Thursday, October 05, 2006

Vampire... through eurogamer eyes.

To keep with the spirit of this month....some rambling

Some geeks are into zombies. Others into werewolves. From the realm of undead creatures I've always been interested in it in a movie (from the cheesy and classic The Lost Boys, to the somewhat overhyped Underworld), games, Halloween (the costume I had last year in my house party), etc.

So of course, as I've said before, I've been interested in Vampire the Masquerade for a long time, but have never found the time, energy, drive, etc to play the pen and paper RPG. The CCG I had in the back of my mind for a while, but could never quite get into it. Now, just this week I realized that I had been looking at it in the past with my fairly narrow Magic the Gathering eyes from back in college. Back then that was all I played, and that was all I enjoyed: you play resource cards, you cast creatures, you attack your opponent. The card interactions provide complexity enough.

Vampire the Eternal Struggle (VTES) was not as straightforward. It involved more....lots more. And plus, combat, what I liked the most in MtG, didn't seem as straightforward. Too much was going on before you could move to combat. So I dropped it.

Now years have passed, and I've matured as a gamer. My tastes have expanded. I now look for different things in games. So, just this week out of curiosity, I bought a "starter kit" for VTES third edition..... and was floored by the cool mechanics it has. In a nutshell, here are the things that I appreciate now thanks to my new eurogamer eyes:

1. RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: At its core, this is a resource management game more so than MtG. In this game, each player (Methuselah or head vampire) has 30 blood counters (how cool does that sound). You lose all those, you lose. They represent your political influence, as well as your life points. These are used to cast spells, get retainers, allies, and gain influence over vampires that will do your bidding. But using these points means having less life points left too. Once you commit the amount required to bring a minion into the game, the committed blood counters now become the minion's hit points/vampire age/experience. But again, now you as the head vampire are weaker with that many less counters. There are many other things you can buy, trade, do, gain, lose, etc counters with that should lead to many nailbiting moments in the game.

2. POLITICS: There's not only combat, but there is a decent amount of politics. There are political cards that can change things in the game and/or affect opponents in a way determined by the player "calling the referendum" (ie playing a political card). Depending on the vampires you control, and their political titles, you have get a set number of votes. Kinda reminds me of Twilight Imperium and the political role. Pretty sweet. Of course, there are some clans that are stronger politically than in combat, but can do as much damage. The game also adds a sort of forced allegiance with the player in front of you (assuming you are playing with 4), because the player to your left is your prey (your main target) and conversely the one on your right is your predator. This should lead to some interesting negotiating.....I scratch your back, you scratch mine. But then once we are down to 3 players....

3. Combat: Simple and cool. It's fast and dynamic. Basically any action taken by an enemy's vampire can potentially be stopped with combat (if you meet certain requirements). Once combat is declared, range, special abilities, spells, item cards are thrown in the mix to determine the outcome. Unlike MtG, if a creature takes hits, it loses its blood counters (and doesn't just "heal them up").

  • "ok well my vampire is using Flash because it's got the Celerity discipline, and is now in long range"
  • "ok cool, in that case, I'm hurling this fence door at your vampire" (adding 2 more points of damage)
  • "oh really? Well, I'll use...." etc.
4. Theme (Ancient vampires trying to spread their influence in a city), the clans (they have very different philosophies, combat strength, political strengths, weaknesses, etc), the art (ok, not the best, but it does the job), etc.

The darkish theme may not appeal to everyone. Still, looking forward to trying it out...


At 8:42 AM, October 06, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

I'm more of a zombie-gamer myself. My favorite zombie-esque character is Karloff's Frankenstein. I'd really like to see him make an appearance in a game besides Fearsome Floors. Something about the overall campy atmosphere of zombie movies and games adds to the fun. BTW, the last episode of The Venture Brothers with Venturestein was awesome.

I do own Fury of Dracula, which I think is a great game.

As a compulsive completist I hate all collectible games on shear principle, but I'd be happy to give it a try with you.

At 8:56 AM, October 06, 2006, Blogger Jeff said...

I've always admired how V:TES was a multiplayer game from the word go, unlike M:tG where multiplayer was/is a set of cobbled-together house-rules.

I'm sure you've all seen this:

At 2:51 PM, October 06, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

Jeff, I forgot to mention that, but yes, this is a true multiplayer CCG (and Shadowfist probably is too). Doesn't seem as exciting as a 2 player game.

At 2:53 PM, October 06, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

Well the Intro pack that I bought (the Player's Starter Kit) has 4 "half decks" to play a short 4 player game. I'll bring it on Monday.

At 4:04 PM, October 06, 2006, Blogger Chad said...

I bought a couple of starter decks way back when this was first released as Jyhad. You're right when you say it isn't quite as interesting playing it two player, since I couldn't quite get into the game despite being a BIG Masquerade fan at the time.

Does it still use the system where you're only attacking the person to your left? I liked the concept that you're trying to fend off one person while at the same time trying to off a totally different person.

Count me in for trying it out Monday.

At 5:02 PM, October 06, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

I played this for several years, and got out of it because of the ridiculous game length (and massive errata. The errata was a 100kB text file mere weeks after release). [And the name change hurt].

Unlike most games, the game slowed down as players got better. By the end, games were 4+ hour affairs (with player elimination). Not many games are good at that length. (By contrast, 4 player 'Fist is ~2 hours tops, usually).

I can bring decks for Shadowfist if people want. [And Jon already knows how to play, and there's a group that plays on Tuesdays.]

Trivia -- Some cards in the original set were based on the original Vampire LARP, and several cards are friends of mine.

At 9:49 PM, October 06, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

4hrs!!!! wow...

Well, hopefully "3rd edition" means "we've learned a lot and this is the refined product of our experience..."

Brian: sweet... I think I have 2 mint Brian B's.

Chad: I haven't played, but from reading the rules, and doing the online tutorial, yes that is still in there (prey to the left, predator to right....). I am stuck in the middle with you

cough ...sorry.... cough

At 9:58 PM, October 06, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

I think one of the things that really interested me was the fact that you draw and cast your creatures (vampires) from a separate deck, and your 7 (!) card hand comes from a deck with just spells/effects/abilities/equipment.

At 10:20 AM, October 07, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

Vampire really innovated, especially when you consider it was the 2nd CCG. (Many were derivative of Magic).

At 6:12 PM, October 09, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

Michael, stop scaring people away from trying vampire.... hehe..

I'll post this again in today's session report just in case.


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