I haven’t played Vampire with Steve B for 15 or more years, and yet I can honestly say that there’s no-one else I’ve ever played Vampire: the Eternal Struggle with more than him. He and I would play VtES every day, sometimes multiple times a day, for most of our final year of high school. It was Steve who first told me the game wasn’t called Jyhad anymore, and introduced me to these new things called expansion sets. Whilst he’s been out of the scene for years, I’ve loved having a chance to interview him about his time with the game.
“I got into Jyhad in 1994. The reason was simple: it had vampires! I had played Magic and it was okay, but I was really into Vampire: the Masquerade at the time, so anything with vampires hooked me in.
I can’t remember much of those early games, but I do remember taking a while to fully understand the bleed mechanic, especially as we were playing with only two players for ages. We just wanted to beat each other up! I also remember not allowing bleed modifiers after no blocks declared.
I played pretty much from ‘94 to about ‘03, then came in and out a few times thereafter. The early ‘00s scene in Melbourne was fun. It definitely wasn’t always politically correct – I remember crazy 9-11-themed Terrorist decks.
I’ve always loved the game’s theme, and in some ways it was an easier way to play the political, scheming Kindred that we never really managed to do in Vampire: the Masquerade. Our RPGs were quite violence-fueled whereas VtES seemed to play closer to that ideal. Also the multiplayer rules are really solid, and then there was the community that was built around a place called Ong’s Food Court, in the middle of the city.
I loved Toreador and Malkavian decks as they were my favourite clans in the RPG. But I always struggled with toolboxy decks, and stealth-bleed always seemed too cheesy and would end up being bounced around the table. I remember trying out Baali too but struggled to get wins. I would just get angry that it wasn’t working.
As the scene got bigger, I remember our casual games became more like practice for tournaments and the table talk ramped up to a place where I couldn’t compete. People would only bring tried and tested decks to tourneys, while I was still trying to find a way to fit in the crazy stuff.
I was struggling around 2003, and moved away from Melbourne. I started getting into mini wargaming and painting instead. I tried to get back into Magic, but the game and the community felt too toxic. I mostly play X-Wing and co-op boardgames now – VtES has a lot of similarities to board games; maybe the new owners could market the game as a ‘living boardgame’, to attract new players.
I’m also really loving Richard Garfield’s new game, Keyforge. It’s a really dynamic and different type of game. I scored first place at my debut sealed deck tournament, and I wish I had more time to play it.
VtES is a game that always feels balanced and structured. It was rare for things to happen out of the blue, and you could see the build up and preparation. It seems much more of an even start, unlike Magic where it all depends on your opening hand. It was rare that you felt you couldn’t do anything, so you were always part of the unfolding story.”