It’s not often that a new card game gets me truly excited. After all, one comes out almost every week on Steam, Android or iOS and I’ve played so many physical card games that I’ve lost count. That being said, Nova Blitz is actually quite the unique experience. It’s one of the few card games where both players take their turns simultaneously and without requiring gimmicky features. The game, developed by Dragon Foundry, is currently on Kickstarter, but the alpha is already available on its website.
ONE TURN TWO PLAYERS
Almost every major TCG or CCG requires that players take turns one after another. This usually creates a point of contention because in nearly every game the player that goes first has a higher, albeit small, percent chance of winning. In Hearthstone, for example, the player who goes first has a 4.4% greater chance of victory on average. The issue is that card games generally use some type of resource and being able to accumulate that resource one turn ahead of an opponent will always leave the second player playing catch up. Most games try to compensate for this by either offering the second player more cards or temporary bonuses, such as Hearthstone’s mana crystal. The problem is that it’s never truly possible to 100% balance any game that isn’t played simultaneously.
Currently, the only other card game that I’m aware of that uses simultaneous turns in Infinity Wars. It does so by assigning units to specified attack and defense positions and then plays out the rest of the turn after commands are given. The biggest difference with Nova Blitz, however, is that both players are actively involved throughout all parts of the turn. Every turn is broken down into a series of mini-turns with separate phase timers. Who gets to play first actually depends on who drops their card down first. Whenever someone plays a card Initiative is given to the opponent, and the player with Initiative at the end of a turn gets to attack first.
This leaves for a lot of strategies such as waiting until the end of a phase to try and sneak some units in. There is a penalty for delayed play, however, and units that are played in the first half of the Action Phase can attack the first turn, but if they’re played in the second half they can only block. This creates a nice balance between wanting to be the first person to play units and being strategically patient.
Nova Blitz also relies on players casting resource cards with a limit of 1 per turn. There are currently 5 different factions and each faction requires at least 1 of its specific resources to play its respective cards. Normally, I’m a bit turned off by having to play resource cards from the deck because it can lead to things like becoming mana screwed (no resources) or mana flooded (all resources), but this game uses a smart shuffling system that breaks up resource clumps and it seems to work for the most part.
Once all the cards are on the table, players assign each unit to either attacking, always defaulted to the enemy player, or defending a specific units. This is by far my favorite part of Nova Blitz because it allows players to fake out or bluff their opponents. The enemy doesn’t know what action you’ve assigned to which unit until the turn plays out. That means if both players choose to defend then nothing happens, and if both players attack then all the attacks go through. This creates a psychological warfare between opposing players and their cards. Additionally, this is why Initiative is so important because if both sides could potentially land killing blows, the player who attacks first ends up winning.
QUICK GAMES, LOTS OF REWARDS
One of the better selling points for Nova Blitz is how short the games are. Hearthstone marches are generally considered short for a card game, but Nova Blitz at least cuts that in half. Most games last maybe 5-10 minutes if both sides are playing defensively. With simultaneous turns the game time is naturally cut in half, but these turns are also capped at around 20 seconds. Furthermore, most turns are actually shorter because of the incentive to play units in the first half of the Action Phase. The requirement to act quickly forces plays and leads to difficult, split second decisions. These quick games make Nova Blitz ideal for mobile devices, but also very playable on PCs or Macs.
Because Nova Blitz is still in alpha testing, the ways to earn currency and/or cards haven’t been implemented yet and all current cards are unlocked. The promise, however, is to create a player-driven economy. The idea is that players can purchase booster packs with either money or in-game currency and be able to sell those back to players in the game through an auction house or sell Nova Gems for real money on the Steam Marketplace.
Players will be able to participate in drafts, tournaments, or single games to earn credits and Nova Gems that can be used to purchase booster packs. Additionally, players will earn rewards for both leveling up and winning a certain number of games each month. Finally, players will be rewarded with “smart packs” that can be redeemed for any base or expansion set in the game with the added chance of receiving a “Mega-Pack” that has extra rare and epic cards. This is a subtle, but important feature because players are always complaining about what booster packs they receive, especially in Hearthstone.
A WINNING COMBINATION
My short time with Nova Blitz has been very enjoyable and my biggest concerns have very little to do with the actual gameplay. The game puts a unique spin on the card game genre while also promoting quick, exciting matches of both wit and intellect. It’s different enough from every other card game on the market and it could definitely make an impact while not feeling like another Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone clone.
Currently, my concerns include the limited number of cards at launch and whether Nova Blitz will be able to reach a large enough audience to survive. Besides Hearthstone and MTG, most other digital card games act as small niche environments and have a hard time expanding past their core audiences. MTG has grown so successful because the game has been around forever and Hearthstone has the spending power of Blizzard behind it. If Dragon Foundry can find a way to promote their game, draw a large enough crowd, and keep a steady stream of updates then they could have one of the best TCGs of 2016.Related: Card Game, Kickstarter, Nova Blitz, Preview