Matthew Dawkins here. As we’re nearing the release and delivery of Prince’s Gambit, I wanted to give you an update on my experiences playing this rather excellent game. While I wasn’t available for the initial formal playtesting, my gaming groups all wanted a stab at the rules released through the Kickstarter.
Using proxy cards from VTES, and later using the printable cards from the Kickstarter, we first of all attempted to master the core set. Wanting to get to grips with the rules, play through a variety of table compositions, and each find a favoured clan or two upon which to hang our hats, we played several games across multiple gaming nights.
Honestly, it didn’t take long to learn the rules. By the conclusion of our first playthrough, we were comfortable with the simplicity of the mechanics. Not dissimilar to games such as Werewolf and The Resistance, Prince’s Gambit relies heavily on a simple system, table talk, fluid play, and a healthy paranoia within the group. Additionally, we were soon identifying our favoured roles: the majority enjoying the abilities of the Ventrue (reclaiming Prestige can be a real game-changer at the latter half of the game) and the Brujah (drawing two additional Trait cards for the low cost of 1 Prestige is too good a deal not to take). My preferred clan was always Toreador (I enjoy being an arse and redistributing Prestige – away from obvious Sabbat players, of course!) but what do I know?
When we unlocked a bunch of new clans through the Kickstarter, I spoke to Eddy Webb about getting my groups to playtest the new additions to the game. We got quite a few added, if you recall: Assamites, Setites, Giovanni, Ravnos, Lasombra, and Tzimisce. To say they changed up the game would be an understatement. Each of my groups was incredibly pleased to see the variety the game now offered.
As an aside, the core game before stretch goals were added was great fun and something I could have seen myself playing at conventions and rolling out for parties now and again. With the additional clans, though? Prince’s Gambit can go from light-hearted play to angry glares across the table, cutting remarks, and strategic jousting. That’s not to say the game can’t be that way with all clans involved, but having the Lasombra and Co. at the table really adds a new dimension.
What do I mean? Well, none of the players were expecting to have their Prestige depleted back to the central pool until the Assamites came along. It’s a good way to mess with a suspected pair of Sabbat, or if you are Sabbat, a good way to weaken a powerful Toreador who needs a lot of Prestige to fire off their Presence. The Setites’ Serpentis is a power that interested everyone, as it requires a fair amount of forward planning: you nominate a player to take part in an upcoming Intrigue (one of the challenges the coterie can undertake). If you’re Camarilla and you’re sure the other person you’re nominating is likewise, it’s a clever move to get closer to a victory. If you’re Sabbat and so’s your nominated associate? You may have just guaranteed a victory.
Thematically, everyone loved the Giovanni’s Necromancy. The ability to resurrect a spent Trait card and place it back in their hand was a pleasing touch. Likewise, the Lasombra’s denial power, preventing another player from bidding Prestige for the Prince’s Favour was a sure (and appropriate) way of pissing off the Ventrue. There was even more fun to be found with the Tzimisce and Ravnos.
In short, my groups and I loved the complete clan set that will be available in every copy of Prince’s Gambit. I recommend new groups try it first with the big seven and the Caitiff before adding in the other clans, just to feel the difference it makes. What I value the most in a card game is replayability, and knowing there’s a breadth of playable options that can drastically alter the way play goes is exactly what I want.
If you’ve given the game some playtesting, please leave a comment to tell us about it! Either way, I hope you’re looking forward to the game’s release. Not long now!
Prince’s Gambit is currently available for pre-order via BackerKit.