Early Access: To support but not to play

October 21, 2015

I’ve now played a good number of Early Access titles, and while overall I like the system and how Steam runs it, I do have a personal problem with playing EA games; sometimes by the time the game is fully released, I’m already bored with it, or have played it enough to not be all that excited when it finally hits version 1.0.

The best example of this is Prison Architect. It’s a great game, and has been in EA for a long time. I didn’t jump in until about a year ago, and played the game a good amount. Between that time and release, a few new features were added, but overall Prison Architect still felt/played mostly like the version I played before, which in turn didn’t lead me to push past the samey stuff to see the new stuff. For all I know the new stuff is really awesome, but I just can’t get to it or really enjoy it because I feel like I’m just playing the same game I’ve already played.

ARK is a little bit like this too. Since the group I had been playing with stopped, I’ve had a tough time diving back in. All the while ARK is getting new content, which sounds great, but the core game is still the same, so again I’m having a tough time pushing through the samey stuff to get to the new stuff.

I like supporting EA games I think show promise, because I think without EA some of these games either never get started or don’t make it to the end, but I’m going to have to seriously consider how I actually PLAY the EA games I buy into. Age of Deception was in early access, I played it a little bit, but stopped once I figured out I liked it and waited until full release. That worked, so this will have to be the approach going forward.

Age of Decadence review

October 17, 2015

Age of Decadence has finally made it out of Early Access and is fully released. I tried the demo a while back, and was impressed enough to keep the game on my radar, and now with full release, I can easily say its one of the most unique, most entertaining RPGs to come out in years.

AoD is clearly a labor of love, and is also a game that a lot of gamers won’t ‘get’. It has so little in common with traditional RPGs deep down, while on the surface it looks exactly like a traditional RPG, which itself is such an impressive feat but also can get you started down the wrong path if you think and play it as such. For example, character creation looks very standard; pick a ‘class’, distribute some stat points and skill points, do a little customization, and you are done. What you don’t see is that those stat points make a HUGE difference in how the game goes, and those initial skill points can certainly have an impact early on. Oh and that ‘class’ you picked? Yea that basically determines almost the entire game.

I would say the game is split into two playstyle; combat and non-combat. You can go hybrid, but that’s almost the ‘hard mode’ of the game. Combat is just how it sounds, instead of solving quests and problems with your words, you do it with your sword. Combat in AoD is deceptively deep, incredibly hard (I’ve reloaded the same battle a dozen or more times to finally beat it), and very rewarding when it finally clicks for you. The battles also offer some of the best variety and ‘feel’ I’ve seen in a while, from ‘simple’ 1v1 fights to large, 10v20ish style affairs. There are a lot of different weapons, each with different benefits and abilities, as well as different armors with plus/minus stuff going. Sword/shield with the heaviest armor and a big shield is awesome in a large fight, but in a 1v4 situation you will simply be too slow to do enough and die slowly but painfully. Knowing what to bring into a fight is almost as important as how to actually execute the battle.

Non-combat means you avoid combat at all costs (since you can’t really kill anyone), and instead use your wits, charm, and deception to get ahead. What’s interesting about this path, aside from the great writing all throughout the game, is you really have to embrace the character you are playing to make it work. If you start as a merchant, you won’t last long if you don’t act like a greedy merchant. If you go the thieves guild path, being a ‘good’ thief will likely get you killed, quickly.

Those stat points and skills also really impact how things play out. A smart thief will solve problems differently than one who is amazing at stealth and has impressive dexterity. A charming merchant will have different options from someone who is an expert in impersonating others. A lot of these options and depth are hidden, and as the game isn’t very long (10-20hrs non-combat, 25ish combat, so I’ve read), it highly encourages you to have a go of it again with a different character/path. I’ve read there are 13 endings, including some that are much harder to achieve than others, and no one character will see even half the ‘content’ of the game.

As I said at the beginning, AoD is an incredible game if you are looking for something that really challenges you, and pushes you outside the familiar RPG realm. The demo on Steam is the first big town, and is more than enough to give you a great feel for the game. Give it a try, stick with it past the initial confusion/difficulty, and you will be rewarded with a very unique, very entertaining experience.

