In the roughly five years that I've been enjoying tabletop gaming, one particular category has proven to be troublesome, that's collectible games. Whether they be classic collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, squad based combat titles such as X-Wing Miniatures, or the narrative driven living card game Arkham Horror: The Card Game. each has in one way or another let me down by either being too cumbersome, fiddly, and of course expensive. Even those that I've somewhat enjoyed like Dicemasters, or the aforementioned Arkahm Horror fail to hold my attention. It's a shame as the idea of a collectible game goes right to the heart of this hobby, experiencing a growing system alongside fellow players over the course of years sounds great, but for someone like myself the games don't work out.
Last year however, I decided to give yet another one of these titles a chance with Star Wars: Destiny. Seeing as it was released in the classic collectible model with boosters, and it being a Fantasy Flight title (a company known for excess and sloppy rules) I thought this might be another experiment that would waste my slim gaming budget. To my endless surprise, the results were far different than I ever could have imagined. At last here was a game with straightforward rules, easy deck-building, quick play time, and elegant design. Yes it is still somewhat hindered by a few issues mostly steaming from it's collectible model, yet it has held this gamers attention from the intial starter kits to the new fourth series.
Like so many of the games I've mentioned, Destiny can accommodate multiple players but is really intended for 2. While that may seems restrictive for someone who enjoys full board games it's balanced out by several factors like the speed of play. It's important to realize that even though it can work with more people, more so now as they're introducing things like draft play, for those that don't have a game store it would be wise to get this if you live with a family member or significant other who will join in. It's not the sort of thing you bring to game night for a group.
The game is largely devided into heroes and villains along with some neutral cards that can be applied to either side. Characters come in one of three colors, and have two point values for team building, one if you're only using one of their dice, the other for two. The max points allowed for your team is thirty. After that you need only to put together a deck of thirty cards from the same colors as your characters or some of those neutral ones. The cards can be instant one use abilities, equipment to attach to your characters, or droids and vehicles to offer support.
Once you're ready it's time to face off and that's where the games unique pacing kicks in. Most two-player collectible games have multi-phase turns where you draw cards, activate characters, lay out special items, attack, and so forth. Here you pick one thing per turn. Activate one character? Turn over. Play an instant? Turn over. This turns games into a proper back and forth duel. To be fair though some players do not enjoy this style of play, they actually prefer the extended turns of something like Magic where one player narrates a massive turn, followed by the other doing some math in response. And that's fine. Lord knows I've made a few good gaming memories from those massive turns but for my money the pressure of choosing which single action is most important at that moment is far better.
Adding more pressure to the game's pacing are the two victory conditions. Unlike most of these games where they aim is to attack the player directly, his cards only serving as a form of barrier, here there are two different winning conditions. One is to eliminate the other players team, and the other is to have them burn through their entire deck of cards. Admittedly I've never seen a game end with that second option but seeing as there's only 30 cards per player, it's a real possibility.
More than anything the game just feels right. The terminology, character abilities, and round structure all make sense. There's only one resource for instance and multiple ways to obtain it along with ways to cheapen the cost of cards. Battlefield cards likewise add a thematic element and create this odd balance between rushing to nab it for a bomus and first player status, but wanting to stay in the round issuing commands to your team.
Beyond that the presentation is excellent with nice art on sturdy cards and the dice, oh those dice. These are thick, weighty, printed die that are just heaven for anyone with a tactile nature.
For as many parts of the game as I love, there are a few that are irritating or underdeveloped. Two of these are an inherent part of collectible gaming. The most obvious being that games like this are far more expensive than a nice complete board game. With that model also comes the frustration that you may go an taciturnity before getting the characters you want. It's hard to express the sheer aggravation of going through booster pack after booster pack without getting your first yellow villain all while stockpiling plenty of yellow villain events and upgrades.
Team building early can be a bit frustrating as well. It's not as much of an issue once you have a nice sized collection, but there are still times when you can't make the group you want, either because you haven't got a second die for one of them or because even their base point values prevent them from pairing up. Now if you're playing this at home, there's always an option to allow each other to go over by a couple points, but it's still an issue when playing by the normal rules.
On that same topic, there are times when teams come up short of those 30 points. Originally a player simply had to live with the fact that they couldn't bridge a leftover 2 or 3 points. That's changed recently with the introduction of Plot Cards. These fill in those tiny gaps with small bonus allowing them to start with extra resources or a larger hand of cards. Sadly it seems like these cards aren't well distributed seeing as an entire booster box yielded only five of them.
Even with those complaints the system stays fun as there's always something new to try and the strategies make sense. If you come across a new card, not only can you see the potential in it, but there's no need to change your entire deck to fit it in. Of course there are still cards that can piggyback off of each other and strange traps that can be assembled yet there's just as good a chance of winning the game with a straightforward strong team and good luck mitigation.
At this point in my tabletop hobby, a game like Destiny is a godsend. There's very little room left for regular board games, and I wouldn't dream of parting with most of my collection. Having a collectible game that I actually enjoy allows me to still support the local game store and meat new people without risking my closet exploding. Plus there's a certain joy in picking up a single booster pack when you're feeling down. It's a nice little treat not unlike candy only without the accompanying dental issues.
If you're someone who occasionally ponders getting a game like this, I'd definitely recommend checking out some videos on youtube or downloading the rules. Don't get sidetracked or worried by talk of the different kinds of play or tournament rules, just focus on the key gameplay. If you decide to actually give it a short there are four starter kits. Two or hero based single player kits, two are single player villain, and there's a two-player kit as well. None of them offer a complete deck but it's still a good taste of the game, and buying a combination of them will give you some customization options.
While board game coverage may account for some of my less popular posts, gotta check the numbers on that, it feels good to share something like this with you all at a point of the year when so many of us are shuttered up indoors watching the snow fall. Few activities help to pass the Winter blues like some nice tabletop gaming. And it's certainly healthier than another round of drinks. On that note, I leave you for today. May the Schwartz be with you.