Article: My Glorious Return to the World of TCGs

mtglogo    It was 1994, when I was 14, that I first heard about a new game called Magic: the Gathering. It was like an old Pen & Paper RPG but without the characters or involved game play; it was also like a video game but expansive multiplayer (these were the days before good networking or many PVP games & only consoles had dedicated multiplayer). So I went to my local gaming store -The Games Cupboard in Woden Plaza- & brought a starter pack so I could play with people I knew at school (wouldn’t call them friends because I was basically the social outcast amongst the social outcasts). I enjoyed playing, got more boosters & other singles & played for a while but then I just got bored with the whole TCG thing. Too many competition players with their Uber Decks killing all the fun, less casual players in my social circles & I was doing other things with my time that I found more rewarding. Not to mention the sudden glut of other TCG games appearing on the market that vied for attention & money. After holding onto it for years, I ended up selling my collection to a friend for a decent price (even though I had some very rare cards) & didn’t really think about TCGs for a long while.

So, apropos of nothing, 20 years -December 2014- after I buying my 1st starter deck I decide to get back into not only Magic: the Gathering but also try my hand at a few other TCGs -including Yu-Gi-Oh! & Weiβ (Weiss) Schwarz.

Was lucky that I have a store that deals with all sorts of TCGs there & it was one of their staff members who told me about Weiβ Schwarz as a relatively new game. Unluckily, when I went back to purchase my decks I was served by the grumpy, unhelpful staff member who refused to explain what all the new Magic card packs were.
You see, when I brought my 1st starter deck, that’s all you had. A random deck plus whatever booster packs you wanted to grab. Since then, Wizards of the Coast have released about 137 different flavours of decks -many of them just reusing the same cards with new art &/or flavour text. So you can understand my confusion when I walk into the store & ask for a “starter deck” & the clerk gets uppity about my request. I ended up going for a 2015 edition Core Deck, which would cover everything I needed. The Core Decks also come with 2 booster packs, which gives you random drops & the chance to get some good rares -which I managed to nab in the form of some legendaries & a Planeswalker http://mtgsalvation.gamepedia.com/Planeswalkers in the form of Chandra, the Pyromaster.
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I also got a Yu-Gi-Oh! Space-Time Showdown ‘super starter’ pack, being the most current starter pack available that had the most diverse range of cards within it. Now, I haven’t played Yu-Gi-Oh! In a long, long time & that was using someone else’s deck. Yu-Gi-Oh! has the distinction of being a very easy yet amazingly complex game that has thousands of cards to collect & use. They all fall into Decks and Types that each work to different themes & Styles of Play. This means it has a myriad of combos & constructions & can be daunting to get your head around. It’s something that I had entirely forgotten about until I picked it up again but also means I haven’t been able to get a game in since am still trying to build my perfect decks -which means a lot of side collecting of individual (& rare) cards.
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The 3rd game that I got that day was Weiβ Schwarz (more commonly spelt Weiss Schwarz, which is German for White & Black), which is a fairly unique Japanese TCG that, instead of originating in or having an anime to sell it (like WIXOSS), it uses different anime series or movies (with the exception of the Project Diva deck & the Hatsune Miku Vocaloid characters) as theme for the various decks. Since they didn’t have a great deal of decks to choose from (limited releases in English so far), I went with a Persona 4 themed deck -since my enjoyment of that franchise has been long established on this blog. The game also has an exceptionally complex style of play, so it was hard to get my head around -more so since I came to it solely on recommendation without explanation. I basically had to turn to an online video tutorial to learn how to play but that proved incredibly helpful -so instead of explaining the game, I’ll just post said video instead:

So, I was decked up but didn’t really have anyone to play with, so it was several weeks before I could get a game in.

A friend took me to another Tabletop Games store that had recently opened up for a game of Magic. I just had my starter deck, which didn’t really stack up well against someone’s refined specialist deck but it allowed me to go over the basics again as well as learn all the new stuff that had been placed in the game since I stopped playing (so many new things, so confusing).

That then got me looking into other styles of playing Magic -such as EDH/Commander, Modern & other special Deck Types. The other customers at the store were really helpful, offering advise & explaining new rules & cards to me.

&, although it took me a while, I started playing Weiβ Schwarz with a good group of people at another local store (the one I first got the deck from in December). They taught me all the basics for proper play & were very patient with me learning the ropes. Am lucky that I’m a quick study & had watched the video linked above a couple of times to get my head around things. Once I had a few games under my belt, I found it a very fun experience. There’s a lot to remember & pay attention to but there’s a lot of logic to how the game flows & what you can play at any given time as well as how you play. You really have to know your cards though, what their special functions are as well as the conditions that they can do certain special abilities under. So the more you play, the smoother your deck usage becomes. At the moment, everyone in store seems to be playing either Fairy TailSword Art Online or Nisekoi decks but that’s fine because each series has their own strengths & weaknesses. Some people there are more focussed on tournament play, because every two weeks there is one, but if I can get a cause game in with my non-specialised Persona 4 deck, I’m fine with that.
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So, that pretty much kicked off a new, nerdish addiction.

