The masses have spoken! This blog received a record number of visitors when I posted my crypt review for the new VEKN set Anarchs Unbound last week. I suppose that means that you all want to read more about these new cards rather than silly demo decks, or the clan analysis that I’ve been working on. So, I’ll just stash those in my back pocket and focus on the new and exciting cards. Like last time, I’m going to be commenting on the art as well as the power/versatility of the card, but this time I’m also throwing in a flavor/theme section as well. I’m most strongly drawn to games with a compelling theme, and one of the reasons why I love VTES so much is that I feel like I can chart my rise to power through the actions on my minions (“It all began when Tutu bought his first cell phone…“). I enjoy being able to form a little story in my head about how my minion managed to pass a referendum against all odds, or torch the Ventrue Headquarters.
So clearly theme will be important to me, but what exactly am I looking for? Well, the title of the card, it’s art, and what it does should all be aligned to a common purpose. I should be able to predict the type of effect the card will have just by reading the name or considering the art. I think that a number of VTES library cards only give a half-hearted effort on theme, so I’ll be paying close attention to that. Alright, sit back and enjoy!
Adhocracy, Action Modifier, Animalism/Chimerstry/Potence
Requires an anarch.
[ani] +1 bleed. You cannot play another action modifier to increase this bleed amount.
[chi] Only usable during the referendum of a political action. This anarch gets +3 votes.
[pot] If this anarch is blocked, he or she gets +1 strength in the resulting combat.
Flavor: I’m not entirely sure what adhocracy is. I know that ad hoc means “for this” in latin, and a quick google search reveals that adhocracy is “a flexible, adaptable, and informal organization structure without bureaucratic policies or procedures.” That seems to describe anarchs pretty well, and the description of it as being very flexible is at the heart of what these anarch 3-way cards are all about, but I don’t really see how the name fits with the powers that the card provides (bleed, extra votes, and strength). Maybe somebody else can explain it to me, but I’m kind of lost on the flavor here.
Art: I like this piece quite a bit. What these three people are wearing and the tatoos they have communicate a lot of information to me. These are anarchs who are bound together in some common purpose. It’s nice art that really goes with the name of the card. But again, I don’t know how well the card name and the art go with the abilities.
Power: Well this card should be very useful in a number of decks. Anarch Ravnos voting (particularly Revolutionary Council death star decks) will greatly appreciate the extra votes, and the ability to cycle the card for +1 bleed is pretty good too. Nosferatu bruise bleed might like this since it can be used to gain bleed or strength. I expect to see this paired with Deep Song (another example of a bleed or fight card). It’s major strength seems to be the Animalism bleed modifier, giving weenie Animalism decks a reason to try to go anarch.
Netwar, Reaction, Auspex/Chimerstry/Dementation
Requires an anarch.
[aus] Look at the acting Methuselah’s hand.
[chi] Untap another ready minion you control. That minion attempts to block.
[dem] Give another minion you control +1 intercept.
Flavor: The title suggests that this card will be about the internet and hacking, and I think that is exactly what the card effects deliver. You get information about the opponent’s hand, or you use the information you got from hacking to show up at the right time and place to block a vampire. Seems like a flavor success to me!
Art: Art that is clearly related to the title – woot! I also like the style. Very 90’s punk which makes it feel like classic White Wolf art to me.
Power: Looking at the acting Methuselah’s hand right before you block them is very powerful. If you notice a lot of nasty combat that you can’t deal with, just let the action go unblocked. And you can see what tricks they might have up their sleeve. Hell, you can even check to see if they are chocking on stealth (if so, then don’t block!). I’m less certain about the value of the other two effects. The untap another minion I suppose acts like a wake, but it requires an untapped vampire to use. The Babble effect is neat, but Babble isn’t played all that often specifically because you need two untapped minions (one to block, and one to use this card). I suppose the value of this card is the flexibility that it offers, but I think that the Auspex ability is the most useful.
Guardian Vigil, Reaction, Auspex/Celerity/Fortitude
Requires an anarch. More than one discipline can be used when playing this card. This anarch attempts to block.
[aus] +1 intercept, even if intercept is not yet needed.
[cel] This anarch gets 1 optional maneuver in the resulting combat if he or she blocks.
[for] This anarch does not tap for the block.
Flavor: Another great example of a flavor home run – the name clearly suggests that the vampire is waiting and watching for trouble, and the effect clearly conveys that type of vigilance and preparation.
Art: Nice use of light in the background! I really enjoy this whole piece. If I was going to nitpic, I’d ask why the vampire’s neck is so monstrously thick. But honestly, I think art is fantastic.
