Bindusara: What was your introduction to V:TES like? Did you have much exposure to either CCGs or the World of Darkness before that point?
Johannes: I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering with Andreas Nusser and on tournaments before. It was pretty competitive. He introduce me to V:TES (at that point ‘that weird vampire game’ to me) as he had done lots of World of Darkness gaming before. It must have been around 2000. I had never even heard of World of Darkness. I have few recollections about details of those games, but I remember I did like Jost Werner. It was a pretty steep learning curve even with the Magic experience, the whole five-player dynamic takes lots of practice. In those days the whole re-arranging of seating with the votes that got banned later was a really strong strategy. It was called VP sniping, basically you waited until someone was almost dead and then you moved into the spot of his predator.
B: What was the broader scene like?
J: At those days we had a regular group going on in our home town. I played my first tournament at the Final Nights pre-release I think. Pretty soon we started to travel to foreign countries for tournaments, like the European Championship in Vienna. Our tournaments in Germany were popular with French and Belgian players and we formed a circle of friends over those countries and players were frequently visiting both and back. We never really had to compete with other CCGs because V:TES events were mostly separate and also the social / friendship aspect of it was such a strong factor.
B: What was it about Vampire that hooked you?
J: The complexity of the game. It has so many aspects that it can capture ones attention for a long time, many years. And the continuity in the card pool for tournaments. One aspect I never liked about Magic was the need to constantly rotate your card pool to be able to participate in tournaments. On top of that I like the crowd V:TES attracts, in tournaments and casual games, people are from your age bracket mostly and most of them are really nice and there is lots of common interest beyond V:TES. Like beer 🙂
B: What do people get when they sit down against you at a tournament? Is it the same as a casual game, or do you have a certain style of deck or play that you bring to the table for an event?
J: Our casual game was always competitive so I don’t think there is a difference for me. I don’t have a certain style or type of deck that I favour so it is a broad range. Sometimes I like to come up with a variant or whole new idea of my own, sometimes I just copy what worked for someone else.
B: So, let’s talk a little about V:EKN. When did you first get involved in the playter organisation, and how did your involvement evolve? What were the highlights of your time as Chair?
J: That will be a long story. When I started playing tournaments I quickly became involved in organising them. I always partnered with Andreas Nusser for this and we became frequent hosts of German Qualifiers, Championships, Prerelease Tournaments and also organised a European Championship in 2004. This is one of my highlights since we put a lot of energy into it and at the time it was regarded as the best organised big tournament yet so I am very proud of that. We also pioneered the idea (at least in Europe) of having a dedicated hotel with the venue of play. In our travel across Europe Andreas and I realised that availability of cards was not always great beyond the big capital cities so we decided to launch our own webshop dedicated to V:TES. Very soon we were the largest V:TES distributor worldwide and then it was just natural that we did a lot of the talk with White Wolf about promos, tournament support and so forth. That made those things much more available in Europe. Together with other people I was also strongly involved in creating the national coordinator position for the countries and we held meetings at each EC. When it was apparent that White Wolf would drop the game there was such a meeting in Paris and we discussed that the player organisation would have to become much stronger for the game to survive. The chairman was always the V:TES coordinator at White Wolf, but since that was gone Oscar Garza suggested me to take over that role. What followed was quite a bit of rocky road. WIth the natural authority of WW gone the V:EKN struggled to get acceptance with some things in the player base. The main focus here was keeping the game alive by having new cards and thus creating new sets. The highlight was certainly to get a V:EKN-developed V:TES expansion done while holding the game itself together.
B: Since you stepped down, there’s obviously been quite a bit of change in V:EKN, and of course we now have Black Chantry taking up production. What was your feeling seeing V:TES back in shops again?
J: It is fantastic news. I think the guys at BC are doing a great job. I had a big project going on bringing V:TES back with our Walch&Nusser company, but it failed due to licensing issues. This not happening was a big part of my exhaustion with V:TES organization. So I am very happy that this finally happened through another channel.
B: We’re now hitting 20 years – what would you like to see for the next few years?
J: I would like to see the game continue on a level where it is viable for players to find a playgroup and play tournaments. It is still the best game around.
B: Do you still play much?
J: I played 4 weeks ago and then maybe 4 years ago. Basically I quit playing but I am just coming back and planning to participate in the EC in Paris. So I have no clue about the current meta, looking forward to learning all the new things.
B: As V:EKN’s former Chair, you must have thought long and hard about how to balance the core fans versus new players. What are your observations about the fanbase, and what do you think the game needs to do to grow and diversify?
J: I think the fanbase is pretty stable in the older age bracket and also new players are coming in from time to time. For a new player it is very hard to get into the game so I do not think V:TES can be grown a lot and I do not think it is necessary to diversify it. Not sure if or how the fanbase changed the last few years but I would suspect not very much. V:TES is a great niche product as it is.