Last night I ran a demo of the Epic Card Game at The Sentry Box. Epic is a fantasy card game, in the vein of games like Magic, that was recently funded on Kickstarter by White Wizard Games, the folks who did Star Realms. I’ll be discussing the game with some reference to the rules so if you are interested you should check out the rules and have a quick look over them as you read.
Like many Fantasy themed card game, Epic involves the summoning of creatures and heroes to battle your opponent and also lets you play spells or events to interact with your or your opponent’s creatures. In Epic all attacking creatures or heroes are called Champions and they cost either one or zero gold to play. Each turn, each player gets a single gold to use and this gold can’t be saved from turn to turn. So on your turn you are either playing one powerful Champion or Event and then supplementing it with several less zero cost and less powerful Champions or Events.
While Epic reuses some abilities and concepts from Magic, it is quite a different game because of several key concepts. The first is the aforementioned Gold. There is a discrete limit to the number of powerful Champions you can play in a turn but you can also play a Powerful creature immediately. In my first game, my opponent played a Rampaging Wurm and then buffed it with a zero cost Event called Rage to make it a 19 attack Champion with Blitz (allowing it to attack immediately). I was staring at a Champion that was going to cost me two thirds of my health total on the first turn. This is unique to most of the card games I play.
With this increased power level is a balancing ability for a player to Break (discard) or Banish (put on the bottom of a deck) Champions with relative ease. Your über powerful Rampaging Wurm is just as easy to remove from the table as a 1-1 Human Token.
Epic has two win conditions. You can either reduce your opponent to zero health or you can mill through your deck. To counter this, there are several Champions and Events that Banish cards from the discard pile (or the table) to the bottom of your opponent’s deck. The discard pile is played face-up and there are abilities on cards that allow them to be brought back out of the discard pile to your hand or deck. This isn’t unique to Epic but each player has access to this sort of resource management option regardless of the “colour” or type of deck you are playing. And its really quite central to the game as there are numerous Champions or Events that can be Recalled to your hand. Some of them, like the 1 Gold Inner Peace Event can be brought back if you play another 1 Gold cost Good Champion making it easy to regain and then reuse a powerful healing spell over and over again. This makes it critical to not only manage table control but also try to control your opponent’s discard pile or their ability to access their discard pile.
Determining your choice of Champion or event to play is complicated not only by the cost of the card but also by the Ally or Loyalty Keywords on the card. Ally abilities trigger when you play a 1 cost card of the same alignment (Good, Evil, Sage or Wild) as the card. Loyalty is, currently, triggered when you play a card and then show 2 cards of the same alignment. Do you want to play your Murderous Necromancer now or wait until you have another Evil card in your hand to trigger his Loyalty ability and allow you to place three Zombie tokens?
Events add a further wrinkle as some of them not only come with exclusive options but can also have different effects depending on whether it ids your turn or not. The 1 Gold Evil Event called Apocalypse will let you draw two cards or if it is your turn it will break all Champions. The Bitten Event will also allow you to draw two cards but alternately will let you Break a Champion and provide a Zombie token to whichever player is attacking.
This provides a lot of strategic thinking when playing cards and makes even “obvious” choices to play surprise blockers not quite so obvious when you have optional abilities that won’t trigger if you do so or will have more beneficial results if you play them in your turn instead of your opponents.
After the demo I am much more excited about the game as it turned out to not be what I had initially thought. I was expected a bit of a manic game with people trading attacks from powerful Champions but the game really seems a lot more nuanced than that. There are certainly giant creatures and powerful spells but the limit on Gold each turn makes it much slower to put those creatures into play and its quite easy to remove Champions. Using the Deck and Discard piles as a form of resource and cards also adds an interesting wrinkle to the game and provides some fun options for game play.
I am definitely happy that I backed this on Kickstarter and I will be doing more demos at the store prior to the releases of the game.