Number of VtES players
I hope this post ensures some pondering by others, that some reflection happens and people take the best out of it. I apologize the "wall of text that nobody reads" but I feel this might be worth it for some. I decided to quote parts of the road that got us here, as not everyone followed it from the start or can do so as easily in the future. I would have hidden the quotes to keep this tad shorter but couldn't figure out the way so they are how they are.
I made this reply ( www.vekn.net/forum/expansion-sets-card-ideas/77836-nosferatu-give-them-some-love?start=42#96374 ) on the "Nosferatu - Give them some love..." thread to highlight the importance of lore and themes in the game, in effort to argue with lore means against "combat ruins" notion as well as notion where nos and !nos are just "ani-pot-obf" clans. I also wished to highlight how clan identity is important going forward as the tournament players will use "best cards" to fit their situations and decks wheras for casual players the theme and mechanics per clan (including the normal and !normal) is easier to comprehend then 25 years worth of cardboard to build one-two or three(or more!) discipline deck/archetype out of.
Elotar replied with
elotar wrote: Main essence of VtES is not a fantasy about vampires, it's a prey-predator relationships. Combat breaks it as you at some moment have to go after your predator or even cross table.
There are countless other problem with combat as it's now, but this one is what really destroys the game.
Split from the Nosferatu thread.
that then was split to create topic ( www.vekn.net/forum/card-balance-strategy-discussion/77883-combat-as-a-strategy )for discussion thread on combat. I assumed that elotar replied to me, considering how I brought the lore up in long detail and quoted them in the first place. During that topic discussion happened on whether or not combat was good/bad/ruining and I made my first suggestion on the storyline events as way to "solve" the troubles people might have on local level. Storylines being the VTES equivalent of gm bending the rules and homebrewing. ( www.vekn.net/forum/card-balance-strategy-discussion/77883-combat-as-a-strategy?start=24#96459 )
Elotar at one point replied to another member in
jonathan wrote: Actually, during EC2019 Day1 there were almost only hard bleeders on my tables. It was not fun at all seeing the one person drawing the most deflections win or getting ousted by some Hail Maria bleed for 7 from across the table.
Responsible bleeding is one of the first things, which should be learned by any VtES player, who is going to upgrade from noob skill level. All you are saying is that EC day one was full of noobs. Which is quite logical - player base is so thin that even for top tournaments there are not enough skilled players.
About my opinion for the game I've answered long time ago - there is a solid core which I love, but there are a lot of crap on top of it, which really takes the game down.
And player base is thin because of this crap.
I commented that and few other posts with www.vekn.net/forum/card-balance-strategy-discussion/77883-combat-as-a-strategy?start=42#96511 pointing out how in some places proper out of game decisions were made. They ensured the continuation of the community and there were still player groups despite there being combat. Little bit further on that topic after continued comments claiming the combat is fun instead ruining the elotar made the reply that was split to start this thread. He pointed to fewer tournaments and floated forth the idea that almost all potential VTES players stop playing after such (ruining combat) experience. www.vekn.net/forum/generic-v-tes-discussion/77912-number-of-vtes-players#96537
elotar wrote:You are fine, there are several people like you (me included ).
Timo wrote: So I attended a major tournament. I played about 10 min in that tournament because combat happenned. And you know what ? I had fun.
Unfortunately for 99,9% of potential VtES players it's not fine, so they will not continue playing after such experience. Which is actually nor fine for us two, because we need 5 people to have a game and at least 12 to have meaningful tournament.
Now from my decades of experience in various hobbies, adults tend not to give up on them over single bad incident unless it's somehow personal so I questioned the numbers and asked how he reached them. For kids and teenagers who pick and drop hobbies sometimes at will it might be true, but for adults who make calculated decisions it sounded off even if it was exaggerated claim. I pointed how from my recruited VTES friends (not my local VTES playgroup, or the national one, or the global) 6 out of 8 was still playing, and all 8 out of 8 were fine with combat. He replied to me by quoting Ropecon numbers as a proof that in my local area his argument is true. When I pointed out this was not the case with accurate deciption of what was happening in certain Ropecon and questioning how he ignored my personal casual game observations in favor of tournament only numbers he chose to say it points to player engagement in the local area.
