Astro Knights has surpassed its $20,000 Kickstarter funding goal, and it’s easy to see why. The new title from Indie Boards & Cards captures the essentials of deck building and cooperative play with a superhero style and enough twists on the core mechanics to keep you immersed in turn-based tactics, and it is an experience that I gladly recommend. for fans of the genre. ComicBook.com had a chance to check out the game before its final release, and if you’re still on the verge of adding it to your collection, I hope I can give you some insight to help you with your final decision.
First, the basics. Astro Knights is a fully cooperative deck-building game where you play as one of eight heroes, each with their own unique ability that requires energy to activate. Your objective is to defeat one of many powerful bosses and their minions before they can destroy your chosen homeworld, and you will accumulate Tech, Fuel, and Weapon cards in order to achieve this.
At this point, it’s all about teamwork, although each character has their specialty. Some characters are able to heal the team while others have more weapon slots at the start of the game. Others (like Toli) let you heal back home and increase his ability ( which can be a godsend), while Christina allows any ally to get the top weapon from any supply deck and place it on top of their deck. Again, this is amazing, even though it costs 5 power points to activate.
This ability ties into the game’s most unique and beloved mechanic. In most deck-building games, you buy cards and put them in your discard pile, then when your deck is depleted, you shuffle those cards. together, randomizing the cards you draw next. That’s not how it works in Astro Knights.
In Astro Knights, you buy Tech, Fuel, and Weapon cards, then put them in your discard pile as usual. After your turn ends, however, you can choose the order in which you put the Fuel cards you used this turn into your discard pile. As you buy more Fuel cards with more powerful abilities, it starts to make a huge difference, because once your current deck is depleted, you don’t shuffle anymore. Instead, you flip your discard pile over and it becomes your current deck.
The effect this has on the game is considerable. Because you place your most powerful Fuel cards further back in the discard pile, it means you also draw them earlier when you turn it over, and those who can really pay attention will have a pretty good idea of what cards are to come. This informs about the decisions you make on a given turn, and it also matters, because each turn a Wild token is passed from player to player, giving the person holding it an extra turn when that card appears in the turn order (what is shuffled each turn).
The character designs fit into the game’s combined sci-fi/superhero aesthetic, and the bosses follow suit, with bold and colorful designs that pair well with everyone’s overall level of challenge. Bosses level up as you progress through their Boss card games, though even at their standard levels they’re far from child’s play. I enjoyed the challenge a lot and found it encouraged the player to really learn how to use their abilities in relation to the rest of their team and experiment a bit with how they approach the situation.
Sure, you can go all out and start dealing damage to the boss, but maybe it’s best to build up power early or upgrade your slots to accommodate more weapons on any given turn. At first, you won’t enjoy it as much, but as the game progresses, having multiple locations is a lifesaver, especially if you’re using other players’ unique abilities.
Defending the Homeworld also adds another wrinkle in the mix, as most of them have much less health than bosses (a boss is usually 60 and a homeworld tends to be between 25 and 30), so you need to be constantly careful or the game can quickly spiral out of control.
Most of my quibbles are around the prototype components, especially the character cards for the knights. They’re just cardboard in the prototype, so they sometimes move at the slightest touch, but in the final version of the game, they’ve been upgraded to real mats, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Other than that, a larger pool of cards wouldn’t have been a bad thing, as it doesn’t take long to start seeing the same cards every game. Still, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained for a while, as the in-game randomization and character variety should keep you hooked.
Astro Knights introduces some welcome tweaks to the deck-building formula and has quickly become a game I look forward to diving into again in the future. With all the upgrades and milestones added to the base campaign experience, the final version should be even better, making Astro Knights more than worth your time and support.
You can check out the Astro Knights Kickstarter campaign here.
Will you support Astro Knights? Let us know in the comments or, as always, you can chat about all the tabletop stuff with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!