White Wizard Games, creators of the smash hit deckbuilder Star Realms, are currently Kickstarting their second title: Epic Card Game. I (Jeremiah) was fortunate enough to get passed a 60-card preview deck at Origins.
This game is CRUSHING it on Kickstarter right now, so is it worth all the hype? Or is Epic just a catchy name? Let's find out!
Epic Card Game, is, well, a card game. We've been told that the ONLY thing you'll get in the deck is cards: 120 cards, plus 8 double sided token cards (more about those a little later).
There are four different colors/factions represented in the 120 card deck, Yellow - Good, Red - Evil, Blue - Sage, and Green - Wild. Each faction has 30 cards.
There are several ways to setup the game. You can simply deal 30 cards to each player and play. Or you can draft several different ways. We chose to draft by dealing 4 cards at a time face up, then alternating selecting first, with the first player picking one card, the second selecting two, leaving the fourth card for the first player.
Also, if your friends have their own decks you can pre-construct your deck and battle head to head with your finely tuned deck.
Once you've selected your deck by whatever means you've agreed on, each player shuffles and draws 5 cards and you're ready to roll.
Before we talk about the turn sequence there's a few things to know about going in.
This game will be (and rightfully so) compared to Magic: the Gathering, with a few major changes which I honestly feel are improvements. There are no resource cards, no land cards, no waiting to build up mana and so on. Each player on each turn gains 1 Gold resource, and at the beginning of each turn they lose 1 Gold (if they had any left). Cards will either cost 1 Gold, or none at all. So, you'll be able to play any card you have in your hand on any turn. The question becomes, "Which awesome card should I play this turn?" not "How many turns before I can play this awesome card!?" This also means you can have a 4-colored deck without getting stuck being unable to play a card because of a bad draw.
Also there are only two card types in the set: Champions (humans, creatures, beasts, etc.), which stay in play until they are "Broken" (discarded) or "Banished" (sent to the bottom of your deck). Events are played from your hand, and you use the ability printed on it and then discard it. They don't stay in play.
The turn sequence is fairly simple.
On your turn you go through these steps:
- All players lose the gold they had (whether it's your turn or not)
- You draw a card and "prepare" (untap) all of your Champions. (Don't do this on the first player's first turn though!)
- Play cards from your hand, use Champion powers (for those that were already in play) and/or attack. The sweet thing is you can do this as much as you want, and in any order.
- Announce you're ending your turn. Your opponent then has the chance to play events. If they do you get the chance to go back, use Champion powers, play cards, and/or attack again.
Attacking is probably the most involved part of the game, so let's take a look at it right now!
There are a handful of steps to follow which break down like this.
- Expend which ever Champions you want to use in your attack (by turning them sideways/tapping). You can only use Champions that are "Prepared" (untapped), and haven't been played this turn. (It takes a whole turn for them to "deploy" so you'll have to wait to attack with them one turn.)
- Play Events.
- Defender plays Events.
- Defender chooses Champions to defend with (signified by rotating 180 degrees).
- Attacker may play more Events.
- Defender can play more Events (if so go back up one step).
- If the attack was not blocked, damage goes straight to your opponent.
- If there is a blocking Champion or group of Champions, you add up the attack totals of the attacking and defending Champions and deal damage to all involved. This means that the attacking player could very well lose a Champion while attacking. Also, if there is overkill damage being dealt, the blocking Champion(s) absorb all of the damage deal and non is dealt to the opponent who was attacked.
Basically there are plenty of opportunities to play Events while attacking and defending, and the attacker always has a chance to once again play an Event in response.
The game ends when only one player has any of their 30 hit points remaining, or you can win by drawing through your deck: If you go to draw from your deck and it's empty, you win.
That's the gameplay in a nutshell. Here's what we found that hung us up a little when playing through it, and some of the keywords that were useful to know right away.
Gaining Gold on opponents' turns--You gain a Gold on EACH player's turn, so you'll be able to play those heavy hitting events even if it isn't your turn. BAM!
