The Peanut Gallery Presents: Hex Alpha

pg_titlecard_012Season’s Greetings and Happy Holiday’s from the staff of the Peanut Gallery! It’s been  long and interesting first year, and to cap it all off this fine December with a look at a recently delivered Kickstarter Project.


Developed by Cryptozoic Entertainment, Hex: Shards of Fate tells the tale of a war between the Underworld and Aria. Each Realm has brought powerful allies and spells to the battlefield, and an the power created from shards holds the key to victory. The first fully digital Massive Multiplayer Online Collectible Card Game of its kind, Hex aims to carve its own niche in the gaming world.


Those who know a little history about the collectible card game industry might be puzzled. after all, most card games will be lucky to carve out a niche for themselves, given the large playerbase and self-sustaining engine of Magic: the Gathering. And trying to do it via a kickstarter, with a company that hasn’t garnered a lot of press for their past works?


Well, that’s where the strengths of Hex come into play. Most collectible card games in the computing sphere are copies of existing card games in the real world. Even Hearthstone, the card game created by Blizzard, had a physical counterpart. But Hex doesn’t, and the resulting design space that’s opened up as a result may be the key to this game’s success.


To begin with, using a computer to do anything means that you don’t have what are known as ‘memory issues’. this means that you can never miss when one of your creatures or actions occurs. For most card games, this just means that you don’t have to concentrate to see if your creature gets +1/+1 counters this turn, etc. But with Hex, This means that they can alter the way that all sorts of cards work. To begin with, most cards that work as aura’s in Magic are now actions in Hex. And that’s not all.


See, with magic, if you lost the aura, you lost the bonus. Not to mention that you lost out if the creature was killed. In Hex, these actions give permanent boosts to toughness and power. That’s right, it doesn’t matter if your creature gets put into the graveyard, your deck or your hand, if you can get it on the battlefield, then it still has the same bonuses.


Couple that with game mechanics like Escalation, and you have something very interesting going on. But what’s escalation? Well, in this case, it’s a simple and yet deep mechanic that rewards playing multiple copies of the same card. and card that has escalation has an effect, and this effect is important, because every time you cast this same card, every instance of it gains the base value in power. Ragefire, a card  which starts off doing 2 damage, gets stronger with each copy you play, going from 2 to 4 to 6 to eight. And the same effect shuffles each escalation card into your library instead of your graveyard, which guarantees that there is no upper limit to the power these cards can bring.


But the hijinks don’t stop there. There are all sorts of different manipulations you can make, not only to your own deck, but also to your opponents, as the card sabotage shows. When sabotage is played, it shuffles four booby traps into your opponents deck. This not only means that your opponent might take damage from drawing a card, but if they draw a booby trap, it also costs them a card!


Hex feels different from most card games, and that’s a good thing. But one of the final changes is the separation and change of resource. While in magic you have lands, in Hex you have shards. And shards behave very differently than land.


The big difference is that a shard provides two resources: mana and threshold. To compare, a Wild shard works much the same as a Forest, but where a forest provides one green mana, a wild shard provides one mana and one wild threshold.


This is important because by separating these resources, certain combos become more robust. The example I use is this: in Magic, there are the Llanowar Elves, which also tap for green mana. If you have one forest,  a plains, a Llanowar elf and a card that costs two green mana, then you play the forest, tap it to play the elf. Next turn you tap the elf and the forest to play the two green mana card. If the Llanowar elf is killed, however, you are unable to do so because you cannot make two green mana. The plains only creates white mana.


In Hex, mana doesn’t have a colour, so cards like the Llanowar elf tap for mana, but give coloured threshold. In the Hex example of the above, you have a wild shard (representing a forest), a diamond shard (representing the plains), a howling brave (our Llanowar elf stand-in) and a two green threshold card. The play is the same, we plat the wild shard, use the mana for the howling brave. But the howling brave gives threshold when it enters the battlefield, and we don’t lose the threshold if the brave dies. Thus, on the second turn, we have two green threshold, and can use the mana produced by the diamond shard to play our two green threshold card.


Hex is only in Alpha and has a lot of things to still do. the game is currently buggy, there isn’t a PVE campaign, and they have a long way to go. But what they’re doing is good, and I look forward to the work that they’re putting into this, this might become my go-to card game on the Internet.


Unfortunately, I can’t really keep you any longer. But until I see you all again, next year, I hope your cup is never empty and your table always has dice!