Tooth & Nail: Factions Review

Tooth and Nail Factions by Smallbox Games

The first game that I've managed to play from the company Smallbox Games is Tooth & Nail: Factions (which Amazon actually doesn't sell).

In Tooth and Nail, each player takes on a faction, and they are fighting for superiority - which is attained by reducing their opponent's deck to zero cards.  In the game, there are two important areas: your command zone, and your war zone.  Each turn, you start by drawing one card, gaining an action card, "readying" (un-tapping) all of the cards in your command zone, and readying a single card in your war zone.  Then, for each card in your command zone (there is a maximum of three cards in that zone, and six in your war zone), you get to either draw a card or gain another action card.  Then, you can spend your actions.  Actions can allow you to play new cards from your hand into either zone, or attack.  There are two types of attacks - attacking with a single card, and attacking with a specific group ("formation") of cards (as defined on your Faction card).  If you attack with a formation of cards, you also get a bonus.  Finally, without spending any actions, you can use cards in your command zone to do two things - either you can use the ability printed on the card, or you can "drain" (tap) two of them in order to use your Faction's special ability.  If you use the ability printed on the card, then you have to discard them from play unless you have a matching card in your hand that you can discard instead.  Play alternates back and forth in this manner until one player's deck has been exhausted.

Tooth and Nail: Factions is an interesting little game.  The first thing that I like about the game is some of the interesting decisions that it presents.  For example, each time that you play a troop, you have to decide if you want them in your war zone or your command zone.  If you play them in your war zone, then you can directly attack your opponent (the object of the game), whereas in your command zone, they give you future actions (and you can use their abilities).  Another interesting element of the game is that only one of the troops in your war zone un-taps each round; so, you won't be able to do your formation attack each round unless you find a way to un-tap more troops, or you play more from your hand.

Tooth and Nail Factions war zone example
Fighting it out in the war zone
Some more interesting decisions that you have to make in this game relate to the command zone.  At the start of each turn, you get to either draw a card or gain an action for each card that you have in your command zone.  Throughout the game, you are constantly in need of both of these things - and so, having to pick which one you want (or how you're going to split your picks) can alter your turn quite a bit.  Additionally, deciding when to use the abilities of the troops in your command zone is important.  Sometimes, you have to decide if you want to go ahead and use their ability when you don't have a corresponding copy of the card in your hand, thus forcing you to discard them afterwards.  Other times, you have to decide if you want to go ahead and let them get discarded so that you can get a different unit into your command zone.  All in all, the game has a lot of interesting decisions.

The last pro that I will mention for Tooth and Nail: Factions is that I liked that each faction has a very different feel.  Part of this is that the artwork in the game, which is fun, unique, and really helps tie each faction together.  One of the factions focuses on attacking you with sheer numbers, another thrives on getting cards back from the discard pile.  A third faction constantly puts cards out of play and gets them back, whereas another deck steals cards from your opponent's deck and puts them into your own.  Each faction definitely has strengths, and a good player will focus on these strengths during the game.

Tooth and Nail factions game cards
The command zone provides extra actions
Though I like quite a bit about Tooth and Nail, there are some cons that I noticed.  The main one is that the game seems to play itself a bit too much.  Or, this could also be worded that too much of the damage to your deck is the simple attrition of playing the game.  In the standard game, you get 30 cards in your deck.  You start the game by drawing five of these.  Then, each turn you draw a card.  Many of your other abilities and such also let you draw a card.  And any time you use an ability of a troop in your command zone, you lose a card - whether from your hand or from the table.  On a good turn, you may be able to draw and play several cards down on the table, and then attack your opponent.  Formation attacks (the strongest attacks) will generally deal 2-6 damage.  But, in order to deal that damage, you may have played three cards from your hand!  So, whereas there is definitely strategy in the game, the attrition of simply playing the game deals about as much damage to your deck as your opponent will do, which can be a bit frustrating.

The next con that I will mention about Tooth and Nail is that the factions do not seem to be balanced.  Specifically, I feel like the Marauders are ridiculous.  (Granted, I have not extensively played this game, so I will admit that there is a chance that I just "missed" some bit of strategy that helps keep them from running away with the game.)  The Marauders strength is controlling the game.  They are able to gain extra actions, force their opponent to discard cards from their hand (at random), and also force their opponent to take cards from the table and put them back into their hand.  That last ability - the ability to force their opponent to pick up cards (in their command zone) is insane.  Why?  Because having cards in your command zone to start your turn is how you gain extra cards and actions.  And, the strength (damage that can be dealt) of troops in each faction are equal (from what I can tell).  So, this faction is able to deal just as much damage as any other faction, but is able to cripple their opponent's next turn while doing so, preventing them from attacking back with any kind of success.

Overall, I give Tooth & Nail: Factions a 7.5/10.  I enjoyed my time playing the game, but I don't see this as something that I will come back to often.  With that said, if someone else suggested that we play the game, I would be interested - assuming that we didn't use the Marauders.

If Tooth & Nail sounds interesting, you might also check out Summoner Wars, Star Wars: Customizable Card Game, and Gloom.

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