Hands-on with Malkyrs

France based company Malkyrs Studio has been working the next step in dueling trading card games, Malkyrs. They launched their Kickstarter campaign back in early December and was fully funded within three hours. But what makes this TCG so different from all of the others?

For starters, Malkyrs is a physical TCG that is played digitally by scanning physical near frequency communication cards into the game itself. Malkyrs comes with an NFC reader that connects to players’ PC or Mac and scans directly into the game. Alternatively players are able to use NFC enabled mobile devices to scan cards into the PC version of the game. Currently Malkyrs is in beta, but once the final version launches, it will also be available on Switch with the ability to scan cards with the Joy-Con controller.

Each card features beautiful full size illustrations highlighting the various races from the world of Malkyrs. All of the information needed to play the card is cleanly outlined at the top of the card. The icon on the far left indicates whether this card is an attack, block, spell, or upgrade. The card’s name is placed in the center for clarity. The number on the right is how many times that particular card can be played in a game. Each time it’s played, the total number of uses is displayed on the screen and once it’s maxed out that card is out of play for the rest of the game. There are a few exceptions to the use limit that are denoted by an ∞ symbol. These can be used as many times in a game as the player would like, but they are among the least effective cards. The pips above the use number is the action point cost to play the card.

The object of the game is to destroy your opponent’s champion by reducing their health down to zero. Players will go back and forth playing one action card at a time. The card’s effect is not immediately played, but instead the opposing player will have a chance to play their next card should they be able to counter or defend. But player’s will have to choose their plan of attack quickly as they only have thirty seconds to choose and scan their card, barring any special powers impacting the timer. As the effects of the cards aren’t printed on the cards themselves, pressing the space bar will enter a preview mode that will display the card’s effect prior to playing it.

At the beginning of each turn players gain two action points that they can choose to spend by playing a more costly card, or they can play a lower cost action or the champion’s special power and pool remaining action points for a more devastating attack later. As cards are chosen, they may inflict status tokens on the opponent. However, statuses in Malkyrs work a bit differently than players are familiar with.

Instead of bleed tokens causing damage after each turn or action, they simply stack onto the champion. Many actions can then be boosted by either consuming those tokens, or multiplying the effect of an attack by however many status tokens are on the opponent. Their efficacy is ultimately determined by familiar deck building strategies and how well a deck is designed around a given mechanic.

Each deck is constructed of ten cards and a hero. What makes the gameplay so different here from other deck building games is that you have complete access to deck at the start of the game and don’t have to worry about when your best cards will be drawn. As someone who has spent a lot of time playing Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone, and Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn over the years, I was surprised at how out of place I felt with the new approach. But I found it an equally refreshing change.

A great way to evaluate how effective your deck will be is to review how many cards you can play before they are all exhausted. The in-game deck creator will highlight a number of details as you build your deck including: the number of cards in your deck by rarity, the total number of cards in your deck, and how many turns your whole deck will last. Thankfully, the aforementioned ∞ cards prevent Malkyrs from essentially becoming a timed game.

Building a good deck with a good balance of upgrades matters quite a bit as much of dueling in Malkyrs is based on reacting to a previous move. Unlike playing multiple cards and wearing down a mana pool like other TCGs, you can only play one card at a time, potentially two if the first one has the Chain effect on it. This means that building up big combo attacks and spells will heavily depend on status tokens. Even with the few cards I have, I’ve only experimented with Infection and Bleed builds, but they’ve definitely proved effective as you can fairly quickly stack statuses and boost the power of future attacks.

But one of the most essential components of building a deck, is supporting your champion’s abilities. Malkyrs Studios graciously provided me with the Nevardie starter box and a few booster packs to experiment with. Nevardie is a goblin warrior champion who was raised from the dead. As a result, Nevardie has the special power of resurrection. While his health is low, he will automatically be resurrected and returned to full health for a second wind.

In order to capitalize on this ability, I included Malkyrian Touch into my deck. On the first use, Malkyrian Touch boosts Nevardie’s strength by three points but inflicts twenty-five damage on himself. The second and last time it’s used will remove two of every status token placed against him and heal twenty points. It’s quickly become one of my favorite cards to play. Just as Nevardie nears that first death, it’s a fun move to play Malkyrian Touch to kill him, gain the strength boost, and then hold onto the restorative power of the card until the very last minute, getting one last chance to claim victory.

Whether you win or lose, players are awarded with with favor, an in-game currency that can be used to upgrade cards. Champions on the other hand will grow naturally with time as they gain experience points after every duel. As champions grow, they unlock trait and equipment slots that can significantly alter their stats and further customize your deck.

For example, Nevardie has a trait called “Brutal” that increases his strength by a glorious six points for as long as the trait is equipped. But the trade off is that it will drop his resistance (defense) by six as well. Similarly, champions have room for two pieces of equipment that will also impact their stats and powers.

What’s interesting about this digital format for a physical TCG is that upgrades carry over on the card itself. If ever a card is traded, all upgrades will be traded with it to the new owner. As others begin to receive their heroes and starter boxes, I’ll be very interested to see how the trade economy develops and becomes impacted by upgraded cards and abilities.

Malkyrs is in active beta at the moment but I’ve been enjoying what’s available now.  Right now players will be able to  play against others online in a skirmish, user created tournaments, or even locally. Should you own enough cards to build two decks, players can use a single NFC scanner to compete against one another face to face. Once the game officially launches, there will also be a solo mode available for players to progress through and better learn the game before going head to head with a friend.

I do enjoy the thirty second time limits on each turn and it moves the game forward nicely. My concern is that in its current build, it can take a few seconds for the reader to properly scan a card. One particular hero has the ability alter your turn timer and force you to make faster plays. However, these duels find both parties at a disadvantage. When the NFC reader takes a few seconds to respond, it eats directly into the turn time and in some cases can be a significant downfall.

I’ve also come across a small hiccup where the language options don’t yet change everything. Malkyrs Studios’ primary language is French and while English exists in the current version, some text remains unchanged., including the daily quests that grant additional favor.

The final product is scheduled to be delivered in June of this year so there’s plenty of time to work out the kinks. I’m interested in seeing how Malkyrs continues to evolve over the next few months and see what the single player mode looks like. I’ve enjoyed the game as is and recently ordered another champion and a few more booster packs . If you’re interested in Malkyrs, the Kickstarter campaign is over but is still available in late pledge.

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