If you love DnD, this game is totally up your alley. Card Hunter is an internet browser game that blends classic miniatures DnD dungeon crawling with collectible card games. The game was created by Jonathan Chey and his new company, Blue Manchu. Chey was one of the co-founders of Irrational Games (the makers of BioShock); he left them to go start making games that he was passionate about and appealed to his “inner nerd.”
As someone who’s played tabletop RPGs for most of her life, the first thing I noticed about the game was the art. The screen before every adventure has lots of art and flavor text. Both are so evocative of redbox DnD, it’s almost scary. I love it!
The gameplay is similar to playing tabletop RPGs, but with some interesting twists. The player is controlling an adventuring party of three. Your party consists of a fighter, a wizard, and a cleric. Gary, the dungeon master, is the person that is guiding you through the game; basically, he’s the computer.
There is a main map, from which you can chose different dungeons to go kill all the things in. The dungeons have a variable amount of rooms or levels, and each dungeon is only playable once a day.
Once you get into the dungeon, there’s a tile map. Every time you enter a new dungeon, the enemy figures and your characters are arrayed differently, and each map is different. So sometimes there are walls blocking your way or difficult terrain, which can affect your strategy.
Each character has a hand of cards, and everyone draws two cards and a movement card. The items you have equipped (weapon, divine weapon, boots, arcane implement, etc.) change what each character has in their hand. So for instance, different boots will give you different movement or armor cards.
The people in the player’s party each draw three cards a round. Then the player has to pick one card to play. Not one card from each character, but just one card. So for instance, in the picture below, I wouldn’t be able to chose the card “Mighty Bludgeon,” because it has a range of 1, and there are no enemies within one square of me that the character could hit. Instead, I would probably pick the dwarf woman’s card called “Charge,” which would set me up near a monster, so that I could attack next turn. After playing one card, the monsters play a card. It goes back and forth like this until both sides choose to pass. Then each character has to discard down to two cards.
The fact that you have to go back and forth playing one card is where a lot of the strategy comes into the game. For instance, I was fighting troglodytes, who all had range two weapons. It was super annoying, because my fighter and my cleric had mostly range one weapons. So what ended up happening is I would hope to get two movement cards in each draw and move against the enemies until they couldn’t move away from me. Then I would get to attack. I also ended up using my wizard to kill most of them.
After an entire battle, you get a treasure screen! Your characters get experience and level up, and then you get to open a chest. In the chest there might be non-wearable items that you can sell off and get gold for, or there might be equip-able items. Sometimes you get things that are better, and sometimes you just go sell things. You can also buy items from the store to help outfit your party. As your characters level, they also gain new slots. For instance, the characters don’t start with an armor slot, and only get one after leveling up.
There is also a multiplayer option, where your adventuring party fights another real person’s adventuring party. You join a queue to fight, and the more you win, the better chests you get. The games are also on a twenty-minute timer, so neither player can take forever making a decision.
As you can probably already tell, I really like this game! It’s really fun and super easy to learn. I like the fact that the battles get more and more difficult. It definitely adds some stress to the game and makes me start thinking a few moves ahead of myself. I’ve already had a character die a few times, which is okay because they are only dead for that battle, and they come back for the next level of the dungeon.
One of the things I have mixed feelings about is the way that Gary is portrayed. He’s definitely a stereotypical nerd. There are lots of references to playing in a basement, eating pizza, and drinking soda. The pizza delivery woman makes him super nervous, and he keeps expressing how much he would like to ask her out but is afraid to talk to her. I think the creators are poking fun at the archetypal DnD nerd, but sometimes it comes across as a little weird.
Now onto a bit of the nitty-gritty about the game. It is free to play, but there is a pay option. Everything special is paid for with pizza. You can buy 330 pizza for $10. If you want different figurines for your party, those cost 80 pizza (which is around $2.50). Chests of varying levels are also up for sale. If you want a simple chest, you can spend 18 gold, which is money you earn through the game. But if you want a magnificent chest, it’s 30 pizza (almost $1), and an epic chest will cost you 150 pizza (which is around $4.50). Special adventures are also up for sale, and will cost around 40 pizza each (about $1.20) or 10 adventures for 300 pizza (just about $9).
Another option is to buy club memberships. If you are a club member, it means that every time you open a chest, you get a special club reward. The special reward is guaranteed to be as good as the best level item in the normal chest. A month will run you 300 pizza (just about $9). Three months costs 850 pizza (almost $26), and so on.
Right now, they are running a special deal because the game just came out on September 12th. It’s called the Card Hunter Basic Edition. It gives you 11 Treasure Hunt Adventures, 1 month of Club Membership, 9 extra figures, and 100 pizza, all for $25. Those extra nine figures are pretty much the cost of the package. So if you were thinking about doing the club membership for a month to try it out, I would definitely go for this deal instead.
So far, I’ve been playing the game for free, and I’ve been enjoying it. I do think there is enough content for people who love free things, and there are definitely some nice perks for people who want to spend a little (or a lot) of money making their items and character the most awesome ever.