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Nanovor: Pokemon for a New Age

| 3 Aug 2009 14:00
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We take a look at Nanovor, a game that's managed to encompass the creator of Battletech, digital card displays and online gaming in one neat insectoid package.

Last week I had the chance to speak with two of the founders of Smith and Tinker about their upcoming release Nanovor. Nanovor is an online card game whose basic premise revolves around the collection of Nanovors, bugs that live inside computers, and battling them against other players online.

Presenting the game to me were founder and CEO Jordan Weisman and co-founder and President Joe Lawandus. Jordan Weisman is a legend of both the tabletop and videogame industries who has served as both a founder and creator of FASA's most famous properties as well as being the creative director overseeing Microsofts Xbox and PC titles. Joe Lawandus has a background in brand management for major toy companies including Hasbro and Disney.

Nanovor plays similarly to other card games in its genre. Players build teams of Nanovors, called swarms, and then go into battle with other players' swarms. From there, they select attacks for all the Nanovors in their swarms and watch the battle play out. Outcomes are based on the attacks chosen at the outset. At the core of Nanovor is a pure strategy game.

Where the game really starts to deviate from the norm is in the way it has incorporated gameplay ideas from MMOs and combined them with traditional card collecting games. In Nanovor, the players' cards can evolve over time, through the accumulation of badges that they receive for certain accomplishments. Evolving Nanovors is a game in itself that, according to Weisman, resembles Mastermind. The point of being able to evolve Nanovors is that battle outcomes aren't totally based on who has the rarest cards, although card scarcity will exist.

Another way Nanovor is innovating the genre is in making sure that trades can only be done online. The days of people getting ripped off of their best cards are over, and the Nanovor game will even help players evaluate the fairness of their trades with each other in a marketplace setting.

Easily Nanovor's biggest surprise is its offline component, the Nanoscope. Instead of trying to merge a physical card game with an online one as Magic: The Gathering has done with Magic Online, Smith and Tinker thought why not bring the digital cards to the school yard? The Nanoscope does just that. It is a flash memory enabled display device with an LCD screen that links both to your computer and other Nanoscopes. This means players can battle each other in person and watch effects like Nanovors jumping from screen to screen to attack each other. The flash memory slot also lets players buy special training carts for solo play that allow them to further evolve their Nanovors.

Of course a lot of people also love trading card games for the lore surrounding them. Nanovor is no slouch here either, as every week one two minute animated webisode will be released on the site to advance the Nanovor storyline and characters.

The game is definitely aimed at young teenage boys and, as such, has a number of suitably gooey and disgusting death animations involving bug juice. That said, the gameplay seems like it sits on a really solid foundation that could make it worth looking at for even older players. What will be really interesting is if the Nanoscope takes off and changes the way everyone plays collectible card games in the future.

The game is a free to play/token based economy and the Nanoscope retails at approximately $50. The Nanovor online client is live as of August 1st with Nanoscopes to appear in several major retailers by October.

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