The Elder Scrolls: Legends (iOS/Android/PC/Mac)

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    The Elder Scrolls: Legends came out on smart phones this week after its second expansion, Heroes of Skyrim, at the end of June. As someone who's been playing Hearthstone since 2013, it's really exciting to see this game improve on the digital TCG formula and I think it's well worth people who're interested in turn-based and strategy games giving a chance. I'll do my best to explain the game here, relating it to Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering when I can.

    Mechanical differences from Hearthstone

    Right from the start Legends' board is split into two, 4 creature-wide lanes. In typical modes the left lane has no effect while the right lane puts cards into cover (stealth) for one turn. Importantly and unlike HS, creatures in cover can be targeted by spells as well as struck by board clears.

    Each player has five runes that break and draw a card every increment of five their health lowers below 30 to balance aggression. Health starts at 30, but is not capped there like Hearthstone, so life gain decks are possible. If a prophecy card (creature or spell) is drawn from this effect it can be played for no magicka cost interrupting the opponent's turn before giving them back control (similar to MTG's flash effect). Players' magicka also doesn't cap at 10, but rather keeps rising each successive turn, allowing players more and more options.

    Instead of classes, Legends uses a five attribute/color system similar to Magic, but also has an emphasis on neutral cards like Hearthstone. Each deck is limited two attributes max. They include strength (or red or aggro), intelligence (or blue or control), willpower which is sort of a jack of all trades with tokens and enchantments, agility (or green) focusing on instant kill and lane-changing effects, and endurance which comprises ramp, graveyard pull effects, and attrition-centered cards.

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    General differences

    The game is much less luck-based and more interactive than Hearthstone, it's colors are better balanced than classes, and the app is just a lot stabler and won't dc if you switch to check another app. The card art is consistently beautiful with a cohesive style (except for a couple random 3D-rendered cards — why?) and the soundtrack is dramatic and orchestral, alluding to Elder Scrolls soundtracks at times. There is a few hour long story mode to teach you the game mechanics that rewards players with new base decks and gives them a few choices in the narrative that correspond to one of two cards the choice rewards them with. After that there's a purchasable 40-card story expansion entitled Fall of the Dark Brotherhood.

    Finally, crucially, the game is just a lot more generous. Completing the story mode grants new players five decks (decks are 50-70 cards in this game and there is overlap in the starter card decks' card lists), enough gold to buy a sixth from the store, and one of two legendary cards. Everyone also gets one of 5 new decks from the Heroes of Skyrim expansion including a legendary. There are daily quests and a leveling system that reward gold and cards upgrades. The prices match Hearthstone, but each card pack includes 6 cards and ever 3 wins in standard gives a new card and some card crafting material.

    Keywords (Hearthstone / MTG equivalents in parentheses)

    • Beast Form: This creature changes into a werewolf if it is in play when an opponent's rune is broken.

    • Breakthrough (Trample): Excess damage when attacking creatures is dealt to your opponent's health total.

    • Charge (Charge/Haste): This creature ignores summoning sickness and can attack on the turn it is played.

    • Cover (Stealth): This creature cannot be attacked by other creatures for one turn.

    • Drain (Lifesteal/Lifelink): Damage dealt by this creature on its owner's turn heals that player by the same amount.

    • Guard (Taunt): Enemy creatures in the same lane cannot attack the owner's creatures without guard or attack the owner directly.

    • Last Gasp (Deathrattle): On death effect.

    • Lethal (Poisonous/Deathtouch): Any amount of damage dealt by this minion destroys a creature outright.

    • Pilfer: Effect on attacking the other player directly.

    • Prophecy (Flash): If a prophecy card is drawn from a rune break it can be played for no magicka cost interrupting the opponent's turn before giving them back control.

    • Regenerate: This creature heals any damage it has taken at the start of the owner's next turn (does not resurrect).

    • Shackle (Freeze): Prevent an minion for moving their next turn.

    • Silence: Remove another creature's card text effects beyond their basic attack and health stats.

