Casual games get a bad rap. The fact that a game has a simple, accessible interface and ruleset doesn't make it bad; if anything, that describes a lot of classic games, including the kind that people sink thousands of hours into over their entire lives.
I can't promise that today's game, Card Crawl Adventure, is going to be one of those game that you play for your whole life. It's also a lot more complex than most titles deemed "casual," so don't expect to slide right in. However, once you've gotten into the swing of things, there's a lot to recommend about this game.
Card Crawl Adventure is a solo card game in which the goal is to get through a series of high fantasy taverns, each one symbolizing a dungeon. The player is presented with a deck that is a combination of the player's own cards (weapons, spells and allies) and those of the tavern (monsters, obstacles and treasures). Once every card is played, the deck is reshuffled; after the third shuffle, the exit appears and the player may leave.
The cards are laid out in a 3x3 grid. The player interacts with the cards by drawing a single, continuous line that runs through them. That line can cross itself, but can only pass through adjacent cards and can't pass over the same card twice. Any card (with certain specific exceptions) touched by this line are discarded, sometimes triggering nasty little effects. The discarded cards are then replaced and the game continues.
But there's more to it than this. Each tavern has a boss, and while the player doesn't need to defeat the boss to clear the tavern, there are rewards for doing so. The boss doesn't begin in the deck, but must be summoned by killing other monsters. Killing a monster requires collecting enough weapons and spells to overwhelm its life total. Do that enough times, and the boss - a particularly powerful monster that isn't automatically discarded when the line passes over it - will hit the table.
The player has a strength number (used to attack monsters, overcome obstacles and cast certain spells) and a life number (exactly what you think it is, though it can also be used in place of strength if your strength drops to zero). It's game over if you run out of life. Fortunately, the game is kind enough to warn you if your latest play is going to get you killed.
There are more subtleties to the game than this. Each tavern after the first has a house rule which changes the mechanics - usually in a very subtle way, but some of them can really throw off certain strategies. There's also an optional quest attached to each tavern, which grants the player a small amount of money in exchange for playing the tavern extremely well (or, in some cases, extremely poorly). Said money can be spent on upgrades or new cards at the end of each tavern.
And we haven't even gotten into the adventurers yet! There are six characters available to take on the tavern crawl, each one with a unique deck as well as unique gear which is unlocked by completing character-specific challenges. Each adventurer has a gimmick, usually built around statuses (something you'll need to figure out for yourself - I barely understand status effects). There really aren't any "standard" builds, either, so finishing a whole adventure means figuring out how to use your character's particular quirks.
A single run is going to take 30-60 minutes, depending on whether or not the player can complete all five taverns.
The rules of Card Crawl Adventure are simple but might not be immediately intuitive. Even after a few runs, I still occasionally found myself attacking a monster to no effect because some unseen effect was blocking the damage. Even so, most people should be able to pick up the basic rules and start forming strategies within an hour or so. It is, after all, a casual game, albeit one that's a lot more complex than most similar titles.
Card Crawl Adventures is a casual single-player card game in which the player must remove cards from the board in order to clear a path to the tavern's exit. It is relatively complex and may have more appeal to players with some experience with deck builders and/or roguelike titles. It is well-suited to short periods of play.
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