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Overgrowth (AKA the realistic ninja rabbit game)

Oh look! Cute anthropomorphic rabbits. This is going to be bloody, isn't it?

I only played a little of this. I love the basic mechanics. You control a humanoid rabbit walking around a 3d environment. AIUI, the characters are actually composed of separate limbs etc not just treated as a moving cylinder. You have a whole bunch of ninja moves, but they mostly depend on how you're moving and the attack button: like, "high kick left" is done by "move left and press attack". That means, it's easy to cause attacks to happen, and if you just want to spam *some* attack, it's easy to do so. But if you want to do specific moves which are necessary to the situation, or to roll with attacks and come to your feet, you need a bunch of practice. So there's an immediately apparent bunch of skills, not just "abilities which are unlocked".

It really feels like ninja combat: many enemies can be taken out in one punch, unless they block in which case you need to vary the attacks. Knives are dangerous: you need to knock them away, but can then roll to pick them up and have a big temporary advantage over one enemy.

Disturbingly, you get bloody as you get hit or cut. Not excessively for the amount of damage you've taken, but it's a real contrast to non-anthropomorphic-rabbit games, where you're usually immune and enemies usually go straight from "upright" to "shower of stars" or "shower of blood".

But I didn't put a lot of time into the actual game, so I don't know how it would be to play for longer.

Virus called Tom

Hilarious setting, a mad scientist who sends an intelligent virus (you) to take revenge on a corporation who sidelined him. You slide around a grid, trying to rotate tiles so circuits become complete. Quite fun, but I didn't persevere.

Ninja Pizza Girl

You're a teenage girl delivering pizza by dodging, jumping, ducking obstacles. Each level has a few implicit challenges: first to complete it at all, and then collect all the items and finish with an excellent time, which unlocks stuff.

The banter with her father and little brother are funny, and generally uplifting: they tease each other a lot, but are quite good for each other.

You periodically meet rival ninja pizza deliverers, who function as enemies, except your character doesn't lose a life, instead, they're knocked off their feet, and tauntingly laughed at until they stand up, which is really quite emotion-provoking. And when you get a good momentum going, the screen lights up whizzy and rainbow, but when you're knocked over repeatedly, it goes grey and dull. Many of the unlocks are self-care things which make the world happy again.
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Liv and I have been playing remote scrabble again a bit (if anyone else is interested, we're using Crosswords by Eric House), and I replied to a couple of drawings on Draw Something from a while back.

Are there other social games people play? I really liked about Draw Something (a) that it bounces back and forth with someone else and (b) each move is self-contained. I've tried to play board games on Yucata which is great, but once I've made a move, I find it really hard to do something else and not keep thinking about the game.
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Machi Koro

What do you call board games with cards instead of a board, like dominion? I, in defiance of etymology and bowing to convenience, call them "board games", but I know that can be misleading.

Anyway, ghoti got liv this as a present and the three of us played once and it was really cute. It's like dominion in that you collect increasingly costly cards, which help you get MORE cards costly cards, building a small Japanese (?) town until you reach a winning condition. But in this case, instead of shuffling your cards into a deck and doing "choose five", it's like Settlers -- you roll a die (or two), and cards generate money if they have have the number shown (divided into groups of "get money if anyone rolls that", "get money if you roll that", and "get money FROM someone else IF they roll that".)

I've yet to see what strategies work, if it's broken in any way, but the mechanics seem really good: like dominion it's self-balancing in the sense that if one card is far-and-away too good you could remove that one. For now, all the supply cards are available each game, but you could easily do what dominion did and print expansions and play with a subset of the cards you think make an interesting combination. It would be even easier to make your own, if you wanted to, as there's no need for them to mix with the others when shuffled in.

Cut the Rope, for android

I played this all the way through and it is Annoyingly Addictive. Both in the sense of having good puzzles, where each set of levels introduces a new element, and spends enough time to develop it, but also judiciously re-uses ones from earlier when they'd make sense. It does well in making a reasonable variation in possibility from a small number of elements, that you spend time wondering "I know how all these bits work, how do they work together" not just "i have no idea, what am I obviously supposed to do here?".

