I keep telling myself that I’m not a solo gamer, yet both Paperback Adventures and One Deck Galaxy were delivered this week. While I haven’t played yet, I wasted no time in sleeving everything in Paperback Adventures.
I had the opportunity to demo Paperback Adventures on TTS with Tim Fowers a few weeks ahead of the Kickstarter Campaign, back in April 2021. I really enjoyed it back then, backed it at the highest level possible, and have been eagerly anticipating its arrival ever since. Well, today’s the day!
Paperback Adventures by Skye Larson and Tim Fowers is a solo deck building word game with some roguelike elements. If you’ve never heard of a roguelike or roguelite The core box contains all the common cards you’ll need, such as the items that allow you an ability at the cost of some energy, enemy vowel cards, and the MacGuffin’s, which, if you played Slay the Spire, are more like the relics. They offer passive abilities, often with some kind of trigger, but they can be very powerful if you combo them together just right.
3 separate character boxes exist, the Damsel, Ex Machnia, and Plothook the pirate. Each character box has a few more generic items, MacGuffin’s, and enemies that can just be mixed into the core box and played with any other character. The character box also contains 60 letter cards, and some starting powers and abilities for that character.
To play Paperback Adventures, you need to select a character. I chose to start with the Damsel, as I mostly played with Ex Machina back when I demoed the game. The game of Paperback Adventures takes you through 3 books, or, chapters. Each book has you fighting one lackey, and one boss. If you’re successful in a fight, you get some rewards, and continue onto the next one. Should you defeat the book 3 boss, then you’ve won the game!
Each enemy in Paperback Adventures is unique, and double-sided. You’ll always know what the enemy is going to do next. You start your adventure with 10 cards, 4 of which you’ll draw each turn. Furthermore, you also have a wild card, and a vowel card that you can use to create words. Each of your cards has symbols down the left and right side, as well as a special ability in the middle of the card. When you make a word, you need to choose to “splay” your cards left or right, basically, arrange the cards in your hand so you either see the left sides of all the cards or the right sides of all the cards. These symbols offer you defence and attack abilities. In addition to those symbols, whichever card ends up on top (either the first card of the word if you splay right, or the last card in the word if you splayed left) triggers its special ability. Then, that card is fatigued, removed from the rest of the combat.
The goal is to reduce your opponents’ health to 0, while ensuring your health says above 0. Sounds simple in theory, but man, does this game offer some fun decisions.
I’m going to gush a little big here, but I’m amazed at how interesting, fun, and exciting this card game is! I get so excited when I can pull off a manoeuvre to block incoming damage, and strike back, or, when I over extend myself to deal JUST enough damage to stun the enemy to avoid a massive attack back. It’s tense and interesting. I love the challenge of finding the right word to use to ensure the right letter is in the first or last spot. Sometimes making a small word to take advantage of a special ability is necessary, or, changing your whole word because you don’t want to waste the ability on this turn.
Fatiguing cards slowly drains your deck, creating a timer for the game. If you stall and stall and stall, eventually your deck will run out, and you’ll be left with nothing to play with. This pressure is important, as it makes you balance what cards you have in your hand, which letter ability you want to use, what words you’re able to make, what the enemy is going to do, and the overall pace and temp of the game.
Assuming you’re able to defeat the enemy, you’re given a little vignette, a snippet of story and a handful of rewards. The lackey rewards have you draw cards from the stack of 50 cards unique to the character you chose and replace a card in your deck with it. The bosses will add cards to your deck, allowing you to fight longer battles. You also will be able to upgrade some of your cards, which has you pull the card out of its sleeve and flip it around, revealing a more powerful version of the card.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the production of this game. While I’m not really a fan of having all the characters in their own boxes, I appreciate that if I didn’t want to go all in, I could just get one character and the core box to dip my toes into the system. Each character comes with a tray and some metal arrows to track things like HP, energy, boons, and hexes. The enemy tray was incredibly stiff and almost unusable at first, but by the end of my first play session, it was starting to loosen up. Every card in the game comes with card sleeves, so there is a bit of time investment in sleeving the hundreds of cards the first time you open each of the boxes, but the sleeves have a premium feel to them. Definitely not the cheap penny sleeves that I’ve dabbled with in the past.
If you manage to best the Book 3 boss, each character box has a secret envelope that you get to open, revealing a special bonus, kind of like a new game plus. Paperback Adventures has impressive replayability, the discovery is high, you’ll only see between 10 and 15 cards from your library in each game, and a handful of the available items and MacGuffins. If you combine all the enemies from each character box, you’ll end up with over 30 enemies. Every game will have a new combination that would affect your strategies.
I’ve only played with The Damsel so far, but I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about Paperback Adventures from me in the future. I’m really excited to return to this excellent game.