Hearthstone has done the impossible. It’s made card games, like collectible card games, cool. People who never dreamed of picking up a Magic deck are now obsessing over the synergistic pleasures of building a strong batch of minions, spells, and weapons. This is what Blizzard does. Is your average RTS too heady? Here’s StarCraft! MMORPGs scare you off? Here’s World of Warcraft! Card games sound like the least hip thing in the universe? Here’s Hearthstone!
But now that you’ve got your foot in the door it’s time you expanded your reach from the digital realm and start playing those awesome physical board and card games you’ve heard so much about. Now you can start your journey proper and become the geek you’ve always aspired to be. It’s not as dangerous as it looks. We’ve laid out a few of these games once before, but there are plenty of others. Here are the Daily Dot’s recommendations for card games to check out if you love Hearthstone.
What is it?
Summoner Wars comes from Plaid Hat Games, a company that’s made quite a name for itself in board gaming. At it’s core, Summoner Wars is a card game, but it also comes with a board. Your cards will either be units or spells, (which should be familiar to any Hearthstone player,) and you’ll be playing these face-up onto the battlefield. Each turn you’ll moving your creatures into offensive or defensive positions, all the while keeping your “summoner” safe. The summoner is a special unit that comes with a particularly unique power, but once it dies, you lose the game.
That kinda sounds like a miniatures game…
You’re right! Summoner Wars is essentially like Warhammer filtered through a smaller board and simpler card-play. It’s streamlined in the sense that you don’t have to bust out a tape measurer to track movement, but you still get the standout tactical conundrums of “oh shit, if I move my Skirmishers up I’ll get a clean shot on the summoner, but then I’m leaving my left flank wide open!” It’s the sort of thing you don’t get in the more immobile likes of Hearthstone or Magic.
Man, I’m not sure I’m ready for something that complex. I can’t build an army!
Don’t worry, you don’t have to. In Summoner Wars every faction comes with a pre-build deck that’s ready to go. There’s no mulliganing or sideboarding or anything like that. If you’re playing as Shadow Elves, you get all the Shadow Elves ready to go. Yes it’s a little rigid, but it makes sure you’re getting a balanced game every time out.
Is there more going on here?
Of course!. There’s the ingenious discard “magic” system, there is the underrated and oh-so-important wall placement, there’s the steep learning curve on some of the factions, but don’t worry about that. Overall Summoner Wars is a great, approachable, one-on-one slugfest that can absolutely be played casually.
How much does it cost?
You can get a starter set with two factions and a paper board for something like 20 bucks. The Master Set, with a proper board and many more factions will run you something like 50.
I heard this game and Netrunner have something in common?
Sure! I mean, they’re not published by the same designer, but both are ‘90s collectible card games that have been revived in the modern era as “living card games.”
I remember the term “living card games” from the last article…
Right, living card games, or LCGs, are card games that have a more reasonable collectible aspect. Remember when you were 10 and begging your mom to buy you another Pokemon booster pack? And then you ripped it open and you saw that you got another fucking rare Trainer? That’s what LCGs try to avoid. When you buy a new set of cards in Netrunner, or Doomtown, or Star Wars LCG, you already know exactly what’s inside. No more lottery nonsense. Hooray!
So Doomtown, then
Yes, a well loved CCG from the ‘90s that died a death right around the turn of the millennium. It’s set in Gomorrah, which itself comes from the Deadlands RPG. The theme is a delightful cross between cowboys, horror, and a dash of steampunk. Think of it as an even gristlier version of Preacher.
The gameplay is often compared to chess, in the sense that Doomtown kinda features an abstract, modular “board.” Every time a player slaps down a new structure (called deeds,) it becomes a location units (called “dudes”) can visit and try to take over. You win the game by having more influence than the other players control, which means there’s a constant struggle for supremacy with people shoving their dudes towards an unoccupied deed and you pushing your dudes over to block them—hence the chess comparisons.