Untargetable--This means your Champion cannot be targeted by an event or Champion power, both friendly and unfriendly. This does NOT mean that global effects of events/powers don't affect it!
Breakthrough--The wording was a little wonky on the rule sheet, but basically any damage above and beyond taking out the defending Champions' defense breaks through to your opponent.
Blitz--Blitz is great because it lets you attack and use that Champion's powers as soon as you play it from your hand!
Ambush--Ambush allows you to play Champions whenever you'd be able to play an Event! Yessss! It should be noted that they can't be added to an attack as they still have to wait to be deployed but you can defend with them, and when your turn comes up they'll be ready to roll!
Defending--While you have to wait to attack and use a champion's powers until the start of your next turn, you ARE able to defend with them right away. Again, your defending Champions also deal damage to the attacking Champions, so you may want to throw your heavy hitter at another one to take them out so they can't attack again!
Full disclosure: I'm not a Magic player. Never have been, nor do I have the financial backing to ever start. I've played more than my share of CCG's and LCG's to know my way around the genre, for sure.
The rules for Epic (at least the preview copy I got) are simply a front and back page of printer paper, with a couple big pictures to boot! So sitting down and learning to play is easy! You may need to unlearn a few things if you're a heavy Magic player, but I think all in all you may have a tactical advantage if your brain already thinks like a Magic player.
I really enjoyed the fact that I didn't have to tune my draft to key in on just one or two of the colors. I could snag a card that looked cool, just because I liked what it did. There is a Loyalty keyword that gives you a power as long as you can show two cards of the same color in your hand, so it does make sense to focus on a few colors, or at least keep things fairly balanced, if you want to use those Loyalty powers.
When we spoke with Rob at Origins the thing he really drove home was the fact that all of your cards are usable from turn one without having to play a bunch of resource cards first. And we noticed that right off the bat with our first play when I threw down Rampaging Wurm and started womping on AJ (my opponent for the evening). I love that about this game. It's a battle--let's battle!
I must say I have a love/hate relationship with the art/thematic content of the game. The artwork is CCG-grade fantasy artwork; they went all out for a game that costs $15. And there's a cool mix of fantasy and prehistoric imagery, lots of sweet dinosaur Champions and Events, mixed in with cool Human warriors and everything in between. The Evil cards, though, look very evil. Lots of demons, succubi, inner demon, summoning action, and so forth. And the artwork is just as intense as you would expect. Thematically I totally get it, and the cards and their powers fit perfectly into the game. Just know that it sets off my Heebie-Jeebie Meter, and if that sort of thing turns you off of a game, this will probably turn you off of Epic. Yes, it is an option to pick up a couple decks, pull out the creepy cards and then draft from what's left. That may leave things a little unbalanced, but it is an option. I should mention that the Good cards are pretty good, including everything from the Brave Squire and Palace Guard, to an Angelic Protector who can Ambush and give a Champion the Untargetable and Unbreakable abilities.
I didn't see a HUGE amount of synergy between the cards, but we're only looking at half of the deck right now, and I do see a lot of potential synergy with the way the powers and keywords can work together. So I'm looking forward to seeing that become more and more developed as the game develops!
One thing I didn't mention is that there are lots of multi-player variants that will be released with the full deck. You can team up and play two-on-two, or play attacking just the player on your left, and a few other options that are coming soon! So pick up a few decks, you'll need them!
Jeremiah's Final Verdict-- Epic Card Game is nothing short of epic! Lots of powerful cards with great balance, and fun powers that give you a lot of strategic flexibility. Multi-player options will give Epic a wider audience and create more replayability for the game, as well. I'm personally not a fan of all the Evil cards, but if that isn't a hang-up for you, then play on! Epic is a great, fun, strategic battle!
I'd like to thank Rob Dougherty and White Wizard Games for providing the preview deck. Be sure to check out their Kickstarter Campaign Right Here! It ends on June 30, 2015 and you can pick up a deck for $15--$20 gets you all the stretch goals too!
You can also watch our broadcasts of live gameplay on YouTube!