30m - 45m
2 - 4 Players
Hand management games are games with cards in them that reward players for playing the cards in certain sequences or groups. The optimal sequence/grouping may vary, depending on board position, cards held and cards played by opponents. Managing your hand means gaining the most value out of available cards under given circumstances. Cards often have multiple uses in the game, further obfuscating an "optimal" sequence.
At first we played turn order wrong and the game took twice as long as it should have. I was like "damn this game is slow and there's a huge first player advantage" until we read that EACH PLAYER gets a control phase and a scoring phase per turn, and then it went from a garbage game to one that I actually feel is quite good. The turns here are meaningful and every action counts. Using your cards to their best effect and maximizing your actions is critical. Small box, easily transportable, plays in 30 min and has a high degree of thinkiness? Sign me up. Two things keep this from going higher for me. First, the cards seem critical, so luck of the draw is pretty important. I wonder how much luck versus skill plays out in who wins this? Second, the generic MOBA theme does nothing for me. Despite the high production value and great art, if this was a better IP, I might raise the rating. As it stands, I prefer the gameplay in something like Star Wars Destiny over this by quite a bit, but this might see its way on more family trips than that one will give the ease of transport and quick play time (great for airports and restaurants). Worth owning.
This is the game I wanted smash up to be. Smash together 3 decks, whip out some janky-ass combos, pat yourself on the back for being clever, get outplayed by fundamental positioning. It's like me playing a fighting game all over again. Also, the powers are just, well. Fun!
For a person who gets into this type of game and expands from the core box, this would be rated higher. Played it 3 times and yes it is good, but not great. 9 points can drag a bit sometimes.