I approached this game with a healthy dash of scepticism, like I do with most freemium games. I eventually found myself wanting to play one more game and even shelled out a few moneys for the privilege. Of the various CCGs I’ve recently reviewed, this one has the most in common with Magic: the Gathering. Instead of a drafting mechanic that is found at the core of Dominion, one starts with a common basic deck and then spends money to try and find a few elusive unique cards.
Before a game starts, you have the opportunity to build a deck from your virtual collection of cards. Whatever deck you build, you will be faced against an opponent of the opposing side (humans/shadow). Cards come in a bunch of different types, being Hero, allies, abilities (powers), armour and weapons.
There are rules on how to build your deck, but if you’re a first time player don’t worry about this as they will give you a pre-fabricated deck. Your first choice will be which hero you use. This is effectively the player avatar. It has health, abilities, and if it dies you lose the duel (same for your opponent). Your hero will be aligned with either the human faction, or the shadow faction. Your deck has to have a minimum of 30 cards, and no more than 4 copies of any single card in that deck. A number of cards have various traits relevant to faction or class, and you can only include these if your hero is of that faction/class. Neutral cards can be included in any deck. Each card has a bunch of statistics: all cards have a cost, allies will have health and damage, and any special abilities for that card will be revealed with an in text blurb (alongside the obligatory card illustration).
The round starts with an option to sacrifice one of the cards in your hand, and this is effectively how you create a “mana” pool. You have two discard piles, one being the graveyard and the other the sacrifice pit. Cards you sacrifice are effectively removed from the game, but the number of cards sacrificed represent your ‘pool’ of magic points you can use in each turn. Since you only get to sacrifice one card at the beginning of the turn, you will have to be ready to destroy your own hand a bit. This can be critical because there is a kind of arms race between you and your opponent to build up the biggest mana pool, and therefore who can summon the most allies, and place down the most abilities or items.
As might be expected, when you summon an ally they enter the game
tapped exhausted, and will only be able to start attacking next turn. What is particular to this game is that attacker always strikes first, and if you can wipe out the opponent’s health completely they don’t get to retaliate. So there is certainly some strategic thinking here. Other abilities amount to modifications around defending against attacks, and preventing damage. You have to choose between focusing your attacks on the opponent Hero, or whittling down their forces.
Weapon and Armor are special items used by Heroes. Initially Heroes cannot directly attack anything (or attack things back), except when they are equipped Weapons will allow the Hero to attack and defend, while armor will absorb melee damage. Both have a durability rating (shown on the anvil icon), which runs down with each attack or defense and eventually reaches 0 to get thrown out. I found this issue to be particularly irritating.
Of the first available 200 cards, you can build a deck from 10 Human Heroes; 10 Shadow Heroes; 20 Human Allies; 20 Shadow Allies; 10 Class Abilities for Each Class; 30 Other Abilities for Human/Shadow/Neutral; 20 Armour and 20 Weapon Cards. It is clear from the website that this game intends to release further batches of cards in 100 card updates from time to time. This is probably beneficial, because while I did manage to acquire almost every uncommon card and below within an hour or two (mostly through the power of money), I think I’ve pretty much seen all the rough styles of gameplay.
Admittedly, this is probably the time where one would invest time to work out deck-building strategies and the like. Since my general approach to deck-building is “this one looks shiny”, along with 50 others I tend to have bloated decks with very little focus. I leave that strategical analyses to others.
Also of interest, you can play the game online as well at. It is a cross-platform game meaning that you can use the same registered name for both. That’s a neat implementation.
7/10: The game shows promise but the core mechanics seem a little bit generic and far too much like existing CCGs. The game is fairly engrossing while it’s new but I don’t know if it has the same kind of longevity as other games.Shadow Era,