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× Talk about collectible card here.

Vampire: the Eternal Struggle (the game formerly known as Jyhad)

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29 Aug 2019 12:24 #301215 by Shellhead
I recently got interviewed at another website about my participation in this game and some related projects that include my only published boardgame:

bindusara.home.blog/2019/08/26/mike-m-and-dark-influences/
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29 Aug 2019 18:09 #301221 by Erik Twice
Welp, seems like I lost a huge message by pressing a button. Sorry guys.

Either way, thanks a lot for sharing this stuff, Shellhead. I really enjoy reading your playthroughs and I liked the interview too! I understand the importance of having new faces to shake things up. It's not even just deck dynamics, having new ideas, rivals and potential changes to the playerbase is always exciting. As much as I enjoy it, playing with the same people isn't the same as having a wider pool.

--

Regarding FFG and VTES, I'm told they actually worked on it for a while. I know Richard Garfield said something to the effect and there were some playtesters. Not much is known other than they changed the factions to include werewolves, wizards and so on instead of just vampires.

I really believe the game could be one of the greats if it was given the Android: Netrunner makeover. But I also believe it's not really necessary. A new format that only included the latest sets, like Magic's Standard would be enough to revitalize the game. It would allow new players in, it keeps backward compatibility and it lets you get rid of all those janky, awfully designed cards (Like Deflection, Combat ends effect, etc.) that you wouldn't put in the game if you were creating it anew. Note that you can actually doge a lot of wonky mechanics, like presses, by never including them in newer sets.

I've mentioned it before, but everytime I see VTES I get this impulse to make a "core set" myself.
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30 Aug 2019 13:10 #301252 by Shellhead

Erik Twice wrote: I've mentioned it before, but everytime I see VTES I get this impulse to make a "core set" myself.


When I got back into semi-regular play about a year ago, I strongly felt that same impulse. It really feels like a streamlined version of the game could be a lot more accessible, and the fundamental design of the game could appeal to a wider base if made accessible. The problem is the deck-building. Most players want to build their own decks, and deck-building only remains interesting in the long run if there is a large and/or changing base of cards to choose from. Even with multiple sub-games with the game (stealth vs intercept, voting, the whole combat segment), there is a certain number of redundant cards, often with fiddly minor restrictions or advantages. The game currently has around 2.200 legal cards (a few have been banned and some were designed for use in specific tournaments only), and a streamlined game might only need 250 of those cards.

Take voting, for example. There are 162 political action cards in the game, but the vast majority of votes called are either Kine Resources Contested, Conservative Agitation, and Parity Shift. Those are popular vote cards because they cause the target(s) to lose pool. There are differences between each, but since they are all doing about the same thing, they could be streamlined from three cards to one. Use a few more icons to convey standard concepts like +bleed or +vote, and simpler language. If Fantasy Flight ever got the license, this is definitely what they would do with the game.
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02 Sep 2019 05:57 - 02 Sep 2019 06:04 #301312 by Erik Twice
It seems to me the lack of variety is caused by two or three factors:

1) No card limits. The moment a card is slighty better than the rest, you can just run 12 copies of it and never have to play the others.
2) Most cards are free. This enforces similar scaling effects. You always get the same amount of bleed out of the same amount of blood, for example.
3) No rotation. I often see very cool effects but it's clear they cannot compete against 25 years of cards.

It also seems to me that VTES has a very polarized metagame in that most decks are "full political", "full bleed" or "full combat". There are some "toolbox" decks, but the tendence is to be focused on one axis. If you put together a "good stuff" deck with a bit of everything, you don't tend to get a good results. You are simply outplayed on all angles.

But I think that polarization can be solved through card design. If you don't have "Combat ends", then you don't need Immortal Grapple to dabble in combat so more decks can dabble in it. If bleed is less overpowering, you can include some political protection and not feel bad about it.

