Tabletop ports of popular video games are tricksy. This is especially true of those, like God of War, which are based on button-mashing real-time combat. How can you give players the same adrenaline rush of pulling off great combos and finishing moves? And how do you immerse players in the epic godly realm without the benefit of hi-def graphics?
CMON Games and designers Fel Barros and Alex Olteanu have given it a shot with God of War: The Card Game, and have actually threaded both the above needles. GoW:TCG is a co-op game where up to four players take the role of Kratos, Freya, and other protagonists from the videogame, who embark on a three-battle branching mini-campaign culminating in (of course) a most epic boss fight.
Ten scenarios are supplied in the base game, of which six will be available in any session and only three actually activated. Each scenario comes with a deck of large double-sided Scene cards which are laid out in a specific tableau (à la T.I.M.E. Stories). All the card art is taken from the videogame, so the effect is quite striking.
Each character starts with a unique deck consisting of a mix of melee, ranged, and defence cards (some multi-use) plus neutral “booster” cards which can be added to any of those. Taking turns, each player takes turns moving around the Scene and pew-pewing enemies. Attacks generally feed your Rage meter, which when full can be activated for a useful perk. In solo mode you play Kratos, with two sidekicks who provide buffs which reset every time your Rage track resets.
After each player is done, the top card of the Upgrade Deck is flipped. It has a cool and generally stronger action on it, and at the end of the Round each player will get to draft one into her deck. But for the moment the only thing that matters is the rune in the upper corner, which will match one or more cards and/or enemies in the Scene. Enemies and cards with matching runes will attack and/or flip, switching things up usually in ways that are detrimental to characters’ health. It’s an unusual mechanic, and really effective.
At the end of the Round, each player gets to either draft one of the Upgrade cards, strengthening their deck, or instead permanently remove a card from their discard pile, thus getting rid of weak and/or damaging cards like Poison. And then a new Round begins.
Assuming players win the first battle, they get a choice between two second scenarios. Whichever one they don’t choose supplies a hindrance/handicap. Similarly there are three possible Boss fights, and the two unchosen ones will make life more difficult. Each scenario plays out differently, and even once you’ve played them all the randomness of which ones are available plus the huge unpredictability of the Upgrade Deck means that there is enough replayability for the moment; personally, I hope the game gets an expansion soon.
I just love the puzzle nature of GoW:TCG and I’ve never played the videogame. On the other hand, my brother, who’s played several in the series, was willing to play a couple of Rounds but then was done with it. So I’m a little worried that CMON may have shot itself in the foot by making a game that in theory would appeal to tabletoppers but who wouldn’t give it a second look because of the theme. Plus, surprisingly for CMON, there are no minis! So although the card artwork is great, it doesn’t have the eye-candy factor that might pull in fans of the videogame who may also find the gameplay too complex.
GoW:TCG is a great choice if your group is looking for a really good new videogame-themed co-op, or if you want to buy this for a friend who’s really into God of War and are also willing to sit down and teach it to them. Click here to order your copy of God of War: The Card Game.