Bystrice nad Pernstejnem
The earth is scorched and wrinkled with many cracks. Day or night, smoke and flames are coming from them constantly. It seems as if the planet's ire for what we had done, unleashing a X-6-10-Z virus. World is completely in ruins, just well as the mythical civilization, that lived on its surface. Dozens of characters are wandering ruined landscape. Influenced by mutated virus. Survivors.
Balance of power has changed. Evil nourishes in chaos. And it has now shown its true face and will try to finish, what was started. Its dark forces opened Vargah volcano and planet, who waited for a long time for their chance, began spewing rivers of lava to the surface. Residents, whose homes were located at the foot of the volcano, now flee away in horror and seek shelter.
You're one of them. Fortunately, you're not really member of mankind and rule magical forces, that did not lose momentum even after the destruction of the planet. Quite the contrary, virus amplified their powers, and you must lead innocent people of your village back to safety.
Existenz: On the Ruins of Chaos tells the story of devastated planet, where a total of four factions will compete during their escape to safety. Bas de Vaan, Niels Molle, Robèr Coolen and Bob van de Vijfeijke created the game in production of Cartamundi company. It all happened in 2012 adn there is publishing company Quantuum Magic BV standing behind all this. The illustrations are done by more than a dozen different authors.
Game box will capture your first glance with its dark silhouette of an army standing in front of map of the world. Regarding dimensions, game is a classic square, but is significantly lower, than we are used to in other games of similar orientation and type. Maybe even a half of their height.
Inside you will find carefully seated four boxes with pretty pictures. Each of them contains a deck of cards for one of factions available in the base game. There is Arnunnian Alliance, Undead Legion, Pirate Confederacy and Red Barbarians Brotherhood. Each of these factions plays very differently and always contains 50 cards plus one life base - your home.
What will most definitely surprise you is the fact, that such a card game contains game board. A circular globe of the world on it is interwoven with web of ways, where you and your minions will move. In the middle, there is the already mentioned Vargah mountain, which you are trying to get away from.
But you need some pawns, with which could you run on that board. They are made as shields with different pictures of various colors. Shields are then put into prepared stands and they look much prettier that way. Their assembly is handled immediately, when you first unpack the game and is really easy. Each of the available colors (green, red, purple and blue) gets endowed with six figures. There is most important piece for your life base, then one for dragon, flying craft, army, berserker and last one for beast. All will represent your pets on the game plan in case you summon them.
But with that, description of component ends. It remains only to mention a nice printed manual full of nice examples. From there, you will learn how to play eXistenZ within half an hour, despite fact, that there is quite a lot of information on each card. The very principle of the game and the course is not that complicated.
Before we get to match itself, we must still look for some more details on the board. In its middle, there is a volcano and six starting positions for player's heroes. You are carrying your flying base with you and move with every dot and white lines. Movement and combat rules apply such, that you should always follow your previous direction on one turn (no jump, attack and retreat). Passing through sharp angles bends is forbidden too. Therefore, it is good to plan the way ahead, before you move.
Dots have several different forms. In addition to starting red with a white dot in its middle, you find protected pure red (no fighting there!) dots, gray warp spots and mainly white with a red dot in the middle. They represent aim of your entire pilgrimage.
But before we start describing game preparation, it should be added, that Existenz is not only a card game, but also a Living Card Game. This means, that there is a very important promise of new extensions to enhance the game. Yet you will not have to rely on luck in randomly assembled expansion packs, but instead you get pre-clear set of new cards, that will greatly enrich your experience. Such is LCG, a popular format growing in popularity especially for last two years.
In the game you will encounter total of four card types. Instant card (Flux), permanent effects (Catalysts), Energy crystals providing resources for magic and primarily Summons - creatures, that will fight for you.
These cards are easy to differentiate from each other according to an inscription in left box below the picture. And while we get into details, let's look at the anatomy of cards straight across. The upper part is usually dominated by some hilarious illustrations. Below there are two boxes - one on the left contains an information about the card, its type, maximum number of them in one deck and especially target type. Each spell can be used only on certain kinds of cards, for example on the summons. This property is called focus. The last information, which will you find here, is card membership to a package, in case you decide to build your own deck.
More important for the game is second larger box, which contains capabilities of the action or character. When we talk about summons, you will find their attack power, defense, speed and attack range listed in numbers in top of the box. Below them, there is a text describing any special skills and what will you have to do to use it. Often, its enough just to activate the card (rotate it 90 degrees), making it exhausted for rest of the turn.
The last piece of information except name of the card is price for its conjuration, which is listed in the four types of energy. Each of them is represented by a single letter - B is boost, Mystic goes for M, R is Robiumm and the last H is crazy Halos.
