Collectible card games (CCGs) have exploded in popularity since their inception in 1993. The first CCG, Magic: The Gathering, is played by millions of players around the world and has over 19,000 distinct cards. The Pokémon CCG, launched in 1996, has sold over 27 billion cards as of March 2019. Despite a digital world, people still seem to thoroughly enjoy regular CCGs.
This being said, digital collectible card games (DCCGs) have grown in popularity ever since the release of Hearthstone, Blizzard’s free-to-play DCCG. I encourage everyone to try it out, as it’s a great game to show you how fun and addictive a DCCG can be. To give you an idea of its popularity, Hearthstone celebrated 100 million players in late 2018. The game is also incredibly popular as an esport, with cash prize tournaments organized by Blizzard and other companies.
There are a few important differences between digital and real CCGs. Firstly, of course, the physicality of cards. There’s a certain pleasure to holding cards, to feeling the weight of a deck of cards in your hands, to seeing your cards lie on an actual table. On the other hand, you don’t have to carry around boxes of cards with a DCCG.
But that’s arguably a minor point. The second point, however, I consider much more important. Players don’t own the cards they buy in a DCCG. All cards in Hearthstone remain the property and ownership of Blizzard Entertainment. As such, you’re bound by Blizzard’s rules. You cannot trade your cards in DCCGs and aren’t able to sell them for money.
Players face no such restrictions with regular CCGs, where they fully own their cards and can do as they please with them. As a result, many players trade cards for a profit. There’s money to be made with regular CCGs, as evidenced by the many cards available for sale on eBay, sometimes selling for thousands of dollars.
It’s the main reason why DCCGs are great candidates for blockchain technology. It would allow players to fully own their digital cards and do whatever they want with them. A few blockchain DCCGs already exist, one of which I consider the best DGame I’ve ever played. I bought over $100 worth of cards in that game, played it for months, decided to stop playing, and sold all my cards for about the same amount of money I bought them for. Awesome!
One other blockchain DCCG that’s growing in popularity is Mythereum. It runs on the Ethereum blockchain and its public beta launched in February 2018. I can understand its growing popularity: it’s a comprehensive, good-looking DGame that’s easy to learn, but difficult to master.
How to Play Mythereum
As you’ll notice when you visit their website, there’s a surprisingly large number of ways to connect your Ethereum account. You can connect to Mythereum through Fortmatic if you’re visiting the website on your mobile, through Portis or MetaMask (which I use) on desktop, through WalletConnect, an open protocol for connecting wallets to DApps, and even through the hardware wallets Ledger and Trezor.
Mythereum does a reasonable job onboarding new players. On the Information tab, there’s a tutorial that walks you through the basic game mechanics, an FAQ with more info, and a link to their blog if you want to understand the game in detail. There are also Quest Objectives that help you understand how you can start playing the game.
However, and this is my biggest gripe with the game, Mythereum seems to be marred with small technical glitches that hamper the game in frustrating ways. For example, completing a Quest Objective won’t always strike it through: I might have linked my Discord account, but the game still think I need to complete it. Another example is that clicking the Discord button in the bottom right of the corner displays a gray square and nothing else. It doesn’t seem to load.
Additionally, Mythereum is the heaviest web app I’ve ever played. Many actions in the game load slowly and heavily tax my Surface laptop. Granted, my device only has 4 GB of RAM and an i5 processor, but it works fine when playing other web DGames and even when loading supposedly heavy web applications such as Slack, Evernote, and Notion.
Usually, I have at least five browser tabs open, along with my VPN, Slack, and Evernote. However, I have to close all my browser tabs, as well as all programs (except my VPN, security ftw), when I want to play Mythereum. Only then does it run reasonably okay. This might be my problem only, and it might be because the game has been under particularly heavy strain as of late, but I believe the developers behind Mythereum could optimize their game to run smoother on systems with low-end specs.
I wanted to get my technical gripes with Mythereum out of the way early in this review, because I otherwise believe it’s quite a good and promising DGame that’s worth playing or at least keeping an eye on.
Any new player can claim three Survivor Edition card packs for free, giving you 31 free cards (30 from the packs and one alchemist card). Each card deck consists of maximum eleven cards, so the free cards give you plenty of room to build different decks and play the game.
There are two other card editions: the Genesis Edition, the first card edition that’s now sold out, and the Awakening Edition, which is the current card edition. A deck of cards in the Awakening Edition will set you back 0.1628 ETH, which is around $35 in today’s Ethereum price. That’s expensive. But you have to keep in mind that you might be able to sell these cards for the same price or even for a profit.
