I missed the Kickstarter on this one - but as soon as I heard about it and watched the gameplay videos, I hopped onto backerkit and pre-ordered it. I'm a sucker for card fighting games like this - and the added tactical elements of board position and facing seemed like it would be a win.
Then the waiting started - the designers of this game have been spectacular all through the waiting period - giving both periodic updates on their KS/Backerkit as well as responding to individual messages. That's a really good character in a fledgling company. I'm not someone who's particularly bothered by delays, but lack of communication is something else entirely.
My game finally made it to me about a week ago. The production quality is spectacular - very near on par with anything Fantasy Flight Games would produce. Woven cards, nice thick tokens, utterly fantastic art (which even had my wife marveling and my 2 year old asking to look at the cards), and finally, the craziness that is the resource dial. So...the game is pretty, but is it any good?
Yes. Yes it is. Now to a certain extent, if you've played one card battler (ala Magic the Gathering), you've played them all - the devil is in the details and what you are looking for in a game. I've enjoyed the various attempts to solve the problems Magic has - random deck draw/topdecking problems and of course, the resource problem.
Phoenix Covenant has definitely solved the resource problem - now if you think it is elegant or not will be a different discussion entirely. So you have two different resources, supply and mana, but really you actually have four - the supply you receive each turn, the max supply, mana you receive each turn, and the max mana. Now the way this works is each turn you receive two essence points and they can be used to increase your max supply or mana in any combination you want (2-0, 1-1, or 0-2). It may sound a little complicated, but it's very simple - the physical dial is a teeny bit fiddly (having 5 dials, one for health one for each of the above), but I don't know of a better solution beyond the use of an app. They do also provide a cardboard tracker for people who hate the dial, which was a smart move.
In terms of random deck draw, I think they have a partial solution - essentially the way the cost ratio of the cards relates to your resource growth, essentially you will almost always have a mostly full hand - I don't think I've had a game yet where i dropped below 6 cards in hand.
This is largely due to the fantastic costing system - every unit you play will reduce your max supply as well as use up supply for turn. This really nicely prevents crazy run-away games and is an integral catch up mechanic - because when your unit dies you receive back the max supply for your next turn.
The game takes about 5 minutes to teach if you're playing with a veteran CCG player - no huge surprises in terms of health, attack, movement and so on - but I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of abilities and interesting units at all levels - making this game shocking complex tactically while being easy to teach because of the simplicity of the mechanics.
The first game will take you probably about an hour if you're a veteran gamer - trying to figure out exactly what cards to use and when REALLY matters because much of what you do reduces your maximum supply. The game is not forgiving - a mistake you make may end up costing you the game - so don't waste your units or your card plays.
Now then, on to criticisms (which are surprisingly few):
1. The game has what seems to be an necessarily slow start.
-the absolute cheapest unit I can recall seeing is two supply - and reduces your max supply by 1. But, the starting player only starts with 1 supply - which means not only cannot you not play this unit until turn 2, you also won't be able to play another unit until turn 4 (due to the reduction in max supply). Happily, I think there is an easy fix (and I'd love for the designers to tell me if there's a specific reason for this slow ramp up) - but I think I'm just going to houserule that you start with 3 supply and 2 mana for starting player and 3 supply and 3 mana for second player. That way, instead of 2+ turns of increasing your max mana/supply, you can play some of your cheaper units right at the start.
Oh wait...that's it. Oh I suppose I could complain about not having a full playset of each card, but you get SO much in the box (seriously, 4 prebuilt decks plus cards to mod them is great!).
Barring the slow start, this game is really a blast - every game I just keep thinking of things I want to try - modifications to decks I want to make, strategies I want to try - future cards I want to see (would love to see something that can haste a unit so I can play a card and use it in the same turn - it can totally just only target your unit in a home row, that way if someone is camping your base, you can play a guy and do something about it).
I'm also hoping for a neoprene matt and maybe a playset expansion (i.e. if you buy this pack and the base game you'll have a playset of every card in the set).
I can't recommend this game enough to anyone who enjoys a head to head tactical card game. I'm going to be buying everything that comes out for this game.
Thanks for the post! Really appreciated it and its always humbling and gratifying to find players actually enjoying this crazy game my friends and I built.
WRT to feedback - feel free to provide any feedback you continue to come up with at -- http://hikarigames.com/share-your-feedback/
WRT to your specific criticisms (I am always interested in making the game better)
We've received that feedback before and might look at modifying the base rules for full release (in limited release right now) - I like your idea for the increase in starting resources! We always worry about accelerating things too much so that early swarm isn't possible - but it seems like a small boost even to 1,1 and 2,1 might be enough.
Thanks for the feedback!!!!!