card games

Exploding Kittens, a simple but funny card game by Shane Small, along with Matthew Inman and Elan Lee, creators of the comic strip The Oatmeal, stunned the board game community in 2013 when it broke records on Kickstarter, earning $8.8M from 219,000 backers. Since then, the company has released several games including the dodge ball inspired Throw Throw Burrito, Bears vs Babies, and the recent Wolfgang Warsch game On a Scale of One to T-Rex. The company is even starting its own convention, Burning Cat, set to premiere in Portland, Oregon in May 2020.

Exploding Kittens has recently announced that it has received investment capital of $30 million from the TCG Capital Management to finance its continued growth. Kittens has said the investment will be used “to develop more games for its fans, expand its IP into live events, build out its team, control more of its production and distribution, and continue to experiment with innovative ideas around gameplay to help further build the community.”

For the full press release please click here.

“At this year’s Beach-a-Palooza, Steven has a surefire way to win: Recruit more Stevens from the timeline and have them all front their own bands!”

Steven Universe is an incredibly popular animated series created by Rebecca Sugar for Cartoon Network in 2013. In the show, Steven discovers the world of the Crystal Gems, magical beings with a fascinating backstory of escape, betrayal and freedom. Steven Universe has created an amazingly lush world of characters, and now Cryptozooic Entertainment has announced the boardgame  Steven Universe: Beach-a-Palooza from designers Erica Bouyouris (Bosk) and Andrew Wolf (Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle).

In Beach-a-Palooza, 3-6 players take on the role of Steven. Well, alternate versions of Steven from different timelines, to be exact. Each player’s Steven is battling in the Beach-a-Palooza to put together the best band and win the whole show. But beware, because both corrupted and homeworld gems are crashing the party and want to ruin the show. Players draft cards to recruit both their band and their audience, and to generate energy and other effects. Use your fusion powers! Attack and bubble the corrupted gems! Play your cards right, and your band might be the big winner!

Look for Steven Universe: Beach-a-Palooza at your FLGS during the second quarter of 2020.

Game of Phones is a card game where all you need is your smartphone to take on creative and unexpected challenges. It’s the ultimate digital scavenger hunt!”

In April of 2014, Luke Stern and Sam Wander initiated a successful Kickstarter for the original Game of Phones, a hilarious party game for people and their smartphones. And now, 5 years later, the dynamic duo has begun a new Kickstarter project for the second edition.

In Game of Phones, a group of players draw Challenge Cards in one of 4 categories, puzzles to solve using their phones. “Like” cards have players find photos in their camera roll or take new ones that match a certain category. One judge decides the winning photo. Similarly, “Unfollow” cards have each player eliminate one of the contender photos until only a single entry is left. “Download” cards have each player race to complete a challenge on their phone, such as text a selfie to a relative and get the first reply, or find the oldest message thread on their phone. Lastly, the “Upgrade” cards have all players work together in a group activity, usually to a hilarious conclusion.

The Kickstarter project for Game of Thrones continues through September 24, and the game is expected to ship in November of 2019. The game comes with a starter pack of 100 cards, the original pack, which contains 50 reworked cards from the first edition, and the offline pack, 50 cards that work even without an internet connection.

Abyss was an instant board game hit on its release in 2014. Combining unbelievable art from Xavier Collette with the sublime gameplay from master designers Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier, Abyss managed to transport players into a fantastical and political underwater world. The gameplay in Abyss is a wonderful collection of push-your-luck card collection, resource management of stunning pearls, and card set creation, all simple in their own right but interwoven into a magnificent strategic board game still loved to this day (currently #338 on BGG). The first expansion to Abyss, Kraken, was released in 2015 to critical acclaim, adding the two edged sword of dark pearls. Now, Studio Bombyx has given Abyss fans two new toys to drool over – the second expansion Abyss:Leviathan, and the new card game Conspiracy: Abyss Universe, both coming to western shores this November.

Leviathan replaces the accumulating threat track from the original card game with a border board filled with tremendous monsters. While pulling cards during exploration, if a monster is drawn, the player now has an opportunity to fight a Leviathan on the board. Certain Lords and Allies can give benefit to killing these monsters, and the player with the most kills will earn an extra 5 points at the end of the game.

Conspiracy: Abyss Universe is a card game in the Abyss Universe, sharing similar gameplay and more of that delicious Xavier Collette art. 2-4 Players use Abyss-like cards to create a reverse pyramid, starting with a row of five cards and working down to one. Two matching keys or 3 total keys on cards allow the player to take Location Cards, which add abilities and points. Pearls have their role in this game as well, and the player with the majority of pearls on cards immediately takes the Pearl Majority Card. The game ends when a player has completed their pyramid; groups of connected cards of the same color score points equal to the highest scoring card in the group. The Pearl Majority Card adds 5 points, and the player with the largest colored group scores an additional 3. Highest score claims rightful rule of the depths. For more details, check out Bombyx’s webpage here.

