Another day, another free-to-play collectable card game, but Kards does well to set itself apart from the Hearthstone and Magic-inspired pack. Developed by 1939 Games, this one fully commits to its World War 2 setting, with faded cards bearing authentic propaganda poster art and a soundtrack featuring old jazz played through a gramophone. While the goal is familiar enough - bring the enemy HQ down to zero health - players are constantly fighting over the front-line, a central row that only one player can inhabit at a time. Below, some extended thoughts from my first couple games against AI.
War is expensive. This is a given, but Kards makes you weigh up the cost of every action. Playing a card costs money (refilling and expanding each turn, much like in Hearthstone), as does moving it to the front-line or ordering it to attack. A heavy tank may cost five 'Kredits' to play, but another two to get into position and two more to actually fire once. Holding the front-line is vital, though, as the board is only five cards wide, and your HQ counts as one. If you want more than four units on the board, you need to push forward to make space. Artillery and planes can intuitively attack from the back row.
There's five nations to play as - Britain, America, Germany, Russia and Japan. Once the tutorial is over, you pick your first starter nation deck, and are tasked with defeating the other four before any PvP. 1939 say the current version of the game is mostly complete, with over 90% of the initial cards already in, along with most multiplayer functionality. They're not going to be spending long in early access, but plan to have a draft mode and shiny 'gold' cards implemented by launch. This mostly seems like an open beta test, focused on tweaking and tuning balance. Between its refreshing aesthetic and intuitive but different systems, I'm hoping this one finds its niche.