[WGP] Am I supposed to be winning THIS much?

edited October 2009 in Story Games
I'm running a kick-ass WGP game set in the Silver Age of Marvel Comics: Loki, god of mischief, is playing merry hell against Spider-Man and the Thing. It's a long-form game because I've never seen an AP that wasn't a one-shot.

I am destroying them. I have won (almost) every "enrichment scene." I have won every "conflict scene." The players have devastated almost all of their aspects, which means that they'll very quickly run out of resources and be forced to go into an "enrichment grind" whoring for cards to build up their hands. I have never felt a moment's worry or concern. Part of the problem is that most of our "conflict scenes" have been 1:1, rather than 1:2, because the heroes haven't teamed up very much.

I know that this is kind of how WGP is supposed to go. But I'm worried that we're going to reach a point where the players have devastated all their aspects but I haven't "transformed" them yet, so we'll just have a scenes where I rack up stress on their devastated aspects and they won't have any way to oppose me. Is it supposed to be this easy?

I get the impression that WGP's math isn't quite robust, and it's riddled with special exceptions which makes it hard to work out what's the matter.

Comments

  • Are they playing cards to the arc?

    Are you drawing cards correctly. As the players lose they should be taking your decks away and also racking up more wild cards. I don't have the exact rules at top of mind...but it seems odd they could have lost that much without pretty much owning all of the decks by now...
  • Yeah - if you've obliterated them that much, the story arc should have gone across, making your cards much less powerful. If you've devastated some aspects, their cards should be as powerful as yours were at the start of the game. They should begin to naturally kick your ass soon. And if they lose, that's okay, you can lose to the Plan in With Great Power.
  • Well, I know that's what is supposed to happen. I just don't see any likelihood of it happening. The players are very close to having no resources left. Typically they burned through their cards in "conflict scenes," leaving them with one or two cards in their hand. At that point they'd go through an orgy of stress, devastating an aspect or two in order to get more cards--which they'd blow in the next conflict. They are now down to 2-3 cards with almost nothing left to ruin. So it's going to be this long grind as they circle the drain. Maybe they can pull it off, but it's going to be a slog. Our "endgame" is going to be 2-3 sessions long, and I think I'm still going to nail them.

    I suppose, just like in Dogs in the Vineyard, I should not have fought hard for my stakes--I should have seen that the players really wanted something, and conceded. But I wasn't forced to do this mechanically, and any super hero RPG where you don't go to the wall isn't really super heroes. I don't want to have players thinking, "I have the resources to win, but I'd better husband my strength until the end game." Likewise as the GM I don't want to say, "Gee, I could really win these stake and screw the players, but I can see that Adrian doesn't have enough "game-sense" to husband his resources--he'll likely shoot his wad and be stuck in a death spiral for the rest of the game. So I should throw this fight."

    The other problem with WGP is that the ending conditions aren't well-considered. I will almost certainly transform Spider-Man's "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" aspect (turning him into a super-villain), but I probably won't be able to easily devastate the Thing's "Membership in the Fantastic Four" aspect. The villain "wins" WGP when he transforms both strife aspects; the heroes "win" when they devastate my Plan, which hasn't been touched. Let's assume that somehow the game comes to a close--but there are still several Devastated (but not yet Transformed) other aspects. What happens to them? Do they reset to Primed if we start a new game? Or do they stay devastated?
  • They reset (not to Primed, they have to be primed just like they were the first time), or they aren't used at all. Remember, you pick your aspects off the scratch pad at the beginning of each issue. Because really who cares if the character got his leg broken, next issue he's fine.

    Is the story arc filling up at all? How are you still able to win so decisively when you have fewer cards that do less than theirs?
  • At the end of this session we filled the fourth box (out of 5).

    But as an example, here's what's going on from the GM's side:
    * At the start of a conflict scene I, as GM, probably have anywhere from 4-7 cards. I draw 2 cards + 4 per devastated hero aspect + 1 per strife aspect at medium-stress or more - and this is per deck I control. So: against Spider-Man I am drawing 22 cards (2 devastated aspects including the strife aspect, and until the end of this session I controlled two decks), plus whatever I already had. I discard down to 12 cards. Of these, only red 2's are wild for me. (I think.)

    * If the Thing and Spider-Man ever teamed up, I'd be drawing another 20 cards, for a total of 42 cards, plus the 5-10 I already had. Then I discard down to 16 cards. Again, only red 2's are wild. But I have 42 cards out of 107, of which 7 cards are wild (3 jokers and 4 red 2's). I'm going to do all right.

