Chess-like Card Game Ancestory is Out on Steam – Review

I’ve really held out on writing this review for a while because of complications and I’m sorry for my tardiness, guys! Without further ado, I give you my review of Ancestory!

So, after a over a year of development, Ancestory, developed by Kajak Games (team of 9 – based in Finland) was released on Steam on October 13th for Windows only. It is a turn-based card game in which players strategically play against each other on a grid system with chess-like mechanics. Players can play against the AI in single player or go head to head in online multiplayer play as well. Ancestory is the kind of game for lovers of Hearthstone and those similar to it. And more interestingly, there are no microtransactions or in-game purchases, which for me is a major plus but I can see where in-game purchases on non-essentials can push the developers to create more card content and keep players interested in competing with one another.

Disclaimer: Did receive copies of Ancestory from developer.

Story Content?

God, I love that trailer.

There’s not a lot in the story department that I can really lay out for you readers but I think the cinematic trailer gives us some perspective. In the actual Ancestory game, there aren’t cutscenes or anything like that for story content. We primarily see gameplay. But something important to understand is that these Shamans are dipping into an ancient power, mana, which ancient golems possess. For some reason, shamans are going against one another and revising tribesman in their battles. But how are  Shamans even obtaining this mana to begin with? Well, the battles are actually taking place on top of these gigantic, ancient golems, which come in all shapes, sizes, and territories (hence the different playable areas/maps available).

There seems to be some amazing lore at work here that we just don’t get much of a taste of but I love the way it sets the scene and ties into gameplay. It would be awesome to see more story-related content pop up in the future though (like through comics, illustrations, written out stories).

Let’s Talk Ancestory, Yes? Gameplay Details!

Ancestory is a turn-based strategy game where players go one on one, on a grid, and utilize a deck of cards and mana to summon tribesmen against each other. Each player has their own shaman, capable of summoning a tribesman with their mana, which is in limited supply. The players take turns moving their shamans and tribesman around the grid in an effort to gain more points than their competing player. The player’s shaman and tribesman can only move a limited amount of spaces, which is displayed upon clicking them. Players are limited in their turns as a result and restricted by movement and mana availability. The shaman can spawn the tribesmen around them and the player controls each separately, just like a chess piece.

The goal is to obtain as many totems as possible and raise your score higher than that of your competitor. The score can be raised by destroying their tribesman and shaman. Though be warned, the shaman can respawn! The totems are scattered all throughout the map and it can take several moves (and sometimes fighting a competitive tribesman) to get to them. In that way, I’m reminded of chess slightly with the pre-planning and controlling the destiny of multiple figures at once for the best advantage.

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Tribesmen aren’t the only fight shamans and the player have, though. Players are given a default deck when they play Ancestory but they are able to completely customize their deck as they see fit. The deck contains varieties of tribesmen and special ability cards that affect the tribesmen’s performance (and can inflict harm/absorb a turn of the competitor’s tribesmen). Players gain XP with every game that they play and as they level up, they unlock more tribesmen and special ability cards for their deck (plus they can change their profile icon as well!).

The special ability cards are really, arguably, the mechanic of sway during gameplay. Before every match, players are given three random cards at the start of their deck. They can choose which ones can stay and others to toss aside. If any spaces are available, the game will add extra cards. The cards in the deck in general are randomized and sometimes pull special ability cards while others pull more tribesmen cards. It is unpredictable. Players can spawn tribesmen with these cards (and their stat information is displayed on each card) and utilize special ability cards as well. Some cards will offer buffs or advantages to the player (e.g. increase in movement speed, the ability to move/fight right after spawning, an enemy cannot move for a turn).

With combination of moving around tribesman and using them against competing tribesmen, using special ability cards, and capturing totems as fast as possible, players strategically play against each other in chess-similar fashion with a limited amount of mana and movement spaces available.

Ancestory is available to play in:

  • Single player against the AI
  • Online multiplayer
  • Play with friends online

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Thoughts? Thoughts?

Ancestory is a game that I see so much potential for a fan-base to build. I’m actually saddened to see less than 20 reviews on Steam for this game right now because turn-based strategy trading card games really get people excited. How did I like Ancestory? I thoroughly enjoyed it. The artwork, professional quality audio, everything about it is so well put together and well polished. Aside from aesthetics, it took me a while to get the hang of the gameplay (inexperienced with this game genre), I saw no reason to dislike it. Really.

The only issue that really stood out was that I couldn’t play it with the other person I gave the code to. They were having issues opening the game – which I don’t know if it’s an issue with their computer or Ancestory. I saw a few things in some of the Steam reviews regarding graphical and performance issues so maybe it is hit or miss. Whenever you run into an error, just email the developer and let ’em know what’s going on!

That said, I didn’t try playing one on one with another person but upon discussion of it with them and the more I explored playing against the AI, I’m convinced it’s fun gameplay. In fact, way more fun than against the AI. I don’t think it’s really up for debate. Especially once decks are customized and we have some XP under our belts, Ancestory would be a thrill to play against each other.

Now, Ancestory may not appeal to everyone though. This is a game that would specifically excite those who like competitive games, trading card games, turn-based combat, and/or favor chess. So, keep that in mind, readers.

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(Don’t want y’all to know my Steam name, sorry!)

For More Information!

As I mentioned earlier in the article, Ancestory is available on Steam for Windows right now, priced at $14.99. For more information, please check out the official website, Twitter, and Facebook page!

Julie Morley

Founder/Editor/Sole Writer at IndieRoot.com
Favorite genre: Story-oriented/Narrative Driven. Point and Click. Adventure. Action-adventure. Sandbox. Open world.
Favorite game(s): Gone Home, Life is Strange, Back to Bed, Transistor
Non-indie: Mafia II, L.A. Noire, Dark Cloud II (Dark Chronicle), The Assassin's Creed Series (mainly Brotherhood and Black Flag)

Worked for Cliqist.com from Jan 2013 to Februrary 2014.

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