Overview of Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

Vampire: The Eternal Struggle is a trading card game in which two or more players take on the roles of ancient vampires known as Methuselahs. Methuselahs are considered mere legend by younger vampires. Younger vampires think that they pursue their own ends... even as they are being used by one Methuselah to undercut the influence of another. Throughout the world, Methuselahs manipulate their minions to frustrate the designs of the other Methuselahs, just as they have for as long as they can remember. These eternal struggles, sometimes covert and subtle, sometimes open and spectacular, are collectively known as the Jyhad.


Object of the Game

Your goal is to accumulate the most victory points by destroying the influence held by rival Methuselahs. You accomplish this goal by using your influence to gain control of younger vampires and using those vampires to take actions to reduce the influence of rival Methuselahs. Influence is represented by pool counters (see Equipment Needed, sec. 1.2), the main currency of the game. When a Methuselah runs out of pool counters, she* is bereft of influence and ousted from the game. As Methuselahs are ousted, players earn victory points; the winner is the player with the most victory points at the end of the game (see Victory Points, sec. 9.1).

* Throughout this rulebook, references to players (Methuselahs) will be feminine ("she" and "her"), while references to minions (characters represented in the game) will be masculine ("he" and "his"). These pronouns are not intended to identify gender; this is merely a useful method to avoid both cumbersome "he or she" constructions and ambiguity.

This rulebook provides the comprehensive rules of the game; don't feel like you have to absorb all the rules at once. Vampire: The Eternal Struggle is a game of complex strategies that are acquired over time. Once you learn the basics, play the game, and then consult the rulebook when you have questions.


1.1. Important Terms in the Game

  1. Locking and Unlocking: During play, you will turn cards sideways to "lock" them, indicating that the cards have been used for some particular purpose or effect. Unlocking a card restores it to its original position, indicating that the card is reset and will be able to be locked again later. Only unlocked minions can take actions, block the actions of other minions, or play reaction cards (see Minion Phase, sec. 6).
  2. Burn: When a card is "burned," it is placed into its owner's discard pile (the discard pile is called the "ash heap" for this reason). The ash heap can be examined by any player at any time. When a counter is "burned," it is returned to the blood bank (see Blood Bank and the Edge, sec 2.2). Sometimes, an instruction may say to remove a card from the game. While some cards and effects can retrieve cards from the ash heap, cards that are removed from the game cannot be retrieved or affected in any way. When a card is burned or removed from the game, any counters or other cards on it are burned.

1.2. Equipment Needed

  1. Cards: Each player needs two decks: a crypt and a library. The cards in your crypt represent the vampires (or other minions) you hope to control; they have oval portraits on the front and amber marble backs. They must all be from the same group or from two consecutive groups (see Overview of Crypt Cards, sec 1.5). The cards in your library represent the things you or your minions can do or use; they have square illustrations on the front and green marble backs. Each player must have at least 12 cards in her crypt and at least 40 cards in her library. Each player may add up to 10 additional cards to her library per player in the game. Thus, in a six-player game, each player may have a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 100 cards in her library. There is no limit on the maximum number of cards a player can have in her crypt. There is no per-card limit to the number of a given card that a player can include in either her library or crypt.
  2. Blood Counters: Blood counters are an integral part of the game. Each player needs about 40 counters: 30 for her starting pool and an extra 10 blood counters to help fill the communal blood bank (see Blood Bank and the Edge, sec 2.2). When you burn a blood counter, you return it to the blood bank. Blood counters that you "pay" or "spend" are also considered burned. Blood counters can be any convenient items, such as pennies, glass beads or stones. Single-item methods of keeping track of changing numbers (e.g., dice) are discouraged, due to the frequent need to move counters from one place to another.
  3. The Edge: The Edge is a symbol showing that your minions have temporarily given you an advantage over the other Methuselahs. It is given or passed to a player who successfully bleeds another player (see Bleed, sec. 6.1.1), and it imparts certain advantages to the player controlling it (see Unlock Phase, sec. 4, and Gaining Votes, sec. 6.3.3). Choose an object to represent the Edge. Any small, distinctive object, such as a coin or a glove, will do.

1.3. Golden Rule of Card Ownership

Your cards are never transferred to another player permanently as a result of card play. At the end of the game, the cards you began the game with are returned to you. If you are ousted before the end of the game, any of your cards that other players control remain in play until burned as normal.


1.4. The Golden Rule for Cards

Whenever the cards contradict the rules, the cards take precedence.


