Demo Deck Series – the Rules

Greetings Metheselahs!

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time recently thinking about how to get new players involved in VTES – including marketing, the first play experience, and converting interested players into active ones.  But the area I’ve spent the most time actually working on is demoing the game.  Thus far, I’ve demoed the game to a select group of friends nearly all of whom have played in or run Vampire: the Masquerade campaigns (so I already knew that they liked the setting).  But I have plans in the works to be demoing the game at local gaming stores and conventions.

When I started planning my first demo event, I quickly realized that I would need to put together a set of decks that I could use to demo the game.  There was simply no way that I was going to put one of White Wolf’s starter decks into the hands of a new player.  It’s hard to come up with much good to say about the majority of those old starter decks other than they are a decent way to start one’s collection (since they tend to include a number of staple cards from previous sets).  So I asked myself what I wanted from these demo decks, and came up with four important criteria that I used to help guide me as I made each deck, which are listed below.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll start writing mini-articles about each of my demo decks, complete with my personal playtest notes, comments that new players had about the deck, and suggestions on how a new player could expand and improve on the deck.  I’ll post links to each of these decks at the bottom of this article as I publish them.

Demo Deck Building Guidelines:

#1: They must be simple to play.

VTES is pretty confusing to learn, and I want to ease that process as much as possible.  This means that certain aspects of the game are removed – for example, there are no trifles or out-of-turn master cards. Cards with a lot of text or unintuitive play should be avoided. As an example, I have included Laptop Computer in some decks where Camera Phone would likely be more appropriate just because it the former is easier to understand. Cards also shouldn’t have a lot of text that isn’t applicable. So for instance, I would use Computer Hacking instead of Fiendish Tongue (except possibly in a Tzimisce deck).  I also want to avoid contesting cards and titles when I play these decks against each other.  Contesting isn’t exactly the most elegant or exciting part of the game, so if one deck gets a unique library card, a specific vampire, or a city title, that becomes off limits to the other demo decks.

#2: They should be able to interact with all aspects of the game.

Since these decks are made to help teach the game, they should have something meaningful and interesting to do during each phase of the game.  This means that each deck should have a combat plan other than “punch for 1,” and each deck should have something to do during a vote other than automatically win or play Delaying Tactics.  Each deck should include some ability to block with intercept and they should have some specialized form of bleed defense (reduce or bounce) where possible.  Furthermore, each deck should have a way to interact with equipment and locations (typically by stealing or destroying them).  This rule doesn’t mean that the decks have to be “toolbox” decks, but it does mean that they won’t be hyper-focused.  No Dementation Bleed decks here!

#3: They must be competitive (or at least good), but balanced against each other.

These may be demo decks, but I hope to give some of them out at demo events as a way to entice new players to trying out the game.  That means that these decks need to be built in such a way that a new player could bring them to a our weekly game night and be well matched against other casual decks.  And frankly, I want to have fun playing these decks, too!  At the very least, this means that each deck should be tournament legal with 12 card crypts and 60 card libraries.  But the decks also need to be balanced against each other. It would be a shame to have a demo that ended with everybody leaving because they were immediately ousted by a well constructed stealth-bleed deck. In some cases, this requires me to swap power cards like Govern the Unaligned and Conditioning with their less powerful counterparts (Scouting Mission and Threats in this case).  The balance of these decks against each other is the aspect that I feel least confident about, and I think that it will emerge over time.

#4: They are to be built from common and uncommon cards.

I hope to be giving out these decks to new players and I simply don’t have huge stacks of cards like Freak Drive just sitting around.  Furthermore, I hope that other people might see these decks and want to put them together for use in their own demos.  Unfortunately, this requirement does more than just prevent me from using most rare cards – I might want to include more copies of a card like Immortal Grapple in the deck, but I might limit it in order to be able to build more copies of that deck.  This also dictates my crypt selection.  Most of my extra crypt cards come are Camarilla and Independent vampires from groups 1 and 2.  Currently, I have focused on the Camarilla clans, but I plan to develop decks for the independent clan in the near future.

