I've recently become a very big fan of Vampire and after acquiring a substantial number of cards in a trade with a fellow geeker, I've taken it upon myself to play the game as much as possible and to train my fellow friends and University of Washington (Seattle) students to play. We have a pretty consistent group of gamers that usually has played D&D and light board games such as Bang! and Heroscape, but with Jon (a law intern) studying down in Olympia for the quarter, our D&D group is on hold and I've been using this opportunity to get them to play Vampire.
Firstly, I bought 4 of the new pre-made starter decks to teach the game with. This seemed like a very good way of teaching the game, but I felt the decks were very limited, so I began to make new decks. My original plan was to make decks balanced with the preconstructed, but I dropped that plan and just started to make decks. With some 10,000+ cards from a variety of expansions, I have had no problem coming up with a variety of decks to build and so I have tried to make a variety of decks using a variety of concepts.
Each of the players in this 5-player game was given a single abbreviated teaching session to try and entice them to play the game and for the most part it worked. They also learned the way the game played and picked up on it very quickly which is always nice. After teaching Ken, I invited him over to build decks and I allowed him to build a Gangrel deck using my cards. We played 3 one-on-one games in which I used a different deck each game and allowed him to use his Gangrel deck to try and get a good feeling of strategy and what he might need to revise for his deck. Obviously one-on-one isn't the best, but it was enough to try and show him what his deck was lacking and to improve his game. His first few games he overspent from his pool and often left himself vulnerable to being bled to death, but after our games he had learned his lesson and would not make the mistakes again. The games also allowed me to test and revise my new decks as well. I first used my Ventrue Political deck and politically annihilated him, then used my Nosferatu/Malkavian stealth/bleed deck and bled him to death and then finally had a tense match with my Tremere/Gargoyle deck in which I ended tapping him out and bleeding him out. I tried to help him along as best as I could between games and think it really help his game improve. We didn't get a chance to revise our decks that evening (Saturday) before our next game (Sunday).
I placed out my available decks and allowed all the players to choose before me, giving a basic idea of what was available, and I chose my deck last, ignoring my bleed deck because of how nasty it is. Decks were chosen as follows:
Chris: Brujah Antitribu: This deck is a no-nonsense kick you arse kind of deck. I built it for Potence and Celerity and filled it to the brim with combat cards. This is one that I knew would be good, and new it would do well as it's hard to go wrong with it's concept. Predator: Ventrue, Prey: Ventrue Antitribu.
Anna: Ventrue Antitribu: This is the deck I was the most concerned about, and I warned Anna about it. It's not really fantastic at any one thing, but is generally slanted towards a sabbat political position. The deck is one that I am still unsure about. Predator: Brujah Antitribu, Prey: Gangrel.
Ken: Gangrel: This is a pretty standard Camarilla Gangrel deck with a heavy slant towards a protean hand-to-hand combat. From my observations the deck really has no major weak points, but is vulnerable to political actions and generally has too many large and expensive vampires, making blocking an issue for him. There are really no big surprises in the deck either, but it is advisable to avoid hand-to-hand combat with it. Predator: Ventrue Antitribu, Prey: Lasombra.
Jon: Lasombra: This deck is similar to the Ventrue Antitribu as I was unsure of how successful it would be. The deck can hold it's own on the political field, and has a variety of good vampires with good abilities. I should have had him play a more straight forward deck, but I thought it wouldn't be too bad. Predator: Gangrel, Prey: Ventrue.
Me: Ventrue: I offered it to the others first, but no one wanted it. I'd enjoyed playing it the night before, but hadn't had a chance to revamp it. The deck is thick with politics and political action. It has little in the way of combat, but is built to avoid combat. I just wanted to see how it would do in this situation. Predator: Lasombra, Prey: Brujah Antitribu.
And so the game began...
I am the most experienced in the group, and Ken is the next most. Everyone else had only played a single game, and not to completion. This was a mistake as many of them were unsure as to how to pursue their prey in an orderly fashion.
The game started slowly with each player slowly pulling young vampires into their controlled region. From the get go, everyone was being extremely defensive. Me and Ken were the only players who were actively attempting bleed actions or even attempting combat. As the game fleshed out, this trend continued and soon it ground to a near halt.
My Ventrue were sitting with about equal political votes to everyone else on the table, and I was frequently having issues getting a political action to pass, so I was more biding my time in the beginning, bleeding on occasion, but even that stopped. My Brujah Antitribu prey could easily defeat any of my Vampires in combat, even with my liberal use of guns and ammunition. My Vampires were taking quite a beating from the get go, so I generally was attempting to pull guns and beef up my vampires.
The Brujah Antitribu mostly sat and waited for me. Many rotations around the table saw maybe one or two of the Brujah Antitribu vampires doing much of anything while attempting to defend from the nonexistent threat the Ventrue posed. When the Brujah Antitribu would actively attempt to get into a fight with the Ventrue Antitribu, it was almost always a rousing success for the Brujah Antitribu. But it seemed that each time he would push another vampire into Torpor and be close to burning others, he would ease off to defend himself. It is my opinion that if he would have been more offensive, he would have been able to defeat the Ventrue Antitribu. The way it sat though, he was spending a lot of pool to bring in new vampires, and was costing himself dearly.