Before my next reply the following exchange happened that I feel gives important insight on the overall matter of player retention in casual settings. This could explain why elotar is experiencing what he is along with perhaps some others.
self biased wrote: Do you have veteran players dropping the hammer on your new players?
Thankfully, I've never had to ask a player in my group to not slam dunk a new player, and I wouldn't invite them back if they continued to do so after being asked not to.[/i]
I have to remind you too, that there is PTW rule, so not crushing a player when it is beneficial to you on the outside the game considerations (he is new), is against the rules.
I pointed again how the numbers he quoted at me back up player retention and the whole notion where "potential VTES player" is not fine with "ruining combat" is false in; www.vekn.net/forum/generic-v-tes-discussion/77912-number-of-vtes-players?start=12#96563 That saw no replies so I assume they either accepted that fact, ponder it or ignore it, all valid choices. Neither did I push the above PTW to the highlight as I didn't know what the local gameplay environment is about, some ccg vets like rule lawyering and PTW sits right to their lap.
I'm however happy that he has given some requested insight to his local area conditions with the following in this topic;
My best guess is that lower population density makes is hard to get games in US. maybe people move around more here too so play groups just kind of fall apart.
Obviously - VtES is very hard on number of players. When you got 10+ then all is fine - you can maintain regular activity, grow a new players, organize events etc. But when the number drops than you are in trouble - 7 or 6 players attending and you got a frustrating evening. After several such evenings you got 5 players. Then you can struggle for a while with 5-4 player games (events are out, obviously, as a meaningful new player recruitment), and then one became unavailable for some reason and play activity stops.
self biased wrote: My point is that in any game, mechanics can only do so much to mitigate someone intentionally playing like a jerk. There's always going to be some playstyle, army list, or deck that's going to be viewed as abusive of mechanics.
You getting it backwards - game mechanics should be such, that even jerks are forced to play nice to not lose. There are something like in in VtES, where helping crosstable is beneficial to you, for example.
self biased wrote: Elotar, I'm curious: as the NC for Russia, do you have any data for V:tes tournaments held in your country? If so, what do the numbers look like?[/i]
In Russia tournament activity mostly not exists anymore. There was a time several years ago when our WoD community was actively organizing various events, including VtES tournaments, there were regular visits of players from other cities and even countries (Belarus,lol), but it quickly dried up - after last years national there are no tournament ideas in the works. So actually this is the reason why I've started to think that in the game, which looks so cool to me, there may be some problems.
Here is a roots of the big difference between my understanding of the game and what many others here think - as in Russia most of the VtES players are not from CCG crowd who decided to play one more card game, but WoD players who are interested in one more way to play in beloved setting. So the crowd is much more casual and their struggles are much more visible.
self biased wrote:
What are things that you feel you can do to help build and restore the V:tes community in Russia?[/i]
Redesign the game to make it more friendly to casual players? Lol.
Actually, I don't think this is something YOU can do...
You are underestimating me - obviously I can do it. I've, actually, made most of preliminary work needed for it: you can find results if you browse old topics. But it looks like a lot of work with a little upside - my regular playgroup are dedicated veteran players, they are quite fine with the game and not really interested in changing old habits and playtesting new ideas. We still got couple unopened storyline kits and I think the last version of a draft cube was never played. Bunch of new players may be fun, but by now I got no time for active recruiting, we still haven't got any place to buy cards and "house rules" are in general not so popular here.
I'm still doing some thinking about it like a mental exercise. Actually how to solve the "too much combat" problem I still do not quite sure. The obvious first step is to make leaving torpor cost 1 blood and 5 transfer rule to make rush weenies weaker, but is it enough?
By elotar's own claim "Russia most of the VtES players are not from CCG crowd who decided to play one more card game, but WoD players who are interested in one more way to play in beloved setting. So the crowd is much more casual and their struggles are much more visible."
Meanwhile his viewpoint is that "Main essence of VtES is not a fantasy about vampires, it's a prey-predator relationships."
I take his comment "But it looks like a lot of work with a little upside - my regular playgroup are dedicated veteran players, they are quite fine with the game and not really interested in changing old habits and playtesting new ideas. ... Bunch of new players may be fun, but by now I got no time for active recruiting, we still haven't got any place to buy cards and "house rules" are in general not so popular here." as declaration that the veteran players believe in same fashion and any deviation in form of "house rules" is not well received by them.
