It’s Weird We Haven’t Posted About Hex Before

Usually upon discovering a juicy slice of news, first stop is the monolithic RPS archives where I spend a lifetime reading manuscripts on the games in question. It’s a herculean task which is rewarded only by a dip into the fountain of youthtube, where I am renewed and can spend equal time scratching out a post on ancient rolls of parchment. Finally they allow me to die – only to be replaced by a clone who begins the same work on a new venture. But! I have broken free of the cycle by discovering that not a word has been recorded about mostly cardboard-based Cryptozoic’s MMOTCG Hex: Shards of Fate within our halls. Quick, hasten forth, and learn all there is to know, now that the Beta phase has started.

It all started, as so many things have, with a mid-2013 Kickstarter. The difference here being that over two million dollars were pledged, giving Hex approximately 759% of its original monetary target. That probably changed the plans somewhat. You can see the highly amusing pitch below, which lays out the letters-slammed-randomly-together genre to be exactly what you’d expect.

Five colours? Turning cards sideways to attack? A stack of triggers? Fans of a certain collection of wizarding ways, a bringing together of sorcery one might say, are probably seeing something a little familiar. Copying good, popular game design is rarely a bad thing of course – assuming you can add enough originality of your own to both produce a unique product and stay out of legal hot water. On those grounds Hex seems to stand rather firm, with its highly customisable cards and the “double-backed” (har-har) feature that exploits the digital medium to its fullest. That’s before the actual MMO elements of quests, a character to level up and so on.

Obviously things went very well and progressed into an Alpha, at which point I stopped hearing anything about it. The odd muttering on the wind of a Magic: The Gathering Twitch chat or idle tweet. Mostly people asking to the aether “has anyone played Hex, is it any good?” and the aether replying “uh.”¬†Until today! When a press release reminded me that the game exists. It pointed to a brand new landing page, and that’s when I started to get a little confused.

You might notice that page is hosted by a company called Gameforge, who host a variety of browser F2P games and European servers for client-based ones. There’s also a link to a trailer on that page, which with a little investigation seems to be this ten month old one with the Gameforge logo slapped on the front. There’s also no mention of Cryptozoic, though it does reference “Hex Entertainment” in the legal footer – a company that seems to exist only to be put in those and EULAs.

All a bit odd, but mostly seemingly the product of a hastily prepared European launch. Once you’ve signed up for the beta I’d recommend sticking to the US site, where there’s all manner of information including regular updates and a rather active forum. The below trailer¬†shows off a little more of the mechanics. Most importantly, it’s about Hex’s race of walking bunnies – the cutest horde ever.

If anyone out there’s been in the alpha – how’s it going? A rival to Hearthstone, Solforge, Duels of the Planeswalkers et al? Closer to MTGO? Something else entirely? Based on that trailer, calling it a homage to Magic would be a best case scenario, with rip-off the counter. Accurate? Let us know in the comment depths.


  1. Wrex says:

    It’s weird you haven’t posted about Infinity Wars since Steam release, too.

    • SooSiaal says:

      Or a Wargame WIT…

    • QSpec says:

      Agreed. I thought it was damn good too.

      I have not played Hex, so I’ll avoid making a comparison, but in my opinion, IW blows Hearthstone away.

      Interesting, varied races. Unique game mechanics. I was pretty impressed.

      • Kitsunin says:

        IW also addresses the issue that waiting for your opponent to take their turn just doesn’t work in an online context, in a mechanical way. Rather than Hearthstone’s modus operandi “Make everything simple enough turns only take five seconds so you don’t get bored waiting for your opponent to make decisions”

    • Tiltowait says:

      I have also been enjoying Infinity Wars, did you know they now have a Star Trek faction, which is now available for pre-sale as of quite recently. I have wanted to try Hex but if you did not kickstart it you can’t seem to try it.

  2. Amatyr says:

    I’ve been playing the Alpha and it’s really good fun despite only being an Alpha at this point. A solid digital TCG – yes, similar to Magic – a lot deeper gameplay than Hearthstone from what I’ve played of that.

    I’m looking forward to the proper PvE parts when they come along, although I’ve played plenty of matches against the rudimentary (at this stage) AI and enjoyed that a lot.

  3. ecbremner says:

    I am currently bouncing around between something like 12 different digital ccgs. Hex is hands down with out a doubt the best of the bunch.. and it isnt even out of alpha yet. Yes it parrots MTG but it differs in feel dramatically. Static effects that could not be done in a paper game like magic are used to great effect in Hex (things like buffing cards in deck, socketing cards, boosting color affinities over time, changing cards the more times you cast them… etc…). Add to that the fact that mtgo is an abyssmal client and Dotp is pretty but supremely limited… Hex kicks butt.

  4. daphne says:

    It’s Weird You Haven’t Posted About Radio the Universe, Either

    • SillyWizard says:

      A bit of my soul dies every time I see a sentence in which the first letter of every word is capitalized.

