(Disclosure: a prototype of the game was provided by the designer)
When I was contacted by Dennis Furia, designer of the upcoming game Deck of Wonders, for the opportunity to do a Kickstarter preview, I was ambivalent. I mean I was clearly flattered, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk it - what if I didn’t like the game? But then I looked at the rules and I quickly concluded that this was a game I was meant (or shall we say “fated”? Har har) to play. I mean it’s a solo card game, it has multi use cards, a short setup, a quick playtime and (I read with increased interest) a legacy element. What is there not to like?And so here it is, my first impressions of The Deck of Wonders.
In this game, the player has stolen The Deck of Wonders, a magical artifact of great power, from Fate herself. In an effort to regain her possession, she is sending all manners of villains after you.
Over the course of the game, the player will draw cards from a deck of cards both for themselves and for the automated opponent. This deck will (generally) be comprised of two sets of 28 cards. The first set will be predetermined by which villain the player is facing and the second set is comprised of cards the player will add from their own collection (at the beginning of the game, a player will have 84 cards available to them). The player can either choose which cards to add based on their preferred play style, use the recommended set for their chosen villain or “leave it up to ” Fate and randomly select the cards.
Every card has a player and a villain orientation, and the card will be rotated to the appropriate angle when drawn. The object of the game is to use the cards to defeat the chosen villain, generally by lowering their health to zero before the player’s health is reduced to zero.
The game comes with three opponents, all of which feel very different in terms of how they play, which strategy to use to defeat them and which cards they add to the deck. Overall, and without wanting to spoil content, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer variety of gameplay and card abilities present in this game.
The legacy aspect of the game is not “destructive” in nature and actually just adds more cards to the deck or changes the game in interesting ways once you accomplish an objective. In a way it feels like you are unlocking mini expansions as the story unfolds. Each “achievement” also has a narrative tie (not all of which were completed on my prototype) which kind of gives me campaign vibes. This being said, once all content is unlocked the player hasn’t “finished” the game - rather the player now has all content available to them to customize their play and experience the game to its full extent.
This copy being a prototype, it has a fair bit of placeholder art. But the illustrations that are included (from Lauren Brown) are just delightful. In all honesty I feel like photos don’t do them justice. And while the art isn’t complete, I noticed a fair bit of representation from the designs that have been unveiled,which I always appreciate.
While the majority of games felt tense and like victory was attainable even in defeat, there was the occasional game that felt unexpectedly easy or unbearably hard. This kind of swing is not unusual in a small card game, and in light of the short playtime (15-20 minutes) it’s not a big drawback. I have also noticed that the more I played against a specific villain, the better I got, which reinforces my opinion that luck, while helpful, is not generally the determining factor in a game’s outcome.
Overall The Deck of Wonders actually managed to enchant and impress me. I find myself drawn to the clever mechanics and combo potential, and it definitely provides a unique solo gaming experience. It’s also rather compulsive - I really struggle to only play one game at a time even if the game ends in victory (which is far from a guarantee in my case).
I am eager to see how the fully developed game turns out, as my prototype doesn’t include certain design elements (such as the ability to add a villain card to my collection to be able to use it against another villain or the ability to upgrade some of my favorite cards). In the meantime however, I will be happy to spend more time exploring the potential of my prototype copy.