This article originally appeared in Pyramid #14
Star of the Guardians
Published by Mag Force 7
Designed by Don Perrin
$8.95 (Starter Deck), $2.95 (Booster Pack)In the ever-burgeoning field of trading card games, consumers have developed higher standards by which to judge new products. Mag Force 7's premiere offering, Star of the Guardians, earns high marks in most every category.
Based on Margaret Weis' Star of the Guardians trilogy, the goal of the game is to destroy your opponent's power base. This is done by bombing their home world, destroying ships, equipment and personnel they have brought into play or perpetrating an unblocked attack. In fact, any destruction of resources will cause a power loss, so one cannot send forces in for "suicide runs" with the impunity of other card games. This balance is a welcomed one, and reflects well the concept of power games warlords who cannot "bring the troops home" will lose the support they so desperately seek.
The Lane-To-Lane combat system brings to the play a slight touch of wargaming. Ships are positioned in one of five lanes; only the frontmost ship in a given lane can directly attack. One or more adjacent ships may support an attacking ship, making the attack much more potent. Squadrons of fighters and bombers can also get involved in combat. Tactic cards give an one-time advantage that more than occasionally turns the tide of battle.
Beyond the simple mechanical benefit of the combat system, it also conveys the feel of a warlord's powerful fleet presented in the books. The environment where ships change positions in response to enemy movements or unexpected tactics has been translated remarkably well into the gaming world.
A major concern with trading card games is the potential for unbalanced play owing to use of many rare cards. For example, many of the decks that win tournaments in Magic: The Gathering are made up largely of rare cards, resulting in decks valued at hundreds of dollars. Star of the Guardians includes rare cards, but they do not overly unbalance play. Again, the most prevalent balancing factor is that lost resources mean a loss of power. The higher cost to employ many rare cards also adds to the difficulty in bringing them into play.
An additional concern of consumers is the ability to play a game with only one starter pack. The two starters received for review produced playable, though not deadly decks. The use of only one main source for "summoning" resources the influence point eliminates a problem common to other card games with multiple resource types, not having enough of the right resources in a starter deck. A secondary resource the personality point is required for many rare and uncommon cards, but a playable fleet can easily be composed without them.
Mag Force 7's distribution scheme is laudable. The starter decks contain 60 cards, a fair number of which are System Cards, each of which provides one influence point. The booster packs do not contain regular System Cards, but a higher percentage of uncommon and rare cards than the starter. This means you only need to purchase one deck to have the System Cards required for normal play.
A typical game takes 20 minutes to an hour about par for trading card games. Despite the rules, it is relatively easy to pick up. A practiced card gamer will pick up the game quickly, and be constructing well-tailored decks after three or four hands. A neophyte can understand at least the basics within a game or two. Though it can accommodate three of four players, the game is best suited to two-person play.
The only stumbling block for this game is the rules. There are contradictions within the rules themselves, as well as several vague areas. Fortunately, online help is available at email@example.com and a Web page has been set up at http://marvin.macc.wisc.edu/other-games/sotg.html.
An unmitigated "thumbs up."
M. Craig Stockwell
Article publication date: August 1, 1995
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