Mage Tower – Early Preview

Mage Tower is a Tower Defense and Deckbuilding Card Game where the aim is to survive longer than the opponent. Mage Tower is a unique blend of card game action with the nail biting tension you get when you play Tower Defense video/mobile games. I have loved both Tower Defense and card games for many years, but I never thought that someone could combine the two together, especially with deckbuilding mechanics… and now they have.

The game is currently looking for funding on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website, in order to bring it to life for PC, iOS, and Android. The game has already had two successful Kickstarter campaigns so far, for the physical version and its expansion, so I have a feeling the developers have a passion for the game and know exactly what they’re doing.

We took a look at their current campaign and managed to play their latest Alpha release in order to give our readers some insight into the game — so I’ve donned my wizard’s robes, pulled out my crystal ball, and cracked open my spell books to prepare for the adventure that is the magical world of Mage Tower.

I-could-of-sworn-I-had-a-strategy

The Alpha build looks promising and plays extremely well. The obvious thing to note is that the non-card visuals aren’t that appealing at the moment. I am sure this’ll improve upon the final release.

Gameplay

We’ll cover the mechanics of the Mage Tower here, mainly because the game is in Alpha. This means that although the mechanics are pretty much set, the aesthetics and game modes may differ on release. During the Alpha I had to go through a short tutorial that was enjoyable, clear, and humorous. Perhaps I can get some of those garbage cupcakes too? (If you try it out, you’ll know what I’m talking about!)

The objective of the game is to live longer than the opponent. This is definitely one of the strangest victory conditions I have had when playing a card game, so they get points from me for putting a unique victory condition into the genre. I should note however that this is the usual Tower Defense genre’s victory condition, so it’s more of a clever borrowing than an original idea, but it’s still innovative, nevertheless. I’m used to having to reduce others’ HP to 0 in order to win, so this was a refreshing difference that gave the game a more urgent feeling.

There are several decks in play during the course of a game. You have your Main Deck that holds the cards you’ll be using to fight for your life. Each player also has their own Monster Deck that’ll contain the same Monsters. At the start of each turn, several Monsters will rush toward you — as you would expect with a Tower Defense game. The difference here is that you’re given the chance to destroy them before they become ‘Angry’ and if you can’t, they’ll do damage to your life… Ouch.

Monsters-will-attack-when-angry-go-figure

When a Monster is ‘Angry’ it will attack you and deal damage. Defenders are only used to attack Monsters and cannot defend against an attack (not very good at living up to their title then, are they?!).

Gameplay Continued…

Mage Tower‘s core game revolves around a draft system where you and your opponent draft cards from a set of 12. You take turns picking one card each until the pool of 12 cards is empty. Another pool of 12 cards will then appear for selection. After all cards are chosen from this second pool, you will have 12 cards to then narrow down to 8 chosen cards. These will go into your main deck along with 5 standard cards that both players start with.

This is similar to the drafting system used in most TCGs today and it makes for some tough, truly nail biting decisions. You could have a number of cards that you want, or that you don’t want the opponent to have. I often feel the pressure when having to make these choices and I can prove this with my lack of fingernails!

Combining your 8 chosen cards with the 5 standard cards will make the Main Deck. At the start of the game each player draws 2 cards from their Main Deck and then an additional 2 cards per turn. Monsters will come out from each player’s Monster Deck until their total power equals 10 or greater. The game has a great balance that will see matches go down to the wire. During a game which I ended up losing, at no point did I feel that the opponent had any significant advantage over me — it was largely down to the strategic choices we both made.

In addition, each player earns 1 Gold per turn. There is a third deck in play that both players have access to, the Prize Card Deck. This deck has special cards that can be purchased with Gold and will come into play immediately, resolving its effect. Once you end your turn, it will be shuffled back into your Main Deck (here’s the deckbuilding mechanic at play!). Gold has no other purpose beyond this deck, so if you’ve got it, flaunt it… er, I mean, spend it wisely.

In order to combat the enemy’s Monsters, you will play cards from your hand. To play these you will have to spend Energy, your primary resource. You are given 7 Energy per turn and I suggest using as much as you can as it doesn’t roll over. The cards all have their own unique abilities: some are defenders, some deal –> damage (Arrow damage), others are permanents. A quick tip about Arrow Damage is that it spills over to the next Monster if it kills one. Whichever cards you play, you will need to kill as many Monsters as possible or face a horde of ‘Angry’ Monsters next turn.

Drafting-cards-before-the-match

Drafting is the core game mode that’ll probably see the most play. I really enjoyed this aspect of the game, as drafting is my favorite way ever to play card games. The card art is really eye-catching, too.

