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Infinity Wars hands-on game preview

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Infinity Wars is an online trading card game currently being developed by Lightmare Studios. The game is made by TCG fans for TCG fans and attempts (rather successfully) to deal with a lot of the more frustrating game mechanics that tend to ruin other card games from time to time.

One of the main innovations of Infinity Wars is that every single card is completely animated. Although this requires a lot more time and work be put into creating each card by the developers, it makes Infinity Wars look and feel different than any other card game online. Locations are particularly impressive because playing one will change the look of your entire side of the board.

The storyline behind Infinity Wars is actually pretty cool and deals with the concept of multiple dimensions. At some point in the past, something called the Calamity caused the universe to split off into parallel universes. Each reality is slightly different so there can be multiple versions of the same person or location that have evolved differently over time in their particular universe.

As someone who has spent years playing Magic: The Gathering, I was initially excited about Infinity Wars because of the new gameplay mechanics that Lightmare Studios brought to the genre. One reason why I stopped playing MTG was because it became too much about top decking the right card at the right moment (this became even more true when they introduced that silly "Miracle" mechanic). Too much of the game was focused on luck of the draw rather than skill. Infinity Wars isn't like that. Infinity Wars is more about the player's ability to actually play the game and outsmart his opponent rather than simply stuffing good cards into your deck. Sure having powerful cards definitely helps but I was winning games with one of the pre-constructed decks which goes to show that the cards play second fiddle to your individual skill. This is how it should be.

Infinity Wars does away with "mana screw" by taking the requirement of pure resource cards out of the game. Instead, players are given plus one additional resource per turn so you will know exactly what you'll be able to play and when. This makes deck construction and gameplay more about strategy instead of worrying about whether or not you have enough lands. If you do get a bad draw, there is also a trading post built into the game where players can spend resources to draw an extra card or to shuffle a card from their hand back into the deck and draw something else.

Instead of having one play zone where everything goes, each side of the board is split into three main zones - assault, defense, and support. Characters in the assault zone will automatically attack each turn, those in the defense zone will defend, and then the support zone can be used to keep characters, such as ones that have usable special abilities, out of combat while still being useful. To move cards between the zones, you simply drag and drop them to where you want them to go. Easy.

Like MTG, most characters come onto the battlefield exhausted which means they are placed into the support zone and won't be able to attack or defend until the next turn. There are exceptions to this, of course. Characters with haste are played directly into the assault zone while cards with vigilance are played directly into the defense zone.

There are only two phases to each turn: planning and resolution. Each player takes their turn simultaneously which means during your planning phase, your opponent is also taking their planning phase at the same time. You can't see what the other person is doing until it all plays out in the resolution phase. Obviously reading the battlefield and attempting to guess what your opponent will do is extremely important in Infinity Wars. After you and your opponent have both planned out all of your actions, the game then moves into the resolution phase where everything plays out.

The first thing that happens in the resolution phase is movement. Spells and abilities are second, and then finally combat happens. This order is important because you can't take any additional actions during the resolution phase "in response" to something your opponent did. It should also be noted that something called "initiative" alternates between each player so during each part of the resolution phase. The player with initiative will have his or her actions during each of the steps play out first. It might sound confusing, but it's really not. If you are at all familiar with playing other TCGs, playing Infinity Wars will come to you naturally.

One interesting change to combat is that when a character is dealt damage, that damage sticks to them. For example, if you deal two damage to a card with four defense, his health won't just go back to four the next turn. The two damage stays on him until it is healed or he dies.

Each player starts the game with 50 health and 50 morale. The first way to win is obvious; you run your opponent's health down to 0. Morale provides an alternative method of winning. Each time you kill one of your opponent's characters, he loses morale based on that cards casting cost. So for example, if kill a bunch of his characters he will eventually run out of morale and lose the game. This makes sense if you think about it. Your army is suffering heavy causalities. This would dwindle their will to fight until they would eventually want to surrender or retreat. This mechanic also prevents games from becoming excessively long when facing opponents who simply want to defend.

Since you don't have to fill a third of your deck with land, the minimum deck size is 40 cards. Most cards are limited to three of each but each faction has one card that decks using them can have an unlimited number of. For example, the unlimited Flame Dawn character, Flame Dawn Aspirant, is a 2/1 with haste. The pre-construted Flame Dawn deck has a whopping 16 of them in it. As you can probably guess, Flame Dawn is a faction known for aggro.

There are six factions in total: Flame Dawn, The Warpath, Genesis Industries, Cult of Verore, Descendants of the Dragon, and a Zombie faction. There are also a number of Factionless cards.

Deck construction is based on what Commanders that you use for your deck. In addition to the 40 cards of your deck, each deck must have three assigned Commanders. Any character can be assigned as a Commander. Your three commanders start the game already out on the playing field, in their own special zone called the command zone. Their abilities can still be activated from this zone (and they can still be targeted by spells and abilities) but if you want to attack or defend with them, you need to pay their casting cost to deploy them into one of the main zones. They won't be exhausted either, which is nice.

But anyway, back to deck construction. Each card in the game requires a certain level of "purity" for the faction they are associated with. This is directly correlated to the number of Commanders that you are using for that particular faction. For example, a Flame Dawn card with a purity of two requires that at least two out of your three Commanders are from the Flame Dawn faction. So if you want to use a deck with a cards from multiple factions, you need to have Commanders from each of the factions you want to use.

Infinity Wars still isn't finished, the target release date is "sometime" in 2013, but so far it looks amazing and plays even better. I have been waiting for a TCG like this for a long time and the best part is that it will be completely free-to-play when it is released. Players earn "Infinity Points" by completing games which can then be redeemed for booster packs or other starter decks. Alternatively, you can spend real money to buy "Lightmare Points" in order to buy packs. A pack costs a lot fewer Lightmare Points than Infinity Points. The system is similar to the Influence Points / Riot Points system used in League of Legends.

Infinity Wars will be available for a variety of platforms including PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.

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