Cards Against Tyranny

HIGH A new twist on the deckbuilding genre.

LOW The interesting mechanics feel unfinished.

WTF Weasels with a shiv obsession.


TRANSCRIPT:

Hi Everyone! Eugene Sax with another video review from Gamecritics.com.

Roguelike deckbuilers have been a really hot commodity in the past few years, and there’s just something so satisfying and enjoyable about building my own deck of cards to get through a game. Banners of Ruin takes that a step further and adds some strategy game elements, allowing players to control a team with the goal of taking down a tyrannical ruler. But can it stand up to some of the most well known deckbuilders out there?

Banners of Ruin puts players in control of a group of rebels rising up against the tyrannical rule of House Ender after a traitor handed the kingdom to them. Now, the player’s house — House Blackfoot — wants to put things right by infiltrating the city, eliminating the usurper and giving the city back to its people.

Gameplay is split between combat and travel phases. In the travel phase, players will choose from three decks of cards that represent different paths throughout the city. Each deck can have events like shops offering opportunities to purchase cards and equipment, chances to recruit characters, or chances to gain experience and level up party characters. The combat phase will have the player using their deck to fight corrupt city guards and mercenaries, normally winning some type of new card and gold used to buy items later. This is all common ground shared with other deckbuilers, but there’s a strategy element that sets Banner of Ruin apart.

In combat, both sides have a frontline and backline, split up into three lanes. This makes movement critical to winning combat. If a player can push an enemy into an inactive lane, it can delay their attacks and buy time to set up additional defenses or inflict a damaging status effect. If an enemy is going to attack, players can use a movement card to transfer the target to a different lane, and the enemy attack will miss.

These are all great ideas to enrich deckbuilder gameplay, but I feel like things are in need of more balancing. While the game encourages players to move characters around to dodge attacks and alter the turn order, there weren’t enough movement cards available to reliably move my troops around, nor the enemy for that matter. It always felt easier to simply throw the heaviest armor on my characters and pray for cards that allowed me to stack shields. Also, this game demands efficiency and will brutally punish players if they make a mistake. I used an ability that allowed my character to swap places with another to try and mitigate damage, but it ended up giving the enemies a bonus that allowed them to wipe my party in one round.

Banners of Ruin also never makes it worth recruiting characters except for the rare lucky occurrence of getting a character for free by winning combat instead of buying them. Right before each boss, there will always be a spot to recruit characters. Most of the time though, these new recruits characters are weaker than my party and they never felt ready for the fights they were immediately thrown into. When I tried using this option, I’d recruit a character right before a boss fight, only to have them killed one or two rounds into combat. On the other hand, if I tried to go forward without new characters, I’d end up falling into fights where I was outnumbered, and at that point, my deck and strategy didn’t matter.

I’m torn on Banners of Ruin. The atmosphere and artwork are superb, and I like the story that it’s trying to tell. I also enjoy the concepts it’s trying to deliver and the new ideas it offers to the deckbuilding genre. Ultimately though, it doesn’t feel like it hits what it’s aiming for and it’s a hard one to recommend except to the most hardcore deckbuilder fans out there.

For me, Banners of Ruin gets a 6.5 out of 10.


Disclosures: This game is developed by Montebearo and published by Goblinz Publishing and Maple Whispering Limited. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Violence, Language, and use of Alcohol. Players will be playing cards that depict images of attacking other animal characters, blood dripping from some weapons and bloodied characters in some of the events between combat. Some events will have players drinking a round to heal or interacting with drunk guards.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes for this game.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All information is displayed through text, but text size is not resizable. The sound provides ambiance, but is not necessary to play This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls:  There are no remappable controls for this game, and there is no control display. All actions are controlled through mouse input and clicking and dragging cards.

Eugene Sax
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