But also in the sense of being cluttered with free-to-play addictive intrusive thieving level-up type stuff which undermines the gameplay.

Soul Hunters

Agh, I love the idea of this, it's a mash-up of Magic the Gathering and World and Warcraft and a 2-d beat-em-up -- you level up heroes with a variety of abilities in multiple different ways, and defeat levels (and various arena combats etc which I've not looked at) by having your heroes run through the level defeating three waves of foes, ending with dark versions of heroes. The heroes mostly fight on automatic, making the strategy focus on levelling them up, not fighting well, but there is the interactive component of choosing when to use their ultimate abilities, which charge up at varying speeds. And then they collect stuff, which helps them level up.

It does everything to present the _idea_ of strategy, with zillions of knobs you have to tweak. But most of them are not really decisions, just "click X to get Y". And it's crammed to overflowing with freemium stuff. I don't know if there is or isn't strategy at the higher levels, but I need to get out fast before I find out.

But it's a shame, because lots of little details are really well done. There are zillions of characters to collect (and alas way too many are over-sexualised) but the idea of mixing and matching them is intriguing. And I liked imagining them chatting over a camp fire. The elf-knight with the six-foot sword -- everyone has ripped off tolkien, but more for "elves which are good at everything, but especially forests" and less for elves who ride to battle in bright array. Where does he come from? Is there a knightly order? The floating purple death who grows to twice their height and eviscerates enemies with a giant glowing scythe, do they enjoy chatting to the others over dinner? Do they enjoy feeling a touch of camaraderie?

And there's a plot, which is aggressively bland "fight dark version of heroes, now do that again in 20 different scenes, now do it while pursuing, now do it while fleeing, now do it in some other way which is mechanically exactly the same". It's like, someone mashed up every possible fantasy cliche and wrapped it around a scam, but they got people to polish all the bits of it enough really good ideas came squeezing out of the cracks...
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I love the style. But seriously:

1. There are three cars here with at least seven mirros between them. I have a rock. The consequence for breaking off the wrong one to use as a periscope should be "my insurance premiums go up a bit" not "if you try to use any mirror except the one you're 'supposed' to use, you inadvertently don't smash it, but say 'I don't want to drive anywhere' instead".

2. There are four main characters, three men, and one woman. One is a physicist, one an undercover reporter, one a cop, and one had an abusive father. Can you guess which was which?
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Psychonauts is developed by DoubleFine Productions, which contains some ex-Lucasarts people, and recently made one of the most successful ever KickStarter projects.

The premise is the most awesome ever. You run away from the circus to go to a summer camp training kids to become psychic agents! The psychic ability is very well envisioned: it gives you some real world powers (psi punch, psi blast, levitation, invisibility, etc), but the main effect is being able to enter someone's mind. The mindscapes are very well designed, and really feel like the insides of different people's heads: an organised person, a paranoid person, a non-human person, etc, etc.

The dialog is smile-worthy without usually being laugh-out-loud funny, but I much prefer that to something trying too hard.

The gameplay is running, jumping, collecting stuff, with a bit of fighting, the 3d equivalent of a platform game. It's fairly well done, I was very happy to play through it (I'm about half way through).

Unfortunately some things do feel rather formulaic. Collecting mental figments is fun, because it's easy to get most of them, and if you're completionist, you can come back and make sure you get all of them. But there's too much different stuff you have to collect, most of which comes to the same thing, gaining levels, or going and trading it in for something else, which gains you levels, or buying something which lets you find more stuff which gains you levels. And a few things are somewhat obsoleted by stuff you collect later, which makes it very frustrating to see it, know you want to pick it up, but that it's not worth the time.

I think this is all genre convention for this sort of gameplay, but for me it somewhat ruins the immersion of the world. We're in the middle of a crisis of people having their brains stolen, the camp leaders have run off to deal with some other missions -- yet there's still someone hanging out in the camp store trading stuff you collect for stuff you need. Why hasn't he noticed the crisis? People's brains are very individual, but they randomly have three sorts of collectible hidden throughout. The slideshows you find about the person are very touching, but randomly having to switch to a different inventory item to collect different sorts of collectibles feels more like make-work and less like fixing someone's psychy by running around, which previously was handled surprisingly well!

