I have to admit that I have never been one to get into products from Wizards of the Coast in the past. Sure, I read Dragonlance books and played D & D, but I was late to the party on all of them. Partially this was due to the stigma attached the products that they were best known for, the deck building games like Magic the Gathering. Now as I’ve grown older and accepted my nerd title, I’ve grown more open to trying the things that I passed up in my youth. Recently, Wizards has launched a three-prong attack for their next franchise, Kaijudo. What better time then now to jump into one of their products?
Kaijudo is a dueling card game, not much unlike the Yu-Gi-Oh! cards of the last decade. The game starts with players placing three cards, or shields, face down to represent their life on the battlefield. The ultimate goal is to out power (out score) your opponent through the use of creatures’ life force to win the round. The player with the highest score at the end of the turn wins. Games end up being a best of five rounds in total, but can also be over in as little as two. Seems pretty simple right? It is for the most part. Some creatures do have extra abilities based on when they are played (either as the initial creature played or a minion). Without going into too much depth, these abilities can allow you to destroy extra shields, draw more cards or even dispatch some of the opponent’s creatures on the field.
Thankfully unlike some of the card-based games out there, Kaijudo is easy to jump into. Once the shield cards have been established, the duel begins with each side drawing three cards. Of the three cards you have in your hand, one is selected to be your battler. Whichever player has the lower point total of their battler continues to play cards to bolster the score until a tie in amount takes place, every card in their hand is spent, the summoned creature count is maxed or they pass the opponents score. Every creature you summon afterwards builds upon the life total of the original. At any time during your turn to summon, you may elect not to place anymore and end your turn. Whatever player does end the turn brings the game to a final battle where one more card is drawn to determine the victor of the bout. Many times the game can be won or lost on this final card. Think of it like the final river card in a game of Texas Hold’em. The losing player removes a shield card and adds it to their playable hand for the next round. At the beginning of the next round, each player draws two cards or less if they would pass that maximum number of five allowed in hand. Then the cycle repeats.
The nice thing is that some things were thought ahead of when the game was being created. Rather than some weird system for ties, players will continue to turn over cards from their deck until someone comes out the leader. I had games go this way until I couldn’t actually summon any other creatures to the field. These tiebreakers can occur at any point in time of the game and will go until resolved. This includes the final bout even if you are over the six-creature limit. As I mentioned before, all of the abilities are tied to specific times when they are played. They are split into battler or supporter abilities. You might have an ability on a card that will give the first summoned creature +2000 life as a support, but would have no effect if played as the battling monster. In fact, few cards even have abilities for both types. This goes a long way to making sure that the game doesn’t just stack its most brutal creatures against you.
As one would expect there are also different types of creatures or deck types that change the style of the player. In the game only three decks are playable: shadow, fire and water. Each deck has its own strength. Shadow is about depleting your opponent with abilities that drop hit points or removes creatures. Water is about the mental game of stacking your creatures and gaining the most cards to work with. Fire is about brute force with abilities that are meant to end the game faster. Different decks will attract different players, but they all seem fairly balanced in play. It is when you play against people that have mixed decks that things start to get a little interesting.
When it comes to picking some things wrong with Kaijudo, I have to admit that I’m at a loss. I know there is a lack of multiplayer, but I believe that this was done on purpose. This is a customizable card game at heart after all. Later this month the first decks will hit retail shelves, so I think that the core of the player experience will be there. If anything, the iOS and web-based games are sort of like a training machine to get potential players into the hang of the game before investing in the physical cards. If I nitpick at things, I can say that the decks seem to need a little more variety. You earn some more cards as you beat more levels, but there is a limited range of cards you have. For the sake of argument, let’s say less than ten. Also, when it comes to the graphics of the game I can almost see some texture blending in the models. It isn’t a big deal since it is on an iPhone, but when you scale it up to the website it just looks terrible. The flaws in the background really come out then. You can clearly tell that the game was created for iOS and then ported over to work in browsers. Also some of the names on the cards when they are drawn don’t match the name of the creature it says you played. Like I said, I’m really nitpicking here.
Even in the face of missing multiplayer and a limited gameplay experience, Kaijudo is a winner in my book. Did I mention it was free as well? I know that I’m not the most experienced person when it comes to these types of games, but because of that I can appreciate the simplicity and balance that Wizards of the Coast are trying to accomplish in the title. I know that between the release of the iOS game and the television series, Wizards are really trying to build a brand before launching into the actual card game. I have to say that I am thankful that they are trying to build on something else for players of different ages to get into. It feels like it has been awhile since a card game has brought a family together at the dinner table. I know that I for one am looking forward to getting to play Kaijudo with my daughter. Until the cards come out later this month, the game will have to suffice. I have to say, it isn’t a bad sacrifice to have to make until then.