Gangrel Antitribu Newsletter


In this Battle of Trafalgar bicentennial edition ....
NON-FICTION: Further Experiments With a Live Child
MISTAKES AND THEIR KYND: An article about mistakes.
DECK: The Guests, another !Gangrelly tournament-topper by Erik
Torstensson from the land of saunas, smorgasbord and
unfeasibly-beautiful girls.

NON-FICTION: Further Experiments With a Live Child

As regular readers will know, i am older than most of you, and the
father of a teenage son [Michael, aka Anklebiter]. As others in the
community begin the process of raising families i thought it might be
useful to describe the role that gaming has played in Michael's
upbringing and the effects it has had on him. i'm doing this because i
believe gamer culture has had a marked influence for good upon
Michael's education, and i strongly recommend that you try its effects
on your kids, too.

It never occurred to us NOT to play games with Michael. His mother and
i are old-time D&Ders, and by old-time i mean that we used the three
crappy brown-cardboard cover books and [gulp!] silver-covered
ring-bound Chainmail when we started out. However, when Michael was
born in 1988 we had pretty much stopped D&D due to lack of congenial
players and, of course, CCGs had not yet appeared. The revival of our
interest in games took place in 1990 when i moved to Portsmouth and
discovered Marshall MacCombie's wonderful shop, Southsea Models.
Additionally among my first cohort of students at Portsmouth
University were Andrew Sparkes and Garry Scarlett who were/are
enthusiasts for skirmish miniatures games, and at that time our
favourite was Warhammer 40K. It wasn't long before VERY little Michael
was clamouring to take part in a "Massive Game With Daddy", and so he
was introduced to WH40K, Epic, and Magic when it eventually came out.

At first i think the setting up and moving around of the soldiers was
the main attraction, but he did not like to lose at all, at all. In
the photo album for 1992-ish there is a great sequence of setting up
and playing a gigantic Epic battle, Chaos against Squats IIRC,
featuring a VERY happy Michael at the beginning, and a red-faced and
teary-eyed Michael at the end, surrounded by the wreckage of his Chaos
Legion. He used to get emotional about Magic, too. Shortly after he
started school, we were playing a game in which he brought out a
Mountain Goat [red, 1/1, mountainwalk] and named him Fluffy the
mountain goat. Since i too was playing a red deck i promptly
disintegrated Fluffy. Michael burst into tears and fled the room. "You
killed my fluffy!" To console him, we had to pretend that fluffy
wasn't dead, having nipped into the cover of the discard pile at the
last moment. Eventually Michael was enticed back and, stony faced, he
passed me a note. The text read; "i no at Daddy lied fluffy is dead
and here is his grefestone" [picture of gently-smoking  gravestone
with the legend "fluffy RIP"].

Our games of Epic and WH40K [later also Warhammer FB, Flintloque and
Lord of the Rings] continue to this day. Since i am the cook in our
household i frequently have to leave the game to attend to the food,
and when Michael was little i often used to have to tell him to take
my turns while i did this. A strange phenomenon associated with this
pattern of behaviour was that no matter how good my position had been
before i left, Michael's forces would have staged a miraculous
recovery by the time i returned. Nowadays however he does not have to
cheat to beat me, of which more anon.

We do not play Magic anymore, and unsurprisingly Jyhad is our
favourite CCG. i believe that Michael may still be the youngest ever
winner of a Jyhad tournament [constructed, aged 11] and he has also
won a booster draft tournament [in London, 2004]. The other game we
play a LOT is d20 Call of Cthulhu, edited transcripts of some of our
games now forming a staple of this Newsletter's regular fiction
section. Our take on Call of Cthulhu is quite D&D-ish, however; my
view is that the basic D&D paradigm of Go Down The Dungeon, Kill The
Monsters and Steal Their Stuff is the right one for RPGs, but that it
is more fun if you have a Webley and you are taking on a Byakhee so as
to acquire a copy of Cthaat Aquadingen, than if you are whacking an
eye-tyrant with a magic mace of disruption on the Quest for the Holy
Tubs of Cash. This means that miniatures play a big part in our games,
and Michael is now a highly-skilled and prolific painter of plastic
and metal figurines.

Michael is also highly-successful at school. This year he is deputy
head boy at Springfield Technology College, studying for GCSEs where
he is predicted to get A's in everything and A*'s in everything
important. He is a balanced, considerate and intelligent child who is
greatly liked and respected by all his teachers and most of his fellow
pupils; he is particularly good with difficult and vulnerable
students. And the point of this article is to suggest that his
personal and intellectual successes are linked to gamer culture.