    • Slay: Effect on killing another creature.

    • Summon (Battlecry) Effect when played or put into play from a card effect (different from Hearthstone).

    • Ward (Divine Shield): This creature loses no health the first time it takes damage.

  • Oh wow, I didn't know that this was out. I don't really play betas, and I assumed it was still in the midst of that.

    I've never played a digital card game (other than Gwent in Witcher 3, I suppose), but I do enjoy Elder Scrolls, so I'll have to give this a shot! Thanks for posting this!

  • @Billy You should send me a friend request afer you start playing. Not sure hpw to do that in the app, but my username is the same there.

    A couple things I forgot to explain in the OP:

    Going second carries no card advantage but gives the player a ring with three extra magicka gems set into it (abilities like these can be used once per turn). It is often the right choice to spend them on turn 1 to play a 2-drop, 2 to play a 3-drop, and so on. Just be mindful of how many you've expended — it can be hard to tell if the second gem is still unused on a phone screen.

    Lastly, every creature has a tribe tag. Not all of them posess synergy but I like that, beyond attributes, the different 10 humanoid races and other creatures have themed effects. Dragons are all big drops, Argonians tend to ramp extra magicka, Redguards are all about weapons (enchantments in this game), and Imperials have a lot of tokens.

  • Well, I went to just try this out really quickly and ended up staying awake until 2am (which is very very late for me). I really like the simplicity of the rules, although the variety of cards and strategies adds a surprising amount of depth. The artwork is great, and I haven't felt the compulsion to pay in any real cash. Great phone game so far! Thanks for the recommendation!

  • I played the closed beta for it last year, never went back to it. There was already a "Meta" and just noped right out of it.

    Had a neat concept at least, the singleplayer content was a little challenging. But I just can't get myself to care about a TCG in which I don't own the cards.

  • Totally. Legends is pretty good at giving you a bunch of cards early on, and few are just stats without card text, so it makes sense to acquaint yourself with the 5 colors before wanting for more cards. I've also gotten probably 7 or 8 legendary cards so far before spending any money or gold, a couple of which are apparently among the strongest in the meta. The thing about legendaries is the ones which aren't proper nouns can have up to 3 copies put into a deck like every other car, so those could get expensive.

    I'm really just enamored by the UI though, it's so much less rickety than Hearthstone's. There are tooltips for everything which are easily readable on phones, and whenever cards come into play, even on opponents' turns, you can target their effects to individual cards or just cancel their effects if you want (Hearthstone just uses random effects so they don't take as much time to play and the cards that do have effects have to hit something even if it buffs an enemy minion). The card search isn't so picky about verbiage, the app doesn't crash, and if it disconnects it will save your deck so you don't lose 20 minutes of progress. God, it's just so nice.

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    Im not normally into card games that much, even though hearthstone was fun... I do love myself some elder scroll though, is it worth giving a shot?

  • @Lotias I can definitely see Legends taking some work to get into. It's like a digital MTG without all the years of expansions, so it could be worth watching some tutorial vids to learn concepts like tempo, curving out, win conditions, and aggro / mid-range / control / attrition / combo playstyles.

    It has definitely got the Elder Scrolls vibe to it though. The card art is beautiful and detailed like the games, and you can build a deck around any of the 10 races (and some creatures like dragons, werewolves, or atronachs) they're so well themed to different playstyles.

  • @Lotias I'm as casual as they come, choosing cards for their artwork many times, and I'm having fun. Enjoyable story mode that throws in variables to mix things up, and they give you a ton of cards, so there is a lot of strategies you can play around with. There definitely is a lot of Elder Scrolls love poured in, too, as you have tons of representation from different races, creatures, items, etc. Very accessible and a good tutorial, so just give it a shot and see.

    After you play a couple missions and they open up multiplayer, you can add me if you'd like: BluebeardBill. I relate to Huber regarding gaming "metas", so I'd love to play with people I know and just have fun.