VTES was the second card game designed by Richard Garfield (designer of Magic the Gathering, Netrunner, and other games). It was designed to avoid some of the flaws that Garfield found in Magic: VTES does not require you to include resource or mana cards in your deck, and cards are instantly replaced when played, meaning that card draw isn’t as important as knowing when to discard or “cycle away” a card. It also has a gameplay experience more in keeping with a boardgame than a traditional card game – VTES is usually played by 4 or 5 players and games can last up to 2 hours.

Unlike most multi-player games, players in VTES do not engage in a free-for-all. Instead, each player directs their attacks to the player on their left (their “prey”) and defends against the player on their right (their “predator”). You gain victory points by eliminating or “ousting” your prey from the game, in which case the next player to the left becomes your new prey. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins (even if they have been ousted!). This arrangement makes the game a very social one – you and the player two seats to the left and right have common enemies. But if you help these allies too much, you may find that you’ve made one of them too strong, and when they suddenly become your new predator, your help has transformed an ally into a deadly threat.

VTES is also a resource management game. Each player begins with 30 points of influence called “pool” that Methuselahs hold dearer than unlife itself. If you run out of pool, you are ousted from the game. But this pool is also the way that you sway vampires to your cause. Weak fledgling vampire are easily seduced, but the older more powerful ones require more convincing, which may require multiple turns to accomplish. Once a vampire is converted to your side, all the pool you spent on them becomes blood possessed by that vampire, which can be spent to play cards that allow them to activate their unique vampiric powers. Each minion must manage their blood and you must manage your pool – spending more provides you with additional minions, but brings you one step closer to being ousted. Under- or over- investing in your minions may well cost you the game.

In short, you are likely to enjoy this game if you enjoy any of following:

  • a modern, supernatural setting.
  • card games like Magic the Gathering.
  • very social multi-player games that involve a lot of deal making.
  • games with a long play time, and with complex rules that encourage great strategic depth.

Conversely, you are not likely to enjoy this game if you are opposed to the following:

  • games that include player elimination.
  • long games with many layers of strategy.
  • games that require a group to play.