Poker is a deadly weapon in this turn-based RPG

No Ante

Like gambling, but hate loot boxes? Here are the best ways to gamble in PC games without spending real money.

I've been playing with a few different poker apps on my phone lately—not for real money, because I'm not really good enough to do that—and occasionally I'll look around for a PC game to scratch my stakes-free poker itch. That's how I came across We Slay Monsters, a turn-based roguelike RPG where you use poker hands to fight dungeon monsters. And I'm enjoying the heck out of it.

Pick your randomized warrior and descend into dungeons, armed only with cards. The action is turn-based as you explore and fight, and poker rules apply: you've got five cards in your hand, and you use them them to make poker hands. You can play single cards for a little bit of damage, but a pair is better, and two-pair is better than that, and three of a kind is better still. Full houses do tremendous damage, and you can make flushes (cards of the same suit) and straights (cards in numerical order). Straights and flushes can be made with three, four, or five cards. Once you play a card or cards, they're discarded and replaced with new ones from the deck.

The suit of your cards also determines the nature of your of attack. A three of lightning, for example, is a ranged attack. A beer flush (three cards of the beer suit) will give your enemy inebriation damage. A pair or straight of three different suits will launch attacks of each suit, so you may find yourself doing bowling ball damage, lightning damage, and orb damage all in the same turn.

As you fight through the dungeon you'll acquire loot as well, loads of it, which can sometimes include bonuses based on specific cards. For example, you might gain an ability where every three you're dealt heals you, or every seven gives you extra gold, or an eight gives you a shield spell. This is on top of items that boost your stats, attacks, defenses, and luck. By the time you waddle out of the dungeon you'll be brimming with treasure and magic that would make any poker champ jealous.

There are all sorts of other magical tool and weapons you'll come across that can be equipped in your hot bar and used when you want, like bombs, traps, teleportation spells, disguises (that will let you move a few turns looking like a monster and thus not draw attention to yourself) and decoy spells (that make an enemy appear to be an adventurer so other monsters attack it). So, even if you're not catching useful cards you still have some options to fight or escape until your luck improves.

We Slay Monsters is a roguelike, so if your character dies, they're gone, but there are always new recruits to choose from, and there's persistence in the overworld, where you're building up a school for wizards using the gold you earn during your dungeon crawls. There's a story, too, though I skipped it because the developer was nice enough to include a button reading 'Skip Boring Flavor Text' at the start of the game. That's exactly the kind of consideration for the player's time I appreciate from a developer. Let's just get right to the magic poker!

I'm not really flipping my lid over the art style, but I'm really enjoying We Slay Monsters. It's fun and can be pretty challenging from the get-go, with even the smallest dungeons containing scores of enemies. It doesn't quite scratch my poker itch but it is satisfying to play a full house or five-card straight and see some poor sheep (there are enemy sheep) get kerploded with some deadly poker magic.

We Slay Monsters is available on Itch.io and Steam for $14, and you can visit its official site here.