Monthly Archives: August 2014

Zeppelin Attack: Master Plans for Masterminds


Previously, I looked at some general strategies for Zeppelin Attack.  Now I want to take a more in-depth look at each of the four Masterminds.

I feel that there are five main considerations determining how a given Mastermind plays in Zeppelin Attack.  In descending order of importance they are:

  1. Which attack form they specialize in
  2. What capabilities their experimental zeppelin gives them
  3. What General effects their experimental weapon gives them
  4. What Attack effects their experimental weapon gives them
  5. Which attack form(s) they are initially weakest against*

*Mastermind decks have one defense card that covers two different types of attack.  I consider these types to be the ones that the Mastermind is weakest against, since they have only a single card to defend against both types of attack.  Such cards do, however, compensate by being more flexible, which is why I list them as the least important consideration

Below is a look at the various Masterminds of Zeppelin Attack with an eye towards effective, basic strategy for each.

DER BLITZMAN

Payload Capability:  Attack:  4, Defense 6, Operations 3

Strongest Attack Form:  Lightning

Weakest Defense:  Lightning/Psychic  (Note:  since it is likely that you will be buying up the powerful Lightning attack cards, this is less of a problem than for other Masterminds),

Experimental Zeppelin ability:  Extra Battle Point

Experimental Weapon Attack Effect:  target must discard two random cards, you get the lowest VP value Mercenary card put in your discard pile,

Experimental Weapon General Effect:  draw three cards.

Particularly Useful Cards:

  • Attack:  X-Bomb, Screaming Mimi
  • Defense:  Magnetic Field, Ghost Projector
  • Science Zeppelin:  The Daedalus, IAS Lord Protector of Bulls, IAS Prototype 51

Strategy:  everyone really needs to cycle through their card decks, but you’re especially good at it.  Take advantage of those extra draws to get your big attacks into your hand as often as possible.  Enlarge your zeppelin fleet quickly so that those extra cards can be used rather than discarded.  And use your ability to gain an extra BP per turn to ruthlessly eliminate cards that are potentially good for your enemies or bad for you.

Beware of those low-value mercenary cards going into your discard pile!  While you will occasionally get something useful, the fact that they are semi-random (based on what is inexpensive at the top of the various mercenary decks) means that you may get cards of limited utility that will clutter up your deck.  If this happens, purge them at the first opportunity.

JAQUELINE FROST

Payload Capability:  Attack:  4, Defense 6, Operations 3

Strongest Attack Form:  Cold

Weakest Defense:  Psychic/Explosive

Experimental Zeppelin ability:  When you play an Attack card on the zep, immediately draw two cards.

Experimental Weapon Attack Effect:  target must put all Fate cards in hand on top of Draw deck.

Experimental Weapon General Effect:  pay four Fate points less for the first card you buy this turn

Particularly Useful Cards:

  • Attack:  Cryo Suspensor, Inferno Rockets, Beta Wave Cannon, Einstein Cannon
  • Defense:  Magnetic Field, Phantom Cloak
  • Science Zeppelin:  none*

*Any of the Science Zeppelins are useful to Frost, but there isn’t one that is particularly useful to her.

Strategy:  you can purchase Mercenary cards less expensively than others once you get your x-weap out, and should concentrate on buying cards that enhance this capability.  This has two effects:  first, you will be able to get those expensive cards into your deck quickly, and second even lesser Fate Cards are useful to you.  Cards like the Midshipman and the Resourceful #2 that are of limited value to others once they can afford better operatives, remain useful in your hand.  Even a lowly 2-pt Fate card will allow you a 6-point buy when used in conjunction with your x-weap.  Used properly this ability can allow you to totally dominate the middle and end game, snatching up valuable resources  for peanuts as your opponents can only sit by enviously.  Unlike Gorilla Khan, however, your ability only works for your first purchase of the turn.  This, incidentally, makes Gorilla Khan a prime target for your x-weap,  Unlike Gorilla Khan, however, you need to worry less about clogging your deck with Fate cards, since even a few can go a long way.