    * If I'm ever dissatisfied with my cards, my villain aspects are virtually untouched. It's a trivial matter to raise them up in to mid-stress for another 3-4 cards total if a conflict lasts long enough.

    * And of course, I have four devastated hero aspects to draw on. So rather than endanger my own plans, I can just dump loads of stress on the heroes' aspects. That's good for another 3-4 cards in a conflict - probably 5 if I'm really nasty about it.

    From the player's side:
    * The players have begun these conflicts usually with 2-3 cards in their hand. They are usually pretty crappy cards. A player draws 2 cards plus the total of stress on non-devastated aspects. In practice, this is usually like 5-6 cards. They discard down to 7. All 2's, 3's and Jokers are wild for them. But they're basically drawing 5 cards from 54, of which 10 cards are wild.

    * The players have devasted half of their aspects, so they have very limited options to gain new cards during the conflict. Each hero has 2 "safe" aspects, but they can only increase the stress a total of 4 times before being totally stressed out across the board. So, they're only gaining 3-4 cards in a conflict, and each time they do this they're severely limiting their options in the future.

    Now that the fourth box on the arc is checked off, I'm only going to be drawing 11 cards or 21 cards if they team up. But the players are still only drawing 5-7 cards. At that point the math of winning conflicts becomes significantly more player-favorable, but my intuition is that I'll still have the advantage of being able to assess across 6-8 relatively fresh aspects.
  • edited October 2009
    If you were beating them soundly for so long, how come you're only getting to the 4th spot on the arc now? I'm confused, putting that card on the story arc is the whole point of giving in as a player.

    Plus this:
    Posted By: James_NostackAnd of course, I havefour devastated hero aspectsto draw on. So rather than endanger my own plans, I can just dump loads of stress on the heroes' aspects. That's good for another 3-4 cards in a conflict - probably 5 if I'm really nasty about it.
    is backwards, you pay cards in order to push them past Devastated towards Transformed, and only get them back as they march back "up" towards Devastated. Unless I read or remember it wrong? Basically if you're pulling more cards off their aspects that you control, that's fine but you're not getting any closer to actually winning, and if they're sitting at Devastated, you can't assess any more from them.
  • edited October 2009
    Posted By: JDCorleyIf you were beating them soundly for so long, how come you're only getting to the 4th spot on the arc now? I'm confused, putting that card on the story arc is the whole point of giving in as a player.
    We're playing the "long-form version" (see page 68) in which the players can only fill in one box in the arc per conflict. So - they have lost 4 conflicts out of 5. We've had probably 10-11 "enrichment" scenes. I think I've won all of them (I wasn't [i]trying[/i] to, they just had terrible cards left.) So the players have been [i]attempting[/i] to finish the game as quickly as possible and gain momentum, but it's worked out that by now they're very very close to having no resources left.

    This is not apparent in most Actual Play of the game because it seems like a lot of people use the "Annual" rules, in which case the story is only one-quarter as long and the players can't screw themselves quite so badly. It's also possible that the math changes appreciably with 3-4 players instead of 2.

    But given our circumstances of play I don't see how things could have worked out much differently given the math involved unless the players deliberately "threw" conflicts one or two exchanges in. This seems perverse to me in several respects:

    * Super hero comic books are about people going to the wall, so it's not genre-appropriate to throw in the towel early
    * Super hero fights are fun, so it's not entertaining to throw in the towel early
    * After playing a lot of indie games, we're really keen on setting stakes which are juicy and interesting (i.e., players are emotionally invested in winning the conflict)

    I could solve this problem by (a) giving up when I see a player is playing self-destructively but I don't regard this as my responsibility, or (b) setting lame stakes that the heroes can live with happily if they lose (in other words, stakes that neither of us care about so why go through the motions of fighting for them). Neither option seems good to me.
    you pay cards in order to push them past Devastated towards Transformed, and only get them back as they march back "up" towards Devastated. Unless I read or remember it wrong?
    You're remembering it wrong. Per page 58, the GM gains cards [i]and[/i] moves closer to "winning" outright by moving devastated aspects toward transformed. If I wanted to be a dick about it, I could lower stress on all of my villain's aspects (including my plan) and pay for it by adding stress to the heroes' devastated aspects.

