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Choosing the best digital card game

Playing card games with family, friends, and opponents is a time-honoured pastime, but what do you do when you want to gamble when no one is around? They go digital. A wide variety of card games can be played on virtually any computer, smartphone, and popular gaming console. Many of them are free too, with easy-to-master controls, making them super accessible for most people.

Ease of access is nice, but what specifically should you be playing? Would you like to play online alone or with friends and random players? Do you want to go on a quest, solve a puzzle, or collect and trade characters? Do you want to play offline on your PC or cut a lot of data from your phone plan? The list below includes some of the best options with plenty of variety so you’ll have something to play no matter your lifestyle or interests.

Pokémon Trading Card Game Online

Pokémon Trading Card Game Online

© The Pokemon Company

If you haven’t collected hundreds of Pokémon cards without knowing what to do with them, have you lived at all? Pokémon TCG Online is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s one of the few digital card games where you can trade cards with other people, making it a true Trading Card Game (TCG) over a regular Trading Card Game (CCG). But enough politics, Pokémon TCG Online is free for Windows, Mac, iPad, Android and very easy to learn, making it a great entry point for new players, especially if they’re fans of the Pokémon franchise.

Similar to Pokemon battles in anime and other video games, you have one active Pokemon in battle while the rest remain on your Bench. Pokémon require specific Energy cards to use their attacks, and you can evolve them one turn after you place them. Allocate your energy accordingly to make the most of your Pokemon’s abilities to win matches. You can play against the computer in trainer challenges or against other players in versus mode. Winning brings you packs, coins and decks to improve your game. Once you can get 500 coins, buy the Soaring Storm theme deck from the shop. It’s a super powerful Dragonite deck that’s easy to win games with, making it perfect for beginners.

South Park: Phone Destroyer

South Park: Phone Destroyer

© Ubisoft

This game can turn anyone into a mobile junkie and tempt even the most thrifty gamer with (completely unnecessary) in-app purchases. South Park: Phone Destroyer is a free-to-play, fully online mobile game with a unique real-time strategy gameplay feature uncommon in most CCGs. Where and when you place your characters has a huge impact on whether you win games or not. Tanks like Manbearpig go forward, while ranged characters (Pope Timmy) serve you best if you keep them in the back. Her other units, assassin (Four-Assed Monkey) and fighter (Sexy Nun Randy), are at best somewhere in between.

This CCG is divided into a lengthy story mode that gets more and more difficult as the levels progress, as well as a PVP mode in which you try to increase your rank by destroying the phones of other South Park enthusiasts in a best-of- Destroy three game. The more games you win in either mode, the more rewards will be unlocked. Whether it’s Commons, Rares, Epics and Legendaries or items, coins and cash that you can use to make your characters, traps and spells more powerful. There are tons of cards to collect and lots of other extra goodies to keep you never looking away from your phone.

Kill the tower

Kill the tower

© Humble Bundle

Finally something that’s easy to play when flying from your home in Vancouver to your second home in Toronto, or maybe that’s just me. Slay the Spire is a single player card game that is almost entirely offline apart from access to the Daily Climb and is available on mobile, PC and console. It’s a deck builder, meaning you build your deck as you progress through the game. Slay the Spire is a roguelike that involves decision making, adventure, and lots of strategy, making it super replayable.

You play until you win or die. If you die, you start over and create a brand new deck. The maps, relics, and potions you collect on your journey will determine if you stand a chance when you get to the boss in Act 3, so be extra selective. You have four characters to choose from: The Ironclad, Silent, Defect and Watcher. Each has its quirks and decks, and you must beat the game with each of them to open alternative endings, further adding to the replay value.

Legends of Runeterra

Legends of Runeterra

© Riot Games

Honestly, you could never have played League of Legends in your life and still really enjoyed Legends of Runeterra. LoR, set in the LoL universe, is a free-to-play cross-save/play CCG for Windows, iOS, iPhone and Android. LoR is still relatively new to the esports world, but it’s steadily making its way to becoming as popular as competitive heavyweights like MTG Arena and Hearthstone.

It’s objectively the most beautiful game on this list. The card art is beautiful, while the graphics and gameplay are stunning, whether you’re just navigating the menus or in the middle of the game. The title is fairly complex at higher levels, but is still suitable for new players thanks to features like the Oracle Eye, which lets you see how your decisions play out before committing them. Great if you’re an overthinker who sucks at math.

