Grotto Beasts

Grotto Beasts is an entertaining TCG with a really clever resource system that I haven’t seen used before. It’s good fun. But at the end of this writeup, I’m not going to recommend buying it. I absolutely recommend playing it! Just… not spending money on it. But we’ll get to that.

The most unique part of Grotto Beasts to me is the resource system. It’s very interesting and not particularly complex, but it is very different from anything I’ve seen in a TCG, so I want to go over it in detail first.

Grotto Beasts’ Resource System

Every card card in the game has a cost. To “play” a card, you have to pay its cost, which you do by placing cards facedown into a zone called the summoning pool. The summoning pool cannot be rearranged, and is not a discard pile/graveyard.

Here’s the neat part: whenever an opponent plays a card, you draw cards equal to the cost of that card from your summoning pool. If you didn’t have enough cards in your pool, you continue drawing from your deck..

In addition, except for the first card you play each turn, you cannot play cards if your opponent’s summoning pool is empty.

I found that in the games I played, this led to a bunch of really interesting decisions about what cards to use to pay various costs, and how to order them into the summoning pool. A heavy cost card might be useless now, but placing it at the very bottom makes it hard to get back. Likewise, it gives the game a sort of tempo pace. Dropping a high cost card into your opponent lets them draw a fair number of cards back, and can give them the answers they need to deal with it.

The Rest of the Systems

The rest of Grotto Beasts’ systems are functional and fun, if not as fascinating. Combat is similar to Magic, where all attackers attack at once. Unlike Magic, attack values are summed, and then defense values are summed. Each player chooses how to allocate damage across the enemy line. Cards only have one stat for combat, Power, so it’s fairly easy to keep track of what’s what.

Damage that isn’t blocked goes through, and when it does, the player who did the damage banishes cards off the top of their deck into a score pile, somewhat akin to Pokemon’s prize card system. These cards can’t be looked at, and the first player to get 10 prizes wins. There are also cards that can generate prizes with their effects.

The Good, the Bad, and the Jerma

The Good

For all intents and purposes, this card game was created as Twitch streamer merch. That said, the game itself is strong, generally fun to play, and has interesting and unique systems. I have no real complaints about the mechanical structure of the game, and it’s much better quality then what I would expect for a tie-in product. God we live in a weird world.

Ed Note: As far as I can tell based on the rulebooks, while a wide number of people contributed to this project, only one person is specifically credited with the game’s design: J. Evan Raitt.

One big thing that I really appreciate about the design is that outside of a single six sided die, it doesn’t require any external components or trackers for things like health, counters, or life. It also doesn’t have a complex zone setup system. I mention this mostly because it’s one of my pet peeves with Nostalgix.

The Bad

But while I don’t have complaints about the game’s design structure, I do have two incredibly large bones to pick with some of the specific designs. First, the starter decks. There are two starters decks, and they felt extremely unevenly matched.

One is called Super Luck, and it’s mechanically themed around coin flips and luck. It offers cards that increase the payoffs of winning coin flips, with some ability manipulate those flips. It has a consistent identity and strategy.

The other is called Lot O’ Grottos. It feels much weaker for a variety of reasons. First, the grottos themselves are primarily a defensive tool for the deck, and some provide search and discard pile recursing. But the deck’s stat lines on its creatures are incredibly low. One of the “tricks” the decks has is a 4 drop card that lets you sacrifice creatures at the start of a turn to get a card that costs one more. Except while the deck has two copies of a card that costs 6, it has no card that costs 5, and only two cards that cost 4. That means it’s a card that turns 1 drops into two drops, which aren’t much stronger.

In addition, the Super Luck deck gets a card named Festive Mimic. It’s a 3 cost, 2 power card that has an effect that triggers when it’s played. Its effect is “Roll a die, then draw that many cards.”

Grottos gets a card named Bobbin. It’s 3 cost, 2 power card, that has an effect that triggers when played. Its effect is “Draw a card.”

