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Legends of Runeterra is too good to ignore, even if you’re not into League

If you missed the boat on the launch of other CCGs, it’s time to pay attention

Lux, one of the starter Champions on Legends of Runeterra. Riot Games
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Legends of Runeterra, the in-development collectible card game from the folks at Riot, is good. Quite good, actually. And I say this as someone who knows painfully little about the lore behind League of Legends. After spending a long weekend with the game, all I know so far is that it’s a very good CCG, and that’s enough for me.

Runeterra was announced only just last month. Since then, it’s only had a couple of short beta playtests, each with a limited number of players. The most recent ended Tuesday and, while I didn’t have enough time to investigate its economics, I can tell you that the gameplay is excellent. In fact, the tutorial alone is an achievement. Not only does it quickly get you up to speed on the mechanics of the game, it’s an awful lot of fun.

At first blush, Runeterra looks a lot different than other online CCGs. The cards are big and chunky on the table. There’s also a lot more animation on the screen, not just when big cards pop off but even in the movement of the cards themselves. Invisible hands push game elements around the screen with a deliberate flourish, expressing a confidence of play that I only rarely see from that one guy who shows up drunk to Friday Night Magic.

The result is a game that’s fun to watch, and that’s made putting in the time to learn the high-level game even more appealing. Compared to Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering Arena, Runeterra is much easier to parse, especially on a smartphone screen.

Being easy on the eyes doesn’t, in any way, mean that the game is simple. Far from it, in fact. The hook is its use of champions, the characters which decks tend to be built around. In Runeterra, champions can be played very easily. Bring them into the right situation and they become effective much more quickly than Magic’s high-level Planeswalkers. They’re also much more vital to the game than Hearthstone’s various stunt cards. Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised with just how engaging and playable Runeterra is in this pre-release state. It all feels like it’s building to an exciting launch once it finally comes out.

If you’ve been looking for a CCG to get invested in, both emotionally and financially, this might be the one for you. I missed the boat on plenty of other CCGs early in their launches, and I don’t intend to miss that period in the life of Runeterra.

To participate in the sporadic pre-beta play sessions, you’ll need to register for access. Riot promises a beta period in early 2020 in its official FAQ. The proper release is also expected next year.

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