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‘Cabals: The Card Game’ Review – Urban Fantasy Card Game with Victorian Influences? Yes, Please!

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Hello. My name is Cassandra and I have a problem. I’m a recovering trading card game-holic. I used to play them obsessively – just ask my wallet. But I’ve been getting better. I’ve been clean for a while but I have doubts that it is going to last. There’s a new game in town and it’s smart, sexy and exotic. Meet Cabals: The Card Game [Free], ladies and gentlemen, and kiss your productivity good-bye.

Developed by Finnish Kyy Games, Cabals has all the necessary hallmarks of the genre: exceptional artwork, warring factions, creatures to summon, resources to manage, booster packs – you name it, they’ve got it.

The world of Cabals: The Card Game is a familiar one. It’s our own, after all. The key players here are the Cabals, secret societies comprised of witches and steam punk magicians, of Russians and alchemists and faerie pigs. As is often the case with anything eldritch in nature, these Cabals don’t get along too well. This, obviously enough, is where you come in. You’re one of the vanguards and you will fight for the glory of your faction. Or something like that.

One thing I really liked about Kyy Games’ new title is the exceedingly robust cross-platform online gameplay that it provides. I know, I know. This isn’t anything new, per se. We’ve had cross-platform games for ages. But bear with me. Most games have limitations. With Cabals, things are a little different. Not only will you be able to take on players on the iOS platform, you’ll also be able to challenge everyone from Mac Users to Android-wielding associates. In short, if it runs Unity, it will run Cabals and it will run it beautifully. (Facebook and Windows 7 versions are apparently in the works too.)

So, we’ve got kick-ass online services and a delightful urban-fantasy setting checked. What else has Kyy Games brought to the table? A lot, I would say. Cabals: The Card Game is a somewhat nontraditional take on the idea. More a TCG/board game hybrid than anything else, Cabals will not have you safely seated on your side of the metaphorical table as you work on whittling your opponent’s health down to zero. No, sir. Things are much different here.

In Cabals, you’re going to have to either storm the Stronghold (it’s usually the tile furthest away from your own and marked with a little castle-like symbol) or acquire 60 Domination points (this usually entails conquering approximately sixty tiles) in order to win. Your choice. Just be forewarned – it’s not as easy as it sounds. Units can only be brought into play through your Stronghold or a ‘deployment location’ that you control. Does that mean you should rush towards those hot spots? Not really. It depends on your playstyle. Can you afford risking the possibility of being flanked? Can you control your opponent’s wanton expansion in the mean time? What about your Stronghold? Do you worry about it or do you charge for the other guy’s Stronghold first?

But before you get into all of that, you had better damn well make sure you have enough resources at your disposal first. Do you finance spells or units? Do you go for quality or quantity? And if that wasn’t enough to worry about, you’re also going to have to take positioning into account as it is far too easy to maneuver yourself into a corner should you be careless.

As for the rest of it, it’s all pretty straightforward. Movement is accomplished by dragging and dropping a unit onto an adjacent square. Combat is performed when two units are within range (and by dragging and dropping one onto another). Damage is determined by the power that a unit has and occasionally by certain special attributes. Spells work pretty much the same way as units – their individual effects can be found on the cards themselves.

Sometimes, a laborious dance worthy of the grandmasters of chess and sometimes, a mad rush for control, Cabals is easy to grasp and surprisingly deep for something that can, at times, feel like a distilled version of the genre. It currently operates on a freemium model so you’re going to have to spend some real world cash to purchase more cards. Fortunately, you won’t get assaulted by constant demands to spend money so that’s always a plus. As an added bonus, the amount of influence points (which is their name for in-game currency) that you receive when you register yourself is actually fairly hefty so chances are, if you’re going to make this a casual experience, you’ll probably never find yourself reaching for your wallet.

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