Storybook Brawl

Storybook Brawl is a very solid auto-battler, even though I don’t like how it’s monetized at the moment.

I like Storybook Brawl. There are a few things about it that I find a little annoying, but otherwise I think it’s pretty fun. Oh right, I’m supposed to explain what Storybrook Brawl is: it’s a card-drafting auto battler.

For anyone who read that and went “Okay, cool” you can skip the next few paragraphs. For the other 98% of the population who can’t understand an entire game from 2 jargony phrases, let me explain what “Card Drafting” and “Auto Battling” is, and how they’re used in Storybook Brawl.

“Card Drafting” first. At the start of the game, and after each combat, you’re given some gold to buy with, and a row of several units to buy. If you don’t like any of the units available, you can also spend gold to reroll your shop’s selection. While this does leave you with less gold, since gold doesn’t carry over between rounds, you generally want to spend it all.

As the game goes on, your hero will level up and this center pool will include more powerful units. Generally speaking, you only get one experience point per round, but there a few spells that can accelerate leveling up and being able to buy better units.

Oh, we haven’t talked about spells have we? Unless a spell says otherwise, you can cast one spell per round. They have a variety of effects, from random damage on enemy units, to permanent buffs to your own units. Just like units, you get access to more expensive and powerful spells as your hero levels up.

You’ll have about 60 seconds or so to do all of your drafting. At the start of the game 60 seconds tends to be a lot of time to make your drafting decisions. But by the end of the game, where there are more decisions and choices piling up, you usually need all your time.

After that 60 seconds passes, we get to what an “Auto Battler” is. At this point, whatever lineup you’ve managed to create gets matched up against another player’s lineup, and going from top left to bottom right, your units take turns attacking each other. Whoever runs out of units first is the loser, and takes damage equal to… the opposing player’s current level plus the levels of their units that remain on the board. If your thought is “Huh, that equation doesn’t seem super intuitive,” I’d agree. When you run out of health, you lose, and games continue until only one player is left.

Okay, so I’m running out of energy to write this article, and we still haven’t actually talked about any of the unit cards themselves, or treasure, or tripling, or keywords. So I’m gonna burn through them, and then see if my editor tells me that I haven’t covered the mechanics enough.

First up, units! The game has quite a few. I’m going to talk about just one keyword that units can have as it’s my favorite example of something interesting the game does: Slay. Slay is a triggerable keyword that occurs whenever the unit attacks and kills another unit. The important bit here is “Attacks.” If a unit with slay is attacked, and kills the other unit on the defense, that doesn’t trigger the keyword. Using slay effectively means either gambling that your unit will get the first attack, or buffing it high enough to be able to take a hit, and smash back.

Next up: Tripling. When you draft three copies of a unit, those three copies combine into a higher level version of that unit with better stats, and if that unit has an ability, a stronger version of that ability. This is where another neat part of the game comes into play. When the units combine, any buffs that they had as single units also merge onto the upgraded unit. This means that a unit that was decently statted with a few buffs can suddenly become an absolute powerhouse.

The other big thing that happens when you triple a unit is that you get a treasure. You can have up to three treasures at any given point in time. If you’d get a 4th one, you have to choose between throwing out one of your current ones, or skipping the new one.

There’s one more bit mechanic, so let’s talk about heroes. Choosing a hero is the first thing that happens each round, but I’ve saved it for last because it’s also one of my few big gripes with the game.

At the very start of the game, you’re offered a choice of 4 heroes, of which two will automatically be unlocked, and 2 might be unlocked. How big an impact your chosen hero will have on the game can vary quite heavily. Some, like my personal favorite, Morgan Le Fae have almost no impact on your drafting selections, while others can change the cards you want to draft massively. Peter Pan is biggest offender of the second category.

The issue I have with this system is two-fold. First off, I don’t really like that my strategy for a round can end up feeling defined by hero selection. And secondly, I really don’t like how this ties in with the monetization. Remember when I mentioned that you’ll be given a choice of 4 heroes, but can only pick from two of the four guaranteed? That’s because the last 2 are only selectable if you’ve either spent real money to unlock them, or the in-game currency of dust. So while the game isn’t directly “P2W”, it does end up feeling “Pay for More Options.”

