Last time I talked about Vampire: The Eternal Struggle I promised to tell you how Lakisa and I construct and playtest new decks. The answer: LackeyCCG.
While I’ve played the official digital M:TG game many years back and I’m also aware that there’s a new one in the works, I became disinclined to play commercial digital card games pretty quickly. If I’m to spend real money on cards, it’s got to be real cards.
There’s not always an opportunity to actually play with your real cards though, so what I kind of wished for from the beginning was a digital platform that just simulates the raw gameplay of a CCG without any bells and whistles like a story mode, but also without any kind of restrictions to the gameplay or the choice of cards. And that’s exactly what Lackey is.
It’s basically a platform that ‘knows’ how card games work in general and has the necessary mechanics like turning, tapping, drawing, discarding etc. It also provides means to roll dice, point at things, keep track of player and card life-counters and so on.
Since every CCG has a whole bunch of special mechanics and effects, and you obviously also want to be able to look at the cards, the same basic platform doesn’t just work for all games though. To tackle this Lackey utilizes plugins made by avid users. Those ‘teach’ the platform the specifics of a game, like the names of the card piles or how much starting life a player has, and supply it with the card scans.
What the platform doesn’t know, even with a plugin, are the actual rules of a game. You can for example tap a creature to indicate that it’s doing something, but the game doesn’t know what it’s trying to do, if a block attempt succeeds, or what will happen if the action goes unblocked. The players have to keep track of these things themselves and add or remove cards, counters etc. accordingly. You know, just like when playing with real cards.
It’s really great. I’ve played some online matches with strangers over the years by just joining any game I found in the browser that had an open spot. While technically not necessary all players gathered in Skype for easier communication, then off we went. It’s almost like playing the real thing. Almost.
What it can’t replace is the tactile sensation of playing with real cards, nor being face to face with your fellow players.
On the other hand, sometimes the latter might not be such a bad thing after all.
Obviously Lackey is also very convenient for building and testing new decks, much more effective than sifting through piles of cards, sorting them, sleeving them and starting all over again if the deck doesn’t work out as intended. Here you have all existing cards in infinite amounts right at your fingertips (provided the plugin is up to date) and you can use filters to look for cards suiting your strategy very easily.
After assembling new decks Lakisa and I play one round against each other, afterwards we usually change and tweak a couple of things based on our first impressions right away. Then we play another round, and so on.
Sometimes only one of us plays a new deck and pits it against one of our seasoned decks, just to see if the general idea is viable at all.
If a deck is deemed fun and strong enough to play it over an extended amount of time, only then we’ll build it with real cards. Most of the time we don’t have all necessary cards available, but luckily there are some very good online shops for V:TES still going strong, my favourite being Rick’s Jyhad and VTES Card Shop.
Back to Lackey, there are plugins for quite a few CCGs available, although I obviously have no idea if they are all still kept up to date or if they are actually any good. The plugin for V:TES is pretty great and was last updated a couple months ago, thus it’s only missing the latest expansion, Lost Kindred. I hope it’s creator is still playing and more updates are coming.
Lackey was created by one man, not by a company with big staff and budget, so it’s a bit rough and unpolished here and there. But it does exactly what it’s supposed to, and I’m very glad that it exists. Thank you Trevor, and also thanks to all those plugin-makers!
Should anyone be up for a game of V:TES, feel free to contact me. 🙂