You probably don't know this about me, but I LOVE card games. The fact that last year two of the games in my Top 10 of all time had the words "the Card Game" in them probably didn't give that away at all. CCG/TCG/LCG/LOL/BBQ I've tried a lot of them. So from the moment that I heard about Millennium Blades, a game from Level 99 Games where you simulate playing a CCG, I was intrigued.
You heard me right – Millennium Blades is a game where you simulate buying "booster packs", selling cards you don't need, and then taking your best cards into tournaments to see who is the best. Released in 2016 from designer D. Brad Talton, Millennium Blades is back on Kickstarter right now raising money for their "final" expansion: Collusion. This gave me a chance to try out the base game, as the price ($79.99 MSRP) was a bit steep for me when it first came out, given the very unique nature of the game.
So how does it play?
There are several parts to this game:
A Store mat where you buy "booster packs", aka single cards from various sets (tons of sets in the base box, plus a stack of "core cards")
An Aftermarket mat where you can sell cards for some extra cash (and buy cards that your opponents have sold)
A bank full of fat stacks of cash to throw around
A double sided player board – one side for deck building, one side for playing in the tournament
To win the game, you need the most victory points, which you get largely through winning the 3 tournaments that you will play over the course of the game. There's also minor ways of getting points such as trading in "collections" of similar cards, converting leftover money at end-game, and getting "friendship" cards through trading with your opponents. All of these are useful, but if you don't do well in the tournaments, you will have a hard time winning this game (trust me on this one).
The game-within-a game is actually very simple: everyone will take turns playing a card and performing actions that will score you Rank Points. You'll only be able to play 6 cards in total during the tournament, afterwards there is a scoring round where you can get more Rank Points. The winner of the tournament is the one who got the most Rank Points.
If it felt like I breezed through that breakdown of the game, it's because I did. There's a lot in this game, and honestly much better tutorials online if you want to see the details of how each phase of the game works. Honestly, if you've gotten this far, you stand a good chance of enjoying this game. From my experience in trying to get this game played, I can tell you that the theme of the game is its biggest problem. It's very niche. A lot of people have been turned off from playing CCGs, and this game does a VERY good job of replicating that feel. The people I played with admitted they enjoyed the game more than they expected, but agreed that they would not have any interest in playing the game again, given their previous dislike of CCGs.
What about me though? I AM the target audience for this. This game is far from perfect. Prior to even playing the game, you need to set aside TWO HOURS to take stacks of paper money and wrap them with stickers. With someone with mild OCD problems like me, making sure each stack had the exact amount and was facing the exact same way as ever other one was a very grueling experience. Secondly, There are a lot of cards in this game, and if you customize the "store deck" every time you play, you are looking at a lot of set up time as you shuffle 150+ cards comprised of over 10 different sets together, making sure they are randomized enough. Then, when you finish the game, if you don't want to use the same store deck, you need to sort through Every. Single. Card. So that you can put all the sets away properly.
IMPORTANT NOTE: After playing this game, I looked on the Kickstarter page for Collusion, which has a few gameplay changes for the base game as well. One of these changes involves keeping the "core deck" and the "expansion" cards separate as 2 piles in the store, which would seriously reduce this setup/tear down time. Like, a lot. So much I was really wishing I had read that before we played and put away the game.
All the downsides aside: I LOOOOVED this game. I mentioned it briefly above, but it perfectly simulates the experience of playing these CCG style games. Even the ridiculous stacks of paper money, that I hated putting together, felt so good to throw around chaotically as you scramble to get cards and promos before your friends take them all. The game is so good at simulating a CCG that it even reminded me why I don't play them anymore: I SUCK at building my own custom decks. Seriously, I came in last place in the game, losing every single tournament. Every other player was at least 50+ Rank Points ahead of me EACH TIME! The good news is, that the amount of rank points doesn't directly correlate to victory points. Meaning that first place gets X number of victory points, no matter how many Rank Points they got above the next person. So even if you don't do as well in a tournament, there's still an opportunity to come back and win, provided your name isn't Chris Renshaw.
I'm itching to play this game again, the hard part is just going to be finding people to play with that are actually interested in the CCG theme. I've even gone ahead and backed the Collusion Kickstarter, as there are some interesting additions into the game and I like the new storage solutions that are being promised in the new box. If you ever considered Magic to be "too popular" and remember playing games like the Lord of the Rings or Young Jedi TCGs, then this game is definitely for you.