Take a Journey to the Past with me.
The “Good ‘ole’ Days”
Before delving into what could be done better, let’s take a look back.
When Force first launched, they dropped 2 sets together, Crimson Moon’s Fairy Tale and The Castle and the Two Towers. Promos rolled out, events were planned, and all the fun stuff. Why two sets at once? Well, they learned from the OG Valhalla Cluster. The first set, The Dawn of Valhalla focused on Light, Fire, and Water. It was a larger set and had few Wind and Darkness in it. The set was awkward and so on. By committing to a set structure, they opted for a double set release to provide enough cards to let the game hit the ground running.
Another big thing they did was drop the Life Break mechanic. This was a whole thing in the OG cluster. If they were dropping it, I guess after a lot of feedback from the markets where they were released, it was best to start fresh as it was on a lot of cards in those first sets. That is another likely reason we never got them here in the US. The 2nd and 3rd set made up the card count to balance out the colors, but they were weird as well in the distribution of cards.
These two things right here show an ability to alter the game based on community feedback to its core. Another thing that not many know, is they also changed their promo policy. The first few promos (or most of them anyway) were their own cards, not different versions of cards in the regular sets. This could present accessibility issues if they kept it up. You see this in games like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh that give promos out you can only get from those events or offers.
Yes, sometimes they reprint them later, but until that point players have a hard time getting them and if they are needed for top tier decks, they can run hundred of dollars. By not sticking to this practice, the company showed it was learning. Thankfully, none of these stand-alone promos are too playable. A couple are okay, but overall, they are weak. As a completionist myself I am still hunting for a few of them to complete my total master set. Thus, the accessibility thing is an issue for me and other collectors.
The first major mistake of the Force of Will company was The Millenia of Ages set. A 50-card set that came in 36 booster pack boxes was just a mess. I don’t think the set is bad overall, but if it was say, a small 12 pack box (the way OG Valhalla was sold) supplemental set it might have been received a lot better. It was over printed and not a good set as the 4th in a cluster. This is the first big mess up. A lot of LGSs took a bath here. You can still get boxes for $20 today while other sets in the cluster are going for almost $200 (read my 10th article when I definitely will go over these). They learned though, and this didn’t happen again, well concerning sets with booster packs that it.
Next up on the oops list, was the Faria vs Melgis Duel Deck. Laevateinn, the Demon Sword (TTW-099) was stupid broken and led to the days of Baha (Falltgold, the Dragoon (TAT-026) // Bahamut, the Dragon King (TAT-026J)) Blast. Coming out months before Seven Kings, there was no real answer for Regalia at this point. BUT, it was also the introduction of a banned list. A mistake and answer in kind. Quick response to a problem, this is what community outreach is about.
This was also the time when the company was transparent with their players. Weekly streams, messages and videos from staff, it seemed they were doing their part to let us all know they loved us. This isn’t something a lot of players need from their game company, but it’s nice. Eye Spy isn’t this open to the community, but they are a different company and do it their way. It’s not a good or bad thing.
Alas, then we roll into Alice Cluster, which started good and saw an uptick from the MOA fiasco. But Reflect, Child of Potential (TTW-063) // Refrain, Child of Convergence (TTW-063J) popped up and we saw what appeared to be a lag in any action. First, they put an erratum on the ruler, then a couple of bannings. The lack of a quick response saw a lot of people leave the game. Scroll any FoW group and you’re bound so see a comment or two referencing this time. Eventually, they did something, but it was ham fisted at best.
Now we get to the worst set in all of Force, period. Vingolf 2. There was some excitement when it was announced, as it was the first cross over with another property. Well, it flopped and flopped hard. The set is bad, even within itself. It was designed to support itself and was awful even at that. The success of Vingolf 1 likely made the company overestimate this one and they printed more than was needed by about 95%.
As I said in my finance review of the “5th Products”, this thing isn’t worth squat now, and especially then when it sold for $20-$30 retail. The only redeeming thing about it now are the dual stones. Grab a pair of these for $20 or less right now and you’ll get value from the 40 stones. Then toss the rest. Not even the box was good like the Vin 1 container. This hosed LGSs even more. The ones that did stick around were now rethinking their strategy.
