Video Game: Sol Forge

SolForge is a digital Trading Card Game created by Stone Blade Entertainment (formerly known as Gary Games, creators of Ascension) with an assist from Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic: The Gathering and thus the TCG genre. It's currently in beta on iOS and on Windows via Steam, with plans for an Android version at some point in the future as well. The main gimmick of the game is that cards "level up" over the course of a game, so that when you draw them again they'll become more powerful.

The general rules of the game go like this: At the beginning of your turn, you draw five cards. You get to play two of them (except on the first turn of the game, where you can only play one). Each card has three levels. When you play a card, its leveled-up version is placed in your discard pile. There are five lanes into which creature cards can be played, and on each turn creatures will fight with either the opposing creature in the same lane, or attack the opponent directly if there isn't one. At the end of the turn, you discard the cards you haven't played, but those ones don't level up. Every four turns your discard pile is reshuffled into your deck, giving the possibility to draw some of those leveled-up cards. The first player to reduce their opponent from 100 to 0 Life Points wins.

The game is set in a world where there's no sun, the only source of light and heat being the titular SolForge, a giant Magitek tower. The Forgeborn, those with the power to harness the SolForge's magic, fight for domination of the area surrounding the Forge. There are four factions of Forgeborn: the Alloyin, Nekrium, Tempys, and Uterra.

The game is currently at Open Beta stage for PC, iPad, iPhone and Android, and is free-to-play. The PC version is available through Steam, while the iOS versions are available at the Mac App store and the Android version from Google Store. Players start with two starter decks, and can play daily for silvers (the in-game currency), cards, booster packs and also tournament tickets. Players can also spend real money for Gold (the other in-game currency), which will let players buy alternate art cards, as well as allow anything purchased with said Gold to be shared with other players.

The game's expansion sets are released every few months or so, and each set is often accompanied by additional mini-releases. The chronological list of expansions the game has after its Open Beta, launched in August 2013, is currently as follows:

  • Rise of the Forgeborns (March 2014) introduced the Forgeborns, the first cards to cap at level 4 instead of the usual 3, as well as cards that directly reward players who play multiple factions.
  • Secrets of Solis (August 2014) introduced multiple new mechanics such as Consistent, Solbind and Overload.
  • Imprisoned Heralds (November 2014) contains some Spell cards which evolve into creature plus a few new mechanics such as Assault and Upgrade.
  • Reign of Varna (February 2015) introduced Ambush mechanic and spells with continuous effects.
  • Darkforge Uprising (mid-2015) introduced the Darkforged, creatures that become more powerful when played together.

SolForge provides examples of:

