There’s a class of number puzzle where you’re given a string of numbers and you have to arrange them into a working equation using either any or a certain set of mathematical operators. You can usually find them in puzzle books, the games and puzzles section of your newspaper, or as one of the puzzles in a Professor Layton game. I guess it’s putting our high school level mathematics (or higher level mathematics for some of the more fiendish puzzles) to some sort-of-practical use after so long, but it’s not really getting us anywhere, is it? I mean, what’s the point of it all? Now we have the answer to that all-important question. All those games and puzzles are just training to be the ultimate Star Nerd in the #1 digital collectible lane battle card game that features number puzzles: Calculords!
Calculords is a mobile game that has you playing your units down onto one of three lanes where they will slowly move toward your opponent and rain laser-bullets into their stupid-looking digital face. It’s not a particularly innovative game type, but what sets Calculords apart is how you get your units down onto the lanes.
You start of the game with a hand of numbered unit cards and each unit card requires you to activate that exact number on the number board as a prerequisite to play them. On the number board, you have a set of numbers drawn from your number deck which you can then modify with basic mathematical operators (+,-,x) to generate the right numbers to play your cards. If you have a lot of low numbered cards, you might be able to play a lot of them without modifying the numbers too much, but you might want to jump through some mathematical hoops to play out that powerful high numbered card.
If you use up all the numbers on the board, you get a Calculord bonus which will give you a new set of numbers to continue playing cards, and if you manage to play all your cards from hand you will also get a Star Nerd bonus which will help you level up faster. I like the use of the bonuses, and they really encourage you to run through different permutations of numbers to get the most out of them. It’s pretty important to get the Calculord bonus to play more cards each turn, while the Star Nerd bonus is nice but not integral to your strategy.
There’s also a deckbuilding component to the game. Defeating enemies will grant you new cards which you can then use to modify your decks. You also have a deck of number cards which can be modified to help you play your cards easily. It’s pretty interesting balancing the cards and numbers that you have in your decks. You could have a deck which are all multiples of 3 and increase the proportion of 3s in your deck. That feels like cheating, and it feels great.
You also have to balance out the powers and interactions of the cards, as is the norm with other customizable games. You generally have 3 types of cards. Attack units are the most basic and just attack when they come into contact with an enemy unit. Push units are able to push away enemy units as they attack, which will help you get closer to the enemy base. Tactics are powerful effects that don’t attack a lane directly but can really help turn the tide of battle.
In addition to the 3 card types, the cards also come in 4 “factions”: Vehicles, Soldiers, Aliens and Mutates. Each faction tends to buff one another, have synergistic effects or have complementary number costs, so you are incentivised to build smart and maximise your synergies rather than just raw power. I really like the current level of complexity with the cards and deckbuilding. So far, I haven’t found any obvious options or strategies and it feels like there are plenty of options without burdening the game with too many mechanics and interactions.
There’s sort of a campaign, with themed opponents that reward different sets of cards as you mow your way through them to fight Hate Bit. The sprite art is well done, with units being quite recognisable even at a fairly small size. The writing for the game elements and opponent dialogue is really fun too. There’s a cheeky sense of humour that’s entertaining without being over the top or being overbearing.
I really enjoy this game. It scratches a lot of itches for me by combining number puzzles with a customizable card game. It’s fun and entertaining, but also provides a nice level of challenge and depth. Best of all, it is available for free with some non-obnoxious ads on iOS, with an Android version on the horizon. There are 6 in-app purchases for $1.99 each to remove ads and unlock some new cards, but none of them are required to enjoy or succeed at the game.
The unlocks are actually more like optional expansions, as you can’t buy them more than once and what they do is provide you with one copy each of the new cards, and add them to the list of cards that you can obtain from opponents. I happily paid to get rid of the ads and eventually got the other packs since I really enjoy the game and want to support the developer. I think it’s an immensely fun game and at the very least it’s definitely worth the $1.99 price point to play without ads, and it is an absolute steal at $0. I give it 4 out of 5 Numbers. Go out and be the best Star Nerd you can be today!