4e Power Cards
By Wizards of the Coast
I Got the Powah!
One of the great curses of character sheets is that there are certain sections that require you to write, erase, write, and erase again. Your experience point total, your current hit point, your wealth, and even (in 3e) the memorization and casting of selected spells all require new digits, new tick marks, and new notes to your fellow player about what a jerk your DM is.
These sections slowly get abraded away more surely than a sand castle, and more quickly than Gamer Bling’s teeth. Or so he thought when one day he was brushing his teeth and one of his molars was very sensitive. So looking into the mirror he saw a cavernous gulf at the base of his molar roughly the size of the Carlsbad Caverns.
He was aghast at how swiftly a gamer’s diet of carbonated caffeinated drinks (aka “liquid chainsaw”) and red licorice (aka “gummy chainsaw”) could erode his enamel. No exaggeration here (for once); we’re talking like 20% of Gamer Bling’s tooth had ceased to exist. He quickly rinsed his mouth out with some handy enamel paint (exaggeration returns) and called his dentist.
And it turns out that the cavernous gap was in fact created not by tooth decay nor by acidic carbonated beverages nor by tiny pick-wielding trolls, but by a previously extant filling from Gamer Bling’s mouth making an abrupt departure to parts unknown, presumably into Gamer Bling’s bowels. How that happened without Gamer Bling’s awareness remains a mystery, as does everything that happened those several weeks of binge drinking that never actually took place, because Gamer Bling has not been a binge drinker since he got over the callous betrayal of the First Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion, whom Gamer Bling’s favorite cousin referred to as “The Ice Queen.” And that was upon first meeting her. At Gamer Bling’s wedding. At which the not-air-conditioned chapel was about as hot as the Gates of Hell, a simile that has not been lost on Yours Truly.
Gamer Bling wrote a poem about her—the First Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion, not the favorite cousin—which is more than he can say for any other woman he has dated (or, most recently, married). It was like the baking chocolate of poetry: entirely bitter, but packed with flavor. Perhaps someday Gamer Bling will share it here when another review needs a healthy dose of bile to percolate properly.
Anyway, Gamer Bling got a new filling plugged into his tooth, and the Gamer Bling Official Companion was entirely pleased not to have to pay another exorbitant dental bill.
If only filling a tooth were as quick and easy as printing a new character sheet. Of course, it if were that easy, getting cavities might happen as frequently as we rub holes in those selfsame character sheets. And being a dentist would be a minimum wage job.
But enough of this fanciful flight into the world where dental work meets paper work. Let’s talk about something real and important, namely barbarians and wizards whupping up on evil creatures from the bowels of the earth, which may well be where Gamer Bling’s expatriate filling is now.
4e D&D, which is the Gamer Bling officially approved version of D&D, makes extensive use of powers. And, on your average generic 4e character sheet, there are little check boxes for whether or not you’ve used your encounter or daily powers yet. Which means you’ll probably be marking and erasing each of those every encounter, because you don’t get brownie points for saving them.
Far better for all involved to use WotC’s very own sanitary and non-abrasive Power Cards™©®.
These handy little items are exactly what you might think, and precisely what Gamer Bling immediately thought the game needed when he very first perused the 4e rulebook. And lo and behold, WotC was right there with Gamer Bling. Except for that whole being-on-the-other-side-of-the-country thing.
As one might imagine for a company that has produced 31 TCGs (BattleTech, C•23, Codename: Kids Next Door, Doomtown, Duel Masters, Dune, Eye of Judgment, Football Champions, G.I. Joe, Harry Potter, Hercules, Legend of the Burning Sands, Legend of the Five Rings, Looney Toons, Magic, MapleStory, MLB Showdown, NBA Showdown, Neopets, Netrunner, NFL Showdown, Pokémon, Rage, Star Sisterz, Star Wars, The Simpsons, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, WCW Nitro, Xena, Xiaolin Showdown, X-Men, and not counting Transformers, but maybe we should) and a handful of family card games, Wizards has some 12-pt. C2S card stock lying around. And people who know how to put it to good use.
Which they did, but this time it was for the RPGers. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, cardfloppers!
Gamer Bling will skip his analysis of the design and manufacture process, save only to say that the 4e design choices saved them a bundle on production since, if they were smart, and Gamer Bling assumes they are, they only needed to swap the black plate. Good job, guys. Gamer Bling salutes you.
Each package contains a 110-card pair of decks nicely presented in a plastic tray sleeved into a cardboard box with nice WotC art. Each card is 63mm x 88mm, which metric measurements are two numbers that (a) are nothing even kind of close to nice round metric numbers, (b) are suspiciously close to but not quite exactly 2.5 x 3.5 inches, and (c) bear no correlation to anything except that the 88 was a very well-loved anti-tank weapon during WWII. Or a very hated weapon, depending on which side you were on. But if you’re ever bored at your game, take one of these cards and imagine an explosive shell as wide as the card is tall flying at you at transonic speeds, and maybe you can get a better idea why it was such an effective anti-tank gun.
Each of the cards is, of course, color-coded to how often it can be used: green cards can be used at will (assuming you have the actions available), red cards can be used once an encounter, gray cards can be used daily, and blue cards are utility powers. Gamer Bling mentions this because three of the four other members of his gaming group missed this nice bit of user-friendly design work. Which is clearly explained on page 55 of the 4e PHB. Which they all own. But apparently they skipped the “how to use this book” part and ran headlong into the “how do I create cannon fodder” part, which explains why their first team was so poorly assembled and so quickly disassembled.
