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The Nerdcore Medical crew is at it again. After the original Healing Blade card game, which introduced us to the mythical world of Soma, creator Arun Mathews, M.D., has joined forces with game designer Brandon Patton and artist Raul Gonzalez in creating Healing Blade: Defenders of Soma. The Kickstarter launched a little over a week ago and is roughly two-thirds of the way to being fully funded. $12 US nets you a print-and-play version of the game, while just $22 adds a physical copy of the game. Add-ons include artwork posters, as well as the result of Nerdcore’s previous Kickstarter, The Bacterionomicon, a mythical bestiary showcasing the artwork and world building from the original Healing Blade game.
Described as an “asymmetrical fantasy card game,” Defenders of Soma pits the forces of the Apothecary Healers – based on real-world antibiotics – against the dark forces of the Lords of Pestilence – creatures symbolic of naturally occurring bacteria – with the lives of meeple villagers hanging in the balance. The player controlling the Lords of Pestilence uses cards drawn from several decks of bacterial pathogens in an attempt to kill non-player “villagers.” The Apothecary Healers attempt to maim or kill the bacterial agents of the Lords of Pestilence, freeing the villagers from the pall of disease and death. The full rule set and game balance are still being fine-tuned, but the current iteration gives me lots of hope that this game will be a household favorite.
As a physician married to a pharmacist, the idea that your average gamer may one day understand why he shouldn’t take antibiotics for his head cold excites me to no end. I’ve been playing an early prototype with the aforementioned pharmacist, and not only did I refresh my knowledge of bacterial pathogens and antibiotics, but I had tons of fun doing it. On the surface, this game may look like a slightly nerdy take on good versus evil. In reality Defenders of Soma incorporates basic microbiology, pathology and pharmacology with a strategic understanding of the appropriate and judicious use of antibiotics.
You don’t have to be a scientist or doctor to enjoy the game mechanics or the amazing artwork, but biology students may understand more of the subtext involved. Resistance mechanisms ‘evolve’ as Apothecary Healers are over-used, thus encouraging players to use their antibiotics wisely. The forces of Pestilence and the Apothecaries have access to special abilities based on the real-world properties of bacteria and antibiotics as well, giving the game a subtle multi-layered strategy.
This game combines a solid asynchronous deck dueler with a well-rounded and accurate teaching aid, wrapped up in a beautifully illustrated package. Game mechanics give great replay potential, and the integration of even advanced concepts in microbiology makes this an excellent tool for learning or reviewing. Visit the Healing Blade: Defenders of Soma Kickstarter page for more details.