Hands On With The ‘Call Of Duty’ Card Game Inspired By ‘COD’ 1, 2, 3 And 5

Whoever you are out there, I am better than you at only one form of “Call of Duty.”

You can probably take me in a “Call of Duty 4” deathmatch.

You can probably trounce me in “COD2.”

But on Friday I played the “Call Of Duty: Real-Time Card Game” — one hour before it was announced to the world — and since you, dear reader, did not, that means I have the advantage. For now.

Yes, there is a “Call of Duty” card game in the works. And, yes, it is fun.

I battled fellow Multiplayer blogger Jason Cipriano in it at the New York Comic Con in a match personally overseen by the game’s creator, Upper Deck designer Ben Cichoski. Ben made a good game, was a fun host and is a bit of a tease: he told us the game is partially based on “Call of Duty 5.” You know, the “COD” game that isn’t really announced yet.

So how does a “Call of Duty” card game work?

This is how Cichoski describes the game: “You know ’Magic [The Gathering]’? Forget everything you know. This is real-time.”

If you’ve played Spit, it’s kind of like that, mixed with “Call of Duty.” But it doesn’t feel like a first-person-shooter at all.

The game takes place on a 5×5 map, set in locations from any of the “COD” games except the modern one, “4.” Each of the two players commands three soldiers from any one of eight countries. The soldier cards are placed on the row of squares closest to the player who commands them.

The players hold a deck of action cards in their hand, cards that allow the soldiers to move, take cover, and shoot. Once the game starts, the players start flipping the cards and playing them as fast as they can. If I flip a “Move 3″ card that matches the color coding of one of my soldiers, then I move that soldier three squares. If it’s a “Fire 2,” then I lay that card onto any enemy card within two squares of the guy who is firing. The soldiers have different classes and therefore can be commanded only by specific cards. Other cards can set traps, like the laying of a Bouncing Betty mine.

Flipping the action cards is prelude to flipping the less common cards that pause the game. At these pauses, all the cards played are tallied. So if my soldier moved within firing range of an enemy and then laid down three “Fire” cards on a soldier who only had two “Cover” cards protecting him, then at the tallying moment, I have fragged that soldier. He can “re-spawn” on the map, but I’ve scored a kill. The game ends at a set number of kills.

Cichoski developed the game with another Upper Deck employee, Antonio (didn’t catch his last name), who was a 2005 “Magic” champion. The idea started less than a year ago. Cichoski had heard that his company, Upper Deck, was going to do a “COD” card game. He put together the real-time design. “I practiced it on my wife,” he said. “I showed my boss the prototype I made and he liked it.” After that, he and Antonio developed it further and continue to tweak the parameters of the game and the wording of the cards.

Jason Cipriano and I played one match. We started off fairly confused, but no more than five minutes in were in full control. We were playing to five frags, his American paratrooper, assault trooper and medic against my German rifleman, commando and radioman. He laid down a mine that never got used. I got my radioman under so much cover he was untouchable. But otherwise, there was a lot of action. And in about 15 minutes, when the dust settled, Cip beat me five to four.

I lost. So maybe I can’t beat any of you in the “Call of Duty” card game either.

How closely can a card game tie into a video game? Cichoski said that the game has been demoed to the heads of Infinity Ward, Grant Collier and Vince Zampella with positive results. The settings are from the games, including “COD5,” though Cichoski wouldn’t provide any details on that forthcoming title. The images on the cards are touched-up screenshots from “COD3″ and, though we didn’t see them, “COD5.”

A publicist for Upper Deck told me the company is considering implementing a “Spoils Of War” feature that will give purchasers of the cards special codes that unlock content in “COD5.” She said it’s just an idea right now, but is similar to what the company has done with a “World of Warcraft” game.

I enjoyed my match and look forward to playing more. And — this is just my suggestion — this card contest could make for a fun Xbox Live teaser game in advance of the eventual release of “Call of Duty 5.”

For more information on the game, check out the “Call of Duty: Real-Time Card Game” official site. The game is set for a Fall 2008 release.