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Subject: CCG Journey Week 24 - TMNT rss

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Mike Haverty
United States
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The CCG Journey takes a detour through the cheap bin at a local Vintage Stock store.

The Game
I'd never heard of this game prior to seeing it at a local comic/video/game store. It comes in 2-player starter decks and boosters. They were selling the starters 2 for $10, so I bought a pair of double-starters and then, while digging thru the cheap cards bin, found a single set of 5 boosters shrinkwrapped together for $4, so I grabbed that, too.

This game is based on the "all new" TV show on Fox Box and Cartoon Network, circa 2004 when it came out. It looks like it was published by Upper Deck, but designed by a company called Mirage Studios, with no credits in the rulebook.

BGG lists the play time as 30 minutes, so I grabbed it for today's lunch session since I didn't think we'd have enough time for another game (7th Sea and Spycraft are currently on deck but take longer, and Buffy is on deck but none of us have made decks after tearing down all our starters/boosters).

The Decks
I took the 5 boosters and one starter with me, but we played with just the unaltered starters for our first game. Based on the play below, they appear to be very playable out of the box, but I can't tell yet if they are 100% fixed or if there is a random component to them. The two decks had different cards in them and appeared to be regulation decks (exactly 40 cards, with a 3x limit by card title).

The Play
I may have mentally set the bar low when I saw this game only has 6 ratings with an average of 4.05 on the Geek, so I wasn't expecting much of a game necessarily.

TMNT is a deck-depletion game, like BattleTech and Harry Potter, though it goes about it a little differently, of course. You play four cards (face-down) before you into your Battle Zones, and each turn you will turn up your first card and resolve it. If it is a character or attack card, you get to make an attack that turn, otherwise you skip attacking. If it's a character card, you get to augment him with attack cards from your hand, with no more than 1 card (total) from each of the four attributes (wind, nature, fire, mountain -- elements, essentially), e.g., if you have a Fire version of Leonardo up, you can boost his power with one each of Wind, Nature and Mountain attack cards.

Resolving an attack is very straightforward as well. You total the power of your attacking card(s); if you have boosted a character with attack cards then your opponent gets to play 1 counter card to oppose your attack or produce other effects, and then higher total wins. In our game, we had one draw and the rest of the time the attacker won rather handily; being allowed only a single counter card (and finding only a few in each of our decks) makes the game offensively oriented. The difference in power is the damage dealt, but this does not go directly to the opponent's deck (unless the defender won). Instead, he first flips over his battle zone cards (interestingly, cards already face-up count for this), then excess damage causes discards from the deck. At the end of the phase, though, all face-up cards (of both players) are discarded, except a single face-up character in a block zone may be saved, unless you took deck damage.

Because face-up cards are discarded, this still has the net effect of causing deck depletion (your card draw each turn is increased by the number of empty zones you have), but because you get to place cards into those zones from your hand, you sort of plan out what you want flipped up when attack hits you. Here is where I think our limited card pool leaves the most room for exploring deck building and playing: when cards are flipped up due to damage, you still execute any "flip" effects on them. This means that when placing your block zone cards, you could, in theory, plan on taking damage and triggering effects. I haven't seen spoiler lists or looked through all the boosters yet (we opened a few afterward), but I wonder what kind of tricks you could lay in wait for getting hit?

I also like that you are presented with some choices on which cards to place in the block zones. You want characters so that you will flip one on your turn and get to boost it with attack cards, since an attack card up there only attacks by itself. On the other hand, if you know you're going to be getting hit, having too many chararacters up there will just result in them being discarded. If you place attack cards there, you will have less waste, but also fewer attack cards in your hand to boost your character attacks.

Anyway, with the exception of a few counters thrown in, we basically pummeled each other for the duration of the game. In that regard, Gary Payton's comment that, "If hack and slash were a card game this would be it," has some truth to it. I lost on my own turn when I had to draw all my remaining cards due to my empty block zones; if I had lasted that turn, I think John would have been decked on his turn.

Note: there are a couple other card types, Items and Events, I didn't mention above. Items tend to act like permanent bonuses or effects that stick around for you, while events are one-shot effects. You can play one of each per turn.

The Verdict
We both actually liked the game. It was the sort of experience where you see there are some potentially neat things happening with card and block zone management, and you really want to get more cards and build your own decks (always a good sign), but at the same time you have to wonder if there are counters and events in the card pool that can elevate it past the bash-fest we had. I'll open up the other starter set (to see if they are the same or different cards, for one thing) and my handful of boosters and tweak up two "good" decks and see how that goes. If it is decent at all, I could see buying a box of boosters for dirt cheap somewhere. As it is now, I rate this a 6.0 after one play, which may go up or down depending on another couple plays and some deck tweaking; my main concern now is if there are any viable defensive options.

Notes on the Journey
Total plays (plays since last report).

World of Warcraft = 32
Magic = 15
Game of Thrones = 10
VS = 8
Harry Potter = 7
Doomtown = 6
Conan = 4 (+1)
Jyhad = 4
City of Heroes = 4
Epic = 4
Warhammer = 3
BattleTech = 3
Legend of the Five Rings = 2
Shadowrun = 2
Star Wars = 2
TMNT = 1 (+1)
Kingdom Hearts = 1
Lord of the Rings = 1
Echelons = 1
OverPower = 1
Hyborian Gates = 1
Arcadia = 1
Fantasy Adventures = 1
On the Edge = 1
Shadowfist = 1
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Mykel Kramer
United States
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I have been catching your CCG Journey reviews and was excited to see a review of TMNT. Nice summary of what is going on with the game and how it plays.

If you did find cheap booster boxes anywhere locally I would be interested in getting some (the collector in me is brutal). I checked online a while back, long after it was dead and came up empty.
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William McDuff
Prince Rupert
British Columbia
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"'A grey man,' she said. 'Neither white nor black, but partaking of both. Is that what you are, Ser Davos?' 'What if I am? It seems to me most men are grey.'" -- Lady Melisandre of Asshai and Ser Davos Seaworth from A Clash of Kings by G.R.R. Martin
A small part of a 17,000 pushpin video game art project I was involved with.
I have some plain cards for trade; however, I'm looking for the foils, so you might not want to make that kind of deal.
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