Similarly, it falls into the trap of "make it too hard to get around, and then add a badly-justified teleport object to bypass all of the movement entirely." Seriously, you don't need an in-world justification for which keys to press to walk around, nor should you need one for short-cutting all the "run to the other side of the map".

The ideal is something like "you have a usual walking speed, but there's a special key which can whiz you straight to an area's exit if you can see it". That way (i) it's fairly transparent and you don't have to wait around and (ii) you get a sense of the distance you're traversing.


Nov. 1st, 2011 02:21 pm
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Space Chem is really awesome. Mobbsy first recommended it to me.

There are two little robot arms that manouver atoms around a grid to connect them together into molecules, which you control by putting instructions (turn, pick up, bond, etc) onto the screen.

Each level you have to produce something specific (eg. you get CH4 and H2O and have to make CO2 and H2) and in later levels you can connect several reactors together to make more complicated things.

At first, you just have move, pick up, drop, bond, input and output instructions, but later on you get flip-flops (which can be used to build more complicated loops), sensors (which branch to a different route if the corresponding square has a certain sort of atom in), fusers (which fuse two atoms into one with the combined atomic number) and so on.

The chemistry is at sort of GCSE level: the molecules are real molecules, with the correct chemical composition, but all the molecules are represented schematicly with right-angle single and double bonds, of up to a set number of bonds per molecule, rather than a more realistic 3d electron-shell based simulation. Which, um, is about right for me, although I imagine it may annoy some people.

However, it's a surprisingly really good introduction to programming! The constraints you're under are somewhat artificial (any real program would have variables and conditionals sooner), but the feeling of building a complicated system with the pieces given is really, realistic :)

Eventually I realised synchronising the two manipulators was almost too realistic, it started to feel like work :) It's not just a matter of timing them to make them accurate, because each manipulator can be slowed down if a molecule is slow leaving the reactor or a new molecule is slow entering, so they have to be synchronised with special instructions, and what works on one page where the inputs come in predictably fails miserably where one of the inputs comes from another part of the system and may be slow.

It's a spiritual successor to the Codex of Alchemical Engineering which was a similar idea but based on manipulating classical elements in a pseudo-alchemical way. Which was really interesting, but often annoyingly clunky -- manipulators would tesselate badly and often collide, and the rules of how the elements were modified felt a little arbitrary. Whereas Space Chem massively updates the interface to make it feel "swooshy" and it's a lot easier to use: I think it's both more powerful and less clunky.
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Last night we played dominion cornucopia and of the starting layout of kingdom cards, all were fairly useful 3- and 4- cost cards (except mine), including village (+2 actions) and several +1 action cards, and included black market (allows you to buy some kingdom cards not in the initial layout) and young witch (adds an extra kingdom card to the initial layout) and tournament (which allows you to gain one of five ridiculously powerful cards) and Fairground (victory card worth 2 for each 5 unique cards in your deck).

So for the first, and probably last time ever, I had a dominion deck with 20 unique cards. Copper, silver, gold, two curses, one estate, one duchy, three provinces, five fairgrounds. One (or two) each of: village, menagerie, fortune teller, chancellor, black market, horse traders, young witch, tournament, remodel, mine. Bag of Gold from tournament. And Festival from black market.

Which makes all the fairgrounds worth eight each, more than a province, which I never expected to pull off. If I'd had the courage of my convinctions, maybe I should have bought fairgrounds over provinces even when I eight cash to spend. Except that then, without provinces you can't win the tournament, so I would probably have been stuck on 19 unique cards. (I never had the opportunity to buy fairgrounds and a 3-cost in the same turn or I would have done so.)
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I've been playing Solium Infernum. I was first linked by pjc(?) to the awesome write-ups on Rock-Paper-Shotgun diarying several players progress through the multiplayer game, and the growing tensions between them.

