Card Hunter, An In-Depth Review

8.8 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 8/10
Sounds: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10

Unique blend of tabletop RPGs and card combat. | Engaging system of character progression.

Randomness of card draws & die rolls can ruin your strategy sometimes.

Browser-based, iOS.

Free to play with in-game purchases.

September 12,2013

English

There’s been a large update to the game! Read the Large Update section below.

Card Hunter (also known as Loot & Legends on iOS) attempts what no other game has attempted before: an innovative blend between the gameplay and aesthetic of tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons and the addictive card-collecting combat of trading card games such as Magic: The Gathering. Drawing upon such mammoth games for inspiration, you would hope the result is something special rather than poorly imitative. Thankfully, Card Hunter delivers a polished, rewarding and unique gameplay experience for those willing to give it a try.

Read on to find out more about how the game works and what its strengths and flaws are.

The quaint title screen of the game resembles the art of the infamous first edition of Dungeons & Dragons known as the “Blue Box Set”. It also sets the “meta-narrative” of the game being played on a tabletop with unseen people.

Core Gameplay

Card Hunter features a unique system of combat and party construction. You will have three individual Heroes with their own stats, armor, weapons and other assorted items and skills. This is blended with a card-drawing mechanism that sees each item of weaponry and armor adding a card to the character’s overall combat deck which they draw from. Each turn, your characters will replenish their hand of cards which will include movement, attack, armor and trait cards. These all do different things, and you can only use one card at a time before your opponent has a chance to play a card of their own. You can trigger cards in any order from any character you wish, but only one at a time.

When you’ve run out of moves, or you don’t want to play any more cards, you can choose to pass. Your opponent can continue to play cards however and you will have the opportunity to play or pass again after they have, but if both players pass consecutively then the round is over. Any character with more than two cards left will need to discard down before characters refresh their hands by drawing more cards.

Characters will move over unique maps that have different types of terrain, walls, difficult ground, even traps such as spikes or acid. You have to try and defeat your opponents by playing attacks and spells, but these are often at close range so you’ll need to move around and maneuver into strategic positions to win. When a player loses all their characters, or when you’ve controlled Victory Terrain for a specified number of turns.

The game plays fast and frenzied, with a fair amount of both skill and luck – skill for what cards to use and when, and luck because your armor blocks are often rolled on a die and the inherent card draw system restricts your plays. If you’re willing to deal with the randomness though, the game becomes both fun and exciting with some rather tense moments of combat resolution.

combat1

Selecting one of your attack cards will show its range in red on the map.

Game Modes

Card Hunters single-player campaign is likely going to be the biggest draw of the game, since it resembles going through a roleplaying campaign with a group of friends that you see and hear talking “away from the table”. This is actually one of the quirks of the game that is quite funny because the on-going story of the people sitting at the table playing with you also develops and is interesting to follow. It also injects a fair amount of humor into the game, adding to the “beer and pizza” aesthetic of a Friday night RPG session.

The campaign itself is really well made, usually pairing together a range of mini-missions into an Adventure. These have unique stories and goals which may be as simple as “kill all enemies,” or a bit more nuanced such as maintaining control of specific command squares (called Victory Terrain) on the grid over a number of turns. There are also some really hard boss fights along the way. The game is quite challenging and is by no means a walk in the park, so you’ll need to continually modify your character’s equipment builds to stay afloat.

world-map

The campaign world map shows the available adventures and shops as you unlock them.

Card Hunters online multiplayer mode will provide the most difficult challenge for most players, since you’ll be going head-to-head against other people without knowing who and what is in their parties. The Multiplayer screen offers a range of features. You can buy pre-made multiplayer parties if you don’t want to use your campaign party (or it isn’t strong enough yet). You can also buy “Costumes” which change the model of your characters if you want them to have a different look, although at the rather costly price of 100 pizza each (the in-game premium currency). Even though this is just cosmetic, they’re so pretty that you just might find it hard to resist grabbing one or two.

You can play ranked matches against others, or just casual games if you’re not ready to put your reputation on the line just yet. There are also shops for buying Chests with random items in them, or picking specific items you want to use from the Item Shop. Multiplayer games are fast and fun and are likely going to be the draw factor for those who have finished through the Campaign already. With that said, new Adventures are also released periodically, so there will always be more to come back to and explore here.

multiplayer-mode

The multiplayer screen, where you can modify your party, buy characters, play ranked or casual matches and chat with other players.

Deckbuilding and Strategy

Deckbuilding in Card Hunter is tied to the items that you equip to your Heroes (see image below). As your character levels up in experience, they will be able to equip more items, gain new equipment slots and also acquire power tokens which are needed to equip particularly strong and rare items. This is essentially the unique form of “deckbuilding” present in the game, so you’ll need to view your equipped items as the contents of your deck.

