Today’s review is for 100 Swords, a small and easy-to-play competitive deckbuilder, with a great and challenging solo mode and oodles of expansion content (and more to come according to the publishers!)
Players take turns breaking into the dungeon, pushing as deep as they dare, and using their hand of cards to defeat enemies and acquire items. You start with a deck of crappy cards, and over time refine and polish it into a sleek monster-killing engine. After the deck runs out and/or the Boss of the dungeon is beaten, the player who has the most gold in killed monsters and acquired items wins.
Gameplay is quick, and the solo variant simply pits you against a deck that automatically gets the best revealed card on the board, both making it slightly easier for you to anticipate the board state, but also making it a good challenge to keep up in gold earnings as the game goes on.
The game is fun, fast to play without feeling empty or weightless, and just chock full of charm in the items and especially the monster selections. The movement mechanic is a bit confusing at first, but after a game of playing it wrong, I finally figured out that if you play enough cards to get to the second space, you go directly to the second space without interacting with the first card (usually).
The mix of monsters and obstacles feels fair and balanced, and I’ve yet to see any issues once I incorporated the two expansions I got (Glowing Plasmapede and Chroma Dragon) into play either. One thing to note is that the base game is designed as a two-player game, and I don’t have a second base game to get the additional starting deck cards needed to support more players. In theory, the game should work fine with more, but I can’t speak to the game balance if doing so.
The mechanics are pretty straightforward: Cards can be discarded to either give you movement or strength, and strength is needed to defeat enemies and some doors/obstacles while Move dictates how far you move into the 5 arranged Dungeon cards. There’s a nice interplay of hidden information, as you don’t reveal non-Monster cards unless the card states to, so you can potentially lead the other players into dead ends or waste their time and cards. Another nice addition is that to buy cards, you need Energy, and you can discard any card for 1 Energy. It means it’s very difficult to be unable to acquire the really nifty items right away, but at the same time deeply venturing into the dungeon is difficult without discarding lots of cards and shortchanging any purchasing opportunities you might get.
All-in-all, it’s a good set of mechanics, and the difference between the expansions feels really meaty as they add a lot of fairly significant mechanics in terms of abilities and enemies you encounter. Rental items are also available, offering some really nice general-use tools to help players early on if the deck ends up hitting you with a very difficult spread of cards right away.
This is a great little game, and the solo play forms a really good solitaire experience that can actually wind up being quite challenging. I hover between a 33-50% winrate, and very rarely do I feel I get “screwed” by the deck or the unfeeling AI rules. It’s only a hundred cards or so for a base Red Dragon or Blue Mammoth deck, meaning it’s small, portable, and cheap. If you’re looking for a cheap and convenient deckbuilder game for one or two players, I very much recommend 100 Swords.