Just like board games, collectible card games are a perfect fit for a platform like the iPhone. The touchscreen makes for intuitive controls, you have a built-in rule book, and there’s no worrying about losing cards or lugging around hefty decks. But unlike board games, CCGs aren’t particularly well represented on the App Store. That is, until now.
Shadow Era is a free-to-play, online Magic: The Gathering-style CCG that’s great whether you’re new to the genre or a long-time veteran. The rules are relatively simple and easy to understand, but there’s also a lot of strategy to be found.
Where’s the were-babe?
Everything centers around your hero. Each two-player battle is essentially a skirmish between two powerful heroes who have a wealth of allies, spells, items, and abilities to aid them.
Each round is divided into three sections. First you draw a new card to add to your hand. Then you choose a card to sacrifice, which turns it into a resource. Resources are required for virtually all actions in the game. And those actions are what come next, as you can utilize your resources to perform actions, as well as have your allies (if you have any) attack.
Aside from your hero, your deck consists of a wide array of useful cards. There are allies with ridiculous names like Victor Heartstriker and Sandra Trueblade, spells for attacking, boosts to make your squad stronger, and other special cards that do everything from preventing an enemy from attacking to infecting them with poison gas. In the beginning of a match, your resources will be low, so you won’t be able to use your more powerful cards until later. But eventually you’ll have plenty of strategic decisions to make, like which cards to sacrifice, who to attack, whether to focus on offense first or building up your squad, and so on.
Where dreams come true.
And you also get to customize your deck to suit your own play style. In the beginning you’ll have to pick a hero, which will come with its own starter deck. But you can also purchase new cards. You’ll earn gold as you defeat foes that can be used to buy individual cards, and you can also spend real-world money on booster packs to beef up your deck. It’s pretty much the same system as any other CCG, except you get your initial deck for free and you can purchase new cards with in-game cash, which makes it a much cheaper option for those who don’t want to spend a ton of money.
In addition to the iOS version, you can also play Shadow Era in a web browser, and soon as a PC, Mac, and Android download as well. Your progress carries over from one version to the next, so it’s possible to get in a little card battling action pretty much anywhere you are. The drawback, though, is that the game requires an Internet connection to play, so there’s no offline mode.
But that’s a small price to play for such a great experience. It may sound complex, but Shadow Era is surprisingly easy to learn. You’ll go through a brief tutorial, and that’s really all you need to understand how everything works. But the depth and flexibility of the rules mean there’s a whole lot of strategy here, as well. Shadow Era is quite simply a great CCG that fits perfectly on the iPhone.