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Introducing The Spoils Card Game
by Scott Gerhardt
September 12, 2006


            First of all, I want to make something perfectly clear.  For the game I am about to talk about, I am not an employee.  I am not receiving a kick-back.  I am not writing this to gain any profit at all.  I am writing this because I want to.  I am writing this because I have found something so completely amazing that I feel compelled to share it with all of you.  I think I have found as nearly perfect a CCG as you can find, and you need to know about it.


            The Spoils is the initial offering from a company called Tenacious Games.  It has several notable backers, like World Championship caliber players like Jon Finkel and David Williams, just to name a couple.  It has a crack staff that, more than any other company I have ever done business with, “gets it”.  Most importantly they have a game that has been developed over the past FIVE years, and their hard work and dedication really shows in the game play.   In the past week-and-a-half since the game has entered it’s Open Beta, I have not been able to get enough of it.  Both of my stores in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and La Mirada, CA have been running Open Beta Sealed Deck tournaments every night (alternating stores) and the people there simply can not get enough of this game….neither can I.


            If you’ve played most any CCG, you have surely run across some of the evident flaws that each game possesses.  In Magic if you get mana screwed or mana flooded, you just loose.  In Vs if you happen to miss your 4 or 5 drop it can often set you back enough that you will never be able to recover.  In Yu-Gi-Oh and DuelMasters, with no mulligan and such a small starting hand size, you are subject to the whims of your deck screwing you over.  I could continue on and on but I will spare the rambling.  My point is while there are a lot of good games out there, they all possess some major flaw that makes them a game that often seems to come down more to luck than skill.  Sure, your better players will win more, but sometimes you will get draws that you simply can not overcome.  If only there was a way to take the flaws out of these games and create a game where the better player will almost always win.  If you could make a game where you are always virtually guaranteed an at least average start.  If you could make a game where you can miss a play or two and still not be dead.  If you could make a game where you control your game development, both in resources and hand size.  How about a game that isn’t afraid to have some fun, make you laugh at the jokes on the cards, and remind you that in the end, it’s all just a really, REALLY fun game.


            You don’t have to make this game – Tenacious Games already did.  It’s called, The Spoils.


            At the end of this article I am going to put a URL that you all need to check out.  It will give you more information about the game.  I’m certainly not going to cover each and every aspect there is, but I will hit the basics so you understand.


            Spoils is a game of political influence.  In politics, if you have influence, you have the power.  If your influence becomes tarnished and runs out, then you are completely powerless.  That is the general premise behind this game.


            You start as a particular faction.  Right now during Open Beta, there is 1 faction – The Tournament Faction.  Once the game goes to wide-release in November, there will me many more options for factions.  For the tournament faction, both players start at 25 influence.  I can only assume this will change faction to faction.  Almost immediately you notice something strange about the game.  Here, you can either draw a card OR play a resource.  In most games you get to do both.  So immediately the strategy of the game starts to take effect.  Even the most elementary things in card games require a decision from you.  Reading on, though, you find out that besides having your free play each turn you can spend resources to draw cards or play more resources.  I’m sure a number of you Magic players know what it’s like to have no hand, 8 lands on the board, draw land, play it in dismay and say, “go”.  Well, do that in the spoils and you can spend those extra, useless resources to draw cards.  No dead turn for you….ever!  Even what would seem like the most boring of games can keep you completely on your toes at all times since you never know what, or how many, your opponent will get to draw. 


            Looking at the cards will remind you of other experiences you have had in TCGs.  Remember, these guys weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel – they just wanted to make it as aerodynamic and smooth as possible.  Cards exist in 5 factions:  Gearsmith, Banker, Warlord, Arcanist, and Rogue.  Each one has it’s own little flavor and fun little things it can do.  If you like Drawing card, who better than a Banker?  Beefing up your guys with lots of add-ons your thing or even getting a ton of little guys out to swarm your opponent?  Try Gearsmith on for size.  Maybe you just have some raw aggression you want to get out by beating the crap out of your opponent?  Sounds like a Warlord to me.  Possibly you’re the tricky type that likes to mess with your opponent’s board and his head.  Arcanists sound like your cup of tea.  In the end, maybe you just want all your opponent’s stuff to be YOUR stuff.  You’ll like the Rogues, then. 


            Attacking is also a really neat concept.  When you attack, you're generally doing so to reduce your opponent’s influence.  You can attack with 1 guy at once, or 10, or even 100.  You can attack once in a turn, do things, then attack with someone else.  When you block you also have decisions as to who and how many block any number of attackers.  The REAL concept behind this game is speed.  Sure, other games has concepts similar to the Strength and Life found on The Spoils cards.  How many other games have Speed, though.  Speed is the critical concept found in a game that tells a creature how fast they strike.  The higher the number, the faster the strike.  Of course, if my speed 4 is able to inflict lethal damage to your speed 3 character before it gets to deal it’s damage, well that’s just too bad, isn’t it? J  The concept it amazing and it forces you to think about combat in 3 dimensions instead of the normal 2.


            So why is this game less luck driven?  Well, there are a few other concepts I have not hit on yet, but are really important.  First of all, with the Staple Tournament Faction, you get to start the game with 2 Staple Resources in play.  Yeah…that’s right.  In most games you’re not doing much on turn 1 or 2 anyway except building.  We’ll get that part out of the way, insure you have at least 2 resources to start the game and they don’t affect your opening hand size.  Speaking of opening hand size, let’s make it robust.  Since you’re not necessarily drawing every turn, we need to make sure you start with good numbers.  Also, since you don’t draw in this game, you can’t have a play/draw rule, so we’ll just alter the hand-size: 8 if going first, and 9 if going second.  Of course, even drawing that many can lead you to hands that aren’t so optimal, so you need a good mulligan rule, and man do we have it here.  Take any number of cards from your opening hand and put them on the bottom of your deck, then draw that many new cards from the top.  You can only do it once, but you only NEED to do it once.  If your deck is built right, you’re good there.  Even if you don’t draw as many resources as you need…no problem – you can play a card from your hand face-down as a factionless resource.  You’ll never be resource screwed – ever! 


            I could go on and on about how good this game is, but I know there will be a ton of you skeptical still.  The only way to truly eliminate that is to try it.  I know our 2 stores have a policy:  if you pay the $5 to enter the sealed deck Open Beta (yes, most SEALED DECK open Betas will cost you $5 or less) and you don’t like the game for any reason, you give us back your cards and we will give you back your $5, no questions asked.  So far we have had 35 unique players in our store.  I have had exactly one person take me up on that, and even he did it some because he kinda needed the money.  Once you have tried it, you will like it, I virtually guarantee it.


            Plus, if you’re the guy who likes money, there will be money to be won.  How about $5,000 sealed deck and $5,000 constructed at GenCon SoCal this year.  I have also heard that those tournaments are only the tip of the iceberg and that tournaments will be held that make those PALE in comparison.  We’ll have to listen for more details on that.


            So now it’s up to you.  You have to try this game, and you can only do it at your local game store.  If you’re in So Cal, find me in either La Mirada or Rancho Cucamonga and we’ll get you hooked up.  If you’re outside So Cal, go to the local store and ask them to run an Open Beta.  If they don’t know what it is, have them contact their distributor for more information.  This is the only way you can even get your hands on these cards, which…well…let’s just say this is called Open BETA...you can gather what that might mean for later value.  Once Open Beta ends in November, these cards are gone, and you will have to (or more specifically, GET to) buy packs of the First Edition and go from there.


            The website is www.thespoils.com.  The game is The Spoils.  If you try it, I know you will be happy you did.


Until next time, keep playing!


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