Oh. My. Glob. What in the math is going on? A card game? Based on an episode of Adventure Time? Well, punch my buns! Yes, Card Wars has been out for a little while. But you know what hasn’t? The FIONNA vs CAKE Collector’s Edition. Yeah, that’s right. Your favourite gender-swapped adventuring duo are ready to Floop The Pig. Oh, you don’t know what that means? What are you, wack with poo brain? Don’t worry your buns, dude. Join me in the Land of Ooo and you’ll be the freshest mint whistle in the kingdom. Mathematical!
Adventure Time Card Wars: Fionna vs Cake is a colourful card fighting game for two players. It can be a stand-alone game, or mixed in with other character’s collector packs. It’s published by Cryptozoic and designed by Richard Brady and Cory Jones.
How it plays
So Card Wars kind of smooshes together aspects of traditional trading card games like Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh into one streamlined lane-based battle-fest.
The idea of the game is to do damage to, and eventually knock out, the opposing player. You’ll be playing creatures, buildings and spells in order to chain some awesome combos and knock those hit points from 25 to 0. The battle area is split into four lanes. Cards only battle cards in their own lane, unless you’re told otherwise. Each lane contains two landscape tiles, one of yours and one of your opponent’s.
To set up the game, begin by choosing your character- Fionna the human or Cake the cat. Each comes with their own set of four Landscape tiles and a deck of cards containing creatures, buildings and spells. Creatures can be played onto a landscape tile, they will generally have an attack and defense value, and most will have a floop ability, this can be used by that creature instead of attacking that round. Building cards can be played below one of your own landscape tiles and will have an effect on that lane of play, either beneficial to you or detrimental to your opponent. Spell cards can be played for an immediate effect, usually a buff to one of your creatures or a form of attack against your opponent.
The landscape tiles are lined up opposite your opponent’s to make up the four lanes of play and then a start player is chosen. The rulebook states that the ‘coolest gal’ goes first (which is me every time, OBVIOUSLY). Whoever goes first may only play down cards on their first turn, they are prohibited from flooping or fighting.
On your first turn you will shuffle your deck and draw 5 cards to form your hand, if these are not to your liking then you are allowed a mulligan through reshuffling the entire deck and drawing another 5 cards. This is a very important feature in a card game that relies heavily on combos. On future turns you will only draw one card at the beginning of your turn, unless a card power tells you otherwise (they like to do that).
After doing this you then have 2 action points to spend, either on drawing more cards, or playing spell, creature or building cards and paying their allotted action point cost. You will also get a chance to use the floop abilities, if you have any available, after which any creatures who have not been flooped will attack.
Attacking is very simple, the player whose turn it is goes first and chooses which order to resolve the attacks, if the opponents lane has a creature on it then both creatures attack each other and resolve the damage simultaneously. If there is no creature blocking the opponent’s lane, then any damage done is dealt directly to the opposing player. Each player starts with 25 health, and the first to 0 loses.
On top of all that, you’ve also got character powers, which give you bonuses on your turn. Fionna’s power gives all of her rainbow creatures +1 attack, while Cake’s power lets you heal a creature when a building goes into play. This may dramatically affect how you play the game (or it may not. That’s up to you. I’m not your mother.)
All aboard the knuckle train to Fist Planet!
You may or may not have gathered from the previous words that have come out of my fingers, but I’m an Adventure Time fan. One of my favourite necklaces is Finn’s Golden Sword Of Battle. I have a Lumpy Space Princess plush watching, and judging, me as I type. I rewatched around 12 episodes in one session to get myself in an appropriately Adventure Timey mood to write this here piece.
So it’s safe to assume from the above that I thoroughly love the theme. Not only is the cartoon beautifully illustrated on the cards and in the components, it does something a little special. It’s satirical in a way which appeals to wee little school children and adults alike. It’s silly and outlandish, all the time taking jolly prods at fantasy tropes, and using wonderfully simplistic wordplay. It’s like Munchkin before Munchkin stopped being like Munchkin. Most obvious is ‘flooping’, which is a jive on Magic: The Gathering’s ‘tap’ mechanic. But just look at this card below! Look at it! Log Rhythm? How many children would read that and be like “Oh I get that, it’s a mathematics thing, right?” Well maybe one super genius 7 year old who is already enrolled in Yale, but mainly none. A lot of the time ‘accessible’ and ‘family’ actually mean ‘for kids’ or ‘very little strategy’. That’s not what those words mean in this context. I think this theme has enough humour (along with the gorgeous style) that it works across the gaming spectrum, assuming you’re not cartoon-averse.
I have some mixed feeling about the game’s components. The cards are crazy beautiful, but they’re not thick. There are cute little damage markers, but having the numbers 1 and 3 on opposite sides makes them a little fiddly. Then there the most troubling part… the box. Now, I care very much about appropriately sized boxes. Card Wars’ box is the most appropriately sized box I’ve ever seen. When I unpacked it, I was so impressed with how much stuff was packed in, I even took a picture like I was instagramming a swanky meal. But man, this box is basically made of toilet paper. It claims to be a collector’s pack but this box was not designed to survive. It’s a tuck box with a similar rigidity to that you would see on a pack of cards. It does include a code for a free episode of the show though, which is brilliant if you don’t have Hulu (boooo, regional limitations!).
The game itself is is quite simple rules-wise. The box says ages 10+ but I don’t think you’d have much trouble teaching this to a savvy eight year old. The turn order is clear and, for the most part, the card effects are easy to follow. You can teach this game quickly but there’s enough depth to the combos that you can get some wonderful chain reactions going. Take one card at the beginning of the turn? Sure. Unless you’ve perfectly played your hand, and as a result drawn another three and then play something else for free. Games start off slow but turns get increasingly varied as the creatures and buildings in play affect newly laid cards, which in turn set you up for game-winning combos. Sometimes it has that feeling that Dominion gives- if you draw and play cards in the right order, you can get a whole lot done with what starts out as a couple of actions. Of course it doesn’t have the depth of some of the more serious PvP card games but that’s not always essential. The game never forgets to be fun, and at the end of the day isn’t that more important?
While it’s good enough as a standalone game, Card Wars is a Living Card Game (LCG) at heart. There are multiple collectors packs to buy and cards can be mixed in from any of the other decks, providing you have the terrain types to support them. One of the great joys of LCGs and CCGs is the excitement of deck building and this game is no exception.
The only real complaints about the game, outside of my component moanings, is that it won’t stack up to other popular card fighting games. But this is a gateway game in the most literal sense. It’s a great introductory experience for learning more complex living and collectable card games. One concern that players had in previous sets of the game was that there were balancing issues between cards, which doesn’t feel like a problem with Fionna and Cake’s decks.
This game is wonderful magic and I won’t be convinced otherwise. It’s never going to set the world on fire but it’s solid, it’s got a cheap price point, and it has a card called Fiddling Ferret. Glorious.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Esdevium Games for providing a review copy of Adventure Time: Card Wars: Cake vs Fionna.