Review – Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions
Making a card game spinoff of a popular franchise has been a go-to money making method for a while now. That it’s taken this long for Warhammer to try their hands at a licensed CCG surprises me greatly. Even more so is the quality of the end product, which bears no resemblance to the Hearthstone clone many would expect. As a matter of fact, Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions in general is a strong departure from the standard digital card game in all the right ways.
The gameplay is simple. You and your opponent both start the game with a deck representing one of the four Grand Alliances, your choices being Order, Chaos, Destruction, and Death. Representing your faction are four Champion cards which you take turns placing on the board. You then take turns either playing a card from your hand or skipping in order to draw from your deck. Cards include spells, units, and actions cards that do anything from rearranging your champions to directly damaging your opponent.
What’s different here is how each card functions after being played. At the corners of most cards are circles containing values. Every turn that card is on the board, it rotates clockwise to the next circle and does something (or nothing) depending what’s inside. For example, the card Healing Storm rotates through four values and each turn heals you for the amount shown. The game is filled to the brim with cards that make exceedingly clever use of this mechanic, from shield spells that fade over time to berserk units that trade turns damaging both sides.
When a card reaches the end of its rotations (usually four rotations, though some cards have less), it is then discarded and that Champion it was played on is now free to field another card. This cycle of playing a card on a Champion and locking them down for multiple turns means the rush strategy prevalent in most CCG’s is not a factor here. Neither you or your opponent can have more than four cards on the table at any time.
If you think that would slow the game down, with a huge emphasis on waiting for card to expire, you would be mistaken. Due to the average low hand size and lack of minion damage absorption, games are fast paced and over quickly. Turtling isn’t possible because minions neither absorb or block damaged, recovery items are few and far between, and with the rotating mechanic you will be dealing consistent damage not long into each game. It’s one of the most pick up and play friendly digital card games I’ve ever seen and perfect Switch material.
The gameplay may be fun and innovative, but the real test for any card game, especially digital ones, is the economy model. Just how much is this game going to cost you if you want to play it well? In Champions case, not any more then what you choose. Playing through the opening mission and the first four stages of the game’s main campaign, dubbed “The Realm Trials”, will net you a starting deck for each of the Grand Alliances along with a themed booster pack for each. Usually starter decks are mostly worthless and either serve as a base for a real deck made up mostly of purchased cards or to be trashed completely in favor of anything else, but not this time.
They don’t give away the most powerful cards in the game mind you, but they aren’t the most worthless either. Each deck is a full PvP ready product that accurately represents the intended play style of each Alliance, with full internal synergy. This is the kind of deck that you can play online with no problems. That they do this while also serving as a decent template for newbie deck builders to build on is nothing short of a miracle. Earning booster packs to refine and build your own decks is done at a respectable rate as well, through the usual system of daily missions and gold per game played. There’s even the crafting system from Hearthsone which easily allows you to turn cards you don’t want into ones you do. All in all, this is one of the most player friendly models I’ve ever seen in any game, regardless of genre.
There’s no skimping on content either. In addition to the standard Versus mode, there’s an array of single-player content too. The headliner is the Realm Trials, a series of increasingly difficult stages that reward anything from booster packs to gold. You can even unlock special thematic campaigns that recreate various stories from the Age of Sigmar world. There’s also a Versus AI to test out decks and Event modes that rotate out frequently. If there was ever a CCG that catered to single-player purists, while not ignoring multiplayer players, it’s Champions.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions may not be as flashy or high budget as most other franchise CCG spin-offs, but it makes up for that with pure quality. An engaging core mechanic that promotes fast yet tactical play, a variety of modes for players of all types, an economy model that isn’t designed simply to eat through your wallet, there is a lot to love here.
The UI, board, and card animations are all minimal to nonexistent. You’re just playing cards here, no frills, no taking advantage of the medium.
The card rotating mechanic is as ingenious as it says on the box. Rarely has a game made each play feel like it matters as much as Champions has.
Do you like hearing the same handful of beats repeated over and over again? If not, bring your own music. What sound effects are present are strangely satisfying, so there’s something.
Fun Factor: 9.0
A CCG with a simple, yet intriguing, gimmick that is then utilized intelligently by the game? One that isn’t completely beholden to the “must buy more” mentality of the genre? This is a CCG that you actually want to play, not just collect.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions is available now on Switch and Steam.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions was provided by the publisher.