LoR is divided into 10 regions, each with their own champions, henchmen, landmarks, and spells that you can use to create different decks. You can combine up to two regions to create some pretty amazing synergies. There are multiple game modes that can be played competitively like Gauntlet, Tournament and PVP or casually like Labs, VS AI and Challenges. It’s really easy to collect cards for free, and the game encourages you to do it through region rewards and the weekly vault. This game is also constantly updated so it never goes out of date, and there is an active community of content creators and streamers who can help you keep up to date.

encryption

encryption

© Devolver Digital

Inscryption is another offline roguelike deck builder, but this one plays like an escape room with a lot of horror elements. You have been locked in a booth with a demon that forces you to play card games until you lose and they kill you. Before you die, you are turned into a card used by the next poor git who is caught. So, turn your past self into a beast if you can to make the next run easier. Before moving around the map, you can always leave the table to solve puzzles in the room that will help you get out of the cabin and progress through the story, making the gameplay feel a lot more dynamic.

The cards and items you collect and upgrade as you progress the map are mostly related to real-world things. Bear, cat, wolf, cockroach, etc… are all real animals and they require blood and bone sacrifices to be summoned to the field. Hitting the demon directly scores points and counts them in teeth, which are placed on a scale. You win a round when the scales tip all the way to the demon’s side. Once you escape the cabin, you unlock Act II, a CCG 8-bit adventure game that, to be honest, isn’t that polished or addicting. So be sure to check out the Kaycee’s Mod official expansion for additional Act I unlocks and challenges.

Hearthstone: Battlegrounds

Hearthstone Battlegrounds

Hearthstone Battlegrounds

© Blizzard Entertainment

Battlegrounds is just one of the many game modes Blizzard’s zany, popular Hearthstone has to offer, but it’s arguably the best of the whole list, and many who play this CCG won’t attempt anything else.

Launched in 2019, 5 years after Hearthstone’s initial release, Battlegrounds quickly gained a lot of traction by taking fans of this Warcraft-inspired title from 1v1 modes to this new crazy 1v7 game, ready to play with all maps available for you once you enter the game. Sure, there are paid extras if you want perks, but you can play and win without spending a penny.

With cross-play and cross-save between your phone and computer, Battlegrounds lets you invite up to 7 friends to play against, or pair you up with random pairs if you don’t know that many people playing Hearthstone. Once grouped you choose a hero, they all have different powers, so choose your playstyle and enter Bob’s Tavern.

Bob has minions that you can recruit for 3 coins each to fight the other seven players. It takes practice figuring out how to strategically spend your coins to buy minions, upgrade Bob’s Tavern, and what order to arrange your recruits in, but when you get it right, it’s a beautiful thing.

Fight in close quarters

Fight in close quarters

© Mode 7 games

This is the card-based tactical combat game nobody knew they wanted. In Fights in Tight Spaces, you play as a Section Eleven agent who uses a variety of outlandish combat moves to manipulate his environment, allowing you to flawlessly massacre a bunch of thugs and leave blood splatters in their place. After the fight is over you can click replay and watch it like a movie which can look really cool if you played your combos right.

This deck builder has over 150 cards to try so you can orchestrate some awesome battles. The game tells you how your enemies will attack and in what order so you can take the time you need to come up with the best strategy. In most cases, you can manipulate the grid you’re on to force enemies to shoot, stab, burn, or hit each other. Available on Steam and Xbox, Fights in Tight Spaces is a relatively cheap single player game with plenty of replayability.

Magic: The Gathering Arena

Magic The Gathering Arena

Magic The Gathering Arena

© Wizards of the Coast

MTG Arena is arguably the best digital adaptation of the legendary tabletop card game Magic: The Gathering to date. Magic was the very first trading card game of all time, created by Richard Garfield and published by Wizards of the Coast in 1993. Wizards of the Coast took a few tries to truly bring this legacy title to the digital world, but MTG Arena is now so polished that it’s the best way to learn Magic. It is free to play on PC, Mac, Android and iOS.

MTG Arena keeps up with the release of new additions to the physical game, making the transition from online play to real life relatively smooth. That way, no one is left behind whether you’re jumping into a digital or real-world Magic competitive game. MTG Arena is Hearthstone’s biggest competitor in digital card games, but while Hearthstone draws users in because it’s easy, Magic keeps players in by being tough.

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