This isn’t the greatest sin I’ve ever seen committed. I’m more sympathetic to a card game that prints a version of Swords to Plowshares than I am to one that prints the Power Nine (Looking at you, MetaZoo)

However, these are problems with the design of specific cards, not the core mechanics. I haven’t written about this specifically here, but the initial sets of Magic were kind of janky, and the initial sets of the Pokémon TCG led to a dumpster fire meta. A set TCG with some bad initial set design does not make a bad game.

The Jerma

Indie card games are my kryptonite. I will play one demo game of something I’ve never heard of before, and that will be enough to sell me on it. Show me something even mildly exciting, and I will be forking over cash for a booster box.

So why don’t I recommend Grotto Beasts? Ultimately, pricing and production quality.

The cost of cardboard is too damn high.

Grotto Beasts’ boosters are $10 a pop, while the 2P starter set is $80. The starter set contains 2 decks, and 2 boosters, making each deck come out to $30 for 40 cards. For comparison, the Pokémon starter sets retail at aprox $15-20 a deck, with the higher end comp/premium products going for $30.

These prices are high, which is unfortunate and might be tolerable except for one final thing: production quality.

The physical cards are kind of crap. After just three games, the cards themselves were showing scratches and scuffs on the edges. In addition to this, one of the cards I opened in the boosters was straight up missing any sort of finish on the front of the card.

I spent part of this weekend running a pre-release for the new Pokémon set with the same friend I played Grotto Beasts with. And we both agreed that the print quality of Grotto Beasts is much lower quality than current Pokémon cards.

In Conclusion

I absolutely recommend playing Grotto Beasts if you get a chance. While the game has a few mechanical issues, they’re nothing worse than the very first set of any other TCG.

But the sky-high pricing and miserable production quality of the product means I just can’t recommend it, and I don’t plan on buying it, especially with the issue of the starter decks being incredibly unevenly matched.

If you love Jerma, and want to support the project, more out of the sort of tradeoff that we as humans make when we buy content creator merch, you can find the game here.

I, however, am NOT going to go to this website here with a list of all the Grotto Beasts cards and download the images. Then I am NOT going to put them into a big sheet, and I am NOT going to find a way to print them as make my own bootleg set of of the cards to play with.

I am absolutely NOT going to that. Because that would be wrong, and there are no situations where you should just steal a copy of something really expensive or out of print.

Limbus Company

Limbus Company is very weird, and just a bit nuts.

Authors Note: I’ve played more Limbus Company since this writeup, and I’ve realized a few things I said were incorrect. You can read those corrections here. I’m leaving this writeup as is though, in order to preserve my initial understanding and perspective.

It would make sense that after 10 hours of Limbus Company, I would have a strong feeling on whether or not to recommend it. Thing is, I really don’t.

Limbus Company is fascinating. It’s unlike any other RPG I’ve played, and it’s tonally different than any other F2P game I’ve played. But its F2P mechanics, poor tutorials, and awful information display make it a very tough sell.

Side Note: I saw someone mention that you need to be a rocket scientist to understand this game. I asked my friend who worked at NASA to try it, and they completely bounced off it.

Limbus Company is a game from Project Moon, a Korean indie game studio. Project Moon’s other games include Lobotomy Corporation and Library of Ruina.

All three games share the same world and story. I mention this because I will be talking about Limbus Company’s story, and that means general spoilers for the other two games. Sort of.

It’s a bit hard to explain. Much like the rest of Limbus Company!

Story and Art

Limbus Company has a strong visual style. I’ve always really liked 2D images in 3D environments as a design choice, and it’s done very well here. The story is unusual, and tonally a bit wonky.

The 13 incredibly poorly adjusted and mildly sympathetic whackjobs the player has to lead.

For reference, the game opens with the player character cutting off their own head and replacing it with a clock. The individual story arcs run the gamut from “Haha, weird,” to “What the ever loving fuck.”

Notable moments in the first category include a casino run by people in Mariachi outfits who fight with maracas.