The language thing is just a matter of doing it. The game's text could be simplified so much just by trying to do so. I think designers should look at cards like On Qui Verve or whatever it's called and just recognize something's wrong! And stuff like "put this card into play" should be replaced by saying "attachment" or whatever.

--

That reminds me that VTES can be drafted, right? Would be interesting to make a set just for drafting. I've been thinking about it since I started making my Magic cube.
Last edit: 02 Sep 2019 06:04 by Erik Twice.

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02 Sep 2019 09:52 - 02 Sep 2019 14:13 #301316 by Shellhead
Garfield's original theory was that card rarity would offset the lack of card limits, but he underestimated how many cards some players would acquire. There has never been card rotation in V:tes, but White Wolf published 16 expansions and 3 base sets in a 10 year time span, which kept players exploring the potential of new cards for a long time.

It's true that successful decks tend to be focused decks. Bleed decks are the easiest to do. Just load up on bleed bonus cards and either stealth or tapping effects to get the bleeds through. Vote decks are also easy to design, but less reliable because their success can be contingent on who else is playing a voting deck each game. Combat decks are harder to design and win with, because most decks have at least some combat ability, so the combat deck must bring overwhelming combat to succeed, plus ways to create combat plus a strategy to keep the fighting vampires healthy. By the way, successful combat decks usually have a preferred range, either using maneuvers to set up ranged combat or Immortal Grapple to force close combat without weapons.

In times past, my favorite decks were defensive tool box or bruise/bleed, which is a combat deck that provokes combat with big bleeds. Lately, I have been more focused on bleed strategies, but I do have a Gangrel/Gangrel antitribu combat deck that runs five disciplines: Animalism, Fortitude, Protean, Celerity, and Potence. I rush my prey's minions and use manuevers to keep the range close, then Immortal Grapple to lock out weapons and force an extra round of combat. Then I whip out claws for aggravated damage and strength-boosting cards to make it a lot of aggravated damage. The Fortitude is there to prevent damage to my guy.

I have participated in several V:tes draft tournaments over the years. My favorite was untuned Jyhad starters plus a few untuned Jyhad booster packs. I also enjoyed the drafts that promoted new starter decks, where each player drew a random clan starter deck from the new set and then we drafted some booster packs. The worst one was simply a draft of a variety of booster packs from recent sets. Another bad draft event had us bring in half a pre-designed vampire deck and then draft a bunch of booster packs from The Night of the Reckoning. That was the set that featured the Imbued, supernaturally-enhanced monster hunters. I love the Imbued because they function really well within the game using a single expansion set, and retroactively interacted with a lot of previously published cards in interesting ways. But it's really hard to mix the imbued with vampires in a 50:50 deck because they have incompatible deck design goals.

If not for some retroactive text revisions, a box of 10 old school Jyhad starter decks would make a good drafting cube. Any other base set would also work well, but none of them were printed in as large a quantity as the original Jyhad base set. If card availability wasn't a challenge right now, the best draft cube would be the six Camarilla Edition starters (Brujah, Malkavian, Nosferatu, Toreador, Tremere, and Ventrue) plus some CE booster packs. By coincidence, Black Chantry will be publishing new starter decks for those same six clans in the near future, and they are still selling reprint card packs from Keepers of Tradition Heirs to the Blood, which are all cards that work well with the Camarilla clans.
Last edit: 02 Sep 2019 14:13 by Shellhead. Reason: Keepers of Tradition, not Heirs to the Blood

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11 Dec 2019 12:22 #305017 by Shellhead
One interesting type of deck in this game is known as the Star deck. Pick one vampire with an interesting special ability and/or combination of disciplines, and design a deck around it. It could be a bleed deck, or voting or combat or toolbox, depending on the merits of that star vampire. Last week, we had an interesting four-player game that ended up in a prolonged struggle between two new star decks that nobody had seen in this group before.

