Look, up in the sky! It’s a card game! It’s a skirmishing boardgame! It’s Faeria! Yes, it’s Faeria, a strange digital mashup from developer Abrakam Entertainment, who came to Steam with cards and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Faeria… who can change the course of digital card games, bend your perception of a dueling game, and who, disguised as a CCG, a simple dueling game you’ve seen so many times before, fights a never-ending battle for a solo experience, a card duel, and a strategic skirmisher all at once!
OK, so I might have taken that bit too far, but I can’t skip the chance to bring a childhood quote back from the dead. Still, if I’m straight with you, Faeria really does blend skirmishing games with a digital card game like Gwent or Magic The Gathering. Imagine Warhammer or Unmatched where you actually need to move your miniatures around the board to interact with your opponent. Playing it was fun, felt unique, and didn’t make me feel overwhelmed by the size of the game.
If you enjoy card games but prefer a more physical style of combat where you can navigate around the board to overwhelm the enemy, then read on because this might be the game for you.
A card dueler that slips into a miniature skirmisher
On its face, Faeria really is another CCG. You need to build your deck within a set of parameters, then take on AI or other players in one vs. one battles. However, the twist – and what really makes Faeria stand out – is the board that you build and do battle on. But before we get into how that works, let’s go through some of the basics.
Just as in Shadowverse and other card games, your deck is everything. It contains cards for heroes, spells, and artifacts. Heroes persist (and run around fighting now), spells are instant, cards are single-use, and the artifacts sit around and generate bonuses for you. And as in Shadowverse, each card has a cost in mana to play, and heroes (and some artifacts) have an attack and HP. Similarly, this is another game where the victory goes to the player who reduces the enemy character to 0 HP first.
Deck-building is somewhat more involved, but the developers created some nice shortcuts for you. As you’re leveling, you’ll unlock starter decks. While the tutorial isn’t much more than a few pop up screen tips, it’s plenty of information to hit the ground with. It directs you on how to choose and copy a starter deck and then modify it with some of the upgraded cards you’ve earned. The filters for card types make it super simple to find cards to fill in your deck. Once your deck is built, it is even given a rating of sorts. (It didn’t get a pop-up explanation, but it seems evident that it’s basically the equivalent of a strength score for your deck.)
This is actually incredibly helpful. When I played in actual PvP matches, the opponents felt comparable to me. Now, I was actually having a lot of fun with the PvE side of things, and I’d been burnt with my last few card games, and I didn’t want to rage out too soon, so I didn’t play that many PvP matches. But the ones that I did engage in felt evenly matched! I suspect it was because of the game pairing me with other decks of similar quality and strength. What a nice change of pace – playing a fair match and not getting absolutely smoked.
In playing a match, how and where you can play your cards is everything in Faeria, though. See, while you play hero cards on a board, the board is totally blank at the start of each fight. Instead, at the start of your turn, you actually need to set down land tiles to build the board out. The overall size of the board is fixed, but you build within those bounds – with a few caveats. Every new tile must be adjacent to at least one other tile you built or to one of your heroes. So if you have a hero that is able to run across the board onto the enemy’s tiles, then you’ll be able to drop a tile next to that hero at the start of your next turn.
There are four elemental type of tiles and a basic land tile. Each turn, you can build a single elemental land type or two basic ones. You can think of the elemental types similar to those found in MTG. If you are playing a red deck, you’ll need a lot of mountain tiles. When playing these element specific card types, you don’t have to tie them to any specific land tile, but they have to match their element, which also means that tile needs to be unoccupied. So, by having built four red (mountain) tiles, I can summon any red cards that require up to four red tiles to exist. The tiles don’t get used up; they simply need to exist, and then their power is available from then on.
On your turn, you will gain three mana, plus one for each mana pool you have a hero next to. You can use mana to play any number of cards or even save it, as mana rolls over between turns. Heroes on the board may take one move and one attack action, then choose to either place land, draw a card, or gain one more mana.
With all these possible actions – where and what type of land to place, to attack now or wait until after you’ve played from your hand, and which heroes to target – you’ll soon see there is a lot of opportunity for smart, skillful play. That’s something I’ve really enjoyed about my matches so far too. When I’ve lost, it definitely was because of a boneheaded mistake I made instead of my just being outclassed from the start.
More than just dueling – kind of?
But also kind of not. While the main focus of the game is one-on-one duels, there are a few other modes to play as well. As in Shadowverse, we have similar puzzles for all you wrinkle brains out there. Something that was really nice is these puzzles ease you into them much better than Shadowverse did. Here, I was still quickly knocking these out even on puzzle 13 and so. They were all quite easy, which is a nice feeling every once and a while.
However, Faeria also includes a ton of solo games to play. It doesn’t look like there is a cohesive narrative compared to what I found in Shadowverse, but you do get to play games that are gradually more difficult. At the same time, you’ll be earning more and higher-quality cards, improving your decks.
Another interesting feature is a co-op mode that unlocks after a few hours of play. I wasn’t able to get to play this one since I don’t actually have anyone to co-op with here, but it is a really cool idea. I haven’t played any digital card games with that sort of mode. If you’ve got a gaming buddy who loves card games too, I can’t imagine I’ll come across many other games that let you play together like that.
The last mode was called Pandora – essentially your drafting mode. It was kind of interesting in that you actually wager your gems and unlocked loot boxes. The gems are earned from winning matches, even against AI, and the chests are from completing dailies. If I were really invested in the game, I could absolutely see there being some fun here.
Faeria’s monetization skips pay-to-win schemes
By and large Faeria is standing out in its monetization, the reason being that there isn’t a veritable infinite number of cards to collect and gather as in some of the other CCGs. The base game has just 300 cards, and you’ll start earning and unlocking a bunch of them quickly as you proceed through the AI quests.
However, there is an entry fee.
The full listing price on Steam comes in at an eye-watering $20, which really is a bit steep as I’m a cheap bastard, though it does go on sale from time-to-time. I grabbed it during the Steam spring sale for a cool $5, which was a definite deal. There’s also at least four expansions available, meaning the amount of content available just from AI play is huge. If you like these sorts of card games and AI challenge modes, then you definitely won’t get bored.
Faeria does have a full offering of cosmetics and lootboxes to buy, though. Your avatar, card backs, and other flourish can be acquired. The good news is everything in the shop is purchased with in-game currency. That’s right, the very gems you earn from winning matches is used for this shop. I know, you never see something like this. I suppose full box price doesn’t sound so stingy anymore, right? Now, the game isn’t leaving money on the table; there are DLC packs you can purchase right on Steam that will let you unlock the cosmetics for real cash if you lack all patience. Regardless, this is the best monetization I’ve seen yet from a card game.
Now the bad news: As far as I can tell, Faeria is available only on Steam, and it hasn’t been updated significantly in almost two years. Despite the interface being absolutely set up to be a mobile title, I couldn’t find anything about its availability on the mobile stores, which is a shame because it would really excel there. As it is, though, there’s a lot to love about Faeria on PC, and if you’re in the mood for a card battler that blends into boardgame territory, this should definitely be on your shortlist.