First Impressions: The Spoils Trading Card Game (TCG)

The SpoilsTechnically, Gencon ‘09 wasn’t my first time to The Spoils rodeo.  My first encounter with this game was back at Gencon ‘06 when Tenacious Games still owned the game and rolled a big ol’ The Spoils RV into the exhibit hall for it’s launch at the convention.  Demoing the game with The Spoils boys and girls netted you a free starter deck in addition to getting a booster pack or two in your convention swag bag.  The demo I received impressed me so much that I immediately signed up for a couple of drafts.  Fast forward a little over a year later and Tenacious Games has lost a ton of money on The Spoils due to some poor business decisions.  The game then gets yoinked up by Arcane Tinmen and plans for a relaunch began.  So has the game lost it’s luster in the transition and downtime, or is it every bit the fun and enjoyable CCG as it was two years ago?  For the low admission price of $5 for a two player starter deck at Gencon ‘09, I was willing to find out.

Faction Card... protect it with your life.The quick and short is that the game rules have not changed and most of the cards in the starter decks look familiar.  So yes, the game is still extremely enjoyable.  If you’ve played it before, you probably know if it’s your cup of tea or not.  If this is the case, no need to read further… but I encourage you to enjoy the rest of your stay here at Pixels and Grids.  For those of you still sticking around, please read on!

It’s hard not to compare this TCG to the likes of Magic: The Gathering and World of Warcraft.  While there wasn’t anybody from the WoW TCG in the development team as far as I know, renowned Magic player John Finkel was an advisor during the game’s development as far back as 2002.  The Spoils is played with a constructed deck of cards that you can get in tournament packs, theme decks, and booster packs.  Each player starts with their Faction card in play that represents their life total and spells out the rules of their turn.  Lose all of your faction points and you lose the game.

DudeHuge?You’ll find 3 other types of cards besides the Faction card.  They are characters, resources, and tactics.  Each belongs to one of five different trades (like colors in Magic or factions in WoW) called Banker, Rogue, Warlord, Gearsmith, and Arcanist.  Each trade has a different feel and style of play to them such as the Warlord trade relying on brute force while Arcanists have a focus on covert characters (can only be blocked or block other covert characters) and bouncing cards back to your opponents hand.  All characters have a STR (damage they deal), LIFE (damage they can take), and SPD (order they deal damage) value.  Tactic cards are used almost like spells and can usually be cast at any time to do stuff like deal damage, destroy characters, or draw cards.

Play in the game starts out with each player drawing their allotted cards, usually 8 if you go first and 9 if you go second.  You then decide if you would either like to play a resource or draw card for free.  Playing any additional resources or drawing cards during that turn will cost you an amount of resources listed on your Faction card.  Character and tactic cards can then be played by committing resources to your faction equal to their cost in the top left hand corner of the card.  In addition to this number, you have to make sure that you have enough resource types to match the icons below this number.  The tricky part of this is that you just need to control those types of resources, you don’t need to necessarily commit them to put the card in play.

Rogue TacticDamaging your opponents faction can be done with either characters or tactics.  There is also an odd special ability here and there that can damage factions directly also.  The combat phases are where a lot of the strategy in this game starts to come into play.  On you’re turn, you may take as many attack actions as you like and they must all be declared against your opponents faction.  It is then up to your opponent to decide who blocks the attacking character or party.  It is entirely possible to attack with all of your characters in a party, just to have it negated by one single blocker.  This leaves a player with the choice of attacking with a whole party to try and eliminate the opponents creatures, or attacking with one character at a time to try and slowly give damage to their opponents faction.

While you’ve heard me compare The Spoils TCG to a couple of different card games, there’s enough different here to warrant maybe picking up a couple of starter decks and giving it a shot.  There’s a good amount of depth to the decisions you have to make on your turn such as whether to draw for free or play a resource for free.  If your dying to get a high casting cost card out early do you burn 4 resources just to play an extra one, or do you just wait and not draw cards for a few turns and play your resources naturally.  The order in which you decide to attack also adds a level of strategy to The Spoils that is on par with how it’s handled in the WoW TCG.  Combine all of this with some great artwork, a steampunk setting, and some amusing flavor text and The Spoils is still the same solid, engrossing, and charming TCG that I remember from Gencon ‘06.

Examples of different Trades and cards

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