Here are the stars:



I made the Ankou deck. The Ankou is directly based on a Celtic version of the Grim Reaper, only in this game he is a vampire from the crazy vampire clan who is merely acting like the Grim Reaper. Although his disciplines are Auspex (intercept), Dementation (bleeds and weird stuff), and Obfuscate (stealth), I paired him with a mixture of Tremere and Tremere antitribu using Auspex, Dominate (bleeds), and Thaumaturgy (combat and toolbox stuff).

One of the most common Thaumaturgy cards is a combat card that lets you steal blood or life from your opponent. Another common Thaumaturgy card allows a stealth action to steal blood from a minion. When a vampire runs out of blood, it must hunt. And the Ankou has this cool ability to destroy a vampire that just hunted, actually interrupting that vampire player's turn. So my deck contains a variety of other effects that drain blood from vampires and/or force them to hunt. And then there are some cards that help me do big bleeds once my opponent is running low on blockers.

My prey made the Mata Hari deck. She belongs to the Ravnos clan, which is an unfortunate ethnic stereotype of tricky, thieving gypsy vampires. There are a lot of cards in the game that can only be used if you have a vampire of a specific clan or political sect, but Mata Hari allows you to ignore that requirement. So my opponent loaded his deck up with a shocking variety of strong cards that no normal deck could manage. These are the kind of cards that you would expect to see one or two of them from a specific clan deck. For example, Ventrue Headquarters is a master card location that you can tap for three votes, but normally you couldn't play it unless you controlled a Ventrue vampire. So his Mata Hari deck brought out Ventrue Headquarters, several hunting grounds, various allies, and other interesting cards that normally wouldn't be seen together. His smaller vampires belonged to a variety of clans, probably as a backup way to play some of his cards in case something happened to Mata Hari herself.

Early on, my deck wrecked the Mata Hari deck. The Ankou burned Mata Hari and a smaller vampire, and my Tremere got in a couple of good bleeds. But my prey brought out another Mata Hari, and soon was pulling various stunts to recover his lost pool and bring out more vampires and allies. More to the point, his multiple hunting grounds were feeding blood to his vampires without making them take hunting actions, so the Ankou was unable to burn any more of his vampires. Eventually he ousted his prey and then his new prey, leaving the two of us.

The guy playing the Mata Hari deck is probably our best local deck designer. His decks tend to function smoothly with good card combinations and just the right balance between various card types so that his hand rarely jams up. But this virtue became a flaw in this particular game, as he ran out of cards while I still had half of my deck. My deck was efficient in a different way, using cards sparingly but to good effect. Still, he was in a position to put up a good fight, because he had a dozen "permanent cards" in play, meaning cards that would continue to function unless I had a way to steal or destroy them. His three hunting grounds, an ally or two, some weapons, and a couple of ways to regain pool.

But my deck still had some powerful cards to play, and my minions were all flush with blood. The game could have really gone either way. My prey had already earned two VP, but if I ousted him, I would gain one VP for the oust and another for being the last player in the game. The two ousted players persuaded us to call it a draw so we could all play one more game before the FFG Event Center closed for the night.

The second game sucked for me. My predator and I both played Gangrel (tough, bestial vampires), and got into double contestation of a couple of useful Gangrel locations. Neither one of would back down. My predator got ousted one turn before I did.
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19 Dec 2019 11:20 - 19 Dec 2019 14:57 #305283 by Shellhead
Work sent me to an off-site meeting late in the day, with the understanding that I might as well just head home after the meeting. So I had time to play three games of Jyhad with the weekly group last night. I played more recklessly than usual, so I was the first ousted in the first two games. Everybody starts the game with 30 pool, which represents both life and the resources to bring out vampires, equipment, locations, and other advantages. In a normal game, I try to spend about 20 pool on bringing out vampires, typically one big one, one small one, and a couple of mediums. Last night, I was spending more like 24 pool or so each game, leaving myself too vulnerable to high-stealth bleeds, cross-table votes, and global meta-game shenanigans like Game of Malkav.



