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Subject: Mini Rogue First Thoughts rss

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Luke Muench
United States
Allentown
Pennsylvania
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So I recently decided to give Mini Rogue a shot, and I certainly have mixed feelings on it currently (my thoughts below assume you are familiar with the game and the terms/mechanics associated with it):

Pros-

Passion Project: This is clearly a game that exudes such a dedication to the project at hand.

Small: 9 cards, 4 dice, and 8 tokens? This game is tiny, and I need more great games that can fit in my pocket.

Minimalist Art: The art in this game is phenomenal and illustrates not just what the cards do but the tone and theming in such a succinct yet beautiful manner.

Versatile Cards: As one might expect with a game so small, each card has a few different aspects to it, depending on when and where you encounter it, and it feels so genuinely interesting even after seeing the same small pool of cards again and again.

Resource Management: Again, this game may be small, but there is a fair amount to keep track of as a whole. Armor, food, health, spells, and gold are all ever-changing characteristics that need to be accounted for at all times if you are to survive.

Treasure Room: This is pretty clever design overall that, while random, feels logical and rewarding, especially when you get one of the treasures.

Progression: Mini Rogue has this elegant method of ramping up the difficulty gradually in a way that can feel smart and logical, with the dungeon growing with every floor explored.

Cons-

Difficulty: I say "can feel" a sentence ago because this game's difficulty can feel very swingy. The first game of this I ever played had me win the game and destroy the last boss, decked out with full HP, 2 fireball spells, and some gold to boot. I didn't feel like there was too much of a challenge as a whole, but it was still a fun experience that I marveled. Fast-forward to today, where I got mercilessly pummeled three games in a row within the 1st or 2nd areas of the game (about 5 minutes in). Did I play my first game wrong? It's possible. Am I somehow playing these games wrong? Also possible, but I think what is more impactful as a whole is how luck can more or less decimate a playthrough before it starts.

Luck: The order that you draw the dungeon cards in, what traps you do or don't encounter and if you can somehow miraculously escape them, whether or not you find treasure, if you keep missing when battling the first monster you encounter, all of these things will make or break your game, and there is very little you can do about it, at least at the start. Because you are level 1, there is next to no chance of disarming a trap, and when you do it almost feels like cheating. Every monster feels like it can and will decimate you unless you can somehow get some XP or armor fast, and this feeling of hopelessness can quickly translate into a lost game.

Armor: Armor at the start of the game can feel a little broken. Unless you're rolling 6's constantly, armor is next to necessary to survive the early game until you get your first level up. So either you encounter the whetstone at least once, if not twice, beat some monsters, and choose to take 1 measly XP for your resting action before the first boss, you're stuck tossing a single die that could potentially miss at a pretty powerful beast, meaning that armor can either make or break the game. But unless you're playing on normal, you have to be particularly lucky to catch a break and actually afford any armor, or just happen to roll the event/treasure for it.

Pit Trap: This will basically end your run right then and there. There is very little that can save you from taking on monsters well above your level, and it feels almost cheap. Does it add to the desperate tone, and that you are just one person trying to survive an unforgiving dungeon? Yes, but it doesn't make for good or compelling gameplay.

So yeah, those are my current thoughts on this game. I'd like to eventually do a review on this for Budget Board Gamer, but I want to get a bit more experienced with it before that point. Any thoughts?
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Clay Meyer
United States
Brandon
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I agree with all your points, but my experience has been slightly different. So far, in a about a dozen plays, the Pit Trap is something that has come up very little. Usually I had a choice between it and something else, and I usually picked the "something else", unless it was a Monster. In the times I couldn't avoid it, I usually rolled something not too damaging - 1HP lost, 1 Food lost, etc. So far I've only rolled once to fall down a dungeon level, and if I remember correctly, I lost that game.

Which brings me to my next point - the difficulty. In my opinion, the Normal mode has given me more wins than I would've expected. I didn't record them, but after a dozen plays, I've probably won 8-9 of those in Normal mode. I haven't played the next level of difficulty yet, but I believe I will start doing that from now on. The point is, a rogue-like game like this is supposed to be difficult, without being so frustrating you don't want to play it anymore. There's a fine line there, and I believe the designer has done a good job with that balance.

**Update: I played today in Hard mode, made it all the way to the end Boss on the last level, and died from a critical hit roll that came up a one. I couldn't afford missing totally one round, and he killed me. So no matter the difficulty level, bad rolls will always doom you.

Also, in my experience, Armor didn't feel broken. In fact, if I prioritized XP and HP above everything else, Armor almost became inconsequential. In fact, that's my only real issue with the game as it stands now, on Normal difficulty - ramping up XP and HP early makes it pretty easy to win most times, barring a chain of bad rolls.

For me, I approach games like I do books. I don't go out and buy anything and everything right off the bat. I do a lot of research, read reviews, read the rules, and then determine if it's a good fit for me. Mini Rogue is one that hits all the right buttons for me - portable, easy to learn, easy to teach, fun to play, and immersive. As is, it's a definite keeper. Once it's tweaked in version 2, it might just become a classic.
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