Deck-building: The Next Generation
In the beginning, there was Dominion. And it was good. Very good. So good, in fact, that plenty of others were inspired to explore this “deck-building” genre that had been created.
Thunderstone may have been the most prominent response to Dominion’s popularity before this year, but Origins and GenCon showed that there’s plenty more on the way. While I’ve heard a few good things about Ascension, it simply does not look (or sound) like a game I would enjoy. Heroes of Graxia, on the other hand, piqued my curiosity…
I picked up HoG (what an unfortunate acronym!) a few weeks ago, but didn’t really get to fully experience it until this weekend. After a few plays, I have a ton of thoughts… but one central thing stands out: WHY ISN’T THIS #1 ON THE HOTNESS?!?
This game is awesome. Simply put. CCGs meet Deck-building, and make a beautiful Graxia-shaped baby. While I’ll never say “better than Dominion”, it’s certainly a really fun alternative without becoming a pale imitation.
Building a legion is a really cool twist. Rather than relying on drawing a random five cards and balancing what your resources are, you can focus on putting resources (Units and Equipment) into play over multiple turns to assemble a force. Furthermore, getting your cards into play is even easier with the mulligan rule. If you’re looking for one particular card, you get three shots to find it in the top 12 cards you draw (which is often most of, or the whole deck).
The player interaction element is another plus. Rather than waiting to get a card that lets you do something to an opponent, you can throw yourself into the fray against anyone else at the table. The Spells and Mercenaries keep enough ambiguity between what’s showing on the table and what’ll actually be calculated after combat. While the numbers can get a bit high, it’s not too hard to figure if you figure one player’s attack, then the other’s (as opposed to both players figuring both attack and defense at the same time).
While I didn’t expect much of a learning curve at first glance, I was shocked at how much strategy can go into selecting cards to buy and cards to play. In my second major game, I drew the dwarf (can’t remember the name, sorry) and focused on loading him with bonuses v. opposing Legions. A Bone Sword, a Rune Sword, and the armor that gives a bonus, and suddenly I had a one-Unit wrecking machine for my Legion. Investing in Mercenaries like Roth and an assortment of Spells set me up to do some serious damage… unfortunately one of my opponents was able to strike first, collecting 16 Prestige in one attack.
Perhaps the only downside of Heroes of Graxia is the backside of this learning curve. Players could become discouraged by situations like the one mentioned above, rather than picking up on the notion that allowing too much army-building is a really bad idea. Being aware of the ramifications of certain decisions (like which card to buy, when to attack, when to mulligan, etc.) can really only be fully realized with multiple plays. Once people get past that hurdle, they’ll easily find a really enjoyable game that fills the gap between Dominion and CCGs.