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Card Critic #12 - Universal Card Game 1.3

15. 04. 03
posted by: Super User
Hits: 3335

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What is the Universal Card Game?

The Universal Card Game (UCG) is the first of what is known as a “Competitive Card Game”. This is a type of card game that allows players to have the full arsenal of cards at their without the hassle involved with booster packs. The game uses a new system known as “Stability” in the place of rarity where more powerful cards are restricted from being used as many times as a less powerful or more basic card in the game. Stability is a system that will be used in all of the UCG-based games and allows the game to balance itself by allowing powerful cards to exist, just not as many copies in the deck.

The UCG is a long running project from Starcat Products that started off as a complete joke. The game was created actually on note cards that the game designer made. To say it was childish is a very large understatement. To the game designers’ defense, they were all children when they made the first few installments of the game and had absolutely no budget. There are two other games that use systems similar to the UCG which are the Noodles the Star Cat Card Game and Losers versus Preps. These games actually have cards that have been grandfathered into the UCG.

EMULATES MECHANICS FROM OTHER CARD GAMES

The UCG has always been a game that incorporates mechanics similar to other card games. For example, there are cards in the game that are very similar to traditional card games such as Magic the Gathering. The game has a Money card that is used to generate Money to play the literal dollar cost that is listed on the top of the card. These costs are found on a majority of the cards and players of games such as Magic the Gathering and Pokemon should have no issue picking these up and playing them after learning the rules of the game.

 

Why they chose to call the resources Monies rather than Currency or Resources does not make any sense to me. However, that is for another section of this review! What is really neat in the game is they managed to get cards from games such as Yu-Gi-Oh! into the game and called them Epic Characters. The explanation is that the cards are beyond the material needs of the world and require an epic tribute in order to be played. The cards can only be played once a turn and do not use an in deck resource to be played. This is nice for many players who complain about in-deck resources, such as myself during many of my reviews!

 

There is another card type called the Pitfall Effect which allows you to place the card face down into an Effect Zone and wait for its trigger to activate. These abilities are called Contact abilities and the actual ability of the card is called an Engage ability. These allow players to splice in non-creature based cards into their deck without affecting momentum too much in their deck. Another really unique card type is the Shadow Walker. These cards are similar to the Planes Walkers in Magic, however they have abilities that replace the player’s draw step with an Assimilate ability. These cards tend to die a lot, for they lack a lot of health. By the time you try to use them, they are promptly killed by a random monster your opponent attacked you with.

Simple Layout

   

The cards in the UCG have a very, very simple layout. They are all a solid color depending on what type of card you are playing. The Effect Cards are blue; characters, red; and the Money cards are green (clever). This allows players to easily tell what kind of card they are playing and the frame allows the artwork to not clash with rules text for the card. AHEM WEISS SCHWARZ AND POKEMON. Many of the card games I review on this show have some of the worst layouts I have ever seen. The designers should be ashamed of themselves, because the layout of the game can definitely make the card game a chore to play. It is nice to see a game that has a simple layout and gets to the point with what the card does and has a separate place for the card’s artwork.

ONE STAT FOR COMBAT

The UCG Character cards have a stat that is used for combat called merely Power. This Power stat is both their attack and their defense. This single statistic makes the Universal Card Game so easy to play, as combat takes mere seconds to calculate damage. There are no confusing calculations or damage rules, unlike certain tournament level games. This allows players to merely compare the two values of the characters in combat, and whichever one has the highest will more than likely win the combat.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. Characters that have the Mad Hax ability (spelt as /\/\4|) |-|4X which is confusing has heck as the keyword ability looks like a mathematical formula rather than a game mechanic) allows you to modify the character’s power to have them either deal more or less damage. This depends if the modifier on Mad Hax is positive or negative.

Trading Card Game enthusiasts will be happy to see keyword abilities listed on cards that have very common abilities. Some games such as Yu-Gi-Oh! would really benefit from keyword abilities. In fact, they are starting to use them on some of their cards. Keyword abilities can imply abilities such as piercing damage, which means that the damage overflows over to the defending player if their character does not have enough defense to take all of the damage. This ability is humorously called 0WnZ0r! This translates to Trample from Magic the Gathering. It is nice to see that the keyword for Unblockable known as Unstoppable is still available in the game. This is rarely seen as a keyword lately on newer cards.

