Premise: Be the first player to develop a virus strain that’s 100% lethal, by playing modes of Transmission for the virus, Vectors in which the virus can be transmitted, and Mutations to make the virus more lethal.
Visuals: The cards were printed on fairly sturdy stock with a nice laminate on them. Overall, the cards have a fairly subdued color palate, using mainly white, black and grey to color the cards. Overall, it’s a good fit for the game itself, given its theme and end goal. The three different types of cards (Transmission, Vector, and Mutation) are easily distinguished by a simple colored box and symbol (blue, yellow, and red respectively) on the corner of the card. This single splash of color makes it easy to quickly identify which cards can be played at a glance, which is a nice touch.
The biggest touch, though, is the flavor text. Oh, the flavor text…Just like in CCGs like Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh, each card had it’s own flavor text, which just made that game a bit more grotesque. During some of the early rounds, one of the players started reading off the flavor text in her hand. Some of them were tame, others were less so. When combined with the fact that Around the Clock had no duplicate cards in the deck besides the Transmission cards (well, similar cards, but unique names), there was a large amount of exposition to go with the cards themselves. Overall, the game is very aesthetically pleasing.
((Bonus Points if you can guess what the mutations are!)
Gameplay: Playing Virus is quite simple. Each player draws six cards at the start. Transmissions are the base cards that are initially played, with each strain supporting up to three modes of transmission. From there, the different Transmissions can be modified by playing either Vector or Mutation cards. These cards can only be played on certain types of Transmissions. Any number of compatible Vectors may be played on a single Transmission card. Mutations, on the other hand, are more limited in how they can be played. Each mutation has a ranking from Levels 1-4, with the higher level cards possessing higher Lethality values. A single Mutation of each level may be played on a Transmission, and they must be played in ascending order (Level 1>2>3>4). As with Vectors, the Mutations may only be played on certain Transmission cards.
One of the key features of Virus is the simultaneous play – all players play any valid cards from their hand right away. Once all players have played all cards that they can possibly play, they may keep one card (or keep none) and discard the rest. A new hand is drawn, and the game continued until someone reaches 100% total lethality amongst all of their cards. Once this is reached, the game ends, and the player with the highest %Lethality wins.
However, the simultaneous play-everything strategy, although allowing for fast games, is not without its drawbacks. Since you attempt to play all of your cards at one time, there is little to be said about strategy in play. The only strategy is in which Transmissions to play, and what card to keep when discarding. The latter is usually only a Virulence card (essentially a low-value wild card Mutation) or a high-level mutation that you could not play due to a lack of prerequisites. Also, interactivity between players is non-existent – there are no cards that can interfere with the other players, making it essentially a luck-based race to make your virus first.
Final Thoughts: An interesting game, with some neat themes, such as the simultaneous play, as well as simple yet elegant card design and flavor text. Virus: The Card Game is heavily luck dependent, but it is a game that can be easily played over a lunch break (or even solo, if you want to try and create your own challenges to make it a solitaire game.
Where Can I Get It? As of now, Virus is still not available for general purpose. Around the Clock Games will be selling it through The Game Crafter, the company that did the Kickstarter printing. It should be available soon!