Clash of Cards — Could this be magic? No.

Clash of Cards tries to replicate the successes of other PC-based card games. How does it fare?

Collectable card games are big business when they’re done well. The likes of Pokémon, Yugioh and Magic: The Gathering have made a lot of money selling pack after pack to players looking for the perfect addition to their deck.

In recent years, these systems have filtered through into video games, with developers and publishers trying to replicate that business model. Hearthstone, The Elder Scrolls: Legends and their ilk have proven to be popular and financially successful, and whilst I enjoy card games like this, I don’t play them much due to the constant requirement to spend money on new card packs. I much prefer games that come with the complete card set, allowing you to craft your deck from the start. In some ways, Clash of Cards manages this, though it isn’t without its flaws.

Clash of Cards opens by asking you to choose an army from orcs, elves, undead and your usual fantasy races. Whilst it gives you a brief idea of what they can do (for example, the undead can ‘combo cards with immunes’), there’s no real indication of what’s good, bad or suitable for beginners. You then get a brief tutorial covering the basics of gameplay before being placed on an adventure map with a main quest and some side quests. Each quest gives you a little context before the battle begins (although in a nice touch, there are ways to talk your way past some battles). Success nets you materials and XP, whilst failure simply sends you back to the map with no penalty beyond the time you spent on it.

Clash of Cards
Battles are lane-based and tend to be over quite quickly.

Battles play out across multiple phases on a five-lane field. Player 1 plays an attacking card, Player 2 plays a defensive card, then battle resolves them. If they are opposite one another, they attack each other; if not, they attack the player directly. On the following turn the reverse occurs, once a new set of six cards have been drawn.

The objective is to drive your opponent’s health to zero through direct damage from monsters and magic spells. These things are fairly simple and explained well enough by the tutorial, but seeing as Magic: The Gathering seems to be an inspiration here, there are many more mechanics at play than are explained.

Many cards include blue symbols indicating the abilities they have. These are similar to its inspiration, with flying and immunity to certain damage types included, but none of this was explained and only came to light when I happened to click on a card to expand its details. A number of cards talk about Stighia, but what is that? What is the blue bar by my hero and what causes it to decrease? Such unexplained  (at least that I could find) mechanics made learning from my failures quite frustrating.

Clash of Cards
You have a base camp for summoning cards, building decks, and starting challenges.

The abilities on the cards do make for some potentially interesting combinations, but some of them do seem incredibly overpowered. One card you come up against early on is immune to physical damage and damages your hero directly, regardless of what is placed in front of it. If you don’t have a suitable counter to this drawn early, you might as well give up and restart until you do. Depending on your starting deck, you may have far fewer spells that could counter this, making it all the more difficult. It is possible to craft cards to acquire good counters, but at this early stage in the campaign you’re unlikely to randomly get a card that could help without a few retries.

You can spend gold earned throughout the campaign on summoning cards. Spending seventy-five gold pieces summons a card, or ten times that will ‘fine summon’ one. What is fine summoning? I don’t know — it isn’t explained. I assume cards gained through fine summoning are more powerful (they certainly seemed to be) but I can’t be certain. You also gain other resources, used for card crafting, but once again this is not explained. Regardless, this does mean that there is a certain aspect of deck-building that can be quite compelling in games of this style, especially when playing online. Thanks to the fact that the game is a full purchase and doesn’t allow the spending of real money to get new cards, there is a certain degree of balance in this regard, even if some of the cards are not well balanced.

Another positive is the card art, which is utterly beautiful. I’ve yet to come across a card that looks less than excellent. Other aspects of the presentation aren’t as good, with text fonts that don’t fit with the theme and player characters that look poor, but the art you spend most of the time looking at is wonderful — certainly one of the strongest aspects of the game. Everything is unique and gives you a good indication of what it is the card is meant to represent.

Clash of Cards
The card art is excellent and incredibly varied.

Equally as important is how positive the developer is in terms of the community. This is a fully released game (by which I mean not in early access) but the developer is constantly communicating with the players regarding changes and new content. There are three further chapters to the campaign promised, as well as new cards and regular balance changes. It’s not common to see developers engage so readily with their community after release, so this is excellent.

There’s quite a lot of content here beyond the campaign (and promised future chapters), with daily challenges and the online mode. There seems to be a small but positive community online at the moment, which is nice, and the inclusion of the challenges is good, but the difficulty in actually understanding the game and how to play effectively is a constant factor. As it stands, you need to be quite committed to learning the mechanics by practice alone until the developer balances the cards a bit more — something I expect to happen in time.

Clash of Cards has the potential to be a really rather good collectable card game with a player-friendly business model. It needs a bit of work, but if the developers are as committed to the game as they seem to be, this could be an enjoyable card battler. Time will tell.

Clash of Cards is available now for Windows PCs.

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