The Game

Babylon 5 was an incredible science fiction TV series that first aired in the late 90s. It had 5 successful seasons, several TV movies and a spin off series, Crusade. The series centered around the ambassadors of 4 major galactic powers, the "space UN" headquarters (space station: Babylon 5), and the men and women who ran this diverse city in space.

The CCG allows 3-7 players to recreate and retell their own possible Babylon 5 saga by allowing each person to either take on the role of one of the major political powers (either via their ambassador to B5 or their home faction) and attempt to dominate the other factions using diplomacy, intrigue, military, or access to fearful and deadly ancient powers. With several expansions, the CCG really is one of the best (if not the best) war/intrigue games ever made.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

On the Verge of a Win... but whose?

  This is why I love this game!  We've paused for a bit, but at a tense moment... very possible that any 4 of 5 players in our current game will have a win within the next two turns.  Same players and factions and largely decks as last game: Minbari/Vorlon, Centauri/Shadows, Centauri/Refa, Narn/Military, Non-aligned/Diplomacy. 
  While I did shuffle my deck, its like I put my last game's discard pile at the bottom and played the remaining cards this game.  I drew my nasty "shotgun Sabbat" cards... a nasty Neutral character build designed to punish Intrigue meddlers... finally got my Narn Rabble, despite 6 United Fleet cards in my deck last game, I drew none then... but got all 3 into play now, Ja'Doc is in my ranks, etc.  Even my agendas have all been different draws.  But familiar friends have shown up too.  Support fleets have stayed evasive but the big multiples have come up well and I briefly had "Onslaught" as my agenda to leverage Border Raider into bringing more Narn military to bear. 

  I did have some speed bumps this time that I didn't last time.  It took a long time to hit any leadership characters, I went almost the entire game without drawing any of my three fleet support bases and only hit 1 salvage yard... so I'm killing off and rebuying fleets constantly.  Additionally, I voluntarily hobbled myself by not ever going to war.... with a war deck.  But I know that soon other players will start putting cards in their decks that mess with states of war and I need to know if the deck can run off its conflicts and agendas if war is removed as an option.... seems it kinda can.

I've got victory if I can hold the lead this turn... but look at Shadows, Vorlon, Non-Aligned, etc

So to our game state now...

Minbari/Vorlons: have a massive Vorlon influence to leverage, and as we're in the Shadow War, they've got a very large fleet presence
Centauri/Shadows: Equally large Shadow footprint and a strong combination of Shadow and Faction influence... has completed 3 of 5 Nanotech plague against the Non-Aligned
Centauri/Refa: He's fought a long and brutal civil war with the shadow player... but staying alive and has Emperor Refa in play
Myself: as mentioned above
Non-Aligned... the most spending influence for most of the game and tons of Diplomacy.  Civil Servants is a monster with Non-Aligned Agents/Aides/Captains... he's also got momentum and successfully pulled off two Taking Credits last turn... conventional wisdom is he's going to double Alliance next turn.

Very interesting.... can't wait to see what happens in the next few rounds


Friday, September 28, 2018

Chain reaction of crazy in final turn!

except it kinda was
  A Standard Victory!  We almost never have them.  A quick reminder that, for us, standard victories require 30 power, not 20.... but the Shadow War/B5  still triggers at 20 and B5 triggers endgame at 20... so given that ease, the Shadow War is almost always a reality.  We also play a house rule enacted by me (to make a crazy/brazen fight to stop a winner a more regular thing) that to win, someone must successfully be able to claim victory on 2 consecutive turns... and if two players cross the 30 barrier at the same time, it goes to Major Victory conditions.... so Standard Victories almost never happen

 This game started slowly for me... I was playing a G'Kar Narn war deck, we had a Centauri Refa intrigue deck (who after playing conflicts on me, became the convenient target of my ire and War conflicts), a Londo Shadow Centauri deck (played by the same player who I normally mention as such in earlier AARs posted here), Delenn Vorlon Shadow deck (same player typically using this deck here too), and a Non-aligned diplomacy deck (ditto).

