So I had a chance to play couple games of Chromancer, still in pre-alpha, today. Here is a brief first impression of the game.
If anyone has ever played Chromancer or watched its play video in detail, there is no doubt this game have enough unique elements of its own when compared to other dTCGs. This is actually one of the hardest thing to achieve for new dTCG because there are so many out there, on their way, and many concepts have already been used in some other games in the past.
Today, when I was able to play two games of the pre-alpha built. There were only two decks available to play. Both of which had already been demonstrated in the past with twitch video or more recent play video by MBS. The available number of cards were rather limited. UI looked good but navigation/control was definitely still in pre-alpha. In both games, both myself and my opponent made several mistakes especially when comes to the blocking opponents attack. At this early stage, listing the things that are missing/lacking are not the primary goal as developers are aware of probably all of them. So today, I am focusing on the main aspect of the game, “the game play.”
Potential, potential, and potential
Based on the its fundamental design, I have already had a high expectation on the Chromancer when it comes to the future potential. After playing the actual game, these are confirmed. Remember this is not my full review as available cards were so limited and time of the play were also limited. But from the design point of view, we can look at the individual pieces and see how much potential this game has.
It uses CRS (card based resource system) to give the players power and challenge of managing their own resources. One interesting part; however, is that unlike many others with CRS, Chromancer still retains mana burn mechanics. After the introduction of the mana burn mechanics in the Magic, this concept is somewhat become a taboo in the dTCG. This is simply because the potential effect from it can be so huge, and can take away the fun from the player. Even a losing player can have some fun but when you get mana burned, that little fun may even be lost. So how did the Chromancer revive this mechanics?
In chromancer, fields represent your chroma (mana) generation but your opponent’s can destroy it. Normally, this creates a huge issue; however, in Chromancer, you can carry over the resource from the previous turn to the next turn i.e. you can save them up until one of your stronghold, specifically a bank, is destroyed. Once the bank is destroyed, you can no longer carry over your chroma; hence, you then becomes solely relied on the chroma generated each turn if the bank is destroyed.
So it is indeed possible that you opponent can mana burn entire way with destroy bank and destroy fields to starve you completely, you now have a method to fight back. If your opponent destroys your fields, you can carry over resources using banks. If your bank is destoyed, you can still put many fields out to allow enough resource generation each turn. Whenever, there are options, I think it becomes strategic element. So by allowing the resource carry over mechanics, Chromancer once again opened up a mana burn to be actual game strategy.
The other benefits of the CRS should still be there. Though I did not see any special fields, there were structure cards. These can generate extra resources if you built them. Also, by design they can easily add non-standard field card, which it sounds like they have the plan already.
Dynamic Interactive Play
I would 100% categorize this game as DIP. There is a specific card type, called feat that you can play during opponents turn i.e. equivalent of instant in Magic, or quick action in HEX. But in addition, there are other standard actions that you can do during your opponent’s turn. These include moving your creatures and drawing more card. The moving creature provide counter of its own. E.g. If your opponent target your creature, you can simply move away to dodge the attack. Drawing card any time is another interesting point. You may not have an answer to the opponent’s move with the available cards in your hand, but you can draw extra card to see if you get one.
The control is always trickier with DIP but I enjoy the interactivity in dTCG rather than sitting and waiting to see whole the actions completed by my opponents. Based on the game design, there is no concern this game will have great dynamic interactive play.
In CRS games, the question always arises “how does the game handles the potential of the resource screw?” However, as I have written in the past, the resource screw is just one obvious form that people can identify and point a finger to. But luck of draw is always in the existence for any dTCG that draws a card from a deck. Let’s say you have 50% of your cards that are cheap cost so you can cast them whenever you want, but by the pure luck you may end up no drawing turn after turn. This is actually a form of screw. If I can name it, I’ll probably call “winny screw” i.e. you don’t get winny cards out on time by pure luck. In any event, it is a part of the dTCG. But it would be nice to minimize it. How can you do that? The best way is to let player draw more i.e. break the statistics by statistics.
Chromancer indeed does this. In this game, you can draw anytime as many times as you want (as long as you have enough resources). So does draw in this game work? You get a free draw each turn i.e. 0 cost. If you want to draw an extra card, you pay 1 cost for the first one. From there, it doubles each time you draw i.e. 2 for second card, but 4 for the third card. Again, you can do this even during your opponent’s turn.
The game claims to be “the world first adaptive strategy dTCG.” So what does this really mean? Three strongholds are the target of the game. As each of the stronghold gets destroyed, you have to change/adapt your strategy. But this is just a tip of the iceberge for this mechanics. You can adapt strategy during the stage of the deck design. The decks we were provided to play were only 2 which you all have already seen from the previous twich videos or more recent youtube video, but one of the two game I played had a moment where I quickly destroyed opponent’s bank but he eventually got to the stage where he generated enough resources every turn without the bank.
So what if you just plan that from the beginning, or perhaps make an Aggro rush type deck with cheap cost, high attacking power ones so you don’t care about your bank. During your setup phase, you actually use the bank as a bait. Have your opponent focus on your bank, which really has not much effect on your deck design. And while he is doing so, you quickly attack and destroy opponent’s other strongholds. The potential is out there.
The game is completely browser run. So I played my first game on the Windows 7 desktop. Then the second game, on my Nexus 7 (2013 model). Essentially, the both played the same. UI and navigations have problems but not because of the device but rather it seems to be more of a built in issue with current implementation. This is a great news. Because the game is already ready to be played on Android tablets, and iPad in addition to desktops.
There are so many aspect of the Chromancer that are different from the other traditional dTCGs so it is difficult for me to assess the potential of each, but I can already see how flexible/variable this game play can be with a right type of cards. Now don’t misunderstand me here. Despite the significant difference, the game still likely to retain its core dTCG strategies e.g. recursion deck, rush deck, burn deck, control deck, and though we haven’t really seen any example I am sure the combo decks, and may be even a insta-Win deck as well.
The game has such a huge potential from the game mechanics point of view. If anyone ever gets a chance to play pre-Alpha in near future, don’t get relatively simplicity of the game play, its relative slow pace, suboptimal navigation or rough UI sway you. Look at the big picture of the game, this game has a limitless potential.