I don’t hate this enough to stop playing but it doesn’t feel good.

And that’s Storybook Brawl! Except I didn’t talk about how the various archetypes work together with each other really smoothly. Or how the Good/Evil keyword is really interesting as a sort of Boolean typing on a given unit that can be on any unit, but can only be in one of the states at once. Or how the prince/princess meta is absolute cancer at the moment and King Arthur needs to be nerfed again.

Winning in Storybook Brawl ends up being a combination of unit placement, drafting ability, and yes, some luck. But it feels less random than other auto battlers I’ve played because there’s more synergy between various archetypes of units present.

The end result is that Storybook Brawl is a very solid auto battler, even though I don’t quite like how it’s monetized at the moment. If any of what I’ve described above sounds interesting, I encourage you to download it here on Steam, and give it a shot.

A Brief Statement

Gametrodon condemns the behavior of the abusers at Activision-Blizzard, and the management that enabled them.

The next several months will likely determine if the company has any chance for reform, or will just act to save public face without making any actual commitment to demolishing a culture of sexism and abuse.

California Department of Fair Employment & Housing Complaint

NPR Coverage of the Complaint

An Open Letter from Blizzard Employees to Management

Jason Schreier’s Twitter – Writer for Bloomberg, and coverage of the unfolding events.

We encourage our readers to review the links above for more information and context.

The most valuable voices to listen to at this time are those who have had to endure this discrimination and abuse.

D6 – Max Level, 1 Fight, No DLC Guide

I keep seeing a bunch of references to farming in D6, with every single guide mentioning the Prinny trick, getting max, but no single guide that actually explains the full strategy. So here’s my writeup, with exact steps and details on what I have done, and the results. This guide does NOT use any DLC to get this outcome. No Valvatorez or Pleinair required.

Prereqs
Rakshasa Unlocked
3000 Cap In Cheat Shop
Capped Squads

Prep

1x Killer – Level Whatever

This slot is more or less whatever you want it to be. In my case, I used Bieko with capped Omega Wind, and had every other booster equipping “Kill With Wind.” You could probably make a more efficient version of this setup, that doesn’t require that. The only important thing about your “Killer” is that they can kill every single mob on Peaceful World – Bell of Blessing – Rakshasa without dying, and that they have a 900 Statistician equipped.

9x Boosters – Level 1 – Any Class/Unit

One of these is the unit you’re power leveling.

Evilities
World is Mine
Genius Studier
Happy Song
Overlord Training
Kill With Wind – OPTIONAL, SEE ABOVE

Items: Each character had a 900 Statistician

90x – Fodder – Level 1 – Prinny God Capped with any one job, for EXP Bonus From D-Merits

Evilities
Recycle Spirit
Focus Bomb

Items: Doesn’t Matter

D.I. Target Myself -> Wait Until Other Units Have Acted -> Nearest Unit -> Lift -> Nearest Unit -> Throw
Put this on every single one of these Prinnies.

Setup and Execution

Setup – You only have to do this stuff once.

  1. In Cheat Shop, set Enemy Strength to 20
  2. In Cheat Shop, set Back to Square One to ON
  3. In Cheat Shop, set EXP to 3000%.
  4. In your auto-battle group, set up your units to be in the following order. PRINNIES -> BOOSTERS -> KILLER
  5. Add the Unit You’re Power Leveling to the Boot Camp Squad

Execution – Do this each loop.

1. Dark Assembly Bills – (Any unit can pass these)
Give Me Triple EXP!
Praise My Performance
Throw a Welcome Party

2. With the unit you’re power leveling, pass Hog All Exp!
3. Go to Peaceful World – Bell of Blessing – Rakshasa
4. Press Autocombat, and watch Prinnies go boom for a bit.
5. Bring out your boosters, and killer.
6. Clear the map. Optional
7. Repeat until you lose your mind and get tired of trying to farm Karma when you can only get 124 Million a Loop.

