Superhot the Card Game Review
Quick Glance - Superhot the Card Game - Check It Out?
Game Type - Card Game
Number of Players - 1-3
Mechanics - Deck-building, hand management, puzzle solving
Difficulty to learn - Medium
Release - 2017
MSRP - $19.99
Publisher - Boards & Dice, Grey Fox Games (Updated Edition in 2018)
Introduction - Superhot became one of the surprise Indie hits in the video game world a couple years ago. It took the well-established first person shooter genre and stood it on its head by freezing time, and making it play more like a puzzle game. Superhot the Card Game is also wading into a well-established genre of deck building games. Can it stand the industry on its head in a similar way?
Gameplay - Superhot is a difficult game to describe in a concise format because it has some of the strangest card movement mechanisms I have ever come across. Superhot is meant to be played primarily as a solo game. The multiplayer modes are variants is as additional challenges. As such, I will mostly talk about the solo game.
There is only one way to win a game of Superhot: to pass through three levels of goal cards. There are, of course, numerous ways to lose the game. Level 1 is just 1 goal card long, Level 2 is 2 cards, and Level 3 is...you guessed it 3 cards long. The goal cards are drawn randomly from a deck. These goals can consist of anything from defeating a number of enemies, to holding a set of certain cards in your hand, to having a number of bullet cards in your deck. There is almost no rhyme or reason to these cards, and several times I have felt like the goals were competing against each other.
To achieve these goals, you must fight your way through a deck of obstacle cards. These obstacles, much like in the video game, are a rogue’s gallery of faceless red mannequins with guns, mannequins with katanas, and a variety of tables and pillars you can duck behind. You start the game with a deck of 8 cards of modest dodging and punching abilities. Simply shuffle up and draw 4 of them to start. The top 6 cards of the obstacle deck are drawn to make “The Line.” This is the series of things you have to deal with at this moment.
Bear with me here, I’m going to try and explain how the cards move between your deck, hand, and the obstacle row...
Each card has numbers and abilities at the top and at the bottom. The numbers at the top are what you get to use to perform your actions, the ones at the bottom are what you are trying to meet to defeat the cards in the line. If you defeat a card in The Line, it goes to a “New Cards” area. These are cards that will go to your hand for use in the very next turn. Any cards you use during a turn will go into the obstacle deck’s discard pile. You will have to fight those cards again later.
Then you count how many cards you used that turn. The number of cards you used is equal to the amount of things at the front of The Line you managed to dodge during your turn. So, if you played three cards. The first three cards in The Line go to your personal discard pile, and will go into your deck once you need to reshuffle. This takes a while to get used to, but it offers an intriguing puzzle aspect to game play. It feels awkward when faced with three guys with shotguns right in your face to run by all three of them and hide behind a pillar at the end of The Line, but that’s exactly what you should do most of the time (to an extent, this works in the video game as well). There are a couple of other tricks (taking a “Wait” turn, and “knocking stuff out” instead of destroying them), but those are used far less frequently, and would triple the length of this review to explain. Suffice it to say, you do have several options when it comes to taking on The Line.
If after all that, there are still cards in The Line, they have a chance to do their thing. If there are any guys with guns, they will shoot you. But, instead of getting hit immediately, the bullets go into the obstacle discard pile, and you’ll have to deal with them later. Bullets are kind of a pain because they can only by dodged, sliced with a katana, or pulled from your body with a pair of pliers.
If at any point during this whole mess you actually completed all your goals for the level. You reset both your deck and the obstacle deck, draw new goals and start the process again. Finish three levels and you win!
If you ever can’t refill your hand to 4 cards, can’t fully refill the line, or have 4 bullet cards in your hand - you lose instantly.
Rulebook - The rulebook that is in the box of the game that you can currently buy is borderline unusable. There are errors and omissions galore. I could not make head or tails of this game at all without a lot of help. Thankfully, Grey Fox Games, the company coming in to bring the game to US retail, has revamped the book with helpful flowcharts and much clearer language. But note this: currently the updated rulebook is only online. If you see the game on a shelf with a Grey Fox label, you should be fine. However, if you order it as I write this (early March 2018) from their website: you will still get the old version with the poor rules.
Theme- I admire the effort to try and recreate such a unique video game in a different game style. Superhot the Card Game is unique in a world of similar deck builders.
Set-Up/Takedown - Under 10 minutes to get all the cards separated and shuffled up. There is one rule I always miss during set up: make sure to take 1 bullet card and drop it in with the bottom 9 cards of the obstacle deck. Tearing it down is just a matter of sorting decks out and tossing them back in the box.
Components - The cards are all very clear, and share the stark minimalism of the video game. There is a paper playmat included (look under the insert) that helps show where all the decks go. It would have been nice if they also pointed out where the cards placed in each area go, just as one more reminder as to how the card flow works. The cards are decent enough quality, but I’d still recommend sleeving them, as they will get shuffled a lot.
Final Thoughts - I’ve played this game solo now about a dozen times...and I honestly still don’t know how I feel about the game overall. I will say that mulit-player has been universally unpleasant. To be somewhat fair, the people I played with had never heard of the video game, but the card game (and they’ve all been experienced game players) left them completely confused, and unenthused.
I enjoy the card play. I find the puzzle you have to solve to try and best avoid getting shot, while also trying to get good cards into your hand rather fascinating. It took me several games to get to that point, but I eventually got there. Unfortunately, that puzzle is secondary to the actual goal of the game, and I find that unfortunate. The deck of goal cards is a mish-mash of things you can sometimes achieve through clever game play, but more often are gained through acts of sheer luck. For example, there are goals where you have to kill X amount of guys, or destroy X amount of scenery cards. I like those, they are part of the game that happen naturally as you fight through The Line. But goals such as “Have one card of each type in your hand”, or “Have X number of cards in your hand”, or “Have X points of Dodge cards in your hand” pulled me out of the game. I can’t even count the number of times where I barely scraped through a turn with my life, only to realize that the actions I took pulled me further away from a goal.
The more I play Superhot, the more I wish it worked like a game called Xenoshyft. In that game, there is an alien line you have to face each turn. You start by planning your moves, and making your attacks. Then the enemy gets their turn. As you keep going through the levels of Xenoshyft, the enemies begin to get tougher and tougher. If I could take Superhot’s card mechanics and speed of play, and slip them into Xenoshyft’s structure, I’d be much more pleased with it.
Finally, while I appreciate Superhot trying to stay a small game. A 27 card obstacle deck (with multiple copies of each card) gets really old, really fast.
When it comes right down to it, I didn’t find Superhot: The Card Game all that fun. It’s strange because there is a lot I legitimately like here, but the experience as a whole left me wanting a great deal more (or possibly something a great deal different) than what I got.