Battlecraft, An In-Depth Review

7.7 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 8/10
Sounds: 6/10
Graphics: 7/10

Fights are short but tactical. | Large game world with lots of crafting and raids.

Restricted to browser-based play.

Browser-based

Free to Play with in-game purchases.

March 15,2013

English

BattleCraft is a free to play browser-based online trading card game based in the fantasy world of Asteras. Players go head to head with AI or other players as a Commander using a deck of Characters and Support cards in tactical combat.

The game is rich with features that make it almost like a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) but based around cards and card fighting. There is such a wide range of card decks and strategies to go for, a single-player campaign with multiple difficulty levels, single and multiplayer raids, drafting modes, card crafting, player markets and so much more.

Let’s take a look and unpack just how much there is to do in this addictive game before finding out our final thoughts on the game overall.

Battle Decision phase

The first step of combat, the Battle Decision phase where you queue up what cards you’re using and in what order.

Core Gameplay

The core of BattleCraft is of course the card battles. These unfold over two phases: Battle Decision and Attack phases. These are aimed at being short and sweet as they can be carried out in less than a minute.  Players enter into a fight with their deck which must contain exactly 16 cards – 8 each of the Character and Support types. When a fight begins, you will be randomly given 4 of those characters from your deck. These are the only Characters you will have to work with for the whole fight, so you’ll need to make sure your deck has characters that work well together and that it doesn’t matter too much which cards come out for your strategy to work.

In the first step, the Battle Decision phase, you’ll see the order of the opponent’s Characters that you’ll be fighting against. You need to move and switch around the positions of your Characters in their 4 slots by deciding which Characters you want to face off against the enemy Character above it. You also have access to all 8 Support cards in your deck which are like your “hand” of cards. You must assign one Support card to each of your Characters in order to advance to the Attack phase. Support cards modify and boost stats while also granting unique abilities to the equipped Character, your whole team of Troops, or even negatively affecting the opponent’s Troops.

Once this has happened you will advance to the Attack phase.  All of the actions you have queued up in the Battle Decision phase will resolve. All that is left for you to do is sit back and watch the fight (or speed it up with the speed multiplier, or skip it entirely if you want to go straight to the results of the fight which is also an option).

Attack Phase

The Attack Phase in progress. A Twilight/Chaos deck is facing off against Unaligned Mercenaries in a Quest campaign Mission.

Combat continued…

Characters in BattleCraft will attack from left to right, giving each enemy Character a chance to attack back before moving to the next pair. They will carry out any special abilities or attacks they might have before using their basic attack. When each Character pair has had a chance at an action, it will continue again from the left to right, except priority of attack will switch to the other player (who didn’t go first last time). Cards also have an energy upkeep and you only start with 50 energy so you have to make sure you’ve not overstretched with your deck-building and choices of Support cards or they’ll use up all your energy before the fight is over.

Combat will continue until either all Characters on one side are dead, or a player loses all their Morale (which is usually dealt by attacks that are undefended by the opponent but also through abilities which drain Morale). This is how there are two different victory conditions, the Morale victory and the Annihilation victory.

It’s also important to note that these fights are not “live”, even when against another player’s deck – the computer will present their cards and you have to strategically defeat them.

What I enjoy most about this form of card combat is that it’s really fast and brief, but still requires you to think hard about the best options of Character placement and which Support cards to equip them with. Opponents may have abilities that you don’t want to trigger or will need to mitigate the damage from, so Support cards are often as much about countering what your opponent’s cards are doing as they are boosting your own.

Deck building is really important here then, which means half the game is really outside of combat, tinkering your deck to be flexible enough to deal with a range of possible decks while having a winning strategy of your own. More on that later.

Campaign quest mission

The Campaign quest missions give rewards of booster packs as well as XP and shards.

