Blogs and podcasts for other games feature a lot of card reviews and evaluations. As each set comes out, the blogs and forums become abuzz with people debating the merits and flaws of the new cards. Power, flavor, strategy, and so much more gets talked about. For VTES, this is obviously more difficult – card sets come out only rarely (a little less than once per year), and our community is small enough that a new set generates only a small amount of conversation. As an example, I can count the number of set reviews published for any given VEKN set on a single hand. Yet, as a blog writer, I’d like to engage in more card evaluation. Perhaps what I should do is start a series of articles on individual cards and possible uses for them, but today I’ve decided to step back in time to 2013 and the release of Danse Macabre. It was the first VEKN set released, and it was designed to shore up the weakest sect in the game: the Sabbat.
Now, I have a very odd love/hate relationship with the Sabbat. I am baffled by them in the RPG. They really just make no sense to me – it’s a sect that flagrantly breaks the Masquerade, but nobody knows about them (remember, monsters are a secret). They rule with an iron fist and create armies of newly raised vampires who know nothing about their supernatural condition (shovelheads) to lay siege to cities, but humanity has no knowledge of them. I guess they have legions of Lasombra with level 3 Dominate following their armies and making everybody forget their presence. It’s clear that the entire sect was conceived of as “the bad guys” and flavor/beliefs were ascribed to them much later. So in that sense, I really dislike the Sabbat. But in the card game, I love them. Why? Because they are the underdogs. Not a single one of the Antitribu clans are able to match their Camarilla counterparts. Five out of five of the worst performing clans (if we ignore Bloodlines and Laibon for a moment) are Sabbat. Most of the Sabbat clans that manage to rack up any number of wins are being held up by their mastery of Dominate, the only two exceptions being the Malkavian Antitribu (turns out Dementation is a pretty good replacement discipline) and the Tzimisce, who were the subject of a previous detailed article.
You need only look at the number of crypt cards available to the Sabbat clans to see that they are at a disadvantage. They have three full crypt groups (although I’d hesitate to call group 4 “full”), and 1 group that is so small that it’s a wonder it ever gets played (group 5 currently has 3-4 vampires from each clan). Compare this to the give full groups that the Camarilla boasts, and the four very full groups + 1 significant group that the Independent clans possess. There are more Independent vampires in group 6 than there are Sabbat in group 5! Underdogs, indeed. And frankly, the Sabbat never has had a mechanical center or theme in the game (other than being the underdogs). This is likely due to the fact that the game was designed as a Camarilla game, but the Sabbat has never managed to feel different. It’s pretty hard to tell the difference between a Brujah and a Brujah Antitribu.
The point is, I’m drawn to underdogs, and the Sabbat certainly qualifies. For this reason (and likely this reason alone), the Sabbat are my favorite sect in the card game. So when the first VEKN set was announced as being the next Sabbat set, I was pretty excited. Danse Macabre was the first time cards for the Sabbat had been released since the Sword of Caine expansion hit the shelves in March 2007. The question is how good are the cards? To what degree did they help make the Sabbat competitive, and did they provide a mechanical center or theme for the sect? Well, I’d like to answer those questions today with a Danse Macabre review three years in the making. Now, I’d like to go through the crypt cards, but the problem is that so much of the analysis for a crypt card relies on what else you could pair it with in the same group. But since group 5 (which all the Danse Macabre vampires belong to) has 3-4 vampires in it, it’s extremely difficult to review them, so sadly I’m going to skip them for now. Maybe someday I’ll swing back to cover the crypt cards (and to rant about how much I hate the fact that the Assamites rule the Black Hand, get a seat on the Inner Circle, and become the most powerful Independent clan… seriously White Wolf?).
Now I’m going to rate these cards on a somewhat unusual scale. Since I have access to a lot of information about how these cards have impacted the game, I will rate cards on a 1-5 scale with 1 reserved for cards that have actively made the game worse (perhaps by supporting already very powerful archetypes), cards that have had little to no impact on the game will get a 3, and cards that open up new strategies or help define flavor in a useful and novel way will get a 5. Got all that? Well then, let’s look at some cards!
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