Sweet Simplicity — Playing Card Wars IRL

Reading Time: 3 minutes

card wars finn jake

When I reviewed Card Wars, the latest iOS game to spring to wonderful life from the delightfully demented world of Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, some of you seemed equally interested in hearing my take on the real-world equivalent. This was, of course, all the prodding I needed to beg Cryptozoic Entertainment for a copy of their already hard-to-find Finn vs. Jake Collector’s Pack.

So, y’know, thanks for that that!

This physical version plays slightly different than its digital cousin. In the absence of a leveling system, values like players’ hit points and Action points are static: 25 and two, respectively. Similarly, this starter pack lacks a few of the more whimsical cards “captured” through gameplay in the virtual world like the famed Strawberry Butt. Still, with two full decks, eight landscape cards and ample damage counters included in the box – not to mention a transparent red plastic piece that can be used to uncover an exclusive card code for the iOS iteration (a la the classic Transformers Tech Specs) – there’s more than enough fun to be found inside.

While a little knowledge of the iOS game may help you quickly grasp the flow of Card Wars, it’s by no means a prerequisite. This trading card game is beautifully simple, and that makes it a nice choice for family gaming. To begin you simply choose your deck – Jake’s cards are themed for Cornfield environments, while Finn’s Pig and Cool Dog reside in the Blue Plains – position your Landscapes opposite those of your opponent and draw a five-card hand.

The turn sequence begins as a player draws a fresh card, uses his two Actions to play creatures, buildings or spells (each card has its Action cost clearly displayed) and chooses whether or not to Floop active cards. For those not in the know, this is a function that adds helpful buffs but prevents the creature(s) in question from attacking in the turn’s final phase. It’s easily Card Wars‘ attack mechanic that I like best.

As the object of the game is to directly exhaust an opponent’s HP, eliminating enemy creatures from adjacent lanes while preserving your own to soak up dealt damage is key. And while Flooped characters can’t attack on your turn, they can still retaliate during your enemy’s attack phase. This leads to some interesting tactics as you weigh the potential attack damage of a creature against the effects or its Flooped state.

There are a few additional rules, like the ability to cash in unused Actions to draw more cards, but if you can grok the simple flow of prepare -> attack -> reset you can be an effective Card Warrior. It’s Card Wars’ nicely streamlined gameplay that easily appeals to geeks of all ages, and, as the key to winning includes things like simple math, reading comprehension and creative reasoning, it’s not a stretch to say any given round is full of teachable moments for those who choose to play with their younger brood.

In the end the triumph of the Cool Guy (the winner) and the shame of the Dweeb (the loser) are the only motivations required to make Card Wars a compelling experience, and the ability to adjust a deck to your own play style adds another fine dimension. In fact, my only complaint is that Cryptozoic can’t seem to churn out product fast enough to satisfy the rabid Adventure Time fanbase. In addition to this Finn vs. Jake Collector’s Pack, there’s also a BMO vs. Lady Rainicorn set available, but, sadly, the For the Glory! booster packs won’t be available until later this month. In the meantime players will simply have to be content mining the fun and utter lunacy of these core decks, and thankfully there’s plenty of both to be found.

Review material provided by: Cryptozoic Entertainment

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