In order to play the Style that you want or have different Decks for different game types, you need to collect. This either means swapping with other players, buying them individually in store or online (eBay is both a friend & a curse with this) or hoping for random drops from booster packs. Buying or swapping online but with Magic & Yu-Gi-Oh! you literally have tens of thousands of cards to go through, so it can be hard to find the right combos or individual play makers to complete a set or a theme.

I was lucky that I had a few friends donate to me their old cards (which you can do to if you want, send a Tumblr note or Twitter DM to arrange), which gave me a huge range to look through. Although it did make me wish that I kept my original cards, since some of them were pretty cool & others were worth a heap of money to sell or trade.
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So far I’m finding it the most frustrating trying to build up decks for Yu-Gi-Oh! because there are so many commons & it’s becoming harder & harder to find cheap or free cards from the series that I want (such as Ghostrick). No matter. Once I get the ones that I want, I can sell off the ones that I don’t for a decent price.

I’ll soon be expanding out my collections beyond those three games (as I mentioned in my previous blog post). I’ll be focussing on some of the common TCG, such as Pokèmon TCG but have the advantage of trying the free online version before I sink any money into it.

I also want to try Cardfight!! Vanguard and Future Card Buddyfight. Both of these series come from the same creator as Weiβ Schwarz: Bushiroad. This means that all 3 games share some similarities in play style. I’ll also be boosting my Weiβ Schwarz collection, both extending my Persona 4 collection & trying out some different trail decks (mainly waiting for KanColle in May) but might grab some Japan only decks because they just look cool.

Also, despite not yet (& maybe never) being in English, I’ve found places online where I can grab some WIXOSS starter decks as well as people who’ve translated them & the rules as well. I mainly want to play after seeing the anime (& knowing that my wish can’t be granted &/or twisted).

I’m also thinking of trying the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic TCG because, fuck it, why not. It’s a different sort of TCG that isn’t based upon conflict but rather solving problems & scoring up points. Resolution, not destruction, the the goal of the game & that isn’t a bad thing overall. Plus: PONIES MOTHERFUCKERS! PONIES!!!

There’s also Android: Netrunner, which I saw some people playing the other week. It reminds me a lot of the old D20 Cyberpunk RPGs that I used to play way back in the day. Think it’s actually based a bit on those games & systems but modified to suit cards. Will be interesting to play since the role you take on has different functions & play styles.

Next month, Wizards of the Coast will be releasing the final Block for the Khans of Tarkir set –Dragons of Tarkir– next month, so am hoping to go to one of the pre-release play sessions. Where you pay the money, get a special box with a couple of boosters, some pre-sorted cards, a D20 life counter & a bunch of Basic Land cards. You then do a tournament play & if you win two of three matches against an opponent, you get two free booster packs. You also add to your official tournament ranking (of which mine ranks a single win & many loses), which is transferable to any official Magic tournament across the world. If I do attend, I’ll make sure to write a review up of it & such.

Eventually, I’ll like to get a decent camera to record matches & talk about different Decks & Styles of Play but that is only once I have the money (please remember to donate via the PayPal buttons on the widget menu).

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding more articles on TCG related stuff, including talking about matches, Decks, individual cards & so on.

Now, I have to get back to sorting my vast collection.

BY YOUR POWERS COMBINED!!!
BY YOUR POWERS COMBINED!!!
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It would only be 3 episodes long if they took out the awkward pauses – Anime Critique: Nisekoi

Nisekoi_Volume_1Title: Nisekoi (Nise Koi, False Love, Fake Love)
Format: TV anime
Genre: comedy, romance, harem
Series Creator: Naoshi Komi
Series Director: Naoyuki Tatsuwa & Akiyuki Shinbo
Studio: Shaft
Series length: 20 episodes
Original Airing dates:
Reviewed format: HD downloads with fan-subs

 

 

 

 


Synopsis:

Nisekoi follows high school student Raku Ichijo, the son of a leader in the yakuza faction Shuei-Gumi, and Chitoge Kirisaki, the daughter of a boss in a rival gang known as Beehive. They unexpectedly meet when Chitoge hops a wall and knees Raku in the face. After she runs off, Raku realizes he has lost his locket which was given to him by his childhood sweetheart with whom he made a secret promise. After discovering Chitoge is a new transfer student in his class, he forces her to help him look for the locket. During the search, they begin to dislike each other.

