Friday, August 28, 2020

Spellcraft Academy: not my cup of tea but still interesting

 I’ve gone back to the Legends of Dsyx, a series of one-page Roll and Writes from Buttonshy. It’s been a while since I played one. Part of the reason I chose to try Spellcraft Academy next is because it only uses one die so it was easy for me to play in a limited space.

In Spellcraft Academy, you are a student trying to create a magic scroll in order to pass your wizardry exams. Stripped of its theme, it is really a word game, the only one in the Legend of Dsyx series. 

The game consists of a letter grid and a blank grid that you write letters in, plus a checklist of Latin words that you are trying to write and a space to track rerolls.

The gameplay is actually pretty simple. You start in the blank center of the letter grid. Roll that one single die and then you count that many spaces in any direction and circle that letter. Write that letter anywhere in your blank scroll grid. Put a slash through that circle, roll the die again and repeat the process from your new location on the letter grid. The game ends when you either decide you’ve done as well as your going to do or you can’t make a legal move. (No going back to a letter you’ve been to)

You are trying to form interlocking words, crossword style. The more words you manage to connect together, the more points that it’s worth. There are three category of words and you get bonus points if you use every word in a category. 

There are two bonus symbols on the letter grid, stars and swirls. Swirls let you add a reroll to your reroll count. You don’t start with any rerolls. You have to earn them. Stars let you write any letter on your scroll grid.

I only have one rules question. I don’t know if you can only make orthogonal moves with your die roll or if diagonal moves are allowed.

I honestly don’t know if I like Spellcraft Academy or not. On the one hand, while I respect word games and I’m willing to play them, they aren’t my favorite genre of game. In short, I’m not the audience for this game. 

Spellcraft Academy also has probably the least theme out of all the games in the series. For me, one of the strong points for the Legend of Dsyx series is how thematic the games are and how much narrative they create. A couple of the games cross the line to being full adventure games. Spellcraft Academy is pretty abstract. I love abstract games but that’s not why I play the Legends of Dsyx games.

On the other hand, the game play seems pretty solid. I’m not sure there’s one optimal strategy. Linking a bunch of short words is one path but trying to get the bonus for using the longer words also seems viable. And it is easily the most complex Roll and Write I’ve seen that just uses one die, even having some manipulation with the stars and swirls.

And honestly, making the letter grid balanced had to be interesting.

In the end, Spellcraft Academy isn’t a game I had a lot of fun with but I found the design interesting. And I am sure I’ll play it some more to explore how balanced the game is.

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