Additional Notes and Tips

  1. You can fill the Dark Assembly squad with the Prinnies you’ve created. Once your Dark Assembly is capped, this mean every bill will pass without bribes or fights effectively every time.
  2. This is by no means “Optimized.” I’ve spent the last few days trying to get this to work, and every source of information either left parts out, or was a 16 minute YouTube video that claimed you needed DLC, or didn’t include all info.
  3. I get about 9QD per run with my setup. If you’re getting less then that, here are a few things to check. I’m going to be honest, I do not understand how EXP addon stacking works at all in D6. Example: You can’t stack more then 1 Statistican per character, but you apparently can stack Happy Song.
    1. Stick as many EXP boosting Evilities as you can on the character you’re powerleveling.
    2. Confirm everyone has an item with a Statistican
    3. Stuff even more EXP boost Evilities onto your booster characters.
    4. Make sure you’ve capped your cheat shop
    5. Make sure none of your Prinnies ended up above level 10 somehow.

I mostly wrote this because of how incomplete or just inaccurate the other guides were.

“Secret Lair Survey” Survey Results

I was curious, and created a bad survey to try to answer my curiosity. Here’s the data, why the survey was bad, and my attempt at a better one.

TLDR: MTG sent out a survey about possible future directions for Secret Lair subscriptions and pricing. I was curious who received the survey, so I sent out my own survey about their survey. Here is the raw data I collected as a CSV, minus contact info if it was provided. I didn’t do a great job following up on this one. I’ve also made a better version of the survey, trying to learn from my mistakes.

About three weeks back, a lot of people who had purchased Secret Lair products received an email asking them to take a survey about Secret Lair products. I did not receive this email, but I heard from friends who did.

I don’t have any screenshots of the survey (if you do, please send them over to me, I’d like to include them in this article), but I reached out to a few of the folks who received the it. The general gist I got from talking to folks was something like this:

  1. The survey contained a variety of offers, most related to different subscriptions/subscription offers.
  2. The specific pricing on these offers ranged price based on the survey, and some folks who opened the survey multiple times stated that they saw the amount change, which implies there was some A/B testing going on regarding price point.

Regarding the specific offers themselves, there were a few different types I saw mentioned. These included same day shipping on orders, a discount on purchases, and subscriptions to all Secret Lair products for a year.

Now, all of this is very interesting, and I’d write about it more if I actually had the link to said survey, and screenshots. But I don’t. What I’m interested in is who WoTC sent the survey to. It seems like they were primarily targeting individuals who spend large sums of money on Secret Lair with this survey.

So, I did what any bored motherfucker who thought they could get a clickbait article for their blog out of it reasonable person would: I put up a Google form, posted it to Reddit and Twitter, and waited for some responses.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I got enough responses to reasonably answer my question, but I did promise to release my data in those posts, so here it is in csv format. I’ve removed the column that included contact information, but left everything else.

I do want to quickly go over why I don’t believe this data can be used to support my hypothesis which went something like “WoTC was specifically targeting folks who had spent lots of money.”

Lets start with the big one: this is an incredibly small set of responses. I’m incredibly grateful to the folks who took the time to fill it out, but 38 data points is nowhere near enough to begin drawing meaningful conclusions, and not everyone who responded had even purchased Secret Lair products.

In addition to this, this survey was from a specific subset of the population of folks who might have even seen it, i.e., Twitter and Reddit users. So we have a fairly heavy sampling bias to add to that as well.

(I think it’s actually fairly easy to manipulate this data to make the argument you want. For example, if you look at the average spend of folks who received the survey, they spent more than folks who didn’t. But if you look at actual numbers of folks who bought Secret Lair products and received the survey versus those who didn’t, there’s no clear cutoff. This is also why I’m not comfortable drawing conclusions with this data.)

On the other hand, I think there are some valuable lessons to be learned here, at least from my side. Let’s go over them briefly, shall we?

  1. Have a testable hypothesis before you randomly ask strangers to give you info. Pretty sure any science or stats teacher would smack me for what I did here, at least in terms of going “Hey, lets just gather a bunch of data, and then think about it.”
  2. If I’m going to try to do something that is time sensitive, I need to actually move quickly. Plenty of people gave me contact info. I didn’t reach out to them, partly because I had other work stuff, mostly because the new Path of Exile league came out, and I started playing that non-stop. (It turns out that doing meaningful data analysis and journalism is hard, who would have thought.)
  3. Reach out to the company involved. I probably could have just emailed WoTC. I mean, I doubt they would have responded, but who knows. It couldn’t have hurt to have tried.

