- Designers: Paolo Di Stefano and Gabriel Gendron
- Artist: Gabriel Gendron
- Publisher: Nuts! Publishing
- Kickstarter Date: June 9th, 2020
Disclaimer: The PnP of Mini Rogue was provided to us by Nuts! Publishing for review. In addition, we are being compensated with 2 full KS pledges of the game.
Luke: A long, long time ago, in the year of 2016, I reviewed Mini Rogue under a different name, Budget Board Gamer. Despite being new to board gaming at large, I found the 9-card PnP a particularly stand-out title. There was something charming, exciting, and mystifying about a game that could provide such a rich experience using only 9 cards.
Phil: So why are we talking about it again all these years later?
Luke: At the time, Mini Rogue was a free PnP, winning a number of awards, but there was always the promise that the designers wanted to one day make it a boxed title. And today’s that day, with Nuts! Publishing putting it up on Kickstarter with more than a few new bells and whistles.
Phil: I would think so; the team has had 4 years to mull it over at this point.
Luke: This has clearly been a passion project through and through, and it truly shines with the care and quality expressed in the game. Make no mistake, this is a title worth checking out.
Phil: For those unfamiliar, Mini Rogue is a 1- or 2-player game in which players are attempting to reach the end of the dungeon, killing the great and powerful Og to obtain his rare and valuable ruby, Og’s Blood.
Luke: The narrative details aren’t too specific, but what flavor is there feels fitting and adds some character to the adventure.
In each of the 10 rounds, players will explore a 3×3 grid of cards, encountering monsters, treasures, and traps. How you approach each of these cards and which direction you choose to move in can be difficult, and largely dependent on your finite resources.
Phil: You need money to buy stuff from the Merchant, XP to get more dice and rerolls, food to feed yourself in between rounds, armor to reduce enemy attacks, and health to… well, live. Each of these resources is incredibly important to balance as you delve deeper and deeper into the dangerous dungeon depths.
Luke: Many of your encounters will involve rolling dice. Traps and other encounters will require you to roll to disarm the trap or get whatever loot is there. Monsters, on the other hand, will fight you to the death, testing how prepared you are. There are ways to mitigate luck, but they often cost something, such as money or XP, and you already have so little… maybe you can just press forward and see wha-
Phil: Make no mistake, this game can be particularly hard, but not in a way that ever feels unfair. Dice can certainly be against you, but oftentimes you’ll fail because you didn’t prepare well enough. Neglecting your rations for a while can leave you vulnerable to a rogue rat munching them up and leaving you with none. Not fighting often enough will leave you with very little XP, and thus very few dice to roll. Every system feels interlocked in a way that’s satisfying.
Luke: One of the bigger changes to this new edition is that now there are a variety of bosses to face as you progress, with each level (of which there are 4) challenging you with a gnarly and gruesome beast to overcome.
Phil: These also help to punctuate the difficult jumps, pressuring you even after the fight is over.
Luke: But don’t worry, Mini Rogue often rewards your successes with fun loot to gather. There are 6 different potions to help you fight battles or heal yourself, and you’ll come across helpful items or characters in the dungeon that can help you on your way.
Phil: The diversity of adversity has definitely increased dramatically. The base game now contains over 20 room cards, which is over double what there was originally.
Luke: And on top of all that, now you’ll take on the roles of various dungeon divers, including a Rogue, Mage, and Crusader, each with their own abilities that can be used once per floor.
Phil: Characters have 1 combat ability and 1 exploration ability, meaning that you have some flexibility as to how you tackle situations. Additionally, each starts with varying health and resources, providing diverse game experiences.
Luke: Oh, and did we mention the 2-player mode?
Phil: … Yeah, we did. Like, 14 paragraphs ago.
Luke: Riiiiiiiight. Well, that’s a new feature as well, and frankly a welcome one. I was a little hesitant to give it a go myself, but my significant other Jess and I had a blast playing side by side, either working together to fight baddies or exploring opposite ends of the dungeon.
Phil: I’m honestly quite impressed by the game as a whole. There’s a lot of game packed into such a concise package.
Luke: Coming back to it all these years later, it’s no wonder why I fell in love with Mini Rogue. There’s a feeling of tension and excitement that’s unrivaled by other games, and defeating a boss can give you a genuine rush of euphoria.
Phil: Both the 1- and 2-player modes work smoothly, meaning that the game is a bit easier to get to the table.
And the various expansions provided in the Kickstarter look awesome. More rooms, more bosses, more characters, and a new mechanic in the form of Lore cards? Please and thank you.
Luke: The moment I knew this game was a winner was when, facing down one of the bosses, Jess and I were planning excitedly, trying to figure out just how to survive another floor. I, the Mage, cast a fiery blast of energy while she, the Rogue, put our lives on the line by rolling for her Backstab ability, which would deal double-damage.
And with me barely hanging on by a thread, the boss lunged at me… and missed their attack. The electricity in the room was palpable as Jess ended the fight in a final cut of her knife, as we just made it out by the skin of our teeth. There’s something to be said about just how much this game makes you feel, and to me, it’s unforgettable because of that alone. Why else would I still be talking about it all these years later?
Verdict: Mini Rogue is a passion project to be marveled at, treasured, and appreciated. The mechanics are slick and smart, the art gorgeous and fitting, and everything serves a distinct purpose. There’s no waste, no fussy issues to be had, only an invigorating breath of fresh air. Take the time to at least check out the Kickstarter for yourself; it’ll be worth your time.