Weiß Weiss Schwarz Review Part 1 – Play Experience and Observations

Welcome to the first of three posts on Bushiroad’s Weiß Schwarz card game. This will cover my experiences and observations from playing the game.

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Which one of my extremely manly cards should I play next…?

So, for some reason I’ve decided to cover another current card game. Unlike my Cardfight!! Vanguard post which was long and covered too many bases, this will be a string of hopefully shorter posts. I’ll start with the game itself though.

I am not a competitive player for this game. The best-of-one tournament format is a joke. It generally takes around 15 minutes for me to finish a game. Obviously, some will take longer than others, but you can easily do 50-60 minute rounds of best-of-three. It’s one thing if a game can take 30+ minutes like Panini Dragon Ball Z or Fullmetal Alchemist, but there is little or no reason from a player’s point of view for best-of-one here.

It takes a certain degree of skill to play this game and a lot of it comes from minimizing luck. That said, luck still plays a big factor. You don’t want to travel for a tournament, lose to a bad hand, and leave with essentially nothing. Sometimes that just happens, but if you had best-of-three, you could at least try again.

When I tried this game long before there were English cards, I didn’t understand the game on a deeper level. As I got better, I learned where the skill came from. Becoming good at this game lies in memorization, resource management, and making optimal plays. There is almost no interaction with your opponent. For the most part, you go through your turn uninterrupted and your opponent does their turn uninterrupted. I feel like you play against your own deck more than anything else. It’s certainly a unique feature that I haven’t seen in other card games even if much of what I’m saying applies to many.

I won’t get into actual gameplay aspects, but one thing I don’t care for is being able to ram your small attackers into bigger characters, not defeat them, and still deal damage. That’s like having Kuriboh attack Blue-Eyes and dealing life point damage. That games can often end like this as a “come from behind win” is sad and adds to the common but untrue argument that this game requires no skill. It gives players who are behind a way to win, but it’s so lame and takes little or no effort. In many cases, they didn’t win with skill and good play. Yes, people just get lucky. Doesn’t mean it was a good game or that the better player won.

This is one of the few card games I’ve played that includes multiple franchises. Schwarz mostly draws from visual novels and anime. You would think you can mix series and create the crossovers that were never meant to be. WRONG! Unlike Universal Fighting System (UFS) which incorporated fighting games like Street Fighter and Soul Calibur, you cannot mix cards from different franchises. This game has an official format where you can but much like Yu-Gi-Oh!’s traditional format, nobody cares or bothers with it. Why should players when the companies don’t?

This is pure speculation, but I think the lack of mixing partially comes from laziness in the card design department. If mixing sets were allowed, they would have to do more work to check for broken interactions across multiple sets rather than within a franchise. And yes, that is a lot of work. Work that every other card game I’ve played has dealt with to some extent. While I’m not a fan of spending money, allowing mixing means players might have to branch out to other franchises to stay competitive. This can be annoying. However, from a business perspective, Bushiroad stands to make way more money, so I don’t know. Maybe they’re making too much money? In fairness, the way it is now they’ll probably never have to implement set rotation. Mixing requires you to grab ALL the good cards from the past and they can’t keep it all in print.

Unless your franchise is lucky, it might never get new cards. Even worse is whether or not your franchise gets more sets is dependent on its relevance in the industry and if it has recent or upcoming media. Even then there’s no guarantees. Haruhi got a base set and a tiny extra pack. I thought there would be a set for the Disappearance movie, but no. The Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works anime got a set covering the first half. We got a second set that covered the second. Railgun S got a set that covered the first arc. So there was going to be another to cover the rest, right? NO!

To be fair to franchises lacking in cards, you do not have to buy more cards to stay competitive. The bad part is that not all franchises stay relevant especially with power creep. On one hand, you don’t have to spend more money. On the other, it might get stale playing the same old deck where you have little room to modify as you’re stuck in one set. But hey, if you’re doing fine with it, I suppose there’s nothing to complain about unless you simply wanted more cards. However, for the series that were bad from the start and needed new support, sad for you.

As I said, Bushiroad can’t keep every single set in print. If you just found out about the game and the franchise you want to play is too old, too bad. Sometimes there are Comeback Campaigns where older sets are reprinted with new promo cards, but I doubt such an event will apply to every franchise. This doesn’t matter to people playing the game for the game itself as they’ll just play the most competitive decks. But for players who missed out, no money for Bushiroad. While UFS did have set rotation, the franchises it had kept getting more sets so fans could jump in and those series were still there. Not so here.

Set design can be a joke. EVERY SINGLE SET has vanilla (effectless) cards that nobody plays. Short of beginners lacking cards, there is no reason to play vanillas. Due to incompetence from designers, vanillas have almost no applications to any deck. At least in Yu-Gi-Oh!, the vanilla monsters have support to justify playing them. Vanillas in this game just take up slots so the designers don’t have to make as many card effects. Even for franchises with multiple sets, vanillas show up without fail. The Fate franchise has two trial decks, three real sets, and two (three if you count Fate/Kaleid Prisma Ilya) extra packs of 36 cards. Every product has vanillas… some more than others, but seriously, nobody wants them. There’s nothing to learn from playing them except that they’re bad. Don’t get me started on the laziness that is “same bad effect(s)” clones in every set essentially adding to the vanilla count.

Sometimes they just miss the mark on card design. I can’t speak for all sets, but there are some obvious tweaks you can make to cards that would make them more playable. They just choose not to or they add irrelevant things for no reason but to be “cute”. Source material accurate, but pointless in the game.

For example, there’s a card called Proxy Master, Irisviel.

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In Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu had her pretend to be Saber’s master in his place so he can work freely in the shadows. Irisviel can use healing magic and went with Saber to battles. So why doesn’t Proxy Master, Irisviel have the “Master” trait? I don’t know. “Master” is a very relevant and supported trait in the Fate franchise. You couldn’t give just this Irisviel “Master” for flavor and playability? “Alchemy” and “Homunculus” are worthless traits in the game anyway. They’re related to Irisviel herself, but still.

Meanwhile, over in Naruto… Remember when Chiyo stuck chakra strings on Sakura’s body so it could be used like a puppet?

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Ta-da! It’s not that hard. Naruto does this often. Is Sakura literally a puppet? No. But for the purposes of the card game and helping the puppet theme, this Sakura has a reason to be in a puppet deck.

Then there are other cards like Red Devil, Rin who has “Master” and “Glasses”.

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Glasses has no place in the Fate franchise, but they felt the need to give her this because… some dudes are into girls with glasses? So they’ll slap on a pointless trait with no application to the game because she rarely wears glasses, but not put “Master” on a card literally called “Proxy Master” to make it more playable? It’s one thing if mixing series mattered because Rins with “Glasses” might work in a series that has a glasses theme, but nope.

So, I had mostly negative things to say. Do I like the game itself? I definitely enjoy playing it on a casual level. It’s unique in its own right despite sharing similarites with Cardfight!! Vanguard. Do I recommend it? Well, sort of. This is not a cheap game to get into. The singles market isn’t the biggest so a good deck can be costly especially if you’re playing with Japanese-exclusive franchises. The “trial decks” are a waste of money at $20. They have lousy cards even by starter deck standards and you’ll learn very little about becoming better from them. You’ll almost never make back your money on booster boxes. I can say that about a lot of card games, but I think it’s more true here. If you just want to play for fun with your friends, buy a box and check it out.

The next post will cover trial decks.

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