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Freak War throws Exploding Kittens and Pokémon into a blender for a trading card game you can play at parties

You don’t even need to build a deck, but you can if you like.

Image credit: Sheltonshire Games

Take the evolving monsters of Pokémon, cross them with the fast-playing chaos of party game hit Exploding Kittens and you end up with something that looks a lot like Freak War, a new party-game TCG that wants to offer the fun battles of trading card games without the effort of learning lots of rules or building a deck.

Freak War is the creation of Nate Galbraith, aka cartoonist sketchnate, who was inspired after watching kids trying to have Pokémon battles using Uno cards, before suggesting they play classic playing card game War (which you might also know as Battle) instead. The result was a mixture of all three, with Galbraith adding a collection of strange creatures to the cards.

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Unlike the head-to-head battles of Pokémon, Freak War can be played with up to four (or more) players, who can simply split the shuffled deck between them to play - though there is the option to build your own custom decks if you really want to.

Everyone plays a creature at the same time, with the highest attack level winning the battle. Like Exploding Kittens, the many cards can also introduce various effects that shake things up, including the power to evolve into bigger creatures - Pokémon-style - and equip modifiers to your own or opponent’s cards to boost or reduce their strength.

Whether the players choose a card from their hand or simply flip the top of their deck depends on the mode they’re playing: the more chaotic War, or the more strategic Battle. Both modes can be modified further by King of the Hill and team rules.

If two players draw in attack level, they both discard a card before facing off by playing another creature. The overall winner takes all the cards played and adds them to their win pile, which are reshuffled into the player’s deck - the person who manages to claim all the cards from their opponents, wins.

Image credit: Sheltonshire Games

The weird and wonderful creatures on the cards have a bit of lore behind them, having been created by the emergence of a second sun that mutated familiar animals like rabbits, foxes and fish into muscly fishpeople, a time-travelling tiger, a partying platypus, a dog with a goldfish bowl for a head, a sad bee and a Man Cat that appears to basically be a bloke in a cat costume, among others.

Modifier cards, meanwhile, range from a Super Sword (and a Super Duper Sword) to the power to swap cards with a rival, cancel a modifier or flip coins for the chance of a power boost. Some of the creature effects get playfully meta in the way you’d expect for a party game too, with the scrap-loving Fly Guy gaining power if there’s uneaten food near the players.

As someone who is admittedly tired of many copy-paste or just downright gross party games (looking at you, double-offending Cards Against Humanity clones), I’m fairly charmed by Galbraith’s goofy creations and the sprinkling of chaotic take-that gameplay in the form of a TCG. (The card layout is quite explicitly inspired by Pokémon cards.) Sure, it’s not going to be for everyone, but as something knowingly silly to fill five minutes with friends and family (especially younger players), it looks like solid, breezy fun for $20 a deck. With a bunch of different packs filled with dozens more creatures from buff penguins to cute-looking snails, I’m pretty intrigued just to see Galbraith’s interpretation of the nonsense of modern Pokémon evolutions, too.

Freak War has already passed its fairly modest crowdfunding goal of $10,000 over on Kickstarter, where its campaign will run until June 13th. The game itself is expected to land with backers next June, just in time to take on holiday.

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