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War of the Fallen merges complexity of collectible card games with accessibility of Zynga games

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Zynga's new collectible card game

Zynga released a mobile collectible card game today with the aim to introduce players who aren't familiar with the genre to a more complex and strategy-focused style of game, the developers say.

War of the Fallen — a collectible card game in a similar vein to the studio's Ayakashi: Ghost Guild — was developed by Zynga in collaboration with designer Brian Tinsman, who originally worked on the Magic: The Gathering trading card games. The game is a departure from the titles Zynga is better known for like FarmVille and Words With Friends, and the game's general manager, Scott Koenigsberg, admits it won't be for everyone.

"We didn't want to dumb it down — we wanted to keep it rich, we wanted to keep it complex and we only wanted to provide enough for people to get through that hump so they can find the magic themselves," he told Polygon. "And if they don't get into it, I get it. This game isn't necessarily for everyone, and that's OK."

War of the Fallen is what Koenigsberg describes as a "midcore" game — it's a streamlined version of a complex genre. Where traditional collectible and trading card games have thousands upon thousands of cards, War of the Fallen starts with 150, with each card having four evolution states. Each card contains a unique skill, and Koenisberg says the team worked hard at making them "more humanly readable."

"This game isn't necessarily for everyone, and that's OK."

"So a card might say that the card to your right gets +10 percent attack, or if your card is a human and your opponent is a mage, you decrease your defense by 20 percent. It's really easy for people to understand," he said. "So as a non-hardcore player you can look at these cards and say, 'I want to create a deck of wolves and if I have this card everyone gets +2- percent attack,' while a more hardcore player can strategize even further with the card stats."

Another streamlined element of the game is the way the matches take place. Where traditional card games require players to play individual cards against each other, War of the Fallen allows players to construct and customize attack and defense decks. These decks then play automatically and asynchronously.

In a demo of the game shown to Polygon, the leveling-up of the cards themselves also plays a role in determining how a player will perform. If a player strengthens their cards before evolving them, they'll have a stronger deck. If they don't strengthen their cards and move straight to evolving them, they'll be at a disadvantage. Various decks will have cards that have different strengths and weaknesses, and it is up to the player to formulate a deck that can beat and defend them against a diverse range of enemies.

As with all Zynga games, War of the Fallen has a social mechanic called Guild Force, which unites players with their friends, and the more players log on at the same time, the more the overall strength of their cards improve.

The free-to-play game will allow players to spend money buying additional cards and collectible objects, although Koenigsberg said spending money will not necessarily put players at an unfair advantage.

"This is not just a pay for success type of game," he said. "We balanced this system very carefully. So say you buy a powerful card — a certain card might require 29 mana for you to play, but you only have a total of 34 mana. So if you use your powerful card and that card doesn't defeat your enemy in one hit, you'll only have five mana remaining, and that may not be enough to perform any more actions."

Koenigsberg said it's one thing to spend money on powerful cards, but it's much more important for the player to gain experience and understand the best strategies to use the cards. The game doesn't sell attack mana, so if a player isn't strategic about the way they play, their chances of winning are poor.

War of the Fallen is out today on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It is coming to Google Play soon.