There’s never an easy way to break into a market that is dominated by an almost monolithic force that has been on top for over a decade. Yet that is exactly what the team at The Started Hare is attempting to do with Chromancer. Magic the Gathering may be the trading card game (TCG), but its market share of the digital space, while large, doesn’t have the overwhelming power that the physical version does. Chromancer not only wants a piece of that pie, but wants to change the way we think about digital TCGs.
Before even talking about the way the game is played, Chomancer wants to change the way the market itself works by keeping the print run aspect and, instead of having an unlimited number of everything, making the cards you get retain that sense of elation you got when finding what you wanted in a booster pack. Each card will have a unique serial ID attached to it and cards will have print runs, limiting the number in the market. If the need to ‘print’ more cards comes up, those reprinted cards will have new art or something to make sure that the first run is still special.
After learning this, I’ve had several discussion about introducing scarcity into the digital market, which was supposed to eliminate scarcity once and for all. It’s a bit of a double edged sword. By keeping scarcity, each rare card you get in Chromancer will be special. You will have something that not everyone else can have, and that feeling is the crack that makes us grind hundreds of hours in Diablo or tear through booster pack after booster pack for just that one card.
The Started Hare has said that they intend to implement not only the virtual store to buy the booster packs, but a trading market. The trading market and the digital scarcity can both succeed and fail on one factor, how well The Started Hare implements them. Rare cards have to not only be special, but balanced to the point where the few players that have them won’t be able to steamroll those without. Their desire to allow new players to jump into the game free of charge and learn the ropes without being utterly destroyed is a good indication of their understanding of the potential problems.
Even beyond the balance of cards, digital scarcity and online trading are the wheels that will keep Chromancer’s economic model turning. The Started Hare seemed confident when we interviewed them that they will be able to pull it off, and more importantly, adapt to the environment when the game launches. There will undoubtedly be a few kinks to work out, but they seem dedicated to making the system work and remain a fun and open game at the same time.
As you would expect from a TCG made by Magic players, Chromancer plays much differently from the other games on the market. Instead of just being a digital TCG, it has been created from the ground up to take advantage of the digital format. Chromancer has a playing field that is nine cards wide for you to place the various types of land on. This land will generate chroma each turn, which is the currency you will spend on both creature and general actions. The creatures you summon and the buildings you construct all stack on your land cards in a way that is instantly identifiable and visually intuitive. While those visual identifiers are simple, hovering over them with your mouse reveals the card in play with all of the fantastic art and details.
Chromancer uses three strongholds, the Castle, Graveyard and Bank, to effect how your moment to moment actions work. At the start of the game you and your opponent place these three strongholds and your initial land cards. Each structure can be attacked and destroyed by your opponent, just as you can destroy theirs, drastically limiting what you can do. The graveyard is how you discard single use items back into your deck, if it’s destroyed those cards are removed from play as you discard them. The castle is your deck, if it’s destroyed you can’t draw cards. The bank stores your chroma from turn to turn, if it’s destroyed you only get to spend what you earn each turn.
This is just the basic level of gameplay as well. You can hear more from the CEO of The Started Hare’s mouth in our interview with him. There is so much more that a written explanation can’t do justice. Chromancer has so much more complexity through relatively simple things like enemy movement and positioning, to the complex aspects like way the 12 different colors work together and against one another. There is so much potential that looks to be groomed properly to make a fantastic game.
I burned out on TCGs way back during the Yu-Gi-Oh! era, which unfortunately turned me off on the whole concept. As much as I respect the Magic the Gathering system and community, devoting the time and resources necessary to getting into it at this point hasn’t appealed to me. That’s the beauty of Chromancer, I have the ability to get in on the ground floor of not only a fascinating TCG, but one that is actually trying to do something different and is fully taking advantage of the digital medium.
Chromancer is looking to launch by the end of 2013. You can check out the already growing community and news on their site. You can also support the Chromancer Kickstarter and get yourself some exclusive cards. Keep checking back to Geekenstein for more news and some upcoming Chromancer giveaways.