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Roguebook Impressions: A Combo Between Strategy Card Gaming And Roguelike Progression

Roguebook is an upcoming rogue-like PVE card game developed by Belgian studio Abrakam. Players take control of a pair of heroes and attempt to defeat three level bosses; building a deck, collecting relics, and enhancing cards with gems along the way.

The game exists in the universe of Faeria, Abrakam’s well-received 2017 collectible card game. The setting is standard fantasy, but where the game stands out is in its unique mechanics and multi-layered gameplay loops. In order to advance through all three bosses in a run you will need to carefully balance the number and type of battles you decide to take on with the number and type of upgrades needed to succeed. In between bosses, the damage you sustain is semi-permanent and one lost battle means you will need to start a new randomly generated run. It is a recipe for deep, thoughtful strategy and addictive, just-one-more-round gameplay. 

Two Heroes Means Twice The Variety

You begin a fresh run in Roguebook by choosing a first and second character. Presently, there are four characters to choose from and each one has a unique deck style and relic, or passive bonus. You can choose Sharra for forward attack and combo focused synergy, Sorocco for a defensive tank with a bonus to block, Aurora Mythmaker the healing turtle, or Seifer the shape-shifting wolf for a summon based run.

Which ever two heroes you chose will greatly affect the strategy you employ in your run. In practice, both hero's decks will be shuffled together into one draw pile. Your heroes will be positioned in battle side by side; one on the left (back position) and one on the right (front position). If the next card you play belongs to the hero who is currently positioned in the back, your heroes will switch positions. While this unique mechanic may take some time to wrap you mind around, it is essential that your strategy center around it. Both because playing cards in the correct order can can win you the game with combo synergy, and because at the end of your turn the character in front will be the one to take the damage.

Say for example you are playing with Sharra, the combo queen, and Sorocco, the tank. Alternating play between their cards will almost always maximize you damage against the enemy because every time you play one of Sharras combo cards while she is in the back, the card costs 1 less. Therefore on your turn you may chose to play 1 Sharra card, 1 Sorocco card, then another Sharra card. However, if you end your turn with Sharra in the front she will be vulnerable to attack on the enemies turn. You may then chose to end your turn with a Sorocco card, letting Sorocco remain in the front and gaining a bonus to your block. If you do, you will miss out on the extra damage Sharra will passively do if you were to end your turn with her in the front. These kind of value decisions are constant and require you to weigh a multitude of options every single turn. It makes for varied and particularly unique card play.

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A Wealth Of Cards, Relics, And Gems To Discover and Use

On your journey through each run you will collect new cards for each hero’s deck. Typically these cards will be rewarded after each optional battle on your way to the level boss, but there are also shops, NPCs, chests, and story beats that will reward you new cards. The cards will increase in power as you progress, but there are very few opportunities to remove cards from your deck so it is important to try to maintain synergy in the deck you build.

Relics are items you will collect throughout your run that will provide a passive benefit to one of your characters. Generally these are straight upgrades such as “at the start of each turn gain 2 attack.” You will find these relics scattered throughout the levels and it is a good idea to pick them up when you can, but there are only so many turns and many more places to go; you will not be able to collect them all.

Gems are one of the more intriguing mechanics in the game. Like cards and relics, you will collect gems by winning battles and exploring the map. Most cards have slots that gems can be socketed into. Each gem provides a bonus when the card is played. Sometimes they will be straight upgrades like “deal an additional 2 damage” but some of the most powerful gems offer a trade-off, such as “this card costs 1 less, discard a card.” Gems add another layer of decision making and variety to each run. The combinations of deck list, relics, and gems means that no two runs will ever be the same, but at the same time your preferences and strategies will evolve as you play.

The Overworld Is A Strategy Game In And Of Itself

Each level you will start and the bottom of a randomly generated map and your goal will be to make your way to the top and defeat the level boss. You can move a maximum of three spaces each turn, and after each turn the number of available spaces you can move to decreases by an entire row, meaning that progress is always motivated towards the top of the screen (and the level boss). This also means that you will not be able to land on every space and collect every piece of gold, fight every battle, or open every chest.

Your decisions in the overworld need to be measured against the things you think you need: whether that be another battle to earn cards to flesh out your deck, a shop to spend your gold, a healer to recover the health you lost in your last battle, or a story beat that may give you an opportunity to collect a powerful relic. Once you understand how the board moves you will be able to determine how many spaces you can reach before time runs out, but that doesn’t mean the choices will ever be easy. It is an interesting layer of meta-game that just helps your runs to feel fresh and unique each time you play.

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Overview

The game has a ton of variety and I found the strategy to be deep but accessible during my 4-5 hours of play. If you have spent a lot of time with Slay The Spire then you will already have a leg up and certainly will appreciate the interesting mechanics that Roguebook brings to the table. The version of the game currently available is an alpha build for Kickstarter backers, so the UI and art are somewhat unrefined. Based on my time with it, though, this is a game that is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

If you would like to learn more, support Abrakam, and get your hands on the alpha, you can contribute to their Kickstarter.

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