Official VEKN Gangrel-antitribu newsletter volume 7 number 1 January 2004 Address for correspondence: legbiter"at"talk21"dot"com ************** In this Back-to-Business Issue ..... EDITORIAL: Balance in the Black Hand Starter decks. FICTION: The Death of Arika DECK: Black Hand Anarchs 2 A NON-PARTY POLITICAL BROADCAST ON BEHALF OF THE UNDEAD CLAWPOLL: Is the most powerful card in the game always broken? ************** EDITORIAL: Balance in the Black Hand Starter decks. With the Black hand expansion White Wolf provided 4 starter decks, for the antitribu Malkavians, Nosferatu, Toreador and Tremere. Whilst all these decks are fairly toolboxy the Malkavian and Toreador decks are unusual amongst starter decks in that they focus on "secondary" clan strategies, namely voting for the !Malkavians and combat for the !Toreador. Two other important respects in which these decks differ from Sabbat War starters are the absence of clan hosers [furthermore the clan hosers have not been reprinted, an EXCELLENT change, in this NL's editorial view], and the general absence of a "Power Rare", not so good from the marketing point of view but an indication of the general health of the game [if you take this NL's editorial opinion that Power Rares are a v. Bad Thing]. After the pre-release events there was a certain amount of newsgroup and other chat about the relative balance of these starter decks. Some of this discussion seemed rather feebly based in actual experience of play, so i thought it would be an interesting experiment to test the decks out in as many pairwise and other combinations as possible, with the aim of establishing a database on starter balance. Although VTES is not designed to be primarily a duel it is important that the starter decks be balanced in duels, because this is going to be their primary use - when an experienced player sits down to teach a new player the rudiments of the game, or when two refugees from Yu-Go-I, Pokemon or Magic buy a couple of starters and try the game out. This experiment is not finished but here is the data we have so far: !Tre beat !Mal [twice], !Nos [once] [3-player and one duel]; 5 VP out of possible 7 !Tor beat !Tre, !Mal, !Nos [3 duels]; record 6 VP out of possible 13 !Mal beat !Tor x2 and !Nos x 2 [2 duels, 1 three-player;] 5 VP out of possible 13 !Nos beat !Tor; 2VP out of possible 12 So quantitatively, in our hands, all these decks perform roughly equally in 2-3 player games, except for the !Nos deck which lags a bit - a result which, even in preliminary form, i found surprising, given the newsgroup discussion. However, statistics do not tell the whole story; all of these games were fun and nobody felt that the experiment was in any sense a chore. Therefore in summary, i think the designers have achieved the kind of balance which is most desirable from the point of view of the game's future - or more precisely, i have no evidence against that proposition. ***************** FICTION: The Death of Arika Nightfall finds me already at my desk, the ever-attentive Winthrop at my side to help with things like holding the appointments diary the right way up, and how to restart the computer. "Damage report?" "The usual visit from the Gargoyles, this time they pissed in the flowerbeds and sang some carols. Not too bad, except for Silent Night." "OK, and who am i seeing for supper?" "A Miss ... Jing Wei, sir." "Excellent, and let's take a bit of thought for tomorrow night .... something young and fresh again, i think, Atkins diet/New Year resolution doncha know .... let's see ...."
"Hello?" "Angel, my, erm, angel! It's Legbiter! i was wondering if you were free for supper tomorrow, my treat of course!" "Sod off, you vile old pervert! i remember what happened last time you chatted me up!" "Aw, don't be like that! i'll give you a chocolate." "OK. Usual time and place?" "Sure, see you then!" "Isn't it nice when things just work?" "Indeed, sir. And now i think it might be good to let the dogs out." "O dear, i'd assumed that smell was you. SOOO sorry! Snarly, Rends, good boys! Here! Seek 'er! Seek 'er!" Rends-the-Treehuggers and Snarls-at-Postmen sniff at the violet lacy wonderbra which i flourish under their snouts, and take their