Dale Yu: Review of Vampire: The Masquerade Rivals – Blood and Alchemy expansion

Vampire: The Masquerade Rivals – Blood and Alchemy expansion

  • Designer: Matt Hyra
  • Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 30-60 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Renegade Game Studios

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Vampire: The Masquerade Rivals – Blood and Alchemy is the first expansion for the Rivals game that we reviewed earlier this year.  In this expandable card game, each player controls a group of vampires trying to dominate San Francisco.  You can win by either furthering your own Agenda or by knocking out your Rival.  

The base game comes with 4 pre-sealed basic decks – one for each clan: Burjah, Toreador, Venture, Malkavian.  This Blood and Alchemy expansion adds two new clans – the Thin-Bloods and Tremere.  The Thin-Bloods mix chemicals with their Blood to extract power from it with special Alchemy cards. The Tremere use sorcery to draw power from their Blood and get advantages when performing Rituals.  

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When you start playing this game, you simply unwrap a clan deck and play it – with this expansion you now have 6 different clans to choose from.  You will split that clan deck up into a small faction deck, a haven card, an agenda card and a 40 card Library.  Once you are familiar with the game, you can later modify your decks with extra cards included in the box.   The addition of the 128 cards in this expansion gives you much more choice to build your deck.

 Each player gets 20 Prestige markers at the start.  To start a game, you take the City Deck, remove 4 Event cards from it at random and then shuffle the rest together.    Look through your faction deck and choose the vampire with the highest Blood Potency value in the upper left. Place that card on the table and mark it with a “Leader” token.  Finally, from your supply of Prestige, add markers to your Leader equal to your blood potency rating; flip the counters over so they are on the Blood side.   

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After all players have determined their leader, you pull out the Rival tokens and distribute them such that all players get a marker of another player.  This player will be your Rival for the whole game.  One of the ways to win is to knock out your specific Rival.  Finally, shuffle your Library and place it below your Agenda card; shuffle the rest of your faction deck and place it below your Haven card.  The first player draws a hand with 4 cards from their LIbrary and 1 card from their Faction deck.  All players in turn order do the same, and draw one more card from their Faction deck than the player before them.

One of the other ways to win is to get 13 points on your Agenda card.  There are some scoring methods outlined on the card; whenever the conditions match those on the card, add a scoring token to your agenda cads – this might even happen on someone else’s turn!  Defeating some cards can give you Agenda points, and each time you defeat or burn a Vampire of your specific Rival, you’ll gain Agenda points. 

The game is played in a series of turns until one of the game end conditions are met.  There are 3 phases in each turn (Beginning, Action, End)

In the Beginning Phase, first you remove any City card from the Streets (i.e. center of the table) that have your color marker on it.  Then, play a new card from your City Deck into the Streets; If it is an Event, resolve it.  If it is an Ongoing Event, mark it with your color token.  Now look at your cards and take any “Start of Turn” effects listed on them. Finally, turn any of your tapped cards upright and return your Vampires to your Haven.

In the Action Phase, you get to perform 2 actions from a menu of actions.  You can perform the same action twice.  Most actions will require you to exhaust (Tap) one of your Vampires.  The choices are:

  • Draw a card (do not need to tap) – can be from you LIbrary or your Faction deck
  • Recruit a Vampire (do not need to tap) – play a vampire card from your hand to the table. Move prestige tokens from your supply equal to its blood potency value.
  • Claim the Prince of the City title – only if this card has come out of the City Deck 
  • Play an Action Card – play a card from your hand, exhaust/tap one of your vampires.  Do what is on the card.  If the card is “Ongoing” place it near your Haven when done
  • Make an attack – there is a fairly convoluted (13 step) process; in short, tap one of your vampires who becomes the attacker, and then name a target – an opposing vampire or a NPC enemy on one of the cards in the Streets
  • Take an action that is on one of your played cards
  • Move a Vampire from your Haven to the Streets (do not need to tap)
  • Perform a Ritual – play a specific Ritual card (costs 2 Actions for most clans, but only 1 action for a Vampire with Blood Sorcery – i.e. Tremere)

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In the End Phase, you first deal 1 blood marker to any of your Vampires in torpor (has 0 Blood) – if this Vampire gets back to full Blood, he will return to your Haven.   Then, resolve any “End of Turn” actions on your cards.  Now, each Special Affairs Division cards in the streets will deal 1 Aggravated damage to one of your vampires (your choice).  Finally, draw 2 cards to end your turn, and the next player can start their turn.