GORILLA KHAN

Payload Capability:  Attack:  3, Defense 6, Operations 4

Strongest Attack Form:  Explosive

Weakest Defense:  Lightning/Cold

Experimental Zeppelin ability:  When you play an Operative card on the zep, immediately draw one Fate card.

Experimental Weapon Attack Effect:  target must discard two Action cards, you get one Battle Point.

Experimental Weapon General Effect:  draw one Fate card and add it to your hand.

Particularly Useful Cards:

  • Attack:  Topside Swivel Gun, Boarding Torpedo
  • Defense:  Ghost Projector, Swift Response, Bilithium Armor
  • Science Zeppelin:  The Prospero

Strategy:  You will be getting a lot of Fate draws, so keep a constant eye on the Mercenary decks to see what you can purchase.  Since your abilities put Fate cards into your hand, not your discard, you can and should use them immediately whenever possible.  Your exact strategy may vary from turn to turn depending on what purchase opportunities you have, but you should try extra-hard to get either your x-zep  as quickly as you can, then leverage the extra Fate cards to get the x-weap.  Once you have both, use your wealth to buy, buy, BUY!  Don’t let Fate cards stay in your Discard pile if you can help it – keep your economy rolling.  Note that because you purge after you buy, you can choose to purchase a card useful to your opponent, then immediately purge it.  Prestige zeppelins can also boost your score rapidly, and are a good buy towards the end of the game.  Finally, because you will be buying a lot of cards, you will have more control over when the game ends than Masterminds like Der Blitzman and the Walking Mind.  Beware of jamming up your deck with Fate cards, however.  All the Fate cards in the game won’t help you if your fleet is blown out of the sky.

THE WALKING MIND

Payload Capability:  Attack:  3, Defense 6, Operations 4

Strongest Attack Form:  Psychic

Weakest Defense:  Lightning/Explosive

Experimental Zeppelin ability:  Can’t be targeted

Experimental Weapon Attack Effect:  target must discard 1 highest cost Mercenary card.

Experimental Weapon General Effect:  take one Battle Point

Particularly Useful Cards:

  • Attack:  Delta-wave cannon, Insanity Ray, any atomic (particularly the Einstein Cannon)
  • Defense:  Bilithium Armor, Magnetic Field
  • Science Zeppelin:  the Daedalus, the Inflammable (if you invest in some high payload defense cards)

Strategy:  something to know from the outset – it is unlikely that you will ever match or exceed the other Masterminds economically.  You cannot cycle through your hand to get Fate cards as fast as Der Blitzman, you can’t buy things at a discount like Jacqueline Frost, and you don’t get bonus Fate cards like Gorilla Khan.  Trying to keep up with them in terms of the size and power of your fleet is a losing strategy.  Instead, you need to go the other way and concentrate on inexpensive, low-payload Mercenary cards.  Give serious consideration to turtling during the beginning of the game, concentrating on building up your defenses so others won’t consider you a worthwhile target.  Once you get your x-zep out, you can start peppering your foes with low-payload attacks.  Always keep an eye on what your opponents are buying.  If your x-weap is in your hand, attack a foe who just bought some high-value mercenary and force them to discard it, delaying their plans.  More than any other Mastermind you will benefit from buying up Atomic attacks, enabling you to hurt all your opponents at once.  Purging a card when you buy is not optional for you – always purge to keep your deck thin (ideally you should have only two more cards – your x-weap and x-zep – in your deck at the end of the game than you have at the beginning, though of course the cards themselves will be different).  This way you can overload one of your zeps for your infrequent large-payload attacks and get the both the the zep and your attack card back quickly.  Use that extra Battle Point ability of your x-weap to help control the tempo of the game and deny your foes resources.  And be particularly alert for players who seem to have jammed up their deck somehow – they are always your preferred targets.  Your victories will usually involve you coming from behind to sweep past the other players at the last minute for victory, so be prepared to hunker down and play for the long game.

All of the above are basic strategies tailored to the strengths of the individual Masterminds, but they are not automatic game winners.  Sometimes the cards will fall out in a certain way and you will need to change strategies mid-game in response to what you draw, or what your opponents are doing.  Sometimes a surprise move will catch your opponent napping.  But hopefully these strategies will help you play your Mastermind to its full potential, and make Zeppelin Attack more enjoyable.  