 

Free to Play

So as I mentioned earlier this game is what is known as a competitive card game. This is a new term and from what I could gather it means that there should be nothing non-skill related that should keep a player from using the cards they want in the deck they want. This includes eliminating the need for purchasing booster packs and giving cards an artificial rarity value due to scarcity. This is something that I really do enjoy.

Most card games start off really good and allow players to easily get into them. However, as the company that makes the game enjoys the funding they are generating, they push the developers to make more and more cards at a rapid rate. This is something that has happened to our favorite games including Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! In addition to these two great games, there are mobile games that run on a pure gambling model. This promotes players to spend as much money as possible for the best cards. I call this model “high rarity high victory” as these players rarely have skill to play the cards they have.

The “high rarity high victory” model is always the current most used card game model, as seen with the advent of new rarities such as the Mythic Rare (Magic the Gathering) and Ghost-Gold Rare (Yu-Gi-Oh!). This is to make players swoon over cards they should be able to get regularly, but instead have to pay more due to the artificial low print rate of such cards. Yu-Gi-Oh! has been known to print cards at a higher rarity outside of Japan to make the company more money, and Magic the Gathering is making another Modern Masters set. Obviously, my video did not get enough supporters. Now, they are going for a double batch of money with cards that you guys should be able to get printed at higher rarity.

 

The Universal Card Game has none of these problems; For example, Rarity is handled much differently in the UCG. The cards have a Stability which makes that card scale based on how powerful it is and allows more powerful cards to be balanced by reducing the total number of copies a player can play in the deck. This benefits players in two ways: (1) the game does not need a banned/restricted list as the cards can simply have their stabilities changed to reflect a balance change, and (2) players that enjoy playing powerful cards can still play them, and players that want more consistency can use cards of lower Stability. This system is definitely what makes the UCG unique over other card games and I look forward to seeing what else can be done with this system later on as the game progresses.

UCG, however, will appear foreign to new players. To have to have such a vast amount of cards available all at once can be daunting. I know this system does not work for all games, and game designers will need to make money to pay bills/stay in business, but it is nice to see a game that focuses purely on the players.

Stupid Character Types

Now you know I could not go on praising this game forever now right? It is always best to start off positive to get people feeling good before dropping down a smack-down. Now where to begin with the UCG… First off, what the heck is up with the stupid character types? I mean serious why is Insane spelt wrong as INSAINE?! That is not even right. Also, the fact that there are Girls, Dudets, and Chicks. Isn’t that a bit sexist? Last I checked, most women are merely called just women. Also, don’t think that men got away from the stupid character types as well there are Dudes and Guys, why not just call them all Bros?! After all, don’t most Dudes call one another Bro? Why do the character types need to be based on gender anyways? The game could use some cooler more generic titles to give characters such as Descendants, for the magical girls, and Spirits, for the more otherworldly creatures in the game! It is really frustrating as the cards that look really cool still have these stupid character types, and when playing with new players they get put off really easily by how stupid the game terminology can be. A game with Sharvans instead of Dragons!

 

The game even has a character type called Legend, which does not mean crap for the rules. Magic the Gathering removed rule-based creature types for a reason, for it confused players. It forced them remember rules for something in which 99% of the time does not have any rules on it. Also, why use such an aged term as Legend for the character type, knowing it will confuse Magic the Gathering players or someone that has played another game that has meaning for this term? Man, it is really frustrating that no one noticed all these issues before printing, as it shadows a lot of the good stuff in the game.

The Horrible Artwork

The artwork on these cards can really vary in quality. At certain points, the cards will look almost professional; and then other ones are literally made in Microsoft Paint. The Product Vault for Starcat Products even has on some of their older works a logo of the Paint logo with a “Proudly Made in MSPaint.” This variation in quality can really confuse players as the cards do not even look like they are from the same game. That is one thing that I always seem to complain about in the card games on this show is the super bad quality artwork on most of them if not all of them. Why can’t any games, besides the main three, seem to get this right? Your artwork establishes your identity. Pokemon has the cute little monsters, Yu-Gi-Oh! Has over the top anime stuff, and Magic has hyper realistic high fantasy artwork. This game along with many of the games I review has a random mishmash of stuff that makes no sense.

