Millennium Blades is, far and away, the most expensive game I own. It cost me £70 including postage, with no Kickstarter bonuses, because I can be impulsive too and I couldn’t wait 6 months for the next printing. On the plus side, here’s a session report.
It’s a ‘CCG simulator’, meaning it’s like being the kids in the Yu-Gi-Oh anime who solve all their problems with card games. The game is divided into tournaments and deckbuilding phases, and both work remarkably well – and you can score decent victory points by being that kid who collected every 1st edition card in mint condition. It’s also got a very clever ramping of intensity, as the first tournament scores far fewer VP than the final tournament, meaning that once you’ve built ultimate decks it’s still all to play for.
There were 5 of us playing; three of us had played a few times before and there were two newbies who took to the game like geeks to cards with bigger numbers on them. We played a pre-release tournament with 12 additional cards to ease everyone in, and the winning score is normally about 120 ‘rank points’. As you can decipher from the first image, one of the newbies kicked our butts with 162 RP straight out of the gate; but luckily for us, that victory only translated into 7 victory points!
The deck-building phase was a little unusual; I had pointed out while giving the instructions that people can chuck away most of their starting decks to get victory points; and so they did. Everyone got a flat 16 victory points, with one sneaky bugger getting an extra card for 21 VP. On the plus side, it made sure that everyone’s decks were completely original for the tournament, for better or worse.
Tournament 2 went… well, not exactly “better” for me. But it went. Two players were running the ‘Zen Mercenary’ deckbox, which requires activating every turn for most value. While we’d been relaxed in the first tournament, here we tightened up the rules and demanded that people remember to use them to get the points! There’s nothing like human error to add humour to a game; and boy, there was a lot of both.
I came 2nd to last, again, and was only ahead of dear Eszter. I made a massive misplay that cost myself 25 points, and forgot about the ‘Meta’ bonus available, so I really deserved that.
I started forming a sneaky plan, however. I had Evil Beethoven (who else), and could boost his stars up and use it to daisy chain cards – shooting for around 200 rank points for the finale. So, in the third deckbuilding phase I hunted out whatever I could to support this plan, and also picked up a fantastic promo card that… well, it really would have helped a lot if I was playing an entirely different deck.
The final tournament got off to a great start, with Evil Beethoven fully protected and helping me claim the 25 I messed up previously. Then, out of the blue, some asshole played a promo to buy Evil Beethoven right off my tableau, screwing me out of 30 points directly as well as the 35 from my deckbox. Because I had protected him from being flipped, not being outright removed, he flew off to play his malevolent music in someone else’s hand.
I came third in the final tournament, which I previously had a reasonable shot at winning. I cursed under my breath and totted up the scores.
A fellow called Matt won with a couple of very elegant combinations. A lot of his combos revolved around flipped cards, especially Gno-Man’s Land as pictured.
Note that ‘Danny’ only activates passively on a flip; meaning that one flip of Danny triggers a flip of the next card down the line. Add a card that scores 24 by actively flipping something, and a card that scores based on how many are ‘flipped’, and you’ve got the start of a winning deck.
Millennium Blades is fascinating, and I absolutely adore my time with it. The game modes complement each other; the dramatic tension of the tournament is softed by the slightly barmy real-time deckbuilding, which needs the tournament as a goal to work towards. I’ve already mentioned how much I like the increased importance of the final stages, as if you’re competing against the league champion except it’s actually your friends in their strongest forms. There is no way to recommend Millennium Blades to everyone; it’s long, complicated, nerdier than a Naruto lunchbox, takes ages to set up, and the best player doesn’t always win. On the other hand, if it sounds like your thing, then you’re probably right.