I had the chance to stop by the Gary Games booth at Gen Con today and chat with Justin Gary himself, former Magic: The Gathering pro tour champ and company founder. Gamers packed the booth, playing the company’s first game, the fantasy deck-builder Ascension, and checking out demos of their upcoming virtual collectible card game SolForge, for which they’re running a Kickstarter drive right now. They ran the game on a set of eight iPads they bought for the show, and it looks fantastic.
Justin sat down with me and showed me the iOS game — designed by Richard Garfield, the creator of the first collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering — which seems to be nearly ready to ship. The interface is smooth and easy to use, almost intuitive. With little to no instruction at all, I was able to jump in and start playing right away. Justin showed me how the game has a great amount of complexity but that it’s layered to allow novices to join the fun right away and then learn better strategies as they played.
You play draw five cards and play two each round, putting them into any of five columns. Creatures fight against opposing creatures in their column, and unblocked creatures damage your avatar, chipping away at your hit points. At the end of each round, you discard your cards and draw a new hand.
Many creature cards have three levels of power. When you play the card at its 1st level, the game puts the 2nd level of that card into your discard pile. You reshuffle your discard pile into your draw pile every few hands so that you can bring those more powerful cards into play.
“The game is entirely free to play,” Justin said. “If you want to, you can buy booster packs and starter decks in the game, but if you have the time, you can just unlock them through regular play.”
We played the pass-and-play version of the game, but it also supports online play, campaign play, and tournament play. Best of all for busy people, game play is asynchronous, which means you can play a hand whenever you have the time and then wait for your opponent to do the same.
The company is looking for $250,000 for its Kickstarter, but they’ve clearly already pumped a lot of their own money into the game’s development. They’ve hired on an in-house staff to handle the development, including people with lots of experience on games like Triple Town (another wonderful game) and more. The money will go toward polishing the game and developing the backend structure necessary for such an ambitious undertaking. They already plan to have both PC and iOS versions of the game, with an Android version set as a stretch goal for the Kickstarter.
All backers who donate $25 or more to the Kickstarter by this Monday, August 20, get a free bonus starter deck for the game, in addition to any other rewards, so if this sounds like fun to you, get in now. I’m placing my pledge today.
Disclaimer: I’ve known Richard Garfield for many years and love his games.