So, in the spirit of being curious if WoTC is about to lean hard into whale fracking learning from my own mistakes, I’ve created a brand new survey that attempts to fix the problems with the first one. This time, we’re only interested in two things: if you received the survey, and how much you spent on Secret Lair in 2020, and 2021.

You can fill it out here.

Again, I greatly appreciate anyone who takes the time to do so, and while I doubt this second survey will hit the numbers required to do meaningful analysis, I’ve tried my best to fix some of the flaws I noticed with the first one. And just like the first one, I’ll release whatever data I get publicly.

Dota: Dragon’s Blood – Spoiler-ish

What the ever loving fuck.

I have played a lot of Dota. Like a lot. Not as much as some people, but still over several thousand hours. I also like anime, animated shows, and have low expectations for non-game media based off of games.

As such, I think I might be the exact audience for Netflix’s new show Dota: Dragons Blood. As I sit here having finished it, my only thought is:

What the fuck did I just watch?

No, seriously, if you know, can you please tell me?

I really like Dota 2. I know my Dota 2 lore. I may be one of 12 people who enjoyed the Dota CCG, Artifact, and I’ve read all the comics. And I’m still bewildered.

The best way I can put it is that I had a set of expectations going into this show, and it did not match them. I expected a fairly generic fantasy world, maybe passable characters, and a generic but acceptable plot.

What I got was a fantasy world that feels like it’s based off a world bible that no one but the producers has ever read, surprisingly solid characters, and a plot that waltzes its way, high as a fucking kite, hither and yon, and yon and hither, giving absolutely zero fucks about things like “pacing” and “tonal consistency.” One moment, we’re in a mystical library. Next moment, there are a bunch of elves having a foursome. Then murder. Now war crimes. I think this was all the same episode.

I’m honestly not sure what to think.

I do have one absolutely massive complaint about the show: it wraps up zero of the plot points it introduces, even regarding its main characters. And honestly, that’s kind of a shame, because I would be surprised if the show gets a second season to wrap them all up. Valve historically sucks at continuing projects that don’t go gangbusters, and also the show is weird as fuck.

Edit: Since I wrote this, they’ve confirmed a “Book 2” is being made. I’m still not sure why.

The show has a lot of things I can see potentially turning folks off it. Gratuitous nudity (mostly male). A lot of violence. Swearing that some folks will see as “Well, that’s just how folks talk,” and others will see as “We’re so grimdark and cool.”

I’m not sure how you’re supposed to evaluate television. Would I tell other people to watch the show? I mean, maybe. Maybe if they already like somewhat edgy animation. Did it succeed in making me care about the characters? I mean, yes, otherwise I wouldn’t be upset with how it ended, wrapping up zero plot points, and setting up for a second season that might not ever exist.

While the motivations of the characters themselves and their actions make sense in context, the world they’re taking those actions in often feels a little pants on head crazy. While the animation is really nice at times, the end result feels like reading an independent comic book with a creator who has equal amounts of technical artistic skill and ketamine at their disposal, and has primarily opted to use the ketamine while doing the writing.

If this for some reason has made you want to watch it, it’s on Netflix.

The show can also be found in my haunted dreams, but I don’t think there’s a subscription service for that yet.

Racial Justice Bundle – Didn’t make the Cut

Wow, it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, huh? I finally dug back into the ol’ backlog of games this weekend, looking for more treasure in the large pile of…. stuff.

Stuff that people probably worked very hard on, but still wasn’t actually all that fun or interesting.

Or (at least in my subjective opinion) wasn’t “Good.”

As always, I encourage readers to download and play these games yourself. Don’t just take my word for it if I call something stupid garbage! Experience it yourself. Join me in the digital equivalent of dumpster diving, because as they say, one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure.

