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An earthquake almost squashed this MTG Arena-like game

Croatian development team Games Revolted was hit by an earthquake, during COVID, but its online TCG Phageborn is finally ready for players

Art of a fire demon from Phageborn, an online TCG like MTG Arena

Phageborn is an online TCG – think MTG Arena, Hearthstone, or Pokemon TCG Online – by Croatian developers Games Revolted, with a deeply unlucky development. On March 22 2020, the development team’s offices in Zagreb were hit by an earthquake, just as COVID restrictions were taking effect.

Games Revolted CEO Dominik Marić describes the earthquake as “a surreal and frightening experience. The shaking was so intense I thought the whole building was going to collapse. I remember feeling the ground move beneath me in a way that I had never experienced before, and objects were falling off the shelves around me”.

Gameplay from Phageborn, an online TCG like MTG Arena

With the earthquake, and then COVID restrictions, the team stopped work on the game. “Phageborn was well-developed before the earthquake, but the event gave us an opportunity to re-evaluate our progress”, Marić says. He adds: “I spent time thinking about what we would do once the studio was repaired and safe to work in again”.

Returning to the game in April 2021, “we recognized the need to be more collaborative and community-oriented in our projects”, Marić says.

In August 2022 Games Revolted signed with Jetpack Collective, a small publisher that specialises in supporting live service games. Jetpack Collective’s Oscar Clark says: “They’d originally gone out as a pay up front game. The trouble is, you can’t sustain a game like this unless you’ve got ongoing revenues, you can’t keep up the investment, keep it alive”.

Gameplay from Phageborn, an online TCG like MTG Arena

MTG Arena, Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel, Pokemon TCG Online, Legends of Runeterra, Hearthstone, Marvel Snap, and just about every other online TCG is available on a free-to-play model. As well as ongoing revenue, free to play games have an easier time maintaining the critical mass of players needed for online matchmaking.

Phageborn is already available in early access. With support from Jetpack Collective, Phageborn has been retooled to work with a battle pass system. The first battle pass launched for free on May 5: Clark says this is to test that the game is ready before customers are asked to pay for premium content. He adds that players who bought the game in its original form will receive a “Founders Pass” with twelve months of paid battle pass content.

Marić describes the long-term impact of the 2019 earthquake: “Many buildings were damaged, including the historic cathedral. The earthquake also caused power outages and transportation disruptions. The city is still in the process of recovery and many buildings are still in need of repair.” Phageborn has already been patched up, and perhaps, it’s in better shape than it was before.

Gameplay from Phageborn, an online TCG like MTG Arena

Wargamer gave Phageborn a test run in April when we attended the WASD expo. It uses a two-lane system, with your cards deploying to either left or right flank, and a powerful Avatar that you can move between the two. You need to clear a path along either lane to attack the opposing player’s core. The game is currently available via Steam.

Wargamer is very fond of smaller online CCGs. Horus Heresy: Legions initially looks like a variant of Hearthstone, but packs in lots of incredibly flavourful mechanics – an Alpha Legion trap deck is always hilarious, if not necessarily that potent.

If you’re a fan of getting your digital cards for free, check out our guide to MTG Arena codes to get free packs. We keep up to date guides about the best MTG Arena decks, the Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel ban list, and we’re tracking the Pokemon TCG Live release date and news with baited breath.