Friday was just about setting up and getting my updates, it isn’t that it took me that long, it is just that I only had a couple hours in the evening to do so. Hopefully today I will get a bit further.
Upon loading the game and signing in again (to the juggernaut server) it checks for updates, none are found, so it launches the game proper. After a few very loud and thundery intro videos it pops up with a box telling me to enter my key if I have purchased the game or select Play 4 Free. I read the blurb associated with the two options so here is how it works; You pick a Play 4 Free account which gives you 32 out of 200 cards, this is converted to a full account by getting to rank 4 in PvE or Rank 10 in PvP and you will get the message until then. Converting the free to full in this way does not unlock you extra cards however and they have to be bought separately. Apart from the cards the only thing missing from Play 4 Free is card auctions and trading, but you get this as soon as you get to a high enough level. I assume this is to stop scammers taking advantage of a free game and trying to con people out of money. It would mean they either have to buy the game or play to level 4 to be allowed to trade.
This all seems fair enough and I haven’t got a key so I click Play 4 Free.
Now I have to crate a character . This is as simple as typing in my name and selecting an avatar. I pick some flaming guy with a burning bow.
This done it dumps me in the tutorial. The Skylord Moon explains to me that, as a Skylord myself, I am able to summon creatures into existence. She demonstrates by summoning some Northgurards (soldiers with war hammers and a shield) and telling me how to control them. This is exactly as you would expect and if you have played an RTS before Skylord Moon will have you drumming your fingers as you wait for her next instruction. This is understandable though as I expect this game will not just appeal to RTS players, but also to trading card game players, some of whom may need this level of instruction. There was an option to skip the entire tutorial when you created your character, I just thought it would be wise not to.
OK, some action. Moon  instructs me to send her Northguards to attack a bandit camp, it quickly produces a small squad of soldiers but the Northguards soon dispatch them and the camp. Again this is pretty standard if you have played an RTS.
Now we get to something interesting! Summoning my own army! To do this you need two things, Orbs and Power. Orbs are built on top of monuments and power comes from power wells. Each card in your deck has certain requirements to play, so with only one monument most of my cards are greyed out and unavailable. I’m told to summon a squad of master archers and use them to capture a second monument. It is worth noting that by this point I do have a couple power wells (which like monuments, can only be built in predefined locations) but they are not in any of my screenshots. A unit can be summoned anywhere on the map providing it is in range of other units of yours or a structure you own like an Orb or Power Well. ideally you will summon them next to an Orb or Well as summoning exclusively next to other units gives them a summoning sickness.
I take my new squad of archers and head to the next objective Moon has put on my map, this second monument was not well guarded and the lone defender soon falls to my archers.
Now that I have two monuments Moon shows me how to use spells. The spell in question only requires one Orb, but as that orb has to be be fire and my first one was frost so I could summon the archers this is the first time it has been available. With the spell I can take out the next bandit camp while my units are safely out of range. They are used in exactly the same way as you summon a unit, you still need to have a unit within range to do so, though this range is longer than for summoning and, of course, a spell doesn’t suffer from summoning sickness.
The next task assigned to me by Moon is to attack a fortification. I summon some Northguards in addition to my Master Archers before making the assault. Moon helps me out by casting an earthquake spell. This severely damages the wall so my troops are able to take it down fairly quickly.
After the fortification has been destroyed I am told I can build it facing the other direction, Like the structures covered so far these fortifications can only be built in predefined positions on a map, the next structure Moon tells me to build is different however. The cannon tower is a card and can be played like one, you simply drop it wherever there are friendly units nearby. Unlike the things I have used so far it does have a build time where is is vulnerable. As soon as my defences are in place the bandits mount an attack, but I quickly repel it.
Moon now tells me about special powers, there is a larger bandit camp up ahead, but this one is guarded by two towers. To defeat them I am told to summon two Firestalkers, these lizard like beasts need two Orbs, one Fire and one any other colour, and are the first to have an additional power. When selected a button appears above the Firestalkers and a second that is highlighted by a yellow arrow in this screenshot below. With the Firestalker unit this button switches between the default melee attack and a log range fireball. I switch to the fireball and take out the towers without suffering a scratch.
With the towers out of the way I move the rest of my army in to take out the camp, the Firestalkers remaining at the back providing very useful support.
I push on and capture a third monument, this opens up the last two cards in my deck a 15 foot fireball throwing creature and a similarly sized stone man with devastating melee attacks.
Finally I push on to kill the bandit leader, with his healer dead he is defeated quite quickly and I am victorious! Though a lot of what was covered is common to many RTS games it was definitely worth playing the tutorial as some things particularly the power cycle (which Moon explains but I don’t understand it well enough myself to repeat it) are quite different and will be new to you.
So what next? A battle? The Start of a campaign? When the tutorial is over you find yourself in The Forge, this is the hub where all your battles will be arrange from and where you organise your deck before going into battle. There are plenty of hint pointers to let you know what things do. You can also test out all your cards in this sandbox. Aha yes, the cards, well like I expected from the Play 4 Free version I have 32 cards split into two decks, a deck can have at most 20 cards in it, so even if you have all 200 you are only allowed 20 in any given match. For now I am going to stick with one of the default decks as I have no idea how I could improve on them, particularly with so few cards. So with the 16 cards of Fire and Frost I click on the globe at the top of the screen which, according to the hint box, allows me to start a game. Oh, one further thing before I go on, the chat box seems to have a lot of people trying to sell BF points. These are scams, the points are probably bought with stolen credit cards and if you buy them you will have you account shut down.
This takes me to a map. It seems completing the tutorial has opened up three more locations in the area called Lyrish Reaches. The four player scenario has an open game it it so I join.
I’ll admit this didn’t go too well. In fact I would go as far as to say it went badly, very badly. There are no screenshots of this because I was too busy failing to get my forces to attack the enemy. I lasted only a few minutes before being told I was defeated and dumped back in the Forge . Perhaps I need to play through a few of the single player scenarios before I try the cooperative ones…
To start with there is only one available and after a few goes I manage to complete it, again no screenshots because I was busy. Even the single player maps are hard, at least they are for me, but I am not exactly a hardcore RTS player so don’t let it put you off. OK, one more single player map and I will call it a night…
 It is worth pointing out that though you can create more than one character only your first on gets the free cards. However, once the one with the cards becomes full rather than Play 4 Free you can transfer them.
 I’m a Skylord as well right? I’m sure I don’t have to use her title.
 I hope my failure did not ruin the game for the rest of the players, it was supposed to be cooperative after all…