 I've not played for a while, but the others have gotten quite a few games in without me in the interim.  So once I was at 9 and they were all in the mid/low teens, they started treating me as more of a source of pity and mockery than a contender... but finally, my war conflicts got up and running (as I finally drew fleets instead of the late game cards I was drowning in) and then when I got an exploited Centauri Prime and a War Footing agenda in, I quickly moved to the front...

this +deep space fleet that got knocked to the floor was my end game

 Ahead of the growing Shadow influence, I broke 30 when I played a Never Again agenda which gave me +8 power and I had ascended to 24 in influence... at the end of that turn I also gained another 3 from a War Conflict (1 from uncontested conflict, 1 from Narn Homeworld, 1 from Centauri Prime... before I was getting 4, but no more War Footing).  So I gain 1 turn of a Standard Victory, Shadow influence was at 18 (yikes, almost Shadow War), and everyone starts talking and plotting among themselves to block my 2nd turn of victory... I'm at 27 influence and 8 or less power from Never Again (but only needing to leave 3 larger fleets untapped to stay at 30 power).

Here's our crazy sequence of events to end the game...

-Non-Aligned player puts in Alliance targeting me as his conflict, I believe no one else puts a conflict in, I then drop in a War conflict targetting the Centauri Home Faction

-The Non-Aligned player then puts in a Taking Credit conflict targetting the Alliance... at this stage, that means that he would gain 9! from it and I would gain nothing

-People starting tapping characters into conflicts, but everyone's staying hedgey as they know I can't be left to gain my 4 from the war conflict... as even if I use most of my fleets (lowering Never Again) that the gain of 4 from my War conflict still puts me above 30

-I play Temporary Aid as my first action

-Support goes into the diplomacy conflicts from various sources (Alliance, Taking Credit)

-I put in a Kha'Mak... +1 Influence to me ;) and drop in another fleet (Deep Space? dunno)

-There's talk of blocking my War Conflict too... so I play Duel to the Death on it... keeping the struggle mano e mano

-On my turn, I play Prolonged Talks on the Taking Credit conflict... there I go.. it will loop around to next turn and I'll meanwhile gain 4 from my side of the Alliance and my War conflict... win!

Talking and talking and talking
-Except here comes Not Meant to Be from the Vorlon player... little iffy if that actually effects Taking Credit, but I'll not dither about it... I'm ready for something blocking that... and I play You Are Not Ready (yes, that's a Vorlon card, but Temporary Aid...).  Whew! crisis averted... killed that near stop to my win

-Nope.  Non-Aligned player roasts his Lhim Dram to bring back the Vorlon player's Not Meant to Be and then my brilliant surprise You Are Not Ready is negated... harumph

-Now I'm in a serious bind.  I play Fleets on the Border and darky allude to aftermaths like Trap is Sprung, Casualty Reports, Wear and Tear, Catastrophic Damage, and events like Gravity Well and Tactical Nuke (all cards I've used in the past and some of which I did have in my hand). Lots of intense guessing and wondering as I move fleets and keep my big assassin Second Battle Fleet ready to punish anything entering my War Conflict.  We play for second typically... so no one wants to get too slagged stopping me and truthfully, looking at cards in play, there wasn't much I think anyone could have done

-Then as the turn winds down I pour almost all my remaining fleets into the Taking Credit conflict as support.  Round ends, and while I didn't roast any participants (would have liked to, but saw no need to be bitter at the end and gut other factions), I did spend 2 influence and via my Temporary Aid, played Stealing Spoils (one of the gluttony of late-game cards I kept drawing early) and swiped all 9 influence the Non-Aligned had gained), giving me a Standard (and technically a Major) Victory and my second turn with such... ending the game... for real this time

for real.... think about it

 To his credit, the Non-Aligned player saw it coming.  I didn't pay 3 influence to pick up Duel to the Death... which of course I should if the game were to continue... because I only had 4 influence left and I needed 2 for Stealing Spoils... which also to his credit, he out loud theorized was the only card that could block his bid to stop me and which he duly noted was a possibility since I had played Temporary Aid earlier.

