Today’s diary entry will focus on the meat and potatoes of Card Hunter –the combat. When I first watched some gameplay I was able to figure out the general idea behind how the game works – you play a movement card to move, you play an attack card to attack, simple. However, it was confusing to try and wrap my head around who was taking a turn, when a turn ended, and why someone would want to pass their turn with a handful of cards. Roll up your sleeves and grab a beverage and I’ll take you through a tour of what is happening during a match of Card Hunter.
After the jump, to arms!
I’ve touched briefly in previous entries on the general idea behind the game –you have a party of 3 characters (both in single and multi-player) and each character draws from a deck of cards, the contents of which are dictated by the equipment on said character. The enemy units have cards as well; various units have cards in their decks based on their creature type. For instance troglodytes have crude plate armor and spear attacks with a range of two, among other useful (and annoying) options they might draw.
The flow of the game starts with the figures being dropped onto the map, and everyone then draw cards. Your units will each start with four cards –three will always be drawn from your deck and the fourth willalways be a movement card. Which of the blue movement cards you draw is based on your race — elves get a dash card every round, allowing them to move four squares if played, while humans get a run worth three spaces, and dwarves get a two movement “Walk”card. Elves are more mobile on the field than other races, though they tend to have fewer hit points. There are some other racial differences we’ll touch on later, but for now if you were wondering how you can reliably be sure to get some movement cards each turn, that’s how that works. Some cards on your character’s equipment also provide some additional movement cards, and in that way you can draw multiple movement cards in a given turn. One of the game’s great frustrations, in fact, is drawing nothing but movement cards in a given turn.
Once you have your cards before you, it’s time to select one to play. The player always goes first in the single player, which is helpful. However, you only get to play a single card and then priority will pass to the AI, who can then play a single card, and back and forth. While you have three characters, you don’t get to perform an action with each of them before the other guy gets to go.
The AI gets a few caveats on that rule, however. Enemies are grouped by type, so for example you might be facing a group of two troglodyte spearmen and a second group of two troglodyte gougers. Four enemies, two groups. Each of those groups draw from the same deck, but if one figure in a group plays a movement card, all enemies in that group get to move. To offset this advantage any given enemy figure only gets to attack a single time (their figurine will turn dark grey to indicate they have attacked this turn).
Movement is a little bit trickier than simply playing a card and setting your unit up, as each figure possesses a zone of control around it that halts movement. If you are standing adjacent to a target when you play a move card, dark purple squares indicate where you must halt and stop. In this way you can block enemies from easily getting to your weaker party members, but you can in turn find it challenging to get behind an enemy. Maneuvering around the battlefield is as important as attacking and dealing damage, in fact.
Once you are within range of a target, you’ll want to play an attack card. These are generally red, which helps distinguish them from other cards. Beware, however, of the type of enemy you face and the reaction cards he’s likely to possess. Reaction cards trigger automatically, such as an armor card which will auto-play itself from your hand when your figure takes damage. If you are facing an enemy that you have seen play cards that counter your type of attack, such as a slime that has an armor card that makes them immune to bludgeoning damage, you may want to rethink the types of attack cards you fill your deck up with before engaging.
Most armor cards are discarded once they are used, while the green dodge cards are burned up once they block something. If a card contains they keyword “Keep”then it stays in your hand. One example is armor cards as they generally get kept in your hand and can be used over and over. Once a card is used, if it is kept, an eyeball symbol will appear over it to indicate your enemy can see this card, and if you look up at the cards in your opponent’s hands, you will note you can see some of their cards, too. In the above graphic you can see the Trog Gougers have two Crude Plates, because they have already revealed them to me by using them to prevent damage.
Armor can be tough to get around, though some armor is directional. Let’s take a look at an example armor card quick.
Troglodytes have many copies of Crude Plates in their decks. Nasty little cards, they have an incredible armor value of four and a trigger state of rolling three or higher on a six sided dice. If a trog with one of these in their hand gets struck they roll a dice, and if successful they reduce whatever damage just tagged them by four, and move the bearer of the plates back a space, making it harder to get them with follow-up range one attacks. These plates do have a drawback –they do not preventdamage from behind, which means being more mobile than the trog is an effective way to clear them out. Note that crude plates are kept on use, as well. To top it off, multiple armor cards in your hand will all trigger together so if you attack a trog with two of these, and they both trigger, your attack was almost certainly be reduced to nothing.
Once you are out of cards to play, you can Pass. This skips your action and lets the other guy go again. You might be tempted to Pass in order to bring your enemy closer to you, and that can work, but if you have a hand filled with amazing offensive cards be aware that if both players Pass one after the other, the turn ends and everyone immediately discards down to two cards. There is some real strategy in when to pass your turn, luring your opponent into a feint, and when to press the attack so you don’t lose a bunch of great cards.
At the start of every new turn, all ongoing effects trigger. Some cards attach to a figure and have an ongoing benefit, such as bonus damage with a given attack type for a few turns, and those durations tick down at this time. Everyone draws two new cards from their deck, plus the racial movement card as well, and play continues until all figures on a given side are defeated.
That’s a little simplistic — sometimes a map, especially in multiplayer, features a victory square or cluster of victory squares, and having more of your figures on victory squares than your opponent does yields you a point, first side to a specified amount wins. You always earn victory points for killing enemies as well, though generally the points required to win equal the number of units you need to defeat.
There is a lot going on with Card Hunter’s strategy, and how the cards interact with each other. Acid destroys any armor cards in hand, some terrain effects can cause a figure to halt when they enter that space, seemingly useless cards like Wavering Faith (force a target to discard their oldest card they possess in their hand) can suddenly become amazing once you understand the games systems better (in this case, the oldest card being held is probably an annoying card that features the Keep keyword). A movement card with Free Move lets you ignore terrain or zone of control that would otherwise halt your movement, making it suddenly incredibly potent. Most of what you need to know comes from experience, but Card Hunter rewards players who learn the systems. Simply having amazing cards isn’t enough –you have to know how to play the game.
Tomorrow I’ll take a closer look at the various types of cards and I’ll write about how to understand what a card does and how it works at a glance.
Scott Lufkin currently lives in Iowa with his wife, two children, and a beloved PC. He posts on the Quarter to Three forums as BleedTheFreak.