27 June 2018
Designed by original creator of dungeon-delving video game
If you’ve ever come across The Binding of Isaac before, it’s unlikely you’ll have ever forgotten it.
Edmund McMillen’s 2011 video game combined randomly-generated dungeons and punishing roguelike gameplay with a jet-black story involving child abuse and a visceral visual style best described as ‘gross’ – blood, poo and body horror were commonplace.
The mixture was a huge hit, spawning several expansions and a passionate following enraptured by the unflinching retelling of the Old Testament story and the enormous amount of items, characters and challenges to discover during each playthrough.
Now, McMillen is bringing his twisted style and Isaac’s brutal gameplay to a card game, The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls.
McMillen says that he was first approach about an Isaac board game over a year ago, but put off developing one until he felt he had the right ideas to do the game justice on the tabletop. This eventually surfaced during a sudden bout of creativity while the designer was sick at home, prototyping and playtesting the initial concept for Four Souls during a week, creating around 200 cards based on the video game in just five days.
This basic foundation was then carefully refined over several months, with McMillen cramming in as many of Isaac’s dozens of monsters, items, events and more as he could think of.
The result is something that McMillen feels captures the tone of Isaac, but also manages to be new and exciting during every playthrough.
Gameplay is semi-co-operative, as players lay down loot cards and use items to kill monsters and gain more items, loot and souls. Monsters attack players and can kill them, leading to penalties, which means you’ll need to work with your fellow dungeon-crawlers to dispatch them – but only the person who finishes off the monster gets the rewards, so you won’t want to help your companions out too much. The first to collect four souls through a mix of jolly co-operation and cut-throat betrayal is the winner.
The gameplay sounds similar – but far from identical – to Eric Lang’s severely underrated take on another darkly atmospheric video game, Bloodborne: The Card Game, but coupled with the unique game-changing effects of Isaac’s items, which can drastically change the way each match plays out. It also has the distinctive look of McMillen’s artwork, which is impossible to get out of your mind once you’ve seen it.
The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls is quickly on its way to clearing its £38,000 target on Kickstarter, having already raised over £20,000 in less than a day. The core set is $25 (£19) – although you’ll have to pay a pretty hefty shipping cost of $19 (£14) to get it to the UK – and McMillen plans to get the card game into backers’ hands this November.