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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

Nothing is so healthy as a thrashing at the proper time 01/11/2018

Following the decisions to:

1) Bench Barrel Dougie for being mostly redundant in an all-blue deck that solely deals damage, and;

2) Try Robin Tweek and Shaman Token in the vacant card slot before settling on Purify:
I ran from PvP rank 33 to 36 without a loss. It was unnerving.  The PvP matchmaking in South Park: Phone Destroyer provides equal competition so players have to inch their way up through the ranks.

I found myself looking at my phone askance during the four-hour breaks between PvP pack refreshes, and thinking “the natural order is askew, and we’re in for a fall.”

Capablanca, the world chess champion whose games taught me nearly everything I know about chess, was unbeatable for long stretches (one spanned eight years — the guy didn’t lose a tournament game for eight years), had a famous quote about his occasional feelings of invincibility: “There have been times in my life when I came very near thinking that I could not lose even a single game. Then I would be beaten, and the lost game would bring me back from dreamland to earth. Nothing is so healthy as a thrashing at the proper time.”

To reproduce that quote, I could either get up from my chair and fetch a copy of My Chess Career, or  Google “capablanca thrashing”. I took the Google route, and after copying the quote, I caught glimpses of the writer saying things like “I’m on a roll” and “I know a speed bump is coming”.

There was something in those turns of phrase that prompted me to look at the byline: It was me. I wrote an entry on my chess dot com blog just like this one — I was on streaks at chess and chess960, and I had the same uneasy feeling about winning too often too easily, and a crash was coming.

It was a relief to lose an SPPD match a few minutes ago. My pirate gang literally could not get around Zen Cartman, and we lost. Whew.

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Beefcake Cartman is what’s needed here 01/10/2018

Purity, as it turns out, was exactly what my pirate gang needed to reach PvP level 34 with a bullet.

Storyteller Jimmy, we’re not listening. Cyborg Kenny, stay dead. Poseidon Stan, weather’s cool and dry.
The weak link in the stack now seems to be Sheriff Cartman. Im theory, a tank sounds like a good thing: Put a large, high-health, greatly-distracting thing in the field, and let it draw enemy fire while your tiny rangers Captain Wendy and Buccaneer Bebe get rich.

Sheriff Cartman doesn’t do the best job of holding off the bad guys. He doesn’t do enough damage to kill them, and since they’re swarming, I have to send help to the front line, which wasn’t the plan.

Sometimes the deck operates best when Sheriff Cartman gets snuffed, but we emerge from the skirmish with Buccaneer Bebe intact plus Nelly or Captain Wendy running interference.

I don’t like the other available tanks. Officer Barbrady and PC Principal are adults, which doesn’t fit the game narrative of neighborhood kids play-pretending to kick the shit out of each other.

Mimsy is too active to serve as a blocker — while he’s toddling toward the other new kid, the rangers lose cover. Zen Cartman is solely a defensive piece.

Sheriff Cartman feels like a weak link in my stack, but he’s the tank that got me here. Other than replacing Sheriff Cartman, I could invest all the resources in strengthening him.

This is heavy on my mind today because Sheriff Cartman is available in Butters’ shop. I need 37 additional Sheriff Cartmans (plus a zillion arrowheads, sheriff stars, and feathers) to level him up, and 10 would cost 2750 of my 3300 PvP tickets.

That feels like too great a commitment, though next time Sheriff Cartman is overwhelmed, I’ll probably wish I’d taken the upgrade path.

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Purified 01/08/2018

A vacant card slot appeared in my deck of blue-themed pirates, which was convenient, because the pirate ship had sprung a leak.

Blue is the least-interesting of the four South Park: Phone Destroyer themes. Orange freezes and poisons, green heals and energizes, red powers up and powers down.
Blue doesn’t do anything but hit hard. The blue assassins, fighters, and rangers do so much damage that a successful headhunter — in the pirate gang, it’s Barrel Dougie — is overkill.

