Reactions and Traits

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One of the most unique feature set of Card Hunter lies in its reaction mechanics. In fact, it is so unique that the developer diaries contain three chapters (Jon talks about reactions, Skaff Elias talks about reactions, developers talk about more reactions) worth of explanations on the history, motivation and implementation. Readers are advised to browse the links for in-depth information and key insights. Another distinct gameplay feature revolves around the Trait mechanic. While card reactions provide a subtle way of streamlining gameplay flow, traits present more strategic deck building depth to the player. This guide presents some basics with regard to reactions and traits with examples of commonly encountered cards. Readers are advised to browse the Keywords guides for detailed information.



A reaction consists of a trigger condition, trigger effect and a trigger result. A trigger condition refers to the state required for the reaction to manifest/activate. Trigger effect refers to the function of the reaction while the trigger result refers to the outcome of the reaction. As reactions are tied to actions/state of the game itself, bounded action space translates into bounded reaction types. There are currently five broad types of reactions in game (Table 1).

Table 1: Types of Reactions
Reaction Trigger condition Trigger effect Trigger result
Armor Incoming damage + die roll (optional) Damage type damage reduction Modified/unmodified damage value passed
Block Incoming attack from front + die roll (optional) Attack type negation Modified/unmodified attack passed
Boost Change in game state/action + die roll (optional) Add/enhance game state/action Apply additions/enhancement
Handicap Change in game state/action + die roll (optional) Add negative state/action Apply negative state
Special Unique game state/action Unique gameplay effect Modified/unmodified effect passed

Card reactions

A reaction triggers whenever the trigger condition is satisfied. This happens immediately and the card bearing said reaction will always zoom to the center of screen. Figure 1 shows an actual gameplay where a dwarf wizard (hidden from view) plays little zap on an Ogre Bruiser. A card attachment Spark Inductor, reacts to the attack played and modifies the block roll of little zap. Spark Inductor moves from the dwarf wizard to the center of the screen overlapping the little zap to indicate the reaction trigger. Thereafter, it moves back to the dwarf wizard. Figure 2 shows another example of a card reaction: Boosted Heal reacting to damage from the Ogre Bruiser. Boosted Heal moves to the center of the screen to indicate the reaction activated. A dice roll is made to determine if the heal reaction triggers.

Not all reactions trigger from attacks or from being attacked. Not all reactions require dice rolls. Not all reactions manifest as attachments, some like Boosted Heal react from hand. A card that reacts from hand becomes visible thereafter to all players. Below are some examples of common card reactions and the effect they bring.

IMPORTANT: All reactions are represented by a grey text background.
Fig. 1: Spark Inductor reacting to play of Little Zap
Fig. 2: Boosted heal reacting to damage

Examples of card bearing reactions

Figure 3 shows an example of a card with the Armor reaction: Reliable Hide Armor. Reliable Hide Armor is a common armor card found in most low-level items. It reacts to incoming damage and reduces it by 1. As the die roll is 1+, Reliable Hide Armor always mitigates incoming damage by 1 and is therefore an absolute damage reducer. Multiple Reliable Hide Armors will stack the damage reduction as the reaction processes from the first to the next. Also note that any card bearing an Armor reaction has a grey background.

Figure 4 shows an example of a Block reaction: Block. Unlike Reliable Hide Armor, the Block trigger effect uses the keyword Block any. This means that the trigger effect will negate any type of attack from the front provided the trigger condition is satisfied. In this case, the trigger condition is an incoming frontal attack with a die roll greater than 4 in order for the Block any effect to occur. Successful trigger result 'blocks' the attack. Note that cards bearing the Block reaction have a green background.

Another common reaction is the Boost. There are many interpretations to the boost effect. In general, boosts are commonly used to increase or enhance an action/game state. Arcane Aura (Fig. 5) is a classic example of a boost reaction. It contains two reactions: an Armor reaction followed by a boost reaction. This means that Arcane Aura reacts on incoming damage as well as when the card bearer plays a damaging Magic card. The trigger condition is a play of a damaging Magic card. The trigger effect is to add 2 to the damage. If a card like Surging Bolt is played with Arcane Aura in hand, the total damage dealt to the target is raised from 3 to 5. Not all boost reactions increase damage, some like Dimensional Traveller boosts the game state via enhancements. In this case, the character with Dimensional Traveller gains an additional teleport move of 1 tile at the start of each round. This is a highly useful positional ability. In addition, Dimensional Traveller also contains the Trait keyword which acts as an automatic card draw (covered in the Traits section below). All boost reactions are denoted by orange card backgrounds.