Babysitter Bloodbath

I’m not sure what to say about this game, other than: it has surprisingly nice polish and production values, but I still didn’t care enough to want to keep playing it. The whole thing gave me a super old-school Resident Evil vibe, and frankly, I don’t much like horror. So after the second time the controls bugged, and I couldn’t turn left or right, I was more then happy to put it down, and pick up something else.

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is a game about being a spaceport janitor. You burn trash, try not to vomit everywhere from eating garbage out of a vending machine, avoid getting shaken down by cops who eat your money, and also search for a way to remove a giant weird skull that perpetually floats behind you screaming.

Okay, so my description sounds kind of cool, but the game just feels boring. You wander around, trapped in a loop of never having enough money to buy anything, within a maze-like city zone, all the while just generally having everything be shitty and sucky. Oh, and while torching garbage.

Maybe the intention of the designers was to create an atmosphere of boredom and fatigue, caused by doing the same thing every day, and feeling like a hamster trapped on a wheel. I don’t know. Apparently the giant floating skull is a metaphor for depression? Not sure I really connect with that one either. Point is, if the intention was to make something that feels boring and dreadful, they succeeded. I am bored, and I would dread ever playing this thing again.

Some neat art and a little bit of neat worldbuilding though.

Tonight We Riot

Unfair enforcement of laws in regards to minorities, and those with sexual or political orientation differing from the mainstream are a big issue. Lack of police oversight and accountability are serious problems. Capitalism has significant flaws that are having lasting impacts on our society.

I don’t think the proposed response of Tonight We Riot, which appears to be murdering riot police with cinder blocks, and torching bankers with molotov cocktails is a great solution to either of those problems.

So yeah. I don’t love the theming. And I also don’t love the controls. Many of them feel fairly wonky, and the targeting on things like ranged weapons, and controls for moving your fellow workers also don’t feel great. I played through the first big boss and called it a day.

Dorfromantik Demo

Dorfromantik ends up in a “Didn’t make the cut” article not because it’s bad, but because it’s a very barebones demo that while nice, didn’t compel me to rush to buy the full game. If there was any single item on this list right now that I would actively encourage other people to check out, Dorfromantik would be it. Given that the full game sits at 2400 reviews with an average of overwhelmingly positive on Steam, I think people other than me might like it.

Just a hunch, y’know?

What are we playing? – March 2021

We got up to some shit this month…

I’ve been playing a surprisingly large number of games over the last two weeks, so I figured I’d just toss out what I’ve been playing recently. Some of these might get longer writeups, some might not, as there have been a lot of duds as of late.

Here’s the run down.

Magic: LegendsTLDR: It kinda sucks.

Possibly the highest profile game that’s gonna be on this list, and also the biggest dud, in my opinion. I saw someone describe it as “More fun to watch other people play than to play yourself” and I disagree. It doesn’t seem particularly fun to play or watch.

The whole thing just seems cheap and plasticky. If nothing else, it kind of made me want to play Path of Exile again. I’ll give it credit for having exactly one interesting mechanic, in that it is an ARPG where you build a deck of cards, and after you use an ability it goes away until you get it again. In theory, this forces you to play around your hand. In reality, of the few hours I played, I didn’t really feel it.

Armello – TLDR: I wish the gameplay was as good as the collectible in-game dice.

Steam says I’ve played like 12 hours of Armello over the last few weeks, and I’m gonna be honest, I know exactly why that is. See, Armello has what I’d consider to be hands down the best digital dice that I’ve ever seen, and I want them. And the game rewards you with random lootboxes that give you dice after you play multiplayer games. So I tend to log on, try a multiplayer game, not get any super cool dice, and repeat.

For anyone wondering why I haven’t talked about any Armello mechanics, it’s because I can’t say that I love the game itself. It feels really random, and also seems to have a massive kingmaker problem in the late game, which ends up being pretty unsatisfying.

Eximius: Seize the Frontline – TLDR: I like it. None of my friends do.

I like Eximius, and my friends don’t, and more on that when I do the full writeup on the game. But yeah: it’s an RTS/FPS hybrid that’s kind of janky, and maybe doesn’t have a lot of the polish it needs. But I still like it.

Move or DieTLDR: It also sucks.

