Ke (part 1 of 3), rude awakenings and new ways of playing.

“I first started playing Vampire: the Eternal Struggle around 2001, in London. We were three new players with one experienced player showing us the ropes and abusing our lack of experience. Each of us picked a clan from Final Nights, which had just been released. I ended up with the Assamites which compared to the Setites (stealth bleed + combat ends) and Giovanni (power bleed + combat ends) were definitely the weakest pick. Back then the Assamites could only bleed for 1, everything cost blood and the only available anti-combat ends tech (Psyche) only worked after you had played and paid for all of your red cards… our decks contained 100+ cards and we didn’t really know what we were doing. It was great fun, music, booze and full geekery in effect.

 After a break for a few years the missus suggested I should consider picking up a hobby and asked if there I was interested in — I recalled how much I enjoyed Vampire and an obsession was re-born. By this stage the previous playgroup had moved on so I found a new group at The Jugged Hare every Monday night. This was a rude awakening. Streamlined decks and very experienced players meant it would be 6+ months until I managed a game win — by this point I was well and truly hooked. London also turned out to be the perfect base for regular trips to European tournaments – and since it was my wife’s original suggestion to get a hobby she could hardly object 🙂

 I returned to Auckland after 15 years in the UK after having a son. London is a great city for adults, V:tES and travelling, but not so great for kids. Arriving back in New Zealand, I found myself to be the magical fourth player. This lead to a steady increase in games until eventually we were playing fortnightly. Nikolaj had already introduced the local players to tuned decks and I cemented that further. Our meta evolved into a super heavy aggressive bleed fest; I felt almost proud after participating in a game were multiple players had minions bleeding for 7 or more consecutively. It’s calmed down a bit since then due to newer players being attracted to combat and a brief resurgence of Archon Investigations.

 I’ve been lucky enough to play Vampire with groups from across many different regions – Europe, the UK, USA, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand. In terms of giving very high-level generalisations, English, American, Aussie and Kiwi players appear to be more willing to play experimental / non-tier 1 decks and have a fairly relaxed play style and attitude to deals. Brazilians seem to be drawn to combat, bloat mechanics and feel harder to deal with (although that could just be a language barrier). Europeans, by comparison, typically have a no non-sense attitude to both their play style, deals and decks — their decks are aggressively tuned.

 New Zealand has a small group of dedicated players, and many of us supplement face-to-face games with online play. There’s online play without voice, which can be done over Lackey or JOL. It’s definitely better than no V:tES, but the lack of voice increases the game time and leads to disconnect between the players. Then there’s online play with voice (Lackey, combined typically with Discord) which is the closest online experience we have to normal games. Even without eye contact or body language, you can take a lot of cues from someone’s tone. So much of Vampire is built around deal-making, so voice allows you to make your case both better and faster. It’s also way more social, and I’m beginning to get to know the players using voice fairly well. Casual conversation mid-game is possible over voice; less so when using a keyboard. With voice I’m much more engaged in the game and actively talking shit in a productive manner. There’s a V:tES discord server for Lackey here https://discord.gg/K8Vr3aY if anyone would like to give it a go.

 At the end of 2018 I helped coordinate the first ANZ Pacific League for online Vampire. It was fairly successful with 21 players participating — a large number of them from Europe. This was a bit of a wake-up call for some of the local players due to the no-nonsense nature of the European decks and aggressive play styles. By the end of the league, local players had started to acclimatise fairly well. Hopefully with the next ANZ league, they will hit the ground running.

 The format of the Online Leagues allow players to play any number of decks throughout the events. I managed to be the combined top seed for both the EU league and a US league — this allowed me to skip straight to the final of the first ever Online World Championship. The deck I played was the same deck I played in 2018’s Australian Championship. It’s based around Founders of the Ebony Kingdom with Crows + Potence combat. Nana Buruku is there for her master phase and hand size — however she’s a secondary vamp. The stars are Iniko the Black Lion and Nangila Were. The seating order was:

 1. Michal Kazmierczak, ‘migalart’, Poland: HoS,EL wall

2. Ke, ‘Ke’, New Zealand: Guruhi Combat

3. Martin Weinmayer, ‘angrynewb’, Austria: Girls Animalism

4. Juha Laukkanen, ‘Bloodartist’, Finland: Dem + Obf Bleed

5. Corwin Brindley, ‘DJHedgehog’, USA: Ventrue Stickman

 I was very fortunate in the final with my prey (Martin) playing Girls Animalism rush and selecting Nana as his first minion. I was able to Founder down to my own copy of Nana with the Black Lion and contest cheaply. This provided a possible win condition and it also allowed me to win the first (and subsequent) Ashur cycles. The stealth-bleed of grand prey Juha put Corwin under pressure immediately and soon depleted his Deflections. Being the only player on the table without bounce I was concerned about becoming a bleed sink — however Michal (Harbinger / Legionnaire Wall) seemed more intent on blocking than bouncing. This may have just been card flow, either way I wasn’t complaining. 

 Martin and I continued to contest and he influenced out Aksinya Daclau. The turn prior to Juha ousting Corwin, I managed to Fame and dunk Aksinya with a full and immediately emptied (after the combat) Maskini. This was crucial as it denied Martin the ability to bounce bleeds. He had to bring out another vampire (Cybele) in order to have a chance of winning and was left on 3 pool. 

Juha ousted Corwin and immediately attempted to oust Michal who was forced to play a My Enemy’s Enemy to survive which ousted Martin. I played a Direct Intervention on Michal’s next Telepathic Misdirection causing him to be ousted by Juha (2 VP). You can see this on https://www.twitch.tv/videos/350083857?t=07m02s. The head-to-head was fairly straightforward as Juha was almost out of cards and on my next turn I got Nana Buruku back. From there it was just a case of playing sensible, keeping his minions under control and not messing it up.” 

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