I love Epic Card Game. I backed the Kickstarter at the go out to Boston to design a card tier, I write a blog where I talk about Epic a lot, and I recently qualified for the World Tournament at Gen Con. So, I have had significant experience with the game. My original review with a turn flow diagram and less expected understanding of TCG/CCG/LCG like games can be found here: http://www.tomsepicgaming.com/epic-card-game-review/
Epic is a non-collectible 2+ player card game. $15 MSRP for 120 unique, non-random cards (with incredible artwork) enough to play the game (technically up to 4 players but I mostly play 1v1). The gist of the game is play Champions (creatures, minions, monsters, etc.) as permanent threats, attack/defend, and play Events (Instants, Spells, etc.) for one time effects, but there are very significant differences to TCGs like Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone, etc.
- Every card costs either 1 gold or 0 gold.
- At the start of each turn, both players reset back to 1 gold.
This means that every card in your hand is playable on turn 1, you can play 1 1-gold card per turn, and you can play any number of 0-gold cards per turn. 1-gold cards are significantly stronger than 0-gold cards.
This also means that Burrowing Wurm, an 18/18 champion with breakthrough (trample), costs the same as Thought Plucker, a 1/1 champion that draws you card(s) and forces your opponent to discard card(s), and Apocalypse, "If it is your turn, break (destroy) all champions. -Or- Draw 2 cards."
What these mechanisms create is a game where you have to decide the best card to use at the best time. There is no I have 4 lands in play so I'll play my 4 mana card. No lands or 1-mana cards being drawn on turn 10+, and no hands of 3+ mana cards that force you to wait till turn 3 (at the earliest) to start playing non-resource cards. (No outright mana-screw or mana-flood automatically losing you a a game either.) The game gets going instantly, and it doesn't slow down easily. (As long as you don't neglect drawing cards.)
- On a player's turn they may take as many "main" phases and as many "attack" phases as they would like in any order.
- Main phases are the only time to play Champions without ambush (flash)
- During an attack phase, the current player may declare an attack with one or more champions.
- Then, both players get chances to play Events and/or champions with Ambush
- Then, 1 or more blockers are declared to block the entire attacking group.
- Then, both players get chances to play Events and/or champions with Ambush
- Then, damage is assigned (attacker assigns attacking champion(s)' damage to defending champion(s)' defense and defender assigns defending champion(s)' damage to attacking champion(s)' defense)
- After combat, the current player can start a new combat step with new champions, enter another main phase, or try to end their turn
- If they try to end their turn, the defending player gets a chance to play Events and/or champions with ambush.
- Then, if the defending player played anything, the current player may go back to taking main/attack phases.
- If the current player tries to end their turn and the defending player plays nothing, all damage is removed from champions and the next player starts their turn (both players resetting to 1 Gold).
This turn structure is awesome. The back and forth is exciting. A lot of the tension of the game comes down to who spends their gold first each turn. You can attack before spending your gold, and then if your opponent spends their gold early, you can spend your gold on a blitz (haste, charge, rush) champion and attack that turn. There are also cards like Ceasefire though that prevent the current player from making any more attacks that turn (current attacks are unaffected).
The amount of interaction is then pumped up by the 0-gold card interactions. Say I attack with a Rampaging Wurm (14/14 blitz) that started the turn in play. My opponent plays 0-gold Plentiful Dead to make a 2/2 Zombie token to block my Wurm with. After blockers, I play 0-gold Lash on my Rampaging Wurm giving it breakthough (trample). Then my opponent spends their gold on Lying in Wait to Banish (put champion on the bottom of my deck, similar to exile) my Wurm.
But, since my opponent's gold is now spent, I play a second Rampaging Wurm and attack. My opponent's zombie already blocked this turn (flipping it so it can't block again), and they already spent their gold, so they would take 14 damage. But, they have 0-gold Fumble to decrease my Wurm's offense by 10 for the turn and recycle (banish 2 cards in your discard pile to draw a card). Therefore, they only take 4 damage.
If I would have played my Wurm before attacking, my opponent could have played a Zombie Apocalypse (Break all champions, then each player puts a zombie token into play for each champion in their discard pile) and prevented the whole attack.
So much depth is derived from this back and forth. For card game veterans, the rules aren't that complicated, but my understanding of the game continues to grow after a year of playing and 1 expansion.
