30/09/2020

Untamed: Feral Factions, a potential great CCG [Review]

The vast world of Collectible Card Games (CCG) has always been enticing new fans either by its innovation on the mechanic or even only through thematic appeal. Untamed: Feral Factions (for the sake of space, we will shorten it as Untamed from now on) is the latest game in this domain published by Grumpy Owl Games. Some say, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” So, what does Untamed offer that’s different from its forerunners?

Disclaimer: I am an avid euro gamer and a hardcore Legend of the Five Rings LCG player. I am not a fan of solo game/variant. This will give you an overview of what kind of bias I might have while writing.

How to play, an overview

In Untamed, first, we pick three out of nine factions decks and shuffle it together. There’s no deckbuilding. The game can then start right away. We win if we destroy all three opponent’s stronghold. Be careful, when we cannot draw any cards from the deck, we also lose. The turn consists of two phases: Main and Upkeep phases.

In the Main phase, we have some options to do. We can play a card, attack opponent, put additional Power resource, activate Stronghold’s effect, and pay 2 Power to draw one card. To play a card, we have to pay the cost. This is usually paid by using Power resources, but some also need to get paid by the Support, too. All Animal cards normally come exhausted. The Upkeep phase initiates by readying all exhausted cards. Then, draw 2 cards from the deck and place a card on the Support area from your hand face up.

Please refer to the video from Grumpy Owl Games below for better understanding on how to play.

What we think of Untamed

Untamed: Feral Factions was another Kickstarter game I backed because of its attractive illustration. However, deep down, it comes up with decent gameplay that assures fair experience. This €25 box covers 2-3 players but I recommend to stick with two players per play to carry out the joy. Overall, Jeremy Falger and Milan Lefferts have delivered something that exceeds my expectation.

Components and illustrations

Can you notice the deluxe token here?

Thick cards offer durability, especially in this kind of game where shuffling is inevitable. You can also feel the weight of each card. Multiple artists were working wildly on the illustration, and they came up with something extraordinary. It’s sure fitting the name Untamed.

The quality of the prints could actually be better. The vibrant colour on their website and campaign was not represented fully on the cards. I think it should have been crisper. Also, I think they should have numbered the cards as well. I know CCG like Munchkin does not number its card, but it would be helpful for collectors. With numbered cards, we can trace and store our collection in order.

On a side note, I love the insert. It is made of sturdy plastics that give better structure. I think it will fit even after I sleeve the cards as well here. Nice job. Please bear in mind that this is the Collector’s Edition; I am not yet informed if they also provide the same thing in the retail version.

Nice structure from the sturdy insert. The artwork, too, it still gives me chill whenever I’m unlatching the box.

An undemanding card game

It’s as easy as ABC to set up Untamed and start playing with it. With the high pace, one game can be finished in half an hour. The rule is straightforward but needs some time to master it, as we have to get familiar with the keywords and card effects. The game still has the depth that might attract more advanced card game players, although I think it is meant for more elementary audiences. It is required to plan your strategy ahead and be ready for unexpected tactical manoeuver from your opponent. But, then again, Untamed still welcomes more casual players, too. In fact, I think the accessibility (which will be discussed further below) is the main selling point that targets this audience.

Comparison to other CCGs in the market

Just like Keyforge that provides the easy-to-play without any deck building, Untamed is steering to the latter direction. As we know, Keyforge does not need that deck building process (which some find exhausting), and you can play the game right out the box. Untamed is quite similar in terms of such accessibility. Here, we don’t have to build your deck to play. We just have to take three factions decks provided in the game, shuffle them, stack it as our deck, and we are ready to go. I prefer Untamed to Keyforge because there are no randomised kinds of stuff involved (this explains why I prefer LCG to TCG). I know what I buy, and I still can swiftly customise my deck. This is my personal bias, by the way.

All animals are normally coming exhausted (tapped). This is similar to the tapped/untapped from Magic: The Gathering (MTG). To win the game, we have to strike all three strongholds. It feels like the simplified version of ‘taking down that provinces and stronghold’ aspect from Legend of the Five Rings.

The similar mechanics between ready-exhaust and tap-untap during attacking.

Those are the similarities I found in comparison to other existing games. Back to the question I raised during the prologue: what differs Untamed with the other CCG out there?

The main difference in Untamed: Feral Factions

In Untamed, the key differences are the resources and the discarding mechanic. There are two types of resources: Power and Support. Power is always renewable and Support is the disposable, single-use resource. While putting Power is optional in the Main Phase, the Support one is a different matter. The latter is an obligatory action I had to perform during the Upkeep Phase. Also, all discarded cards are first placed in this Support area. They are ready to be used again before getting moved out of the game.

These cards had been used from Support area and removed from the game. The left ones, which were still organised, were the Support cards.

This discard mechanic is pretty new, at least for me. All cards are discarded to the Support area and can be used once again as resources. I could make use of them before they went away for good. In short, Untamed has two discard piles. It does not sound dramatic at this point, but it does alter how the game flows.

What next?

Some cards that can be used in other variant. The artwork is pretty, it’s sad the print quality is not that crisp.

Just like any other competitive card game, there will be meta, of course. Hence, the life of every CCG relies on the publisher’s continuation on releasing expansions. Untamed: Feral Factions is not an exception: to keep the game alive, Grumpy Owl Games needs to release expansions consistently. Otherwise, the game will feel repetitive without any replay value. The designer team may have known this, and they have also released a statement that there will be a new expansion coming up next.

Unwavering support to keep the game balance is also necessary. The team can keep the game healthy by doing errata if some cards are…

…deemed too powerful in the future. I am not a soothsayer, but I can say that Untamed: Feral Factions has the potential to be the next CCG with possible global organised play if they manage to pull everything up.

Final thoughts

Untamed: Feral Factions is a fast-paced, simple card game with accessibility to more casual players. It does not need the complex deck building process but the game still possesses depth for more veteran gamers. The price is justified for a box of a card game with beautiful artwork and decent component quality. If you are looking for a new competitive CCG, you should consider Untamed and its future release. Anyway, the next one will be Untamed: Spirit Strike.

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