While at the peddler’s mall here in Lexington, I happened upon the starter set for the Maple Story iTCG and a few booster packs, so I picked them up. I used to have the game while it was in print until the cards met an unfortunate end under a soda spill. The game still appears to be selling on Amazon, so I figured a review might help people who are trying to decide if they are interested in the game. The game is based on an online multiplayer RPG that I have never played. Therefore, I won’t comment much on the tie-ins, and I do not know if the prize codes listed on the cards (which allow the player to have in game rewards) are still functional. The game has five sets, with each set adding something new to the game (boss monsters, pets, and NPCs for example). The bulk of my experience with the game has been with the initial set, so that is where my review is primarily focused. However, if you do enjoy the game, I would encourage you to look into the other sets.
I suddenly want to play Super Mario Bros.
The Maple Story iTCG (interactive trading card game) is a character based card game in which each player attempts to deplete the health of the opposing player. Each player chooses one character as a personal representative. These cards determine the players’ starting health and what innate abilities the characters have.
Characters represent the players and define their initial abilities.
During a player’s turn, they are first allowed to use one card from the hand to level up. Cards have abilities written on them at the bottom, and the card is placed under the character so that the ability is visible under the character. Then, the player uses character abilities from the top to bottom starting with the top built-in ability down through the last card used to level up the character. Before the turn ends, if the any monsters are in play, the monsters attack and then the turn passes.
Almost everything a character can do is linked to character abilities. This includes drawing a card, which can lead to confusion for people who are experienced with other card games where the convention is typically to draw at the beginning of a turn. Whether or not abilities can be used depends on the cards that have previously been used to level up the character. Abilities have a number (which is a multiple of ten) to represent the level a character needs to be to use them. A character’s level is the number of cards under him/her multiplied by ten. Symbols may also be used to indicate that the character needs specific colored cards (the game has four colors) to be under the character.
The non-character cards that make up a deck consist of tactics (one shot abilities), items (cards that stay in play and have an effect on the game), and monsters. Being able to play a card means using an ability that allows you to play the appropriate type of card at the appropriate level (which can be found in the upper left of the card). Monsters stay in play, can attack the opposing player each turn, and prevent 10 damage (damage is also done in multiples of ten) to its owner.
Here we have the emerald earrings. I have no idea what a bubblefish is, nor do I know what Zeta Residue is, but since it has no influence on the card game, I just ignore that stuff.
You’re either going to love or hate the art. It’s on the extreme end of cartoony and cute.
Now I want to play Dragon Quest.
The game is well designed overall and employs its ideas in interesting ways. The mechanics capture the idea of leveling up a character and learning new abilities. Each color does an excellent job of representing its respective character class. The cards are diverse enough to present a variety of deck building options, especially when you factor in that you can choose different characters and the game will play differently. However, the difference in power levels between characters can make some feel obsolete, and with only 96 cards in the first set (24 in each color) the number of available cards can feel limiting. (This problem can easily be fixed by incorporating the other expansions.)
The biggest problems with the way the game plays seem to be related to how damage is handled. Having high hp monsters on both sides of the field can cause the game to come to a halt, since each monster prevents 10 damage. Unlike many similar games, if either player isn’t killed, there isn’t a built-in end to the game, such as when an entire deck is drawn. This can result in a stalemate that drags on indefinitely.
Also, the individual characters seem imbalanced. The starter deck comes with two characters and suggests you break the deck in half for two players. The green half seems to perform consistently worse than the blue half. The blue deck has better monsters and an intrinsic ability to play them, while the green character specializes in direct damage. The green deck may not be able to deal enough damage to directly deal with blue’s monsters, which puts it at a disadvantage. Outside of the starter deck, this appears to extend to the individual characters. Some characters get quest at level 10, while others need to wait until 20. In card games, the cards represent your options, so if a character is short a card, they need a pretty impressive ability to compensate, which the characters with a delayed ability to draw do not seem to get. Also, mages (red) specialize in drawing and thieves (grey) specialize in discard giving them more options. Each non-green color specializes in a card type as well (red: tactics, grey: items, and blue: monsters), while green specializes in direct damage. Because of the importance of monsters, blue’s specialization in monsters works to its favor, but green doesn’t have much going for it. In other words, three of the four colors are balanced. While players can compensate by including other colors in their decks, the starting abilities of the characters can decide the game before it even starts.
The game is fun and makes use of the concept of leveling quite well. There are some balance issues, but as long as both players have access to cards of similar power levels, the issues can be circumvented by playing two decks of similar power levels against each other. If after looking at the art and reading a description of the game, you think it sounds like fun, you will probably enjoy it. I recommend anyone considering the game to pick it up if they can get it cheaply. However, I wouldn’t recommend spending the effort and money to completely fill out a collection.
Pros: Fun execution of the concept of an RPG battle.
Cons: Characters are unbalanced. Only 96 cards in initial set.
Copyright for The Maple Story iTCG is owned by Wizards of the Coast and Nexon entertainment, Super Mario Bros. is owned by Nintendo, and Dragon Quest is owned by Square Enix.