Android, iOS & Steam
# of Players
White Wizard Games
White Wizard Games
Epic Card Game is the latest digital game from White Wizard Games, the publisher and developer behind Star Realms. Epic is a deck construction game that plays like a trading card style duel game. Players will bring their decks into battle and attempt to deplete their opponent’s life points before their own runs out. The last player standing wins the game, this usually happens within 10 or 15 minutes.
Epic is a trading card style game, similar to Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone. You have a full deck to start the game and you try to best use the cards you draw to defeat your opponent. It exists in that landscape without having the expensive card chasing/collecting side of things, rather employing a Living Card Game style expansion model where you know what you are getting when you pay for new cards. Epic should not be confused with a deck builder, such as Star Realms or Ascension. There is, however, a deck construction aspect where you can custom build your decks before a game from your card pool.
Players bring a deck of 30 cards into a battle which can be premade, random, or custom. Each card is either an event or champion. From your five card starting hand, you may play cards costing up to one gold, don’t worry, many of them cost zero. The basic premise of the game is to play champions into a staging area where they need to sit for a turn before being ready to attack on the next. Events offer instant abilities to aid attacking, allow you to draw more cards, and so on.
At the beginning of a turn, each player draws a card, gains one gold, and resets any champions in play to their “ready” state. Gold cannot be carried over between turns. Champions can be used to attack, defend, or, sometimes, tapped to activate a special ability. Once the board is reset, the active player may attack, use powers, and play cards. They may do each of these actions as many times as they would like and in any order, as long as they have the cards/gold to do so.
Once an attack is initiated, players take turns playing events, champions, or abilities to respond to the attack until both players are finished which will allow the battle to occur. If an attack is blocked by another champion, or token (these are essentially weaker, temporary champions you can put into play through other card abilities), those take the hits. Should damage exceed the defense rating of a blocking card, that card is defeated. The attacking player gets to choose how to assign their damage in the case of multiple blockers. When blocking, the attack of the blocking card(s) is applied to the attacking cards, making it possible for defenders to vanquish attackers to the discard pile. Unblocked attacks deplete the player’s life supply, which starts at 30. Should a player’s supply hit zero, they lose the game.
After you are done with your turn, your end turn phase begins which is a free period to allow your opponent to take actions. Should your opponent choose to do something, your turn will again be active after those actions. This cycle repeats until the active player ends their turn and their opponent does not take any additional actions. When a turn ends, the active player must discard down to seven cards, any lingering “end of turn” effects take place, and all champions’ damage is reset to zero. The next player then takes their turn.
Roughly speaking, that’s Epic. The cards are, of course, the interesting part here. There are four “alignments” in the game (those coming from deck builders might know these as “factions”). Green is “Wild” and has things like dinosaurs and Bellowing Minotaurs. Blue is “Sage” where you might find dragons, Time Walkers, and Fairy Tricksters. Red is “Evil” which, naturally, contains Angel of Death, Necromancers, and Demon Tyrants. Finally, gold is “Good”, your goto place for Angel of Mercy and Noble Unicorns. Alignment abilities can be activated in a couple of different ways and help you do more, better stuff as you would expect.
Like any good trading card style game, Epic has a slew of keywords. Tributes are special abilities which occur immediately when a card is played. Ambush allows champions to be played on your opponent’s turn as well as your own, an ability not allowed to champions without that keyword. There are a few other keywords, but you get the point. A lot of standard issue card game stuff is going on here.
Phew, card games are tough. How does all of this add up? Well, how do you like trading card games? The starting point of deck construction, for me, is a turn off. I would rather tactically build a deck during a game (hello, deck builders <LINK TO ARTICLE>) than try to plan out a cohesive combination of 30 cards before playing a game. It simply isn’t for me, and thankfully Epic allows you to play a few different ways and ignore that aspect completely. Beyond that, I like most of what the game offers. The card abilities and interactions take a little while to fully absorb, but they are well designed and play off of each other nicely, allowing for some very satisfying combinations. Specifically, the chance to retort your opponent at just about every stage of the game is exciting. There are a lot of great possibilities that come out of this mechanic when you pile up the various keywords and the whole staging rule for champions.
The game ultimately comes down to hand management. There is no mechanic for “drawing back up to ___ cards” at the end/beginning of a turn. Combine that with the ability to play as many cards as you want might leave you short on cards if you aren’t careful. You can, optionally, banish cards from your discard pile to earn a draw, but that is a costly trade-off given how certain effects target the discard pile. Once you get some cards in play, you need to assess what your opponent has and attack wisely. Blocks, generally, absorb all of the attack damage so it is often beneficial to attack in waves to maximize your damage. All of these smaller points take some time to really sink in, especially if it’s been about twenty years since you’ve played a game of this ilk, as was the case for me.