*He has learned how to analyse and interpret difficult text through
CCGs, especially Jyhad.

*He has learned social skills including how to argue, negotiate and
compromise from CCGs, miniatures and board games.

*He has learned narrative skills and also how to act and how to
empathise through RPGs.

*He has learned mathematical, statistical and spatial awareness skills
through miniatures games.

*He has gained an advanced understanding of issues surrounding race
and politics from miniatures games - an odd claim, but justified by
his affection for the despised Orcs in WHFB and Lord of the Rings.

*He has learned a lot of history and archaeology through Call of

*He has learned artistic skills and also patience and application
through painting miniatures.

So much for classic gamer culture, but perhaps it is right also to
note that we play a lot of cricket and we like to walk, in summer to
look for butterflies, and in autumn to look for mushrooms. Naturally,
we also play computer games, which teach one, erm, stuff about
computers, i suppose. We even occasionally watch the telly. In short,
here is a boy whose leisure has been almost wholly an educational
experience, during which he has picked up important and difficult
techniques ENTIRELY painlessly. And though i am probably not the best
judge, i cannot think of any downside to this approach - perhaps i
will have to eat my words when he turns out to be a drunk, wifebeater
or thief, but i do not think so.

i'm aware that the anecdotes of a proud parent may not give a
completely fair picture, and that in any case Michael might have
turned out exactly the same had he been brought up in complete
ignorance of games. But i really don't think so - it's the active
seeking out of generally-useful techniques and ideas with the aim of
APPLYING them to a fun activity which convinces me that these are
stories worth sharing and an approach worth emulating. If you like,
rather than hot-housing him we got him to hot-house himself - all the
gain but none of the cost in terms of personal stress.

In summary, i suggest that gamer culture is a fine educational tool,
and the family that plays together, stays together. So start
experimenting on your kids Now!


In this article i wish to discuss mistakes, a subject which SHOULD be
of interest to ALL players, even the ones who never make any, for
reasons to be discussed below. The inspiration to write this article
came from a Wednesday-in-the-pub game which i won 4/1/1 essentially
because everyone else made some fatal errors, not unconnected with the
fact that it was a six-player game.

Mistakes are a feature of all games, but how big a feature depends on
the game. In theory it is possible for a game to be so simple that it
is impossible to make a mistake at it. In practise i know of no such
games, though my friends the Stirlings have a
going-to-the-shops-and-buying-things game, bought for their then
4-year-old daughter Charys, which comes close. It is also possible for
a game to be so complex that one is certain to make an error; examples
of this include Tetris, Space Invaders and Wizfire/Armageddon. In
practise most games fall somewhere on a line between these extremes.
For me personally, Jyhad/VTES and Chess fall at the top end of the
continuum of doable games; Medina, and Zvrt aka the Game At Which LSJ
Always Kicks My Ass, are over the top end. Actually, there are also
people for whom Jyhad is over the top end. Such a one i believe was
Ryan S Dancey, infamous for his opinion that Jyhad is a game where
luck and seating order alone determine the outcome [true if all the
players are crap, partly true if only one is]. Normal Jyhad between
competent players is interesting at least in part because it is
complex enough that mistakes *ARE* a factor, but they are not,
usually, the main determinant of success.

Can we attempt to quantify the degree to which mistakes influence a
game of Jyhad? i think it is intuitively obvious that the number of
possible mistakes that one can make is related to the number of
players in the game. Let the number of players be n; then the number
of possible mistakes that can be made is given by the sum [n-1] +
[n-2] + .... +1. For practical purposes, if there are three players
there are 3 possible mistakes, for 4 there are 6, for 5 there are 10,
and for 6 there are 15. Let us call this sum Sn..

The number of possible mistakes that can be made is also related to
the length of the game and to the number of incidents that take place
in the game. These factors are harder to quantify, because, for
example, of permanents, and the different mental stamina of players.
However, it is easy to see that if the chance you are going to make an
error is P, then for n players it is  SnP, so the chance that you will
NOT make an error at any given opportunity is 1-SnP, and the chance
that you will STILL not have made an error after x opportunities so to
do is [1-SnP]x. We note that if the aim is to reduce the number of
mistakes then one must reduce P [eg by reading all the card-texts
properly, and practising intensively with one's deck], and reduce x
[eg by trying to win quickly]; by contrast, if the aim is to INCREASE
the number of mistakes, one's tactics are to increase P and x, a
subject to which we will return at the end of this article. We also
note that because the graph of the values of the above function
against x or P is of sigmoid form, quite small changes in P or x
around the critical values can have dramatic outcomes in terms of
overall success [outside this range they have virtually no effect]. On
this subject it is appropriate to note a possibly-incorrect assumption
of the above argument, namely that P is a constant; actually, it is
probably itself a function of x, at the very least [meaning that the
more stuff is going on, the likelier it is that you will mess up all
of it].

