Vampire the Masquerade Rivals is an expandable card game by Renegade Studios, the company that are now producing the World of Darkness, Vampire the Masquerade RPG. Their expandable card game is different from a collectible card game (CCG) or trading card game (TCG) in that all of its products have fixed cards, unlike CCGs or TCGs where cards are randomized in packs. In this review, we'll look at the Vampire the Masquerade Rivals Core Set, how it plays out of the pack, and its future possibilities.
In Vampire the Masquerade Rivals, there are multiple ways to win. You can defeat your rival (your opponent in a two-player game, or a randomly determined player if playing with three or more players), by reducing their prestige to zero, defeating all their active vampires, or by gaining thirteen agenda points. If a player is eliminated by someone other than their rival, then the winner is the player with the most agenda points at that time.
Each player starts the game with twenty prestige, and this acts as their life total. Prestige is also used to recruit vampires, and use some abilities and effects, and can also be gained and lost through abilities, cards, and effects during the game, creating an interesting balance of using prestige for an advantage, but maintaining enough so that you are not defeated through its loss.
Each turn, players can perform two actions, such as drawing a card, recruiting vampires, attacking, or playing an action card. The same action can be performed twice, and there are usually a lot of options each turn. Some action cards are linked to specific clans, which means they can only be used if you control a vampire from that clan. There are four clans included in the core set.
- Brujah - Who have an aptitude for attacking and dealing damage, including ranged attacks that can only be blocked by specific vampires.
- Malkavian - With a focus on conspiracy cards, which are played face down. They can be revealed to other players who can add prestige to it, and when they have the right amount of prestige, are revealed and target players who did not contribute.
- Toreador - They have lots of ways to steal prestige, along with solid social conflict abilities.
- Ventrue - With their love of gaining titles, cards that attach to characters for extra abilities and usually reward the Ventrue for doing so.
The general turn sequence and action flow of Rivals feels good, and the different aspects of the game and the different ways to win fit very well into the theme, along with making each clan feel uniquely thematic, but some parts of the integration don't feel polished. There feels like a flow change between attacking and playing cards, and the conspiracies (described above) and schemes, which requires players to vote and spend influence, a resource usually limited to your head vampire, and gained through cards and titles. A setting as deep as Vampire the Masquerade needs a focus on the political side, and Rivals does well integrating it, but it leaves it feeling somewhere between a competitive card game and an RPG-like card game, without being either.
The Legend of the Five Rings living card game managed to incorporate the political and physical warfare of the setting, and Rivals feels a lot like the L5R LCG, in style and its product line, but L5R achieved this by having a long playtime, giving players a chance to evolve and develop long term plans. Rivals feels like it's over very quickly, especially in multiplayer games, and it forces you to single-mindedly aim for a victory condition.
The Rivals core set gives up to four players a great introductory experience out of the box, and along with including the four decks, it also has an extra set of cards for creating your own decks. When you create your own deck, you can include a maximum of three of each card, and the core set includes three of each, meaning that with a single core set, a player has access to every card released so far. If you're looking to play Rivals competitively, each player will need their own core set. The box includes a lot of space for card storage, fitting sleeves cards and also having room for the planned expansion sets that will add additional clans.
The Bottom Line
Vampire the Masquerade Rivals feels like a mixture of a competitive card game and an RPG-like story card game. It does well capturing the theme of VTM, but feels jolted in the flow of the game. It's a well-designed package, giving four uniquely themed clans, with all the cards to create your own decks later. It will be interesting to see if adding more cards and clans changes the feel of the game. Vampire fans may love it, but will probably prefer the freedom of the RPG, whereas competitive card players may get more from it in turning decks and finding combos.
Get This Game If:
- You're a VTM fan who enjoys playing thematic decks.
- You're a competitive card game player who likes lots of scope for win conditions and deck construction.
- You want a quick card game that has both combat and politics.
Avoid This Game If:
- You want the freedom of an RPG.
- You want a lot of playtime to explore different options, without an opponent quickly stealing a win.
The copy of the Vampire the Masquerade Rivals Core Set used to produce this review was provided by Asmodee UK.