Edit: 3/5/20 – Multiplayer update again. The latest app update has extended the timer to 48 hours! Definitely appreciate them doing that. The game is still enjoyable and now that I realize just how much old stuff is in the replay when you log in, I’m no longer confused.
The latest update also optimized the game for the phone a little bit more. I just tried it. It’s not too bad, though it’s still not my preferred way to play. At least I don’t hate it anymore.
Edit: 2/20/20 – Multiplayer update. I am now in two online multiplayer games and while there is a bit of confusion, overall it works great asynchronously. To set up a game, you do need to have your opponent on your friends list, but it’s easy to send an invite after that. You have a 24-hour timer (not 48-hour like somebody had told me earlier) to take your turn.
I do wish that it was a 48-hour timer like Star Realms, but this is manageable. (Though please, White Wizard Games, if you could make it 48 hours, that would be so much better).
The confusing part is that the replay of turns when you go in to take your turns (though I really do appreciate having the replays!). It also replays some of your previous actions as well! The first time I saw this, since it had been many hours since I had taken my turn, I thought the AI had taken over for me and reported a bug. Now I realize that it’s part of the replay. Once I got used to that, it actually works pretty well.
Overall, online multiplayer works very smooth and I do like it a lot. Though having had to take one of my turns on my phone because of the timer, I have to reiterate that I hate this game on my phone right now. It’s way too hard to read, as noted in the update below. The iPad does work great, as I guessed it would.
Edit: 2/18/20 – I have to add that when I wrote this review, I had only played the Steam version. Now that I’ve played it on iOS as well, it’s virtually unplayable on the iPhone (haven’t tried iPad yet, but I’m sure that’s fine since it’s bigger). There’s no other reason for it than screen real estate. White Wizard did everything they could. You can zoom cards, play them from the zoomed state, and all of that. But the text is just too small for the phone, even zoomed. It made my eyes hurt.
For something to be truly called “epic,” does it need to have huge creatures ready to fight? Masterful wizards who will conjure these demons and unleash mayhem upon the land?
Is it just a fitting description of my ego?
Epic Card Game is a card game (duh) in the same vein as Magic: the Gathering where you are playing cards to ultimately try to reduce your opponent’s health to zero (in the game! I’m not talking about committing a crime or anything).
The game was designed by Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle with art by Kaile Dutton and Vito Gesualdi. It was published by White Wizard Games in 2015, but this review is about the app that just released today (also by White Wizard Games).
Let me just tell you right now that the game looks amazing.
At least in artwork form, the game is truly epic.
How does it play?
Let’s give a quick overview.
Each player is given a 30-card deck that can be done in a number of different ways.
First, there are four alignments in the game: Sage, Wild, Good and Evil. The game comes with 120 cards, or 30 cards for each alignment.
You can either choose an alignment to play, you can draft a 30-card deck from the available cards, or you can just deal 30 cards randomly to each player. That’s the most fun, but also the most chaotic and could result in a bad time if you’re unlucky.
You start with a hand of five cards, which you can spend health points to “mulligan” out of your hand and get new ones. Your deck will consist of Events and Champions.
Champions are put in play in front of you and will be used to attack the other player and defend against their attacks. Just like Magic, they can block attacks and (unless the attacking champion has the Breakthrough ability) will block the entire attack no matter how many hits they take (a 1-defense champion will still block a 15-point attack unless that champion has Breakthrough).
Events will do things like have you draw cards, maybe destroy (“break” in Epic game terms) other champions, or maybe bring some other “token” cards out in front of you.
The game plays a bit differently than other games I’m used to, and I have to say that the tutorial (unless it’s been upgraded since I was given access to the game earlier this month) didn’t really help me understand the game as well as it could have.
I had to go watch a “how to play” video from White Wizard to really get how this game works.
First, each turn (even your opponent’s), you have one gold to spend on playing cards that costs a gold. There is no “mana” in Epic Card Game. There’s just that one gold. If your card doesn’t cost anything, then you can play that as well.
“Initiative” is a very important concept in this game, and it’s something I had trouble getting used to.
When you have initiative, you can make any number of plays (either playing a card or using a power). Initiative can pass back and forth in the middle of the phase.
The player whose turn it is draws a card (except the first player on the first play of the game, where they don’t) then plays cards and uses those cards to do things, declaring a “battle phase” (attacking with a champion) as many times as they like with a few caveats.
First, when a Champion is played, unless it has Blitz, it can’t do anything. Champions with Blitz, or who were already played in previous turns, can attack, either individually or as a group.
