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Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look:


Designer: Thomas Filippi, Gary Paitre
Artist: Fabien Fernandez, Marc Simonetti, Sergey Vasnev
Publisher:  Flyos Games 
Year Published: 2020 
No. of Players: 1-4 
Ages: 18+ 
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes


Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

From the Publisher: (Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS) takes place in Montreal after the appearance of the Second Inquisition and the fall of the Sabbat. Designed around three pillars — story, strategy, and roleplaying — the game merges the best elements of RPGs and board games in a totally new way. Players will be immersed into advanced investigations, a multi-choice dialogue system, and powerful fighting strategies.
 

Players choose to play as one of the main clans of Kindred (Brujah, Toreador, Gangrel, Ventrue, Tremere, Malkavian, Nosferatu, Pariah) and encounter many types of characters and enemies.

The game is composed of several sealed scenarios to unlock, highly detailed tiles, cards, dice, at least 10 miniatures (one for each playable character), and surprises!

Review:

This is my seventh attempt at trying to write a review for Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS and like the previous six attempts, I am struggling to put my thoughts into words. It’s not writer’s block, but more of a sense of awe that I have trouble putting into words. In short, it’s a rare instance where something has seemingly left me speechless.

Now, I admit that speechless is a bit hyperbolic (and probably the worst thing for a reviewer to be), but it seems to best capture my feelings after demoing the game. Hyperbole aside, I can confidently say that Vampires: The Masquerade Chapters is a bloody good time.


I got the opportunity to preview two of the prologues for Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS. I played both prologues, and then I played them again. And then I found myself going back through them again just to pass some encounters that I failed, and vice versa.

I was mesmerized by the unfolding narrative and found myself enjoying a more thorough experience that you don’t often encounter in board games. It stopped being about simply trying to meet an objective, but meeting the objective and wanting to see how the narrative evolved.

Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS may have not been the first board game to marry a deeply thematic narrative with sound board game mechanisms, but it may do it as well as, and in many ways better than, those I have experienced.

Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS is a narrative-driven, legacy-style cooperative board game for 1-4 players, based on Vampires: The Masquerade role-playing game. Fans of the RPG will have a sense of familiarity, as the game has different playable characters (or the option of building your own), each with a unique skill set, history, and personality. And, like the RPG, players will gain experience points by completing scenarios that allow them to improve their characters’ skills, attributes, and disciplines.

And it is this RPG familiarity coupled with modern board game design and aesthetic that sets Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS apart. As we continue to see the lines between RPGs and board games blur, this game adds another strong truss in the bridge between the two fandoms.


Another thing that stands out and left an immediate impression in my initial plays is the look of the game. I’ve played games with high production value and nice art, and it appears that this is going to rank high in both. The artistic direction is beautifully haunting and does more than procure “oohs and ahhs” of its players, but legitimately adds to the experience. It is just another example of how this game went for, and seemingly succeeded in, creating a totally immersive experience for the players.  (Note: as all my plays were online, I am referring to the art specifically and look of the components, rather than the physical components themselves.)

But while the game and theme will undoubtedly appeal to players, I found the game to be so much more than a pretty face and good story. In my plays of the prologues, I found the game to be both thematically rich and strategically deep. As the story progresses and players work their way through the 40+ scenarios, they will encounter several dialogue-driven encounters, both combative and non-combative, that require resolution. But rather than a simple binary, attack/don’t attack decision, players have the option to not only choose to attack, but also how they will attack. And how they do something is often as important as what they do. This adds a layer of importance on every action. Every decision sticks with you – every turn, every dice roll, every outcome. And it’s not just the good things that will follow you throughout the duration of the game – the fails stick with you, too. There aren’t built-in forced restarts. If you fail, you take the consequence and keep going.

But with all those positives, the best thing about my experience was the meat – the stick-to-your-ribs nature of the game. After my plays, I found myself thinking about it long after the computer was off. And that is why I came back, and kept coming back – to see all of the possible outcomes. I think that Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS will stick with you long after you leave the table and may avoid the legacy game-turned-chore feeling that can plague other games that attempt a similar experience.

Overall, I feel that Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS will be a success and for many more reasons than even those I listed above. If you like the RPG feel in a board game, and especially if you already have familiarity with the Vampire: The Masquerade RPG, you will want to check out Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS when it hits Kickstarter on February 4th. There are exclusive miniatures (and some other surprises that I cant talk about yet).