You play a noble of hell, scheming to replace Satan as the new lord of the pit. You manoeuvre to expand your lands, but the winning is determined not by territory but by prestige, which is given from controlling certain places of power, but also by making successful vendettas, successfully insulting rivals in parliament, etc, etc.

What I find exceptionally cute (and by "cute" I mean baroque and infernal) is that you obviously can't just out and start a vendetta against another fiend. Oh no, of course not. First you have to justify it by making unreasonable demands or insulting them in public (wagering prestige depending whether they cave in like a whiny little baby fiend, or indignantly refuse), and use that as an excuse to execute a vendetta -- little border war: you fight for N tuns to capture a certain number of hexes, or a place of power, or defeat one of their legions, etc).

You can defeat someone militarily, but you can't defeat everyone militarily, because you can't depart from the rigid etiquette of hell. If you just attacked someone without a laboriously manufactured excuse, you would be outcast and everyone would turn on you. So your little border skirmishes can't actually destroy a player's stronghold until you've completed three successive vendettas and thus manufactured sufficient excuse to declare a permanent blood feud.

But what metaphorically kills me is that there's no details to the absurd demand. You assume you trot out some obscurely justified point of theology to justify your demand, or perhaps point to your genealogy as an excuse for why they were rightfully yours. But it's not specified, you just make "a demand" :) It's like, you know, diplomacy.

This also means it may be prudent to demand a few things off your neighbours, whenever you think you can get away with it, even if you're generally getting on ok with them, because you never know what you may get. But also that if everyone throws your demands back in your face at once, you may have to swallow some of the insults, because you have a very limited number of legions (typically 1 or 2) and can't typically prosecute more than one war at once.

The game is independent, produced by one guy (excluding art and suchlike), although priced comparatively expensively for that (£25), but cheaper than big commercial titles. If you're interested, I'd recommend reading the RPS diaries to see if you like it, and trying the demo which lets you play the first 25 turns.

It's very pretty, but full of baroque details. For instance, all the legions, heroes, artefacts, etc, are unique: sometimes you need anything that fulfils the general roles "fairly cheap cannon fodder" or "total beast" and sometimes you need something with some specific detail that fits with what you already have. Lots of UI, while not bad is not perfectly optimised. And the first one or two times you play, you'll end up screwed by misunderstanding some ramification of something, but that's normally recoverable -- just remember that at any time something bad might "just happen" to your best advantages.

Where it excels is a multiplayer (asynchronous) game. The AI is good enough to have great fun learning the mechanics and experimenting, but I hear doesn't really give the flavour of independent antagonistic opponents.

I'll describe my first game in the comments. Did anyone play it multiplayer when it first came out?

Wii Sports

Jan. 10th, 2010 11:25 pm
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I posted almost the same thing about Wii Sports before, but I think I'd actually really, really, enjoy a mode where you could just practice hitting the ball in different ways as many times as you want, without having to go back to the beginning every time you make a mistake.
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Notwithstanding strong feelings by people who don't like the game, I started playing some Magic:TG at alextfish and woodpijn's games evening, and with livredor, but would like to test out some decks on some other occasion; would anyone like to join me to do so?
jack: (maudlin)
I recently played two games linked from http://www.toothycat.net/wiki/wiki.pl?FreeGames which I really liked.

"AN UNTITLED STORY" platform adventure from Matt Makes Games

An Untitled Story is the sort of platformer I really like. You start off just exploring and it slowly gets harder and harder and you collect extra life and extra abilities (but in a deterministic fashion, unlike computer-roleplaying-games). You start off as a formless egg, able to jump slightly and that's it, and end up with more than 500 life and 50 unique abilities.

The graphics are really simple, but elegant: like a small child would draw, if it were then made really really good.

Toward the end it gets really hard. And there are specific save points, so you have to get used to going away and coming back calm to do the difficult bits, especially when there's no save point DIRECTLY BEFORE A BOSS.

Review and description: http://www.gamemakergames.com/?a=view&id=6278
Home page: http://mattmakesgames.com/games.php
Walkthrough: http://helixc.dabomstew.com/index.php?action=printpage;topic=4727.0

Alas, I got nearly to the end and found a bit sufficiently difficult I didn't continue. Now I just want to get it out of my head.


