Halfwish, a made-in-Singapore card game with digital ambitions

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Inspired by Texas Hold'em Poker, Halfwish is a 1v1 card game that sees you battling opponents with skill and a little bit of luck.

Created by Singapore esports caster and host Lysander Lim, the card game that's been dubbed "Wizard Poker" has already secured S$100,000 in funding to create a digital version for PC first, then mobile.

"I actually made the game on Christmas last year. I've been sitting on the idea of what if I could make a variation of poker that isn't a gambling game, add in fantasy elements that everyone is used to, and also because I'm a fantasy nerd myself," Lysander told Yahoo Gaming SEA.

"I put together a bunch of clip art, built it in tabletop simulator and played it with some friends over Discord. A lot of the game is inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, the Witcher series, as well as callbacks to pop culture references. It's very light-hearted."

Halfwish (Photo: Aloysius Low)
Halfwish (Photo: Aloysius Low)

How Halfwish plays

Halfwish plays out in turns, with five turns making a round, and three rounds making a full game.

But since it's a combative card game, you also have life points, and going to zero life points ends the game.

You win by having more points and life at the end of the game, but once you go to zero health, you lose. I'm told it's pretty hard to do that before the game ends, though.

Unlike collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone, there are no cards to collect or decks to build.

Each player starts with a character class, which defines the sort of attacks you can do. Each turn sees a player making an action, whether it is to duel, scout, or parlay.

And the Texas Hold'em influence is apparent with a river of five adventure cards that you open that can change the situation.

Duel is straightforward, with both players dealing or avoiding damage depending on a dice roll made at the start of a turn. Scout lets you make an agreement to check out a hidden adventure card. Parlay means no one does anything and the turn moves on. Scouting and Parlay require your opponent to agree, a no, means it becomes an attack.

Points are scored when you attack or defend. You also get Halfwish abilities to use to try to change the situation, and these can be played every round if needed.

"I did a lot of balancing myself at the start, tweaked around to see what feels fun. I think balance is one thing, but fun is another thing. Getting destroyed by a certain card is not so fun," said Lysander.

"When we felt we were stable, I did a small in-house with a bunch of Hearthstone pros in Singapore to get their feedback and made one final round of balance," he added.

Lysander also assured me it was quite easy once you get the hang of it.

I have to agree. In my first game, I was soon calculating my actions mentally, keeping track of points as the round progressed.

And while it was simple, it felt like there were lots of things that could easily change a turn or a round, and I had to also be able to think and react on the spot.

"It's designed to be casual with esports in mind because there's a high skill ceiling. So pros will have lots of room for skill expression," said Lysander.

Lysander Lim, an esports caster and host, says the game will be easy to pick up. (Photo: Aloysius Low)
Lysander Lim, an esports caster and host, says the game will be easy to pick up. (Photo: Aloysius Low)

Going digital and esports

With the card game already proving its fun, Lysander plans to take Halfwish into a PC game and a mobile version.

It's already been worked on since March by a local game developer, and there are plans to launch a beta in August.

Lysander also said that it won't be like traditional play to earn game – the deck is fixed and available to most players. Monetisation is mostly focused around trading in-game items that drop while playing.

However, there will also be other elements such as scaling modes, though esports gameplay will be focused around the base game with no enhancements.

As for NFTs, Halfwish will have them, but only for the use of selling in-game items to allow people to easily sell for cash.

There are no plans to use NFTs or crypto for gameplay purposes (apart from trading) or to sell expensive digital art.

You can try out Halfwish at The Mind Cafe at Prinsep Street till the end of July, and there's an open challenge tournament with up to S$8,000 up for grabs taking place on July 23.

You can also check out this medium post with the game's upcoming roadmap.

Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com

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