Pete Davison: Card-Carrying Lunatic

Posted on October 17, 2011 by

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I like card games. I’m not sure why. It’s one of those things where something indefinably pleasant goes through my head when I think of holding cards, seeing (hopefully) gorgeous artwork and enjoying a game that (in most cases) combines elements of luck with skill and strategy. It may be something to do with the fact that, statistically, I appear to be better at card games than I am at some full-on board games — particularly Agricola andPower Grid, it has to be said — but I’m not sure that’s quite the right reason.

I’ve started playing a couple of good games on iOS recently. One, Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer is, I believe, an adaptation of an actual proper physical card game. It’s one of those games that initially sounded horrendously complex, with all manner of stats and numbers floating around to make lesser men and women tremble in their +5 Boots of Courage. But, in fact, it’s a rather simple game with very straightforward mechanics and, like the best games, it’s all about what you do with those mechanics that makes it interesting to play.

Essentially, the game revolves around building a deck of cards and making use of their various abilities to score as many points as possible. Points are scored by purchasing cards using the Runes stat, and by defeating monsters using the Power stat. Both Runes and Power are acquired by playing thematically-appropriate cards and adding up their totals to provide a pool of points to “spend” each turn — for example, Apprentices add Runes and allow you to purchase additional cards, while Militia adds Power and allows you to kick the bottom of monsters.

Points are acquired as you go along but also tallied up at the end of the game, so there’s an element of uncertainty as you go along — additional points are added according to the value of purchased cards at the end, while defeated monsters and cards with point-scoring special abilities grant their rewards immediately.

That’s about it — you buy cards, you kill monsters, repeat until the available pool of points is depleted. Then, if you’re anything like me, repeat until bored, which is, in my experience so far, a very long time away.

My experience with the iOS version has certainly made me curious to check out the physical version, though I hear its components aren’t up to much. Based on this andDominion, which I do own a physical copy of and which seriously needs an iOS adaptation, however, I think I can say with some confidence that I enjoy deck-building games.

The second game I’ve given a shot is a slightly different deal. Shadow Era is more along the lines of a CCG like Magic: The Gathering rather than using the preset cards ofAscension. As such, there’s (arguably) a lot more variety, and the game involves a lot more in the way of direct conflict between players than Ascension does — the latter involves a number of cards which indirectly screw over other players rather than attacking them directly, while Shadow Era is an outright fight between the two participants.

I’ve only had one game of Shadow Era so far but it seems like a solid game, and props to it for offering virtual cards for either real money or, for the more patient, from in-game soft currency, or hard acquired through levelling up. I’ll report back further on it when I’ve given it a bit more time, along with Kard Combat, codesigned by Richard “Magic: The Gathering” Garfield.

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Posted in: Pete Davison