The first clue to what you’re getting with CUE – short for “Cards, the Universe and Everything” – is in the name. The title is a reference to Life, the Universe, and Everything, the third book in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.
That sets the tone. Like the book, CUE is packed with both humor and trivia about science, history, the natural world, and so on. Douglas Adams was both funny and intellectually curious, and it looks like the team at UK-based studio Avid Games share those traits.
And that’s not all this game and that book have in common. While Hitchhiker’s rightly belongs in the nerd canon, it was a huge crossover success. Likewise, CUE is a CCG that shrugs off the nerdier, more hardcore aspects of the genre in a bid to bring trading cards to a wider, more casual audience.
If that’s you, then you’ll need us to explain exactly how a card-battler works.
The gameplay involves taking a deck of 18 cards into battle, drawing five at random per round, and laying them down against an opponent. Once a card is played, it returns to your deck, which means it will probably appear in your hand again before the match is over.
Each card comes with two core attributes: Power, and Energy. Power tells you how much damage a card will do when played, and Energy tells you how much of your limited supply of energy it’ll cost you to play it.
So, if you have seven units of energy to spend you might play a single card that costs six energy but deals 65 damage, or you might choose to play two cards: one that costs three energy and deals 30 damage, and another that costs four energy and deals 40 damage.
Arena Bonuses and Special Card Abilities
That’s the absolute core of the gameplay, but it gets more complicated. For a start, each round of a match takes place in a particular arena, and each of your cards has an arena affinity. Playing a card that belongs to the arena you happen to be in gives you a +10 power bonus.
The arenas that you’ll be playing in are displayed across the top of the screen in order, so it pays to hold cards back so that you can leverage their arena bonus. Or not. It all depends on the match at hand.
Likewise, you might want to deliberately lose the odd round by skipping your turn in order to build up a stockpile of Energy for the next round, when you can let rip.
Then there are the special card abilities, which are triggered in various different ways. To take a couple of examples, the Earth card gives you +3 energy as soon as you draw it from your deck into your active hand, while the Sun card gives you +2 energy for the rest of the game when you play it.
Other special ability cards are only activated after you’ve played them and they’ve returned to your deck.
Playing matches – either casually or in the weekly league – is only one part of CUE. The other involves acquiring cards and building decks. You get cards in all sorts of ways, individually or in packs, through login bonuses, challenges, a wheel of fortune, and so on. The flow of free cards is relatively generous.
It’s also possible to buy booster packs of cards for real cash, of course, or with in-game gems and gold – which, again, comes to you in a relatively steady flow. Even so, there’s no getting around the fact that big spenders will enjoy a competitive advantage.
You can fuse cards, too, creating unique fusion cards that aren’t available through any other means. Plus, you can execute up to five free trades a day with other players.
Breadth of Appeal
That’s the mechanical stuff out of the way, and in purely mechanical terms CUE is a solid, accessible, well-balanced card-battler with a relatively fair free-to-play model. But that’s not what its USP is.
CUE’s USP is its sheer breadth of appeal. While most TCGs are linked to specific franchises, almost invariably in the fantasy realm, CUE is aimed at everybody – and that includes children and adults who are open to learning a thing or two.
Cards in CUE are packed with pithy nuggets of information about everything from the habitat and hunting behavior of lion fish to the mythology behind the Canis Major constellation (with a Harry Potter gag thrown in for good measure).
Every single one of CUE’s vast and growing library of cards can be flipped to reveal a fact about our universe, delivered in an accessible, digestible way. Douglas Adams would be proud.
Cards, the Universe and Everything is solidly constructed trading card game that probably won’t poach any players from genre heavyweights like Hearthstone, Gwent, and the Pokemon TCG.
But it doesn’t need to, because it’s aimed at a much wider audience: literally everybody else. Check it out on Google Play and the App Store by clicking here.