- There are 4 factions: Evil, Good, Sage, and Wild, but they each cost the same 1 or 0 gold to play.
- Some cards have Loyalty 2 triggers (when this card enters play, you may reveal 2 cards of the same faction from your hand to gain an effect) and/or Ally triggers (while this card is in play, if you play a 1-gold card from your hand of the specified faction, gain an effect)
This means that literally any cards can be played in a deck, but there are some bonuses for matching factions.
Because of this, you can even deal out 30 random cards to each player and start playing. This is a great way to learn the mechanics and have some casual fun, but if you want a high-strategy competitive game you won't get it from this introductory format. For comparison, you can't do this in Magic at all.
In addition to the "random 30" introductory format, this (combined with the 1-gold vs 0-gold cards) makes for amazing sealed/limited/draft formats. When every card is playable in every deck, there is significantly less obvious picks. For example, if you start with a lot of Wild and see a strong Sage card, you can take it and play it without penalty. Unlike in Magic, if you commit to a U/W deck and see a powerful BBB card, you essentially have to ignore it or hate draft it.
This doesn't, however, mean that your picks don't matter since a strong deck still needs synergy and benefits from certain distributions of cards. The major thing is that you have to make those decisions based on multiple factors, they aren't forced upon you by obvious resource (mana) constraints.
With regard to constructed play, each deck can have 3 of any card. For every 0-gold card you include, you must include 2 1-gold cards of the same faction. From seeing both tournament and casual play, I can assure you that 4-color control decks, single-faction-based aggro decks, 2-color tempo decks, etc. are all viable. It is unlikely that any deck will be mono-colored, but this also means that you can play with your favorite cards even if your deck is primarily a different faction. Synergy is still incredibly important though.
In addition to all of the specific mechanisms above, this game is an incredibly well-balanced game. It was designed and developed by Rob Dougherty and Darwin Kastle. Not only have they designed/developed and produced Star Realms, an incredibly popular 2+ player deck builder, designed Ascension and other games, but they are also Magic Hall of Famers that know a lot about these types of games. While certain cards are definitely seen as stronger than others Sea Titan vs Bellowing Minotaur, overall, most are definitely playable, and the competitive community is divided on others. (Chomp! is better than you think!)
Speaking of the community, it is still fairly small as of 8/15/16, but of the 8 days of tournaments I have been at and my presence in the Epic communities online (here, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicCardGame/, Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/epiccardgame/, Discord: https://discordapp.com/channels/159013762169307146/159013762..., my blog [TomSEpicGaming]: http://www.tomsepicgaming.com/epic-card-game/, and Epic Insights: http://epicinst.blogspot.com/), basically everyone has been helpful, nice, and eager for more people.
As a side note, drawing through your deck is also a win condition as opposed to a lose condition.
Epic is by far my favorite game. I originally played it casually and it works well as a fairly quick introduction to TCGs/CCGs/LCGs. But, the more I have played it the deeper I have gone into its strategic depths. For awhile I thought I could see to the bottom of the strategy well, but I have consistently been proven wrong as I discover new strategies playing with new people.
After qualifying for Worlds, I feel comfortable saying I am in the top tier of Epic players in the world, and I am still far from mastering the constructed environment (closer for limited/draft).
If you are on the fence about trying it, or tried it once and dismissed it after playing a couple games of "random 30" I highly recommend giving it a shot. As a TCG/CCG/LCG type game it won't be for everyone, but from a TCG/CCG/LCG player it's truly great.
Your conclusion really resonates with me. I was a little less then impressed the first time I played it as well, but the more I started to play it the more it started to unfold. It is now one of my favorite games. I don't really get to play it as much as I'd like to though.
Since I occasionally see people say they have trouble understanding the turn structure, I'd strongly recommend checking the link posted in the first paragraph of the review, which contains a fantastic flow chart of the structure. It lays things out nicely, and once you see it, it's actually quite clear.
(Actually, Tom S, you might be able to add your flowchart as an image or file to BGG for the game? I think you earn a little geek gold by doing that, if that's something they'll allow you to do with that.)
Good idea, submitted the turn flow diagram as an image and it has been approved.
Leung Ching Man
me too. Now I understand the game flow a lot. thanks Tom