In this way, it’s important to remember that cards can clutter up your deck as much as they can add to it. Weaker items will water down your deck with less desirable cards, so sometimes it’s better to go for a few items that have lesser, stronger cards than a larger amount of less powerful cards, since you’ll be drawing only a few each round. Pairing up Traits with suitable items is also important, such as increasing fire or electric damage for magic users.

multiplayer-loot

Mousing over an item will bring up the cards it adds to your character’s deck. Here, a Flamestaff’s six cards are being shown.

Balancing your party of Heroes is the other important strategic element to this game. Given that there are a variety of classes, it’s usually important to have a good mix of class types in your party to deal with a variety of challenges in the game. However, this is not always the case, especially in Multiplayer where some parties will be stronger than others based on the class match-up. A multiplayer party might consist entirely of magic users, whereas another might be only warriors that specialize in anti-magic cards, therefore gaining the upper hand over the first player.

It’s difficult to know what to anticipate in the multiplayer ranked matches, but you can definitely tailor your party to the campaign adventures as you go through them. You can even buy pre-made multiplayer parties to use online and these are really well designed so they’re worth picking up if you want a tailor-made party of strong characters with powerful items (see image below).

multiplayer-parties

Multiplayer parties, pre-made and ready to use but you will need to buy them with pizza (the in-game premium currency).

Large Update!

Card Hunter has recently launched a brand new expansion: Expedition to the Sky Citadel. In this exciting and refreshing new expansion comes new cards, threats, items, and much more. The Sky Citadel has crash landed and our brave adventurers must face its perils. Don’t worry though, as they also gain access to new, high-tech cards to aid them in their quests, adding a unique sci-fi flavor into the game’s otherwise ‘pure fantasy’ universe.

Among the included cards can be found some intriguing new gameplay interactions. Throw up force fields, fire lasers, heal yourself with advanced science, or toss out radiation bombs at your enemies. These changes have given new life to this already excellent title. The game has managed to keep its quirky and quaint feel throughout all of these new changes, thankfully. Beer and pizza lives on in this Friday night RPG fest! Just now with added lasers and space elves.

citadel-figures

Some of the characters surprised me at first, because they don’t fit in with the wider fantasy feel of the game at first… but you’ll have so much fun playing these new characters, it won’t matter!

A brand new single player campaign has been added too. Here you’ll take on the Metallic Monstrosity and go through its many dangers in the hope of obtaining unimaginable rewards. The new campaign mission features a number of new enemies and locations for you to traverse, such as the Perilous Garden, Belly of the Beast, and Passageways to Death. If you find them too easy, you can take on the level 19+ content that comes with the expansion. If you’re not quite there yet, you can use the free high-level starter party to take it on, just for fun. Although not as bespoke as the party you’ll assemble yourself, they will still put up a decent fight.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the list of Card Hunter features is the implementation of co-operative play, at last. Now you can take the adventure on with up to two friends over the internet. This update is also paired with the launch of the game through the Steam gaming service, integrating it with the great Steam functionality of friends lists, chat, direct game invites, and so on. I love using Steam so it’s great they’ve done this. This makes pairing up with friends even easier, and being on Steam will give the game a much larger audience, the one it rightly deserves! So even more people will be around to play with online.

It’s also important to note that the game has launched on iOS, under the branding of Loot & Legends. There have been some slight changes to the interface to make it better suited for tablets, and the full list of planned features haven’t been implemented just yet, but it’s an excellent way to play the game on the go if you’re itching to go card-hunting on your iPad!

expedition-to-the-sky-citadel

I was initially surprised at the theme, and not entirely convinced… until I started playing it. As a campaign, Expedition to the Sky Citadel brings a lot of fun and variety to the game. It’s definitely worth playing through, in my opinion.

Final Thoughts

Card Hunter is one of the most impressive releases in recent years, delivering a polished product in every single way. The sound and graphic design, user interface, art work and story writing is all top notch, with an added flair of humor in its own unique style as well. Make no mistake however, this is a game solidly built on years of game evolution matched with a retro nostalgia aesthetic.

The cut out models moving around the table is a great innovation and really helps make you feel like you’re actually playing on a tabletop rather than a video game, especially with all of the sounds effects such as dice rolling. Combat is fast and fun, and the variety of maps and terrain differences means that each situation is tactically different. You’ll need to use all of your party’s individual strengths to overcome each challenge. Some of the randomness of the card draws and dice rolls may prove problematic, but if your character’s item build is efficient, you should have enough in any situation to work with.

There is plenty here to keep you coming back for more. If you like card games, retro video games, roleplaying games or anything even remotely related to these three, Card Hunter is undoubtedly going to impress you with one of the best designed and implemented games to have been released in a long time. Waste no time: check it out!

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.
  • Aleksandar Salma

    Great retro fun, I especially appreciate the main menu screen :D. The only gripe I had with this game is that some of the single player missions were just damn too hard for me >;P

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