Vampire The Masquerade: Vendetta
- Designers: Charlie Cleveland, Bruno Faidutti
- Players: 3-6
- Age: 14+
- Time: 30 minutes
- Review copy provided by Horrible Guild
According to Wikipedia – Vampire: The Masquerade is a tabletop role-playing game (tabletop RPG) created by Mark Rein-Hagen and released in 1991 by White Wolf Publishing as the first of several Storyteller System games for its World of Darkness setting line. It is set in a fictionalized “gothic-punk” version of the modern world, where players assume the roles of vampires, who are referred to as “Kindred”, and deal with their night-to-night struggles against their own bestial natures, vampire hunters and each other.
Several associated products were produced based on Vampire: The Masquerade, including live-action role-playing games (Mind’s Eye Theatre), dice, collectible card games (Vampire: The Eternal Struggle), video games (Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2), and numerous novels. In 1996, a short-lived television show loosely based on the game, Kindred: The Embraced, was produced by Aaron Spelling for the Fox Broadcasting Company.
The newest addition to the franchise is this kickstarted game which was delivered earlier this year by Horrible Guild. In Vendetta, each player leads one of the Camarilla clans of Chicago (Brujah, Gangrel, Malkavian, Nosferatu, Toreador, Tremere, Ventrue), determined to gain enough influence to seize control of the city and become its new Prince.
Each player has their own deck of cards which include powers and disciplines typical of their clan – if you want there is a strategy guide near the end of the rules that gives you a quick rundown of your strengths and what sort of strategies would be best. Of course, I prefer to learn this strategy on my own, but if you’d rather take the easy way out, you can read it before playing on page 22 of the rule book.
You start the game with 2 starting cards for your clan and one other drawn from your deck, but you acquire 1 new card at the beginning of each round (from a total of 9 possible cards), increasing the special effects at your disposal over time. Over three rounds, you will play cards and blood at several locations to gain control of powerful allies, both human and Kindred, earning influence and unlocking their special abilities. You will gain new cards at the beginning of each round, gaining new abilities to surprise your opponents.
While playing, you will get to know the powers and abilities of your opponents, but they’ll do the same with you… and you can never know what new tricks they may have added to their arsenal since your last encounter!
You play your cards, one at a time, at one of the locations available. You can play cards either face up (to openly show your intentions) or face down (to hide your strategy and/or deceive your opponents with a clever bluff). You can also spend blood to increase your strength during the upcoming fight, but beware: if you run out of blood, you will go into a frenzy and be forced to feed upon one of your hard-earned allies! Once all players have placed their cards, each player has a chance to withdraw. If they think the location is too dangerous for them, they can withdraw and move their cards to the final Prince’s Haven location. Once this is done, the locations are resolved by activating powers in turn order and counting the total power that each player has built. The winner gets the biggest spoils, but those that come in second and third place still gain Influence from the location.
You obtain Influence points by winning conflicts at the various locations and taking control of allies over the course of 3 rounds. At the end of the third round, the vampire with the most influence is the winner… and the new Prince of Chicago!
My thoughts on the game
I should start by saying that I know nearly nothing about the franchise, having never played the original RPG, having never watched the TV show, and only briefly dabbling with the collectible card game based on it. So, for me, I was only attracted to the game based on the description of the mechanics. I was also interested in trying it as Bruno Faidutti was a co-designer, and while his designs are often hit-or-miss with me, they are generally well constructed games and worth trying.
The game plays fast (well, there are only 3 rounds) – but there is a surprising amount of strategy involved. In the first round, each player only has 3 cards, and two of those are the starter cards (Hunt and Ready). It goes pretty quick, and sometimes it is worth it to play your unique card facedown to hide your power until the reveal stage. In the next round, all players will have one more card – and as this is drawn from your clan’s deck, each player will get a unique ability.
In the first few plays of the game, so long as you haven’t just peeked at all the cards, there is a nice sense of discovery as the new cards are randomly entered into the game. It’s kind of fun to learn on the fly what each clan can do (including your own!). I suspect that once players have become very familiar with the cards, there will be a lot more anticipation and advance planning…. In the early stages though, it’s lots of oohs and aahs when card abilities are revealed.
There’s a lot of guessing/interpreting/reading minds in the game. Some of the cards are played facedown, and you have to use your memory to know what cards they could have played there, as well as trying to guess what the new card for the round is. There is also some complexity with the locations as players can withdraw and move those cards to the Prince’s Haven location – sometimes this is because the initial location is too dangerous for them, or maybe it was a planned feint to show cards here when the real intent was to move them to the Haven anyways.
As with all asymmetrical games, there is an advantage to players who are more familiar with it – as they will know in advance what sorts of cards to expect as well as how to play with or against certain decks.
I think that the art design is well done here. As you would expect with a Vampire theme, many of the cards and locations are dark, matching the overall mood. However, there is a lot of bright color used judiciously to liven up the artwork. Though the game was produced through a Kickstarter campaign, the pieces are not blingy – the counters are thick punchboard (not 3D acrylic things), etc. For my non-parakeet sensibilities, I enjoy the continued used of cardboard in games, and the pieces here are top notch.
I’d recommend playing the final version as it’s a good production – but if you search online, you might still be able to find the PnP version as well – https://www.dropbox.com/sh/53ytbv7i3ewfx9n/AAAzV9IWcxySrt3EU1CjsU_-a?dl=0
Or, it might be easier to play it on Tabletopia – https://tabletopia.com/games/vampire-the-masquerade-vendetta
I think that this game offers enough strategy and variation to be replayable, and enough difference in the clan decks (though they only have 7 unique cards each) to lead to some level of mastery with enough experience. I’ll admit that I’ll likely not ever play it enough to get to that level, but I know plenty of people who will. Definitely a game worth trying, especially if you’re interested in the vampire theming or the Vampire: The Masquerade universe.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor