Card Quest is an innovative alternative to roguelike deckbuilders

Card Quest (also available on Android and iOS), is a card based roguelike released in 2017. Card Quest is not a deckbuilder. Instead, your deck is made up of a handful of cards determined by the gear you have equipped, with several copies of each card. You also don't do randomly generated runs-- there are three campaigns, and each one has about a dozen unique levels that are largely the same from run to run. This immediately lends CQ a much higher degree of consistency than most deckbuilders. Instead of randomly picking up synergy pieces as you go, and hoping that you won't encounter too many enemies/bosses that are strong against your build, you can tailor your build to the encounters you'll be facing and know that if you put together a synergistic equipment set that you'll see those synergies consistently. I don't know of any other games exactly like this. It's kind of like Dicey Dungeons, since in both games you're gaining equipment with set effects, but you don't upgrade your items or gain random new ones in CQ. It's also a significant step down in complexity from a deck construction game like Magic: The Gathering, since you pick 4 pieces of equipment to define your entire deck with a well balanced selection of cards (more cheap enabler cards, fewer expensive payoffs, a good mix of resource generation and resource use, etc). The closest analog I can think of is Codex, a board game where there are a dozen factions each of which have three sub-factions and you can build your own custom factions by combining three arbitrary sub-factions. I'm honestly surprised that I haven't seen this mechanic in more board/video games; it's a great way to add important customization into builds without needing to put a huge effort into deck construction. Let me know if you've seen other examples! Before that point, though, you need to actually unlock new equipment to use. Each of the four classes start with a set of basic equipment, and you unlock a predetermined new piece of equipment the first time you beat a level's boss. But, that also means that until you beat any of the bosses, you're stuck with the same equipment for all of your attempts. This is the biggest sticking point for the game to me-- that first boss victory is a huge barrier to any meaningful progress, and until you get a good feel for the game and its rhythms the first boss is a substantial challenge. Once you beat it and start unlocking new equipment, all of the future unlocks start to come more easily, in no small part because the equipment you unlock is often straight upgrades to the starting equipment. This is mollified by the multiple campaigns-- because there are three campaigns, you have three options of first boss to beat, and you'll probably find one of them to be easier than the others. Speaking of mechanics, CQ has a few unique features here as well. It has a pretty standard system where playing cards costs energy, but your energy persists between turns, so you can save up to use more expensive cards or powerful combos. You also have both offensive cards (played on your turn) and defensive cards (played in response to attacks). This makes for some compelling risk/reward calculations-- you often have the opportunity to make an attack that could kill an enemy, but might leave you open to attacks in response. On top of that, there's an involved combo system. Most cards have very different effects if you play them as part of a combo, some are better to start combos with, others always end a combo, etc. And these interactions exist on both offensive and defensive cards, so sequencing your plays becomes the central consideration. Lastly, since the pool of cards you'll have access to is small and known, the card effects and interactions can get complicated, with special resources to generate and spend, unique status effects to inflict, and more. It can be a bit much to wrap your head around, and definitely a challenge to get good enough at it to beat the first boss and start making meaningful progress. Once you do, though, it's very satisfying to explore the synergies between different equipment sets. One aspect of the game I haven't mentioned yet is the presentation. And, honestly, it's a bit rough. The illustrations are competent but not exactly appealing, the music and sound effects are fine, and the cards often have just a little bit too much text on them to be easily readable. None of that hindered my enjoyment of the game, since it's all still perfectly usable, but your mileage may vary. The last thing I want to touch on is the sheer volume of content in this game. There are four classes and three campaigns with 14 levels each, and each level gives you a new piece of gear to use once you beat it. This means there's about 160 pieces of equipment across all the classes. Each level is also very unique, often with enemies and mechanics that only appear in that level and a unique boss at the end. I have 20 hours logged in steam and at least that

