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Civilization goes roguelike in 4X strategy game you can try now

New deck-building roguelike 4X strategy game Rogue Hex blends Civilization and Slay the Spire, and you can try its demo for free on Steam.

Civilization goes roguelike in this 4X strategy game with a free Steam demo - A Roman emperor reaches out towards a floating card.

We’re all eagerly waiting on Civilization 7 news, but in the meantime there are plenty of contenders. Among the more traditional offerings such as Old World and Humankind, Stellaris spinoff Nexus 5X shifts the format to a more speedy take on the beloved strategy games. Hoping to do the same for the historical 4X format is new indie game Rogue Hex, and as the Medieval era arrives you can try the roguelike deckbuilder for yourself with a free Steam demo.

Rogue Hex has been in development for over two years courtesy of solo developer Reed Erlandson of Topstitch Games, who describes it as an “illegitimate MicroProse Mega Crit brainchild.” It infuses the hex-based gameplay of the best 4X games with that moreish deck-building roguelike juice, along with “a fair few mechanics that Millenia, Ara, and Civ are too scared to try.”

All the typical exploring, exploiting, expanding, and exterminating works much as it does in the likes of Civ 6, but most actions use a set of resources calculated from your settlements each round that you have to use or lose by the time your turn ends. Labor is used to play cards from your hand, or draw additional ones; Food lets you grow and expand your cities; Plans allow units to move further than their normal range; Faith is used primarily for rerolls; Gold can help you overcome other missing resources in a pinch.

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As you rack up Science, you’ll unlock new technologies, adding cards to your deck, while earning Production allows you to improve your deck further. It all feels very easy to wrap your head around and get into the swing of things, but there’s plenty of depth at play here. Rather than having to deal with numerous opponents at once, your rival in Rogue Hex is the brutal Barbara the Barbarian. She’s a relentless force to behold, and can be rather terrifying when you’re first starting out.

With the release of its Medieval Update in version 0.5, we’re now at the halfway point for the game’s core progression with the Ancient and Classical eras preceding it, and the Renaissance, Industrial, and Modern ages still in the works. The new update packs in plenty of additional content, with 26 technologies, 12 buildings, six units, five wonders, eight developments, eight relics, eleven traits, and even more including a new Warcraft 3-inspired status effect system to buff and debuff units, and the option to invest in resource storage facilities.

A current playthrough of Rogue Hex will last you between 30 minutes and two hours, depending on your pace. Once the full loop comes in with the early access launch, the various leaders at your disposal will each target certain classic win conditions such as conquest and the spacefaring science victory, although Erlandson tells me he’s currently experimenting with some more distinctive “secret” win conditions.

Rogue Hex - The player spends one Labor and two Food to play an Archer card.

Between runs, there are a couple of roguelite upgrade mechanics to help you on future attempts. You’ll unlock new cards for the library as you complete certain achievements, allowing you to discover new technologies, units, and so on. You’ll also earn Quirks, a currency that you can spend on Charms that help boost your starting turn with an early breakthrough, invention, or bonus resources to get you on course more quickly.

Rogue Hex is set to launch via Steam Early Access in the fourth quarter of 2024, but you can try it right now thanks to a free demo. You can download the demo, which includes the first two eras, and check it out, or add it to your Steam wishlist to keep track of its progress. Topstitch Games says it plans the core game loop to be complete by the early access launch, which it intends to use to test and improve the game along with adding two futuristic eras – the Information Age and the Speculation Age – for the 1.0 release.

Alternatively, take a look through more of the best roguelike games on PC for plenty more run-based delights. Or you can take a look through the best strategy games you need to play in 2024.

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