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Vampire: The Eternal Struggle» Forums » Sessions

Subject: VtES: League Play rss

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Ryan Bigelow
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[This post will deal with my group's starting up a VtES league play game. I hope this will be of interest to other play groups and will encourage others to do the same.]


So I've recently gotten back into Vampire, after a long hiatus. I only played it for a year when it first came out. At the time our university group really liked the game, but as the year went on it began to show it's weaknesses. Some of those weaknesses were typical CCG problems such as being out-bought, etc. I find I like CCGs if people make an effort to play at the same power level. The other weakness of the game came from weenie decks and stealth bleed, both types were uninteresting to play, and play against (for me) at the time.

But the game has changed a lot since 1994. So getting back into the game meant buying some cheap starters at a FLGS's Christmas sale. I bought some for friends to try and get them interested in the game. Evil, I know, but I thought it would be harmless. So, we're playing with our group and I suggest playing tournament style. I used to play Magic every Wednesday at Shakey's in Takdanobaba (in Tokyo) with a great group of people and we always played sealed deck. Each player gets a small amount of boosters to play with and adds packs slowly. The point is that it's a sealed pool of cards. Players can't out-buy each other. The power level of the decks is much lower than constructed decks, but for me, that is really enjoyable. There is something great when you get that next to impossible combo off. You have to work hard to get your deck to work, and sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. Either way, I find the experience to be a lot better than constructed play. Don't get me wrong, I like constructed play, but for me, a CCG shines if it can do sealed play well.

Some people don't like the frustration that comes with non-constructed play. But I like the (somewhat) even playing ground it provides. It also forces you to play with cards you might never otherwise, or consider quite weak. For me, I don't like frustrating games like Agricola, where you never can do what you want. But I have no problems with sealed leagues. I guess the difference is that I make my deck, so I choose what options will be available to me. Does that make sense?

Setting up the League

But that was Magic, and this is Vampire. It's a very different game. With Magic, a player usually gets 5-6 boosters to open, a pool of 75-90 cards. From that pool, you which of the five colors you play and then trim down your choices to about 23 cards. Throw in 17 lands and you have a 40 card deck to beat your opponents with. Its a duel situation of course, another difference from Vampire. So we decided to open 10 boosters of Keepers of Tradition. Keepers of Tradition is the latest "big set" to come out, that would be analogous a base set. So with 11-card booster packs we opened 30 vampires and 80 deck cards.

Now we don't have 5 colors anymore, we've got a big mess of disciplines (11 in this set) and a ton of clans. But the amount is very manageable if we're all playing the same set. One of the problems I've had with Vampire is the fact that none of the card sets ever cycle out of legal play. That means that it's tough to know what to expect, what you'll see, and learning the cards is tough too. With our disparate pre-constructed decks we ended up playing cards and just telling other players what happened; "I play 'I've Got a Sandwich.'', 'What's it do?', "Makes you lose 2 blood and I get a sandwich". Yeah, I know that's not a card, but what I'm trying to say is the number of cards is unmanageable for rookies. We're not looking to play in a tournament, nor will we be playing outside our group, so we decided to stick to one set so far and learn that one. Makes the learning curve much lower.

Deck Building

So I opened up my packs, and one thing I noticed were that the rares weren't that powerful. This seems the opposite to Magic or WoW where a big rare can really make your deck. Anyways, I sorted out the cards by discipline and tried to decide what sort of strategy to use. Well, I didn't get anyway to gain pool as a Methuselah, except one. I got the vampire card "Mary Anne Blaire". She can put two blood on an uncontrolled vampire as an action, and then I could conceivably get blood that way. So, without a Blood Doll, or card like that, I needed a way to stay alive. My answer was cheap vampires, as many as I could and still have a coherent deck.
What else is good? Weapons! Yeah, these are great because they require no disciplines to use. I ended up getting a Renegade Garou, which is great! That guy goes in, and the requirement is that I have a Gangrel vampire. So I put in both (yup, only got two out of 30 vampire cards).

In the end I went with the bare minimum 40 card deck. I know you can play with up to 70 in 3 player, but I felt that the deck was slow enough that even if I played 3 cards per turn, I'd still have enough cards for 13 turns. That's pretty good. Plus putting in more than 40 would make my combos that much more rare and water down my good cards.

League Rules

We're playing with ante. I like a bit of gambling (heck if you don't then why are you playing CCGs, right?) and this is pretty small. What we're going to do is take a card from each others' side boards. The winner gets to randomly draw three cards from each of the losers sideboards (not deck!) and then choose to keep one from each player. 2nd place player gets to draw 2, keep 1, and last place gets a random draw. That way, you are always getting two new cards to modify your deck and keep it from getting stale.

We'll be adding in a booster pack from time to time, and we have a boobie booster; a player who has lost 5 games may add a booster. That way if you get a particularly poor pool of cards, you can offset your bad luck somewhat.

