Moonga, An In-Depth Review

7.7 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 8/10
Sounds: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10

Psychological gameplay which is unique. | Large pool of cards with high-quality art and a wide range of deck strategies.

A sometimes clunky interface. | Powerful cards harder to obtain due to cost.

Android, iOS

Free to play with in-game purchases.

December 14,2009

English, French, Japanese

Moonga is an online trading card game for Android and iOS featuring a unique psychological style of gameplay between dueling fantasy characters. The strength of cards can be modified depending on how many Power Points you are willing to secretly bid in the hopes of overwhelming your opponent’s defenses. This creates strategy whereby you are able to bluff, overextend, and try to read your opponent’s actions to determine what they’re up to. Given the very short length of each game, it’s possible to play a few matches in a short time, making it suitably paced for the mobile/tablet gaming market.

Read on to find out why I think Moonga is a game to watch over the coming years…

Attack spells clashing with one another in Moonga.

Attack spells clashing with one another in Moonga.

Gameplay

In Moonga, decks consist of just five cards, made up of four attack spells and one support spell. You might wonder how it is possible for there to be such a wide range of gameplay with such a limited number of cards, but this game packs a surprising amount of depth into that design space given that the cards are large-sized and feature quite a few different stats and effects on them.

Your attack spells are your characters who go into battle for you, whereas your support spell can be triggered alongside one of the attack spells during a conflict. Each card can only be used once, and all attack spells are visible to both players from the start of the game. This means you need to think hard about which cards to use against the opponent’s over the course of the game.

The four rounds of a single match occur like so: one player will be the attacking player. They must openly declare which attack spell they are choosing and, in secret, boost its stats with Power Points (and choose whether to activate the support spell or not). Players start with 8 PP and each PP used will boost a card’s base Attack, Defense and Damage values equally by one.

The defending player gets to see what card the opponent is attacking with, but not how many PP are being used to boost the card. This means the defending player does have some information to work with in terms of which card they want to send up against the opponent’s, but they cannot be entirely certain of how much the card has been boosted except to infer from other effects and each player’s remaining pool of PP.

Here, both players have chosen to activate their support spells this round.

Here, both players have chosen to activate their support spells this round.

When both cards have been presented and boosted (or not), and card effects and support spells activated (if they have been), the stats of each card are compared. Each card will attempt to attack the other and deal damage to the opponent. If an Attack value is more than the Defense of the other card, the attack hits and the successfully attacking card will deal its own Damage value to the opponent’s life points directly (from a starting pool of 20). The winner is the player with the most remaining life points at the end of the four rounds of play.

This method of combat resolution is one of the more unique systems among TCGs around and in my opinion really what makes Moonga shine. The core gameplay is always exciting. I get tense with anticipation about just how much PP my opponent has pushed this round and, since it is hidden from the start, discovering what their support spell is when they end up playing it as well.

It is this fine balance between the known and the unknown that makes Moonga’s gameplay so interesting to me, as often you’ll be playing strategically throughout but still never quite know for sure how those last couple of rounds might play out. Not many TCGs include such an explicitly psychological element into the core mechanics, usually relying on other ways to bluff and confuse your opponent with individual cards.

Here players are selecting which attack spell to use this round.

This the screen where players select which attack spell to send forth that round.

Deck Strategies

Given you only have 5 cards in a Moonga deck, you have to think carefully about how to make them work together in the most effective way possible. Lots of cards will have effects activated based on what other elements and/or clans are present in your deck, thereby becoming a kind of tribal strategy. This is one of the best ways to get more value out the cards you’re playing, because they add extra effects just by being played alongside others of the same clan or element.

One other strategy possible is to hide your intentions from your opponent as much as possible by using all cards that have the Switch & Boost mechanic: the card’s effect text box is split in two, and while it gains the basic one for free, you can also pay a bit more in PP to activate the other half of the effect box. Your opponent won’t know if you’ve done this or not until the mutual reveal occurs, so it can be an effective bluffing strategy to force them to waste more PP than they really need to spend that round.

Another strategy is to focus on cards that cancel out the capacity effects of your opponent’s attack spells and restrict their ability to spend PP, which means you can more reliably predict the outcome of a battle if you know how much they may or may not be able to spend that round. This strategy is very effective which is why cards that have these cancel abilities are more powerful and harder to obtain in the game.

Some cards also have an “evolution” mechanic. There are three levels and you must possess the card for each level in order to use a level 1 card’s evolution during a match. The level 2 and 3 versions stay in your collection rather than your deck, but can be accessed through the level 1 card during a match by paying the cost of the evolution which can be in either PP or life points. This is an interesting take on the common “card fusion” feature in mobile TCGs, but instead of modifying the card permanently it provides you with the opportunity to “level it up” over the course of a match, depending on when and whether you want to to do this.

Card art

When played, this card drains opponent’s PP a number of times, equal to how many cards of the same clan are in your deck.

Other Features

As well as online matches, there is a Challenges feature which lets you earn copper coins by completing battles against an AI opponent with a special restriction in place, such as requiring your attack spells to be all of the Ice element or trying to beat the enemy without using a support spell and PP.

The shop contains boosters from all of the expansions released so far, and there is a player-driven Market where cards can be bought and sold for copper coins, the currency earned in-game through playing matches as opposed to the premium currency of silver.

There is also a unique “Mentor” and “Apprentices” feature which sees you taking on another player as a Mentor when you first join the game, and you also have the possibility of recruiting Apprentices underneath you. As well as Mentors sharing in 5% of their Apprentices’ earnings in copper and silver coins, the relationship is explained more as a learning and friendship one, where the Mentor will help the Apprentice learn the ropes of the game, offer deck advice, and so on. This is really unique and quite a lovely idea to have in a game like this which is usually played on your own and against random opponents. It shows there is a strong community aspect to Moonga and that the players really value their involvement in the game.

Players selling cards in the card market.

Players selling cards in the card market.

Final Thoughts

As far as mobile card games go, Moonga packs a lot more strategic depth than most and each card really feels like it has a strong, unique identity thanks to the more detailed stats and effects they have over a lot of other TCGs. The large, detailed fantasy artwork is of a very high quality and really immerses the player into the game world. The game has been going strong for a number of years now and continues to move from strength to strength.

I have very little to say that is negative about Moonga, other than that the overall interface and user experience could do with a bit more polish as it does sometimes feel a bit rudimentary. However, the gameplay is so strong that this can be easily overlooked as a minor criticism. The developers continue to invest in the growth of the game and are now attempting to create a physical product out of it as well, so the game may start to become even more wider known in the future.

Moonga is unique and has a very rewarding, enjoyable strategy card game experience to offer. It presents the depth and strategy of a longer, more time-consuming TCG and compacts that down into a short, tense battle of just 10 cards in total. I’m not aware of many other games that are able to provide this bite-sized experience in such a way. If you enjoy the idea of a psychological element to the usual TCG fare, you should definitely check this one 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.
  • Johannes Rice

    Sadly, the android version isnt developed anymore and is stuck in beta, last update 2 years ago…

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