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Might & Magic: Duel of Champions [Preview] – Looking (card)sharp

12 Jul 2012 by Tim McDonald
Might & Magic: Duel of Champions [Preview] – Looking (card)sharpMight & Magic: Duel of Champions

Are there any genres that the Might & Magic series hasn’t delved into yet? We’ve had first-person RPGs, turn-based strategy games, first-person kick-’em-ups, colour-matching puzzle games, top-downZelda-alikes, third-person action adventures, and probably a few I’ve forgotten. At this point, I think I only need to see Super Might & Magic Kart and Might & Magic Football Manager 2013 come out in order to complete an entire bingo card of genres.

Well, regardless of whether or not those particular titles are on the horizon (fingers crossed), we’ll soon have  adding collectible card games to that list.

The basic premise will be fairly familiar to anyone who’s played Magic: The Gathering: you duel an opponent, trying to reduce their life from 20 to 0 by summoning monsters and casting spells, all of which are represented in card form.

There are three primary differences in gameplay terms. The first is that your “player” is actually represented on the board by a hero, and this choice of hero determines both your starting stats and which cards you can actually use in your deck. If – like me – you go for a lich type, then your deck’s going to be based around Necropolis cards, for instance.

While the hero can’t actually attack or defend on the board, they do get an action each turn; they can either use this action to draw an extra card, or to raise their stats (Might, Magic, and Destiny), with particular amounts of each stat required to use each card. Smaller, weaker creatures can be played off the bat, but if you want to use earth-shaking titans or reality-rending spells, you’re going to need high amounts of Might or Magic respectively. Knowing what’s in your deck and building towards them, then, is important.

The second is that Duel of Champions‘ board is actually structured a bit more like an abstract battlefield; each player has two columns where they can place creatures – a front line and a back line – and, other than attacking, creatures can shuffle around into adjacent positions on those columns. This matters as creatures can only defend against attackers on the same row as them – and, in fact, they have to. You’ve got to break through any creatures in the way before striking at the opposing player, and those creatures don’t have the option of not defending. In short: positioning matters, and you can only field a limited number of creatures at once.

The third major difference is that Duel of Champions moves a hell of a lot faster, and is far less complicated in general.

Where each turn of Magic is divided up into discrete and precise phases – beginning, main phase, combat phase, etc. – Duel lets you do whatever, whenever, as long as it’s your turn. Thus far, I’ve seen no interrupt cards that can be played on your opponent’s turn. You don’t need to worry about drawing and playing land each turn to power spells; you just get more resources every turn. Things move swiftly, and those unfamiliar with the game will find less occasions in which they’ll smack themselves for doing something in the wrong phase and utterly screwing up their plans. So: a quicker, simpler variant of the traditional CCG template.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have more complex elements of its own – there are Event cards, for instance, which can be seen by (and are available to) both duelists at the same time. One might cause both players to draw a card; another might improve the attack rating of the next creature played. You might not need the latter, but is it worth spending the resources just so your opponent can’t use it on their turn? Ponder.

As this is a free-to-play game it’d be remiss of me not to comment on the monetisation aspects. While it’s far, far too early to be definitive about this, I’ve yet to see anything that makes my soul (and bank balance) shudder and wail.

When you start playing, you pick a deck based around the Haven, Necropolis, or Inferno factions, so you’ve got a fully-functional deck from the off. When you play matches – win or lose – you get resources, which you can spend on booster packs. More expensive packs are guaranteed to contain more rare cards, or heroes, or whatever; from what I can gather, you can get pretty much anything by simply playing the game. (And yes – unlike Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers, you do have full control over your deck building.)

I cannot, however, comment on whether or not the rarest of cards are game-breakingly powerful, or whether those grinding their way up from the start will stand a chance against those who’ve spent real money on massive decks. I’d optimistically hope not, but – when the game launches – you’ll easily be able to find out for yourself without shelling out.

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