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Stacklands is a gentle village-building game played with cards

A lovely few hours for only £4

I've enjoyed building a house of card in Stacklands, and farms of cards, and lumberyards of cards, and... it's a new manage-o-strategy game where every building, resource, and unit is a card on a table. It's a cute conceit and fun, especially because it treats the virtual tabletop as a physical space. Your own farm animal cards will unhelpfully jostle your setup as they roam, for example, and invading monster cards will chase your villager cards across the tabletop. It's all very pleasant, a little adventure to figure out how it all works then reach the end.

Made by Dutch indie collective Sokpop, Stacklands is a bit Cultist Simulator and a bit Banished—but cheery. You're building a village in familiar real-time strat-o-management ways, starting from humble beginnings with a single person foraging berries and punching trees, then eventually building, crafting, growing, and breeding to create a thriving little settlement, trying to keep ahead of starvation and deadly fauna. And everything is cards.

Drag your villager onto a berry bush and they'll slowly harvest berries until the bush is exhausted and vanishes. Likewise, drag them onto stone or a tree and they'll do the usual. You'll soon exhaust your starting resources, but you can sell cards for gold to buy packs of new cards. Maybe you'll get some soil you can stack a berry on to grow a new bush card. Maybe you'll get a resource you haven't seen before, a new card which can be stacked with other cards to new ends. Building things and completing tasks will gradually unlock new types of card packs, expanding the tech tree with more complicated recipes and new resources while also introducing new systems like expeditions and enemies.

While some card combos are obvious, and you certainly can brute force many with guesses, Stacklands will help you out. Each type of pack can contain an Idea card, revealing and permanently unlocking a recipe you can refer to, on this and future runs. That's nice.

A messy village of cards in a Stacklands screenshot.
So much for my tidy village. And this is after I cleaned up a load of poo.

I also like that Stacklands also treats cards and the tabletop as physical things. My farmyard animals hop about my board, disrupting my tidy arrangement while depositing eggs, milk, and manure for me to find later. One upgrade that's unnecessary but invaluable to me is building a Coin Chest to store all my Coin cards in a single card, rather than have my swelling coffers sprawl across the table. Though maybe a big mess of cards is useful to delay marauding goblins and beasties as they pursue my vilagers.

It does have an ending to work towards, which I also appreciate in building games. And it offers options to lengthen or shorten months, changing how often your villagers need to eat, as well as letting you build away in an entirely peaceful mode.

You can get Stacklands through Steam and Itch.io for £4/€4/$5, available for Windows and Mac.

Stacklands is born of Sokpop's Patreon, where for $3 each month the collective offer a brand new game (and a wee bonus game). Normally they release a game then move on to the next, but designer Aran Koning says that "because Stacklands was so well received, we're gonna start working on content updates!"

Sokpop are planning to release several updates across mid-May to the end of June, each adding 50-100 cards. Koning says they "already have some very exciting ideas for new content that will both alter the current game, and add new stuff on top of it!"

Sokpop members are behind plenty of games we've enjoyed across the years, including Digital Bird Playground, Bernband, Brume, and King Pins. I'm very glad to pay $3 a month for their Patreon and find something new and interesting drop into my inbox every few weeks.

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