Nova Blitz is a real-time trading card game. This makes the game play a mix of strategy and action. Strategy, because every card interacts with other cards, and you can always respond to your opponent’s plays. Action because you have five seconds to make each play. Five seconds is enough time to decide what to do, and play the card you want. You’ve got to be on your feet – think for too long and you’ll miss your chance.
This mirrors the real pressure of fighting with real units in a real arena. When there’s a fireball hurtling towards your face, you can’t say “hang on, I want to think about what I’m doing next”. Well, I guess you can, if you want 3rd degree burns. But you probably don’t, so think fast and shield yourself before the fireball hits.
During each turn, there’s an action phase (for playing cards), and a combat phase (for attacking). Each phase plays out in real time – there’s a shot clock that controls how much time players have to make each of their plays.
In the action phase, the shot clock gives you ten seconds to plan out your turn and make your first play. Then, once players start playing cards, it always makes sure you have five seconds to respond to your opponent’s plays. This gives you time to see what’s coming, and decide if you want to respond.
In the combat phase, players take turns attacking with their units. Each time you get to make an attack, you have five seconds to decide which of your units will attack, and what it will attack. Then, once that attack resolves, your opponent has five seconds for their next attack.
So, if Nova Blitz is a real time game, why have turns at all? Well, we tested a game with no turns, and just real time play. And what we found was very clear indeed: It wasn’t fun. And it wasn’t going to get to fun – we could have polished and polished as much as we could, and we’d be left with a game that was almost fun enough, but not quite.
In any trading card game, there’s a lot going on. And when our opponents could do anything at any time with no warning, there was simply too much going on! Playing our own turns wasn’t too bad – we knew our decks, and could plan in advance. But then our opponents would throw curveballs at us, and we’d be lost, and scrambling to catch up.
So, we looked at the game, and figured out what the fun parts were. We kept the fast pace, the interactive game play, and the combat system. Those bits were definitely fun. We added a more familiar turn structure, and ramped up the interactivity a couple of notches. And, what we ended up with was Nova Blitz, with a unique blend of real-time and turn-based game play.
Nova Blitz is fun because there’s a clear rhythm to the game. You know what’s going on, what’s about to happen, and why. The blend of turn-based and real-time game play gives us the best of both worlds. Games move really fast, so you’re never sat around waiting. The regular pace, and action-combat-action rhythm ensures you always know what’s going on. And you still have just enough time to think, plan, and execute your strategy.