Elder Scrolls Online is surely in my top five favorite MMOs of All Time. I have played Elder Scrolls games since the days of Daggerfall, and heading back to ESO regardless of how long I’ve been away is always painless (except when they keep refunding my build points).
I wasn’t really playing ESO in the run-up to the latest High Isle expansion. In fact, I had just uninstalled it a few weeks ago to free up hard drive space, and because I knew I wasn’t playing enough to justify shelling out for High Isle; my main character has quests from all over open Tamriel so taking on a completely new zone when I haven’t finished all of the other expansion zones seemed pointless.
Of course, there were two factors pushing me to cave. The first was 30% off the upgrade at Green Man Gaming, and the debut of the second Elder Scrolls-themed collectable card game, Tales of Tribute. So, back on the hard drive went the install.
I grew up collecting Magic: The Gathering cards, but I was always a terrible player. No matter what the game, card or otherwise, I don’t strategize; I don’t have the memory for fast-pace, rapidly-changing decision making, nor do I care to spend time analyzing plans of attack that won’t survive contact with the enemy. You have to understand that my collecting days were back before the days of the Internet, so I never had miles and miles of electrons dedicated to deck building advice. I played with friends, and we all played the same way: build up massive armies until we were almost out of cards, and then duke it out in one massive round of explosive cardboard carnage. I had learned my lesson because of this, and I never really took to the digital CCGs. I tried a few, but even in the age of must-read guides on pretty much anything, I didn’t really have the stomach nor the stamina to go whatever distance a competent CCG player was expected to go.
Most CCGs task you with finding a way to directly defeat your opponent. This can involve whittling down their hands, removing their key cards from play, stopping them from deploying their best weapons, or simply beating their armies into the dirt. For me, someone who really dislikes confrontation, this kind of tabletop PvP is never something I enjoy, and there’s no shortage of anecdotes regarding poor player behaviors even in something as simple as an online card game. Thankfully, Tales of Tribute is not this kind of CCG.
Rather than deal directly with your opponent, ToT has you racing more or less parallel to them.
Each player brings 2 decks to the table, and when starting out all players will only have the same 4 decks available to them to choose from (there appear to be 8 in all). One side chooses two decks to deploy, and the other chooses 2 more. Then, all cards are mixed together, and each player receives…a certain amount to start. I’m not sure how many because it’s not super important to know this when the computer is keeping track of stuff. Then, five cards are placed in the middle of the play area; this is “the tavern” and serves as a shop where players can buy cards on their turn.
When the game starts, you draw five cards. Most of them will add coins to your coffers (the coin icon in the center of the table on each player’s side) and on your turn you can spend those coins to purchase cards from the tavern. Purchased cards go directly into your discard pile (usually). Once you have completed your turn, all of your played cards end up in the discard pile, and if you have no more cards in the draw pile, the discards are shuffled and returned as the new draw pile. Purchased cards are usually not available to play until you run out of cards to draw, so you’ll usually be one round away from using them (except for the immediate cards, which must be played when purchased).
The goal is to accrue 40 “prestige points” before your opponent does. This is tracked by the blue icon in the center of the table on each player’s side. The main way to add to this total is to take actions which award “power”, which is tracked using the red icon in the center of each player’s side. At the end of the turn, any remaining power is converted into prestige.
There’s an alternate way of winning, which is by gaining “favor” with all four patrons represented by the decks in play. You can see them on the right side of the play-space. Each patron has requirements that must be met in order to turn their eyes (actually, their pointed indicator) your way. Some may require you to sacrifice a card. Some may way all of your money. Some might actually help speed up your draw-pile rebuild. If you can get all four patrons to favor you, you will win the round regardless of your prestige value. And that fifth node in the middle of the patrons is “the treasury”. If you sacrifice a card in play, you can gain a “writ of coin” which is worth 2 coin when played.
There are a lot more situations and rules involved, and there are cases when you can be attacked, but not directly. Players do not have hit points, but opponents can attack and knock out other player’s “agents”, which are cards that are always in play and can use their benefits every turn. There’s a combo system which provides additional benefits when suits match. And as the game progresses and the coin purses increase for each player, it’s a buying frenzy as better cards become available in each hand and can sometimes allow for almost a dozen consecutive card acquisitions in a single player’s turn (making sacrificing a card for a benefit almost inconsequential).
Because it’s another game system, there’s the ability to play NPCs at select taverns around Tamriel (indicated by a new icon on the map, a white crown), or against other players. Each player has a level, and each match one adds XP towards the next. Once a player reaches the point of graduating to the next level, they need to participate in a PvP tournament (not sure if there’s actually a PvE tournament, though…). I don’t know if you need to win or just participate, but I hope it’s the latter if it’s only a PvP tournament, because…see my post intro. And of course there’s daily missions from a pair of Khajiit siblings on High Isle, one for PvE and one for PvP.
And finally, getting new cards. Apparently these can be had from tournaments, as rewards for quests, and found out in the world. For those who are wondering — neither cards nor decks are not available in the Crown Shope. I looked.