How's it play?

Well, we have yet to have our first game. I'll update this page periodically to let people know how it goes.

I can tell you already it looks fun. In recent years I've done a few games sealed pool style. When World of Warcraft the CCG came out, I found it didn't work well for sealed play. Why? Well, your choices often excluded other choices entirely. In Vampire I can have all the disciplines in my deck, if I have the vampires to use them (or even if I don't). WoW divided your pool into Good and Bad, then by clan as well, and you ended up with too small of a viable pool to have fun withshake. Hecatomb was good as a sealed league (especially since it's so cheap) but it's not very excitingsnore. The Spoils was greatkiss. L5R turned out to be a really boring game (and I used to love it so much!yuk ).
Deck building provides lots of choices and vampires have many skills so that you should be able to find enough cards to make a fun deck. I'll update after we've had our first game! Looking forward to it!laugh
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Andy Stout
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Awesome! I love leagues for playing CCGs too; in fact, I think at this point they're about the only way I want to play CCGs. Let us know how it goes, and I'd like to hear about the other leagues for CCGs you've done, too!
 
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Ryan Bigelow
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So we finally had our first session a couple days ago. Whew, can't believe we opened our cards over a month ago! Schedules have been hectic recently.
So how did it go?
We had fun. Our group includes myself and two other guys. It was their first time ever playing a sealed league style play so I suspect they may have had unrealistic expectations on how smooth their decks would run so there was a bit of frustration there, but after a bit of play we figured out a two card combo is pretty awesome.

So far it seems that a smaller deck is better. The 40 card minimum is probably good to keep. If you consider a game might run 12 turns and you play 3 cards a turn, 40 is about right.
Weapons are awesome! Throwing a gun or cell phone on a dude makes him a major threat.

Life gain is also a major bonus. Nobody got a blood doll but I did get a vampire that puts two blood on an uncontrolled vampire every turn. She can help gain that pool back (yeah, she:s a 10 pool investment so a bit steep).

Smaller vamps are better than big ones. I managed to win, just because I had 5 vampires out, compared to 4 for one player and 3 to another.

So far so good.
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Ryan Bigelow
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dragonstout wrote:
Let us know how it goes, and I'd like to hear about the other leagues for CCGs you've done, too!


Hi dragonstout,

Thanks for the interest! I've done league play for a few games:

The Spoils: This ccg came out about 4 years ago. It's dead already though I've heard talk of it's resurgence. Anyways, it was made by some ex-Magic top players and they basically cloned Magic, threw in a few extra rules and pasted on a stronger theme that is pretty entertaining. More specifically, they created the game to be played either in drafts or sealed leagues. Of course it plays fine in other ways as well. I kind of liked this game better than Magic in many ways. More strategic and minimized luck. The downside, games were fairer and took longer to play. One of the best for sealed leagues.

WoW:TCG: I started a league with this game back when it first came out. I really liked the idea. It's another Magic clone with extra rules. Strong theme, but unlike Magic, you have to choose sides; Horde or Alliance. So that means a large portion of the cards you get won't be
usable. Then further divide your cards amongst the classes (fighter, wizard, thief etc.). The majority of those cards are unplayable as well once you choose your class. Once all this culling is done, you are left a very small pile of cards to make a deck from. All quests go in (think mana)automatically, so in the end just a few choices lead to your deck( ie choose your class, choose your side, then you'll have about 5-7 extra cards to decide for your deck) Not good as sealed league play, but not that bad either. The game is fun, and older sets can be found for cheap online, a bonus.

L5R: Man, I played the crap out of this one back when it first came out. I love the Japanese theme so much that I overlooked the games flaws. Playing it again in recent times I now see the flaws. Again the game forces you to choose a clan, but unlike WoW you can play cards from different clans for an extra cost. Not such a big deal, but there are rarely enough gold producing (think mana producing lands) in the packs to fuel a deck so you end up pretty short, throwing in a bunch of cheap guys. The game is slow and we found our league games came down to honor wins, which equals slow and boring.

Spycraft: This one a buddy and I got into and tried to do league style with a pre-con deck plus boosters. It was so complex that we only ever played one game then dumped it. It has a cool idea and the rules aren't too tough but when your agents do a mission, they can do so many actions you lose track of what they've done and what they have yet to do. Not a good one.

Magic: One of the best choices for league play. They specifically make the game so it will function with league play. Massive amounts of play-testing and balance checking; awesome art. Downside- it's expensive.

Hope that helps.


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Ryan Bigelow
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Forgot to mention, although VtES supposedly works well with more players, it was perfectly fine with three. The game ended up being really close with all of us down to four pool each. My prey forgot I had a vamp with +1bleed out and so I managed to take him out and then play a vote card to kill the other player. But it was down to the wire with each of us leading the game as some point.
 
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