BattleForge takes two strategy gaming subgenres and brings them together to create a unique game. The two subgenres in this case are real-time strategy and collectible card games, and the result is a game that's unusual enough to warrant a look by anyone who's into strategy gaming.
BattleForge features the kind of deck-building mechanic that will be familiar to anyone who's played a collectible card game before. Cards are used to represent different units, each of which has inherent attack and defense strengths as well as an associated cost to be brought into play, and often have a unique special attack or ability. There are also cards that represent defensive structures, and spells that can be unleashed on the enemy's units. Cards are also assigned to one of four elements, and each element has its particular strengths and weakness and playing to the strengths and exploiting your enemy's weakness is a major key to success in the game. You can only bring a limited number of cards into a game, and you'll have to finish that game with the cards that you brought, so deck creation and management is a large part of the game. You'll spend plenty of time outside of matches tweaking your decks and experimenting with builds that work best for your style of play. You'll also need to be careful to build a deck that can be used throughout a game – enough low-level units to get you through the early game, but enough stronger units to put the finishing touch on a win.
The game will give you a few default decks to play with that are good enough to get you through the early campaign levels and give you a feel for the kind of mix of cards you need to succeed, but later in the campaign and certainly in matches against other players you'll want to spend some time putting together your own decks. Those familiar with collectible card games will know that collecting the cards isn't free and that's the case in this game as well. You're given a number of points for free that can be used to buy "packs" of cards or to use to buy cards from other players. After that you can try to sell some cards through the game's card exchange to earn more points or pony-up some real world cash to buy more points to pick up more cards for your collection. As in most collectible card games, some cards are common and some are rare, and the rare cards will go for more points on the exchange.
The game plays differently than a collectible card game. The game's not a round-based series of turns where players have the luxury of putting a little thought into each play. The game plays out in real-time – play a card to summon a unit and it appears on screen immediately and can be given orders as soon as it is summoned. You play a card in the middle of a melee, adding new troops to the fray or unleashing a spell to try and turn the tide in your favor. Of course, your opponent can do the same thing at any time as well. You don't have the freedom to call any card into play at any time, though. Maps contain power sources that generate the power that you need to summon cards, and some of these are special power sources that need to be attuned to one of the four disciplines. Some cards just require that you have some power in your pool, others require that you control a minimum number of power points attuned to the right discipline. Some cards have cool-down periods before they can be used again and others have limited number of uses. In BattleForge, it's not just about having a good mix of cards in your deck, it's also about using them at the right time.