#22 Kardboard Kings
I’ve had Kardboard Kings wishlisted for a long time. Every now and then a game comes along and you just know you’re going to love everything about it – almost like it has been made specifically with you in mind. This is one of those games for me, and I was so chuffed to receive an early key – thank you so much to the publishers.
Having played the game, preparing this promotion was daunting. There is a huge amount to talk about and I will do my best to include as much as I can without spoiling anything.
Trust me, Kardboard Kings is amazing. Let’s do this.
Open your own Card shop by the seaside! Buy, trade and sell Cards, OR keep them for your own collection! Earn reputation with customers, beat your shop goals, unlock new decorations, and host exciting events to bring everyone to the best Card shop in town!
I’ve decided to break everything down into three sections – story, cards, shop – otherwise I’m just going to tie myself up in knots, fail to make sense, and increase the risk of forgetting something.
Kardboard Kings takes place in Parakeet Bay, Australia. You play as Harry Hsu, the son of George Hsu – the world’s first Warlock card champion. Upon his untimely death, you inherit your father’s card shop and aim to make it a success once more.
But all is not as it seems in Parakeet Bay. The legendary Warlock cards, described as “powerful artifacts that go beyond human comprehension”, have been stolen!
Between a Phantom Thief on the loose, a talking Cockatoo known as Giuseppe, the Warlock creator himself, who had a turbulent relationship with your father, and an evil CEO of the Warlock Company, known hilariously as Andrew Wilson (if you know, you know), who can you trust..?
This is a management game, so as you progress, story beats will drop in from time to time. In between that, you’ll get to know a small batch of regulars that ultimately become your friends. Bee, pictured above, is working towards a PhD and just happened to spot your shop while walking along the beach. You’ll also meet Davo, who recently found his old Warlock collection, and there is Aoife La Roche, who comes in one day looking for her dog. In time you’ll also meet Kevin, who is a young influencer trying to make a name for himself, and international Warlock professional Francis Barone.
The mix of major and minor characters is great. While some will push the story forward, even minor interactions have weight behind them as rejecting a trade or getting a question wrong can affect your shop’s reputation. Take your time with everyone that comes into your shop. Once you begin an interaction, time stops outside of it, so there is no pressure.
I rolled credits after two hours but story beats are still issued beyond that and the work is far from over, so keep going.
Be good to people and you will reap the benefits.
The core mechanic of the game is buying and selling cards. The aforementioned Cockatoo, known as Giuseppe, co-owned the shop with your father. When you take over the business, he becomes your guide.
Firstly, you need to know how to buy cards. You have a computer in your shop that gives you access to ‘gbay’. It is here that you can buy damaged cards, common cards, uncommon cards, rare cards, shiny cards, and every now and then you can get booster packs.
Put in a big order and you’ll get ‘bulk discount’, but there is always a delivery charge to bear in mind. All purchases arrive the next day, but if you run out of money and cards, then your shop is closed and it is game over.
The cards in the game, of which there are more than 100, are incredible. Absolutely stunning. Below is a picture of a Gachi Garden card – one of my favourites. This is a card from the Dark Moon set. When you begin the game, there are a few sets already in circulation. Every couple of weeks or so a new set is released. Your shop can hold parties to celebrate the new release, which involve getting your hands on a lovely batch of brand new cards. Planning for a booster draft costs money, but not too much, and you can also pick the day the party takes place, thanks to a handy calendar on the right side of the shop, nestled in between the windows.
This Gachi Garden card tells me a lot. The border has a particular colour and pattern, and were this not a screenshot, you’d be able to see that this is a shiny. The big D in the bottom left tells me it is from the Dark Moon set. The Roman Numeral I tells me it has a power level of one, and the big lips to the right of the card tells me it has the ‘Beauty’ ability.
All these factors play a big part in making your shop successful. You receive daily news regarding the market and trends of Warlock cards. You’ll need to make the most of this. You might like the look of some cards on gbay that have the ‘braun’ ability (crossing swords) but if they are about to take a tumble in market value, you don’t want a shop full of them.
You can display six cards in your shop at any given time, but customers may on occasion ask about others from your collection. The regular customers I have already mentioned will sometimes want to trade with you, or sell a card they have found, or twist your arm for a good deal, or even get you to compare two decks and pick the best one.
If you weren’t already busy enough, each week you’ll take requests by phone. These are very specific but you are given several days to complete them.
Most transactions will effect your shop’s rating. Your reputation can range from terrible/average/good/great/amazing. If you manage to scale the dizzying heights of an amazing reputation, your shop can host Warlock tournaments, which are great fun.
To help you out a little, you will acquire tags that you can attach to your displayed cards. For example, by putting a magnet on a card, once it has been bought, you’ll get a bonus customer that day. Other tags secure sales, or give reputation boosts at the cost of a lower sale. Vice versa, there is a tag you can apply that means you’ll get more money for a sale, but it will cost you some reputation.
Your reputation is important for obvious reasons but one thing in particular in is regards to rush hours. If your reputation is good, you’ll have a 10% chance of a rush hour. If your reputation is amazing, you’ll have a 25% chance of a rush hour and subsequently laugh your head off all the way to the bank.
Before we move onto the shop, the last thing I’ll say about cards is that you get to keep your own private collection. I loved this aspect. Once the shop closes, you have as much time as you like before ending the day. I would always round up all the displayed cards, check requests were fulfilled, read the news for upcoming trends, set a fresh batch of displays out, spend what I could on gbay, and finally sift through the remaining cards to see which I could afford to keep for myself.
Well worth noting that once you put a card into your private collection, you can not take it out. I was hell bent on just putting shiny cards in mine and I definitely put myself first on several spending sprees. If you manage to complete a set in your private collection, you’ll be rewarded with very cool posters.
The shop is an aspect of the game you can really sprinkle some creativity into. When you first take over, the place is not very welcoming. It is run down, bare, and looking tired.
As you make your way through the game, you can renovate and decorate as you please because a shop becomes available on gbay that will offer different items each day.
On top of that, you’ll meet Declan O’Regan early on, who works for the Commonwealth Card Retailer’s Union. He will set you shop targets that if you complete, you’ll be rewarded with ornaments, decorations, curtains, wallpapers, floors, and rugs. It is also from Declan that you get card tags to help with sales. The goals he sets (you choose weekly between two) are never too difficult and most of the time you’ll complete them without really having to go out of your way. They are targets that, as a business, you are already actively pursuing, or should be.
The shop is open everyday from 9am – 6pm, but you get time before and after to prepare and pack away.
You get your post nice and early each day and it usual arrives before any customers do. So, if you happen to have misjudged your stock the day before, there is always a little safety net, providing you placed an order in.
This may make me sound a bit sad, but actually opening the post never got old. You click on one end of the envelope and drag your mouse across the screen to hear the soft ripping of travelled paper. Oof, very satisfying.
I seriously think Kardboard Kings has moved into my all-time top 10. I adore this game to its core. Yes, I could have talked more about the story, but I don’t want to spoil anything. And there will for sure be little things I’ve forgotten to include because I’m still so giddy about what I’ve just experienced. I can’t calmly gather all my thoughts at this time. I’ve been so focused on content and gameplay, that I haven’t had chance to talk about how the contrasting visual styles work so well or how the sublime accompanying soundtrack adds its own level of cool to an already outrageously cool game. The love and attention to detail has blown me away. I will come back to Kardboard Kings time and time again.
I’m a geek that loves management games. If that rings true with you, then you owe it to yourself to support this game.