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Mahokenshi adds a new twist to the flourishing deckbuilder genre

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Developers these days are eager to implement deckbuilding mechanics in every genre and setting. At first, it seemed a bit odd, but as designers ease into it, some interesting, thoughtful hybrids are emerging.

one such example is Mahokenshi (out now on Steam), a strategy game set in a Japanese-style folklore world from French studio Game Source. It’s not like that Mahokenshi does anything revolutionary with its card game elements, but the care with which the developer has integrated deckbuilding into every element of the game – not just combat, but exploration and adventure as well – is very enjoyable.

It is not advisable to spend much time on setting. You control magic-wielding samurai from four elementary schools as they fight cultists and ghosts across some mysterious island. There’s some nice artwork, especially on the card illustrations, and the miniature maps of temples, forests, and tiny battle figures have a bonsai-like quality. But, coming as it does from a Western studio, it smacks of a kind of revered but normalized Orientalism that’s falling out of favor. Nothing offensive here – just a vague, borrowed mysticism that doesn’t feel deeply connected to the game.

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as a strategy game, Mahokenshi Relatively light, but fun. Missions take place on hex-based maps where you direct your samurai to explore and fight. You spend card-game energy when moving or playing cards, and it’s fixed rather than building up over time (to start, you have four energy per turn), though there are ways to increase this later in the game. Huh. The tiles have different properties – standing in a forest increases your defense, while mountains increase attack rating – and include gold chests, new cards to add to your hand, and villages, dojos, and castles. There are places where you can level up your cards or your character in different ways. Because everything hinges on energy, you’re always balancing the rewards of exploration against defense and engagement, usually with an eye on the turn limit for the mission. This is solid risk-reward design. Some of the cleverest card designs combine all of the game’s systems at once, combining movement with attack or defense skills in concepts like fly or charge.

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On a hex-based strategy battlefield, a samurai whirls blue.  There is one card next to the attack, which is played with one hand at the bottom of the screen.

Image: Game Source Studios/Iceberg Interactive

as a card game, Mahokenshi It has a twist, in that it hasn’t really been a deckbuilder in a long time. Every mission resets your deck to a few basic starter cards, and requires you to build a new deck on the fly through exploration and buying cards from villages. It’s quite refreshing, in a way – it means Mahokenshi There is a game of improvisation and thinking on the fly, rather than building your way to a perfect construct. This makes the game quite immediate and approachable even in the early stages.

But this essentially doubles the effect of randomness on the outcome of your mission. Not only does the order in which you draw your cards reduce each chance, but so, to a large extent, does the selection of cards from which you must draw. As the missions get tougher, this can be a problem. can get something Mahokenshi Very whimsical as a result, but it certainly keeps the game interesting and light on its feet.

As deckbuilding seeps deeper into every corner of video game design, it’s popping up in ever more diverse places and bending into ever more interesting shapes. known as amalgamation, Mahokenshi There’s a refresher to build on.

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