This article originally appeared in Pyramid #23
By Hilary Hayes
Speed decks win, often before the end of the third round. They're great for tournaments, but they make friendly games end too quickly and prevent slow but interesting decks from getting the exposure they deserve. You could ask your friends to leave their fastest decks at home, but the prospect of a swift win is too much of a temptation for most of us. So, what do you do if you're anticipating a fun evening but worried that everyone else will do their utmost to bring things to a premature conclusion? Constructing a deck that makes mincemeat of a known menace is no problem to the Illuminated. Combating the unknown is a little more difficult, but there are several ways of helping a game last long enough for subtlety to pay off.
Speed decks tend to fall into two broad categories. The degenerate type consists of multiple copies of two or three strong Groups with the right Plots and Resources to pump them up to win on Bavaria's goal or, if they're slightly more sophisticated, Power for its Own Sake. Their typical weakness is that they don't include adequate substitutes. Exploit this by destroying one of those crucial Groups and you've wrecked their chances. Easier said than done, as Illuminated adherents of such degeneracy will take stringent steps to protect their investments. New York or Texas supported by the Necronomicon, Cyborg Soldiers and a Big Prawn can laugh in the face of any disaster (though it's still going to lose its Action Token). Fortunately, there is one way to hurt this kind of deck badly. It's called Upheaval. Just make sure you can afford to play it.
The second kind of speed deck is highly tuned rather than degenerate. Built correctly, it will be carrying at least two achievable Goal Cards and, if the game gets drawn out, it's also capable of winning on the basic goal. They tend not to look too threatening until it's too late to do anything about it, so persuading other players to help you to crush them is not always easy. Played with finesse, these decks are virtually - but not completely - unstoppable. There are a number of strategies that serve to slow . . . everyone . . . down (including you). If you can keep the game going long enough to get a solid structure started, there isn't much a deck built for speed rather than stamina can do to stop you. The options you go for depend on your own plans. There's no point in preventing someone else's win if it ruins your own chances of victory. Well, OK, sometimes there is . . .
The principle behind building a fast deck is to make sure you can get crucial cards into your structure early on. That means relying on the lead Puppet and Automatic Takeovers. The first way to spoil a speed player's day is to bounce his lead. A talent for espionage is not essential to this operation . . . some leads turn up with remarkable frequency. The Nuclear Power Companies are popular and, once on the table, extremely difficult to get rid of. If anyone is going to have the NPCs, it had better be you! The Clone Arrangers are a natural lead for many fast decks. Other Groups to consider include the Mafia, CFLAIO and possibly the IRS. The Rosicrucians, Wall Street and the Phone Phreaks are leads that work well with more specialized decks. Use them if they suit your strategy, but don't rely on them to bounce a rival's choice. Leading with big Government Groups is a common ploy in certain circles but there are better ways of dealing with that than sacrificing your chance to lead with your own favorite Puppet.
Judicious use of New World Orders can slow down any game. Apathy's a good one, although it has minimal effect on a deck that relies on Power Grabbing every chance it gets. The Magic Goes Away is better, provided you've planned your own way around it. If all else fails, you can stop a certain win with Interesting Times. It's always a good policy to bring NWOs that stand a good chance of harming others (even if they don't actually help you) and enough of the right color to get rid of any that are hurting you too much. If you don't need Government Groups, Don't Forget to Smash the State and/or The End of the World and/or Global Warming can be used effectively against those who rely on raw power. Consider carrying a few blue NWOs in case Interesting Times is used against you, and reds to get rid of Apathy and The Magic Goes Away if they don't happen to suit your purposes.
Resources can help to slow the pace, but packing your deck with these carries certain risks, even for the Adepts. It makes it less likely that you'll draw the Groups you need in the order you need and, unless you invest heavily in the appropriate Plots, they're a waste of space if someone else gets them down first. The Orbital Mind Control Lasers, however, are incredibly useful - indispensable if you happen to be playing Discordia and, as with the NPCs, if anyone has them it had better be you. A Blivit can be handy, particularly if you don't fancy carrying the NPCs. Apart from those, Resources should be chosen to suit your deck rather than to harm someone else's.
The fast deck you're up against will have a lot of good Plots in it - why carry a load of Power Grabs when you can steal them from someone else? Auditors from Hell are excellent if you can power them. Otherwise consider the IRS or the Arms Dealers. If stealing other people's Plots is too much effort, you can simply expose them. Several groups can use their action for this purpose and, in the unlikely event that none of them appeal to you, there some wonderful Plots (like George the Janitor) which have similar effects. There are many ways to disrupt an opponent's Plot deck (Soulburner and the Internet Worm spring to mind); choose those which further your own ends.
Zaps and Freezes have their attractions, but they're expensive to play and getting the timing right in a fast game presents serious problems. Worse still, unless you know what decks your opponents are bring- ing there's no way of knowing which Zaps and Freezes are going to be effective. A Plot you never get the chance to use is a waste of space. If you've got a hunch one of your rivals might be taking a particular route, you might want to consider them - though on the whole, it's more economical to rely on your Puppets. Group special abilities are cheaper to use, can be used more than once and, most importantly, Puppets count towards your own victory conditions. There's no shortage of Groups capable of canceling actions. Apart from the ubiquitous NPCs, there's Jimmy Hoffa, Saddam Hussein, the Supreme Court, Dan Quayle, the Dentists, etc. The Science Alarmists are particularly useful against anyone going for Blinded by Science
Finally, this may be obvious, but a lot of popular, high power Groups are places. Always pack a few disasters. If all else fails, passing one to Cthulhu could stop a third party from winning, even if it only devastates the place in question.
Of course, should you desire to build a perfectly unbeatable speed deck, you only have to . . . (You are not cleared for that information).
Article publication date: February 1, 1997
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