Not too many folks know about Card Witch. It’s been a quiet little project from a handful of diverse and weird indie devs, brewing for some years now. In short, imagine Game Boy Advance classic series Mega Man Battle Network, a hybrid of real-time action and deck-building CCG combat but with a Bayonetta-esque makeover (sharp-dressed, gun-toting witch and all), razor sharp pixel-art and a rad soundtrack.
You don’t have to imagine much longer. A generously portioned playable demo just came out – rough around the edges, but well worth your time.
If the devs stack the deck just right, and this might just end up on our list of the best card games available on PC.
First, a fair warning: This is very much an Alpha build of the game, clearly not the finished product. It’s just the combat engine, and doesn’t have all of its UI, animation or audio in place yet, but it’s still absolutely worth playing, and offers a respectably sized chunk of gameplay to get your teeth into.
If you’ve never played anything like the Mega Man Battle Network games before, you’re in for a treat. Imagine a CCG played out in real-time on a 6×3 playfield, half of it blue, half of it red. You’re free to zip around your side of the battlefield as you see fit, and can even plink away at the enemy (for 1 HP a hit – not great when some enemies have hundreds) with your gun. The real damage dealers are the spells drawn from your deck, each requiring a certain amount of passively regenerated mana to take from your hand to play.
A key part of the Battle Network formula was that the battlefield itself can be altered through the course of a match. While normally limited to moving on blue tiles, you can extend your space into the enemy half of the playfield, restricting their movement, or outright destroy tiles forcing both players to content with a hole in the map. There’s a lot of familiar elements here if you’ve been playing modern CCGs such as Hearthstone, but you’re going to have to work on your reflexes, too.
The demo is a pure combat challenge, with deck-building enabled. Pick 20-30 cards from a pool of 23 (up to 3 of each allowed), and take on six simple tutorial missions to learn the controls. Then it’s onto a series of battles, starting with straight fights against a pair of monsters, then going into survival challenges against increasingly challenging waves. The ultimate challenge in the demo are a series of duels against enemies with massive HP pools, while you die in one hit. Every attack can be evaded, if you’re careful. It’s good practice.
The Card Witch: First Draw demo is available now on Itch.io. There is no set release date for the (far more ambitious, RPG-focused) full game, although if you really like what you’ve played today, you can throw a few bucks to the developers via the Pay What You Want option on this alpha.