[Tuesday Night Board Games] Dominion: Cornucopia

I had my first taste of the new Dominion expansion Cornucopia the other night at Quarterstaff Games. It was mostly an exercise in frustration, as Jester was in play and most of the other players at the table decided to make use of it.

Jester’s a 5 coin attack card that gives the user +2 cards, then forces everyone else to reveal the top card of their deck. If it’s a victory card, they gain a curse. If it’s anything else, the player of Jester has the option to gain a copy of that card for their own deck, or put a second copy in the other player’s deck. So everyone was gaining lots of copper and curses. Because once you get a single curse in your deck, Jester’s eventually going to turn it up. Then they really start breeding.

The smart decision would have been to pick up some Masquerades, as they were the only trashing card available, but I wasn’t smart about and opted to blunder along in my solitaire way. Another player did pick up some and I was lucky enough to trade away a couple curses to my left hand neighbor, for which I was grateful.

So that really colored my perception of Cornucopia. Sure, it was a first play and I need to give it a few more tries with other cards from the set. But that doesn’t stop me from still getting annoyed by attack cards; annoyed to the point I generally write the game off completely if there are any in play.

I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I dislike attack cards because they’re so sub-optimal. With the array of options typically available in a Dominion spread, there’s almost always something more productive for a player to do than use an attack card, as they tend to be terminal actions, in that they don’t allow the player to do more unless they’ve previously used other cards to rack up some actions and money.

I don’t want to use attack cards because they do so little for me. Or they seem to at least. Militia is useful because it scrounges up some money and I can see the use in Witch and Jester because they give more cards, but generally I feel as though I’m wasting time attacking others when I could be doing more improving my own deck.

Not that I’m terribly good at deck-improvement, mind. If it’s not a Mine, I still have not developed that killer instinct for weeding crap from a deck to get at the good stuff.


Raging Swan gives us ten nifty words to work into role-playing. And that’s one post in a whole series!

A most excellent resource. The years I read TSR’s Dragonlance, Spelljammer and Forgotten Realms fiction did more to dump archaic words in my head than any other body of work, excepting maybe Lord of the Rings.

Digging Deep


As promised, Small World Underground is now in my hot little hands for the prerelease demo fiesta next Tuesday at Quarterstaff Games.

I don’t know how much I ought to say, but merely by pawing through the box, I notice a number of differences from the original Small World. Small differences, but present. They even altered the token tray, seemingly for the best.

Let the token punching commence!

You Will Become Like Us

John Seavey tells us how the Cybermen ought to be done:

The horror of the Cybermen is that what they do makes perfect sense. They want to convert every human being into a Cyberman because they genuinely know–not just believe, know–that it willl improve their existences, and they will never stop because they know they’re right. The horror of the Cybermen isn’t, “DELETE DELETE DELETE”, it’s “You will become like us.”

[via The Door in Time]

Plot Seed Medley

Writing plot seeds is tricky. It’s easy to let yourself become repetitive. I find myself writing and rewriting them to stand out as unique. That’s why I so easily stalled on Plot-Seed-a-palooza. I do mean to get back to that someday.

In the meantime, enjoy revisiting some previously published plot seeds.

  1. Beastmen of the North Country lurk in the dark, silent woods.
  2. The Ghost Writer finds herself compelled to fulfill the authorial aspirations of the long-departed.
  3. Lincoln’s Blood proves a turning point for secret histories and wars.
  4. The Roxbury House is a spooky old house inspired by pictures taken by a friend of mine.
  5. Slayers and ‘Busters brings together two monster-hunting franchises to amuse the spectator in the incongruities and similarities.
  6. Something in Lake Champlain Uses Bio-Sonar is a highly suggestive thought about the sort of marine life lurking at the edges of human activity.
  7. Starless takes the contracting universe seen at the end of season five of Doctor Who and adds archaeologists of true history to the mix.
  8. This Man draws on an urban legend to create an ally or antagonist based in the dream world.
  9. Turn Me On, Dead Man presents an alternate history in which the star-crossed fates of two Beatles puts the world in jeopardy.
  10. The Voynich Manuscript is one of those archetypal plot seeds that everyone takes a stab at.

