Hand of Fate: Ordeals is a tabletop game inspired by the video game (the TechRaptor approved Hand of Fate) that was in turn inspired by tabletop games. Despite the awkwardness of that statement, and the circuitous route that Ordeals has taken in its creation, it's obvious that Rule and Make, and Defiant had a clear vision in mind when they decided to transition Hand of Fate from the digital world into the tabletop game-space. The game is built on a solid foundation of tried and true mechanics, deckbuilding being the big one here, and yet it still manages to feel fresh, even though I've seen bits of everything the game has to offer in other board games.
*All images shown are of prototype, pre-production versions of the game.*
The aforementioned freshness is a feat unto itself, especially since there isn't really anything new on offer here, but that feeling will only last until the new-car-smell wears off if the game isn't fun. Hands of Fate: Ordeals is fun. It's really fun. The game starts with a deckbuilding foundation (one of my favorite mechanics to begin with) and puts a neat spin on how the cards are used, couples it with a great adventuring aspect, striking art, and it even manages to wrap the deckbuilding mechanic directly into the theme of the game itself. I've only played a prototype of the game, yet I'm confident saying that Hands of Fate: Ordeals is one of the most stylish, unique, and fun games I've played so far this year.
A game of Hand of Fate: Ordeals pits players in a race to find and defeat the Jack, Queen and King in order, which function as the boss of the game's three levels. The levels themselves are a randomly generated distribution of cards that players can visit, and thus reveal, in order to fight battles, power up, and locate and dispatch that level's boss. The encounters that players face become more difficult with each new level, and the bosses themselves usually have some kind of global effect on their level when they are revealed. After the Jack is defeated, the board resets and players have to adventure out from the town again to find the Queen. The process repeats after the Queen has been defeated until the players finally locate and slay the King in which case the game ends and the player with the most points wins. Alternatively, the game can end prematurely if the players aren't careful. If the total number of player deaths ever equals the number of players the game ends immediately.
There are a more cards per level than you'll use each time, and the board layout is dealt out randomly each level, so the sense of adventure, and replayability, remain high from game to game and level to level. There are also multiple bosses per level, dealt randomly of course, although you do get to see which boss you will be facing, and what effects they will bring in to play once you finally find them. The enemies and Pain cards (which can have a variety of negative effects, including damage) are also drawn randomly, and there can be a bit of swingy-ness if you draw a slew of tougher monsters, but for the most part the law of averages is in effect and you can do well in combat if you attempt to prepare.
Hand of Fate: Ordeals' deckbuilding system is fairly standard, but it adds a fun layer of equipment gathering to the mix. Most cards are added to your deck, via your discard pile, as you purchase them, and cards can also be worth points which are added to your total at the end of the game. Gear, weapons and items can also be purchased, and reside in the same Dealer deck as the cards you add to your pool, but they are equipped directly to your character when you buy them, and can improve your defense and attack power, and they can even grant you some interesting special abilities. The most important piece of equipment are the weapons as the weapon you wield not only provides some small amount of attack power, but also determines how well you can prepare for battle ahead of time, and how hard you can hit when the fighting starts.
Preparing for combat is obviously the main motivation behind building your deck, but you can find yourself seriously wanting if you focus solely on Attack cards. There are a few different currencies in the game, and how you balance them, based on your card buying decisions, has a huge effect on how you tackle the game. The first currency, Effort, is the most versatile, and it's your main method of acquiring new cards. When you enter combat you draw extra cards based on the weapon you have, and any Effort revealed is added to your attack power. It never hurts to have plenty of Effort, although if you stack your deck with Effort alone you'll find that it can be difficult to get from place to place.
Food is the second currency, and it allows you to move from place to place and it also allows you to continue fighting if you can't dispatch all of your enemies with one round of attacks. It's great to have a surplus of food, but too many food cards can clog up your deck, and food contributes no power towards your attacks in combat. If you buy too many food cards you can easily find yourself outgunned when you find yourself in a dust-up with the game's baddies.
Attack is the third currency and is your main method of preparing for combat before it begins. Depending on the weapon that you have equipped you can attach a number of attack cards to it during your turn in order to prepare for future fights. As long as you keep adding cards (up to the limit of course) you can keep those cards in reserve and ready to unleash death. One positive of this is that you can thin your deck of these cards since they stay on your weapon, but if you overload your deck you may find it hard to move around the board and purchase new cards. When you do find yourself on a fight, any card already attached to your weapon contributes to your attack power, and any revealed attack cards do the same. Finding a good balance between the number of Attack cards, food cards and Effort cards is key if you want to be consistently prepared for the trials and tribulations that you'll face during play.
The final currency, Token Shards, aren't part of the cards you acquire, instead most often being rewards for successful combat, and can be used to purchase powerful Artifacts from the Demon Trader. The Artifacts are awesome, and it can be difficult to take on the King without at least one good one.
Combat itself is quick and fun. When you find some monsters, via ambush or whether you choose to fight, you draw the indicated number of enemy cards, numbered between 1 and 4, and activate any valid abilities they might have. Then you flip a number of cards from your deck based on your weapon and add any Effort or Attack to the number your weapon provides plus the number of Attack you've attached to your weapon. Assign an enemy damage equal to or greater than its number and you wipe it out, which usually snags you a Token Shard reward. If you don't defeat all of the enemies you can choose to pay a food to keep fighting, and take some Pain before you attack again, or retreat and take some Pain on your way out. Combat is easy to understand, quick to play out, and satisfying, or heartbreaking, to win and lose.
All told, the exploration, gear, deckbuilding and combat systems combine to provide an incredibly satisfying experience. The difficulty ramps up between levels nicely (things can get very tense when you locate the King and he begins to chase you around the board), and the need to balance the various resources via your deck construction is great. The fact that the cards you buy are worth points also opens up the game to strategies that aren't combat-centric, which is another really nice option. It's easy for me to give Hand of Fate: Ordeals a strong recommendation.
The Kickstarter for the game went live on May 22nd, 2017 and it has already smashed passed it's funding goal, so this is a sure thing if you are interested in getting your hands on it. If you pledge for the game you also get a Steam copy of Hand of Fate for PC, so a pledge for the game is a win-win situation.
The copy of Hand of Fate: Ordeals used for this preview was provided by the publisher.