As mentioned, I like the cards Epic offers and the way they interact. There are some interesting keyword abilities and things and combine in fun ways to allow you to pull off satisfying moves. I’m more of a tactical, deck builder style player at this point, so I’d be lying if I say Epic absolutely hooked me, but I can appreciate what it offers, especially for doing so outside of the collectible card game model.
Barrier to Entry
Epic contains a series of five tutorials. Each one breaks down a small piece of the game, with each subsequent tutorial adding a bit to the game. The tutorials step you through various attacks, defenses, and special effects cards. Combined, they are a short and effective way to familiarize new players with the basics of Epic. It will likely take a few games for everything to sink in, but the tutorial provides a good starting point.
Look and Feel
The game is full of great, detailed artwork. The best place to see this shown off is in the menus when you are selecting which type of decks to use, for instance. In game, the cards look good and things are laid out in familiar fashion compared to popular digital deck builders.
Control-wise, things are handled mostly via drag-and-drop which works just fine. Some cards will require you to choose from two or more options, and those decisions are made with a click. In short, everything works well here.
There is no undo button in the game, which is not uncommon for card games. Things can get bogged down a bit while the AI is considering its moves, there is a small “thinking” bar above the opposing player’s avatar to let you know when they are thinking.
Epic has a bunch of online modes. You can play normal games, created and joined via a lobby system. You can also enter the Arena or tournaments. In the beta testing process, tournaments ran on a monthly basis and consisted of a series of head-to-head battles. Arena is borrowed from Star Realms and offers a unique, rotating challenge for players to tackle against random opponents. There are three general modes of online play, all related to how decks are made: constructed, draft, and random 30. The leaderboard system works like Star Realms where you must achieve wins to climb to the next level, with losses dropping you down within that level. If you are on Level 11, for example, it takes 12 wins to reach level 12.
Much like Star Realms, Epic is built for online play. You can play a standard game in real-time or with a 48 hour timeout. You can also challenge a friend to a game. It has all of the options you would want. It is up to you if you will enjoy Epic as an async game, there are so many back-and-forth moments in the game that it can really draw out async games as opposed to the, generally, standalone turns in most deck builders, but we are definitely glad the developers game players the option to play that mode.
Epic includes a campaign mode and a normal vs AI mode. The campaign is a series of games with a bit of backstory added. You appear to play with preconstructed decks that, at least in the early stages, make things a bit easier on you than a normal game would be.
When starting a game against AI you get to choose how the decks are constructed. Beginner mode allows you to choose a 30 card deck consisting of only one of the four alignments, the AI receives the same deck. This is easier as you will be able to trigger all alignment abilities all the time. You may also play dealing 30 random cards from the full deck or using the draft variant which is generally how experienced players will play the game. You can also use your custom decks.
There are no AI levels in Epic. When I was first starting the AI would routinely stomp me by embarrassing margins. A few weeks and dozens of plays later, the AI is routinely stomping me by embarrassing margins. To say I’m rusty in this style of game is a massive understatement, so take these results with a grain of salt, but there is a lot of mileage in learning from the AI for players at my skill level. Which is zero, just so we’re clear.
Start of a game
The game currently features in-app purchases in the form of a gem/gold system similar to others we’ve seen. Gems can be bought using real money, which can then be turned into gold which can buy in-game items. Gold can also be earned by hitting certain in-game milestones. Currently the options are avatars, foil cards, battleboards (all of those appear to rotate daily) and extra deck slots which allow you to create more custom decks if that’s your thing.
The game itself is free and there are no restrictions on what or how often you can play. Once the expansion cards show up, they will be a big part of the game, but the free base game packs quite a lot and can be enjoyed for a while on its own.
The Wrap Up
Epic, the app, is Star Realms the app re-skinned into a strange mix of themes and wrapped around a trading card game instead of a deck builder. If you’ve played Star Realms, this should be enough to let you know if Epic is for you.
Using Star Realms as a base, you know the app is extremely well made and packed with any feature you could want. The ultimate question is whether or not the trading card style gameplay is one that interests you. Deck construction can be a big part of the game, if you want it to be, or you can ignore it altogether and just play. It’s great to be given that option, although it’s tough not to feel like you’re missing out on something by not creating custom decks. The games take a bit longer and it is much more common to feel “stuck” with the way the draws play out, but much of that is the fault of me being a novice of the genre. I feel comfortable saying the attack-based deck builders are significantly more accessible than Epic. Use your personal tastes to decide if that is a positive or negative.
To be very clear, if this type of game interests you, then Epic makes a a fantastic case for being a 5 star, all time favorite level app. My holds up are with the game itself, not the implementation. Star Realms is one of my favorites ever, and by far my most played, and Epic is on that same level as far as digital implementations go.
Ultimately, Epic is free. If it interests you at all, you have no reason not to give it a go and see how it strikes you. Personally, I enjoy what it offers but I’m unsure if I will stick around very long or simply return to playing Star Realms. Your mileage will vary, obviously.