Article by contributor Quinn Sullivan.
Card Hunter is a game for the tabletop gamer who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons in his adolescent years, or the gamer whose age goes well beyond his golden days but still continues on with the tradition to this day. It’s a game for the for the man or woman who reminisces on the late-night dice-rolling adventures; it’s an experience for the gamer who got his chaotic good wizard up to level 65, and the good times that were shared with friends during those sessions. However, I don’t possess any of those memories. I’ve never rolled a 20-sided die in my entire life, and I know little-to-nothing about the tabletop genre (aside from your Monopoly games). All my knowledge, in regards to this genre, comes from my uber nerd friends who have enlightened me on the subject matter and have tried to convince me that these adventures that take place on a colorful cardboard cutout are somehow not a waste of my time. And, I have to admit, I understand the appeal. Hell, I’ve even tried a game or two, and have failed to last more than 20 minutes. My friends would spend all night in a dimly lit, brick-walled room, mastering the game’s engine – a setting that vaguely resembles the room where Tommy shot Spider in Goodfellas, only there’s less cigarettes and booze and more junk food and soda.
For those who haven’t figured it out already, Card Hunter is a free-to-play hybrid tabletop card-based RPG (that’s a mouthful) where the cards in player’s deck determine what movement you make on the board. Want to take two steps forward? Use the “walk” card. Want to attack an enemy? Use the said attack card.
The cards you get aren’t a random assortment of computer luck. The loot you get and the items you equip decide what cards you get in your deck. Say you got an awesome new pair of green boots; you equip the green boots, and you’ll get the dash card placed in your deck because of it, but remove the green boots and the dash card is removed from your deck. Another example is donning a piece of heavy mail in your armor slot, which will grant you a passive armor card – a card that will negate some of the damage done to your avatars from basic attacks. You can also equip shields that will completely nullify any damage that would have been done to you if you rolled a high enough number on the die. Yes, dice do have a role to play in Card Hunter, but it mainly comes down to shield and armor blocks.
The trinity system (Tank, Healer, and Damage Dealer) comes into play during a Card Hunter match, as well. Although you can choose to ignore the system, it wouldn’t benefit you to do so. You can choose from a variety of avatars before any match; everything ranging from a Human Warrior to an Elf Priest is available for your choosing. However, this is where loot/items/cards come back into play. Certain items can only be equipped onto certain character classes. Say you got a great wand, and you want to give it to your Dwarf Paladin; well, you’re sh*t out of luck because wands can only be equipped onto Wizards or Priests. The same goes for shields with Wizards or Priests. It’s nice to have a healer on your team, although most matches during the single player can be won without one present, but it’s nice to have that option available to you if you’re stuck in a tough situation.
As I eluded to earlier, a game takes place in the basement of your friend’s parent’s house, and your friend is the nerdiest of nerds. Not that there’s anything wrong with loving something with such an extreme passion that you revolve your entire life around it, but it’s obviously a comedic take on that one friend we all have. Blue Manchu, the developers of Card Hunter, aren’t trying to poke fun at their audience either. This was made by somebody who has the memories that I don’t, and it’s clear that they truly have a love for the genre they’re attempting to emulate.
Card Hunter is a free-to-play game, but it isn’t a game where you pay-to-win. You can play both the multi- and single player without entering your credit card information, and you can’t purchase cards straight up. Instead, you purchase pizza slices ($5 per 150 slices), which are then used to purchase a random drop of loot. You can also spend your cash on a Club Membership, which then gives you a single item upon completion of quest modules for a set period of time ($10 monthly subscription). However, I really do feel like you will be doing yourself a disservice if you go down the pay route. Half of the fun of Card Hunter is based off the random chance on which item you’ll be getting after every combat session. It’s one of the most fair ways to create a free-to-play game, and it’s a model I hope the bigger publishers pick up (although I know none will). Unless Card Hunter makes millions, I don’t see anyone picking up the Blue Manchu model. It’s too charitable in the free-to-play sense. Not to say you shouldn’t support Blue Manchu and Card Hunter for that matter, but I really hope this game comes to Steam at some point so I can purchase the game for $10 or $15.
Where Card Hunter truly shines is its multiplayer. It works in the same way that single player does, with the exception that (90% of the time) you’re facing a more challenging opponent. Players are set to the same level, and you can customize your gear to whatever you please. I found myself focusing solely on damage and healing, and not so much in the tank department. It just didn’t work for me; however, I’ve had matches where I had my ass handed to me, and the only difference I can spot was they had one guy that was built to the brim with a armor and shield. There’s also a scenario editor that lets you build your own dungeons and quests using whatever your mind can come up with, within the limitations of the game, of course. I had some fun with that, needless to say.
Blue Manchu made something great here. The fact that it’s free, fun, and can be played on virtually any computer that’s out there makes it even better. Card Hunter got me to call my friend – who has been trying to get me into D&D for years now – to see if he has room for a beginner during one of his weekend sessions. I’m sure I’ll get my ass kicked this coming Saturday night, but I genuinely don’t care. I just want to have fun with something I never thought I would ever attempt in my entire life – something that Card Hunter convinced me could be a good time.