Knight to Bifurcating Tentacle Monster Three
March 15, 2019 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Pawnbarian is a...roguelike chesslike deckbuilder? Yes! Sure. You draw a hand of chess moves and try, with two moves per turn, to kill off the baddies in each level without taking a fatal amount of damage in return. [Via the ever-charming Rock Paper Shotgun, re: the ever-delightful 7 Day Roguelike Challenge]
posted by cortex (26 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
7DRL never fails to produce some incredible ideas every year. One year I tried to review every game released in it, and it took me months, but some of those games... wow.

RPS has been vaguely on the outs with me lately, partly 'cause of their bad review of ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove. Boo!
posted by JHarris at 1:46 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Pro-tip: I was super confused till I realized that the white helmet dude is your avatar. I kept trying to drag the cards to place them on the board and did not understand the UI at all.

Could really use color differentiation or something else so you know: "hey, this is you".
posted by tocts at 1:59 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

This gets extremely difficult after about 3 or 4 turns, at least for me.
posted by The Bellman at 2:08 PM on March 15, 2019

I made it to the last level where, unexplained, there's a new piece, and every space on the board is marked damage. Not sure what's up with that, but the new piece is in range, so I tried attacking it with a Rook, and the move stopped short. That almost certainly doomed my game, so I quit. I'd complain about introducing an unexplained piece on the last level, but then it IS a 7DRL. One must account for such things.
posted by JHarris at 2:13 PM on March 15, 2019

Also the damage algorithm appears to be occasionally bugged, or else I'm not understanding how some enemies attack.
posted by The Bellman at 2:16 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Neat game!

Some things that helped me are:
A) realize you need to kite a lot; you might have to wait a couple of turns before you can pick off one of the enemy pieces safely. You never ever want to take health damage if you can avoid it.
B) when you get the end of level reward, always pick the new piece rather than the health. That's the only way you will be able deal with the later levels.
C) If you're in range of multiple enemies, they will each take away a pip of health at the end of turn. If you go to the wrong neighborhood you can lose your entire health bar in one go.
D) don't pop the spawning blobs until you've removed everything else from the board. Also, if you wait till they are at an edge/corner you can greatly reduce the number of spawns that pop out of them.
posted by Balna Watya at 2:23 PM on March 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

RPS has been vaguely on the outs with me lately

RPS seems to be firmly into the "fuck it all, whatever" stage of post-sell-out burn-out. Forced cookies, forced ads, two paragraph "articles" based on press releases, "guides" with less information than the in-game tutorial.

The eurogamer-fication is complete. RIP, RPS.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:26 PM on March 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Balna Watya has the way of it.

Other tips:

You don't need to move twice (or even once) on a turn. Tap the white triangle to the right of the deck to end your turn.

You get victory the instant you destroy the last enemy on the board. Even if that is your second move and you end on a threatened square, you take no damage.

The small tentacle monsters create a threat in their own square when you kill them. So, make sure you only do so when you can kill them on your first move and get to safety on your second.
posted by sourcequench at 2:30 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Eh, RPS seems to be doing well enough to my eyes at keeping up good RPS-ish content; I have eyed the acquisition stuff with some wariness and will continue to, and would mark the recent Let's Post A Great Deal Of Apex Legends Content as as clear a sign of market chasing as anything, but it's still RPS and they're still putting out consistently good RPS-style writing regularly.

You don't need to move twice (or even once) on a turn.

This is key! This is maybe the most important strategic concept in the game. Outside of exceptional no-safe-move situations, it doesn't matter how much you move in a turn or whether you kill anything in a turn. Just be standing somewhere safe at the end. Killing nothing and being safe is better than killing two things and taking a pip of damage, if you have the choice. Save the damage-taking for situations where there is no choice at all, and then balance damage vs. kills.

Shorter, more specific version of that: never kill a small tentacle monster with your last move.
posted by cortex at 2:41 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

they're still putting out consistently good RPS-style writing regularly

I went and browsed by author with that in mind, and, yeah, that's better.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:09 PM on March 15, 2019

Really needs hover to let you know what each enemy does. That being said, this is a very awesome game and I am enjoying the hell out of it.
posted by isauteikisa at 3:25 PM on March 15, 2019

Okay I beat the boss. I also thought the damage was bugged until I figured out what was going on. I think they could have done a better job communicating what was going on there visually.
posted by aubilenon at 3:47 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

One extra strategic tip: pawns only ever let you move up, so if you're choosing between going up and down, prefer going down the board, so you have more options next turn.
posted by pwnguin at 3:59 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had fun and yet gave up after realizing that there seemed to be no indicator that a space will give double (or more) damage, and that as pwnguin notes, pawns can only move forward. I also enjoyed the 7DRL entry Forward from the article comments.

