During my internet wanderings yesterday I discovered the definition and idea of a roguelike video game. Even the definition in some sense is controversial, but the key points I took away are that ‘roguelike’ games usually involve procedurally generated content and permanent death for the players (but not always). The term itself is somewhat deceptive when suggesting a theme, as while many popular roguelike games are in the RPG genre, it is certainly not the only theme or genre that can fit the style of game.

This lead me to ask myself – could you design a game with elements of Roguelike video games – randomisation of levels, differing meanings of items between games, and permanent death? Some quick googling showed me that indeed card and board games had already been made in the style of a roguelike game – card games such as Baldrick’s Tomb, and even video games emulating card games in titles such as Card Hunter. In fact, many traditional dungeon crawler games have elements that could be considered roguelike, so the genre in tabletop games is certainly not new.

That being said, certainly for tabletop games these concepts are still strongly tied to RPG style adventure games, and there is a lot of room to explore different themes and mechanics while still staying true to the central tenets of the genre. I was also interested in the relative lack of cooperative games, as I think it would be nice hook to have a game that you never actually ‘win’, but rather a game that you try and do better at as a team over time.


Day 5: Rogues in Space

Perhaps it is easiest to think of it as a coop game, where you try to get the best score possible before you die. Essentially every game you are trying to best your previous high score. The game itself could be almost completely formed from cards, with each level, or galaxy, being a tableau of say 4 x 4 face down planet cards. The side benefit of sticking to cards is that is makes it very easy to add additional content over time (much like video game developers do). You could even imagining selling set boosters so that players would randomly insert cards into the decks without even seeing them before they played. Could this be a different style of LCG?

Seeing as you will be reusing the planet cards often as you get further into the game, you need some mechanisms that change their meanings over time. One such idea I had was that each card on its side could have a coloured warp gate. The colour of gate that you use to travel to a planet could have an impact on what happens to you once you get there – for example a card could say that you encounter an alien species if you entered this planet from a red portal. This allows the layout of the tableau to lead to some emergent gameplay, as small changes in the layout and player actions can have large impacts on the game overall.

Another mechanism would be the idea of opportunities or effects that are only available, or trigger, when you are on a certain level. The game starts with your team in a ‘level 1’ galaxy, and once you have cleared that galaxy, the tableau is redealt for ‘level 2’. Effects that change depending on your level allow you to have scaled gameplay without too many additional cards. It also can introduce the idea of removing planets from the deck once you reach a certain level, adding new cards slowly into the tableau.


As you can see, this idea is still very pliable, and there are many directions you could go in a tabletop game with roguelike elements. What would you want to see in a game of this style, and what do you think is lacking in the current games out there?