Card Smash: Tribes at War preview – Hearthstone meets checkers

Card Smash: Tribes at War is a new card battler from Helsinki developer Heavyweight Rex.

The game has been in soft launch across a handful of App Store territories since the end of October, and I’ve been playing the latest build.

So far I’ve been impressed by its gently tactical take on the whole card battling genre.

Card carrying fanatic

Card Smash: Tribes at War asks you to collect and select a deck of colourful hero-based cards before pitching them into stat-matching battle against other players in real time.

Each card has its own statistical strengths and weaknesses, which determine its attack and defensive potential. Some also have their own special abilities that can turn the tide of a battle.

Stronger cards require more movement points to place, so it’s often a case of deciding between placing two low-value cards or a single powerful one.

In all this, the main objective is to attack the opposing general by reducing their hit points to zero.

Feeling draughty in here

So far so Hearthstone. There’s no denying the influence Blizzard’s imperious card battler has had on Card Smash, though there’s also a little Clash Royale in here too, with a smattering of draughts/checkers.

But Card Smash places much more of an emphasis on your card’s placement on the 4 x 4 game board, as well as subsequent movements.

Each card has a numerical value on three of their four sides. These are pitched against the opposing figure on neighbouring enemy cards. You must place your first card on your side of the grid, but any subsequent cards can be placed in one of the adjacent squares in any direction.

Once you get a card into the opponent’s starting row, that card will attack the opposing general, so it pays to be aggressive.

Any surviving cards can also move one square before you end your turn. Given that they’re physical entities, it’s possible to initiate rudimentary blocking and flanking manoeuvres.

Stoking the Hearthstone

Add in the special abilities that some of these fantastical cards possess – such as the ability to fire an arrow over distance or spawn an additional card – as well as the stat-boosting power-ups that appear at random, and you have a game that’s surprisingly rich with tactical potential.

Or at least, that’s the impression I was left with after my first few matches. Games tended to ebb and flow, with the initiative swinging back and forth between well-matched players.

It will take a lot more play testing to establish if that continues to be the case after the tens of hours that such games are designed to last. But early impressions are positive.

We could have ourselves a new card battling contender for those tired of Hearthstone and its many rivals and imitators.