Ophidian Wars from Small Cave Games is an exciting new take on classic combat card games. Many games of these types, from Magic: The Gathering to Yu-Gi-oh, have “summoning” mechanics where players send minions to block and fight. In Ophidian Wars, the gladiators are on their own while players act as coaches, dispatching moves and some gear while the gladiators fight tag-team to the last one standing.
Much of the draw of Ophidian Wars is its remarkable art. The setting is the dark, distant future, a time when the apex of entertainment is gladiatorial combat among mutants, aliens, demons, constructs, and more. An entire mythos is built around these games, mixing genres often seen in fantasy into the bleak, yet strangely alluring, future of interplanetary bloodsport.
Beyond the post-apocalypic SF art, Ophidian Wars offers unique mechanics that make it stand apart from other combat card games. Rather than having players take turns in which they may be able to make grand moves or simply build up, Ophidian Wars keeps the battle going with fast pacing in its Flow style of play. Actions in the game give positive or negative Flow, much like how real fighting can exhaust or give competitors a chance to catch their breaths. A player continues to play until he or she runs out of Flow, and then the opponent begins to swing back. Other factors include Adrenaline, granting a gladiator the ability to make special Maneuvers, and Cheer, which enables players to get artifacts. Clever players will chain cards together to keep up the momentum of their Flow and maintain control of the fight.
Another unique mechanic in Ophidian Wars is Rage. When gladiators are damaged enough, they go into a Rage that gives bonuses. Other card games often seem to drag on, but this sudden boost of abilities gives a “second act” to play. Players may leave wounded gladiators out in the ring to build up their abilities and hit back harder than ever before.
In addition to the card game, players may get miniatures of their favorite gladiators. These are optional for play in the game itself, but rich detail goes into each one, with stories explained even further on the Ophidian Wars site. The wide range of playability makes Ophidian Wars especially engaging since players can pick styles of play that best suit their strategies, such as the mutant Macabre’s ability to pick up equipment freely while Raging or the alien Quevor Monzimor’s bonus damage for having the most Cheer.
Ophidian Wars is a tactical card game for two players. Alternate rules allow games to be played by three or four players in free-for-all or teams. Play time will depend on whether players blitz and take down their opponent quickly, or the match turns into a war of attrition that could go much longer. The overall average for games is about half an hour, making Ophidian Wars ideal for tournament-style play, which fits perfectly with the battling area motif. Decks may be purchased through the Game Crafter, while the miniatures are available from Shapeways.