Legends of Norrath: TCG With a Twist

Guest Post

If you have ever played Magic: The Gathering, or one of its many successors, you probably know the addictiveness that is the Trading Card Game (TCG). For me, however, it was something new (and exciting) when Sony Online Entertainment announced their new Legends of Norrath online TCG.

Featuring cards based on the EverQuest universe, the game is similar to other trading card games in that players collect cards to build and customize their decks and then use them to compete against other players.

The core of the Legends of Norrath deck is your avatar card. It can be one of any four classes – Fighter, Scout, Mage or Priest. The rest of your deck consists of units (creatures that can fight for you in battles), abilities and equipment. Certain abilities and equipment can only be used by certain avatar classes. Building a good deck with a winning combination of card types takes just as much strategy as the game itself (if not more), and players will often build a variety of decks for different occasions.

There are two ways to win a Legends of Norrath game. The first is through being the first person to complete four “quests” or objectives in the game. The other way is to defeat your opponents’ avatar in combat by reducing their hit points to zero. The fact that there are multiple ways to win adds to the complexity of the game, as you never know which strategy your opponent might take.

Having played the game, I find the fact that it’s online has both advantages and disadvantages. The first disadvantage is that the cards you purchase to play are not physical cards, only virtual ones, which are tied to your (free) Legends of Norrath account. The card art is so beautiful that sometimes I wish I had physical copies of them.

The other disadvantage is that the social aspect of the TCG is lessened by online play. One of the fun aspects of trading card games is being able to meet up at a friends’ house to duel one another and trade cards, or travel to a tournament where you have the chance to meet tons of players. In an online game, all duels, trades, and tournaments take place in front of the computer. There is chat functionality within the game client, and I’m sure friends could even voice or video chat over their own instant messaging clients while they play online, but it’s not the same.

Overall, however, I find the advantages of online play seem to outnumber the disadvantages. The very first advantage is actually related to the disadvantage I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Because play takes place online, you can pick your opponents from among players all over the world. You don’t need to have friends who are also collecting cards to be able to play the game and you don’t need to pay for airfare to compete in a tournament.

The online game client is also designed in a way that is welcoming for new players. There is a series of excellent tutorials designed to get one acquainted with the interface and the rules of the game. The client also automatically keeps track of many of the aspects of the game that might make the game confusing to a new player (for example, the hit points and power of the avatars, which cards are exerted, and what phase of the players’ turn it is). While some may look at this as making the game too easy, I look at it as clearing away the more cumbersome elements so that all of the players’ brain power can focus on their strategy.

Conducting trades in Legends of Norrath could not be easier. There is a trading lobby where players can advertise their wares, and they can also post cards and decks for a trade on a bulletin board, listing what they want in return. Using the bulletin board system, trades can take place even when someone is away from their computer. When I ended up with an extra fighter starter deck, for example, I posted it on the bulletin board, requesting a mage starter deck in return. I left the computer for a few hours; when I returned, I received a notice that a mage starter deck had been added to my inventory.

The Legends of Norrath client is free to download for EverQuest I and II players and non-players alike. Legends of Norrath players who also have EverQuest subscriptions, however, do get unique perks. Each EverQuest subscriber receives a free Legends of Norrath starter deck with their EQ subscription. Legends of Norrath starter decks and booster packs also have a chance to drop from monsters that give experience in EverQuest I and EverQuest II. Finally, Legends of Norrath booster packs have an opportunity to contain loot cards, which can be redeemed for items in EverQuest I and II. These loot cards can contain potions, baubles, house items, recipes and even mounts. There has been some controversy within the EverQuest games about whether the inclusion of loot cards in Legends of Norrath constitutes the ability for people to “buy” loot for real-world money. My opinion, however, is that none of the loot obtainable through the loot cards is powerful enough to be a real concern. Most items (except for items that are purely fun “fluff,” and the exceedingly rare mounts), have limited charges or a long delay between the times they can be used. Equivalent items are also available in the game through other means.

In addition to all of the features previously mentioned, Sony has also just announced their “Foresworn” expansion for Legends of Norrath. This expansion will include new races for avatars and units, new spells, new solo scenarios, and new loot cards for EverQuest I and EverQuest II. It also introduces a number of new features to the game, including mount cards, 2 vs. 2 multiplayer games, and raid encounters where a group tries to take down a powerful AI deck.

Starter decks for Legends of Norrath cost $9.99. They include 55 cards and a series of increasingly difficult solo “missions” that can be beaten through playing against the AI. Completing each mission rewards a special card only available through that mission. Booster packs cost $2.99 and contain 15 cards. Special fees may also apply for competing in company-run tournaments.

If you like trading cards games or are interested in trying them out, I definitely recommend you give Legends of Norrath a try. You can visit the Legends of Norrath website and download the client at http://legendsofnorrath.station.sony.com/.