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Card games, both those played with a physical deck and those rendered on a screen, are typically taut, pristinely balanced affairs, with rules calibrated in the crucible of a thousand playtests. All of which makes Slay the Spire’s chaotic, emergent sojourns even more thrilling. With hundreds of cards on offer and various interlinking effects, each hand you play feels unique, unanticipated and, in the best moments, leads to a crescendo of exhilarating consequences.

In this 2019 deck-building game, newly available for Apple devices, you play cards to execute attacking and defensive moves in a series of face-offs with opponents. In each, the object is to strategically play your hand in the optimal way in order to reduce your opponents’ health to zero before they do the same to you. After each win you add a new card to your deck to expand your tactical possibilities alongside your character’s experience.

Slay the Spire is lightly wrapped in a Tolkienesque theme. You play as one of four different warriors, each of whom has different strategic strengths and weaknesses, and make your way across a monolithic map filled with nodes that trigger battles, shop visits and campfire rests, where you can choose to heal yourself (your wounds carry over from fight to fight) or upgrade a specific card for a cost.

What makes the whole thing electrifying is the sense of chaos that runs through each battle; you are dealt a meagre hand, and the combination of cards dictates the strategic choices available at any given point. It’s a game that must surely have been impossible to balance, as a designer once balanced, say, chess or whist. So-called “relics” – powerful upgrades won from more powerful characters – further complicate matters, adding riotous modifiers and tweaks that, time after time, allow you to snatch victory from what appeared, moments earlier, to be certain defeat.

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While Slay the Spire is a solo pursuit (you can only play against the computer), a unique challenge map is open to everyone, allowing players around the world to compete against one another via a daily leaderboard. This makes it ideally suited for play on mobile devices, where the game will, if given the chance, take up residence in your everyday routine without threatening to take over.