Millennium Blades: Hobby Simulator

Millennium blades is a collectable card game (CCG) simulator designed by D. Brad Talton, Jr. Specifically it simulates the hobby of collecting cards for a card game. This translates into a crazy and complex card drafting game in which you and your friends will be buying, selling and trading cardboard simultaneously in real-time! It’s all wrapped in a nerd-culture parody, primarily Yu-Gi-Oh! (but so much more), and decorated with fantastic artwork. Lets take a closer look at the game and see what makes it tick.

cover

Theme and Art

race

What initially drew me to this game was the theme. I thought it was a gamification of the Yu-Gi-Oh! TV show, as opposed to the actual card game. While that is partially true, certainly in regards to its story line, it turned out to be a gamification of the entire CCG hobby. A few years ago I was pretty deep into Magic the Gathering, buying packs, trading, buying singles, and going to tournaments, all things this game claimed to emulate. I may have been slightly disappointed that the game wasn’t the TV CCG adventure I initially hoped it was, the actual theme was just as fascinating.

Fortunately the artwork does a fantastic job of capturing that YGO feel.  MB features over 300 unique illustrations, all by the same guy, Fábio Fontes. I absolutely love the artwork for this game. It all falls under the umbrella of Anime, but I’m really impressed with the variety within that style. There are mechs, cute animals, tough guys, princesses, gangsters and all kinds of other crazy stuff. Before I was ever sat down to play the game, I just sat around and sifted through every card just to check out each piece of art.

 

Characters featured on the cards are quiet a grab bag, but it isn’t totally random. Cards are all sorted into sets, which will usually be a nerd culture parody.  What surprised me was how specific and obscure some of them get. Many parody video games, like Super Plumber Bros, and Fantasy Finale MCLXVII-1.  There are also parody sets for movies and TV shows like Lightning Bug and James Bomb 006+1.  The parodies are wide enough that I’m sure there’s something in there to appeal to anyone with even a mild nerdy streak. While I got most of the references, some went right over my head. Also the set logos are extremely on point with CCG pack style. I love these parodies, they add a lot of fun to Millennium Blades.

Tournament Phase

tourney

If its your first time playing the game, it will begin with a “pre-release” tournament. Tournaments take the form simple tableau builder, your goal is to score more rank points (RP) than the other players. Players are awarded victory points (VP) based on their RP standings. Each turn you play one card, placing it on the right most spot on your tableau. Cards can score RP based on things like their position on the track, other cards in your tableau, cards other player play, and more. Its a simple but flexible system, allowing for a variety of strategies.

When I was first made aware of how tournaments work I was a little disappointed, it was very unlike a CCG like Magic or YuGiOh. But in practice it works. This is a multiplayer game, and those styles of games work best in 1-on-1. Playing one card each turn also helps place emphasis on cool and powerful cards, the rule book even encourages you to slam them on the table while dramatically stating their names. While the tournament rules may not do great job of capturing the feel of a CCG tournament, they are still fun and provide a good context for the next phase of the game.

Deck building Phase

store

This is the real meat and potatoes of the game play. During deck building you will be buying random cards from packs, buying and selling on a secondary market, trading, collecting sets and building decks. All of this in real-time. Each deck building phase has a limit of 20 minutes, which is less time than you would think. But during that 20 minutes you get a super condensed version of the wheeling and dealing involved in prepping for a CCG tournament.

To be honest I was surprised at how effect this phase was at the simulation. I yelled in joy after I opened this game’s equivalents of Jace the Mind Sculptor and Exodia. The first few minutes of a deck building phase everyone focuses very intently on opening packs, but as the money dwindles people start calling out their open trades (“looking for fire 5’s”, “need a good deck box”). My favorite part of trading is when one side is clearly getting a better deal, the other can offer “friendship” cards which are worth bonus VP at the end of the game.

The deck building phase is very intense. There are many different plates and you are going to be spinning them all. Some players will have difficulty fully wrapping their heads around this phase and may find it very overwhelming. During an intro game you will do only 2 deck building phases, but a full game consists of 3. Even though I managed to pick up fairly quickly (occasionally just stopping doing stuff with a minute or two left to go), the idea of doing an additional phase felt like too much for me.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it’s a weird game that simulates something unexpected, and manages to pull it off well. For me personally the thematic elements alone are worth a purchase just to check out the different cards and illustrations. The mix of references seems like they were tailor-made for video/card game nerds like me. It’s a game for gamers, and I loved the hell out of it. I don’t think everyone who plays it will enjoy it as much as I did, but its something different and worth trying.

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