Vampire the Masquerade Rivals is an expandable card game. I have reviewed the core set which you can read here to get up to speed.
I love seeing new expansions for this game since the core mechanics are a solid foundation to build on. So, when I got a chance to review Shadows and Shrouds, I had to check it out. Each clan always feels unique and fun to play in Rivals, so I know Renegade Games would do these two new clans justice as well.
The clans included in this expansion are the overachieving, high-risk high-reward Lasombra Clan and the death-obsessed clan Hecata who isn’t above sacrificing their own vampires to fuel their oblivion rituals.
There are some interesting new mechanics introduced with these new decks and expansion cards that really change strategy.
The first is the act of diablerie. This is the authorized consumption of a defeated vampire to gain their stats. When this occurs, you can take the defeated vampire and place it under the victor. The victorious vampire gains any stats that were higher than their own and all the disciplines of the consumed vampire.
A second new mechanic has agenda on vampires. Vampires now can gain agenda points on their own cards to use as another resource to empower different abilities. The new agenda-fueled abilities can be extremely powerful, but the risk is that if a vampire with agenda is killed those points on its card go to the opponent’s agenda card, pushing them toward victory.
Wraiths are a hidden ability mechanic. The Hecata clan can take dead humans and convert them into wraith tokens that have different buffs. These wraith tokens get attached to your vampires. They can be revealed whenever the owner chooses to, allowing the Hecata clan player to bait opposing vampires, and making them think twice before attacking.
This expansion also contains oblivion rituals, and while rituals aren’t a new mechanic in the Rivals game it is a new mechanic for me personally. These rituals specifically interacted with different abilities from the Hecata clan, allowing for high synergy value.
As I said before, Vampire Rivals has a solid foundation for its rules, and it is really cool seeing these different expansions take and build off of those foundations in different paths.
The Losombra clan deck feels like a massive high-risk, high-reward type of gameplay with vampires that can hold their own in combat. This deck does not mess around and brings a lot of weapons to bear right away. These vampires can absorb others upon defeat and use agenda as another resource to further buff themselves. Their true downfall is that if your opponent focuses down your vampires you can run into an “all your eggs in one basket” scenario. One of the highlights for me of this deck was having a vampire striking out from your haven to damage enemy vampires. It may feel overpowered at first but you feel each loss and counterplay very keenly.
The Hecata clan aesthetic appealed to me, and the wraith mechanic is extremely scary. It is like laying mines all over your field and waiting for your opponent to set them off. You get to know what each buff is while you get to keep your opponent in the dark until you choose to utilize it or reveal it. Hecata clan vampires also love to give up their health for buffs and do not fear being placed into torpor. You can utilize this mechanic along with the rituals found in the deck to start racking up victory points quickly. If in a head-to-head match with Lasombra, the Hecata player really needs to be careful of the diablerie mechanic which can permanently thin your ranks, hurting your resource engine by thinning your torpor vampires before you get your rituals moving.
The Shadows and Shrouds expansion has value if you have mastered the core box and need to inject some interesting rules into your Vampire Rivals games. With the high-risk play style of Lasombra, or the engine building revolving around death with Hecata, this expansion adds some play styles not seen up to this point.
Newer players to Vampire Rivals may find these new decks a bit more of a challenge to master, but veteran players will immediately see the combos sitting within. My only concern is that when compared to the core set, this does seem like a small bump in power creep, but I may need some more mixed plays to really feel out the balance concerns. Also, this set still comes with amazing card organization pieces allowing you to keep storing and organizing within your core box, which is always appreciated.
Unique decks for experienced players. Pick this up if you have mastered playing the core set.
• It feels like there is a little bit of power creep with the expansions versus the core set.
• Hecata and Lasombra may not be the most new player friendly in terms of strategy.