Wednesday, May 11, 2011
CCG Review - The Spoils
The Spoils has to be the strangest collectible card game I've ever seen. Admittedly, I have not played them all, but I would wager there are not very many games that pit elves who only write in 733t speak against bankers who are, quite literally, fat cats. And that's before you roll in a commodities market that buys and sells natural forces like gravity, tiny illegal aliens that are actually inch-tall robots, or any of the other exceptionally odd things you'll find in The Spoils.
It's also the darkest card game I've played. Now, I never did try that Vampire card game they made, but I am still pretty sure that this one is actually more twisted. Professional cat hitmen bludgeon innocents to death with lead pipes. Arcanists make twisted deals with demons that grant them immense power - and make tentacles and eyeballs grow out of their heads. A dreadful demonic disease turns people into creatures that just might be confused with vampires, and honestly, I'm not sure what the difference is.
But for being the strangest and darkest card game I've ever played, it's also the funniest. Other card games might have had jokes dropped in here and there, but The Spoils puts the comedy front and center, right next to the depravity and horror, making a delightfully quirky mix of silliness and oddity that appeals to me even more than it repels me. For example, one card shows a powerful warrior with the tagline, 'Tonight we dine in Hell', and at the very bottom of the card, 'Or maybe Arby's.' For being more twisted than a Neil Gaiman short, The Spoils absolutely refuses to take itself seriously.
Except when it comes to being a solid game. When it comes to game play, The Spoils is as serious as the kind heart disease caused by too much Adkins diet. With a bizarre theme and very involved play, this is not gateway game, and so to sell to hardcore CCG nerds, it has to be a serious contender. The rules are short and easy to learn, but the game is deep, smart and tough to play really well.
On the surface, The Spoils looks an awful lot like just another Magic clone. You have a starting influence score, and the goal is to reduce your opponent to zero. You bring in guys to attack your foe, and block his guys when they attack you. You pay card costs with resources exclusive to the faction you've chosen. All of these are so similar to Magic that you may find yourself wondering why you're not just playing the original.
Once you see the differences, though, you'll understand. For starters, it's almost impossible to get mana screwed. You can play any card as a resource just by placing it face down, but you still need faction-specific resources if you want to bring in anybody. Only you don't have to pay with those resources - if you control enough of the right resources, you can pay with whatever's handy. Tricky to explain, but it works incredibly well, and removes the single greatest problem I ever had with Magic.
And even more than Magic, hand management is critical. Every turn, you can either draw or play a resource. Not both. You can pay to draw again or play another resource, so you're not entirely hosed - but it's not cheap, so you have to be very smart about what you play. Sometimes it's worth it to take a couple cheap shots just so you can keep building your power base, and sometimes you just have to make hay while the iron is hot.
There are five different groups in The Spoils, each with its own demented resource. Rage fuels the Warriors, while the Banker thrive on Greed. The Arcanists are powered by Obsession and the Rogues use Deception, with the Gearsmiths banking on Elitism. As you can see, The Spoils is not a very happy place. Not one faction is powered by Rainbows or Giggles or Unicorn Farts.
Each faction has the same basic goal - bring in characters to attack and thereby reduce enemies to skidmarks in their own boxer shorts. But each faction handles this goal differently. The rogues strike fast, and have remarkable flexibility, while the warriors rely on dealing damage directly to their foes and laying waste to your defenses before they charge screaming into your living room to eat all your Cheetos and bogart the remote. The gearsmiths specialize in boosting the power of their characters, while the arcanists are great at ruining your chances of getting anything useful into play. The bankers are kind of the anti-arcanists, and rule at managing their hands and providing themselves lots of options.
That's a really crude summary, of course, and there's a lot more to playing The Spoils than that. There are preconstructed decks available, if deckbuilding gives you a headache, but honestly, this isn't a game you're going to want to play if you never intend to get any boosters. Unlike the Living Card Games, The Spoils doesn't really come to life until you start buying more cards. So if you love it, it will eat your money.
I really like The Spoils, and now I'm probably going to have to start donating plasma to afford boosters. I have only played a few games, but I haven't spotted a single flaw yet, and it's vastly more entertaining and enjoyable than Magic.
However, I do have one complaint. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out where to get more resource cards. I've gone all over the website. I've looked at online stores. I've sat with credit card in hand, trying to figure out if buying a particular box of cards will yield me more resources. The boosters are completely unpolluted by resources, which means you get more bang for your buck, but at the same time, I can't even play the gearsmiths because I don't own a single Elitism card. If you know where to get those resource cards, for the love of God, please tell me.
The Spoils bills itself as a conglomeration of Tolkien, Lovecraft and Lewis Carroll, and that sounds about right. It's funny and dark, twisted and entertaining, and solves every problem I ever had with Magic. If you like CCGs, I cannot recommend it highly enough... assuming someone tells me where I can get some damned resources.
Funny, dark, and strange
Easy rules and very deep gameplay
Fixes a lot of things that Magic breaks
Surprisingly affordable, for cardboard crack
Definitely a collectible game - if you hate random boosters, stay away
Can't figure out where to get resources
Noble Knight Games carries The Spoils. But even they can't tell me where I can find more resource cards.
SPOIL YOUR APPETITE FOR MAGIC
Here's an update. A few people responded to tell me where you can get resources. It seems the competition packs and preconstructed decks come with plenty of them. So if you buy a bunch of those, you'll have all your need.
But what if you don't want to buy preconstructed decks or competition packs? What if you just want resources? Well, I'm glad you asked. The kind folks at Hour11.com are right there, eager to help you out. They sell boosters and singles for The Spoils, and they bribed me to run an ad for a couple weeks. I'm a cheap bribe, by the way - they sent me some of those resources cards I need, and I built them an ad. In case you have trouble finding the ads, you can get to Hour 11 right here:
Posted by Matt Drake at 8:19 PM