I don’t always keep up with games on Kickstarter, but when I do I like to find games that challenge the norm. I recently stumbled on to a game called PURGE: Sins of Science and it did just that. Developer Nova Forge marketed the game as “the first real-time strategy card game,” and being a huge fan of games like Starcraft and Warcraft I was immediately sucked in. After following the game for a while, it sort of dropped off the grid and I wondered what would become of it. I was surprised when I went to a local game store and saw a retail copy of the game sitting on the desk, so naturally I snatched it up right then and there. I decided to quickly put it to the table and see if it proved to be all that it claimed.
What’s It All About?
I’m a sucker for games with stories, and PURGE has a great one. In the future, an unexpected terror rises from consequences unseen and unintended as three different factions battle for dominance and survival. A great threat descends on the Earth from far across the universe, and the whole of humanity is immediately thrown into war. The Machine Horde is relentless in its determination to consume and expand, threatening mankind with fear and dominance. The Ancients are a hyper intelligent race of beings with an unknown origin. They use unimaginable power to manipulate both Human and Machine to achieve their mysterious goals. The only thing that stands between annihilation and survival of the human race is the Emergency Earth Coalition – a fragile yet unified human government force taking up arms to protect what’s left of their precious home planet.
The story is amazing, and it fits real well with the whole premise of the game. For some history, back stories can be found on each of the three different factions, and going deeper, each faction leader has a story of their own. I found a great sense of motivation to play the game based largely on just the story alone.
Out of the Box
PURGE is a real-time strategy card game, so there aren’t any pawns or tokens to deal with. When you get the base set of the game it simply comes with 300 cards total, which includes 100 cards for each of the three factions in the game. Each is represented by a leader, and there are two different decks for each faction out of the box. For a breakdown, here’s what you get:
- Mastermind of Matter Ancients Deck – 50 cards
- Mastermind of Time Ancients Deck – 50 cards
- Eva-X Emergency Earth Coalition Deck – 50 Cards
- Lenux Lexmada Emergency Earth Coalition Deck – 50 cards
- Infinite One Machine Deck – 50 cards
- Juggernaut Machine Deck – 50 cards
The only thing that doesn’t come with the game which you’ll need to play is a way to keep track of energy (which we’ll get into in a bit). Everything else is wrapped up nicely, though once you open all the cards you’ll want to find a different storage solution to keep them nice and neatly organized.
Now we get to the important part of PURGE: how it plays. Like it was mentioned above, PURGE is the first real-time strategy card game. There aren’t any other games like it on the market right now, and though it may take some getting used to, the game is actually a lot of fun. The goal in PURGE is to reduce your opponent’s population to zero. You will do this by playing and attacking with units to deal damage to their Stronghold.
Each faction has both a Commander and a Stronghold. The Commander serves as sort of a hero unit that can do numerous things on the battlefield. The Stronghold is like a city or home base that is the center of the faction’s populace. Each Stronghold has a printed population number on it, represented by a symbol that looks like a tiny castle. When a Stronghold is attacked and no units can defend it, damage is done to its population and that number is reduced. When it is reduced to zero the game is over.
So how do we go about attacking with units? The game follows the real-time strategy mechanic of having players expend energy to construct units and more. Energy is produced by having Resource Attachments attached to your Stronghold. On each turn you will gain the number of energy equal to what can be produced by all Resource Attachments attached to your Stronghold. Your energy pool empties at the end of your turn and refills at the beginning of the next one, so energy doesn’t stack.
Players can also use energy to purchase abilities called TEKs. TEKs are basically research cards that, once purchased and put into play, unlock certain abilities. There are tons of abilities in PURGE that do things ranging from reducing damage to your units to being able to use long-range attacks. Some cards require a certain amount of TEKs to be in play in order to purchase them. Once you’ve enough energy in play and have met all requirements, you can start placing TEKs.
Since I mentioned requirements, I should explain that each card in PURGE aside from the Stronghold and Commander has a requirement that needs to be met in order to play it. Cards will have an energy requirement and a TEK requirement to play. This means that you need to have enough energy to pay for the card and enough TEKs in play to place it.
