For years, I've ridiculed the idea of videogames where you use cards to defeat your enemies. I've tried to play a couple of them, and hated them. I've called them stupid and pointless, among other things. And then I went and played Sword & Poker.
Sword & Poker is something of a dungeon crawler. It's not like Dungeon Master, and it's not like the Diablo games. Instead, you're shown a top view of a dungeon level, with you starting at the beginning, and a pathway to the end. Along the way are a series of monsters, which you must defeat to get to the end of the level. You can't go around them, although there are times when the path branches so you can choose which fight to take. But basically, you'll have a set number of fights to win in order to get to the next level. If your energy runs out before you get to the end, you've lost and will have to restart the level.
Ready... FIGHT! Erm, DRAW! Snap? Damn.
When you do encounter an enemy, you face off using a five by five grid. Nine cards are placed in the centre of the grid... you will then be dealt four cards, and you must place two of them on the grid to make the best five-card poker hand that you can.
Each hand causes damage to your enemy. Cleverly, it doesn't always work out that the strongest hand causes the most damage. That's the case with your starting weapon, but as you earn money you can buy new weapons at the end of every level, thanks to the handily placed shop. Some weapons have magic properties... others sacrifice damage with stronger hands in order to make some of the mid-level hands do more damage. So you might only hit for one point of damage for a straight flush, but you might hit for thirty for a full house.
Not sure about you, but I don't much like the look of that fella at the end...
It's an interesting element of strategy, because those premium hands don't show up all that often. You'll do best if you take stock at the end of every level, see what you can afford and look at how much damage each weapon can do, and whether certain trade-offs are worth it.
Sword & Poker is a very simple idea, and one I'm sure has been used many times before but that I've been too blinkered to see. I've learned a lesson with this game... although an idea might be stupid (which I still think the fighting with cards thing is), it doesn't mean it won't be enjoyable. You won't see me rushing out to buy more card fighting games, but I've learned not to be so ignorantly dismissive.