Game Buzz: Millennium Blades

I’ve played Magic: The Gathering once.  It was OK – I’m sure there’s a lot more depth to it once you get past just using a starter deck.  I’ve also played around with Hearthstone and SolForge on the iPad, but I’ve never given either game any money, so I’ve just been using pretty basic stuff there too.  So I wouldn’t say I’m deep into CCG culture.  However, I am really excited by the prospect of

image by BGG user tehero22
image by BGG user tehero22

Millennium Blades is a game currently funding on Kickstarter, designed by D. Brad Talton Jr. and published by Level 99 Games.  It’s a 2-5 player game that takes two hours to play.  The basic concept of the game is that the most popular collectible card game in the world is Millennium Blades, and you are a player, entering tournaments and trying to achieve the best ranking.  That’s right – it’s a board game about playing a collectible card game, which means this is probably the most meta game EVER.

The game comes with 5 player boards, 2 central market boards, 6 starting decks of 9 cards each, one core set of 108 cards, 10 expansion sets of 12 cards each, 8 premium sets of 12 cards each, 6 master sets of 12 cards each, 2 bronze promo sets of 6 cards each, 2 silver promo sets of 6 cards each, 2 gold promo sets of 6 cards each, and 5 pro player promo sets of 6 cards each.  For those counting, that’s 516 cards, and that’s just what’s printed in the rules.  I’m guessing more are coming with stretch goals.  Additionally, there are Millennium Dollar Money Wads for cash, but I’m unclear on what that means.  And I think there are probably some other markers that aren’t listed right now.

From the look of things, you’re going to need a very large table for this game.  I know their last big project, Argent: The Consortium, took up a lot of table real estate, and with all the stuff here, plan on a big table.  To create the store deck, you’ll shuffle together the core set, five expansion sets, four premium sets, and three master sets.  That’s a 252-card deck you’re shuffling there – good luck with that.  Two sets of bronze and silver promos are set aside, as well as one gold promo set.  One of each type of set goes in the card fusion area of the store board.  Each player gets a player board, a starting deck, three core cards, three sell markers, and five friendship cards.  Optionally, each player an get 20 Millennium Dollars and a booster pack, but that’s if you skip the Pre-Release tournament.

Millennium Blades is played over a series of rounds.  Each round has two phases – Deckbuilding and Tournament.  New players are encouraged to start with a pre-release tournament to get familiar with how cards work before entering deckbuilding.  For purposes of this overview, I’ll start with Deckbuilding.

image by BGG user jayahre
image by BGG user jayahre

At the start of Deckbuilding, you get 30 dollars and a booster pack.  Booster packs are created by discarding the top card of the store deck, then drawing cards until you’ve reached a total cost of at least 21.  The top nine cards of the store deck are placed face down on the store board.  You reveal a new elemental metagame card, which will give you some bonuses if you incorporate a certain element into your deck.  You then set a timer (not included) for seven minutes, and it’s time to go.

Deckbuilding is performed in real time.  There are no turns, and there are a number of things you can do.  You can buy a pack from the store by paying the cost of a face down card and picking it up and replacing it from the store deck.  You can buy the top card of the store deck.  This single card is referred to as a pack, but that’s a little misleading.  Thematically, it’s like you’re buying a sealed pack of fifteen cards in a general theme, but it’s full of commons and one rare card.  Commons are not present in this game – only rare or better.  The card you get could be a single, or it could be a deck box that will give you another scoring opportunity if you include it.  It could also be an accessory that further enhances or protects your deck.  Cards that you get go into your “binder” for now – you don’t actually have a binder, this is just what your card group is called.

If you don’t like the card you drew, or you already have a copy of it for your deck (you can only have one copy per card), you can sell it to the aftermarket.  This is placed face up with your sell marker on it.  You get the cost of the card back, but now others can see it and can possibly buy it, paying the bank.  If you have no more sell markers, you can’t sell.  You get them back if someone buys the card.  You cannot buy it back yourself.

Another opportunity to get rid of unwanted cards is known as card fusion.  You trash a number of cards from your hand and take the top bronze, silver, or gold promo card depending on how many you threw out.  Put a sell marker on the pile to indicate that you have done this – you can’t use more than one card fusion of each type per round, and you can’t do it at all if you’re out of sell markers.

