A zero luck card game with deck construction!?
Publisher: Midwinter Mages
Designer: Ryan Hall, Adam Testerman
Artist: Natalie Bernard, Matt Forsyth, Stephanie Gustafsson
Artist: Nathanael Mortensen, Olga Volkova
Game Type: Variable Player Powers, Zero Randomness
Initial Year of Release: 2019 ?
Age Range: 13+
Expected Playtime: 30-60
Number of Players: 2-4
Game Type: Preconstructed Decks, Hand Management
Theme and What is it?
Paragon: Trials of the Chosen is a card driven game of deific combat. Warring demigods are vying for power and eternal glory. Those who are victorious will join the eternal pantheon. Those who fail… Let’s just say they… Don’t join the pantheon. As a player, you must put together the powers of a team of avatars to represent you. These two Avatars will bring their own powerful items and equipment options to the party. Each also has unique special abilities for play during the game.
The first game mechanic is both the best part of the game and the most difficult to master. The cards are never shuffled. You pick your cards before the game and stack them in exactly the order you want. A few more devious cards have the ability to manipulate an opponents deck so being prepared for that possibility isn’t a bad plan. But these are few and far between. In general, it is your planning on what cards to have and resource management of when to use them that matters.
Gameplay consists of players taking turns putting a card into play, activating cards in play, and attacking each others avatars in an attempt to be the first to kill both enemy avatars. Some cards have powerful one time effects while others give repeating powers unless an enemy removes or destroys the card. Equipment can be attacked directly to strip away the powers.
A zero luck card game with deck construction!? Now there is something new and awesome. The biggest flaw in most deck construction games are failure to draw in the right order or someone getting the ideal draws and running away with it. Now both players have the same advantage of preplanning and resources. How you play and what gambles you made will be the primary measures of success.
Game Build Quality
So far, I have only played on a prototype pre-release copy. But I have seen the planned health tracking tokens, energy crystals, and the rest of the game is just cards. I cannot imagine players being disappointed in the quality of the end result of a card game. Each player makes a 20 card deck and uses 2 avatars. Of the roughly 272 cards planned for the game and 16 avatar options, this leaves an impressive number of combinations for players to explore.
I have seen a lot of artwork in my copy and in the online documents Midwinter mages has. The art is detailed and dripping with theme. Many of the cards have a viking feel to them. Others have just an epic fantasy combat feel. Bravo to the many artists who have worked on this game. I am looking forward to seeing all the final cards when this is fully finished.
The greatest part of the experience has been executing a perfectly planned sequence of moves to get a huge advantage. The second greatest part of the experience has been getting blown away in one battle then tweaking the deck for the next game and having things go much more my way.
Paragon begs to be played more than a few times. The more you play, the more fun it gets. Players who only ever pick up a game once or twice will be unlikely to find the true joy of a game where you control so much of your fate with your setup decisions.
Your first few games might give the subtitle Trials of the Chosen a whole new meaning as you try and error repeatedly. But learning and coming back with new combinations of avatars and cards with each play is highly satisfying to the strategy gamer in me.
Age Range & Weight
13+ is a fair rating. The thematic combat is nothing that kids cannot handle. But the nature of planning everything you need in advance and possible hard feelings when a plan crumbles could make the game have some sore losers.
Overall the weight of a single play is of moderate complexity. There are a lot of unique cards and text to read but the game flow naturally makes it easy to keep up. The front loaded complexity of needing to make decisions on building an initial deck is the biggest possible weakness of the game. To combat that, Ryan Hall and his team have put together suggested decks that will help players get the hang of gameplay. After that, players can endlessly customize their own decks.
The biggest struggle with Paragon is just getting ready to play the first game. I urge players to get past that first hurdle and to play a few times without letting much time pass. As you get the hang of it, you will really get the hang of it.
I would be remiss not to talk about the 8 disciplines in Paragon: Trials of the Chosen. There are 4 schools further divided into 2 more disciplines. Chronomancy and Pyromancy are both magical arts but one manipulates the game state and timing while the other is all about rapid “fire” attacking. Brutality gets more powerful as the avatar has lower HP while Chivalry mitigates incoming damage and has powerful counterattacks.
Mischief is exemplified best by shadow using stealth for avoiding damage and executing surprise attacks but marksmanship allows for bypassing enemy defenses. The mythos school includes divinity which allows for healing and other powerful abilities. It also features Demonology. Demonology allows for powerful abilities that will throw a wrench into whatever your opponent has planned.
Paragon: Trials of the Chosen will be coming to Kickstarter August 2019! Look for it soon!
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