heart VtES could use more play variants. (a.k.a. "I want Hanafuda VTES!")

01 Dec 2019 18:31 #98078 by Azel
The ennui has once again taken me away from my ardent love of VTES. And though some young bloods -- upon listening to me reminisce -- have asked me to introduce the game to them, I haven't had the inspiration to bother. Something about the game's state feels "solved" to me, like re-slogging through mud looking for the whimsy of yesteryear.

... and on a lark I returned and tried to catch up here on VEKN fora. Same old recurring topics, some rule changes in the right direction (ever so slowly), and still feeling little interest beyond nostalgia -- until? Until this delightful exchange:

LivesByProxy wrote:

Ashur wrote: Interesting. What is the potential of VTES?


To me, it looks like VTES wanted to be a game where players took actions with their vampires that was reminiscent of role-playing in WoD. Your vampire would get a Leather Jacket, a Hawg, and a Shotgun and be able to use vampire powers like "blur", "acrobatics" or whatever. He or she might even employee some retainers, create a ghoul, make a pact with the local street gangs, and slowly start to build a herd.

And all of that is really cool, but in VTES that's a dozen different actions with 1 minion that are not directly winning you the game. And the game is about winning.

It's like, the actions VTES wanted to be originally based around: employing retainers, recruiting allies and pawns, moving equipment around - all things that simulate vampires doing stuff in the WoD, all vestigial indicators of the original vision of Jyhad - pales in comparison to the efficiency and effectiveness of big bleeds timed precisely successfully connecting with your prey.

VTES has the potential to be a game about vampires doing vampire stuff like gearing up with half-a-dozen different items, spying on each other, blackmailing one another, vampires with vendettas against others, etc. etc. Create a interesting network of layered relationships between the vampires on the board.

TwoRazorReign wrote:

LivesByProxy wrote: And the game is about winning.


I would argue this was not the original intention, per the first Jyhad rulebook: "Your goal is to use your minions to destroy the influence the other Methuselahs hold over their minions." There is no mention of victory points or who is declared the winner in this description, and it may have been on purpose. The idea at the time (1994) was to have a card game where players role play ancient vampires whose only purpose is to mess up everyone’s plans. Thus, being more concerned about gearing up minions and destroying a rival (not even your prey) was just as fair game as trying to accumulate victory points. One game, two players role playing ancient vampires may battle each other cross table just out of spite making the outcome of the game totally random (perhaps to the chagrin of the other 3 ancient vampires), where the next those two make up and everyone plays nice for victory points. Then maybe in a subsequent game the "doing things out of spite" cycle repeats. And so on. This interaction between ancient vampires and how just one of them acting unruly can make everyone's unlife miserable is what the "eternal struggle" is referring to in the source material.

While the objective of the game did change since Jyhad, the game did not change to fit this objective. And I think this currently contributes to a disconnect between trying to play the game competitively and how the game actually functions.

Ashur wrote:

TwoRazorReign wrote: I would argue this was not the original intention, per the first Jyhad rulebook: "Your goal is to use your minions to destroy the influence the other Methuselahs hold over their minions." ...

This is a poetic paraphrase, and keep in mind that influence = pool, so "destroy their influence" is pretty much "destroy their pool". Which of course can be done in various ways. But yes, the victory point system was added later.

TwoRazorReign wrote: And I think this currently contributes to a disconnect between trying to play the game competitively and how the game actually functions.

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. More feedback on this topic is great for Black Chantry and VEKN officials to take part of, keep it coming!

TwoRazorReign wrote:

Ashur wrote: This is a poetic paraphrase, and keep in mind that influence = pool, so "destroy their influence" is pretty much "destroy their pool". Which of course can be done in various ways. But yes, the victory point system was added later.


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).


Ooh, sweet inspiration! :kiss: :silly: :woohoo: Yes, that is it!

VTES has trudged the Path of Spike (MtG player archetype shorthand for hyper-competitive), with a strong Path of Spike/Johnny (hyper-competitive with creative combos) alternate, for a little too long. It feels long in the tooth, staple cards staying as they are since the beginning, and fighting against its original "artsy-fartsy" Vorthos (archetype that wants to immerse in fictional characterization) composition.

