Battlegrounds of Eldhelm, An In-Depth Review

7.8 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 8/10
Sounds: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10

Unfamiliar mechanics add new twists to the old TCG formula. | Fun card collection mechanic.

High levels of randomness may turn off some players.

PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Browser-based.

Free to play with in-game purchases.

December 18,2012

English, Bulgarian, Russian, German, Frech, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Slovak, Hungarian, Czech, Turkish, Indonesian, Japanese, Chinese, Hebrew

Battlegrounds of Eldhelm is a fantasy roleplaying trading card game mixing elements of both TCGs and RPGs (roleplaying games). Taking such an innovative approach to card game design, Battlegrounds of Eldhelm allows you to create a unique character with stats that increase over time as you level up.

You are then able to spend points on altering your character in a way that directly affects your ability to play the core TCG, such as drawing and playing more cards and with higher costs as your character develops. There is a single-player campaign as well as a range of casual and competitive multiplayer modes.

But does this blend between RPG character development and traditional TCGs work? Read on to find out…

New character select

It all starts with your initial selection of race and then class. These come with their own unique sets of cards.

Gameplay

Players start off by creating a Hero according to their choice of race, between Orc, Human and Elf, and then class – the Orc only has Warrior, but the Human and Elf races have two classes each. Humans have Rogues and Knights whereas Elves have Archers and Keepers (a magic-based class). Each class has access to their own range of unique cards to play with.

You then get to customize your character’s artwork with weapons, clothing and alternative items. This is a really nice feature that lets you add your own touches to your character, but it would be better if your gender was able to be selected as well. Nevertheless, after your character is created, you can launch right in to the single-player campaign and complete quests.

Players take turns being the offensive or defensive player which changes the flow of the game from the usual “single turn” game flow of most TCGs.

The actual gameplay itself takes the form of a traditional style TCG with some very unique adaptations and innovations. Players largely do not have their own fully customized and completed decks (they somewhat do, but I’ll get to that in a minute). There is a central deck that is random, with draws being rigged to ensure that they are relevant to your class when you draw from it. There are also set percentages which govern the rarity of the card you will be drawing, so sometimes you’ll be more or less likely to draw Epics and Rares over Normals depending on this “drop rate”.

Drawing cards this way is actually the method of card discovery and acquisition, as you’ll be able to play them later on in your collector’s deck which is an alternate deck you can draw from during your Draw Phase. This is one of the most unique things about the game that makes it a new and rewarding RPG experience as well as a TCG.

When the cards are drawn into your hand, you go through these phases – Draw, Equip, Attack/Defense (depending on whose turn it is), and Discard. Equipping cards places them next to your character card and you can only have one equipped card. It usually has a duration and provides an effect over a number of turns. You have an amount of energy (depending on your character’s level and how many points you spend on boosting their maximum energy limit) and this refreshes each turn. Some cards give you energy or take it away from your opponent for a number of turns.

combat-resolution

The way an attack/defense round is resolved, with all attacks, blocks, multipliers and so on accounted for. Damage and healing are dealt at the same time for both players.

The Attack/Defense zone only has space for two cards per player, so you’ll need to select cards carefully. Cards will have attacks, blocks, heals, block-negation and all sorts of other effects, so it becomes mostly about short-range tactics rather than long-range strategy. Do I block most of the incoming attack, or focus on a counter-attack of my own because their health is low?

It’s these kinds of decisions that happen over the course of a game and it feels a lot more blow-by-blow than other TCGs that have permanent creatures and such. You also have a one-time-use card linked to your race and class combination. This is really powerful which is why it can only be used once per match, so the timing of its use is important.

After attacking, you get a chance to discard one card (unless you’ve increased the size of the discard zone, which is possible through cards) and this helps clear space in your hand to draw more cards next turn and fill it back up. Your hand size amount also varies depending on how you’ve spent points on enhancing your character when they level up.

You get to draw a few cards each turn, which helps things move along and prevents the kind of “top deck” stalemates seen in lots of other single-draw TCGs.

So how well does this all work in practice for Battlegrounds of Eldhelm? It’s all very interesting, with a unique take on attacking and player interaction, but it sometimes can feel a little too slow to get going. Matches coming to a stall can be frustrating as you sort through lots of random draws trying to get the thing you need the most right now: health, energy increase, defense, attack… usually drawing everything except what you really want right in that moment!

That said, even though the randomness is quite high, there is a greater emphasis on resource management and learning when to play cards or not as well as using your precious discard to sort through cards quicker. This makes it all the more an even playing field when playing with others as the controlled randomness leads towards a more skill-driven style of play rather than who has the most and/or best cards.

The world map where you attempt to complete unique quests.

