My son, Jackson, and I recently sat down to play Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters so I could give a newbie’s review of this newly released game.  I had played a demo this year at SDCC with one of the booth representatives but we were a little rushed and there were a lot of distractions around us.  My goal, in playing the game with my son, was to try to get an idea as to how easy it would be for a child to learn.  Jackson has never really played any trading card based games so this would be his first real exposure.

Needless to say, he was pretty excited when I told him I needed his help to check out a new game.  We opened up 2 new prebuilt decks and a couple expansion packs.  The first deck was the “Rocket Storm” competitive deck and the other was the “Sonic Blast” competitive deck.  I divided the expansion cards between the 2 decks so that the “Civilizations” matched.

The Game

In Kaijudo, which I think of as a simplified version of Magic: The Gathering (MTG), you have 5 different “civiliations” – the cards consist of either spells or creatures.  The civilizations are called Light (Yellow), Water (Blue), Darkness (Purple), Fire (Red),  and Nature(Green).

Like Magic, each spell or creature has a casting cost called mana.  Unlike Magic, the mana does not come from land cards, it comes from spell or creature cards that you designate as mana-producing.  This is one way that the complexity of the game and the complexity of choosing the right cards for a deck is reduced.

To start the game each players chooses the cards that will compose their deck and they shuffle.  Each player places 5 cards down in front of them without looking at them.  These cards are called their shields.  In Kaijudo, the shields represent your life and if you lose all 5, the next attack that damages you will cause you to lose.

After laying out the shields, each player draws 5 cards.  Players can look at these cards and prepare their strategy.  On the first turn, the first player (chosen at random) does not draw but instead just start play by placing a card in the mana zone.

The field of play is divided in to 3 areas for each player.  Generally the closest zone is the mana zone, then the shields, then the battle zone. The battle zone is then closest to your opponent and where all the fighting will take place.

Play then proceeds as follows…

  1. Untap – any creatures or mana you tapped in your previous turn get to reset for this turn.
  2. Draw – now choose a card from the top of your shuffled deck.
  3. Charge Mana – in this step you basically can choose to add another card (but no more) from your hand to the mana zone.  The creatures and spells are now just mana – their power or abilities are rendered useless at that point.  They are now just fuel used to cast other spells or summon creatures.  It’s kind of sad, really.
  4. Summon and Cast – each spell or creature has a casting cost of a certain color and a total amount of mana needed to finish the summon/cast action.  If the creature is water and the level of the creature is 4, you would need at least 1 water mana and 3 of any other color mana.  This makes the casting/summoning a little easier than in MTG.
    1. If you cast a spell – you resolve the instuctions and then place the card in your discard pile.
    2. If summoning a creature – you place the creature in the battle zone.  The creature cannot attach on the same turn it is cast but it is also not tapped.  This is important since creatures that are tapped can be targets of attacks by your opponents creatures.
    3. Each mana you use should result in a tapped mana card.  You cannot use the same mana to cast multiple spells in one turn.
    4. Attack – you may now attack with any untapped creatures and any creatures not summoned this turn.
      1. You declare attackers one at a time and specify whether they are attacking tapped enemy creatures or the opponent’s shields.
      2. If you specify that you are attacking a shield, there is really no blocking of the attack and there are very few interrupts like in MTG.  Your enemy picks up the shield and places it in his/her hand.  If the card says “shield blast” your enemy may immediately play out the card effects for free.
      3. If you attack a creature you look at each creature’s power – if your creature has more, your enemy’s creature goes to their discard pile.  If they are equal, you both discard and if your enemy’s creature has more, well then, you lose.
      4. After all these steps – your turn is over and you opponent runs through these same steps.

Play ends when all your shields are gone and you are attacked one last time.  Also, though not specified in the included rules, you would lose the game if you run out of cards (source: http://www.kaijudo.com/faq/)

As far as the cards themselves, the feel like they will hold up pretty well under regular use.  Like most playing cards, you don’t want to bend them because they’ll become misshapen.

How the cards are laid out.

Overall or – “Why I’m loving Kaijudo”

Overall, the game is both fun and easy to learn.  Most importantly, it’s a game I can play with my children.  After having played only a couple times, my son is learning some of the finer points.  Example: balancing the need to cast less powerful cards in the beginning so you can either start to take down your opponents shields or directly attack your opponents creatures (to defend yourself from future attacks).  The starter decks provided a way to instantly get started and the expansion packs made it easy to get going with some quick deck customization.  The only problem I have with the game is the cost of the expansion packs, or rather the amount you pay for what you get.  Drawing a comparison with MTG – the expansion packs are the same price but you get fewer cards.   Other than that, I would recommend you give it a try – especially if you’re a Magic fan but are looking for something a little simpler or if you’re wanting to introduce your children to the world of trading card games.

Lance with a “hover hand” over the shoulder of Tasturion. To be fair, the creature image was placed in after the photo.