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Donsol turns a deck of cards into a dungeon crawl

Call a spade a monster

Donsol [official site] is a game designed by John Eternal which uses a regular deck of cards. You shuffle the pack, draw four cards, and those four cards represent a room. Diamonds are shields, hearts are health potions, clubs and spades are monsters, and the two Joker cards are Donsols, a particularly tough kind of monster. With a simple set of rules, the aim is to make it through the entire pack alive.

Now development duo Hundred Rabbits have made a digital version of the game, with lovely art, that you can pick up over at Itch.

The rules really are very elegant. To summarise: the number on the playing cards represents the health gain for potions, the defense strength of shields, and the attack strength of monsters; you must attach enemies in descending order of strength in each room, else your shield will break; you can escape a room to dodge a threat but not twice in a row; you can't pick up two potions without performing a different action in between. That's really about it, but this video explains those rules a little more clearly, and a few others, while walking through the game from beginning to end:

Cover image for YouTube video

It's a game about deciding what cards to pick in what order. Do you collect the health potion immediately, or leave it till after you've fought the monsters? Do you want to attack two monsters and flee without fighting the third, or do you want to flee without picking up any of the available potions or shields so they're shuffled to the bottom of the deck and therefore return to your hand later on when you might need them more? I can't give you the answers because so far I'm rubbish at it.

I'm having a great time with it, though. Developers Hundred Rabbits are the two-person team of Devine Lu Linvega and Rekka Bellum, who make their games while sailing the Pacific ocean on a boat. Also the original card game was designed by John Eternal while travelling as part of Train Jam, so there's a vehicle theme here to the game's creation. Aside from Windows, Mac and Linux releases, Donsol is also available on Android and iOS, so perhaps you could play it while piloting a blimp or gyrocopter. And if you enjoy it, you might want to try Lu Linvega's music, released under the name aliceffekt, or his excellent iOS alien dating game Ledoliel.

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Graham Smith

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Rock Paper Shotgun's former editor-in-chief and current corporate dad. Also, he continues to write evening news posts for some reason.