  • Animate Dead: A Nekruim specialty.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In case you accidentally (or otherwise) try to use a harmful effect such as damage to your own creatures, the game will ask you if you are sure about doing it.
    • Because you can have a maximum of three copies of a card in a deck, the game disallows you to sell cards for silver if you only have three or fewer copies of that card in your collection.
    • A new mechanic called "Consistent" was introduced in Secrets of Solis, which has cards with said keyword guaranteed to show up at some point in the next player Rank. This prevents some measurement of "level screw" frustration.
  • Anti-Magic: The "Fun Police" is a deck created by Foxhull, which specializes in countering several different strategies.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI can be very stupid at times. Among its worst plays: Not replacing a creature that has been debuffed to death thus letting those useless creatures clog up the board, replacing a strong creature with a weaker one instead, putting creatures at the wrong lane thus unable to defend properly, and so on.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Forge Guardian Omega boasts a ridiculous stat compared to all other creatures. The catch is that to summon one, you must sacrifice five Guardian Pieces on board (that usually means at least three turns of placing the Pieces), one of which must be an active Forge Guardian Gamma (which, by itself, is quite fragile). That, and Omega is just as susceptible to all sorts of "kill" spells such as Botanimate and Dreadbolt. Secrets of Solis brings a slightly easier method to bring out Omega in the form of Forge Guardian Delta, which puts a copy of Omega into your discard pile for you to play normally after the next re-shuffle.
  • Baleful Polymorph: As of March 3rd, 2015, at least three Uterra spells.
    • Botanimate transforms an opposing creature into a little tree.
    • Metamorphosis transforms a target creature into an egg (that hatches into a a 9/9 Feywing when that player goes into the next player level).
    • Dendrify also transforms a target creature into a tree.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Deliberately invoked with the Uranti. Apparently one of the Uranti Yeti was actually called "Big Foot" during playtesting.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Played straight in that you can obviously pay money to build up your collection quickly, but subverted *and* averted in several key ways.
    • Subverted in that you can craft any card in the game with silver.
    • Subverted after Card Sharing was introduced, which allows you to send an unbound (ie; paid with real money) card to someone while keeping an unbound copy of it. Finding a partner to split on pre-constructed decks is now quite common.
    • Averted in the sense that there are some powerful heroic cards (such as Broodqueen and Bramblewood Tracker) which are in several top tier decks. Heroic cards often form the backbone of a solid deck.
    • Averted in some of the specialty Weekend Warrior queues. Also averted at the Unofficial SolForge Ladder, which has Unheroic and Unlegendary queues.
  • Cameo: Tyco and Gabe shows up in the alternate art for Alloyin Strategist. This probably ties in with Penny Arcade's blog post promoting Solforge some time before its Open Beta launch.
  • Cannibalism Superpower: Several Nekrium cards, mostly involving Grimgaunts or Abominations. Xithian Shambler literally adds the attack/health of a creature adjacent to it to its own through destroying it.
  • Combining Mecha: Forge Guardian Omega can only be formed by having five cards of a specific type on the field. Once formed, it's an extremely powerful card that bears a notable resemblance to Voltron.
  • Crutch Character: Some creatures have above average stats at Level 1, but doesn't grow significantly in later levels. These creatures are usually used to finish the game as soon as possible before your opponent overwhelms you with their superior level 3 cards. There is even a deck called "Big Dumb Animals", which relies completely on powerful Level 1 monsters that scale terribly into the late game.
  • Damage Over Time: Poison status deals some number of damage per turn to the afflicted creature. And these damage stack, meaning that a creature getting hit by multiple Poison status can take heavy damage per turn without even battling.
    • Gradually becoming more than just a casual archtype, there are now cards that casts poison on the player themselves, plus other cards (Dissolve, Venomdrinker) that interact with creatures who have poison.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: A popular deck called "Kitfinity" (named by the deck creator "Kit") uses an infinite draw engine (along with Crypt Conjurer, a card that does damage when you play Nekrium spells) to whittle down an opponent's health as a means to gain victory.
  • De-power: Metasculpt takes a creature's special abilities away. This usually makes the creature less powerful, but in rare cases may make it stronger.
    • Nanoswarm performs the same feat *and* reduces the creatures attack, but has the disadvantage of being level-gated.
  • Difficult but Awesome: Several archtypes are quite effective, but are very skill intensive.
  • Discard and Draw: A trademark of Alloyin, they have several cards that allow you to draw from your deck. They also have cards that allow you to discard a card and level it.
  • Dynamic Entry: Aggressive creatures don't have to wait a full turn before they start charging into battle. As a trade off, however, they are often physically weak.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Abomination creatures, naturally, ranging from the humanoids, beastly, to the utterly bizarre.
  • Elemental Powers: Tempys in a nutshell.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Dinosaurs are a creature type, complete with a Dinosaur who buffs other Dinosaurs.
    • Thundersaur is a powerful Dinosaur that is a staple in many decks.
    • Bron, The Wild Tamer is a card that you can play by replacing an Dinosaur you control with it, transforming into Dino Rider. When the Dino Rider is destroyed, it reverts back to Bron, signalling that he has dismounted the Dinosaur.
    • The addition of Bron, plus the spell Thunderstomp, has made Dinosaurs into a viable archtype.
