PoxNora, An In-Depth Review

Gameplay: 8/10
Sounds: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10

Fantastic card art. | Very large pool of cards to play with so there's a lot of strategy.

Graphics starting to look a little dated.

PC, Mac, Linux.

Free to play, with in-game purchases.

August 1,2006


There’s been a large update to the game! Read the Large Update section below.

PoxNora is a turn-based tactical strategy game with TCG elements set in a rich fantasy world. PoxNora was first released for PC back in 2006 and quickly became a fan favorite for its blend between card games and turn-based strategy.

With its recent release on Steam, PoxNora is experiencing a revival – but how does it stand up in today’s crowded market? Read on to find out…


Combat mostly takes place across these sprawling, painted battlefields. Champions move across the screen to capture Nora Fonts and attack opposing Champions.


In PoxNora, both you and your opponent have a Shrine that must be protected. Cards are called Runes, and you’ll have a deck full of Champions, Spells, Relics and Equipment. The aim is to destroy the opposing Shrine to win the match. To aid you in this venture, you will cast your Runes using Nora, the resource you’re fighting for in the world.

To collect Nora you’ll need to capture Nora Fonts scattered around the battlefield. At the start of each turn you’ll be given access to more Runes from your deck. You’ll need as much Nora as possible to put your bloodthirsty Champions onto the field, so capturing as many Nora Fonts as possible is paramount in winning the resource war during a match. More resources means more Champions on the field.

Once your Champions are on the field, you can command them to perform actions at the cost of AP (Action Points), which your Champions will gain at the start of each turn. AP is used to move, attack and use any special abilities that the Champion may have. As you play and progress your Champions gain experience and level up outside of the match. When they level up, they permanently gain more health and attack points.


Securing Nora Fonts as quickly as possible is a key part of being victorious in PoxNora. This will allow you to cast more Runes than your opponent and ultimately overwhelm them with your Champions.

Your Spells, Equipment and Relics serve as aids to your Champions, or to damage and hinder the opponent. Relics have special passive abilities that do not cost Nora. These can range from making your casting area for Champions larger, allowing you to get close to your enemy’s Shrine, or perhaps even gaining back Nora when certain Spells or Equipment are cast.

From the outset, PoxNora reminds me of classic tactical PC games from the past such as Command & Conquer and Dungeon Keeper, but with a turn-based style of gameplay instead. Its interface and graphical approach feels both nostalgic and familiar; the recognizable functionality of it all made it easier to learn the game’s systems. I didn’t have any trouble at all picking up the basics of the game quickly and found myself fully immersed within its world in no time.


All modes can be accessed through the Launchpad. From here you can play in single-player campaigns or multiplayer PvP battles. You even have the option of observing battles already in progress which can be fun to jump in and watch others play.

Modes and Features

In PoxNora, there are a number of modes and features worth exploring. Not all are based in the game’s downloadable client, which means you’ll be required to visit the website in order to use them. Not all modes are open from the start, either. You’ll need to complete walk-through campaigns in order to progress to the story campaigns. You can see this from the Launchpad and it tells you what you need to do in order to unlock the next tier.

As you begin the game, you’ll be asked to delve into a Tutorial mode. I would suggest that you go through this as it is the best way to get a feel for the game. Once completed, you’ll earn some gold and other rewards. From there you can move on to other modes. The walk-through campaigns are easy and have the added reward of a Public Deck upon completion of that faction. There are 8 in total and it’s a great way to start your collection of Runes. Once you’ve mastered these, the next stage of campaigns will open up which will pose a bit more of a threat.


Story campaign missions sometimes have unique victory conditions, but otherwise you just have to destroy all of the enemy’s Champions or their Shrine to complete them.

The story mode is an interesting series of campaigns. There are a number to play through immediately and as you play, you’ll level up your Runes and earn Gold after completing each campaign. Before you take these on, you can choose from one of your unlocked decks, or others that require purchase. You can unlock more campaigns through the marketplace for either gold earned in game or Owl Credits which are premium currency. These campaigns are tough, but are a great practice for PvP matches, where you’ll end up once you’re confident enough to take on real people.

PvP appears to be the main appeal of PoxNora and therefore all the other modes serve as great practice, such as the Skirmish mode. PvP comes in a few flavors, so you won’t have to play people with mightily powerful decks right from the start. You also need to, once again, play each mode at least once to unlock the next tier on your Launchpad. For example, your first PvP match will be unranked, much like the subsequent Casual PvP match. Once you’ve either won or lost these, you can dive right into ranked games.

The Marketplace is the main hub of all purchases through the game. Here you can buy single packs, decks, avatars, tokens, campaigns and more. With the number of expansions already released for PoxNora there are a plethora of cards to acquire. There are two resources that are used to purchase items: Gold, acquired through gameplay and Owl Credits.


Deck building is done through the website. This makes it quick and easy to add your Runes to the deck. You can also manage, buy, sell and trade your Runes through the in-game Marketplace.

Deckbuilding and Strategy

As for deck crafting in PoxNora, this is done through the website rather than the client. At first it was confusing to not have it built-in, but when you realize that there are over 900 highly detailed, beautifully drawn cards (or Runes), perhaps they’re trying to keep down the download size of the game’s client by not including these functions. The deck creation screen lets you narrow your search for types of Runes by specific statistics, values, rarity and more. Once you’re happy with your deck, you can name it and take it into battle.

