Dark Souls The Card Game Review (Steamforged Games)

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Straightforward and streamlined, our Dark Souls the Card Game review found a concise deck building experience that goes well alongside the more complicated Dark Souls board game. Playing up to four people and taking about an hour and a half to finish, the Dark Souls card game walks you through a number of challenging fights as you progress your characters and work towards the two end bosses. With a fairly intuitive setup, multiple characters, and multiple bosses, it plays a lot like a more accessible version of the earlier released miniature game.

Game Details

Players: 1 to 4

Game Time: 90 Minutes

Age: 12+

Genre: Deck Building / Cooperative

How is Dark Souls the Card Game Played?

Dark Souls the Card Game is well-themed and attractive.

Setup is going to be familiar to those who have played the challenging video game franchise, as you'll first select your character's build. Available characters include the knight, the herald, the assassin, and the sorcerer. All characters have a deck, which includes both equipment and the stamina points that are required to use them. There are four different types of stamina available in the game. As you progress through the game, you'll gain souls, which are used to purchase new cards.

Your cards are also your hit points. Cycle through your deck completely and you have died. Dark Souls calls itself a "deck evolution" game, but it's very much a classic deck builder.

A map lists level 1, 2, and 3 encounters. Flip over a card and enemies are revealed on your game board. Enemies will attack with a certain amount of power, which you use equipment in your hand (six drawn cards) to defend against. You will then be able to attack yourself.

Most items of equipment have a "quick action" that you can take and keep the card in your hand; otherwise you can do a different action and discard it. You play cards by declaring the action, putting the necessary stamina into your discard pile, and then drawing the equipment card back (unless you have chosen to discard it). Each character also has special abilities, such as the ability to defend once per rest, and the ability to bring cards back into your deck.

Once you have leveled enough and gotten enough cards, you can choose to fight the boss.

How Does Dark Souls the Card Game Look?

Cards in the box were bent but not too significantly.

It's no secret that one of the major appeals of the Dark Souls franchise is its art and aesthetic. The Dark Souls card game is no exception. Heavy on art and theme, the entire game looks fantastic. As a game, everything is extremely intuitive. Not only does everything fit neatly into a mid-sized box, but setting up is fast and easy. Cards are clearly defined and the actions and iconography are explained on a few player rules cards.

This is really important. Icons are essential for practically any game, but game makers have a tendency to forget that they are familiar with their icons... and that their players are not. In games like Nefarious, players end up repeatedly consulting the manual to try to figure out what icons mean, and they can hardly be said to be short cuts at that point. In the Dark Souls card game, everything is an easy reference away.

There was some weirdness with the cards. Specifically, the deck came bent, which is just strange on a number of levels. This made the cards a little more difficult to shuffle and while it wasn't overly detrimental, it was just bizarre.

What's in the Box?
400 cards, including: starting deck cards, equipment cards, stamina cards, enemy cards, and boss cards * player board * encounter board * enemy board * 60 tokens * 1 rule book

How Does Dark Souls the Card Game Feel?

The Dark Souls Card Game Review: Setup looks challenging, but actually takes about ten minutes.

Though we got down to the wire a couple of times in the two player game, the card game was actually not that hard. It wa of moderate difficulty when played by two people who are fairly knowledgeable about deck builders; it wasn't a crushingly difficult game, the way the video game series has a reputation for being. In fact, it's probably a fairly accessible game, even to those who haven't heard of the series or played a deck builder before.

And that's probably very intentional, as Dark Souls the Card Game is probably being marketed both to video gamers who have never played board games (let alone a "deck evolution" game) and board gamers who haven't heard of the series. Dark Souls the Card Game isn't going to be an exercise in crushing futility, for those who are looking for that kind of experience.

It also never felt like we could coast through it, however; we had to be strategic about our actions. It's very easy to start cycling through your deck, and you can only rest four times before you take on the game's two final bosses (and it is most definitely not advisable to take them on during the same rest). Thematically, it's also very likely you are going to end up with a bunch of loot and equipment that's just useless to you.

If you have an hour and a half, Dark Souls the Card Game is a promising and challenging cooperative experience, especially for those who already enjoy the franchise. It's nothing too different or ground-breaking, but it's a solid and enjoyable game with some really elegant mechanics. 

Our Dark Souls the Card Game Review
  • PRO: Easy to setup and learn and thematic, with some challenging cooperative gameplay.
  • CON: Not as challenging as some might expect, with nothing too groundbreaking in the mechanics.