Steve W, and a view from semi-retirement.

“I started with the game when I randomly bought a Jyhad starter in 1994. I was an ex-Vampire: the Masquerade player, so the setting and (pretty obscure) terminology were familiar, but I still had no bloody idea what I was doing at first. My brother Tony and I learned the game together with a single starter deck, and in those early games we constantly mis-used or misread cards. I remember using votes as action modifiers because they said “+1 stealth”!

I played for some months, but stopped collecting new cards after the renaming of the game to Vampire: the Eternal Struggle in 1995. I still kept playing occasionally, just with mates, before going to my first actual tournament in Adelaide around 1998. I managed to come second with my Jyhad-only political deck, which got me interested again. I ended up buying a box of Ancient Hearts and started playing regular games with Si and the Adelaide group.

I played pretty regularly from there up until around the Gehenna set. By that point I just kind of got too busy to play much, even socially. That hiatus lasted until around 2008 or so. I’ve only really played a few times a year since then, although I do try to make tournaments.

Moving in and out of the game over the years gives me a different perspective on how the game has changed. I’ve found that the grouping rule makes it difficult for older, occasional players like me to re-engage with the game. I’ve always thought an odd-and-even group rule would address that but I guess it never happened. Also, the older cards mostly don’t stack up against later sets, particularly the powerful library cards. On the other hand, certain clusters of vampires or clans – like Group 1-2 Malkavians – can get the job done even today.

I guess since i haven’t invested heavily in many cards since around Gehenna, my deck types are also pretty consistent. That said, I haven’t really developed a favourite strategy or approach to the game over the years – I’d say I’m pretty consistently awful at most aspects of the game!

Despite sometimes feeling a bit behind on my collection or approach to the game, I still think tournaments are the best thing ever. Everyone focused on winning and very little mucking around with ‘hilarious’ table-ruining concept decks. (Well, unless there are Imbued. Imbued ruin everything. They are the one aspect of the WOD that I always thought was pretty stupid thematically, and I found their implementation in VtES to be awful.)

Reflecting on how the game reflects its RPG roots and how it’s changed over the years, I think it probably matches the World of Darkness setting as well as is necessary for good gameplay. Things like clan weaknesses are generally a disaster, but the theme of each clan is pretty well represented. However, some of the later names for discipline cards are stretching credibility, and eventually we’re going to have to stop printing stuff like ‘Supernatural Super Duper Strength but with Shadows!’ 

The setting and backstory of the World of Darkness is only a secondary reason behind why I keep playing. The rules, though excellent, are tertiary. Above everything else, it’s the table politics and players’ machinations that keep me coming back.”

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