Warpforge's Closed Alpha – First Impressions
A first look at Everguild's Warpforge, a CCG set in the Warhammer 40K universe.
Yours truly happens to be one of the lucky folks that got an invite, so below you'll find some Warpforge first impressions.
If short on time, the tl;dr would be: The game's looking very good, and in my experience runs smoothly — worth checking out!
Warpforge: Quick Overview
Takes quite a few pages from Hearthstone's book (like the overall turn structure, board placement, lack of blockers, "Taunt" units, etc),
Mixes it with Duelyst's concept of your Health Pool being an actual unit on the board (called your General in Duelyst, and Warlord in Warpforge), with its own skills and stats,
Borrows LoR's mechanic of some units generating ephemeral cards every turn (which work somewhat like activated abilities in MTG, in the sense of your units giving you extra stuff to do with your mana),
And adds an interesting, novel twist: rather than the usual three stats (Mana, Power, and Toughness), Warpforge units have four: every unit has two attack modes, Melee and Ranged.
Warpforge's turn structure is pretty Hearthstone-y – I do my thing(s) during my turn, then it's your turn and you do your thing(s). The attacker decides which units to hit, and there are no blockers like in Magic or LoR.
Board positioning is very Hearthstone-y, too, the board having, in this case, nine "lanes" – and, against like in HS, board position does matter (some mechanics require that you place a unit to the left of an existing unit; there's splash damage; etc).
One big difference, as noted, is that rather than your total Health being just a numeric entity that we all just call "face", in Warpforge the game revolves around your Warlord, which is another unit on the board. Rather than defending your "face" and attacking your foe's, the game's objective is to kill the opposing Warlord.
Warlords fundamentally change how you value units, tempo, and board presence. In other card games, a 2/2 unit could in principle win the game all by itself if left unchecked, by doing chip damage every turn. In Warpforge, since your Warlords don't just have Health but also have Power, your 2/2 dies when hitting them — and your Warlord can attack enemy units during your turn, just like any other unit.
Warlords are also the first step of building a deck: each Warlord belongs to a faction from the Warhammer universe (Space Marines, Necrons, Orks, etc.), and you can only use cards from your Warlord's faction. As of now, there are three Warlords per faction.
(For LoR readers: you have to include a Warlord – Warlord-ess decks are not a thing! =)
Warpforge introduces a core mechanic that, to my knowledge, is brand-new and unique: units have two attack modes, Melee and Ranged.
This mechanic fits the Lore like a power glove (WH40K's Space Marines are often depicted wielding a long-range weapon on one hand, and a close-range weapon on the other), but I'm a bit on the fence about how much I like it – it does add a tactical layer, allows for a lot of design space (some units can only be targetted by one type of attack; some effects nullify one type of attack but not the other; etc), and is another "lever" for balancing…
… but, on the other hand, in practice sometimes it's just extra clicks with no extra depth (the optimal attack type is often obvious), it gets a bit tedious on big boards, and when it does matter it feels a bit more about micro-managing than outplaying your foe.
Still, it's grand to see Devs trying new things, and the Melee/Ranged mechanic is indeed a core component of the game.
Not Too Many Deckbuilding Options
Thus far, Warpforge's deckbuilding is one of the simplest I've seen: you can only use cards from your Warlord's faction.
Unlike Hearthstone, and notably also unlike Everguild's previous game, there is no Neutral pool (ie cards that all factions have access to) – and, from chats I've had with other players, it looks like that's how it's going to be going forward.
Warlords do add a lot of variety here (decks with the exact same 30 cards, but different Warlords, can play very differently given that each WL creates a different card per turn), but at least right now Warpforge does not look like a brewer's paradise.
We Got Drafts!
Warpforge has a Draft mode – and it's a blast to play! =)
A draft run starts exactly like Hearthstone's Arena, with a choice of three Warlords…
… but then, rather than a single card, you have to choose three-card pods (a bit like in LoR's Expeditions… damn, I still miss that game mode!):
As is pretty much the rule among CCGs, Drafts are a great way to build your collection while facing foes on an even footing. As of right now, there are no special rewards for completing the run, but each win will net you some Gold (more on this below).
By the way, for HHL readers: there's no rerolling, at least not yet.
Cute Puppies and Card Acquisition
Closed Alphas, like puppies, can be a bit messy but are always cute and frisky and playful…
… above all because monetization and card acquisition haven't yet reared their ugly, greedy head.
I'll be blunt here: Everguild's previous game (Horus Heresy: Legions) has one of the most frustrating card acquisition systems of all CCGs I've played. I mean, it manages to make Hearthstone and Magic Arena feel rewarding, for crying out loud.
(And if you've played LoR, it's like you can't possibly fathom how Devs are still doing this pack thing?? I mean, in this friggin' day and age!?)
Having said that, Warpforge currently just showers you with cards – this is how things work right now, straight from the horse's mouth:
The main way to acquire new cards is via booster packs in the shop. Every booster pack contains 5 cards, with at least one of them being of rare or higher quality. There are two types of booster packs available at the time:
‘All armies’ boosters: these packs contain 5 cards randomly selected from all the available factions, the perfect way to steadily grow your collection.
Army-specific boosters: if you want to focus on a particular army, these boosters contain 5 cards from one of the available armies and are the best way to unlock all of its available strategies.
Please note that collection progress during the Closed Alpha will NOT be saved. Once the alpha is over, all collections will be reset.
Army-specific boosters cost 200 gold, and Army-agnostic packs cost 100.
Currently, the game gives you:
5000 gold when you start (therefore, 25 packs of a specific faction, or 50 packs of All Armies booster, or your in-between choice),
1000 gold every 24 hours, which you can get from the shop,
50 gold per win (regardless of game mode: Constructed, Draft, and even against bots in Practice mode), and
Up to 25 for a loss (depending on how much damage you deal).
As said above, Warpforge throws packs at you right now –but we don't have any information on how the final system will look at launch (the Shop will clearly include other options, but they are greyed out for now), or how much things will cost.
All in all, I dearly hope that Warforge's final monetization system lands a lot closer to current CCGs than Everguild's previous game. We'll see!
As long as Hearthstonesque turns are not a deal-breaker for you, I definitely recommend trying to get a key to Warpforge's Closed Alpha – hope you get one soon, and hope we bump into each other in there!
Appendix: Context, Caveats & Links
Just for transparency & full disclosure:
I've got the key to the Closed Alpha simply by applying – I am active in Warpforge's Discord, and also an active player of Horus Heresy: Legions (Everguild's previous game, also in the WH universe), which may have been a factor, but as said above, I have no ties or links to Warpforge's devs,
All opinions in this article are entirely my own.
Warpforge's website: https://www.warpforge40k.com/
Warpforge's Closed Alpha sign-up: https://www.warpforge40k.com/sign-up-for-the-closed-alpha/
Warpforge's Closed Alpha notes: https://www.warpforge40k.com/first-closed-alpha-begins/
Warpforge's Discord: https://discord.com/invite/warpforge
Everguild's website: https://everguild.com/company