I move my token forward and the Dealer flips a card. I wince when its revealed. “Rock Fall, my my, is this a natural occurrence, or maybe a trap?” The dealer speaks menacingly. He lays out four cards on the table: ‘Success’, two ‘Failures’, and ‘Huge Failure’. After being shuffled I pick one at random, revealing the “Huge Failure” card. I get dealt two ‘Pain’ cards which cause me to drop the rest of my food and take damage to my health, leaving me barely able to stand. I resign myself to my fate and forfeit the match.
I have the Dealer start the quest again.
Hand of Fate is a fantastic premise. Essentially, you are competing against the “Dealer”, a card-wielding dungeon master in a tabletop game. There are decks for equipment such as swords, helmets, and skills, decks for food and gold pickups, and decks which decide the layout of your adventure and the enemies you’ll face. Many of these decks can be customized to add new encounters or loot, which changes the way your campaign will play out.
After shuffling all the decks, the Dealer will lay out cards in a dungeon pattern. You move your character along this path, revealing the cards as you go. Each step costs you one food, which simulates your travel — run out of food, and each step costs you health. This makes the act of moving something you have to pay attention to, as backtracking can end up being deadly, especially when you end up in an encounter that deals pain cards (cards that take away health, food, or gold).
Speaking of encounters: Flipping over a card in your path reveals it, and can causing a huge variety of effects. Some are simple shops or battles, but many offer complex encounters similar to a tabletop roleplaying session. A real card in the game that is a pain in the ass is the aforementioned ‘Rock Fall’. This card requires you to dodge falling rocks by selecting a card during a four-card monte type mini-game. After that, you are given the option of confronting those who dropped the rocks, and then maybe… stealing an eagle’s egg from a gorilla? Some of them are pretty random, but always very entertaining.
On it’s own, this could be a very solid game, but Hand of Fate takes it one step further: During combat sequences, you actually play it as a third-person hack and slasher. Your equipment cards and the ones representing your foes fly onto the battlefield — which is a very neat effect. The combat itself leaves something to be desired, but as the game is still in early beta I imagine it will improve.
The glue that saturates this game and holds it together so nicely is the absolutely lovely voice acting from the Dealer. Every card and action you take is narrated by him, and it brings so much flavor to the game. No game has felt so much like actual tabletop with a dungeon master, and I’m looking forward to the improvements as development goes forward.
Hand of Fate is on Steam Early Access and, according to the developers website, will be coming to PS4 as well. It’s already worth the asking price and will only get better, so keep an eye on it.