San Diego Comic-Con 2012: Hands-on with Jolly Grim – A Collectible Card Game for People Who Hate Collectible Card Games

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Most people know if they’re into collectible card games right away. It’s either a love it or hate it prospect. But GameSamba’s new free to play, online focused card game, Jolly Grim, is unlike any other out there.

Jolly Grim is best described as a free to play, real time collectible card based strategy game. Much like a standard collectible card game, a Magic the Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh, you start out by constructing a deck. Each card has a value of 1-3 associated with it, based on the strength of the card, and you can have up to 7 points in a standard deck. And, also like standard collectible card games, various cards are good at different roles. There are cards that excel at attack, defense, or support roles. The main difference between this and other similar games is that Jolly Grim takes place entirely in real time.

San Diego Comic-Con 2012: Hands-on with Jolly Grim - A Collectible Card Game for People Who Hate Collectible Card Games

The game begins with a 15 second countdown to position your cards on the 7×10 grid, see what your opponent is throwing out and plan your strategies. Once those 15 seconds are up, it’s officially on.

Once the game actually starts you have to frantically click to try and get your cards into position to effectively attack and defend. Almost similar to Chess, each card has different rules for attacking and moving. One card may be a long range specialist, one may deal area of effect damage, and one may be a close range bruiser. Attacking and moving also have separate cool down timers, so you may be able to move a long distance or do huge damage in a single blow, but that also means that card will probably not be able to act for quite some time. Each card also has defense ratings for each side, up, down, left and right. A card may be nearly impossible to damage from the front, but be totally vulnerable from behind. It’s all about knowing your cards, knowing your opponent’s cards, and planning accordingly. It will be interesting to see what kind of decks and strategies will evolve when this game gets out there to the masses.

One of the cooler things about the cards is that they’re inspired by classic literature. I was told that if it’s ever been written about, then it’s fair game to be included. Some of them also have stats or special abilities that are inspired by their behavior in their respective books. A couple examples I was given were the Kraken and Don Quixote. The Kraken is able to reach out and pull a card that’s clear across the map in close to him. Don Quixote has high defense on his left and right, to simulate him holding a lance, but is virtually undefended on the top and bottom. With that large of a pool to draw from, seeing what kind of crazy characters and abilities they’ve come up with will be extremely fun.

In addition to the multiplayer mode, the will be an extensive single player campaign. Episode 1, which they estimate will run around 9-12 hours, will be free to play at the launch of the game, with further episodes being released after for a small fee. Players that choose to purchase the follow up episodes will not have any advantage over free players, however. Those purchases just pertain to the single player content.

One of the things that always annoys me about free to play games is when they make it extremely difficult, or even impossible, to progress without dropping some real money. With Jolly Grim, GameSamba seems to have a good grasp on how that kind of system should work. Instead of being forced to only buy in game booster packs with real money, you can also buy them with in game currency that you earn simply by playing multiplayer. There will also be an auction house, if you just can’t get ahold of a particular card you can always check in there. It’s really nice to have the option of earning in game rewards just by playing the game, rather than being forced to throw down real cash.

Another option to track down elusive cards is what they’re calling the alchemy system. Basically, this allows you to trade in cards you don’t use, or have an abundance of, in order to get new cards. Occasionally after defeating an opponent, a recipe will drop that will tell you what components you need to make a card. Something along the lines of Ninja + Dragon = Pirate. And, of course, the more powerful card you’re trying to build, the more components it will cost.

I always like when a game surprises me. When I went in to this look at Jolly Grim, I wasn’t really expecting much out of it. I’ve never really been a collectible card game guy. I’ve played a few of over the years, but I’ve never really gotten much enjoyment out of any of them. But Jolly Grim hits some notes that I really dig a lot. I’ve always been interested in tactical strategy games, and Jolly Grim seems like the real deal. With as many as 300 cards available at launch, it’ll be fun get out there and formulate strategies with a deck I build myself. I never thought I’d like it, but I’m glad to be proven wrong.

Jolly Grim will be going into closed beta sometime in early August for the PC.

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