Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.
You’ve heard of Genghis Khan and his destructive conquests. Less known is his descendent who lived throughout the late 13th century, Khutulun. She was a fierce warrior and wrestler. In the alternate history setting of Worldbreakers, she and three other Worldbreakers are able to harness a mysterious substance known as mythium to increase their power and attract followers to do their bidding, and reshape history in their vision.
Worldbreakers is a two-player, customizable card game with multiple play modes. Most games take between 30 and 60 minutes.
Worldbreakers can be played in numerous ways. There are preconstructed decks you can play with out of the box or you can construct your own deck. There is also a Winston Draft format which will be the focus of this review. Additionally, there will be a solo campaign mode that will not be covered in this preview.
The Winston Draft format allows players the most control and strategy as they’ll be able to mix guilds to suit their playstyle as well as counter-draft against their opponent. Players start with a pool of 96 cards and draft their own pool from which to build their 30 card deck.
Gameplay is straightforward. The goal is to be the first to gain 10 power. A round has four turns per player. The actions available include gaining a mythium, drawing a card, gaining a standing, playing a card, developing a location, using a card action, and attacking.
There are three types of cards available. Followers, events, and locations. All card types have a potential associated mythium cost that must be paid and required guild standing that must be met to play the card. Events are played for a one-time instant benefit, then discarded. Locations enter play with one or more stage counters. On a future turn, players can remove the top-most available stage counter (develop a location) and gain the associated benefit. Once all stage counters are depleted the location is discarded.
Followers, which are the majority of the cards in the game, are played in front of a player and provide one-time benefits, ongoing benefits, or various card actions as long as they are in play. They also have a health and strength value which is used in combat. Followers are kept in play until they are defeated in combat or discarded by another card effect.
The attack action is where the rubber hits the road. The attacker first chooses followers to attack with and exhausts them, activating any attack abilities. Then, the defending player, one by one, chooses followers to block. A blocker will battle with the attacking follower and each will simultaneously gain wound tokens based on the opposing follower’s strength. Any follower who has wounds equal or greater than their health is defeated and discarded. Regardless, a blocked attacker will no longer participate in the attack. Once the defender has run out of unexhausted followers or simply chooses not to block anymore, the outcome is determined. If there are no unblocked attackers, the attack was unsuccessful, and play continues. If one or more attackers remain unblocked, they hit. Any hit earns the attacker one power. Hit abilities on those followers are resolved. Finally, the attacker can choose to damage an opponent’s location, removing the topmost stage token.
After both players have taken four actions each, the rally phase takes place. During this phase, any rally abilities are resolved. Then, players check for victory (10 power), ready their followers, gain 2 mythium, and draw a card. Play continues until one player has 10 power during the second step of the rally phase. That player wins the game.
The first thing you’ll notice with Worldbreakers is the evocative art. It paints a picture of a wartorn world with strong warriors with some dark, magical elements mixed in. Representation is done really well with a nice mix of female and male characters, taking on a wide variety of roles.
The game is easy to learn with the potential for lots of depth, especially with the draft format. There, you’ll mix guilds to match your own play style. This format really opens up the gameplay as well. In addition to an already tight economy of resources, you’ll need to manage standing in multiple guilds to play cards from those guilds. Speaking of the economy, there’s a lot to manage, and that’s a core element of the gameplay. You’ll constantly want more mythium, more cards, more actions, and more followers in play every turn. Managing these resources and building up as much of an engine as possible is key to winning a game of Worldbreakers.
The other key component of the gameplay is the combat. You’ll need to decide how many attackers to send while your opponent decides which of your attackers to block. A blood bath ensues and, hopefully, you have an attacker or two left to earn you power. Do you keep a follower back to ensure that you don’t lose their ability or go all-in and risk leaving yourself open for an attack that you won’t be able to block? As you can see, the combat creates a lot of tension.
Locations are another mechanic I enjoyed. They provide evolving one-off abilities. However, when they are damaged, those abilities are wasted and the location gets closer to being depleted and discarded. It’s nice to see them develop and oh so painful when they are taken away too soon.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. How does this compare to Magic the Gathering? It clearly draws a lot of inspiration from the classic game, while innovating enough to make it feel fresh. A major differentiator is the goal of the game. You are trying to gain 10 power, so it’s a race to victory instead of a last-player standing scenario. While you’ll be destroying your opponent’s followers as an indirect means of scoring points, there are some other ways to get points as well from events and locations.
Additionally, followers do most of their combat against each other. Rather than working with thousands of card options, the card pool is currently very manageable, which I see as a positive. Another nice distinction is that followers in Worldbreakers do not suffer from summoning sickness, and can therefore be used in the same round they are played without additional steps. The combat itself is reminiscent of Magic the Gathering, but is a little more methodical as the defender will decide who’s blocking who one-by-one instead of all at once. Additionally, there’s much less hidden information as there aren’t instant powers that sway a battle. Everything is laid out in a straightforward way for both players at the start of the combat. That being said, many followers have combat-specific abilities that come into play and make each combat feel dynamic.
Worldbreakers is a two-player card battler reminiscent of classic CCGs and LCGs with a unique theme and some new twists. It’s approachable for new players while offering depth to those who want to dive deep. Worldbeakers is ripe for more content, which should be exciting for players looking to get into their next lifestyle game, but it’s a complete package as is with plenty of replayability.
This game can scratch the Magic itch for those who want a quick back and forth fight until the end experience but are overwhelmed by the content pool. Worldbreakers launches today on Kickstarter, so be sure to check out the campaign page for more information, or to become a backer.