I put Barrel Dougie on the bench, and looked to fill the hole with some card to negate mind control. Cyborg Kenny and Mind Control are a troublesome bit of orange-themed jiu jitsu — for instance, my charged Smuggler Ike killed Cyborg Kenny, then turned around and killed one of my health bars, sufficient to win the match.

Mind Control played on Buccaneer Bebe caused her to shoot down one of her own blockers, leaving her wide open after Mind Control wore off — the effect was two of my most effective units knocked out by one 4-cost spell.

For a while, I employed Robin Tweek in that Barrel Dougie slot, but it appears that Robin Tweek’s health boost is random — maybe a 236-point boost every time was considered fuel for overpowered combinations.

Then I tried Shaman Token to deal with the brainwashing cards, but Shaman Token is a pain in the butt to manage. Play him too soon or too late, and he gets killed before doing any good. And if Program Stan freezes Shaman Token, then Token’s ability is nullified by just the kind of power it’s designed to combat.

I didn’t like Medicine Woman Sharon or Angel Wendy for similar reasons — unless they’re tucked into their own pocket of protection and charged at the right moment, they’re little help.

Then I reviewed each green card, and found Purify, which seems to be ideal — its healing power only needs to last as long as the Cyborg Kenny/Mind Control effect, for the cheapest energy expenditure possible (satisfied with this, I didn’t get around to testing Mind Control on a mind-controlled subject).

I’m winning some of those games where brainwashing might’ve swung the result the other way, which is a relief — sorely needed while nagged by the Reddit thread “Would you still be playing SPPD if it weren’t South Park-themed?”.

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I want Shaman Token in a Roving Submarine 01/02/2018

I never played Magic: The Gathering to win, because doing so would’ve meant lots of time studying. I made decks to amuse myself — I once had a green assortment that didn’t do anything but grow a giant Uktabi Wildcat. I once built it up to 20/20, and my friend Joe, who knew what was coming, played a combination that seized control of the giant cat and turned it against me. I was killed by my own giant cat.
At South Park: Phone Destroyer, Cyborg Kenny and Mine Control have been most troublesome lately for the same reason. One well-timed Cyborg Kenny swings the match, I think — the character under the enemy’s control and your other characters beat the crap out of each other, and after the Cyborg Kenny effect wears off, the enemy has a line of fresh attackers rushing two or more weakened allies.

My problem is that I have no idea when to play Shaman Token to remove the negative effects (not only the mind control cards, but Program Stan annoys me, too). Play him too soon, and he gets killed before he charges usefully. Play him too late, and he’s a 127-health, weakling fighter.

What I really want is to sink Shaman Token in a Roving Submarine
There were some cards in the 1990s NetRunner game that said: “Opponent, you have to do something about this immediately, or I will maintain certain advantages for the rest of the game”. One of those cards was Roving Submarine. If Purple played a strong card on the Roving Submarine, Green had to blow the submarine away, else it would submerge and its strong accompanying card was invulnerable as long as it stayed underwater.

If I could submerge Shaman Token — really, almost every card with universal effects when charged — in a Roving Submarine, and call on him when needed, that would be helpful.

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Manbearpig plus Pope Timmy = Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker plus Joan of Arc 12/29/2017

I imagine I’m more pleased with South Park: Phone Destroyer than most players for blissful ignorance. This is the first real-time battle game I’ve ever played, so I’ve got nothing for comparison — unlike the more-experienced players who think some of SPPD’s flaws are dealbreakers.
The only feature that bothers me is that messages to your opponent are limited to “Good game!”, “You bastard!” (reserved for Kenny deaths, that should be), and a set of Cartman emotes: cackling, crying, farting, others.

“South Park” is noted for fart humor and Cartman’s obnoxiousness, but it’s not what I want to see or hear at the end of a match — win, lose, or draw.

Some players who feel the same way turn off sound effects, which mutes Cartman emotes, but during the game, you can rely on hearing a character enter the game if you can’t see it.