1.5. Overview of Crypt Cards

Each crypt card (the amber-backed cards) has a set of elements that describe the vampire: his name, blood capacity, clan, Disciplines (powers), group and any special abilities or political title he has. These elements are described below. Some advanced expansions include other types of crypt cards. Details for these types can be found on the web site. See More Information.

  1. Name: The name of the vampire appears at the top of the card. Each crypt card is unique, so only one copy of each can be in play at a time. A second Methuselah could contest control of the vampire (see Contested Cards, sec. 4.1), which means that the Methuselahs are struggling for control of him.
  2. Blood capacity: The number in the red circle in the lower right corner of the card is the vampire's capacity. This number reflects many things at once: the vampire's relative age (larger numbers represent older vampires), the amount of influence (in pool) a Methuselah must invest in him in order to bring him under her control and the maximum ability he has to heal wounds or play cards (some cards cost blood to play).

A vampire with a larger capacity than another is said to be older, and one with a smaller capacity is younger. A vampire cannot have more blood than his capacity; if an effect puts more blood on him than his capacity allows, the excess is always moved to the blood bank immediately.

An uncontrolled vampire (see Play Area, sec. 2.3) will have blood counters stacked on it representing the amount of influence that has been invested in him. During the influence phase, if that stack equals or exceeds his blood capacity, you can reveal the vampire and place him in the ready region (see Play Area, sec. 2.3). He retains the blood counters used to influence him on his card to serve as his blood (see Influence Phase, sec. 7).

  1. Clan: Each vampire belongs to a clan, identified by the symbol at the top of the attribute bar (the marble stripe on the left side of the card). See the reference pages in the center of the rules booklet for a list of the clan symbols. Some library cards require a member of a particular vampire clan to play, while other library cards may affect only vampires of a particular clan. The clans are grouped into sects (see Vampire Sects, sec. 10).
  2. Disciplines: These are supernatural powers that vampires possess. The Disciplines possessed by the vampire are represented by the group of symbols at the bottom of the attribute bar. The vampire's Disciplines determine which library cards he can play. If a library card requires a Discipline (noted by a Discipline symbol on the attribute bar of the library card), then only vampires who have that Discipline can play it.

Each of a vampire's Discipline symbols is in the shape of either a square or a diamond. A square-shaped Discipline symbol means that the vampire has one level of that Discipline, the basic level; he can use only the basic (plain text) effect listed on a card that requires that Discipline. A Discipline symbol within a diamond signifies that the vampire has an additional level of that Discipline, the superior level, and therefore may opt to use either the basic (plain text) or the superior (bold) effect listed on the card (but not both).

Some library cards have multiple Discipline symbols on the attribute bar. Some of the effects listed on these cards require one of the Disciplines listed, while other effects require another listed Discipline, and some effects require the vampire to possess several Disciplines. Each effect shows the icon(s) of the Discipline(s) required.

  1. Group: Each vampire belongs to a specific group, identified by a number above the upper left corner of the text box. A player's crypt must be built using vampires from a single group or from two consecutive groups. This does not restrict a Methuselah from stealing vampires from other groups through play, however. Cards from some older sets do not have this designation. For those cards, the ones with an expansion set symbol (an icon in the upper right corner of the card) are treated as Group 2 vampires; the others are Group 1 vampiiconmiscadvancedres.
  2. Advancement: An advancement card is a type of vampire card for your crypt. An advancement card looks just like a regular crypt card except that it has an Advancement icon under the clan icon.

The advancement card is a vampire card in all respects, so it can be influenced in the normal manner. In addition, if you already control the advancement or the associated regular "base" vampire and the other version of the vampire is in your uncontrolled region, then you can spend 4 transfers and 1 pool to move the vampire card from your uncontrolled region to the controlled vampire card (place the advancement card on top of the base card). The two cards effectively merge to form a single vampire.

The particulars of this merge are as follows. The counters and cards on the vampire remain. The advancement and the base card are treated as a single vampire card, even if sent to the uncontrolled region somehow, until the vampire is burned. Any effects in play that targeted the vampire now target the merged version.

When merged, the text on the base card still applies, but the rest of the card is ignored (capacity, Disciplines, etc.). The advancement card applies in full. If the advancement card conflictsiconmiscmergedold with the base card (a different sect, for example), the advancement card has precedence. Some merged cards have an additional effect that only applies if the card is merged with its base card. Such an effect is identified in the card text by a "merged" icon.

The advanced vampire (merged or not) will contest other copies of the same vampire (advanced or not) in play, as usual.


