The highly anticipated Altered TCG introduces The Sandman, a tribute to Neil Gaiman

The Sandman sprinkles magical dust over a fanciful city. Below his cloak the dark of night spreads. He’s wearing a purple turban.
Image: Nestor Papatriantafyllou/Equinox Studio

A tribute to Neil Gaiman, it’s part of the first set of cards due out this September

Altered is the new trading card game from startup Equinox Studio that earned nearly $7 million on Kickstarter earlier this year. With distribution being handled globally by board and card game giant Asmodee, the French-made TCG is ready to go head-to-head against Magic: The Gathering, Disney Lorcana, Flesh & Blood, and Star Wars: Unlimited with a bevy of unique features. Now, in advance of the United States’ retail release on Sept. 13, we’re getting our first look at the game’s fantastical factions.

Today Polygon can exclusively reveal The Sandman, a powerful character from the game’s Lyra faction.

The Sandman is a character, an artist, with a 3/3 cost to bring to the table. He has no forest skill, but is 3 and 3 on mountains and water. He also has a special ability that grants Asleep when he is cast from the hand.
Image: Equinox Studio
An upgraded version of The Sandman, also a character and an artist. This one costs 1 less mana — 2 total — to when cast from the reserve. It also can grant Asleep, but also is allowed to gain up to two boosts as well.
Image: Equinox Studio

In Altered, players explore a fanciful post-apocalyptic setting where the world outside the city of Asgartha has been completely transformed. It’s up to players to conduct successful expeditions, becoming the first player at the table to reunite their deck’s main character and a lovable sidekick.

“It’s a chaotic place with lots of volatile ideas,” said Altered narrative designer Yoshi Mimura. “The [player character] is an Alterer, [and] the power of the Alterer is to shape the world around them so that they can stabilize the regions where they meet to help [make] the world a more sustainable and livable place.”

It’s a game about creation, not destruction, and Mimura says that The Sandman has an important role to play.

“Lyra tend to focus on imagination, and stories, and legends, and everything that is transmitted orally,” Mimura said. “The Sandman is kind of a creator of worlds, and a person who can shape dreams. They can inspire people, and by doing so we can try to make the world a better place. It’s also a character that is profoundly linked to a personal hero of mine, Neil Gaiman.”

When players pull cards from a blind pack in Altered, they have the chance to pull either the common of the more rare versions of The Sandman. The rare version above, which retains its Lyra faction allegiance, costs one less to play from a player’s reserve and allows for a boost of two to be optionally placed on top of it. That makes it cheaper to play, and more powerful in the field.

The Sandman with a blue Ordis faction logo. He lacks the discount when played from the reserve pile, but retains the Asleep and boosting ability.
Image: Equinox Studio

Both versions of the card also allow a player to apply a status, called Asleep, to another Character on the table. According to one of the game’s designers, François Jourdain, the Asleep status can be used either defensively or offensively. The easiest way to use it would be to put an opponent’s character to sleep, removing them from the ensuing conflict and allowing you to make progress against your opponent. But you can also use it on your own characters: Asleep can prevent them from participating in a combat they are sure to lose, or players can proactively place characters asleep in order to bring them forward in following rounds more cheaply or alongside more powerful allies. It’s a debuff, a feint, and an attack strategy all in one.

A third, even more rare version of the card applies those same powers but to a different faction. This one, called Ordis, opens up even more and different strategic possibilities. Mimura was quick to add that other versions of The Sandman will likely surface in the future.

“When you materialize a character from imagination,” Mimura said, “you can feed it with your own vision of what the character is. […] So maybe in the future […] he will have a completely different face, or maybe it will be women. We try to have all the options open to showcase a lot of diversity.”

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