Card Hunter was not even on my radar a few weeks ago, and until a friend pointed it out to me, I had never heard of it. I missed the online beta, but it it up right when it released to the public, but I admit I was skeptical going into things. Web browser games have a somewhat iffy track record. Free-to-play often does not fare much better. Still, the game was described as a strategic collectible card game, and I am a bit of a sucker for both those genres.
What I found surprised me, as Card Hunter proves to be a mix of several genres and could very well turn into the video game version of comfort food for me.
Card Hunter has about as generic a name as you can imagine, but the way it plays feels distinctive because it draws from card games, board games, strategy titles and Dungeons & Dragons. Not too shabby for something that just runs in a browser and stores your data in the cloud.
Things kick off with a coffee table and a fairly ordinary blue covered book that looks like it would have fit in nicely with my Dungeon Master kits back in college and high school. For added effect, there are cheese puffs off to the right. Once you fire it up, the game ushers you into a tutorial that is meant to feel like playing a high level gaming module with someone else's characters. You are immediately presented with the usual trio of warrior, healer and mage and go about getting directed in how to play Card Hunter.
The card portion comes in your moves. When you are using a character, you have a hand of cards. You might have a spell, or an attack or a movement card at your disposal (among many others). The type of weapons you wield can help dictate the types of cards you get (for example the staff a mage uses might have a handful of spells associated with it, meaning you might draw those cards during gameplay).
The pieces move around on a board that has several important elements to it as well. Some boards are pretty straightforward, with minimal paths or obstacles, but others can be much more confining. This is important when you are trying to cast spells and need to manage line of sight and area of impact. There can be hazards on the ground as well, such as acidic puddles that damage you. The level of strategy is actually quite impressive as you have to manage all of the above items as well as other more nuanced circumstances such as which direction your opponent is facing - because if they have a block card it will affect that also.
Once you get through the tutorial, you can set off on your adventures in earnest. This starts with a handful of quests - initially found at a tavern of course. You slowly add to your party, creating characters that get introduced slowly to make sure you fully grasp how to use them properly. It would have been nice to have greater control over the characters in your party. You get one of each class type (hopefully more classes get introduced later? They're balanced, but variety would be good), and you name them, but essentially they look like predetermined cutouts - you cannot customize their appearance at all.
Another small gripe is the game seems more popular than the servers were ready for. Sometimes I can hop right in, but usually there is about a five minute wait. I have had wait times of over thirty minutes before as well.
This seems like the type of game that would be easy to pass on simply because of the generic name, the browser format and the fact that it is free-to-play, but I would argue that those last two items mean you have no excuse not to at least give Card Hunter a try and see for yourself why I am going to score it an 8 out of 10.