On the one hand, I think Move Or Die is garbage. On the other hand, it cost three dollars, and friend bought it for me, and said friend was in the group of folks that I convinced to drop $30 on a indie FPS/RTS hybrid shooter which they did not like. So yeah. We played Move or Die for an hour. I don’t think it’s very fun.

Legion TD 2TLDR: $20 Warcraft 3 Mod, but I like it.

I just keep playing this game. A “campaign” mode just got added, but given what campaigns have been in other games, calling it a “single player tutorial” seems more accurate, or maybe a “challenge mode vs the AI.” Legion TD 2 is sorta like Dota for me, I just play it, enjoy it, and it’s purely on the moment to moment decisions you make in game, nothing else.

Shovel Knight: King of CardsTLDR: It’s the best. And $10.

Easily the most fun game on this list. I feel like King Knight might have the best controls and movement of all the characters in the Shovel Knight series, but that might just be me. This mode also has a card game, with collectible cards that you can win, and unlock. So… yeah. If you want to know more about Shovel Knight in general, you can read our writeup here. But King of Cards is just great, and honestly might get its own article in the future at some point.

That’s all for now. If you’ve been playing something interesting you think we should check out, feel free to hit us up on Twitter, or more likely given that anyone reading this blog knows us personally, hit us up on Discord.

The Pokemon Card Kerfuffle

Right now, something very interesting is happening. So what am I talking about? Is it the global pandemic? The fact that we’re finally making progress with immunizations? The massive change in working remote or working from home? Or perhaps it’s the new presidental administration.

Well, no. Those things are all happening, but I’m talking about the fact that the cost of buying sealed packages of Pokemon cards has almost doubled or trippled in price. In this writing/video/whatever, I’m going to talk about why I think that is, and why I think a lot of people have the wrong idea. For those already familar with the Pokemon Trading Card Game, or TCG as it’s often shortened to, skip ahead a bit to the reasons. For everyone else, I want to provide a little bit of quick background.

Background on the Pokemon Trading Card Game
Pokemon, for those who might not know is a global media franchise that started as a video game, and at this point has branched out into almost every conceivable product you could imagine. In terms of popularity, Pokemon is often quoted as the most profitable franchise in the world, above things like Star Wars, or Marvel, or Micky Mouse.

The Pokemon Trading Card Game is a collectible card game. For the purpose of this discussion, it’s not important to know too much about it, except for two brief things.

The first is that cards are released in “Sets”. You can think of them like seasons of a TV show. Each set has a specific number of different cards in it, at various rarities. The second thing to know is that a single “Set” may contain multiple copies of cards that are mechanically identical, which is to say when used as part of game, they function exactly the same, but they have different artwork. Here’s an example, with a card named Charizard V. The first image is the normal version, the second is the full art version. The full art version is much rarer. Finally, there’s a shiny version, the one that’s black. It’s actually from a different set, but we’ll talk about that later. The key point here is that from a gameplay standpoint, all of these cards are identical, and there is no in game advantage to using one over the other.


And finally, a little bit of background on pricing. Generally speaking, a Pack of Pokemon Cards retails at $4.00 MSRP(Mass Suggested Retail Price, IE, what a Target/Walmart will sell the product for on release.) for a single booster. A booster box, a collection of 36 boosters, retails at about $140 dollars, but generally speaking, when a set releases, it’s not hard to find a booster box for $90 to $100 dollars on either eBay or Amazon. There are also Fat Packs. These tend to retail at $30 to $40, and contain 10 booster packs.

One other quick thing to note: Buying products at MSRP for those of us who are addicts enthusiasts is fairly rare. We usually have connections, either with stores, or online distributors that, as mentioned above, sell below MSRP.

End of Background

All right, so with that background out of the way, lets get into the current state of things, by looking at how much booster boxes cost for several of the last few sets of cards.

NamePrice – USD
Battle Styles (Not released at time of writing)$147 eBay, $160 Amazon
Vivid Voltage$197 eBay, $208 Amazon
Rebel Clash$150 eBay, 190 Amazon
Darkness Ablaze$172 eBay, $180 Amazon
Sword and Shield$200 eBay, $190 Amazon


Keep in mind, these are all products with an MSRP of $140, and that generally speaking only ever cost $80-$90 dollars in reality.

