Coming soon from Renegade Studios is an expandable card game called Vampire: The Masquerade – Rivals. In this card game, 2-4 players choose from four factions of Vampires (Toreador, Ventrue, Brujah, and Malkavian). Each will use their own methods to attempt to control the streets of San Francisco to win the game. Whether the clan uses intelligence, social influence, or brute strength, the fight is on! But watch out. The soldiers of the Special Affairs Division (S.A.D.) stand ready to take any clan out.

The numbers for this game suggest 2-4 players and ages +14. Games take anywhere from 30-70 minutes to complete. This game plays well for only two players, but there are several mechanics and card effects that suggest this game does not come into its own unless you have 3-4 players. In fact, I can see the number going higher than four possibly with future expansions. The age is a bit misleading. If you see a game of Vampires with an age +14, your first thought might be this is a bloody, gory game not suited for younger players. The art is well done (come back to that in a minute), but it’s not the art is not the issue. I find nothing offensive or objectionable in this game’s art or text. I would recommend the +14 however because of the complexity of the gameplay. This game is easy enough to learn, but mastery will take some practice.

Under the Lid

Vampire Rivals box

As many games as I play, how the box is organized and designed means a great deal. Some companies essentially give you a box to dump the pieces into while others organize (and sometimes over-organize) the box to keep things in line. One word designs both the box and some of the game design itself – Efficient. Efficient. Efficient. All of the cards and tokens in this starter set easily fit in one side of the box. It contains enough room for several expansions to come. The cards come with beautifully designed dividers to separate card types, and the slots for tokens easily contain the tokens. Not only that but the game comes with zip lock baggies in the exact number needed to comfortably divide the tokens into their five groups, and guess what – they are the exact width of the token compartments! I can see this box hold 3-5 expansions easily.

The card stock itself is solid. It shuffles and plays well, but with all card games if you intend to play this heavily either invest in their card sleeves to maintain design or use your own. I do not have their card sleeves so I cannot speak to their quality. The tokens for the game can also be described as efficient. Factions use prestige (blue markers) to buy vampires and other cards. The prestige for vampire use then turns into blood. Instead of flooding the game with extra tokens, they put prestige on one side and blood on the other. This saves a ton of room and works very well with the flow of the game. These tokens are then subdivided into four colors, separate from the deck colors so players can identify their own tokens.

Vampire Rivals – Gameplay Overview

In this game, you choose one of four factions. Each faction plays radically different from the others, so using the same strategy for every deck is a guaranteed losing strategy. The Brujah clan uses blunt force and power to win games. Its deck is designed to take out other players’ vampires. The physical and ranged attacks are heavy here. The Toreador clan specializes in social conflict and uses scheme cards to win. Ventrue are the tyrants and kings of the game. They use social and mental stats and titles to win the day. Finally, the Malkavians are your madmen, visionaries, and oracles. They love the conspiracy cards to defeat their opponent. This deck can be played single but becomes much better with 3-4 player games as it’s all about manipulating your opponents.

victories are measured by Agenda points. The first player to 13 Agenda wins. Another way to win is to wipe out your foe. This game uses the word foe specifically. In a two-player game, your foe is obviously the other player. In a 3-4 player game, you use the numbered tokens to randomly select your opponent. While you can go after anyone, your foe is the only one that generally gives you agenda tokens. Knocking out the other player(s) could actually work against you. If you are not the one to knock out your foe the game could come down to Agenda points.

Vampire Rivals table set up

Vampire Rivals – Gameplay Feel

I really love the gameplay of this card game. If you want to forgo the faction and just beat the snot out of your foe, feel free. Like I said, unless you are playing the Brujah, you will most likely lose. You need to know the deck you are playing and how best to use it. They are extremely different! In fact, play any of the other three factions against each other (minus the Brujah) in all likely hood you will never attack your opponent directly, save a nice sucker punch.

The drawing power of this game is well balanced. Instead of only getting one card per turn, you have the option of up to four cards a turn with no maximum hand size. You draw from either your library (your action cards) or your Vampire pile (7 cards). This sacrifices your actions for the round, but it does build up your options for card play.

The rulebook is very well written. In some games, the rulebook is scattered all over. Others may lay the game out well enough, but you end up with a ton of questions it doesn’t answer. In learning to play this game, we found all the answers we needed save one or two, and those we figured out. Read carefully. There are nuances we did not catch until our third and fourth play-through, but most games are like this.

Vampire Rivals – Final Thoughts

I really like this game. Each deck pushes you to play so differently you really need to adapt. It plays similar to the Game of Thrones LCG with its three stats, but unlike Thrones, they are only a means to an end. You may go the whole game not attacking and win, but watch out! Those damned SAD troopers that pop out of the City Deck in the middle can really mess with your Coterie. The strategy can be intense, so if you want a more casual game this won’t be it. You must know your deck and that of your Rivals in order to win.

If this game has one drawback it is only inherent to its type, being a base set. Some of the cards may not feel like they work. Other times you may like your cards, but you cannot quite get things to gel. I tribute this to being a base game. Every base game has cards that don’t seem to fit or are not quite themed enough to work, but when that first expansion hits watch out! I see this being the case for Vampire Masquerade – Rivals. It plays well enough for now, but when they get to their first expansion, the game will really change and come alive.

I really love just about everything from this card game. If you are looking for a slightly different, involved card game, I highly suggest giving this one a go. The core set retails for only $45, and card sleeves are available for order as well. As for the actual release date? only says pre-orders are available right now. They say the release should be early 2021, so hopefully soon.