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Darrell Pavitt
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Warning: this mini-review is not based on any actual play as of yet! (In addition, I don't have the game in front of me and I'm dining this from memory - apologies in advance for any inaccuracies!)

Vampire: Prince of the city is a boardgame based on White Wolf's popular horror roleplaying game. Originally designed for Vampire: the masquerade, that game line was ended and the boardgame retooled for the new release, Vampire: the requiem.

The game involves 3-5 players as vampire lords attempting to seize control of the city by obtaining prestige points for both controling areas of the city and by solving the sort of problems that any would be vampire boss would have to deal with to show he was up to the job. Each player has a player card describing their clan, their attributes (15 points divided between mental, physical and social) and three disciplines (special skills that give for example extra die rolls in challenges). Disciplines are paid for by spending vitae (blood), which can also be stolen in challenges and by other effects.

The game comes in a box approximately the same size as the Fantasy flight games ones (Runebound et al. not Descent!) and has a subdued and attractive cover, which matches the rpg rulebooks.

The contents include a mounted map, twice the size of the box when opened, depicting the city over which the players will jostle for control. The city consists of a grid of large hexagons depicting different areas of the city. Similar types of areas have the same colour background, and are grouped togetherby type rather than by geography (so for example, the cathederal, mosque and synagogue are all red and next to each other). Each area has a prestige rating, normally 1 or 2 but going up to 4 for the cathederal, and an empty circle where the current owner stacks their influence markers.

The rules cover 16 pages, although 2 are adverts, one is for credits, one is the introduction and 1 1/2 are a glossary. The typeface and layout are identical to the rpg books.


Three sheets of circular markers are provided, with influence markers for each player, a supply of vitae (blood - used as a type of currency) and a supply of prestige markers.

There are 100 cards, of good quality (again similar to FFG) in 5 decks of 20 cards: Activation, which can be played if you control the corresponding board location, strategy cards (each gives a different effect), equipment, retainers (mortal servants such as industrialists, media stars etc.) and events. All cards are shuffled together in a single stack.

Event cards are special. They say "event" on the back: as soon as one appears on top of the deck, it is immediately played face up next to the board. Events represent political problems that any player can try to solve as an event challenge (see below). Success grants prestige points. Failure loses prestige (the same amount).

The final components are 5 quality 10 sided dice and 5 plastic figures, to represent the player in the city. The figures are nicely sculpted (although they appear rather tall and thin - those late nights, eh?) but might need some sprue trimmed off.

Players must determine how may turns they will play at the start of the game, with suggestions for 2 to 4 hours (at roughly 20 minutes a turn). Although the game is based on accumulating prestige, the victory conditions are slightly different compared to similar games: points are gained for currently controlled areas and for personal prestige, but are summed at the end of each turn. They do not build up from turn to turn, and so there is no runaway leader syndrome and players are less likely to feel they cannot win. This is important, as negotiation is a major game feature, which often leads to bad game experiences in games which rely on player interaction. Negotiation occurs when players try to enlist the aid of others to for instance solve an event challenge, rather than the sort of negotiation seen in "Traders of Genoa" or "Goa". Players can trade practically anything (including already played cards in front of you - a good way to free up unwanted cards without just discarding them), but there is no requirement for players to actually honour agreements (unless you want people to trust you...)

There are several phases in each turn, each player acts in clockwise order from the starting player (who currently has the highest prestige).


The play sequence starts with resources, two actions allowed including draw a card (hand limit of 3 and a maximum of 5 cards face up in play); hunt to gain 1 vitae; discard (consume!) a retainer for 2 vitae; return from torpor with 1 vitae (vampires losing all vitae go into torpor and are removed from the board). Since going into torpor is a Bad Thing (as you cannot act for the rest of the turn) vitae management is important. Vampires automatically lose 1 vitae per turn, in addition to paying for disciplines and combat (physical challenges).

Players can move their figure to any space on the board. In general, players can only affect the area they are in or any adjacent one. Some opportunity cards (eg. the metro ) let you move during a turn but otherwise you are limited as above.

There are two types of challeges. PLayers may attack another player in range (0-1 hex) by adding 1 die to the appropriate attribute (the opponent does the same). Highest wins, ties are no effect. Players steal influence (mental attack), 3 vitae (physical) or 2 prestige (social). If the attacker loses, the defender gets to steal the goods from the attacker.
[edit : you can also steal startegy cards, equipment or retainers]

Any players may discard strategy or activation cards to give a +1 or -1 to either side, and many cards force one die to be rerolled. Several disciplines may grant additional dice to be added to the total.

Event challenges are similar, but the player must beat the difficulty printed on the event card. Difficulties are high (frequently over 20) and require either a lot of good resources or help from another player (who adds their attribute but not a die roll). Success grants prestige for the player and those who help. Failure means those involved lose prestige. Anyone can help or hinder by playing cards. Negotiation time.

