Cardstone is a fast-paced roguelike, casual card battle game that sees your Hero delve into the depths of a Dungeon for gold and glory, using an innovative “scrolling” deck mechanic. Cardstone is a small, casual ‘time waster’-type game with a simplicity that makes it ideal for younger gamers, but ensures that it can be enjoyed by adults, too.
Cardstone has a very simple gameplay mechanic that’s mixed with a little bit of strategy where you can swap cards in and out of your deck after clearing each level of the Dungeon. But does this translate into a good casual card game worthy of your time? Read on to find out…
Cardstone‘s gameplay is so simple, that even after being thrown into the action immediately after loading it for the first time, you’ll be able to figure out what you have to do within seconds. You are a Hero who is delving into the dark depths of a Dungeon in search of fame, gold, and other treasures. You are armed with a deck of 12 cards that will range from weapons and spells, to traps and health potions.
You face off against a variety of monsters in the Dungeon that will test your might and constitution, and the game will get progressively harder the deeper you go. Your first encounters are relatively easy Rats that pose little threat. There are more difficult Monsters to encounter in the Dungeon, such as Ghosts, Ogres, Slimes, and many more. Sometimes they will have additional abilities to go with their base attack and defense values which is located at the top of their portrait.
Some effects will allow them to attack faster, add armor, or use Thorns which will damage you in retaliation for an attack. The attack and defense statistics are located to the right and left of the Monster portrait, while their health is below it. Each attack is on a timer and will hit for a specific value, and the defense will absorb that much damage before inflicting the rest to their health points. Their Gold (the in game currency) reward value is shown above the portrait and is awarded to you once you defeat them.
Your Hero’s statistics are laid out the exact same way: attack on the right and defense on the left, with your health shown in front of the portrait. As you level up, each of these statistics will increase, which boosts your ability to go further down into the Dungeon. In order to defeat the Monsters you will use the 12 cards in your deck. The deck in Cardstone ins’t a conventional deck that you draw from. Instead, the cards cycle across the bottom from the left of the screen and can be used before they disappear on the right. To use any of the cards you will need to use Mana, a blue gem like icon at the bottom of the screen.
Some cards can be cast without having to spend Mana and the more powerful the card, the more Mana it will require. You start each level of the Dungeon with a base Mana value that you can increase with other cards you may be given access to. Cards that use Mana will consume your available Mana and if you run out, you will need to wait for the Mana to recharge. This can sometimes leave you unable to use a card if it has a higher Mana cost that you can afford.
There isn’t anything in Cardstone that is too complicated, and I think the accessibility of the game is its strongest point. It offers a low amount of choices, but as you progress through the game the choices become more interesting. I can see how this game can become rather addictive thorough the need to go deeper into the Dungeon, thanks to its roguelike influences. I did accidentally press the back button once and lost my progress in one Dungeon, and I just had to have another go to get a better score!
Modes and Features
I’m going to be honest, Cardstone has very little to sing about in terms of features or additional modes. So much so that I am going to cover just one aspect that I consider a feature within the game, the shops, as we have already covered the main mode in the game which is the Dungeon itself.
You have access to a method to buy the premium currency, Gems, in the game. You can use these to revive your fallen Hero when he dies in the Dungeon. This lets you continue at the level you were on so you wont have to go through it all over again, as starting over will consume your Dungeon attempts, your Stamina, which looks like a piece of meat on the main screen.
The other mode that isn’t really a mode is the Card Deck where you can add new cards to the possible pool of additional cards that can be swapped in and out of your deck after each level of the Dungeon. You can buy a card to add to your pool and each new card will cost more than the last. This mode is a bit of a lottery and in my opinion the most disappointing thing about the game. I would have liked each card to have an individual cost and thus giving me some control over what may or may not appear as I progress through the Dungeon.
The cards come in a variety of rarities for the same card with the higher rarities being more powerful versions of the lower rarity versions. For example, the beginning deck comes with some axes that will do 3 damage for 0 Mana, and if you unlock the higher rarity versions, they will increase the damage for the same 0 Mana cost.
Deckbuilding and Strategy
Cardstone sees the player rely a lot on luck and less on skill when it comes to having the right cards to defeat the enemies of the Dungeon. You will start the game with a random starting deck that will consist of cards relevant to the Hero class you are currently playing. The Warrior will start with a number of axes, swords and perhaps a few cards that will increase his Mana output. As you kill each enemy in the Dungeon, you are given the choice to swap out one of your current 12 cards with one of four other cards. This part of the game, much like the card shop, is completely random. The cards will be from the pool of cards you have unlocked from the card shop, so this is the only influence you can have over the game.
There is room for some strategy within the randomness that is Cardstone (thank goodness). I did manage to craft a deck that would allow me to recover health from the damage I did to the enemy along with the ability to increase the damage I was doing with each hit. This allowed me to go deeper into the Dungeon than I had on previous attempts and obtain greater rewards.
Another strategy that I was able to pull off was having a couple of weapons that added poison damage to the Monsters when attacked. Then if I was able to draw it in time, I could combine it with a card that would do 20 damage if the Monster was poisoned. You can forge other strategies from the cards you may be able to obtain. Mix it up and see what you can come up with. Also, keep an eye open for the Goblin that loves gold, and defeat him quickly for the maximum benefit!
Cardstone caught me by surprise. I did think before I started playing that I wouldn’t enjoy it and that it would disappoint me, as I have come to expect a lot from card games lately. I will say that it did exceed my expectations, but that doesn’t mean I think its the best card game ever to come out. Would I recommend that you download and try the game?
I suppose I would, as I was pleased that the game was so easily accessible and that the learning curve was near non-existent. I love the graphic style of the game and can see the appeal the game has as something quick to play while on the short journeys we make daily in our lives. It’s also a great card game for kids and will hopefully give them an appetite for more card games.
Okay, so let’s be honest here: the game’s visual look and even half of its name is ripped directly from the genre’s biggest game, but that doesn’t mean this small game should be overlooked entirely. If you take Cardstone for what it is, a lighthearted card game that offers the player the choice of something quick to play when they need to pass some time, its a great choice.
Outside of that, don’t expect it to offer you the levels of depth you’d normally find in fantasy CCGs. Nevertheless, I love this game as a quirky, delightful little gem that’s worth picking up. Check it out. It’s free, after all.
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