Review: Knights of the Card Table26 Feb 2019 1
Review: Knights of the Card Table
Released 13 Feb 2019
Digital card games can be a tough genre to get into. If you haven't been playing Hearthstone regularly, you may feel lost within the confines of its lore-rich world. And if you're not willing to invest hours to practice, you may find yourself left out of the fun everyone else is having. Knights of the Card Table easily subverts these issues, combining the fun of dungeon crawling with quickfire card battles with plenty of unique layers to its gameplay. Wrapped up in a fun aesthetic and playful motif, it's one of the best card battlers to hit mobile devices in some time – though it’s not without its unique frustrations.
Knights of the Card Table has you exploring various “dungeons” at the behest of a kooky dungeon master as a plucky young adventurer of your choice. You have a male player first, and the second unlockable character is a female you can swap to, if you so choose. Exploring dungeons and completing them is done solely via selecting a stage on a map, and then taking part in card battles that span several "floors".
You'll find that most decks are full of enemies, like spiders, beehives, and even jerky mailmen and bullies. Typically, five cards will be drawn from the deck and displayed to you (though sometimes some will remain unflipped, leaving them a mystery). When you clear one card out, another will appear. You're in control here, however, of the card order you play in. So if you have three enemies on the play field followed by two restorative items, you can play the restorative items as needed, rather than having to wait to get to them.
Health Dranks will restore hearts (you start out with three), while Power Milk will give you a damage bonus. You’ll want to avoid the Poison, of course. Meanwhile, Spell Tomes like Fireball and Freeze can tear through enemy cards and give you an extra edge against them. In terms of power you’re facing off against, you can check the top left and right ratings on each card. The orange shape represents the enemy's power, while the heart is their HP. Your dungeon explorer's card shows this information as well.
One of the most useful game mechanics that requires you to think ahead a bit and strategize is the concept of card streaks. If you use three of the same card type in a row, you'll get some pretty decent bonuses, buffs, or a selection of additional treasure. These card streaks largely rely on luck for you to trigger them, since you can't see every card coming up in the deck, but when you can pull them off, they can do some staggering amounts of damage.
When you run out of hearts, you can opt to bring your character back to life by spending one of your "pops" to revive them, but after that it's game over and you'll have to start over. You’ll typically have plenty of pops to bring you back, but you don’t earn them as readily as gold,
Enemies don't attack in a turn-based manner, either, unless you attack them first. You don't even have to arrange the cards on the "table," so to speak, in the order you want to play them. You can simply tap on the one you want to activate. This doesn't apply anymore, however, when you run across "locked" cards that have a chain around them. This means you can't swap them out with other cards or change position with them, and tapping them to move them ahead won't work. You'll have to get to them when they come up, which can be frustrating, but it does add a satisfying amount of challenge to the game.
As the game wears on, there are additional elements introduced as you rank up higher. There are trap cards, such as explosive dynamite, that you must tap and activate to get out of the way, because in order to continue on to the next dungeon floor you must complete the deck, whether you use all of the Health Dranks or Power Milks or have to succumb to dynamite damage.
Unfortunately, sometimes that means each dungeon floor can become extremely repetitive. You might get four Health Dranks in a row, or perhaps you'll get Power Milk over and over again, with four enemies right behind one another at the end. This leaves you with no health options, and no way to recover if you don't happen to roll the dice that can knock out the enemies before you.
After you complete a dungeon, you can head out and purchase additional gear. You get gold pieces and pops as a reward for killing off enemies and stacking items you don't need like Health Dranks, but some items need an inordinate amount of pops for you to purchase them. Considering you get only a handful when you complete dungeons, it can take quite a long time to unlock certain items. Gold takes a much shorter time to accrue, but you need gold and pops for many of the items on offer. This is one huge frustration. You get your first few weapons quickly, since they're decently affordable, but you'll find yourself playing for quite a while if you dare desire an additional character to play as. This will undoubtedly be a turnoff for players looking to try out some of the various personalities.
That's annoying, because Knights of the Card Table has a fun, silly Adventure Time vibe, and wouldn't feel out of place in terms of its visuals on a channel like Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. So not being able to see everything the game has to offer in a decent period of time feels like a slight to the player. With the game already costing $5, it would have made much more sense to ditch the semi-premium currency and opt for a fairer way to hand out new characters, weapons, and shields.
If you’re not looking to jump into any sort of difficult card battler with multiple novels’ worth of lore or want to try something without the need for learning an entire rulebook, Knights of the Card Table is a fantastic place to start. It’s light, humorous, and perfect for newcomers to the genre, especially with its quirky exterior, which will no doubt attract fans looking to explore. You can play with one hand, start and stop at your leisure, and collect a wide variety of kooky characters and accessories eventually, and it’s well worth settling in to play. Just don’t expect to unlock things left and right – it will undoubtedly take patience, but it will keep a smile on your face the entire time.
Note: This is a premium game on iOS, however the Android version is free-to-play and there are IAPs for the in-game currencies. At the time of writing, current IAP options include:
- Various 'big' bundles that come with varying combinations of new heroes, Ad removal, Gold and Pops (£9.49 - £10.99)
- Gold-only bundles (£4.59-£8.99)
- Pop-only Bundles (£4.59 - £37.99)
- You can also watch ads for small amounts of Gold/Pops.