You are welcome to trade with other players directly without using the aftermarket.  Trades must be in equal values – I can’t give you a 3 for a 5, but I can give you a 2 and a 3 for a 5.  If the trade is going to be more beneficial to the other player, you can ask for a friendship card as part of the trade.  These are worth extra VPs at the end of the game.

As this plays out, you will be adding cards to your deck, collection, or binder.  Binder cards are just ones you have in reserve but won’t be using in this game.  Your deck can hold eight singles, one deck box, and two accessories.  You can only play six singles during the tournament, so the other two slots are for safety cards to use in case of attack.  Your collection consists of 2-8 cards, each one having at least one symbol in common with all others, and each one having a different star rating than all others.  These cards are removed from the game at the end of the round, and score 2-21 points for you depending on how many cards there were.

When the seven minutes runs out, each player gets a new booster pack, a type meta card is revealed, and another seven minute timer is set.  When this timer expires, set another three minute timer.  The aftermarket is now not accepting any new cards for sale, but you can still buy and trade.  There is a note in the rules that the timers are flexible, and if someone is scrambling to finish something up at the end of regulation, you can bend a little to give them a little extra time.  However, if someone wants to take extra time to do something they didn’t even start (like build a collection), don’t give it to them.  The rules say it’s important not to let people fix their mistakes.

image by BGG user jayahre
image by BGG user jayahre

After deckbuilding is the tournament phase.  If you’re playing the pre-release tournament, you’re playing with your starter deck.  Tournaments are turn-based.  Your player boards get flipped over to show the tournament side, which gives you your six card slots, as well as a place for your deck box and accessories.  Binder cards move to the side, deck cards go to your hand, and collection cards have already been removed and scored.  Whoever placed highest in the previous tournament goes first, or whoever most recently opened a booster pack.  Or random.  Whatever.

On your turn, you may take an action and must play a single.  This can be done in any order.  Actions are usually present on accessories, but other cards may have actions as well.  If you do the action, flip the corresponding card face down.  To play a single, just move the card from your hand to the leftmost open space on your mat.  These cards can have a number of effects that trigger at various times – when you play them, when you flip them, throughout the tournament, as long as it’s the top card (rightmost face up card), at the end of the tournament, and in reaction to certain conditions being met.  Throughout the tournament, you’ll be collecting Ranking Points that simulate how well you’re doing.

There is a possibility of being forced to flip cards by other players’ effects.  There’s also the possibility of clashing.  If involved in a clash, look at your top card, then draw the top card of the store deck.  Add the star rating of each, and the higher total wins, gaining the specified reward.  If there’s a tie, no one wins.  Revealed cards are put in the aftermarket.

When no player is able to play further turns due to being out of cards or having a full tableau, the tournament ends.  The highest ranking total wins the tournament, and gains maximum points, which changes from tournament to tournament – first place gets 7 points in the pre-release, 21 in the first tournament, 28 in the second tournament, and 42 in the final tournament.  By comparison, fifth place gets 2 in the pre-release, 6 in the first, 8 in the second, and 12 in the fourth.  Additionally, for the first and second tournaments, a bronze or silver promo pack is revealed, and players in finishing order get to draft one of those cards as a prize.

After the third tournament (including the pre-release if you played it), the game is over.  Players add up their VPs from tournaments, collections, friendship cards from other players, and remaining money (1 VP per $4).  The player with the most points wins.

image by BGG user jayahre
image by BGG user jayahre

It’s difficult to my thoughts together for this one because there is so much going on, and there’s only so much I can say without being able to study the cards.  I think the theme here is fantastic – I’ve long been a proponent of the idea of making a game about playing a game, and this one looks like it has been really well constructed.  The various card combos are going to make or break this game, but as it’s been in development for a few years, I’m sure it has been playtested like crazy.  I like that it’s a combination real-time/turn-based game, and I also like that the real-time aspect is less intense and pressured than, say, Galaxy Trucker or Space Alert.  The timer is more there to make sure you’re not taking all day for that phase than to see who how fast you can go, and I think that’s welcome to the genre.

Overall, I think this game looks awesome, and I’m glad to see it doing so well.  It’s a very fresh idea, and I think it will appeal to CCGers and non-CCGers alike – CCGers will recognize the tropes of their part of the hobby, while non-CCGers will have a chance to see what it’s all about without investing all that time and money into acquiring enough cards to make a good deck.  If you want to get in on the ground floor, head over to the Kickstarter page (linked at the bottom of this post) and pledge.  A game will cost you $50, and they have pledge levels all the way up to $1500.  Thanks for reading!

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