Basically, VTES forgot the other player archetypes, the other reasons people want to play, simple attraction to the fiction itself. :whistle:

And so, after all that reading, I propose VTES needs new play formats.

Part of that is it doesn't have to change the official card pool legality for official tournament play -- but! it can be shaped into changing card pools for variants. Yes, that means something less like draft and more like MtG Commander. :evil:

And, given that its original Jyhad state is full of easy to grok "Vampires being cool and spiteful to each other!" emotional drive, what better way to draw fresh blood back into the Eternal Struggle? Let's tap into the vampiric cool with immersive-friendly alternate formats. I personally want an artsy-fartsy Hanafuda* style VTES where VPs are pointless, and play is just about artful drama & destruction. (Maybe library deck cards can be burned to take pool loss, or be sacrificed to add more pool, to keep the destruction ongoing?)

*(Hanafuda is a Japanese deck of cards focused on flowers and seasons, with some gambling games attached, but not always, and rules are rather loosey-goosey emotional aesthetic.)

Or we could actually talk about a 3-player friendly format? That way games take less time and more people can play without locking down two+ hours of their life. The card pool would again have to be reconsidered. But just like MtG Commander breathed new life into old card sales without crimping the tourney scene, same could be with Duel or 3-Way VTES formats.

Anyway, it's been far too long for me since VTES' potential felt refreshing, and I would love for this to become a thing. It also steps very lightly on design toes and the current competitive state of play. So, who wants to brainstorm new ALT VTES formats? :cheer:

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03 Dec 2019 15:11 - 03 Dec 2019 15:19 #98121 by LivesByProxy
I'm honestly surprised that someone was inspired by my some of my views on VTES.

I mean, I've been playing every couple of months or so for about 2 years, and I've been posting for at least that long. But the bulk of my posts are about ways to change the game, hopefully improving it, because as much as like the game, I can't help but feel disillusioned by it.

Don't misunderstand me, I think the core game-play of predator-prey relationship, stealth vs intercept battle, maneuver-strike-press combat loop, the political system, card cycling, pool being your life-line and currency, all those things are great.

But I had such high hopes for this grand multi-player experience, but then the actual card designs are... barely conducive to multiplayer game-play IMO. I mean, there are only a handful of cards that directly play with the multiplayer aspect of the game: Dramatic Upheaval, Succubus Club, Game of Malkav, Monocle of Clarity, Malkavian Prank... the remaining 99.9% of the card pool rely on Garfield's predator-prey structure and referendum system.

For example, I recently posited that more could be done to make players burn pool, like having cards that incentivize "paying" each other pool for cool effects.

A long time ago I begged for more interesting political actions, and more cards to play with the political system in more ways than just "get titles (votes)" and "burn pool".

I suggested that there be a "plot" (or "scheme" if you prefer) action where a vamp can put an action card under themself face-down, to be used during the future. Then there could be cards which played with plots.

I thought it would be cool if there were more cards that stole vampires or added more bidding to the game - what if blood on a vampire were also a measure of their loyalty?

I thought it would be cool if there were cards that changed the way contesting works to make it like the psi-game from Netrunner (secretly pick 0, 1, or 2 pool - if opponent guesses right/wrong/odd/even then: [effect].)

I'm wondering if more can be done to increase the element of bluffing and hidden information - the aforementioned "plot" action would be one step in that direction; what if the stealth-intercept battle let players commit cards from their hand face-down to add suspense? What if casting votes and ballots was done in secret, that way no one is entirely sure who voted for who? Mystery, drama, intrigue, politicking, betrayal, etc. etc.

Edit: And really, there are so few cards that let us interact positively with cross-table players. Kindred Spirits, Babble, Eagle Sight, and some intercept locations come to mind, but that's like 10 cards out of 2.2K...

I also even suggested there being more cards which directly changed the rules of how players could negotiate. I suggested a card that limited players to only making one deal/offer per turn, which another player could then make one new deal/counter-offer to, and if neither agree, then they were done negotiating. Cards that very explicitly and directly change the social aspect of the game in a meta way, like Madness of the Bard.