When you attack, a Battle Phase begins. The defender gets initiative and can play cards/powers until they are finished, in which case the Attacker gets initiative and can do the same. It goes back and forth until somebody goes to the “Choose Blockers” stage.
Then, the Defender declares their blocking champions, turning them upside down.
Before damage is assessed, the defending player can make more plays, then passes initiative to the attacker until somebody advances to the damage step.
This is where damage is doled out among the blocking champions and possibly the other player. The attack (red number) rating of the champion is how much damage is dealt and the defense (purple number) is the amount of damage the champion can take before it is broken (discarded).
When the player whose turn it is decides they are done taking actions and attacking, the other player gains initiative and can make plays. If they decide not to, the End Phase begins. Otherwise, the current player gets the initiative and can do more.
In the End Phase, damage is removed from Champions and any End Phase abilities happen.
That’s the basic turn sequence that continues until somebody is down to zero health, in which case they are defeated!
There are a few other terms to know that aren’t done in the usual way, most especially “Recycle” and “Banish.”
When you recycle, you put two cards from your discard pile at the bottom of your deck and draw a card. Banished cards go to the bottom of your deck as well. I’m used to “Banishing” meaning being removed from play and put in your discard pile, so that took me some time to understand.
Is Epic Card Game truly epic? Or is it a damp squib with delusions of grandeur?
My initial impression of Epic Card Game, after going through the tutorial and trying a game, was that this game made no sense at all. Other than “attacking” and defending” and “trying to reduce your opponent to a gibbering mess of flesh and bone with no sentience whatsoever” (I may be overstating that…slightly), nothing in this game was as familiar as it felt like it should be.
I was playing the game badly because I didn’t understand it.
Thus, the tutorial, at least in my opinion, wasn’t really that helpful. You may find that different, though.
After watching the video and then coming back to it, I destroyed the AI in that first game and the sequence of play just clicked.
And I loved it, though it does seem a bit more intricate than it needs to be for smooth play.
The game truly feels like a battle between the two players, even more so than with Magic, because you get to play and do stuff on the other player’s turn as well. It’s truly a back and forth affair, rather than just a “I do something, attack you, you block, ok your turn” (with a couple of rare exceptions such as Interrupt cards).
You can have a bunch of Champions on the table, ready to attack one by one (because if an attack is blocked, no damage is done so why add together all of your Champions at once?) and then, as part of your opponent’s play when they have the initiative, a card comes out that breaks all your Champions. Curses!
Now that I get it, I really do like how the system works. The Banishing system works really well, because there are cards that let you retrieve cards from your discard pile. Banishing puts them at the bottom of the deck, never to seen again (ok, they could be seen, but it will be a while).
I like how there are no resources to keep track of. You’re not “tapping” mana to buy stuff. You have one gold so you can only play one card that costs a gold per turn.
The app does a great job of telling you what you can and can’t do, as well as what part of the turn you are in. The cards highlight if you can play them. If you play something with a Loyalty effect, then it will tell you to choose the cards from your hand but it will also tell you if you don’t have enough cards to implement the effect.
It never leaves you any doubt.
If a Champion has just been played, it has the “snoozing” Z’s coming from it, showing that you can’t do anything with it.
I also like the little game hints at the top right corner (which you can turn off by clicking the light bulb).
The app comes with solo play against the AI as well as online multiplayer (it’s unclear if it’s asynchronous or not, will report back on the multiplayer soon as I haven’t had the chance to try it yet) and is Free to Play.
(Edit: I now know that it works like Star Realms: either 48-hours to take your turn or 20-minute matches for the entire game. That’s great! Still haven’t played a game, so can’t comment on how it plays or how stable it is. Will report back)
That usually sends alarm bells up and down my spine (my physiotherapist says that’s not a good thing), but it appears that the only things you can “buy” with gems/gold/whatever that you earn is promo foil cards and stuff like that. You won’t have to spend money in order to play the game well.
The game comes with all 120 cards fully playable.
It even comes with a Campaign against the AI, which I also haven’t had a chance to try yet.
The AI in the solo (non-campaign) games felt pretty good, though that could have been a function of me not being as familiar with the game as I could be.
It’s not a pushover, though, that’s for sure. I look forward to playing more games against it.
I really am enjoying Epic Card Game and it’s definitely worth checking out, especially because it’s not going to cost you anything.
The artwork is amazing and the game’s pretty fun too!
It’s available on Steam, iOS and Android, so pick it up today and see what you think.
Thanks to White Wizard Games for allowing me into the game early (since it’s not like getting a free copy is a thing in this case!)