When I read Rock Paper Shotgun’s Floppy Knights verdict (a joyful card game that offers more the longer you play), I was immediately sold: a card game (check), a turn-based strategy (check), and something with old-skool floppies? (double-check) The question is: will my brain happily accept this floppy, or will it produce a sector error?
Having never heard of Rose City Games or their self-published game before, I was keen to check out their approach to the turn-based genre. At first, I thought Floppy Knights is quite reminiscent of Wargroove from Chucklefish. But I was wrong: apart from the smaller team, cutesy graphics and turn-based move set, there’s little Advance Wars in these Knights. Instead, the developers managed to successfully fuse a card-based approach (think Slay the Spire, SteamWorld Quest, Baten Kaitos) with a very tactical but limited TBS approach (think Into the Breach). The following screenshot will hopefully clear up any confusion raised from my clunky explanation:
Each round, you get dealt an amount of cards. With that, you can hopefully get cracking and turn the tide. The problem is… There’s nothing on the battlefield yet. Cards are used to:
- Summon units;
- Move units;
- Attack and defend;
- Execute special moves.
Some cards magically conjure up other cards: if you deploy card
x, you get move action
y for free. These make up for really strategic decisions. You can only deploy units within certain zones where your floppy can be ‘read’. That means, if your little army is advancing, and you lose a unit, sending one after the team takes a long time to arrive. Sometimes, you just want to deploy someone for the free benefits of an extra move that you can better utilize in the frontline.
The card-based system is both Floppy Knight’s biggest appeal and disadvantage. Compared to a very tactical game like Into the Breach, or even the Fire Emblem genre, moving is “free”—depending on the properties of the unit, of course. In Floppy Knights, you’ll have to (1) be lucky enough to draw movement cards and (2) waste ‘energy’ to ‘cast’ (play) the card. That means a lot of times, I found myself either moving or attacking, but not both. And that’s okay, as long as you don’t lose a unit, since most maps have you advancing in a certain direction well away from the drop zone. At some battles, when I made a small mistake, I felt that restarting was a more appealing option than trying to correct it.
It takes some to get used to the system, but make no mistake: luck is a very important factor. Sometimes, a bad hand is a wasted round—which can be okay, or disastrous: if the level has a tight timer set, you’re basically screwed. Most levels don’t, but—the all-important but—almost every level has multiple frustratingly tight spawn points that have flashing count down times, almost laughing at you and your pathetic attempts to manage the cards in your hand.
Which brings us to the second problem I have with the game. All levels come with optional achievements: win the battle within 10 rounds, kill all enemies, etc. These net you extra coins or even extra new cards. Coins can be spent in a shop to craft new and much more potent cards, which you can chuck into your deck to upgrade it. Needless to say, it’s of vital importance to play with that.
But I regularly struggled to finish a level with success and was always happy to breathe and just move on. Leaving the optional coins for what they are feels like an extra punishment, since the better player has easier access to better cards (they probably don’t need as much as I do).
If you can’t get enough of Floppy Knights, there’s the puzzle challenges, in which you have to overcome a specific assignment, like killing an enemy in one round. These levels play completely different, converting the nail-biting always trying to push forward gameplay to a puzzle of which card precedes which. I very much appreciated those, and there’s also precious coins to be found there!
Every world unlocks another ‘floppy’—a unique set of units that form a central theme, like a plant-based deck or a horde of aggressive fire-based critters. It’s up to you to mix and match. Some combinations are of course better than others. This is the deck building part of Floppy Knights, and it’s clearly one of the most enjoyable moments of the game. You can’t enter a true practice match though, but there’s always a new battle lurking around the corner for your knights to test their metal (or in case of a skateboarding ghost, their wheels?)! In about eight hours, the main campaign should be finished.
I highly appreciate everything Floppy Knights is trying to do, and I utterly love card games (and turn-based games), so this is right up my alley. And yet, the bad luck combined with the movement pressure mechanics made me lose interest just before finishing the game. I don’t mind losing—I’ve lost countless of Into the Breach and of course Slay the Spire matches—but some annoying enemy respawn points (that can be blocked by putting a unit on it, by the way) combined with an unlucky draw make finishing the levels like a relief instead of a proper victory.
Like Rock Paper Shotgun said, the more you’re invest into Floppy Knights, the more you’ll get out of it by the extra powerful and satisfying cards. Sadly, for me, I’d rather replay Into the Breach. To conclude, Floppy Knights is a great but ultimately forgettable card-based turn-based strategy that could be the game for you. Just be prepared for a good bit of randomness and frustration!
Verdict:/5 I liked it.