Links to my demo decks:

By the way, if any new players are reading this post and are looking for other great deck ideas, I suggest that you check out the Barbed Wire Project by Preston Poulter which includes one deck per Camarilla Clan (he also sells them on Ebay), and the Reasonably Priced Decks Series on VTES ONE which features decks for all the Sabbat Clans (with Independent Clans on their way!).  Both are great resources and should give you some great ideas for fine decks that can be put together cheaply!  And of course, keep checking this blog for my demo decks as they are unveiled!

So what do you think about these deck building guideliness?  What criteria do you use to build your own demo decks?  Please post your suggestions below!

Until next time, may your bleeds never be bounced, and your votes always pass!


13 thoughts on “Demo Deck Series – the Rules

  1. Nice project.

    In Belgium demo’s are organised using KOT starter decks. And you notice the ventrue starter is stronger than the others. No starters are handed out or sold after though. Maybe giving the players some cards would generate some brewing interest for the game when they have time on their own to gloss over the rules and the options.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that the KoT starters are actually a reasonable (although I’d say not ideal) place to start new players. The problem is that they’re so darn rare in the US. Ebay is the only place you’d be able to find them, and they’re $250+ for a single box of starters! Since, my collection is built from the collections of several older players (meaning that I have a lot of the first few sets, and very little of the more recent stuff), it made sense for me to start putting together some decks that I could use to demo the game and give away to new players. Currently, my demo kit has 2 copies of each deck.


  2. For my demo decks I’ve totally dropped everything exept “balanced against each other” and “easy to play”. They are 32 card 6 crypt toolboxes with some basic mechanics. Stealth, intersept, actions, action mod, allys, equipment, politics, strikes, manuevers and dodges.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I was initially thinking along similar lines. I know that several good 30-ish card decks have been suggested on (I think by Ke…?), but I wanted to be able to give these decks to new players as fully playable decks. So a combo demo + barbed wire style deck. I’ve used them for 1 demo so far (and changed them according to suggestions), and players seemed to understand the decks pretty well.


  3. good starting points. I’m not sure about #2 because most typical decks are not build in this way. They shouldn’t be as specialized as some tournament decks but not all over the place as #2 suggests. Also it’s important that they should be significantly different from each other.
    And last, don’t put wallpaper/shity cards (f.e. elder intervention, dread gaze) in there. There is a lot of cheap and good common/ unocommon cards in vtes.


    • I actually think that point #2 is pretty important for a demo game. If you are going to learn how to play the game, you need to learn to interact with all parts of it by doing (rather than watching). It also helps with the problem of downtime that the game has – if a player has no ability to do anything on another player’s turn, then they will sit and simply watch the game while 4 other players take their turns. That’s a lot of sitting and doing nothing, and I don’t think that’s appealing to most players. Instead, I think we need to have new players be as active as possible, which necessitates reaction cards, even on a dedicated stealth-bleed deck. Finally, cards that deal with locations and equipment are included so that nothing is untouchable or unbeatable. Having problems with your predator who has guns? Your deck has a solution for that. Can’t pass votes because your prey has a Ventrue Headquarters in play? Your deck has a solution. I think this will lead to a better play experience – exactly what we want for new players!


  4. My demo decks are constisting of a mechanic. Therefore i broke the game down to Politics,Bleed,Combat. I don’t focus on the clans I just use vampires that have complementary Disiplines. They are a crypt of 12 and 40 card deck.


  5. HI Brett,
    I am looking to promote V:TES in my hometown area and i believe your Demo Decks would be instrumental in helping me create a community of V:TES players. Are you still selling our decks?


  6. I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours
    as of late, but I by no means discovered any fascinating article like yours.
    It is pretty price sufficient for me. Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made just right content as you did, the internet will probably be much more useful than ever before.


  7. I just found a huge collection of Jyhad and VTES cards. but they are all sorted and i have a couple pre-cons… i’m hoping to use this beginners deck ideas to build some learners decks. Thanks for the info, doesn’t look like i have all the cards for it so i hope i don’t sub out something important. Thank you for putting this all down for people to reference.


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