Card Quest is an innovative alternative to roguelike deckbuilders

Card Quest (also available on Android and iOS), is a card based roguelike released in 2017. Card Quest is not a deckbuilder. Instead, your deck is made up of a handful of cards determined by the gear you have equipped, with several copies of each card. You also don't do randomly generated runs-- there are three campaigns, and each one has about a dozen unique levels that are largely the same from run to run. This immediately lends CQ a much higher degree of consistency than most deckbuilders. Instead of randomly picking up synergy pieces as you go, and hoping that you won't encounter too many enemies/bosses that are strong against your build, you can tailor your build to the encounters you'll be facing and know that if you put together a synergistic equipment set that you'll see those synergies consistently.

I don't know of any other games exactly like this. It's kind of like Dicey Dungeons, since in both games you're gaining equipment with set effects, but you don't upgrade your items or gain random new ones in CQ. It's also a significant step down in complexity from a deck construction game like Magic: The Gathering, since you pick 4 pieces of equipment to define your entire deck with a well balanced selection of cards (more cheap enabler cards, fewer expensive payoffs, a good mix of resource generation and resource use, etc). The closest analog I can think of is Codex, a board game where there are a dozen factions each of which have three sub-factions and you can build your own custom factions by combining three arbitrary sub-factions. I'm honestly surprised that I haven't seen this mechanic in more board/video games; it's a great way to add important customization into builds without needing to put a huge effort into deck construction. Let me know if you've seen other examples!

Before that point, though, you need to actually unlock new equipment to use. Each of the four classes start with a set of basic equipment, and you unlock a predetermined new piece of equipment the first time you beat a level's boss. But, that also means that until you beat any of the bosses, you're stuck with the same equipment for all of your attempts. This is the biggest sticking point for the game to me-- that first boss victory is a huge barrier to any meaningful progress, and until you get a good feel for the game and its rhythms the first boss is a substantial challenge. Once you beat it and start unlocking new equipment, all of the future unlocks start to come more easily, in no small part because the equipment you unlock is often straight upgrades to the starting equipment. This is mollified by the multiple campaigns-- because there are three campaigns, you have three options of first boss to beat, and you'll probably find one of them to be easier than the others.

Speaking of mechanics, CQ has a few unique features here as well. It has a pretty standard system where playing cards costs energy, but your energy persists between turns, so you can save up to use more expensive cards or powerful combos. You also have both offensive cards (played on your turn) and defensive cards (played in response to attacks). This makes for some compelling risk/reward calculations-- you often have the opportunity to make an attack that could kill an enemy, but might leave you open to attacks in response. On top of that, there's an involved combo system. Most cards have very different effects if you play them as part of a combo, some are better to start combos with, others always end a combo, etc. And these interactions exist on both offensive and defensive cards, so sequencing your plays becomes the central consideration. Lastly, since the pool of cards you'll have access to is small and known, the card effects and interactions can get complicated, with special resources to generate and spend, unique status effects to inflict, and more. It can be a bit much to wrap your head around, and definitely a challenge to get good enough at it to beat the first boss and start making meaningful progress. Once you do, though, it's very satisfying to explore the synergies between different equipment sets.

One aspect of the game I haven't mentioned yet is the presentation. And, honestly, it's a bit rough. The illustrations are competent but not exactly appealing, the music and sound effects are fine, and the cards often have just a little bit too much text on them to be easily readable. None of that hindered my enjoyment of the game, since it's all still perfectly usable, but your mileage may vary.

The last thing I want to touch on is the sheer volume of content in this game. There are four classes and three campaigns with 14 levels each, and each level gives you a new piece of gear to use once you beat it. This means there's about 160 pieces of equipment across all the classes. Each level is also very unique, often with enemies and mechanics that only appear in that level and a unique boss at the end. I have 20 hours logged in steam and at least that many on iOS, and I've only ever beaten one of the campaigns with one of the classes. If you want to really dig into the game and unlock every piece of equipment for every class, it can keep you engaged for a good long while.

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