Sunday, September 20, 2009

What We're Cooking Here

The past week saw a return to spending my money, and my time, currently mired in the game PoxNora. I don't claim to be excellent at the game, nor even particularly skilled. I have been playing it, on and off, for several years- since their second expansion set dropped, in fact.

It has a lot of features that I love:
-Randomized packs of collectible pieces, with the constant potential to be surprised by some great pull.
-A number of different "factions," each of which possesses unique advantages over the other. The factions can be mixed and matched as well, allowing you to combine the benefits and qualities of two groups in an attempt to further shore up their weaknesses. I really like that the runes (that's what the pieces are called, folks) in Pox tend to be designed with an eye towards the inherent benefit their faction provides. This means that the Sundered Lands, a faction of draconic tyrants whose bonus is an increased defense, tends to get runes whose base defense is actually slightly lower than you might like to see. This is offset by the minimum +7 bonus you're always going to gain, now that the game only supports full- and half-faction battle groups.
-Excellent card art. Some of the pieces are just beautiful. Unfortunately, just about any depiction of a female is so cheesecake as to be almost NSFW. This includes the art for some runes that aren't even female.
-Recycling resources. Unlike a traditional CCG or even miniatures game, in Pox your runes are always going to become available after being expended (for spells) or defeated/destroyed (for everything else). Granted, you're not guaranteed to still be playing when the rune comes up, but the potential for incredible, marathon games is really satisfying.

There are also things about Pox I'm not crazy about. The financial expenditure in any game like this is always troubling to me, though it has been interesting to watch Pox evolve and address the necessary player economy for a game like this. Still, my collection is by no means 1337. I also tend to shy away from the ranked games, because A) the matchmaking seems to struggle with putting me in a game and B) it usually just takes a few seconds before they drop some ultra-leveled 20 dollar rune and proceed to annihilate me. I often had the same problem with Magic, and to a much lesser extent Dungeons and Dragons miniatures. Pox, being turn based, skews closer to the latter gameplay than the former; luck is less of a factor and strategic comprehension more of one, which means I generally stand a better chance of success. However, the leveling elements available in the game mean that someone who runs a rare or exotic (which are better by their very nature) is usually going to be able to plow through several common or uncommon runes of a similar level. That gets frustrating when you see a warband that's almost all rares.

It's even more frustrating when all of the easy-to-buy starter decks already come with doubles of some really powerful rares; this is only frustrating because back when I started playing the starters were utterly wretched. Now they're awesome but it's difficult to abandon the efforts I've put into building a collection and sign on to the idea of picking up a deck someone made for me.

The other thing I find unfortunate about Pox is the general lack of strategic conversation, or at least well-written strategic conversation. Even when I wasn't playing DnD Minis or Magic competitively, I read strategy on the topics voraciously. I love that stuff. I enjoy seeing the revelation of unusual interactions, considering the impact of certain strategies, and examining the philosophical and psychological underpinnings of the game. I want that stuff back, and since I'm not seeing a ton of it in practice I've decided to start working some out myself.

Hence this blog. No major plan yet, but the idea is that I'll use this as a space to put battlegroups together, evaluate runes, and consider general strategies.

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