Kickstarter is an amazing platform for game creators to get their ideas out there and funded. I have been fortunate enough to back several campaigns that have resulted in some truly awesome gaming sessions with my friends. Many tabletop games that come from Kickstarter campaigns offer something new, unique, and different than the usual offerings from the major publishers. This is one such game.
Strife: Legacy of the Eternals (from here on I’ll just refer to the game as Strife) is a game that caught my attention in October of 2014. It is a two-player fantasy card game using tarot-sized cards and a perfect information mechanic — there is no randomness at all and both players have access to an identical hand of cards. The entire emphasis of the game is on strategy and deducing what card your opponent will play next, and then out-playing them with your card choice.
Now is a good time to check out the game, as the standalone sequel Strife: Shadows and Steam is currently on Kickstarter, sporting an awesome steampunk theme.
Is Strife: Legacy of the Eternals worth your time? Read on to find out…
Not many strategy card games use a perfect information mechanic. You would normally assume that giving your opponent access to the information about the cards you hold and those you have played would limit the strategic value offered by a game. In Strife, however, the reverse is true. Due to this, the game offers a completely different strategic depth not seen in other card games.
Both players start with the exact same deck of 10 Champion cards consisting of different classes that they use to contest Location cards, which score victory points when won. The rule set is concise with very little explanation needed before you can begin playing. That’s one of the things you’ll come to love about Strife – its overall simplicity while encouraging deep strategy.
Champion cards are numbered 0-9 and this number represents that Champion’s power in battle. There is more important information on the Champion cards that plays a huge part in the resolution of a battle, such as their Race, and Battle and Legacy abilities. The developers suggest playing a game without the Champion’s Battle Abilities in your first match so you can familiarize yourself with the phases and the flow of the game, which is probably a good idea.
You’ll have access to all of your Champion cards at any given time until they are played – so you never have to rely on a random draw to get the Champion you want or need. In order to contest a Location card, you will place your chosen Champion face-down in front of you, adjacent to the Location being contested. This is usually the farthest location from the Location deck. Both players reveal their champion at the same time and then it’s time to see if you made the right choice of Champion!
Strife’s Champions have two abilities that can often result in a Champion with a low power number beating one with a higher value. Your Champion’s Battle Ability will trigger during the Battle Phase. The Champion with the highest printed power will get to resolve theirs first, but this is where the intricacies of their abilities come into play. For example, one ability might bring a Champion back into play that was previously played, or it may be able to increase the Champion’s power based on the total number of cards you’ve played.
The Legacy Ability is a Champion’s second ability that influences the course of combat between the two opposing Champions. The difference with this ability is that it is not triggered from your newly face-up Champion, but from the topmost Champion in your Legacy Pile. The Legacy Pile is where your previously played Champions are placed at the end of the turn during the Clean-Up Phase. The Legacy Pile opens up a whole new world of possibilities and combos when combined with the Battle Ability of your face-up Champion in battle. It’s my favorite thing about this game, always forcing you to think not just about this turn, but the next turn ahead as well.
The depth of the strategy in Strife comes from drawing upon the abilities of two different Champions in separate locations. Not only that, but some Champions can alter the state or usability of these locations through their Battle or Legacy effects. So, despite having the perfect information about the Champions that have been played and the possible effects of a Location card, you will still find it difficult to predict your opponent’s next move!
What happens in the result of a tie, I hear you cry? Well, that’s been sorted too, with the inclusion of the Fatestone. This is a 12-sided die that is given to the first player with the highest printed power on the first turn. The player with the Fatestone loses all ties, but can pass the stone to the opponent in order to win the tie at the cost of increasing its value. This can be a risky play as the Fatestone is worth victory points equal to its face-up value at the end of the game. It adds another element of decision-making that I love in this game — do I want to win this tie so badly that I am willing to pass the Fatestone to get it?
Strife is not only beautifully simple yet deep, it also features some amazing artwork on its tarot-sized cards. I’ve always been a sucker for larger-sized cards because I have huge hands and I appreciate being able to see the card art in a bigger format. The sizing of the cards really shows off just how much detail has gone in to making it an all-round beautiful game to play. The flexibility in playing time is of great merit to the game too. You can play a single round if you’re short on time, or a full match of three rounds. Custom rules can be incorporated, such as the first to X points wins the game or reversing the purpose of the Fatestone. However you decide to play – you’re going to enjoy it!
THE STRATEGY BEHIND INFORMATION
Perfect information is not a brand new mechanic, but it is one that is definitely underused by card game developers (understandably, since it must be a nightmare to balance when playtesting). It is how the mechanic is used that makes all the difference in a game being flat or rich in strategic and rewarding gameplay.
Strife gets the balance just right and gives you the chance to try and deduce what your opponent’s next move will be, whilst taking a risk with your own play that may or may not work to your advantage. There is an element of Poker to Strife where you need to deduce from the information you have whether your next play will bring you victory or loss.
You can bluff your opponent into thinking you’re playing an optimum combo that turn in order to play an even better one on a subsequent turn. Hopefully, this will result in you gaining more points from a Location with a greater value than the one you gave up.
The Legacy Pile will often be the deciding factor, hence setting this up to support your strategy at each step throughout the game will be crucial to winning the Combat Phase and Location card victory points, as well as its possible effect. If your opponent has an effect you don’t like, then you should counter it with a Battle Ability that will negate the effect or completely change it to something that you know will not benefit your opponent.
As part of the perfect information mechanic, you will always be aware of the points your opponent has accumulated. This will help you strategize your moves according to the Location cards in play, those still available in the Location deck, and the Fatestone. Prioritizing which Champions you want to play and when will be pivotal in you coming away from the match victorious.
The amount of strategic depth offered by such a simple game should be impossible. Yet here we are, with a small box game that gives you plenty to think about. The small box makes the game highly portable and should be considered as an excellent companion for holidays, trips, and even as a game to bring round to a friend’s house for a quick battle.
There are plenty of ways you can enjoy playing Strife. There are additional cards that may be purchased that came with the original Kickstarter version. These add new effects and Locations into the game that keep it feeling like a fresh experience. If you can find the additional content, then I highly recommend you pick it up.
Strife really is a big game in a little box that you definitely need to add to your collection. It’s one of those games that gets deeper and richer the more you play with someone as your knowledge of the cards and their abilities becomes more intuitive. You might steamroll over any new person you play it with, though, so keep in mind your understanding of the game will be an advantage when teaching it to others.
This one gets two thumbs up from me.
For more screenshots, click here.
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