What’s been keeping me busy gaming wise of late

October 13, 2015

Slow gaming times for me of late, hence the lack of blogging.

I’m still playing a bit of ARK, though restarting on a server is a bit rough, as you are basically retracing previous steps, and with the rapid pace of updates in ARK, I almost feel like taking a few months off would allow me to return to a vastly different game. This is actually a general problem I have with Early Access games, but that’s a topic for another day.

I do play the occasion Bloodbowl 2 game online, but the rage-quit rate is insane. Soon as I injure a player or someone rolls double-skulls, they rage-quit. My chaos team has 10 or so wins, and I think only 2-3 have been complete games. The upside I guess is my team skills up quickly (double MVP when someone quits), which gets me into higher team value games. I’ll have to look into joining a solid league soon though.

Lastly, I’ve been playing a lot of Age of Wonders 3 multiplayer via the Play-by-Email (PBEM) functionality. Most of the time its with my buddy, but we recently started playing against random players and so far so good. It’s actually amazingly enjoyable to play AoW3 via PBEM, since you don’t feel rushed turn-to-turn. The only downside is all player-vs-player battles are done via auto-battle, but even that has the benefit of stopping cheese tactics.

I did a bit of searching and it seems like AoW3 has a thriving community of PBEM players, with many of them being very skilled. It should be fun to get deeper into things and see what kind of strategy and tactics others employ.

New ARK Server, and the BB2 campaign

October 5, 2015

Two items for today.

I’m playing on a new, unofficial ARK server. Search the unofficial listing for “Narco Heads” to find it. Unlike most unofficial servers this one doesn’t have silly 8x or 10x rules, just 2x from the official with everything else the same, so the work/investment is still there, but tames that would take you 4-5 hours are now a somewhat more manageable 2hr or so. Same goes for base building or XP gains; they aren’t silly, but not as big a grind as on the official servers.

The best part is the admin is very active, and goes around cleaning up abandoned bases regularly. This means that not only is the map not cluttered with random garbage, but the server performance is also excellent, far above what I have experienced on the official servers. Server population is pretty decent, with usually half a dozen or more people on, and more seem to be joining daily. Also if you provide the admin (Exodus on Steam. There is also a Steam group I’m part of so you can find info that way) a screenshot of your old character, he will level boost you back up, so you don’t have to start completely from scratch if you don’t want. Join up and ping me on Steam or in-game when I’m on.

Second item: I finished the Blood Bowl 2 campaign, and it was surprisingly enjoyable. The campaign starts as a general tutorial for the game, which is frustratingly slow for anyone who knows the game already, but then shifts into a series of matches with special events and players, all tied together by a decent story about the team and its coach (you).

The campaign shows off how dumb the AI is, where at one point the enemy team sat with the ball one square out of the end-zone for the rest of the game, while being down two scores. But really the games aren’t about a challenge so much as they are about seeing star players or different events, and completing the side goals per game (have a specific player score, injure 3 players, etc). The whole thing shouldn’t take longer than 8-10 hours, and IMO is worth that time investment.

Feed the troll some poison already

October 1, 2015

I’m not a Star Citizen backer, personally don’t believe the game is going to ‘live up to the hype’ (mostly because at its current hype level, that would basically be impossible), and have in the past taken small shots at either the game itself or the ‘true believers’ heavily backing it. Taking shots is what happens here on occasion.

That said I’ve always believed you only shoot stuff that’s fair game. I’ll make fun of Smed doing Smed things because Smed is a public figure who puts himself out there. I’ll take shots at WoW or LotRO or Trion. I’ll take plenty of shots at other bloggers. The line I have never crossed is pulling something that wasn’t originally in play just to further my cause. I won’t dig up a bloggers real identity just because they made fun of Darkfall, or post the home address of Forumfall idiots who found this blog that one oh-so-special time. What we do here under our blogger names is its own weird little world, and it should stay that way.

Derek Smart is a public figure, and his obsession with SC has long crossed the line of ‘random gaming nerd raging about a game’ and into “you should be in jail or worse” territory. Trying to bring down SC because he himself is a failure of a developer is low, but almost understandable. It must drive him crazy that no matter how hard he tries, he can’t produce anything of value, and here is this huge company with a massive following doing things he can’t even dream of.

