Oh hai, portable games forum. It's been a while.
I blew the dust off my 3DS over the weekend and picked up Culdcept Revolt. This ultra-niche series has been around for 20 years now, but has never really gotten much attention. The game feels like a mash-up of Magic the Gathering and Monopoly. Your characters move around a game board, earning GP (currency) at certain gates. Kinda like the "Pass go, Collect $200" in Monopoly. If you land on an empty space, you can claim it by plunking down a character, and you can level up that space by spending GP (in keeping with the Monopoly comparisons, it's like building hotels). Owning multiple spaces of the same color gives a chain bonus that buffs the monsters that occupy those spaces. This is important because when an opponent lands on your space, they have two options. They can either pay you the toll in GP (which increases significantly as the space is upgraded), or they can fight your monster that occupies that space.
Battles are card-based, with each monster having a specific set of stats. You can then choose to buff your monster with other cards (i.e. armor) or increase your attack with weapons or spells. While the battles are mostly a straightforward affair, there's a whole range of complexity that can be introduced. Special abilities (i.e. attacking first, halving damage, etc.), unique weapons, critical hits...any one of these can change the entire tide of combat.
If you win the battle, the opponent loses their card along with the GP they spent to summon it. If they win, however, they claim your space and get to recognize the space value towards their total GP. Battles are won by the first player getting to a specific GP amount, then passing through a certain gate on the board.
You can completely customize your card decks with unique mixes of monsters, abilities, weapons, and items. Additional cards, items, and parts (abilities) are purchasable through a shop (in random booster packs, of course), which allows for endless customization. The hardest part for me so far has been figuring out how to build an effective deck. But it's been fun to mess around with.
It's been very fun so far, and the game does a good job of easing you into what is ultimately a very complex (and potentially confusing) game system. It has an optional "recommended move" indicator, that I have used for the first few battles so I can get the hang of things, which has been a HUGE help.
The battles I've played so far have all been pretty easy, mainly because the AI is a little bit brain-dead at low levels. However, I can see this becoming extremely frustrating at higher levels. The RNG aspect of this being a dice-based game combined with the RNG of a CCG deck can lead to some bad combinations that you have no control over. For example, my last game saw me draw an entire hand of weapons and armor, but no actual monsters to use them with. There's a campaign, you can fight solo battles against the AI, and the game has both online and local MP modes as well.
I'm giving this a wholehearted thumbs up at this point. I had played a previous Culdcept game on PS2 and really enjoyed it, and this new version is thoroughly enjoyable as well. It's certainly not for everyone, but if you like board and/or CCG games, I'd highly recommend giving it a look.
Kotaku did a good summary of the game as well, and described it far better than I did.
Trailer is here