Updated: Oct 24, 2020
Fancy yourself as a budding mage? This spellcasting deckbuilding duelling game could be just what you're looking for. Players are using the cards they select from their identical 20 card 'remnant' decks and their asymmetric powers to win the artifact cards. The first player to win 7 cards wins the game.
In Thalara: The Last Artifacts, Alexander Wrede has designed a game where the basic rules are simple enough for anyone to quickly master but where you'll nonetheless need tactical skills to win. The cards in players' remnant decks are, in effect, single use (although one of the character roles you can adopt has spells that can recycle remnant cards). When you win them, the artifact cards function exactly the same as remnants, in that they can be used in bidding for cards in subsequent rounds. The difference is that they are never consumed: they always return to your hand.
You'll be making a judgement call at the start of each round as you decide which 7 cards to take into your hand to use to compete for the artifacts up for grabs (three per round in a two-player game). Triggering your spells requires you to have played a particular colour combo: some spells activate immediately (in the game in progress on Board's Eye View, for example, Energy Barrier's two blue cards can be used to immediately block the other player from playing any more cards in the conflict for the green artifact). Most spells, however, are applied at the end of the round. In either event, in making your remnant card selection you'll need to have regard to the combos you might want to play. Players can pass before using all the remnant cards they have in their hand, and it can make good sense to do that if are in the position where your remaining cards won't affect the outcome: any cards you don't play are returned to your reserve so you'll be able to use them on a subsequent round.
Aside from your own spells, you'll need to bear in mind the spells that your opponent may be seeking to cast. For every character, there's a summary card that shows all the spells they can call upon and the colours needed to activate them. Each player takes their opponent's card as a reference. The rules recognise that some players might find it overly taxing to have to keep track of too many spells so they offer the option of just playing with two spells each until you've mastered the game. Certainly that's a useful tip when introducing Thalara to 'non-gamers'.
Winning an artifact puts it into your hand, so it takes up one of the places that would otherwise be available to a remnant card. As in a deckbuilder, your hand will therefore increasingly be replaced with artifact cards. The downside of this is that it can mean your early successes in winning artifacts can clog up your hand with cards that are low value and which aren't the colours most useful to you in spellcasting. A subtlety therefore in Thalara is knowing when to compete and when to allow your opponent to take an artifact card. Of course, there's always scope for bluff and counterbluff: I may not want a particular artefact card but I don't want you to get it too cheaply...
Thalara can be played with up to four players, tho' the game becomes less strategic and a little more chaotic as you increase the number of players. It's also not quite as easy to keep track of who has played what card (in a two-player game players just play on either side of the artifacts). We found that when we played with three or four, it was helpful to use tokens (coins or counters) to identify each player's stacks of remnant cards.
We've only had a chance to play a preview prototype of Thalara: The Last Artifacts. Wredespiele, the publishers, plan to add to the game, including many more characters, during the course of Thalara's upcoming Kickstarter campaign. Some of the artwork too, by Martin Sobr, is expected to change. We've greatly enjoyed our spellcasting Thalara duels and we're looking forward to seeing how this fascinating game develops over its Kickstarter campaign. The campaign launched on 17 August. Click here for details..