One of the main reasons I was excited for Gen Con this year was the announcement and showing of SolForge, a new digital card game from Gary Games. The game was shown for the first time on the Gen Con floor, and fans could come up and fully test the game on one of the provided iPad stands at the Gary Games booth. I was lucky enough to have a chance to demo the game with none other than Justin Gary himself, and it turned out to blow my mind even more so than I originally expected.
SolForge is a really quick, straightforward game. When I first read about the game I was confused on the endgame. There wasn’t anything explaining how you won or lost. Thankfully through the demo I learned much, and got to see how the mechanics worked together. In SolForge players each start out with 100 health points. They will draw a hand of five cards from their deck, and play two cards per turn, putting all of the un-played cards into their discard piles. Something that’s very unique about SolForge is that the cards you play have the ability to level-up. Each card has three levels, each one being more powerful than the last. Once you play a card from your hand, a leveled-up version of the card immediately goes into your discard pile.
Every four turns you will shuffle your discard pile into your deck and level-up. This allows you to play higher-level cards when they come available. In front of each player are five spaces, making a total of ten all together. These spaces are bunched in twos, which are called lanes. So, all in all there are five lanes total consisting of two spaces each, one on top and one on bottom. The cards that you play will be placed in whichever of your spaces you choose. This is something else that makes the game unique – it adds a location effect that changes up gameplay unlike any other card game out there.
The types of cards you’ll play will be creatures, spells, or structures. This is where the strategy and win condition come into play. Each type of card does something different, so I’ll get into each one on its own:
-have base strength and health
-some have abilities that are triggered
-can damage other creatures and your opponent
-can restore health to both creatures and the player
-can buff creatures
-offer added effects while in play
-can strengthen your lanes while hindering your opponent’s
Now that we’ve taken a look at each of the types of cards, let’s get into how they work together. Once you’ve played your two cards for the turn creatures on each side attack. Combat is simple: if a creature sits unopposed in a lane it attacks straight across, dealing damage to the opposing player’s health total. If a creature is opposed in a lane, the game will compare their strengths. The creatures deal damage in the amount of their strength to each other, and if the damage is higher than their health total they will perish. If not, they take the damage and it sticks – this means they don’t recover health until they are healed in some way. Once a player reaches or falls below zero health points they lose the game.
Turns will go back and forth as players play cards to bolster their advantage. One thing I noticed throughout the demo was that the cards for each player (as each player had a pre-constructed deck) were themed in some way. This plays into the fact that there will be different factions in the game that will have cards to play to their strengths. The game is quick, easy to learn, and hard to put down. I spoke with Justin while playing through the game as I hit some rough spots and he explained some things to me that helped make the game much more rounded out.
At one point I played several structures called Fire Field. This card says that at the beginning of each turn (mine and my opponent’s) opposing creatures in the lane in which Fire Field is placed will take 2 points of damage. I lined the board with these cards, making it difficult for my opponent to play anything. Once I leveled-up the higher levels of the card did even more damage. On top of this, I could still place creatures in the same lane as a Fire Field, adding to the traps that be. While playing through the game my opponent became stifled. Eventually he was able to make it through with large creatures that had been leveled-up, but before then I had control over the board.
I asked Justin about this situation and he explained that in the later versions of the game (remember the demo I was playing was in alpha) there would be specific removal spells. These cards could and would remove structures from the lane, offering a remedy for the traps I laid for my opponent. We discussed that there would be a number of different cards showing up in the final version, which helped make me even more excited to see the game.
Even though I lost my first match in SolForge it didn’t stop me from wanting more. I went back twice more to play the game, and my wife was even excited to get into it. SolForge is a fun game, and it looks amazing. The artwork and visuals look fantastic on the iPad, and it’ll only look better when the PC version is wrapped up. Right now the Kickstarter is still roaring, and I myself backed it at the convention. If you’ve yet to do so, make sure you get on the ball as soon as possible. The sooner the Kickstarter gets funded, the sooner we can play the game.