Welcome to the oral histories of Vampire: the Eternal Struggle.
As of early 2019, I’ve been playing Vampire: the Eternal Struggle, henceforth VtES, for just over 24 years. For over half my life, I have had shoeboxes overflowing with cards for this compelling and throughly unique game.
The game, then known as Jyhad, was first published in 1994. One of the very first collectable card games on the market, its complex mechanics, extended playtimes and emergent strategies meant that it failed to gain the fanbase enjoyed by its older sibling, Magic: the Gathering. Unlike every other comparable game on the market, VtES demanded an extended time to play the game, as well as a high player count to truly make the game compelling (around 2 hours rather than under 30 minutes’ typical playtime, and 4-5 players rather than the simple face-off of 2 players). To 2019’s eyes, VtES‘ duration and player count is instantly reminiscent of a board game – but in 1994, the board game industry was only a fraction of its current size, and fans didn’t have that point of comparison that they enjoy today.
Twenty-four years of play means that VtES has come to represent, in many ways, a symbol of many of my adult friendships. You get to know a lot about people when you sit down with them for two hours at a stretch. We’ve grown up together. Some of us have moved on from the game. Others drifted away for several years, only to return. Our friendships through VtES have opened other doors too. Some of us found housemates, business partners, even our spouses through the game.
Fast-forward to 2018. To build anticipation for VtES‘ upcoming Australian / New Zealand Championships, I began interviewing a number of players from across those two countries. The purpose was to shine a light on this rather motley group – to collect their tales, and share the experiences of what the game has meant to us. I expected a half-dozen responses, but got many times that number. Some of them are re-collected here.
So, back to this site. In the first days of 2019, out of the blue, I got an email from a friend of a friend. He’d missed my earlier message to connect, but was keen to tell his own story of VtES. I’d loved the experience of hearing peoples’ stories, so I sent out a new round of messages. To people who I’d read, and respected. To players who I’d been following since the Usenet days of the ’90s and ’00s. To artists who’d made this game come alive, and let us tell our stories.
VtES is a game that has created and reinforced friendships that have weathered decades. It’s a game that – despite all the sledging, broken deals and cries of doom – has created long-lasting communities.
It’s a game about people, and about stories. And this is the story of Vampire: the Eternal Struggle.