Might and Magic: Duel of Champions is a new collectible card game brought to us by Ubisoft Quebec. Some folks might say that trading card games are a dime a dozen and that once you've played one, you've played them all. But I think the genre is always moving forward and expanding, introducing new designs and interesting ways to play, which is true of Might and Magic's latest go at the TCG market. During my tour, I found myself up against producer Stephane Jankowski. Unfortunately for me, he is no stranger to the game. He takes it quite seriously, going so far as to "go easy" on me so that I was not embarrassed. Little did he know that I am a noob at every game out there, so no harm was done.
Might and Magic: Duel of Champions is a great game for those who want not only more strategy but also a faster pace. The tutorial walked me through some of the basics, but I learned more in the hour I played with Stephane than I had playing during the previous week. Click past the cut to watch the livestream and read up on what makes this one stand out.
The point of the game is relatively simple and familiar: You play the role of a Hero, and you need to reduce your opponent's Hero health to zero. Achieving that goal is not that simple, however, because between your hero and your enemy will be a small army of monsters and spells. Each turn, you can do several different things, but picking out the spells or monsters should not be taken lightly. This is one of the first TCGs I played where I really found myself thinking two or three turns down the road. If I laid down a certain monster, would he be able to withstand enough pain to hold up until I could cast another spell? And with the inclusion of special event cards that affected both players, would the event make things worse for me, not just my opponent?
Individual unit cards can also have bonuses and buffs that might affect the creatures around them. So I might lay down a creature that makes his fellow creatures stronger, or I can use a creature who blasts not only the enemy in front of him but also the enemies to his sides. Area attack spells are not uncommon and make the playfield seem more important; placement is just as important as a creature's power.
Instead of drawing energy from a pool in order to cast spells or pay for monsters, the Hero can add to one of three different stats each turn: might, magic, and destiny. Each card also has a cost in resources that are built up each turn. I kept forgetting to use my free additional point each turn, and so I had nothing to cast with. Once I kept an eye on my cards and knew that I needed, say, four might in order to lay down a killer monster, I would bump up my Hero's might once per turn until I had enough. I could also do the same with magic or destiny. These adjustable stats made me feel as if I was more in control of my experience and strategy. Sure, I was facing someone who knew the game backwards and forwards and claimed that many matches last fewer than 10 turns, but I was confident enough to look at my cards and tweak my stats for the future. Normally, in other CCGs, I am at the mercy of chance and sometimes have to wait eagerly for just that perfect card. Might and Magic: Duel of Champions lets me see the cards and prepare for when and whether I want to play them.
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Ranged units can be deployed only on the back line of the playing field, with melee creatures pushing the front. There are 16 areas where creatures can be played. Proper placement can mean the difference between survival or death. Even though Stephane was throwing out card after card, I was able to block many of them and bought myself more time. Yes, he was toying with me like a cat with a junebug, but I liked the fact that where you place your creature is just as important as when and how.
"The developers decided early on that there would be no way for the most powerful cards in game to be available only in the cash-shop. Yes, it might take a free player longer to get the gold to buy those more powerful decks, but it is possible."
I had to ask about the in-game cash shop, naturally. Many CCGs make money simply by selling power in the form of killer cards and rare items. You can buy decks, boosts, and tournament tickets but not individual cards. You're allowed to break up a pack in order to access individual cards, but the idea is to avoid allowing players to just pick out the very best cards and making a perfect deck. A new player can buy a pre-made deck and be ready to go, but a more experienced player might buy it to add to her army. The developers decided early on that there would be no way for the most powerful cards in game to be available only in the cash shop. Yes, it might take a free player longer to get the gold to buy those more powerful decks, but it is possible. Those who want to skip the wait can spend real money.
The dev are eager to host competitions and recently flew out the best players for a final four tournament. The team wants anyone to be able to take part, even those who cannot afford to spend money on the game. Given the easy-to-play, hard-to-master gameplay, the wonderful graphics, iPad and PC connected gameplay (Stephane played on his iPad during the stream), and completely free access, I can see the game making a real difference in the digital TCG market.
I had a blast playing and am very eager to try it out on my own iPad. The UI is large and perfect for touchscreens, even though it fit in perfectly on my PC as well. There is no official news on when the Android version might be released, so Google fanatics like yours truly will just have to have patience.
If you enjoy fast-paced TCGs and want a great game for the iPad, you can download it from the App store or on the official site. You'll also love the killer artwork -- including foils! -- and a UI that makes selecting and organizing cards fun in itself. Just stay away from Stephane; he likes to toy with his victims.
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