See Alex's review of this (and some others) here: http://alextfish.livejournal.com/8791.html

It's quite short, but fun while it lasts. It starts off as a happy shiny grass-trees-sun cutesy platformer, and then gets lovecraftian, and the hell-like levels are really, really, really creepy. The interface is interesting: you flip between different modes during the level, which affects where you can get to.


Jul. 15th, 2009 07:37 am
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I went to games evening and mostly played Dominion all night. I'd seen it before, and it was very popular, but always want to pick up new games slowly, so hadn't tried it. However, it actually is easy to pick up.

It's is hard to describe[1]. You have a deck of special cards consisting of money, action cards (eg. "draw 2", "play another two action cards," etc), and victory cards (that have no in-game effect, but at the end of the game you win for having the most of them). You repeatedly cycle through your deck. Each turn you draw five cards and play/discard them[2]. When you've drawn everything, you shuffle your discards (and new cards you gained) back as your new deck. The first two turns, this happens exactly every two turns.

The aim[3] is to play money cards to get more interesting cards in your deck, which hopefully synergise with each other a little bit, eg. to allow you to repeatedly draw more cards until you have a hand full of money, play something else useful, and then buy something expensive (one of the big victory cards).

Because you start with five cards each turn, you need a sufficiently high density of interesting cards, or you'll fizzle by drawing a few victory cards that don't do anything, and a few small amounts of money.

Each game starts with a different selection of ten possible action cards available to purchase, so each game you have a slightly different strategy, and sometimes it's more interactive and sometimes not interactive at all.

[1] Unless you're a Magic player, when it's "like building a magic deck, but interactive and fun" :)
[2] Non-respectively, for pedants :)
[3] That's the aim. The justification is to score points with expensive victory cards. A pedant might have said "means/end" not "aim/justification" :)
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The Shivah

Did you ever play Monkey Island and say "Wow, that was the coolest graphic adventure game ever. The only way it could possibly be more cool is if you replaced pirates with Rabbis?" If so:

Wadjet Eye Games: The Shivah

Blocks with letters on

Did you ever say "Wow, that was a good game title, but I feel it wasn't quite the best at capturing the experience of the game"? "Blocks With Letters On" is probably not the most explanatory title ever, that probably goes to "Shoot everything that moves[1]". But it's pretty good:


[1] Actual game title
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DROD is a tile-based puzzle game I've mentioned before. Now I'm playing the second sequel, and closing in on the end of the official story arc.

It started in game #1 with Beethro performing his normal job: clearing out the dungeons of the castle of giant vermin that infest them. Starting with giant roaches, and working the way down to deeper levels with creepier things.

Games #2 and #3 take the story to more complex places, often going to places other than "down to the next level", and with different friends and allies. Only looking back have I seen how a carefree start has become rather more grim: I love background story evolution!

One nuance which really struck me is that in the first game, everything is just game mechanics: dialogue appears only at the very climax. Goblins are portrayed as more intelligent than roaches -- they avoid your sword -- but that's all. But by the second and third game, you notice that goblins and several other things have their own society of some sort, but Beethro just doesn't care. He's capable of talking to them when he has to, but by default, they're just vermin. Which is a more disturbing insight than I normally expect from a puzzle game. It's almost opposite my instinctive worldview, but taking on that role, you can see how it comes about (compare how we treat, eg. dogs: to most people, a dog you know is a friend, nearly human, but a dog you don't know is just a nice animal).
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I can't remember the name (edit: thank you Woodpijn) but at alextfish and woodpijn's we played a card game where the point was to select from a deck of cards with pictures on, the ones someone else would choose, corresponding to a certain word, and you score according to how identical the two selections are.

Specifically, there's a deck of cards with words (although you could choose random words in another way) and one is turned up. Each player has an identical deck and chooses 5 cards from it (in fact, 5 varies in a proprietary way as your avatars move along a scoring track).

It's quite fun guessing surprising interpretations or amusing choices of picture -- it's surprising how often people _do_ agree on them -- or any special knowledge of the person matching against.

