Developer: Ubisoft
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 2.4.3
Device Reviewed On: iPad 3, iPad mini

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Playtime Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

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Might & Magic: Duel Of Champions is a digital card battler, much like Wizards of the Coast’s Magic 2013 or Gameloft’s own Order and Chaos: Duels. There are some subtle differences in the mechanics of the basic ruleset, but the idea is the same: lay out artistically rendered cards on a grid, using warriors, spells, and events to outscore an opponent, dropping hit points of the enemy Hero card to zero.

IMG_0173Duel of Champions works similarly. Players get a deck of cards and an initial hand of randomly dealt creatures, events, spells, and fortunes to lay out on the grid. The virtual game space is laid out left vs right, with the player taking the spot on the left. Turns proceed in phases that are less linear than, say, Magic 2013, in that players can increase resources, play cards from their hand, or utilize special cards in any order. Instead of resource cards, here, players increase either Might or Magic via the Hero card, which is chosen for them initially by the specific deck they pick during setup.

At first, the overwhelmingly florid interface had me ready for an arcane set of rules, but the gameplay here is refreshingly easy to figure out, thanks to a multi-part tutorial that explains the basics of gameplay with some throwaway storyline that could most likely be done away with. That said, it does take quite a while to figure out the interface. Add to that an equally obtuse, proprietary multiplayer matching system (UPlay), and plenty of casual players will be put off.

IMG_0508Which is a shame, because this is easily the most accessible and downright engaging digital card game I’ve played. Card effects are written in clear language, usable cards are highlighted with a green glow, and playing a match is delightfully strategic and surprising every time. The games I engaged in were typically with opponents with similar abilities to mine; I never felt under or over matched. There are ranked matches available as well as tournaments for more advanced players.

As with any game of this type, digital or analog, there are many more card “packs” and decks to purchase, using earned in-game gold and spirit points. Player accounts also level up in experience, gaining XP for each match, win or lose. I’ve spent a good long obsessive weekend with the game, and I’ve not had to drop any real money on the game, yet, which says a lot for the experience.

Bottom line, Might & Magic: Duel of Champions is a free-to-play digital collectible card battling game that can be appreciated by both experienced card gamers as well as those new to the genre, assuming they are comfortable with some initial confusion, especially around signing up for Uplay and finding where the tutorial is. Once that happens, however, players are in for a delightfully deep experience that’s equal parts thoughtful strategy and easy-to-learn simplicity.

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