Take the Countdown numbers round, replace the number cards with cute woodland creatures and the mathematical operations with spells, and consider the target number a boss you must defeat, and you’ve basically got
Super Algebrawl. This tactical mathematical RPG is the latest from Punkcake Délicieux, the small team behind the roguelikelike ‘chess with a gun’ Shotgun King. Super Algebrawl started life as a experiment by one of the devs to help teach his daughter maths, though frankly I think it’ll teach her maths is cruel. This game and I have very different relationships with numbers.
Super Algebrawl is a roguelikelike run through a series of increasingly tough battles with a growing army of woodland critters. Each unit, including you the boar king, has a single number representing both health and attack damage. So if your 7 hits an enemy 6, it’ll kill the 6 then become a 1 itself. That’s maths. Your units respawn after battles, while your health is persistent and will end your run if you run out. The key to winning is using your limited supply of scrolls to perform mathematical functions like addition and multiplication to adjust the numbers of your units.
Super Algebrawl thinks it’s good to make a precise number. If a unit overkills an enemy (or leaves a remainder, I suppose would be the maths term), it becomes ‘corrupt’ and swaps to the enemy side. On my very first turn, I felt dead chuffed making a 120-point mouse (god, I’m good at maths!). My big lad whacks the 13 goblin, annihilates it, and… swaps sides to swat my 20-point king with its remaining 107 points.
I, on the other hand, know that it’s very good to make a big number. The bigger the better, honestly. Maybe the biggest number you can think of is 48,053,026,712? Sure, that’s nice. Check this: 48,053,026,713. I win. Put an exclamation mark on the end and you’re done.
Super Algebrawl believes it’s fun to play with numbers to find clever solutions. After each battle, you’re offered a selection of random units and spells to draft one. A spell to increment all your units by 1. A stealthy unit able to reduce its own number. A beefy unit which can sacrifice itself to half an enemy’s number. A spell to divide a unit into two equal halves. A fireball spell to fire a single big number at something. That sort of trickery. Soon, you have a wide arsenal of numbers and mathematical operations at your fingertips.
I, however, know that numbers are best as toys, not games or puzzles. Take the number 58. That’s a great number, isn’t it. Roll that number around inside your head, roll it around your mouth with your tongue, take it to pieces, split the pieces up, then enjoy the ways they can fit together. Isn’t it great that 8-5=3 while you can split a 5 into a 3 and a 2 and 2+8=10? This is a number you can enjoy for a long time, or simply take great comfort in knowing it’s there for you. This game is the antithesis of that.
If you too have some weird ideas about numbers, perhaps you’ll like Super Algebrawl. Perhaps you’ll find satisfaction in using spells and unit abilities to grow and shrink and multiply and divide your army, revel in the number tricks you’ll discover to perfectly nail a number, feel fiendish with the realisation that you can attack your own units, and delight in growing a huge army of animals offering so very many options. Weird.
Super Algebrawl is available from Steam and Itch.io, with a 10% launch week discount bringing it down to £4.49/€5.39/$5.39 for just a few hours longer. It’s one of the games Punkcake made for their Patreon, where they make a new game every month for patrons then offer them to everyone else for twice the cost of a month’s sub.
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