Welcome back to our initial exploration of Crystal Clans! Last week we took a look at the battlefield and the initiative track. Soon we'll dive into clan previews and showcase all the cards. Today we continue our overview of the core game mechanics, looking at units, summoning, and activating (including battles). This article is a bit long - strap in!
The best place to start is the basic unit card.
All 27 cards in each clan's deck are unit cards. Each card has a lot going on, so let's start at the top. Across the very top from left to right, you have the unit's name, attack value, defense value, and activation cost. The number on the far left, next to the crystal icon, is the summon cost.
Summoning is one of the 5 basic actions in Crystal Clans. We covered the score action last week. To take a summon action, a player chooses up to 3 units from her hand and adds them to her home zone (the zone closest to her), paying the units' total summon cost in initiative.
Each clan deck comes with 3 heroes and 6 different commons, so you will always have a variety of options!
All of a player's units in a single zone must always be combined into a single squad. Multiple card squads are arranged as below, with the cards overlapping so that all the units' attack values, defense values, and activation costs are visible and lined up.
In this case, Commander Orion is the top card of the squad. You must choose the order of your squad carefully for two reasons. First when damage is dealt to a squad in battle, it is dealt starting with the top unit, so in this case Commander Orion is the first line of defense. Second, most abilities in the game are "battlefield abilities," designated by a small flame icon to the left of the ability title. A unit's battlefield abilities are only active while that unit is the top unit of a squad on the battlefield. (Non-battlefield abilities are always active.)
Building squads presents a fresh new set of tactics for players to consider that isn't available in other games of this kind. Commander Orion has great defense and abilities, so it's good to place him on top. But, as a hero, he's also one of your stronger units - do you want to put him in peril?
A full squad benefits from a larger attack value and better combined survivability. And its units also benefit from being able to activate all at once.
When a player activates a squad, she pays initiative equal to the single highest activation cost of the squad. Since the highest activation cost in the squad above is 3, it costs 3 initiative to activate that squad. (Although in this case, Commander Orion's In Command ability reduces the activation cost to 2.)
When a squad is activated, it can be reordered, then moved one zone (but can't move out of a zone that it shares with an enemy squad), and if it ends up in a zone with an enemy squad, it may optionally battle. So activating is the meat of the game.
An Example Battle
Battling is one of the most exciting aspects of Crystal Clans. Each player has planned carefully and assembled squads, and now you challenge each other head-on. The easiest way to show you how battle works is by example. Take a look at the 2 squads below! (Note that in an actual game, the enemy squad would be oriented upside down from your perspective.)
In this case, the enemy Blood Clan (left) squad has paid an activation cost of 2 by moving the crystal 2 spaces toward you. Moving into the your zone, the Blood player chooses to battle. The first step of battle is playing battle cards.
You've likely noticed the bottom quarter of each card, which is the battle portion of the card. This part of a card has no effect when the card is on the battlefield - it can be ignored. It is only relevant when a card is used in battle as a battle card.
Each player must simultaneously play a card from their hand as a battle card. They are simultaneously revealed, and each card has 2 possible effects on the battle, depending on the battle style of the opponent's battle card.
With the above cards,the Blood player looks and sees that the you played a GUARDED (turtle shell) card, so the Blood player resolves an effect that does not directly impact the current battle (drawing a card). Meanwhile, you see that the Blood player played a TRICKY (fox tail) card, so you get the (usually better) left effect. Your squad will get 6 additional defense this battle, and will get to return the battle card to your hand after the battle! (The Blood player's card will be discarded.)
Next, damage is applied simultaneously. Skull's total attack is 8. The Trappers take 3 damage and Condor sucks up the other 5 damage. Since 5 damage is not enough to reach Condor's defense total of 10, that damage is wasted. Meanwhile, after reducing its attack by 6 due to the Skull battle card, the Blood squad is left with 4 total attack. That is just enough to destroy the top Ancestral Knight. All destroyed cards are then discarded.
As you can see, one battle does not guarantee that one or both squad will be annihilated (although that is possible). It may take several skirmishes to gain control of a zone. In this case the battle cards had a big effect - without Skull's shrewd cardplay, its entire squad would've been destroyed!
Crystal Clans takes some basic battle game concepts - summoning, attacking, maneuvering - and does some really unique things with them. As a reward for taking the time to read, I'd like to present to you 2 of the 15 beautiful crystals that come in the game and that the clans covet above all else. We'll be peppering the crystal cards throughout the preview process.
Both of these crystals relate to concepts from this article. The Horse of Spirits gives you the power to teleport a squad (yours or your opponent's!) across the battlefield when you gain it. Oryn's Terror sends a troublesome unit of your choice away. Both of them, like every card in the game, feature the amazing art of Martin Abel.
Next week we'll wrap up our overview of game mechanics, taking a look at the remaining 2 actions and other concepts. Then we'll get started previewing each clan! See you next week.