Power: I’m a bit unclear about the text of this card. Specifically, I don’t know why the “This anarch attempts to block” clause is there. Cards like Spirit’s Touch don’t say that because it’s clear that you need to be blocking in order to play the card. Maybe it’s there to allow the Auspex power to be used even if intercept is not yet required? As for how powerful/useful the card is… it all depends on how many disciplines you can use at once. Neither the Auspex nor Celerity powers offer anything particularly special or powerful for those disciplines. Indeed, there is already a dual discipline card (Quicken Sight) that does almost exactly what this card does assuming you have both disciplines at basic. The Fortitude option is the most interesting because the closest comparison (Forced Vigilance) costs a blood. Essentially, I think this card is a good value if you are able to utilize the Fortitude option and it is roughly on par with non-anarch options if you can’t. But given how strong Quicken Sight is in the right decks, I think this card will see significant play as well.
Dust Up, Combat, Animalism/Celerity/Potence
Requires an anarch.
[ani] Strike: hand strike at +1 damage. This strike cannot be dodged.
[cel] Strike: dodge, with 1 additional strike.
[pot] Strike: hand strike at +2 damage.
Flavor: I’m not sure what the title is trying to say. Is it a reference to burning a vampire (turning them to ash/dust)? Is it a reference to tossing somebody into the dust (like a combination of rough up + throw to the ground)? Google tells me that I’m just old and just don’t know that this is an informal term for a general fight or scuffle. So, I guess this card is named “Fight!” or “Battle!” which seems appropriate enough, if rather vague.
Art: I think we have to assume either that these vampires are fighting in a club that likes purple lights, or they are purple vampires. I’ve chosen to assume the first. I am in general not found of strange skin tones, but if I look past that for a moment, I quite like the art – it’s very dynamic which can be difficult to convey in a single frame.
Power: Personally, I think that combat cards are the most difficult to properly judge. They don’t inherently get you closer to winning the game, but they have the potentially to really destroy somebody else’s game. One of the worst “feel-bad” moments in this game is when you have two decks that are very unevenly matched in combat going head to head. It’s even worse when you watch your predator dunk all of your vampires and then fail to oust you and have your prey sweep the table. Sad times. Anyway, this card either provides a superior effect at inferior (the Animalism power is the same as superior Scorpion Sting, and Celerity is the same as superior Acrobatics), or an effect that usually costs blood (Potence is a free version of inferior Slam). Paired with the flexibility to use whichever one is needed at the moment, this seems to be a good card, but I’m not convinced it will be played all that often. I look forward to being proven wrong!
Bollix, Combat, Celerity/Presence/Thaumaturgy
Requires an anarch.
[cel] Maneuver or press.
[pre] Cancel the opposing minion’s aim, frenzy, or grapple card as it is played, and its cost is not paid.
[tha] Strike: hand strike at +1 damage. This damage cannot be prevented by cards requiring Fortitude [for]. The opposing vampire’s strikes with weapons inflict no damage on this vampire this round.
Flavor: Since bollix means to spoil or bungle a task, I would have assumed that it would be a card that either would cancel an opponent’s card (which it does using Presence), or that would mess with the opponent’s ability to do something (which it does using Thaumaturgy), so I think this card is a great flavor success!
Art: Well, the style is a bit jarring and the helmet worn by the special forces guy looks very cyber punk to me, but I still like it. The helmet is clearly what got “bollixed” and it is having a debilitating effect on the guard, giving the anarch behind him an opening that he otherwise wouldn’t have had. A solid piece of art that just doesn’t quite resonate with me.
Power: I think it’s important to have more ways of canceling frenzy and grapple cards. Rotschrek, Deep Song, and Immortal Grapple are very strong cards, and it would be nice to curb their power slightly by having a few means of canceling them that don’t utterly suck (sorry Disengage). The reason that I think this card will be played is that it can cancel more than just one type of card, and even if you don’t need it as a canceler, it’s extremely flexible as a maneuver or press, and can even be used to prevent the opponent from using weapons. While this likely won’t be the core of somebody’s combat module (except maybe all those Tremere with Presence instead of Dominate?), I think it will get splashed in pretty often.
Donnybrook, Combat, Obfuscate/Protean/Serpentis
Requires an anarch. Only usable at close range.
[obf] Strike: burn equipment or retainer with first strike.
[pro] Strike: hand strike, aggravated.
[ser] Strike: steal 2 blood.
Flavor: Well, I assumed Donnybrook was a location, and indeed it’s a district of Dublin. But it turns out that it is also a “free for all or brawl”, or a “usually public quarrel or dispute.” Based on the art, I’m assuming we’re using the free for all brawl meaning here. Given that, I would love if this card could create a combat that involved more than two vampires. The problem is that that kind of mechanic has a history of not working at all in VTES, so I understand why it wasn’t used here. I guess the abilities mirror the idea of a big brawl, especially considering that they can only be used at close range. This one gets a flavor pass from me.
