Readers of this blog should know that I love just about any and every CCG I can get my hands on, whether or not I actually have someone to play against. Part of it is the collecting aspect, the fantasy that if I get this card or that card or three of that card then I can really build something special and unique to my playing style. It’s all about dreams, and this definitely started with Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, and Lord of the Rings, which I played with a small circle of flesh-and-blood friends. I also have some other card games in stuffed away in a box in my studio space that I’ve never played with anyone, such as The Simpsons TCG, Gloom, and Wyvern; I just have ‘em to have ‘em.
However, over the years, my gaming circle has diminished, though there are the occasional spouts of Munchkin and Lords of Waterdeep with friends, which are board games with some card-based elements, but not enough to get my palms sweating. Alas, I’m pretty much alone nowadays in my affection for CCGs and TCGs, and since I have no one else to share that love with, I must resist and sit on my hands. Even when it comes to digital card games. Sorry, Cardhunter. Bummer, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Too bad, SolForge. My apologies–argggh, fuck it.
I can’t hold out forever.
I guess there was a beta for Might & Magic: Duel of Champions a couple months ago, but I only ever first heard of the game when it released–for free–on Steam recently. You can mostly thank Penny Arcade for tweeting about it, but I decided enough was enough, clicked “play,” and waited for the game to finish up its installation thing, which did not take very long. However, before I could partake in any collectible carding, I first had to create a Uplay account, much to my disliking–a minor annoyance at best. But then it’s right into the action of this fantasy-themed strategic online CCG where you choose a hero, build an army of creatures, cast spells and fortunes, and defeat your opponent as swiftly as possible. Basically, Magic: The Gathering, but a teensy bit different in a few areas, just enough so that Wizards of the Coast does not come armed with lawyers and paperwork and turn one Lightning Bolts.
Duel of Champions opens with a faction selection: Haven (protection and healing), Inferno (attack damage), or Necropolis (infecting and stealing life). Depending which one you align with, you’ll see a different story and deck of cards to muck around with. I went with Haven as it reminded me the most of white weenie MTG decks, where it is all about small creatures and protecting yourself with spells. The campaign starts with a lengthy, but vital tutorial that teaches you all the basics before padding off main story missions. Each encounter has some–well, to me–throwaway dialogue at the beginning that ties into the plot, and you battle with cards to earn XP, gold, and seals. To win, you have to damage your opponent’s hero until he or she has no more health.
In order to play cards, you not only have to use stored resources (like mana, but not), but also a combination of three different tracked elements: Might, Magic, and Destiny. Each turn, the player can increase one of these stats or their hero can use a special ability to do something else. I think the Haven hero lets you draw an extra card? Sorry, I don’t remember. Also, each player has eight event cards on the side, which are shuffled together and brought out in twos. These rotate around with each use and can only be activated once a turn if you can pay for the cost, with effects that generally target all players, negative and positive. They remind me of portals/dungeons from Munchkin and planes in MTG, in that they often are the vital game-changers in any round.
After all that, there are three main types of main cards found in every hero’s deck: creatures, spells, and fortunes. Data printed on creature cards correspond to an attack score, a retaliation score (damage dealt back to an attacking creature), and its overall health points. Health does not regenerate at the end of the turn like in MTG, meaning you have to be always aware of who is hurt the most. Spell, so far, are rather straightforward, such as raising the strength of a creature or healing its wounds. Fortune cards are like mini-event card that seem to only effect you and play around with the rules of the game.
And so it goes: you play cards, perform your actions, attack, and prepare, and then the other player goes. An opponent’s turn can sometimes go by in a blink of an eye, so you have to be paying attention, but truthfully…it’s a bit lifeless against artificial intelligence, but it’s all I have currently. Not terrible, mind you; just void of something. I suspect once I’m further along I can do a little online multiplayer and see what that’s like, but for a free card game riffing on what MTG created, it’s pretty good and has enough tweaks to make it a wee bit more interesting than a blatant clone. I certainly am playing it more than I did that other Might & Magic title. And if you read through all this with wild, excited eyes and totally grokked all that I wrote, please come over and play card games with me on the weekend. I have plenty to try. Any time is fine.