The way the Watcher bends the rules in Slay the Spire is delightful

I’ve been playing the new Watcher character in Slay the Spire and it’s a delight. New characters are a real moment in Slay the Spire because it doesn’t get them very often. The Defect, the one before this, came out a year ago. There are only four characters in the game.

The Watcher ups the complexity and getting to grips with it is like learning a new game. You know the rudiments but it doesn’t work in the same way. The Watcher relies on stances and moving in and out of them to trigger effects. Wrath stance doubles your damage, which is amazing, but it doubles the damage you take, too, which is not so amazing. Calm stance, meanwhile, gives you two valuable blobs of energy when you exit it. There’s also Divinity, a third stance, but it’s a special occasion ability. It grants three energy and triple damage, but you need 10 Mantra to use it and it only lasts one turn.

A new suite of cards powers all of this. At the heart of them are Miracles, zero-cost cards which grant you a blob of energy and then vanish. Then, there are cards to move in and out of stances, and cards to build Mantra, cards to Scry (sort through your draw pile) and cards to Retain (keep cards between rounds). They’re the basics.

But the flashier cards are the dazzlers. They do things I didn’t think were allowed. There’s one which gives you a whole extra turn before your opponent can play again, which is outrageous, and another which grants Divinity but kills you the next turn! Cards way bolder than any I’ve seen in Slay the Spire before.

Here’s me in action! Watch how I effortlessly mess everything up. Look, the cards came out all wrong OK? And I didn’t pay enough attention to the boss’ special ability (his clock thing). That’s how it goes sometimes and I hate Slay the Spire for it. I also love Slay the Spire for it. I have conflicting emotions about it.

The game of the Watcher, then, becomes one of planning ahead. Stockpiling Miracles, building Mantra, Retaining cards and then unleashing your Divinity smackdown. Unless you chuff it up and die in the process which, of course, is the thrill.

The Watcher underlines something I really love about games like this – games with long lives. They have the opportunity to teach you their rules, bed them in, then decide they’re going to reinvent them. That’s why I find the Watcher so delightful, because I know the established norm it flies in the face of. Take a whole extra turn – are you kidding me? I know how big a deal that is.

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