Board/Card Game of the Year 2015: Card Crawl

By Kelsey Rinella 23 Dec 2015 0
Is that a mask or are you happy to see me? Is that a mask or are you happy to see me?

I played a lot of Card Crawl from Tinytouchtales when it first came out. It was a pretty simple game, easy to pick up and with a fantasy theme that was at once as familiar as poker and as fresh as casting spells by playing poker with a demon (I’ve always wanted to play Deadlands). It didn’t take too much time, and had an interface well-suited to a phone. It was a humble design, seemingly meant to fill those periods when you  have to wait a bit and want something interesting enough to keep you from nodding off, but not so grand as to make you resent interruption. I eventually deleted it after unlocking all the cards, playing a bunch of constructed, and developing the impression that I’d learned everything I could about strategy.

Come time to write up our 2015 awards, I volunteered for Card Crawl. It didn’t quite seem to me like it had earned its place, but I knew Dave was a big fan, and it had been updated since I played. I had liked it well enough that I thought I could find something nice to say, so I downloaded it again, and got started.

By “got started” here, I mean playing the game, not writing. I had intended to have this written up yesterday, then this afternoon. It’s past midnight now, and I’ve been playing Card Crawl every spare minute. The quotation, "When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning,” is attributed to Reiner Knizia, and it suits my impression of Card Crawl nicely. So long as I’m making progress toward anything at all, I’ll happily play this game for hours. It’s far more inherently satisfying than any simple time-waster ever needs to be, and the added content gives you goals to work toward for a very long time, and continually escalates your strategic options as you unlock more. It’s perfectly playable when you’re very tired or not able to dedicate your attention to it, but can absorb quite intent analysis.

I like humility in game design, and appreciate that developers serve my need to play quick, interruptible games which can fit on my phone. Games which fill that role well are very rarely enjoyable over longer play sessions of greater intensity, certainly not for weeks. Card Crawl is, and that’s sufficiently remarkable that I was wrong—it absolutely has earned its place among the most impressive games of 2015.

To see all of the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2015 Awards, visit the 2015 Awards Index page.
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