Of course, you shouldn’t bank on that unless you want to invest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs). You’re no longer simply playing a game if you buy a deck of cards with that mindset; you’re making an investment, and that involves risk.
If you’re not eager to buy a full deck of cards, you can also buy individual cards in the Marketplace, which shows an embedded version of the OpenSea platform. You can buy cards for Mythex, the game’s currency, DAI, or for Ethereum. Cards seem to be relatively cheap here, so it’s a great way to thicken your deck with powerful Awakening cards.
All cards in Mythereum look great, but the cards from the Awakening Edition are my favorite. There’s just something in those human-like depictions of alien animals (see below) that I find visually appealing. They’re strong cards, too. While it’s nice that you receive 31 free Survivor Edition cards, any card from the Awakening Edition will crush your survivor cards.
Once you’ve created a deck of cards, you’re ready to start playing. You can practice against a bot or play against another player either by creating your own game or by joining someone else’s open game. There’s a dedicated group of people playing Mythereum, so you won’t ever be at a loss finding anyone to play against. As I’m writing this article, 53 players are online playing the game. Give it a few hours and that number will rise to 100 or more.
You win a game either by reducing your opponent’s hitpoint to zero or by defeating all the cards he has openly displayed. The mechanics are relatively simple: each card has defense points, attack points, and an ability that will increase defense, attack, or both. Zofia, my card in the below screenshot, has 18 defense points, 20 attack points, and an ability that will raise her defense by 18 points and her attack by 8 points.
The ability of a card is activated whenever you have enough magic of the right kind. At every turn, each player receives a certain amount of magic that’s randomly distributed among the red, blue, and white sigils hovering above each card. The cost of an ability is displayed at the bottom of each card. Zofia’s ability, for example, costs 3 red mana, 2 blue mana, and 3 white mana. Considering I don’t have enough white mana, her ability won’t be triggered when I attack my opponent.
The game’s complexity, at least when fighting with Survivor Edition cards, lies in the interplay between mana and your card’s abilities. Switching to the card with the right ability for the amount of mana you have is what will likely lead you to victory.
In the example above, Zofia will defeat Deak, because her 20 attack points are five more than Deak’s 15 defense points. Additionally, he doesn’t have enough red mana to summon his ability, which would’ve raised his defense points by 25. As such, he dies, and the opponent’s overall hitpoints are reduced by 5 (the difference between Zofia’s attack and Deak’s defense points).
I just wish that there would be an animation showing the amount of damage a card has done. Currently, whenever a move is made, the screen flashes and the card either survives or is defeated. There’s no indication of what actually happened, whether an ability was triggered or not, which is confusing at first, particularly when you’re not sure how the game works.
What I’ve described above is a game in itself. However, Mythereum adds a whole layer on top with alliances, raids, and tournaments. Joining an alliance will cost you a few Mythex (MX), but you’ll receive an HP boost in return and your resources will be better protected against raids from other players.
That’s right, Mythereum has a resource component too. In the Strongholds tab, you can claim resources sites that produce Mythex, gold, stone, wood, meat, iron, crop, and clay. You can upgrade these resource sites so they produce more resources and you can buy resources from other players in the Commerce sub-tab. Finally, in the War Room sub-tab, you can raid other player alliances for their resources.
You can create card decks specifically tasked for defending your stronghold and card decks tasked for raiding other people’s strongholds. While I’ve yet to understand the full use of most of these resources, it’s an interesting layer to the game that can be the foundation of a game that’s much more than a simple DCCG.
Another great feature of Mythereum is that you can create new cards from the CryptoKitties you own. The game scans your Ethereum wallet for any CryptoKitties you possess and presents them to you in the Forge tab. There, you can print them onto a card to create Mythicats. It’s a fun, quirky addition to Mythereum that shows the potential of the gaming multiverse in blockchain technology. I actually ended up fighting a player whose deck was composed primarily of Mythicats.
In the same tab, you can also move your Survivor Edition cards onto the blockchain. The free cards you get when you start playing the game are held in escrow for the first 100 battles, after which you can transfer them to your account for free. My guess is that the developers did this to encourage people to actively play the game, with the cards as an incentive to keep playing.
While there are technical difficulties that need to be ironed out, and while I wish Awakening cards weren’t that expensive, I’m hopeful for Mythereum. There aren’t many blockchain DCCGs to play and there are even fewer that are worth playing. Luckily, Mythereum is one of them. This is a game with a lot of potential. It’s actively being developed, there’s a dedicated player community, and it’s already far more complex than most other DGames on the market today. If you’re looking for an engaging DCCG or if you’re looking to invest in NFTs, have a look at this game.