Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to play a cross between a card game, and a colony management sim? Wonder no longer because Stacklands is here to answer that very question.

Developed by the Sokpop Collective, Stacklands is a colony management sim where everything is represented as cards. Your villagers, structures, and basic resources – all of them are cards. This gives the whole game a unique visual style, that I found incredibly charming throughout my time playing it.

The card based aesthetic isn’t just for show though – Stacklands leans into it with the primary gameplay loop. Much of the game is built around crafting, which is accomplished by stacking compatible cards into a pile. When you create a pile with a successful combination, they’ll fuse to create a new card. As an example, stacking some sticks, and a bar of iron will create a sword. Any time I obtained new resources, I would excitedly start throwing them into a multitude of different configurations hoping to find something new. This makes up the bulk of Stacklands’ core progression, and is honestly very fun for the first several hours of play.

What I enjoy so much about this system is how it can lead to fun accidental discoveries. My favourite example of this was when I unassumingly put a stick on top of a stack of wood cards. I was trying to organize my play space, and didn’t really think the 2 types of cards would fuse. I was wrong – a few seconds later my giant pile of wood turned into a thick club. I then handed this club card to my naked, unarmed villager card who was transformed into a swol warrior with immaculate pectoral muscles, and a tasteful loin cloth. That sort of organic discovery is just so good.

Along with discovering new ways to combine your cards, players also have to partake in the usual suspects of a colony management game: balancing the books, and defending your territory. Money comes and goes quite quickly, but it’s fairly easy to stay on top of things. Almost every item you can craft will sell for more than the sum of its parts, which keeps you in a positive feedback loop of ever increasing wealth. This is good as you’ll need money to buy new card packs, which provides access to additional basic resources, and more exotic cards.

Outside of keeping on top of your economy, you’ll also need to periodically defend yourself from intrusion. Every couple of in-game days, a magic portal is opened, which spews forth a handful of monsters. These momentary disruptions are typically short-lived, and aren’t overly difficult to overcome provided you’ve invested some time into your military. They’re mostly there to keep things from becoming too predictable, and quiet. If that’s not your jam though, you can disable incursions before starting your run.

Honestly, my only real issue with Stacklands is that it becomes a bit repetitive after a few hours of play. That’s not really a bad thing though – after a couple hours of play you’ll see just about everything the game has to offer. How much you enjoy it will ultimately determine how long you want to tinker around with it. For me, a couple hours, and unlocking the first ending were enough to get my fill. Granted, for its five dollar price tag, I think that’s more than appropriate.

All said, I would recommend Stacklands. It does get a little repetitive, but the initial few hours are hugely engaging. There’s something strangely addicting about stacking your different cards together to discover new combos. It really gives the whole of Stacklands a unique vibe that sets it apart from other colony sims on the market. I won’t lie to you, and say its the deepest game, but its unique premise and presentation are enough to justify losing a couple afternoons and a fiver to this card stacking, colony management title.