An opponent began the Cartman jeering in the middle of a game. I wondered what he had up his sleeve, and in a few seconds he cast Manbearpig. My gang took Manbearpig down, but then the guy played Pope Timmy, which rejuvenates the character killed last — so here comes Manbearpig the Friendly Ghost.

Manbearpig is SPPD’s equivalent of old NetRunner’s Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker: a powerful card that doesn’t require a whole lot of imagination. (In this instance, an old NetRunner player will recognize Pope Timmy as Joan of Arc.)

A Reddit user pulled Manbearpig in the every-four-hours free pack, which is surprising. I’m accustomed to each free pack including 20-40 coins, 1 or 2 dollars, four or five upgrade items, perhaps one rare card, and a handful of commons. (A card of Legendary rarity in a free pack could be a bug?)

The Reddit thread continued:

“You can be like one of those Manbearpig -> Pope Timmy fags”

“I like those players. They suck hard lol”

“Fucking gay.”

Lack of punctuation, standard misuse of the abbreviation LOL, and “fags” and “gay” as pejoratives kept intact — the joy of interacting with kids, but you get my point: The Manbearpig/Pope Timmy combination fetches derision for unimaginative superpoweredness.

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Welcome Mr. Hankey the New Year’s Eve Poo 12/27/2017

The developers of South Park: Phone Destroyer are bringing back Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo in a few days, making Mr. Hankey the December 29 Poo also.


I suspect an enormous bug was discovered in the midst of the Christmas event, because I’ve read  around three reports of a player pulling a Mr. Hankey card.

Since ts worldwide release one month ago, 8 million people downloaded South Park: Phone Destroyer. Let’s say the game retained users at the same rate that elementary school chess students continue to play chess after the 6th grade: About one in 1,000, leaving a paltry 8,000 users. Among 8,000 people who participated in elementary school chess programs and kept playing past age 10, maybe 50 or 75 learned to be pretty good players. Suppose 40 of them completed all 10 bonus levels during Mr. Hankey week, and 20 found a Mr. Hankey.

Those are very conservative estimates. When you consider that our imaginary 20 lucky players were good enough players to collect 10 bonuses, that’s 20 people who would be talking about it on a Ubisoft forum, Reddit, or Facebook.

Now include users fortunate to pull Mr. Hankey before completing 10 bonus levels. Also include the users who spent real money purchasing the bonus packs in search of Mr. Hankey.

So I’m thinking something went horribly wrong in the software. With two days remaining in the Mr. Hankey event, the timer counting down to the end disappeared from the home screen, and the valuable poo nuggets disappeared from loot locks and PvP prize packs.

The countdown timer went back online while I was in bed, suggesting something was broken in the countdown feature and they took it down in the middle of the night to fix it.

It’s wild speculation on my part, but the circumstantial evidence suggests that the Mr. Hankey event was seriously screwed in many places in the software platform. Just the fact that they’re making Mr. Hankey work overtime as the New Year’s Eve Poo adds fuel to the speculative fire.

I completed every bonus level during Mr. Hankey week, and like almost everyone else, didn’t find the talking shit. But I pulled Transmogrify and Cock Magic, which I think completes the subset of pirate week cards, and reached PvP level 25.

PvP level 25 is significant in a few respects: 1) It’s halfway to Legendary, 2) it’s an Achievement that rewards in-game cash, and 3) it unlocks a new PvP battlefield with additional cards to discover.

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Is it an intermittent bug or an incomplete, undocumented feature? 12/25/2017

Software (almost) never works as expected. Sometimes the user reports behavior that blows up the application, and maybe it gets fixed — if it blows up for nearly everybody, following events that can be replicated. If it’s solely your device or machine that blows up, the fault is on your end.
Occasionally, a bit of peculiar software behavior is reported as failing, but the developer says the exceptional behavior isn’t a bug, but a feature (and if there’s a problem, it’s that it doesn’t work that way all the time).

There’s an intermittent anomalous behavior in South Park: Phone Destroyer. If a character is cast directly behind new kid, sometimes the character can’t move from that spot.

Some players lose matches because that character was vital to the game plan. They report that as a bug, angrily.

