With a recent lawsuit, I have decided revisit the assessment of similarities and differences between the Magic the Gathering and HEX. The original article I have written back in last year was prior to the actual game release of the HEX, so primarily written based on the available information from the developers. Now we are roughly 8 months into the game since the first public alpha release, how do they compare? This time I am going to look at piece by piece. Let’s start with the foundation of the game, the resource system.
Perhaps the least important aspect for the comparison as name can be easily changed, but in the HEX resources are referred to as “Resource” and generally generated by “Shard” cards. Whereas, in Magic they are referred to as “Mana” and generated by “Land” cards.
Many other games uses the term “mana” to refer to their resource system. For example, Hearthstone from the Blizaard refers their resource as “Mana crystal”.
In game representation
In HEX, the resources are represented as “resource card” while in a deck or player’s hand. In Magic, they are represented by “land card.”
Players build/manage their own resources as they play i.e. in both games these cards are included as part of the deck and you play them with maximum 1 resource/land card per turn to increase their resource/mana pool. Also both games have the 5 primary colors/types of resources.
Although they are similar in mechanics for this part, the system is far from being called unique to Magic (though they may have invented one).
Above is a card from the game called, Carte which is no longer in service. However, this game also used dedicated resource card in their game with 5 different colors (in original game, later had a sixth color), you can only play one at a time.
When the cards are played, the differences in the presentation also becomes significant. If we take just a piece of one card at a time and drawing them from a deck, it now applies to all the games that uses sacrifice based resource system e.g. World of Warcraft TCG and Shadow Era.
In Magic, the land card is placed straight on the battlefield. When a player wants to use the mana, he taps (turns the card to the side) it.
In HEX, a resource card have three components which are providing actual resource value, which itself has “no color” element i.e. absolute number system. It also charges a champion, which is a counter that allows the champion to use his/her special ability when there are sufficient number of count/charge accumulate. Then lastly, add a threshold value which is a lock/unlock system for different colors. Because of this sophisticated system when a resource card is played in HEX, it is not a card that is placed on the battlefield but rather threshold is represented as a gem, resource value and charge are represented as a counter i.e. there is no resource card on the board.
HEX’s resource card provide charge to the champion. Since Magic has no champion, there is no analogy here. HEX’s developer stated that in Magic there can be times where you get to the point just having extra land card does nothing. But in HEX, at least the use of resource will charge your champion so even when you have lots of resources and no usable card for those resource, you can at least count on the champion’s power.
Separating color requirement from the absolute resource value is what essentially HEX did in comparison to the Magic. Is this significant? The answer is yes. I will refrain from stating which is better system but the actual difference is significant in terms of the game play/mechanics.
Let’s take look at some examples.
Left is a card from the Magic and the right is a card from HEX.
Yes, the name and stats are similar. It is hard to imagine this is just a coincidence.
However, when comes to the actual play there is a difference.
If you have two of these cards in your hand and want to use both of them. In Magic, you have a specific requirement of having TWO forest/green land cards on the board. Having 1 mountain/red and 1 forest/green with total of 2 mana pool are not sufficient.
Whereas in HEX, threshold is a lock/unlock system. So having one wild/green threshold, it does not matter what other color/shard of the resource you used. As long as you have two on total resource values you can use two of the Wild Growth.
Though for the non-TCG player this may appear subtle or negligible difference, it does provide easier playing environment for multi-color deck.
Here is an another example.
These are the cards that destroys opponent’s resource pool. One on the right is from Magic and the left is from the HEX.
What happens in Magic is the actual land card is destroyed.
However, in HEX you do lose your absolute resource count but threshold remains. Separating threshold and resource count allows HEX to separately target different pieces of the resource system.
Hence, the card such as above can be created. What the card above does is essentially add “threshold” but does not increase your absolute resource pool.
Any combination can now be essentially achieved i.e. destroy just threshold, add 2 thresholds but no resource count, convert threshold into resource value etc.
Basically, what appears subtle change gives potential for development of many unique mechanics and features around.
Without looking into the detail, some may misinterpret HEX’s resource system to be the same as Magic, there are significant difference. In fact, one of my friend who had been playing Magic since beta got confused with HEX’s resource system as he tried to apply his knowledge from the Magic. I had to explain for couple times. This type of interaction tells me the systems are indeed different when you are actually player of the game.
In fact, the actual difference between the two allows HEX to create their own mechanics utilizing them. As the game expands, we will certainly be seeing more cards showing them. Analogy here is in HEX you basically have additional parameter to your character i.e. Charge, Threshold, and Resource. Since these are not tied to each other, they can be individually be manipulated.
Therefore, as far as the resource system goes my conclusion is two are distinct. The similarities do exist but hard to say they are beyond what had been seen in the past e.g. Carte, World of Warcraft TCG, Shadow Era etc.