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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

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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Mr. Hankey knows when you’ve been tanking / he knows when you’re a fake 12/22/2017

I thought today I might’ve earned a South Park: Phone Destroyer PvP pack just for showing up.

Short of spending real money, the PvP packs are the best way to acquire useful cards. Each player vs. player win enables the opening of “loot lockers”, then three wins is rewarded with an additional pack of cards (which are said to include the rarest cards, for which I cannot vouch).
During events like PC Principal Shades Week and Pirate Week, another bonus pack is offered — PvP wins confer points toward earning those special event bonus packs.

The special event bonus packs foment sandbagging like nothing else. Players who don’t want to compete at whichever PvP level they’ve reached dump matches. After they’ve dumped themselves into lower ranks, they more easily win the points needed for PvP and especially special event packs.

This week’s special event revolves around Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo. PvP matches award poo nuggets. Yup, win at SPPD, and receive pieces of shit. Win enough shit, and special event packs plus other prizes come available. Each bonus level is more difficult than the last, so players are sandbagging like crazy in the pursuit of bonus poo nuggets.

For two consecutive matches, my opponents stood there and waited to die. When the third came, I wanted him to tank also, because that would’ve been a better story.

I’ve requested a resignation button. Players who are tanking don’t have to waste time, and players who recognize that they’ve fallen too far behind in a legitimate match resign themselves to motionlessness. There should be an option for shortening this process.

My second tanking opponent died in 58 seconds to a combination of Hookhand Clyde, Dogpoo, Angel Wendy, and Buccaneer Bebe. 58 seconds is a big improvement over the earlier record, which was 1:15.

Playing against tankers is weird. For a few seconds, both players assess their draws, and figure whether they should make the first move. Nothing happens for an awkward number of seconds, until one character ventures into battle. Then there’s a little trepidation over the opponent’s reply, backed by maximum saved energy.

The first character reaches enemy new kid. Pow. Pop. Bang. No response.

Maybe you send another character to fight. Which reaches the new kid. Crash. Boom. When the enemy makes no move until the shockwave at the end of a health bar, then you can think about which of your cards will quickly get this crap over with. It’s then I enjoy  watching Mimsy plus Hyperdrive, which resembles the Hulkbuster Iron Man suit.

You have to wonder: What happens when both players want to tank?

I think that should result in an abbreviated bit of violence. If you’re watching your opponent do nothing while you’re doing nothing, you might think if you can score one energy bar before the time limit, you get something better than tanking, an actual victory. But he’s thinking that, too.

When both players recognize that the other is trying to tank, they might make bad moves on purpose, weakening their position for easier death. Then you’ve got players casting effects like Poison and Freeze Ray with no one on the field.

Bridge tournaments sometimes have flawed seeding mechanisms, putting teams in position where their prospects of winning the tournament improve if they lose a match. Of course, there came the time when both teams wanted to lose, and they had the integrity to insist on reseeding or re-pairing, whatever would prevent a fiasco.

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The smart *and* funny Heidi Turner

During the 20th season of “South Park”, I dread the thought of Heidi Turner girlfriending Eric Cartman. I reckon that was a universal feeling — the students of South Park Elementary plus the viewers beyond the fourth wall know that Cartman is an incredible asshole, particularly when it comes to his mother.
I caught up with season 21, and determined to watch the whole bloody series again — as long as I’m writing about the mobile game South Park: Phone Destroyer, it’s research. (Bebe was a fickle jerk in season 3’s “Clubhouses”, but her pirate card might be my favorite — in a player vs. player game, she needs help staying alive long enough to be useful; but in a player vs. environment game, she grows with each wave of enemies, and when the boss lands, Buccaneer Bebe is one of the most powerful fighters on the stage.)

Season 21 revealed that Heidi has issues, enabling Cartman’s emotional abuse (as the cuts to the blank-faced but understanding witnesses stand for us viewers), and his increasingly elaborate deceit. He set her up to be killed by a witch (who else has Cartman murdered in the first degree — the Scott Tenorman episode, in which he was ground into meat for chili was memorably good) because she delayed his trip to the pumpkin patch?!