Regarding RPS, I don't think that the writing itself has changed, it's just that they've had to add more cruft. I find my content via RSS and found it much more peaceful to just follow Articles, News, and Reviews. It shunts the sponsored content to the side nicely and that way I have no complaints about the newer staff.
posted by sysinfo at 4:04 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Pretty neat! Chess and roguelikes seem like such a natural fit, I'm surprised I haven't seen them meet before. It's unearthed a memory of a weird old Macintosh strategy game that had chesslike and rpgish flavour. It wasn't very similar at all, just the chess fusion made me think of it. Lost Souls.
posted by rodlymight at 5:35 PM on March 15, 2019

This was really fun, but I'm glad it was short, or I'd be playing it all night.
posted by phooky at 5:41 PM on March 15, 2019

How... do you move? Either this Unity implementation is completely broken on my Fire tablet or I have no idea what to do. So far I've managed to move by accident, but not on purpose.

(I know the chess moves by heart. What I can't figure out is how to get the little helmet guy to execute them.)
posted by delfin at 7:31 PM on March 15, 2019

How... do you move?

In the browser it's click-and-hold on a card; a compass rose pops up showing the directions the piece can move in; drag over one of the arrows to pick a direction; release to make the move. So touch-and-drag on mobile I guess?

I just beat it and yeah: *always* end your turn on a safe spot is the thing, so often skipping one or both moves of the turn is the best option. Dart in for a kill, skip out to safety. And try not to get trapped in a corner.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:52 PM on March 15, 2019

The last level piece can only be defeated if you defeat every other piece.

I generally took (some) rooks and queens, or hearts if those pieces weren't available. Won eventually with 1 heart left.
posted by gryftir at 11:28 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had a look at the list of entries from this 7DRL and was instantly choice-paralysed. Man that's a lot of roguelikes.
posted by entity447b at 11:50 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think it would help if there was another element of synergy. Maybe an exploder with friendly fire on, to help deal with the later stages.

Overall it's nice and shows a lot of promise though. It reminds me of Hoplite.
posted by tychotesla at 12:04 AM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Re. RPS; its last remaining founder, John Walker, will be leaving in just over a month.

I still love the site; I agree that there's a lot more cruft on there now, but I wouldn't say the quality or quantity of pieces that grab me has gone down much overall. I do find that what grabs me there now is more often, more generally "safer"... more discursive, considered, musings by their newer staff, rather than the more... confident and assertive... approach taken at times in the past.

I miss the site as it was years back; I'm going to miss reading John Walker's writing on it, serious and non-serious, a lot... but it seems like all the founders who've already left have moved onto things which are giving them a lot of satisfaction in life; I hope John finds at least as much or more of the same, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for anywhere I can read more of his words in the future.
posted by protorp at 1:57 AM on March 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, Tim Stone's Flare Path column on wargaming and simulations hasn't changed a bit, and remains hands down both the nerdiest and the best written thing that I read without fail, week-in, week-out.
posted by protorp at 1:59 AM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

'Chess-rogue-like' is also a pretty good description of Into the Breach, and, indeed, it felt like skills from that one transferred nicely here. Fun little game, totally reasonable UX for a 7-day gamejam entry (which is to say, janky as hell, with lots of obvious points for improvement), and I'll probably play the finished version when they get around to making it. :)
posted by kaibutsu at 10:03 AM on March 16, 2019

I feel like I should note that my disapproval of RPS was not entirely serious, I was mostly expressing that I disliked their reaction to ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove, a game I love, which they basically said was worthless except as a nostalgia thing. Yeah, that'll get my ire up. But note, it was John Walker who wrote that review.

Maybe I should make a post about TJ&E:BitG, but I was a backer for it, and additionally I just interviewed creator Greg Johnson for Gamasutra. I might be too close.
posted by JHarris at 6:05 PM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

(Also, just randomly, I hadn't seen many articles I was interested in lately, there. I was trying to decide if I should add their RSS feed to my feed reader, and noticed there just wasn't that much up at that moment I actually wanted to read. So, please don't take my reaction to them too seriously.)
posted by JHarris at 6:07 PM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

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