Modes and Features

Battlegrounds of Eldhelm‘s single-player campaign has a lot of quests for you to complete, with an increasing level of difficulty over time. However, your character earns XP and is able to increase their stats with a measurable effect on gameplay such as maximum health and energy amounts, your added might and regeneration, etc. This really helps create a sense of development and progression between games which you don’t get with most TCGs that start and finish with the same amount of actions and abilities available to each player.

There is also a list of “skills” you can train your character in, provided you have the gold cost and the minimum level requirement to do so. These add and increase a whole range of in-game effects, such as increasing your collector deck size, increasing the amount of gold and XP you get from quests, and so on. It’s great to have these supporting layers to the core game and they really help flesh out more of the RPG-feel they are going for here.

There are a few different multiplayer modes to sink your teeth into as well. The Arena provides a level playing field by removing a lot of the additional character stats and focusing more on the random draw deck. In practice this makes the game a lot more random and a case of whoever can draw the right combination of cards, in my opinion. You can directly challenge other players to play with your fully developed character and this may be more desirable for a lot of players.

There is also a “Slay the Beast” mode which functions as a kind of world boss that everyone can attempt to take down together. This is quite fun and is a nice little side distraction from the other game modes. Guilds are also available if you want a more social dimension to the game.

collected-cards

As you draw cards from the random pile during games, you’ll get to keep them permanently at the end if you played them during the match. These can then go into your collector deck for future games.

Deckbuilding, Strategy and Tips

Another of the more unique aspects to this game is card combos, which provide an effect in addition to the sum of the parts when they are played together. This kind of thing isn’t really possible in a paper TCG without extra lists and resources, which is why it hasn’t really been done before. However Battlegrounds of Eldhelm is able to utilize the digital space to provide this kind of feature and it’s really a welcome addition to the genre, adding another layer of depth to deckbuilding and gameplay.

Each card has a combo page that you can access which shows you if it has any unique interactions with other cards. When played together, these cards will gain an even greater boost or additional effect.

Since a lot of the cards you will be drawing (at least to begin with) are completely random, it’s hard to craft a deck that will suit all purposes and situations. While your character is still growing in strength, you’ll have to start with a limit of 10 cards in your collector deck. The way to get cards into this deck is from the ones you find during gameplay. This is definitely one of the most unique things about this TCG, and it’s a really interesting system, but it means you’ll have to think differently about how to proceed constructing a deck.

You could design the deck to be multipurpose, but this increases the risk of drawing cards you don’t need at the current time. If you find you are struggling with a certain aspect of gameplay, such as low energy levels, lack of defense cards and so on, you could tailor the collector deck to have just these kinds of cards so when you draw them you’ll definitely get something that is useful in the immediate situation.

One of the most helpful things about the deck editing layout is the drop down menu that lets you sort cards by their specific effects. This is quite detailed and so you can get very specific if you want to tailor your deck towards a particular kind of strategy such as restricting your opponent’s energy and draw count. Since the collector deck doesn’t have to be at the full amount of cards, you can just put in a lower amount of cards to ensure the draws you want.

This kind of feature in a TCG is always incredibly helpful when deck editing. It’s surprising that more TCGs don’t use this kind of feature also.

Final Thoughts

The artwork in Battlegrounds of Eldhelm is fantastic and really worth pointing out as a highlight. Every card has beautiful, hand crafted art and the overall design and presentation is extremely well done. The fact that it is available on so many different platforms goes to show how serious the developers are in making this an accessible, widespread experience for players to enjoy.

The gameplay itself is quite unique even amongst TCGs, which is becoming harder to do these days in a crowded market full of clones with similar mechanics. I applaud the developers for attempting to do something different. Likewise, the roleplaying game aspects work quite well I think, and the ability to develop your character in ways that directly affect the core gameplay is something that I think really will appeal to a lot of people who love both RPGs and TCGs.

It must also be mentioned that you can play this game quite extensively without pouring any money into it, and this is something that is harder to do these days as well. The developers provide a fair balance between free-to-play opportunities and enticing you into spending cash on the game with lots of goodies and extras. The fact that you can play entirely without money however shows that they are serious about their product and that they think people will enjoy it so much that they will want to put money into the game of their own accord. It’s a bold move and I think it will pay off in the end.

The core TCG gameplay is going to either attract or repel players and it’s hard to say, given that it takes the TCG formula and turns it on its head entirely. There is more randomness involved, but I actually find this exciting rather than frustrating; although I know lots of other people have said the opposite. It really will be a matter of personal preference as to how you feel about this mechanic, so I suggest you give it a go at least and see what you make of it. It’s such a unique way of handling a TCG system that it’s worth checking out for that reason alone.

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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