The magic of card games transcends all cliques. Middle school would not have been complete without the daily playful ribbing given to me by the jocks, preppies, skaters and faculty members after an intense round of Magic: The Gathering on the cafeteria tables and eventually on the floor of the bathroom, where I would collect my belongings and thank my best buds for putting me in the trash can, which is where I liked to hang out. Now that I’m older, tabletop card games have seemingly become a thing of the past, but maybe that will change since a few new challengers have entered the ring.
While Magic: The Gathering is still going strong, played by a new generation of social outcasts, an entire genre of card games with role-playing aspects has sprung up around it. Recently, the ever-popular World of Warcraft expanded its fantasy universe by launching an online card game for those of us who may have grown weary of picking herbs for hours on end.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a fast-paced card battle game pitting you against another player or your PC in a trial of wits. Players summon creatures and cast spells via the luck of the draw. Think poker but with higher stakes. You’re playing for the fate of Azeroth, after all.
Players generally start with three to four cards and summon them as need be using “mana crystals” that are generated every turn. What makes Hearthstone unique is the inclusion of classes, similar to the way the parent game WoW is played. Characters range from paladin to mage, and each has its own benefits. (The ability to cast a shield or heal a creature, for instance,).
Did I mention that this is a PC game? So there’s no need to purchase decks or booster cards (though I imagine it may be possible in the near future). This also gives the game the ability to look cool and have moving parts as opposed to waiting for your buddy to return with the Doritos.
If you are questioning the intense popularity of tabletop board games as of late, look no further for evidence than Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. In the episode “Card Wars,” the pivotal characters Jake and Fynn duel against each other in the fantasy card game of the same name. Since its airing, fans have longed for a real-life adaptation and now they have it.
Card Wars is an easy-to-learn adventure that also shows quite a bit of depth. Players construct decks based around creatures, spells and buildings and do battle against characters from the show. In the aforementioned episode Fynn enrages Jake by using a pig (just a pig, not magical in any way) to eat Jake’s corn fields, which supply power to his Husker Knights. In order to activate a card, you must “floop” or turn it sideways. This is a reference to “tapping,” which is how Magic: The Gathering works.
So when you floop the pig, you activate it and it begins to eat corn or do whatever it is pigs do, eventually whittling down your enemies’ health.
Card Wars is available currently for the iOS and soon for the Android, meaning that once again this is a card game with no cards, perhaps the wave of the future. After all, as a near-30-year-old man, my backpack no longer has room for binders full of cards. Now I carry adult things like my Nintendo DS and asthma inhaler and keep my collectibles in the closet (for display when the parents are visiting).
• Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is free to play and available for the PC.
• Card Wars is available for the iPhone and iPad for $3.99.
Chris O’Neal floops the pig. Follow him on Twitter @agentoneal.