Also hard to quantify is the quality of mistakes. Some mistakes that
you make will be major game-losing blunders. Others will be minor. A
few might even benefit you - failing quite honestly to remember that a
minion has only got inferior dominate, for example. This last class of
mistake should perhaps be reckoned as a mistake by all the other
players in not noticing your error.

To win at VTES, the simplest view is that you need to aim for two

[1] Not to make any mistakes yourself.
[2] Capitalise on the mistakes of others.

Arguably, you might also aim for:

[3] Maximise the chances that other players, ideally your predator and
prey, will make mistakes.

Before discussing how one might use these ideas in play, we need to
distinguish another two subdivisions of mistakes, namely, mistakes
that are in principle retrievable/avoidable during play, versus others
that are not. This latter class of mistakes principally comprises
errors in deck-building, especially the occasions when you totally
fail to read the metagame and [for example] turn up with a
presence-bleed deck for an all-combat tourney. While i don't think one
can completely avoid these kinds of errors, a possible approach to
minimising them is to simulate a game by drawing oneself a pentagon
having a five-pointed star with internal pentagon inside it, each of
the star's points touching a vertex of the external pentagon. Imagine
your deck is at one of the vertices of the external pentagon/points of
the star, and think about what will happen when you interact along the
lines that contact your vertex with various other decks that could
occupy the other vertices. Your thoughts will probably veer quite
quickly in the direction of "toolboxing" your deck, but as they do so
you will remember that the toolboxier your deck becomes the less
simple it is, and therefore the likelier it is that you will make
other mistakes of the in-play type.

Practically speaking, what policies might one follow in order to
minimize the chances that one will make a mistake, and to maximise the
chances that the other players will make mistakes? What follows is not
an exhaustive list but does i think include the major strategies that
one might adopt.

[1] Avoid interacting with your grandpredator and grandprey as much as
possible. By so doing, you greatly reduce the number of possible
mistakes you can make. An extension of this principle but not so easy
to implement is to encourage your predator to interact with your prey
and grandprey, and your prey to interact with your predator and
grandpredator - deflection etc is a way of doing this but here is also
the realm of table-talk, and a major reason for being instinctively
resistant to it.

[2] Wait. In the early part of the game take few and simple actions.
Allow/encourage other players to take actions [ruthlessly punishing
any that are mistakes]. The longer you can wait, the likelier it is
that the other players will make mistakes.

[3] Have permanents. The more permanents you have in play, the greater
the opportunity for other players to make mistakes because the greater
the number of factors they have to think about. Of course it is also
true that YOU will make more mistakes, but because they are YOUR
permanents your error-load SHOULD be lower in respect of them. An
extension of this principle is what Derek Ray has called information
overload - give the rest of the table FAR too much to think about.

[4] Know the field. In this respect there is one overwhelmingly
brilliant card that sees remarkably little play: i refer, of course,
to Pulse of the Canaille played at INFERIOR.

All of the above looks like an argument for Auspex, and so it is,
though i did not realise that it would be when i started to write the
article. We note with some complacency that Auspex is the !Gangrel
fourth discipline. Going further, i suggest that for the above reasons
Auspex is*ALWAYS* the best fourth discipline, whenever there is any

Perhaps it is also an argument for lurking and VP-sniping using table
rearrangement. Since these are rather depressing conclusions, let us
pass on to what to do if you DON'T want to follow one of these

[5] Don't get angry. Angry players make mistakes FAR more readily than
calm ones. The corollary of this is obvious but illegal under VEKN
rules, and quite right too. And while it is possible to achieve the
effect legally in VTES by playing annoying decks it is still unwise to
make people angry deliberately, even in countries where hand guns are
illegal - an angry person is just as likely to mess you up as the
target you want them to mess up [likelier, in fact]. So play nice,
avoid being annoying, smile often, and win more.

[6] Be realistic about your own relative abilities. Usually, this will
mean you will want to play simple decks with whose mechanics you are
solidly familiar whenever you go off to play with good players. This
even applies if you yourself are a good player, since there is an
excellent chance that the other good players will be showboating with
weird decks, and will fail because they make extra mistakes. And if a
new card fits well into your simple deck, play with it, on the grounds
that at least some of your opponents won't have come across it,
thereby increasing their potential to make mistakes.