The Ventrue Antitribu were in a very difficult position. While Anna managed to do well enough with her titled vampires, she would often become overwhelmed in combat and take a pretty bad beating. She was thrifty and managed to keep her pool pretty full through investments and not overspending.
The Gangrel were played aggressively, but Ken was playing very carefully. Our games the night before had made him much more careful, and he was leaving enough to defend from major bleeds while hitting the Lasombra very hard. Ken was really playing a good game.
The Lasombra sort of floundered. Jon was not playing very aggressively, but had enough of a political influence, that he would block any political action I would try. The moment came when he had overspent, and reduced himself to 2 pool. This would be the Gangrels chance to take him down. Jon was left with three blockers, and Ken was left with three vampires. If Jon had held out another turn, he could have blocked all of Ken's bleeds the next round. Even though this seemed apparent to me (and probably Ken) Jon tapped one of his minions. He wasn't quite dead, but if Ken could pull another point of bleed it would be the end of the Lasombra. But Jon chose to tap another vampire and his fate was sealed.
The next Gangrel turn, Jon was bled out and finished. The first ousting had occurred, and I knew that the Gangrels would be the ones to beat. Unfortunately, they were now my predator. But, with the Lasombra removed, I almost had dominance of the political aspect of the board. The Ventrue Antitribu stood as neither my predator, nor my prey, and this gave me the upper hand in the end, as she controlled most of the political votes other than my own. I convinced her to not burn blood to burn a political card I played, and I bestowed another of my vampires with a title of Prince. The use of Legendary Vampire (granting another 2 votes!) to a primogen set me with 6 votes, and more than all other Vampires on the board. This is when the game shifted very heavily in my favor.
While the Brujah Antitribu were played very defensively, it did them little good, as the couldn't block my political actions and soon I was bleeding them of blood, and tapping all of Chris' minions. Ken did little but bleed, and as I ignored his bleed actions, her wasn't able to destroy any of my vampires as he had most likely hoped. With my politics I tore through the Vampire Antitribu and now the game was down to three. Both Ken and I were sitting on a single victory point, and it was do or die at that point.
The Ventrue Antitribu were very much weakened from the beatings of the Brujah antitribu, so I was left a weak target. I also knew that she had little hope of ousting Ken, which would have been nice, but I guess I had to chew my way through her as well. With my political actions I managed to slowly oust her, but my poor hand constantly left me in a position of equipping my minions instead of politically screwing the Ventrue Antitribu. What this did mean, was that I was actually able to start blocking some of the Gangrel as I had most of my vampires armed with flak jackets and some sort of gun. I maintained a pretty defensive position in hopes that I could come up with more political cards, but eventually I pulled them and was able to oust a very weakened Ventrue Antitribu. Before Anna was ousted, she had done well and managed to reduce the Gangrel down to 4 pool, and my moment our victory could be there, if I could just combine bleeds with politics and take the day.
I sat with 10 blood and the Gangrel with 4. All my vampires were pretty much full capacity thanks to hunting grounds and I had investments to keep myself full, and yet I was still wary of the Gangrel. We pretty much ran circles around each other for a long time, but the fact was, the Gangrel had more vampires and I could never block all of his vampires. Soon Ken had me reduced to 2 and he was kept at 4. I was slowly being bled to death when a minion tap came into my hand, and I knew I had just been saved. I pulled 7 blood off of a capacity 9 vampire (I wasn't using him for combat, only politics) and soon I was back to 9 pool. I shuffled through my hand as fast as possible while the Gangrel slowly bled me to death again. I managed to push him down to 2. Then I saw I could hit him for a political card for 1 blood and bleed him for 1. I was weakened, but managed to finish off my final prey and win the game. It was no easy task mind you, as I finished with a mere 2 blood.
In the end the game was fantastic, but I think I was unwise to let such new players try such new and untested decks. Hopefully, they will see how being aggressive is not always detrimental, and I hope that I'll convince them to play again.
I know Anna and Ken will, as after the game they came over to my apartment and we revised and made some new decks!
(Edited for spelling!)
- Last edited Thu Feb 9, 2006 12:59 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Feb 9, 2006 12:55 am
Ian, have you touched base with the seattle/tacoma playgroup at all? I know a fair number of them due to attending tournies in seattle. The group has been fairly quiet lately but I know they're out there. Try http://www.kravdraa.com/ and the forums there.
Also if you ever make your way up to vancouver/victoria, you're welcome to join our table(s) there!
Jyhad/Vampire is easily one of my favorite CCGs of all time, and get this--we never progressed past the Jyhad base set! We collected that set VERY heavily, and I've got a nice collection to show for it--4x Freak Drive, 2 x Ivory Bow...good times.
There are a lot of dynamics going on with the game, and even in the first set I was still finding crazy strategies even after a few years of play (like the Toreador deck with Masika, Talbot's Chainsaw, The Rack, and a heap o' Celerity and Auspex). Masika would attack with the 'saw, Blur for 9 damage, Pulled Fangs, poof! Then untap at the end of the turn and use The Rack next turn to heal the self-inflicted damage of Talbot's Chainsaw. Brutal!
And who can forget Torn Signpost, Blur, Fists of Death from the Brujah clan? Or dodging the Cars they'd throw at you?!
P.S.--If anyone has Jyhad copies of "Entrancement" or "XTC-laced Blood", please PM me. I'd like to work out a trade, those are the only two Jyhad cards I do not own (which is insane, because I probably went through ten boxes or more).