Now go forth and conquer the world!

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Zeppelin Attack!


We recently received our copy of “Zeppelin Attack” and have been playing it avidly.  After a few games I have come up with some general strategies that I would like to share.  Comments are, of course, welcome.

1)  Try to focus your attacks on a single type.  Being able to hit your opponent with multiple attacks of a single type is very powerful.  With only a 5-card hand, the chance of having two defense cards that cover the same type of attack are pretty low, even if your opponent starts buying defense cards of the appropriate type.  There are just too many types of card that can potentially go in a 5-card hand to make multiple copies of defense for a given type of attack unlikely.

2)  Keep a few attacks of other types in your deck.  Just to keep your opponent honest, keep at least one attack of each of the other three types in your deck.  Go for 1-pointers that you can fire off from your weaker zeps.

3)  Keep your deck lean and mean.  The fewer cards you have in your deck, the faster you can cycle the big attacks that get you additional effects.  Don’t be afraid to purge cards when you are drawing – you get points for them, and they help keep your deck (and thus your hand) from clogging up.

4)  Fate cards are absolutely necessary – but in moderation.  Too many Fate cards can clog your deck.  A hand full of Fate cards is every Mastermind’s dream, and will leave you oogling the Mercenary decks dreaming of next turn’s purchases.  And while you are doing that your opponent will blow your fleet out of the skies because you don’t have any defense cards to protect them.  Since Fate cards often (though not exclusively) go in your discard pile, you can cycle through that lean and mean deck only to find that when you reshuffle you now have a deck bloated with Fate cards.  I find that a strategy of cycling through my deck once to get Fate cards, followed by a second cycle where I try to keep Fate cards out of the discard pile and clear out what I have, works reasonably well.

5)  Play your Zeppelins – always (almost)!  Don’t keep zeps in your hand and don’t discard them.  Get them out and in play – always. Multiple zeps help you play more cards, which helps keep your hand clear, which in turn helps you keep your deck cycling and brings your good cards into your hand more quickly.

6)  Don’t fear the discard!  You should get used to thinking of a certain percentage of the cards in your hand as being just temporary opportunities – useful if you can use them the turn they come into your hand, but not worth saving if you can’t use them.  In particular, at the end of your turn ask yourself why you are saving any cards that are still in your hand.  If you don’t have a good reason to save them, dump and draw.  In general I save high value fate cards (4’s and 5’s), and defense cards (particularly those that offer defense against multiple attacks).  I might save a high value attack or operative card, but only if I have a zep that can use them next turn AND I have at least a couple of defense cards in my hand so I have a good shot at defending it.  Aside from those conditions, dump and draw.  If you have kept your deck lean and mean, then any cards you dump should come back into your hand soon anyway.

7)  Attack the weak!  Particularly if you have multiple cards of the same attack type in your hand, attack one of the weak zeps in your opponent’s fleet first.  Go particularly for zeps that have a defense payload of 1 because even if your opponent can defend them, they can easily get overloaded and have to retreat.  If you have several attacks of the same type, use the lowest payload attack on the weakest zep.  

8)  Defend the strong!  Sometimes you need to sacrifice weaker zeps to protect the stronger ones.  If you have only one zep with the attack payload to use that lovely payload 3 attack you just drew, you need to protect it.  If your opponent is using probing attacks (see #7) with their favored attack types, consider letting one of your weaker zeps retreat and saving the defense card for a stronger zep later in the turn.  You concede a BP to your foe, but you preserve your options for your next turn.

9)  Overloading is better than not playing the card.  Cycling your deck is crucial in this game.  It is better to play that big card, even if it means overloading your zep, than keeping it in your hand or discarding it.  Losing a zep to overload is inconvenient, but again if you are keeping your deck lean and mean and cycling your hand you will get the zep back quickly.

