When it came out in 2009, Dominion redefined most of what I knew about board games. I was playing tons of Magic:The Gathering at the time, but was sick of the crazy money sink I would have to put into a draft each week. $15 a week is a ton of money, especially when you’re not winning. Dominion was a streamlined a Magic Draft, with insane replayability, for a one-time $40 fee. That deck-building craze that Dominion incited spawned numerous other deck-building games such as Ascension, Race for the Galaxy, Eminent Domain, and 7 Wonders just to name a few. I own all of those, have played them extensively, and would like to consider myself “moderate” to “okay” at those games.
The style that Dominion and Ascension build off of is very similar to what ‘Coin Crypt‘ is shooting for. ‘Coin Crypt’ is a rougelike (somewhat roguelite) where the player gets a brand new deck to build each round in the form of coins. These coins all have abilities to be used in battle. There are numerous abilities such as Hit 4, Shield 4, Armor 4, and many more. Each “encounter” ends when either the player has died, the enemy has died, or either of those entities has run out of coins. After each run, the player is given an opportunity to work towards unlocking new characters by mandatory cash payments to the thug who hides the characters. Then, the player begins again.
That being said, most of the elements of ‘Coin Crypt’ are exciting and fresh. The quasi-real-time combat is way more exciting than a simple dice role and requires the player to make real on-the fly decisions that require a knowledge way beyond “let’s kill that motha”. Coins are valuable and should be conserved until they need to be spent. So spending 14 attack worth of coins to kill a 4 health monster is a really bad value and you have to weigh that against how many of those coins you have in your bag to go along with if you can afford an extra two damage. Decisions matter and rarely do you find yourself finishing a run and being angry about bad luck.
The guys at Dumb and Fat Games, which I believe is mainly Greg Lobanov, have really solid deck-building systems in place here. Even subtle aspects of deck-building games, that many people would not be aware of, are present in ‘Coin Crypt’. There are ways to “thin a deck” in ‘Coin Crypt’, which intends to alleviate the deck of unnecessary cards through fountains and mysterious shrines. This allows the player to constantly be constructing a strategy. Maybe I’ll be a fast caster. Perhaps I’ll run my opponents out of cards by “milling” them. I found myself just going full-on aggressive most of the time, because that’s who I am as a person now.[youtube http://youtu.be/Qejj6grLRjs]
To go with a good implementation of mechanics is the dual-value of the coins. The coins serve as both a part of your deck and have a monetary value associated with them for using in the shop. Do you want to hold on to that awesome 8 damage coin for a possible and inevitable large encounter? or do you want to use it now to get that ring that ups your healing percentage? Choices are prevalent throughout most mechanics in the game. Maybe, most interestingly, the “Deity System”
Throughout ‘Coin Crypt’ you’ll find these relics that mention one of 6 gods. I always prayed to Frank, but that’s due to legal obligations in our Frank’s contract. These six gods mysteriously require coins, which has more of an effect on the game than you are initially led to believe. The “Deity System” is cool, but I won’t spoil it for you here. Just remember, gods never forget your charity or you misgivings. NEVER!
I did have a few issues with ‘Coin Crypt’. One being that at think it’s mislabeled. This was brought to my attention because it distinctly said “roguelite” in the press description, which tells me it’s more of a ‘Rogue Legacy‘ and less of a ‘Cardinal Quest‘. In truth it’s somewhere in between. It reminded me of ‘FTL‘ in that unlocking ships was fun, but it didn’t help me all that much. In ‘Coin Crypt’ you unlock characters consistently, as well as different types of coins from beating new and interesting challenges. Regardless, I never saw the game get any more forgiving, which is fine, but it’s just a warning to those who see “roguelite” and think ‘Rogue Legacy’. You can’t really just eventually become invincible by brute force. We all define genres differently, but progress didn’t seem to become any less gated as I played through ‘Coin Crypt’.
Another issue is that I think it misses out on some of the deck-building because of how much of what ends up in your bag is related to chance. If you kill an enemy, you acquire any unused coins they had leftover. This can leave you with numerous coins you don’t want or need. Many of the times I lost, I had a really solid strategy plotted out, and with two enemy kills my entire deck would be in shambles. The coins I was building around were gone, and in their place were just rotten garbage. Every time I’d get a deck idea off the ground, it felt like the mechanics quickly stamped it out. So I was left just playing efficiently instead of truly building the deck I wanted to build.
Dominion and Ascension solve this issue by allowing players to reshuffle their discarded cards back into their deck. But in ‘Coin Crypt’ any used coin is gone. While this made for some interesting decisions, it weakened to deck-building aspect of the game that I so strongly desired. This led to me doing multiple strategies throughout my most successful runs, but gave me the feeling I never cohesively built anything all that impressive. One of the joys of the deck-building game is getting a well-oiled machine up and running, and sadly ‘Coin Crypt’ really let me down in that regard.
In the end, my issues are minor, because ‘Coin Crypt’ is so addicting and so satisfying. It scratches a good portion of my deck-building needs, while remaining fast and accessible. Games like ‘Coin Crypt’ take existing genres and form them into something all their own. Some of them do it well, others fail miserably. ‘Coin Crypt’ falls under the former and is a radiant success in game design. Although the deck-building felt slightly shallow at points, and the dropping of coins is counter-intuitive to one fundamental mechanic of the game, ‘Coin Crypt’ remains the best roguelike released since ‘Rogue Legacy’.
Indie Game AAA’s Rating:
You can check out ‘Coin Crypt’ at Dumb and Fat Games Official Website or head over to Steam if you please.