Tournament Report: Austin Qualifier, 2009

The two playgroups in Texas that I have any experience with are the Dallas and Austin playgroup. At one point, when I first started playing in North Texas around 2005, both playgroups were of comparable size. Unfortunately, last year, the turnout and enthusiasm for the Austin playgroup began to wane. Come this year, it seemed that the entire playgroup had fallen off the face of the Earth. When asked who was going to be attending the Dallas Qualifier for North American Championship, Ethan, one of the players there, texted us, “Austin VTES is dead.”

That was unfortunate. VTES, like any collectible card game, isn’t much fun if there’s not a community to play with. With the failure of the Austin playgroup, Dallas stood as the only regularly operating playgroup in Texas that I knew of. Worse still, the Lafayette, Lousiana playgroup seemed to be following a similar fate. It’s understandable that CCG playgroups die, and quite frankly amazing that a game such as Vampire: the Eternal Struggle, which was originally published under the name Jyhad in 1994, is till being played at all. The vast majority of CCGs that came out after Magic: the Gathering have merely been splashes in the pan that died out shortly after introduction. I remember playing the CCG Netrunner, which was the third game published by Wizards of the Coast under the monicker “Deckmaster” and enjoying it a good deal, only to see if soon fade from play altogether.

Let’s face it. If Wizards of the Coast can’t get a CCG off the ground, it just doesn’t bode well for the viability of the genre. That’s not to say certain games don’t find an audience, they do. But the key seems to a small publisher finding, nurturing, and responding to the needs of a small market. In our case, the small market of VTES players seemed to be getting smaller by the month.

It’s can be discouraging to watch the player base decline. You start to wonder when you should just get out of the game altogether or find a new hobby. Of course, we in Dallas have also had some victories in attracting new players. So it’s not all doom and gloom. Still, I didn’t like seeing the Austin playgroup fall off the map.

Continue reading Tournament Report: Austin Qualifier, 2009

The Problems of the Tremere Clan in VTES, Part I

Vampire: the Eternal StruggleOne of my hobbies is the collectible card game, Vampire: the Eternal Struggle. It was the second collectible card game (after Magic: the Gathering) designed by Richard Garfield and put out under the “Deckmaster” label. Originally introduced in 1994, the game is still supported with new expansions today, which makes VTES on of the longest running CCGs outside of M:tG.

VTES was designed to be a group game. It doesn’t play well with only two players, and many players won’t bother with a 3-player game either. Four or (preferably) five seems to be the preferred number of players to capture the dynamics of the game. It has consistently been recognized as the best multiplayer CCG ever. That also means that it requires a decent player base in order for play groups to really thrive.

The economics of the game are also a bit unusual. Typically the first printing of a collectible are the most sought after and valuable. Not so with VTES. Wizards of the Coast, the company that introduced the game back in 1994, wasn’t sure how many cards to print for their initial print run. The only guide they had to go off of was how many M:tG cards they were selling, so they ended up printing a lot more VTES cards (which was originally titled “Jyhad”) that were actually demanded. The end result was that of all the VTES cards in circulation, the cheapest and most plentiful ones are the ones originally printed. Which is the opposite of what one would expect.

At the start of 2005, I challenged myself to do something with all these original printing Jyhad cards. You could practically get them just for the asking and it seemed a good opportunity for someone to do the classic business maneuver of adding some value to them by repacking them in a more desirable form. Of course, in the world of CCGs, one of the hardest things to come by is a good deck design. So I decided to design decks comprised almost entirely of original Jyhad card stock and make them as competitive as I could. Continue reading The Problems of the Tremere Clan in VTES, Part I

Dollar Falls Sharply as Gold Approaches It’s All Time High… Again

Vampire: the Eternal Struggle
As my personal friends know, I’m a gamer geek. My collectible card game (CCG) of choice is Vampire: the Eternal Struggle (VTES). It’s Richard Garfield’s (the designer of Magic: the Gathering) second CCG and he designed it for multiple players. It’s a game I enjoy playing competitively.

Every year, White Wolf (the company that publishes VTES has a North American Championship. In order to play in this tournament, you first have to do well in a qualifier tournament which every region has. This weekend, Los Angeles had its qualifier tournament and I enjoyed playing in it (I didn’t qualify). Since VTES has a small but loyal player base compared to other CCGs, you get to know everyone pretty well who competes on a national level. We’ve become a pretty close knit group despite the fact that we all live in different regions; our willingness to travel and our love of the game brings us together.

Well known members of this tight-knit circle include Ben Peal, and a married couple, Robin and David Tatu. They have all purchased my book and found it a good read. Both of the Tatu’s were at the tournament this weekend, and I commented to them that my investments were up some 50% over the last six months. They recommended that I sell my gold investments before they crashed. Now, I found it a bit peculiar that two people who told me that they learned a great deal about how the economy works from the book that I wrote would then tell me to sell gold.

It does make sense in a human nature kind of way. The knee jerk response I’ve gotten when I tell people how much money I’ve made off of my gold investments is “Sell!” It’s a bit of conventional wisdom that has its roots in reality. After all, trees don’t grow to the sky and what goes up must come down. If something’s up 50%, then it must be time to sell it.

Well, yes and no. Continue reading Dollar Falls Sharply as Gold Approaches It’s All Time High… Again