leave, with a courteous "Yeah, mon, whatever." Rends has a Kalashnikov and a full clip. Snarly has two crappy home-made zip guns. It's good to be Pack Alpha. Locating their quarry's mansion, the two werewolves discuss their strategy and tactics. "Righto Snarly, you go in first and kick seven bells of shit out of her. Then i come in and clean up anything that's left." "Alright." But Arika is not in the mansion. Snarly spots her streaking out of the back door. "Here! Miss! You forgot your bra!" Arika is too wily to fall for that one, and she weaves and dodges to such good effect that Snarly is unable to close with her, eventually contenting himself with two shots from the zip gun. Then it is Rends's turn. Blam! Blat-at-at-at-at! and down she goes, like a sack of undead spuds. Attracted by the commotion, younger Ventrue arrive, ready to protect their great leader's form from Diablerie. Alas, it is all in vain - after a number of vicious fights with my many minions the young Ventrue are all exhausted, and Igo the Hungry becomes Igo the Extremely Replete and Absolutely Gorgeous. So it's a happy little scene in Chez Gaston later that night, and no great chore at all to persuade the lovely-but-inscrutable Jing Wei to join my cause. In fact, i'm in such high spirits that as we leave i pull the arms off a couple of waiters and give them to her as Christmas presents. Disarming Presence. Geddit??????? *********** The turn of JOL game local40 upon which the above story is based: LEGBITER 7.3 Starting Pool: 29 (-14 xfer, -10 RenGarou, -5 AssRifle, -2 bleed, -2 Casino, -2 DrawVamp, -2 Misdirect, -1 Knights, +26 AutPers, +6 Oust, +3 Bribes, +2 Ascend) UNTAP: All MASTER: Effective Management to draw vampire #9 [Angel] MINION: 1) Snarls-at-Postmen (Renegade Garou) rushes Arika (at +1 stealth). Arika plays Swallowed by the Night to maneuver to long. Garou maneuvers back to close. Arika plays Swallowed by the Night to maneuver to long. Garou uses maneuver from Zip Gun to maneuver back to close range (Garou takes 1 damage from Zip Gun). Arika plays Swallowed by the Night to maneuver to long. Garou strikes with Zip Gun twice for 2R (Arika 0/11). 2) Rends-the-Treehuggers (Renegade Garou) rushes Arika (at +1 stealth). Garou maneuvers to long. Arika plays Swallowed by the Night to maneuver to close. Garou maneuvers to long using Assault Rifle. Garou uses Assault Rifle for 4R (Arika 0/11 torpor). 3) Vasilis attempts to diablerise Arika. Itzakh blocks. Vasilis strikes with Lucky Blow for 2. Itzakh strikes with hands for 1. Itzakh takes 2 damage (Itzakh 1/3) and Vasilis takes 1 damage (Vasilis 1/2). 4) Rake attempts to diablerise Arika. Roland blocks. Rake punches for 2 (special vs Ventrue). Roland strikes for 1. Roland takes 2 damage (Roland 1/3) and Rake takes 1 damage (Rake 5/6). 5) Ricki van Demsi attempts to diablerise Arika. Gideon blocks. Both combatants exchange hand strikes for 1. Both combatants take 1 damage (Ricki 2/3, Gideon 2/3). 6) Giuliano attempts to diablerise Arika. Violette blocks. Both combatants exchange hand strikes for 1. Both combatants take 1 damage (Giuliano 1/2, Violette 2/4). 7) Igo diablerises Arika. Wes declines to block. A bloodhunt is automatically called. The referendum is that Igo should burn. --Legbiter has 7 votes AGAINST (3 Giuliano, 2 Igo, 2 Rake) --Wes throws a Reins of Power for 1 vote FOR (1 vote card) The referendum FAILS 7-1 and Igo survives. Legbiter gives him a Presence card from his hand (Igo 1/2). INFLUENCE: 3 on #7, revealing Jing Wei (Pool 26) DISCARD: Disarming Presence Ending Pool: 26 (-17 xfer, -10 RenGarou, -5 AssRifle, -2 bleed, -2 Casino, -2 DrawVamp, -2 Misdirect, -1 Knights, +26 AutPers, +6 Oust, +3 Bribes, +2 Ascend) ***************** DECK: Black hand Anarchs 2 This deck uses exclusively Black Hand vampires, and the aim is to make them all into Anarchs; this is possible because Seraph is not a title [in VTES if you have a vote you are titled, if you don't you aren't - card text, as always, overriding this principle, for example with Legacy of Pander and the occasional burn-blood-for-votes specials]. In addition the deck uses the Happy Families formula to choose library cards, here majoring on a whopping 5 disciplines. It