Age of Rivals: One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall
I'm a nerd that has never played Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone, or even... (gasp) Pokémon.
Key to the success of deck builders is that the player is always engaged with the game even when they aren't actually playing the game. There is a thrill in the hunt for the unique card that completes your dream deck. Even if cards aren't in your hand, you can dream about developing strategies that no one has thought of before. The card table is bewildered and aghast on the day you unleash this new disruptive deck because there is no counter against it. No one's ever seen it before. Your time investment is richly rewarded, and to the victor go the spoils.
This is why I don't play deck builders.
Age of Rivals is not a deck builder.
Age of Rivals replaces deck building with empire leaders. Your empire leader has certain cards associated with them, and you can choose one of those cards to always appear in their deck, but there is no deck building. Every card can potentially be drawn in any game by either side.
The time investment required for deck builders is a huge barrier to entry for many potential players. Age of Rivals delivers the same card playing experience, but in short fifteen minute experiences. I learned how to play it in less than that.
That doesn't mean that it isn't complex. There are many ways to overcome another empire: economy, culture, espionage, religion, building great works, and war... there is always war.
In Age of Rivals, war is beautiful.
There are so many ways to go about your card match: the first match I played -the only one that I won versus my girlfriend -I built up my economy and enforced soul crushing taxes on her empire. These taxes fed my army that lay siege to her walls which inevitably fell in the end.
Then said girlfriend (formal titles: Crusher of Candies, Card Snatcher, & Block Pendejo) proceeded to crush me in every match following. Sometimes I knew halfway through a match that I wasn't going to come back from the seeds I had sown, but there is no concede mechanic. I had to watch my empire of shambles -okay so more cavemen than empire -get crushed by this advanced and cultured society, with no hope for a saving throw, because the cards I picked in the last three rounds were the cards I picked from in the final round. I had built my empire on sand.
There are no flashy hearthstone animations, and the music is... well it's music, but the meat and bones of this card game is skill. The choices you make matter just a little more than the luck of the draw.
My only real gripe is not being able to concede a match while my girlfriend openly taunted me for two rounds.
Age of Rivals launches March 14th, 2017 on Steam.
- No in-app purchases with free to play
- $9.99 with no in-app purchases and a campaign
- Quick to play (15 minute games)
- Single screen design
- Maximum card variability
- No deck building
UPDATE: you can forfeit a match by clicking on the menu button in the middle right of the screen.