While my current thoughts are more on Rokugan 1600 since I just ran a session and we had three sessions in three weeks, I was thinking about V:TES and adding cards versus removing cards from the card pool due to the recent threads on the forums.
I got to thinking about what expansions actually made V:TES a better game. Not a more fun game, since that’s incredibly subjective, but something not remotely subjective since I know all and see all and think all that is what made the game play better.
Ha. Ha ha. Terrible balance with incredibly obnoxious cards like Thoughts Betrayed.
Worse balance. Note that Giovanni and Ravnos are still awful (more so the one without a lot of Dominate), Ass are more awful than either of those (close with Ravnos), and Serpentis is incredibly top … focused with cards not like Temptation and Form of Corruption tending towards gar-bage.
Finally, a set that seems to be trying to address the game mechanically and may have been playtested a reasonable amount. Sure, wild imbalances in clans, but this is a step in the right direction even if the path of producing crappier versions of Deflection and Telepathic Misdirection isn’t really the path of making a better game.
For this post, I don’t see this being significantly different, but it did put cards into the precons that weren’t in the boosters. My appreciation for this set has grown considerably since I tend to forget how the !Trem got slighted. Some good additions cryptwise.
Full of gar-bage. Made Giovanni Shamble. Made Ravnos Nightmarish. Not remotely my idea of a good set, but it did make the game better in some ways. Having indies not be so terrible is better even if I find Shambling tiresome.
No. Bloodlines may be superpopular and superinteresting, but I see it only taking away from the game as it expanded the game in a way that made it far far harder to grok and away from core concepts. For one thing, hardly any of the bloodlines are votey, which means increased variance in how votish tables are. Plus, just trying to expose someone to a game with a ton more disciplines, outferiors, disciplines that hardly any vampires have, weirdly non-synergistic crossover possibilities that caused many bloodlines decks to ignore mixing with non-bloodlines is not happy times.
Nerf hammer unleashed. Did that make the game better? It’s kind of hard to remember how insane free Majesty and always free Second Tradition is. Ton of new vampires that weren’t out of control powerwise even if some are superobnoxious. Sure, CE made the game better. I would have liked The Embrace to be changed in a different way, but some good clarity and nerfing.
More frowny. This might have been more welcome if it didn’t come on the heels of Anarchs. Both suffer from not giving so much interesting spins on what is already possible but pushing towards low yield mechanics in the name of expansion. The idea of introducing new things weak does not make games play better. It makes tables more unbalanced as the experimenters get Dominated.
The end times. Variety of normal cards that are pretty good balancewise. Saddled with the most obnoxious stuff in existence. So many games with a bunch of Events in play as people tried out Fall of the Camarilla, et al.
Atrocious new cards. Get 10 cards where at least three never should have been printed (as written). After initial efforts, I don’t see five played by anyone besides me. Channel 10 is borderline in my mind as to whether it should exist. Powerbase: Los Angeles is the one card that, if you think anarchs should be part of the game, deserved being published.
Pretty much a set of unique promos beyond the reprints and I never think that’s a way to make games better. OTOH, a bunch of important reprints.
Kindred Most Wanted
Where Anarchs and BH led to “Something different, I’ll build bad decks!”, KMW led to “I’m going to permarush you with this incredibly bad deck until I can murder your dude!” Also think it made draft significantly worse by putting out way too much unnecessary draft text. Reminds me of Gehenna in that there are various normal cards with the set saddled with awful, but are all of the normal cards good ideas? The Embrace got turned into a pure swarm card, so we get Tumnimos as another version?!? Waters of Duat?!? How about just fixing The Embrace to get a skill card if put into play by a 5+ cap?
Legacies of Blood
More bloodlines. Tupdog. Plus, let’s add Abombwe to the game. At least Bloodlines seemed to have a plan. This just smacked of “How do we sell the next set?”
Mixed bag on crypt cards. Samedi in this set are just atrocious. Far more Laibon options if you have to have Laibon even part of the game, something I used to be in favor of but now am not, at least not how it was done. More Laibon in Tzimisce and Lasombra help open up varied crypts in a way I think the game would be benefited by.
Nights of Reckoning
If Gehenna had never been made, would this set be so hate-worthy? Could argue that it forced people to build decks differently and punished people playing sketchy strategies. Except, this isn’t Magic. This is a multiplayer CCG where a lot of play is not for tournament preparation/competition and the balance was way out of whack when this got published. Now, what is the balance now? Is it boring to play Imbued? Generates too much table hate? Or, did the better players learn how to cause Imbued not to turn into swarms with permastealth, permacept, permableed, permafreak?