The cards mimic the layout of the powers as they appear in 4e, which means they are clear, concise, and easy to read. And, when packaged, they are bundled up more or less in order, with the first deck consisting of powers from levels 1 to about 15-17, and the second deck taking it from there to the end.
There are also blank cards in each deck for your own personal use—between 18-29 such cards per deck for the PHB versions, and low single-digit quantities for the Martial Power cards—sorted into the various types.
The backs of each card are similarly color-coded, and also tell you in plain Swahili English the frequency with which a power can be used. This makes it easy to check when a power can be recharged without having to look at the front side and risk being called Signor Cheatypants. In addition, for your benefit, the back of each card is labeled with the character class. Handy when sorting your cross-class power cards out after your character dies.
The cards are clear, concise, and easy. When you use an encounter or daily power in combat, you just flip that card upside-down. Having your character’s abilities face-up in front of you makes the decision process each round quick and clear, and tracking power usage becomes nothing more than an incidental flip of a card, rather than finding the power on your character sheet and marking it and erasing it and marking it again.
And best of all, if you swap out a power when you level, you don’t have to erase your whole power and write in a new one; you just need to swap the card you have for a new one in your deck.
First, while having blank cards is cool, Gamer Bling thinks that two dozen or so is too many for the PHB card packs. Better things could have been done with them.
For a most obvious example, why are none of the paragon powers included? Each class has more than enough blank cards to cover those 12 powers.
And what about the racial powers? Five of the races in the PHB have encounter powers. Adding one of each of these to each of the decks would have taken up a mere five of the blank slots, or fewer if you omitted race/class combos that aren’t synergistic (for example, one can assume that hulking dragonborn wizards are fairly rare, even if one of our group did opt for a sneaky lumbering dragonborn rogue).
Another use would have been to fill them with some common combat skill uses. Using bluff for feinting or for creating a diversion is written as encounter powers, but are quite mysteriously not presented in the standard power format. One could also make an argument that intimidate should have been made an at-will power, since characters can use it to try to force bloodied foes to surrender.
Using an action point could have been made a card. The second wind ability definitely should have been.
And for the clerics, the blanks could have been used to create cards for all 11 Channel Divinity feats in the PHB.
See? Lots of ideas, any one of which would have created more utility. This is why you as a manufacturer, no matter who you are, need someone with a completely fresh and geekerrific perspective (from someone like unto Yours Truly) to give a final blessing to your product before it launches.
To WotC’s defense, the blank cards are, in and of themselves, quite useful, although the gray and blue ones require ink pens to write a power name on the dark background of the title bar.
Second, many of the cards have a lot of white space. While Gamer Bling appreciates the desire to keep typesetting simple, the fact remains that he would rather have had short power descriptions done in a font size that was a point or two (or three) larger, because Gamer Bling’s rheumy old eyes cannot read the cards as easily as he once could, back in the halcyon days of his antebellum youth in Arcadia when we played Dungeons and Dinosaurs with real dinosaurs. We were very enthusiastic gamers. Which is why the dinosaurs are now extinct and we had to switch to pen-and-paper RPGing.
The Bottom Line
These are absolutely indispensable for the serious 4e gamer.
Well, okay, they’re dispensable. You don’t need to buy them, not in the same way you need not to stick your head in a plastic bag, but, unlike sticking your head in a plastic bag, you won’t regret it.
Bling Factor: 6
You need: One per character. Or two if you cross-class, or want both Martial Power and level 27 cards.
Most easily done with the big phat button to the right, of course.
It appears that these are selling well enough that WotC will keep cranking them out every time a new sourcebook comes out.
And, since Gamer Bling knows and respects Kierin Chase, the D&D Brand Manager of Dooooom! he will defy the restraining order and respectfully suggest a new product: a fat booster consisting of:
This could easily be tagged onto any promo press sheet, taking a mere 16 card slots. Gamer Bling believes that many 4e aficionados will happily pay $5 for such a pack of cards.
If you wanted to make a full press sheet of its own, add the 45 Channel Divinity Feats in the PHB and PHB2, then maybe the Paragon and Epic Destiny powers… maybe a daily power that lets the DM force the players to buy him a pizza…
They’ll keep coming, folks.
Players Handbook Power Cards
These cover the base eight character classes from the PHB: cleric, fighter, paladin, ranger, rogue, warlock, warlord, and wizard. They include all the powers, none of the paragon powers, and roughly a score of blank cards.
Martial Power Cards
These cover the PHB classes covered in Martial Power: fighter, ranger, rogue, and warlord. You get all of the base powers from the PHB and MP through level 25, none of the paragon powers, and a handful of blanks.
Players Handbook 2 Power Cards
Gamer Bling doesn’t have these. This is because Gamer Bling did not actually get these from WotC’s PR team, nor WotC’s D&D team, nor WotC’s graft team, nor the WotC benevolence fund for former employees. Instead, one of the sleeper agents that Gamer Bling has operating within the mysterious corporate halls of the gaming giant swagged him a set of the PHB stuff.
Arcane Power Cards
Gamer Bling doesn’t have these either. See above. Serve with lukewarm whine.
Divine Power Cards
Due out 16 Feb 2010. We’ll see if Gamer Bling finally gets on the D&D comp list now that Kierin Chase is in the driver’s seat. Please please please please please!