10)  X-zeps and X-weaps – know them, love them, buy them!  Each mastermind has access to an Experimental Weapon and an Experimental Zeppelin.  Get them into your deck as quickly as possible and use them as often as possible.  Each x-zep and x-weap is quite powerful, and also suggests a certain strategy.  You should familiarize yourself with the x-zep and x-weap of your mastermind at the beginning of a game and begin building your deck to support these particular abilities even before you actually buy them.  Knowing the capabilities of your opponents will also help you to anticipate their actions and probable purchases.

11)  Battle Points aren’t just about points.  When you take a BP, you aren’t just scoring a point towards victory, you are also getting to make an important tactical decision.  You have the ability to take a mercenary card out of the game entirely and you should take a moment to look at the cards available before deciding on which to sink under your flagship.  If your opponent seems to be collecting cold attacks and there is a big cold attack card on the top of the mercenary attack deck, consider selecting it to deprive your opponent of a potential attack (and yourself the headache of having to defend against it).  Likewise, if your there is a defense card against the type of attack you are specializing in on top of the mercenary defense deck, prevent your opponent from getting it.

12)  Leave.  The Flagship.  Alone.  Unless you have no other targets, don’t attack the flagship.  It gives your opponent an extra draw, which is almost never a good thing,

The thirteenth strategy:  break the other strategies.  Everything written above should give you a solid foundation for playing “Zeppelin Attack” and should allow you to end any game at least feeling like you had a shot at winning, rather than going down to a humiliating and lopsided defeat.  But none of the strategies outlined above are unbreakable.  Sometimes a change-up can take your opponent by surprise.  Sometimes the luck of the draw may put a bunch of perfect cards that you shouldn’t discard into your hand.  Sometimes you won’t have any defense cards, so playing your zeps will just result in some flaming balls of wreckage and your opponent getting more BPs.  “Zeppelin Attack” is a game where you have to plan strategically and play tactically and often improvise on your plans from turn to turn (because the ironclad rule is you never, EVER have the cards you want exactly when you want them).  Hopefully, however, this article will give you a foundation to build on as you plot to conquer the world!

 

 

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“To End All Wars” Update


It’s been awhile since I updated here.  Most of the reason for that is that the group had to take a long break for scheduling reasons.

One thing I knew going into this Saturday’s game was that a big Procedural scene was imminent.  I also knew (because I had been keeping track) that three of the five players had only red (worst) chips left to play, one had a yellow (medium), and one had a green (best).  I on the other hand, had only my green chip (toughest difficulty) left to assign.  There were a few bennies floating around the table, but not too many.

I sensed a disaster of epic proportions in the offing.

The characters were attempting a spell to summon the Winter Court of the fae to protect some standing stones in Brittany, because their unit was scheduled to go to the front and there was evidence that their foes were sniffing around, trying to gain access to the stones power.  Since the stones had been the focus of one entire session of play, I decided in my head that the stones were far more powerful than anyone realized.

So we started off the game, and the Procedural rolled in immediately.  The players started giving vivid descriptions of how their characters were contributing to the ritual, and how the winter court began to arrive, complete with fae versions of World War I weapons (historically, tanks had only recently made their appearance on the battlefield and were widely feared – so of course the fae came in riding on faerie versions made of blowing snow).  One after another the players described what was going on, and how the ceremony was not constraining or interesting the fae (no one drew a matching card) – until we got to Marie-Isis.

Then everything went to heck.

Madam Dirigny’s efreet lashed out at the fae, killing one and enraging the rest.  The icy tanks began to turn in the direction of the ceremony, their guns training on the PCs.  Chaplain Lake threw himself in front of the women, and the others tried desperately to control the spell, but in the end it was all for naught.  The Winter Court poured through the breech and vented its fury first on the PCs and then on the surrounding lands.

Three characters got consequences from the scene – Captain Sinclair had one leg blown off by a faerie cannon, Lieutenant Nygard lost his magical powers, and Chaplain Lake (who got a good consequence) had his faith renewed by standing up to the faerie tanks and escaping unharmed.

