The main challenge with competitive, collectible card games is that they usually require a lot of upfront investment (time, knowledge, and money) and a level playing field to adequately compete. This can turn off many players wanting to get into the game. However, gamers seeking the experience, but without the any resources, have a new option.
FourCuatro, from the company of the same name, is a simpler introduction to the competitive card game landscape. It’s is a card game for 2 players that takes about 30 minutes to play.
In the Basic Format, the 66 card deck is divided randomly into two 33 card decks. Turns are simple and very reminiscent of Magic. During a player’s turn, they will put into play one card face down as Mana, which provide energy for spells. Over the course of their turns, players will end up playing a maximum of four Mana. After playing any Mana, they draw a card to their hand.
Players can use whatever method of indicating Mana has been used for casting spells (rotating, sliding, etc). Spells played will take effect and immediately go to the discard pile. There are no permanent cards in FourCuatro.
The main source of damage players will take is from opponent spells that have “burn” effects. These require the player to place in a burn pile cards from their deck. If a player is ever required to draw a card, but cannot, they lose the game.
There are three distinguishing things about FourCuatro. Players can cause their opponent to burn cards simply by discarding cards on a one-for-one basis. This may seem powerful, but it also means a player is discarding cards that may end up helping them get a competitive advantage in hand strength. The other main feature is zero-cost counterspells. As long as a player has a “Trap” card in hand, they can cast it to counter an opponent’s spell. The final distinction is that players do not lose when their deck runs out and their discard pile has cards. The discard pile is recycled and play continues.
Seasoned Magic players will immediately notice one thing: playing FourCuatro is essentially like everyone playing single color blue decks with only instants and sorceries. The theme of wizard upon wizard duels with counterspells and mental magic is immediately apparent. Blue, when it ventures over to black, also focuses on card denial and deck depletion, just like FourCuatro.
This concept of deck depletion instead of life points is one of the main critical points with the game. As a player’s deck is depleted of cards, they have fewer and fewer options to defend themselves. This is fine for seasoned Magic players, but with a more casual game like this and with a random deck split at the beginning, a player can easily get hosed on cards through no tactical fault. Playing the more strategic “Constructed” format possibly alleviates this.
In addition to the strategic annoyances inherent in play, FourCuatro has a decidedly non-user friendly method of keeping track of life points. Since a deck equates to a player’s life points, it would be assumed that cards are taken from the top of the deck when a player loses life. This will undoubtedly disrupt any cards that allow a player to change the order of the top cards of their deck. To accommodate this, players in FourCuatro draw from the bottom of their deck when losing cards. This is extremely annoying because it means having to pick up the deck and draw off cards. Because this takes two hands, it makes for a slow stop to what is otherwise a very nicely paced, fast game.
Overall, another thing that will keep gamers from multiple plays is the extremely narrow focus of play. One of the reasons for Magic’s staying power is the vast and varied types of spells from different domains. Making combos from the variety of spells and their abilities in FourCuatro is so narrow in scope, that it’s really hard to distinguish one game from the next. This dumbed down play sphere is probably perfect for new players trying to understand the different zones of play, but it’s not exciting for seasoned gamers.
Having already gone through a collectible card game phase and coming out minimally scathed, this reviewer is not the target audience for FourCuatro unless family members were interested in the format. As played, FourCuatro definitely gives players the simulacrum of competitive collectible card game style play. It feels very much like an azure tour of Magic, but much more compartmentalized.
But that’s all it does. The variability of FourCuatro is extremely narrow. As an experienced gamer, it’s hard to see the need to continue playing it. The game performs adequately, but doesn’t have the legs to keep it enjoyable over more than a couple plays.
Final Score: 2 Stars – Gamers in the market for a shorter, simpler version of Magic: The Gathering for family or introductions to CCGs will find something adequate. Others can find more enjoyment elsewhere.
• Clumsy mechanism to reduce life
• Making a comeback from low life (few cards) is difficult
• Sterile art with an uninspiring theme