In WWF With Authority!, THQ has brought together two popular pastimes of young and old--specifically, collectible card gaming and sports entertainment, courtesy of the World Wrestling Federation--to create a PC strategy game that lets players build decks of tradable cards based around their favorite WWF superstars and use these to challenge opponents from around the world. Developed by Genetic Anomalies, the same team that pioneered online collectible card gaming in its sci-fi-themed game Chron X (and also responsible for last year's similar Star Trek-themed game, ConQuest Online), With Authority! is a solidly designed card game that suitably incorporates aspects of wrestling such as submissions, crowd-pleasing, disqualifications, and individual wrestler trademarks in a no-frills, easy-to-learn setting.
It looks like a pro wrestling game, but it plays more like Magic.
What makes WWF With Authority! different from a card game like Magic: The Gathering is that its cards are individually numbered and encrypted image files, rather than cardboard. There isn't much original art to speak of, save for a ring and a steel cage where the action takes place. Instead, With Authority! uses a huge assortment of photos and video clips to truly bring to life the excitement of pro wrestling. You start off with a superstar card--your character for the competition--and a deck of cards, which includes three categories: momentum, techniques, and specials. Momentum cards are the building blocks used to power up all your other moves, and each superstar has limits on which types he can play. For instance, Kurt Angle is known for his ring savvy and thus starts off with one free "knowledge" momentum; but since he's not a high-flyer type, he can't use a single "agility" momentum. In this way, each character has a defined library of moves available to him, which can include strikes like the European uppercut, strength moves like the power bomb, agility moves like the moonsault, or technical moves like a reverse DDT. To fully round out each character's repertoire and better simulate what can go on in the ring, special cards can be used for events like the interference of another wrestler, the use of steel folding chairs, or the distracting of the referee.
After setting up the game's rules, which include round time and deck size limits, one of the two players at random is chosen to begin the game in control. Much of the strategy behind winning With Authority! lies in maintaining control, as this lets you play your momentum cards and initiate techniques. After laying down a momentum card in your opening hand, a technique is initiated, and the starting player awaits his or her opponent's response, which can be either to pass or counter. You counter moves by using defensive cards, such as "duck" and "dodge," or through the proper countering technique. It can be quite demoralizing to counter Chris Benoit's crippler cross face with a punch or to stop your opponent's punishing suplex with your own Kurt Angle's Olympic slam.
A built-in online store lets you buy booster packs.
Once the initiating player is out of moves or has a move countered, control shifts to the opponent. Submission moves rely upon location damage for their effectiveness, and repeated damage to an opponent's head, arm, back, or legs will eventually cause him to tap out. To maintain submission holds requires that a player ditch a card every turn, allowing the opponent to stockpile cards gained during the refresh step. At any point, a player is also allowed to auto-counter a move for the cost of seven ditched cards, as long as the technique being countered isn't a trademark or a finisher. To ensure that matches aren't repetitive and that players don't use the same good card over and over again, a "crowd support" card is given to the recipient of a three-move string of the same type, encouraging players to mix it up and use different types of techniques. Keeping the other player from accumulating crowd support is important, as these cards can be used to build momentum quickly or to auto-counter moves. Dictating the action the entire time are J.R. and Jerry Lawler, who fill you in on the pace of the match in their text messages.
Playing With Authority! is simple enough, and the game includes a very accessible tutorial and three different computer opponents against which to practice your strategies. Facing a human opponent is just as painless--you use the game's stat-ranking system as a way of picking your fights. Each player's wins, losses, draws, and unresolved matches are tracked and visible from the main lobby, so you can avoid matches with top-ranked experts early on or steer clear of pesky players who are inclined to disconnect from a match rather than lose.
Various attacks, holds, and counter-moves are available.