With this knowledge, game itself is very simple. At the beginning, you prepare a board and choose colored pieces according to your taste. But the biggest battle will be for decks of cards to determine the faction you will fight for. In the middle of the board, there is a red circle, where your life base token will start. All other figures begin next to the game board. You also put your life base card in front of you and shuffled deck provides first seven cards, with which you start the fight.
Players will now alternate in activating their units and in playing new cards from their hands. At the beginning of each round, you can play one energy source card, which will provide energy for you from now on. And believe us, you need it for as much as just everything in the game. Whether it's a movement, summoning of reinforcements or use some other powers, everything runs on energy of one or more kind.
Now you can play as many cards from your hand as you have free energy at your disposal. If it is a summon, then you can look at the map and put appropriate figure in starting spot. One out of six possible figures. Each type of units can be represented only once on the battlefield, so you can only control one army, dragon, beast or vessel.
For the entire course of the game, most important is moving and attacking. Both are closely related and intertwined with web of roads on the map. You are trying to move your troops forward, while blocking opponent's efforts to reach their finish spot. This is largely altered by the fact, that you can not only cause your units to spawn elsewhere, but you can also travel with them using warp points.
Movement for most of your units has to be payed for and its not enough just to activate their card (= turn is sideways), but you also have to use some energy. The amount and type is listed directly on the card next to the movement option. For this price, you can then move as many fields as your units speed value. You can also attack opponent's unit, which is simply done by assigning number of damage. Fight therefore is not solved in any way, attacked unit just marks its damage. A harmed army can still travel, but if it receives damage equal to its defense value, its destroyed.
The game can then end up not only by destroying opponent's base, but also by reaching the destination spot. Whoever manages to survive and escape to the safety of volcano reach as first, becomes victorious faction and can celebrate. He wins existence for his people, at least for some time.
Existenz: On the Ruins of Chaos is an interesting combination of card game with a board. And in such a way, that it will seem to you as totally natural. And for that, it is necessary to thank and pay tribute to the authors, because game boards for LCGs are a novelty even now.
Then the board itself has a very special and unusual appearance, which will attract many players. As well as four completely different decks offering different tactics. Because it is a Living Card Game, there should be more. And yes, its even confirmed by authors themselves, because selling of ExistenZ goes well. They even want to prepare other maps with other goals and stories! But what is really good news is, that you do not have to wait for these expansion. This game is complete one from the beginning, and new decks will only add to its value and provide more options.
In reality individual armies have nice setup combinations full of exciting moments. With simple gameplay, in which everything must be paid by kneeling enough of your energy cards, rookies learn the game in a few minutes. Yes, there are some timing issues over here too, but they are not so hard to grasp.
But it does get worse with cards texts, and knowledge of the deck. Knowing your cards is much needed for play, because you just have to calculate probability, that you will draw precisely this or that card. Without knowing your options, you'll just be grasping a tread in the dark.
Unfortunately, luck of card draw may have a big impact on course of the game. Well-mixed deck is the basis of every Living Card Game, but due to now present four different decks, energy sources can get you very easily into a blind alley. While your opponent rolls one strong army after another on your side of battlefield to harm you, you are not able to hinder him in any way, because you do not have necessary crystals. Unfortunately, this situation can occur from time to time, and usually results in quick game over for one side. There is no getting back on this ship later on..
The second problem is the beginning of combat itself. Players bases are not far apart, but you must usually wait for right army combination to come up with some kind of offensive. This makes the first few rounds slow and not very entertaining.
But when players start attacking each other on the map and attempt to block each others road to safety, then eXistenZ begins to really excel. The greatest role in that have exquisitely designed cards, and having everything nicely organized on the board. Units move on it and no armies are indestructible. With usage of the correct tactics and movements, you can skate out of many unpleasant situations.
During the game, you have to manage your materials well. They will serve you for the whole game, renewed on beginning of each turn. But you still can have only as much as you have put in your deck. Remember, that you need them not only for sending out new units, but also for supporting your current armies and especially their movement. You have to pay for each such activity and often find your funds being not sufficient for what you want to do.
Interestingly, the eXistenZ game can be played not only in two, but also in three and four opponents. In every situation, there is different starting distribution. You can even play a team game or another scenario. This is another way to spice up your experience. And it works well.
ExistenZ has really good graphics. But you can see, that lot of authors have contributed to it, so the quality and style of many card vary. But the overall impression is very high and game has an excellent processing. Only consistency could be on a little higher level, at least considering each faction.
Existenz: On the Ruins of Chaos, or X610Z if you please, is Living Card Game for action-based players, who love games of conflicts. Although you must overcome several initial rounds of peace and have a little luck in drawing cards with right energy, afterwards you get an excellent strategic carving. So if you like card games and eXistenZ seems interesting to you, then definitely give it a shot! Its easy and full of wickedness!
Original review posted on DeskoveHry.com with pictures:
Thank you for this excellent review!