Pox Nora, a turn-based strategy title with a card gaming aesthetic, has been a PC staple since 2006. With its new Ronin expansion and reintroduction to Steam in October, the game is attempting to gain a foothold on an already crowded marketplace. Pinpoint execution and dedication, however, thankfully keeps Pox Nora ahead of the pack.

For initiates, Pox Nora is a free-to-play journey that puts players right in the middle of a battlefield. Whether it's a PVP match, single-player campaign, or in story mode, the main key is to destroy the opponent's shrine. A collection of runes, aka cards, are available to select from the get go, and the first order of business is to place a warrior on the field. All of your runes, whether it's a member of your party or a weapon/spell based item, are added onto the field by spending a blue energy known as Nora.

Each turn unearths more runes, and the key is to effectively manage one's Nora in buying warrior, spell, or battle runes. For example, it may seem like the right strategy to spend all your Nora and place as many wizards and sword wielders on the field, but you may have to wait a few turns before purchasing that world destroying spell or weapon that could turn the tide.

During my first hours of gameplay, Pox Nora's strategic intricacies, coupled with the sheer diversity of its runes, absolutely drew me into the universe. Whether it's satiating a Hearthstone card fiend's hunger or showcasing the cerebral nature of warfare, Pox Nora delivers on both fronts.

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Your first couple of hours will be dedicated to finishing tutorial campaigns and walkthroughs which, upon completion, put gold in your coffers and eventually unlocks Pox Nora's epic story mode. Since mobile gaming has often rendered strategic and card based adventures as pick-up-and-play diversions, it's refreshing that Pox Nora, nearly a decade old, continues to add different storylines into its universe. Spending three to four hours in one sitting is commonplace if you get caught in Pox Nora's seductive web.

The sheer breadth of Pox Nora continues with its latest expansion, which offers players 60 new runes and a new Ronin campaign. Part of Ronin's journey centers on defeating a group of elementals that are wreaking havoc on the land, and although I emerged victorious, it wasn't an easy task. Every map in this world is spread out, and since each of your fighters can only move a certain number of spaces and attack per turn, Pox Nora is a complete time eater. If patience and wiling away the days is your cup of tea, then the game's lack of expediency shouldn't be a problem.

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The freemium model is also structured in a generous fashion, as you don't have to pay for the privilege to play Pox Nora. Cash in hand is helpful if you want to unlock certain card decks or grab all the new runes featured in the Ronin expansion. With so many runes to choose from and the ability to go into battle with a plethora of factions, dipping into your pockets is simply a luxury to play the game. Certain decks are made available on Pox Nora each week, and with dozens of hours of gameplay devoted to the title, there are still many runes and story campaigns to uncover.

Another inspired facet of the journey rests on sheer difference amidst each faction. Players with an elven bent can play as part of K'thir Forest faction. Defense and weaponry crafting lovers may prefer to join the dwarves faction Ironfist Stronghold, while melee crazed gamers may gravitate towards the demon collective known as the Underdepths (since I prefer long range weaponry, my faction of choice is K'thir Forest).

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Along with its turn-based and trading card universe, Pox Nora effectively brings a distinct role-playing game angle to the proceedings. Each faction has its own backstory, and every campaign has its own motivations--even if destroying a shine has a simple capture the flag mentality. Although the game's main draw is to get you hooked on the visceral feel of its strategic gameplay, there's also a ton of story behind the campaigns.

I've spent many hours moving my warriors on the battlefield, killing hordes of villains and destroying their respective shrines. Each of my combat decisions are lengthened, however, by the sheer detail that lies within every rune. Within every character, spell, and weaponized machinery lies a series of much needed stats and information that should be weighed before deployment. Whether it's delivering a backstory on each faction or customizing each rune, Pox Nora's attention to detail is exceptional.

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There's only so many hours in the day, and I still can't believe all the time I've spent addicted to Pox Nora's kitchen sink mentality. A melange of tabletop gaming with hardcore turn-based thinking, set amidst an ever evolve RPG infused world, should have been one hot mess. Instead, Pox Nora shows that life is more than a set of randomized cards. Every step you take, even within Pox Nora's fantastical confines, makes all the difference.

This review was completed with a download of Pox Nora provided by the publisher for PC.

8.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating