OFFICIAL VEKN GANGREL ANTITRIBU NEWSLETTER VOLUME 4 NUMBER 8 AUGUST 2001 IN THIS HOT AND SULTRY ISSUE ..... FICTION: Lure of the Serpent. GAME THEORY AND THE EVOLUTION OF FIGHTING: Why Big Fierce Creatures are sometimes Incredibly Nice to each other. MY FIRST FINAL NIGHTS DECKS:  Legbiterized version of Sorrow's will-they-won't-they Setites, and  Tweaked giovanni Precon, Atlanta-style. FICTION: Lure of the Serpent. It's some hours after sundown but the heat is still intense, and the hot air rising from the pavements makes the lights seem to writhe, almost like serpents. The portly figure in the linen suit draws on a cigarette and sips at a tiny Turkish coffee, frowns a little and looks at its watch. Its cold eyes scan the street. Where can they be? Just then, two other figures enter the cafe, look around and then make their way over to his table. "Good evening, Boyar" "Sorry for the delay. They're everywhere, so it seems". The ancient vampire regards its underlings with distaste. Their clothes are awry, a strange sweet smell accompanies them and they wear the silly smiles of the poor liars they are. "Where's Anton?" "We, ah, i think he may be a little bit later still." "He has gone over." "O no, respected sir, he will be with us soon, i'm sure." "Do not presume to contradict me. Archbishop of Mexico City you may be, but i am TELLING you that Anton has been corrupted by the Vile Minions of Set." Stravinsky and Caleban exchange glances. At that moment, a curvaceous female figure enters the cafe and approaches the table. "Carnationsss, generoussss sirsss?" Stravinsky turns, his face a mask of bestiality. "Get you gone, demon!" As he makes to strike her she is suddenly over by the door again, then out in the street. Stravinsky rushes after her. Outside it is dark, and the lights seem to make it darker still. His attention is gripped by something at the end of the street, and he moves in that direction, turns a corner, and then another. He seems to be following faint laughter or possibly the sound of finger-chimes. Then somehow he is pushing aside a bead curtain and entering a cool courtyard where a bearded figure in a summer suit is sprawled on a divan. It sucks on a hookah and blows out the cool smoke. "Ah, welcome at last, your grace! Please to be seated! Celine darling, pray attend to our new brother's needs." From the shadows snake-vampires and luscious female Setites emerge, along with Anton, his eyes glazed and a foolish smile playing upon his lips. It does not surprise the Boyar of the Tzimisce when, later that night, a flute sounds in the darkness, stirring Caleban from his stupor. With a muttered excuse he rises and goes out into the night. It has begun to rain, and the hissing of the raindrops on the baking city mingles with the sussurations of the snakes which seem to boil out of the sewers. Caleban steps amongst them obliviously, as they writhe towards the cafe where their now-defenceless prey awaits. GAME THEORY AND THE EVOLUTION OF FIGHTING: Why Big Fierce Creatures are sometimes Incredibly Nice to each other. One of the most interesting things about Mike Nudd et al's recent Watford tournament was the presence of, and strong showing by, Continental European players. Some but not all of these players were quite taken aback by the common UK tactic of table talk/manipulation and the resultant table-splitting deals. Words like "Collusion" and "Nepotism" were thrown around quite freely, and there was some worrying and confusing discussion, now happily resolved, about the possibility that a different playing style might be enforced in upcoming continental tournaments. Here i want to draw the attention of all VTES/Jyhad players to the Hungarian mathematician Johnny von Neuman's Game Theory, and especially to the way this theory has been developed by people like Alexander and Maynard Smith in their attempts to understand how apparently-altruistic behaviours can evolve under Darwinian natural Selection. i'm doing this because i believe that, wittingly or not, good VTES players who like table-deals are implementing some of these ideas. For non-professionals it may be worthwhile to do a little scene-setting first. i don't suppose that Darwinian Natural Selection needs to be explained to people here [you can email me privately if you don't know what it is], but for this discussion it's worth emphasising the remorseless amorality of the theory, an aspect which deeply troubled Darwin's wife and to a lesser extent Darwin himself. Relentless and vicious cut-throat competition is absolutely the name of the Darwinian game, and therefore there's a problem when one observes apparently-altruistic behaviour in nature. Quantitative solutions to this problem became available thanks to Von Neuman's work on the strategies of simple games like Rock-Paper-Scissors and Prisoner's Dilemma. Essentially what you do is to construct tables or matrixes showing all the possible gains and losses to each player when different moves are made. Then you add up the results for possible strategies, and by doing this you generally find that there is an optimum strategy which will maximise your winnings and minimise your losses [occasionally there is more than one, and sometimes the multiple strategies can coexist, sometimes not]. Such a strategy is called a Stable Strategy because any deviation from it is going to lead to you losing. The crucial point is that for cooperate-defect games like prisoner's dilemma, THE STABLE STRATEGY IS OFTEN TO BE "NICE", AND NOT "NASTY". Maynard Smith and Alexander have taken this basic idea and applied it to issues like