It’s Friday evening and instead of staring at a screen killing pirates or blowing up aliens I’m playing a game of cards. Not the kind of card game I could conceivably get shot playing, more the kind of card game you spend the majority of looking at the instructions just to make sure that you really are supposed to turn that card upside down after you’ve used the supercharge attack with additional critical power. Yeah, that kind of card game.
Rewind about a week and I’m being handed two boxes for a game called Cardfight!! Vanguard. One blue, one red, and being told to go forth and play (albeit with a one week time limit to learn exactly HOW to play). A command I’ve never had much trouble with before (especially while under the pretense of work), but now it seems that I’m rather stuck. Sitting with my brother, I’m finding myself staring at a rather complicated set of rules. A very, very, complicated set of rules. Having never dived into the sea of anime based card games like Yu gi oh, or even Pokemon I had absolutely no starting point on how to play this game. Now, while my lack of previous knowledge shouldn’t have been a problem, a problem it was, and I found myself enlisting the aid of a friend.
My friend, who we shall call “Jay”, is something of a massive nerd when it comes to things like this. In fact, the first thing he said when I showed him the cards was, “Someone else is trying to clone Yu gi oh”. So I figured he’d be the perfect person to help work out the rules of death.
After sitting, staring at the rules for about half an hour we were standing somewhere between absolutely nowhere and in the land of not having a scooby what we were doing. And this was from the starter instructions. At the point of writing this I still haven’t even touched the advanced rule booklet. Eventually we were under way, and we had ourselves a grand old time. A grand old time that began with Jay trying to kill my brother and culminating with us giving up and playing video games.
Having only a week left to have gained a working knowledge of the rules I was anxious to work out how to play this infernal game. My brother and I played a few games and while we enjoyed ourselves, we had to make a lot of stuff up, avoiding good chunk of the rules regarding counter blasts and twin drive checks and power boosts. Resigning myself to the fact that I may have to bluff my knowledge come my trial by card.
Then, I got a text from Jay: “Come over this evening, I’ve worked out the rules.” Upon arriving at Jay’s I discovered that he hadn’t worked anything out via careful examination of the rules (as I had neglected to do), but by watching the online anime currently attached to the card game. After hearing this I will admit my spirits dropped a little.
My friend had clearly gone entirely over the edge. He was gaining knowledge of card games from cartoons and was evidently trying to drag me down with him. Had I actually been thinking as precisely as that at the time I might have been inclined to turn around and return to whence I came. Unfortunately it was winter. And in Glasgow that means rain. An awful, awful, lot of rain. So, I sat down with Jay and his older brother and we began to play. Two fifteen year olds and a twenty year old sitting down to play a game of cards pasted with cartoon characters.
It turns out that when four separate people go off and try to learn a game with very complicated rules, you end up with four people playing four very different games.
At the end of that rather interesting evening I had what you might call a working knowledge of Cardigan: Wine-garden, or so I thought. See it turns out that when four separate people, Dan, Max, my brother and myself go off and try to learn a game with very complicated rules, you end up with four people playing four very different games from each other.
Dan and I, who paired up to start with, dealt with this problem by very slowly working our way through the game, consulting the rules whenever we came across a problem, Mondo and Max however, dealt with it by pretty much ignoring all the rules other than, “Your turn, my turn, oh dear, you beat me.” And accordingly played about three games by the time Dan and I were halfway through ours.
The main complaint was, if you hadn’t guessed by reading the entirety of this review, was that the rules were just so damn impenetrable. This however took very little away from the overall experience once you got in the swing of things. Another problem that sprang up was that, when attacking with your main card – your vanguard – and getting hurt you took a special test to see if you could heal or gain extra power. This in itself was not a problem, but rather the fact that it was often hard to tell which cards allowed you to do this. In fact, there are a lot of cards that do special things, whether permanently, after you pay a cost, or at certain times. Again, this adds to the game, but yet again, it is often hard to tell which cards do this, and even more annoyingly, what most of these things do.
In summary, Card-fight: Vanguard is an enjoyable game, and will be even more so for people who have played similar games in the past. The price is a bit hefty; fifteen quid for a starter pack, and about three to five pounds for a booster pack, and the rules are about as easy to read as a caveman’s attempt at a flight manual written in Martian. But over all it is an extremely fun game to play. Jay’s still bugging me to go another few rounds with him.