1.6. Overview of Library Cards


1.6.1. General

  1. Playing Cards. There are four main types of library cards: convictions, master cards, minion cards and event cards. Convictions are put in play during the unlock phase (see details in the Imbued Rules appendix); master cards are played by Methuselahs; minion cards are played by the minions (vampires and allies) the Methuselahs control; event cards are put into play during the discard phase to represent events that affects the World of Darkness as a whole (see section 8). Master cards have no icon at the top of the attribute bar while the other cards have an icon there that indicates what type of card it is. A card is played by placing it face up in the playing area or by showing it to the other players and placing it face up in the ash heap. The player completely declares the effect of the card when it is played.

Some effects can cancel a card "as it is played." These effects as well as wake effects (see Special Terms, sec. 11) are the only effects allowed during the "as played" time period of another card. Even drawing to replace cards comes after this time period.

  1. Drawing Cards. Whenever you play a library card from your hand, you immediately draw another from your library to replace it (unless card text says otherwise, of course). If your library is empty, then you do not draw to replenish your hand, but you continue to play. The number of cards in your hand should always match your hand size (cards that are replaced later reduce your hand size for the duration of the effect). Whenever they don't match (when an effect changes your hand size or adds or removes cards from your hand, for example), immediately discard down to or draw up to your hand size.
  2. Requirements for Playing Cards. Each library card has symbols on the attribute bar (the marble stripe on the left side) for the card type (except for master cards), the clan or Discipline (if any) required to play the card and the cost (if any) of playing that card. Some cards will have other requirements (such as capacity or title) stated in the card text. Only a minion who meets the requirements given on a minion card can play it, while only a Methuselah who controls a ready minion who meets the requirements of a master card can plaiconmiscburnoptiony it.

Some cards that have a requirement also have a burn option icon. This icon means that a Methuselah who doesn't control a minion that meets the requirements may discard the card during any Methuselah's unlock phase. Each Methuselah is limited to one such discard each unlock phase.

A drop of blood with a number on the left side of a library card (in the middle of the side or in the bottom corner) indicates the amount of blood or pool that must be burned to play the card. A number in a red drop represents blood cost (the amount of blood the vampire must burn). A number in a white diamond with a skull represents pool cost (the amount of pool the Methuselah must burn).

  1. Targets. If a card is played on another card, or selects or chooses or otherwise targets another card, the target card must be in play (i.e., controlled). Vampires in the torpor region are eligible targets by default, but vampires in the uncontrolled region and contested cards are not.
  2. Sequencing. If two or more players want to play a card or effect, the acting Methuselah plays first. At every stage, the acting player always has the opportunity to play the next card or effect. So after playing one effect, she may play another and another. Once she is finished, the opportunity passes to the defending Methuselah (in the cases of directed actions and combat), then to the rest of the Methuselahs in clockwise order from the acting Methuselah. Note that if any Methuselah uses a card or effect, the acting Methuselah again gets the opportunity to play the next effect.
  3. Draft Effects. Some cards have a special booster-pack version that also lists, in a gray box identified as "DRAFT:", an additional way to use the card. This effect can only be used in a draft or sealed deck tournament. Any bold text, like "+1 stealth action", in bold at the top of the regular text applies to the whole card, including the draft effect. Card cost applies as normal to the draft effect, as well. Clan and Discipline requirements are given in the draft effect section (and are independent of any Clan or Discipline requirement of the regular effects).

1.6.2. Master Cards

Master cards are cards you play in your role as a Methuselah. There are two types of master cards: out-of-turn and the regular master cards. Some types of regular master cards are: locations and Disciplines (and there are other regular master cards that don't have a specific type). Regular master cards are played during your master phase. You can normally play only one regular master card during your master phase. Out-of-turn master cards can be played during other players' turns. By playing an out-of-turn master card, you are effectively "borrowing" from your next master phase -- that is, playing the card now instead of waiting until your next master phase.

A master card in play is, by default, controlled by the Methuselah who played it, even if it is played on a card controlled by another Methuselah.

