Mitch Gross

Artifact: First Impressions

Artifact: Inked Gaming's First Impressions



Artifact Card Game – If you’re a part of the digital trading card game world, you may have heard a thing or two about this new, innovative card game from Valve – creators of the insanely popular game, DOTA 2. Artifact’s creation was led by world famous game designer, Richard Garfield – who designed the early iterations of Magic the Gathering sets and has had a hand in the newer releases as well.

At face value, Artifact is a simple game. You have three different “lanes” or battlefields that are fought for during the battle. Each player brings a deck with “heroes” with certain characteristics that fall in line with the theme of the character from the DOTA 2 MOBA. You assign heroes to each lane, battle your opponent’s heroes and “creeps” (less powerful allies in your deck) and try to defeat two of the three lanes that your battles are fought on. The player that destroys two towers first, wins the match.

During this battle, you draw cards at the start of each turn, gain gold for destroying your opponent’s minions, use said gold to purchase usable items to make your heroes stronger, heal them, or save them from death.

Artifact uses aspects of almost every other digital card game while borrowing themes from DOTA 2 to give this game a completely brand-new take on a card game. While other digital card games take the “status quo” of card games (MTG, Hearthstone) and make changes to the base, Artifact seemingly started from scratch and what came out on the other side is amazing.

To start, my knowledge on this game has been gleaned from my three hours of playing this game on its release day. Before that, I completely avoided any spoilers, strategy, streams, YouTube, and any other content before playing. I wanted this experience to be completely new and not tarnished by outside opinions or content.  I hope you enjoy my short overview of what I experienced and my first impressions. My goal with this blog is to give you a better idea of the game, and outline what to expect if you ever decide to take the Artifact dive!


My Game Play Experience:

Upon downloading, you are sent through a little intro and thrown directly into a match against a bot.  The tutorial is two games long, and you are given two different decks to try out vs bots. The mechanics are explained quickly, yet effectively during the two intro battles.  To be honest, the second battle I almost lost due to me kind of throwing cards willy-nilly and focusing more on taking in the whole experience.

After the intro battles are done, you are given 5 “event tickets” and 10 booster packs. I proceeded to open the booster packs and skim over the cards in the packs. From my understanding, you receive at least one rare card (always the card displayed on the bottom right-most part of the booster once opened) with a chance to have more rare cards in that same pack.  The way the cards are revealed is fun, rewarding, and an overall enjoyable experience (think opening packs in Hearthstone).

After opening all ten of my packs, I went over to the “deck-building screen” where I was met with a menu of complete “garble.” I figured out how to look at the cards I received from the packs but past that, I had no clue how I would even begin to start building my first deck. Since I was on a bit of a time constraint, I felt like it would be a better use of my time if I headed over to try something else.

I went over to the main menu screen and noticed that there was an “event” going on. I opened that and was met with a choice of six or so pre-constructed decks. I choose the mono green “ramp” deck and entered a game against my first player opponent.

We were taken into a game, one hero per battle zone was deployed for each player (three on each side) and the screen zoomed into the first battlefield. We exchanged actions, moved to the next field, rinse and repeat until the round was over.  You then get the opportunity to purchase items with gold, and then you do it all over again all the while using the cards you purchase and draw at the start of your turn to effectively out maneuver your opponent. The color of the hero on each battlefield determines which cards you can play, the amount of resources you have available per turn increases on a round by round basis – making earlier turns more linear and later turns VERY deep in strategy.


Being a digital card game fanatic, I’m not entirely sure how intuitive the round by round model of Artifact is. I had very little issue figuring out the basic mechanics and came to some strategies of sorts as I waded my way through my first three matches against real people. I was able to win all of them, and it seemed as if my opponents were struggling to come to strategic solutions just as much as I was during our battles.


First impression ratings 1-10

Playability: 9

Right as you open the game, you are thrown into the full Artifact experience. It’s fast paced, a bit overwhelming, and so much to learn. Board game and card game fans alike will love this game.

Difficulty: (1 most difficult - 10 being easy) 4

The most difficult card game I have ever tried (and I’ve tried every major digital card games and most smaller ones). Right out of the box it is extremely deep with major hurdles to entry. The lack of direction after the tutorial and lack of assistance in the deckbuilding screen were both daunting.

Replayability: 10

If you are a card game or board game player, we all know that every game isn’t “exactly” the same, but Artifact seems to knock all its competitors out of the park in this regard. The randomness of your hero placement, creep placement, item store, among other things will make for infinite different experiences even playing against and with the same decks.

Overall Score: 8

While it doesn’t feel like a partial game was released by any means, I do feel like there are some menu features that are missing from the game. A lack of direction, lack of story mode, tough deckbuilding UI and overall less than perfect menu will all be things that could be hashed out in the future (I understand that DOTA 2 did not have a “story mode” but an immersive one in card games enhances the experience of casual fans, which includes myself for this game).

Note: I did not give a review of the store, purchasing and selling cards, or anything associated with that due to not having experienced any of that in my first go around with the game. There is so much more to Artifact that what I outlined above, but I hope this was a simple, informative take on our new, amazing card game.


Thank you for reading and hope that you give Artifact a try!

Mitch Gross

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