Both collectable and trading card games have some quirks with how they function that some people find annoying. Any game where buying components includes a random chance of what you’ll end up with becomes pretty expensive for your average player pretty quickly, not to mention the fact that in many cases the expensive cardboard you’ve just bought will be useless in a couple of months. Living card games are the answer to many of those problems, releasing sets and expansion packs which give all players access to the same pool of cards, meaning that no one can buy their way to the top. Epic Card Game is an LCG which seeks to combine the best elements of well known TCG’s like Magic the Gathering with an LCG model.
Epic Card Game was actually designed by Darwin Kastle and Robert Dougherty, two members of the Magic the Gathering hall of fame, and their professional level credentials really come across in Epic‘s design. The game functions in a very similar way to Magic but manages to do a good job of cutting some of the more annoying elements of the world’s number 1 trading card game.
In a game of Epic, each player uses their decks to summon champions and play events in hopes of reducing their opponent’s life points to zero. While this might seem overly similar to other card games, Epic Card Game distinguishes itself in a number of very important ways. Firstly there is no resource system, or at least there isn’t a resource system which relies on cards in your deck. Each player gets 1 gold to spend on both their own turn and on their opponents. Cards either cost 1 gold or are free, and the player must choose when to play their limited number of free cards, as well as which single gold card they will play on any given turn.
Another important difference between Epic and many other card games is what happens when a player has no cards left in their deck. In most cases being unable to draw would result in a loss of the game, but in Epic Card Game the player who manages to use up all of their cards is actually declared the winner. Flipping the ‘no draws available’ rule on its head has a number of interesting effects on how the game works, as well as introducing some interesting mechanics.
Firstly, game’s tend to function as a race, or at least can function that way if a player has built a deck with that strategy in mind. Secondly, it makes putting cards back into the deck a negative result, instead of being positive. There are mechanics in the game, such as banishment and recycling, which put cards at the bottom of the deck, which has a two-pronged drawback. Not only does it make it less likely that you’ll be able to draw all of your deck and win, but it’s also unlikely that you’ll actually get to use the cards returned to the deck in this way again, as you’d have to make it all the way through your remaining cards.
You might be thinking that you could just fill a deck with nothing but free cards, and win by playing them all really rapidly, but there is some balancing which prevents this. Each free card in your deck must be matched by at least 2 gold cards of the same colour, at least if you’re playing a Constructed game. As well as building decks for yourself there are a number of other ways to play Epic, which seems to have been designed with quick play in mind.
The starter box comes with 4 30-card starter decks, one for each of the game’s four colours. Each of these decks is pretty well balanced against the others, so a player can simply select which colour they want and go nuts. As well as that there is the option of pairing two colours together to get a full 60 card deck in case you want to have a full game without building. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Epic Card Game is the fact that it was made with the ability to draft straight out of the box.
There are a number of different drafting formats for two players, which is a nice touch considering how popular card drafting games and formats can be. The drafting formats for Epic are honestly one of the most interesting parts because they help to keep the game feeling fresh. It would be easy to get bogged down with deck-building, which is a problem that many other card games do have. Epic feels like a much more lightweight experience, no matter which way you intend to play the game.
The lightweight style of the game does mean that Epic feels more aimed towards casual play rather than professional play. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just something you should bear in mind if you’re thinking about trying it out. A lot of the mechanics will be pretty familiar to Magic players, just slightly modified or called different things. For instance cards still tap, attack and block in the game, and certain keywords such as Righteous have direct parallels with Magic keywords, in this case, Righteous is just life link.
There are a few other unique mechanics present in the game, such as the way attacking and player priority works. When you attack and block you can bundle your creatures together into huge combined single attacks. As far as tactics go this bundling mechanic can be very useful for forcing an enemy to block something and leave themselves open, or even to destroy a powerful creature without a bunch of smaller ones when blocking. The player priority system is certainly unique, but maybe just a little annoying for certain players of other games. Instead of being able to respond anytime a player does something on their turn, a player only has a chance to respond when an attack is declared, or at the end of the other players turn. How this effects the gameplay probably depends on how you feel about countering in card games, as it basically eliminates the option to respond to the things another player does.
If I had to pick a fault with Epic, or at the very least with the starter set, it is that the four colours don’t feel all that distinct mechanically. There are some slight variations, such as yellow (Good) being slightly more skewed towards gaining health, green (Wild) being skewed towards aggression, etc. But these distinctions aren’t very deep, meaning that all of the colours can feel very similar and have a very similar suite of cards and abilities. Part of the reason for this, at least as far as I can tell, is that this starter set has to be easy for new players to pick up, and highly mismatched mechanics may have been off-putting to inexperienced players.
The artwork on the cards is top notch quality-wise, although it doesn’t really stray too far into different artistic styles. There is certainly an argument to be made between having artistic consistency and being artistically interesting, but regardless it might have been nice to see something other than realism on the cards. The actual design of them is pretty well put together. All of the information you need to know about a card is clearly laid out, and on top of that most cards have managed to avoid huge blocks of text which could take a long time to read.
The Bottom Line:
Epic Card Game is a fun, lightweight game which feels pretty similar to Magic the Gathering without feeling like a wholesale rip-off. A lot of the meta-game flab has been cut off of the TCG model and what we end up with is a game which is as quick to play as it is fun. While there is a certain amount of depth lacking for veterans, anyone getting tired of buying ridiculously expensive cards which become useless in a few months will probably find a lot to enjoy here, and the ability to both deck-build and draft right out of the box is a very attractive feature. While this starter set might be a little bland at worst, it is still a lot of fun, and hopefully, some of the expansion packs will help to add a little spice to the experience, not to mention make the different factions feel a bit more distinct.
Get This Game If:
You enjoy Magic the Gathering but are fed up of the tertiary elements.
You want a game you can enjoy drafting and deck-building with right out of the box.
You want a card game which eliminates the ‘richest player wins’ aspect of TCG’s
You want a game which is easy to teach to beginners.
Avoid This Game If:
You’re a master card game player looking for a very deep experience.
You’re an active Magic player who enjoys the secondary market.
You like the ability to respond to your opponent’s actions.
What do you think of Epic Card Game? Will you be tempted to try the game out? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.
TechRaptor reviewed Epic Card Game with a copy provided by White Wizard Games.
Where’s the score?
The TechRaptor tabletop team has decided that the content of our tabletop reviews is more important than an arbitrary numbered score. We feel that our critique and explanation thereof is more important than a static score, and all relevant information relating to a game, and whether it is worth your gaming dollar, is included in the body of our reviews.