A couple of years ago, I picked up a game called Penny Arcade: Gamers Against Evil, and enjoyed it immensely. This was my first introduction to the genre of deck building games. Deck building games can basically be described as a game where you begin with a small deck full of basic cards, which you will expand with better and more efficient cards as the game progresses. The power progression of all the players and the interesting strategies that can form keep the game interesting.
Card Hunter is another type of deck building game, but it’s a lot more than that. Card Hunter combines deck building, turn-based grid combat, a three character party system, leveling up, and even equipment progression. Did I mention it was free? Oh, and that it can also be ran from your web browser!?
The deck building portion of the game is tied in with the equipment progression. The cards that are in your deck are determined by your race, class, and which equipment you are wearing. If you’re wearing chain mail on your warrior, you will have armor cards in your deck rotation. If you equip your wizard with a fire wand, fire-type spells will be put in his/her deck. As for the races, you can choose from Human, Dwarf, or Elf for each of your classes. Dwarfs favor high hp pools, while elves enjoy better movement cards, and humans have a focus between the two.
In combat, you will find your characters (represented charmingly by cardboard cutouts) on a grid play field, facing off against your current enemies. The combat flows turn by turn. Each turn, you will be able to use one card on either of your characters, at which the enemy shall do the same. When you run out of usable cards, you must pass; the same goes for the computer player. When both sides have passed, the round is over. After each round, you will get to draw new cards to replace your used cards. Naturally the battle ends when the last enemy standing is down, or you fulfill the mission objective.
After each battle, you will be awarded with experience and a chance at loot and equipment, which you can either equip on your characters to mold your deck, or sell to the merchants to amass some gold. Since this game is free, there are micro-transactions to help support its development. Micro-transactions are in the form of an in-game currency called Pizza, which allows you to buy new cutouts to represent your characters, or a chance at more sweet loot via bought treasure chests. You can even buy some gold outright. However, it is possible to earn some pizza throughout the game without spending real money, and it seems to me in the few hours I’ve played, that it is not required to spend real money to enjoy this free game!
While the mechanics are great, the game also has a certain infectious charm about it. Soon after beginning the game, it becomes apparent that the developers are attempting to parody the ‘basement dwelling DnD teenager’ joke. All characters, monsters, and enemies are represented by little cardboard cutouts, and before you embark on any battle or missions there is flavor text to describe the scene. Not only that, but the dungeon master’s older brother likes to chime in occasionally, lecturing you and your friends about proper play. Then there’s the intrigue regarding the pizza delivery girl– Will the dungeon master ever work up the courage to talk to her?
Overall, Card Hunter is a charmingly fun game, combining great and varying game mechanics in a very creative and interesting way. It isn’t that surprising though, when you look at the development team behind it. The team is comprised of individuals that had a part in developing Bioshock, Thief, and even Magic the Gathering! Just pop on over to their website http://www.cardhunter.com/
to start right now, for free. The tutorial for the game introduces new players to the game painlessly. Have fun!