Then there were the players for whom that unexpected bit of behavior saves the game. They think it’s a great feature, and try to replicate it in the future.

That second, happy case happened for me when a decisive skirmish took place in front of new kid, and Pirate Ship Timmy was locked behind new kid, lobbing cannonballs into the fray, while never exposing his fragile wheelchair to danger.

After that happy conclusion, I tried again and again to cast Pirate Ship Timmy in the same place, but he kept moving outside and getting killed. I figured it was my fault for not finding the sweet spot.

On Reddit, a thread arose in which unhappy players discuss that as a bug, while someone else and I — who benefited from a shielded Pirate Ship Timmy — said “what’s the problem?”.

It’s almost surely an undesirable bug, because if players could lock Nathan back there, the game wouldn’t be much fun anymore. Whether it gets fixed, who knows, because there are more critical bugs than that in the queue.

I do what I can to help the SPPD developers. Whenever there’s weird behavior, I screenshoot it and report it in the Ubisoft forum. I’ve reported two instances of crappy behavior. One had to be fixed immediately, because it made them look dumb. The other will go into the “just one of those things” file.

I also made corrections to their online help documents. That will take a minute to implement, because it’s a matter of changing content, not mechanics. I’ll feel better about my South Park: Phone Destroyer experience if they implement, or read, or care about what a user did to help them in an area that every customer and  prospective customer uses.


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Procyonn’s Folly applied to South Park: Phone Destroyer 12/24/2017

During the late ’80s, I worked as a room host in an AOL freeform roleplay area. It certainly was freeform — if you could type it, your character could do it — but there was a game called Duel of Swords that had rules.
Two players roleplayed/described their action while messaging one of 10 possible moves to a trusted third party, who consulted a matrix for the result of move-vs.-move and reporting the result.

Duel of Swords was great fun. For some, the roleplay aspect was key, while some also wanted to play the game as well as they could.

I got into that game years late, but I have this insane obligation to myself to find something new in the strategy or tactics of any game, even one as simple as compiling the results of a 10×10 matrix.

One of the fundamental aspects of Duel of Swords was that you couldn’t make the same move twice in a row (with one seemingly-insignificant exception), so players had to make this type of decision at every turn: My two highest-powered moves are A and B, but they’re both foiled by C. If I play A or B, and he goes C, not only am I losing a point (leader after 10 turns wins), he’s got a positional advantage on the next turn.

So what should one do on the first turn? All 10 moves are available to the opponent, so neither side wields the positional advantage of having more useful moves in store. I reasoned that the seemingly-insignificant move that could be repeated had to be a fair first shot.

The move — disengage — was seemingly insignificant because you were disengaging instead of fighting, and what’s the point of that, especially since the opponent could still whack you according to the matrix. But I figured even if I did lose a point at turn one, I had a slight positional edge — 10 possible moves to 9 — on move 2. (I called it Procyonn’s Folly, after the chess opening Santasiere’s Folly.)

This meant that my opponents had to play the he-knows-I-know-he-knows-I-know game at move one. Opponent knows I favor the move one disengage, which can be smacked by high cut or low cut. I know he knows that, and so on. The I-know-he-knows-I-know-he-knows thinking could drive one batty, but some people had a better intuition for anticipating an opponent’s move than others, and they were at the top of the game.

How does one apply this to South Park: Phone Destroyer, where any of five cards could be the best play against whichever five the opponent drew. Sometimes you get an obvious one — protective tank plus rugged fighter plus ranger in rear, or maybe a simple Hookhand Clyde. Otherwise it pays to see what the opponent lays down first, and then counterattack with the goal of stealing the initiative.

If you wanted to apply the logic “I’ll make the lowest-cost move fir, like Disengage, so if I get whacked, I lose less than if I’d lost with a higher-reward-higher-risk play”, then a good first move in South Park: Phone Destroyer is casting a low-energy character with a deathwish, because then there’s even a tiny gain after death.

Maybe Paladin Butters is the best of the Butterses for that. Among the Kennys, Princess Kenny could be ideal.