Bringing Robert’s daughter into this whole mess is so insane it honestly shouldn’t be legal. Ignoring a troll is IMO only an option until the troll goes so far that you are forced to respond, as Roberts was forced when The Escapist published Smart’s words under the disguise of ‘sources’. Lost respect for The Escapist aside, pulling a stunt like that has to have serious consequences, or the next bitter little Smart-wannabe is going to do it, or take it up a notch further when he/she doesn’t get the attention they so desperately need but can’t get on their own merits.

CoC – Supreme Cream vs Bahia

September 29, 2015

(Text and stats by Delpez)

Supreme Cream vs. Bahia

It has been a while since I’ve done a war report, and I thought it might be worthwhile to also discuss a number of clan related topics that’s been popping up in chat and/or in my head! But first, let’s look at some numbers for the latest war, which we won by a whisker. I’ve also included the match-up stats for the war against Bandung Funjava, which we lost (the numbers in brackets are our stats in the Bandung war):

Nr of TH’s




Nr of TH10



3 (2)

Nr of TH9



18 (17)

Nr of TH8



11 (14)

Nr of TH7<



3 (2)

Ave TH level



8.6 (8.5)

Average experience per TH







108.0 (99.8)




82.2 (82.2)




95.7 (89.7)

Firstly, comparing the Bandung numbers with the values in brackets showed that we were badly outmatched in that war. They had more TH10’s and TH9’s, and the experience level of those bases were significantly higher than ours. In fact, I think we did pretty well to get as close as we did. The Bahia numbers were much closer – we had one more TH9, but the experience levels of their top bases were a lot higher than ours, and they also had three more TH8 bases. So let’s look at the actual war stats against Bahia:






Total Attacks Used



Total 3 Star Attacks



Total 3 Star %



3 Stars Against Same Level



3 Star % Against Same Level



3 Stars Against Lower Level



3 Star % Against Lower Level



TH8 3 Stars



TH8 3 Star %



TH8 3 Stars (same level)



TH8 3 Star % (same level)



TH8 Ave Stars / Attack (same level)



TH9&10 3 Stars



TH9&10 3 Star %



TH9&10 3 Stars (same level)



TH9&10 3 Star % (same level)



TH9&10 Ave Stars / Attack (same level)



They did better than us at TH8, but we outperformed them by a decent margin at TH9&10. That is important, as it allows our top bases to hit down against their TH8’s, while their TH8’s can’t really hit up against our TH9’s. This leads nicely into the first topic I’d like to discuss, which is our general war strategy:


One of the strengths of Clash of Clans is how the complexity and difficulty of the game scales with your base. As troops and heroes unlock and level up, more and more strategies become available, which is balanced against more powerful defenses. As a TH7, getting a 3-star against another TH7 is quite easy. At TH8 it becomes a lot more difficult, and at TH9&10 a 3-star is pretty special. This means that war strategy should change as a clan advances. With the majority of clan members at TH7 and TH8, wars are decided by 3-stars. Although this may still be true at TH9, very few clans are good enough to consistently 3-star the majority of TH9 bases. In addition, the most powerful TH9 attacks are also the least consistent. Laloon and Hog variants may have the highest 3-star potential, but also a higher failure rate than solid 2-star strategies such as GoWi variants. So a clan with a significant number of TH9’s needs to decide on whether to go for solid 2-stars or try for inconsistent 3-stars.

Until recently we’ve been following the latter strategy, mimicking the TH8 approach by trying to 3-star TH9 bases. Unfortunately, most of us are not good enough (yet) to consistently pull off Laloon or Hog attacks, which resulted in lots of 1- or 0-star attacks. This meant that almost all our TH9 clean-up attacks were aimed at same level TH9 bases. Recently we’ve been toying with the idea of rather using safer attacks first up, which allows for more freedom with second attacks. If we can 2-star all TH9 bases with our first attacks, it will allow our TH9’s to hit down with high risk-reward attacks later in the war. I realize that GoWi variants are not guaranteed 2-star attacks, but they are also less likely to fail. And don’t forget that it’s always possible to get a 3-star with GoWi. To show our current TH9&10 first attack performance, have a look at the following table:



