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Monday
Dec312012

SolForge

Some of you probably know that I love board games, but I haven't really told anyone here that I also love trading card games. In fact, I have been playing Magic: the Gathering (MTG) casually since 1997. I consider it as one of the best games ever created.

Today, I will share about a new trading card game that was co-designed with Richard Garfield, the creator of MTG. Unlike MTG, this new game is available online through various platforms including the iPad ad PC. I have spent more than 30 hours over the past three days playing the preview version of the game and now, I'm ready to tell you what I think of it.

A new kind of game.SolForge is a pure digital trading card game by the creators of Ascension and Magic: The Gathering.

SolForge

SolForge is a game that was developed based on Richard's desire to create a trading card game that won't cause a fortune to play competitively while embracing the new online and mobile gaming platform. The idea was to create a pure digital card game where you collect and play virtual cards rather than physical ones.

To realize this idea, Kickstarter project was initiated by Gary Games (recently renamed into StoneBlade Entertainment) and funded successfully a few months ago. I was one of the backers. Having played their previous game, Ascension, I believe that the developers will do a great job with SolForge.

In case that you were wondering, SolForge is planned for release in the Summer of 2013, but the Beta version will be available for some of the Kickstarter backers in the end of Q1 2013. The iPad version that I have been playing recently is a free preview that was provided by the developers for the public.

SolForge was originally designed as a two-player versus game, but a recent development suggested that you would also be able to play a co-operative multiplayer game. The preview version includes a tutorial game, a one-player mode where you can play against two AI levels, and a two-player mode where you can pass-n-play with your friend. Also included in the game are two 30-card pre-constructed decks, which include preview cards from all four factions of the SolForge world and two card types, i.e. creatures and spells. You would eventually be able to collect your digital cards, build your own decks and even enter a draft tournament.

A two-player game.Play against an AI player or a friend.

Rules and Objectives

SolForge is a turn-based game in which each player starts with a life total of 100. The first player to reduce his/her opponent's life total to 0 wins the game. During each of your turn, you can choose to play up to two cards from your hand of five, enter battle and refresh your hand with a new set of cards.

The game's battlefield is composed of two rows. The top one belongs to your opponent, whereas the bottom one is yours. Within each rows, there are five lanes where your creatures will fight your opponents'.

When a creature is attacked, its health will be reduced by the amount of its assailant's attack power. Once its health is reduced to 0 or less, it will be discarded from play. Note that this health reduction is permanent, meaning that it will last through the end of turn.

If there is no opposing creature, all the damage will be dealt to the opposing player instead. Other than direct damage spells and triggered abilities, this is one of the main routes to reducing your opponent's life total to 0.

Unlike other card games, creatures and spells in SolForge have no casting cost. But, you are limited to cast a maximum of two cards of any types. You can cast creatures or spells or enter battle in any order. In fact, I'm used to cast spell, battle, then cast creature, in that order.

In SolForge, all cards have three levels. Whenever you play a card, it levels up and is removed from your deck. A higher level version will then replace it. Your avatar also levels up every four turns. Each time you level up, you reshuffle your discarded pile back into your deck, allowing you to draw your higher level cards. If you have a 30-card deck, you will mostly see only 20 of them before you have to shuffle your deck again. This may cause you to never see a particular card during the entire game.

For more information on how to play the game, you can read the official guide or watch this YouTube video made by Brian Kibler, one of the developers of SolForge.

Things I Like

As someone who enjoys playing games that make me think, I was naturally attracted to SolForge. I think that the game is set up in a very balanced way that if you are not careful, your opponent can easily turn the tables and win the game. 100 lives may seem a lot at first but as level III creatures can have more than 20 attacking power, the game can end very briefly. Also, with five lanes and battles occurring on both players' turns, the game can swing in any player's advantage really quickly. Other than forcing your opponent to spend more cards to stabilize the board and create a card advantage for you, I personally find strong board position is something that you should always strive for throughout the game.

As with other card games, what makes SolForge interesting is the abilities that creatures and spells have. Having learned how MTG grew into a complex game over its 17 years of existence, I have great belief in SolForge's ability to evolve from its initial database of cards. If you want to learn more about the cards that have been revealed through various occasions so far, you can check this wiki page of planned 2013 Core Set, the first set of cards to be released at the end of Summer 2013.

Also, even though the preview version of SolForge doesn't have any deck building feature, I can already imagine how fantastic it will be to build my own decks. As of today, the deck building rule is very simple. Your deck needs to have a minimum of 30 cards, with a maximum of three copies per card. With deck building, draft tournaments and multiplayer raids, I think SolForge is going to set a new trend in online mobile card gaming.

Level up.The way card levels work in Solforge makes its digital platform excels. It is simply too cumbersome to track these levels as physical cards

Playing Tips

After playing many games over the past three days, here are some playing tips that I believe would benefit new players:

  • Understand that you would only see two-thirds of your deck each time you shuffle your deck (i.e. every four turns). Strengthening your board position should come first before playing your card just for the sake of leveling up.
  • Try to force your opponent to play more than one card to stabilize the board. Because a player is only allowed to play a maximum of two cards on each turn, this strategy can quickly turn the game in your favor.
  • One of the pre-constructed decks, the Alloyin/Tempys deck, is a bit harder to play compared to the Nekrium/Uterra deck. If you play with it, you may want to reduce as many damages that you absorb throughout the first eight turns. It's a slower deck with great level III cards, but remember that it needs to survive the early game before it can gain control later on.

If you want to learn more about the strategies that have been developing in the SolForge community, you can check out ForgeWatch, a dedicated website for SolForge news, strategy and community highlights.

Challenging.The more you play this game, the more you will appreciate its in-depth strategy options.

Conclusion

SolForge is a great game. It has one of the best teams in the world to create the first pure digital trading card games on online mobile gaming platforms. The card levelling feature has shown how digital cards can benefit gameplay where physical cards would be too cumbersome and I believe that the developers would extend this platform advantage to include other creative gameplay designs. I can't wait to play the Beta version this upcoming quarter.

Solforge is available for iPad
Get it on the App Store: iPad

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