The rules as given describe either being in a team and trying to match each other more than the opposing team members match each other, or a free-style each taking it in turns to be a designated "judge" each other player must match.

The rules give (iirc) a traditional mastermind-style matching score. Give five (or however many) cards in order and score 3pts for same-card-same-place as the matchee, and 1 pt for same-card-different-place. That works reasonably well. But the question is, what ought the rules to be?

* At first, I thought the idea of a rotating judge was odd, since it seemed just an arbitrary contrivance of the rule system. It still offends my aesthetics that you can't just match against all the other players. But OTOH, if you were omniscient and knew what everyone were going to play, you ought to get a perfect score, and you couldn't if two people were going to play different things and you couldn't match both of them. Is there are compromise?

* The three/one point match is acceptable, but I don't think it quite describes matching. Suppose the word were "black" and I played pictures crow, sloe, fishing boat, night, black dog, and someone else played another card in first place, followed by my four first place cards -- that feels like they matched me except for one datum, but the old scoring system would only give four points. Is there a better algorithm, maybe something that (in a simple way) includes a information theory metric of distance?
jack: (Default)
My zombies move clockwise.
jack: (Default)
I was recently in a position to wonder what other people's default house rules for a couple of common games were. Most of these don't make a big difference so I'd suggest adopting the host's rules rather than worrying about it, but I was curious what people thought worked best.


* Do you use life tokens? I was used to ignoring them (by inclination I much prefer Lucasarts adventures to sierra). But playing a board that isn't overly complicated showed they did have several pros I hadn't thought of: (a) if you die three times, you often don't really want to continue (the other players could let it slide if you're having bad luck and want to play anyway); (b) you can try to win by ramming too (c) it gives an extra reward to being careful.

* Do you award option cards for people 2nd, 3rd etc to a checkpoint? This seems uncontroversial, the affect is non-trivial, yet fairly obvious. It means you get to play with option cards and you can catch up more often.

Indeed, maybe you should get an option card as soon as the first (or third) player reaches a checkpoint even if you're marooned and haven't got to the first yet.

Read more... )
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I've wracked my brains a bit on the subject, and I left it at about this point:

* Repeated doubling one after the other can never produce an uncountable infinity: you can always count these since there are a finite (or countable) number produced at each stage

* Repeated doubling backwards, as using the stack, doesn't seem well-defined. If at each (backwards) time t, there are twice as many counters as at t+1, then you could say that a set of counters numbered 0.(0..0t+1)x become counters numbered 0.(0..0t)x, but I can't see any way of specifying what the set of potential x is, the definition is consistent with any set defined by the tails of x.

* It's not in principle impossible. There could in theory have been a card that says "do x ... for each legal target", which for a spell which can target any number of creatures, with an infinite number of creatures, would target every possible subset. That card would not play well, it would be crazy even for finite numbers, but it would be eminently possible.

* I can't think of any way to achieve an uncountable. I considered and discarded a few ideas:

Read more... )
jack: (Default)
Update, someone else raised a very similar question on a message board. Indeed, using much the same technique I suggested, and I had found that link once before, but forgotten about it.

Page 1
Page 2

On page 1, someone asks a rules question that's a particularly apposite example of uncountable rules:

* The defender has generated an infinite number of small blocking creatures
* (Using a combo which involves mana burning down to a negative infinite amount of life!)
* The attacker has a spell which will win the game if any creature is unblocked
* The attacker uses two Nacatl War Pride, which when it attacks copies itself for each defending creature
* And turns both Nacatl War Pride into creatures that also are doubling season ("whenever a counter is put into play, instead put twice that many into play", although I think only the first one is relevant). Thus the second one puts an infinite number of creatures into play, to which an infinite number of doubling effects apply
* And asks "Will there be any unblocked attacking creatures?"

It's a particularly good example, because the cardinality is exactly relevant: the defender is exactly trying to make a bijection between blocking creatures and attacking creatures, and the attacker wants to know if there will always be an excess attacking creature.

On the second page someone proposes an explicit bijection (or rather, absence of a bijection).
I think this is functionally equivalent to my example.