The key to winning a match in a fighting game is predicting what your opponent will do—and then punishing him or her once you get the opening you're waiting for. Focusing on this more mental component of the genre, Yomi for iPad introduces aspects of poker and rock-paper-scissors to turn that combo-happy experience into a strategic card game that still feels like you’re fighting. You may not be mashing buttons, but Yomi offers intense and rewarding moments that put your skills to the test.
Compared to most popular collectible card games, Blizzard's Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is relatively straightforward. Simple rules make it incredibly welcoming to new players, but they also allow for elegant strategies and varied tactical possibilities. Unfortunately, as a free-to-play game, Hearthstone runs into the same problems that have long plagued tabletop card games: it's hard to get worthwhile new cards without breaking the bank.
Like the complicated father-son relationship between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, the marriage between the Star Wars franchise and card battling games has been a tumultuous one at best. Last year's Star Wars Force Collection was a hands-off snooze affair bogged down by heavy micromanagement. The latest attempt at shoehorning a galaxy far, far away into a collectible card game format, however, is a vast improvement over what we’ve seen before. Star Wars: Assault Team packs all the polish, accessibility, and strategy that were sorely missing in Force Collection, even if it's not an entirely fresh spin on collectible card combat.
Arithmetic has never been so strangely fun as in Calculords, a collectible card game from developer Ninja Crime and comedy writer Seanbaby that puts math calculations at its very core. It has a bit of a learning curve, and its NES-inspired retro art style may prove divisive, but there’s a lot to like once you get over that initial hump. Computer-controlled opponents give as good as — or even better than — they get, complete with snappy taunts and humorous sci-fi-referencing one-liners, and you can easily find yourself locked in battles for hours without noticing how much time has passed.
It’s no surprise that a cartoon like Adventure Time would branch out into video games to attract its young (and alternately, geeky adult) audience. What is slightly more startling is how well the latest effort from Cartoon Network stands on its own merits. While certainly effective as a tie-in to the cartoon, its card-battling mechanics are so strong that Card Wars could have done without the license and proven just as sophisticated and inventive.
It's always awkward when you reach that on-the-fence moment where you're pretty sure you hate the game you're playing, but you just can't seem to stop plugging away. That sums up my experience with Star Wars Force Collection pretty accurately. As a huge Star Wars nerd, I appreciate the sight- and sound-driven homage to a galaxy far, far away found throughout this virtual collectible card game. The actual game itself, however, is on shakier ground than Luke's X-Wing parked in the swamps of Dagobah.
Sometimes licensed games leave you scratching your head in confusion at their bizarre muddling of a beloved pop culture franchise. Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM Pocket adapts a popular trading card game based on the Yu-Gi-Oh manga and anime series into an entirely different trading card game, just barely managing to string together something moderately enjoyable in the process. Battling wits with virtual and real opponents is both fun and challenging, but there’s not enough depth to keep you interested for long.
G.I. Joe fans no doubt remember their collection of action figures and the fun times they spent going on imaginary missions against Cobra’s army of evil. It's no surprise, then, that the action card game G.I. Joe: Battleground rekindles some of those memories as you assemble your squad and recruit your favorite soldiers for combat. It may not always be the most exciting experience, but it’s a quality card game that doesn’t require much effort to enjoy.
Another year, another welcome iteration of Wizard of the Coast's venerable card-battling franchise. Last year's iOS debut of the delectably nerdy spell-flinging card game really hit the sweet spot for longtime fans itching for a portable version of Magic: The Gathering — Duels of the Planeswalkers. At a quick glance, Magic 2014 may seem like more of the same — and it is, to an extent — but many subtle refinements, tons of new cards, a fresh campaign to battle through, and a sealed deck mode (that finally lets you construct your own custom decks) makes this latest installment well worth another dip into your coffers.
While Gameloft's past Order & Chaos games had players fighting off monsters in massively multiplayer online battles (Order & Chaos Online) or defending their bases in multiplayer online battle arena matches (Heroes of Order & Chaos), the new Order & Chaos Duels turns combat into a strategic game of cards. Featuring all of the lore and fantasy the franchise is known for, Duels offers plenty of rich card-dueling action, but is marred by a freemium structure that makes for a frustrating deck-building experience.