App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Age of Rivals is a multiplayer collectible card game (CCG) that uses a unique system to challenge players to build a better kingdom than their opponent. Unlike the reigning champion of online card games, Hearthstone, where you spend your time crafting a deck before you play, Age of Rivals is all about creating your deck while you play. With this system, Age of Rivals feels like a breath of fresh air in an App Store drowning in more traditional collectible card games.
Age of Rivals feels so different from a lot of the prevailing CCGs because it is what is known as a deck-building game. It's a genre that's more common in physical card games like Dominion or Ascension, with the main focus of playing the game is around the actual construction of a deck.
In the case of Age of Rivals, you compete with one opponent as you both pull from a pool of cards that contain things like trade goods, cultural landmarks, civic structures, and–of course–military units. The ultimate goal of the game is to earn more points than your opponent, but there are myriad ways to do this. Cultural and religious buildings, for example, grant points directly, but they are susceptible to attacks from enemies and can be quite expensive. As a result, it might be a good idea to balance out your deck with defenses and trade goods to make sure that you can continue to afford cards while defending your assets.
An average game of Age of Rivals takes somewhere between 10-15 minutes and involves four rounds of play. In its current state, Age of Rivals sports single-player against AI (that you still have to be online to play, unfortunately), a Challenge Mode, and competitive multiplayer. After any given match in these modes, players earn coins which they can use to unlock new cards and characters to play as.
No matter what mode of Age of Rivals you're playing though, the same basic gameplay applies. Each round of the game has multiple phases, with each one affecting the final scoring of that round. In the Build phase, players are purchasing cards and using their effects to gain an advantage against their opponent. After the Build phase comes Conquest, where both players compete to take over three cities given their military might, with each one yielding a certain amount of points. From there, the game moves into a War phase, where players can deal direct damage to their enemy's cards, which can prevent them from being scored in the Scoring phase that comes next. Once scores have been totaled, one card that has been damaged enough may become permanently ruined for the rest of the game, all of your cards are reshuffled, and you play the next round with a set of four random cards you purchased earlier.
Given all of these phases and non-traditional mechanics, Age of Rivals sounds a lot more confusing on paper than it really is. Most of the game is about good decision-making given a limited set of options. Since you can always see what your opponent has and is playing for, it's up to you to decide how to best counter their strategy and earn more points for your side. Since you don't start with a pre-picked deck, this makes Age of Rivals feel a lot more tactical (and also replayable) since there isn't the option to just stick with a certain style of deck every time.
On the strategic side of things, though, Age of Rivals allows you a limited amount of control over what kinds of cards you might purchase as you play. The different characters in the game all have up to three card slots for cards you're guaranteed to see every game. Only certain kinds of cards can be used with certain characters though, making certain general strategies more achieveable given a certain character.
The bottom line
Age of Rivals is an immensely satisfying card game. No two games really feel alike, and its mechanics set it apart from things like Hearthstone or The Elder Scrolls: Legends. Although it's a bummer that you have to always be online to play (though that's apparently getting fixed in the next update), Age of Rivals is still well worth your time and money.