Ready Review: “Kards” closed beta, a digital card game by 1939games.

On January 9, 2019, 1939games’ new digital card game, #Kards, entered “closed” beta.  I say “closed” because I got my invite less than twelve hours after my request.  Do you like Hearthstone?  Do you like World War II?  Then this is the game for you.

 

GAMEPLAY

@Kardsccg is similar to Artifact insofar as it attempts to combine the best elements of different game types (card games and wargames) into one game.  However, the game more closely resembles Hearthstone, except there is an added neutral zone in the middle of the two players (called the “Frontline”) which can only be controlled by one player at a time.

This zone allows cards with the Infantry and Tank keywords to attack the opposing player’s life total (called the “HQ”), which is the victory condition.  Cards with the Artillery, Bomber, and Fighter keywords need not be in the Frontline to attack the opposing HQ, but there are cards that trigger if a friendly card is in the Frontline.

Hearthstone players will also notice that every turn you gain a maximum mana (“Kredit”) which refills at the beginning of your next turn.

Now that you know how to play, let’s move on to deck construction.  The five “Great Powers” of World War II (United States, Great Britain, Soviet Union, Germany, and Japan) are the only in-game factions (Sorry China, France, and Italy!). However, you can “splash” other powers into your deck, including ones from the other side of the conflict.  For example, I have a Britain/Germany deck.

 

PROS

  • Simple.  The game itself is incredibly easy to learn.  If you’ve played Hearthstone, then you’ll be an intermediate-level player by the second match.  Players who understand the intermediate-level concept of “card advantage” should expect to see favorable results.
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This tooltip should look familiar to a Hearthstone player.
  • Flavor.  The music is period-correct and many of the cards resemble actual historical moments, like “Red October.”Untitled.png

I’m a big fan of the Fallout series by Bethesda, so listening to oldies like Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again while you’re marching your British soldiers to their untimely fates is quite flavorful.

However, the period-correct music can rapidly approach a “Con” when an English-speaking player has to listen to ’30s Japanese music for any extended amount of time.  Thankfully, you can opt out of music.

  • Customization.  You can choose from a list of emotes, which is half the reason I played Gwent (“WHO taught you to fight like THIS?!”).  Additionally, many paper Magic: the Gathering players bring trinkets or good luck charms to tournaments.  In Kards, you too can customize the playmat that you bring to the table.  Nothing says “intimidation” like placing an M24 Stick Grenade on the table while you shuffle your deck.  “Hi!  Nice to meet you.  My name is Klaus.  Oh, don’t mind the Luger pointed at you.”
  • Pace.  No people?  No problem!  After a minute in the PVP queue, you can opt into an AI game and still receive PVP rewards, presumably because, as I write this, there are only roughly 5,000 people who Like Kards on Facebook/are in the Kards Discord.  I also like the Hearthstone, Gwent, MtG Arena, etc. “rope” timer, so once the game gets past the initial standoff it tends to go quite quick!
  • Business model.  Free-to-play, daily quests, achievements, and packs (and soon: drafting!)

tenor.gif

 

CONS

  • Pace.  Games can start a little slow.  It costs Kredits to play cards, then it costs Kredits to move cards into the Frontline, but then it can’t attack, so it’s a sitting duck while it waits for your next turn.  Only cards with the Tank or Blitz keyword can move and attack in the same turn.  Although Kards attempts to combine the best elements of card games and wargames into one game, it also unfortunately incorporated a common, but boring, wargame concept: “if you move, you can’t attack.”  This concept feels a little out of place in a card game, and leads to an initial “stare-down” standoff, which slows down the game.  I’m writing this Con off as  mechanic to set Kards apart from other card games.

Also, I mentioned earlier that the option to play against an AI for PVP rewards is a Pro, but why does it take a full minute, especially during a beta, to offer me that option?  It should be, like, twenty to thirty seconds at most.

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  • I don’t know why designers keep doing this, but not being able to check your Quests or Achievements during a match drives me fucking nuts.  Nothing feels worse than winning a match and realizing you could have completed your Quest if you had just played one more card before winning.  You actually get punished for making the correct play.
  • You can’t move out of the Frontline and back to your Support line.  I find myself accidentally moving my Fighters in the Frontline like an idiot.  Most of the time, I’d happily pay a Kredit to fix my mistake and move my card back into the Support line.
  • There is no Discard pile.  Although there is a brief on-screen history of what cards have been played, you can’t look at your (or your opponent’s) discard pile.  What if I wanted to know how many times Britain has taken “Tea Time” before I moved into the Frontline?
  • “Must” Abilities.

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Magic: the Gathering just had a minor rules change to address this issue.  With no infantry in play, you can’t even play the “MODEL 25” as a blocker, because it’s Deployment trigger has no target.  And it’s not “flavorful” that it needs a “driver,” because vehicles without Deployment triggers don’t need “drivers.”  If it needed a “driver,” they could add that keyword.  This is especially frustrating for the Japanese because they have a card, “Rising Sun,” which has the aforementiond required that a friendly card be in the Frontline.  With Model 25 and Rising Sun in your hand, but no friendly Infantry unit in play, you can’t play either card.  I agree that Rising Sun is powerful and should be conditional, but it already has a condition and having two dead cards in hand is a death sentence in most card games.

  • Steam.  I can’t be alone here, but I really hate that every game nowadays requires a program to run a program (GOG, Epic Games, Steam, Origin, etc.).  Maybe it’s because my computer is a potato.

 

SCORING

I’ve played for roughly six hours at this point, so it’s entirely possible that some of the Cons are just things that I was too lazy to find, so perhaps they just need to be more noticeable.  Either way, this Ready Review is quite favorable!

Gameplay: 4.9/5.  It feels, looks, and sounds great except for the manageable cons that I discussed (and that I am confident 1939games can fix).
Replay: 5/5.  As, Phly Daily put it: “This game, at least in my experience, will suck the life out of you.  I spent nine hours the first time playing it.”  I played it for several hours the first day, went to bed, woke up, shirked my responsibilities, wrote this article, and then kept playing.
Speed: Medium+, and it will be Fast when 1939games fixes the Cons.
Learning Curve: Small/Low.  Hand the Tablet to your kid and they will probably beat me.

 

WRAP UP

Join the beta, friend me (FRFC3S#4540), and let’s blow some shit up!

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