Another lesson learned it would seem, as Lapis cluster was overall well received. The first actual starter decks emerged that were all original. Alice had them but were all reprints from SKL and TTW. The decks came with a complete deck, some booster packs, and some d6 dice with the Force Logo on them. At $30 retail, these were well priced and worth the money, especially the Wind and Darkness ones.
This time also saw the Player Reward program in full swing with the Will Points in each pack. At the start of Lapis Cluster we got to redeem them, via the app, for up to 12 uber and cosplay rulers. The next year saw the Vingolf 3 rulers. We also got an online battle simulator with the Lapis starters in it. It was a good time to be a Force player. This strategy worked too. GPs were getting 200+ people, the ARG events sported 40+, promos flowed to the stores that still ran events.
There was a blip with Lilias Petal, Agent of Salvation (LEL-069) // The Nine-Tailed Fox (LEL-069J), but a couple of bannings helped smooth that over. We also got Vingolf 3, the Vingolf we needed and deserved. The only issue here was it was under printed and just that good. One response that showed the company cared was making promos out of some of the more sought-after cards in a quick manner.
A New Era
Then rolled in Reiya cluster. Nice new boxes and starters. They experimented with a lot here and I have to say it was kind of a bust. Larger sets, sealed rulers, variant cards, and the first extra deck, just to name a few. The larger sets seemed to lack because the added cards weren’t exactly worth the space. The sealed rulers from the starters saw an average of 3 versions of each ruler as they were reprinted through out the cluster, along with most of the cards from the starters. This just bogged down the packs and boxes.
The problem ruler (Speaker of Eternal Night (TSW-109) // Scheherazade of the Catastrophic Nights (TSW-109J)) was banned quickly though, that was a plus. We also saw the introduction of a wanderer banned list and even an Origins Restricted list. Overall, the problems just fell into what other games experienced. The 6th starter deck was nice too, not too overpowered and not a bust. It was a game company trying to find their footing by trying new things. But over all the cluster was okay, just growing pains.
People that make a big deal about power issues really must be new to TCGs or just like to create drama. Any game has power issues, power creep, or total dud products. They just do, and they all go through it. The thing that differentiates games is the response from the company that makes them. Force of Will in these terms is like the others. They might appear to take action slow, but industry wise, they are actually one of the faster companies.
Now comes New Valhalla and more extra decks. The idea was to make Rulers that evolved with the addition of new runes. On the surface it sounds like a cool idea. The major thing going against this cluster was the under printing of the starters. This limited access to players and saw the prices skyrocket on them.
The other thing going on behind the scenes was this was also the time when the game went from the Force of Will Company to Eye Spy. That’s a whole tale on its own that may or may not be told at a later date. Needless to say, a lot of changes happened. Some people left the company and so did some players that didn’t like the transition. The biggest effect this had on the game itself was the 4th set in the cluster. Rumor has it that the set was going to be abandoned, but to keep things doing one was cobbled together.
That might be one reason why the set was full of reprints from the starter decks, but not the rulers or master runes, and had such a power curve. One thing that the community wasn’t sure of was where the game was going. So, a lot of people waited to grab product. This was also when the new printing strategy was made, the one where they printed to preorders. Which meant all the distributors ordered the product and that much was printed, very little more. This has made the Decisive battle for Valhalla one of the highest priced boxes to date on the secondary market. The short turnaround from design to release is likely the cause for the power level.
Once the dust settled, we were treated to Alice Origin Cluster, with a lot of reprints and some of the smallest sets since MOA. By the end of the cluster, we also went from 36 pack boxes to 20 and back again, plus a new card design. There were bumps along the way, but Eye Spy seems to have found a system that works and we the community seem to have caught on to it when it comes to getting out cards.
That went a little longer than I thought, and it was abbreviated. That is the general history of the game to this point. It covered some of the mistakes and the corrections along the way. I know I didn’t hit on some of the Eye Spy actions, but those will be hit in the next part of this series, since it will be directed at them and will talk about things that players may have missed. Stay tuned.
#9 will cover what I think Eye Spy can do to aid in the growth of the Force of Will player base at very little if any additional cost. Until then have fun slinging.