Vampire: The Masquerade - Rivals Expandable Card Game Designer Preview
When Renegade Game Studios offered me the opportunity to join the team and design this game, I had to get onboard. I’ve played several Vampire-inspired games over the past many years, so this was something I could really sink my teeth into.
The result is now Vampire: The Masquerade Rivals Expandable Card Game. I can’t wait for players to dig into this game, marvel at the wonderful art, and join our Organized Play programs with our online streamed games and events, participating wherever they play games, be it their kitchen table, friendly local game stores and/or major gaming conventions. In the meantime, I’d love to give you a preview of the game.
The Kiss - A Taste of Vampire: The Masquerade Rivals ECG
The Rivals ECG (I suspect players will simply call it “Rivals”) is an Expandable Card Game for 2-4 players. Those two things—multiplayer and expandable, makes this game very different from most card games. An expandable card game features no rarity among the cards. Everyone who buys the Core Set will all get the same cards. There’s a “Crypt Pack” in the box as well, featuring scores of new cards for customizing your decks. Each Crypt Pack is the same, so every card you have is also in your foes’ arsenals. There isn’t the worry that some players will have decks full of “rare cards” that are overpowered, hard to find, and expensive. The multiplayer aspect of this game is also rare in this genre of gaming. When you’ve got more than one opponent to worry about, things get interesting fast! There are no alliances here, but sometimes “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” You are free to attack and/or act against any player in the game.
To get players playing soon after they open the Core Set box, there are 4 pre-built decks ready to go. Each deck features a different clan: Brujah, Malkavian, Toreador, and Venture. As an expandable card game, more clans (and cards) will be coming soon! While these decks each feature a single clan, once you are ready to customize your own deck, you may include any mix of clans in your Faction Deck. Players will each bring two decks to the game: A Faction Deck of 7 vampires, and a Main Deck with a minimum of 40 cards. Your Main Deck contains the cards you need to realize your strategy, whether that means Titles to attach to your vampires, combat cards to attack your foes, Schemes to plot, Conspiracies to implement, but probably a mix of all of these!
Each player starts the game with a vampire of their choosing. This is your Leader for the game. As your Leader, they have some immediate political sway, so even if you aren’t playing a political deck, you can still get involved in the action. Each Haven features a Leader Ability that gives your Leader some extra juice, which you’ll need as you lead your troops into the streets of the city.
The city featured in the Core Set release is San Francisco. How does one take control of the city? Using your vampires, of course. While you choose your starting vampire, the rest (exactly six vampires) are shuffled into your Faction Deck. You may draw from that deck when you seek reinforcements, but to recruit them to your team, you must spend some of your precious Prestige. Each player starts with 20 Prestige and must protect this valuable resource, for if it should be reduced to 0, you lose the game. The catch is that you spend Prestige to recruit vampires, so as you grow more powerful, you might just spend yourself down too close to 0 and face annihilation.
The city of San Francisco has a role to play in this game beyond a beautiful backdrop. Mortals, Events, and Second Inquisition hit teams will appear during the game via the “City Deck.” At the start of each game, 6 of the 10 Event Cards will be randomly added to the City Deck, then shuffled. One card is added to the middle of the table at the start of each player’s turn. This populates the city with some mortals to hunt, press into service, or simply feed upon. The middle of the table is a neutral zone called… wait for it… The Streets! Vampires looking for a fight or wishing to slake their thirst for blood will move into The Streets, where anything goes. Those wishing to avoid conflict can remain at their Haven, which offers some basic protections, but won’t stop a determined foe for too long.
The World of Darkness, the setting for Vampire, is a world of mystery, danger, politics, secrets, blood, and undeath… among many other things. A world like this demands more than a head-to-head slugfest, as found is most card games. Balancing a card game to work equally well with varied player counts is not as easy as just pulling up another chair. Group activities that involve each player, or a chosen number of players, is one way to keep everyone involved in the action during each player’s turn.
The game is called “Rivals” because everyone at the table has a Rival. Your Rival is randomly determined at the start of the game, unless you’re playing 1v1, in which case your Rival is obvious. Your goal in the game is to defeat your Rival or score 13 Agenda. Defeat your Rival by reducing their Prestige (the main resource) to 0 or by putting their last active vampire into torpor. Each player has an Agenda card they bring to the table. That card features a path to victory that might not involve violence against your Rival at all. Each Agenda card features a way to gain Agenda, whether that be through interfering with mortals, political maneuvering, Conspiracies, Schemes, combat, and many others. There are several other ways to gain Agenda as well, and they all add together the same in the end.
A Game with Celerity
You might be thinking that this is a lot of action for a multiplayer card game (and it is). It isn’t, however, a game that will take you from dusk until dawn to complete. The game is action-packed and quick to play. Most 4-player games will play in just a little over an hour (once everyone knows how to play), with even shorter play times for fewer players..
So no, you won’t have time to check your phone between turns - your rival or other foes might be plotting your downfall. There’s no rest for the wicked, after all.
Matt Hyra has been designing board and card games for over 20 years. He is most well-known for his work on the VS System and World of Warcraft Trading Card Games, along with the DC Deck-Building Game, Adventure Time Card Wars, and the Rick and Morty board games.