Upon returning home, Raku learns that the Shuei-Gumi and Beehive gangs have agreed to settle their feud by pairing their leaders’ children. Raku learns that his girlfriend-to-be is none other than Chitoge. For the next three years, they must pretend to be in a relationship to maintain peace between the gangs. This turns out to be quite a challenging task, not only because of their hatred for one another, but also because Raku has a crush on another schoolmate, Kosaki Onodera, whom he secretly wishes was the girl who bears the key to his locket. Various developments complicate the situation, including Chitoge’s over-protective bodyguard, a female hitman, a girl who claims to be Raku’s fiancée, and the existence of multiple keys.”


Review:

There isn’t really much to say about this series, other then it finds a pretty cliched formula within the romantic harem comedy genre & goes Hell-Bent-for-Leather to stick to it.

Naturally, there are some changes to the formula, such as the central protagonist Raku not being caught in situations that make him seem like a pervert but still ends up in huge misunderstandings due to people not actually expressing themselves (which is actually an on going social issue in Japan & more & more in the West as well).

But the other hallmarks are all there within the harem structure: Chitoge is the tsundere who lashes out with violence when flustered but has a surprisingly sweet side to her, actually just wanting to be normal & fit in with her classmates (despite her mafia family); Kosaki is the sweet, quiet shy girl who has a distant crush on Raku but is too timid to say anything because she doesn’t want to be rejected or upset the status quo; Marika is the loud obsessive openly declaring her love whenever she can. The cast is rounded by the hitwoman Tsugumi Seishiro who gets easily flustered due to unknown emotions; Raku’s best friend Shu, who, because of his sharp observational skills, loves putting people in awkward romantic situations; and Kosaki’s stoic glasses wearing best friend Ruri, who’s constantly trying to push Kosaki into confessing to Kosaki into confessing her feelings to Raku, physically if necessary.
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As the series progresses Chitoge & Raku going from despising each other to becoming friends & then maybe something more. This is mainly through Raku genuinely being a nice guy & helping her out whenever he can, such as with trying to make friends with others in the class (which is hard because she has more limited Japanese language skills yet speaks in a complex fashion). But this kind of development is pretty basic & by the numbers. Same with Kosaki slowly coming to terms with her own feelings & the introductions of other “love interests” as the series progresses. Because it’s part of an ongoing manga series, some parts felt rushed whilst others dragged out too long & they added some twists far to late for such an oddly episoded series (20 instead of the usual 24).

Well, since there isn’t much plot to speak of, let’s talk about the visuals for a bit.

Nisekoi, despite having two directors, has the visual fingerprints of Shinbo Akiyuki all over it.

Shinbo, a very prolific director, is most famous for his work on the Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei & Monogatari animes -which brought to the fore his more unique & disjointed visual style.

Nisekoi is stung by so many of Shinbo’s now cliched hallmarks. Such as how female characters clasp their hands behind their backs & twist around to talk to camera (a feat that is physically impossible), linger external shots, scenes absent of people, sharp contrasting colours, characters staring at each other from either side of the screen with the eye focussed on the empty space in the centre of the screen & random non-sequitur animations.

Shinbo does add some interesting little visual gags. Such as every spit-take being depicted by little puppetry like cutouts held up by sticks yet these are really dwarfed by Shinbo’s typical and grating visuals.
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Everybody get ready as I get out the old whacking stick for that old bugbear: hypersexualisation!

From his work on Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei & Monogatari, both Shinbo as a director & Shaft as a studio have employed especially degrading & stupid ways to depict & look at female characters on screen. Usually these are just the camera focussing on clothed chests or thighs as skirts flutter above them but Shinbo loves having his female twist into impossible & suggestive poses as they spout long monologues to the point it almost becomes like a bloody fetish for the man. He seems to be the anime version of Rob Liefield in terms of hypersexualised poses but with, you know, actually drawing talent & that.

Yet every anime that Shinbo touches is visually pretty & interesting, even if the content is disturbing or stupid. The man really knows how to control the mise-en-scene as well as challenging what is perceived as typical anime style. It’s not for everybody but he does bring an exceptionally amount of visual polish & interest to Nisekoi, more so then his other 2014 production Mekakucity Actors -which is just a basic rehashing of all his tricks from Monogatari.

In the end, Nisekoi is an extremely competent & visually pretty if very cliched series but it does at least stand above your average pathetic harem series (coughOnigaisenseitwinscough). If you don’t have much else to watch, there are worse ways to spend your time. But they said the same thing about the waiting room of the STD clinic too.

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