The Might & Magic universe is getting its very own digital collectible card game in the shape of Duel of Champions. If you're familiar with Magic the Gathering, you can probably guess what's in store for players.
We got our hands on with the beta version of the game (sporting a disturbing percentage of French text in browser interface, but not in the card description or in-game thankfully), and tasted the humiliating world of being a late arrival to a beta test.
Just learning the ropes in this game was a humbling affair as beyond the brief tutorial there was no option to train against an AI opponent, and we had to do battle with whatever beta testers the game saw fit to pit us against. If the nature of our defeats is anything to go by, then there is a lot of depth and much to learn about strategy beyond the simple concept of placing creature cards, using spells and attacking your opponent. Knowing your deck is key, and building a defence capable of not only taking damage, but also causing it also peaked our interest.
Well, at least we gradually learned how to defend better, maintain enough cards on the hand and drag the duel out for a bit longer. It was hard going, but hopefully it helped build some character.
In this beta version there are three factions to choose from to begin with Haven - your light-side types with focus on protection and healing, Inferno - your demonic fire spell based types, and Necromancer - your undead, drain lifeforce dealing types.
We went with the not-so-straight-forward choice of Necromancer, and it seems like a faction that requires a bit of getting used to. In the shop there was also a Stronghold deck available so it's reasonable to think that will be included at some point as well. No sign of Sanctuary from Heroes VI or other older factions for that matter, but given the set up it is reasonable to think there will be paid expansions later on that open up more decks/factions to players.
They way the game works is that each round you get one action with your hero card (starts out with 20 health points). You can use this action to increase might, magic, flag or to draw a new card to your deck. In the early rounds you probably want to spend some points on your might and/or magic (depending on how your deck is built), so you can play some your better/stronger cards. You increasingly get more action points with each round so there is a gradual build up, so towards the end you can afford to play out better, more costly cards. Attacking with your cards on the board is free of charge, though, so trying to maintain as many cards as possible alive and on the board is key to victory.
There are 16 positions on the board, 8 on each side, squared in two rows of four. This is where the creature cards go, and this is where the action takes place. What is also very interesting is something called "event" cards. You can have 5 of these in your deck, and two are randomly picked for the duel. These cards can benefit both you and your opponent, so knowing what might benefit the opposing player is important when using them. These cards can simply allow for more attacks with your next played creature card or see both players draw an additional card from their decks.
There are also fortune cards, that can help in very dire situations, allowing you to choose a specific card from your deck to place in your hand or one card that let's you place a creature card for free, have it quick attack (normally you cannot attack with a creature during the turn it is placed on the board), and then it dies at the end of the round.
The game uses a free-to-play model, and you will be able to buy boxes, packs, and decks from the in-game store to sharpen up your starting deck, or build an entirely new one. There are both gold and seals to earn, and presumably you're going to have to be quite good in order to earn enough in-game currency to avoid microtransactions.
Pretty much what you'd expect, and with the store not offering any transactions in this beta version it's hard to estimate just how costly an addiction to Duel of Champions would be. The idea is that you pay in order to progress faster, and given the tactical depth of the duels and the size of the decks (50-200 cards), it doesn't really feel like a "pay-to-win" model from here, but it's hard to see how it plays out once the shop is up and the beta phase is over.
Even if the beta version of Might & Magic: Duel of Champions gave us a bit of a beating, and prompted us to dust off our old French dictionaries, it also showed a lot of promise, and for fans of the Might & Magic universe, this offers quick and meaningful card duels with plenty of strategy and tactics to immerse yourself in.
We played a PC beta version of the game that is also coming out on iPad. You can apply for a spot on the beta at DuelofChampions.com, as the game progresses towards full release.