Last night, I finally plowed through to the end of Culdcept Saga. I discovered, via GameFaqs, the concept of the “symbol deck” — one that has absolutely no items or creatures in it, and instead focuses on spending as much money as possible through the symbol system, and controlling the board and pace of the game via spells. The computer AI is typically not prepared to handle this style of play — the items in the AI’s deck will be completely useless (because you don’t spend any time in combat), and AI-deployed creatures tend to help you by pumping up symbol values. The lack of combat also results in a nice benefit — the pace of the game is sped up quite a bit, which is nice because it can drag in some of the later 4 cepter battles.
Cards such as Refuge (sacrifice a card to get 80 magic and Refuge back in your hand), Fairy Light (you get magic every turn based on the number of cards in your hand), Aurora (boost symbol value 20%), and Pressure (drop symbol values 30% — good when you want to “buy in”) are key for this strategy, since they generate money and control symbol value. In addition to these, I stock tons of dice-control spells and mass/direct damage spells in case I need to take out a menacing creature. Battles against the AI using this deck tend to snowball fairly quickly into routs — on the last level, at one point I lapped the AI opponent even though I spent a couple of turns bouncing back and forth between a fort and a temple (to buy symbols).
The story payoff at the end of the game, like the story itself, is poor. Furthermore, you don’t really get anything special (in terms of bonus cards, etc.) for winning the game — instead, you have to replay certain levels to get additional “E” cards. I am still missing a lot of cards, although hopefully I can pick up some of those by playing against the AI. I may go back and try and clean up some of the achievements in the game — in particular, the ones that involve using decks with particular creature types should be easy to get using a symbols deck. Some of the other ones might be too difficult to get, though. Note for all achievement fanatics out there: this game is pretty stingy with Gamerscore. You could conceivably beat the game and only get 115 Gamerscore — I barely passed the 500 card mark for the Worldly Scholar achievement by the end of the game (and that’s with a fair amount of versus play), and the other achievements I have are not necessary to complete the game. The game is also super-long — it could easily take you over 40 hours to finish the 30 levels of the game, and while that’s a great value from a “cost-per-hour” perspective, it’s not a great time investment for achievement hunters. 🙂