Classic deckbuilders are somewhat of a favorite of mine, especially those of the tabletop variety. So it’s no surprise when I say that I was eager to play Battle of Gundabad. Here we have a deckbuilder that plays very similarly to Dominion, except with a fantasy theme. The fantasy setting in Battle of Gundabad focuses on Orcs and their bloodthirsty nature. Those green beasts can never manage to hold their temper for long!
Is Battle of Gundabad a true Orc Warlord or just a little sheepish? Read on to find out…
I had a fair amount of trouble trying to figure out what to do when I went into my first match in Battle of Gundabad. There are no obvious tutorials or noticeable help buttons to assist new players. Starting the Campaign or a Normal Game is easy enough. It’s what I had to do from there that was confusing and unexplained. After a few random presses on the screen I finally managed to bring up a help file that explained what I should be doing. This should have been far more accessible than being buried within the options menu, but at least it’s there somewhere.
Once I was up and running I noticed just how similar the game plays to Dominion. This isn’t a bad thing, and in fact any fans of Dominion will feel right at home playing Battle of Gundabad (once you can figure out what you’re supposed to do). Play is split into three phases: Action, Draft, and End. Before play begins, all players draw five cards from their deck.
Normal Games always consist of four players, and all players start with 3 Bailey and 7 Spearmen cards. Baileys are worth Victory Points and Spearmen give you Power. During the course of a Normal Game the objective is to earn as many Victory Points as you can and hopefully have enough to beat the three other opponents. (Sounding familiar?) Spearmen are Army cards that are your buying power throughout the game. I tended to think of them as “Treasures” instead of Power, as this helped me to digest what they did a lot sooner by thinking of their analogue in Dominion.
Action Phase is where you can play any of your drawn Action Cards. Draft is where you spend any of your Power to buy cards costing up to that number. Most of the time you can only Draft and play an Action card once a turn. There will be cards in the Supply that can change this and are usually the first ones you should go for. At the end of your turn all cards played are sent to the discard pile and you draw another five cards. When no more cards can be drawn your discards are shuffled and added to the deck pile.
There is a huge variety of different cards that can occupy the Supply pile. There will always be higher Victory Point cards in the Tower and Castle, and higher Army value cards that can increase your buying power in the Draft Phase even further. There is also a supply of Casualty cards that can be placed into your deck from other Action cards played by any of the opponents.
I did find that during any of the game modes I played, the A.I. was unrelenting towards all players. They often went for hand control, stripping me of any cards I could use to buy more powerful cards. I had to replay some of the campaign missions a number of times before finally winning. What makes this more infuriating was that I was always going first, meaning I was always on the back foot by the time 3 other players had picked cards from my hand. Fighting a losing battle is never a nice feeling, but at least you know the game is challenging enough!
MODES AND FEATURES
Gameplay is limited to two different modes in Battle of Gundabad. Normal Mode is the basic one where all players start with the same 10 cards and then try to score as many Victory Points as possible before the end of the match. A match will end when all of the Castle cards or any three Supply card piles are exhausted. All Victory Point cards are added together from the deck, discard, and hand to form your final total. Play can end on any player’s turn, so always keep an eye on what’s available in the Supply pile.
The second mode to be featured is the Campaign mode. This is where you need to complete a match with a set goal. These are not easy, and should probably be approached when you feel more comfortable with the game. I found some missions to be easier than others, but the hard ones were so hard that I needed at least 3-4 attempts at each one. This is definitely the best way to play the game, in my opinion, because it adds a lot of variety and makes it far more interesting than the standard game.
Battle of Gundabad is just as strategic as Dominion, considering it’s nearly an exact clone of the base set of that game. If you’ve played Dominion before, you’ll know exactly what’s involved here. Every purchase and every decision should be thought out and executed with precision. Know what sort of combo of cards you wish to play together and never spread yourself too thinly. Stick to about 2-4 different Action cards that enhance your draws, gain Action Points, or give you additional purchases.
I found having a few Attack-based Action cards to be most useful in the late game. They won’t do much early on, but can have a huge impact later. There is one card that will force all opponents to discard down to three cards and will give you two Power to help with purchases. I often coupled these with a card that gave me a few cards, but my opponents one card each too. Hitting them with the discard card afterwards made for more optimal plays, while hopefully also eliminating some of the power cards they could have drawn.
I believe knowing your strategy from the start of a match to be very important. All players have access to the same Supply pile, so the information of what your opponents are buying is always there. The game also includes a log for you to look through in case you’re a little absent-minded, like me!
I really did enjoy playing Battle of Gundabad, but it didn’t excite me as much as other Dominion clones. The presentation was rather poor and the navigational issues at the start really didn’t get it off to a good start. Graphically the game does not upscale well on a tablet and is clearly orientated towards mobile handset screens. To make the experience more enjoyable on tablets, a cleaner and polished version is required, I believe.
Occasional glitches and crashes at the end of a game dampened the experience further for me. I often had to back out, quit the app, and reload in order to play another game. I’m not sure what the cause was and even a fresh install didn’t fix the issue. These kinds of bugs should not be present in such a simple game.
When I was able to play without issues, I did enjoy most of what was on offer, but only because it is borrowing wholesale from Dominion, which I am a huge fan of. The theme felt more interesting than the medieval aesthetic found in Dominion, that’s for sure. I can easily see this expanded into more popular fantasy realms with elves, mages, and dwarfs.
In summary: if you love Dominion style deckbuilders, you’ll enjoy this. However, be prepared for a steep difficulty curve with unforgiving A.I. opponents. Regardless, if you’re looking for Dominion, or the base set, anyway, this clone is as close as you’ll get to the real deal on iOS and Android.
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