The game ends when a player gets 13 Agenda points OR when any player is knocked out. 

  • You win automatically if you are the player who reaches 13 Agenda points
  • You win automatically if you knock out your Rival
  • If neither of the above two happens, the player with the most Agenda points wins.

My thoughts on the game

The game feels a lot like the Vampire: TES CCG from my youth – but this game is not collectible, and that is a big plus.  I remain surprised at just how many games have come out in this universe lately, but there must be a market for it given the continued releases.

In my review of the base game, I came to the conclusion that it’s a fine starter set, but it feels like the game could get better with the addition of more cards.  And… now that I’ve seen two more clans and have had a bit more experience with the game, I can say that it is definitely more interesting with the new cards.  Honestly, I hadn’t grown tired of the original cards yet, and I still feel like there is plenty of things to be learned about how each of the base clan decks play – but, like many gamers, it’s hard to not be attracted to the ability to build your own deck.  Because, of course, I feel like I can come up with better card combos that those of the designer/developer!

The game is pretty complex, and I can certainly see that it might be overwhelming to try to learn all the rules to this game AND also be tempted to craft your own decks right off the bat when you simply don’t know how the cards work yet.  And, just getting two new pre-built Clan decks increases the variety in play if you don’t want to take the time and effort to construct your own decks. 

The rulebook is thick, and it took us quite awhile to figure all the things out.  Within the 20 pages of the rulebook, I think all the rules are there, but the arrangement isn’t great, and we did have to refer to the rules a lot in our first few games.  Now, I think we’ve got most of it down, but it was a slog to get there (Especially learning and working thru the attack sequence).  But, once it is figured out, it’s a fairly fast moving game, and most of it feels pretty familiar now.   The Blood and Alchemy expansion adds two new game ideas (Rituals/Blood Sorcery and Alchemy) – which make the game that much more complicated, but after a few games, these concepts were understood.  

The six clan decks feel fairly balanced, and our plays have not shown that any one of the 6 is better than another.  We have definitely used some pre-built deck lists that allow you to try something out without worrying about being too imbalanced – https://www.vampirecardgame.com/pre-constructed-decks.  After that, we just moved onto making our own decks.  It’s a bit time consuming, but it’s fun, and reminds me of the early days of Magic: The Gathering where I’d just sit in my basement and look at all my cards and figure out how I could get them to combo together.

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For fans of the World of Darkness, I can definitely see this as a great game to explore, and this expansion gives you MORE in both terms of cards and complexity to add to the game.   For me (who still doesn’t care much about the franchise), it remains a fairly complex/convoluted card game which I didn’t necessarily get involved with the underlying theme/story.   Due to coronavirus reasons, I was only able to play the base as a 2-player game, and honestly, it turns out to be better with 4 players, mostly because each player has a specific Rival to knock out – and this added another dimension of player interaction as each of us was gunning for someone else. 

This remains maybe a bit more complicated than I want in a game, but I did enjoy my time experimenting with the cards and the system.  As long as I remember the rules, it should be easy enough to pick up again – though I might be wary to introduce this to someone new because the learning curve is quite steep – there could/would be a large difference in ability while the newbie picks up all the rules, exceptions and nuances of Vampire: The Masquerade Rivals.  But if you’re into the world of V:TM – this is a way to get more out of the game to make sure it doesn’t grow stale.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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