Art: I don’t want to be overly critical, because I do like this art, but I think it’s more appropriate for Dungeons and Dragons than for VTES. The woman in the back appears to be wielding arcane magics – she even has clothing and hair that could easily work in classic fantasy settings. I don’t really know what discipline she’s supposed to be using (maybe some path of Thaumaturgy?), but I think it looks like she’s casting Lightning Bolt or something like that. Anyways, I think there is a lot of things to praise about the piece (like how well the artist conveys the feeling of being crowded without actually crowding the frame), but the tone and theme are simply off for me.
Power: Again, we have a combat card that provides abilities formerly reserved for superior disciplines and offers them at inferior (the Serpentis ability is superior Tongue of the Serpent), or making a power that usually costs blood free (the Protean ability is identical to Claws of the Dead, but free). Both of those are at least marginally useful, but the real winner here is Obfuscate, which gets an action card (Conceal) remade as a combat card, which allows you to save your action. This card burns slightly different types of cards than Conceal (no locations, but it can burn retainers), so the major difference here is that you save an action, but can only use it while in combat. Big win for !Gangrel and Followers of Set.
Illegalism, Action, Celerity/Chimerstry/Presence
Requires an anarch. More than one discipline can be used when playing this card. (D) Bleed.
[cel] Untap this anarch if the bleed is successful.
[chi] This action is at +1 stealth.
[pre] The bleed is at +1 bleed.
Flavor: Again, I didn’t know this was a real word, but I understood exactly what it meant right off the bat – embracing criminality as a lifestyle. It’s clear what that concept means for mortals, but what is meant for vampires? Which laws are they breaking / rebelling against? Mortal, or Camarilla? If the former, what might we expect? Maybe killing mortal retainers / allies? Stealing money (pool)? Burning down locations? Well this card offers none of these. What about if they were breaking the Camarilla traditions? Well, breaches of the Masquerade would need to be covered up (costing pool). Maybe you could diablorize a vampire and get away with it, or you could embrace when you have no permission (so maybe using one action to make two new vampires?). The closest my guesses come to the card effect is the Masquerade breach idea. Admittedly, the concept of “bleed” is pretty nebulous, so it’s a little unclear what action this card represents, but to me it’s unclear what the flavor of this card is, and unfortunately, the card art doesn’t really tell me either.
Art: As I mentioned above, my main problem with the art is that it’s unclear how it interacts with the flavor of the card. I mean, there are clearly some guys who look like they might go out and do something illegal, but I don’t know what that illegal activity is and why it allows them to bleed at stealth and uptap. My other complaint is the guy standing in the front. I had to really zoom in and look closely to figure out that he wasn’t staked. I guess he has a bat or sword on his shoulder, but to me it looks like it’s going through his chest (there is even a little burst of red on his jacket that could be a blood splatter). And there is a pole that extends up past his neck which I first through was a post that this staked vampire had been tied to (or maybe impaled on), and he was being left for the sun. I really loved all the other work done by this artist, but this one leaves me confused about the theme of the card, and because the art is so small on the card (which isn’t the fault of the artist!), I can’t tell what’s going on.
Power: This card offers pretty typical powers that can be found in all the appropriate disciplines (Celerity has superior Flurry of Action for bleed+untap, Chimestry offers plenty of stealth, and Presence offers plenty of bleed actions), so none of the abilities are all that special. What makes this card different is that you can potentially get all three effects, which would be incredibly strong. At the very least Toreador and Brujah have a great option to bleed at +1 bleed and then untap (a super Flurry of Action). Vampires like Devyn and Paul Forrest who have Presence and Chimestry get access to a +1 stealth +1 bleed action for free which is very nice. If all three could be used, it would be especially powerful, but the cheapest vampires with all three disciplines are 7 capacity (Jeremy MacNeil, Rain, and the new Danielle Diron Adv), so I don’t think that it will be overly powerful. But I do expect to see this card in a lot of anarch decks moving forward.
Make the Misere, Action, Celerity/Obfuscate/Potence
Requires an anarch. More than one discipline can be used when playing this card. (D) Enter combat with a tapped minion.
[cel] This anarch gets 1 optional maneuver during this combat.
[obf] This action is at +1 stealth.
[pot] This anarch gets +1 strength during this combat.
Flavor: Damn, more words that I don’t know. So much for my “educated man” facade. So it turns out that Misere is a French word for a bid in certain card games where you expect to do very poorly (like taking zero tricks). It is sometimes used to refer to somebody as a loser. So, this phrase might mean to make somebody else into a loser, become a loser yourself (by taking no tricks in a game), or to succeed brilliantly at a gambit that originally looked like a bad idea. Judging from the card effects, I’m guessing that it’s the first meaning. One final little gripe – if we’re going to use a French word, why not include the accent?
