Force of Will
No, not the Magic card; The beautiful new TCG recently in from Japan! While Americans missed the first Valhalla Cluster we are fortunate enough to enjoy the Grimm Cluster (think blocks from Magic:the Gathering). The charm of this card game, other than excellent gameplay, is the cohesive themes you can build decks with. Alice in Wonderland, Three Musketeers, Aladdin, Cthulhu, werewolves, vampires, elves, and were-rabbits just to name a few.
Even though each set is 105 cards (average for this type of card game), Force of Will has few to no filler commons. Unlike Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or Magic: the Gathering. every card has a use in some type of deck. Not every deck will win you a tournament, but the deck building experience is very fulfilling. Each deck you build tells a story and you immediately want to build them all. How can you run a werewolf deck without Little Red Riding Hood and Granny? Some of your favorite characters are not what you’d expect however. In true Grimm Fairy Tale fashion, some characters break from conventional lore (like Cinderella), and are painted as evil. Beautifully evil. Every card is highly detailed and the card backs alone speak to the quality of design.
There are a few familiar mechanics in this game. Having them all pieced together into one experience makes a Frankensteins’ monster of a good time. First, players start with the Ruler card in play (similar to the Magic:the Gathering gameplay style of Commander). This is a character who will give special abilities and will have a J-activate ability which allows you to flip the card over to reveal a J Ruler. Your Little Red Riding Hood becomes Little Red, Wolf Girl and can attack, block, and use various other abilities. Deciding when to use the J Ruler is very important. They can die and then all their abilities cannot be used anymore. You can still tap them for one Stone (the mana/casting resource of this game) each turn.
The other card types are Resonators (monsters/heroes), Additions, Fields, and Spells. Each card type has subcategories that specify their uses. For example, Spell: Chant Standby is a neat mechanic added to Force of Will. In theory it is similar to Yu-Gi-Oh’s trap cards. You spend two Stone to cast the Spell: Chant Standby face down on the field. Each has an activate condition. When that condition is met and you have Stones equal to the cost it requires available you may cast it. You do not need to rest (or tap) those stones to activate the ability of the spell. Feel free to yell, “You activated my trap card!”
Another big difference in gameplay is that your Stones have their own deck. This makes it so they can’t get lost in the shuffle, which makes getting mana-screwed a thing of the past! You rest (tap) your Ruler to draw from the Stone deck. You can do this once per turn. Make sure you use any abilities your Ruler has first, as they are unavailable after they rest. I cannot tell you how nice it is to not dilute your deck with mana you never get the right amount of. Ever! Anyone who has played a TCG can relate to the frustration of building an awesome deck and then either getting way too much or not enough mana to play it properly. This is possibly the best part of this game.
At the beginning of a game you can mulligan (drawing replacement cards) by putting cards from your hand on the bottom of your deck and then draw that many new cards from the top of your deck. This is the first card game I’ve played where you are not penalized for getting a terrible starting hand. Usually a player must discard their whole hand and a draw new one, and then lose a card from their starting hand total for each time they mulligan. Force of Will wants its players to have opportunities to better their chances of winning without punishment. Thank you Force of Will. I appreciate it.
The original gameplay had a Life Break Area. You would take the top 4 cards of your deck and put them face down by your stone deck. As your 4000 life ticks down, you can draw from this deck every time you lose 1000 life. Only cards with the Break ability would be useful to the player in this way. As the Grimm Cluster came out this ability was removed to streamline gameplay. It was an interesting concept, but in the end it just complicated the rules and potentially buried important cards. You also had to put cards in your deck that were not as strong just because they had a Break ability. I played a few games with the Life Break Cards and I don’t miss the mechanic at all.
The only thing I struggled with was some of the translations were not so smooth. When reading the rulebook, it could be difficult to discern the more in-depth rules. While a few phrases are amusing, it left me worried for those who chose Force of Will as their first TCG. Hopefully anyone confused will know that the internet is dark but full of knowledge. Questions the printed rules left unclear where easily answered with a quick search. The rough translations do, however, add a certain charm to the game.
I love Force of Will. My sister and I lost several days to deck building, playing, tweaking, and more playing. The cards are beautiful. I like the variety of themes. The decks actually tell fun stories as you play. Until you’ve sent your demonic Seven Dwarves after Puss in Boots you have not lived my friend. Also, there is an Absolute Cake Zone card. This game has CAKE! I recommend you go buy one of each box currently out. Hurry, the new set is out July 2015. Goodbye money. You go to a good cause.