Your deck has agents, sites, and actions. Agents score points in a region commensurate with their power if left to their own devices for a certain amount of time. Sites do the same, but remain in a region. Their power can diminish depending on the strength of enemy sites placed in the same territory. Actions have a variety of powers, including the power to place memories back into your or your opponent’s hand, taking them out of the game altogether or even scoring points in regions directly.
The great constant in this game is time. A timer is constantly ticking away during the game, and everything you do takes a certain amount of time. Putting an agent or a site into play takes “half a day” (the game alternates between day and night icons and apparently considers each “a day.”) You only get cards in the middle of a “day.” Conflicts between agents take half a day as well.
So much like a true assassin, there’s a lot of timing involved here. If a big bad guy comes into play on your opponent’s side, and you know that it takes half a day for him to do anything, you might want to spring one of your agents on him at the last possible second in order to keep him out of the control of your opponent for the maximum amount of time.
At the end of a battle, you’re awarded a certain amount of currency with which you can buy more cards. You’re awarded more for winning, though, so you have a vested interest in making a winning deck of memories.
The Holmberg: Recollections’ timing mechanic is its most interesting feature, and its biggest downfall. Yes, there are interesting opportunities for stopping a big play right at the last second, but there’s also a whole lot of waiting around. Full days take at least a minute to cycle through, and when I sat down to time the rounds, I found that they get longer as the game passes.
I find this problematic for two reasons. One, at the start of the game your cash flow is extremely slow; it takes half a day to earn one florin. If you don’t have cheap cards right at the start, you’ll be stuck waiting, doing nothing.
Two, you only draw when a new day begins, so when you’re out of cards, you’re stuck waiting again. Even better, the turns are longer, and the computer often has cards that wipe out all of your agents, so you stand a good chance of yet again doing nothing. There’s nothing fun or strategic about waiting.
Those annihilation cards also remove from the game any sense of accomplishment. I didn’t outplay my opponent; I was just lucky they didn’t pull the right cards. Everything takes so long to resolve that you have no choice but to lay your cards out immediately, which plays right into the hands of a discard/counter setup. I’ve seen no way to counter an action card, leaving you entirely at their mercy.
I’ll admit I’ve not tried multiplayer, but the only thing that makes the game bearable is the “fast-forward” button, which can’t work in multiplayer, so no thank you.
Finally, a word about the story: it’s incomprehensible. Do these card battles represent actual battles or subtler political clashes? The story can’t seem to decide. Worse, it’s told in three-paragraph chunks that try to sound significant, but ultimately convey nothing.
The Producer: You will get no argument from me about the meaningless story in the single-player campaign. It seems like a convenient way to introduce key characters from the Ezio saga and/or themed decks, but ultimately it isn’t worth reading.
Regarding cash flow at the start of the game, there are many cards that boost your income across all the doctrines. You can not only win with an all-agent deck or an all-site deck, it’s also possible to put an economic beatdown on your opponent.
Yes, the waiting between moves can be aggravating. I recently had a match against an opponent that seemed to be nothing but denial cards. He had sites with which to earn points, and all my agents were eliminated from play via action cards. It felt like an agonizingly slow death, but even so, the match probably lasted less than 10 minutes.
The luck factor, however, is the same with any other CCG. The idea is for your deck to have a better system than your opponent. The more cards you have, the more you can tweak and improve the way it plays.
Recollections is unique, intricate, and free. It’s definitely worth a try.
The Holmberg: You can win with all-sites or all-agents, but have you accomplished anything?
Based solely off the cards I’ve been able to buy playing for free, I’ve seen too few cards with interesting abilities allowing for very little in the way of compelling combos. Magic may be luck-driven, but there’s skill in matching up and executing your various abilities. No such system seems present in Recollections, and if I’ve got to drop cash on premium boosters in order to see the interesting cards, the game’s not free anymore.
Recollections is slow, poorly balanced, and ultimately frustrating. It’s not worth your time.