Kardboard Kings Review: What is a card to a king? Everything!
Harry doesn’t know all that much about the trading card game Warlock, which is odd considering he runs a shop in Parakeet Bay that exclusively sells its cards. But that was more his father’s arena, and it wasn’t until he passed that Harry inherited the card shop, its wares, and its… feathered help. And while Harry’s been adapting well enough, the whole situation has been a lot to take in. Sure, running the card shop, but also getting used to the variety of clientele, being entrusted with the Legendary Cards, a talking bird, a dog that kinda talks but like not the same as the bird, a barefooted friend turned foil… let’s just say Harry has his hands full (did we mention the talking bird?).
But that’s all part of the fun in Kardboard Kings, a funny card-based shop simulator developed by Henry’s House and published by Akupara Games. Its Steam page invites players to “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!” which is exactly as fun as it sounds (a lot). Can you turn a profit selling Warlock cards, keep customers happy, complete your Warlock collection, and gather all the Legendary Cards to keep them safe from those that would do harm?
Kardboard Kings opens up on Harry, starting fresh in Parakeet Bay with his father’s card shop opened under new management. Assisting him is his feathered friend, Giuseppe, a smart-talking bird that doesn’t know how to keep his beak shut, and a slew of customers that adopt the little card shop as their own. Some customers have a little history with Harry, such as his ex-girlfriend or his father’s ex-partner, Christopher Marlowe, while others have a little mystery, like the mystifying masked thief who gifts Harry one of 6 Legendary Cards and a dog who drives a hard bargain. Will Harry be able to do his father proud, or will his little card shop go under?
The number one rule of Kardboard Kings is simple: buy low, sell high. Every morning, Harry will need to check the news to see which cards will be affected by market fluctuations, such as cards being added or removed from the ban list, a star player mentioning her favorite card set in a blog post, or a church decrying a specific color card as Satanic. Some events will drive specific card prices up, while others will crash their worth. Buy and sell accordingly!
Although the storyline can be completed in roughly 1 – 2 hours, the writing in Kardboard Kings is fun and guffaw-inducing nonetheless. From a flirty bird to a stone cold card queen, from a snot-nosed influencer to a skeptical surfer bro, and a lot of colorful characters in between, the interactions between shopkeep and clientele are fun and interesting. I particularly loved the Postie, who talked mortgage troubles while longing for his true love, the surf. My only complaint, truly, is that I wished for more interactions between everyone!
Now I know what you’re thinking — if the storyline is only 1 – 2 hours long, is it really worth playing? My answer is an unequivocal YES because the collecting aspect can go on for far, far longer. I’m missing 2 cards in my 100+ card collection and I’ve already poured in a little over 30 hours! So while the storyline is a bit on the short side (for now, as the developers have promised more story and cards in the future), the gameplay is so addicting that you’ll likely be at it for weeks. Maybe it’s because you can watch the market fluctuations and have slight control over them, or maybe it’s that serotonin-inducing animation of ripping open a booster pack while hoping for a certain shiny card inside. All I know I still play for an hour or two each day to collect more cards and make more cash, and if you love this kind of gameplay, I’m certain you’ll be hooked as well!
Kardboard Kings may have a short story, but its gameplay easily extends into the 20 – 30 hour mark and beyond. If you loved collecting Pokémon cards in real life and searched high and low for a shiny Charizard or others, you need this game. With coffee-shop casual music, a fun visual style, and dozens of cards to add to your personal collection, Kardboard Kings oozes that “one more turn” gameplay that’ll turn casual players into complete addicts. Can you collect them all?
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Akupara Games; Developer: Henry’s House; Players: 1; Released: February 10, 2022; MSRP: $19.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Kardboard Kings provided by the publisher.