non-lethal fighting amongst animals, social grooming and the like. A vast amount of work is involved here and it's not possible to summarise it quickly, so i will refer those who want to chase it up to a couple of books: Evolution by John Maynard Smith [EUP, 1975], and The Descent of Man by Jacob Bronowski, BBC books, 70s i think. But the bottom line is that despite their inability to talk or hold cards in their furry little paws, any remotely-social animal would recognise the UK-style table-splitting deal as completely consonant with their daily experience of animal social life. Big Fierce Creatures need to work together sometimes, not because they like each other or want to help each other [quite the reverse!] but because they NEED each other to maximise their own outcome from the game of life. MY FIRST FINAL NIGHTS DECKS: While i was getting my butt kicked in the UK qualifier at the end of July i experienced a certain amount of good-natured ribbing about the VERY pre-FN nature of my deck. All of which was fair enough, but i HAVE been making and playing FN decks, and here to prove it are two of them.  Legbiterized version of Sorrow's will-they-won't-they Setites The idea for this deck came from something Sorrow [Chris Boget] played against me when he visited us in June. i used my version successfully in two Wednesday night games during July, managing on both occasions to take over ALL my Tzimisce prey's vampires and then swarm-bleeding out my next preys [3/4 and 4/5 possible vp]. Both times i was decked by the end, so 90 is not too big for this deck. On 2 other outings it  died horribly [prey's initial influence was Cailean, i was being dominate stealth-bled and didn't draw ANY Tributes] and  got 2/3 possible VPs in a game at home. Deck Name: Embrace the Serpent Created by: Legbiter, but inspired by Sorrow Comments: If you block, i corrupt you. If you don't block i swarm-bleed and swarm-corrupt you. If you rush me i get killed. If you vote against me i DT your vote. If you bleed me i probably get killed but ecstasy and tribute keep me in the game longer than you might think. Focussed-degenerate and therefore a Setite clan theme-deck, if you like. CRYPT [12 cards] Lalitha 2 Celine Chevalier 3 Khalil Anvari 3 7 x Aabbt Kindred 4 2 x Nefertiti 10 LIBRARY [90 cards] ACTIONS  13 x Corruption 8 x The Embrace Form of corruption 2 x Summon the Serpent ACTION MODIFIERS  16 x Change of target 16 x Venenation MASTERS  Opium Den The Path of Typhon 8 x Serpentis Temple Hunting Ground 9 x Tribute to the Master REACTIONS  4 x Delaying tactics 5 x Ecstasy 5 x Wake with Evening's Freshness  Tweaked giovanni Precon, Atlanta-style. One of the most interesting ideas to have come out of the Atlanta playgroup recently has been the notion that you really want to keep your library size as close to minimum as possible. As i understand it, the logic is that by doing this you dramatically reduce your chance of experiencing deck-clumping, and increase the chance that you will see and be able to use any given card or combo in your deck. Of course, for some decks this is a Bad Idea, eg weenie decks like the above Setite affair. For others, however, it's a dam' fine plan, and here is how i implemented it for my quite-successful Giovanni deck, which is little more than a tweak of the precon. CRYPT [12 cards] Marciana Giovanni, Investigator 2 Mario Giovanni 3 Rudolpho Giovanni 3 Chas Giovanni, Tello 4 Francesca giovanni 4 Gloria Giovanni 4 Isabel Giovanni 5 Vittorio Giovanni 5 Gaspare Giovanni 6 Stefano giovanni 6 Carlotta Giovanni 7 Gillespi Giovanni 7 LIBRARY [68 cards] MASTERS  Acquired ventrue Assets Blood Doll Depravity Dominate Dreams of the Sphinx Elder library Haven Uncovered x 2 The Mausoleum, Venice Morgue HG Necromancy Potence Powerbase: Rome DOMINATE  Command of the beast Conditioning x 3 Deflection x 5 [could be replaced by 4 deflections and 1 Redirection to make deck 4CL legal] Far Mastery Foreshadowing Destruction x 3 Govern the Unaligned x 2 Thoughts Betrayed NECROMANCY  Jar the Soul x 2 Masquer [Wraith] Spectral Divination x 2 Summon Soul x 2 Whispers from the Dead x 2 POTENCE  Burning Wrath The Death of my Conscience Immortal grapple Increased Strength x 2 Thrown Gate x 4 Undead Strength x 4 NON-DISCIPLINE  Akhenaten the Sun Pharoh [sic], mummy Atonement Bum's Rush x 3 Consanguineous Boon Conservative Agitation Disputed Territory Leather Jacket Leonardo, Mortician Vial of Garou Blood WWEF x 5 [could be replaced by 4 WWEF and 1 Forced Awakening to make deck 4CL legal] Zombie This deck plays pretty well, and last night i swept a 4-player at Louisa's house with it, cycling all but 5 of my deck. As noted above, keeping the library-size low has the additional advantage that the deck is playable by those who like a card-limit; and furthermore, if like me you are violently anti-card limit having a deck like this in your collection is dead convenient if you run into a group that does play by them. ************************ OK, that's it for August. Soon we will be off to Portgual [22-29th] where we hope to catch a few games with the Lisbon/Almeda crowd. Late August/early September is UK Gencon, and Michael and i will certainly be there for the sealed-deck and constructed-deck events, which almost certainly means a late NL for September. And at the end of September i will go to Paris for the last qualifier, and stay for the final if i make it, or the losers tourney if i don't. So i'll be seeing a lot of you soon, and looking forward to it immensely! O, one final thing is that there might even be some !Gangrel content to the next NL. Seeya!