The Trading Card Game “Force of Will” (FoW) needs several well defined terms for an advanced discussion. The following article discusses – what I consider – the most important terms for theorising in FoW deck construction as well as advanced gameplay.
We shall take a short look at Sequencing, Card Advantage, the very prominent concept of Tempo, the Mana-Curve and subsequently the term Mana-Screw, before we close this article with an overview on Game-State vs. Board-State.
Sequencing means the chosen order of played cards or effects on the chase, but also the chosen order of attacks and blocks declared by a player. Right or wrong sequencing leads often to advantages or disadvantages situations during game play. Especially upon attack declaration sequencing effects the given state of information for either player.
It is important to note that the turn player may jump indefinite times from main phase to battle phase and back. This holds the opportunity to save plays of Resonators, Chants, Additions, costs of effects after attacking. Contrary to chess, FoW is a game of imperfect information. An opponent’s turn in a game of chess might be simulated by a player due to the given information on the chessboard and the rules knowledge of the player. FoW is quite different, because the opportunities of either player are limited to the unknown hand cards of the opponent and the open Mana (Will), limiting the opponent’s options. It is most likely advantages to withhold information from the opponent. More concrete: It is better to attack and wait for the opponent to react. Your opponent will be likely to react gradually worse with less information. Any played card before attack declaration or damage step may be fatal, if it signals the opponent his reaction to an attack is left unpunished.
Card Advantage is a simple concept. The overall thought is: How many cards do I receive upon playing a card and how many cards has my opponent to use up in the interaction or trades with the card. Basically, it is all about the creation of value. This might be something like an opponent trading an attacking Resonator and an additional spell into another Resonator to destroy it, or you drawing with one card into two cards generating the same value. Most prominent Control decks try to harvest card advantage throughout the game, to drown the opponents with the earned value.
Let us take a little thought experiment. One player earns much card advantage during the game. Both players trade their cards for one another. It is easy to see that the player with no cards left is basically incapable of action, while the other may act as she/he pleases.
Tempo is an extraordinary important FoW concept, reflected by the evolution of the Mana-Curve of most competitive decks. What are Tempo and Tempo cards all about? Tempo cards are mostly played with precise timing and generate virtual Mana advantage.
How to quantify the Mana advantage? Imagine your opponent plays a card (e.g. a Resonator) for 2 Mana and you answer the played card with a ‘bounce spell’ for 1 Mana. What is happening? If you assume that both players had 2 Mana to advance their turn, then you are left with 1 Mana to advance your plays and generate a certain momentum. Tempo cards are flexible and relevant to the Board-State. They progress the Board-State or hinder the progression of the opponent’s board. Tempo might also be used as term for a deck archetype abusing the Tempo concept.
Figure 1 – Mana-Curve of a Tempo-oriented deck
The Mana-Curve should typically look like a Gaussian or Bell curve. Since FoW is a very Tempo-driven card game this statement rarely mirrors the truth. A close look to competitive decks (e.g. GP Collinsville 2020) showcases that Mana-Curves start high and decrease almost exponentially, indexing the domination of the Tempo concept in FoW.
Most decks try to generate high impact on the Board-State with few Mana and ideally want to provide open Mana resources to interact with opponent plays. The Mana-Curve itself is easy to create by plotting converted Mana costs against number of cards with given cost in the deck (All cards for 1 Mana, 2 Mana, …. on a histogram). Especially upon deck construction the constitution of colour in the Mana-Curve should be consider during the building of the Magic Stone deck. A keen look and a careful consideration for the needed Magic Stones helps a player to optimise his early game and prevent Mana-Screw.
Figure 2 – Conventional Mana-Curve (Bell shaped)
Mana-Screw describes the state of inaction caused due to the lack of Mana or the availability of only the wrong Mana colours.
A closer look on the concept signals how FoW differs from its bigger brother “Magic the Gathering” (MtG).
The Magic Stone deck is separated from the Main deck, so the FoW player can rely on a constant Mana progression during the game by calling Stones via the Ruler. In contrast, Mana-Screw in MtG might occur solely by not drawing Lands to play them.
One more reason to carefully optimise the Magic Stone Deck regarding the constitution of the colours in the Mana-Curve.
Figure 3 – Brunhild Altar Mana-Screwed and scooping after hitting the 5th non-Black Stone at GP Collinsville 2020
Board-State & Game-State
Let us take one last look at the terms Board-State and Game-State. A favourable Board-State does not mandatorily represent a favourable Game-State. FoW is pretty Board-State focused and players typically try to progress their board to win. There are decks that neglect the progression on the board in favour to certain Game-States, though (e.g. Combo, Lock or Control decks). Your standard Aggro player is going to populate the board with Resonators or apply pressure with a Judgement, while the standard Control player most likely tries to regulate the opponent’s board via spot or mass removal, while not necessarily progressing his own board.
The key to victory of many FoW games is the understanding of the Board-State. It is not always good to progress the board however. Overextending on the board may be counterproductive or inadequate, especially if the opponent answers with mass removal. Moreover, the Game-State is heavily influenced by the Board-State, but needs a lot more factors for further considerations. The simulation of possible play lines with all available information like board, opponent’s hand, graveyard, deck, etc. shows a player how the game will progress. A skilful consideration displays the trajectory the game is heading, whether it is winning or losing the game. And even more important: It leads to the best possible play line regarding the given information.
 There an incredible series on Youtube called Tolarian Tutor. It discusses all sorts of MtG topics, most of them are directly applicable to FoW (e.g. Tempo):