Now let’s get into turn breakdown. PURGE is played in a series of turns that breakdown into phases. On each turn each player can take three production actions. These actions can be used to:
- Play a unit
- Play a Resource or Defensive Attachment
- Play a TEK (only one per turn)
Players will determine who takes the first action during each turn by comparing the initiative of their Commanders. Initiative is represented by an hourglass marker on the Commander’s card. Once the first player takes an action, the second player will take one, and then play goes back and forth until each player has spent their production actions for their turn.
Players can also take regular actions such as:
- Moving your Commander and/or any number of units from one friendly Vector to another
- Initiate a Battle Instance
- Play a Super Weapon
Since we’ve covered actions, let’s take a look at Battle Instances. A Battle Instance is basically when units will attack and defend. Units must move into the correct Vectors to attack enemy units, Strongholds, or Commanders. Vectors are different areas of play, and are broken down into the Stronghold and Battlefield Vectors. Each player has a Friendly Stronghold Vector which includes their Stronghold and any units/Commanders, and TEKs that have been put into play. The Battlefield Vector is the area in which Commanders and units must enter to attack other units, Commanders, or Strongholds. On a turn you can move as many units/Commanders from one field to another as you see fit for one action.
When you initiate a Battle Instance, you choose which Vector your units will be attacking. (Sometimes you can attack your opponent’s Stronghold Vector to deal damage while other times you can attack the Battlefield Vector to damage units coming to battle.) The attacking player takes the first Battle Action, which consists of choosing which units will attack, which units will retreat, and passing.
Each unit, Commander, and Defensive Attachment has a printed number of attacks it can make represented by the crosshairs on their card. A Battle Instance is over when the attacking units have no more attacks to make. To attack, a player selects a unit and expends one of its attacks, targeting an enemy unit in the same Vector. Then you compare the targets armor to the attacker’s damage. The damage is reduced by the armor value, and any leftover damage gets applied to the unit’s health. Once a unit’s health is reduced to zero that unit is destroyed. Once the attacker has taken a Battle Action the defender takes theirs, proceeding in the same fashion. Play then goes back and forth like normal. You’ll repeat this process until all attacks are expended, at which point the Battle Instance is over.
Players can also choose to have their units retreat. When this happens the player may have a single unit suffer a -1 to their attack to move it to the nearest Friendly Vector, out of the battle. This helps protect units from taking damage and can get them out of a sticky situation.
During Battle Instances players can play OPS cards, which do a variety of different things. They act as one-off abilities that are discarded once played. Think of them as buff cards or abilities. Some will give more attacks to a unit, instantly damage units, and many other things. Players also have access to a Super Weapon, as each deck has one specific to it. Super Weapons are extremely powerful and can almost win the game as soon as they’re played. The drawback is that each Super Weapon has an intense requirement in order to play it.
Players will need to move their units into their opponent’s Stronghold Vector in order to deal damage to an enemy Stronghold. This is the way to reduce population and win the game. It takes some clever strategic thought, and that’s where the fun comes in.
There are some other rules to follow, such as supply caps and going over how certain units can’t be played until you get to a certain turn, but those are details for when you’ve picked up your copy of the game.
Overall I really enjoy PURGE: Sins of Science. Since I first saw it I knew I’d want to pick it up and I’m glad I did. For one thing the art in the game is simply amazing. It’s some of the best art I’ve ever seen in a game, and that’s a huge plus. I did have some issues with the game, though, as did many others. The game seemed to have shipped to quickly and almost immediately after the game hit retail stores an errata was posted to correct some rules changes. On top of this, some cards weren’t printed correctly and without knowing this some decks couldn’t even be played. Nove Forge has thankfully posted a fully-updated ruleset that includes the errata, and you can print off updated versions of the errata cards as well. All future retail versions of the game will be corrected, and I feel that as long as you take your time with it you’ll have plenty of fun. For the first real-time strategy game I think PURGE did a good job. It’s not perfect, but it’s a whole lot of fun.