Hellcard Review – Cards and companions aplenty

Reviewed February 17, 2024 on PC




February 1, 2024


Thing Trunk


Thing Trunk, Skystone Games

Hellcard is a cooperative roguelike card game developed by Thing Trunk and published by Skystone and Surefire Games. In it, you control a band of unnamed heroes on a mission to save the world after it has been corrupted by an archdemon. To defeat monsters spawned by the corruption, your heroes will have to explore several dungeons to fight different enemies. The game comes with three modes – a singleplayer mode, a co-op multiplayer mode, and an endless mode – and three starting classes to choose from: warrior, rogue, and mage.

Hellcard is one of the games in Thing Trunk’s Return 2 Games series, a series of seven games the studio is hoping to develop as a tribute to classic mid-core games published in the 90s. So far, the team has published two out of seven titles – Hellcard and Book of Demons – and has a third title in active development, called Book of Aliens. Where Book of Demons is heavily inspired by Diablo, Book of Aliens references MicroProse’s UFO: Enemy Unknown.

For players who have spent time playing Thing Trunk’s previous title, the hack-and-slash deckbuilder Book of Demons, there’ll be plenty that will look familiar. For starters, Book of Demons is set in the same world as Hellcard: a 2D world embedded inside an old-school pop-up book. Every character looks like a paper figurine, complete with jagged edges as if they’ve been cut out of paper minutes before. Gameplay-wise, however, Book of Demons feels much more like a dungeon crawler, whereas Hellcard leans much more heavily into its deck-building features. Originally, the development team intended to include Hellcard as a mini-game inside Book of Demons, but changed their minds after getting stuck into development, as it became clear that Hellcard felt more like a standalone title. Thus, Hellcard was born.

For fans of established deck-builder titles like Slay the Spire, Monster Train, and Inscryption, the broad structure of Hellcard will hold no surprises. Similar to the aforementioned titles, Hellcard will have players choose a hero character and class before embarking on a run featuring a number of randomised encounters. A run is symbolised by the number of dungeon floors you complete as you descend further down into the darkness. Each floor consists of eleven encounters, and the final encounter of a floor is always a boss battle of some kind. Combat, in turn, is pretty standard too: you take on enemies by playing cards of different types by using mana; a hero usually has three mana per turn; and when this is used up, no more cards can be played until the mana is replenished during the next turn. Card-wise, Hellcard comes with three overall card types: attack cards, block cards, and influence cards. While attack and block cards both do what it says on the tin, influence cards provide temporary buffs that will last until the end of battle. When used, attack and block cards go in a discard pile, while influence cards are exhausted, meaning they can’t be used again until the next encounter. Additionally, players can also collect artifacts, which give heroes boons that will last for the duration of a particular run. To equip them, players will need gems, a currency that – similar to gold in other deckbuilding titles – can be collected as a reward after completing an encounter.

Much of the nuts and bolts of Hellcard overlap with the general format of deckbuilding games. Where it diverges from the usual formula, however, is its combat map and companion system. Where similar games will have a visual map that your hero’s pawn will move across, Hellcard’s map is made up of two columns, with each row representing an encounter. For each encounter, the game offers up two possible pathways to choose from. Each choice will come with different enemies and rewards. While one choice may consist of fighting zombies with new cards as a reward, another may mean facing off against spiders with card upgrades or artifacts as rewards. Along the way, you can also recruit companions to your party. These allies fight alongside you and come with their own quirks, perks, and skills. Practically, this means they come with their own deck, draw their own hand every turn, and have their own pool of mana, too. This, coupled with the game’s sheer variety and artifacts that can be unlocked, ensures that every run will be unique, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll encounter the same enemies with the same band of heroes, artifacts, and abilities.

“…the overall experience feels dynamic and refreshing.”

Hellcard’s combat map looks a little different too; once you launch a battle, you’ll see a battlefield that’s essentially represented by a big circle that has different sections called ‘slices’. Every ally in your party will have a section assigned to them, and their ‘slice’ of the circle indicates where they’ll be able to land attacks. Additionally, each slice is divided into a ‘near’ and a ‘far’ section, too. Depending on where enemies are positioned, you’ll need different types of attack cards to ensure your heroes’ attacks will reach them. While a rogue can perform arrow attacks that can hit enemies in the ‘far’ section, for example, a fighter can engage in close combat and hit enemies that are within reach in the ‘near’ section.

In this sense, the combat map in Hellcard adds a lot of variety to the overall gameplay experience, and, in order to clear dungeons successfully, a good mix of different companions is crucial. Luckily, the game comes with several companion classes to unlock, ranging from rogues, to mages, to conjurers. Each class comes with their own perks and quirks. While rogues are specialised in far-ranging attacks, for example, a conjurer’s abilities are focussed on providing temporary buffs for other heroes, like increasing the amount of mana for a hero during a turn. This, combined with the fact that the developing team have added a multiplayer mode where you can control different heroes alongside a friend, adds to the complexity of Hellcard’s gameplay, and the overall experience feels dynamic and refreshing. Building a deck together throughout a run is highly entertaining and adds incredible value when it comes to the game’s overall replayability.

These companion classes are very needed too, as the difficulty in Hellcard can be a bit unpredictable at times. Coupled with the fact that the game’s user interface features some hard-to-read text when it comes to enemy abilities and buffs, this might make for a steep learning curve for newcomers to the deckbuilder genre, and newbies might find it a hard game to crack. That said, however, while Hellcard’s UI can feel a little unwieldy every now and then, its gameplay rarely tips over into being completely frustrating. If you’re not averse to a bit of a learning curve and some perseverance, it’s sure to offer an entertaining challenge for both newcomers and veteran fans of the genre.




  • Great replayability value
  • Engaging companion system and plenty of companion classes to unlock
  • Original take on procedurally generated maps
  • Huge number of artifacts and cards


  • UI can be a bit unwieldy
  • Difficulty could do with a tad more balancing
  • Potential steep learning curve for newcomers to the genre

Overall, Hellcard offers an engaging deckbuilder with a unique perspective on the classic formula; its combat map and companion system keep things interesting, and the number of cards, artifacts and companions add hugely to its replayability value. While it may not be the best title for newcomers to the genre, considering the game’s UI can feel a little unwieldy and there’s a lot to keep track of, Hellcard is sure to reward persisting players who don’t shy away from a steep learning curve.