Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Calculords, in a nutshell, is a free-to-play collectible card game (CCG) with some lane management strategy mechanics and a math-based resource system. To define it in just those terms though would be doing it a disservice. Beyond being mechanically sound and deeply strategic, Calculords is a lovingly-crafted experience with tons of heart, humor, and a pretty awesome early 90s pixely aesthetic.
Playing Calculords is a lot like playing most collectible card games, at least on its face. Players take turns drawing cards from their personalized decks, then play cards of different types in the hopes of defeating their opponents. The two main things that Calculords does to mix up the traditional CCG formula are incorporating a lane management mechanic and having a resource system based on math. While there are examples of lane management in CCGs, the math-based resource system is what really distinguishes Calculords from other games while also being the basis for much of the game's strategic depth.
The concept of using math as the resources is pretty simple. When players begin their turn they have their hand, as well as a bank of numbers and calculator commands. To put cards into play, players must combine these numbers through addition, subtraction, and multiplication to match a card's cost. Players that plan out their arithmetic to use their entire bank of numbers are rewarded with a Calculord Bonus; which grants additional numbers to use for that turn, and naturally allows players to play more cards and gain an advantage over their opponent. While this advantage can be significant, the game still seems balanced enough to demand that players customize their decks to ensure that all of their cards work well together.
If this all sounds like a lot to take in, that's because it is. Despite introducing the simple concept of a math resource system, it took me a while to wrap my mind around it. My first games would take very long stretches of time as I tried to make my numbers work, and I got frustrated when I would go for those stretches only to be defeated - which yields zero card drops or other game advancements whatsoever. After a couple hours with the game something clicked, and suddenly I was able to more easily manipulate my numbers, which allowed me to focus more on lane management and more strategic card deployment (which were the real reasons for my defeats). After finally "getting" Calculords, I was also a little disappointed to find that there's no multiplayer, though that is apparently promised to come in a future update.
Overall, Calculords is a fantastic CCG. Its mechanics alone make it worth checking out but the game's trappings kept me coming back, even after suffering a frustrating defeat. Although it may take a while for players to get a hold of, Calculords is free so it it worth the download. If players like it enough, they can make a one time purchase to clear it of ads and earn some extra in-game benefits.