Jon D, and optimistic strategies.

“I started in the beginning. August 1994, suburbs of Chicago. My friends and I already played both Magic: the Gathering and Vampire: the Masquerade and were looking forward to “the vampire card game”.

Our first game lasted for several hours, despite being only a three-player affair with my friend Alex’s limited collection of cards. I eventually won because Lucretia the Cess Queen has +1 stealth on every action (very overpowered at the time!).  We didn’t understand the rules very well or try to game the system. In those early days we had a lot of thematic, uncompetitive decks. Decks that referenced our Vampire RPG campaigns.  Decks where all the library cards began with the letter “A”.  We also hadn’t yet learned to distinguish card types, and at least once we used Night Moves to add stealth to a bleed.

At first, our playgroup all went to different universities which meant we only played over school breaks. After uni, we stopped altogether for a while. My resurgence of interest occurred in the late 1990s when I found booster packs at a shop for fifty cents each. Then it turned out that most of my gamer friends at the time had forgotten stashes of cards in shoeboxes in their respective closets, so we started up again. I have pretty much played ever since!

I’ve inserted in a reference to Vampire: the Eternal Struggle in at least one thing I’ve worked on, that I can remember. During the 1990s I designed a non-collectable card game called Chez Geek. It was published by Steve Jackson Games and won an Origins award in 2000. It was about a group of geeky roommates battling to win the most slack. The original Chez Geek, made with index cards and a marker, included a “Jyhad” card that had a similar Slack value as Magic, but at less Cost. Another reference: I thanked Gilbert Duane and Emerson Bridges in the Acknowledgments of my Master’s thesis, for “their traditional support”. I think I told my advisor they were statisticians.

Jon’s prototype version of Chez Geek included a Jyhad card. Handwritten amendments by Steve Jackson, of Steve Jackson Games.

When my housemates and I split our first box of The Sabbat, we each specialised on a clan and traded to get their cards. I picked Tzimisce, and I’ve usually had a Tzimisce deck kicking around at any given time since then. But while I like some clans more than others, but I don’t really have a favourite. I’m often more interested in individual vamps than their clans; I love Tariq and Agaitas, but am no more enthusiastic than the next Methuselah on Assamites and Harbingers. I like to think I’m known for toolboxy decks, but I don’t know if I actually am. At one time I was probably associated with Ian Forestal and Agaitas. These days, I’m likely associated with optimistic strategies around Troglodytia.

Vampire: the Eternal Struggle has opened doors wherever I’ve gone. When I moved to Ithaca, I was put on to Peter Bakija. When I moved to Canberra, I was put on to Salem, and when I moved to Brisbane, I was put on to Bernard and Steve H. I’ve made some good friends through Vampire.

 I’ve been playing since the beginning, and I still love it. In short, the individual matches continue to be interesting, and I like the people. Because of the predator-prey relationship and the nature of multiplayer dynamics, anything can happen in a game. It helps to be a good player with a good deck, but there are absolutely no guarantees. That means it’s totally worthwhile to wade in with crazy jank and maybe get a game win (I know I’m preaching to the choir here!). Plus, it’s a very stable meta. The old cards and strategies pretty much work, so that guy who hasn’t played since 2005 can rock up and not hit a steep curve. It’s just a really good game.”


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