Card battler games where you craft perfect decks and then use them to attack and defend against opponents are becoming a lot more common. Titles like Dwarven Skykeep and Mahokenshi are perfect examples of recent releases that rely heavily on a card and deckbuilding mechanic, and which are very popular right now.
For the most part, deckbuilding games, whether pure deck versus deck titles like the classic Magic: The Gathering, Gwent, or other titles where cards are used to enhance the gameplay, all rely on their own systems that a player must learn before going to battle. While not a bad thing, this does tend to put up a bit of a barrier to entry for new players who may not be interested or willing to learn an entirely new system for a game they may not enjoy, especially if they have never attempted deckbuilding titles before.
The newly released Aces & Adventures by developer Triple.B.Titles somewhat gets around this learning curve by relying on traditional poker cards from a 52-card deck to craft attack and defense hands.
So, a pair of aces will beat a pair of kings and three sevens trumps three sixes. Anyone who has even the slightest knowledge about how to play traditional cards will figure out the main mechanic right away. But this being a fantasy world, there are also special ability cards in the form of spells and other actions which can be taken by spending cards. The special cards are also very easy to learn how to use. For example, a healing card might state that for every heart card played during an attack, a player can heal up their main character by a single point. Or, you might be able to do extra damage in combat each time you play a spade or a club. Other special cards might grant one-time actions without having to spend cards, such as drawing up new cards for your hand.
To make things even easier to play, Aces & Adventures is presented in a series of stories or scenarios with the game’s overall difficulty slowly ramping up over time. While not exactly a tutorial, the way that the title slowly introduces new concepts, powerful spells and even new characters to play effectively flattens the learning curve quite a bit.
There are 13 scenarios in Aces & Adventures, and they combine to tell an interesting story that encourages players to keep going and experience more of the story. Each scenario can be played in about an hour the first time as players go slowly and experience everything it has to offer in terms of the balance between story and combat. Later on, repeat runs can be blazed through much faster, and the game encourages these speed runs by assigning a letter grade and the awarding of extra experience for speedier runs.
Aces & Adventures also has a surprisingly good presentation that makes it fun to play and experience overall. This includes fully voiced adventures where a narrator describes the situation to a player as they travel through this fantasy world. The narrator also does a wonderful job of setting up each battle, ramping up the tension at just the right moments. It’s rare to find an inexpensive game (under $20 on Steam currently) fully voiced. And it’s even more rare for said game to have good voice narration that perfectly captures the mood of the adventure. Overall, the graphics and sound effects for Aces & Adventures are extremely well done, and easily on par with much more higher budget titles.
In addition to the 13 scenarios, there are also five different characters to unlock. Each character has access to different core abilities and unlockable traits as they level up. The different characters reflect slightly different play styles which can contribute to even more personalization. For example, the warrior has a lot of abilities that add defensive gear and equipment for added endurance in longer fights, while the rogue is more about offensive power and ending fights quickly before opponents can even effectively strike back. Further customization is possible because you can also build out your own deck between adventures using any cards and abilities that have been unlocked, a handy feature that is critical for any serious deckbuilding game.
Combat is well balanced in Aces & Adventures. The system is easy to learn, but deep enough that it will probably take most players several runs to properly master. I found that I learned new techniques and effective tactics almost every time I played or replayed one of the adventures.
There are, however, a few odd quirks that are not game-breaking, but which kind of defy the logic of normal poker playing, which is the basis for all combat in Aces & Adventures. For example, if an enemy attacks with a single card, then you have to defend with a single card to avoid taking damage. So, if an opponent attacks with a single ace, then you pretty much need to have an ace in your hand to block it. Even if you have, say, a pair of threes, which would beat the ace in poker, you can’t play them because you have to respond with the same number of cards you are attacked with. That makes high single cars more powerful than normal, because they force a response using a single card whenever used alone.
Also, you simply can’t ever play two pairs as an attack, which Aces & Adventures says was eliminated from the game for balance purposes. Really, after playing for a while, I think allowing two pairs to be used would make things more balanced, but at least both sides have to play by the same rules. There may be a few quirks, but once you know them, it’s possible to use that to your advantage too.
Aces & Adventures is a refreshing surprise find on Steam. It has an extremely beautiful presentation, full voice work, a unique fantasy world to encounter and a solid deckbuilding battle mechanic. It’s also easy to quickly pick up and play and not too expensive, which makes it a great choice for those who want to try out a deckbuilding type of game for the first time.
Aces & Adventures is worth sitting down and playing quite a few hands with. It easily earns 4.5 GiN Gems out of 5.
Platforms: PC, Steam