Card City Nights is exactly what I never knew I wanted: Pokemon crossed with Triple Triad from Final Fantasy VIII, wrapped up in a cute, hand-drawn visual style. You start out as the new kid in town, taking part in card battles until you get the eight legendary cards and challenge the Card King for a huge cash prize.
There are a ton of cards to collect, you can maintain six decks at any given time and — best of all — there are no in-game purchases. If you want booster packs, and you do, you’ll be winning them in battles or buying them with in-game currency. The writing is funny as well, and if you’ve played any other titles from Ludosity, you’ll recognize characters and cards.
All of those trimmings are nice, but what makes Card City Nights a good game is that the card game it runs on is fun to play. It’s not as complex as something like Magic: The Gathering, and that’s a good thing, because it means that you can make story progress in a few minutes instead of taking the better part of an hour to play a single match. The quick pace makes failure sting less as well.
Each player has a mat with nine spaces on it, and each card has arrows and icons. Icons are yellow circles (no effect), blue shields (defense), green plus signs (restore) and red swords (offense). Create chains of cards with three symbols and connecting arrows to either bolster your defense or attack your opponent’s health or one of his cards. If your chain is more shields than anything else, you get health back. More swords mean you can take health from your opponent or disable a card, and more plus symbols mean you can restore a disabled card. Some cards have more than one symbol on them, meaning that you could create a viable chain with only two cards, and other cards have special effects such as “grant one defense upon play” or “rotate at the start of turn.”
Having to keep track of position and ability to create chains make for strategic considerations beyond “how much damage can I do?,” making deck-building a fun and engaging activity. In addition to running down your opponent’s health, there are two other ways to win. Using attacks to disable your opponent’s cards makes it more likely that his board will fill up and cause him to lose. You can also run his deck down and cause the opponent to take fatigue damage.
What holds Card City Nights back is that it was obviously designed mobile-first. In most areas this isn’t a big deal. In the deck-building interface, though, it’s painfully obvious that everything was designed to be done with only one finger. I want to be able to look at every card I have, select the ones that I want and click “create deck”. Instead, all I can do is copy a current deck and then edit it by taking cards out one at a time and then adding different cards one at a time. It makes me want to maintain just one all-purpose deck instead of creating specialized ones, as it’s a huge pain to create and maintain them.
Other than deck-building woes, Card City Nights is great fun, and unlike many other mobile games, I like playing it on the PC. It feels substantial; I just wish I were playing a version designed with the PC in mind instead of a version designed for a phone screen.
Pros: Card-battling mechanics are fun and interesting, collecting the eight rare cards is a great motivator
Cons: Creating and maintaining decks is tedious and suffers from mobile-first design