  5. Commander Gun says:

    It’s weird you haven’t written about Faeria (link to as well, since it is also an indie TCG and much more Original than a lot of CCG’s out there.
    But it seems a hard job tbh. I think it is a fact that whatever game you write about, you make money for that game since it is free exposure to a lot of potential customers. Would love an article by RPS how you decide what to write about and what you don;t write about :)

  6. Thraeg says:

    Agreed. The Hex alpha is coming along really nicely, and I think it’s the most promising of the recent boom of digital TCGs. Compared to something like Hearthstone, there’s a lot more complexity and scope for rich and unexpected interactions, at a cost of some of the immediacy and fast play. I’m happy with that tradeoff for the most part, and the draft mode in particular is fantastic.

  7. bglamb says:

    I’ve been following it for a while and, whilst I haven’t played it, they seem to be hitting their niche rather well. That niche being that Magic is designed for paper cards which places certain hard limits on what you can do with them. Also MTGO is incredibly bad software, so just the usability upgrades would justify Hex’s existence. Add on the single-player, RPG and customisation elements and it definitely looks worthwhile as a separate entity to Magic.

    Assuming they get the cards right, this could be the big one!

    • YeGoblynQueenne says:

      About 60 lbs of Deckmaster-backed cardboard in various boxes and drawers around my house say there’s never gonna be a ‘big one’. Those physical cards represent an investment and all Wizards has to do to keep suckers like me tied to their chariot for ever is dangle the promise of reprints that will allow us to “play” (too little time for that these days) with our favourite cards again. And I don’t even have a particularly big collection.

      Anyway, I don’t get it. Why is this (and Hearthstone, and Solforge and so on) a _card_ game? Why not an ordinary turn-based strategy, with nice little animations for units etc? What’s the point of representing game entities as cards in a computer game? That is, unless you mean to allow players to print physical copies of the cards and support a fully physical game- but then, all the benefits of having a computer do the complex bookkeeping goes out the window.

      Conscious of the risk of pulling a Thomas Watson (of IBM fame) I have to say, I don’t see this sort of thing catching on.

      (Oh dear).

      • DanMan says:

        Been thinking alike. Why have card representations in a digital game? Make it like a chess board with “living” creatures and storms and lightning and stuff.

        Like this: link to without the AR.

      • Rapkannibale says:

        There are many reasons why you would still represent this as a card game. From a production point of view 2D cards are much cheaper to produce than 3D assets. Considering the amount of “units” a game like this needs it is simply not feasible to do it in 3D. Hex already has over 400 cards in Alpha and by the time it goes into open beta there will be around 1000 cards encompassing PvP and PvE. Then they will release new sets every 3 or 4 months. That would be a lot of 3D assets.

        That more pragmatic point aside, there are many people that simply love card games but don’t have the time/interest in gathering tons of cardboard at home or going to game stores to play. For people like me that grew up with Magic this is awesome. I don’t want to play with 3D figures. I want to have a virtual collection of cards and play a game similar to Magic but adapted to the digital space. And that is what Hex is to me. :)

        Edit: And in terms of this sort of thing not catching on, I’m afraid Hearthstone has already proved you wrong there. :)

        • YeGoblynQueenne says:

          Hearthstone is… not that bad.

          You do make a fair point: most of the M:tG I play these days is on the PC (with Forge, I’m not going near M:tGO). There is also potential for formats that are impossible in a physical game (er, Eye of Judgemnt…?).

          On the other hand, the more I think of Hex the more it sounds derivative and for that reason a bit like an attempt at ripoff. Red has creatures with haste and burn, green has mana ramp and cheap yet powerful weenies? So, OK, another card game, I understand. Another computer card game, I can live with. But another M:tG? Why?

  8. damicore says:

    It seems there are cards you can only get through real money and that your PvE and PvP collections will be separated.
    That sounds like mtgo+duel of the plansewalkers, not too cool. I’d rather play mtgo, lots of cards, well stablished franchise + much richer world and illustrations. 90% of the appeal of these games is in deck buildiing after all, I’m afraid this can’t hold a candle to hearthstone or DoC.

    • damicore says:

      I mean: I don’t really know how they expect to compete with mtgo.

      • bglamb says:

        This is gonna include deck building, plus drafting. The money thing is no different than MTGO.

      • Rapkannibale says:

        It is extremely unlikely any TCG will reach the level of popularity Magic has reached. Just like most likely no MMORPG will ever be as popular as WoW. That doesn’t mean this game can’t be successful. There are many players like me that love Magic but for whatever reason can’t really participate in that scene anymore. MTGO is not an option for me because a) the software is horrible and b) the price is too high in my opinion. I shouldn’t be paying the same as a physical product for a digital one. In Hex for example boosters are 2 bucks with more content than a Magic booster. Same amount of cards but each booster also contains a “Treasure Chest” that can contain anything from items to even another booster pack.

        Hex takes all that is awesome about Magic and brings in to the 21st century. There is no reason (other than a financial one) why someone couldn’t play both games.

