Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Why Card Hunter is unique

From questions in the comments section I realized I didn't do a very good job to explain what Card Hunter is to all those not in the closed beta. When people hear that it is a mix between a turn-based tactical board game and a trading card game, they think of games they know which have that sort of elements. So lets go back a bit in history, to Magic the Gathering, the original trading card game. In MtG the two opponents play cards, each one on his side of the table. Many cards stay on the table, especially the creatures that then attack the opponent. In Magic it doesn't matter where exactly on the table you put your card, there is no such thing as location. Apart from spells or effects that prevent blocking, any creature on your side can block any attacking creature from the opponent. Newer trading card games, especially computer versions thereof like Kings & Legends, Summoner Wars, or Scrolls, add a board to this trading card game. Thus now it matters where you play your card, there is usually something like 5 lanes, and attacks and blocking only happens between creatures on the same lane.

Card Hunter does not work like that at all. While it has trading card elements, it is not really a direct descendant of Magic the Gathering or similar games. It is far more akin to tactical roleplaying games like Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, or Disgaea. In Card Hunter you never play creatures. The characters you control, and your enemies are on the board from the start, and none are added during battle. The board isn't just lanes, but depicts some fantasy environment like a kobold's cave or lizard men temple. There is terrain affecting movement and line of sight, and sometimes even victory locations. So at the core Card Hunter is a game about moving your characters over this battle map and engaging in tactical combat with the monsters in PvE or the other player in PvP. Just like in a roleplaying game, at the end of an adventure you get experience points and loot, maybe go up a level, sell your trash to a vendor, and equip better gear you found or bought.

In most other tactical turn-based games what actions your characters can perform during combat depends on some sort of action points. In Card Hunter it is here where the trading card element kicks in. Every turn every one of your characters draws one movement card and two random cards from a deck of usually 36 cards (you start out with less cards in the deck to make things easier at lower levels). Thus whether you can do an attack, at what range, and how much damage it does depends not on some action points, but on whether you drew an attack card, and which one, from your deck. Besides movement cards and attack cards there are also armor cards and block cards that can prevent damage to you (usually on a dice roll), as well as a few other effects like healing spells or traits.

So how do you build your deck? Again Card Hunter is very different from typical trading card games, as you don't in fact get single cards. What you get is equipment, and equipment has a fixed number of cards in it. Every boot in the game has 3 cards in it, every weapon has 6. If you choose not to equip any item in a slot, the default in that slot has the same number of cards, so you can't make your deck any slimmer by that. What you can do is gather more equipment, having different cards. And higher level and rarer equipment has somewhat better cards than lower level and more common equipment. The game is called Card Hunter because the more precise "Hunter of Gear with Cards in it" doesn't flow of the tongue so well. :)

To the best of my knowledge Card Hunter is unique, the only game which works like this. There are plenty of trading card games with and without boards, and there are a good number of turn-based tactical games (albeit not so many on the PC). But I know of no other turn-based tactical game which uses trading cards for actions in combat.

Are all the cards for the units exposed at the beginning of the turn, or you see the cards only for the currently "active" unit?

There is no such thing as an active unit. You see all your cards, and you basically play cards until you run out. Knowing what to do first is part of the tactics, and even passing and letting the enemy go first to play your cards later is often a good strategy. But if you pass and the opponent passes as well, the turn is over, and you might be forced to discard cards if you have more than two per character.

You also see *some* of the cards of the enemy, for example the free move cards he gets, or any armor that was exposed by it trying to block some damage. But the enemy still might have hidden movement cards left, so it is often tricky to know when to use for example a spell that turns the terrain under a mobs feet into a lava pit: If he still has a movement card left, he'll just move off and suffer no damage.
>But I know of no other turn-based tactical game which uses trading cards for actions in combat.

There are Metal Gear Ac!d 1 and 2 (PSP) and Yggdra Union (GBA, PSP).

In MGA you only controlled two units instead of three. The mechanics were potentially much deeper, but also much more fiddly and opaque.

One interesting difference was that any card could be discarded for a slow move.

In Yggdra Union there were half dozen units, there was less focus on combos and more on tactical positioning than in Card Hunter.

Mechanically I like all three games, but Metal Gear Ac!d was definitely the most thematically reach experience.
Pirate101, by KingsIsle, the makers of Wizard101, is similar. The combat is turn based strategy and some abilities are attached to gear. However, there are set abilities for each of the 5 classes and a set crew based on class and a few other choices (though this can be added to through the cash shop). The rest of the game has the familiar MMO trappings of quests, as well as a pretty well written story. I have often wondered what your take on the game would be, Tobold. I'd urge you to at least check it out, since it seems to be the sort of game you might enjoy.
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