Hand of Fate harmoniously unifies the best parts of board gaming gambits, with what we’ve grown to love about ‘one and done’ rogue-like role playing games.
You find yourself mysteriously across the table from a dealer of questionable character. In front of you on the table is a path of cards, turned face down with your game piece poised to move. When we choose to do so, the next card is turned and revealed. This, the turn, is by far the greatest strength in Hand of Fate; The highs and lows of chance, revealing your fortunes and misfortunes, and holding your breath in hope of nailing that one ‘success’ card among three ‘failure’ cards. Those of you who have enjoyed a tabletop game such as Betrayal at House on the Hill, or games that treat exploration and chance with a similar manner, will feel right at home.
As the dealer shuffles two decks, which consist of some cards you have chosen and some cards he has chosen, we take note of the game’s three primary resources: Health, Food, and Gold. While HoF is not re-inventing the wheel with the resources names, know that they are all very, very important and managing these will at its core, help you to delve further into the deck to the inevitable boss. Around this system, each turn of an encounter card presents an opportunity for you to gain or lose one of these three resources, or better equip yourself for battle. The encounter cards in HoF are fun, flavorful and well designed. Eventually you’ll get to know them well, both relieving and damning. While the dealer will offer commentary on which cards you reveal, the text is up to you to read. This offers a “classic” tabletop or, “choose your own adventure” feel to encounters in the game, and works for its benefit. Moving will cost you food, run out of food, you start losing health.
If you’ve drawn a card such as the ‘Maiden’ or ‘Helpful Priest’, a series of choices or offerings will lead you to drawing “gain” cards to help your resource pool, or a blessing to aid you in combat. If you’ve drawn a card such as Twisted Canyon, and you make the choice to proceed into the canyon to draw a new weapon card, you are then asked to pull a card from a sample of four, where one of the cards is labeled “failure!”. As aforementioned, this is the fruit of Hand of Fate. Whether it’s one card labeled “failure!”, or 3 cards labeled “huge failure”, it’s our nature as folks who enjoy games to bask in the height of brain activity a moment before the decision to chance. If you’ve drawn a card such as ‘Ambush!’, or ‘Ratmen Hunting’, the dealer will then draw what you’ll be facing in combat.
Combat in Hand of Fate opens with your hero being donned with cards you’ve earned throughout your run, which consist of your equipment (weapons and armor), your blessings and curses (buffs and debuffs), and your artefacts (special abilities). Watching your decisions fall atop your avatar adds a gratifying touch to the idea of progress. It’s the animation you imagine when you’re playing a tabletop game, but the best you can do is slide the cards under your character piece.
The fight begins in one of several small arenas, some of which are dependent on which card you revealed. Combat plays out to a rough around the edges brawler system, akin to the Arkham games, or Assassin’s Creed. You’ll be countering, reflecting, dodging and striking, and sometimes using an ability, and once again this is all dependent on what gear you’ve gathered flipping cards, and making decisions. It’s clunky, but in a game like HoF, it’s a great alternative to a dice roll, which would be what the tabletop version would default to without visual support. The combat scenarios follow a consistent light-hearted fantasy aesthetic, but I did run into some performance issues on the Xbox One version of the game, sometimes making projectile countering impossible. The camera is fixed as the brawl plays out, which doesn’t offer any custom perspective, and can be quite the bother. Fall in combat, it’s game over. Find yourself victorious, and you may be presented with spoils, or perhaps even another alternative situation, which may result in even better gain.
There are also various shop cards to spend coin on food, health, gear and the like, and also maze cards that play out like combat, only you’re running a trap filled corridor to treasure. No matter the instance, HoF does a great job of making you experience what used to be only your imagination playing tabletop games. The text cards come first, then you close your eyes and you see the combat. Certain encounter cards will have the dealer pull from his private stash of tokens, letting you know that if you make the correct decisions, or win this upcoming battle, that it could be yours. Tokens, when won, are resolved at the end of the game no matter if you win or lose, to unlock new cards for your next run.
The spirit of Hand of Fate is pure. You’re gambling. It hides no shame in the fact that it is indeed an age old premise executed in a very enjoyable way. The musings of the dealer after a close call combat, or an equally transplanted experience reminds you that, you’re at a table playing cards. Despite some technical issues, and some repetition in combat, Hand of Fate tingles endorphins and gets your dopamine pumping with each flip of the card. Nobody around to play those tabletop games with? Hand of Fate is the perfect solution.
Review copy of this game was provided by the the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Despite having some issues with combat, Hand of Fate harmoniously unifies the best parts of board gaming gambits, with what we've grown to love about 'one and done' rogue-like role playing games.