01 January 2023
A beautiful battle for fantasy kingdoms comes to our tabletops, and your very life is on the line
Words by Christopher John Eggett
Direct conflict is at the heart of most card games, whether that’s tightly maintained power curves like in Solforge Fusion or the sprawl of classics like Magic: The Gathering. So a game that takes away the visceral directness of ‘my dragon is going to hit you in the face’ is an interesting proposition.
Achroma does just this. It’s less of a head-to-head battle and more of a seesaw of resources – not least of all your health. While players compete in the traditional way to reduce their opponent’s health to zero while keeping theirs from doing the same, the cost of doing anything in the game comes in the form of your health (or shards, as they’re called here). You can summon minions (which only attack other minions) and other helpful cards using these shards. Later on in the turn you’ll trigger the abilities of your cards in a tableau builder sort of way, reducing your opponent’s life, healing yourself, or stealing shards from your opponent. And all of this is wrapped up in a Studio Ghibli art style that oozes charm. These worlds aren’t just sharp fangs, dingy dungeons and lost places, and even where these things are present, they’re all injected with a whimsy that provided us a draw to the game from the start.
We sat down with Chris Hillman and Jack Constantine of Realm Runner Studios to talk about the new card game, and where these exciting new worlds are heading.
Hey, can you introduce us to the world of Achroma?
Chris Hillman: In the one sense Achroma is a beautiful fantasy card game that is fun to play, easy to learn and hard to master. On the other hand, it represents our whole universe.
Jack Constantine: Achroma is an evolving card game set in our unique fantasy universe full of cards that you can collect, trade, deck build and play with. The evolving side of Achroma is that your cards unlock different features in the app and the cards you collect will have various uses as we release more ways to play Achroma.
Tell us about the worlds you’re creating? What’s the story so far?
JC: The rich fantasy universe of Achroma has been in the making for the past 18 years. Achroma is set across five realms that are like parallel universes of Earth, each one filled with mythical creatures that have escaped our world, hiding from the humans that have dominated our realm. Everything is painted in magical colourful paint called ‘Chroma’ giving powers to the creatures living across these realms, however there is a new powerful and corruptive energy called ‘Achrom’ that is absorbing all the Chroma. With Achrom being a new source of power there are factions that are turning to it causing struggles between Chroma and Achrom across the realms. As chaos spreads, ancient Relics lost to time awaken allowing young ‘Realm Runners’ to travel between realms to help in the fight against this new threat. However, ‘Realm Rifters’ force their way from our realm through rifts hunting for Relics and spreading Achrom. As a player, you decide which side you choose to fight for, and using the app you can impact how Chapter Two of ‘The Age of Achroma’ will begin.
What inspired you to make a card game like this?
CH: We wanted something to call our own, something everyone could enjoy. We decided we wanted a physical card game to bring people together. We wanted to create something social, but we also love innovation, which is why the companion app is such a big part of Achroma. We also wanted the game to be simple to learn so that it is a very low barrier to entry for everyone.
JC: The world of Achroma fitted so well into this format of card game, giving us the opportunity to introduce players to the fantasy universe we have been building in an immersive way. Players can discover new characters, explore realms, and choose their factions.
We often talk about new card games ‘fixing’ something in old card games, what does Achroma ‘fix’?
CH: The biggest thing for me is our resource system based around shards. On the first turn of the game you can play absolute any card from your hand. We use a system called shards whereby you start with 10 and each card in your hand costs a number to play. You can refill your shards using card effects or discarding other cards to make sure you have enough to play more cards. This also means that no card is ever dead as you can always trade it away for shards.
Another one of our big innovations is allowing you to have a complete physical and digital collection that are interwoven. So many other games have separate physical and digital collections and that it something we do differently.
