We've got a whole lot to preview for Crystal Clans, Plaid Hat Games' upcoming 2-player battle game. Six different clans means FIFTY-FOUR different units to preview, plus a signature ability for each clan AND 15 crystal cards.
Still, we want to take a couple previews to introduce you to the core mechanisms of Crystal Clans. This game is not your run-of-the-mill 2-player showdown; Crystal Clans is completely original, so clan and unit previews will not make a whole lot of sense without some context.
Let's start by taking a close look at the game board.
The entire battlefield is hand drawn by Martin Abel himself, and we have resisted printing any words or symbology on the battlefield so that it can be enjoyed in all its glory.
(Reference cards relating to your clan and to the game's actions can be placed in the bottom left corner of each player's side of the board. Your draw and discard piles go on the smaller roofs just left and right of center, while collected crystals are placed in the garden on each player's right.)
Besides the credit Martin obviously deserves, this game also owes its beauty to graphic designers Dave Richards and Kendall Wilkerson, and art directors Isaac Vega and Sam Vega. I can't believe the result - board games can be, in the most literal sense, beautiful works of art.
Get in the Zone
The Crystal Clans board has nine zones. The zone closest to each player is that player's home zone (where the castle door opens up). The three zones glowing with rock and crystal are the crystal zones. Each zone can have 1 squad (a set of units) from each side in it.
If you have a squad in a zone and your opponent does not, then you are said to control that zone. If you control at least 2 out of the 3 crystal zones during your turn, you can take a SCORE action, choosing 1 of the 3 available crystal cards and adding it to your score area. The first player to gain 4 crystals wins the game.
In addition, each crystal card, which has a unique look and title, also offers a special benefit to the player who takes it. Because of these benefits and because of the win condition of gaining crystals, you CANNOT sit back and wait in this game if you want to win. You need to charge forward, be bold, and take the initiative. Speaking of taking initiative...
Taking (and Spending) the Initiative
When it's your turn in Crystal Clans, you take actions. You can take actions in any order or the same action multiple times in a row, but each action costs initiative.
The initiative track is on the side of the game board. It has 3 neutral spaces - the 1, 0, and 1 spaces - and goes up to 20 on each end. There is a single crystal on the track, which starts the game on the 0 space. Whenever you must spend initiative (usually to take an action during your turn), you push the initiative crystal toward your opponent a number of spaces equal to the initiative spent. So if the initiative crystal is on my "2" space and I spend 6 initiative on an action, it ends up on my opponent's "4" space.
During your turn, you take actions continually until the crystal ends on your opponent's side of the track (past the neutral spaces). This means that, at a minimum, you'll always spend at least 4 initiative worth of actions during your turn and usually more. The farther you push the crystal past the neutral zone, the more actions your opponent will get to take during her turn.
This back-and-forth adds an extra layer of intrigue to the zero-sum Crystal Clans world. Every win for you is a loss for your opponent, but every time you expend resources, your opponent gains them.
There are 5 actions available to you in Crystal Clans. One is SCORING, which is described above. (You spend initiative equal to the cost on the crystal card you choose.) We'll dive deeper into the other 4 actions in future weeks, but here's a quick overview:
- SUMMON actions bring units from you hand into your home zone.
- ACTIVATE allows you to reorder, move, and battle with your squads.
- REPLENISH allows you to refill your hand from your draw pile.
- INVADE is a specialized action for when you control your opponent's home zone.
Ok, that's plenty for this week! As you can see, there are a ton of fresh concepts to wrap your mind around in Crystal Clans. And we haven't even taken a look at the unit cards yet! Next week we'll explore units and squads, and how battling works.
Crystal Clans releases this fall.