Game Modes and Features

Mage Tower will focus on a few modes once it’s officially launched. We’ve covered the draft mode above, but there is another mode planned. There will be a Constructed mode where you can make a custom deck and use it to challenge the Monsters charging toward you. I was able to play through a randomized deck mode as part of the Alpha. This gave me a feel and understanding of how a constructed deck would feel in play. I will say that it felt a little less fun than the Draft mode, but maybe that’s because I didn’t craft the deck myself that I was playing with. I always feel a bond between a deck I have constructed as opposed to one that was given to me. I look forward to building my own deck out of my own card collection!

Boss Monster is a cooperative mode that brings people together to take down a mighty foe. The developers even boast that you will be able to do this from the comfort of your sofa using controllers. This mode will suit me perfectly as I love cooperative modes in card games, as they’re exceedingly rare!

There is also going to be an almost-endless campaign mode with randomized boss fights for those that like to play alone. Think along the lines of games such as “roguelike” dungeon crawlers with endless levels and you’ll understand what the developers are shooting for with this mode. So if you’re the adventuring type, they’ll have your back!

One of the quirkier features they’re going to put in is being able to put stickers on your cards, thus making them forever recognizable as yours when you take on the world online. I’m not sure how that translates to the more hardcore card game enthusiast out there, but it’s, uh… Okay, personal confession time — this is the kind of unique and crazy personalization features that I’ve always wanted to see in a card game! It’s so nuts, it just might be amazing.

The game will come with in-app purchases of Booster Packs, as I expected it would. What is different about these packs is that they also contain a ‘wildcard’ that offers the player a little something extra. The ‘wildcard’ can be either a Sticker, Card Back, Dice Skin, Player Avatar, or Play Background. This’ll certainly help keep things on the colorful side and a little less serious, as well as adding to those crazy levels of customization that I’m craving!

No-need-to-attack-just-survive

All you need to do is outlast the opponent. Tower Defense is all about how long you can survive. Mage Tower adds a competitive flavor to that game model, as well as adding… What? CARD STICKERS?! HOW COULD YOU PASS THIS UP?!

First Impressions

Mage Tower is a brilliantly crafted game that offers something very unique in the card game genre. The mix of Tower Defense and deckbuilding made for a nerve-wracking experience. I was always on edge trying to survive the turn and hoping my opponent wouldn’t survive theirs. I loved all the strategic choices that start right from the beginning when you pick which cards to go into your Main Deck.

I really hope this game does come to our digital world of TCGs/CCGs. The tabletop version was received with much acclaim, and I can only assume once the game is tidied up and presented in a pretty digital package, it will be just as successful with a whole new crowd of video gamers, too.

The developers are boasting an impressive 350+ cards at launch — that’s a very impressive number by all accounts, but size isn’t always everything! The artwork needs higher resolution images and the user interface, as I understand, will get a total overhaul. These would be welcome improvements over the Alpha. I know a screenshot can easily sell a game, and the screenshots for this game aren’t showing the game in its final form yet. However, I urge you to back this game as the gameplay was amazing… and that was only the Alpha!

Also, if you don’t back it, I will personally hold you responsible for denying me those stickers. You don’t want that happening now, do you? DO YOU?!

To back the Kickstarter campaign, click here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by
Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.
  • Johannes Rice

    Is there a possibility for us to play the alpha version as well?

    • Zac Phoenix

      Unfortunately the Alpha is not available to the general public. In order to play the game you’ll need to back the project and hopefully be invited to a beta test later.

    • Brett Brimmer

      Hi, this is Brett Brimmer from Super Mega Games. I’ve only given this out in a few places, but here’s the link to download the early alpha build. This version is from when the physical game was released which is why it says “September 2013” on the title screen, though the gameplay is mostly the same as the current version since we’ve been working on non-gameplay features the past several months. Hope you like it!: http://www.supermegacomics.com/MageTowerAppBeta-Default-1.0.1.9.zip

  • D8Nine4650

    Zac, I would love to sign up to try the alpha as well and thanks for the article. I love that this site exists as it’s basically become my next game to try up playlist over the last few months. Duelyst, Ascension, and Spellweaver are all games I play regularly now thanks to this site. Keep up the good work.

    • Zac Phoenix

      Unfortunately the Alpha is not available to the general public. In order to play the game you’ll need to back the project and hopefully be invited to a beta test later.

  • Brett Brimmer

    Here’s the last publicly released early alpha build if anyone is interested. I don’t usually post this anywhere but I see that you guys want to try the gameplay first. The gameplay is pretty much the same as the in-house build but we’ve been working on networking and other features the past several months in-house: http://www.supermegacomics.com/MageTowerAppBeta-Default-1.0.1.9.zip . Hope you enjoy!

    • D8Nine4650

      Thanks Brett!

  • Aleksandar Salma

    Man I’m disappointed I didn’t see this earlier, well I backed now and I’m cheering the Kickstarter on to victory! Good luck guys!

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