Notable moments in the second category include a sympathetic NPC being gutted and worn like a flesh-suit. By a giant apple.

Anyway, game mechanics. Let’s talk about game mechanics.

How Limbus Company Works (I Think)

I want to know who plays this shit on a phone.

I’m going to try to explain how Limbus Company works. If you don’t care, you skip this bit. The extra knowledge is useful for deciding if you’d like the game, but not necessary for me to explain my problems with the game, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Limbus Company is a combat game. The player controls a group of characters (sinners) in fights against enemies and abnormalities. On a given turn, the player chooses from two available cards and builds a chain of cards across the characters they control.

Cards have: Power, Coins, Damage, Attacks, Damage Type, Sin Type, and Count. Power determines who wins Clashes, but only after Clashes are resolved by flipping the Coins. There’s a secondary value that determines the increase to power based on the number of coin flips that land heads during a clash or one-sided attack phase.

Damage is the amount of damage inflicted. I think. Honestly not sure. Attacks are the number of attacks to be inflicted on the use of a card, or that will be used for resolution of Clash during a Clash. However, it’s important to note that Sanity has an impact on Coin flip resolution, increasing or decreasing the rate at which you flip heads. This makes the Coin Flip not actually a coin flip.

Damage Type is the type of damage inflicted. There are three types, which are modified by enemy resistance, but also change if the enemy is staggered or panic based on their sanity. Abnormalities though, don’t have sanity, and cannot be panicked.

Sin type determines resonance and absolute resonance. In addition, resolving an attack of a given sin type grants Sin that can be used to activate Ego.

Count determines how many copies of a card are in a sinners deck.

If this doesn’t make sense to you, good. Because I’ve played 10 hours of this game, and I don’t get it.

Anyway, combat! Combat is against either abnormalities or everyone else. In fights against abnormalities, individual abnormalities and body parts of the abnormality can be targeted, but in general fights, characters pick targets on their own.

Game Modes

Limbus Company has multiple game modes. I’ve only unlocked a few of them, but most are just “do combat, get different resources.” However, there is one mode that’s very different, and that’s the game’s mirror dungeons.

Yes, it’s a simulation run. I’m not wasting energy to get a screenshot.

Mirror Dungeons are semi-randomly generated path of various encounters, similar to a “run” in Slay the Spire or Inscryption. The characters are reset to start at level 10, and after winning a fight, there’s a reward of either a random item in the vein of Slay the Spires artifacts, or the ability to level one of the current party members up.

Personally though, I’ve found that Mirror Dungeons got stale fairly quickly. Because there’s no reward for experimenting, and Limbus Company is F2P, I usually just ran more or less the same team, and picked safe options.

Story mode has something similar. While 90% of the story is a set of single linear combat encounters, the mission of each story chapter is a large non-randomized dungeon. These have been some of the more interesting parts of the game for me so far, and feel more like playing an actual video game than a free to play game with a gacha system.

The Collision of Money and Mechanics

There are two large pain points I have with Limbus Company. The first is that the game did not spend enough time and detail explaining the aforementioned combat systems, and doesn’t display in-game information in an easily accessible way. The tutorial is brief, and while not unhelpful, is overwhelming. I had another friend download and try the game to confirm that it wasn’t just me being stupid, and they had a similar level of drowning in information.

While bad onboarding and scaffolding can be a problem with games, it’s not one that necessarily turns me off. As perusing this blog for any length of time will make quite clear, I am willing to play games with janky or unexplained systems. I will play games that are horribly broken. I will play games that are in a language I can’t speak or read.

But learning a game’s systems by experiencing them requires me to actually be able to play the game. Limbus Company is F2P play, which means it has an energy point system. As with every energy point system ever, it boils down to the following core loop:

  1. Spend Energy to enter levels
  2. Get more Energy over time, or by spending real money.
  3. There is no three.

I mentioned in my Arknights writeup a while back how much I liked that the game had a parallel energy system that gave free tries at clearing levels without any rewards.

