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Your paper RPG character sheet itself is under attack in CrossOver: Roll For Initiative

When sheet hits the fan

Your character sheet is under attack in CrossOver: Roll For Initiative.
Image credit: MicroProse Software

The tabletop equivalent of “buying books and reading them are two different hobbies” is surely the difference between buying sexy tabletop RPG manuals and actually dragging your mates on to Discord for a few hours to stumble your way through a module. It’s the dogeared Fighting Fantasy from a carboot sale kid in me, I think. Something about reading worldbuilding snippets organised into numbered tables just hits in a way a novel doesn’t. Such tantalising ephemera is the name of the game in Microprose-published CrossOver: Roll For Initiative. It’s a wave defense where you play match-3 to collect dice, then spend them on fireballs and mace swings to stop tiny bastards from marauding all over your actual character sheet and attacking your stats.

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The titular ‘roll for initiative’ is a D6 roll before the start of a round to see how many bonus seconds of prep you get, although you can pause and take stock at any time. “Hardcore match-3 RPG puzzle meets action-strategy tower defence. Far from a casual game!” is how it describes itself. This is a silly way to sell your game, since the screenshots and concept already convinced me to try the Steam demo anyways. You did not need to brag to me about how pendulously engorged deez D10s are. I might even suggest that using the words “Hardcore” and “not casual” in your description makes you come across like a dickhead, inanimate store page. Still, I forgive you, because CrossOver is delightfully novel, good coffee-break fun, and very easy to understand, despite its blustering.

You get a single move to create a line of three dice in the match-3 tray, and different abilities cost different dice. I think the tray is seeded so more powerful dice are rarer, though I can’t be sure. Seems like there’s a lot of variety too, even in the limited demo build. Some spells do damage, some slow down the tiny pixel enemies attacking you or carry other status effects. There are also different classes and species to play, so you do actually get to customise your own character sheet before choosing a module from your virtual bookshelf.

I am falling back on both mine and Edwin’s default stance of the Marge Simpson school of potato critique here, but despite the trademark, clut-intricate Microprosaic UI: It's neat! I especially liked the CYOA encounters, with monochrome fantasy art, that bookend main sessions as you travel across a map. These are deeply confusing in regards to what level of meta the game is operating on, but not everything can be Princess Bride I guess. So yeah! Aside from the store description making me want to actually quote Princess Bride, this one’s well worth the download click if you want some, uh, casual dice fun.

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