SpellRogue mixes deck building and dice rolling for unexpectedly brilliant results

(Image credit: Guidelight Games / Ghost Ship Publishing)

TechRadar Gaming is reporting live from Gamescom 2023 on the latest and greatest developments in gaming and hardware.

SpellRogue, from indie developer Guidelight Games, was one of the biggest surprises at Gamescom 2023. While it’s certainly familiar in structure to other turn-based roguelite titles like Slay the Spire, SpellRogue sets itself apart from the crowd with a compelling mixture of deck building and dice rolling.

At first, I was a little wary of having to rely on a system as luck-based as dice. And while there is indeed an element of randomness involved, I was pleasantly surprised to find that SpellRogue’s Mana Dice system actually complemented my loadout of spells effectively, rather than acting as a roadblock to my intended strategies.

By the end of my half-hour session with SpellRogue, I felt like something of a tactical savant, forming a loadout of spell cards that I could plan dice rolls around, rather than just throwing them down and hoping for the best. Like many of the best roguelike games, SpellRogue supplies you with the means to game the system and feel smart for doing so. 

Calculated chaos

SpellRogue Gamescom 2023

(Image credit: Guidelight Games / Ghost Ship Publishing)

Much like Slay the Spire, I was impressed with the sheer variety of enemies and challenges present on just the first map of SpellRogue. Every encounter presented a different type of monster to fight, each requiring a different approach to best it in combat.

That said, you’re strictly limited to a loadout of five spells upon starting a run. More slots can be unlocked later with special upgrade shards, but that same currency, earned through map events and clearing Elite fights, is spent on improving your existing spells, too. Therefore you have to walk a careful balancing act; do you unlock another slot to make your build more versatile, or should you upgrade an existing spell for more reliability in battle? This is just one of many trade-offs you’ll need to consider in SpellRogue, as I found the game rewarded careful decision-making.

You have a surprising amount of control over your dice rolls, too. At the start of your turn, you’ll roll a handful of six-sided dice. These dice are then slotted into your spells to activate them. Some spells require a certain range of dice to be entered (such as a number between four and six) while others strictly require an even or odd result.

More basic spells are there to deal direct damage or add armor to your character to block incoming attacks, but many are completely unique and specialized. One of my spells, for example, let me duplicate dice, while another allowed me to reroll if I didn’t quite meet a particular spell’s criteria. While a degree of luck is certainly involved, it felt incredibly satisfying to plan out my dice and their rerolls, to make sure I was getting the most out of my spells on any given turn. And, as your dice do not carry over to your next turn, you’re incentivized to use them all, even if it ends with a suboptimal result.

I’m very much looking forward to the full release of SpellRogue, and particularly so when considering the potential build versatility, and the kinds of combos that could be created. While it’s got no firm release date as of yet, you can apply to join the SpellRogue playtest on Steam right now to check out an early version of the game. 

For more Gamescom 2023 coverage, be sure to check out our impressions for hot titles like Sonic Superstars and Escape from Tarkov Arena.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.