Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, published as Jyhad in the first edition and often abbreviated as VTES, V:TES or V:tES, is a multiplayer collectible card game set in the World of Darkness. It is published by White Wolf, Inc.

The game was designed in 1994 by Richard Garfield and initially published by Wizards of the Coast. After the 1996 Sabbat expansion, Wizards of the Coast abandoned the game, and in 2000 White Wolf took over development. It is thus one of the oldest collectible card games in existence.

Richard Garfield noted that the experiences he had made with the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game had helped him to improve his design of the game. In an interview with Robert Goudie, Garfield particularly notes dedicated multi-player (3+) rules, a lack of "land cards", and a more rapid card drawing mechanism.


The game is set in the World of Darkness, drawing mainly from the Vampire: The Masquerade role-playing game. After the events of Gehenna ended the official World of Darkness storyline, VTES is considered a sort of alternate reality of the setting, as it continues though White Wolf, Inc. publishes no further official products for the roleplaying game.

In VTES, each player takes on the role of a Methuselah, an ancient and manipulative vampire, who is not itself present in the struggle, but acts from afar. Each Methuselah will try to eliminate all others by nullifying their influence and power. To that end, the Methuselahs will control and manipulate a number of minions (mostly younger vampires) to attack and destroy the other Methuselahs' resources.



The game is ideally played by a group of four or five players, but it can be played by any number of players from two up. Group play with more than six players is rare, as an individual's turn can easily take two to three minutes, causing a slow game for all. Two-player games (and to some extent three-player games) also suffer from lack of opportunity for the kind of inter-player alliances and treachery that are a large part of the game.

As in most other collectible card games, each player designs his or her own deck. Each deck is built with two components:

'Crypt' - containing cards representing vampires (and in some cases mortal allies) that the player may control during the game.

'Library' - containing cards generally representing assets or actions to be taken during the game.

Most cards in the library can only be used in conjunction with vampires. Some cards have no cost in resources to play, in other cases to put a card in play it must be paid for using 'pool' or the blood on his vampires. Pool represents the player's influence, and if it is reduced to zero the player is out of the game (each player starts the game with 30 pool). Therefore, players continually have to make decisions based on how much they want to invest into assets in play and how much to retain to stay alive, especially against other players capable of sudden dangerous 'bleeds' (direct attacks on the players pool).

Each turn one player directs his minions to perform a number of actions and attacks, which other players' minions may intercept or interrupt. Each player attempts to 'oust' (remove from game) his 'prey' (the player to his left) while defending himself from his 'predator (the player to his right). This continues until only one player is left on the table. Ousting one's prey is worth one victory point, and being the last person left at the table is worth an additional victory point. However, ousting one's prey also nets the player 6 pool, and thus makes him stronger and more dangerous to the next prey. This is one of the reasons why other players may suddenly start helping a player in a weak situation, or even gang up on a player who seems to be going for a 'table sweep', making shifting alliances part and parcel of the game.

Games can take anything from half an hour to three or more hours (for a 5-player game). In tournament play and in some informal games, a time limit may be imposed, after which all remaining players receive half a victory point in addition to any they may have already received.

Playing styles

There are many ways to win in VTES, though they all depend on eventually wearing down your prey's pool. Some of the most common styles, as described in official player's guide are:

  • Bleed / Stealth Bleed - this deck concentrates on causing as much pool loss as possible, either as quickly as possible, or by bleeding heavily during a moment of weakness. It usually has some way of ensuring that bleeds are more likely to slip past the defenses, the classical way of which would be playing 'stealth' cards.
  • Combat / Rush - this type of deck is based on attacking opponents vampires, rendering them incapable of acting, or destroying them outright. After the defense has been whittled away it then starts bleeding normally. It also defends itself by attacking individual vampires (mainly of its own predator) which pose a threat.
  • Political - this deck is geared to take advantage of the political system inbuilt into the game. It concentrates on having as many votes (usually via powerful vampires) on the table as possible. It is then able to call and pass its own political actions, which classically include those directly damaging its own prey.
  • Build - this deck attempts to survive during the early game while it builds up to later on control the table via these accumulated assets, be they vampires, large amounts of reserve pool, votes or other cards. It is usually combined with another style.
  • Intercept / Wall - This deck, often combined with the 'Combat' or the 'Build' style, tries to intercept the vampires of the prey when they act (and then likely attempts destroying them). Alternatively, it may be a defensive deck slowly building its strength for the late game, using its intercepting abilities to stop itself from being ousted in the meantime.
  • Toolbox - this style attempts to be able to do as much as possible of all the styles above at the same time, mixing its cards. It is often a 'Build'-style deck at the same time.

All the above deck have various weaknesses, the most glaring being that a deck should theoretically be able to do ALL the above well, to take advantage of evolving game situations, and to counter other styles it may come up against. However, if it uses this 'Toolbox' approach too strongly, it may spread itself too thin, and end up being incapable of following through.

Distinct nature

What sets VTES apart from most other collectible card games is the strong group play element. In general a player will concentrate on the player to his immediate left, his prey, and a player who succeeds in ousting his prey receives a strong boost by gaining 6 additional pool. This boost of resources might possibly enable him to eventually "sweep the table" (gaining momentum with every kill) and oust every other player. Thus there is a tendency for players to help weaker ones to frustrate the stronger players' dominance. This ensures that most players stay in the game longer, instead of the playing field being reduced quickly to those with the best cards and the greatest skill.

These conditions create a game where players are almost always interacting with the other players for both short- and long-term goals instead of simply waiting for their turns. VTES is a game of negotiation, skill, and deck-building. Deals and alliances, both for the moment or for the whole game, can play a big role. A whole classification of cards, political cards, are designed with this in mind. When a vote is called each player casts votes, either by using votes granted from cards in play (typically from vampires with a 'title' such as Princes & Archbishops) or by playing cards from the hand.

