Three-and-a-bit years ago, two veterans of EA Canada (FIFA, NBA, NFL, SSX) decided they’d like to make a game with more than four letters in its title. At the time, a digital CCG meant whatever version of Magic we were up to, and so they decided to put together Atomic Brawl – a tactical deck-builder built around hexagonal browser combat.
“We were advised to start small,” say its creators, “so we ignored that advice and went head to head against Blizzard and other large teams building a multiplayer collectible strategy game.”
By the time it launched last September, there was Hearthstone, of course – but also XCOM, Hex, Card Hunter. Super Hexagon even, in case you considered the shape an alternate USP. And yet Atomic Brawl is still worth giving the time of day – or rather, the times in your day you’re not doing much.
“Our goal was to create a new type of gaming experience: convenient, chock full of depth, and full of whimsy,” say its developers. “You can take a turn or two when you have a few minutes to spare, from your browser or mobile device, no download required.”
That’s something even Hearthstone doesn’t have yet – cross-platform play. Atomic is like a hyper-evolved play-by-email game, then – full-blown nuclear tactics to fill the odd moments.
Players summon Brawlers, the game’s minions, next to their Core. But the centre of the battlefield moves with the addition of structures, planted next to any controlled Brawler, and Traps. Cards come in once per turn from a 50-strong deck – though “like most things in Atomic Brawl”, that rule can be changed by other cards.
Creators Chris Shorrock and Ken Pratt describe the CCG as “generously free-to-play”, with no locked-off content and “heaps” of free rewards. It’s not clear whether that approach has paid off yet, in the literal sense – but Chris and Ken intend to keep adding to the live game “as long as we’re not losing tons of money [and] keeping the lights on”.
At the time of writing, nearly 500 players are brawling, as it were. Try the tutorial and, if you like it, you can sign-up to join them. D’you reckon you might?