This is a primer for those VtES players planning to attend their first VtES tournament. The article describes what you can expect, how to prepare for a tournament and what are the do’s and dont’s during a VtES tournament,
So you are going to attend a VtES tournament, and you are nervous at hell. Then then first thing you need to do is relax. I mean it. The people you are going to play with (or against) are a bunch of nice people (usually) and VtES tournaments are handled way more relaxed than in most other trading card games.
VtES tournaments are the organized form of a multi-round games. That means each players participates in two or three games (rounds). Each game consists of four or five players which are randomly assigned to these games. There is no arrangement of tables during these initial rounds based on the player’s performance of the previous rounds. After the two or three preliminary rounds the player’s scores from these rounds are added up, and the top 5 players are advancing to the final round. In this final round the winner of the tournament is determined, the winner of the final is also the winner of the tournament. (The other players at the final table are all automatically placed on the second place).
Your first tournament should be a small(er) tournaments. I wouldn’t really recommend that your first tournament is a Continental Qualifier or a National Championship.
You need a VEKN membership number to participate in tournament. VEKN is the abbreviation for “Vampire Elder Kindred Network” and is the official VtES players’ organization. But don’t worry, becoming a member of the VEKN is both free and easy to obtain. You can check the VEKN player registry if you’re already registered. If not let your Prince (your local VEKN play coordinator) register you before the tournament, or (much easier) let the tournament organizer assign a VEKN number for you. When you arrive at the tournament you just tell the tournament organizer that you are (not yet) a member of the VEKN, and he will grant you preliminary membership in the VEKN, and register you as official member after the tournament.
Make sure your deck complies all current rules. In particular make sure:
- Your deck shouldn’t contain any banned cards. Therefore check the list of banned cards. The list is included in the VEKN tournament rules
- Your library has at least 60 cards and at most 90 cards.
- Your crypt contains 12 or more vampires/Imbued. Also check if your crypt complies with the grouping rule (only vampires/imbued from one group or from two adjacent groups).
You also need some blood counters. Depending on your deck you need at least 30 blood counters (usually 40 are better). Do not use dice as counters, they are easily toppled over and then nobody knows your pool or the blood on your vampires. The blood counters should be easily recognizable/visible and neither too large or too small. They do not have to be glass beads. Other players use counters from other games like “Risk”, poker chips, coins, or even bullet casings.
Card sleeves for your deck are not required in VtES Tournaments, unless the VtES cards backs can be considered as marked e.g. they are worn or have otherwise distinctive markings. Because the original “Jyhad” cards are still valid and the “3rd Edition” cards have their back illustration “flipped“, card sleeves should also be used unless number of cards between are somewhat equally distributed.
Some VtES tournaments, usually only the larger ones like National Championships, Continental Qualifiers or Continental Championships, require a deck list. A deck list is a piece of paper with the cards (and their number of copies) of both your crypt and library. The deck list can be printout from one of the deck building utilities like FELDB, ARDB, or Secret Library, but it can also be handwritten. In either case, make sure it’s readable and correct! If a deck list is required, the tournament organizer will announce this, and request the deck list upon your registration before the actual tournament starts.
Please observe that contrary to other card games, there is no card limit in VtES. That is you can put an arbitrary number of an individual cards into your deck. Also (as with other trading cards games) proxy cards are not allowed, i.e. all cards in your decks must be genuine White Wolf cards.
Most of the above information can also be found in the official VEKN tournament rules. Although you need not to be familiar with all the details of the tournament rules, it doesn’t hurt to have read them once. The same applies to the current rulings and errata list, if you are not sure how one of your cards actually work in a complex situation, you should consult the compiled list of rulings and errata.
During tournaments you can often trade cards with other players. So it’s a good idea to bring along your own cards you can spare, and make up your mind, what you might need.
When traveling to a VtES tournament, you should inform yourself where and when the tournament actually takes place. Avoid the stress and arrive in time by
- starting somewhat earlier if you don’t know the exact location or expect traffic on the way.
- getting a map to the location, especially of the immediate vicinity of the location. You’ll probably won’t need that if you travel by car and have a navigation system.
- getting the telephone number of the organizer if possible, so you can call him if your late somehow. This usually work unless it’s a big tournament.
You do not have to be there very early, since usually registration is opened only 30 to 60 minutes before the actual tournament.
In the tournament announcement there is often an email address or website where you can pre-register. Pre-registration is usually only intended for informing the tournament organizer how many players he can roughly expect. Also if you’re too late for the tournament, the tournament organizers at smaller tournament will often wait for you to arrive (though it helps if you call him on phone as well).
Registration and Tournament Organization
When you arrive at the tournament, one of the first things to do (perhaps beside a visit to the restroom) is to register. Registering just means that you’ll give the tournament organizer your name and VEKN membership number (see above). He will also determine the seating order, which be announced after all participants of the tournament have arrived and registration is closed. Often there is a registration fee (from $0-$5 or 0€ to 5€) from which the tournament organization finances the prize support and promotional cards. Good thing is you’ll usually get a bunch of promotional cards for your entry fee as well.
