This week following on from our 2018 Board Game of the Year Awards, we thought it would be interesting to run the winner, Dark Souls: The Card Game, past the On The Tabletop team to get their thoughts.
We've previously reviewed Dark Souls: The Card Game, as well as the expansion Forgotten Paths, so this will just be On The Tabletop, not Off The Shelf as all that information is contained in the reviews. If you've played it, we'd be very interested to hear your own comments on our tabletop game of the year, so let us know in the comments at the end of the article.
The On The Tabletop play-through articles catalogue our initial experiences with a game; as a result, mistakes will be made. On The Tabletop should also not be taken as a full review. These articles are simply our first impressions of a game.
On The TabletopAs Dark Souls: The Card Game is up to a four player game, I decided to act as a sort of Games Master for the group and keep track of all the behind the scenes stuff and leave them to work out how to defeat each enemy, or not. As I'd played the game a fair amount over the last year, it was quick for me to set up the board and decks. Their first task was to select characters, we were only using the core set, so they had four to choose from. Sam chose the Assassin as his character, Anna the Sorcerer, Lizi the Knight and James was left with the Herald. The plan was to play through the first encounter as a tutorial and possibly restart, but they did so well that I decided to let them press on.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="271422,271423"]
The first encounter saw the back row enemies blocked by invisible enemies at the front, so the team had to work together to defeat the back row with ranged attacks before finishing off the invisible enemies. They then went straight into the first boss fight with Vordt, the most straight-forward of all the bosses in the core game and the one I always set new players lose on first. They manged to smash through the first half of the fight, but then lost before they could do much damage to the heated up side of Vordt's card.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="271424,271425"]
The group went back to the bonfire and using the souls they had captured during the first encounter and the treasure earned, they added another Stamina card each, and everyone but Lizi got to add a treasure card, making up the rest of the deck requirements with Remnant of Humanity cards. They decided to go the long way back to Vordt, facing a different level 1 and a level 2 encounter in order to gain more souls and treasure for upgrades.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="271426,271427"]
They smashed through both encounters with relative ease, having picked up the game mechanics by now and working well together. They faced Vordt again and despite having already faced two encounters before in this run, very nearly defeated Vordt. But it wasn't to be, and they returned to the bonfire, but this time with 4 treasure cards and 32 souls. We were out of time with this play-through, but having only visited the bonfire twice, they were in a very good position to defeat both bosses if we had played on. The aim was to give them all a taste of the game, to see if our Game of the Year held up in the On The Tabletop Team's opinions.
Player Thoughts[gallery columns="5" ids="264469,264471,264520,264470,267469"]
Adam - Having played Dark Souls: The Card Game a lot over the last year, it still surprises me how much I enjoy it and how much I love challenging players who are new to it. The mechanics still stand up and the difficulty is still very much there, even after many attempts. If you want to see my full thoughts on the game, check out our review, as this article is focused on the opinions on the rest of the team.
Adam is the righteous leader of the On The Tabletop Team and is an experienced tabletop gamer. He has played physical and online CCGs to a very high competitive level. He also has a background in roleplaying, board and wargaming and has playtested and produced content for several companies. A veteran tabletop writer who's favourite games include Dark Souls: The Card Game, The Legend of the Five Rings LCG, Shadespire and Bushido. You can read his work here on TechRaptor and follow his exploits on Twitter - @StealthBuda.
Lizi - I am normally a little dubious about games with so many cards because I'm quite a slow reader and some games can have very wordy powers and abilities. This game was not that! It was simple to understand, the cards were concise and you didn't have a lot to read. I liked how it was a campaign of improving through smaller fights before you get to the big boss and how damage used your action cards up, choosing between them going from your hand or deck.
The bits I weren't so keen on were the movement and the invisible creatures, mainly because my character didn't have range attacks and so couldn't help until someone else had killed the out of range, visible ones. I imagine that this is where I would level up tactically so I can help in those situations. It was fun playing together, trying to decide the best order of play, who should target what and who we needed to protect because their pile was getting low. I'd happily play again.
Lizi is a mathematician, the closest she's ever been to being a gamer is almost completing Lego Batman on the PS2. Her favourite games are Codenames and Zombicide.
James - The most obvious thing to say is that We Died. Although it has to be said that we actually didn’t die that much which I was surprised about. The game itself was interesting to play and complex enough that I can see how multiple play-throughs would still be fun.
Taking the role of the healer of the group I found my ability to give people cards (used for health) back was a good backstop to the more damage dealing members of the party. Anna for example was up for smashing out damage, but that sometimes left her precariously close to death and in need of a boost. I also liked the interaction between players, moving each out so that others could be more effective, though it did lead to a certain amount of quarterbacking (one person working out the best way to play then telling everyone else). This is to be expected to an extent in most co-op games, but this is the first game where I felt it asked for it specifically.
Which leads me to the overall feeling I got from the game i.e that it wants to be played one player. I very much enjoyed it and could see myself playing it again and doing the Dark Souls style grind to level up. However I think with more than one player I’m not certain it works well. Two hardcore gamers might be able to have a lot of fun with it, but with four it seemed like we were a little lost, and any idea of replaying from the bonfires over and over again didn’t fit the mood. I’d play it again solo (a very odd statement from me) or with another player, but four was too many I think.
James is a long-time tournament wargamer (but he’s not as horrible as all that), RPG and board game player. He works designing and producing games of all types, and is launching his own company Black Cats Gaming in 2019. Follow him on twitter @Guilensturn and @followblackcats and check out his company at Black Cats Gaming.
Anna - All I know about the Dark Souls franchise is that it's a video game and it's very difficult. I've never played the video game, so I went into playing this not really knowing what to expect. After having played Dark Souls: The Card Game for a few hours I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it.
The game started off pretty long, with the battles being a bit drawn out due to us getting used to the mechanics and tactics. I didn't quite understand the health and item system properly until I ran out of inventory cards which meant that I ran out of health. I started to warm up to the game as we played but was frustrated at the lack of items that were useful and then the amount of stamina cards needed to use the spells, as it seemed like my deck was heavily skewed to one particular card when I needed 2 cards to do a bunch of long ranged attacks as a sorcerer.
I also found the final boss battle tough and didn't quite understand the regeneration system until it was explained to me, something that I believe was carried through from the main game. The bosses seemed ridiculously difficult which I think would have put me off if I didn't have a little bit of knowledge about the game from my gamer friends and the group I was playing with.
I think if I had longer to play the game I would have come to quite like it but as a casual game with some friends I don't know if I would buy it, although the cards were very nice and very pretty.
Anna is a cosplayer and photographer. She started roleplaying a few years ago and now runs several of her own games. Her favourite games are D&D, Betrayal and the Witcher series. You can follow her gaming exploits and see her cosplay work and photography here.
Sam - I tend to like card games, and Adam had bigged this one up to us all day, so I was looking forward to playing. The board was novel, the AI mechanics worked pretty well, but as the Assassin I didn't feel I got the hang of what I could do and felt pretty powerless against most situations. I get that Dark Souls: The Card Game is a kind of "die, learn, get good" kind of game, and this card game hits that theme, but the learn and get good parts didn't feel that rewarding. For me, "It Died".
Sam Webb is a role playing game developer and twitch streamer. He has been playing games of all types for years, and is now the head of RPGs at Modiphius Entertainment. He is also the Creative Director at Black Cats Gaming. You can find him @RPGwebby on twitch and twitter, and @followblackcats.
This copy of the Dark Souls: The Card Game was provided by Steamforged Games.
Have you played Dark Souls: The Card Game since our review? What do you think? Which is your favorite character to play? Let us know in the comments below.