Tobold's Blog
Monday, August 12, 2013
Card Hunter basic strategy comments

I received a lot of feedback from the people I handed out Card Hunter beta keys to. Generally the feedback was quite positive, most people love the game. But there were several people who found Card Hunter rather difficult, a comment which usually came with some reference to the luck involved in drawing cards. So I would like to make one rather bold statement on Card Hunter strategy, and a discussion of luck. The principal thing to know about Card Hunter strategy is this:

Play with the cards you drew, not with the cards you wished you had drawn!

The funny thing about this statement is that how much you agree with it very much depends on your history as a gamer. Players of games like World of Warcraft are very much used to applying exactly the same tactics to every single mob fight, because the optimum sequence of button presses is always the same. But I played Magic the Gathering for a decade, and for people with a gaming history like mine the above statement is bloody obvious. One could say that card-based games have a strategy part, which is in the deck building, and a tactics part which is in playing the cards that you drew. Getting the strategy part right is very important, e.g. if your deck is full of piercing weapons you'll have problems with those skeletons in Card Hunter. But generally you only draw 2 cards out of your 36-card deck every round, so having the right strategy of deck building isn't sufficient; you need to learn to adjust your tactics every round to the cards you actually drew.

The specific rules of Card Hunter card drawing are important to keep in mind here: Every one of your characters draws 2 random cards from his deck every round, plus receives his 1 racial movement card. This is why your dwarf warrior is so slow, he only gets a walk card automatically every round, while humans get run, and elves dash. You can also keep up to 2 cards from the previous turn in your hand. So imagine you trade blows with stationary enemies for a few rounds: You draw a movement card every round, but don't use it, and if you don't discard your movement card at the end of the turn, those movement cards accumulate. So you stare at your hand full of 3 movement cards and curse your bad luck of not having enough attack cards, when in fact none of that cards was a random draw. Of course there are also movement cards from random draws, but you can reduce the occurrence of those by choosing boots with armor or attack cards in them. Unless you *want* more movement for your particular strategy.

Staying stationary for some time is very often the wrong tactical decision. Especially if through the effects described above you have several movement cards, there is usually an advantage to be had if you use them. Don't be afraid to spend a round just running away from the enemy: You'll use your movement cards up, keep your attacks (and armor) for the next round, and if played well you'll make the enemy discard his attack cards because he couldn't use them that turn. Movement is also extremely important to position yourself in relation to the enemy: Block cards don't work if you attack the enemy from behind, even some armor cards are vulnerable from the back (the Trog's crude armor for example). Some big mobs have "clumsy" trait cards in their deck, which make them unable to attack you if you are behind them. In short: If your strategy depends only on running up to the enemy and hoping to draw enough attack cards to bash his head in before he gets you, your problem isn't luck, but the lack of refinement of your tactics.

Now let's talk about a different kind of luck: Finding the right loot. If you play Card Hunter long enough, you'll pretty much have every card in your collection you need to build the right deck for the adventure you are facing. But at the very start of the game this is more of a problem. It isn't much use knowing that you can overcome these heavily armored monsters with piercing weapons and spells if you simply don't have enough of those items with piercing cards in it. This is where Card Hunter's Free2Play model is somewhat weird: It isn't Pay2Win in the long run, but you get a huge boost to your options if you spend money early in the game. If you are short on cards, getting that extra club reward item from each battle is huge, and buying a few chests is also having a lot more effect early on than later in the game.

But that doesn't mean you can't play Card Hunter for free, you only need to adjust the way you play it. If you play adventures of your level, you will gain 10 xp per adventure, out of 20 you need to gain a level. So you will get up in levels quickly. An adventure 1 level below you only gives 4 xp, and 2 levels below you only 2 xp, making you level up much more slowly. And you can use that to your advantage, because the loot you get from slightly lower adventures isn't much worse. So if you consistently play the adventures 2 and 1 level below you first, you'll get comparatively more loot per level. You'll level up slower, but end up with a much better collection of cards.

Overall "luck" is something very localized and momentary. If you play a game long enough, statistics tells you that luck always evens out. If your only problem was bad luck, you simply can do that battle you lost again, and you'll do better eventually. If you lose consistently, luck isn't the problem, strategy and tactics are.

If you're fairly skilled, you can play each campaign once and struggle through with the cards that drop, at least up to level 15 or so. then it gets harder.

The main trick is not to sell anything unless you're absolutely sure you won't need it. Even low-level items are often the most effective you have (assuming you're not repeating a lot I guess!) for a given build, especially with the way the token system works.
Low-level no-token rares and epics are actually most useful items in beta. In high-level adventures they allow player to use most powerful weapons without being bad in defense/healing/utility department. In low-level quest they allow to literally squash the enemies with which you were struggling when levelling up.

The best thing is that you can win 3 PvP battles each day to get 2+ rares.
With regards to movement cards, it's worth noting that you don't have to actually move to use up those cards. If you want to stay stationary but don't want to carry over one or more movement cards, just use the card, click the spot where you're standing and then choose a direction to face.
I'm only level 7, but so far I can say that I never need to get lucky to beat a battle though occasionally a REALLY unlucky hand can cause me to lose. The net result is I've never ran out of attempts in a fight, though I have failed once more than a few times.
Hah! Just did the throne of stench for the first time. That certainly put my cockiness to the test. The second (2 15 HP trogs, 4 8 HP trogs) and third (2 15 HP trogs and a trog wizard) were quite difficult. I lost twice in the second battle and once on the third, but both wins were also relatively close...though one of the losses was too, if the trog's armor hadn't gone off the last turn I would've won with my 1 HP cleric who was my only remaining guy.

All three losses could be blamed on me somewhat though. First loss I tried to put my warrior guarding the main area and my cleric soloing the side area which was stupid. That works when your main concern is winning fast against weak enemies, but not here. Second loss was not learning my lesson and blaming the first loss on bad card draws before I finally wised up and sent my full party down the side passage to limit the direction from which I could be attacked. The third loss, in the final area was me not knowing the fight, moving forward my first two turns, then watching as the wizard just destroyed everyone while I did nothing. Holding back and waiting for them to come to me (And slightly better draws) won that.

I love this game.

My main issue is knowing what I am going up against. I keep meaning to set up some setups for fighting different enemies. At the moment I have just one very general gearing and I always seem to tweak it the wrong way before an encounter.
Gerry is right in that you really need to keep your low-level rares and higher around.

Otherwise somewhere around level 15+ you notice that you need to switch up your equipment for specific encounters - and without the flexibility of token-free low-level rares this gets really hard.

On a side note: I found the very last campaign fight trivial (won all fights in the first attempt) and the 2nd to last really, really hard (took me several revives). I wonder if that was how others experienced it as well?
2nd to last really, really hard (took me several revives)

Do you mean the one with the dragon? That one is really, really hard, much harder than the current campaign end. But it is optional, and one of the treasure hunt maps you need to pay extra for.
The treasure hunt levels are awesome, in my opinion. Most of the the "reward" items are kind of whatever, but I found them really useful just to have more encounters of each level. The roaches quest was the first one that kicked me in the teeth, and unlocking the bonus levels let me progress. Plus you only need to throw the devs 10 bucks to get them, break that down by hour of gameplay and it's nothing. I highly recommend them, especially with the reset looming.
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