You can also start a shootout, which is one of Doomtown’s most delightful offerings.
Okay, I’ll bite, what makes the shootouts so delightful?
Fundamentally, a shootout is what you’d expect: two sets of units squaring off with each other and each side taking casualties. But before you engage in a shootout, you get to draw five cards from your deck.
So, along with the stats and text, each card in Doomtown has a suit and a number. My Pony Express gives me card draw, but it’s also an ace of diamonds. Why does that matter? Well, when I take those five cards during the shootout I can try and put together a good poker hand. If my poker hand beats my opponent’s poker hand, the shootout is tilted in my favor. It’s a really interesting mechanic.
Oh god, that sounds complicated.
Well, you’re not wrong. I’ve heard people compare Doomtown to a strong flavor, like a coffee stout or something like that. The poker mechanic means that when you’re building a deck, you might include a card you’re not particularly fond of because it’s an eight of hearts, and you already have a bunch of other eights in your deck meaning you might draw better during shootouts. It’s a very, very interesting game though, and there’s already a solid community forming around it. If you’re interested in something a little more meaty than Hearthstone, I highly recommend it.
What’s the cost?
The base game, which comes with four pre-made decks and a bunch of extra cards, will run you $40. Expansions are being released at a steady pace as well.
Oh man, a Marvel-themed LCG? That sounds awesome!
Well, sorta. Yes you’re right that this game is awesome, but it’s not actually a CCG or an LCG.
We’re going to learn another term now, aren’t we?
Indeed we are! Marvel Legendary is a “deckbuilder,” which means it takes inspiration from the granddaddy of all deckbuilders, Dominion. A deckbuilder is a genre where you start with a crappy, 12-card deck, and purchase cards to add to the deck over the course of gameplay. Cards come up for sale, you decide which one you want, and hopefully the cards in your hand give you enough resources to be able to afford it.
So it’s basically like drafting, except within the game.
Exactly! I couldn’t say it better myself. That’s the interesting tension with deckbuilders. You see a card come up that’s really cool, but it also doesn’t fit into the deck you’ve build thus far. Do you take the risk and buy it and risk watering down the combos you’ve already got going? Those questions are very fun.
So what’s up with Marvel Legendary?
Marvel Legendary is a co-op game, which means you and your friends will be working together to take down whatever arch-enemy (Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, even Thanos) as well as the minions running through the city. The game plays out as a race against time, desperately trying to make your decks good enough to muster the power necessary to contend with the big bad. The cards you’re purchasing are all based around actual superheroes. So, Spiderman cards, for instance, generally give you some draw while Deadpool benefits from having odd-numbered cards in your hand. It’s a lot of fun.
Can I play it competitively?
Sorta. You keep score based on the number of bad guys you personally take out, so Legendary does have a winner. But trust me if you’re able to kill Thanos you’ll feel like a winner no matter what.
What’s the cost?
Marvel Legendary is available at your friendly local game shop for $59.99.
A Few Acres of Snow
Okay, you’re losing me here…
Look I understand where you’re coming from. A Few Acres of Snow is exactly what it says it is: a one-on-one card-driven wargame set in the French and Indian War. You are conquering territory, launching raids, and shoring up fortifications. It is very cerebral, but also not overbearing with meaningless rules, and is maybe the most rewarding card game on the planet.
I’m going to regret asking how it works, aren’t I?
Absolutely, so I won’t go deep into the gameplay because that would take way too much of your time. What I will say is that it’s a deckbuilder, like Marvel Legendary, but a really punishing deckbuilder that will leave you completely bereft of resources the second you make the wrong decision. The first time I played this game I literally destroyed Canada with pure inefficiency.
I’m just going to leave now.
No! Trust me! It’s great! You’ll never know true happiness until you outmaneuver your best friend in A Few Acres of Snow.
Photo via Boardgamegeek (PD)