A new game from Scribblenauts studio 5th Cell made its debut today on Steam Early Access. Called Castlehold (opens in new tab), it's a free-to-play "competitive strategy game" set in a world brought into being by a rift in space and time, where vikings, cowboys, ninjas, cyber-soldiers, and more do battle for control of a mysterious realm known as the Drift.
Battles in Castlehold unfold on small hex-based maps representing islands adrift in a great sea—hence the name of the place. Armies are assembled from decks of digital cards, which are then deployed and moved in alternating turns. Capturing villages earns gold, which enables more expensive and powerful units to be brought into action. The ultimate goal is to conquer your opponent's castle, and thus lay claim to the entire island.
Castlehold players begin with 70 unlocked soldier cards out of 300 in total, and there are no restrictions on how they can be matched up in battle. Five unique Captains will grant further special abilities to your forces: Regent Niles, for instance, will confer +1 Power to all allied units on Villages once you've earned at least three gold, while Commander Stone can place a debuff on units guarding the enemy castle.
The game's focus is primarily on multiplayer—Castlehold supports ranked ladder, casual play, and "Friend Play" modes—but a tutorial and AI opponents are also available to help get things rolling.
5th Cell says Castlehold as "simple to learn, but difficult to master," which is a fairly common descriptor for these things, but I've played around with a pre-release build for a bit and it definitely seems to fit. The tutorials are straightforward and easy to follow, and the mechanics are quite simple, but the easy ride I expected against the AI didn't work out at all, and I very quickly got my ass kicked. It might be "simple," but you still need to pay attention.
Castlehold doesn't have a solid release date yet but 5th Cell expects it to remain in Early Access for 6-12 months, and also confirmed that it will remain free even after full release. You can learn more about the game at playcastlehold.com (opens in new tab), and keep up with all the happenings on Discord (opens in new tab).