[7] Have a good breakfast, and drink lots of water. These measures
will help you to concentrate.

[8] Pack a few Strong Denial cards - Suddens, Pentex Subversion,
Direct Intervention. Play these, i beg you, with EXTREME
circumspection; while there are other reasons for including these
cards in your deck, if you accept the thesis of this article your aim
here is to use them to cause sensible plays to turn into disastrous
mistakes. For example, DI should virtually always target an action
modifier, or a deflection that is coming your way [recall that a
vampire cannot play two action modifiers or reactions of the same type
on any action].

[9] Make a few deliberate mistakes. This will encourage the other
players to drop their guard, and make more mistakes in their turn.
Into this class of tactics falls what Ben Peal has called the "curve
ball", meaning the deliberate inclusion into your deck of cards that
don't seem to fit it. i found this out once when we were chatting
about deck-building, and we discovered that we both had independently
developed this tactic; we agreed that its psychological effect can be
devastating, and is manifested in large part by increased errors
amongst the other players.

i wish to conclude this article by considering a completely different
approach to mistakes in Jyhad/VTES. i suggest that there COULD be
occasions when your aim is NOT to minimise mistakes, but to maximise
them. i have in mind games in which you personally are completely
outclassed, intellectually and/or through metagaming failure. In these
circumstances, your ONLY chance is to turn the beautiful game of Jyhad
into a ghastly lottery, whose outcome is determined by chance alone.
This gives you a 20% chance of winning the game, but that is better
than zero. One's thoughts turn instinctively to Malkavian Games and
Malkavian Pranks. Many readers will know that there is a right and
rational way to play both cards [for those who don't, it is to always
bid odd for the former, and always give your grandprey and
grandpredator pool with the latter]. My concluding point here is that
there are also perfectly rational reasons for bidding like a fool when
you are on the ropes, with the aim of maximising table error load and
hence your own [slim] chance of winning.


DECK: The Guests, another !Gangrelly tournament-topper by Erik
Torstensson from the land of saunas, smorgasbord and
unfeasibly-beautiful girls.

It's a pleasure once again to feature a tournament-winning deck with a
strong !Gangrel component, and without further ado here is Sten
During's account of the:

Gothenburg in the Heat of the Night Tourney: Winning deck.
Participants: 10
Date: 2004-07-10

Winning player: Erik Torstensson

Winning deck:

Name: The Guests

Description: Inspired by the Leonard Cohen song "the Guests"... A 
neo-stealth/bleed with a nice twist of gehenna. Get one or two VP's
and then
play Absimilard's Army and wait for a while. If anyone who isn't you 
takes a ghoul, steal it with your merged Sebastian.
Since the numbers of masters are quite low, the Veil of Darkness hits 
everyone else harder than you.

Author: ERik

Crypt (12 cards total):

3x Sebastian Goulet
3x Sebastian Goulet Adv.
1x Suzanne Kadim
1x Catherine du Bois
1x Badr al-Budur
1x Reverend Blackwood
1x Juggler
1x Count Ormonde

Library (89 cards total):

Masters (10 cards):

4x Visit from the Capuchin
2x Fortschritt Library
2x Blood Doll
2x Gambit Accepted

Actions (15 cards):

10x Govern the Unaligned
1x Dominate Kine
4x Flurry of Action

Allies (1 card):
1x Mylan Horseed (Goblin)

Events (10 cards):

3x Absimiliard's Army
1x The Unmasking
1x Recalled to the Founder
1x Fueled by Heart's Blood
1x Nightmares upon Nightmares [questionable in this deck, as pointed
out by Derek Ray]
1x Conquest of Humanity
1x Thirst
1x Veil of Darkness

Action Modifiers (28 cards):

4x Cloak the Gathering
4x Seduction
2x Elder Impersonation
3x Faceless Night
5x Lost in Crowds
3x Spying Mission
7x Conditioning

Combat Cards (10 cards):

1x Fast Hands
2x Bone Spur
3x Weighted Walking Stick
4x Flash

Reactions (12 cards):

6x Deflection
6x Wake with Evening's Freshness

Combo (3 cards):

3x Swallowed by the Night


And that's it for the October issue! November will be late and
jet-lagged but FULL of transatlantic wisdom, not to mention beer, cos
i am off to visit some of my American chums. See you then!

Address for correspondence: james"dot"mcclellan"at"port"dot"ac"dot"uk