So it's casual lore liking new players, house rule disliking dedicated veterans who are fine with the game and a NC who thinks the prey-predator relationship is the main essence of the game and the non-combat core of the game is good. Playing and gathering for a english language out of print card game based on World of Darkness that the new players know some lore and therefore have expectations on. New players who do not have lore expectations require recruiting of some fashion to which there is no time at this time.
He also points the lack of place to buy cards (which will be changing with upcoming russian translation perhaps) and lack of time for active recruiting that many, myself included can understand and even identify with (not having time to recruit new people for me, asking friends is fine, hosting games and or "friday night vtes at gamestore" is not). However if there is influx of new players, there might customs and habits in the existing groups that ensure they follow the road that was used in the past with consequences of the past.
This comment I think highlights the dissodance between casual and tournament play in it's quite extreme form, and I note I do not think this is something tournament players have as charasteristic, quite the contrary. "I have to remind you too, that there is PTW rule, so not crushing a player when it is beneficial to you on the outside the game considerations (he is new), is against the rules." Only tournament rules mention PTW because its competitive environment that has to be clarified and quantified as much as possible. I would argue the main emphasis for multiple games for new (and some older) players, until they feel like their definition of it has changed is HF aka "have fun". That's the "rule" or "code" for the social contract that exists to even play the game in the first place.
People who are struggling with keeping new players, or the numbers they have, here's my viewpoint. If you have new people with various interests in the hobby, and you don't nurture that, don't be surpriced if you reach even 100% drop rate. Only people whose view aligns with yours will stay, along with those who are willing to put up with that. Rest are using their freedom to choose where they wish to be with their free time. Usually they choose things where they are having fun.
If your table is full of these dedicated veteran players who share somewhat similar sentiments to yours, follow the same mindset and then give no mercy to new player and play to win in tournament fashion, with tournament level decks and tricks it's no wonder the potential VTES players feel that the game contains "things that ruin". New people rarely say it's the old members who are ruining the fun, after all they're the new ones and these are the older people who know how things are done. Veterans can claim defence on "rules say to play like this" but then the social aspect of human interaction gives it's fruit and they find they're in the echo chamber of their own making. In that situation it's easy for veterans to point at external factors as there's always risk when the real reasons are brought to table the small group tears itself apart as blame has to be handled instead shifted, giving the final nail on the coffin. It takes spine to admit one's mistakes and strength of character to make efforts to correct them.
People should consider how new football players are not tossed to the world cup series but instead kick the ball for fun in local field. New racers don't start at F1 but go-carts. Outdoors types won't head to cross Greenland but instead to local forest etc. New VTES players are not expected to play with tournament level rule adherance and decks but instead in a setting where they're even sometimes allowed to win to feel accomplishment. Same way as a kid is allowed to score the goal occassionally against adult, go-cart race is not automatically death race and hikers in the local forest can use ready made meals and tents instead just blade and string to build shelter and fish.
I've said earlier here during my short stay, and I stand by it still, that each group has freedom to set their own rules, customs and ways. They also reap what they sow, in good and bad. That's what I've tried to say with the decisions that ensure player bases, they've somehow ensured the social situation is one where people want to be even when there were no products or marketing. Some have told their solutions, some are obvious in the form of constant and consistent new player recruitment with welcoming social attitude, some are happy accidents. There were combat heavy decks, there were turbobleeds, votes, grinder walls and myriad of other decks available to veteran players in those groups. Yet somehow new players still decided to keep playing and grow to a point where they became comfortable enough that even the cheesiest "abuse" decks or the tightest tournament decks in the game no longer were game "ruining" or if they were, they had the nerve and spine to speak about it out loud.
I hope those russian casual WoD players were not completely driven away from VTES and instead have their own casual, more lore friendly and less rule tight environment. Almost every pnp gm knows the importance of bending the rules to fit the mindset of the group and I hope they've done the same.
I hope veterans and new people alike take away from this massive post and threads like it the message and spirit of not destroying the joy in a hobby for participants just because rules and customs can be understood to demand it. Those rules are made to help your group not to destroy it and their main function is to provide cornerstones to build variety on. Especially now when the hobby is reforming itself in various areas with potential for new players and returning old ones. I hope there's enough empathy in every player to be able to see that social situation from eyes of another or at least have the wisdom to start learning how. I hope they understand past cannot be changed but they still can affect what's in their future. I hope they see the potential in their area that listening to the new players and
indulging them can have. Or you can ignore all the above and go with your vision, reaping what you sow, good or bad.
