When you double down and then triple down on strategy, Pawnbarian must be pure essence that emerges. This tactical dungeon crawler throws chess on top of a roguelike plus some cards just for fun. Despite the undeniably deep strategic potential, it really is quick and breezy to pick up if you remember how chess pieces move. You can take your turn with it in its demo or pick up the shiny new release that its developer has whipped up to build on its former free browser version.
"Spend treasure to upgrade your cards with additional powers," says developer J4nw. "Pick from 3 characters to conquer 3 dungeons, all requiring an unique approach. Take on the infinite post-run Gauntlet to see how long you can survive."
Pawnbarian's developer says you can pick it up immediately if you're familiar with chess pieces and learn in just a few minutes if you aren't. Sure enough, if you remember how chess pieces move that's just about all you need to know the get started. Your hand of pieces are the moves available to you. Landing on an enemy destroys it, like capturing a piece in real chess. As in some other tactical turn-based games, enemies let on where their next attacks will land, allowing you to strategise your perfect turn.
You may be bound by the movements of your chess pieces, but enemies have a bit more going on. Some summon smaller enemies when they die. One I encountered was capable of dodging a single attack. Hovering over each piece lets you know what it does, so you've really got all the info you need right at the start. It's a big puzzle shoved into a tiny board which makes for some good fun.
Brendan Caldwell tried the free version two years back and quite enjoyed it. "It's a wee puzzle board of joy," he said. "The enemy pieces will telegraph the squares they're about to attack. So you have to figure out how best to hit and run. Get in, attack that wolfman, but then also escape from the blast of that blob monster."
In addition to the former free Itch version, Pawnbarian's current version also has its own demo. You can download it from Steam before you commit to the full version which is 10% off for £6.47/$8.99 until Friday.