Spire’s End (2020) is another card-based crawler. If the Escape games are Fighting Fantasy, this is more like Sorcery or Lone Wolf. The mechanics are a bit more complex, there’s a bit more to take in and manage, but in doing so, more narrative avenues open up.

It is pretty much just cards in the box (and some dice and some little gemstone thingers), which I like a lot. Cards are cool, and they are decorated with excellent art (in black, white, red and sometimes pink) by Benjamin Wiesemann (fair warning, the art is a bit lurid, so not a game for kids). The instructions are on the cards, you are taught as you play. It’s a solo game, too — you control two characters at a time, but it is just you at the controls. There are seven total characters, so you can replace the fallen, but if they all die, game over man. Combat is straight forward, with special abilities that cost character health (characters have a special death move, too, so, well, don’t plan your futures together, you know?). The game is pretty combat focused, but the system is fast and for the most part easy to reconcile and I was surprised how doing so often led to dramatic narrative moments in the combat, which is interesting. There are navigational choices, too, and they lead you ever deeper into the deck (any cards you pass are passed forever…or at least for this playthrough).

In the end, you have a pretty engrossing single player adventure that will last you about 90 minutes to two hours per play through. There is definitely potential in the base box for multiple plays. A number of additions, including formal expansions and packs of swap-out cards, promise to expand the game significantly. I’m all for it.

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