Elotar, I've quoted you a lot over this and spoken quite frankly and pointedly against some of your views but I honestly hope you find more like-minded players and get to have games you like in a company that's enjoyable in numbers that you enjoy. I hope you'll finish the work you've already started and someday publish to others a'la "duffin draft" for people to try on. I hope the upcoming Black Chantry Productions translation is well received there and it brings enough players to create multiple groups or at least tables of various skill levels and styles in the future. You don't need to take anything away from this post, but if you do, I hope its something that helps you in the future.
Trust in Jan Pieterzoon.
TwoRazorReign wrote: Not to belabor the point, but it's less important what was included in the "object of the game" in the early days than what was left out. It appears careful decisions were made to not make accumulation of victory points a sole objective and to incentivize ousting ones prey instead to guide players along. The door was left open for people to fully play their role as methuselahs; one could decimate their non-prey rival, with in-game consequences that would mimic the theme of the source material (one methuselah making another's life miserable for frivolous reasons, all while a third, fourth, and fifth party may benefit). That door is effectively closed with the current object of the game, especially while also using tournament rules.
VTES was an arty and experimental second attempt at a major CCG. I think that legacy has sort of been lost (but maybe for the best).
You describe the game beautifully, at least, part of the allure for me. Notice that in the original Jyhad, cards like Dramatic Upheaval and Reversal of Fortune played with the predator-prey relationship in a very board-gamey way. It appeals to me, and makes VTES feel lighter, not such a ponderous game.
Ashur wrote: Personally, I totally agree with this, although I think you get closer to it in a limited game (sealed deck or draft) or in a home game/"kitchen sink" environment. The tournament scene is very much different these days. I think VTES can be both, ie attracting different audiences. Thoughts?
You're right about the kitchen sink homegame house rules environment. And I do like the competitiveness of the tournaments I've been to.
Part of what drew me to VTES, was the No Card Limit rule. Reading about decks that could run 13x of a key card was a really cool, and a pretty unique feature of VTES.
But in my mind, I thought: wouldn't that lead to really oppressive or degenerate strategies? Or really cheesy ones? And both are kind of true, presently. And part of me loves that.
And part of me agonizes over how some strategies aren't allowed to be as oppressive or degenerate as others - why can't combat murder eating someone's vampires oust them? Why can't I have my vampires hunt my prey to death? Or murder them some other way besides just bleeding them or vote burning them.
I really think what hurts this game most is the card designs of the past.
There is a timeline where Arson and Rampage are good and playable and respectable.
Gangrel. Noddist. Camarilla. Once each turn, LivesByProxy may burn 1 blood to lose Protean until the end of the turn and gain your choice of superior Auspex , Obfuscate , or Potence for the current action.
Sorry for going a bit off-topic: This "why can´t combat be a winning strategy" discussion pops up about once each month on this forum, often with the same people. One would hope that it would end soon, given that the people who bring it up again and again should learn the basics of the game sometime. It is a strange discussion of two reasons (IMHO):
LivesByProxy wrote: And part of me agonizes over how some strategies aren't allowed to be as oppressive or degenerate as others - why can't combat murder eating someone's vampires oust them? Why can't I have my vampires hunt my prey to death? Or murder them some other way besides just bleeding them or vote burning them.
1) Arguing that "combat should be a viable strategy" is like arguing that "stealth should be a viable strategy". Combat is a "vehicle" for ousting, just as stealth is. You can either stealth through your bleeds (preferebly big ones) or you can use scary combat vamps to either deter blocking of your bleeds or you can beat down any blockers and then bleed all you want with nothing in the way (preferably big bleeds). (Of course there are also some "real combat ousting" with Fame, Tension, Dragonbound, etc.) All this is extremelly evident both in the original Jyhad game and in our modern game. I really don´t see the problem.
