Here's a fun fact: despite the ridiculous amount of mobile games out
there, very few are properly attuned to the common bathroom break.
Most of them operate at extremes. While games like Pokemon Go won't work unless you're doing your business inside a moving vehicle, titles like Egglia: Legend of the Red Cap and the many mobile versions of Chess make your butt a permanent fixture on the toilet seat.Only a handful of games present themselves in bite-sized chunks that you can enjoy while dropping bite-sized chunks of your own. Thankfully, Card Thief does this quite well.
The entire game takes place
on a 3x3 board and starts you off with ten stealth points and a treasure pocket
full of nothing. To progress, you need to forge a path through the board by
spending stealth points on adjacent cards. Some cards, like lit torches and
sound traps, alert enemies to your presence while stealth cards add some much
needed points for you to continue taking money that isn't yours.
Designed by TiNYTOUCHTALES, the title is a hybrid of classic card games and stealth-based gameplay. As a raven-faced thief, your goal is to steal as much loot as possible while eluding the levels' many obstacles and enemies.
Which brings us to the enemies. Guards and animals have cones of vision which point towards certain directions. If you have enough stealth points, you can sneak up on a guard or animal to remove them from the board and pick their unguarded pockets (except for the animals, which do not wear pants). Actions on their adjacent cards, such as dousing lit torches, change the direction they are facing and can be used to your advantage.
The game starts to get more
complex when you realize that certain cards add value to the rest of the pieces
for that specific turn. This may seem like a bad idea when you accidentally box
yourself into a corner, but chaining cards to get more loot has a subtle euphoria
not unlike the feeling found in more adventure-based stealth games.
After a few turns, a chest presents itself with the opportunity for you to steal it. Now you can be an overzealous kleptomaniac and nab it by using a few stealth points, or you can leave it alone for a few turns for the prize to get bigger. Playing the waiting game increases the loot you get from the chest but it also requires more stealth points to steal. Once you think you have enough coins to pay the rent, all that's left is to escape down a sewer hole.
The fun in Card Thief comes from learning how the system works by playing it. You may have noticed that a lot of these gameplay elements aren't described ways that pertain to conventional card games. That's because the title borrows more from traditional stealth gameplay.
Apart from a handful of equipment cards you choose before each game, you
have no control over how the level plays out. Cards are dealt out at random and
force you to adapt to the situation, giving the feel that you are infiltrating
an actual stronghold. Though the system can be quite brutal, being able to see
the outcome of your moves before committing to them is a very useful feature.
Where the game does poorly however is in its introduction of new card archetypes. With each new level unlocked through a previous stage's chest boxes, more diverse enemies and traps start to appear. While these can be understood within a couple of turns, they do take some trial and error before a player can incorporate them into their thieving routines.
To combat the rapidly increasing difficulty curve between levels are the aforementioned equipment cards. These boons range from adding extra stealth points to distracting a guard towards a different direction. All of these cards can be upgraded three times by completing specific tasks within any stage.
In order to increase the number of stealth points given by the Cloak card for example, a player needs to finish a level while having at least ten stealth points. Inversely, you'll need to complete a stage with a negative number of stealth points to get the next tier of the same card. This feature, coupled with the random nature of each level and daily quests, adds a lot of replayability to a game that has you looking at flat scraps of digital paper.
This doesn't mean the cards in Card Thief look like that fake Charizard card the school bully tricked you with all those years ago.
If you haven't been using your sense of sight while reading this article, the art by Max Fielder carries both a grim and cartoony look that might remind you of the Tim Burton cartoon movie, Corpse Bride. Each card has a number of different images which change depending on whether or not they are in the light or are being interacted with. Add in Oliver Salkic's eerie audio work and the title feels less like a tabletop game and more like the inner hallways of a castle.
It can be quite difficult to understand at first, but Card Thief adds a different layer of complexity and ingenuity to the card game genre since it was overtaken by titles like Hearthstone. If you're looking for a good offline card game to pass the time with while you're passing gas, this game is way better than reading the back of a shampoo bottle.