Handicap reactions are the polar opposite of boosts. Where boosts add and enhance gameplay, handicaps create detrimental effects. Slowed (Fig. 7) is an example of a handicap reaction. It triggers when a positional change of the card bearer is detected. When the die roll is less than 4, the trigger effect (Encumber) is applied. Slowed therefore reduces the movement range of the character by 1. With the Keep keyword, Slowed is not discarded after it reacts. Instead, it will trigger if another move is detected, creating an annoying movement handicap chain. Handicap reactions does nothing beneficial to the player and are best avoided. However, a game feature of Card Hunter consists of in-game quests requiring players to form parties using items with handicap cards. As such, learning to play with and around handicaps are an excellent way to differentiate between good players and great players. Again, note that Handicap reactions are denoted by black card backgrounds.

The last reaction cover the scope of special reactions that fall outside all above classifications. As of writing, the special reaction mechanic exists only on one card: Arrogant Armor. Arrogant Armor contains two reactions, an Armor trigger and a special reaction. The special reaction states "If a card would be attached to you, discard that card instead. Keep." A card is attached to a character when the card effect states "Attach to target/yourself". An example is that of Dimensional Traveller as shown previously. Arrogant Armor's special reaction is designed to specifically negate attachments of any sort, beneficial or harmful. The trigger condition is an incoming card attachment to character while the trigger effect is to invoke immediate discard of said attachment. In short, Arrogant Armor does not allow the character to be buffed or debuffed, acting as a natural deterrent and completely blocks a plethora of stun, traits, damage over time cards. This favors party builds revolving around the use of instants and immediate effects. Unlike the above reaction, special reactions do not have a dedicated card color.

In summary, reactions play a huge role in Card Hunter. Dedicated players spend time carefully studying and experimenting with card reactions and deck synergy, making the right build for each character. Understanding what reactions are and how they work form the fundamental basis for successful an enjoyable Card Hunter gameplay. Th following section discusses an equally important game mechanic of traits.
Fig. 3: An armor reaction card
Fig. 4: A block reaction card
Fig. 5: A boost reaction card
Fig. 6: Another boost reaction card
Fig. 7: A handicap reaction card
Fig. 8: A special reaction card


Unlike reactions, traits are not as complicated and follow simple rules. However, it has important and strategic significance in deck building and game play. A card bearing the Trait keyword forces the player to play it when drawn. It takes precedence over all other in-hand cards and play is stopped until all trait cards are played. A player may select the order in which to play trait cards when multiples occur. A player cannot pass while holding a Trait card. Most trait cards are tied to attachments and therefore are subjected to the rule "any card that has to be attached to someone doesn't trigger from in hand". The real kicker of traits are:

  • Playing a Trait card does not end the player's turn.
  • When a Trait card is played, draw another card.

Traits as cyclers

Let's study the effect of the traits rule above. A single fully unlocked character in Card Hunter has a deck of 36 cards, regardless of race or class. When playing a game, you draw 3 cards in the first turn and 2 cards thereafter. It would take 18 turns to completely go through a character's deck once. Consider a deck where there are 6 trait cards and 30 non-trait cards in hand. As each trait card forces the player to play it and draw another card at the same time, the character's deck cycles faster. It would take 15 turns to completely go through the character's deck once. This means that the more cards that promote/allow automatic card draws, the faster the deck cycles through. Simple logic indicates that having multiple trait cards mean better hands on average. For a competent player, the ability to get better hands translate to better gains on average. Traits cards are always synergistic with other card cyclers as they promote faster deck cycling. Inspiration, Demonic Feedback etc are classic examples of cyclers. Accumulate enough such cards in a deck and it becomes possible to draw the entire deck in a round. This is known as infinite draw. Infinite draws allow for deck abuse and make for very annoying gameplay.

In general, traits cards either exist on a boost or handicap. Boost cards that carry traits are generally build specific and provide synergy. Slicer is great for warriors that carry multiple chops. While Healing Spirit is designed for priests. Handicap traits are generally danagerous in some fashion or another. However, prudent deck design can completely negate the effect of the handicap. Mind Leak is annoying to a wizard/priest holding a ton of magic cards in hand. However, Mind Leak can be negated by blocks, Impenetrable Nimbus and melee cards. When a handicap trait is negated by deck design, it devolves into a cycler and the detrimental effect is reduced/avoided. Not all trait cards are detrimental to the card bearer only. Traveling Curse is an example of a handicap card that causes problems for the opponent as well. Having multiple Traveling Curses in a single game tends to keep the opponent on his/her toes. It is therefore important to design decks to minimize the effect of handicaps while exploiting the opponent's weaknesses.

Fig. 9: A boost trait card
Fig. 10: Slicer for boosting chop attacks
Fig. 11: Healing Spirit for boosting heals
Fig. 12: A handicap trait card
Fig. 13: A fire handicap trait
Fig. 14: A damage handicap trait
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