Card games often feel like an odd fit for digital devices. There's something about physically shuffling and dealing out slices of card that just can't be translated to the big screen.
When they work, though, they tend to work brilliantly. Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, for example, translates perfectly to the iPad's rich and vibrant screen, with each card's artwork coming to life beneath your fingers.
While Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs Evil doesn't have the same artistic splendour, nor the depth of its deck-building cousin, it still survives the digital shift intact, and throws in some excellent same-device multiplayer to boot.
Gabe it all
If you're not a fan of Penny Arcade, it's probably for the best you give this game a bit of a wide berth. The same humour that courses through the comic is all present here, from cards with scrota on them to sexually violent toasters.
The aim of the game is to score more victory points than your opponents, and to do this you need to build up your deck. You start with a few cards that represent the two currencies in the game: power and tokens.
Power cards can be used to buy evil cards, while token cards can be used to buy good cards. Once you've bought a card it's shuffled into your deck and you wait until it's dealt out to use it. Some cards just give you extra power or tokens, whereas others can be used to attack your opponent.
Attacks result in your foe taking a Pax Pox card. These count as minus victory points, and also take up precious space in their hand. There are boss cards, too, and when you've got enough power or tokens to tackle them you'll get special cards with super abilities, along with a VP boost.
It all sounds pretty complicated, but once things click and you've read the rules a couple of times you'll find an interesting and surprisingly tactical card game. It's not as heavy as other examples of the genre, but it's a useful starting point, and there's plenty for gamers of any level to get their teeth into.
You can fight it out against AI opponents, or take the battle online to fight friends or foes over the magic waves of the internet. Best of all, there's a pass-the-pad option that lets you play against people in the same room on the same device.
Games last about ten minutes, and learning when to take cards, when to play cards, and how to build a powerful deck is a pretty engrossing pastime. Even more so when you're playing against people in real life.
Fight the good fight
Penny Arcade The Game: Gamers vs Evil is an entertaining gateway drug into the more complex deck-builders out there. It's less imposing than the likes of Magic: The Gathering, and its bright colours and simpler rules are less likely to scare off casual gamers.
If you're a fan of the comic, a fan of the real-life card game, or just a fan of deck-builders who doesn't mind their theme to be a little juvenile, then there's an awful lot to enjoy here. It might even convert a few card game naysayers too.