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Review: Card Crawl – dungeon crawling with a pack of cards

Card Crawl is a fast-paced tactical card game of dungeon-based combat and treasure hunting. Despite its clear role-playing influences, in reality this is a casual game and plays much more like Solitaire than Dungeons and Dragons.

The aim is to keep the player card alive as the rest of the deck is dealt out a few cards at a time. The deck is based on a regular pack of cards, with a few modifications: diamonds become coins, hearts are potions, spades represent swords, and clubs are shields. Throw in a bunch of monster cards and some interesting abilities, all of various strengths, and you’ve got a lot to contend with.


The number on each card represents its strength – so that Spider would deal 6 points of damage

Every round four new cards are dealt from the deck onto the top row. You must get rid of three of those cards before any new ones can see the light of day. Useful cards like weapons and potions can be dragged to the bottom row and ‘equipped’ by the player, while monster cards have to be vanquished with weapons or allowed to attack before they can be discarded.

To win you have to survive the onslaught of the whole deck – sorry, ‘dungeon’ – without letting your health drop to zero. Although fairly easy to win, getting a high score is much trickier. Points are solely based on the amount of treasure you collect, often forcing you to choose between safety and greed. Should you sacrifice your shield in order to harvest more coins this turn? Or take the easier route and let that sweet cash walk on by?


The shield will deflect 7 points of damage, but with three enemies in play somebody’s bound to get hurt…

Although it’s very easy to learn the basics, there is some remarkable depth here. To get a decent score involves astute tactical awareness: optimizing card efficiency, contingency planning, and of course laying down some sick combos.

Card Crawl includes two main modes: Normal and Constructed. The gameplay is identical in both but Constructed mode provides a miniature deck-building experience that fans of traditional trading card games will appreciate. Choose your favorite five ability cards and they will be shuffled into the main deck to help with your next quest. By comparison, Normal mode throws up a random set of abilities every playthrough.


Customize the deck by swapping in your ideal ability cards

The graphics are excellent, with fun characters and gentle animations breathing life into what could have been visually quite dull.

Card Crawl quite admirably eschews the norm of relentless in-app purchases and ads, with the one-time purchase price which is all you’ll ever pay. However, it does incentivize players to keep coming back with a coin-based unlock system. The treasure collected while playing can be used to buy new ability cards to add to your deck. It takes a long time to secure them all but this makes each unlock feel like a properly earned reward, with every new ability freshening up the gameplay a little as you learn how to best use it in battle.


Spend your hard-earned treasure on new ability cards

Quick-paced without being frantic, each game lasts only a few minutes but is full of action. These bitesize play sessions make it the perfect time-killer for those odd few spare minutes throughout the day. Card Crawl could well become the first game you reach for on the bus each morning.

Price: $1.99 / £1.29
Version: 1.5
Size: 74.2 MB
Developer: Arnold Rauers

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