Aside from the limitations described above (deck size/group rule/banned cards), I’d like to give you the following advice:
- Play a deck that you played before, and that you know how to play with it. E.g. it’s not fun for you and the other players when you start playing a political deck for the first time during a tournament.
- Know your cards. Nothing infuriates other players more than if you starting reading your cards and if you ask other players how the cards you’re playing actually work. On the other hand it’s nothing wrong about asking other players what a particular card does they are playing. Nobody expects you to know each and every VtES card ever released. There are several thousands of library and vampires cards out there and only very,very few people know all the card texts exactly. If you don’t know a card another player is using and it’s seems important to you ask another player for its effect. If in doubt, let you give the card, so you can read it. Also do not be shy about asking other players what special abilities a vampires, they are moving to the controlled region, has.
Before the game
After the tournament organizer has announced the table seating for a given round, you should move to the table at which you will be playing the next round. Do this in a timely fashion, since there are a couple of things to do before the actual game starts like shuffling your deck, counting your pool, etc. Make sure you are at the right table (they are numbered), and that you have the correct seating position. I have seen a couple of times that players (even experienced ones) haven’t read the seating order closely and two players with the same first name have switched.
When you arrive at your game table for the next round, you should introduce yourself to the other players. Not only it’s polite, it also helps communication during the game if you (and your opponents) can refer to each other by name.
Before the game starts, shuffle your deck throughly. How this is done (rifle shuffle, overhand shuffle, etc.) is up to you, only make sure that your deck is sufficiently randomized. Before the game starts your asked to cut and/or shuffle the crypt and library of your prey. Your predator will do the same with your crypt and library. So before dealing the cards to yourself, you should ask your predator if he wants to cut your crypt and library or not.
During The Game
- Observe the order of play. If in doubt take the rulebook and place it face down on the table so you can look up the turn sequence during your turn.
- Observe the rules. Expect from other players that they observe the rules closely, and they expect it from you in turn. The other players may be to be lenient toward you, because you’re new to tournaments, but do not take it for granted. Players are not looking kindly upon forgetting to take pool for the Edge or reversing the order to discard and influence phases. Suck it up, and learn from your error(s).
- Calling a judge. When you have serious doubt about a particular situation or a rules question, do not hesitate to call a judge. I am not encouraging you to call a judge all the time, just if you have serious doubt about a given situation and/or the outcome of the game is decided upon the situation. In smaller tournaments a so-called “multi-judge” system is used. That is before the tournament six judges are selected (usually by the tournament organizer). All of the judges are also players, but with six judges in the tournament, there is always a judge who does not actively participates in a particular game and he can be called to decide on rules questions and the like.
Table Talk and Deals
There is usually much table talk in a VtES tournament, since it’s a very social multiplayer game. Do not be intimidated by the amount or type of table talk. Some people like to trash talk, others try to sweet talk you into doing something that may be not in your best interest.
When another player tries to talk you into doing something, blocking, taking an action, playing a Sudden Reversal, etc., he may have good arguments, but always ask yourself, what is in your best interest, what is he gaining when you do the deed he’s asking for. Especially veteran players try to convince less experienced players into performing actions, that they could do themselves, but they want to save their resources. Talk is cheap, taking actions or spending pool is not.
VtES is to some extent a game of making (and sometimes breaking) deals. There are small deals like “If you help my with my vote, I’ll rescue your vampire” as well larger deals like “We’ll help each other in ousting our respective preys, and then fight it out like men“.
- Before doing anyone a small or big favour (attacking vampires crosstable, or rescuing your predator’s vampires from torpor, etc..), always ask for a return. Even if the action is in your best interest also.
- Always ask yourself: “What is best for me?”
- Do not make one-sided deals. If you’re deal partner is offering a huge favour for practically nothing in return, it is quite likely that is not gonna keep the deal.
- If in doubt about a particular deal (e.g. if your “partner” will keep the deal or if the deal is not to your advantage), politely decline the deal, but decline it! Your not obliged to accept any deal offered.
After and between games
If you’re ousted, you can leave the table or you can watch how the game progresses/ends. After you have been ousted, you’re considered a spectator, that means you’re no longer allowed to comment the game or make suggestions to other players still involved in the game. To quote the VEKN Tournament Rules:
All spectators are expected to remain silent during the course of a game and are not permitted to communicate with players in any way while a game is in progress.
Unless explicitly forbidden by tournament organizer (e.g. to prevent interference of spectators with the game or reduce the noise level in the room), you can wander around see what decks are played at the other tables. This is informally known as “scouting” and may help you to assess your opponents more easily in the following rounds.
When discussing with other spectators please keep your voices down or (better) leave the playing area, where you do not disturb the other players still active in the game.
The start of the next round is named by the tournament, so you can take your time visiting the restroom, eating some food, or talking to other players which also have been ousted. Also between the rounds 1&2 and 2&3, the tournament organizer may announce intermediate standings, but this is usually not the case.
This was a lot of information and advice. I tried to cover most aspects that might interest a VtES player new to the tournament scene, but at the core you’ll just need a deck, and 30 blood counters, and most important is the following advice: Have fun!
- Your First Tournament — article for beginners attending their first “Magic: the Gathering” tournament.