Now, people who already follow the scene might notice something missing here, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

NamePrice – USD
Shining Fates Fat Pack (10 Packs) $100 to $150 eBay, $123 Amazon
Champions Path Fat Pack (10 Packs) $100 on Amazon, $95 on eBay


Now for anyone who plays the Pokemon Trading card game, I’d like to make a brief note: I bought a playset of all non-reprint cards in Champions Path. It cost me $133. That’s 4 copies of every single card in the set, that hadn’t printed before.

So, whats going on here? Why are these booster packs so expensive? What happened?

And for anyone who thinks “Well, thats just capitalism” here’s the offical statement from pokemon.com. So clearly, they’re not in love with this either.

Ed Note: And why would they be? As they’re the publisher/distributor, they don’t make extra money if the price people are willing to pay goes up, if they’re not the one setting the price.

I have two general guesses here, one for the first set of cards, and one for the second. They overlap a bit, but lets start with the ones above.

So, lets talk about the dates here. While the official announcement on the site has been updated since then, articles about the announcement start showing up on Feb 11th.

So why is this date important? Well, because Feb 11th is the day right before the start of Chinese New Year.

For anyone who hasn’t had things manufactured in China, Chinese New Year is effectively a full shutdown period. And this year, it won’t be over until Febuary 22nd. It’s a public holiday, and a very big one, and you can expect factory shutdowns for approximately two weeks. So, what that actually means is that factories will likely be shutdown until February 26th, the day I’m writing this article.

Now, despite what we might believe, even global megacorporation’s are limited by the laws of reality, including the fact that if you want to ship this stuff via boat from China where it’s printed, to the rest of the world, you’re going to be looking at a timeline of about 3 months.

With this info, we can start to make some guesses about what’s going on here, and to make some predictions involving future timelines. But before we get into that, lets talk about three more parts of this perfect storm.

Charizard, Coronavirus, and the 25th Anniversary

This year is the 25th Anniversary of the Pokemon Franchise. As part of this, there’s been a general marketing push with things like a Post-Malone concert, Katy Perry, and other things that I think might have pushed Pokemon a little bit more into the limelight then it might have been otherwise. I don’t think it would have been hugely noticed if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re all stuck at home, with no ability to go anywhere or do anything. But a large portion of this push has probally pulled up a bit of nostalgia.

And this brings us Charizard. Charizard is a large fire dragon Pokemon. It tends to be one of the more visible and identifiable members of the franchise, and it also has the interesting distinction of being one of, if not, the most valuable mass market card ever available. Currently, base set shadow-less Charizard’s go for $5000 to $10000. And perfect ones can go for over $200,000. And currently, many of these sets that have just released feature Charizard’s new form, Charizard VMAX. This is the first time this Pokemon has been featured on a card.

And finally, we have coronavirus. Parents are staying home from work, and trying to entertain kids. Large numbers of people are on unemployment or furloughed, looking desperately for anything they can use to get a bit of extra money or scrape by. And we’ve had a wave of publicity about how profitable scalping can be recently with things like graphics cards and game consoles.

Oh, and one more thing.

Most Pokemon Cards are effectively worthless.

You won’t hear most collectors say this, and you won’t hear it brought up often, but it’s a simple fact that should be acknowledged. When you buy a sealed pack of Pokemon cards, odds are that the price of buying the cards in the booster pack are lower then the price of buying the cards individually. Even for the most recent sets, commanding ridiculous prices, the common/uncommon/rare cards in those sets go for 5 to 20 cents. It’s why I was able to buy a full playset of these cards for $133. The only cards worth over a few dollars are the hyper-rares, cards that present in less then 1-3 sealed packs, and of those, only the full arts and alt arts are really worth cash, and those tend to be present at about 1 in 36 rates, and NOT EVEN ALL OF THOSE ARE EXPENSIVE.

Buying sealed Pokemon Cards is a gamble, and statistically you will not get your value back. For kids, to whom every card is special, this isn’t a huge problem. For adults, who can just buy the cards they want, this shouldn’t be a problem, unless you really like gambling, and opening boosters.

Which a lot of folks do.

Lets put these pieces together, and see what happened.

