I love games. I always have. Even before D&D became a big part of my life, I loved board games and card games. After I discovered the joys of table top role playing, I only became more fascinated with games of all kinds.
Back then, there really wasn’t a term for being a lover of games, but these days, we get to call ourselves gamers. Some folks take that tag a little too seriously if you ask me, but having a way to define yourself is important enough that we’ll leave them under the rocks where they belong.
Because the best thing about having a love of games is that anyone can. All those little things that usually separate us go away when we start playing, and we’re all just gamers. That’s pretty special.
These days, I don’t have as much time for the kinds of games I really enjoy. Browser games have begun to fill that gap, since I can pop in and out on my own schedule. They let me still enjoy playing a game, but do so according to my needs as an adult.
Many browser games have a bit of a bad reputation, however, mostly due to the rise of freemium gaming. There are still some great games out there that don’t cost anything to play, and others that offer advantages for spending some cash, but don’t require it. Those are the ones I enjoy the most, because as an adult, I’m also often broke.
Cause being an adult kinda sucks.
One of my favorite browser games these days is a little title from Blue Manchu called Card Hunter. It’s got a dash of D&D, with a touch of CCG, and requires just enough strategic thinking to make it a challenge, but is flexible enough that it’s still fun.
Released in 2013, Card Hunter was developed by Irrational Games (BioShock) co-founder John Chey, who brought in some former Magic: The Gathering development team members to help him sort out the workings. What they ended up with was something that the gaming community hadn’t really ever seen before.
In Card Hunter, you play as an actual player of the game, instead of as a character in the game. There’s an overarching narrative as you join a friend named Gary, who is DMing for the first time, to explore the world and go on adventures. Gary’s older brother Melvin is that DM we all hated, and frequently intrudes to point out how our fun is wrong. There’s also a pizza delivery girl who joins the game later, bringing her own perspective to the over all narrative.
All of this mirrors the experience of playing an actual table top RPG, and despite Melvin being that asshole we all hated, it’s actually a fairly entertaining story, and gives some depth and context to the game play itself.
As for the game play, it’s surprisingly simple, but can take a bit to really master.
As the player, you control three characters who are taking on quests. Completing the quests gets your gear, which has a set of cards attached to it. Those cards allow you to move, attack, and defend during encounters.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, you have to be mindful of how you build the deck you’ll be using. A lot of cards affect other cards, so you really need to pay attention in order to build a useful deck that gives you the best chance of winning.
Too give an example, you want to make sure you have enough movement cards, so you can get around, either to attack, or retreat from a more powerful foe. Too many, and you’ll have a hard time getting attack cards. Too few, and you may find yourself surrounded with no way to fall back to a safer distance.
The same goes for attack cards. You want enough that you can fight, but if you end up with too few in your deck, you might not be able to draw any, leaving one of your characters unable to do anything. That’s the kind of balancing act you need to maintain when deciding what gear to equip the characters.
Some cards attach, and stay for several turns, boosting your damage, or healing, while others can make you more susceptible to certain kinds of attack. A piece of gear may have really great attacks, but come with cards that give you a negative, such as taking more damage from fire attacks. This gives choosing your gear another layer of complexity, as you have to decide if that weakness is worth it or not.
There’s also the encounter to consider. Sticking with the same gear can leave you at a disadvantage in some fights, or give you a big advantage in others. Every encounter requires considering the gear you have equipped, and the cards that come with it. Sometimes, the difference between victory and loss can come down to just changing one piece of equipment.
So, yeah, there’s a lot of strategy involved in this.
The best part about the game, though, is the way it looks. The characters look like little cardstock figures on a base, and the maps really do resemble play maps from an RPG. It gives the whole thing a fun feel that’s engaging, and also offers a new layer of strategy to the game, as you have to negotiate obstacles in order to get line of sight for spells, or hide from enemies, forcing them to spend their turn trying to get to you.
The game gets more challenging as it goes, as well. Each time your characters gain a level, and improve the quality of their gear, the encounters change to challenge you in new and interesting ways. It really keeps you on your toes, and makes you think, rather than letting you just overpower your foes.
Now if we could just find some way to make Melvin shut up.
Hop over to Card Hunter at the link here, and check it out. It’s the most fun you can have playing an RPG alone.