A system like that is exactly what I want in Limbus Company. Something that lets me play the game, experiment with builds and try to figure out the incredibly obtuse systems that make up combat without “wasting” my energy on fights I can’t clear.

Right now, I felt discouraged from actually experimenting with the game’s mechanics, unless I hit a wall and had no other way forward.


Limbus Company has a compelling, if occasionally frustrating, story and solid art. The mechanics are interesting, and I wish I understood them better, or that they were easier to learn by playing.

If you’re looking for a F2P game, you could certainly do worse then Limbus Company. But enjoying it requires a high level of patience and tolerance for what initially feels like esoteric bullshit.

Limbus Company can be played for free on Steam, and also on phones. I suggest you avoid playing it on your phone unless you have an electron tunneling microscope so that you can actually read the text.

Don’t Die, Collect Loot

Note: This writeup is about an EARLY ALPHA. The mechanics are great, but it’s still buggy, lacking content, and polish. And when I say alpha, I do mean alpha. Not “Steam Early Access.” But it’s also the best thing I’ve played this week.

Don’t Die, Collect Loot is a combination of Vampire Survivors, and Diablo. And it is absolute brain cocaine. If this was a chemical substance, the DEA would have already found the creator, kidnapped them, and brought them to some sort of black site.

Fortunately its perfectly legal to distribute on I don’t know how much I’ve played, and I’m not sure I want to. But let’s talk about the mechanics first.

Don’t Die, Collect Loot is an ARPG and Roguelike. Prior to starting a run, you set up your equipment and skills. You then select a map to run (right now there’s only one), a difficulty, and head on out into the world.

The map scrolls, so at least at the start, just staying on the screen making is one of the obstacles to survival. As you kill enemies, you’ll level up for the run, and each time you level up, you’ll be presented with a set of three upgrades to choose from. These can be for various skills that you have, or just general purpose buffs to HP or resists.

Getting stuck behind a random tree you failed to notice is a depressingly common way for runs to end.

You go until you die, or until the game breaks somehow. Right now, it’s mostly the second one. Again, alpha build.

Right now, I’d consider the game to be fairly bare bones. There are only two classes, one map to run, a single boss with 2 mini-bosses, and a decent skill tree. That said, the game manages to capture what ARPG’s are all about: making builds where you click once and everything on the screen explodes.

And despite its bare bones state, and despite the fact that I’ve lost multiple 30+ minute runs without getting any items whatsoever to bugs, I cannot stop playing it. It’s almost hypnotic. It strips out almost every vestigial part of the ARPG gameplay loop. No fetch quests, no annoying story. Just murder everything in front of you, and acquire treasure. The game’s name is a perfect encapsulation of what you’re trying to do: Don’t Die, Collect Loot. That’s it. That’s all that really matters.

If you want to play the game, you can find the current Alpha here on, and you can find the Steam page here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can max Inferno without making the game break.

Pedigree Tactics

I’ve been trying to write about Pedigree Tactics for a while. I wrote a few initial drafts, but they all sucked. Perhaps the difficulty is in the fact that I already wrote my review here on Steam. It was fairly critical, noted a variety of difficulties and bugs, and asked the dev to reach out to me.

And then they did! We had a good chat, I repo’d a variety of bugs in a one hour video I made, and now I’m here. Trying to write a honest and fair review about a single-person passion project.

Pedigree Tactics is single player tactics game in the vein of Disgaea. It’s fairly short, and the main reason to play it is to engage with the unique monster fusion mechanic.

The standard start of a battle.

The game consists of levels with 3v3 monster battles, and the goal is to knock out all opposing monsters. There are 23 levels, and beating the whole game took me about 3 hours each time I played through it.

Let’s just get the rough bits out of the way. The art is jarring; it mostly suffers from dissonance between the crayon-drawn monsters, video game maps, and attack effects. The sound effects and music exist. I’ve seen more tonally consistent sexy calendars than this game’s story.

