During tonight’s big 10-year League of Legends anniversary stream, Riot unveiled a new free-to-play collectible card game for PC and mobile set in the League universe, called Legends of Runeterra. Open beta is expected to begin on PC sometime in early 2020, but sign-ups are already open for a “preview patch,” which will allow randomly selected players (and every streamer you’ve ever heard of) to play the game in its early form for the next five days.
Riot is positioning Legends of Runeterra as the card player’s card game, leaning heavily into the idea that no one likes card games that are too random, or that feel like complicated solitaire — potential digs at Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering Arena, respectively. According to Riot, Runeterra is being designed with the notion that the back-and-forth between players is the most exciting, interesting, and rewarding part of a card game.
As explained in the below video, players build decks of cards centered around Champion cards, based on the heroes from League of Legends, all of which feature their own unique abilities and mechanics. Players can level up their Champion during a match, which augments their abilities and/or introduces whole new ones. Champions and other cards are divided up by the six regions of Runeterra from which they hail, though players can mix and match cards from different regions to their liking.
The game is turn based, as one would expect from a card game, with both players switching between offense and defense each round. But unlike Hearthstone, where a player must wait patiently for their opponent to wrap up what they’re doing, Runeterra is taking the Magic approach by making each round a series of action/reaction pairs, where the player on defense has an opportunity to respond to everything done by the offensive player. A feature called the “Oracle’s Eye” will show the predicted outcome of the board before you commit to using your cards, allowing users to quickly make sense of complicated situations where a multitude of overlapping Champion abilities and spells are in play.
Cards are unlocked by “exploring” the six different regions of Runeterra — players select the region they want to explore, and gain XP after each match that goes towards unlocking randomized card packs from that region. You can switch regions at your leisure, but it doesn’t seem like XP from one region carries over to the next; each region appears to have its own XP bucket and progression. Players can also unlock Magic-style wildcards, which can be turned into any card of the associated rarity.
You can also just make the exact card you want using
dust shards, an earned currency, or coins, a real-money currency. Additionally, there’s a free “Weekly Vault” of rewards that levels up as you play matches, with more matches earning better loot.
Riot also teased a drafting mode called “Expeditions,” where players draft cards as they advance through a series of opponents, though it’s unclear if these are computer opponents, or actual people.