When it comes to trading card games (TCGs), I am somewhat of a seasoned veteran. I started playing back when Magic: the Gathering’s beta set was released and have played countless other games since the mid 1990s. As such, I was very excited to have the opportunity to take a look at the Nostalgix TCG base set and see what this new game was all about. The idea behind Nostalgix is that it’s created a fusion of two mechanics of all the TCGs that players enjoyed from before. Their website hypes the claim that it’s one of the easiest games to learn due to familiarity, so even new players were able to pick up the game very quickly. This claim was very enticing to me as I thought it would be great to get my kids into a TCG as well because even a game like Magic has evolved with different rules, and the timing of different cards can be tricky to understand.
I was graciously sent a day zero booster box as well as a pre-constructed deck by Nostalgix for the purposes of reviewing. The first thing I noticed about the cards was the high quality of the cards. The cards themselves have a very smooth, matte finish that feels great to hold, and there are also foil rare cards that are shiny and smooth as well. Each pack follows the TCG standard distribution of 1 rare and 3 uncommons, with the rest of the pack being commons. I’m not sure if the day zero boxes were set up in a specific way, but I got an almost perfect assortment with 3 of each common, 2 of each uncommon, and 1 of each rare/hero card. Also, like most modern card sets, Nostalgix has chase cards to be found. There are special void rares which show up in about 1 out of every 25 packs, and there are even rarer gold cards that land somewhere between 1/450 packs to 1/777 packs. I was lucky and managed to pull 2 void rares out of the box of 36 packs.
The artwork also stands out as being very high quality, and every piece of art is original for Nostalgix from manga artist Boe Leahy, Rushfortacos, and Petey Pariah. There’s a nice mix of stylized cartoon or manga artwork mixed with more realistic fantasy art. The pre-constructed deck came with a unique foil hero as well, so there is a benefit to getting the pre-constructed deck if it contains a hero you really enjoy using.
So how does gameplay work in Nostalgix? This is ultimately the most important thing when it comes to any TCG. As previously mentioned, Nostalgix advertises itself as a mixture of other popular TCGs, and, honestly, that’s the perfect description. It takes elements from the Pokemon TCG, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Hearthstone’s energy system. From Pokemon, there are fighters that can evolve or level up, and each fighter has a type and weakness modifier, with each fighter also having 1 or more attacks that you can choose from. A final similarity to newer Pokemon mechanics offers some stronger monsters which have an ability that can be used once per turn, and Nostalgix has a few arena cards that can affect both players with some global changes. The Yu-Gi-Oh! mechanics include the usage of surprises (Yu-Gi-Oh! traps) and equipment cards that can be added to enhance your fighters. The Nostalgix mana system has been used in countless other games, but it is a Hearthstone staple: on turn 1 you have 1 mana, turn 2 you have 2, and so on. Nostalgix also adds cards that can manipulate mana by either locking out your opponent’s mana or giving you extra.
One aspect of the game that is exceptionally good, in my opinion, is that the playfield has 6 slots for all of your equipment, spells, and surprises. This adds a nice tactical aspect to the game, so you can’t load up your fighters with equipment or lay down a large number of traps. If you choose to augment your fighters with lots of gear, you will lose the ability to play any other cards. Each player also has a hero card (Hearthstone anyone?), and each hero has an ability that can be used once per turn for either the cost of some health or mana usage. Heroes play an important role in Nostalgix since the two winning conditions for the game are to either reduce the opponent’s hero to zero or to kill 10 of their fighters and claim the 10 prize tokens (Pokemon?).
I was able to play a decent number of games with my family, and I played around with a few different deck types. I also played more games on Tabletop Simulator to play against some other people, and I was surprised at how easy it actually was to pick up and play. My kids, who had never played a TCG by the rules, both were able to understand the concepts and be competitive in the games. Having multiple win conditions helps the games not last quite as long as either a Hearthstone or a Pokemon battle. If I have any complaints about the game overall, it’s with the field layout and how rigid it has to be; it’s a game that would highly benefit from having a cloth playmat or something to keep the cards organized while also keeping track of your maximum and current mana. There’s also a very limited amount of arena, equipment, and spell/surprise cards, so, from what I saw, decks tend to use similar combinations of the cards that are better. From the card standpoint, some of the card text is very small and almost impossible to read due to size and color combinations.
Nostalgix is what the TCG game world needs: a simple game that doesn’t take a long time to explain the rules or set up. Nothing can derail a family & friends game night more than having to spend a large chunk of time going over rules and then having to refer to a rule book for searching up a weird situation. Nostalgix did just release their first expansion set, Harmonic Surge, this month, which added 4 additional fighter abilities. I haven’t had a chance to look into the expansion set, but it will definitely address the main issue of simply not having a large set of cards to draw from. Only time will tell if Nostalgix can break into the TCG landscape and compete with the icons, but, in my humble opinion, it has started off on the right foot. And I hope it can stay around for a long time.