I went home on Thanksgiving weekend with the full intention of using my time off to play Mass Effect, but instead spent the whole weekend playing the beta of a new browser-based CCG/tactics hybrid called Backyard Battles from independent developer Naked Sky. I first saw Backyard Battles at PAX Prime earlier this year and was intrigued enough to sign up for the mailing list. The mix of MtG-style mechanics with a tactical lane system drew me in enough that when I got an email inviting me to the beta I signed up immediately. It looked like fun, but I didn’t know I was getting into an incredibly addictive and awesome game.
Backyard Battles, despite its kid-friendly exterior, is a hardcore strategy game to its core. Each turn a new item is added to your fence, which is essentially your hand, and you are also given a coin to spend on your spells, which are analogous to playing a land – except that it doesn’t cost you a card. You then play your heroes to the lanes and engage in combat. All damage taken by units is not removed at the end of turn, meaning that once a unit is damaged, it stays damaged forever. Backyard Battles’ implementation of a lane system changes who you can and can’t block, leading to some serious strategic choices.
I love this game for it’s tactical depth. Deciding where to deploy your heroes, what items to use, and whether or not to attack really forces you to think. I’ve been doing quite well so far by applying the rules of card advantage and taking advantage of any two for ones I am offered. For instance, if I can eliminate two units with one double attacking unit, I will, even if it kills my guy. While there aren’t that many units or mechanics yet, at the time of this writing Undying (the unit returns to your hand after it dies) and Nimble (the unit can attack after switching lanes, allowing it to get around blockers) shine with the best mechanics. Even in its most basic state, I see high potential for Backyard Battles and can’t wait to see what Naked Sky has coming for it down the pipe.
Backyard Battles is slated for release early 2014 on iOS, Android, and browser. To learn more about Backyard Battles, check out my interview with Naked Sky!