Runespell: Overture by Mystic Box review

Strategic card combat where poker and solitaire meet Magic: The Gathering
Photo of Runespell: Overture by Mystic Box
£7.99

Imagine you’re playing a video poker machine in a Las Vegas casino, with a chap playing the machine next to you. And then imagine that a glowing wraith type creature tears forth from your coin-op, and hurls a lightning bolt at the beastly hobgoblin that has just smashed its way out of the top of the adjacent machine. This is Runespell: Overture in a nutshell. Although if that ever does happen in real life, you might want to ask the waitress exactly what’s in your complimentary cocktail.

Poker: The Gathering
Runespell is quite the hotchpotch of ideas. Its central combat aspect is played out as a mix of poker, solitaire, and Magic: The Gathering. Each fight pits you against an opponent with a deck laid out like a solitaire game, the idea being to make sets of five-card poker hands by moving cards around. Each player gets three moves per turn, and to spice things up, you can steal single cards from each other’s layouts.

This means there’s a lot of strategy to be employed in putting together the hands you want, pinching stuff needed off your opponent, while looking at which of your cards he needs and trying to move those cards so they’re part of a set (so they can’t be stolen). When finished, each poker hand represents an attack, the value of the hand correlating with the damage. A pair is a glancing blow, a royal flush practically a one-swing decapitation.

An extra tactical layer is added by a deck of spell and ally cards – these produce fireballs, haste spells, or fellow party members who can fire off a bow and do extra damage. Timing the use of these special powers and countering your enemy with relevant shield spells makes for an enticing tactical brew.

Poker Quest
Throw in a Puzzle Quest-style overarching campaign, questing and a nicely written storyline, and Mystic Box has come up with a winner. Downsides? It’s true that the loot doesn’t flow in much quantity early on, as the game leans towards the stingy side and makes you work hard for your victories. We appreciated that, though.

What can be more annoying is the element of luck that sometimes turns a battle, when you’re in a comfortable lead and suddenly Doughboy the dwarf pulls out a straight flush. Also, there’s no multiplayer yet – which could be a sticking point for some, but it’s promised in an upcoming patch.

Company: Mystic Box

Website: http://www.runespell.com/

Positives
  • Blend of multiple card games which is smartly implemented.
Negative
  • The temptation to cast a fireball on your mouse when your opponent pulls a straight flush out of his chainmail greaves.

Verdict

Balancing elements of poker and solitaire card play with RPG powers adds up to a thoroughly engrossing combat exercise. The overall campaign and decently scripted storyline is a bonus, too. Yes, luck can turn battles, but then, luck can turn poker. As tactical card games go, this is a great effort, and we found ourselves stealing quick half hour sessions quite regularly.