Free Realms Trading Card Game How-To Guide

Danny "Ralsu" Gourley has what could be called an addictive personality. He resisted trying trading card games (TCGs) for years before finally succumbing to the madness. Now he's fallen in love with the TCG featured in Sony Online Entertainment's Free Realms. He's written a guide to help aspiring Card Duelists: Trick cards are the magic powers of the TCG, which you play during the Go phase or when your opponent attacks you at the cost of Stars generated from your Inventory.

You'll find Ari's camp  just between the hills west of Crossroads.

Just as I did with MMO, I resisted entry into the world of collectible trading card games (TCGs) because I feared how much money I would spend when I inevitably became addicted. When I finally gave Magic: The Gathering a go, my fears turned into reality. The rest is history, but I have been hooked onTCGs ever since. The Free Realms TCG duplicates a tried and tested formula of card battles. You'll enjoy looking at the art on your cards and reading the witty captions. You'll feel the tension as you try to come back from a deficit to win. You can play a digital version of the TCG in the gameor with actual cards in your home.

Your journey as a Card Duelist in the Free Realms MMO begins by locating Ari the Fish in the hills due west of the Sanctuary warpstone. She gives you the quest "Pick a Card, any Card," which sends you to visit Sam Potts in Sanctuary to start your training. Make sure Ari's quest is the active one in your tracker and you can just follow the path to Sam.

Sam invites you to join her in a Free Realms TCG already in progress. She'll walk you through the steps to try to catch you up to speed, but things can get a little confusing that way.  This How-To guide will help budding duelists learn the ropes from beginning to end in six parts: TCG layout, Resource cards, Creature cards, Trick cards, TCG gameplay, and winning and strategy.

TCG Layout

The Free Realms TCG board is laid out in two halves. The top half is your opponent's side of the board while the bottom half is yours. Each player has three slots in which to play Creature cards for attacking. Below the creature slots are cards won in battle.

The player's hand is shown at the bottom of the screen. On the right are the Inventory, Draw Pile (which is your current hand), Discard Pile, Coins or Stars, score, creent phase indicator, and the quit button. Click on the image above for a larger view.

Resource Cards

Resource cards are the key to winning in any match.

Resource cards are a type of currency in the TCG. Players use these during the "Ready" phase to generate the Coins necessary to put Creatures on the board or the Stars needed to use a Trick played to your Inventory. You get one Coin and one Star per turn for each card in your Inventory.

Resource cards can have special abilities. Some will allow players to spend Coins to get a benefit. Others can be discarded to trigger an event in reaction to something that has happened in the game, like if youÂ’re about to lose a creature during combat. Finally, some Resources can be turned face down to bestow a benefit once per game.

A Resource card that is face down in the Inventory still adds to the Coins and Stars for that turn, but its ability cannot be used again. All Coins disappear at the end of the player's turn. Stars disappear at the beginning of your next turn because they can be used to play Tricks during the opponent's turn.

Resource cards often have extra benefits for Creatures of the same element family.

Creature cards are your means to stike at the enemy.

Creature Cards

Creature cards are the warriors of the TCG, which you play during the "Set" phase at the cost of Coins generated from your Inventory and then use to attack during the "Go" phase. They have several components worth noting.

The top left corner shows the Coin cost to summon the Creature. The name appears at the top. The element family of the Creature is displayed in the top right.

Attack and defense appear on the left side of the card. The attack power is in the starburst and defense is in the shield. Any time one Creature attacks another, these statistics come into play.

The center of the card features the illustration and the bottom of the card explains any special abilities and power-ups the creature might have. The very bottom of the card also displays the number and types of Gems associated with the card. Gems are important during battles because that can add to your attack or defense power and change the outcome of a fight.

One special type of Creature card is a hero. Hero cards always come with special abilities that affect all cards or activate under certain conditions. Heroes are usually very strong and cost a lot of Coins to summon, but their special abilities add a significant benefit to the player.

Trick cards provide an extra boost at just the right moment to ensure your victory.

Trick Cards

Trick cards are the magic powers of the TCG, which you play during the Go phase or when your opponent attacks you at the cost of Stars generated from your Inventory.