 In all honesty, I was shocked at how well they had obstructed the win.  I hadn't even thought too far past Prolonged Talks, as I figured that alone would bag the round and therefore the game for me.  Temporary Aid was intended for Stealing Spoils that round... was going to do my own influence grab on the Alliance if my War Conflict was messed with... it just happened to also work out to the same net effect by targetting Taking Credit even though, surprisingly, the Home Faction player never tapped the one fleet he had... if he did, and I attacked it, things could have got interesting if the Non-Aligned player had then dumped everything he could have into maintaining a support lead in Taking Credit. 

 But then I would have put my aftermaths in, removed some of his leadership and hurt some fleets and possibly killed off some of his 2 health aids and agents... leaving him in a super rough spot for playing for second or going another round with me if I hadn't still been the support leader (think I would have, but I don't know what cards he and others had in hand).  I could repair and salvage fleets much faster than people can heal characters, so I liked my chances, but who knows

  The game did continue for a few rounds, but the diplomacy juggernaut of the Non-Aligned Player was sufficient to get him second... here's their end game

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Young Bloods join the Veterans

Very nice to have some new players join the game.  We added 5 new recruits to lunch games (which have still been played, I've just taken a break from participating in them myself or blogging about them... Star Wars Destiny and X-Wing have taken up a considerable amount of time... but its been fun to see the game still being played.

The players have asked me to return to the game for the next session, and I think we'll do 2 5 player games at the same time with the lowest 2 at the veteran table heading to the learner table after they all get their second game in and the best 2 learners come up to veteran table.

I dunno.  We'll see.

We let the first learning game be played with the pre-set starter sets.  Then we let them dive into my card stash and improve those starter decks before their next game... then before the veterans move around we'll let learners tweak their decks again... but veterans are stuck... just to try and level the playing field a bit ;)


Friday, April 7, 2017

Commerce Impasse FTW

  Well we had another great game come to a conclusion (not really, we play out second) a few months ago.  Basically NaFar went atomic.  I build him up to crazy levels and then turned loose something like 60 diplomacy and 70 intrigue from just my Ambassador on everyone.  

  We're getting some really good games in now.  I've sat out the two most recent games.  Right now we've got a game down to a Shadow Centauri vs Earth Vorlon slugging it out.  Our good ole Minbari Warrior Caste player in on the sidelines and the Narn player (not me :) ) got removed from play by the Centauri.

  Unrest manipulation all over the place and the Vorlons and Shadows are out in force.  29 Influence for the Human player and 28 for the Centauri, so it should be close.  Very fun to see the other guys get to play without interferance from yours truly.  I handed off my best Narn war deck to another player so we'll see if others can duplicate my success or if I've created something so weird and cryptic that it won't work in someone else's hand.... I'm pretty optimistic 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

NaFar says No... again

   We started a new lunch game, this one with custom built decks.  Na'Far Diplomacy and Destiny (myself), Centauri Imperialism War Deck with Londo, Minbari Warrior Caste, Psi Corps (shudders), Minbari Vorlon Diplomacy were the players.  The two Minbari players are old hands (and need faster decks, IMO) and Psi Corps player a veteran card game player and already the guy to watch, and the Londo deck ran by two on the new players as a team (I helped build this deck, in all humility, its good and doesn't need anything other than raw Centauri power to win).

    We used a rather standard fare house rule for us: game goes to 30 power instead of 20.  Decks must be 60 cards, cannot exceed 100.  Everyone insisted they were ready for a full on deck of mine and so I let my deck run.  This is a game I should win, but since we have 5 players we agree that the game will go on and play for second place too, the winning player dropping out, but with States and Global effects still in play.  

