Review: Trials of Fire

Title: Trials of Fire

Genre: Card-Based RPG

Modes: Single player

Developer: Whatboy Games

Publisher: Whatboy Games

Platforms: PC (Reviewed)

Release: May 7, 2019

Up until recently, I've never been one to get into the "deck-building" genre. This equates to both my real life and my digital life. Never played Magic: The Gathering. Within the last few years, I got into the Pokémon Trading Card Game (but still get my ass kicked by my kid). And only recently did I download Warhammer Ages of Sigmar on my Switch. So, needless to say, I'm a bit green when it comes to this . I know there's a bit of a learning curve with these types of games, and only the truly dedicated can reap the benefits. Perhaps that's why I haven't jumped in; maybe I just don't have the patience.

Knowing that, I was a little apprehensive when Trials of Fire dropped on my desk. Here we have another deck-building game, with more of the same, wizards and warriors fighting goblins and ghouls gameplay, with random cards acting as your attacks. As someone with almost no experience in the genre, would I enjoy this game?

The answer was a surprising "yes."

Trials of Fire is, as stated earlier, an RPG deck builder. You are placed in the roles of three heroes, looking to save their civilization and people by wandering a vast wasteland, looking for resources. Of course, along the way you battle monsters, make ethical decisions, and advance through a pretty deep and engaging story. The entire game is played out on a large book, and as each page turns, the battlefield rises, as a beautifully-drawn pop-up book. It really looks like you're sitting in a dimly-lit medieval pub, reading from an ancient tome.

As you play through the main story, you trek across a map, searching for supplies. You have to contend with the elements and hunger in order to keep your troupe alive, so finding the best place to go is tantamount to success. If your characters get hurt or start to go hungry, cards are added to your deck that work against you in battle, so it's important to stay healthy. You also meet characters in need of your services, and as the story is laid out, have to make moral choices on whom to help. And, as always, you come across baddies to battle.

Each battle takes place on a hexagon-based grid, with your three characters represented by coins. At the beginning of each turn, you are granted three cards for each member of your party. The cards, like many other games of this ilk, will provide your characters with attacks, defensive maneuvers, magical spells, and ability buffs. The catch, though, is that each card has a cost - known as willpower - that is required before you can activate it. You gain willpower by sacrificing cards in your hand; so for example if an attack requires three points and you don't have any, you need to move the required number of cards to the discard pile in order to use that attack.

The same goes for movement around the board. You can use a card to advance your character towards an enemy, but again, it will cost you. Plus, you have to use all your willpower points by the end of the round, or they're gone. This adds a fun twist on the genre, as it forces you to be very strategic in your approach. Will you save your cards up to launch a devastating spell, or will you give them up to attack first? And if you're low on health, which cards will you sacrifice in order to retreat to safety? The options are endless, and it makes Trials of Fire stand out from the many games of this style.

Once you move your characters and cards around, your turn ends, and the enemy gets to go next. And so it goes, until one side defeats the other and is declared the victor. As you win rounds, you level up in the game, and as a benefit, earn new, more powerful cards. This adds another layer of strategy, as now you can add certain types of cards to shape how you want your characters to act on the battlefield. You can also earn weapons and armor that adds more cards to the deck. At the same time though, strong cards can have negative effects, so it's important to balance that deck to your character's preferred play style.

The Tip and the Top

One of the things I enjoyed most about Trials of Fire was how relaxed it was. Yes, it's a game that requires a lot of cranial