Sets and expansions

White Wolf releases VTES cards in base sets, expansion sets and mini expansion sets. The main difference between these are the size of the set and the number of reprints.

  • Base sets contain booster packs as well as a number of pre-constructed starter decks (ranging from 3 to 6). The starter decks contain 89 cards (with 77 library and 12 crypt cards) as well as rule booklet. The booster packs contain 11 cards (with 7 common, 3 vampire and 1 rare card). The base set should provide a new player with a number of cards to be able to build a wide variety of decks. A base set usually contains a high percentage of reprinted cards from earlier expansions.
  • Expansion sets contain booster packs and may contain a number of pre-constructed starter decks. The distribution of cards in boosters and starters is similar to a base set. They feature also a particular theme. New players are usually not able to build a large number of different decks with only cards from this expansion's boosters due to the lack of basic cards provided either in the starters or in a base set. The number of reprints is low and usually restricted to the pre-constructed starter decks.
  • Mini-Expansion sets contains only booster packs and the number of cards are restricted to 60 new cards (20 rare, 20 uncommon and 20 common cards).

All expansion sets from Dark Sovereigns expansion onward are identified by an expansion symbol printed in the upper right corner of cards. In newsgroups and on web pages character codes are used to identify each set, usually an abbreviation of the expansion's name.

Expansion Name Type Symbol Code Release Date Total cards New cards Booster distribution
Jyhad Base (none) Jyhad August 16 1994 437 437 11C, 4V, 3U, 1R
Vampire: The Eternal Struggle Base (none) VTES September 15 1995 436 6 11C, 4V, 3U, 1R
Dark Sovereigns Expansion Gothic window DS December 15 1995 (173) 173 8C, 4V, 3U
Ancient Hearts Expansion Eye of Horus AH May 29 1996 (179) 179 6C, 4V, 2U/R
Sabbat Expansion S in fracture S October 28 1996 (410) 340 16C, 5V, 5U, 2R
Sabbat War Base Upside-down ankh SW October 31 2000 437 (300) 77 first printing: 5C, 3V, 2U, 1R
subsequently: 4C, 3V, 3U, 1R
Final Nights Expansion Twisted ankh FN June 11 2001 386 (162) 170 7C, 3V, 1R
Bloodlines Expansion Ankh on red wax seal BL December 3 2001 (196) 196 7C, 3V, 1R
Camarilla Edition Base Ankh CE August 19 2002 547 (385) 115 5C, 3V, 2U, 1R
Anarchs Expansion Combined CE/SW Ankhs AN May 19 2003 260 (132) 128 7C, 3V, 1R
Black Hand Expansion Black hand BH November 17 2003 286 (136) 145 7C, 3V, 1R
Gehenna Expansion Stylised Clock G May 17 2004 (150) 150 7C, 3V, 1R
Tenth Anniversary Special 10th Tenth December 13 2004 190 10 --
Kindred Most Wanted Expansion Gun KMW February 21 2005 314 (150) 162 7C, 3V, 1R
Legacies of Blood Expansion Splitted staff LoB November 14 2005 461 (300) 236 7C, 3V, 1R
Nights of Reckoning Mini expansion Celtic cross NoR February 10 2006 (60+5) 60 6C, 3V, 1R +1 rule card
Third Edition Base Tri-snake Third September 4 2006 537 (390) 160 5C, 3V, 2U, 1R
Sword of Caine Mini expansion Bundle of swords SoC March 19 2007 (60) 60 7C, 3V, 1R
Lords of the Night Expansion Crown LotN September 26 2007 295 (150) 175 7C, 3V, 1R
Blood Shadowed Court Special Silver Ankh BSC April 16 2008 100 0 --
Twilight Rebellion Mini expansion Tri-snake on Red Star TR May 28 2008 (60) 60 7C, 3V, 1R
Keepers of Tradition Base ?? KoT October 2008 (160+) 184+ ??
The total cards include the cards from booster and starter, the number in brackets only include those from the booster packs. The new cards include cards from booster and starter packs. The above information is mainly derived from the White Wolf website and from the Player's Guide.


In 2004, Inquest Gamer Magazine picked VTES as the all-time best multiplayer collectible card games.

In 2006, Inquest Gamer Fan Awards called the Third Edition expansion the 'Best CCG Expansion'.


V:TES Online

In December 2005 "Vampire: The Eternal Struggle Online" was launched. It is an online implementation of Vampire: The Eternal Struggle developed and maintained by CCG Workshop. Using CCG Workshop's gatlingEngine, players can create decks and compete online for a monthly fee.

White Wolf, Inc. has allowed CCG Workshop to release the Camarilla, Anarchs, Final Nights, Legacies of Blood, Black Hand and Kindred Most Wanted sets for online play. CCG Workshop has also announced the release of the 3rd Edition set for 2007.

An alternative to CCG Workshop is LackeyCCG in which players create and share plugins for various CCGs and may create decks and play online without fees.

Jyhad Online

Developed and maintained by George Finklang since 1996, "Jyhad Online" hosts a series of VTES games over the Internet. Originally players emailed their actions to the players in the game, and other players responded with their reactions, with the deckserver dealing the cards. Each game was guided by a moderator who maintained the game page.

"JOL3", the new version released in 2005, uses a web interface. The deckserver still handles the decks, but the players can move cards and counters around through the web interface. Games can take place in real time if all the players are online.

See also


  • Andrew Greenberg, Richard Garfield & Daniel Greenberg, Eternal Struggle: A Player's Guide to Jyhad (White Wolf Game Studio, 1994, ISBN 1-56504-163-1)

External links


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