You can often see that the characters in science fiction stories play a seemingly impossible game, such as a multi-dimensional space chess, and this is, basically, that represents the Artifact, the upcoming card game based on Valve’s Dota 2. This is an ambitious hybrid of the Studio and MOBA Magic: The Gathering, and he is doing a fantastic job. So much so that it only took me two games to get myself understood and on Board Valve’s vision.
It is only known that the Board Artifact, like Dota, is divided into three lines. In my second game, I played the blue/green deck against the red/black artificial intelligence, and after a few moves, I felt like I was playing three, totally different games at once. On my left line, I used green heroes and positive effects to create a crowd of creeps and crush my opponent — you know, like a card mess. On the center line, I used my blue resources to slow down the opponent and gain time for important remote spells (similar to a control deck). And on the right line, I used a combination of green and blue to match my opponent’s moves, going for valuable exchanges like the Central deck.
It was one of the most dynamic and intense things I’ve ever played, and when I was completely destroyed at the end of the demo, I was also excited to talk to the programmers of Artifact-Bruno Carlucci and Jeep Barnett, who — God bless them — led me through the first two games. It’s a good thing I wasn’t alone: in no small part, because it’s so different from other card games that Artifact is initially overwhelming, even if some of the rules will be familiar to Dota fans.
There are three lines and on each of them there is one enemy tower and one allied tower. To win, you need to destroy two enemy towers. You can also win by destroying the Throne that appears when you destroy the first tower, but it has 80 health and the tower has 40, so you’ll have to deal more damage overall. Too much investment on one line leaves you vulnerable in other places. According to Barnett, more than 90 percent of the games are won after the destruction of the two towers.
I like this system because it prevents you from just attacking on one line, and that was something I always felt compelled to do in The Elder Scrolls: Legends. Even after you have destroyed the enemy tower, you still have to defend your tower on this line. Similarly, you can’t just give up when you lose it, otherwise your opponent will destroy your Throne. The best way to win is to destroy two towers that hold pressure and make players interact, and both of those ideas are Central to Artifact.
The main obstacle for card game players is that Artifact doesn’t really make traditional moves. Instead, you play in rounds. The round consists of actions and battles on all three lines, starting with the left. You can only play one card at a time — a creep, a line gain or ability, an item to equip a hero, or a spell — because whenever you make a move, the initiative moves to the opponent. Then he plays the card, you again, and so on, until you have nothing left, and you both pass. Then the heroes and the creeps on the line, usually attack everything that is right in front of them. If there is nothing in front of them, they attack the tower.
For me, the round system of Artifact moves is a good middle between Hearthstone, where your opponent never acts during your turn, and Magic, where your opponent almost always moves. I understand that a lot of skill goes into predicting and catching your opponent’s lunges in Magic, but I hate to wait to see what he does every time a card is played. This slows down the games, and it’s just not funny when your cards are “closed” before they do anything. At the same time, Hearthstone sometimes makes me feel helpless because I can’t stop my opponent’s game plan during his turn. All I can do is wait for him to go and then try to put out the fire as best I can.
While playing Artifact, I’m still tense, and card prediction is still important, but I never had to pray that my opponent would let me do what I wanted. The card I want to play goes. Only then can my opponent answer that, and then I can answer him. It’s a much more transparent and convenient chain of events, preserving the exciting stupidity of both players who respond with mutual lunges like clowns pulling strings of handkerchiefs from their mouths. This is a normal move transfer to Artifact, but when the moves get heated by the time you’re both out of breath because of the “shawls”, the transition to the battle stage is completely gripping. In this regard, it’s very similar to team battles in Dota.
Heroes are critical to such explosive moments because they determine what spells you can use. Each line has its own mana. Your lines start with three mana units and of course get one mana in each round. You can spend it on spells of colors represented in this band. In other words, if I want to use a green spell on my left line, I need to have a green hero there.
“The way you put your heroes is one of the most important strategic decisions in the game,” Barnett said. — You can lose the game, putting the hero is not on the right line»
The deck consists of five characters. Three are at the beginning of the game, then you put the fourth on the fourth course, and the fifth — on the fifth. From there, you’ll always have access to all your heroes; you don’t draw them from your deck like normal cards. When heroes die, they go to the reviving Fountain. With the exception of the new character, Rix, who instantly appears, all the characters that I saw had a timer of repeated rebirth in one turn, meaning that if they die on the fourth move, they appear at the beginning of the sixth round. When heroes are reborn, you choose the position of their placement. It may be the same line they died on, but the heroes jump between them regularly. The trick is that the hero’s placement is double-blinded: no player can see where the other places the heroes until the round starts.
This is one of the many ways that Artifact creates prospects for brilliant players. Not only do you have to think about your opponent’s deck based on the heroes he chooses and “read” his hand based on the actions he takes — you also have to predict where he will place his heroes. The character moving from center line to left could be a “game changer” as I learned when the enemy red hero did this and took down my aforementioned army of dudes. At the same time, this system prevents mana from being obtained, according to the classic tediousness of Magic. If you do not have access to the correct colors, due to the fact that you choose, is not placed or did not protect their heroes. And here, Artifact is more complex than Heartstone, but more direct than Magic, and I like it.
Heroes also directly determine the composition of your deck. “Each character has a main spell that goes with it,” Barnett explained, ” and they have three included in the deck. So between your five heroes, 15 of your cards come on them. And it’s a minimum 40-card deck, so the other 25 come from the cards you choose.”
“The main maps are interesting because it’s a kind of kit,” added Carlucci. – If you really like The fury of the Thunder God but don’t like Zeus, you won’t get this option. It’s part of the compromise you take when you turn on the hero.”
The main cards of the hero are often as important as they are. For example, in my second game, I was constantly fighting to protect my blue hero, Luna. I needed her to be she’s alive, so her passive ability could amplify her spell over the area, Eclipse, so I could use it to sweep the center line. If she had died, I would have had to wait for a move to relocate her, and by then the center line could have been lost.
Naturally, I played to the full extent. First I increased the health of Luna, so she survived the attack of enemy creeps. But then my opponent swapped the creep for Phantom Assassin, a black hero who specializes in killing other heroes by framing Luna again. I responded by disarming Phantom Assassin with a blue spell, not letting her attack per turn. This gave my hero enough time to improve Eclipse to the point where he could erase the center. And here’s the strategic cherry on the cake: the move that Eclipse was used in, I intentionally (read: with the help of Carlucci) did nothing but walk the left line to keep the initiative And make the first move in the center, ensuring the Eclipse shot. There are countless tactical difficulties like this, and the limit of skill in Artifact seems high enough.
My second game really showed me how lines can interact, and it helped shape the themes and strengths of the four colors of Artifact, which have 12 heroes and about 75 cards in the starting card pool. Fortunately, you can include as many colors as you want. You can run five green heroes and not worry about having the “right” mana, or play four green heroes and release one black hero. Or, well, you can just play a four-color deck. This limitless approach has repeatedly emerged during my time in the game. Carlucci said that best of all: “in General, if you have a question like’ what is the limit for X?”then the answer will be: it is not.”