“A regal asymmetric party game for 3-6 players with bluffs and betrayals… Reigns: The Council is […] about a monarch seeking harmony in their realm, and their advisors vying to influence them for their own goals.”

Master board game designers Bruno Faidutti (Citadels) and Hervé Marly (Skull) have a new Kickstarter project, the most regal social party game, Reigns: the Council. Reigns is based on the popular same-named app from Studio Nerial. In Reigns, one player takes on the role of the monarch, humbly trying to balance the kingdom on 4 pillars: Church, People, Army and Wealth, all quantitated on the game board from 1-4. The remaining players are the (mistakenly) trusted advisors, but each one has a secret agenda with regards to these 4 pillars. Advisors each take a hand of proposal cards, ideas which will change the pillars depending if the proposal is accepted or rejected by the monarch. Players use the thematic icons on the proposal to tell stories and pitch ideas. The back of the proposal card tells the monarch which pillars will be affected by the proposal, and maybe if the effect is great, but not really if the effect is good or bad. It is up to the advisor to spin a yarn (ie. lie) so well that the King/Queen cannot help but accept.

After the 4 proposals are described, the monarch will pick one and the 4 pillars are shifted up and down according to both the rejected cards and the accepted proposal. If a pillar bumps off of the end of a track, the ruler is killed and a new monarch is established, with new advisors and new secret goals. Monarchs gain points for number of accepted proposals, while advisors gain points for having their story accepted and for meeting their secret goals.

Reigns: the Council is a fun, story-telling social party game for 3-6 players. The Kickstarter project continues through October 1, and the game is scheduled to release in May 2020. For more information, check out Nerial’s webpage here.

“Mutants is an innovative deck-builder where players lead a team of genetically modified gladiators. Starting with a fully symmetric hand of cards, players have 5 rounds to breed the best possible gladiators from their assymetric, uniquely crafted, gene pool and impose their strategy on the arena!”

Mutants – the Card Game is a successful November 2018 Kickstarter Project from producer Lucky Duck Games and designers Sen-Foong Lim (Belfort) and Jessey Wright (Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time). In this 2-4 player deck builder, players mix and match genetics starting with the same cards, but shopping within an asymmetric “gene pool” market. Each player’s gene pool can be pre-constructed or drafted, and the 4 included pre-constructed sets allow easy start to play. Players each get a hand of 6 cards, and the round ends when players run out of cards. Cards can have deploy effects which activate when the card is played, and leave effects for when a card is pushed out of the player board. On a turn players get one of 3 actions: Breed allows players to gain a new card for battle this round. Incubate saves a card for battle next round. Deploy plays a card from a player’s hand to their active mutant slot. Games last 5 rounds, after which players score points for mutants “frozen” into their archives.

For more details about Mutants, check out the completed Kickstarter page here. Mutants is scheduled to hit retail stores this October.

Star Realms is arguably the golden child of the 2 player head-to-head deck-builder world. Ever since the game’s debut from White Wizard Games in 2013, people have been extolling the virtues of this classic “buy cards”, “play cards”, “damage opponent” card game. Designers Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle created an elegant, competitive deck builder which still has a solid following to this day, and has inspired numerous expansions, such as Colony Wars, Gambit and the latest, Frontiers.

The digital version of Star Realms has likewise gained traction, and this latest expansion has just been added to the popular app. Frontiers adds 45 new ships and bases to the game, as well as 2 new campaign chapters with 12 new missions. Frontiers is available now on all platforms; for more information on this popular add-on, check out the game page here.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game (2012) by designer Devin Low is one of the great granddaddies of the deck building world. In this (semi)cooperative card game, players collect recruitment power to add new superheroes to their deck, then use the fighting abilities of these well-known heroes to defeat the villains marching on the city. But beware, there is a Mastermind Villain behind all this evil, unraveling a diabolical Scheme. Players need to defeat the Mastermind before the Scheme plays out to fruition in order to win at Legendary.

Publisher Upper Deck Entertainment has supported the game well over the years, amassing almost 20 expansions with innumerable Marvel characters, and the latest (for the completionists among us) is[CT1]  Legendary: Revelations. Revelations is a “deluxe” small box expansion, containing 200 cards instead of the standard 100, and it includes the popular heroes Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, War machine, and many more. New Location Cards represent infamous places in the MCU, and every villain group will come out with a Location. New card keyword mechanics include Hyperspeed, Last Stand, and Dark Memories. Scheme cards in Revelations also reflect the changing nature of this set, and are double sided, flipping over at key points in the adventure.

Revelations includes 9 new heroes with 14 cards each, 4 new villain groups of 8 cards each, 2 new henchmen groups of 10 cards, 3 new Masterminds and 4 new Schemes (each double sided), and 3 new Bystander types. This new expansion is due to hit stores at the end of August 2019. For more information, check out the official webpage here.


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GenCon 2019 was immense and amazing, but has now wrapped up, closed her doors and bid us “adieu”. I was inspired to chime in with a couple picks from the show that really stood out for me among the crowd.