Again, this gambit is based on having zero information about what your opponent has in store, and having no concrete plan based on your initial draw. At South Park: Phone Destroyer, there might be a clue in the outfit the other new kid is wearing.

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Dogpoo is South Park: Phone Destroyer’s Tycho Extension

Days ago, I talked about the old NetRunner card Tycho Extension, which fueled a powerful deck so simple that a beginner could (and did) win a tournament with it.
Tycho Extension took advantage of some NetRunner arithmetic. NetRunner was a race to seven points, while Tycho awarded four. That meant scoring the first Tycho enabled the player to sell one superfluous point in order to make the second, winning Tycho automatic.

Most of the good cards in the Tycho class had the same difficulty as Tycho, but were worth just three points. However, those cards conferred special abilities when scored, while Tycho had no special ability.

The joke was: “Tycho doesn’t need a special ability. Its fourth agenda point is its ‘special ability’.”

Dogpoo is the South Park: Phone Destroyer answer to Tycho Extension.

Dogpoo doesn’t have a special ability. It just deals huge damage, 80 points or more.

Dogpoo fits into SPPD decks the same way Tycho Extension fit in NR decks. Their special ability of having no special ability also makes them compact — if one wanted to play with 20 points in a NR deck, one could go with seven 3-pointers or five Tychos, and give the two free card slots to something else. Instead of two fighters that deal 40 damage, SPPD players play one Dogpoo and have another option.
The top SPPD players sneer about Dogpoo the same way NR experts did Tycho. NR players used to say “live by the Tycho, die by the Tycho” (because while the Tycho player only had to score two Tychos, his opponent only had to steal two). SPPD experts believe Dogpoo moves too slowly to be useful at high levels —once I was in position to resign, but instead of standing still, I experimented by casting Dogpoo behind new kid, then Hyperdrive. Even a Hyperdriven Dogpoo stumbles along.

Next time I play NetRunner, I’ll stick to my opinion that Tycho Extension is crap, but call it dogshit instead.

I own the original art to Tycho Extension. Even if we hate the card for its training-wheel-simplicity, it’s a NR icon for the same reason, and moonscapes are just cool. When NetRunner the game was at death’s door, there wasn’t much to do as an enthusiast — I’d written every idea I ever had, and traveled to Virginia and The Netherlands just to play; buying original art was one of the last kicks to get from that game. The artist gave it to me for 1/5 his asking price — he could tell I was one of the few people who’d really like hanging it on a wall.

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Mimsy on Hyperdrive deals 276 points of damage 12/23/2017

Nathan and Mimsy aren’t my favorite “South Park” characters, but Jimmy and Timmy need potential foils in  the special education classroom, and Nathan and Mimsy are huge cards.
Nathan has the longest range in the game. Park him in the back corner behind blockers, and it’s bombs away.  When I have Lightning Bolt available, Nathan gets it.

Mimsy’s a powerhouse headhunter, but he’s slow as mud, so his deployment requires careful timing (if the enemy can swarm Mimsy, he might land one or two hits before falling like a tree).

I thought to solve Mimsy’s sluggishness with Hyperdrive doubling his and teammates’ speed for six seconds. It’s a huge investment in energy — 9 energy out of 10 — so it’s a significant net loss if Hypermimsy gets surrounded by assassins.

One of the best occasions for this trick just arose. Leading in health bars, I could gather energy, while opponent’s shockwave went off to clear the field. I dropped Mimsy.

The best the enemy could do to slow Mimsy down was Sheriff Cartman, whom Mimsy shoved aside to reach the other new kid. Then Nelly joined angry Cartman, as I played Hyperdrive. (A beta iteration of Hyperdrive was 3 cost for 3 seconds — 4 cost for 6 seconds is far better for enhancing one fighter, and the revised card art reflects that!).

With Nelly and Cartman on his back, Hypermimsy did 276 points of damage, wiping out the opponent’s last health bar and winning the match.

I imagine I had more fun there than the level 45 masters who are churning Regeneration.

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