Posted by : David Guyll June 28, 2014

If you watch Adventure Time by any means aside from Netflix then you have most likely already seen the episode Card Wars. If you like Adventure Time and for some reason have not, then you should really go watch it as it is pretty good.

On the other hand if you do not watch Adventure Time, and especially if you dislike the show, then unless you are really into casual, competitive card games then you will probably not care too much about this game, either (though truth be told being a fan of the show might make you actually dislike this game more, but I will get to that in a bit).

Playing the Game
Despite Jake describing it as "super complicated" and taking 2 hours to try to explain the rules to Finn, Card Wars reminds me of a massively stripped down version of Magic: the Gathering (which is not necessarily a bad thing): you draw cards, play them, and basically just try to beat up your opponent with a series of ridiculous creatures like Husker Knights, Cool Dogs, Green Mermen, and Sand Angels.

Each player controls a row of four landscape cards, which are matched up across from each other to form four lanes. During your turn you draw a card and have two actions to spend, which you use to play buildings, creatures, or spells.

Cards are either associated with a landscape or are untyped Rainbow cards: for example the Cool Dog is a Blue Plains creature, while the Husker Knight is a Cornfield creature. They cost anywhere from 0-3 actions to play (3 action cards require you to use some other spell or floop-ability that gives you a bonus action), and you need to have a number of associated un-flipped landscape cards to play them equal to the card's Action Cost. The Cool Dog I mentioned has an Action Cost of 2, which means that you not only need to use both of your actions to play it, but you have to have at least two un-flipped Blue Plains landscapes (Rainbow cards work with any landscape).

Each landscape can only contain one creature, and one building can be placed behind it. Once you spend your actions each of your creatures either must floop (ie, activate a special ability) or attack. If there is another creature in the opposing land tile they both deal damage to each other, but if the other tile is clear you damage the other player, and the first player to 25 is the loser dweeb.

Something that Melissa and I did not know for several games is that you can "replace" a creature or building by paying the action cost of the one you want to play, discarding the card already in play, and placing the new one where it was. It might seem counter-intuitive, but since your creatures must either floop or attack it might actually help you avoid taking damage when your opponent goes.

The Good
The game is cheap to pick up ($20 for two completely playable decks), easy to learn, and plays pretty quickly once you know what you are doing (though you might overlook a rule or three).

Given the lackluster production value I was also honestly surprised that the decks seem to actually have their own kind of play style:
  • Creatures in the Cornfield deck are often fueled by the number of flipped-up land tiles you have, making them ideal for an aggressive player. The downside is that Pigs can flip them, and if you stick them in a Blue Plains deck it can be pretty easy to bounce them around to other lanes: on a few occasions I was able to lock down all of Melissa's Cornfields, rendering her helpless until she got a Big Foot or Reclaim Landscape card.
  • The Blue Plains deck seems geared toward screwing over the other player and setting up combos: some creatures get Attack bonuses if you move them to another land tile or when you cast spells, which is easy to double-down on if you load your deck with several Teleport cards (I should mention there is also at least one creature that can yank Rainbow spells out of your discard pile).
  • The Useless Swamp deck seems to start out slow, but get better the heavier your discard pile gets: a lot of cards require at least 5 cards to see any sort of effect, and at least one creature cannot even be played until you have 10 cards in it.

Even better is that you can mix and match landscape tiles and cards. In fact some cards work better if you do: for example the Immortal Maizewalker is a Useless Swamp creature that deals triple damage if you play it on a Cornfield tile.

The Bad
I did not like that the decks came randomly intermixed. We started out buying the Jake vs. Finn deck, which contains Blue Plains and Cornfield landscapes. Both decks came individually wrapped, but featured a mixture of Blue Plains, Cornfield, and Rainbow cards.

We ended up having to sort out the cards, and divvying up the Rainbow cards where they made the most sense: the Blue Plains deck got the Pigs (since they flip Cornfield tiles) and the Teleport spells (since a lot of Blue Plains cards get bonuses when you move to another land tile), while the Cornfield one got all the Big Foot cards and Reclaim Landscape spells (since both can un-flip landscapes).

The major drawback is the art, which is...pretty abyssmal at times. I get that Adventure Time has a simple style, but a lot of the time the show features some interesting, evocative designs. In Card Wars there are a lot of cards that look lazy or just outright bad, as if someone with no artistic talent was just trying to half-ass the show's style. As an example here is the ancient scholar from both the show and card game:


For another check out these, uh, "gems":


And then there are the ones that are just slightly modified copies:




All I am just saying is that I do not think it would have been hard to find someone that could at least do a passable imitation. Plus there was so much potential to come up with more creative cards: did they really need to copy so many? I am frankly surprised they bothered to give them different abilities.

Finally, after reading the wiki entry on the game, even ignoring the holographic elements this game does not seem nearly as interesting as the one on the show (which you won by wiping out your opponent's buildings and creatures, not by dealing damage to who/whatever the player is intended to represent). I think all around a much better imitation could have been done.

Conclusion
I only would get this game if you are a huge fan of casual, competitive games. It plays alright and can have its fun moments, but I am not sure if being a fan of the show will make the game more appealing or just disappointing due to the poor art and unimaginative cards. I mean yeah, you can say stuff like "I floop the pig", but I do not think it is worth the twenty bucks, nor do I really feel like I am playing the game featured on the show.

Honestly it feels largely like a half-assed branding ploy, a waste of the source material, and after some other disappointments I do not see myself picking up any other Adventure Time stuff in the future without seeing some glowing reviews beforehand.

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