Average Stars / First Attack



The Bandung bases were stronger, but the numbers reflect that better first attack stats make it easier to win wars. At the moment we should aim for a value of 2, which will allow our TH10’s and strong TH9’s to clean up TH9 bases, and the rest of our TH9’s to attack TH8 bases. So I’m proposing that unless a base is flawed, we use GoWi variants first up. This will allow us to master one tactic as a group – learning from and commenting on each other’s attacks (much like dragons at TH8). If this is successful, we can and should still use high risk-reward tactics for our second attacks.


Most of our new TH9’s are using the TH8.5 upgrade strategy, but I’m not sure if we’re getting the full benefit of it. Irrespective of any bias in the matchmaker towards TH8.5 bases, this strategy aims to pair maxed TH9 offences against low to mid TH9 defenses, with the aim of 3-starring those bases. If we move towards GoWi strategies first up, the benefit of TH8.5 will become diluted. We are deliberately reducing our 3-star chances for more consistent 2-stars, which negates TH8.5 to some extent. However, there will still be some benefit in the matchmaker and second attacks. Also, I believe it’s more fun to get access to powerful attacks before strong defenses.

Growing the clan

Up to now this clan has grown almost exclusively from blog readers and their friends. However, I think we’ve almost reached the limit of that particular pool of players. In any game there will be attrition as players get bored and/or find something else to occupy their spare time. Lately it is clear that our attrition rate is higher than our new intake, and numbers are slowly dwindling. To get some new blood in I propose that we have a look at some of the randoms that apply from time to time, but with strict rules:

Should have dragons

No rushed bases


No new players once a war has started

No obvious idiots – you’ve seen some of the applications!

After accepting a random, we evaluate his performance and behavior for a trial period. No missed war attacks, no requests for promotion, should donate reasonably and should behave decently. I think in this way we can start getting new blood into the clan again.

TH6’s in wars

Is there any benefit in adding players without dragons to wars? I don’t think it has much bearing on the matchmaker, since we never seem to get opponents with low level bases anymore. And it can’t be much fun for our low level players to be punching bags all war long. It also means that we are basically a player or two short in every war, and sometimes this can be significant. In the war against Bahia we flung five attacks at their lowest player (#35), a decent TH8, while they smashed our lowest two bases in two attacks (TH6 & TH7). I realize that we may not have enough players to start cutting, but if the previous suggestion regarding randoms is successful this might not be an issue anymore.

Thoughts, comments?

Dungeon Boss – Grind the game, not the UI

September 28, 2015

Dungeon Boss continues to impress and entertain me, so if you haven’t already, pick it up and lets be ‘friends’.

I mentioned before about the honesty of the games ‘grind’ (air quote because for many grind is a bad word, for me what a lot of people call grind is just gameplay you repeat but still enjoy. If you didn’t enjoy it you wouldn’t ‘grind’ it, you’d quit). Today I want to talk about how DB makes the grind more enjoyable.

It’s mostly little things, like when you complete a dungeon the UI already has a ‘run that dungeon again’ button, recognizing the fact that you are very likely to want to run that again if you didn’t get the drop you wanted. The grind part is the RNG with getting hero tokens or upgrade pieces, but the grind part would be more annoying without that ‘repeat’ button.

Another nice/smart UI piece is that in the hero info screen, you can find out which dungeon drops that heroes tokens or upgrade pieces, and then go directly into any of those dungeons. That makes farming specific pieces to upgrade a specific hero much easier, which is a big deal when your hero roster goes to 20+ heroes. Your daily quest log also has this functionality; with a button to take you to the areas you need to farm to finish those quests.

Likely a post for another day, but the games depth is starting to take shape for me. Initially you will just use whatever heroes you get, and ‘team composition’ won’t really be a factor, but I think once you have a fuller roster and more evolutions, combos will come into play and some additional min/maxing will happen. Looking forward to that.

Programming note: We have spots open in our Boom Beach group (Hardcore Casual) and the Clash of Clans… clan (Supreme Cream!). Mention the blog when you apply so I don’t confuse you with some rando.


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