Influence phases consist of placing your influence in your current or adjacent areas. Each player gets 3 influence per turn, plus 1 for each complete set of locations of one colour owned. Players place 1 token at a time, and other players may pay influence of their own to stop them. Both sides roll 1 die plus influence spent. highest gets to place or prevent the opponent. There is a bonus if your figure occupies the area (+4). Anyone with influence already in an area gets to add or subtract one per point. Stolen influence (successful mental challenge) means you get one extra influence this turn, your opponent gets one less.

Finally, players determine control: the most influence in an area moves their stack onto the control circle for the area. They receive the prestige for that area (and can play the appropriate card, if they have it). As I said before, prestige is totalled each turn and does not accumulate. The winner has the highest prestige on the final turn.

This game will not appeal to people who dislike negotiation games, although the "last turn takes all" mechanism should help.

The main problem I found ( as I say I havn't actually played it yet) is that the theme is a bit lacking. Although 5 clans are given (Daeva, Mehket, Ventrue, Nosferatu and Gangrel) none of the factions are used (Lancea Sanctum etc.) which makes you ask why it took so long to convert from the previous edition. One advantage is that you could easilly make your own clans (including those from the previous version) by allocating attributes and disciplines. As it is, the game could have been about gangsters as easilly as vampires.

Finally, I should mention that 2 player rules are given - basically, event cards with difficulties over 20 are not used. There are two optional rules - the first is that rolls of 10 are rerolled and added to the previous score, the second is that players act in order of prestige rather than clockwise round the table. WW tell you to make your own markers - there was actually easilly enough room on the marker sheets for them to have included some -boo!

In all, then, a good quality production area control game featuring a lot of negotiation and die rolling.
 
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Sam Marsh
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Interesting to read your thoughts, as I play Vtes (ID 2122) a lot, and wondered how similar the two games might be. I know that Vtes is Old World of Darkness, while this is New World of Darkness, but the themes seemed to overlap, however it seems that they aren't too similar.
Someone I know has got the game, and I have got a game arranged with them, so will add my thoughts once played.

Sam
 
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Darrell Pavitt
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Very similar feel, but much simpler.

And no Tremere.
 
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John W
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There sounds to be enough game here to warrant more attention than this game has got so far (I just noticed it at a LGS today).
Conbined with the fact that the World of Darkness is so amazingly popular, and vampires with vitae-powered disciplines and political machinations are solid cross-gender mechanics, why has this game flown so far under the attention of the Geek?
 
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Robert R
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I'd like to know too.... I'm very curious about this game. Come on whoever has tried it.... give us some more details! wow
 
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
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I've tried it once with three. We played for four turns (of 8) before we decided to give it a rest for the evening.

As mentioned, the theme could be anything: Mobsters battling for turf and shaking down citizens for money to fund their schemes wouldn't be any different. (In fact, retheming this game after the movie "Sin City" would be even better.)

I like that you have to juggle between cooperating with other players to beat the Events while at the same time resisting their attemps to spread influence with personal challenges of your own. But the whole consumption of human beings on the side to maintain "Vitae" seems almost laughably weird. (One player at our table who was low on Vitae was admonished "to finish supper before earning prestige with the other kids." But as a mechanic of the game, Vitae is a need which presses heavily on your decisions you are low in it and and rather less when you have enough. Think of it as "money" and it sorts itself out.

Probably you need a group of four or five players for the best time. Our table of three was nearly overwhelmed by nine unchallenged Events before we acquired enough territory to shake off some territorial challenges. Otherwise, I'm willing to try it again to make sure we had it right.
 
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Robert Washington
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reapersaurus wrote:
There sounds to be enough game here to warrant more attention than this game has got so far (I just noticed it at a LGS today).
Conbined with the fact that the World of Darkness is so amazingly popular, and vampires with vitae-powered disciplines and political machinations are solid cross-gender mechanics, why has this game flown so far under the attention of the Geek?


What you're seeing is actually the opposite - the game was 1st announced over 7 years ago. It's not a lack of interest so much as a "surprised anything sitting around for that long actually made it to the shelf"...it wouldn't surprise me if there were some resistance based on that as well ("If it went that long without release, how good can it be?").
 
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Robert Goudie
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Quote:
What you're seeing is actually the opposite - the game was 1st announced over 7 years ago. It's not a lack of interest so much as a "surprised anything sitting around for that long actually made it to the shelf"...it wouldn't surprise me if there were some resistance based on that as well ("If it went that long without release, how good can it be?").


I don't think it was that long ago. I know the designer and saw some early playtest materials. Seems like just a few years at the most. Maybe there was a prior designer 7 yrs ago?

