Tuesday, 13 August 2013

HEX Cards

HEX is a collectible card game that will be going into beta in the near future.  I backed it on the kickstarter and I believe that is going to get me a beta invite.  I'm pretty interested in how all of these card games turn out.

HEX is Magic: the Gathering.  It would be hard for it to be more precise a copy.  They take advantage of some features that you couldn't have in a paper game, but if you've played magic there are only two things you need to know to know everything about the game:
  1. Every time you play a land you get a charge counter that can be used to activate a power attached to your character
  2. Effects can permanents affix themselves to cards during the game - if a creature gets +1/+1 and then gets bounced, killed, shuffled back into your deck, or anything else it holds onto the bonus
Now just because you know the rules it doesn't mean that you know everything about the game.  After all, Magic, and HEX, are more about cards than about rules.  How much should a 3/3 cost?  You could make it cost one, two, three, or even eight.  The choice you make about how to cost very basic creatures and effects will have a lot of repercussions for the game.

HEX held demos on a LAN at Gen Con, and they have posted the deck lists for those demos online, giving us a good picture of what the cards in HEX are like.  I'm not going to start putting up pictures of cards until they put up a gatherer-like database, since for now I think the cards are in flux and I don't want to step on any toes.

But looking down that list we see some pretty familiar faces.  A 2/1 for 1 that must attack; a 1/1 for 2 that draws you a card when you play it; 3 for an instant that kills a creature; a 2/2 for 2 that gets +1/+1 each time you gain life; 2 damage for one resource.  To be clear, I'm not calling plagiarism because it isn't for many reasons.  If you make a card game like this then Shock is pretty obvious. Also, I'm not really interested in discussing the ethics of copying a game so wholesale and I think it is actually somewhat unproblematic

But what it does tell us is that we can compare the cards they've made to Magic cards.  We could look at a 2/1 for two and say, "Well that's not great but you would play it in a limited card pool," and if there was a card that did 4 for one mana we could shake our heads and say, "That seems overpowered."

So looking down the list we can see some pretty exciting and some pretty questionable cards.  For example, four you can buy a 2/2.  When it comes into play each opponent reveals a random card and if they reveal a creature it gets -2/-2.  The fact that it's a bear for four that may do nothing else at all is not that encouraging, and when it does do something it may still not get you a card of value.  Not only does it not kill a large creature, but it lets your opponent choose not to play that creature and play other things instead.

Or for three you get a card that lets you pay two and two life to draw a card.  So at seven mana and four life you are breaking even with Divination, which is another card they are have exact copy of.

I felt that quite a few of the cards that are not Magic analogues were very weak, though I'll admit a few were fairly strong.  I guess it makes sense to be a little conservative when you are venturing out.  Better not to print a Black Lotus.  On the other hand, if caution is the watchword, then I wouldn't think we'd see Voltaic Key either.  Oh well, I'm sure the balance will be off, but certainly not like the early Magic sets.

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