Quick, think of a roguelikelike deck-building game! Go! You’re thinking of some dungeon-crawler, right? Most of ’em are, really. So I’m quite pleased by Luck Be A Landlord, a roguelikelike deck-builder which puts familiar ideas into a simpler form: a slot machine. If you’ve ever felt like you lost a roguelikelike run because of bad luck with rolls, boiling the genre down a fruit machine makes perfect sense. It’s in early access now, and pretty fun.
Luck Be A Landlord’s premise is that your new flat has a fruity you’ll use to pay rent. It starts mostly blank then after each spin you can add a new symbol from a random selection of three. After every rent payment you get to pick an item which boosts symbols or adds new rules. It starts simple, then gets trickier as rent payments increase and more complicated as synergies develop.
Here’s a simple example: by itself, a Flower gives one coin. But if a Flower comes up next to a Rain symbol, it gives double. And if it’s next to a Sun, it gets a 5x bonus. Plus Flowers are also doubled by Bees, who you can pick or have randomly spawned by the Bee Hive symbol, which also randomly create Honey, which gives big bucks when destroyed by a nearby Bears. You might also want to consider that Sun and Rain help Seeds too, which can grow into fruits, which give bonuses to the Chef or Mrs Fruit. And then many items boost these symbols individually, or affect how adjacency bonuses work, or respin reels, and so on.
In that roguelikelike way, luck is part of it (and a bigger part than usual here) but growing your knowledge of items and how different elements interact lets you build runs that bend random chance in your favour. Perhaps you’ll simply build a deck of symbols which pay out big. Maybe you’ll craft a complicated deck running a mechanism of symbols creating and destroying each other. Or perhaps you’ll half-arse it to victory with a hodge-podge of ideas that are just good enough.
Look, here’s a run where I started out focused on a baby gobbling sweets, leaned into symbol destruction with someone who ate fruit too, then pivoted to card suits, and ended up so distracted micromanaging an item which let me swap symbols on the reels that I forgot to make sure I could, y’know, afford rent.
It works! I enjoy it. I do feel it’s a bit too random, which I realise is a ludicrious criticism to have of a fruit machine. But with so many symbols and items, too often I end up waiting for synergies which never come. And it doesn’t feel very playful because when it’s so easy to lose. Too often, a run is slow enough to take shape that it ends in failure just when it feels like it’s starting to come together. Trying weaker or chancier builds feels a waste of time more than an opportunity to muck about.
This was improved by an update last week which added ways to remove symbols from your deck. This means you can build for short-term survival then later rework a deck, rather than face a choice between hoping for lucky rolls early or having lots of cruft later. A good change. But it still feels like too often I either win easily by rolling megabucks then happily continuining into the optional Endless mode, or I simply lose in a boring way.
Luck Be A Landlord is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam, priced at £7.19/€8.19/$9.99. The plan is to leave early access and launch properly later this year. That Steam page has a demo, so you can see for yourself.