Game Modes and Features

In BattleCraft, the single-player campaign provides a lot of the grinding content of the game for new players. This is where new players will level up, earn new cards for their first deck built around the faction-less ‘Unaligned’ Mercenary cards. As you advance through, you’ll be given more options about what cards to collect so you can actually start to build a deck more towards the Faction of your choice. The campaign is completely re-playable and has a variety of difficulty levels which unlock when you complete the level below it. In some of the campaign modes you earn fame when you defeat a particular challenge, and there are score boards for who has the most fame.

There is also an Arena which provides a three different Player Versus Player formats. You play matches against other people’s decks and when you win matches, you can earn shards, packs or tokens (used in crafting). The first of these is the Tournament mode. Climbing the ladder can result in large prizes if you make at least the top 20, but you’ll also earn prizes for every 5 or 10 enemies you defeat so it’s always worth playing a few of these each day.

Skirmish

In a Skirmish, you are given a random card pool that you must creating a working deck out of and beat the other opponents in the Skirmish Tournament with.

Also in the Arena are Skirmishes, which are forms of drafting tournaments where you’ll make an entirely new deck out of cards and play it against others. In a Basic Skirmish, you’ll be given 33 cards and a starter deck to work with. You have to build a working deck from it and then play 3 games against each opponent and the deck they built. At the end, if you won you will get 500 shards. You don’t get to keep the cards, however.

In a Premium Skirmish, you’ll be able to keep the cards you get given at the start as well, but it costs 100 gold to enter. The prize pool is also worth more, composed of Gold Booster Packs rather than shards. Skirmishes also have Achievements and cards you can buy with Skirmish Points. These cards are very strong and difficult to obtain so it’s worth saving up points to buy them.

Skirmishes are a lot of fun and I generally always enjoy drafting in any card game provided it’s implemented well – here, it works extremely well because there are two different levels at which you can commit to drafting. Basic is more for beginners but still enjoyable because it doesn’t cost as much, whereas Premium is for those who really enjoy drafting and want a higher risk/reward from it. Also, you don’t have to wait for other people to play, just to finish their decks. Then you queue up each fight and come back to it later to see who won.

Here, a basic Raid is underway. By attacking the Raid enemy Troops in battles, you bring down the health bar until it’s defeated.

Raids

Raids in BattleCraft are multiplayer co-operative quests against a common horde of enemies and there are Basic, Advanced and Master level raids. A player may attempt to face off against them alone, but it is faster to join up with others and take them down together as on some of the higher difficulties you won’t be able to solo them.

You have to repeatedly attack the Raid Troops in battles to bring down the overall health of the Raid until it is defeated. You have a limited amount of time to do this and when its completed, you gain rewards which are randomly picked from a selection of drops that that Raid provides. These can be tokens, Commander cards, and other premium prizes. Raids are really fun to do, especially with other people as it has a collaborative feel compared to all of the PvP modes.

The Master level Raids also contain a new kind called a Rift Raid. These require multiple people to defeat as there are a few different things you have to do at once. There are 6 nodes: 3 rifts and 3 caravans, and you have to defend the caravans from attacks while the rift nodes are upgraded to Tier 4. There is a lot of managing delicate bars and timers which means teamwork is essential to defeat the Raid. It usually requires 5 or 6 people working together.

Basic Raid

Starting a Basic Raid, which can have more slots unlocked to increase the capacity of players attacking the Raid.

Other Features

When buying packs in the Armory, if you pick Gold level or above you will actually be given the option to choose which Factions the cards in the pack will come from (2 Factions for Gold packs, 3 for Premium packs). This helps to mitigate the randomness of the booster pack system while still providing a moment of excitement in the process of revealing the unknown contents. I really liked this feature for deck building too because you can narrow down the range of what Factions you’re currently building for and only get the cards for those. As a player of the game, that is much appreciated.

BattleCraft also has a Castle game mode where you upgrade a castle with attack and defense decks that you have to place Character and Support cards into. These are then used to attack other players’ castles and defend against attacks automatically with your defense decks. You can build all kinds of add-on rooms and structures for your castle and there’s really a lot of content to get into here, such as rooms to store gold or automatically generate shards for you.

