We live in a cursed society where money rules our lives. You need money to eat and afford a place to live even though there’s an abundance of empty homes. You need an absurd amount of money to get adequate medical care depending on where you live. You have to work in arbitrary jobs even though society is capable of producing the resources necessary for everyone to live in comfort. You can complain about this cursed society and some person will be a wise-ass about it and all you can really do is reply with the Matt Bors weshouldimprovesocietysomewhat.png.
So! How about a game where needing money to live is more literal?
Coin Crypt is a game by Greg Lobanov, and if that name is familiar to you, it’s because he’s the guy behind Wandersong, the late 2018 indie hit. In Lobanov’s earlier game, secret ruins are discovered in the Pacific, where coins hold latent magical powers. Lootmancers, the people that can harnest these powers, have come from all over to fight their way through these ruins to take this ancient wealth as its old gods seem to be awakening. Completely normal of a game where you literally use money to stomp all over people to be about raiding ancient ruins of its wealth.
The main game has you traversing through simple dungeons while spending away coins to get an edge in battle. Coins all have a variety of functions, from basic attacks and defends to doubling the effect of the next coin you play to passively buffing your stats. Enemies will come at you with their own sets of coins, with each enemy type having a specific set that you’ll come to recognize; for example, bandits have low attack coins and stealing coins while slimes can poison and regenerate their own health. When coins are played and when a new hand of coins are drawn, there’s a casting time depending on what coins you’re playing and what kind of equipment you’re wearing. For example, if an enemy’s attack is close to getting off and you have a small and regular shield coins in your hand, it’s preferable to play the small one because while it might not protect from all the damage, it will cast faster than the regular shield which might not protect you in time. On top of that, re-rolling what you have in your hand also passes time, so you’re going to have to make some quick decisions to get through fights.
Of course, you can’t spend your coins willy-nilly because after all, money doesn’t grow on trees. Much like how we’re forced to rely on money to live, characters just eat shit and die if they run out of money. You have to play smartly to not run out of coins. Like, in one of my games, I just kinda went ham throwing out attack coins but ran out; since the enemy wasted all of their attack coins while I defended the whole battle, I had no way of fighting back until I found a chest.
“But wait, how did you win that fight?” you may ask. See, the good thing is that this principle also applies to your enemies. In fact, it’s a perfectly valid strategy to win fights like this, either through stealing coins from enemies or using coins that force them to drop them or by simply trying to hold out until they run out. Granted, unless you’re stealing the coins, you won’t get to loot any coins upon defeat.
The coin battling system is already risky, but further risk-and-reward elements are introduced with shops and deities. All the coins are ascribed with a value and that value comes into play when you buy things. Shopkeepers offer up an item for sale and you have to trade them with coins of equal value. Besides the rare coins whose only purpose is for buying, you’ll be asking yourself tough questions when trying to buy stuff. Are you willing to sacrifice half your inventory for buffed stats? Do you want to trade your valuable yet very practical coins for a coin bag in hopes that you’ll get stuff that will pay off more? Even if you’re doing good in the game, you’ll probably be sacrificing something important if you want to buy something.
Speaking of sacrifices, you also need to make sacrifices to deities. Statues of loot gods are scattered around each floor, encouraging you to give donations. And by encourage, I mean they’ll turn spiteful and start buffing enemies if you don’t pay up. It’s not all horrible, because if they’re satisfied with you they can bless the chests you find to give more of a specific type of coin. This can lead into another conundrum depending on your playstyle, because you can favor one god to get consistent good loot in their name at the expense of pissing the other ones off.
In the end, think of Coin Crypt as a deck builder roguelike where all your cards are temporary. It’s easy to run into the deck builder problem of having so many coins that you can wind up with junk hands, but on the other hand, it’s difficult to maintain a deck of a low amount of cards due to the inherent risk of running out. There’s a lot of factors that has you changing the content of your deck as you play, which turns the seemingly simple concept of playing coins into something that requires a lot of management.
When you eventually die, you can donate the cumulative value of what you gained that session toward unlocking new characters. Each character has a set of pros and cons that help dictate their playstyle. There’s simple stuff like the Assassin, who can deal more damage in exchange for healing less. Like sure, whatever.
It’s the more out there characters that I really like. There’s the Executive, who deals less damage but steals a coin with every attack. Her preferred playstyle is to bleed enemies dry of coins and I recommend focusing on getting the low damage yet fast hitting attacks coins, since it’s difficult to kill enemies the normal way, anyway. There’s the Hermit, who actually fits in line with the normal ideal deckbuilder strategy of having a small amount of dependable cards because he comes with a bunch of buffs, but his defense and general speed decreases with every coin he owns; he’s risky given the whole coin spending thing and the fact that saving up to buy items could end up being a liability, but he’s probably good in more experienced hands than mines.
But my personal favorite character is the Demon. All money values are flipped when you’re playing as the Demon and they can generate cursed coins (which hurts the user when played) into the enemy’s coin bag whenever they play a coin. My preferred way of playing the Demon is to just fucking stuff inventories full of cursed coins by playing low-casting coins, both so that the enemy can destroy themselves and so that I can buy stuff (as cursed coins normally have a negative value). As somebody that loves playstyles where you slowly kill something in games, the Demon is all me. I love to see it.
Now, I have yet to actually win a session of Coin Crypt. My main personal problem is that I have awful management and decision making skills, which doesn’t translate well into deck builders even though I like them. But what does make deck builders enjoyable is figuring out a playstyle among all the choices you’re presented and making it click within the game’s systems. The different ways you can win against *enemies presents different ways to engage with the game, so there’s bound to be at least win playstyle that you can gel with.
*except for the grandma enemy she’s absolutely a strength check that you should run away from if you can’t get any good hands shhhh
Coin Crypt is a nice lil’ deckbuilder like game guided by some nice ideas. If you’re a fan of this genre or if you liked Wandersong, I recommend diving into Lobanov’s past works and checking this out.