What is "Myths at War"?
Myths at War is a CCG-like game in which each player represents one real-world (or fictional) mythos. It plays 2-4 players and takes about 20-30 minutes. The aim is to either secure enough power to be the "God of Gods" or to obliterate your opponent.
How does it play?
As always, I'll give you a short introduction into the game rather than a comprehensive detailed rules guide. Also, while there are multi-player rules, I haven't tried them out yet so I'll focus exclusively on the two-player rules.
The aim of Myths at War is to either gain 30 Power (becoming God of Gods in the process) or to deplete your opponent's reserve of Power completely (obliterating her).
Each player starts with around 20 Power (depending on the Myth/pantheon he has chosen).
Power thus is a measure of life points on the one hand, and of victory points, on the other. However, there is a third role that it plays: Power "powers" your acquisition of characters and actions you want to play. You will, therefore, have to spend some of your precious power to get characters out.
The way this works has to do with the components, so I'll quickly introduce you to them.
You have a Gods deck. This consists of Characters, Resources and Events. Characters will fight for you (or defend you). They each have their own Power Pool. Resources are cards that provide you with multi-use abilities once you have fueled them with enough Power once. Events are things that just happen once they are flipped open.
The cards from the Gods deck never go to your hand. Rather, they make up four stacks known as Oracles.
Also, you have a Designs deck. This consists of Actions and Equipment. Actions are things you can do in the various phases of a turn. Equipment is stuff you can give your characters to make them better. Equipment is paid with Power from whatever character got the Equipment.
Cards from the Gods deck are what makes your hand.
As to the turn flow:
There are four phases.
In the Transfer Phase (played: complete player A, then complete player B), each player flips the top (unflipped) card of each of his Oracle stacks. Events are resolved immediately. After that, the player may choose to discard one face-up card from one of his oracles. He may then transfer Power from his own Power Pool to one of the face-up cards in one of his oracles or back or between face-up cards in his oracles. The amount of power that can be transferred is 1 for the first player and 2 for the opponent. Once a character or a resource in the oracles has enough power on it (as stated by the card), it can be brought into play (going to a zone called "Pantheon"). Once the first player has completed this phase, the other player follows suit.
In the Influence Phase, players take turns taking Influence actions. These can come from the unique ability associated with the special myth/pantheon they chose. They can come from resources or characters the players have in play. There also are two special actions that can be used: characters in play can meditate (and are turned sideways in the process), gaining two Power from the bank. Or they can Equip with an Equipment card from your hand. They then need to pay the cost from their own Power Pool. This phase lasts until both players pass consecutively.
The Confrontation Phase is where combat takes place. Starting with the first player, both players take turns assigning a character to the battlefield zone. If a character goes to the battlefield, he loses one Power from his own Pool. Once both players have passed, Confrontation actions can be played. These can come from your hand cards or they can be on characters or equipment that's in the battlefield. Once both players have played all actions that they wanted to, combat is resolved. Both players total the strength of their characters (with equipment; Strength is a stat that's on each character card). Whoever has the lower total loses combat. That player loses an amount of Power from her personal Power Pool equal to the difference in total strength.
The Reorganization Phase is basically just cleanup, it has "Turn upright" and "Draw" steps built into it.
Myths at War somehow manages to feel like a more traditional CCG, but at the same time is quite innovative. There is a constant back-and-forth struggle about Power. On the one hand, you fuel your characters with Power. The characters themselves use Power to attack, defend, use their abilities or gain new equipment. At the same time, you spend Power to fuel actions and such. So, the Power fueling things feels a bit like mana (without the screwage part) in traditional CCGs. Also, combat is basically deterministic, so playing actions once the army is assembled in the battlefield basically emulates very nicely what happens in traditional CCGs when attackers and defenders are declared: Lots of instants and such are being thrown around to change the outcome of the battle. On the other hand, you've got to be careful, because Power is your hit points at the same time. Which makes all the difference in feeling. You really need to be careful about how much Power you spend. Basically, you want to calculate whether casting that action will gain you a net positive of Power compared to the case where you don't cast it -- both in the short run and in the long run. After all, there's a tactical element to the game, where you decide what to do in this battle. But there also is a very strong strategic element to the game. If and how you spend Power this turn will greatly influence your future play.
Also, Myths at War, surprisingly, felt quite streamlined. There's a bit of terminology, but it's really not too bad. The rules, once you figure them out, are quite concise and clear. I will come back to this point in a minute, though.
In one word: Myths at Wars components are ok. They're not great, but they're really decent for a small publisher.
The rulebook might be the weakest part, I feel. The rules were translated from Spanish (the Spanish rulebook is in fact included as the first part of the rulebook). Unfortunately, the translator at certain points opted to abridge the original ruleset a bit (instead of doing a more or less literal translation). Some things turned out to be skipped in the English rules, others show a mismatch in translation between printed rules and cards (like the (S) stat (Strength) of characters on the cards. The rules talk about that same stat as (F) (Force) and refer to it frequently. At no point are (S) and (F) identified.) This even goes as far as the Index of keywords. In Spanish, they're arranged in an alphabetical order. The English translation is there, but they kept them in the same order as in Spanish. Which means they're no longer ordered alphabetically in English. What is missing from both the Spanish and the English rulebook are starter deck lists.
It is notable that Myths at War comes ready to play – which is much better than most CCGs. It even has little plastic cubes in two colors to serve as Power tokens. The cubes are totally fine for their purpose.
The box is quite sturdy and has a nice size for the number of cards inside. This is not one of those inflated boxes that contain nothing but air. Fortunately, it's still big enough to squeeze all cards (sleeved) and the Power tokens back into it.
The cards themselves are pretty good quality. I decided to sleeve them (being cautious), as they seem to be a bit thin. The graphic design is good; however, I feel they could have done with some extra iconography on the different numbers. Strength, Maximum Power and Cost could easily have been somehow marked with an icon that reminds players of what the number they look at means. This is a minor quibble, however, as after 2 plays, these will have become second nature. The fonts used are pretty solid and easily readable. The artwork on the cards is pretty great, and quite evocative of the different mythologies it represents.
So, how do I feel about Myths at War? -- I think it's a really interesting game. It has lots of things to like. The theme is really strong, and cool: Different mythologies fighting against each other hasn't been done too often, I think. There are lots of cards whose effect clearly matches the role the character or equipment has in that mythology. Also, from a mechanical point of view, using Power both as "mana" and as "hit points" and giving you two different winning conditions is pretty great. Not to mention that having different pantheons that sort of guide what kind of deck you want to build around them is neat.
Out of a single box, you can simultaneously build three different starter decks (deck lists not included, but can be found online: http://mythsatwar.lefora.com/topic/8/Basic-decks-with-only-o...). There are also quite a bunch of extra cards. So you can do some heavy deckbuilding if you feel like it. I haven't tried the deckbuilding part for lack of time. But I have played each of the starter decks. And they feel totally different. Yomi/Japan is quite hard to play well, I think. The others seem to be quite a bit simpler to play, Asgard/Norse is pretty much brute force, while Duat/Egyptian depletes your opponent of options.
So, would I play Myths at War again? Anytime! Especially as it's such a quick, streamlined experience. Matches are pretty fast and there's quite a bit of strategy to be learnt in each deck.
The CCG-like market is quite crowded nowadays. Myths at War manages to hold its own, I think.
Diclaimer: I was given a copy of the game for free by the game's designer, Francisco Gallego. Only after the fact did I suggest I could write an honest review for the game. Which is what this review is trying to be.