is quite toolboxy but flows smoothly in play, and it wins a LOT; in fact, i have yet to lose with it [4 outings, 2 wins, two draws]. In essence [to use a Ben Peal concept] it is a dominate bleed payload deck with two delivery sytems - stealth and bash, the bash serving also as defence, being aided to that end by significant intercept. BLACK HAND ANARCHS 2 Jalan-Aajav Tarbaby Jack Katherine Stoddard Piotr Andreikov Blackhorse Tanner Kazimir Savostin Soldat Wah Chun-Yuen Yazid Tamari Banjoko Henri Lavenant Ezekiel, Lord of Montreal 21 MASTERS [7 are trifles] The Anarch Free Press Anarch Railroad Animalism Blood Doll x 3 Celerity Corporal Reservoir [trifle] Dominate Dominion Galaric's Legacy x 6 [trifle] Obfuscate Potence Remover Seattle Committee Watchtower: Chosen are Called 69 MINION 7 ANARCH Diversion x 3 Improvised Tactics x 2 The Mole x 2 12 DISCIPLINELESS/BLACK HAND Circumspect Revelation Forced Awakening x 4 Leather Jacket .44 Magnum Ministry x 2 Watch Commander x 2 Watchtower: Greatest Fall 7 ANIMALISM Army of Rats Cat's Guidance x 2 Guard Dogs x 2 Rat's Warning x 2 7 CELERITY Flash x 3 Nimble Feet x 4 15 DOMINATE Conditioning x 5 Deflection x 5 Govern the Unaligned x 4 Seduction 7 OBFUSCATE Elder Impersonation Faceless Night Lost in Crowds Swallowed by the Night x 4 14 POTENCE Immortal Grapple x 3 Rampage Shattering Blow Thrown Gate x 3 Torn Signpost x 3 Undead Strength x 3 On its most recent outing the vampires i activated were Soldat and Jalan Aajav - FANTASTIC combination, and EVER so on-topic for this Newsletter! ***************** A NON-PARTY POLITICAL BROADCAST ON BEHALF OF THE UNDEAD Today's London Times contains a blistering Philippic about one of the Democratic candidates to be President of the United States, namely Dr Howard Dean. If this article is to be believed, he is known as the Vermont Vampire. Thus, should the Democrats win the next election in the USA, and the Conservatives win here, we would have transatlantic Necrocracy [the Tory leader Mr Michael Howard is well-known to be a vampire, for reasons with which i will not bore non-Brits]. Incidentally, the former President of the Republic of Iraq was also nicknamed The Vampire; it sounds much better in Arabic, but sadly i have forgotten the precise word. ***************** CLAWPOLL: Is the most powerful card in the game always broken? i've been reading another NG thread, and i wonder if it might clarify matters if people were to give their answers to the above question, ideally with reasoning. My view; no, because if it were, all cards would soon be of equal and negligible power. My view does not mean that cards *CANNOT* be broken. IMO "broken" has two valid meanings;  A card is broken if it is wrongly-costed [by this criterion, chainsaw is the only obviously broken card, though GtU, Conditioning and Deflection are breathing down its neck in a sweaty and unpleasant manner].  A card is broken if it ruins the game [by this criterion, PTO and AR are the top candidates for brokenness]. Finally, i do not think that demonstrating that a card is broken AUTOMATICALLY means it should be fixed or banned. There is a cost to fixing and banning cards; it annoys new players. This is a bad thing for a game which, above all, needs new players; certainly more than it needs perfectly-balanced tourneys, in my view. i suggest we experiment with alternative sanctions for broken cards, for example "may not be played in constructed-deck tournaments", or "not playable if one wants to keep any friends". *************** And that's it for January! i know i said there would be a Christmas special, but, erm, Christmas got in the way. We spent a lot of it playing Hive and VTES and painting miniatures, also a bit of Call of Cthulhu. Sadly for Case of the Hand on the Door* fans, Shona is now Quite Mad, but Jefferson and O'Keefe are still fairly compos mentis; furthermore, all are now 4th level. The players are keen that i write this one up as well, and i may do that, if [a] they ever get close to figuring out what is going on, and [b] i can think of a decent title. See you all in February! Except for those who play in Pierre's draft tourney, who i will see at the weekend. *This NL volume 6 issues 10-12