A First Foray into the Force of Will TCG: a Magic Player’s Perspective

Today I would like to share with you some of my musings on this delightful little game called Force of Will. A game that has been spreading like wildfire in local gaming communities. A game that takes its name (shamelessly?) from our beloved Magic: the Gathering. A game that has caught my interest especially as a competitive tournament player, what with its lucrative regional event series qualifying an elite few for the world championship in Japan later this year.

Coming from a competitive Magic: the Gathering background, this game has a ton of appeal to me. Many of the rules and interactions are imported directly from Magic. You have to manage resources, such as life total, creatures, cards in hand, mana sources and even your graveyard! After learning most of the rules, I was convinced that it was just Magic-lite and would barely be able to hold my interest. After playing in my third tournament in just under a week, I’ve realized I was gleefully mistaken. Nearly each game you play has a surprising amount of depth and decision making involved, leading to fun and interactive turns.

Let’s do a little side by side comparison between some of the biggest problems in a game of Magic and take a look at exactly how Force of Will fixes some of these issues. In Magic, your deck has everything in it, your spells, your creatures, your mana, everything! This means that each turn you can draw a land or a spell, but not usually both. In Force of Will, your deck has spells and creatures, you have a separate deck for you mana, and even your Ruler is in a third, separate location. Each turn in a game of Force of Will, you can both draw for your turn AND call a stone to add mana with if you so desire, not to mention use your Ruler for some interesting other abilities! Unlike Magic, you don’t end up drawing a mana when you already have plenty, and conversely, you don’t have to worry about getting mana screwed and being unable to cast any of your spells.

The next problem that Magic faces, which is actually closely related to the previous point, is that of mulligans. In Magic, you can throw your opening hand back into you deck and draw one less card at the beginning of the game, repeating this process until you have a playable hand. After about the second iteration of this, a reduced hand size of two, it starts getting extremely unlikely you will be able to win the game. Force of Will addresses this particular issue by allowing the player to put any unwanted cards from the hand on the bottom of the deck and redraw that many cards, making sure that each player always has the same number of cards in hand at the start of the game.

So while neither game is perfect in either of these above regards, it seems like Force has learned from Magic, softening the blow of each of these unfortunate situations. You can develop your mana each turn if desired, and you will never start behind your opponent on cards. These are some things you would hope and pray happens in most games of Magic.

Alright, now that we’ve done some analysis on how Force fixes some of Magic’s biggest issues, it’s time to look at some of the struggles I’ve had with this game in my brief stint playing thus far. First off, how the rules work is quite close to Magic in most cases, so much so that if one of us don’t know a ruling, we just assume the game works like a game of Magic works. Now this has been a nice fall back plan, but the fact that it’s necessary at all is kind of embarrassing. It seems like each place the rules are printed in contradicts the next place the rules are printed. The game has been unfortunately translated from Japanese and some of the more subtle rules didn’t quite make it across the Pacific intact. A Force of Will Official comprehensive rules document written in English instead of one that’s been translated would be superb. Alas, such a thing doesn’t quite exist yet, the American branch of the game still being in its infancy. Luckily it will only be a matter of time before this issue is fixed, unlike this next, bigger problem.

The. Colors. Are. Unbalanced. By like, a lot…

Cheshire CatGreen is far and away the best color. Green gets counter spells, ramp spells, the best special stone, and even a great removal spell! Green is in almost every single deck, and if you aren’t playing it then you better have a darn good reason. Next, since a game of Force of Will usually revolves somewhat around a Ruler, cards that can interact with Rulers are at a high demand. Well, it turns out the only color that can even touch a Ruler in this game is Red, making Red almost mandatory to play if you care about interacting with your opponent’s Ruler at all. Red gets arguably the three most powerful spells in the game, a burn spell that does tons of damage to each player’s face depending on how greedy they build their manabase, a one mana burn spell that kills most creatures that cost three or less mana AND can target Rulers, and finally a two mana burn spell that kills almost all creatures, can target Rulers AND CAN’T EVEN BE RESPONDED TO!!! Luckily this final spell is actually red and black, which brings us to the next best color. Black gets to play large creatures, tons of efficient removal spells, life gain and discard spells, not to mention the crazy spell mentioned above. Rounding out the color pie we have Blue and White. Blue has the most monetarily expensive creature in the game, Cheshire Cat, which also appears in many top competitive decks. While white is only usually lending one to five cards to a deck, and even then only a very few decks can even support that many white cards (Sorry white, someone has to be the worst).

Now, this might not be the game’s fault. With only three sets printed in America so far, the card pool is still quite small. As more and more sets become available we can hope to see more diversity among the top decks. But as of right now, there are certain cards you HAVE to be playing with unless you want to be putting yourself at a noticeable disadvantage. This is a problem that we can only pray gets ironed out with the release of new and powerful cards.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that my history as a competitive Magic player has given me a huge edge on most of the local Force of Will competition. The depth of strategy and skills honed over the years have allowed me to see, and even be relatively familiar with, some of the more complex interactions in Force of Will. Even after only a week of playing local Force of Will tournaments, the game feels smooth and comfortable. And I am very excited to see if there is going to be extended support for more, larger scale tournaments in the future.

All in all, the game feels like a nice breath of fresh air. If you’re coming from a background of Magic, or any other similar game, then you’ll likely feel right at home. I highly recommend taking a deeper look into the Force of Will TCG, especially with the release of the deck building toolkit coming out in a few weeks!

I hope my brief thoughts on the game and its relation to Magic can give some of you that are on the fence a better understanding of you might be getting into. If you have any questions or comments regarding the game or anything I said that you agree or disagree with, please let me know!

Thanks for reading,
Dan Musser