Sword Girls Online or Why Randomness Makes Me Angry

Its a girl. With a sword. And you’re playing online.
Pretty self descriptive. Courtesy of Sword Girls Online.

So, I discovered the Sword Girls Online Beta today and spent an hour or two screwing around with it. It is an online, CCG-esque game based around cute girls with swords smacking each other around. As a long time lover of CCGs and cute girls with swords, I figured I’d burn some time trying it out.

Unfortunately, despite some determination to like the game, I’ve come away from the game feeling immensely frustrated and not at all inclined to keep playing. But we’ll get to that.

The mechanics of the game are pretty straightforward. The field consists of your character card and five slots to be used for either Spells or Followers. You get a hand of five cards that is drawn back up to five at the end of each turn which consists of Spells and Followers. Each Spell or Follower has a size that limits what can be played, as you can only have a total Size of 10 on the field at a time. Once you and your opponent finish laying your selected cards facedown on the field, you reveal them and randomly determine who acts first.

Actions in a turn consist of either activating a spell (which has priority, meaning if you can, you’ll use a Spell first), one of your Followers randomly making an attack against an opposing Follower or, if no opposing Followers are in play, then your Followers will make attacks against the opposing character. Attacked  followers then have the opportunity to counter attack if they survive the initial attack. Whenever one of your Followers is slain, they are discarded from the field and your Character takes damage equal to the Follower’s Size.

If a Character takes too much damage, that character is defeated and the game is over.

Now, obviously, I’m skimming over a great many details here. But in my short time with the game, I feel I identified a critical issue that severely detracts from whatever elements the core gameplay system provides: the level of randomness that the game presents is simply not enjoyable and not conducive to strategic play. The actual control you have over the game flow is painfully limited.

There were several times during my play experience when a “correct” order of actions was rather evident (Follower X needs to go first and attack Follower 1 and defeat her) and, instead, the Follower would apparently decide a suicidal attack against Follower 2 was a better use of her time, depriving me of several health AND a Follower that I really needed to keep on the field. Or my Followers would direct their attacks against weaker Followers, allowing their strong Follower to keep improving.

This is not fun.

This is not challenging.

This is annoying.

Really annoying.

Really goddamn annoying.

It is honestly fairly disappointing because, with decent card  design and the ability to direct attacks, the core mechanics seemed like they were decent enough to make a game that would be worth at least burning a couple days on. I’d even be willing to forgive a few of my other annoyances (Size mechanic inhibiting synergistic plays, slightly clunk interface, etc) on the basis that access to more advanced cards or the like might help.

Unfortunately, I really doubt there is going to be anything that helps with the fact that I can’t actually control the flow of the game.

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