I supported Epic on Kickstarter because of Rob Dougherty. He was on the Ascension design team, and he designed Star Realms too. Both are games I enjoy. Epic is not a deck-building game, but you can customise your deck like other Collectible Card Games (CCG's). It doesn't have the booster pack business model like popular CCG's, e.g. Magic: The Gathering. That was one of the reasons I did not hesitate to support it. I wouldn't feel compelled to continue investing in the game system. I didn't have specific expectations. If it turned out to be something as good as Star Realms, i.e. a brisk card game with interesting card combos and decent strategy, I would be happy enough.
Epic feels like Magic: The Gathering, but that's based on my very limited understanding of Magic. The basic game is two players going head-to-head trying to defeat each other by reducing the opponent's health to zero. You deploy champions in front of you, and these champions can be used to attack your opponent or to protect you from attacks. One aspect is much simplified compared to Magic and even Hearthstone - the resource system. There is only one resource type - money. At the start of every player's turn, your money is reset to $1. That means on your turn you have $1 to spend, and on your opponent's turn you also have $1 to spend. If you spend it, good. If you don't, you've wasted it, because it won't accumulate. Next turn, you start with $1 again. Cards in the game either cost $1 to play, or they cost nothing. Very simple, but some players may feel something is lost due to this simplification. I think it's a good idea.
I made my own box, using an unused box I found at home. I wrapped the four sides with present paper, and then printed the cover of the original game box to be stuck on three of the sides. The original box can fit the 128 cards of the base game and the rulebook. However once I sleeved the cards, it was no longer possible to fit everything, not even close. Moreover I received many promos and mini expansions that were part of the successful crowdfunding effort.
There isn't a lot of extra space is this self-made box after I put everything in.
The original box is on the left.
Cards come in four colours (see icon at top left): yellow is good, red is evil, blue is science / tech, and green is nature. Cards of the same colour often boost the powers of one another, so if you play with a pre-built deck, you will want to focus on just a few colours and make good use of card combos. A legal deck has 30 cards. You are allowed to have up to 3 copies of the same card. So you can have only 10 different cards in your deck, three copies each. However to do this you need three copies of the game, because each game contains only one copy of every card.
There is an alternative win condition. If you exhaust your deck and need to draw, you win immediately. Normally you only draw one card at the start of your turn, but some cards let you draw more cards. Some card powers make you return cards to the bottom of your deck though. This extends the lifetime of your deck.
The combat mechanism is simple and similar to Magic. The active player gets to decide whether to attack, how many times to attack (as long as he has enough champions to do so) and how many champions to be involved in each attack. Each champion can only participate in one attack every turn, because after an attack they are either killed or exhausted. Upon being attacked, the passive player can decide whether to send champions to defend, and how many to send. As long as at least one defender engages the attacker or attackers, the player being attacked does not get injured. Any casualty will be between the attacking and defending champions. A champion dies if the damage it takes within the same turn reaches its health value. Else it fully heals at the start of the next turn.
I asked Shee Yun (10) to play with me. She has played Hearthstone and Star Realms before, so I said to her it's about the same. She handily defeated me in our first game.
We played twice, using the very basic rules. We randomly drew cards for our decks, since we didn't know the cards well anyway and didn't have any idea how to build a deck properly. My first impression of the game is: the cards are all very strong! Most of the time when I read a card, I start imagining the various terrific ways I can use it and many wonderful ways I can combine it with other cards. However, no matter how strong some cards may appear, it seems they will have their match. Also, no matter how powerful an opponent's attacking champion is, as long as you are willing to sacrifice a lowly defender every time it attacks, that champion can't hurt you at all. A high attack strength isn't everything.
In one particular game when things were starting to look bleak for me, I drew one card which would let me deal some damage to every champion, both Shee Yun's and mine. It was the perfect card for my situation, because she had many champions, but they all had low health values. My card would kill them all, while one of my high-health champions would live. I waited for the perfect time to play this card, and then suddenly she played one champion which could not be killed on her turn. I was stunned. I was on the verge of losing my last few health points, and my event card would have turned the tables. It was Shee Yun's turn, and I could not do anything to stop her recently deployed champion. It promptly destroyed me.
Epic is a game with dramatic twists of fate. Here's another story from our games. I had a very strong champion which had an extremely high health value of 30. I drew it early and was very pleased that I would have this champion fighting for me for a long time. It wouldn't be easy for Shee Yun to deploy enough champions to deal a total of 30 damage within one turn. Then to my utter shock she played an event card which not only killed my sturdy champion but also added its health value to her health total. She went from 30 health points to 60 health points. The champion which I thought was a godsend turned out to be a horrible curse.
That yellow coin doesn't come with the game. It's from a set of plastic poker chips I bought in Taiwan. The yellow coin is the $1. I use coins of other colours to denote the players' health points. Those two identical cards at the bottom are not regular cards. They are token cards, used to represent minor champions summoned by the players. The token cards form a separate pool which is shared by both players.
The cards played at an angle are newly deployed champions. They can't attack yet, and they can't use their special abilities yet. They can only block the opponent's attackers. They will be updated to normal status at the start of my next turn.
Epic is a fast-paced player-vs-player head-to-head-fighting card game. The game system is fairly straight-forward. The cards are powerful and offer many opportunities for combos and clever play. There is still a lot more I need to explore and learn. For now I will say the first impression is positive, and early plays are promising. I think this game is very good value for money.