To me, that implies that you intend to get certain cards in play together (the Floods, for example). Part of the game is making a decision between saving a card for a better combo later or playing it now to keep churning through your deck.

I can't claim that I know if the weak characters are there for the expressed purpose of making the game more friendly out of the box, but that's certainly one of the effects.

-MMM
 
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Caleb Blake
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Thanks Matthew for your interpretation of number of characters in decks and effective resource management within your deck.

It's good knowing how people think about deck construction in Blue Moon.

Sorry - a little off-topic.

Regards
Caleb
 
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Joe Stude
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My intention with emissaries has never been to try to pull off the same combinations or hold onto cards just to play them with the perfect timing, something you have been able to consider doing in preconstructed. What bothers me the most about this (and I think I mentioned this to you in the past, Matthew, when we toyed with emissaries) isn't specifically having to decline frequently - it's having to throw away piles of stuff that you'd either rather actually be able to play or that is crucial to the success of your deck.

One of these days (when I have time - yeah, right) I'm thinking of starting a post containing statistics (percentage composition) of each of the people decks with the four different emissaries along with recommendations for emissary/people combinations for new players or players with less experience.
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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I'm basically with Matthew on this one. Having a lower character proportion leads to potentially more powerful, but potentially more fragile, decks.

Before considering how to get the power but handle the fragility, note that this also happens when constructing decks. You can build a deck with the same proportion of characters as the preconstructed decks, but that can be improved on. However when constructing decks you have an option that's not available just playing emissaries - choosing flexible cards (simple example, FREE characters - treat them like boosters, but they can be your only character). But this is about emissaries, so I won't go further down that road. But you need to adopt in that environment too.

In terms of fragility, the important thing is to manage your hand. If you really don't like "wasting" cards, you've got a problem. But that's part of the preconstructed decks too. Leadership cards played to no effect, support cards played with no real value, not retrieving cards with the RETRIEVE icon, withdrawing before starting a fight. All useful tools in the preconstructed armoury. Emissaries add at least two more: REPLACE, and discarding your own Hyla by playing another. In fact almost all emissary linked cards can be wasted if you need to.

Of course the aim is not to waste cards. But cards are just a means to an end, and the end is dragons. (Actually the end is games, or crystals, or campaigns. But dragons is a useful measure.) Having to retreat when you could have wasted some cards and balanced your hand is the biggest waste of all. And just looking at cards, you can get a false economy. You're due to start a fight and have just the one character, and no way to waste cards other than withdrawing. So withdraw. How many cards to discard? Well, yes, sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes three. But I would suggest it's more often an error not to discard three than it is to discard three. Of course someone mentioned the critical cards in a deck - well, let's not waste them. But there aren't many really unwastable cards. (Muster Reinforcements springs to mind - the only way to waste it is to play it and not draw. But drawing five solves your problems much more effectively.)

Looking at the emissary linked cards, which ones can really mess you up? Not a Hyla, play it, even with one already in play unless it's really working for you. Not a card with REPLACE, replace it (that covers the interference and crystal cards too). The mutants, yes, they can get in the way. So can Tutu TucTuc - but it comes with three others. You can only get rid of one card in your leadership phase too, but that's still one card. Some Chosen Ones, though not strictly emissary linked, can be bad at the wrong time too. But mostly they can all be handled - if you are ruthless enough.

One last point. So you burn through your deck and waste some cards. But if you get to then end of your deck before your opponent does, and you use that speed to get ahead, then that;s good enough. After all if your opponent still has cards in his draw pile he's wasted all of them - and you chose which cards to waste, he didn't.


 
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Joe Stude
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I don't mind "wasting" cards. Flit is one of my favorite decks and in my experience you end up "wasting" their leaderships far more often than you actually get to play them with effect. What I do mind is adding 10 more cards to my deck with an emissary, only to end up discarding nearly that many (or more) just declining to start fights trying to get my hand balanced. At that point, I question the value of even adding the emissaries, since you end up actually playing somewhere around 30 cards anyway.
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Christopher Dearlove
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Jowjow wrote:
What I do mind is adding 10 more cards to my deck with an emissary, only to end up discarding nearly that many (or more) just declining to start fights trying to get my hand balanced.

If you are discarding that many, you're either the victim of very bad luck or (and if it happens too often, the only option) doing something not right.
 
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Joe Stude
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I think the first game of the crystal match I posted the session for I had to decline twice or three times consecutive... Once I dumped three cards, another time I dumped two, the third time don't recall (1-3, obviously). I'll make an extra effort the next time I play emissaries to count how many cards I end up dumping when declining to start.
 
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