  So, giddy up, NaFar shuts down everyone's tensions, dropping most to 1 by end game, quickly has 20+ power and uses destiny mark upgrades from aftermaths and to give NaFar stats in the teens in Diplomacy and Intrigue, 8 point damage reduction, and 8 points of automatic opposition to all conflicts.  By himself he will end most conflicts before they start, denying influence gains probably half the time they are drid

  With media cards and strong/cheap defensive fleets, there's not much that scares me and I soon drop out at 30 power.  However the fight for second was quite interesting.  The Centauri deck starts burning through cards, drawing four free cards a turn, and building a military that would have crushed the Narn, had we not already won and withdrawn.  Neron powers up slow and runs second fiddle to the Humans and Religious caste.  Psi Corp runs well, but too conservative, and the Minbari deck, right at 100 cards, is too cumbersome when the wrong cards keep coming up and just fizzles.  In the end, they agree to play until someone runs out of cards and then call it.  Victory Centauri, but I should point out that if they played RAW, the Psi Corps player, with more cards and a recycling conflict would have eventually won, and the Vorlon deck could have got second with an agenda that counts Vorlon-Shadow influence as power (so in this game an additional 20 some... though not until NaFar had already exitted stage right).

  All in all a good game.  The newer players got to see their decks run, and the Centauri players decided to build their own decks as the Psi Corps player is working on a Non-aligned deck on the side.  Should be interesting next game.  Na'Far will take a break.  Maybe I'll bring out my (crusade free) G'Kar Defense in Depth deck.  Its not ran around unchained for awhile.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Back in the Saddle... or Meddling with Others

On a side note: shouldn't either "with" and "others" be capitalized, or neither?  There's not a proper noun "Others" involved here... okay, sorry, moving on.  I've tried to manipulate, cajole, and guide our little club into a new Babylon 5 CCG direction, and (with two of the return players chomping at the bit to go) we've finally assembled a new lunch crew.  I strongly encourage you, if starting a new persistent game, to find a place where the game can be left alone, declare who's playing what at the onset, and then go from there.

We started this first game playing just starter decks (I looked them up and built them as sold).  I think we're far enough in that we'll just stop the game (no one wins) and let everyone break out their custom built decks.  It looks like our new group with be me and another student running Narn, our 2 Minbari players from last year (yay!), a returning player now taking up the Earth/PsiCorps mantle, a non-aligned new player (I think he'll be quite good, already deck building in his free time), and another new Centauri player (Chaotic Neutral, but that works well with either Refa or Londo, so all good).

Here's our table at the start, but many of us are in the teens (yes I know we're using the wrong Refa and Neroon) and the mechanics are well taught.  I'm really thinking about going out and buying some plywood to make a bigger table this year... just so we can have 6 of us going with room to play.

If I have any concern, its the lack of aggression.  Yes, so a Narn player would always say, but its more than just throwing fleets out there.  They need to be willing to hurt each other a bit, work with each other a bit, get the game going.  Right now all the players are kinda just building on their own.  We need fleets striking, intrigue developing, diplomacy negotiating, etc.  Hopefully those with the lower influence this game decide to get things going in a big way next game.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Screenings of Babylon 5 season 1

The Mrs and I watched three more episodes.  The shows are growing on her, but she's made some snarky comments to both the overacting (which is declining) and the "special" effects.  It's weird for me, as I don't remember them being this bad... but as I recall, season 2 was an improvement over season 1 (hopefully).

Episode 7: So much depth, yet somehow still shallow.

Me:  Dang I wanted to like this episode.  It has racial hatred being triumphed over, artistic integrity, young love, noble intercession, a look into a main character's past, more mysteries of the Vorlons, and more.  Yet its all just sort of covered.  I think JMS tried to do too much.  We get a few episodes where not much happens off the "A" storyline, where as this probably needed to be two episodes.  I like the thought(s) behind this one, it's still a long ways off season three's professionalism though.

Mrs:  She got bored with this one.  I tried to keep her engaged with discussion on the Homeguard, but I think it needed more Sinclair, more Garibaldi, more Londo v G'kar and less Ivanova and her past and less weak poetry.

Episode 8: Such a great episode

Me:  In my humble opinion, this was one of the those truly great moments in season 1.  Both of the Knights feel like deep authentic characters, the mystery of the Battle of the Line is deepened, and this episode just ties in soo much.  To me, this is the first time the overall story arc really moves forward.  We have little baby steps here and there in the first 7 shows before this, but this one actually takes strides.  This also felt like something Shakespeare would write today if he were still alive.  I see some of the same art and intellect as we get in Thor in episode 8.  Love it.  Knight Two's closing comments are epic to me.  Before the Matrix or anything like that, for him to be trapped in himself... very cool (I know there is some serious nitpicking with this episode, but I feel like they're missing the point here).

