KARDS - The WWII Card Game Review

04/15/2020 - 11:00 | By: Adam Potts
Developer
1939 Games
Publisher
1939 Games
Release Date
April 15, 2020
Platforms
PC
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)
Steam
A Historic Brawl

KARDS - The WWII Card Game enters into a difficult battlefield of established digital card games. Like MMOs, it's hard to pull players away from games that they've put vast amounts of time and finances into. Most MMOs and digital card games only succeed by having a ready audience, like how the recently released Legends of Runeterra brings in League of Legends fans. KARDS offers 2 interesting aspects that might draw in new players. The first is that it's a factually historic card game, using famous regiments and equipment from World War II. The second is that it plays like a strategy game and the different types of equipment feel like they operate like the units they represent. Artillery doesn't take damage in return, tanks can move and fire, fighters defend against bombers and the different factions feel uniquely like the forces they represent.

KARDS 5 main factions
KARDS includes 5 main factions and 2 additional ally factions.

Pick a side in KARDS

Creating a deck in KARDS begins with choosing from 1 of the 5 main factions (British Empire, Germany, Japan, Soviet Union, United States) and adding an ally faction (which includes the 5 main factions, along with France and Italy). After a brief tutorial, you'll be asked to select a faction, which will give you a starter deck for that force. To gain starter decks for the other factions, you need to beat those decks in AI mode, with each unlocking as you do. Defeating all the AI decks and gaining all 5 starter decks actually gives you a very good base to start your games, and before you spend any further money, it's actually a very good experience exploring each faction in PvP.

You'll notice the remarkably thematic art, visuals, and sound throughout these early matches. They all work together to capture the feel of the war in spectacular fashion. The colors and artwork match the designs of the time, the playing board feels like a table in a bunker and each unit type has a unique visual effect when they attack. Some cards also have unique and visually awesome effects when played, like shadows of bombers flying over during a board wipe.

KARDS visuals.
The KARDS visuals capture the theme perfectly.

Choose how you fight in KARDS

KARDS borrows mechanics with many different card games. You start with 1 resource, increasing by 1 each turn as you draw a card. The big difference comes with the activation cost of each unit and the frontline feature. Units have a purchase cost and an activation cost. The purchase cost is the cost to bring a unit from your hand onto your board and the activation cost is the cost to move and attack with your unit each turn. This means that each turn is a balance of bringing new units onto the table and using the ones you have.

 
 

The second standout feature of KARDS is that units deploy to your support line, next to your HQ. In order to attack your opponent's HQ, you need to be on the frontline. Only you or your opponent can have units in the frontline, so if you want to move your own units there, you first have to destroy all of your opponent's units on the frontline. Most units can only attack the row in front of them (support to frontline or frontline to your opponent's support line). So to keep your own HQ safe, you need to control the frontline.

There are several different types of units, and they all have unique features representing the way that type of unit would operate on the battlefield. Infantry units are the most basic unit, generally only moving or attacking each turn. Tanks can move and attack, paying their activation cost each time. Artillery can attack anywhere on the battlefield and won't take damage in return for attacking. There are also bombers and fighters, units that can also attack anywhere on the battlefield, but fighters take damage back and bombers only take damage back from fighters. This gives KARDS a strategy feel, fitting in between classic CCGs like Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone and hybrid card games like Duelyst.

Core unit types in KARDS.
Each unit type in KARDS offers a distinct feature and way of operating.

Fund your army in KARDS

KARDS is a free-to-play digital CCG and includes purchases of digital booster packs of cards. There are currently 2 sets available, the Core Set with the 5 main factions, and the Allegiance Set which adds in the France and Italy ally forces. Free cards and packs can be earned by completing challenges, with daily challenges and set objectives. KARDS also offers seasons, with rewards being allocated for placement during the season. Most players aim for the Officer's Club, which opens up when you reach the highest rank with 3 of the 5 main nations and where you can play against other elite players and earn top rewards.

With 7 different factions, it feels hard to mainline a single faction, as you might not open cards for those in the packs. The rarity of cards also dictates how many you can include in each deck, with the rarest Elite cards only allowing a single card in the deck. Elite cards are expensive to craft and rare to draw in packs. This means that creating specific decks is difficult if you're purely free to play. But creating powerful decks with more common cards feels a lot more balanced than in other CCGs. This creates a great desire to play and earn the rarer cards, rather than them being readily available. Spending on packs improves your access to cards instantly, but a true F2P account in KARDS still gives a competitive and enjoyable experience. Running a F2P account does mean that your best deck might not be your faction of choice.

KARDS draft mode.
KARDS currently only has a draft and PVP modes.

There are currently only 2 modes of play. Standard battles, where you use a created deck and battle opponents, earning stars and moving up the ranks with the main faction of the deck you are using and Draft mode, where you create a deck from a random selection of cards and earn rewards for the number of wins you achieve (to a maximum of 7) before you suffer 3 losses. Draft mode is most CCGs is a skill leveler, based on your ability to pick cards that are good in draft mode, rather than your access to the expensive cards available, but it feels less so in KARDS due to the quality of the more common cards. Draft mode in KARDS is still a great experience and challenge and also a great way to get rewards and build up your own card collection.

KARDS - The WWII Card Game Review | Final Thoughts

KARDS is a fantastic entry into the digital CCG world. Veteran CCG players will find some great technical challenges around the frontline mechanic and some interesting deck designs to try out. Strategy gamers and WWII fans will love how it captures the thematic feel and strategy element and new CCG players will find a straight-forward rules system and great F2P card game. Currently, there are only 2 modes of play with standard PVP and a draft mode, but this is pretty standard early in card games and we could see the card pool and game types increase with time.


TechRaptor reviewed KARDS - The WWII Card Game Review on PC via Steam with a freely downloaded copy and additional card packs provided by the developer.

Review Summary

8.0
KARDS is an extremely thematic WWII digital CCG with some great strategy elements around the frontline mechanic. Each faction feels unique and offers its own challenges. F2P is entirely possible and offers a rewarding experience in building up your own card pool.

Pros

  • Great Capture Of WWII Theme
  • Fantastic F2P Experience
  • Challenging Strategy Options And Deck Designs

Cons

  • Currently Limited Game Mode Options
  • Expensive To Craft Rarer Cards

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Tabletop Editor

Adam is the Tabletop Editor for TechRaptor. He's been involved in the video game and tabletop industry since 1997, including managing communities, flavour text writing for CCGs, game development and design and has played physical and digital card games at a high competitive level.