Long ago, Duelyst pioneered the magical game combination of deck and board. You'd build up an arsenal of tricksy monsters, then move them around while thinking about abilities and adjacency bonuses and the safety of your 'you' character. That was against online opponents, but Spellsword Cards: DungeonTop takes the same idea and runs with it through Slay The Spire-like dungeons. The roguelike deckbuilder came out on early access last week, and I have found it moreish.
You pick fights as you wander through a dungeon, finding cards and battling bads. The fights themselves are quite restrained.
Battles take place on four by four grids, at least in the early game, and you only start with enough mana to play three cards. Those can be minions or buffs, and they get up to stuff you're probably familiar with. Ranged attacks, improving the stats of units they're placed next to, gaining strength over time. That sort of jazz. Each encounter is a little puzzle where you figure out how to kill your enemy's leader unit while protecting your own. My last run ended thanks to archers cowering behind a wall, which I could have won, if only I'd done a better job of protecting my own archers. Or else built a deck with more direct damage spells.
These decks 'n tactics combos please me. The way that overlayer of decision-making feeds into combat strategy, and how you work towards unlocking more powerful cards for your next run. I don't imagine I'll be sucked as far down into this as I have the Spire, but the thought is there and it's concerning.
Developers One Up Plus Entertainment estimate they'll spend the next three to six months in early access. The full version will have more options for your starting hero, spells and units. I do like how it lets you mix and match between those, running different classes with different starting minions. They also plan to add Steam Cloud Saves and do "a lot of balancing".
Spellsword Cards: DungeonTop is available on Steam for £10/$13/€11.