Cabals: the Card Game. A peek at the future of startup CCGs?

I signed up for the beta of Cabals, the Card Game, and frankly, it went off my radar as it faded back into signal to noise ratio that is social media. My interest is again piqued for a number of reasons. First, they announced that they are out of beta and live, as of today. Second, the game plays across platforms– that is, it plays on Ipads, Ipod touches, Iphones, in a browser, and on Android tablets and smartphones. That is a pretty impressive feat, and as I mentioned in a recent review of the Battleline app, it’s going to start to become a market discriminator. Naturally, Cabals is once again going blip blip blip on my radar screen of attention. I suppose I should introduce the game first– Cabals is a virtual (only) game styled in a similar fashion to the collectible (paper) card games that were all the rage in the 1990s and even today to a lesser extent. The universe is, well, somewhat typical of a mixed genre science milieu, mixing elements of popular tropes for the purpose of creating different factions in the game. The four original factions are described as:

  • Order of Zahir relies on the esoteric art of alchemy. They are masters over both mind and matter, and strike at their enemies with strange poisons and animated creations. Their goal is domination over everything.
  • Vril Society combines strange Vril energy to the latest technological discoveries for powerful and unusual results. They may lack in subtlety, but they more than make up for it in overpowering force and ruthlessness.
  • Danann Covenant have summoned the forgotten Sidhe to their side, and combined the ancient faery tricks with their own magickal talents. You can never know quite what to expect from Danann Covenant – which is exactly how they prefer it.
  • Bearclaw Brotherhood is built upon the powers of the old shamans and the command they have over the land, spirits and people of Mother Russia. They may be slow to rouse, but their full might is terrifying beyond comparison.

(text from FAQ)
Honestly, I think even the publishers of the card game consider this stuff to be “the fluff” because the website doesn’t dwell much on backstory. There’s a lot on how to play this newish concept of a web-based trading card game.

If you ever played Magic: the Gathering or any of its many derivative spawns you already have a good idea of how to play Cabals. You are responsible for a deck of at least 30 cards that can no more than 3 duplicates of any one card. Each deck has a main “thematic” character card that represents your faction. You collect and build the deck up in a fashion similar to the older Magic game. You place the cards out on a table to activate them and they combat either main characters or lackeys. Unlike M:TG, you are not seeking to destroy an enemy wizard, rather you are trying to occupy their stronghold area at the back of a virtual gridded space.

How to play

How to play (Cabal Website)

The grid areas are called Tiles. Tiles can be either open or marked to give the unit moving into them a special bonus of some sort. Each turn you draw a single card into your hand and then you decide which one to deploy. Moving and attacking units exhausts them so they can’t be used on a subsequent turn. Special characters that have capabilities, like spells, that they can bring into the game will cost resources, which will also deplete them. If you can fight through the opposing force’s wall of underlings and occupy their stronghold, you win somewhere around 60 victory and/or campaign points. I’m not sure what that brings you. I found the basic game as described above to be fairly straightforward and easy to pick up, even if I have (ahem) yet to win a game. Hey, give me a break, I’m learning. I’d assume that there is a heavier element of trading between players, if the word “collectible” is to be attached to this game, but I haven’t really explored enough to understand how card trading is done yet. If the game will feature some form of virtual card trading, I see this as a huge plus.

Cabals Virtual Card

Cabals Virtual Card (from website)

So that’s essentially what Cabals is. I’m posting on this because I think it could become a breakthrough concept. Games are getting expensive– and card games maybe more so than others, because of the huge startup costs to get a collectible card game going. If you can deliver the same content with virtual services.. FOR FREE.. without going to comic book stores in search of expansion packs, without a giant print-based advertising campaign, relying on social media like Facebook and Twitter and sites like BGG and assorted blogs (like this one?) to pimp it for you, well, you know, you might just make a nickel and a dime in this business, who knows. I presume that the way the company behind Cabals will make that nickel and a dime will be in-game expansions of some sort, much like certain IoS game apps have in-app expansions that cost a very reasonable .99 or near to that. I don’t know if I’ll like it enough to spend even that miniscule amount of cash on it or not, personally. However, it does appear promising to me– I like the idea behind Cabals and I especially enjoy the cross platform method of delivering game content. I wish them success and I recommend it!


  1. Cabal: Trading Game website (play game here)
  2. Cabal: Facebook Page
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2 responses to “Cabals: the Card Game. A peek at the future of startup CCGs?

  1. Thank you Walter for a nice review.
    I would like to add some additional information from the dev’s point of view.
    The “fluff”, is a base for many new things to come: Board game, Comics etc.
    When creating the world of Cabals, we drew heavily from European mythologies and history that were mixed together for this alternative reality. Our own ideas and inspirations were guided into a more coherent final world by a consulting award-winning author who was kind enough to help us out.
    Cabals: The Card Game is the first step on a long road, we have an experienced and passionate team devoted on Cabals for years to come.

    With respect,
    Kyy Games
    CEO, Founder

    • Hi, Mika:

      Thanks for the nice comments. Please don’t read too much into the word “fluff”, which is not meant in a disrespectful or intellectually dishonest manner… that’s just my own comment for backstory or enfolding narrative behind a genre themed game. Good luck with your project, I greatly admire your approach.


      Walt O’Hara aka “Mister Nizz”