[Green Mountain Game Days] Summer Game ‘n Grill 2011

Chuck (standing) checks in on the crew of the Burlington InSpectres franchise: Suri, Siobhan, Frank, Charlton, Joe and Andy (left to right).

Last Saturday at the Summer Game ‘n Grill, we got to play two, count ’em, two role-playing games. And I didn’t have a brain fart as embarrassing as at Lyndonville, so I’m counting the day as a complete win.

The early morning was spent setting up the grange — stocking the fridge and snack stand, shifting tables — and then waiting for a critical mass of role-players to arrive, namely the crew from central Vermont.

Once they rolled in, we got to business.
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Castlevania: The Something of Something

Barghest of RPG.net posted some typed-up notes for a Castlevania supplement to Adventure! I’m always delighted to see more material for my favorite pulp action system.

It also gives some insight into the Castlevania mythos, which has always interested me, but I’ve never been willing to commit the time to digging it out of the games myself. The many Belmont family bloodlines display how farspread and varied the members of the monster-hunting tradition are.

In adapting the material to the system, Barghest makes two interesting choices. The Adventure! character types are renamed to suit the premodern era of Castlevania. That’s interesting in that most people claim to disregard the divisions of stalwart, mesmerist and daredevil.

Secondly, Barghest brings a video game mechanic, sub-weapons, over to Adventure!, right down to the rigors of using them: most are destroyed upon use and using them expends internal resources, Willpower in this case.

I am curious to see if Barghest explains the rationale for hewing so closely to the rules of the video game in that respect.

Held Action Turns Two

Two years ago today marks the start of the blogging endeavor that shortly thereafter became Held Action. And it’s the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, so it feels a little more momentous.

My enthusiasm for blogging has waxed and waned over the last two years. I started with a predictable burst of over-enthusiasm, having a new post nearly every weekday; reposting old actual play logs helped with that. Then I settled into a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, which worked for a while.

Recently, I had a multi-week block when I didn’t want to write about anything. Even though I had Scions of Time and Masks of Nyarlathotep sessions to record, I didn’t want to spend the time on it. I wasn’t getting the same charge from posting as I was.

I could think of this as a pure hobby blog and only post when I feel like it. But I know how my brain works. If I don’t feel obligated to do something, I only do it as long as the task interests me. Blogging to please oneself is not inherently interesting to me.

It’s not quite yet time to throw in the towel, though. I’m going to try lowering my expectations first. I’d like to continue posting three times a week, but it doesn’t necessarily have to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. So we’ll see how that goes for a while before I make any decisions.

And that’s not to say that any decision I make would affect what’s already here on Held Action. Whatever I decided, I certainly wouldn’t take the blog down. One of the things I like about watching the page views is learning which entries become lasting resources. The Arkham Horror Expansion Guide gets hits daily because, I hope, people find the information useful.

Regardless of what happens from here on out, happy birthday to Held Action! Who would have thought I’d keep up blogging this long?

The Atlantropa Project

There, I Fixed It brings us an account of Atlantropa, an engineering project phenomenal in its scope: build a landmass by — partially — draining the Mediterranean Sea. This would have exposed a whole section of seabed, linking Europe and Africa and opening up new land for use. As the blog explains:

The idea was to create a sort of Utopia that bridges the gap (both literally and figuratively) between Europe and Africa. Sörgel and his followers were growing sick of recent European and Cosmopolitan trends of racism, post-colonialism, division and violence. Expanding the borders of multiple countries while enticing millions towards a common goal would bring together an unprecedented unity between hundreds of differing cultures.

To achieve the goal of creating Atlantropa — which included damming up the Straits of Gibraltar to lower the sea level and power hydroelectric stations — the project would required millions of laborers and over a century of effort. It also would have wrought havoc with the existing ecosystem, nearly draining the Adriatic Sea and turning beachfront property all around the Mediterranean into suddenly much less desirable real estate.

Next time your mad genius needs a scheme to not only shock the heroes, but make them say, “Actually, some good could come of this,” you could borrow a page from Herman Sörgel and his dreams of Atlantropa.

It reminds me more than a bit of Adventure!‘s Baron von Zorbo and his belief that the future of the human race lay in leaving the earth to recover from their depredations, living over it in flying cities. He had not only the mad, radical idea, but the resources to bring it to life. Antagonists need to have passion to make their goal reality.