Heart of Nizchetus. Did On the Qui Vive make for a better game or just a more powerful game? Is having a wake for Carlton and friends a good idea or an “Allies are even more annoying” idea? It did put a bunch of cards into people’s hands, a bunch of misprinted, marked, smelly cards, but that’s not germaine to whether it makes for a better game. Some good. I consider Mirror Walk good. Abbot is arguably good for the game. I question whether Helicopter is, being mostly a buff to three-bleeders with four votes.
Cryptwise, I’d say pretty good adds to the game. Overall, then, I’m wishy washy about it, but I guess I’d go with good for the game.
Sword of Caine
Ignoring expanding on BH, something I don’t think substantially added to the game and only became more and more annoying as it got better and better cards to support the trait, what did this add?
Biothaumaturgical Experiment continued to make Thaum more diverse, which it needed. Epiphany was huge for making a terrible mechanic less terrible. Nocturn is another ally that strikes me as being too good and can warp the environment, though this gets into a different argument about what role allies are supposed to play in the game. The Uncoiling was an attempt to counteract a terrible card type, and it does a pretty bad job of it in my experience. Unexpected Coalition was something to throw at one of the worst clans in the game, possibly the worst at the time. Veil the Legions is such an unneeded effect for Obfuscate and can contribute to the Aus/Obf arms race.
Sometimes you make overly good cards, but SoC had so few cards in it and the greatest need was far a ton more Sabbie vampires.
Lords of the Night
A bunch of alt wakes, well, that’s not terrible. I could get into details on cards, but I’d say generally that more help for Ass/Quietus is positive where helping things that didn’t really need it to better at what it already does – Leverage, Murmur of the False Will – is maybe not the best way to go. Then, there are cards that very well may have made the game better by adding value to weaker disciplines (Celerity, by this time Potence).
It’s less clear to me whether this set made the game better. If unclear, then tend to side with “Have to add something to the game or it isn’t a CCG.”
Given anarchdom, sure, this made the game better. This is a set that I seem to appreciate far, far more than other people outside of Anarch Convert, Club Illusion, Constant Revolution, and Revolutionary Council.
This is the one small set I think was worth publishing. I’m sure others will complain about how weak most of the cards are and how that doesn’t make a game better when you won’t play the cards, which is as valid as my pointing out how full of gar-bage Final Nights is.
Keepers of Tradition, Ebony Kingdom, Heirs to the Blood
Why group these three together? Given that I think the game has suffered from getting away from core clans and core disciplines, the latter two wouldn’t be a surprise on my list of “bad for ball”. KoT is on my list for reasons mentioned in another post – grossly unneeded power jumps in library cards, plus the likes of Lutz and Santaleous.
There do seem to be certain eras to expansion of the game. The first era is obviously the introduce more clans era, though often leaving clans exceptionally weak against the OGs. The SW/FN era of making stuff better was logical, though FN suffered immensely from so many bad cards. Then, you get the “V:TES weirder” era with bloodlines, anarchy, BHness, Events, Red List, Laibon where I get that the game was going down a path of trying to broaden its mechanics. At the time, I was into the idea of bloodlines. I was into the idea of Laibon. BH and anarchy both seem somewhat innocuous and don’t require more disciplines. But, I just don’t see how the game got better, just more diverse. Then, you get a power up era with KoT and HttB.
Given that you have to expand the game somehow, what would have made more sense? Really, Camarilla could use more expansion to do things besides P/J plays. Vampire expansion was generally good, but each grouping could use more options, especially for certain clans. Core clans – Cam, Sabbie, Indie – could do with more clan cards, though indies have gotten a ton of love over the years. More multidiscipline, especially for weaker discipline combinations. More vampires that share out of clan disciplines for the likes of Lasombra and Tzimisce (besides Dominate and Presence, like the indie disciplines).
Add one new mechanic and it seems like a minor increase in complexity. Keep adding and you get not only a far more difficult game to teach newbs but a game that becomes even harder for existing players and turns off more casual groups that remember what it was like in prior eras and preferred that. Then, how many of these mechanics are actually positive additions to the game. Can say anarchy and BHness are now good additions, but they were terrible additions when they came out. Events remain a pox on the game. Aus/Obf arms race was not my idea of making stealth/intercept work better but had the tendency to squeeze out a lot of middle ground plays (though the evidence for this doesn’t seem to exist).
So, V:TES thoughts while in another pretty dry period for V:TES play. I’m sure negative views on other things will surface, or I’ll have something the same/different to talk about after Gen Con.