    • Voormas says:

      You can use your PvP cards in PvE, but the idea is that PvE cards can be less balanced and more crazy weird stuff – balanced Draft is pretty important to me so I am okay with this

      • damicore says:

        It sure is very important. But why would anyone choose hex over MtG:O?

        • malkav11 says:

          Because MTGO is an online implementation of a physical card game and is not allowed to diverge in any way from cards that are possible in the physical card game, whereas Hex takes full advantage of its digital format in both card design and eventually singleplayer/small coop content (not in yet, but it will be before launch). Also, my understanding is that their prices are half that of MTGO ($2 boosters, $1 draft fee).

          • damicore says:

            Who would choose it only for the gimmicky cards? I predict its demise if the buassiness model doesn’t change.

          • malkav11 says:

            You say “gimmick”, I say “largely untapped design space that’s a legitimate reason to pay real money for virtual goods”. Also, again, singleplayer content. And, y’know, half the price. Apparently you’re not enticed by any of those things, but to pretend that you are suddenly the arbiter of taste for all of humanity is a little much.

          • Nehh says:

            I agree, it’s hardly a gimmick. Certain cards that use the new mechanics (and would hence be impossible in MtG) are staples of the meta for Hex! Look at Pack Raptor for the defining example.

        • falcon2001 says:

          Also noteworthy is that MTGO’s UI was a steaming pile of awful last time I used it (a year or so ago) so a lot of people are turned off by that. Also all the stuff the other guy said.

  9. Lessing says:

    I’ve had access to the alpha since the end of last year. At first I wasn’t playing much because things were too buddy and , ya know, alpha-y. But in the last couple of months HEX has taken over my life. It made me stop playing Hearthstone and re-kindle my love for proper deep strategic CCG’ing (big fan of MtG obviously, but I can’t stand MtG:O interface and as much as I love DotP, the deckbuilding is so limited).

    Having full access to a playset of every card in Set 1 is amazing, although our collections will soon be wiped when we hit beta (Ben, note this is imminent but not quite there yet).

    EDIT: also to say draft play is amazing, so great to be able to draft.
    Also, for anyone interested check out some recent youtube vids of people playing rather than the embedded links above.

  10. draglikepull says:

    I’m in the Alpha and while the game is well put together I’ve been really disappointed that what they’ve created is basically “Magic: The Gathering with a better interface.” The core rules and mechanics are almost identical to M:TG, and even particular cards are essentially just Magic cards with new names. This basically feels like a new set of Magic with a better interface than Magic Online. But I can already play Magic. I wanted Hex to be something new.

    I think it’s unfortunate that they’ve set out to basically recreate a phyiscal card game online, rather than taking advantage of things about digital that are different in order to create something unique. The idea of interrupts works well in M:TG because you’re sitting with a person and just say out loud what you want to do. But the constant pauses for “priority” in an online game are really, really annoying. For all of its faults, this is something that works well in Hearthstone, which really feels like it was a CCG designed for computers rather than a CCG designed for paper cards and then moved online.

    • Tiltowait says:

      I found the Magic The Gathering online client to be really clunky. Also very hard on the eyes. The Stainless versions were much nicer aka Magic 201X but more shallow. Since moving on to other CCG games I find it difficult to be tempted back even by a better interface.

    • malkav11 says:

      It’s funny that you should say that given that the raison d’etre and primary selling point of Hex is that it isn’t setting out to recreate a physical card game and is full of mechanics that either wouldn’t be practical in a physical game or wouldn’t be possible.

      But yes, I would imagine that the initial set’s design, especially since we’ve only seen the PvP cards that have to be balanced for competitive play, is relatively sedate. It is, after all, a new game and there’s going to be a learning curve.

    • Kitsunin says:

      Euuuughhhhh it really has cards that can be played from the hand on your opponent’s turn?

      That works well in a face-to-face environment because you can interrupt your opponent if you are throwing something into play on their turn, but in the context of a digital game I’ve never seen that work.

      At least tell me it doesn’t make you wait for your opponent to click a dialogue box saying they don’t want to do anything every time they could do something, please.

  11. Voormas says:

    I used to play Magic back until around Darksteel and when I saw the Kickstarter for Hex I fell in love – I’ve been playing since the Alpha started, constantly impressed with the rate of progress and all the possibilities a true digital TCG represents

    Games like Hearthstone don’t interest me because they aren’t “proper” TCGs, MTGO is too expensive + the client is dull and boring, Duels of the Planeswalker has about the same level of visual polish as Hex but it’s just so limited – compare all of the options and Hex suits me perfectly

    PvE isn’t implemented yet, but I’m really looking forwarded to doing 3v1 raids with my friends using some of the crazy PvE cards (the PvP sets are balanced around Drafting / etc but the PvE cards they have spoiled do all kinds of crazy stuff)

  12. DatonKallandor says:

    There’s just no way you’ll get people interested in a TCG anymore, when the utterly superior LCG format exists. Random Cards bought with real money? Come on that’s ridiculous.