Stak Bots, An In-Depth Review

7.2 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 8/10
Sounds: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10

Simple to learn and easy to play. | Cute art with fun backstory.

Multiplayer isn't real-time. | Lack of alternative modes.

iOS, Tabletop.

$2.99 for full game on iOS, $60 for physical game - View on Amazon

October 21,2013

English

Stak Bots is a fast-paced strategy card game where Bots fight among themselves for simply having a different opinion to other Bots. This quirky offering was originally released as a physical card game back in 2013, and later in that year the digital version followed.

During ‘The Great Bickering’, Bots simply asked one question: “Why?” This resulted in Bots forming their own opinions, and as a result, disagreeing with one another. Alliances of like-minded Bots that shared the same code and algorithms formed, and they quickly realized that being different would result in more bickering. Thus the battles started, and with them came the Bot wars.

Does Stak Bots have the right code to be as captivating as its story? Bleep bloop! Read on to find out…

StakBots-opening-screen

Bots are beginning to argue in ‘The Great Bickering’, and are no longer working together. In Stak Bots, you must guide your Bots to be able to win the war.

GAMEPLAY

From the outset you would think that Stak Bots’ simple looks make it just as simple a game, but under the cartoon-like veneer lies a somewhat involved strategy card game. Upon starting the game you have a “Stak” of “Bots” that respectively represent your deck and the different robots within the game. Before the game starts, your 60 Bot cards are shuffled and then 9 are placed face-down in a row, in front of each player.

When the game begins, the first card in the Stak is turned face-up with any entry effects ignored at this time. Each player will then be given a starting hand of two cards, with the turn player drawing an additional card at the start of each turn.

Entry effects occur the moment a Bot is played into the Stak from the hand, or is revealed when the Bot on top of it is removed from the top of the Stak. Entry effects make up the bulk of the combos that can happen in the game, and these vary in their unique effects. Some are really helpful, whilst others will be more of a problem, but come with a powerful body attached.

During the turn, you can play cards from the hand, attack, or Scrap Bots from the hand or Stak. You can perform these actions in any order you choose and as many times as you like, with the exception of attacking. Once one of your Bots is defeated in battle, you may no longer attack, but can still perform any of the other actions before ending your turn.

Stomp-Bot-stomps-everywhere

Damage is calculated by using the Bot’s power. Bots may also have special abilities that can trigger during combat. Despite the slightly lacking artwork, the game is incredibly fun.

Combat is a fast paced affair that will result in Bots either dealing damage equal to their power to one another, or resolving effects that will trigger on entry or after combat. This is where the game offers its deeper strategies, especially once you are able to build a deck of your own. The winner is the player who still has Bots left in their Stak.

I really enjoyed playing the game and loved that it was so easy to pick-up and play. I found the game to have hidden depths to it that took careful planning and a little bit of luck to be victorious. Stak Bots makes for a great time filler and is just as playable on an iPhone as it is on iPad due to the cards not having too-long text effects.

Some hardcore card gamers may be put off by the simple graphics, but I found them to be charming and suitably fitting for the game’s theme. The sound effects were also appropriate with lots of cute little bleep and bloop sounds accompanying each Bot as it did its thing. These always made me smile when I heard them! Also, the music isn’t overly obtrusive, but not being able to adjust the volume meant I had it switched off more often than I had it switched on due to repetition because I was playing the game so much!

Custom-decks-will-add-in-variety

You can make custom decks and play with them in selected multiplayer modes, taking your little army of Bots online against other players.

MODES AND FEATURES

Stak Bots doesn’t offer a lot of variety when it comes to modes or additional features, unfortuately. There is no campaign to speak of, despite having a cute backstory. I feel the developers missed an opportunity to have an Angry Birds-style campaign and storyboard, showing us the unfolding of ‘The Great Bickering’ and the consequences after.

Nevertheless, what you are offered is an assortment of multiplayer options that range from random Quick Plays, to inviting your friends on Facebook to come join you in a game. You can request a game by entering a specific player’s name, too, so it is easy to challenge your friends by their username. The final multiplayer mode is one that keeps the game true to its roots as a physical card game… well, almost. Pass and Play literally lets you pass the device to one another when it is your turn, in a similar fashion as to how the original card game would be played.

One thing that is very important to note about the online game is that it is not a real time experience, but an asynchronous experience instead. This means that after your turn is complete, you will need to wait for the opponent to be notified of this, and then they will subsequently take their turn. A push notification will be sent to your device when they do, and so the cycle continues. If you have ever played Words with Friends, you’ll know what this experience feels like.

These-are-the-Bots-you-can-choose-for-your-Stak

There are a decent number of Bots that you can use in your Stak. Most will have effects that’ll trigger when they enter play, or during combat with another Bot.

DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY

Stak Bots has a very loose, and I’m being sincere when I say this, “deck builder”. You don’t really build a deck, but rather assign Bots to the Stak that you want to play with. You can then take this Stak into an online game with a friend, or in a Pass and Play scenario. The Quick Play doesn’t allow for more advanced Staks and will always use the basic deck.

When building the Stak, you will select from all of the available Bots, including those from the expansion. You will need to select a minimum of 5 different Bots to populate the Stak, which the game will fill out for you. Sadly, you will be unable to preview the effects of the Bots during the construction and will have to rely upon memory or a visit to the Stak Bots website for more detailed Bot information.

The strategy here is born in the midst of the game itself, usually as a result of a chain of events unfolding from the first play. I found that at times I was able to cause a chain reaction that would reduce my opponent’s Stak by several Bots at a time. At other times, I wasn’t even able to put a dent in their 7 power Stomp Bot. I can’t really say what sort of strategy you should employ or go for, as each scenario will be different. I can say that there are some combinations of Bots that are what card gamers call ‘broken’, due to being really powerful — that these are the best combos to try and find, as they’re a lot of fun when you can pull them off!

Fatal-Bot-will-Scrap-any-Bot-it-battles

Stak Bots is fun, easy, and accessible. The game offers the player such a pleasant experience that they’ll want to keep playing for a few more rounds.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Stak Bots is a fantastic little game and will be a favorite of mine for quite some time. I really enjoyed being able to just pick up and play on a whim. The lack of detailed card images shouldn’t phase you from giving it a go, and in no way represents the overall gameplay offered by the game. I do wish the art would be a little more professional, but actually I’ve come to quite like the simplicity and no-frills nature of the art. It feels refreshingly earnest in a way that the latest big budget fantasy TCG/CCG out each week often doesn’t.

It is a shame there isn’t a more comprehensive online multiplayer offering, or one that offers a real-time duel. I’m hoping this will be a feature that can be added into the game and this should be simple enough to implement, given that it is a turn-based game. I’m also looking forward to new expansions with more Bots and more card effects. I think the game could have a much longer life once this occurs.

At the very least, I do hope the Bots never stop bickering so that I may continue playing this delightful little game.

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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