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Four features that make Altered the year’s most interesting new trading card game reveal

Looking past that digital storefront, we’re cautiously optimistic

four player characters and their animal-like companions stand atop a cliff, gazing out at a fantastical landscape shrouded in clouds and glistening with waterfalls Image: Equinox
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.

Altered, the new trading card game from Dixit and Mysterium creator Régis Bonnessée, launched its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign on Tuesday, fully funding in 120 seconds flat. It’s only been live for a few hours, and already backers have shown up to the tune of nearly $800,000. That’s nothing to scoff at, especially for a new and unproven intellectual property such as this.

While we’re still a bit wary of a game that controls its own online marketplace as well as the odds of drawing its most sought-after physical collectibles, there’s at least four features unique to Altered that have us cautiously optimistic, if not downright excited.

All proxies, all the time

The most infuriating part of any TCG is the bit where you have to collect all the cards. It’s often the most expensive part of anyone’s gaming budget, and Altered likely won’t be any different. Each 36-pack booster box sold through the campaign will set you back the equivalent of $140. Even with the odds on those pulls sweetened as part of the crowdfunding campaign’s newly unlocked stretch goals, it’ll still take you at least a few boxes to find them all.

The best part about this game is that you won’t need to worry about finding dupes. Since every card in the game contains a QR code that locks a given card to your online account, once you’ve opened a card once its yours forever (unless you want to sell it). Then, using the Altered app, you can just order additional copies of the card you want. The campaign notes that these orders can be made by individuals, groups of players, or the communities of entire retail stores. Want a launch set in triplicate for your gaming group? Pool your resources and build out the cube of your dreams.

Novel mechanics that are fun to play with

During our demo at last year’s Gen Con, we were struck by just how novel Altered’s mechanics actually are. You’re not bashing your head against your opponent necessarily, trying to whittle down their life points or stack of magic beans or whatever until you kill them dead. Instead, players as heroes travel across a fantastical landscape trying to meet up with their companion. At its core this is a game about bringing people together, and the bright, giddy art lavished on inclusive themes and characters make that clear from the outset.

Spoilers on Foilers

Everybody likes foil cards, but not everyone is lucky enough to be able to find the cards they want with that fancy foil treatment. Altered doesn’t actually ship with foil cards inside its packs. Instead, its “Foilers” are inserted into each pack as add-ons, treatments you can apply after the fact to a given card in your digital collection. Once applied to a card, you can print it out as a foil as many times as you like.

The game is ready to play, right now, on multiple platforms

Not every tabletop game that goes the crowdfunding route actually lets players get a hand on the ball before delivery. That’s not the case here with Altered. Not only are the rules available to download right now, so too are six full starter decks — likely the same ones shared with influencers and the press at Gen Con. Just get out some penny sleeves and a pair of scissors, and you’re off to the races.

That’s not all, though. Altered is also available to play on Board Game Arena, the online destination for Asmodee and other top-quality online board games. Publisher Equinox is also directing fans of Tabletop Simulator to not one, not two, but three fan-made versions. There’s even a standalone digital version that you can download and play with offline via Linux, Mac, or PC. That’s about the most demo support you can get short of having cards delivered to your doorstep.

Speaking of which, delivery isn’t too far around the corner. Your $26 minimum pledge nets you two starter decks this July. All six starter sets will cost closer to $162.

The campaign for Altered runs now through February 29.

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