The showrunners were playing a long game — Heidi completely turned the tables on Cartman by *becoming* Cartman before finding herself again and leaving Cartman holding a gun to his head with *another* suicide threat if she were to dump him.

I thought the two-season arc was brilliant, the most-deeply-written character development ever for a South Park kid.

In the SPPD game, Heidi is the most limited of the kid cards. The main players and several secondaries are represented in each color, while Nathan, Mimsy, Terrance, Dogpoo, Marcus, others are universally “gray”. Calamity Heidi is only blue (that’ll have to be addressed with future releases, yeah?). Her battle cry is most appropriate: “I’m smart *and* funny!”

Calamity Heidi’s card art is some of the best in the set, when you look behind Heidi.

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The necessity of modifying PvE decks

I read that South Park: Phone Destroyer players manage two decks — one for player vs. player, and another for player vs. environment.layer-21

I wondered if that was some kind of affectation, but I’ve learned that it’s a necessity. While PvP decks are the best one can put together for that  form of the game, PvE must be ever-changing according to the environment.

My pirate band was being slaughtered by Pocahontas Randy (the Randy cards that spawn fighters are most intriguing) and his archers repeatedly, and I thought I might never earn the three arrowheads in that loot locker. I determined that I had to add green healing cards to the blue pirate bunch.

Captain Wendy out, Angel Wendy in. Smuggler Ike out, Friar Jimmy in. Pirate Ship Timmy out, Regeneration in. Barrel Dougie out, Energy Staff in.Assassins didn’t stand a chance against snipers, so it was easy to swap Smuggler Ike and Barrel Dougie.

The result was sort of ridiculous. After new kid has five or six allies on the field — with Buccaneer Bebe and Angel Wendy in the protection pocket — it meant that Regeneration was always in the draw pile. Regenerate repeatedly, while Angel Wendy and Friar Jimmy worked the same magic.

I’ve got a better picture of why the SPPD community wants green cards to be reworked (though as soon as Purity was “fixed”, people complained — it’s a no-win for the developers).

Along with arrowheads in the blue environment. I now have to pluck prayer beads from the green.  The orange I’ve been wanting to buff for weeks is unattended, but I can see myself going full orange when the astronaut helmet reappears in the Butters shop.

I’ve played against one opponent wearing the astronaut suit plus helmet. He looks boss.

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Which character receives the most benefit from Hyperdrive? 12/20/2017

I’ll play cards just for their art. Reconnaissance from the first NetRunner expansion in 1997 showed a clever combination of chess and netspace, so I put that in every deck.layer-49

Hyperdrive from South Park: Phone Destroyer should elicit interest for its Flash-y art, and even for its powerful promise of doubling the allies’ speed for six seconds.

SPPD players suss early the faster, the better — that the producers don’t state a character’s speed on the cards is a disservice. To double the team’s speed is a potentiol game-changer.

107The first thing I tried was to gather the assassins and speedy fighters — in basketball parlance, I tried to run the enemies out of the gym. But that idea died in short time — the delicate assassins can get pounded before they can form a skirmish line, and they’re too easily picked off by rangers.

I reduced the breadth of the search. Instead of plotting for Hyperdrive to power a swarm, which single unit stands to gain the most from a surge of energy?

The answer has to be Mimsy.

Mimsy has one job: to lumber toward the enemy new kid, and survive long enough to slowly land some powerful punches. Barrel Dougie hopes to sneak behind; Mimsy hopes to rumble through.

Against an energy-depleted new kid with troops diverted, Mimsy is a serious threat; but if the enemy kid has the resources to surround Mimsy, the mob soon transitions from defense to offense.

Mimsy on Hyperdrive as an early salvo is a bad idea. Mimsy might strike twice as many blows, but after the enemy gang knocks him down, New Kid hasn’t recharged sufficiently to stand the counterpush.

The usual scene for Mimsy is in a balanced deck, with one or two gangfights going on around him, when he can wobble forward relatively unscathed. That shouldn’t change, seemingly.

In a most recent case in which our Nelly battled their Nelly one step from their New Kid, then Hyperdrive fueled Mimsy *and* the whirling dervish Nelly, the result was devastating.

The successful effect of Hyperdrive plus Mimsy is like Iron Man in the Hulkbuster suit.

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