Art: Dynamic position, and neat use of lighting from the head lights. I also really like the city in the background. A solid piece that I quite like. My one tiny complaint is that the guy escaping from the car looks like a businessman or politician – certainly somebody of importance. I would have liked to see some target-specific bonus in the ability. Other cards in the set have a “better against titled vampire” theme, and while this art fits into that theme very nicely, the card effect doesn’t.
Power: This is the latest in a long line of cards designed to make Bum’s Rush only useful to allies. The major limitation here is that you can only enter combat with tapped minions (which is admittedly a significant drawback), but in return you potentially gain +1 stealth, +1 strength, and an optional maneuver. There are a number of cheap vampires who can play this card with all three disciplines including Tayshawn Kearns, Axel Von Anders, and Skryta Zyleta. I don’t know how often we’ll see this (because rush decks aren’t very strong), but this is certainly a very excellent rushing card.
Memory Rift, Action Modifier, Dementation/Obfuscate/Presence
Requires an anarch. Only usable as the action is announced. More than one discipline can be used when playing this card.
[dem] Choose a titled vampire or a younger vampire. That vampire cannot block this action.
[obf] +1 stealth, even if stealth is not yet needed.
[pre] If this action is blocked, this anarch can strike: combat ends during the first round of the resulting combat.
Theme: The title suggests that the anarch vampire is making somebody forget about something. Which is really a Dominate power, and therefore can only be done to younger vampires and mortals. I understand why this restriction is usually ignored in VTES, but I’m not really sure how anarch vampires can make anybody forget about anything. While that is certainly a big strike against the theme of this card, the rest seems to flow pretty well. Each power is based around forgetting about something or somebody – inability to block, stealth, and just leaving during combat. Personally, I would have preferred -1 intercept to +1 stealth (which is the same here since this card can be played even if stealth isn’t required), since losing intercept fits with the forgetting theme better than stealth does. Over all, it works, but it doesn’t seem like an anarch effect to me.
Art: The greyed out figure is an awesome touch – it’s clearly that figure who has been forgotten. And the main figure is clearly trying to consider something, and looks a little distressed at having a gap in their memory. These are nice (if slightly heavy handed) visual clues that tie the them and abilities of the card together. This is what all card art should do, and so while it’s my least favorite piece of art from this artist, I give it major points for doing what card art should do.
Power: This card might be an interesting reason to have your Dementation bleeders go anarch. +1 stealth, and a Seduction that can hit titled vampires is pretty powerful. The Presence ability is also interesting as it potentially provides a means to escape combat, but it broadcasts it from a mile away. The only real downside to this card is that you have to play it as the action is announced, so the question is if the powerful abilities are enough to entice players into using it despite this.
Ni Dieu ni Maitre, Action Modifier, Animalism/Fortitude/Vicissitude
Requires an anarch. Only usable as the action is announced. More than one discipline can be used when playing this card.
[ani] If this action is blocked, the opposing minion cannot use maneuvers in the resulting combat.
[for] Vampires must burn 1 blood to attempt to block this action.
[vic] If this action is blocked, this anarch gets +1 strength in the resulting combat.
Theme: Ah, the famous “No Gods, no Masters!” slogan. Very appropriate name for an anarch card. The question is, what might you expect such a card to do? Well, being a rallying cry, maybe it’s used to make other vampires anarch. Perhaps it’s more of a battle cry, in which case it could be a combat card about fighting on despite the odds, or pushing yourself past your normal limits. The card art of an anarch vampire going up against guys in riot gear suggests the later version. The card abilities mostly seem to mirror this theme.
Art: Vampire cards are often so dark that it’s nice to occasionally see blazing colors! The fiery reds also help convey the danger the vampire is in and is choosing to ignore. I do wish that the major figure had a few more features on his face. The ski mask thing he has is completely fine, but not as interesting as I’d like it to be.
Power: I honestly see the Fortitude ability as the odd man out here. The other two focus on what happens after you get blocked, but the Fortitude ability tries to make it more difficult to be blocked. I suppose that all three abilities are attempting to say “if you block me, bad things will happen, you might as well just let me through.” And in that case, I guess it works towards the bruise and bleed deck concept. I find the inclusion of Vicissitude here very interesting, and I think that this could nicely compliment a Horrid Form combat module (especially if you can prevent gun decks from going to long range). Despite all that, I consider this to be one of the weaker cards in the set. I think that I’ll wait to see if somebody comes up with an awesome use for it!
Well, I ended up writing a lot more about each card than I thought I would, so I’ll end it here for now. We’ve gone through all of the anarch 3-way discipline cards. Next time, I’ll continue with the other 8 cards in the set, as well as give some of my final thoughts on the set as a whole, and where the anarch faction now stands. If you want to see somebody else’s take on these cards, you should check out the excellent review on VTES ONE. As always, please post a comment below if you agree with my analysis, or if you think I’ve missed a critical use for one of these new cards.
Until next time, may your bleeds never be bounced and your vampires be untroubled by the establishment,