Focus, determination, and planning. These are sentiments that echo from any War-Room throughout history. As the Commander-in-Chief ponders over a visual representation of the battlefield, deep down, he knows that every move may be his last. With sweat beading on his brow and the free world hanging in the balance, he moves his troops across the map, in the hope of breaking the enemy line to achieve victory.
That’s how it’s been done for thousands of years. It is a time-honoured tradition, and it works. These are the foundations of which tactical-strategy games are born. From Chess and Checkers to Civilization and Rome: Total War, when it comes to constructing and designing games in this genre, there is no simpler blueprint to follow.
So, it’s no surprise that in its earliest concept, Duelyst was originally a tabletop board game too. It was designed by Indie game company, Counterplay Games, a San Francisco-based developer which consists of veteran creators from other well-known companies such as Blizzard Entertainment, Insomniac Games, and Cellar Door Games.
Together, they had one vision. To create thoughtful, skill-based and competitive multiplayer games. It was suggested early on to the team that their fun little homebrew board game should leap from the dining room table to the world of online multiplayer video games for a wider audience to enjoy. So, with that goal in mind, they began a crowdfunding campaign and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
Kickstarter was chosen specifically as the vehicle to drive interest and crowd-fund the idea, due to its commitment to artists and creators having complete creative control over their own projects. This is an ideal way for new companies to have their projects backed, without being impacted by big publishers or non-gaming investors.
With a solid team made up of experienced producers, gameplay and graphic designers, web programmers, and musical composers, and having raised over $137,000 Duelyst had a very strong foundation on which to build their now free to play turn-based game. If only certain other crowd-funded games had the same knowledge and experience of Duelyst backing them, we might not have seen so many great ideas flop in recent times.
Fast forward to today and Duelyst has become a unique competitive Collectable Card Game (CCG) crossed with tactical-strategy gameplay with a focus on combat, grid based movement, squad building, and ranked ladder play. For those who are familiar, it can be seen as a mix of Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone and Nintendo’s Fire Emblem.
The game is fast-paced, roughly taking between ten to thirty minutes per match, which is excellent for those with minimal time to spend gaming, with one simple objective, to reduce the enemy General’s health down to zero before your opponent does it to you.
Before the game begins, each player will build their forty card squad, also known as a deck, from four hundred cards across six unique factions. A deck will consist of minions, spells, artefacts, and one General. All cards have different rarities, from basic to rare, with legendary being the most powerful and coveted.
A round starts with five cards dealt and twenty-five health points available. Your General and minions can move up to two squares per turn, on a 5×9 square grid, starting directly across from your opponent. Each player will take turns playing cards to summon their minions, equip artefacts, or cast spells, in order to protect their General and take the opponents down. So, choosing the best faction, and developing solid battlefield tactics will determine whether you are successful.
Mana is used to play cards from your deck. It can be obtained by using Mana crystals or by accessing Mana springs across the battlefield. Usually, the first player to move will reach one of these springs first, and gain the upper hand. So, to balance the game, the player who moves second is given an additional Mana crystal.
Minions are summoned to the battlefield to bolster your attack. They provide their own various offensive and defensive statistics, skills, and abilities to oppose your adversary. Playing artefacts will gift your General with additional effects for as long as they’re outfitted. And spell cards provide prompt one-time enchantments, unique to their own faction. Separate to the regular spells are the Bloodborn spells. These are special abilities which are unique to each General too. It can only be cast once before it needs to recharge, but cost less than that of regular spells.
Duelyst is easily accessible to first time players, and the more you play, the more you will learn tactics and how to best use your deck. Practice makes perfect, and if you’re dedicated enough, you can test yourself in the monthly draft tournaments and become ranked among the best players across the globe. But, as with all games, there are many more details to them, than can fit into one brief article.
In part two of our introduction, I will provide an analysis of the Duelyst World Championships, and interview one of the games long time and high ranking tournament players on many topics related to the game, and how you can become involved in the competitions. So, stay tuned.
Tim Pearce is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. Go say hi over on MeatBaitMedia!