Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I don’t tend to get caught up in collectible card games. It’s not that I don’t think they’re fun – quite the opposite, in fact. I remember the early 90s with Magic, and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. At one point, I had every single Doomtown card up through the Mouth of Hell expansion. But I tend to avoid getting into card games because when I do get really into a new CCG, I have to cut back on my crystal meth.
So I was hesitant to play the World of Warcraft TCG. I got a free starter at GenCon 07 and never even opened it. The last thing I needed was another reason not to pay my bookie. But then some friends started playing it, and all I heard was that it was a really fun game. At that point, I was actually relieved I had dumped that first starter.
In retrospect, that was not a good call. When my curiosity overwhelmed my common sense, I ended up having to buy the very same starter I gave away at GenCon a year and a half ago (well, not the exact same one – I bought a new one). And then, because I meant to review the game, and you can’t really write about a collectible card game without having a good selection of cards, I bought another two-player starter and a box of boosters. There goes this month’s budget for hookers.
It gets worse, too. If the game had sucked, I would have been relieved. I could have shoved all the cards into a box, sold the rares on eBay and lived happily until another siren call of cardboard crack pulled me back in. But no, the game has to be all brilliant and fun and crap. GREAT. Now I’m never going to be able to afford my cocaine addiction.
The thing is, the World of Warcraft TCG doesn’t even do anything that original. It’s pretty much stock formula CCG stuff. You’ve got instant cards, and attacking and defending and a health counter and a bunch of other stuff you’ve seen before. The game is basically a brawl between two heroes, who may or may not hurl direct-damage spells at each other and may or may not hire hordes of allies to assist in the beatings.
One reason that the World of Warcraft TCG is going to cost me some drunken binges, though, is that you get dozens of ways to build a cool deck. You can be a mage and do massive direct damage without lots of allies. You can be a druid and use abilities to make your hero an impressive killing machine. You can be a hunter with lots of pets popping up all the time. You can create hordes of cheap help, or get just hire a few tough guys and boost them over and over. You can build fast decks, or slow decks, or tricky decks, or solid decks, or whatever you want – and that’s just with three starters and 24 boosters. I can’t wait to see what I can build with all the new cards I just bought on Amazon (I wasn’t doing so well with my off-track betting anyway).
Another reason I’ll be squandering my kids’ college fund is because the game play is really smooth. It can be tricky the first time, but you’ll learn it fast, and then it comes easy. That’s not to say you’ll be an old pro, just that you can figure out pretty quick how to do what you want to do. It’s intuitive, and even if you’ve got a complicated series of maneuvers, you can finish your turn surprisingly fast.
Now, I will say this – I’m a little disappointed in the continuity of the game. The last time I got really hooked into a CCG, it was Doomtown, and I was almost as interested in the developing storyline as I was in the game itself. If there’s an ongoing story in the World of Warcraft TCG, I haven’t seen it yet. I guess that’s what you get when your theme starts with a gigantic online video game. The TCG is a solid game, but I just don’t get the feeling that I’m playing out a story. I’m just playing out a couple of goobers beating the piss out of each other. Not that I can’t have fun doing that, but I do love a good story, and it’s kind of surprising to me that I am enjoying the game so much when there’s a rather weak backdrop.
But then, I probably wouldn’t care about the lack of story if I played the video game. Fortunately for my budding heroin habit, I really don’t like those MMO thingies. If I did play the game, I would probably be really thrilled by the card game. But if I were into the video game, I wouldn’t have time to play cards anyway.
And to really make me overlook any story issues, the World of Warcraft TCG has several additional reasons for me to give up Thai hookers and opium – raid decks. This is the most original thing I’ve seen in collectible card games in a long time. It’s a pre-built deck full of bad guys, and one guy plays that deck, and everyone else plays their decks. It’s like a cross between Descent and a card game. In fact, I think raid decks deserve their own reviews, so I’ll be talking more about them another day.
With incredibly flexible deck-building and smooth, nuanced game play, the World of Warcraft TCG is a good reason to give up some bad habits. Hell, I’m never going to have money again. At least, not until I go back to rehab.
Really clever deck possibilities
Smooth and easy game play
Rewards clever play
Raid decks are the coolest development in CCGs since… CCGs
Lots of new releases to expand the game regularly
Not a great continuing saga
You’ll have to get a second mortgage and quit feeding your kids
I never really went to rehab. That was a lie. You can go here to get some cards:
(really long link to Amazon)
Posted by Matt Drake at 3:27 PM