Vampire the Masquerade Heritage is a legacy board game set in the World of Darkness setting and looks to capture the long game, played over the millennia by the ruling vampire lords. Heritage can be played in short one-off games, but its main focus is a series of twenty-one linked games, spanning from 1306 to 1997. So lets pick our clan and try to rule the world from the shadows.
Those unfamiliar with Vampire the Masquerade (VtM) will find that there are a lot of terms they are unfamiliar with, and there's also a lot of backstory to the setting that while not required to enjoy Heritage, does enhance the experience. Knowledge of the different clans which are used throughout the game is also useful and helps immersion, so here's our quick introduction to the clans:
- Brujah - The Brujah were a clan of philosophers and activists, but have fallen far and are now seen as no more than thugs who rely on their physical prowess.
- Gangrel - The Gangrel are considered feral nomads by the other clans, who have an affinity with animals.
- Lasombra - Evil and arrogant, a high class of vampire whose reflections cannot be seen.
- Malkavian - Vampires with the powers of foresight and visions of the future, at the cost of their sanity.
- Nosferatu - The Nosferatu are all cursed to look like evil vampires, which has made them very good at spying and hiding.
- Toreador - The artists and lovers of the vampire world, they focus on seduction.
- Tremere - Warlocks and mages, wielding powerful blood magic.
- Tzimisce - Scholars and flesh shapers, looking to evolve themselves beyond the other clans.
- Ventrue - Noble leaders. They influence from the top, infiltrating governments at their highest point.
The basic mechanics of the system, in both the one-off and campaign games, are the same. There is a central board with five available characters, and during their turn, each player chooses one to be turned into a vampire. Players begin the game with a leader from their chosen clan, and as they turn characters, they start to produce a family tree, with each member having up to three directly beneath them. When a character is picked from the mainboard, and placed on your side, they cause a series of effects on three other game boards, called battlegrounds. There are nine different battlegrounds to choose from within three different types, and these are set within each arc of the campaign. Each character card has three symbols, and these directly relate to one of the three different types of battlegrounds.
When a character is picked, you move through the three battlegrounds, activating as their symbol requires. For example, the Of Clans High and Low battleground, which shows the tug of war battle between the noble and serving classes of vampires. All characters are either Elitist or Egalitarian and whenever they are turned, they move the politics token on that battleground. Its position at the end of the game earns victory points for all vampires of that type.
All of the battlegrounds follow a similar mechanic, with a different theme. And at the end of the game, players work out their victory points based on the different battlegrounds and the vampires in their clan. In two-player games, you usually work in direct competition with your opponent, but three or more player games can get more complicated. It's rare that you can always choose a character that works in your favor in all battlegrounds, and sometimes they'll have symbols that work against you, and in favor of other players, and likewise, you can capitalize on their choices. If one battleground looks like it's going a certain way, you can start to select characters that match, for a big victory points reward at the end. It's a delicate balancing act, which is very in keeping with the political game of the masquerade.
Players also have access to a clan-specific ability, and a set of claim scheme cards that are drawn at the start, specific to the selected clan leader, and can be earned throughout the game. Schemes can be activated during your turn, and require you to exhaust a vampire with a matching symbol to the scheme, along with a direct descendent who matches the other symbol on the scheme. The exhausted vampire can't be used for a scheme again unless an ability restores them.
During the campaign, players can choose a different clan during each game. This was initially jarring, as I imagined that you would use the same clan throughout the campaign, but you are a higher-level vampire, and you are picking and choosing the different clans best to serve your purpose of directing history to pursue your own ends. It also creates an interesting dynamic, when the losing clans add new schemes to their decks, making them sometimes more appealing to choose. Players select clans at the start of the game, in reverse winning order, so a player who constantly loses at the start of the campaign, can add a lot more to their clan, for a push later on, but should they win a game, they won't get to choose their clan first.
The art throughout Vampire the Masquerade Heritage is fantastic and very in keeping with the theme. All of the card text is clear and easy to read. What I like most about the components though is that there is a card box for everything, and it's all kept tidy and secure between games.
The Bottom Line
If you're after a game that captures the higher-level control of society in Vampire the Masquerade, then Vampire the Masquerade Heritage is a game for you. Apart from the clan abilities and clan schemes, there's little flavor between the clans, which perfectly suits the game, but if you have a single favorite clan, or you prefer the inner workings of the individual clans, then there might not be enough depth in Heritage for you. The components are well designed, and the artwork is fantastic throughout. Players with knowledge of VtM will probably enjoy it a lot more than those coming into it cold, but there's still enough going on with it for a very enjoyable campaign if you can get behind the theme.
Get This Game If:
- You want a game that perfectly captures the higher-level struggle of the Masquerade.
- You want a solid campaign game with some interesting elements.
Avoid This Game If:
- You want more flavor for your vampire clans.
- You don't want to change clans between campaign games.
The copy of the Vampire the Masquerade Heritage used to produce this review was provided by Nice Game Publishing.