Dec 4, 2012
For those of you that don’t follow me on the Twitter (for shame!) you may have wondered why I haven’t posted in quite a while. Well, without getting too far into it, my daughter (Chloe) will be the only child I have naturally. That’s right, the boys been snipped. Now there are a few reasons that my wife and I decided to do this, most of which aren’t important to this article, but the one that matters here is that I am a gamer and I want to have the money and time to spend on her as she inevitably moves into gaming with me as she grows older. (Maybe it is selfish that I don’t want to share that with multiple kids, but I’m no spring chicken.)
As my only child, and being a stay-at-home-Dad, Chloe is bound to do the same thing I did with my Dad; follow Daddy’s footsteps and enjoy the same hobbies. I started reflecting a bit on this and looked at what most of my hobbies are and how long I have to wait until she can start playing with me. Magic isn’t exactly a simple game to learn and understand and most of the board games that I play are just as complicated, if not more so. So in my free time, I’ve been looking at non-video game alternatives that break the mold of playing Monopoly and Life until she is old enough to dive into Magic.
That is how I stumbled upon Kaijudo, a new CCG from Wizards of the Coast. I started looking at the art, the cards and a few clips from the show and realized that this is like catnip for children. This is the new Pokemon card game. It has everything kids will enjoy, with something that I’ll like: Dragons with rocket launchers.
Now this is a Magic: the Gathering site and we will stay that way, so don’t take my article about Kaijudo here as a change in direction for 60cards.com. Instead, look at it as a sweet possibility that the empire will grow to encompass more games in this genre, all kept out of the way (most likely on different sites) of what you guys come here for on a daily basis.
With that out of the way, let me explain why I am pulling for Kaijudo in such a big way. To start, I knew the game would be a simpler card game just by looking at the cards. They are very American-Anime in style and with names like Frogzooka and Karate Carrot, I knew things were going to rock the younger audience. The game is targeted at 8-12 year olds and it seems like that is just about the right age to start playing.
This is how the game works. Take Magic, strip the instants and interactions when it isn’t your turn, take out life totals and counters, add in a bonus for getting hit and take out the land-screw variant. I’ll detail this more, but the basics are what you see. You make a deck of at least 40 cards which can be any of the five civilizations. Light (white), Fire (red), Nature (green), Darkness (black) and Water (blue) all fall into line, for the most part, with their Magic counterparts. The color pie seems to work pretty similarly with each civilization doing what you would expect. Nature ramps to big beats, darkness has some removal and sac effects to gain an advantage, water is control based, fire is explosive with said rocket launching dragons and light is defensive with cheap powerful blockers.
At the start of the game you place five shields in front of you. These shields come from the top five cards in your deck and they are placed face down, you don’t get to see them until they are broken. You draw five cards and decide who goes first. The first player skips their draw and gets to put any card into their mana zone. This is where the land-screw problems of Magic go away, in favor of more strategic use of cards. If you play a nature card, you now have enabled all green cards with the mana cost equal to the amount of mana you can spend for the turn. For example, if you had a fire card that cost three mana, and had one fire mana and four nature mana, you could spend just the nature mana to cast the card. This keeps things simple and ensures that you don’t have to worry too much about what you are tapping to cast cards. Perfect for the younger audience if you ask me.
Each card falls into two categories; spells and creatures. Spells work like you expect, draw cards, destroy a creature, replenish a shield, etc. Creatures on the other hand are much different in style when compared to Magic cards. They still have a casting cost and they still have a power/toughness type of stat, but it is listed as one number. The way they get around the lack of a toughness number is by using an ability called Powerful Attack. This gives the card more power on the attack and makes it tougher to block, but the card is easier to kill after the attack is done.
Blocking is also handled differently in Kaijudo. Players need a card that actually has a block skill on it. Generally, these cards don’t have the ability to attack, but many can skirmish, which means they can attack tapped creatures. Because you attack shields, and blocking only happens from specific creatures, most creature combat comes down to attacking tapped creatures, or blocking a creature on the attack. Currently, there are no instant creature pumps that I have seen, so if I attack with a 3000 creature and you block with a 4000 creature, you won’t need to worry about something akin to a Giant Growth blowing you out. You also don’t have to worry about damage stacking. Each combat is self-contained and after the fight is done, the life totals are reset.