Mrs:  She too saw the Shakespearean undertones of this.  I think she really liked this episode too.  It doesn't do too much and does what it set out to do quite well.  Again, I think she's really buying into Sinclair as the main character and liking him for it.  It really is too bad that he (Micheal) couldn't have kept doing the shows (I know, mental health and love of stage took him away).  Not that I don't like Sheridan (I do), but I would have liked them both to be regulars.

Episode 9: A Bit of Tolkien in here

Me:  I love how JMS brought in a back story and didn't have to tell it all.  It reminds me a bit of the Lord of the Rings (more the movies than the books, which do tell just about all of it).  It works to develop a deep back story and not tell it all.  Its how people would talk in real life.  Add a few outsiders to here the story bits you need and let it all run forward.  This episode also feels very mature (much like 8), in that it deals with deep and troubling issues.  It doesn't have Shakespeare but instead feels like a TNG episode soaked in 40K grimdark and then dried out in space.  I feel like we really get to see the workings of B5 and its political machines in this one... which I like.

Mrs:  She liked this one, but I think it got a little too twisted to follow for a casual fan.  My wife also pointed out some kinda weird plot holes, that while they didn't ruin it for me, were good points (like why didn't the Wind Swords want immortality or why is Earth letting her talk to the Narns or why are there no consequences for a Vorlon attack on neutral shipping).

In other news:

The lunch game got delayed another day, sickness mainly kept to many away.  But if I can talk them into it, I'll sit this game out (basically if there's 4 or more, I won't play... 3, I will).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gone too long. B5 CCG, Hello, Old Friend... let's talk starting hands

Ah, real life... two days of traveling for work that were separated by only one hour from two days of traveling with family.  Now I've returned to B5 CCG.  Schedules and my travels have conspired to leave us with no lunch games this week, but I've decided to continue my posts on tips and tricks for veterans players and also some advice for new players when it comes to choosing a starting hand.

This is part of the game that some seem to treat with only casual regard, "grab some good cards from your deck and off you go".  I, however, feel that you build your entire deck around your starting hand and your starting hand is chosen while considering every other card in the deck.  Now I'd encourage every group to have a standing policy of announcing your deck a day or two before playing... just let others know what faction/race and if there'll be Shadows, Vorlons, Drakh, Psi Corps, Home Faction, Crusade Pile, B4,  or Nightwatch featuring prominently in your deck.  I know some will disagree, but having two Shadow players show up and no one else thought that would happen, can ruin the fun of a game, as can 4 Minbari and no Humans, or the like.  In a ruleset where only 2 people can bring a certain faction to the table, communication is vital before the game even begins.  Nor do you want to play the shell game and ambush people with a deck that no one prepared for (like a B4 or Psi Corps) that can ruin wild if unchecked.

The Starting Hand

Of course, you need to put some heavy thought into this.  Here are a few things to consider in picking those 3-5 cards to accompany your ambassador

What does your ambassador do?
In looking at the ambassador you've chosen, what does he/she do best and what will he/she be doing at the end of the game.  Are they a filler while the Drakh run everything?  Are they an intrigue/diplomacy/leadership/Shadow War/psi/etc monster?  If your ambassador is going to figure heavily into your plan to win, do these cards support that end goal?  So often I see cool upgrades or a nasty event, or a powerful fleet included in a starting hard... but they don't directly help the deck/player win the game.  What a waste.  Cards either move you towards a win, keep someone else from winning, or take up space and dilute your deck.  No where is space more vital than the starting hand.  Fun cards are fine for friendly games, but if your experiences have been less than satisfying, look long and hard at how well your ambassador and your starting hand is working towards the same goal(s).