JC: I think the thing that Achroma is wanting to fix is something we see with other franchises where the world they build has video games, card games, tv shows, books, but none of these different mediums ever overlap in a way that fits for the community/players. We are fixing that. Achroma cards have codes on them that you can scan digitally to unlock digital versions of the cards, avatars, and other perks in our app. For us this is a game that transcends the digital and physical gaming barriers, using digital leaderboards and score tracking in a physical card game that encourages meeting up with friends and socialising around a table. Bridging the gap between digital gaming and Tabletop gaming to bring players the best of both.
We’ve got quite a whimsical Studio Ghibli art style throughout the game, tell us about that?
JC: The world of Achroma has always been designed for children, however we wanted it to feel just as appealing to adults. Studio Ghibli has influenced our art because it achieves that exact goal in most of their movies. I also wanted to get the essence of the world to feel lighter and brighter than other high fantasy tabletop games. To me, each card is a window into the world of Achroma, and we wanted the art to lead that design process, so every card is full art and the text sits on top of the art. This style of art has really brought our world to life in a beautiful way.
Tell us about the core loop of the game, what do people do when playing Achroma?
CH: You will try to win the game by either getting to 30 shards, or by getting your opponents to 0. The Colourful Chroma decks have lots of cards to gain you shards and the dark Achrom decks have cards that drain or steal shards from opponents. You can play character cards which can battle each other in a simple combat system. There are locations which sit on your canvas (play area) and provide effects and passive benefits. Objects of power are equipped onto characters and help them with effects and in combat. Finally, there are action cards that are powerful one use spells.
JC: Achroma is a multiplayer game so you can play with two or more players and it can get really fun when players begin stealing shards from each other. Also each player has an ‘Achrometer’ on their app, which tracks how many ‘Chroma’ (gaining 30 shards) wins and how many ‘Achrom’ (getting opponent to 0) wins they have. This gives players the choice of pushing their achrometer up the chroma side or down to the dark side of achrom with the more games they play, eventually affecting the next release.
We like the engine builder playstyle – tell us about developing this idea?
CH: We never have things that interrupt another players turn. Our combat system on a basic level at essentially the stronger character with the highest strength wins. However when you attach objects of power to a character you make them stronger and the objects always take the brunt of the first damage in any fight. There are definitely situations where you want to let your weak character die to a stronger one if you want to destroy the object it is holding. At its core we want it to be intuitive, but with room for creative and strategic decisions.
JC: As we built the game mechanics around the dynamic between Chroma and Achrom it became apparent that Chroma in its nature is much more passive and focussed on growth than Achrom is. This led to creating two win conditions, one in which Chroma is best suited, build an engine that can gain enough shards to reach 30 shards in your bank. and one in which Achrom is designed for as you drain your opponents shard bank to zero. Part of the reason we called the play area the ‘Canvas’ is because of the tableau nature of the game, creating a short story with the cards you play on your Canvas as the game unfolds.
We hear the rumble of booster packs in the future, what’s the plan for Achroma?
CH: We are very much interested in the possibility of booster packs. We love the idea of having people trade for their favourite cards. For me personally I would love to get an Achroma limited format on the go. Our standard pattern is that we will release a new set every three months visiting each of our four story realms in a rotating pattern so there will always be something new to look forward to. Plus we will be opening our own HQ, which is a shop, a play area, a studio, a work area and more in Poole in Dorset in early November. We are hoping it will be a real hub for Achroma and open to everyone to come and see us
JC: Achroma is an unfolding story set in the ‘Age of Achrom’ so over the next few years players will visit new regions of different realms as the story arch unfolds revealing new characters and factions that have been architecting the Achrom Surge. Boosters are a possibility on the horizon, alongside new ways to play with an in-app mobile Adventure Game in which you can explore a region in a ‘choose your own adventure’ format coming soon. Achroma Heroes is our next release which will be launching on Kickstarter later this month, in which players will be able to expand their deck building with a 40 card deck, and introduces new hero abilities for your avatars in our app. As for how the story of Achroma evolves over the next few years, the players will decide the outcome.
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