2) Combat IS a viable strategy. Otso Saarilumo won this years EC with a rush combat deck. He was top seed into the final (2 gw and 8,5 vp), dropped a Fame on his preys vamp after about 1,5 h, rushed the vamp and ousted his prey and no one else managed to oust anyone. Voila! Rush-combat and wall is two strategies that ARE hard to win with, but also a bit more "stable" when you actually get table control - ie, they tend to reward truly great players like Otso.
I see two main reasons for not strengthening "combat as a strategy" further:
A) Combat IS and SHOULD be harder to win with than for example stealth-bleed (requiring"salmon strategy" and almost impossible to take more than 3 vp with) is that it BOTH makes it easier for you to oust and makes it harder for the victim to play their game. Stealth-bleed does not work like that.
B ) It is rather boring to play against, especially for new players that have their minions removed and thereby not allowed to participate in the game.
So, when people grasp these bits, maybe never bring this discussion up again? You don´t have to be Richard Garfield to understand these key mechanics of the game, accept them and move on.
So back to the actual topic, increasing the number of VTES players (possibly from among VTM fans) and removing (or at least not strengthening) boring and/or oppressive strategies. In my personal opinion, it is interesting to further explore the VTM lorewise, looking into how the "violent clans" actually manage the Jyhad. From what I understand the setting, few vampires/ vampire coteries are successful with only potence, or only celerity or only protein. They have a mix of skills, and the advantages is what is reflected in the original Jyhad game and in modern VTES. In theory, when the Brujah player have rushed down all blockers, she should follow up with some heavy presence bleeds to take the oust. This is MAYBE a bit too hard. Over the years, attempts have been made to make combat heavy decks a bit stronger (some better: Hell-for-leather, Codex of Edenic Groundkeepers, some worse: Zephyr, Spoils of War). While it would be AWESOME if a new player (coming from RPG fandom) to play her favorite clan Brujah with fancy violence cards, because of balance issues ("A" above) it is very tricky to add more such cards. But please post ideas in the "Expansion Sets & Card Ideas" subforum, because I know designers read them.
One other thing we also need to accept about recruiting new players: VTES is not for everyone. Some are bound to find it slow and boring, especially those that have grown up with moronic phone games with blingy gratification every 3 seconds. But what we do want is to catch people that actually would find VTES great, maybe people that like deck brewing and the game´s social and political aspects and would otherwise play RPGs or boardgames. Thoughts?
"My strategy? Luck is my strategy, of course."
2020 it is going to be around 150.
So till 2020 then
I'm slowly watching Ropecon video, which is amazing in quality and content (it should be on the front page of the site forever IMO), but for two rounds there are mostly dudes bleeding each other with dominate. It's, obviously, much better then EC final with 4 combats doing nothing, but still it's not so diverse as it should be in the game with such enormous card pool as VtES had.
So I got some concerns
Ashur wrote: This is a important conclusion, which I kind of share, and I know for a fact that the current design team is aware of. Its tricky though, balancing the game so that kitchen table players are as pleased as tournament scene players. And making it possible for the former to actually enjoy turning up at a tournament sometimes and still recognize the game and even win some.
Actually this is golden, if it's really the case. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any real evidence of such activity from the design team, as most such problems, plaguing the game from the very beginning (dominate, weenies, predator destroying combat ets) was not addressed at all.
Ashur wrote: In my personal opinion, it is interesting to further explore the VTM lorewise, looking into how the "violent clans" actually manage the Jyhad. From what I understand the setting, few vampires/ vampire coteries are successful with only potence, or only celerity or only protein. They have a mix of skills, and the advantages is what is reflected in the original Jyhad game and in modern VTES. In theory, when the Brujah player have rushed down all blockers, she should follow up with some heavy presence bleeds to take the oust. This is MAYBE a bit too hard. Over the years, attempts have been made to make combat heavy decks a bit stronger (some better: Hell-for-leather, Codex of Edenic Groundkeepers, some worse: Zephyr, Spoils of War). While it would be AWESOME if a new player (coming from RPG fandom) to play her favorite clan Brujah with fancy violence cards, because of balance issues ("A" above) it is very tricky to add more such cards.
Each new card makes the game harder for a new player to grasp.
And also there is a fundamental problem with the approach - when you got an abusive strategy and want to develop a game without nerfing it, than the only way to make other strategies to keep up is to make them also abusing. And this is the road for tournament environment to become hostile to new players.