One of the things that I find very interesting about Dramasystem is that I, as GM, only have a single scene per round just like everyone else.  On the one hand, it sometimes feels very restraining not to have any more authority over the story-line than anyone else (I think that the players sometimes feel that way too, because they sometimes look to me for rulings on how things work, only to have me shrug and say “it’s your scene – you tell me!”).  On the other hand it is very liberating and empowering for the plot itself to have so many creative minds working on it – like a whole creative team working to write the plot for a movie or television show.  And it has some advantages in terms of storytelling as well.

I knew from the beginning that if the PCs really screwed up the spell (which was likely) I wanted it to be a game changer – this would be the point where things seriously diverged from history.  It was the big one.  But I couldn’t just announce the changes – it wasn’t my turn (I was actually last in the precedence order).  So we made the rounds of the table and players added a bit to what was going on:  Captain Sinclair had an encounter with one of his previously killed old school chums who was now a vampire, Madam de Travaigne attempted to get in touch with the winter court and received threats and portents of doom, Lt. Nygard tried to convince Marie-Isis to let him take her efreet in order to restore his lost power, Chaplain Lake tracked down the suddenly un-maimed Captain Sinclair and demanded an explanation for what was happening, which Sinclair declined to supply.  .  While listening to all this with one ear I started to lay the groundwork in my head for the unfolding disaster.  I took my first round to give Capt. Sinclair a tough choice about betraying the cadre in order to get his leg back.

Then came my second round, and Captain Sinclair and Chaplain Lake were called into a brigade staff meeting.  Brigadier Watson informed the officers present that movement to the front had been suspended, pending new orders.  The headquarters of the French General Staff in Paris had collapsed, killing most of the General Staff, including Joseph Joffre, Robert Nivelle, and Phillipe Petian.  Details were uncertain, but there were rumors that the Germans had undermined the building and set off explosives.  In addition, the moon had gone dark, though the general assured everyone that this was simply an extended eclipse.  Rumormongering about these events was announced to be a capitol offense, and all officers were ordered to severely punish those caught, and to use whatever means necessary to quash any sort of demoralizing discussions.

The players (and their characters) started realizing that things had changed.

We had another go-around.  Captain Sinclair called a meeting of the cadre to discuss what to do, and turns leadership over to Lt. Nygard.  Madam de Travaigne attempts to mend fences with Chaplain Lake.  Chaplain Lake discovers an entirely frozen farm outside the camp, Lt. Nygard and Capt. Sinclair go for drinks and Nygard attempts to convince him to follow his own heart as opposed to the orders of his superiors (those of the military and those of the Order) while Madam de Travaigne eavesdropped.  Madam Dirigny went to the remains of the standing stones and offered up her efreet to the Winter Court if they would turn their wrath only upon her, and the efreet was seemingly destroyed.

Then came my final scene, which I called between Lt. Nygard and Mr. Jones, the contact from the Order.  Nygard was informed that whatever ritual they had invoked at the stones had, in the view of the Order, been a smashing success!  They French were in disarray. Buckingham Palace had been destroyed and the King was presumed dead, Mexico had just allied with Germany (reducing the chance of the US entering the war) and unseelie fairies had been seen among the German troops on the Western front.  It was now widely believed that the war would be over by Christmas, that France would fall, and that the horrors wrought by the fae would indeed be the final ingredient needed to evoke the great ritual what would change the mind and spirit of man, and eliminate war forever!!!!!

Oh, and could they please prepare to cancel the ritual once France had fallen?

I learned from this week’s game both the importance of a GM in Dramasystem and how you should be a good GM in the Dramasystem.   I think that it is entirely workable to play Dramasystem without a GM, but having a GM will give a very different “feel” to a Dramasystem game.  While it is the responsibility of the players to push the buttons of characters that they have established relations with, it is the GM’s job whenever possible to push the buttons of ALL the characters at once, or to generally throw a monkeywrench into the overall relationship map of the game to make sure it never, ever stabilizes.  This is especially important in settings where the characters are supposed to be working together (such as “To End All Wars”) as opposed to settings where characters are antagonists forced to work together.  Make sure that nobody ever feels that their character is in a comfortable place.  Push them hard, not only singularly but as a group.  Make sure they can’t get what they want.  Or give them everything they want while giving them reasons to really, really not want it anymore.

 

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