I like Luck Be A Landlord. Fin.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t good enough to qualify as an article, but I’ve been trying to write about Luck Be A Landlord for quite a while and failing completely.
This might be because there is only one aspect of being a game that Luck Be A Landlord does well, but it’s also the only thing about games that actually matters to me: the gameplay. Luck Be A Landlord is an incredibly unique take on a deckbuilder, where instead of building a deck, you assemble a slot machine.
And this leaves me in a bind, because I can’t faff around about other things in the game that I like, such as music, animation, art, and story for several paragraphs like I normally would. All of those elements are pretty mediocre, but it doesn’t matter, because Luck Be A Landlord is mental crack.
The general gameplay loop is pretty simple: you have a slot machine, and a certain number of spins. At the end of those spins, you have to pay up a certain amount of cash. After each spin, you choose from one of three symbols to add to your pool, meaning it can now show up on future spins. Each time you have to pay rent, your rent goes up, and you have to pay more rent the next time.
And this probably doesn’t sound super enthralling, but I think it’s worth pointing out that a summary of Bejeweled’s mechanics would be something like “You have a grid of jewels, and you swap them, this removes them, so you can match more jewels.”
Let’s use this run as an example of why Luck Be A Landlord is so interesting to me.
At first glance, this probably looks like a fairly boring setup. I’m only using 3 different symbols. So why is it satisfying at all?
Well, the effort to get to this point was fairly massive. The symbols in question that I’m using are the Amethyst, the Dame, and a wildcard.
The Amethyst is part the Gem family of symbols. These symbols include Diamonds, Pearls, Emeralds, Sapphires, and a few others. The primary thing that’s unique about them is that they’re a family of symbols, much like the Fruit family, that are far easier to get by having symbols interact on the board, than by drafting them.
The Amethyst’s gimmick is that it’s the only symbol in this family that scales, and it does it in a fairly unique way. Each time another symbol would increase the value of an Amethyst prior to the end of a round, its score permanently increases.
The second symbol, the Dame, is from what I tend to think of as the humanoid family. The Dame buffs up any Gem family symbol she’s next to, meaning that when next to an Amethyst, she makes it worth more both in the current round you’re scoring, and in addition triggers the Amethyst’s unique ability, making it worth more permanently.
At the same time, the Dame also destroys and scores points for Martinis, making them an effective symbol to use in combination with Bartenders and Dwarves, as part of an alcohol removal engine.
I’m rambling a little bit here, so I’m just gonna try to get to my thesis: Luck Be A Landlord does a really good job of balancing moment to moment tension, and longer term play. Choices that might get you through your current rent cycle might not be ideal for you build, but choices that could be better for your build might mean you’ll never complete it in the first place. Most symbols have at least 1-2 meaningful interactions with other symbols, or symbol families.
The end result is a game where it’s just a lot of fun to try to build different types of engines, from Cultist based builds, which rely on having a bunch of the same symbol on the board, and then transition into eldritch horrors, to pearl harvesting builds, to pirates cracking open treasure. Watching a build come together is incredibly satisfying, and having one fall apart is frustrating, but not frustrating enough to keep you from doing just one more run.