Version Reviewed: 2.1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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I was there at the start of things. Or, at least, near the start. When collectible card gaming hit in the early nineties I must have tried a dozen or so games, from the phenomenal (Magic, of course), to the weird (Netrunner), to the inexplicably convoluted (Star Wars the CCG), to the downright ugly (Wyvern). The market peaked and crashed, as it is wont to do, but many variants on the collectible card gaming motif have begun eeking their way onto the App Store, and, unlike so many in the past, Cabals might actually have legs to stand on.
ANY game that uses collectibility and deck building as a central mechanic is ultimately going to be compared to the grand master of all CCGs, Magic: The Gathering. So, let's dispense with the elephant in the room up front; Cabals is no Magic. It is not as complex in style, design or execution, but it doesn't intend to be. Rather, Cabals is an attempt to marry some basic elements of the CCG with a more traditional abstract strategy board game. In its most basic form, Cabals shares elements of checkers, chess, and Stratego, among others, and for the most part it works.
Players control a deck of characters (some cards are actually effects or powers, but the vast majority are characters) that can be played onto the game board only at predetermined locations. The goal is to protect a player's home base while attempting to capture the opposing player's base. Sound like other strategy games out there? Sure it does, but Cabal's combination of game styles makes it a little more unique than most, and its use of cabals (groups affiliated by a common culture or mythology) is cleverly implemented in terms of strategic variety. Add to that the artwork, which is more sophisticated and developed than other, smaller CCGs out there, and the presentation of Cabals is outstanding - and did I mention that it's free?
Yes, Cabals is free to play, and there's actually a rather significant amount of content and gameplay available without spending a dime, and this includes local (versus AI) and online multiplayer. Additionally, the game is cross-platform, so playing against opponents on Android, or even on Macs or PCs is entirely possible. For more variety, including greater ability to craft customized decks, additional decks and cards are available at a price. Still, there are worse implementations of freemium out there. At least Cabals provides a good initial bang for no outlay of cash. Give it a shot. You might find a cabal you want to join.