It should come as no surprise to anyone that reads this blog that I like games. Not only but I like card games in particular; mainly cause I like cards as a medium to convey information and effects. Not only that but I like trying out new games, so when I heard of a new DCG, I had to try it. If nothing else I figured it would be stimulating from a design point of view and allow me to kill some time. Unfortunately that’s all it turned out to be, so let’s dive right into it.
What sets this game apart from all the others is that it borrows from deck builders in a way that other DCGS haven’t. While Solforge uses the ‘draw a new hand every turn’ part, other games have been far more conventional. Here, it uses the starter deck of money and buying new cards to improve your deck. Only the cards you buy are your “actual deck”. Each player has their own separate ‘center row’ in which they can buy cards and new cards come out every turn. This idea in and of itself is fairly interesting and probably has potential. The way that War of Omens implements it has several problems though.
First is a flaw from the deck builder angle: there’s no discard pile. What this means is that whenever you discard/play a card it goes right back into your deck. The big problem is that this means there’s no guarantee you’ll actually draw your better cards. While it does mean there’s one less to keep track of, it’s a rather important thing to have. Not to mention that there’s no asynch gameplay, you can just have the discard pile be a number and not reveal it. Sure it means that card counting can be important and increases the skills needed to do well in the game; but given how important that skill is in so many other games, it’s not that bad to have.
Then there’s the problem with the ccg element. There are four types of cards: hero allies, one time effect and ongoing effects.* Heroes are you and generate some kind of bonus, usually ever turn and determine which faction you’re playing as.Allies are important cause they stay out on the board, generate stuff and are the biggest source of letting the game progress with each player building up resources. One time effects are exactly that, you play the card, the effect happens. Ongoing effects do something for several turns or until x happens and then leave play. There’s another difference between ongoing effects and allies, you can only interact with the latter.
This isn’t the only problem that the game has though. Reading a boardstate at a glance is not easy. The way that the game presents itself in addition to how all the cards appear on the board means you can’t really tell much. Using icons would go a long way to fixing this. Compare to Hearthstone or Solforge and you’ll see what I mean.
Also the game is super finicky, it relies upon a bunch of weird percentages for a lot of it’s card effects. It’s randomness in a hard way to just quickly and initiative process how and what could happen. Again, compare this to other games and you’ll see how those games use randomness in a much more binary manner.
You can only interact with a third of the cards in the game and those cards are the most important in building up your resource base. Once they die, they’re sent back to your deck and you have to hope that you draw them again. The result is that games drag on as you build up your board, get it wiped, build it up, rinse and repeat. The result is that only do the games drag on, but you never feel like you’re doing anything. It makes the game become solely about resource management and just being more efficient than your opponent.
Thee’s no other point to bring this up, so I’ll do so now, you also play with open hands. This is a thing, and it is totally pointless. You can’t do anything during your opponent’s turn and there’s not opportunity cost in just playing everything you have. There’s no way this information actually influences your decisions.
This brings me to the absolute worst part of War of Omens: the card acquisition model is hands down the absolute worst I have ever seen. One of the game’s main conceits is that you’ll always have a use for the excess cards you open, cause you can use them to level up that card. Leveling a card means it becomes cheaper to buy when you play a game. And in order to fully level a card you need to open it something on the order of 30 times. Did I mention that all the packs are 3 cards, pick 1 to keep? In short, it totally destroys the entire experience of getting new cards/opening packs. You’re no longer excited to get new cards, cause you need more copies of the ones you already have so you can play the game better. Compounding this problem is how they handle factions. Remember what I said about heroes? You only get heroes for two of the four factions with a new account. You literally cannot play half of the game unless you get lucky enough to open a hero of that faction.
The final blow against this model is that spending real money on this game is dumb. You can buy the special currency to buy special packs that only have the higher rarity cards, but since you need ~30 of them to really have that card… And there’s no option to buy in bulk.
I would lax if I didn’t talk about the special coins. Really rare cards that replace the basic coins in your deck and have some finicky effect tied to them. This just further increases the variance of the game for no reason.** Normally I hate using the term play to win in dcgs/ccgs for a number of reasons***, but here it’s totally apt. Regardless of what kind of deck you build, you need these cards to be competitive.
All in all, War of Omens is hands down the worst DCG I’ve played by a long shot. The fact that it’s still early in development is irrelevant. My problems are with the game’s core concepts. This game just isn’t designed well. In order for my opinion to change the game would need to radically different.
As always, feel free to comment. Next week I’ll be talking about Puzzle Strike and deck builders in general.
*I don’t remember what they’re actually called but this categorization gets the point across well enough.
**Variance is fine in a game, I just want to do something. Mainly it should lead to awesome things happen and leveling the playing field.
***The idea that you shouldn’t have to make an investment of some kind in a collectible game is crazy. Not only that but a healthy game will have multiple different decks you can play and some of them should be cheaper than others. Yets in solforge or mono red in magic are perfect examples.