Monday, 9 December 2013

Review - Redakai


Published by Spin Masters Ltd
Designed by John Fiorillo, Justin Gary, and Brian Kibler
For 2 players

I should probably be banned from Poundland. I don't mean because I do weird stuff, like frightening the children or stuffing washing powder down my trousers. I mean because I have a habit of going in there and buying any old tat that looks remotely like a game. I almost always regret my purchases, and considering each purchase only costs me £1, that should give you some indication of the utter dross I have picked up over the years.

Dross like Chaotic and Huntik, which still give me nightmares.

But sometimes I get lucky, and I will pick up something that turns out to be half-decent. Enter the ridiculously named Redakai, which is surprisingly okay.

My initial foray into the game included the purchase of two starter sets, each comprising two packs of random cards, and a crappy plastic tray that is used for playing the cards into if you are playing the basic game.

The cards are absolutely awesome, as they are not really cards at all. They are pieces of thick, transparent plastic, with images printed on them. Sort of like the cards from Gloom. The images even move when you move the card, bringing the characters and special powers to life.

Redakai character cards
Character cards

The transparency of the cards is important, because the main mechanism in the game involves playing cards on top of cards already in play. Bits from the card underneath will show through transparent areas of the card on top, while other bits of the card will be obscured. For example, you could play a monster card on top of a character card. This effectively transforms the character into that monster: The original character image is obscured by a new monster image, and some of the character's statistics (such as health and defence) will be obscured by new statistics. It's a very simple, very clever system to show how cards affect other cards already in play. I was impressed. But then, I was impressed by the first Silent Hill movie, so maybe I'm just not all that demanding.

However, I was less impressed by the rules. You see, falling into the same trap as most other collectable game starter sets, Redakai only includes rules in the starter sets for the basic game. And frankly, the basic game is appalling.

It's like Top Trumps, but will less choices.

Redakai rules
Redakai - basic game rules... Don't bother

In the basic game, each player lays out a single character, and then shuffles the rest of the cards in his or her hand. On a turn, a player draws the top card. If it is a monster (transformation) card, the card is played on top of that player's character. If it is an attack, it is played on top of the opponent's character and may or may not do damage.

Each character has three life bars in the top right corner of the card, and if all three bars are obscured by overlaying attack cards, the character is defeated.

And that's it.

Draw a card, and then play it.

That's not a game.

Of course, I wanted to play the more advanced game, but there were two problems.

First of all, the advanced game involves using three characters per player, and my starters only contained a total of four characters.

The second problem was that the advanced rules are available from the Redakai website, but that site has been shut down.

So, with what I had in my two starters, I couldn't play the advanced game.

Guess that's the end of the review then...

What can I say? If you are just thinking of buying two starter sets to try this game out, don't bother. You're wasting your money. Even if you're only spending £1.

Redakai monsters
Monsters - three versions of "Slab"

But wait. Wait! I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But he said this game was half-decent."

And it is. Sort of.

Normally, when a game offers up starter sets as bad as these ones, I will cut my losses and walk away. However, I was so enamoured by the mechanism of laying transparent cards on top of each other that I was prepared to give this game another shot.

After some searching, I found the full advanced rules online, and a quick search on eBay netted me a sealed box of boosters (over 100 additional cards, for the princely sum of just £5). By the time I had opened all the booster packs, I had enough creatures, characters, and attack cards to create three distinct decks: One that focuses on heavy attacks, one that focuses on replenishing cards to your hand, and one that focuses on acquiring resources to play additional cards.

I was now set to play the game as it was intended to be played, and... Yeah... It's okay.

In the advanced rules, each player has three characters, and the aim of the game is to kill all three of your opponent's characters (and there was me thinking violence never solved anything). Each player also starts the game with a deck of 40 cards (monsters and attacks), and three "kairu" which are the resources used to pay to play cards.

On a turn, a player replenishes his or her kairu plus one additional kairu, draws one card, and then uses kairu to play cards. Monsters can be played on top of your own characters, while attacks can be played on top of enemy characters. Attacks are colour-coded, and will either cause damage (if they exceed the character's defence value in that colour), or they will block out certain defence values or special powers, making the character weaker and easier to kill with subsequent attacks.

It's very simple, very quick to play, and very slick.

Is it amazing? No. But the plastic cards have a nice feel to them when you shuffle them and flick them across the table, and it is cool to see the cards stacking up on your characters to alter their statistics in positive and negative ways.

Redakai attack cards
Attack cards in three flavours

There are still some problems though. The biggest problem is down to the fact the cards are transparent. It means you can see through the back of them. You will know what the top card of your draw deck is before you draw it, and your opponent will be able get an idea of what cards you have in your hand by looking at the card backs.

The designers realised this, and created some accessories: Stands to hold your hand of cards, and boxes to put your draw deck in. But a game this simple shouldn't need so many accessories, and if you draw from the bottom of your deck, and keep your cards well-hidden, it shouldn't be necessary to fork out more cash for the extras.

The other major problem relates to stacking cards. Sometimes a stack can get quite large, and then the cards start sliding around and may spill across the table. Of course, the designers realised this, and created some accessories: Trays to hold each character, which will stop the cards from sliding about. But a game this simple... Well, you get the point.

Basically, in order to get around all these little niggling problems, you can spend a load of extra money on accessories. This could well be one of the reasons why the game only lasted a few years; after all, what would you rather spend your money on? More cards, or little bits of plastic to organise those cards?

I guess it really is best to keep things simple.

As with all collectable card games, the more cards you buy, the more you will be able to hone and refine your deck to create killer combinations. I have no intention of doing that. I am happy just to tinker with the cards I have, and use this game as a light two-player filler.

Do I recommend the game?

Er... Not really. It's a good, simple game, but it doesn't do anything incredible; and I can't see you burning your Magic: The Gathering collection to invest in Redakai instead. However, if you can grab a lot of cards cheap, then it might be worth it, especially if you play with younger gamers.

But you absolutely must use the advanced game rules.


  1. This does sound cool, though I suspect that the novelty would indeed wear off quickly. Having said that, if I happen to be in Poundland this week...

    1. If you buy three starters (£3 investment), you should have just enough cards to play a half-decent version of the full game. Each starter should give you two characters and a bunch of other monster and attack cards. You technically need three characters and 40 other cards per player.

  2. Quality Save did these little boxes with all those plastic accessories and a full deck of 40+ cards for £3. Me and a mate got a couple of those, someone starters and a booster box each. I think it totalled about £15 each but we got quite a lot of play out of it. Its a shame we couldn't get any other mates to play whilst the cards were still easily available.


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