I am your God. I command the heft and heave of continents. I bring forth life from dust and I give the gift of death to those who do not bend to my will. Armies march at my word to crush my foes and the land itself rejects the heretics who worship another lesser being. These lands and people are mine.
Faeria is an odd game, on first glance. It looks, and plays, like an adaptation of an existing board game, cardboard hexes clad in digital flesh. There’s an almost tangible familiarity. As if Faeria once lived in childhood memories of rolling dice and collecting cards. Which is all tosh, of course. Faeria is a brand new strategy CCG from indie developers Abrakam. But there’s something very recognisable about the blend of genres; here, the narrow-set eyes of Magic: The Gathering, there, the stocky build of Settlers of Catan. Faeria‘s illustrious parentage is hard to ignore.
It begins, as all collectible card games do, with the rapacious gathering of cards. Winning ranked battles or completing the smattering of single-player quests earns gold, which can be spent on decks and booster packs from the online store. Next, the endless shuffling of cards in and out of your personally customised deck. With five separate spheres of origin for each card (forest, mountain, lake, desert and plains), there’s a huge pool of resources for the inquisitive player to draw on when developing their own deck. Do I want to be overwhelmingly aggressive or do I want to play my part in a war of attrition? Do I want a regimented army to march towards my foes or an impenetrable wall to be my defence?
The choice of cards further trisects into creature, structure and event cards. Creatures provide willing flesh to throw against your foe’s ramparts. Structures provide strategic bonuses, either when called upon (using your twin resources of gold and Faeria, the latter basically the clichéd energy of other games) or passively, at the beginning of each turn. Events are the manifestation of sorcerous might, damning or reshaping the world as you see fit.
Then you clash against the might arrayed against you. Matches begin with a smattering of hex-shaped land tiles descending around two globes the heady hue of blood. These act as a visual indicator of your health and much like Magic: The Gathering, each player has 20 hit-points contained within the ruby sphere; the goal is to deplete your opponent’s health through prolonged violence. To achieve this, you’re given a limited amount of actions per turn (3, though this can be boosted through intelligent use of events and structures) and four ways to use up these actions. You can draw a card to boost your starting hand of five or harvest gold through a horde of tax-collectors reaping income tax from, one presumes, bemused goblins.
Then there’s the core of the game, the placing and converting of land tiles. Once per turn, you can place a land tile onto the hex-board to try to bridge the gap towards your opponent’s health-globe, reshaping the board to fit your particular style. Players focusing on melee will rush towards building a land bridge, while those who rely on passive life depletion will seek to build closer to home to give space for the structures they need to win. Naturally, event cards can cause land tiles to shift around the board or be destroyed completely, though these are a rare occurrence (at least in the matches I played). Converting land tiles into one of the five spheres of influence takes up the last option available during your turn. In a fully aware nod and wink to the land system of Magic: The Gathering, each of the five different colours of card requires a specific amount of certain lands to be cast: a forest creature might require three forest tiles, leaving the player on a see-saw of trepidation when tiles can’t be reconverted without specific cards. Do you cover your lands in deserts now, allowing you to summon that dragon now but crippling your plans to use water-based creatures later? The interplay between the resource requirements of your play style and the physical transformation of the board is a well-designed limiting factor on zerg-rushing and the developers should be applauded for finding an innovative way of dealing with such a problem.
I can feel some of you out there still stiff with what I hope is rage and concern and not the after-effects of some tablet you received spam about. Yes, there is an online store for the cards and there is in-game gold to purchase them with. If you’re even a little like me, which is to say a deeply bitter and cynical husk left behind when the humanity dried up, you’ll have thought of Facebook games and micro-transactions. With the rarer cards having such a power and utility advantage over the common cards and the rarer cards being able to be purchased from the store, it’s a valid concern that the game might fall into the chasm of pay-to-win. Thankfully, Abrakam have opted for a one-time payment for the game and have no current plans to allow the purchasing of gold with real-world money. All cards can be earned through gameplay alone, which could lead to some problems with higher level players taking on those new to the game and vastly out-powering them, but that’s a problem endemic to most multiplayer games, not just Faeria.
Faeria is a game I have a vast amount of patience and love for. I spent many years of my childhood playing around with card games and having recently rediscovered board games, it’s a game custom-built for someone as unapologetically nerdy as me. I bounced off the lore a little, but having fallen completely for the mechanics, I can recommend backing Faeria when the Kickstarter launches later this year. Personally, I’m hoping for a physical board game version as one of the reward tiers. A nerd can dream.