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Published on August 17th, 2013 | by Colin


Cardcore Gamer: Puppet Wars – Hit the deck!

CardcoreGamer_BannerGreetings, sinister would-be Puppet Masters! Today I would like to introduce you to the creaking gears and pulsating heart of Puppet Wars Unstitched: The Puppet Deck! Read on to learn more about these creepy cards…

Like its big brother Malifaux, Puppet Wars eschews dice rolling in favour of a deck of cards to drive the game. The Puppet Deck is fundamentally a standard 52-card deck with the usual four suits and two Jokers, but there are a few slight changes which I shall detail.

Your Puppet Deck cards are numbered from 1 through to 13 (Aces being low in this game, but worth two of their suit) and will be of one of four suits; Crows, Tomes, Rams, or Masks. Whenever you want to do anything with your puppets, you will usually be required to match a card requirement of both number and suit, for example ‘3 Crow’, or multiple suits like ’12 Ram, Tome’.

Like a regular deck, but creepier.

Like a regular deck, but creepier.

There are also two Jokers, one red and one black. The Red Joker is worth 14 and double any one suit of your choosing, making it the ultimate wild card. The Black Joker is one card you do not want to see; not only is it worth zero and has no suit, but if you flip it from the top of your deck then whatever you were doing automatically fails.

It's a hard to tell which is good and which is bad, so they colour coded them.

It’s a hard to tell which is good and which is bad, so they colour coded them.

Why would you be flipping a card from the top of the deck though? Don’t you have a hand of cards? Actually, you get both. In Puppet Wars you will have a hand limit of 4 cards which increases and decreases based on the number of Workbenches (bases) you own. You play Turns comprised of five rounds and you draw one card at the start of each round. Players then choose one card from their hand in secret, and reveal them simultaneously, with play order determined in ascending order from the lowest card played.

Remember the number and suit requirements? This is where the sneaky stuff begins. In order to animate your puppets, or bring more into play, you must play a card that has a value equal to, or higher than their animation requirement and matches the suit, or suits needed. This means that playing a low numbered card to ensure you play earlier in the round will limit you to activating only low-cost puppets.

The Judge's animation cost is 5 Ram, here are two ways a player could animate him.

The Judge’s animation cost is 5 Ram, here are two ways a player could animate him.

When a puppet takes an action, you flip a card from the top of your deck, hoping to again equal or beat the required number, or at least match suit. If the flipped card isn’t enough and assuming the Black Joker didn’t come up, you can then play cards from your hand to replace the number on the flipped card and/or add to the suit. This can make the difference between passing and failing an action, but as your hand of cards is small and you only draw one per round, you’ll soon realise that you have to manage your hand and pick which actions are vital and which you’ll allow to fail.

Here’s an example of the Puppet deck in action:

In the image below, the Judge is attacking Bete Noire. He flips a number of cards from the top of his deck equal to his attack statistic of 3 (the third circled number on his card). He has to beat Bete’s defence of 6 Crow (the second circled number) in order to cause a rip. The cards flipped are 11 Mask, 8 Tome and 7 Mask, so any of these numbers beat the required 6, but none of the cards match the Crow suit requirement. The Judge select the highest number – the 11 Mask – and plays a card from his hand; the Ace of Crows to fulfil the requirement and cause Bete some damage.



Intelligent management of your Puppet Deck and cards is vital for success in Puppet Wars and is certainly an interesting alternative to the standard dice-duels found in the majority of wargames. There’s something about playing cards that lends itself to Puppet Wars’ grungy, old-fashioned aesthetic and the alternate suits work harmoniously with the games alternative dimension theme. The cards themselves are actually plastic and won’t easily wear out, though they are a bugger to photograph!

When I next revisit Puppet Wars, I will be showing a little more of the puppets themselves and their abilities, both ‘alive’ and ‘dead’! until then, please don’t pull any loose threads, you’ll have an arm off!

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