A Matter of Time

I am painfully aware that it has been far too long since this blog has been updated with a Table Talk article. Rather than offering apologies for the limited time I have had to post here, let me just say that it is this shortness of time which has inspired this article.

“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain”
- Miyamoto Musashi

It used to be that I considered myself a gamer first and everything else second. As I have grown older and my responsibilities outside of gaming have increased, my time for gaming has been reduced greatly. I am now a father first, a husband second, a provider for my family third, and gaming comes somewhere after that. It used to be that I wouldn’t think twice about spending 60+ hours a week playing games, building decks, or researching tournament trends online. I have not had that kind of time to invest in gaming for close to three years now. I think most people would agree that the names we see consistently placing highly in tournaments have earned that right through time investments that many of us simply cannot commit to. What then does that mean for the rest of us? Are we forever doomed to theme deck competitions and costume contests because we do not have the time to invest? While it may sometimes feels that way, I would like to share with my readers some of the ideas I have come up with in the hopes of making the best use of what little time I have for gaming given the other responsibilities in my life.

Probably the oldest trick in the book for anyone who does not have time to play against opponents is the fish bowl. Simply stated this is just the practice of playing the first few turns of your deck to see how it develops independent of opposition. This is most useful for determining what gold holdings to include as well as an approximate board position after one or two turns of development. I like to break my fish bowl games into mini-games to get the most games on a single shuffle. I shuffle my fate and dynasty deck and then separate both into four stacks of ten cards each. I then take these fate / dynasty pairs and play the first three turns of the game. As a primarily offensive player, looking at the board and my hand on the start of my turn three tells me a lot about what I can expect an average draw to look like when I would plan on attacking. As a defensive player you can judge how resilient you are likely to be against a potential attack at that point. Once I see how the deck has developed to that point, I simply grab the next fate / dynasty pair and repeat the process. This allows me to play four fish bowl games on just one shuffle while also having flexibility to test BH and BK options and strategies. This method is strictly for after bed time for my little one as any cards in his reach have a short life expectancy. Because this is only done while he is sleeping, one added benefit is that fewer shuffles also means less noise to potentially wake him up as well.

Another option I like is tournament reports. I cannot attend anywhere near the number of tournaments I would like to or that I have in the past. That does not mean that I cannot gain some insight second hand from the people who were able to attend. I like to look specifically for tournament reports from the same region I play in as these are more likely to provide information regarding tournaments I may have a chance to attend later, but really any information is helpful. The more detailed the report the better, some people are a lot more specific about their games than others. I make a conscious effort to read everything I can within the time I have available and I make sure to read about decks or strategies I do not see locally more closely than others, often reading that match or the entire report again if it is a deck none of the local players play. This is something I often do while my son is awake; in fact it is something we often do together. It did not take me long to learn that my son enjoys when I read to him, so far as I can tell he isn’t too picky about what I read to him. I frequently read tournament reports to him which he seems to appreciate at least as much as any Sesame Street or Thomas the Train book, although the educational value may be debatable so I do still try to keep at least a 1:1 ratio of tournament reports and books with colorful pictures.

This last practice of mine likely isn’t for everyone, but it is something I do. I used to play a lot of games online using Egg of Pan Ku. The time requirements to sit in chat rooms looking for an opponent are far more than I can manage these days. That said I do still have several friends locally and in other regions who play online quite often, and that is a resource I draw from by having them use the option of logging their two player games and sending me those log files once or twice a week. This lets me see real play information in a very detailed manner which most tournament reports understandably cannot match. I also get to see a lot of interesting decks, strategies, and combos here as most people on EoPK tend to play more games with fun decks mixed in with tournament decks from what I can see. It is important to mention that this is very dry reading material because EoPK log files record EVERYTHING meaning I read a lot of exciting text about holdings bowing or straightening and people drawing or moving unknown cards. It isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t my favorite thing to do, but it fills nicely the delicate 30-60 minute period of time when my son goes to bed but is not yet asleep and any sound from the TV, radio, or me moving around bags, boxes, and binders working on decks will pique his interest and keep him from falling asleep.

I have found that while there is no substitute for putting in the time yourself to build, test and refine decks as well as study the environment, these tricks have helped me to at least try to remain competitive given the time constraints I face. I am certain other players have had to deal with these reductions in gaming time for one reason or another and I was curious what tips or tricks others may have for people in a similar position. If you have any suggestions which you found helped maintain your game, please share below in the comments section. It is my hope that this blog entry as well as any comments to it will help keep those of us with reduced availability performing at our best given the constraints we have to work within.

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