From Studio71, the same company that brought us the Umbrella Academy card game comes a game that might sound a bit familiar. Binding of Isaac, Four Souls is a card game based off a computer game by the same name. If the title sounds like it rings a bell, it does. The concept is extremely loosely based off the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac (and I do mean loosely). The summary of the computer game is as follows:
In the game, Isaac’s mother receives a message from God demanding the life of her son as proof of her faith, and Isaac, fearing for his life, flees into the monster-filled basement of their home where he must fight to survive. Players control Isaac or one of eleven other unlockable characters through a procedurally generated dungeon in a roguelike manner, fashioned after those of The Legend of Zelda, defeating monsters in real-time combat while collecting items and power-ups to defeat bosses and eventually Isaac’s mother.Wikipedia entry for Binding of Isaac
For those who know anything about the game, this card game will harken back to the gameplay and stir up lots of memories, so I’ve been told. I have not played the video game, so this review is largely from the average gameplayer perspective.
Four Souls – Packaging
This is a card game, so the box is pretty simple. The slightly different thing about the box comes from the dimensions. It’s taller than its width, so the cards stand up instead of laying sideways. This really means nothing other than it seemed odd, which really fits this game’s character.
Inside you receive the game cards in a long channel built for future expansions and a small container in one end. This container holds everything not a card (dice, coins, etc), so the overall box design is simple yet perfect for the future. For Accessories, the game also comes with a dice bag, a D6, D10 and x50 plastic pennies. The cute thing about the pennies is they come wrapped in coin wrappers just like actual pennies do when you get them from the bank. That’s all you need for this game.
Four Souls – Set-up and Gameplay
Binding of Isaac is an extremely easy game to set-up and begin playing. Each player selects (or blindly draws) one of the ten hero cards. They then pick the corresponding starting item and gains 3 cents. Shuffle the three decks (loot, treasure and monster), turn two of each card face up for the Treasure and Monsters, and boom! You are ready to go.
The active player can choose from the following actions: play 1 loot card, purchase 1 treasure from the face up cards or top of the deck, or attack a monster. Of course the various loot cards change rules and how often things can be done.
Killing monsters gains you treasure cards, money, and some select monsters grant you souls. Collect four souls and you win the game! The battle mechanics are also incredibly simple. You and the monsters have a health and damage number. The monster also uses a defense number. You roll the D6, and if you tie or beat the monster’s defense value you do damage equal to your current damage number. If you miss you take the damage from the monster card. You keep rolling until one of you dies.
Four Souls – Game Experience and Replay Value
The first time I played this as a two player game, we caught on easy enough, and it’s simple enough you do not spend half the first play-through questioning everything you do. The game played straight forward and ended within 15 minutes. The card play came across simply and I won decisively. It seemed okay, but it failed to impress me.
The second game we played, the game came alive! We drew a better mix of cards and for the first time saw the true mechanics and possibilities the game offered. In many ways, think of this as a Munchkin style game with a few extras. You kill monsters and try to screw your opponent over as best you can to stop them. The pennies allow you to buy cards that power you up, and the D10 can be used to keep track of damage on a monster. For character damage, we generally just used the pennies since base health is 2.
They suggest 2-4 players for Binding of Isaac, and set the age recommendation at 13+. Like Munchkin, this game gets better the more people you add as the cards in play become more plentiful. I played a couple three player games, and they came out even better than any previous game. Honestly, I do not see why this game could not be played with 10 people since the game includes 10 hero cards. Granted the decks might run thin with that many cards dealt out. As for the age, this game plays easy enough for younger kids to play it, but the nature of the cards probably earned the game the 13+ rating.
Four Souls – Drawbacks
This game has very few negatives. If you call it a negative, the number of players might be one. It plays very well with two people, but the more you can get playing the better the game will be.
As a nit-picky player the pennies get a bit annoying. They are all pennies and since you often deal with 10+, it would be nice to have nickels or some other denomination to make tracking them a bit easier. Tokens for damage would be convenient as well, but any avid gamer can use dice or other markers. Hell, break open your own roll of nickels if you want. I imagine the pennies have a tie-in to the game.
That really is all the negatives to this game.
Four Souls – Purchase and Future
I highly recommend this game. I have heard for those who have played the computer game, this game brings back lots of fond memories. Those who have not played the video game will still enjoy this card game. The cards bring a sense of humor at times, while others can bring about that ‘oh my!’ feeling. This game can be purchased at Studio71games.com.
I do suggest you hurry. Why’s that? Because Studio71 is preparing to launch a kickstarted expansion in the near future. The expansion is described as follows:
This Kickstarter will feature a HUGE expansion with over 200 totally new cards! a reprinted version of the base game with Kickstarter exclusive cards, as well as tons of limited edition binding of Isaac merchandise like figurines, plushies, apparel, and more!Studio71
If you go HERE, you can sign up for two free promo cards when you back the Kickstarter project. The Kickstarter looks to launch in June, if you wish to flag their page to be notified when it launches, click HERE.
Until then, happy soul hunting!