Fair warning: you might have thought I was long-winded before. But now I'm doing it on PURPOSE. If I were some big "game review website person," this would be my review; since I'm not, it's an essay. I think that Card Hunter is a good game and it should succeed in fulfilling the idea's promise. It has a classic feel; it has classic difficulty (i.e., hard); and it has complex content that's worth exploring. I emphasize those last two points here--its difficulty, of course, is directly related to its massive variety in items, cards, builds, level setups, and so on. I think both of those parts are a success, and in the end I can see a lot of strategic gamers being attracted to Card Hunter and enjoying it even more than they expected. To get there, I've thought about my own expectations, the nature of different types of games, and the experiences of beta testers. Let's start fundamental; let's start philosophical. The basic idea of "hit points" in gaming is a weird abstraction. So you've got this slider: all "attacks" get translated into how much they drop the slider. "Healing" pushes it the other way. "Combat" is defined as getting your enemy's slider to hit bottom before your own does. Logically, people who want to win at such a game learn to use this mechanic. That's how you win at anything: learn the win conditions, learn the rules, then put them together. Perfectly valid. But something like that can be abused, can't it? There are countless tales of lamentation when someone's pencil-and-paper gaming was disrupted by a "powergamer" (or whatever term you like) who filtered literally everything down to "pushing the HP slider." "Strategy? What's that? Just give me another +1 to my Sword of Killing, and stop wasting my time with 'keys' and 'secrets' and 'puzzles' and stuff! I don't want to play; I want to win!" Sometimes this isn't even a question of strategies and priorities, but rather the essential game mechanic. There are many MMORPG experiences where how you "play" is to turn on auto-attack and walk away from the computer: the enemies are "balanced" for you, so their HP slider will hit bottom before you're done with your sandwich. In the end, people can wind up "not playing a game" quite a lot. The last paragraph was the "boring" way; the one before was the "confrontational" way. I thought about how one could apply such reasoning to Card Hunter. Suppose that people who didn't want to play the game designed the gameplay: First, you'd draw Move cards to get within range of your first enemy. Then, you'd draw Attack cards until that enemy were dead. At this point, you wouldn't draw any more Move cards: that's a waste when you could draw Attack cards instead. Subsequently, you'd only draw another Move card if it turned out necessary for reaching the next enemy in line. Otherwise, you'd keep drawing Attack cards until all enemies were dead. See how incredibly efficient that is? Imagine if the "default Move" setup were reprogrammed to pander to this "push the HP slider" plan. Whew, loot! XP! Victory! Exhaustion of all content with no effort beyond clicking the first card you see! It is the epitome of "I don't want to play; I want to win!" And it's not how Card Hunter works. It's not how Magic works, either, or any other game where truly massive variability depends on randomness. The reasons why Card Hunter doesn't (and can't) conform are threefold: First, randomness itself. If you draw all your cards out of order, then your slider-pushing plan falls through. Magic players know this, Magic players gripe about this, and Magic players plan their deck for this. Card Hunter inherits the legacy. Second, the default Move setup. This is your only anchor within the randomness of card draws. And, would you look at that, your anchor isn't the slider-pusher's favorite, an Attack card. Instead, it's a card you use for positioning: this weird sort of meta-level that Magic doesn't have, where you can completely bypass an enemy's hand if you use blocking terrain to your advantage, or you can render an enemy helpless if you get to a location where you can attack the opponent but the opponent cannot attack in return, or any of a number of other specific plans. And, of course, I'm not talking about some hypothetical ideal which people ignore in practice: a slider-pusher is obliged to use movement strategy, because to fail to do so is to concede an advantage to enemies who know better. Third, the complex interleaving game mechanics, deckbuilding options, and play challenges. I cannot summarize it all in one paragraph. Just think: Running straight toward the enemy and then hoping to draw Attack cards until the enemy dies will work in the tutorial. You can even ignore the lessons about Blocks and Armor if you want and you might still win. You can keep applying this method in later levels, and, for some of them, it will work. But someday you'll find it doesn't work: you drew all your cards out of order; your enemy had better Blocks or Armor; the terrain kept you from your enemy; you didn't have counters for Encumber or Stun or Halt or Burning or discard effects or facing-dependent effects. The set enemy decks in single-player will eat you alive if you refuse to use non-Attack card strategy (utility cards, discard, matters of positioning, and so on). Related to this, though, is something interesting: your card suites are designed to enforce using those non-Attack cards (on Boots, in Divine Weapons, and so on). So, again, a slider-pusher is obliged to do this funny thing called "using strategy," because to fail to do so is to end up with "junk cards" in your hand. The cards will always be there: you must be smarter than to let them become "junk." Likewise, in multiplayer, opponents who have seen the benefit of Block-heavy strategy and discard-heavy strategy (and so on) will turn "junk" into "killing you while you stand there." The lesson is the same. In the end, one can still have Card Hunter players devoted to "win win win at all costs nothing else matters," and that's not surprising. They'll probably even achieve it. After all, if you're serious about winning, you need to learn the win conditions, learn the rules, and then put them together, regardless of how complicated they may be. My point here is that the conditions and rules of Card Hunter are GOOD and they give the game a reason to exist (to "be played," not just be beaten in a mindless slog). With bugs and unbalanced encounters ironed out, what will remain should be a deep experience where "difficulty" and "complexity" and "strategy" and "learning" all happen at the same time. I'll say that again. First remember that this game is actually fun, and the battles are quick, and the penalty for losing is almost nonexistent (dying on the last fight in a six-part adventure notwithstanding). Now, realize that this complex strategy game is designed so all the interleaving game mechanics matter to the player: the player will actually "play the game" instead of asking where the auto-attack button is. It won't be for everyone, because not everyone likes the same sort of strategy game; but I'd say Card Hunter is fulfilling its promise.