Why are there MSPaint pictures?! These look so bad, there were even cards that were floating heads in some of the older versions. Don’t even get me started on some of the very beginning version of the game. Some art was flat out taken from their original sources and placed onto cards. Turns out Fair Use does not really cover the user of other people’s artwork in a game of any sort, so much of the artwork was replaced with originals. These originals, as stated, have such varying quality it is almost a miracle that the Last Violent Prophecy RPG game was suspended to make way for most of the decent artwork in this game. This game has some great cards and mechanics, and they are just squandered by the fact that the cards just look horrible in presentation. They don’t even look right when placed next to one another!

Stupid Card Types and Lingo

If any of you may (or may not) know, 1337 (pronounced “Leet”) is a gamer lingo that uses number and special characters for form words. The keyword abilities in the UCG version 1.3 use these “1337 speak” gamer terms to an extent to where the game is just flat out confusing. The characters have abilities, as I mentioned, such as /\/\4|) |-|4X +3. On a card with no translation, it is really hard for anyone besides a middle aged Card Critic to hint you to what the ability does. To no one’s surprise, these abilities were not very popular with players that played the game, for they proved to be confusing. No crap this stuff is confusing, because regular people that play card games are not super “hax” computer gamers that also make card games in their free time. This is absolutely compounded with the fact that there are abilities such as 0WnZ0r! that have the explanation point included on the ability. So if the ability is included on a card’s ability, it is either the card is yelling at you or as a problem with sentence fragments.

To salt the wound further, card types have stupid names such as the Money cards which “generate money”. Do they make another Money card come into play, or this supposed to be the “Mana” that is used in the game to play the American Dollar amount in the top of the card? Why does it have to be an American Dollar amount? Would this not alienate players from other countries? A British Pound does not equal one American Dollar. Are the UCG cards in the other countries worth more or less in other countries? How does it work when you play an international match and the cards use different currencies? Why do the cards generate a resource that is used in the game that has the same name as the card itself? Wow, this is so confusing! The cards read absolutely insane too they say stuff like “Pay This to Add One Money to your Wallet.” Wallet!? What is the Wallet? Does the Money card generate Money for your wallet? I guess them game follows the aphorism “you need money to make money” because this is literally how the Money cards work in the game.

   

Shadow Walkers. Come on guys, you can try harder than that. I know this game is supposed to homage at other card games and mechanics, but at least try to name the card something that sounds at least different. This is so confusing to players that actually played Planes Walkers from Magic the Gathering. The cards sound too much alike, yet they work completely different from their Magic The Gathering counterparts. Also there are stupid terms in the game such as “Kan target character”. Think about this, I CAN TARGET a character with this card! Amazing, what does the card do now that I can target with it?! OH this is supposed to mean destroy. WHY NOT JUST CALL IT DESTROY OR SLAY?! This is so bad. Again, this really takes away trying to translate what the crazy people were trying to make these cards do. Presentation is the key here everyone. If you presentation blows your game will blow as well.

NO WAY TO PLAY ON THE COMPUTER

So I mentioned before that this game is “free”. So how do you play a card game for free you ask? Well, if you said on the computer, you would be WRONG!

This game has these sheets on the website that you need to print, cut out, and then make decks out of and it is a pain! This problem would be solved if they could just put the game on the computer somehow, and then made some way of printing just your deck. The printing sheets have no uniformity on how they are created, and cards of different stabilities are on the sheets haphazardly. Everyone, this is where the game just falls flat on what it is trying to do. No one is going to want to cut out cards, especially random cards for a game that they can’t even playtest first to see if they like it or not. This game would benefit really well with starter decks that you can print or even play easily. This way, players can see if they like the game or not and then deal with the printing later.

This is the modern era where people have access to the Internet and can communicate via machines. Put the game on the computer and let people enjoy the freedom you give with a free game!

CONCLUSION

The Universal Card Game is a game this feel half-way there and the game really gets hurt by this constantly. The game has some very unique elements, such as the Epic Characters and Shadow Walkers, but falls flat with horrible and confusing terminology. The cards really need an artwork overhaul. I know the game is free, but it need to look at least presentable, and the game is just unacceptable in its current state. I hope they make another revision of this game before even considering release as there are many things that need to be fixed! Also, it really would not hurt if they could put the game on the computer or tablet somehow as this would allow players to discover the game and play it. No one is going to go on the Internet and want to print cards for a game they have never played before. Given all that I have typed above, it will come to no one’s surprise the score I give this game!

Overall 5/10