The family tree of the glorious hustling Melonator.

That said, it does have an interesting core mechanic in its monster fusion system. Briefly into the game, you unlock the ability to fuse any two monsters together. This mutates them into a new monster, and gives the resulting monster access to the move pools of both the result, and the “parents.”

It’s interesting to try to puzzle out some of the monster combos. But the fun mostly comes in making incredibly busted monsters. My personal favorite trick was to have one monster spam stacking self buffs. Then I’d have another monster use its action to give the first monster extra turns. And after that, I’d have the first monster spam map clearing AOEs.

This fusion system and the fun you can have with it, giving abilities to units that really shouldn’t have them, is the heart of the game’s fun for me. It is somewhat unfortunate though that the rest of the game isn’t as appealing.

If you’re curious about Pedigree Tactics, you can find it on Steam here. I don’t exactly recommend it, but it’s weird and unique. And that made it worth experiencing for me.

Editor’s note: I don’t know what this cursed drawing is doing here, but I enjoy it.

Dungeons of Mandom VIII

Dungeons of Mandom VIII is compact bluffing board game. Personally I like it quite a lot, though that may be because I won when I played. It’s designed by Antoine Bauza and I WAS GAME, and published by Oink Games.

There are no other games in the Dungeons of Mandom series, but that doesn’t stop me from imaging what they could look like. In all seriousness though, the game is entirely family friendly. Unlike me.

The goal of Dungeons of Mandom VIII is to to be either the last adventurer standing, or the first adventurer to complete a dungeon twice. However, this is a bluffing game, not a dungeon crawler.

This is first obvious in hero selection. Instead of each player selecting a character, the group as a whole has a single hero between them. Heroes come with their equipment, but because this is the 8th Dungeon of Mandom, that equipment is likely going to be stripped off, in order to prove how manly you are.

There’s flavor in the equipment. Most of the characters have some form of HP boosting equipment, usually a piece of armor, or a shield. However, for the Princess class, this equipment takes the role of a Suitor and a Chaperone giving the fun implication of them being used as meat shields.

The E in fiancé stands for éxpendable

Equipment and hero selection aside though, the meat of the game is building the dungeon! On a player’s turn, they can choose to either pass and drop from the rotation, or to build out the dungeon deck. To build the dungeon deck, they draw a card from a the monster deck, and then make a second choice. They can add it facedown to the dungeon, or they can remove a piece of equipment from the hero, and not add the card they just drew to the dungeon.

The monster deck is made up of a bunch of different monsters, including some special monsters. Monsters each have a number associated with them, which is linked to how much damage they do. There are more copies of the weaker monsters, and only a single copy of some of the stronger monsters, such as the Litch, Demon, and Dragon.

Cool Monster Club – Not pictured: the dragon who’s just too cool.

This is core tension of Dungeons of Mandom VIII. “Do I think that with the remaining equipment, based on what I’ve seen my fellow players do, I can beat the dungeon as it currently stands, or do I need to pull back?” I played one game where another player chose to remove the equipment that hero needed to beat the dragon, and I knew that I’d added the dragon to the dungeon, so I chose to pass.

When one player takes an action, and every player after them passes, it’s finally time for that player to venture into the dungeon, and prove their worth! Or more likely, get stabbed in the face by the Litch for 6 damage and then beaten by goblins.

The exploring player reveals cards from the top of the dungeon deck one by one, either defeating them, or taking damage equal to their value if they don’t have some way to defeat them. If they get through card in the deck, they beat the dungeon, and get a treasure card! If they don’t, they take a hit. When a player takes two hits, they lose and can’t play anymore. However, if a player gets two treasure tokens, they win.

If I have any gripes with the game, it’s that I don’t love the elimination component. I get why it has to be there. Without it, there would never be any reason to not push your luck. But it sucks that you can end up in a position where you don’t get to play anymore.

If the game sounds interesting, you can find it from Oink Games here.