:gang: :CEL: :FOR: :PRO: :cap6: Gangrel. Noddist. Camarilla. Once each turn, LivesByProxy may burn 1 blood to lose Protean :PRO: until the end of the turn and gain your choice of superior Auspex :AUS:, Obfuscate :OBF:, or Potence :POT: for the current action.
Last edit: 03 Dec 2019 15:19 by LivesByProxy.

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03 Dec 2019 15:41 #98122 by Ankha

LivesByProxy wrote: Don't misunderstand me, I think the core game-play of predator-prey relationship, stealth vs intercept battle, maneuver-strike-press combat loop, the political system, card cycling, pool being your life-line and currency, all those things are great.

But I had such high hopes for this grand multi-player experience, but then the actual card designs are... barely conducive to multiplayer game-play IMO. I mean, there are only a handful of cards that directly play with the multiplayer aspect of the game: Dramatic Upheaval, Succubus Club, Game of Malkav, Monocle of Clarity, Malkavian Prank... the remaining 99.9% of the card pool rely on Garfield's predator-prey structure and referendum system.


It's funny how you quote banned cards that were terrible for the game experience. You can negociate with plenty of cards, including intercept, rush, contest, crosstable actions (rescue, diablerie etc.), even with a Govern. If you don't see how, just come to France :) Apparently, we like to play it social whereas in some countries, it's just "play your game" stuff.

Prince of Paris, France
Ratings Coordinator, Rules Director

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03 Dec 2019 16:51 #98124 by LivesByProxy

Ankha wrote: It's funny how you quote banned cards that were terrible for the game experience. You can negociate with plenty of cards, including intercept, rush, contest, crosstable actions (rescue, diablerie etc.), even with a Govern. If you don't see how, just come to France :) Apparently, we like to play it social whereas in some countries, it's just "play your game" stuff.


The game experience or the tournament scene?

The point about negotiation was that VTES has few rules or cards (which are rules by proxy) that directly and explicitly change or effect negotiation as a game mechanism. For example, the 2016 board-game New Angeles by FFG has written rules and a precise structure for how negotiating is to be done. In VTES there are no rules for negotiating, and if it's not in the rules its not in the game. It is something that players may or may not do, but as a mechanism of the game itself, it doesn't exist. Like playing with the seating order mid-game, it is unused and forgotten. It is a byproduct of VTES's gameplay, that VTES shares with every other competitive multiplayer game.

:gang: :CEL: :FOR: :PRO: :cap6: Gangrel. Noddist. Camarilla. Once each turn, LivesByProxy may burn 1 blood to lose Protean :PRO: until the end of the turn and gain your choice of superior Auspex :AUS:, Obfuscate :OBF:, or Potence :POT: for the current action.

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04 Dec 2019 20:32 - 04 Dec 2019 20:33 #98142 by TwoRazorReign

Azel wrote: And so, after all that reading, I propose VTES needs new play formats.


Hmm. I really like the spirit of your post. But I think the formats you seek already exist. Or at least they do for me. My favorite "format" is casual play, with house rules as appropriate. For example, I tend to play a lot of 2-player games with a house rule that decks are built to be competitive with each other. So two decks can be built with the focus on gearing up minions, with only the occasional big bleed. The actual game tends to be extremely close because the decks were designed around ensuring the game will be competitive. And since the focus of the decks is to gear up minions, this is destined to happen, in spite of the mechanics of the game (reducing opponent's pool = winning; everything else = losing). Of course, the decks are unblinded, so there's no guesswork into what deck the opponent is playing. But for me, that's no big loss; a competitive game is more fun than trying to guess and getting it right or getting bled out.

Anyway, if I tried to play VTES following tournament rules, I would get bored very fast. The only way that kind of VTES would work for me is if everybody was trying to roleplay ancient vampires instead of trying to win, which I strongly feel was the original intention for the game. At any rate, keeping things super casual as stated above has helped me avoid ennui with the game.
Last edit: 04 Dec 2019 20:33 by TwoRazorReign.

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