I'm going to be honest, TCG's like Magic The Gathering or Yu-gi-oh stress me out nowadays. Collecting the cards, creating the perfect deck, and playing the perfect strategy. It all gets to feel like the deck is playing you and not you playing the game. SolForge Fusion, a new hybrid deck game from Richard Garfield (the inventor of Magic: The Gathering) and Justin Gary (Ascension), attempts to get away with this by specifically designing unique balanced decks with fun upgrade mechanics for everyone who purchases. How well do these decks work in practice though?
Before we get into what SolForge Fusion is let's take a look at what is in each of the starter boxes that's currently available. Players will find four half-decks (one of each color), two game mats, attack and health tokens, and phase tokens. Each Half-deck is comprised of three sets of ten cards and a Warforged card. As each half-deck is meant to be combined with another, shuffled together, and played as one deck, the single starter set should give you and a friend plenty of chances to try out different combinations.
The Warforged is the head character of your deck, they have unique abilities that you can activate at different rounds of play to give you some manner of advantage. These abilities can range from giving additional attack to a creature, all the way up to getting to summon powerful minions to the board. The Warforged are also key parts of the SolForge Fusion Storyline that will continue to develop over the years.
What is SolForge Fusion?
SolForge Fusion is a hybrid deck game where players combine two differently colored half decks and select their Forgeborn and battle one another. Over the course of three rounds, the players will draw from their decks, play creatures onto the five battle lanes, and attack to try to bring down your opponent's health. After the three rounds have been completed it's down to who has the most health remaining that will decide the victor.
From the outside, this might look like a normal TCG or deckbuilding game but there are a number of unique mechanics that work to shake up the traditional format of draw, play cards, attack, pass turn that you'd be familiar with. The biggest of these mechanics is the uniquely created cards and decks, and the fact that cards are upgraded through play.
The cards that make up the deck that you purchase will be different from the decks that I have in my starter set, as each card is produced via a combination of "adjective + noun" trait generation and then balanced with other cards in the deck to create a viable outcome. For example, in my "Investing Raygun Garrison" blue deck, I have a Synapse Warchanger and Synapse Justicar that while the cards themselves are unique they share the ability to "upgrade a card in your hand, then discard it." The Synapse in the title tells you that's something that they share, while being Warchanger and Justicar is something totally different. Your Blue deck might not even have a single Synapse card.
The unique nature of each deck means that they get created with their own QR code which is trackable through tournaments and unlocks the deck for use in the Tabletop Simulator SolForge Fusion mod.
Each Half-Deck is composed of ten cards, but each card has three different levels to it. The Brown Border that it starts with, then a silver and gold bordered variants. After a card is played you'll fetch the next level of that card and place it into your discard pile, this will mean when you reshuffle your deck together you'll have a slightly more powerful assortment of cards. The card that you'd played however gets removed from play so as to not inflate the size of your deck. Even with the same twenty-card deck, each round you play will differ as cards are upgraded at different intervals allowing for a unique deckbuilding experience.
While the majority of cards will increase their stats or effect uses as they level up there are also cards that when upgraded will change dramatically. Within my green deck was Chrogias, a small 1 attack 1 health tree creature. His silver border stage shows him inside a cocoon dropping his attack to 0 but giving him health of 15, and then his final form is a 30/30 glowing magical tree golem. These long plays can be worth setting up asap, and are especially useful due to the lane combat. As your opponent might not want to allow you to unleash such a powerful creature the middle form can serve as a blocker.
What are our final thoughts on SolForge Fusion?
SolForge Fusion absolutely blew my expectations out of the water. While I was expecting something very similar to other TCG's I'd previously played, SolForge Fusion as a hybrid deck game is running its own race. Each deck, while totally unique to your own box, has good balance across the colors and allows for it to serve as a perfect contained experience, while also serving as a launching point into a much larger game. The deck upgrading mechanics make each play feel unique and gives more options to the player for how they want to run strategies.
Should you buy SolForge Fusion?
If you're someone who enjoys playing TCG-like games but isn't interested in collecting a wide variety of cards or the stresses of deck composition then SolForge Fusion is a great option for you. The Starter Kit comes with plenty of variety promoting not just replayability in a single deck to try, but also in the many combinations of half-decks, you can combine. If you're still not certain there is also an official Tabletop Simulator Mod with a few test decks that will allow you to hop in and play a few games.
[Editor's Note: To learn more about the game and its development, check out our interview with SolForge Fusion creators Richard Garfield and Justin Gary.]
The copy of SolForge Fusion used in the creation of this review was provided by the publisher.