So I actually got to play the Warhammer 40,000 CCG last night. It’s hard to describe why this game feels innovative, because it does, despite the fact that the tactics and battle mechanics all feel ripped out of other games, which themselves were not that innovative. I haven’t wanted to say it, but I think it does boil down to the fact that you don’t get to keep a hand of cards. Every time you fill your hand with cards in the 40K CCG, you pretty much play them onto the table immediately, or you use them for the secondary battle ability printed upside down on the bottom, then discard what you don’t use. You also deploy a lot of guys face down, and you don’t get to look at them thereafter. So it’s blindness all the way around until you actually fight over one of the five territories on the table. This gives the game a rhythm of sorts, that feels very much like the kind of seat-of-the-pants thinking that a far-future general would have to do. So much of this game is very simple, but it has the potential for real depth.
The trick to that, though, is game balance. I played the Orks starter, against the Imperial Guard starter from the new Coronis Campaign set. I think the Guard pretty much owns. It didn’t seem like Aaron even had to try to end up with cards that complemented each other perfectly. He’d played the game before and I hadn’t, but still. The Guard is just infantry, infantry, infantry and tanks, tanks, tanks, and they all had special abilities to help each other out (these kinds of synergies are crucial – there aren’t any really monstrous overpowered units in the starters, but you can pull some strong, strong combos with common cards). So I know which one I’m playing next time.
I don’t really have the cash to be involved in a collectible game right now, but I am thinking about checking out another starter or two to see if there are other potential balance problems between factions. Yeah. That’s it. Anyway, if you’re looking for collectible kinds of action, you could do a lot worse than 40K. (And as an added bonus, you won’t be sending any of that money out of the game industry in the form of enormous licensing fees.)