“I started playing Vampire: the Eternal Struggle in probably the summer of ‘99-‘00 with the guys from my home town of Mandurah, Western Australia. Mandurah is about an hour away and twenty years behind Perth. There was a basketball card store at these markets. My local gaming crew would occasionally buy Magic cards from there. One day the owner got tired of nobody buying some game called Jyhad so they were selling off boosters for 50c a pop. My crew bought a whole bunch of packs and gave it a crack. We managed to get our hands on a lot of cheap Ancient Hearts and Dark Sovereigns too.
What I remember most about that golden age was all the rules we used to play by that were probably hangovers from other games. We had the four card limit and also strangely we ruled that fortitude could not prevent aggravated damage unless you played Skin of Night. That was borrowed from the Masquerade RPG that we played pretty heavily.
We had a shared card pool for a long time, which meant that only one of us had access to Minion Taps, Blood Dolls, Suddens or Deflections on any given weekend. And by one of us, I mean the same guy, you know who you are Brad!
The metro crew I didn’t start playing with for a year or two after that. There were not many tournaments, just long weekends full of cards. I remember my local crew was forever changed the day a guest player joined in a game at the dodgy sharehouse I was living in. We were really getting into a nice standard six-player game on my seedy kitchen table when this new guy – a future national champion – plays his fifth Immortal Grapple. The table was stunned silent. “That’s your FIFTH copy!” someone yelled after regaining their composure. With a cheshire grin he replied “yeah, and I’ve got another five in here as well”.
A lot of the Mandurah guys were into the roleplaying game so generally played their favourite clan from the RPG in the CCG. There were a lot of decks those days that were thematically modelled after the RPG. The “Giovanni Family” deck which had a crypt containing every Giovanni vamp published at the time and the “Camarilla Tower” was a 200+ card library and crypt containing all the justicars and princes from Toreador, Ventrue and Tremere. We also had a guy on the quest to put together the “holy grail” of decks that contained his spreadsheet-statistically-proven list of the three most potent disciplines – Dominate, Protean and Potence.
It wasn’t really until I started playing with the metro group that I understood or saw table balance. My first exposure to that was at one of the early tournaments that I attended. A guy playing a Lasombra vote deck was my predator and sitting cross table from him was a Shambling Horde deck. He let me know that he wasn’t going to touch me until the Hordes were off the table because he couldn’t deal with them. That was a lightbulb moment.
One thing I loved about those days was that tournaments were named after cards. The Jackie Therman Classic was a particularly fun one. Everyone had to bring in their excess Jackies. The “winner” of the tourney got lumped with the 30+ copies collected.”