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Explore, Kill, Die Mutate, and Repeat in Dead Cells: The Rogue-Lite Board Game

by W. Eric Martin

Canadian publisher Le Scorpion Masqué usually releases party games with minimal rules — or at least party game-like designs along the lines of Decrypto and Zombie Kidz Evolution that have short playing times and highly interactive gameplay.

Thus, I never would have expected the publisher to announce the game it just did — Dead Cells: The Rogue-Lite Board Game from the design team of Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, and Théo Rivière, a.k.a. Team Kaedama. The publisher notes that the design was developed in close collaboration with the Motion Twin and Evil Empire studios, creators of the Dead Cells video game.

Of course I’d never heard of the video game until this announcement, so naturally I would not have anticipated a board game along these lines. Some day, perhaps, I’ll play video games, but since I don’t, I will let the publisher’s description of the game stand on its own:

Dead Cells: The Rogue-Lite Board Game is a dungeon-crawler that offers a co-operative rogue-lite experience inspired by the Medroidvania genre, playable with 1-4 players, and with a gameplay of around 45 minutes. Explore the ever-changing island of Dead Cells in this ruthless dungeon crawler. Explore. Kill. Die. Mutate. Repeat.

Choose one of the four Beheaded (Woah, hold on… Isn’t it supposed to be only one of these guys? Is this one of those stupid time-loop plots?) As you resurrect with very little clue of what’s going on, you will…

• Explore Biomes. Choose your path wisely within a sprawling, ever-changing castle! Will you upgrade one of the character powers with a scroll? Or will you choose a chest to equip a new weapon? Will you find the hidden runes that will open new paths and access new biomes? This won’t be a walk in the park, though. Because the island is infested with the abominations born from the Malaise, be ready to…

• Kill Enemies. Each character class has unique power sets and a deck of action cards. For each enemy encounter, you will only need to pick one action card to cover all three phases of a fight. Loot equipment, gold, scrolls, and Cells from the corpses of your enemies and get stronger, but beware… Your health pool is limited and sooner or later you will…

• Die. Wandering through enemy-infested dungeons isn’t the safest activity, even for your beheaded heroes. There will eventually be one monster too many, or you could step on a fatal trap and lose all your scrolls, equipment, and accumulated gold. But this is far from the end for you! Even in death you will be able to keep your precious Cells to…

• Mutate. The Collector will let you spend your Cells to buy permanent mutations that will give you more power… forever! Choose cards to buy from three different decks: Brutality, Survival, or Tactics. Get action cards to enhance your card deck. Find blueprints to grow your loot deck. Increase your health pool. Unlock additional item slots, and much more… Unless you prefer to throw your Cells into this mysterious well… It seems like a pretty stupid thing to do with your hard-earned Cells, but hey, you do you, bud… Death is no excuse to take a nap, so…

• Repeat. Death is not the end either! You’ve already lost your head, remember!? As the day starts again in a new loop, use your new permanent mutations to exact revenge on whatever killed you last time. Go further and deeper into the island and kill the bosses to access new starting biomes. Previously-played biomes keep changing as stronger monstrosities spawn in them, along with powerful new items. (Damn! Will this game ever end?)

In another first for Le Scorpion Masqué, it will crowdfund this 1-4 player game with a 45-minute playing time in Q2 2023 for release at an as-yet unannounced date.


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