App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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At this point, a lot of games have tried to distill the action of dungeon-crawling into a card game format. Card Crawl, Slay the Spire, Solitarica, Meteorfall—all have put their own little marks on the genre, and now a little game called Knights of the Card Table has thrown its hat in the ring. This colorful and somewhat goofy take on this emerging genre has the right stuff to be your new favorite card-based mobile game, but it doesn’t quite fit its pieces together to feel better than just “another good one of those” games.
Roll through enemies
Knights of the Card Table has you fighting through dungeons represented by decks of cards. You play as a plucky young hero as they battle through enemies using trusty weapons like brass knuckles, swords, maces, etc. To face off against these decks, the first five cards of the deck are always visible to you, and you simply pick the order in which you want to activate them in hopes of making it through the whole deck.
Decks are primarily full of enemies, which can be anything from giant skeletons to mailmen, and picking these cards initiates dice-based combat. Depending on which weapon you have equipped, you roll different dice, but the basic principle is that you want to roll a number higher than an enemy’s health. Otherwise, you take damage. If you do get hit, decks in Knights of the Card Table also contain things like health potions—among other power ups—that can help you overcome some random rolls and make your way through each deck.
The card combat in Knights of the Card Table has some interesting layers to it, primarily in the form of a card streak mechanic. If you select to engage with three cards of the same type in a row (e.g. three enemies, three potions, etc.), you’ll get special bonuses like increased damage or extra treasure. You can’t always depend on stacking up these combos though, since the game doesn’t give you a good sense of what cards are coming up. You need to rely on the five cards in front of you and perhaps a little luck if you want to consistently trigger these bonuses.
As you get further in the game, taking advantage of every bonus you can becomes more and more important. Dungeons begin to have multiple decks in them for you to work through, and the enemies in these decks get increasingly more formidable. Between dungeons, you’re also getting treasure that can help you gear up to take on these harder challenges. New weapons and armor are always at your disposal, provided you’ve earned enough coins and pops (a second, quasi-premium currency) to unlock them. This extra gear doesn’t just flat out make you stronger though. Almost everything you buy in Knights of the Card Table has specific trade-offs, which ensures you’ll be using everything at your disposal in almost every level of the game.
From an aesthetic standpoint, Knights of the Card Table has a really strong sense of self. It’s colorful, goofy, and awkwardly drawn in a way that evokes cartoons like Adventure Time. There’s also some fun writing in the game that mostly serves as tooltips and tutorialization, but is doled out through cheeky dialogue. As much as I like all of this stuff, I feel like this same level of creativity and fun doesn’t find its way into Knights of the Card Table’s actual gameplay.
Dungeons are really linear progressions through decks with very light “push your luck”-style streak mechanics. Some of the additional equipment you get changes things up sometimes, but none of it is so groundbreaking that you end up changing the way you play all that much. Finally, the game’s currency system with coins and pops acts as a weird gating mechanic that feels like it’d be more at home in a free-to-play game than something with a $5 asking price. All of these things won’t prevent you from having some amount of fun with Knights of the Card Table, but their cumulative effect will likely make you want to put it down before you’ve completed it.
The bottom line
Knights of the Card Table takes a tried and true formula and executes on it with some degree of success. There are a few sore spots, but it’s by and large a good time. That said, there are a lot of games in this space on mobile, and most of them avoid the pitfalls that Knights of the Card Table falls into. So, unless you’re just looking for the next card-based dungeon crawler to latch onto, your mileage will vary here.