Collectable and tradable card games (CCG/TCG) have been with us for a very long time. The first most people might recall having a huge popularity is Magic: The Gathering. Today, I’m going to bring you into a virtual version of a TCG called Kings & Legends—currently in closed beta—published by Just a Game. As you might expect, much of the game is played based on a deck of cards, your deck of cards, from which you draw your spells and monsters.

K&L is a Flash-based browser game that will run pretty much on any system; and it’s also free-to-play which means that if you have the time to play and have interested in a CCGMMO, it’ll be a good one to jump into when you have the time. From what I’ve seen so far from playing is that there’s a combination between a PvE quest-chain and a PvP battle system. Most CCG revolve entirely around the concept of dueling other people so chances may be that the PvE system is a tack-on for casual players interested in upping their deck strength or their skills (or just don’t have anything they’re interested in playing against at the time.)

From what I’ve seen, it’s a characteristically good game developed around the CCGMMO template that also collides with the Flash-based motif of “set the stage and let it go.” The cards are used to select and deploy soldiers onto the field, deck building and card choice during a battle provide the strategy, and there’s a few other elements that set it apart from games of a similar stripe.

So, come along with me and let’s take a look at what this game is like under the hood.

Sound and Graphics: Flash-based Game That Doesn’t Do a Half-Bad Job of Presenting Battles

This is a Flash-based browser game and as a result the graphics and sound aren’t going to be AAA quality; but nobody is expecting that from a browser game. If you enjoy the Warlords or Might & Magic Tactics style games the graphics will suit you perfectly well and I think that it’s a credit to the game’s artists that they made a game that hits on all the aesthetics that I expect in a game that revolves largely around strategy.

So far, I’ve seen dozens of different cards with full artwork, interesting-enough animations when they’re charging across the field, and multiple enemies. There’s even more than enough special animations that trigger when attacks happen (although they’re usually exactly the same) and I even know now how to recognize special triggers—such as vigilance, which permits an attacker to hit enemies behind them or in adjacent lanes.

The battles are therefore real enough to keep my attention and I’ve found myself watching them intently to hope for the proper outcome—the one in which I win.

The music is relatively repetitive (and there’s two songs that I heard constantly.) It’s not bad, but chances are you’ll get to the point where you’ll turn it off because it’s the same thing over and over. Expect a very thematic fantasy song that sounds like it’s got a lot of piano and synthesized chimes. Fortunately, it’s easy to turn down sound as needed (or off entirely.)

As for sounds during combat, I have to say they’re extremely lacking. The game sounds are okay per se, but attacks all have the same swoosh sound for melee attacks and arrows all prong when they fire. During any given battle you’ll hear this sound over and over and over—ad nauseam. Not that this isn’t something that we already experience in MMOs, it’s just greatly compounded by the turn-based function where I’m not part of the battle directly except for deciding where cards go.

Gameplay: Good Ole TCG Tactics Combined with a Functional and Workable Item System

While this game is played like a CCG, the player has a class they can choose: Warrior, Ranger, Mage, or Cleric. This choice enables them to use in-combat abilities that affect the tide of battle when cards are being placed and monsters and soldiers are advancing.

The cards are played onto a battlefield where they become attackers walking down a lane. Each card has  the obvious attributes of attack and health; then there’s attributes that change the distance it can walk each turn (advancing towards the enemy) and how far it can attack. Melee range is about two squares, whereas archers can fire a much further distance. There’s also cards with armor or the ability to greatly reduce incoming damage.

The general (or hero) has health themselves and can be struck by oncoming attackers if they make it all the way across the battlefield unopposed.

There are multiple lanes of attack and since the heroes themselves have health, it’s possible to run an attacker up one lane and kill the enemy hero even if they have attackers in the field. This lends a bit to the strategy and decision making in the game. While normal battles seem to only use two lanes, sometimes there’s elite (or special quest battles) that use three lanes, but those often come with an NPC to help you out.

For the most part the CCG element adds a random shuffle factor into what cards appeared in my hand at the beginning of the battle so it meant that building an appropriate deck became important. For my class, I chose a mage because I wanted some of the direct battlefield damage and wondered if there might be some crowd control or debuffs coming along the way. My first ability—a fireball—was another card that was shuffled into the deck.

Players will also receive weapons and armor through the game that change health, outgoing damage, and other attributes during play. I suspect that the weapons/armor that heroes wear serve a purpose for grinding and seeing the effects of marching through the levels. Of course, having level appropriate armor (and looking good wearing it) is important; but it all comes down to good card choices in the deck.

Interestingly, while the battles can be played manually—I chose the cards—there is also an option to let the computer choose my cards for me. I did that more than once and it’s not always that smart about it; but it makes for a good way to pass the time if I felt too lazy to pick the cards myself.

The game has a large number of quests for conquering NPCs to get used to the game; but the real meat likely rests in PvP—it’s easy to form lobbies and find other players to battle against with your deck and layout. In fact, this is the entire idea behind most CCG and trading card games on the market (that this game mimics as an MMO.) Although it’s possible to play this game day in and day out PvE; the real competition and potentially fun will come from dueling other players.

Freemium: A Fairly Standard Shop Expected on a TCG Game

Kings & Legends is a TCG game so the first thing you might expect is that the shop attached will be all about the cards. Well, the game is still in beta, so it’s hard to say exactly where it’s going to go—but what’s currently available is a system that allows players to buy their way into better decks as they level through the game using the microtransaction and in-game currency of gold.

There are four packs total, but bigger-badder packs do not become available until the player levels up; but they do cost gold. Of course, some of them also cannot be unlocked until the player gains particular VIP levels that are accessed via receiving more gold (VIP1 appears at 100 gold received.)

Players can buy gold outright after the closed beta finished up, but during the beta the only way to receive gold is by winning in-game events. There is a highly exhaustive quest system that doubles up as a daily-do-this and part of the tutorial system to get players used to the game. Also, I believe that gold might fall out of daily quests and the grab-bag that appears for players.

As the game advances we might see players being able to trade gold between each other for cards—after all, TCG are all about trading cards and sometimes money for cards. This would enable the game to be freemium without the stink of pay-to-win because it would mean that players themselves would receive cards and then use them in the internal economy themselves and not buy them from the game itself.

Conclusion: If You’ve Played a TCG Game Before, This One is Simple But Strategic

This is just a first impressions, so there’s a lot of this game that I haven’t covered yet—for example, players also essentially have a kingdom. In this part of the game, players can build up facets of their kingdom to upgrade buildings, prepare defenses, and all of this leads to a sort of Civilizations vibe attached to the CCG element. As I advanced in level as a player, more buildings became unlocked—starting with the guild hall (enabling me to join a guild.)

The Challenge Hall opened up next, and that opened up PvP matches (although I was getting invites prior to its opening.)

This game seems to already have a very strong community in there and once I gained access to the PvP content, I was getting into a lot of potential duels.

Looking at the daily rewards, it’s obvious that people who keep coming back will keep receiving cards—the 5 day award is a high level card—and thus can quickly build up a deck that’ll serve them well. Of course, continuing to play will award them with even better cards and thus give a reason to keep coming back.