Legends of Runeterra – Strategy Card Game Review 2020
LoR is a duel that is fought over rounds until the opponent’s or your own Nexus (so to speak the equivalent of the base from the underlying MOBA) is destroyed with 20 health points each. We can inflict damage by unblocked attacks with creature cards or via triggered effects and spells. Logically, our goal is to do this faster and more efficiently than our opponent. For this purpose, we put together our own deck of exactly 40 cards before the battle.
The card pool is currently divided into eight different regions of the fictional and name-giving continent “Runeterra”. The special features of these regions can be seen in the abilities of the cards from this region. The inhabitants of the Shadow Isles, for example, work in secret and sneak past the enemy’s line of defense thanks to the “Untouchable” attribute. The brave warriors from Demacia, on the other hand, can challenge enemies in a targeted manner or support and protect each other in battle.
In total there are over 40 of these keywords, which invite you to experiment and tactics. Up to two regions each can cooperate in assembling their own deck of around 529 cards. This allows for a wide variety of strategic combinations in deck building.
Since patch 1.4 the new event mode “Gauntlet” is added as a free update. This mode is always active from Friday to Monday and mixes up the rules for deck building. For example, in one of the first events duplicates will be forbidden in the deck, which requires new deck strategies. For long series of victories larger reward packages are waiting.
Labs (implemented with patch 1.5) are a more experimental take on game modes in Legends of Runeterra icon Legends of Runeterra, having a focus on variety and experimentation. The rules of Labs change periodically, usually with patches, and each named set of rules themselves is called a Lab. Each Lab is usually available for limited amounts of time. In Labs, a game mode board is forced, and there is no guardians, but the player can change their Card Backs and Emotes. The cosmetic loadout can be changed in the main screen for the lab for most labs, and on the deck selection screen for pre-constructed and constructed Labs.
In each region, five additional so-called champions are available as special maps. These heroes are well-known figures from the extensive squad of the main game League of Legends. A special feature of LoR: The special cards can undergo an evolution within a game. In many decks, this transformation is a central part of the winning strategy.
An example: Fiora from the Demacia region must kill (and survive) two enemy units to advance to the next level. If she succeeds, she gains an additional attack and defense point and the requirement becomes a victory condition: If we manage to kill two more enemies with her, we win the game immediately. The difficulty here is that Fiora starts with only three life points and she cannot fulfill her victory condition without support in the form of suitably played card combinations alone.
Besides the champions, the dynamic exchange of blows in duels is the strong unique selling point of Legends of Runeterra. Basically there are two types of cards: creatures (humans, spiders, monsters etc.) and spells (fireball, shield etc.). A sword marker changes back and forth each turn and shows which side currently has the attack initiative. This determines whether we may only block with our creatures or also attack the enemy Nexus.
Unlike similar titles, however, we can also summon creatures and play cards in response during the enemy attack round. This gives us the chance to fight back after each action – which brings tactical depth. This way, we might be able to freeze the opponent with an instant effect spell and prevent damage.
Each side takes turns playing cards that are classically paid with mana. The supply of spell power grows equally on both sides per turn. Excess mana may even be taken into the next round for spells.
Playing out new cards goes back and forth until both sides fit. Only then is the attack carried out and we determine which cards are used at all. This opens up further strategic considerations: If we start our round directly with an attack without playing new cards, we will not give our opponent the chance to play a suitable defense card.
The alternation between action and direct reaction makes Legends of Runeterra especially appealing, but in certain situations it can also cause longer waiting times. Nevertheless, the field and the user interface always remain clearly arranged. By right-clicking all cards can be enlarged and keywords are explained in detail if desired
LoR is primarily designed for online matches against human players in ladder or friendship mode. For practice purposes, decks can also be raced against an opponent AI. The Expedition mode offers some variety, where all participants click together a new deck from a limited number of cards (technical term: Drafting). Anyone who wins seven matches and loses less than two games will receive particularly large reward packages.
Behind the menu item “Challenges” you will find the extensive and very well done tutorial, which throws us into a prefabricated situation per mission. The puzzle tasks can only be solved by the correct use of certain keywords on maps. In this way the developers succeed in explaining even more complex correlations of the map effects in a playful way.
For fans of League of Legends, the card game adaption offers several loving details and a high recognition value. But don’t worry: Legends of Runeterra stands completely on its own and passes the test without any prior knowledge.
Runterra skillfully makes himself comfortable between the more accessible Hearthstone and the complexity monster Magic: The Gathering and might have found his perfect niche there. The strategic variety paired with the beautiful card illustrations make LoR a clear recommendation for confrontational card game strategists with an appetite for new impulses.
Playing each card feels like a new argument in a dispute with the corresponding counter-reaction of my opponent. I also like the seven playfully very different regions of the fictitious continent and the probably fairest monetization model of the genre. Finally, I don’t have to buy a pig in a poke anymore, but can specifically get the cards I need for my deck. Especially great: The generous progression system even allows me to earn specific card rewards of a certain region.
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