From the moment I previewed an early alpha build of Hand of Fate at PAX East 2014, I was intrigued by the combination of the tabletop and action genres. Although the collectible cards take the center stage in the game, Hand of Fate is an action-roguelike title with bits of RPG elements thrown in for good measure. Build your deck and customize your own adventure as you discover the final card game at the end of the world.
Decks are assembled using various equipment and encounter cards you earn by collecting tokens. At the start you won't have many options, but once you complete a handful of games, the customization of your adventure can begin. As it turns out, the tabletop board is built randomly based on the cards in your deck. You can attempt to push the odds in your favor by stacking your deck, but that won't always be the case. Progressing through the Jack, Queen, and King of each card suit, certain cards will be placed in your deck that can't be removed unless a condition is met. For example, Ratmen cards will be temporarily placed in your deck and those troublesome rodents can't be removed until you complete the challenge on the Culling the Ratmen card. These special cards have tokens attached, meaning if you complete the criteria, you'll receive the token at the end of the game. That is even if you lose, too. The tokens yield cards that will be added to your deck, adding to your total card count.
The encounter cards that make up the game's dungeons are randomly put together, so each time you play you won't be experiencing the same cards. Although it will be determined based on the cards in your deck, you may have overlap if you don't swap out any cards. The rest of your deck is comprised of weapon and equipment cards. You'll start with basic equipment, but as you travel throughout the dungeon, you may be able to select new equipment cards. That means replacing that Rusty Axe with a more powerful weapon with increased damage with the possibility of special attacks. The combat system in the game is similar to the popular Batman: Arkham series, albeit simplified. Icons will appear over enemy heads for countering, blocking, and dodging, and the window is quite generous. The early dungeons won't provide much of a challenge, but the game gets progressively difficult, especially when you can be outnumbered 10-1.
On the opposite side of the table is the dealer, whose deck is chock full of cards that will attempt to kill the hero. Enemy types are broken up by card suits and face values on the card determine the amount of enemies you'll face. Single enemies aren't a threat, but when curses are thrown into the mix and you face a couple handful of enemies at once, the adventure can turn dire fast. Eventually you'll start games already cursed, either losing one of the three resources as you progress through the cards on the table or worse. Not all cards are encounter cards as most will task the player with a unique predicament.
Do you return the sword of a fallen hero to his hometown and risk being cursed in the process? A nearby cave may be bobbytraped with spikes and arrows shooting from walls, but do you risk the danger in order to procure a treasure chest? Just like it would occur in tabletop games, the consequences of actions are based on luck. Inside of rolling a die, cards with varying degree of success or failure will be shuffled together for you to pick from.
Along your journey, you must manage three key resources: food, gold and health. Food is used every time you move to a different card on the table. Run out of food, and you'll begin to lose health for every step you take. Gold is crucial, not only can it be used to buy new cards, food or health at vendors, but it can also be used to earn tokens on specially marked cards. Health can be permanently increased through blessing cards, which benefit the player rather than hindering.
Hand of Fate is an entertaining adventure that will impress tabletop fans and action RPG fans alike. The combat is solid, although a bit on the simple side, but the game provides a deeper challenge about halfway through the game. Earning tokens even when you lose helps with progression and every new card you gain can mean the difference.
Note: The Hand of Fate review is based on a digital PS4 copy of the game, provided for review.