From the site, you can also view your Runes through the Rune Manager and see them at a glance in more detail than is available in the client. You can buy, sell and trade Runes in the marketplace from here as well. You can also forge new Runes of the same type by sacrificing those you don’t need. You can also level up your Runes by spending tokens acquired from the marketplace. The Rune Checklist lets you see what you’re missing. This is an easy way to find out what crucial Runes you need to finish of a deck.


The latest packs can only be purchased with the premium currency, meaning you’ll have to put some money into the game to get access to these newer Runes.

PoxNora as a fully-fledged TCG is rich in strategy and will take time to master, from building the right deck, to correct deployment and spell casting. What I found is that in a match, you need to get to a Nora Font as soon as possible – having Champions in your deck with a high Speed is crucial to early-game Nora generation. From here you’ll want to deploy a few more Champions for offence and defense. You can then either rush your opponent’s Shrine, or go for the additional Nora Fonts so that you can out-resource your opponent and bring more Champions to the field.

Another cool tactic is to not always go to your enemy, but rather force them to come to you. This will save your AP and allow for more actions and more attacks when they reach you. It’s always a good idea to get in two attacks to each single one of theirs if you can.

There are also Champions and Relics available that’ll heal your Champions when brought into play, or by using abilities. So don’t be afraid to take a couple of hits. Even if your units die, they’ll only be on a cool down timer and will be able to be recast later. The same is applicable to Spells, Relics and Equipment.


With amazing card art and a fantasy realm deep in war, you will no doubt find yourself fully immersed in PoxNora’s immersive setting.

Large Update!

PoxNora is a quiet sleeper hit, and it just keeps on going, unfortunately without much fanfare or publicity. I reviewed this title not too long ago whilst it was still under the ownership of Sony. The developers, Desert Owl Games, have just regained full control over their title and have released a new expansion pack, Path of De’lim. This is the 26th (yes, there have been that many!) expansion pack for the title, and it brings about some of the changes that fans have been desiring for a long time.

42 new Runes and 16 revised versions of existing Exotic Runes have been added to the game. With these new Runes come new abilities for the Champions contained within, and these are all new effects that have enhanced the gameplay further. New campaigns have been added to the game too, including a premium purchasable campaign that will test your skill and all the old decks you might have stored away after being on a break from the game.

All new Heroic Achievements have been added to the game and have been designed to reward long-term players. There are four long-term achievements in total that will reward players with in-game currencies of Gold and Shards. There are over 20 Heroic Achievement sets in total, so there are plenty to aim for!


The card art on the new Champions fit right in with the rest of the game, and they are frankly quite beautiful to look at!

As with any new expansion you can expect to see new booster packs and other items added to the in-game marketplace. The new cards look great and will definitely boost your deck in all the right ways. People are still working out the best combos and deck strategies, so there is still time to learn it all and get some surprise wins in there before the new meta is worked out. You can buy single packs, boxes, and even a mega box. The bigger purchases also come with free Shards, so if you’ve got the funds you might as well buy big! I loved the new addition to the story of PoxNora too, as this is an ever-changing world shaped by the players after all.

For competitive players who favor PvP and PvE match modes they can expect some new map rotations. These are in addition to the current rotation for even more variety. Ranked play has received some tweaks to the scoring too. Now players will have a new set minimum gain and loss for wins and losses, respectively. However, perhaps the biggest changes have come in the form of the effects that the Runes carry. Costing, power, duration, and a whole host of other things have changed. So many in fact that I really get the sense that now that Desert Owl Games have their title back, they really want to keep it that way.


I’ve enjoyed playing through the new campaign, as it gives new life to one of my old favorite CCGs. The new lore is interesting to read and if you’re a fan of the PoxNora world, you’ll love it.

Desert Owl Games seem to have been listening to their fans for a long time and have delivered a multitude of changes that are sure to show just how much they love their game. One thing I found when I picked this game up again to check out the updates was just how many people were online at any one time. The numbers have swelled far beyond what I had witnessed the first time around, and the new campaigns are a lot more fun to play as well. They’re exceedingly challenging and I found myself having to find even more competent deck lists than mine on the internet because I’d lost so often!

In summary, this update feels like a new lease of life for PoxNora. In the past, Sony appeared to just let the developers release new content, but constrained them on a great many other things. Sony let the game deliver them a little bit of income from premium purchases every now and again but since the developers have retained their rights to the game, they’ll be much less constrained from now on. I’m excited about the future of PoxNora and will continue to play through the campaigns in this expansion, seeking out new card combos and powerful deck ideas.

Final Thoughts

PoxNora is a highly polished and sophisticated player experience. The style of strategy needed in the game gets you thinking several moves ahead and you often feel like you are playing a Tactical RPG instead of a more traditional card game. With a selection of difficulty modes for the campaigns and a casual element to the PvP, it will cater for all audiences, be they hardcore or casual. If you want a more challenging experience, you can go for it; equally, if you want a slower paced easier experience, you can play at that level also.

The world itself is rather immersive with its very strong fantasy theme that has been developed over a number of years since the game’s original release. I loved the artwork on the Runes as they are a Magic: The Gathering digital painted style that I find very appealing. I had hoped the sprite animations to be a little more satisfying, but they are functional and serve their purpose well enough. Another little gripe is the fact that they could have put more detail into the Champion models. Their movement has no animation and they simply glide along their movement path which breaks the sense of immersion a little bit. However this is just an aesthetic thing and does nothing to deter from the gameplay.

The enduring success of PoxNora will likely continue to grow due to its cult following and expanding fan base, especially since the Steam release will bring in a whole new wave of players discovering it for the first time. It is most definitely a great time to get into this game as new updates and Rune sets are arriving periodically which change and evolve the meta-game. Check it 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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