Mini Rogue - A Roguelike Microgame

Paola Di Stefano and Gabriel Grendon have created a tiny PnP dungeon crawl that fits in your pocket. Merely nine cards make the total collection - that's one sheet double sided! Very small indeed. A player will need to add 4 dice and 9 scoring markers to complete the game. It would seem that nothing packed into such a small package would create a functioning game - never mind a repeatable and fun game. But it does.

The artwork is really pleasing and very functional. I'd say it even creates a feeling of theme - in your head. The theme created works because the cards depict very abstract concepts: Merchant, Treasure, Relax, Skill, Monster, Trap, and Boss Monster. The cards have very clever mechanisms: Monsters have levels that change as you progress. Cards also have die roll mechanisms that modify the requirements of success based on player "Ranks" and Dungeon level and "Area." Add the character stats card and the Dungeon/Monster HP tracker and there are your nine cards.

Included are two more optional cards that make for a more complete and larger more manageable character stats tracker. If I have any criticism - once you add two more cards to make the character stats larger - there is room for a player aid. I'll get more to that a bit later.
The game works by playing each round through the dungeon and then advancing to the next of 14 areas. After a prescribed number of areas your character progresses up levels. The dungeon tracker has 14 spaces divided into 5 levels. Complete the Boss on the 14th level and you have won. Not an easy task.

This dungeon is like a repeated "side scrolling" game. You complete each dungeon area - then you shuffle the 6 cards and repeat - but order, stats, and levels change - so your dice rolls get modified by these changes. The side scroll is made up of face down cards that get revealed: a single card - followed by a double set of cards - a single card - a double set - a boss monster. Each column of cards is revealed to move to the next step. When there are two cards the player can choose one or the other. The single cards are forced on the player. It is a very easy concept to understand, but the first playthrough I died and had to play more conservatively. 

I'd say there is a beginning game, middle, and end that take understanding. On my first playthrough I died not understanding that the first few areas are about surviving the Boss. The middle part of the game seemed easy as I maxed out my stats and felt like I was unbeatable. Then I got to level 5 and died during the second of four areas. It all seemed simple until I realized I did not anticipate having to fight the Boss 5 times with no reward to win (all other Boss wins give rewards.)

This is five cards and a rule set that really is a lot more complex than it first seems. Dice rolls can be disappointing. Each "Rank" achieved unlocks more attack dice. A rolled 1 causes the die to be temporarily retired for that roll. A six can be rerolled - and the roll added to the 6 just rolled! Roll a one then - and you lose them both. This is a great push your luck and can get killer damage. But you can have good damage and push for killer damage and get almost nothing. Crap.

Skill tests are used for the Trap and Event cards. Player must roll their Rank or less to pass the skill test. Another roll decides the outcome. This is how you get spells. Did I mention spells? These allow healing, freezing the monster for a turn, poison (powerful), and fire. You can save the spells, but you can only save two spells at a time.

The directions are well written. They take just as much effort as most games of this sort - I'd say 4 out of 10 for rules complexity. Some of the needed information is a bit hard to find - Spells effects are listed in the Skills card in the rules - don't go looking for a "Spells" section. This is where a card that has a basic player aid would help. I can see picking up this game in a few months and having to decode these things again. While there is a great deal of info packed onto the card - we need to look up spell effects on the skills card - but it may not be revealed yet this round. It would also jog my memory if Rank, and Area, and Skill Level were defined on a player card. I can be a bit of a dunce.

All in all: This is a "definitely download" PnP. I'd say one the best simple mechanisms I have seen.

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7 months ago

Nice, I do enjoy how creative people get with very limited components for some of these PnP's

7 months ago

The link just seems to bring me back to this page?

7 months ago


7 months ago


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Mini Rogue