Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Evening with Jace Beleren (Arena of the Planeswalkers First Thoughts)

Hello world, it's been quite a while. If you've been reading this blog for a while then you'll definitely notice some big changes that have taken place. Basically I performed a complete overhaul of this blog and I deleted all of my back-content. In fact, I even went so far as to delete my old Wordpress blog, which is where my previous content was originally stored. I decided that I wanted one blog to host my thoughts, crafty things, and just whatever I saw fit to post and I didn't need to have things all spread out. So, let me officially welcome you to my new and improved blog!

A lot has changed since I last wrote, and I think this will be a great place to showcase what's happening with me, including my gaming, cosplay, writing, and everyday endeavors. With that said, be sure to sit down and strap in for the ride! Now, let's get down to business!

This evening I had the great opportunity to play a new game that I've heard a lot of people talking about - Magic: the Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers. It's fitting, when I think about it, because it's almost like Jace Beleren got a hold of my blog and wiped it clean with an erasure spell. If anyone knows what it's like to need to start with a clean slate it's that guy.

I've been playing Magic: the Gathering for about 13 years. I got started in the game when the Mirrodin block had just been introduced and I fell in love instantly. That's why, when I heard about Arena of the Planeswalkers, I got extremely excited. You see, I unfortunately missed out hugely on a game series while I was growing up: Heroscape. That game had some serious awesomeness going on with it and I am so upset I was in the dark during its prime. I've seriously been considering saving up and dumping the cash on any full set I can find to learn and play the game. I mean, it had everything: sweet terrain tiles, awesome hero miniatures, fun rules, and did I mention the sweet terrain tiles? 


Arena of the Planeswalkers is apparently made along the same lines as Heroscape, and some gamers are even porting over heroes and whatnot in between the two games! I got my first play in tonight after the game arrived. I found it available online, ordered it, and tore it open with excitement as soon as I got my hands on it.

Basically how it works is like such: you control one of the iconic Planeswalkers from the MtG universe along with an army of creatures at their disposal. You can go head-to-head in different scenarios or play whacked-out free-for-all matches against other Planeswalkers. The game is played on a sweet board that uses some of the old Heroscape terrain (I KNOW YOU CAN REMAKE THEM HASBRO. GIVE THEM TO ME.) along with some new pieces to make it all unique. Players take turns summoning creatures, moving about the board, attacking, and casting spells in hopes to be the last Planeswalker standing on the battlefield.

The game is a helluva lot of fun, though the rulebook for it is ATROCIOUS. I mean, there was so much page flipping when trying to clarify things that I nearly lost my mind! The fact that my wife (who sat down with me to game) and I are both MtG players helped a lot, though, and we got through our first game with little effort.

I took on Liliana, because, well, she's Liliana and I've got a little bit of a crush on her. No seriously, I geeked out hardcore when I met her at Gen Con:

The talented cspranklerun as Liliana!

Anyways, my wife decided to go with Chandra and we got setup for battle. One of the first things I noticed with Arena of the Planeswalkers was the Planeswalker model detail. While I think the sculpts are cool, the pre-worked paint jobs are horrendous. I can't expect too much since this is quite the mass-produced game, but sheesh. Still, there's nothing wrong that a set of touch-ups can't handle.

The rest of the components for the game are astounding. The terrain boards and battle ruins are stout and stand up well. The cards remind me of the ones that came with Dungeon Command and the various D&D board games like Legend of Drizzt. Everything else was nicely packed in the game's pre-inserted organizer and for an MSRP of $30 was much better than I expected them to be.

Gameplay was quick, and we knocked out a "kill the rival Planeswalker" scenario in about 20 minutes, including time to check the rulebook a few times. Players basically take turns that play out mainly the same way as turns do in MtG:

  • Draw a card
  • Summon dudes
  • Choose an army card to activate
  • Activate dudes from that card
  • Move the turn marker
The cards in Arena of the Planeswalkers use the same artwork from MtG, and though I thought it would bother me it really doesn't. The cards even act sort of the same way they do in MtG, although we're talking in board game terms instead of just a card game. The stats are simple to understand, combat is fluid, and the game works to provide a fun experience.

So far I'm happy with Arena of the Planeswalkers. My wife came out strong in the beginning as Chandra, what with her many spells that let her attack and activate and attack and summon and attack... You catch my drift. Just like a red deck in MtG, though, Chandra ran out of steam and I, playing Liliana, was in it for the long game. Setting up my armies correctly I made sacrifices to empower the models I had on the board and gave Chandra a beatdown she never saw coming. The game's similarities to MtG only make me want to play it more, and I'm excited to see what's coming next in terms of expansions and such.

I'm definitely going to get more plays of this game in, along with some others I've got on the list. Things have been a bit busy lately but I am hoping for some cooldown within this coming week. Games on the docket include: The Undercity, D&D Attack Wing, Mice & Mystics, and much more!

So, that's what I did with my evening. What did you do with yours?

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