It wasn’t long ago I was running a spooky plant shop in the brilliant detective game Strange Horticulture, and now I’m now running a surprisingly sexy card shop in the chill yet bustling Kardboard Kings: Card Shop Simulator.
This may be a small sample size to make such a sweeping declaration, but I’m gonna do it anyway: All games should be about running a cool little shop of some kind. That’s all I want to do from now on. Run cool little shops. Thank you.
I know nothing about cards or how to run a card shop, but I learn quickly thanks to daily lessons from my pet parrot, who I inherited along with the store. Each morning I have a little time before my shop opens to get ready, so I check the card-related news feed on the computer. Maybe a celebrity of the card game world is preparing to declare which set is her favorite, or a religious group has decided certain types of cards are satanic. These are helpful bits of news because it gives me the chance to buy certain kinds of cards a few days before they increase in value. Or, maybe a certain brand is planning to do a reprinting, flooding the market with duplicates, so I have a chance to sell those cards off before the price abruptly drops.
I use my computer to buy new cards, and put the ones I want to sell on display in my shop’s counters. I can stick tags on them, too. There’s a tag that lowers the price of a costly card, which will increase my reputation for offering good deals, and a tag that falsely indicates a card is popular, which will make me extra money but lower my rep. (My reputation, by the way, is currently “Terrible” because I overuse the price-increasing tags. I can’t help it. I don’t want to cheat my customers, but I do want to make a ton of money so I can buy more cards.)
Then I watch as my store fills with customers, which can actually feel a bit hectic at times—there’s a small chance a “rush hour” may occur on any day, meaning a real flood of customers and a race to get cards on the shelves to replace the ones people have bought. Many of the customers are just randos who want to buy something (or not buy something) and leave, but there are plenty of others I can interact with through branching text-based conversations. Many of them are, well, quite sexy, and the life sim portion of Kardboard Kings revolves around trying to raise my relationship status with them in short conversations. I don’t know if I can actually romance anyone in Kardboard Kings, but I sure hope so. I have at least three crushes already. Gallery below:
There are also a lot of tactile interactions in Kardboard Kings, which I always appreciate. When the postman drops by to deliver mail, you sweep the mouse down to tear open each envelope. You can rip open a card pack with another movement, drag and drop cards onto displays, or plop your favorites into your own collection in a binder on your table. This could all have been accomplished simply by clicking or tapping a key, but I enjoy it when games make me feel like I’m really interacting with their objects.
The cards themselves are beautifully drawn and fun to examine (you can see a bunch of them in the gif above), with lots of details that kinda make me wish they were real cards I could actually buy and play a game with. There are, naturally, different levels of rarity and value, different collections for a variety of fictional games, booster packs, and mysterious legendary cards. I’m not a card player (unless you count poker) but I’m really in love with the cards in Kardboard Kings.
And there aren’t just sexy people to meet but a nice collection of weirdos, like a kid who comes in to buy or sell cards while streaming to his fans (he calls me a boomer despite my character looking like he’s maybe 30) and a mysterious figure who appeared one night and delivered a rare legendary card.
Potential romance, intrigue, humor, and just the general enjoyment of shopping for cool cards and putting them on sale (while saving a few for my private collection)… this little card shop game has got its hooks into me, deep, after just an hour of playing. See for yourself: There’s a free demo on Steam and I absolutely think you should try it.