I suspect the delay has been because the game was created right around the time when White Wolf ended the old World of Darkness. So then WW's attention was probably devoted to launching the new WoD and then after that the boardgame had to be modified for the new WoD.

-Robert

 
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Steve Thornton
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Hi
Played my first game last night a friend of mine has just purchaces the game so we tried it out. On the whole I liked the game the scrambe to gain prestige at the end of the game is great fun and I can see that carful manipulation of the cards is the way to win
This game definately plays better with 3+players as with only two you have to either play a watered down version (using les event cards) or get overwhelmed by teratorial events. I started playing Caylus about 6 weeks ago and I dont think this is as good a game as that, however I would still be happy to have it in my collection
 
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Red Dragon
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r3gamer wrote:
"I'm very curious about this game. Come on whoever has tried it.... give us some more details!


Done, see my personal comments in the game ratings list. I'm not sure I should write a review after playing less than one full game, but at least I see I wasn't the only one who gave up on the game after playing only 4 turns.
 
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Ed
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I rated this game a 3 after one play. I was in the game with Red Dragon where we both left after 4 turns (out of 6).

To be fair, the person who brought the game didn't really know the rules, so we were constantly debating the rules and pausing to consult the rulebook. That made the game longer than it should have been and a lot less enjoyable.

As a matter of personal taste, I don't care for games that involve negotiating. I find the negotiating mechanic creates an unfriendly atmosphere at the table. It encourages players to make suboptimal moves and allows players to "throw" the game to one player or another. I play games first and foremost to relax and have fun, and this is not my definition of fun.

Setting aside personal preferences, the fundamental flaw of this game rests in the cards and player powers.

Each player's character has a unique set powers that allow the player to break one or more of the rules. Examples of powers include allowing players to re-roll anything or prevent others from inflicting harm during a particular phase. The problem is there's nothing a player can do to offset or negate another player's power. It's like rock scissors paper without the paper.

There's a deck of cards that allow individual players to break the rules even further or that impose new rules on the game. The cards are drawn at random, so the rules are constantly changing. This just makes the game a mess. It makes the game about what rules happen to be in effect rather than which player is implementing the best strategy.

To me, the sum of these mechanics is a game that is extremely chaotic. The constantly changing rules, myriad of modifiers, and absence of countermeasures to player powers remove a fundamental element of strategy from the game -- the ability to plan. Any strategies a player might want to implement invariably will be thwarted by the next card drawn or by another player making a suboptimal move. This is a bad game.
 
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Jorge Astyaro
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ed95005 wrote:

To me, the sum of these mechanics is a game that is extremely chaotic. The constantly changing rules, myriad of modifiers, and absence of countermeasures to player powers remove a fundamental element of strategy from the game -- the ability to plan. Any strategies a player might want to implement invariably will be thwarted by the next card drawn or by another player making a suboptimal move. This is a bad game.


I my opinion this is clearly a negotiation and diplomacy game and not a Strategic game , although there are some interesting strategic elements. So I think that Judging this game and comparing it to a strategy game is not the best way to go. The negotiation skills are fundamental to winning and also knowing how to take advantage of your strengths and protecting yourself form your weaknesses. I don’t believe there has to be a counter-measure for everything another character can do . If you don’t want someone to use a special power on you, then offer him something that he needs or threaten him with a power of your own.
Negotiation is the key.
And I don´t believe it is a Bad Game just because it is not a strategy game.
 
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Mike Nudd
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nyhotep wrote:
The main problem I found ( as I say I havn't actually played it yet) is that the theme is a bit lacking. Although 5 clans are given (Daeva, Mehket, Ventrue, Nosferatu and Gangrel) none of the factions are used (Lancea Sanctum etc.)


All things come to those who wait...

rrgoudie wrote:
I don't think it was that long ago. I know the designer and saw some early playtest materials.


The time spent in design and playtesting was just over 2 years, with over another 2 years graphic design and production after it was handed over. So, close to 5 years since I was first handed the ball.

rrgoudie wrote:
Seems like just a few years at the most. Maybe there was a prior designer 7 yrs ago?


There was an earlier design concept, which is what the original announcements were about all those years ago. It was awful, quite frankly, and thankfully it will never see the light of day.
 
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Nick Ashton
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ed95005 wrote:
To me, the sum of these mechanics is a game that is extremely chaotic. The constantly changing rules, myriad of modifiers, and absence of countermeasures to player powers remove a fundamental element of strategy from the game -- the ability to plan. Any strategies a player might want to implement invariably will be thwarted by the next card drawn or by another player making a suboptimal move. This is a bad game.


I find the fact that the mechanics making each game very different is a real bonus in terms of replayability, and the need to adapt your plan to current events to stay on top adds to the excitement. I can see how a more mathematically minded boardgamer might prefer something more staid so they can concentrate on finding a winning strategy, but I like the variability in this game.
 
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