Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
Way back when, 2013 to be exact, I did my first ever preview for a Kickstarter campaign. The game was IncrediBrawl. It’s a light battle card game that used a rock-paper-scissors mechanic to decide battles between a wide range of combatants. Overall, it’s a good first game from the publisher V3G and I was excited when they contacted me about their next game, Strife: Legacy of the Eternals from designer Christopher Hamm. Strife is a card game of head to head strategic combat for two players that plays in forty-five to sixty minutes. Each player is equipped with a group of ten champions that will do battle over many locations in the world of Aerim. Let’s get into the game to see if it is something you would like to support on Kickstarter.
In Strife, players take on the role of one of the members of a group of immortals known as the Endless. Each player starts a round with the same hand of ten champions and will play them simultaneously each turn as they fight at different locations around the world. The player whose champion has the highest power value after the fight wins the victory points available at that location. The champion’s power value range from zero to nine with each card only placed from your hand once per round. These champions have more than just their power value to consider when selecting them for battle. Each card has a battle ability that will affect the current battle as well as a legacy power that will affect the next champion the player plays from their hand. Players will have to manage the order that they play their cards to unleash some very powerful combos to defeat your opponent by having the most victory points at the end of three rounds of play.
How to Play:
At the start of the game each player takes one set of the identical champion decks. Players will shuffle the location cards and place the deck on the table. Then three location cards are placed face up on the table with the one farthest away from the deck being the current location. Each location not only awards the number of victory points to the winner of the battle, but also bonuses to specific champion’s power level if they are played at this location. During the first turn, players will place two champions on the table. One at the current location card and one into the Legacy pile. The Legacy pile is where all champions go after they battle and the card on top of this pile will have its legacy ability activated.
The last thing involved with setup is deciding who starts with the Fatestone die. This die is used to break ties that occur during the game. Anytime there is a tie, the player currently holding the Fatestone loses if they do not pass the die to the other player. If they decide to pass the die, they win that conflict and claim the victory points or allow their power to activate first, pass the die to the other player, and finally increase the value of the die by one. The catch is that the player that holds this die at the end of the game earns the number of victory points equal to the Fatestone’s final value. At the start of the game, the player who played the highest power value card into their Legacy pile will gain the die, with ties broken by battle champion’s power level and then die rolls if necessary.
Each turn following the setup will consist of five phases:
1. Selecting a Champion: Players will choose a champion from their hand and place it face down next to the current location.
2. Battle phase: The champion with the highest printed power level activates their battle ability first.
3. Legacy Phase: The legacy champion on top of the Legacy pile with the highest power level activates its ability before the other champion’s legacy power.
4. Combat Phase: Players will add up the total power for their current battle champions and the player with the highest total wins and gains any effects and/or victory points. If there’s a tie, use the Fatestone rules as described above.
5. Clean-up Phase: Players will place their current champion card on the legacy pile. They will also remove the current location and draw a new location.
This will continue until each player is down to one champion left to play, or there are no locations left. The player with the most victory points at the end of three rounds wins the game.
Even though Strife was designed by a different person, there are some similarities between it and IncrediBrawl. Both card games involve battles of characters and have different locations that give bonuses to specific character types. One of the issues I had with IncrediBrawl was that the decks of cards were too large. I couldn’t make any strategic decisions on what card to play because I have no idea what my opponent had in their hand. This is where Strife and IncrediBrawl diverge for the better.
Strife is a game of perfect information. At all times players know what locations are possible this turn, what the player has left in their hand by looking at their Legacy pile and their current legacy power. The only random element of the game is what card your opponent will end up playing. This allows for a game that has players looking over their hands for the best options on their turn while still considering what you opponent could play. This does lead to some slow turns when introducing the game to new players. Because you have a full hand of ten cards to decide you strategy at the start of a round analysis paralysis can affect players. However, after each player has played a few full rounds turns and in turn the game will go much faster.
I really enjoy this game. The game play is very easy to teach and learning is quick. There is even a simple version in the rule to get you started quickly. Once you are used to that you can get into the meat of the game. What makes this game shine for me is the battle and legacy powers. When I first read the rules I didn’t fully understand the full impact of these powers. I thought the game would be more random placement then building off what you have played. I can admit now that was very wrong. Without the combo creation element to the game would be boring and repetitive. When I started to read over the different powers I was excited by the possibilities of playing certain cards in succession and defeating my opponent’s champion. Even though the powers are quite varied in their effects they all are very well balanced. They allow for each champion to have a decent chance of winning a battle regardless of their power level. Also, the champions are well known in the fantasy archetypes such as ranger, wizard and druid. The game does a nice job connecting the characteristics of the champion with their abilities. Allowing you to develop a story as they you play the game.
Another unique element about the game is the Fatestone. As I read through the rule book I was surprised to see the purpose for the die they had in the box. Instead of being rolled to break ties and adding randomness to the game, it instead gives the power to the player holding it to decide their fate. It leads to some interesting decisions for you to make later in the game. You could lose a location to another player, but still want to hold on the die to keep those precious victory points it is granting. It’s a simple mechanic, but adds another layer of strategy to the game.
Even in its preview copy state, Strife is one of my favorite two player only games I have ever played. It’s a simple game at its core with minimal number of cards and rules to play. However, there are layers of deep strategy to Strife as you see the combinations you can make with the battle and legacy powers. This allows for a game full of difficult decisions for the players to make and the game keeps getting better the more you play. If you are looking for a two player strategy game to pick up consider giving Strife you support.
If you’d like to become a backer, pledges start at $15 for the full game and all stretch goals. Strife: Legacy of the Eternals is scheduled to be in backers hands in April of 2015 and you have until Thursday, October 30th to become a backer. So head over today and check it out.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review