The top left corner shows the Star cost to summon the Creature. Tricks sometimes provide even greater boosts for Creatures of the same element family.

Tricks are single use cards and go into the Discard Pile when the turn ends.

Hunting occurs when your creature is across from an empty space on the board.

TCG Gameplay

Gameplay begins with each player dealing his hand. You may choose to redeal one time. Reasons you might want to deal over are because your hand has no Resource cards or because your hand has no Creature cards that cost only one Coin to play.

Once both players have a hand, the game consists of turns divided into three phases: Ready, Set, and Go.

During the Ready phase, all zapped cards are restored, and the player draws two cards. Your supply of Stars returns to zero until the Set phase.

The Set phase is when you send Resource cards to the Inventory and place Creatures cards in the slots on the board.

You may place only one card in the Inventory per turn. Any card will work, but Resource cards are the best choice because they can be played from there and do not take Creatures or Tricks out of your hand. If you have nothing else to play, it is usually better to give up a Trick than to not get an extra card in your Inventory.

Once you have played a card to your Inventory, you will receive one Coin for each card in the Inventory. The Coins can then be spent to play Creature cards. You can play any combination of Creature cards you have the Coins to summon, and you can replace one Creature with another and dismiss the old one to the Discard Pile.

When the Go phase begins, you can attack with any Creatures on the board. If your Creature has no card opposite it on the board, you can Hunt. This means you score a direct hit on your opponent and win one card.

When two Creatures face off, the attacking Creature's attack power goes against the defending Creature's defense. Players may use Tricks to boost their stats, and then each player flips a number of cards equal to the number of cards won in that Creature slot throughout the entire game to get Gems. The total number of Gems from all cards you have flipped are added to your attack power when attacking and your defense power when defending. Also, Gems can activate power-ups to make your Creature stronger.

Some Creatures have abilities that cost Coins or require you to discard them after your turn that can be activated during the Go phase. After your turn is complete, your pool of Coins returns to zero until your next Set phase. Any Creature that attacks or Resource that is played is zapped, meaning it cannot be used again until after your next Ready phase.

The outcome of attacking is determined after all Tricks are played and cards are flipped. The possible outcomes are as follows:

  • Attacker has higher attack power than defender's defense power: defending Creature goes to Discard Pile and attacker wins a card for that slot
  • Attacker and defender have the same power: both Creatures go to their respective Discard Piles. No cards are awarded.
  • Defender has higher defense power than attacker's attack power: attacking Creature goes to Discard Pile. No cards are awarded.

Win twelve cards in battle to win the whole hand.

Winning and Strategy

The object of the TCG is to be the first player to win twelve cards in battle. The odds heavily favor aggressive players since cards can be won only through attacking and never through defending. Still, it is unwise to attack a Creature with six defense if your card only has one attack power (unless you have a lot of Tricks ready).

Defending is never optional, but you can use Tricks to your advantage as a defender to defeat the attacking Creature. Once it is out of the way, you'll be able to hunt with the Creature in that slot on your next turn.

While some Creature cards have the ability to be zapped to save another Creature already on the board, don't be too hasty to use this ability. The attacker still wins a card for defeating your creature even if you save it from being removed from the board, and your zapped Creature will not be able to attack in your next turn. It is best only to use this special ability to save a hero or other very powerful Creature.

Finally, don't overlook the power of Resource cards. Some allow you to draw extra cards into your hand under certain conditions. One really powerful variety even allows a Creature to hunt without zapping, which means that Creature will be able to hunt twice in the same turn and win two cards. Just beware of abilities that require you to move a Resource card to the Discard Pile. Using these deplete the number of Coins and Stars available on your next turn and may make it hard to play a card you need.

Parting Thoughts

This guide just gets you started on the path to becoming a master Card Duelist. Don't get too coocky yet. Your starting deck will be pretty weak, so you'll need to continue following quests to boost your collection. When you're ready to take on other players, keep in mind that it is possible to purchase digital booster packs. You'll need to modify your deck often to prevent your strategy from becoming too predictable. Good luck out there!

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