Despite a lengthy introduction, a truly good Warhammer game has arrived on Switch.
Card games are something magical. Each one that I've played has unique systems and ideas that keep me glued to the screen for hours on end. The Nintendo Switch, however, is on the search for that one experience that can rule them all. Playfusion's last title, Lightseeker, left me feeling flat. The mechanics disappointed me somewhat, and it was something that could only be enjoyed under certain circumstances. When I heard that the studio had a Warhammer game in the works, I stood up and started to take notice. Unsurprisingly, the game made me feel a lot more welcome, even if there is a lot more to keep track of.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions, at its core, isn't unlike other card games. The game is free-to-play, so purchasing booster packs and other items is how the developer makes money. By pulling the cards you need, you will build up decks and face off against others in a variety of card battles. The game starts you off with the basics. You get some cards to use and three tutorials that won't take you longer than 15 minutes. Even after that point, though, you will likely have some questions. The game's answer? Just start playing, and everything will become clear as you move along. I wasn't entirely sure about this approach, but I eventually got the hang of things.
While the playing field may seem more limiting, I was thoroughly impressed with the strategies that Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions made possible. You start by placing champions, special units with awesome powers, in four slots on the map. As you place units and spells in the slots above them, the champions will go quests, which will result in attacks with incredible strength. The normal cards will flip around until they've exhausted all four sides. At that point, they will have used up their power and will go to the discard pile. Along the way, each side could provide an attack or another effect that can aid you in battle.
Every decision you make carries weight, in a micromanagement kind of ordeal. You will not attack your opponent's units. Instead, you will directly hit your opponent's health points in the swiftest way possible. Depending on the opponent you're facing, the strategies you will deploy will be rather different. More often than not, I held cards back as the flip system only allows for a limited number of opportunities. It is also rather important to note that you only get two actions in a single turn. You can decide to play cards and actively pursue victory, or draw cards and wait for the right chance to strike. Every game felt refreshing and forced me to think thoroughly and carefully.
Champions does a great job of highlighting effects and who will be affected. If something is not possible, it will clearly state that as well. Despite not having the clearest tutorial, the game guides you through battle with ease. Don't get me wrong: you still have to call the shots, so don't expect victories just because the title pushes you in the right direction. Unlike Playfusion's previous game, it is also possible to play Champions on a television and use the Joy-Con for good measure. This makes it easy to have a clear view of the playing field, with UI elements that just pop.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions gives you plenty of reasons to play the metagame as well. To learn the game, you can battle in a variety of offline modes that will test your skills. Naturally, you can opt to play random battles, but I found myself spending a lot of time in the Realm Trials. Here, you are thrown into battles that get more challenging the more you play, but there are some grand rewards in return if you complete them. Before you head in, the player is told which champions will be used, so your cards can be adjusted if you so desire. From time to time, there are also special campaigns and rewards on offer if you're willing to play over a longer period of time.
For those into the competitive side of the game, online is heavily featured in the title. For the most part, I kept it to Casual Mode and played games for fun. Sadly, there wasn't a way to play against friends and see who is the very best. Personally, I think that is a big shame as I really wanted pals to get into Champions. This missing feature isn't the end of the world, considering you also have Ranked and the special Arena of Echoes modes, but it would've been the cherry on top. Surely, I would be even more compelled to pump resources into the digital version.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions managed to impress me in multiple ways. While the game looks nice enough, the presentation is purely background for some fantastic gameplay elements. The grid system and its approach are really fun to play around with and give you just tons to consider. That being said, the tutorial can be a bit confusing and throws you into the game proper with very little care. Once you get over that hump, you will find that it can be learned through a number of games. There are deliberate systems at play, but the game guides you to where you need to go.