In the cards: The best CCGs for your PC

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Robert Hathorne at

Bellatorus (*)

www.bellatorus.com

Released: October 2009
Cost: $20
How’s it work? Use seven decks and a powerful editor to raise your magical tower.
Is it fun? Once you’ve got a handle on all of the systems (population and resource management, village upgrades and how cards interact with one another), it’s incredibly rewarding. Watching bricks burst from your opponent’s plummeting tower when you cast Hurricane does not get old.
Community: A Best Buy-exclusive retail release limited the game’s exposure, so there’re not many people playing. Single-player is quite good, at least.

 

Warstorm (**)

www.facebook.com/Warstorm

Released: November 2008
Cost: Free; cash shop
How’s it work? Select cards to fill out your squad, click Start, watch the fireworks and receive the rewards.
Is it fun? Surprisingly, yes. The combination of simple, super-fast gameplay, copious card unlocks and pitting your squads against opponents gives Warstorm a peculiar feeling of Zen, akin to clearing the bottom row in Tetris.
Community: Has a bustling Facebook player-base, and even has its own strategy wiki.

 

Spectromancer (**)

www.spectromancer.com

Released: October 2008
Cost: $10
How’s it work? The combat interface looks similar to Warstorm’s, but that’s where the similarities end. This is far more complex, with a lot of stats to keep track of and effects that can be stacked for a quick victory—just the way a real CCG should be.
Is it fun? Definitely. A cornucopia of spells and creatures makes you feel powerful from the start. And with so many variables, one smart move (such as a well-timed Flame Wave) can give you a tense, last-minute comeback.
Community: Finding a game is quick, and within 15 minutes, I had my first friend request—and although it’s probably because he beat me twice in a row, I still consider it a win. Spectromancer has a learning curve, but I was never abused or insulted while I struggled to learn the ropes—in fact, I was invited to an unranked training session by another player!

 

Magic: The Gathering—Tactics

www.magicthegatheringtactics.com

Releases: January 2011
Cost: Free; cash shop
How’s it work? All the intricacies of the world’s most popular CCG remain intact, with most cards from the tabletop version possessing nearly identical abilities here. Tactics adds an additional layer of depth by placing your summoned creatures on a grid for turn-based tactical action.
Is it fun? I haven’t faced anyone online in the beta yet, but my experience in single-player and the deck editor (which allows you to completely customize and save your decks) has intensified my thirst for blood. The first time my 3D-rendered Serra Angel swooped onto the battlefield, I instinctively pumped my fist in the air, and I’m giddy as a school girl about the legendary Black Lotus I snagged from a booster pack. This is Magic, and it’s going to be incredible.
Community (in beta at time of writing): If Duels of the Planeswalkers and Magic Online are any indication, Tactics will be popular at launch, and the community will be as ruthless as it is large. But the fun single-player component and user-friendly features hehelike the auction house and friends list should help newcomers ease into the community.