Are there cards you must have in hand to win?
If so, consider putting them into your starting hand.  Now, if there are 10 planets you need to win (Defense in Depth) or 2 different events that unlock other cards (any mark based deck), seeding multiples of them into your deck may be good enough.  But, if that one rare card that you only have two of will need to show up in 20 cards to win you the game, maybe you should have started with it. Yeah, it make take away your character enhancement/flagship/mean character/killer conflict, but if the goal is to get that card in play, don't take the chance of never seeing it, put it in your starting hand. I cannot count how many times a player looked at me and said "oh you're lucky, if I'd hand such and such in my hand, you couldn't have won".  Well if you could have anticipated that before the game began (and often you can't), maybe it wasn't luck that gave me the game.  Think about it.

Should you be using an early game agenda?
There are so many agendas that can give a strong deck a serious early game boost.  Whether that's sponsoring cards without tapping others, giving marks vital for the late game, providing win-able conflicts early one, letting you pull other cards into your deck, or reducing the cost of necessary pieces to your supporting cast, agendas need a long hard look for a starting hand.  So many of these starting hand agenda won't win the game, but they'll give you a huge lead and build up your spending pool/ supporting cards quickly.  Build Infrastructure is one of those cards, as is Military Buildup. Now you may need to seed 6 more agenda cards into deck to remove these once you've used them, but you should at least consider building your deck and starting hand around an agenda or two... one of which might need to be in your starting hand.

How soon can you get that card into play?
Just ask, speed matters.  Think long and hard about that 12 point card you put into your starting hand. It might be the right move, but how easy is it for you to get your influence (or at least your spending pool) up to that level?  Some decks fly to the early teens, others plod along and then use other means to win.  If that's the case with your deck, that starting hand card that ends the game still in hand may not have been the best move.  Starting hand cards are taking precious space.  I firmly believe that if a card isn't in play in about 13 turns (or you're waiting to put it into play then), it really needs to go somewhere else.

How reliable is that card in your meta?
You're looking at this great card, it really helps your cause, and it seems to easy to get into play.  But that Narn player over there reliably removes one enhancement a game and its an enhancement... so either have a plan, or find a card that actually gets into play.  Cards that are nerfed in your meta really don't serve a purpose.

Does this card need other cards to work?
Don't put Lorien on your starting hand without a plan.  No point.  I, for example, put Councilor Na'Far and the Euphrates Treaty in one of my starting hands.  Turn one, sponsor the conflict, gain 1 influence (no Centauri starting ambassador can stop it... and it doesn't hurt them), meet the requirements for the Councilor, upgrade for free, play aftermath of choice, and bam! a monster for the early game conflicts.  However, looking up a question, if someone decides its too big of a head start for the Narns, they could start packing a starting hand card that removes the conflict, or the like, and I've wasted a turn for nothing.  If that happens, new starting hand.  Vorlon Space or a Z'ha'dum are simple musts for starting hands using Vorlons/Shadows.  You need those marks for so many other cards.  Either seed your deck with cards that unlock your starting hand choices (which is a valid approach) or just put those other cards in hand.

In looking at a given type, which card is the most vital to have?
You love this one character.  However, you only get one character (besides your starting ambassador) in the starting hand.  Maybe that fun media character or that trolling Zathrus just isn't the best character for the starting hand.  Believe me, there have been many times I've stared at two cards of the same type, feeling like I need/want them both for my starting hand.  Tough choices, but the wrong one can bite you early and often in a game.

Is there synergy among your starting cards?
One card boosts your ambassador, another gets you cheaper fleets, the third helps you with conflicts. Well that's nice, but this game rewards decks that chain fire strong cards.  A starting hand that makes your ambassador Godzilla among bunnies, or instead makes your Mil 7 fleets recycles, or instead lets you spawn win-able conflicts at will is much much better.  You get exponential results from boosting boosts.  For the B5 CCG three cards that boost different things by two gives you one +2 boost at a time (nice, but meh).  However a +2 that improves a +2 that improves a +2 is like a +16 boost that drops like a hammer every turn.  One Chuck Norris is better than three Ralph Macchios (no offense Ralph).