***

Game Play: Set in Montreal, Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS has players assume the role of one of eight playable characters (or create their own) and work through the 40+ narrative driven scenarios. Players will choose the actions of their character based on the storytelling-inspired decision trees presented to the players throughout each of the scenarios. As players face encounters, they will be rewarded for – and face the consequence of – their actions. These decisions and subsequent outcomes based on what they choose to do (and often how they choose to do it) can follow players throughout the game, making each turn more strategic than a simple pass/fail. Upon completion of a scenario, players will be rewarded with experience points that they can then use to improve their character's skills, attributes, and disciplines (of which there are several).

Theme and Mechanics: The theme of Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS is set in the Vampire: The Masquerade lore, and employs many more mechanisms that you come to expect with a board game version of an RPG, including variable player powers, grid movement, role playing, hand management, and storytelling.



Artwork and Components: My plays were limited to online, so my opinions are based on the publisher provided renderings. Based on that, the art looks amazing. But more than that, the art adds to the experience and gameplay – it's not just pretty for the sake of being pretty. The miniatures, as presented in the renderings, look just as impressive. Here are some of the components, per the publisher:
  • 1 core box and rule book 
  • 8 character miniatures, sheets, and boards (without character expansion and Kickstarter exclusives)
  • 120 character skill cards
  • 100 combat cards 
  • 120 enemy fighting cards
  • 24 boons tokens 
  • 45 scenarios 
  • 20 scenario tiles 
  • 1,000+ dialogue cards
  • 200+ event cards
  • 40 enemy standees
  • 120 item cards
  • 30 status cards 
  • 120 effect tokens


The Good: As stated above, Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS goes beyond the normal board game experience, and creates an immersive gameplay that draws players into their world. The art and narrative-driven nature of the game leaves players wanting to know (and play) more.

But while it looks good, I was equally impressed by the strategic elements of the game. It looks at more than whether or not a player passes an encounter, but how they passed the encounter. Players will need to balance their unique skill-set with that of the other players and chart a course of action that not only leads to success in the short-term, but also lends itself to long-term success for their character.



The Other: It's important to note that my plays were of two prologues, and, while engaging, only represent the tip of the Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS iceberg. There may be issues with the gameplay, components, etc. that develop through a more complete gameplay experience, but at this time, I cannot say one way or the other.

One thing that does stand out, but as more of a warning to players rather than a flaw of the game itself, is that it is listed as 18+. I did not encounter anything that would warrant this age restriction in my limited plays, but I assume it is there for a reason. Consider your audience and be aware that this game is likely to take some dark turns and deal with some thematic elements that may not be appropriate for all players.

But even with that being said, the publishers are clear that some thematic elements may be too intense and encourage players to take that subject off the table stating, "(I)f one player, including yourself, doesn't feel good about dealing with a specific subject, no matter how insignificant may seem to the rest, that subject should definitely be off the table. The player does not owe anyone an explanation for this. Please respect their need and well-being. The experience, even if tense and challenging, should always be enjoyable for everyone."

Kudos to the publishers. The game aside, the fact that they are looking out for the well-being and enjoyment for all players is highly commendable.


Know your group and respect their wishes.



Final Thoughts: Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS was an ambitious undertaking that attempted to succeed in many different gaming areas, and based on my experience, it did.

Also (and talk about burying a lead), I had the opportunity to talk to one of the designers at length about this game, and there are a lot of surprises that I cannot divulge at this time, but will be apparent on the Kickstarter page when the campaign goes live. It is not over selling to say that there is some big news that you may not want to miss.

If you like the RPGs, and especially if you already have familiarity with the Vampire: The Masquerade RPG, you will want to follow the campaign closely when it hits Kickstarter.



Players Who Like: Vampire: The Masquerade, Gloomhaven, T.I.M.E Stories, RPGs.


Check out Vampires: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/277025/vampire-masquerade-chapters   http://www.flyosgames.com/   https://www.facebook.com/flyosgames/   https://twitter.com/FlyosGames   https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/flyosgames/vampire-the-masquerade-chapters?ref=discovery_category_newest   https://www.instagram.com/flyosgames/   https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_LSzY8MbP8BuVIMWavWk2w   




Nick Shipley - Reviewer

Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. Nick lives in Oklahoma.

See Nick's reviews HERE.
Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS Kickstarter Preview Vampire: The Masquerade - CHAPTERS Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Nick Shipley on February 03, 2020 Rating: 5

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