Darkwinds is an Ethereum card game made by MEGO Games, a game studio from Santiago, Chile, where you play as a pirate fighting for survival on the wild open seas. MEGO Games could’ve called their game CryptoPirate, but they didn’t. I like that. Too many DGame developers call their game CryptoSomething, which I believe is a clumsy way of trying to emphasize a game uses blockchain technology. Darkwinds is a much more elegant name.

As you’ll quickly notice when you visit the Darkwinds website, this is a game in the early stages of its development. It’s not as polished as some of the bigger games in the industry. In a way, I don’t mind that. Games like this are excellent examples for budding DGame developers who look at highly polished DGames and instantly think they’ll never be able to create such a game.

Just like you shouldn’t think you can paint the Mona Lisa ten seconds after you’ve started painting, you shouldn’t think you can program best-in-class DGames ten seconds after you’ve started learning Solidity (Ethereum smart contract programming language). Instead, you should look for DGames that seem within reach. Stepping-stone games, if you will. Darkwinds can serve as one such example.

With this, I don’t mean to say that Darkwinds is a poorly made game, because it’s not. Some aspects of the game are actually quite good. In fact, if MEGO Games would’ve kept working on it (they haven’t), I believe this could have been quite an engaging card game. Here are a few reasons why…

Buying Cards

The cards in Darkwinds look good. On the game’s website, it says that more than twenty artists have helped draw the one hundred First Edition cards that the game currently has. All cards, whether they depict characters or actions, make good use of color and are consistent with the pirate theme of the game. The Darkwinds universe is dangerous and full of death, and the cards reflect that.

Darkwinds’ cards look great

Additionally, cards are cheap. If you buy cards through the Darkwinds website, you have three options: a pack of ten cards for 0.004 ETH ($1.2), a pack of twenty cards for 0.008 ETH ($2.4), or a pack of fifty cards for 0.02 ETH ($6.18). Considering there are only a hundred cards in the game, prices like these allow you to build a really powerful deck without having to spend too much money.

Additionally, you can trade individual cards on OpenSea. Cards are a bit more expensive there, but it’s the easiest way to thicken your card collection with that one card you’ve been looking for. I’m continually amazed at how easy OpenSea makes it for smaller DGames to instantly create a good-looking marketplace for their game.

Buy and sell individual cards on OpenSea (or sell them in a bundle)

Of the one hundred First Edition cards, fifty will appear more frequently and fifty will be rare cards. The rare cards, of course, are more powerful and will have more important lore than their counterparts. Cards are also categorized into different types of wind:

  • North wind stands for the spirit of life and creation, or the vital force that moves through all beings of the living world.
  • East wind stands for the spirit of nature and wilderness that’s contained in every being of the living world.
  • South wind stands for the spirit of destruction and death, or the essence that makes people long for death and chaos.
  • West wind stands for the spirit of magic and the unearthly that’s enclosed in those who defy the limits of nature.

I bought a pack of ten cards and was delighted to discover two rare cards in there: a “One-Eyed Tony” card and a “Morgawr” card. There are only three “Morgawr” cards in circulation (of a total of 10,000 cards) so I got quite lucky there. In a somewhat surprising feature, the game automatically sends out a tweet when a player receives a rare card. So those two rare cards got me on the Darkwinds Twitter account.

My precious fish on the Darkwinds Twitter account

This feature has made their Twitter account pretty much exclusively about players receiving rare cards. It’s hopeful, in a way, because it means that people are still buying cards and showing interest in the game.

Playing the Game

Anyone who has ever played Magic: the Gathering will be familiar with the game mechanics of Darkwinds. From your collection of cards, you need to build the deck that you believe will lead you to victory. If you have more than ten cards, this will require some serious thought, because your deck is limited to ten cards. So choose wisely. There’s a handy blog post on the Darkwinds blog that gives you some example decks to take inspiration from.

Once you’ve created your deck, you can practice against a bot, play against another player to increase your ranking on the leaderboard, or play in the weekly challenge where you can win a rare “Kraken” card if you defeat your opponent.

The three game modes of Darkwinds

I played exclusively against bots or in the weekly challenge. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough players online to play a ranked match. The best way to find someone to play a ranked match seems to be to ask on the game’s general Discord channel.

Here’s how the game plays. Each party has a supply of money that increases with one each turn and that tops out at five. Taking turns, by dragging a doubloon from your side to your opponent’s and vice versa, each party can use their supply of money to play a card. All cards have a cost that’s displayed in their top right corner. Your supply of money regenerates every turn, so you’ll want to spend all your money at every turn.

Playing (and losing) against Bulggor in the weekly challenge

Character cards have a certain number of attack and defense points, while action cards can only be played once before they’re relegated to the graveyard. Unless a card has the “Raid” ability, it will only be able to attack the turn after it’s been played.

Cards can have one of five abilities: Raid allows a card to attack the turn it’s been played, Blockade means your opponent can’t attack you directly but needs to defeat the played Blockade card first, Assault means you can bypass a Blockade card and attack your opponent directly, Cure means you can heal either yourself or a friendly card, and Gather means a card will directly summon another card to help you in your fight.

The ultimate goal is to reduce the health of your opponent to zero, which you can only do by directly attacking your opponent. The bots proved to be a challenge to beat, as did the opponent in the weekly challenge, which wasn’t really a surprise, considering I only have ten cards to choose from.

The problem I had with my specific deck was that I don’t have enough cards that cost one or two coins. I’m stuck with powerful cards that cost three coins, which means my early game is very poor and I lose a lot of health before I can start doing serious damage. As you can see, because of the differences between cards and their abilities, every Darkwinds game is varied and complex.

Additionally, even though Darkwinds is an Ethereum game, the actual card games are off-chain, which means there are no Ethereum gas fees to bother you. Only the trading of cards seems to run on the Ethereum blockchain (and possibly the game’s leaderboard too).

What Could Have Been

The Darkwinds beta was released on the 13th of November 2018, while its last blog post dates back to the 23rd of November. There haven’t been any game updates for more than half a year, so it’s safe to say that MEGO Games has given up on the further development of Darkwinds.

And that’s a shame, because this game could’ve been one of the more engaging DGames if MEGO had decided to continue working on it. Even to this day, judging from the Twitter account of Darkwinds, players seem to be buying packs of cards. There’s an occasional message on their Discord channel too; a confused gamer asking whether the project is still alive. Luckily, cards are cheap, so gamers aren’t at risk of losing too much money if they buy a pack of cards before realizing the game is virtually dead.

At this point, the only purpose of Darkwinds is to serve as a useful example for developers wanting to create their first game. For them to scour through the game’s GitHub repos and understand its code. It’s a stepping-stone game with a dash of could’ve-been.