World of Tanks: Rush | Designer: Nikolay Pegasov | Artist: Sergey Dulin | Publisher: Hobby World et al. | Category: Deck-building Card Game | Players: 2-5 | Year: 2013

World of Tanks: Rush

As a major player during the free-to-play boom, Wargaming’s MMO World of Tanks made quite a splash indeed. The video game’s accessibility and speed of play were widely praised and it’s these same qualities that Hobby World has tried to emulate for their card game adaptation called World of Tanks: Rush.

This is a deck-building game where 2-5 players use cards representing troops and vehicles in order to assault the military bases of their neighbours, score points, and purchase new and more powerful cards for their own customizable deck.

Victory points are rendered as medals and whenever you destroy an opposing tank you’ll collect a medal card matching the nationality of your attacking units whether they be German, American, French, or Russian. There’s a tactile feel to collecting medals and the post-game Achievement cards are also helpful for mixing things up and encouraging competition amidst the available resources.

There are no drawn-out card combos or ability chains for players to contend with either, thus fine-tuning your deck can be a lot simpler than it is in similar deck-building games like Dominion or Legendary. There are a few translation foibles – having petrol can icons for currency and coin icons for costs is a little unintuitive – but learning the rules is pretty straightforward on the whole.

The central row always advances at the end of a player’s turn and it becomes a real chore to have to keep moving all those cards along the table.

The production quality is also good. My edition of World of Tanks: Rush came in a tidy oblong box with a digital code for the World of Tanks video game (US servers only) and plenty of space to keep the 200+ cards, even when sleeved. There are no dividers or special inserts inside, though they’re not really necessary considering how the majority of cards belong to the same stack anyway.

In motion World of Tanks: Rush can be a deceptively slow-paced affair that features little in the way of bold decision making. Players usually begin a turn with only three cards in their hand and the limited options this brings (especially in the beginning) forces players to make obvious choices that don’t feel especially satisfying.

The central row contains a rotating ‘shop’ of four cards that are available for players to purchase with their starting resources. It’s from here that players will scoop up various tanks and support vehicles, but the automated roll-out of cards (a laborious process that happens at the end of every player turn) gives players no time to plan their acquisitions ahead of time.

When the player count expands, there is no point in watching anyone else’s turn as what you need to purchase or attack at that time will most likely not be there for your next move. The game is meant to be fast-paced, but if it is, then it’s only because someone has drawn a bunk hand they can’t do anything with and thus their preference is to immediately skip their turn in the hope that their next draw may be better.

It feels overly difficult to get enough resources together and even then purchases are limited to once per turn unless you acquire a special ability found on certain tanks or support units. Using a card’s special ability allows a player to perform all sorts of special actions ranging from resetting the central row and gaining bonus medals to drawing extra cards or forcing opponents to discard theirs. Once an ability has been resolved, the acting player is then forced to attach their tank to one of their bases as a defender.

Vehicles have attack and defence values that range from 1-2 so there’s not much distinction between them save for the clunky rule that allows heavy tanks to destroy a base in one ‘shot’.

The snag is that a player stands to earn a greater number of medals by simply attacking their opponents’ defending tanks rather than worrying about their own bases. The balance is suspect here because if a player never uses a special ability then they’ll never give their opponents any targets with which to gain extra points in the first place.

The trashing mechanic in World of Tanks: Rush is also problematic. Trashing or otherwise removing the weak starting cards from your deck is a crucial mechanic in card games of this style and yet Rush makes the mistake of tying that function to cards that need to be purchased and drawn before their ability can be used.

The repair ability – again a weird translation considering what it does – allows you to remove up to two cards from your discard pile, which is essential for crafting a reliable deck, thus a game’s outcome will often come down to whoever is lucky enough to buy a repair card first.

World of Tanks: Rush also uses the awkward Thunderstone method of balancing points. When players acquire medals and conquer bases these cards are added to a player’s deck and will appear in future hands to slow down their progress. Whereas medals offer some token worth, the base cards are strictly dead draws and become an unnecessary dampener on your enjoyment the moment they are acquired.

A year after its initial release, the designers announced a follow-up to World of Tanks: Rush subtitled Second Front. That expansion introduces several rules tweaks that don’t require any additional components which is good because they can be used in this core set without further investment or clutter.

There are new rules allowing for greater control over the expanded central row, a garrison rule that forces an attacking player to defend their bases, and a new scoring step that rewards players for defending bases of their own. Also helpful is the addition of the Rear Guard; an additional location in a player’s tableau which can store cards for use on a later turn.

The Rear Guard is a fine addition that allows you to save a good card for when you really need it or keep a bad card out of circulation for a while. This helps offset the unengaging 3-card hand limit and helps players purchase the heavier tanks that rarely got bought before because of their high price.

With these new rules in tow, the game is slightly closer to that fast shoot ’em mentality that its source material is known for, but the learning curve is also made a bit steeper too, which isn’t ideal for a deck-building game that’s trying to be as light and accessible as possible.

The graphic design is superb and is easily the game’s biggest asset. Everything from the iconography, the artwork, and even the names of the tanks all read well and seem faithful to the source material.

For my own tastes, World of Tanks: Rush is too short and clunky an experience to be worth playing again. There just isn’t enough room for experimentation; you simply buy whatever random cards happen to show up and hope you get the best abilities and matching nationalities you need to outpace your opponents and that’s about it. The actual deck-building aspect here is incredibly slight and not very rewarding.

Those who want a posh-looking card game that lacks the time investment and table footprint of bulkier alternatives may like World of Tanks: Rush, but for me the experience here is just too simplistic and too ponderous to really do the exciting concept justice.