SUPERHOT: The Card Game Translates the Game's Unique Premise to Tabletop Perfectly

Adapted from the mind-bending shooter, SUPERHOT: The Card Game takes the its predecessor's Bullet Time mechanic and perfectly translates it to a card game.

Popular video games making their way over to board games iterations haven’t been unusual; in recent years, plenty of hardcore games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne have transitioned from TV screens to the tabletop, thanks to some creative design decisions. However, the time-stopping indie shooter SUPERHOT wouldn’t necessarily be the first game that I would have thought could transition to being a tabletop game, yet in more ways than one, SUPERHOT: The Card Game has shown that it can, in fact, be done.

During this weekend’s PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, PA, DualShockers had the opportunity to try out a few rounds of SUPERHOT: The Card Game, and specifically to look closer at how the game’s stylish visuals and unique premise were carried over to the vastly different experience of a tabletop card game.

For those that didn’t play the original game, SUPERHOT took the traditional “Bullet Time” aspects of numerous first-person shooters and flipped it on its head. Where most shooters employed “Bullet Time” for limited stretches of time as a way to make players feel like a badass, SUPERHOT instead had players navigating environments where the effect is on all the time.

This reversal, in turn, challenged players to figure out the best course of action to avoid certain death against armies of polygonal red baddies. Because of this, SUPERHOT felt more like an intricate puzzle game than a “traditional” shooter and made for an incredibly fresh take on a first-person shooter.

Image via Creaking Shelves.

The premise of SUPERHOT was already a mind-bending one when the game released last year (and especially with the game’s VR release earlier this year), and at first, one might raise an eyebrow at translating the game’s unique twist to a two-dimensional format like a tabletop game. However, after going through a few rounds with SUPERHOT: The Card Game, it became clear that the “stop-and-go” dynamic of SUPERHOT comes across just as well in its card game iteration and loses none of its unique strategy mechanics in the process.

SUPERHOT: The Card Game is primarily a game about deck-building and card management, in which players (like in the original game) must take on a variety of red polygonal enemies in the most efficient fashion possible. Where the Bullet Time conceit worked perfectly as a video game, as a card game, publisher Board & Dice took an unusual approach in adapting this mechanic to tabletop. Players essentially have to balance what is in their hand versus what’s on the playing field, and limiting the number of bullets that they take in the process.

SUPERHOT: The Card Game is primarily a game about deck-building and card management.”

The main stretch of action in SUPERHOT: The Card Game takes place on “The Obstacle Line,” where six game cards are drawn that represent the obstacles that players must face. The game cards are divided up into three main categories — Enemies, Objects, and Locations — that range from actions like “Punch” and “Dodge,” to actual combatants (like gun or katana-wielding baddies), to objects like pillars and glass bottles that can hinder the player’s advancement, or aid them if they manage to overcome them.

With the player using the cards in their hand (which is usually at least four), the crux of the game lies in analyzing the cards that are on The Obstacle Line and determining the best (or most efficient) way of managing them. While multiple loss conditions are in play to ensure players are always on the offensive, the main path to defeat comes when players collect four “Bullet” cards from enemy characters in their hand, meaning they’ve been shot and ending their game (while each Bullet prior to that effectively weakens the player’s hand by taking away a valuable card at their disposal).

“The tension in SUPERHOT: The Card Game between what’s in play and what’s in your hand will often require players to take a more ‘high risk, high reward’ approach.”

Enemies come fast and loose in SUPERHOT: The Card Game, and while a round can end pretty quickly for players that aren’t careful, there are also plenty of avenues where you can be smart about what you play. Essentially, all of the game cards have two different values depending on whether they are acting as an Obstacle for the player on The Obstacle Line, or if they are in your hand to be played.

The upper left-hand number comes into play when a card is in your hand and acts as the attack power of that card (or “currency”) you have available when putting that card into play. The lower right-hand number is the number that players must match or beat to either destroy that card and add it to their hand or knock it out to negate its effects on the playing field when trying to overcome it as an Obstacle.

“While a round can end pretty quickly for players that aren’t careful, there are also plenty of avenues where you can be smart about what you play.”

Image via BoardGameGeek.

Aside from sizing up obstacles with the appropriate level of power from the player’s hand, SUPERHOT: The Card Game adds more interesting wrinkles to the mechanics in that each card played also removes lower-tiered cards from The Obstacle Line, which potentially brings players closer to Bullet cards that could end their game.

Likewise, the overall path to winning the game involves completing a series of Objective cards that require the player to accumulate a certain number of cards or play in a specific fashion. The kicker, however, is that sometimes these Objectives can prove a challenge to complete based on the lineup of cards on The Objective Line. The tension in SUPERHOT: The Card Game between what’s in play and what’s in your hand will often require players to take a more “high risk, high reward” approach to dealing with Obstacle cards and get closer to their objective.

When thinking of the specific way that SUPERHOT instilled a sense of strategy and gave players the chance to think strategically, I wasn’t sure what to expect going in from Board & Dice’s take on the gameplay by bringing the shooter into card game form. Part of what made SUPERHOT so compelling (aside from its visuals) was the fact that it so often felt like a rewarding puzzler instead of a more straightforward shooting gallery-like experience such as DOOM or Wolfenstein.

Video via Board Game Girl (YouTube).

However, I’m happy to say that SUPERHOT: The Card Game manages to stay very faithful to the game it is based on in more ways than one. It surely captures the look and feel of the game with its stark red-and-white visuals and Matrix-like style that feels ripped straight from the game.

But more importantly, it captures the heart of the game and the quick-thinking and strategy that come into play in SUPERHOT (and the consequences of those strategies immediately afterward). All in all, it’s easy to say that SUPERHOT: The Card Game is worth the experience if you are in for a little mind-bending.

SUPERHOT: The Card Game was funded via Kickstarter in December 2016, and is available now to purchase.

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Ryan Meitzler

Ryan is the Editor-in-Chief at DualShockers and has been a lover of games as long as he can remember. He holds a BA in English and Cinema and lives in New York City.

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