    The smart way to play would be for the players to fill in Box 5 and then [i]immediately[/i] redeem their devastated aspects. This would then place them back at "full health" and I would be at full health as well. At this point we're effectively starting over from scratch and the players would have to win 5 more conflict scenes to push my plan to Devastated in order to win outright. (The official winning conditions are that all hero strife aspects become Transformed while the plan hasn't been Devastated--or the Plan is devastated while the hero aspects are not yet Transformed.) I suspect this would become very tedious, but don't know for sure.
  • Posted By: James_NostackWe're playing the "long-form version" (see page 68) in which the players can only fill in one box in the arc per conflict. So - they have lost 4 conflicts out of 5. We've had probably 10-11 "enrichment" scenes. I think I've won all of them (I wasn't [i]trying[/i] to, they just had terrible cards left.) So the players have been [i]attempting[/i] to finish the game as quickly as possible and gain momentum, but it's worked out that by now they're very very close to having no resources left.
    Christ, 10-11 enrichment scenes with only half that in conflicts?! That seems like a whole lot to me. At some point they need to get off their duff and start chasing your plan. No wonder you're killing them - they aren't doing shit to fight you.

    As for the "why don't they give early on" thing, here is my thought:
    Posted By: James_NostackSuper hero comic books are about people going to the wall, so it's not genre-appropriate to throw in the towel early
    Well, it's not that the characters are throwing in the towel, it's that the players are. Their characters are beaten. The Riddler always has the upper hand against Batman the first few pages in an issue no matter what. Did Batman throw in the towel? Fuck no, Batman got out-thought by that little Guess-wearing twerp. He lost.

    Now, your job as GM is to make them not want to lose - you're right that if nobody cares if they lose then there's no dramatic tension - but the game system absolutely demands that they lose five times at the very least (and as you note, probably more than that), so it's to their advantage to let you have a few conflicts up front, to dive in and try to beat the bad guy early on and OH NO, he's much stronger than we thought, woe, woe (card goes on story arc). A lot of players can't let their characters lose early on and end up a lot weaker for a lot longer. That's just a bad strategy, but the story arc remains intact.

    The "tedious" way you identify, with full redemption and a "start over" on card 5, I think you will find is not tedious at all so long as you remember the full arc. At the beginning you absolutely obliterated them. The next time around when they have all the decks and all the wilds and you've got shit, they'll obliterate you, having been through the fire and come out stronger.

    I use the "ongoing" rules and not the "annual" rules too, but I've never remotely ever had this happen even close to what you describe. Eventually people figure out: "We've got to fill those fucking story arcs." which means they let me kidnap their girlfriends and blow up the mayor's house and terrorize the city while they grit their teeth and say "Looks like Batman is outfoxed by that dastardly Riddler again..." which makes it super, super, SUPER sweet when they start moving in on the Plan and obliterate it.
  • I should add that perhaps using my misremembered "GM has to pay to keep beating down devastated aspects" houserule might be useful. It means the villains have to hit harder when the heroes are at their weakest.
  • Wait, if they "lose" the enrichment scenes, don't they take the winning card into their hand?
  • Posted By: LudantoWait, if they "lose" the enrichment scenes, don't they take the winning card into their hand?
    Yes. And after gaining 3-4 cards this way they get cocky and start a Conflict to increase the stress on my Plan. At which point I clobber them effortlessly, but in trying to resist my stakes they burn through the cards they'd picked up through Enrichment.

    So I end up winning the Enrichment Scenes, and winning the Conflict Scenes as well. I actually can't remember the last scene I've lost. Meanwhile the players have Devastated half of their aspects in order to survive, while my aspects are pretty much fresh.

    With Great Power is a fun game--each session is wonderfully fun and hugely cathartic to us because we are huge comics nerds. But either the Millers are mathematical geniuses who are going to surprise the HELL out of me in a session or two, or they never encountered this pattern in playtesting which seems equally surprising.
  • edited October 2009
    Yeah, the winning card in losing an enrichment scene is not usually going to do much. In fact, early in the game, it's likely that the GM will be using a wild card that's not wild for the players but is instead a ridiculously shitty card.

    I've played a lot of WGP and never hit the pattern as badly as you have, but it sounds to me like the players didn't grasp what the story arc was all about and resisted playing to it too much. My groups have usually figured it out after I mangle them once or twice. Now, when I'm running the game for the first time with a group, I do a round of enrichment scenes, then when I come back to the first player again, I say, "We're going to do a conflict now." I always win, the first card goes on the story arc, and I follow it up by saying "See, you're one step closer to beating me." The light bulb tends to go on pretty fast.
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