Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Tabletop Review - Dark Souls: The Card Game

Following on from the popular Board game, Steamforged has now made an adaptation of the popular videogame series in the form of a standalone deck-building card game whilst still maintaining the feel and certain aspects of the board game to get the feel of the videogame. Does it improve upon the board game, or is there room enough for both games in your collection?

Presentation-wise, Dark Souls: The Card Game captures the dark and gothic feel of the videogame franchise with artwork similar to that found in the board game. I would have liked the card quality to have been maybe a little thicker to avoid deterioration over multiple uses, but this can be assuaged with using card sleeves, although you may then struggle to fit all the cards in the box. This is only a minor niggle though as the quality in general is pretty good for all the components.

In terms of gameplay, you work co-operatively with each other (or solo as you can play alone) as one of 4 different heroes, you then set out from the bonfire to different locations of varying difficulty and defeating the monsters you find there. Combat works on a grid, allowing you to position your hero to effectively attack or avoid attacks from the different monsters. You also make attacks or defend using cards drawn from your deck which are either items or stamina cards, combining different types of stamina with the item you want to use to either block or attack.

If you defeat the monsters in the location, you gain loot and souls which you can either take back to the bonfire to “level up” by expanding your deck, or gambling the winnings by going on to the next location. However, the deck acts as your health and you discard cards from your hand or deck when you take damage. If any player runs out of cards from their deck, your team loses and you return to the bonfire losing any loot you have gambled. In addition to this, you can only rest at the bonfire 5 times so you have to choose carefully when to rest and when to risk being killed.

Like the board game, the monsters are controlled by a simple AI on their card so you know how a monster will attack and when you rest, the areas are reset and you have to fight monsters again. However, the monsters are drawn randomly from certain decks of varying difficulty so it keeps encounters different each time which is certainly an improvement on the board game.

I for one liked the level-up mechanic in the game as it made more sense for this game than if they had used a similar style to other deck building games like Legendary. Boss fights are also great fun and each boss plays slightly differently with a randomly drawn pattern of attack like the board game. I felt this played really well and my only gripe was that I would have liked more than just 4 bosses in the base game.

Although you can vary which bosses you fight and you only need to kill 2 to win a game, I hope they introduce expansions that add more bosses and exploration tiles to the game, especially as I would like to see other more famous bosses from the Souls series rather than those from Dark Souls 3. Overall, I really enjoyed the combat and the boss battles in the game and it is also very easy to set up and play in comparison to the board game. While it may still take an evening to play through 1 game, I didn’t feel the game slowed down in any way.

With all that said, there are a few minor gripes that stop this from being a perfect game for me, although whether you find these gripes as annoying as I did will very likely vary from player to player. Firstly, the rules could have been laid out a lot clearer and while it explained how the game was played well enough, it was counter-intuitive when I had to look up rules during my first playthrough. Also the reference cards, despite being helpful to identify the different symbols on the cards, did not explain more important things like what you can do in a turn and the key difference between certain actions and the attack patterns of certain monsters. When all this led to me reaching scouring through the rulebook on several occasions and there was no quick reference, it slowed the experience down a lot.

Obviously this niggle was relieved on future playthroughs but I still think this is a valid complaint. In addition to this, although I understand how cards were used in relation to working your way through your deck, it seemed weird that you would discard weapons and armour when performing certain actions to do more damage. I understand this was to force you to adapt and work through your stamina, but it did give me the mental image of breaking swords over monsters in order to kill them which felt a little bit silly in relation to an otherwise dark and gothic game.

As I said though, these downsides are only minor niggles and this is a great card game and worthy of your time, especially if you are a fan of Dark Souls and want something a little bit quicker to pick up and play than the board game. I just hope the game continues to be supported as there is a lot of room for growth here. 8/10


A mainstay on E14, Blake Harmer is that guy in your social group who's quiet for ages and then when he does talk, his comment sends the whole crowd into fits of hysterics. You know the person I mean? Well in this case, it's Blake.

For evidence of this, see The Crazy Train podcast or the E14 Gamecast, where Blake is hilarious.

Blake is a regular to the E14 Podcasts, and frequently appears on the Youtube channel. He doesn't use Twitter.



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