  • Evolving Attack: Almost every card basically is one, with most of the cards capping at Level 3. The Forgeborns cap at Level 4, and some other cards don't actually gain level.
  • Excuse Plot: If you're the sort of person who needs a good reason why the dinosaurs are fighting the zombies, this probably isn't the game for you. Blame the lack of flavor texts for that.
  • Gaming Clan: Several (A1, Battlebranded, Team Hypershot, The B+ Players).
  • Gradual Regeneration: The regenerate ability seen on cards like Heart Tree causes it to regain some amount of health per turn (varying by level), up to its maximum health.
  • Homage: The comedic alternate art Super Chrogias is an homage to the old Superhero trope where the superhero goes into a Phone Booth to change costume.
    • The Forge Guardians were suspected to be an obvious homage to Voltron by many. This was confirmed when long-term player "Outrageous" leveraged several Voltron references leading up to his spoiler article being published.
    • The alternate art Thundersaur pays tribute to Godzilla.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Frozen Solid temporarily freezes a creature, and if that creature takes damage before it thaws out, it will die. RotF adds in a few more cards that can smash frozen creatures.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: From Secrets of Solis, cards with "Consistent" are guaranteed to be somewhere in the top twenty cards of your deck, ensuring that you will be able to draw them within 4 turns and thus allowing you to play/level them up.
  • Magikarp Power: Some cards such as Chrogias, Scorchmane Dragon, and Iron Maiden; very pathetic at level 1, nigh-unstoppable at level 3.
  • Magitek: The faction specialty for Alloyin.
  • Make My Monster Grow: Most notably seen in Uterra faction.
    • Several cards that buff your monsters, like Enrage.
    • Cards like Cultivate and Nuada, which transforms your little Seedling and Saplings into monstrous Treefolks.
    • Leafkin Progenitor can grow a level each of your turns.
  • Microtransactions: The planned model of the game is that all cards will be available without paying, but you'll be able to buy packs and starter decks with real money as well (at prices much lower than paper TCGs). League of Legends has been cited as an inspiration. Take that as you will.
  • Mook Maker: Many Uterra creatures can bring more creatures to the field. In contrast, Nekrium creatures usually bring forth additional creatures by first dying.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Metaminds have four arms. Several other creatures also boast extra arms, for example Cercee who, at her strongest, sports a few dozens of arms.
  • Mythology Gag: All of the Sol Forge expansions have acronyms that mirror the expansions from another Stone Blade Entertainment game 'Ascension''
  • The Necrocracy: Varna, Immortal King rules over his kingdom in Tarsus, and it's full of zombies.
  • Necromancer: Some creatures are necromancers in name only, but some really do raise the dead. Perhaps because of this discrepancy, Necromancer as a creature type has been phased out.
  • Play Every Day: The game gives rewards for players who login and play every day. There are three rewards which can be obtained by logging in, winning one game and winning three games of the day.
  • Planet of Hats: Each of the four factions has a hat: magitek, necromancy, elements, and wildlife.
  • Sealed Badass in a Can: Some legendaries in Imprisoned Heralds start off as spells. Play them until Level 3, and they become powerful creatures ready to destroy your opponent.
  • Sequence Breaking: Leafkin Progenitor, Progeny of Xith and Iniog, Carrion Demon are the few very creatures who can show up as a level 2 or 3 even before you even rank up, making them harder to deal with using level-gated effects.
  • Self-Duplication: Generally confined to the Uterra. Even Esperian Scarab and Esperian Sage, Alloyin creatures, can only self-duplicate if you also play Uterra.
  • The Dark Arts: Nekrium in a nutshell.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Arboris, Grove Dragon becomes stronger if you can bring your Life Points to over 100, a.k.a. above your starting life total. His level 1 and 2 stats are relatively ok, but at level 3, he becomes strong enough to one-shot an opponent.
    • Forge Guardian Omega can also be one at Level 3; with Aggressive, Breakthrough, 40 Armor and a whopping 80 Attack. It can, and will, easily end the game with one swing.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Some cards are only useful in specific situations
    • Oxydon Spitter is a rather poor card unless the opponent uses armor (available only to Alloyin), in which case it can be very powerful.
    • Oreian Justicar and Herald of Destruction are average cards unless your opponent runs a spam deck, in which case they can neuter those swarm.
    • Chistlehearth Archer (and later Tangle) can shoot down a creature with Mobility as well as locking them in place if they survive that (no surviving Tangle). Of course, they can't do anything if your opponent doesn't play Mobility.
    • "Ambush" cards are amazing when your opponent triggers them from your hand, but you generally don't want to be playing them during your turn.
  • Touch of Death: Several creatures have this ability, such as Blight Walker. Some spells such as Touch of Blight, also grants this ability. There's also the Nekrium Forgeborn Cercee, who at level 4 can instant-kill a player with just a scratch.
  • Tournament Play: Both within the in-game client for game rewards, and also on the Unofficial Solforge Ladder.
    • Played straight by several teams, who test decks extensively with one another before a tournament.
    • Averted by Team Hypershot, who recently announced they were going to focus exclusively on creating content and coverage for Sol Forge, and not actively participating in tournament play/
    • Subverted by B+ Players, who enter tournaments regularly with rogue decks knowing they won't win. For them, the experience is in creative deckbuilding, and the desire to shine some light on cards and strategies that some may deem ineffective.
  • When Trees Attack: The Uterra faction has several.
  • Zerg Rush: Several Uterra cards are good at flooding the board with creatures (in particular low level Phytobomb, which floods both yours and your opponent's field), and this goes in handy with their other tactic: Mass-buffing.