I’m not going to go too much deeper into how the game works, but hopefully this gives a bit of an idea of what happens in the game, the last thing I do want to touch on is the huge range of special abilities the creatures have. There are, what seem to be, evergreen abilities, but the reminder text is always on the card, so don’t sweat learning a ton of new card abilities and remembering what each does. In addition, when a shield is broken, there is a chance that the shield has an ability called shield blast. If it doesn’t you simply draw the card after you take the hit, but if it does, you can cast the card right then. This is the only time, as of right now, that you are able to cast a spell on your opponents turn.
My biggest complaint with the game is that it only has one main phase, which is pre-combat. Cards like Aqua Seneschal, which allow you to draw a card when it attacks, lose value when you can’t do anything after the attack phase. If I wasn’t a Magic player already, this may not be that big of a deal to me, but currently it drives me crazy.
Another thing that I haven’t mentioned is the Evo expansion which just launched. This allows you to evolve your creatures to stronger creatures. In Magic terms, this means you would put a stronger elf on top of a Llanowar Elf to make him significantly better. As long as the race matches the evo cards race, you are good to go. The game was a bit too simplistic when I started tooling around with it in the Rise of the Duel Masters set, but as soon as I saw Evo cards I knew things were going to start getting complicated enough that I could start collecting for the day that Chloe is ready to start playing.
I was pretty happy with where the game was, then I saw that they are adding multicolored cards. When you play them as mana, they come into play tapped, but they count as both civilizations. So there may be a Ravnica type set coming to Kaijudo soon which gets me pretty pumped.
The last thing I will leave you with is a story about Sunday. My local card shop has a few guys that are interested in the game, and just about everyone that we have learned it to has enjoyed it enough to play with the decks we bring. One of the guys up there, Bryson, decided to start a league, which is essentially the same as a Magic league, with the bonus of achievements for bonus cards that can’t be found anywhere outside of the league. So we set up a free tournament on Sunday and I decided to go see how the game played out in a competitive setting, partly because I was interested in seeing other decks, and partly because I wanted to see if my kid would be able to participate at six or seven years old. I knew all the guys up there, ranging from 20-mid 30s and we actually had a great deal of fun. The game, at a “competitive” level is actually just as complicated and strategic as Magic seems to be these days, and requires a great deal of skill, the same way Magic games do. The difference is that you are playing with simplified rules and less variance, but you are also playing with fewer options against your opponent, so planning seems to be even more important in Kaijudo.
Do I think the game will ever match up to Magic in terms of popularity and sales? Not really, not with our age group at the very least. It may take off and hit a bubble with a younger audience and make a splash with the more open minded CCG players out there, but it will never replace my first love. What it will do is allow me to take my loved ones to play in something I enjoy a great deal without having to teach them about the stack, priority, and other complicated things. Chloe may want to play games with me because she wants to hang out with me, or she may hang out with me because she wants to play the games, either way, finding something out there that is targeted at a younger audience but still brutally fun for a 20 year vet of Magic is a pretty solid start to Wizard’s new pet project. I think the game has legs, but I think more importantly it fills a void. Many of the guys that started playing Magic in the early days are now parents with kids of their own and they most likely want to sit around after dinner and sling spells and beat each other with creatures. So far it seems like Kaijudo makes that possible, and fun for the old folks, while also injecting obsession into our children’s blood stream with the cartoons and other tie in products. Also, if you want to try out the game visit Kaijudo.com for some free online play and a tutorial. You can only play against AI right now, but it is a good way to try the game to see if you and your kids/family might enjoy it.
There isn’t a solid site out there that covers Kaijudo in the same way that Magic gets covered. If you are interested in writing about it, from any perspective and any background at all, contact me at email@example.com and we will discuss a position for you to start sharing deck ideas, house rules, tournament reports, hardcore strategy, kitchen table goofy stuff and new styles to play the game. 60cards.com will never change from being a pure Magic site, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring you information about other games from some other site. Kaijudo may be just the beginning of our journey to find happy distractions from Magic here and there, and we want to ensure our audience is with us. Please chime in with comments to let us know what you think. I’m back and ready to get caught up after two weeks of discomfort, so let’s figure out what else you guys want, as well as what we want to do.
(If you are big in the Kaijudo community and looking for a place to start getting more recognition email me and we will talk about our upcoming plans.)