Solitairica: Interesting mechanics and maybe too much randomness
First off, Solitairica isn’t Solitaire with a twist. It’s inspired by it and shares a similar name but mechanically they aren’t the same. It’s a deckbuilding roguelike in which your aim as the player is to fight your way through enemies and beat the “big bad”. Fairly simple.
That said, it’s a game that takes a simple concept and builds on it. Each enemy encounter has the following structure. There are columns of cards representing the enemy health. In each of these columns, only the first card is face up, and eliminating that face up card from play reveals the next in the stack.
The enemy is defeated when all cards are eliminated. Your weapon is a single card that can eliminate a single opponent card whose numeric value (which is anything from Ace to King) is your card’s numeric value +1/-1. When you use up your card, another card is drawn from a pile. You could also choose to draw another card voluntarily from the pile in case your card isn’t able to eliminate any of your opponent’s cards. Drawing another card is the only way to end your turn and begin the enemy turn. If the enemy is able to deal enough damage to reduce your health to zero, that’s game. Now, what adds the twist in the game and gives it the deckbuilding feature are the cards/abilities you have which helps you to deal with an enemy.
These cards are not drawn and are always available to you, though there is a limit to how many you can bring to an encounter. They are classified into 4 types namely, attack, defense, heal, and agility. The first three are explanatory enough and agility lets you view the “yet hidden” cards in varying capacities. Each of the cards you can use have a usage cost that draws from its respective pool.
The pool gets points added to it when you eliminate an enemy card of that category or draw a new card of that category. This forces you to conserve and play more strategically. Apart from the 4 categories, there are also enemy cards that give coins when eliminated. These coins can be used in between enemy encounters to buy other special cards to help build your deck during the run.
Due to the random nature of the cards that you can draw from your pile, you’re often left to just draw cards that aren’t usable. This breaks the momentum of the gameplay. Which is unfortunate since, with a bit of luck and smart strategizing, you can achieve a flow where you’re just eliminating one card after another. That’s a core aspect of card eliminating games and this game has the potential to achieve that only to be ruined by some bad luck. Yet another downside of the random nature of the cards, but this time it’s the opponents face down cards, is that planning ahead becomes painful cause you never know what you’ll be working with next. While I agree that randomness is a key aspect of roguelikes, in this game you have to deal with this random nature in 3 places — the special cards, the pile the player draws new cards from, and the opponent's face down cards. It might have been better to limit the randomness to the first two.
Overall, Solitairica has a unique game mechanic that is interesting to play but suffers from its random nature in too many areas.