Crafting is a whole feature of the game that is really addictive, because nearly everything you do in game will give you tokens which can be used to craft cards and other items. These can take a while to obtain though and some of the crafting costs are rather high, meaning a lot of grinding over time to craft them. You’ll either love it or hate it, but it’s definitely a large part of the game to get into with a lot of end-game content and lots of rewards along the way.

Lastly, players are also able to create their own cards with the Public Card Tool. Others can comment on the design of the card and vote for its inclusion in the actual game. The developers regularly add in player-created cards to the game if they are balanced enough, so this is a pretty cool way for players to get directly involved in the game’s on-going development.  I love this because it helps players feel a sense of shared ownership in the future of the game.

Player Created Card

The ‘Public Card Tool’ provides a space for players to submit their own card ideas, and often these are actually implemented into the game if they are balanced enough.

Deckbuilding and Strategies

There are 6 distinct Factions in BattleCraft, including the sixth “Unaligned” Faction which can be mixed with any other Faction (and also contains its own Tribal deck based around Mercenaries). The Alliance are made up of human Knights, Warriors, Casters and the like. The Qabal are mysterious, magical and rogue-like people who enjoy using archery, stealth and magic. Chaos is full of demons, imps and devilish creatures. Twilight features creatures of the night: skeletons, ghosts, vampires and zombies. Lastly, Nature is full of beasts, treefolk, dryads and elven archers.

Cards have a Deck Point cost which they will add to the overall cost of the deck, and for some game modes you can not exceed a certain amount of DP. This helps balance the game a bit so that players will more powerful cards can’t just fill their deck with lots of strong Rares.

Most deck strategies work around synergies present in the Factions. A Support card will only work with a Character of the same Faction as the Support card, and sometimes Support cards are even restricted to sub-types such as Vampires or Imps only. However it is possible to mix Factions because occasionally they will work well together.

Some deck strategies focus heavily on a particular ability, such as Skeleton decks using the ‘Necros’ ability – when they die, they have a chance to be resurrected for a 1/3rd of energy. You might then want them to die and equip them with cards that give abilities when the Character dies, such as a boost of energy or healing adjacent Characters. Many abilities have the “Clan” keyword, which means that ability will only activate if you have another Character of the same clan on your side of the battlefield. Lots of decks utilize clan abilities in a tribal manner, boosting each other with health, attack increases and the like.

There is such a wide range of strategies, it would be difficult to mention them all. Whether you like control-type decks that stun and counter, or full-on aggro decks that attempt to deal lots of damage quickly, there’s something here for you to try out. I found the variety in the game to be diverse but balanced. Some deck types are naturally stronger against others, but that’s a part of the strategy of your Support cards and trying to counter what you may come up against.

Deck editing

An example of a Twilight deck being built using Vampires and Lycans.

Final Thoughts

BattleCraft is addictive. That much is certain. There is so much crafting, raiding and battling to be had here. I found the most addictive thing to be deck building and trying to come up with new ways to get value out of the cards I own. Since the deck sizes are rather small, it makes every card choice all the more important. Battles are short and sweet so you can easily play many games even within the space of 10-15 minutes.

The only downsides I can think of is that the grinding content of this game could turn some players away, but most things are available for currency as well. That may also lend to criticisms of pay-to-win, but since everything is available free if you earn it, I don’t think that would be a fair criticism. The nature of browser-based gaming is such that it is not as polished as other PC, console or mobile games usually, but if you’re willing to overlook that, you’ll find some great card art and a very clean, efficient user interface.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that the community around this game is just so incredibly friendly and helpful. Players are always willing to help newcomers to the game and even give them cards to get them started. I found the community to be one of the best things about this game and one of the main reasons why anyone interested should join up and start playing. The chat at the side of the window is always full of trades, raid links and general friendly discussion about the game.

If you’re looking for a more MMO-like trading card game experience, this is definitely one to try out.

For more screenshots, 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.

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