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Review: Pox Nora

August 19th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

Octopi Games has developed an interesting little hybrid game. Intrinsically a card based strategy game, Pox Nora takes the RPG “levelling up” mechanic seriously and allows your cards to accumulate experience with which to buy new skills. You and an opponent square off on a grid map and fight a turn based contest to eliminate the other person’s home base. Your card deck is shuffled and unveiled a few at a time, limiting play to the cards you can see and you can afford – playing a card drains from your “nora” reserve.

As an aside, I’m not sure why games need to invent words like “nora” when it is basically ye olde “mana” idea and cash would work as well. But nora it is.

As a card collecting game, it’s not very good. I never liked the idea of virtual cards, and the artwork ranges from good to shockingly bad. The card look is really just a come-on to the Magic people since they are effectively playing pieces that just happen to be activated by cards. So it is more like a new-fangled GMT board game than anything else. Cards activate spells and artifacts, as well as units, but are never reshuffled once uncovered. There is a cool down that prevents you from immediately reactivating your Elven Assassin, but the mystery of what is available to play erodes pretty quickly.

Which is a good thing, because victory depends on setting up combos of spells and attacks on your opponent and you can only do that if you know which cards you have available. The combos are the main strategic element at play since the wargame itself is pretty simple.

Few games depend so heavily on the map. Unless you choose the map it can be very easy to find yourself in a match completely geared to your opponent’s deck. One map has deep chasms that can be crossed by flying units. If your opponent can get a flyer out in the first turn and you can’t, both of the vital Nora resource areas will be lost. Another has a vast lava river, enabling anyone with a lava walking unit to gain a huge advantage. With a limit of 20 cards per play deck, there is no way that your deck will be both balanced for every exigency and effective in combat. Something always has to go.

The cumulative effect of all this is a game heavily weighted towards experienced players. Though Octopi tries to balance things by having upgraded units cost more in nora, the tiny bonuses that a single upgraded unit gets can be monumental when 11 units are upgraded. It takes time for the combos to become apparent and you might not even have the cards to pull off the wizardry inflicted on you – new decks of cards can be purchased at the Rune Store, so a determined player could buy his way to repeating what he has seen.

Card packs are very reasonably priced, and there is promise of both a rune trader and a bot battle area, both of which should help newbies considerably.

The verdict? Still uncertain. Pox Nora is the kind of game that I want to like, but end up feeling indifferent about. The higher level battles can be very interesting, as experienced players flail away at each other, but they can also drag out into stalemates. Lower level battles are people just moving their units forward on a map that looks like it should be hexes. The balance between the various faction bonuses is still being worked out. It’s a good light boardgame to play with friends, but I can’t see how the promised guild play will add anything to what is essentially a 1v1 game.

You start with a ten dollar credit at the Rune Store, which is enough for a single 32 card pack. So there is no reason you can’t just jump in and try it yourself. I’ll check back in a month or two and see how the game has evolved.


8 Comments so far ↓

  • anson

    Any update on your initial impression of the game?

  • Troy

    To be honest, I haven’t touched the game in many, many months. I really should check it out and update this post.

  • laura

    its a good game the only problem is that if you want to get good cards you do have to pay for it. and most of the time you get the same cards in the packs you keep buying. it can be a good game but there are always lag issues. however it keeps me entertained for hours when im bored so if you are bored play it!

  • cheeba

    Could be a good time for a reappraisal on this one. Having recently come in as a total newbie to this, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the tactical depth and polish to this.

    I’m not sure if this is a recent development to the system, but the single-player campaigns really add a lot. It’s just so bloody refreshing to have a fun bash around with your favourite units instead of digging around for that perfectly optimized battlegroup to pit against some joylessly clinical opponent.

    Not a bad little strategy game in there either, no Age Of Wonders, but not without its own charms. So, a pleasant surprise for me then.

  • Troy

    You know, Pox Nora is a game I really should get back to. But there are literally dozens of games that I should re-examine.

    I will take this under advisement, though.

  • andrew

    i am downloading game now the way i see it tell me if i am wrong its no fun unless u spend real cash?

  • Michael

    Awful community , you are forced to play 3-4 combos that work in order to stay up in the ranking system and it’s an utter waste of money.

    I don’t recommend to anyone.

  • kiwiz

    Really like this game.
    More and more strategies each release
    played since 2 years with only the free sample decks.
    they changed almost twice a year, so not always the same
    If u play well, u could even be ranked in top1000 with these free sample decks!