Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Weiss Schwarz Trial Decks - Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero

Weiss Schwarz is a card game that has yet to make it into the mainstream circuit, but that doesn't mean that it isn't an enjoyable game in and of itself. Those people who have heard of it likely aren't aware that several of the decks have already been translated into English, although compared to the selection of decks in Japanese the number released to American markets. So far the Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, and Sword Art Online trial decks are the biggest ones that have been released to the American markets, but translations for other series are available online for those who wish to play the game using their favorite series. Nippon Ichi America has also advertised their Disgaea starter deck in the past, but as I don't personally own it I cannot speak as to whether or not it has been translated into English or not.

The game itself is somewhat difficult to pick up on your own but there are tutorials available on the internet that will make learning much easier. Once you've gotten hang of the game it isn't really too terribly difficult, although learning precise turn order can be a bit of a task. While I'm not going to explain how to play the game in depth I will give the very basics before talking about the decks themselves. Certain terms will be useful to know when it comes to talking about the cards themselves, after all.

The basic point of the game is to force your opponent to level 4. In order to do this you must do 7 points of damage to your opponent over the course of each level, beginning with level 0. However as levels increase more powerful cards can be played, meaning that if you push your opponent to a high level too quickly without taking much damage you may find yourself suddenly overwhelmed by a slew of powerful cards. Cards can only be played once you have reached their level, meaning that a level 2 character can only be placed on the stage once you've reached level 2, although you may also play level 1 and level 0 characters.

In order to play most higher level cards, however, you must pay a tribute from your stock. Your stock is built up by attacking and through various cards throughout the game. It is important to keep a decent balance of stock so that you can summon characters as you level up, but to not have too many so that your deck remains well stocked.

The only other important term is 'climax cards' which act as general power-ups for your characters.

Now that we've gotten the basics out of the way we can review the decks themselves.

The first and probably most important thing to note about these decks is that they are predominantly catered towards those who are fans of the series which they represent. While it isn't impossible to play the game without knowledge of the series proper it is a bit of a deterrent. Thankfully the trial deck for both games manages to skirt the issue of major spoilers. There are bound to be spoilers here and there, of course, but the trial decks at least manage to keep these issues at bay.

Most of the cards themselves are composed of the art, which is not necessarily the standard way for cards to go. Instead of the pictures being relegated to a small section of the card the actions and details are written in a small space that overlaps the bottom of the picture. This is a rather nice change from most card games which follow the format of keeping the art and the play details separate. As the game is intended for fans to play together with their favorite series it is no surprise that showing off the artwork comes as such a priority. The Japanese name of the card is also preserved in both decks, leaving a neat connection to the original card itself.

As I personally have more experience with the Madoka deck I will be reviewing that first.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica:

The deck itself centers itself around Madoka and Homura for the most part, although you'll be surprised to find that most of your powerful cards tend to feature Sayaka. While the level 3 cards included in this deck are those of both Madoka and Homura, up until reaching this critical point you'll mostly be using cards featuring Sayaka. The most powerful climax card in the game is a tossup between one featuring Homura and one featuring Sayaka. While Homura offers a boost in power alongside the extra damage, Sayaka offers two points of extra damage as opposed to one. It is rather hard to remember that this deck isn't supposed to be Sayaka-central.

The art for the cards is typically rather bright and upbeat, making the card look overall much more pleasant and fun to play. The art is rather simple with most of the pictures coming from production art rather than simply from screenshots of the show. This leaves the backgrounds much lighter and less cluttered than other cards and makes for a rather beautiful deck. While there are cards which are simply screenshots (such as 'The Girl From the Dream' and 'Second Year Mitakihara Middle School, Sayaka') there are a great deal that come from promotional art ('Ordinary Girl, Madoka' and 'Smiling Sayaka').

This deck is a rather powerful one, with fairly easy to use cards with low costs coming out early in the game (most cards featuring Sayaka are at least 500 power higher than other cards of the same level). However the deck itself isn't perfect, as the inclusion of 4 level 3 cards leaves you rather hard up for lower level cards.

The deck, however, comes with a promotional Homura card at level 2 which can be used to take the spot of one of the level 3 cards. The promotional card is a level 2 with 8000 power, which in itself isn't much, but carries with it an action that allows you to add 2000 power to her by sacrificing one card in your stock. It isn't game-breaking but it is rather useful.

With the inclusion of this card, at the very least, you have the opportunity to modify the deck without having to buy any booster packs.


The Fate/Zero deck follows all of the basic points mentioned above about card quality. Large illustrations decorate the cards, which feature a selection of prints both from screenshots of the anime and from promotional art. The deck centers itself around Saber, although there is a small selection of her in the beginning stages of play. In the many times I have fought against this deck it seems that early play focuses mainly on Waver and Irisviel, as there are multiple cards featuring these two at level 0. There is a card featuring Saber for each level, at least, meaning that it's possible to use her at all levels. The two level 3 cards included in this deck (there are 2, as opposed to the 4 in the Madoka deck) are both Saber, as well.

The game seems to spread itself rather well across all levels, meaning that you will likely have a card to play at all times if you don't rush through them too quickly. While the cards in the Madoka deck may seem more powerful than those in the Fate/Zero deck it's rather difficult to fill your stage with the unbalanced card numbers. There are very few level 2 cards in the Madoka deck, meaning it is difficult to lay down powerful cards once you and your opponent have reached this level. In the Fate/Zero deck, however, the cards seem to be nicely spread out over all four levels.

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