In theory, there are a variety of strategies for winning Jyhad. In actual practice, most are variations on two basic strategies: vote or bleed. A bleed deck directly attacks a player's pool, usually using stealth or tapping effects to get past defenders. A vote deck calls votes with a default +1 stealth, and some of the more common vote cards offer ways to reduce a player's pool. But a vote deck may struggle if there are other vote decks at the table, depending on who has the most votes and who has cards to temporarily increase their votes. The third major deck type is the combat deck, but it's harder to win because most clans have at least some combat ability or defense against combat. That means that a combat deck must double down on the combat ability and also use cards to get past defenses like maneuvers, dodges, or the dreaded strike: combat ends.

In the third game, I ran an aggressive combat deck that I call The Four Horsemen. Not much intercept and almost zero votes, so my basic strategy was to go forward hard against my prey and try to ignore my predator. Normally a deck runs three disciplines (comparable to colors in Magic: the Gathering), based on the main clan in that deck. I was playing a mixture of Gangrel (Animalism, Fortitude, Protean) and Gangrel antitribu (Celerity, Obfuscate, Protean), relying on four big vampires that all shared the disciplines of Animalism, Celerity, Fortitude, Potence, and Protean). The rest of my crypt was small vampires who were there to support the big four.

My deck tries to win by putting out cards that punish all players when their minions get burned (killed) or sent to torpor (comatose), then beat down my prey's vampires to cost him pool. I use maneuvers (Celerity) to stay close, grapples (Potence) to prevent dodges and end-combat effects, aggravated damage from claws (Protean) to send opponents to torpor or burn them, hit them hard (Potence), and maybe force another round of combat (Celerity or Potence), while preventing their damage (Fortitude) and/or drinking the spilled blood. The Animalism is useful for untapping and a little intercept.

My predator "A" was running the newish Libertine Ball pre-constructed deck, which features a horde of small vampires doing enhanced bleed/vote attacks. Some of A's votes gave him 1 pool for every vampire A controlled, so that A gained at least an extra 30 (!!!) pool during this game. My prey "B" and my prey's prey "C" were both running aggressive bleed decks. "A" quickly got seven vampires out, which scared the whole table into teaming up against him. "C" did really heavy stealth bleeds, and both bleed decks (B and C) tried to counter A's votes. Instead of going after B, I burned or sent to torpor one or two of A's vampires every turn, even as A kept bringing out more. Eventually, C ousted A, and then B ousted C.

At the endgame, I had two scary big vampires and two small weak ones, and just one pool. B had two healthy vampires and 6 pool and a strong possibility of ousting me on his next turn. So I rushed B's best vampire and sent her to torpor. Then I sent my smallest vampire to commit diablerie (remove a torporized vampire from the game, then face a possible vote to burn my diablerizing vampire). He blocked her, and also my other small vampire, so I sent my other big gun to send his remaining vampire to torpor.

On B's turn, his best vampire rescued herself, leaving him with an important choice. He could play conservatively by rescuing his other vampire and then fending me off for another turn. Instead, he left his other vampire in torpor and tried to remove me with a stealth bleed to get my last point of pool. I surprised him with two points of intercept, more than I had shown in the whole game. I sent his vampire back to torpor. Due to one of my Tension in the Ranks in play, he lost 2 of his 6 pool at the end of his turn, for his 2 vampires in torpor. On my turn, I had two of my vampires diablerize his two vampires, costing him another 2 pool from Tension, and then used my other two vampires to bleed his last 2 pool. I won 1 vp for ousting him, and 1 extra vp for being the last player in the game. 2 vp was enough for the win, and it was sweet for being a relatively rare combat win.

That was probably my last game of Jyhad for a while. Thanks to the holidays and long days at work in January and February, I probably won't get to play again until maybe March.
Last edit: 19 Dec 2019 14:57 by Shellhead. Reason: edited in spots for clarity
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19 Dec 2019 11:53 #305288 by Jazzbeaux
That last game sounds crazy but fun!
I haven't played Vtes in so long - 2017. Really would like to but lacking players.

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