Card Game Mechanics

Runespell Interface I have been playing Runespell: Overture, which combines several games’ mechanics into an unusual combat system: two-player poker-based competitive solitaire with special abilities. I have numbered items on this screenshot.

(1) is your board, which looks a lot like solitaire. Each player gets a board, and on your turn, you can take cards from either board. New face-down cards get added to the top to keep them from running out. (This mechanic makes the solitaire setup somewhat silly, as each stack is infinitely deep, no matter how the cards are initially laid out.)

(2) is an example of how you stack cards. You can put any card on any other card. Once cards are stacked, they move as a unit. You can take singles from your opponent’s side, but not stacks, which is how you protect cards from your opponent. You do not get a new face-up card on your opponent’s side until the next turn, while your side offers the next card immediately. Your goal is to build poker hands, with more damage from better hands.

(3) is how many moves you have left. You get three moves per turn. Attacking with a poker hand of cards or using a spell counts as a move. Note that three moves is not enough to build a poker hand and attack in the first turn, so there are no instant kills. Note also that attacks are not automatic once you have a poker hand built, so you can build several and attack all at once.

(4) is your health and mana. Your health starts full. Your mana starts empty. You gain mana for attacking with poker hands or receiving damage. Attacking awards more mana. This both encourages offense over turtling while providing a catch-up mechanic. This also encourages the “attack all at once” strategy so your opponent cannot retaliate with the mana your attacks game it. I like to end the game with about 80 damage in one turn.

(5) is your list of spells: allies and power cards. Increasing health and mana each take up a slot, which could be devoted to more spells. Allies have a cooldown timer but unlimited charges. Power cards must be found or bought to get charges, seem to be mostly stronger, and have little to no cooldown.

I would describe the feel of the game as “interesting,” but I am not sure about “fun.” It is certainly not “rollicking.” I do not think it draws the best from its components; at its worst, it combines the strategy of poker with the depth of solitaire and the waiting of Puzzle Quest.

You have read enough of my rants about randomization. I have had rounds where I could lock in a royal flush before my opponent’s first move and rounds where my opponent locked in a five-of-a-kind before I could move. Neither is an immediate victory, but the same opponent can be difficult or trivial based on which of you gets an easy 100 damage.

The mechanics also defy your expectations of cards, largely because of the infinite face-down cards. Your intuition says that each player has one deck of cards, which is how five-of-a-kind is possible, and that once two queens of hearts are out, they are all out. I have played a few dozen rounds and still do not know whether the game uses two decks separately or shuffled together, or any finite number of decks at all, and if finite how reshuffling discards factors in. That matters a lot if you are trying to build a royal flush and there are already two queens of hearts on the board. Some of that I’m sure I could work out by watching more carefully and taking notes, and all of it must already be online somewhere, but just playing through and trying to remain unspoiled, parts of my brain keep saying, “cards do not work that way!”

The attack animations are nice enough. I am not a terribly visual person, and this is not a terribly visual game. The writing is by turns amusing and tedious, perhaps average by video game writing standards, except that it really seems to be enjoying writing from the perspective of the end of the Viking era.

I am not optimistic about hidden depths in the gameplay, and it is certainly repetitive, but it is interesting enough for me to keep playing and see where this goes.

: Zubon

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