Many of us are fans of collectible card games (CCGs), enjoying the rush of hunting down rare, epic, and synergistic cards to build the perfect deck. For those looking for this same thrill without having to commit to buying booster packs on a weekly basis, deck-building games exist, allowing players to use in-game currency to build their decks. But wait…there’s another level. Imagine playing a game in which one of your main tasks is to prepare to play a deeper game.
Welcome to Millennium Blades: the Inception of Board Games.
Millennium Blades is a CCG simulator about a group of friends who play a CCG called Millennium Blades. It’s a 2-5 player game, brought to us by Level 99 Games with art by Fàbio Fontes, and takes about two hours to play. I’ve had the best experience playing with 3-4 players.
In this game, players take on the role of a CCG player, preparing for and participating in tournaments. With me so far? Let’s dive in!
How to Play
The Rulebook is quite detailed, and not all specifics may be mentioned in this review.
The unboxing was quite exciting, but required a bit of effort before we could begin the game. Upon opening the box, you immediately see multiple stacks of decks, sets, and booster packs. Get crazy and open them all, but keep them separate for now! A supply of Millennium Dollars is also included; these are to be assembled into stacks of ten, bundled together with a sticker wrap, and used as in-game currency. This initial setup of the millennium dollars took more time than expected (think an hour or more, depending on if some of your buddies are willing to help), but it gave our group the opportunity to look over the rulebook and admire the various card sets. Call this a warmup, if you will.
Each player then gets a two-sided player board, and the Store and Aftermarket boards are placed in the middle of the table. After these are set up with ample space in between each player and the central boards (as there will be lots of reaching around, trading, and moving items), it’s time to pick cards!
In addition to the “Core” set, Millennium Blades provides a total of 28 sets in various categories (Expansion, Premium, Master) that can be used to form the store. Each game uses a total of 13 sets to form the Store. Five “Promo” sets (out of 10 provided) are then chosen for the Card Fusion Area on the Store board, the two meta sets are shuffled separately and placed in their respective spots on the Aftermarket board. Each player then receives a starter deck, three cards from the Store deck, a Character card, sell markers, and Friendship cards. The ability to mix and match decks increases replay value.
Once the board is set up and each player has his or her cards, it’s time to get started! Millennium Blades alternates between Deckbuilding and Tournament Rounds, with three rounds of each making up an entire game. The objective of the game is to have the most Victory Points (VPs) at the end of the game. These are achieved by collecting Ranking Points (RPs), which are awarded for playing highly in tournaments, building valuable card sets, or amassing Millennium Dollars.
In each Deckbuilding phase, each player’s objective is to construct a deck for the upcoming Tournament phase, and perhaps earn some RPs along the way. At the beginning of each Deckbuilding phase, players receive 30 millennium dollars, get six cards from the store deck, and have seven minutes to begin building their decks. During this time, players can buy packs from the Store, fuse cards to pull a Promo card, buy or sell cards at the Aftermarket, build collection sets, or trade cards with other players. When time runs out, each player gets six more cards from the Store deck and another seven minutes to continue building. After this timer expires, the Aftermarket is closed, and there is one last six-minute time period before the Deckbuilding phase ends.
Next, the Tournament Phase! Players now flip their boards to the Tournament side, and only their prepared decks can be used for play (extra cards go into their “binder” for later use). Tournaments are turn-based, with each player playing a single card and/or taking an optional action shown on cards. Cards may have different effects, which could affect other cards on the field or award RPs. One effect instructs players to “clash,” which essentially sets up a mini-game between two players and awards RPs to the winner. Players continue taking turns until all boards are full and players are unable to take any more turns. At this point, the tournament is over, and players tally VPs. All players keep their cards, flip their boards back over to the Deckbuilding side, and repeat the phases two more times. At the end of the last round, whoever has the most VPs is the winner!
The artwork is insane. Every card is stunning. Initial setup was an ordeal, taking about an hour between getting familiar with the rulebook and creating millennium dollar stacks. At first, I thought the timer element during the Deckbuilding phase would make the game more stressful. However, it not only kept things on track, but in fact reduced the amount of pressure during this phase. If there was no timer, the amount of options could lead to a level of analysis paralysis for some.
Replay value is nearly unlimited due to the number of options provided when selecting decks to be used in each game. Despite being a long and very involved game, it’s quite fast-paced once everyone’s familiar with the rules and how to transition between deckbuilding and tournament phases. Once it ended, a few of us looked at each other with an expression that said “wait…is that it?” We were ready to go another round…and did.
Millennium Blades is an extremely intricate game. From artwork to rule design and gameplay, everything was well thought out to the very last detail. While this type of game might be daunting for some people, it’s a ton of fun. This is the type of game you’d want to grab on a Sunday morning and play all day long. If you’re interested in picking it up, you can find it here!
Level 99 Games provided us with a review copy in exchange for our honest review.