Before I begin, I was sent a prototype of the game, and will receive a copy of the final version if the game funds. This is not a paid preview. If you would rather watch a video of this review, or a playthrough you can check them out below. Back the game on Kickstarter here.
I have always liked the idea of expandable card games, but they are usually quite sprawling, and, for me, I want all of it, but it becomes very challenging to find someone to play with. The majority of these games are competitive, and even ones that are co-op are not always the best playing solo, because they can become overwhelming to me.
Deck of Wonders was introduced to me by Mike at One Stop Co-op Shop, as a game that he said was like playing Magic, but solo only. Now, it has been a long time since I played Magic, but I played it a lot, though I had limited people to play against. So I was sold.
Each game is played with a single deck of cards. Both the villain, and you will be drawing from the same deck. This works because each card has a “good” side, and a “bad” side. The good side is the side you get to use, while the villain uses the bad, and you simple orient the card appropriately.
Each round to complete your turn you will be able to assign your creatures to attack in any order you like, and attack whatever you like. However, the real strategy comes when the villain goes. You see the villain will always attack the creature that has the highest priority (printed on the card), but you will be choosing the order that they attack. So this allows you to do your best to make their enemies kill as few of your creatures as possible while they take maximum damage.
Pretty simple. However, what makes it a little more interesting is that this is a legacy style game. There are a bunch of legacy packs that you get to open as you play through the game. For example, the first villain you face him, the first time you defeat him by at least 10 health points you open a specific legacy pack and shuffle those cards in. Each villain has 3-4 legacy packs with different rules for how they are added into the game.
So what do I think?
The art work is fantastic, as is the card design. I love the way the game looks, and I really love how everything is done out of just a single deck of cards. It makes the game lightning fast, and very easy to manage. Speaking of being lightning fast, it is extremely easy to play a game in ten minutes. In fact, this past week I got to an online meeting early, fifteen minutes to be exact. Deck of Wonders was sitting next to me, and I knocked out two games.
I also appreciate how easy it is to manage your hand. There is no mana, or anything like that. Rather your cards are your resources. If a card has a cost, that cost will be another card or more from your hand that is all. This had the added benefit of adding a fun bit of hand management to the game as well.
Finally, I really like the legacy packs. They are not overbearing, they are relatively simple to figure out but they DRASTICALLY alter the game experience. I do not want to go into any detail because that might spoil something. However, they are great.
Finally, for real this time, the villains play so incredibly differently. It is awesome.
The game comes with preset decks and cards to use vs each villain. However, you have the the option to tell the designer that you know better than he does and build your own deck however you want. This is a cool option, if you like deckbuilding. It also can make a villain significantly easier (or if you build decks like me harder) to defeat.
You are at the mercy of the fate a bit. You can just have a really crummy opening draw for the villain and before you know if you have been smashed, and there was nothing that you can do about it. This is part of the challenge of the game, and since games take about ten minutes it is not hard to reshuffle and jump right back in. Just understand that the game can feel unfair due to luck.
Bringing it all together
Deck of Wonders is a lightning fast game that manages to perfectly manage multi-sided cards. Using a single deck you play both the villain and hero, in a head to head style card game. The game features a series of legacy packs that slowly get added in, making the game constantly feel fresh, especially when combined with the delightfully varied villains. The game has an added bonus of being a challenging deck construction game as well if that is your jam. The game can feel lucky at times if you get smashed very quickly, but since a game plays in about 10 minutes you are never frustrated long.
Can’t read now! Stealing from Fate herself!
* Awesome art
* Game plays lightning fast, with delightful single deck mechanics
* Legacy elements are great fun, and add wonderful variety to the game
* Great villain variance
* Has a deck construction element if you are in to that
* Game can feel very luck based sometimes