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Humble Choice: Aces & Adventures
You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Well, August might not have gone that well in the blog department, but it was pretty good in other ways. Still, you have to get back on the wagon again somewhere, so I’m back yet again with another Humble Choice review.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found poker to be a very interesting game. The bluff and the attempt to get inside your opponents heads as they try to do the same to you is what elevates it, but the game mechanics themselves, the hands you’re hoping to make and beat your opponent with, are a little uninspiring, don’t you agree?
As a player of Aces & Adventures you have a standard (but gorgeous) deck of cards, supplemented by your character’s ability cards, and you must make poker hands that defeat those of the various monsters you meet on your adventure. Combat ensues regularly, as one would expect for a game with an RPG theme, and when it does, you take turns attacking and defending, making the best poker hands you can (aided by your character ability cards) and hoping that your cards are bigger than theirs. If you have an ace, you’ll probably win and inflict one damage point. To do more damage, you can play a pair or a triple, if you’ve been lucky enough to draw the right cards. But between each of your turns they get a turn too, and you’ll have to play cards that beat their attacks too, so good luck being able to build up a high scoring straight or flush when you’re constantly being forced to play, even when it ruins your hand. Even if you do, there’s a good chance you’ll be forced to waste all that massive damage on something underwhelming. There’s just a lack of options available to you as a player.
It seems like a strange choice to me to base the mechanics of Aces & Adventures, this fantasy RPG themed deck-builder, on poker hands. It’s the sort of idea that sounds good when you say it out loud, “A deck-building game based on the most famous card game!”, but falls down when it comes to implementation. In a one player game against a computer, there’s no bluff, no headology, just the hands, missing even the questionable joy that could be gained from counting cards, as you and your opponent draw from different decks.
There’s all the standard rougelite deckbuilding elements here, increasing difficulty, different campaigns, diverse abilities, a bunch of different strategies, and it’s obviously been carved with love; the sound is really satisfying, the artwork is some of the most cohesive and enjoyable I’ve met in these sorts of games and what I’ve seen of the story in the couple of hours that I’ve played seems perfectly serviceable too. But personally I’ve found it hard to get over that glaring fundamental flaw in the gameplay, that poker just isn’t that good. I just didn’t find exploring the different card combinations or things your characters can do to be worth wading through this much darn poker, and that coupled with an occasionally clumsy UI experience has been enough to make me close in frustration every time I’ve picked it up.
If you’re a deck-building fanatic and have been looking to try something new, give Aces & Adventures a look; it’s got all the bells and whistles and a new spin on the genre, and all for a bundle price lower than the lowest steam price to date. But if, like me, you’re just a dabbler in the genre, I doubt you’ll stick around to find out how much this one has to give.