Card Crawl, An In-Depth Review

8.3 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 8/10
Sounds: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10

Fast and unique gameplay. | Theme and art style greatly enhances the feel of the game.

Can be incredibly difficult due to bad luck.

iOS, Android

$2.99 iOS. Free to play with in-app purchases on Android.

March 12,2015

English

With card games struggling to find new and interesting ideas due to the sheer amount of them available, it’s hard to imagine something totally unique. Refreshingly, Card Crawl is just that — a unique idea in a sea of similar games. The game takes its inspiration from single-player card games such as Solitaire, but adds in a dash of dungeon crawling with a hint of humor.

The game concept is a simple one: make your way through a dungeon by fighting monsters using weapons and defending yourself with shields, and then heal yourself with potions. All this whilst trying to collect as many Coins as you can. It is, however, the execution of this idea that is both fascinating and extraordinary. It is unlike anything I have played and I have played many card-based games!

Does Card Crawl have the stamina to make it out of the dungeon alive? Read on to find out…

Dealing-new-cards-from-the-deck

Cards are dealt from the deck each turn in this single-player, dungeon-crawling card game.

 

GAMEPLAY

Card Crawl is a single-player dungeon crawl card game. You’ll play against a Dungeon Master whose objective is to ensure you die in his dungeon. You must use your wits, strategy, and a little bit of luck in order to survive and take the dungeon’s treasures with you. The treasures in Card Crawl are Coins, which are used to unlock more Ability cards that can save your life in many ways.

The game is incredibly simple to play, but deviously hard at times. You start the game with a hero. Our first one is a Knight. She will be alone in her quest for Coins, but can hold up to three items at a time. As soon as you begin, the Dungeon Master will deal four cards from a randomized deck of cards that represent the dungeon. You need to play three of these cards each turn in order for another three to be dealt.

Playing a card can include several things. In order to play an item card from the dungeon you can drag it to one of your open slots, thus equipping it. Items are Swords, Shields, Potions, Coins, and Ability cards. The awesome touch on these cards is their symbols. The deck uses the traditional suits found in a conventional deck of cards. Swords are Spades, Shields are Clubs, Coins are Diamonds, and finally, Potions are Hearts. Each of these cards have different values too, just to keep the similarities going. Don’t worry though, you won’t be dealing with any picture cards, unless we count the Monsters!

Almost-dead

Card Crawl is full of neat little touches. One of these is our hero’s portrait. As you approach death from receiving damage, she looks more… dead!

Monsters are the final cards that can be played or removed from the four card line-up each turn. To defeat a Monster card you can use one of your equipped Swords to attack the monster and reduce its value by the value of the Sword. To play one you can have it attack your hero or a Shield. Its value will be subtracted from your starting health or the Shield value, and any carry over will also reduce your health. I found that I would have to do this a lot in order to progress, as I wouldn’t always have any other options available to me at that time. Every epic hero needs a few scars to tell their stories, right?

If the deal is that bad that you end up with too many powerful Monsters in the dungeon at any time, you can pay 5 health to have all those cards put to the bottom of the deck. Remember that they will come back, so you will need a strategy to deal with them when the time comes. The other thing you need to be extra cautious of is the fact that when you play a Coins or Potion card to one of your free hands, that hand will remain unusable for the remainder of that turn. I always tried to make it so Coins could be collected in the satchel slot, keeping my hands free for Swords, Shields, and Potions.

Playing Coins are added to your hero’s total for that run straight away. Coming out alive will then add those Coins to the overall total. If you feel you can’t make it out alive, you can sacrifice some items to the dungeon store to add those to your grand total instead. Such sacrifices should also be made if you’re feeling confident about the next set of cards. The angry face and fist banging on the table by the Dungeon Master when I got out alive was very satisfying!

Title-screen

This is the menu screen where we can access all of the games features. The Knight’s helmet is where the Daily Dungeon scenario will be when you unlock it by beating 10 dungeons. Good luck, my fellow dungeon dwellers!

MODES AND FEATURES

Card Crawl has a few modes that are a lot of fun to play through, even if they are quite repetitive. Normal mode is the basic single-player mode where the Ability cards are randomized from among those that have been unlocked so far. The unique thing here about each game is that it will be different. The cards that are drawn by the Dungeon Master will change with every game you play, so it will add a touch of variety.

Constructed mode plays the exact same way as Normal mode, except you can choose 5 of your unlocked Ability cards to take in with you. The more you unlock, the better the odds of surviving the dungeon with more Coins than in previous attempts. Each of your runs through the dungeon are recorded, whether you win or lose. The obvious goal is to beat the best of your previous attempts. I found it compelling play and always wanted to beat my previous high score. It is one of those games that you can go back to time and time again to perfect your skill.

Daily Dungeon is just like the Constructed mode, except the Ability cards given have been pre-picked by the developers. Again, the goal is to get yourself on to the leaderboard by scoring as many Coins as you can. To do this you need to tread a fine line between death and collecting Coins. Remember that selling items you don’t need to the shop in the dungeon nets you extra Coins. However, it’s a risky thing to be doing when you have no idea what cards will be dealt the next time.

Additional features include the Collection, where you can unlock more Ability cards using the Coins collected from successful dungeon runs. The better cards are obviously the more expensive ones, so saving up is a necessity. Trophies are a nice feature that enable you to see where you rank against friends or the rest of the world from your successful runs. Expect lots of competition among your friends when you get them just as hooked as you are!

Shields-absorb-damage

Don’t be afraid to take some damage from time to time. This is actually a good strategy to earn more Coins. Each deck usually has enough Potions that you can use to prolong your life.

STRATEGY

I can only really give you one bit of advice when playing Card Crawl. Remember what kinds of cards you may encounter and be prepared for anything. Keep Potions or great Ability cards on hand in the satchel slot. Keep those hands free as much as you can in order to deal with Monsters more efficiently. Don’t be afraid to lose life, as this is integral to getting out alive. As long as you can plan the damage you can sustain with the Potions you have or can play that turn to regain the lost life, you should be fine.

Some of the tougher Monsters will be harder to deal with than the smaller ones. I often let the smaller ones attack me directly, saving the Swords and Shields for the big ones. Values of 10, 9, and 8 are hard to beat with even the strongest weapons. So combining them with Shields to soak up the remaining damage is often a key strategy you could use. However, with the deck being as random as it is, these strategies will have to be made up on the fly — good luck!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am very impressed with Card Crawl as a game and as a concept. It makes playing alone a lot more fun and challenging than a lot of the traditional single-player card games using a traditional poker deck. In addition to this, I fell in love with the presentation and imagery used. The quirky nature of the game’s art style and sound effects quickly found its way into my heart. I sometimes find overly-colorful games to be less appealing than the style used here, which is minimalist but stylish.

Card Crawl is a game that I have been playing on and off for months now. The fact it’s a title that is very easy to pick up and play makes it a strong contender for the journeys we make every day. The Daily Dungeons will give you a taste of some super powerful Ability cards so you keep coming back for those. The only thing lacking is online play, but leaderboards do make up for that in a way. Overall I think Card Crawl is a lot of fun and should entertain anyone for quite some time!

For more screenshots, click here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by
Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.

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