One of the best euro games of 2016 was the exceptional Lorenzo il Magnifico from Cranio Creations and designers Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli, and Simone Luciani. I was able to see a demo for the upcoming card game based on this gem, Masters of the Renaissance by Simone Luciani and Nestore Mangone. In Masters, players still collect resources to buy cards from different tower “levels”, like the original, but now all cards have production ability: in other words, when production is initiated, players collect resources from all of their cards. Additionally, a “market” comprised of a 3×4 grid of colored marbles gives another, easier, source of resources. Players choose any row or column of marbles, and every marble in that line generates its own resource based on its color. After players gain their loot, they push a new marble into the line, bumping al old one from the back. Two things make this market both clever and diabolical: First, clear marbles exist that give no resources at all, clogging up the rows. Second, the resources generated at the market go to a separate storage area, which is severely limited in capacity. This card game version of one of my favorite board games retained the look and feel of the original, added unique mechanisms, but still felt elegant and simplified. Masters of the Renaissance is due to be released at Essen Spiel 2019, this October.

image from BGG

I was particularly impressed by Time of Legends: Destinies by designers Michał Gołębiowski and Filip Miłuński, a joint effort between Lucky Duck Games (Chronicles of Crime) and Mythic Games (Joan of Arc). Destinies is an app-driven fantasy exploration game for 1-3 people which takes place in the same universe as Mythic’s magnum opus Time of Legends: Joan of Arc, and even uses many of the same small scale miniatures as its big sister. In Destinies, players take on the roles of villagers living around the epic stories and battles from Joan. Each player is trying to be the first to fulfill their character’s hidden destiny. The cards in the game, including the character cards, have QR codes in the corner (those black and white checkerboard scanner boxes we see all the time), and scanning a card into the game app leads to context sensitive progression in the game – scanning an item uses it, scanning a character interacts with it, and scanning a weapon fights with it. This system is what made Lucky Duck’s Chronicles of Crime such a fantastic and intuitive story telling game. The game app additionally controls the map, made up of a grid of square cards, in a way reminiscent of the recent blockbuster Journeys in Middle Earth. If that wasn’t enough to make this a magnificent game, Destinies uses an elegant dice system I haven’t seen before for challenges, wounds, and level progression. Three colored stat tracks are on the player board – Knowledge, Strength and Agility, and wooden disks are placed on values along these tracks. To run a test, fight a creature, or even interact with characters, players roll dice, and count how many of these disk values they pass with the roll – this is the number of successes the character achieves. Items can add disks to the tracks, wounds can move the disks to higher, more difficult positions, and experience allows player to buy more disks. Time of Legends: Destinies is scheduled to have a Kickstarter campaign in September 2019.

Keyforge is a game that everyone took notice of since its announcement one year ago at GenCon 2018. This collectible card game from esteemed designer Richard Garfield (Bunny Kingdom, King of Tokyo, and some other famous card games) shook the world when it was announced that each and every deck would be completely unique, with its own logo, its own name, and its own set of cards. But Keyforge delivered, and delivered well, giving the gamers a captivating, unique take on the collectible card game.

This GenCon, Fantasy Flight Games announced Keyforge: Worlds Collide, the third set for this ground breaking game. The initial release and Keyforge: Age of Ascension generally used the same cards and rules, but now everything will change. However, Fantasy Flight has made it clear that Worlds Collide is a companion set and not a sequel, and this new set of cards, while playing well against the initial offerings, does not require the previous sets to play.

The biggest change to Worlds Collide is the introduction of two new houses to the decks. Mars and Sanctum have been rotated out, and have made room for the Saurian Republic and the Grand Star Alliance. Don’t worry though – Mars and Sanctum should make a return appearance in future sets. The Saurians, having existed for 65 million years, are among the oldest races in the Crucible, and pride themselves on philosophy, in spite of their overwhelming prowess. In stark contrast, the Grand Star Alliance are very recent additions, coming from a group of explorers that crash landed in the Crucible. This melting pot, polyglot and multi-race collective has managed to bring dozens of systems into peaceful democratic alliances, amassing quite the technological ability in the process.

Worlds Collide also brings some new mechanisms into the game, such as Warding and Enraging. Wards can now be placed on cards in play, each ward protecting them from a single attack. In contrast, enraging a creature forces it to attack if at all possible. Players can also Exalt creatures, placing a precious Æmber on the card, making the creature more powerful. However, like captured Æmber, when this creature is defeated the Æmber goes to the opponent.

Much like the original games, Keyforge: Worlds Collide will come in individual Archon Decks, as well as a two player starter set with all the necessary tokens and trackers. Additionally the Deluxe Archon Deck will come with a single deck and all the tokens. Finally, the Premium Box will come with two unique decks, 5 tuck boxes to hold sleeved cards, a token box, a chain dial, tokens and stickers. Look for all of the sets of Keyforge: Worlds Collide in stores in the 4th Quarter of 2019. For more information, check out the Fantasy Flight press release here.