Penny Arcade: The Game: Gamers vs. Evil is a digital version of the physical Deck-Building Game which is inspired by the previously mentioned Webcomic – Penny Arcade.
Everyone still following along?
For those not familiar, a Deck-Building Game is a game that plays in some ways similar to Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon or any variety of Trading Card Games (TCGs), but instead of bringing your own deck to the game, each player builds their deck as they play from a common pool of cards. This creates a level playing field compared to many TCGs where you have to buy cards and invest a significant amount of time strategizing to remain competitive. Both have their merits, but offer a similar experience in gameplay.
Penny Arcade is based on the initial release of the physical Deck-Building Game: Penny Arcade: Gamers Vs. Evil, which can be found at your local gaming store for around $45. Out of all the Deck-Building Games I have played, this one gets pulled out the most when friends come over. It is very humorous and has quite a bit more player interaction than games like Dominion or Ascension (two very well-done games that share some similar deck-building mechanics)
Each player starts by choosing a characters that has abilities that will affect how you play the game. Players are then given their starting deck stated on their character card, they draw their 6 cards and the action begins!
The object of the game is to have the most points at the end of the game. Points are found in the lower corner of all red cards, and all “boss loot” cards.
There are two types of currency in the game: Tokens which are used to gain Green cards, and Power which are used to gain red cards. When you gain a card from one of the stacks, it goes into your discard pile which is shuffled to form a new deck when you need to draw and your deck is empty.
Turns are spent playing cards from your hand and then use the power and tokens given to you to purchase more cards. Rinse and repeat.
Eventually you will have enough tokens or power to defeat one of the two “boss” cards. Each boss starts at 8 tokens or power. However, after being defeated 3 times, they become more powerful and go up to 10, and then finally 13. When the 13 cost boss is purchased or six piles of the regular red/green cards have been depleted, the game instantly ends. Players then count up their points and find out who is victorious.
The iOS game uses the exact same cards and rules from the physical game, and doesn’t skimp on the presentation. The game is very playable on both the iPad and iPhone, even though there is a ton of information on the table at all times.
Cards can be tapped to zoom in and play/be purchased, or you can simply slide the card to where you want it to go and the game understands what your intentions are. This helps immensely in keeping a natural flow to the gameplay.
Board and card games live and die by their multiplayer offerings and while you can decide how hard you want the AI to be, there is no comparison to playing a real person. Thankfully Penny Arcade offers all the ways to play you were hoping for, unless you wanted to have the ability to play against penguins in the antarctic….in that case you are out of luck.
If you want to play real people however, the game supports the following modes of multiplayer play:
- Offline Pass and Play
Just as the name suggests, up to 4 local players can pass the device to the appropriate player when it is their turn or time for that player to take an action. This works really well once you know the game, but is not advised for beginners since it can get a bit confusing.
- Asynchronous Online Multiplayer
This is the one most people will use most often. It plays similarly to play-by-turn chess. The active player takes their turn, then the next player is notified via Game Center, and so on. Most games end up taking a few days to play out, but it allows people with busy schedules that cannot get online at the same time to get some games in.
- Simultaneous Online Multiplayer
This mode is great for when you are scheduling a specific time to play, and everyone is at their device at the same time. I’ve used this a few times while hanging out with friends locally for quick games when we didn’t have the physical game with us.
On its own merits the game is a ridiculous amount of fun to play and for the price you can’t go wrong. $5 for a digital version of the game that is usually $45 in stores.
Don’t get me wrong, there is room for both in you collection. In fact, whenever we play the physical game my friends and I love to pick out the cards we will use for each game, rather than deciding randomly. (Random is the only option in the iOS game beyond the pre-set new player selection of cards)
The game works without a hitch, cards do exactly what they are supposed to and setting up games through Game Center is easy as can be. This is exactly how mobile board and card gaming should be done. Playdek knows how to do these types of games justice.
Some retailers have panicked at the idea of digital versions of physical games, that they would cannibalize sales, but I see it differently, this game can only encourage people to pick up the more expensive physical game. I would rather pay $5 to try the game digitally and then dive into the full physical card game experience later, than spend $45 and realize Penny Arcade was not for me.
Thankfully it is very much for me.
Do yourself a favor and grab this game if you are a fan of card games, board games, or Penny Arcade. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Well….maybe if Playdek puts the “Rumble for R’lyeh” expansion in the game eventually…then it would be much better. *Hint hint*