Does this card count as a one of your starting cards?
There are cards (Crusade for a... Drakh Ambassadors, Non-Aligned second team, etc) that you can put in your starting hand, but don't count as one of those 3 choices.  Be sure you're aware of these and know when they run best in your deck/hand.  Also consider maybe using a Crusade Pile or a Drakh 5th column in your deck if they align well with what you're already doing/trying to do.

Is there a better ambassador for your deck?
With Severed Dreams and Wheel of Fire the amount of alternative ambassadors exploded.  Maybe a slightly weaker ambassador but a bonus card is better for you.  Maybe one of the Home Faction ambassadors runs your deck better than the B5 one.  Maybe your starting hand isn't helping much and Londo the Gambler is better for your Centauri deck.  Maybe all the hoops your jumping through to get President Sheridan in, just aren't working/worth it and Sinclair is the better choice.  Look your ambassador square in the eyes and see if they're the right one for you (well, eye contact with the Drakh can be unnerving, careful).

...wait for it ...wait for it

Is this better than your homeworld?
After you've come up with the perfect starting hand... are every one of those cards better than your homeworld?  Its the perfect parking spot for enhancements, gives you an extra +1 on influence gains from conflicts, and it can take the homeworld out of play for another faction of your same race.  Homeworlds are the golden standard that all other cards must be held to in a starting hand.  Often the answer is "yes, this card is better than that dumpy old planet", often its not.

Is this better than an upgrade to your ambassador?
After the homeworld test, I often add another one... is it better than a better version of your ambassador.  Transformer Delenn and Signs and Portents takes a starting hand from 3 cards to 7. That's huge.  As in look down your Minbari nose at everyone else and pity their backwater planets and miserly forces huge.  Many other variations of ambassadors can do other (though less horrific) things to the competitive balance of the game.  Consider them carefully.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Babylon 5 CCG: Getting Started

Looking around the old interwebz, so many think that the B5 CCG sounds fun (or they have fond memories) but that its just too difficult or cost prohibitive to get into the game now.  I've put together this little post to show you that its surprisingly easy and truthfully fairly affordable to get back into this game even 15 years down the road.

This assumes that you get a group of four together and split boosters from boxes (easiest way to make it affordable).  How you divide up boosters is, of course, up to you. All hyperlinks following will take you to presorted and filtered eBay searches.  Besides these, I'd recommend occasionally checking generic Babylon 5 eBay auctions and looking for entire collections or sets being auctioned off.  I usually see one or two still trickle by a month, and usually one of them is a ripoff and the other a steal.  If you think you've found something good, feel free to ask here and I'll give you my honest opinion on the auction.

Launching the Ship:

First thing you need is a starter set for each player (I'd just go Minbari, Narn, Centauri, Human at this point).  Here are some Starter sets on eBay.  As you can see they go for around $10 apiece and are 60 card decks that are more or less ready to go.  I'd then recommend going to Vorlon Space and grabbing the final ruleset.  Play a game or two with your palls for fun.  Get the mechanics down, and have and idea of where you'd like to go from there.

Improving the Game:

After you've had a little experience with the starter decks, next you need some boosters.  If buying by the box (and you should) I'd highly encourage you to get at least a couple Deluxe booster boxes on eBay and if your feeling up to it, I'd then look at Great War booster boxes on eBay.  Each box runs about $25 if you're patient.  If you get two, that's another $13 a person.  With two boxes of boosters, starter decks, and a good group of friends, your final cost (per person) would be $23.  I dunno about you, but in my gamer circles, that's a steal.  If you're a patient and wily eBay buyer, you could even cut that in half!

If you find that you want to explore the Shadow War mechanic, Shadows booster boxes on eBay are extremely cheap.  This expansion was overproduced and really a little shallow in its selection.  However, if going the Shadow War route, its a must.

Expanding and optional factions:

If you get more than 4 players interested, and everyone wants to play unique factions, have additional players either grab a Non-aligned starter deck on eBay (a later, fifth faction) or a Psi Corps starter deck on eBay (alternate Human sub-faction) or another one of the core factions and then a Home Faction (Opposition) starter deck on eBay (this allows two of each faction in the game at the same time).  It is possible to have three Human players, and two of each of the others... but I'd not recommend it, unless you've all played before and are freeing up an entire day to play this mega game out.