So here’s what I think might have actually happened, based on the things I’ve laid out above. From this point onward, we’re venturing into purely speculation. Pretty much everything I’ve put above is a verifiable fact, and I’m more then happy to fix them if folks find errors.

  1. Coronavirus and Shipping Delays result is less cards being generally available then usual, in addition to smaller game stores suffering heavily from the lack of foot traffic, leading to less orders of product in general.
  2. Hype around the 25th anniversary of Pokemon leads to a higher level of brand awareness, along with the fairly lucrative scalping that we’ve seen previously last year and this year.
  3. A set of cards is printed at a very high rarity, of a Pokemon with a history of being fairly collectible, and commanding obscenely high prices, and knowledge of this begins to leak out.
  4. The incredibly low rate of actually getting this card leads to everyone involved who wants the card, from scalpers to collectors buying up as much of the product as possible for a chance of getting it.
  5. This becomes public knowledge, and now even folks who weren’t interested are getting involved in the hype, or trying to get stuff before it sells out. Effectively, what we saw with toilet paper before.
  6. The simple realities of production in China, combined with Chinese New Year, international lockdowns, and all of the above means that there is no easy way to rapidly increase supply of product on a quick timescale.

So where does that leave us? Well, I started writing this article on the 26th, and it’s now the 15th. The prices of most sealed products show no sign of slowing down. And the simple reality of what it takes to manufacture more cards mean that we’re still likely several months out from increased supply. If we assume that TPCI (The Pokemon Company International) decided to try to increase supply as of the date that they made the official announcement of being aware that consumers were being hit by shortages, they still wouldn’t have started production until 2/26.

And since boats can only go so fast, we likely won’t see any difference in supply for at least the next three months, meaning that speculation, hoarding, and other junk will likely continue until June/July, as just having something showing up at port doesn’t mean it’s available to buy.

This is my personal theory. I don’t think YouTube personalities opening cards, or folks posting on Twitter caused this. I think it’s a combo of a heavily impacted supply chain, hype, and chaos.

So until that time, enjoy, and buy singles if you’re gonna buy at all.

News of the Week

So, it’s approaching the end of the year. I didn’t really have a post to write last week, just didn’t have anything I felt able to talk about specifically. But, I still like having my streak going, so here’s something.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t found some neat stuff. Amazing Cultivation Simulator is probably one of my favorite games of the year so far, but I just haven’t played enough to really feel like I can do a writeup yet.

Also played some more Among Us, which might be everyone else game of the year, if only because everyone can play it. As someone who was a pretty hard devotee of Project Winter, it’s interesting to see what feels like a much “simpler” game win out in that space.

I did play a little more Unrailed with some folks, so maybe I’ll finally have something interesting to say about it? And I picked up a DCCG called Mythgard, and then put it back down less then an hour later. I don’t need more CCG’s. I already have MTG: Arena, in which I recently did a few drafts that went horrificly badly. Turns out I’m pretty awful at drafting Kaldesh.

In terms of physical games, not really much else to say obviously either. If you’re following the Pokemon CCG at all, you know that the joys of 2020 have made Vivid Voltage Boxes go for like $150 at the moment, so no chance of picking one of those up anytime soon. None of the Kickstarters I’ve backed this year have started shipping yet or anything, and there’s been no news on Sento Fighter.

(Mild Gripe: The fact that Vivid Voltage is over $150 a box is insane, and incredibly stupid. Personally, I blame Rainbow V-Max Pikachu for that, and by extension, Champions Path. The set isn’t worth $160 a box. Because of all the hype around Champions Path, people are thinking these rainbow rares are worth a lot more then they are. It’ll be interesting to see how things settle after a few more sets, given that I think a lot of this price is just speculation.)

So yeah, thats your news of the week. I guess Cyberpunk comes out soon. I hope the people who pre-ordered it liked it. If you want one of the new consoles, you have to sell a kidney, and I already own a PC, so… yeah. Not much to say on that. I’m not paying $1800 for a PS5.

Have a joyful non-denominational winter season in the middle of this unholy hell of a year, unless you’re scalping graphics cards, trading cards, and consoles, in which case, could you not?