The general types of master cards are as follows:

  1. Locations: A location card represents a place (a building, a city or a designated gathering place, for example) that a Methuselah or her minions control. A location card stays in play and may be used repeatedly, even on the turn it is played. Some library cards (such as Arson) can burn them.
  2. Disciplines: A Discipline card is played on a controlled vampire (even one controlled by another Methuselah) to give him an additional level of a Displine, either giving a vampire the basic level of a new Discipline or adding a level to one he already has (increasing the level of a Discipline from basic to superior). The vampire also gains an additional blood capacity (the "+1" in the red circle in the bottom right corner of the card indicates this) along with the Discipline granted, but he does not automatically gain an extra blood to fill the new capacity.
  3. Trophy: A trophy may be put into play using a master phase action (or can be retrieved as listed under "Red List" in section 11). It has no effect until it is moved to a vampire. When any vampire burns a Red List minion in combat or as a (D) action (including diablerie), the controller of the trophy may choose to move the trophy to that vampire. Any number of trophies in play may be moved to the vampire in this way (in addition to the single trophy that the vampire's controller may retrieve from her library, ash heap or hand). Once placed on a vampire, a trophy is controlled by the controller of the vampire it is on, and it cannot be awarded again.
  4. Out-of-turn: You may play an out-of-turn master card whenever appropriate during another player's turn. Doing so counts against your next master phase, even if the Out-of-turn master card is cancelled (see Master Phase, sec. 5). You cannot play a second out-of-turn master card before your next master phase. You cannot play an out-of-turn master card on your own turn.
  5. Trifle: Some master cards are identified as trifles. When a Methuselah plays a trifle (and it isn't canceled), she gains an additional master phase action. For an out-of-turn trifle, she gains a master phase action in her next master phase. A Methuselah can gain only one master phase action from trifles in a given master phase; others act like regular master cards.
  6. Other master cards: Any master cards not explained here have their effects described on them. These master cards are discarded when they are played unless the card says to put it into play or to play it on some other card.

1.6.3. Minion Cards

Minion cards are cards that your vampires and allies (collectively referred to as "minions") play. Unless the card states otherwise, a minion card is burned after a minion plays it.

By default, a minion card in play is controlled by the controller of the minion it is on. If a minion card is just in play and not on another controlled card, then it is, by default, controlled by the Methuselah who played it.

In many cases, a minion card will have a Discipline symbol, a clan symbol and/or a blood cost; in these cases, the card can only be played by a vampire who meets the requirements.

Some allies have the ability to play certain cards "as a vampire." In these cases, the ally is treated as a vampire for all effects generated by the play of the card, including duration effects (like "for the remainder of combat"). The ally's life represents his blood (to pay costs, for example). Any blood he gains or loses as a vampire equates to a gain or loss of life for the ally. For purposes of that card, the ally has a capacity of 1 by default (for use if the card requires an older vampire or a vampire of a given capacity). If the ally gains life in excess of his capacity, it doesn't drain off, and if the effect inflicts aggravated damage on the ally, he burns life as normal. However, if the effect would send the ally to torpor, then he is burned instead. The ally is treated as a vampire only for the effect generated from playing the card. In particular, the ally is not treated as a vampire for effects the card has from being in play (like "the vampire with this card" effects).

The general types of minion cards are as follows:



Action cards: A minion can play an action card to take an action other than the default actions like "hunt". Only one action card can be played for the action; action cards cannot be used to modify other actions.



Action modifier cards: The acting minion can play these cards to modify his action. For example, some action modifiers increase the acting minion's stealth or bleed amount or give him more votes. A minion cannot play the same action modifier more than once during a single action.



Ally, equipment and retainer cards: These action cards represent things that a minion can bring into play by taking an action. It takes one action for each card. A minion cannot bring two equipment cards into play in a single action, for example. Equipment and retainer cards are played on the minion playing them (the acting minion), while allies are put into play and remain independent from the acting minion. Equipment and retainers are burned when the minion they are played on is burned.



Political cards: A political action card can be played to call a referendum as an action, or it can be discarded during a referendum to gain a vote.



Combat cards: These are played by minions when in combat (see Combat, sec. 6.4).



Reaction cards: A ready unlocked minion can play a reaction card in response to an action taken by another Methuselah's minion (an action taken by one of a Methuselah's minions cannot be reacted to by any of her own minions). A minion cannot play the same reaction card more than once during a single action. A reaction card does not lock the minion using it.



Reflex cards: A minion can play a reflex card to cancel a specified kind of card played against him as it is played.



Powers: These action cards are only playable by Imbueds (see the Imbued Rules appendix).


1.6.4. Event Cards

Event cards are played to represent events that affect the World of Darkness as a whole. Once each discard phase, a Methuselah may use a discard phase action to put an event card inicontypeevent play. Each event can only be played once in a game. An event card is controlled by the Methuselah who played it, by default.