Assassin’s Creed Recollection is both a fantastic card game and a fantastic fit for the series

As a lover of card and board games, I’ve been quite lucky with all the fantastic ports I’ve seen show up on iOS devices. Literal translations of existing games have been a great asset, since they’re typically super cheap compared to the real world ones and you always have an opponent in the AI. But I’ve been sort of hoping for a game that could take the card game aspects I love and infuse it with something only a digital format could offer. I seemed to have gotten my wish with Assassin’s Creed Recollection.

This isn’t the first time the Assassin’s Creed franchise has shown up in iOS, but most previous efforts have tried to replicate the climbing and sneaking mechanics of the well polished and well-regarded console outings. The problem is that, for as powerful as these devices are, you just can’t port the experience over. So in an excellent turn, they kept the look and style of the world, along with the excellent political subterfuge and Assassins vs Templars vibe, and wrapped it around a card game.

What makes this such an interesting take on the card game genre is that, while it incorporates a lot of the conventions of the “buy packs and build a deck to battle with” style, they do some things that are only capable on a digital device. And not just in the cool transitions and graphics department. Fundamental gameplay elements rely on the fact that this is all running virtually.

Here’s how it works. Two players face each other with three areas in the center of the table that they’ll battle to control. There are a few different types of cards that can influence the game, but the main element is the agent cards. They have a strength and defense score, sort of like Magic: The Gathering, that will determine how they do in battle. The location and action cards typically serve to assist those agents in battle.

You’ll generate gold over time that can be used to play a card from your hand to the table. From there it takes time for a card to be ready to get placed into an area. If the card can survive in one of those areas for a set amount of time, you’ll take some points out of it and be closer to capturing the area. But what do I mean by time?

Assassin's Creed Recollection

Throughout every game there’s a constantly ticking clock keeping track of a day/night cycle. All the actions you do, like bringing cards from your hand onto the table or engaging in battle, take time. For instance, playing an agent card from your hand to the table doesn’t happen instantly, rather it takes half a day for that agent to be ready, at which time you can then move him into position. Same for locations. Every card you play takes in-game time.

So there’s no real concept of taking turns here like in a typical game. It’s in real-time, but not fast. You’ll find yourself waiting for cards, money and actions to ready themselves, and timing those things correctly is the crux of the game. These delays in readying a card and having it take an effect or being able to attack means you’re not just reacting to things in the moment by playing cards from your hand. If you need to stop an opponent’s move, then you need to not only have a card on the table already but have it ready to fight. It’s not super hard to understand once you see it in action, and luckily there’s a very well done tutorial in place to help you through it.

The only place the tutorial falls apart is in the deck building part of the game. Packs are available to buy (with in-game or real money) and are randomized. The cards are called “memories” and the deck you play with is called a “sequence.” Building an effective sequence can be a daunting prospect, so some teaching there would’ve gone a long way. While in-game money is tight (clearly they’re trying to get you to pony up cash to buy more) I was able to play through the game without spending a dime of real world cash. If you wanted to play online competitively though, that’s likely a different story.

Assassin's Creed Recollection

If you’re a fan of the console games, you’ll find the integration between them and Assassin’s Creed Recollection is fantastic. The design of the playfield and all the graphics come right out of the Animus used in the console games, and all the artwork on the cards and such are right out of the Renaissance world the games take place in. It evokes all the feelings of Assassin’s Creed, but in a totally new way.

The simple to understand game mechanic of delays and time kept leading me down more and more paths of strategy the longer I played. This is definitely one of those “minute to learn, lifetime to master” games. You can burst out of the gate as a beginner and feel like you understand the game and do pretty well, but the longer you play the more the game reveals itself to you – and that’s the mark of a great experience.