After this, hunt for individual cards or look at the more rare and more expensive later expansions (Wheel of Fire and Crusade are a blast... but hardly needed to win the game, and probably not worth it if you game on a budget.  Severed Dreams is really only worth it for all the alternative variants of the ambassadors... and I'd just get them as single auctions, that'll save you frustrations and money).


Babylon 5 CCG Strategy... using marks

Well we call it strategy, but its as much tactics as anything (still calling it strategy though).  In teaching the game to a little over a half dozen people, I get quite a few questions about marks.  I like Strife Marks (and as a mostly Narn, or at least military, player, I appreciate them).  However they create quite a bit of confusion.  So here's a very basic guide to using the various marks to your advantage.

Strife Marks 
These are pretty straightforward (again, why I like them), every one of these a character or fleet has adds 2 damage to any attacks. Reminder: when you are attacked, they take damage from Strife Marks too.  Weapons, Enhancements, and Groups are usually the easiest way to add these to supporting cards... though aftermaths and events can let them in too.

Pro-tip: If your tension is below 3 (or some rulesets, below 4... but I recommend highly playing with 3) with the faction in question, you cannot attack during a conflict unless given permission by a card in play.  So if you're planning on stacking up massive Strife Marks, make sure your faction will be able to use them.  Also, if someone's threatening the use of Strife Marks and you're at "tension 1"... ignore them.

Destiny Marks
Almost always a good thing.  These are the kind of marks that trip new players up.  By themselves, they do nothing (well, they look pretty in the bottom left corner of the card).  However, other cards allow them to do all types of things.  Examples: add power, add to stats, score Major Victory, score a Standard Victory, provide opposition, purge to repair/return to hand/heal, etc., sponsor certain characters, discount to costs, as I said, all types of things.

Pro-tip:  Either use them very lightly to unlock one or two nice little bonuses or go all in. Destiny Marks should either consume less than 5 cards in your deck, or be a/the major mechanic that makes your deck tick.  If you try to go in half way, all you're doing is diluting whatever else your deck can do.  It's good to have a backup, but backups need to be clearly subordinate to your deck's primary strategy to win.

Doom Marks
Almost always a bad thing.  Much like Destiny Marks these do nothing unless another card comes into play that activates an effect.  Things like taking damage, rotated for no effect, opposition to your own conflicts, influence spent for no gain, forbids use of other cards, discarding cards in hand, purging other marks, can come from Doom Marks.  Though not necessarily the opposite of Destiny Marks, they kinda are.  There are a few cards that can use these to a positive effect, but they are few and far between.

Pro-tip:  Use with caution as these guys usually cannot be purged or converted (there are exceptions).  You'll probably get away with it the first time you take a ton of Doom Marks to gain other benefits in game.  However, once you do this (or see someone else do it), be aware that the meta will shift fast.  Everyone will start tossing in a few cards to make Doom Marks hurt (and there are plenty).  I'd actually recommend only including a card or two that punishes Doom Mark usage until you see it used to good affect in a game... after that, salt to taste.

Sub-Faction Marks (Shadow/Vorlon/Conspiracy and more)
Again, typically do nothing unless another card says different.  These marks are usually a major part of your deck... or not in it at all.  Most of the time either purging them or accruing them allows other cards to come into play.  If you're wanting to bring in Drakh, Shadows, Vorlon, Nightwatch, Psi Corps, and probably something I'm forgetting, you need to be able to generate these marks in excess and quickly.  Typically agendas and events are your best bets for these.

Pro-Tip:  Consider cards that will provide a means of producing these marks every turn for your starting hand.  If your entire deck is fueled by a given sub-faction mark, you need to get on building them up on turn 1.


Beware: For all the above marks, just knowing how to get/use these isn't enough.  Know what cards can be used to put the hurt on someone who uses them... they're out there and you need to either plan on them hurting you, or plan on using them to slow down others,