Life's hard in the scorched desert of the Pacific Ocean. You've got your six-shooter on your hip, and enough water to buy you a meal in town, but there's talk of a roaming gang of zombies headed your way. And the tell-tale black feathers of those Crows of Mana O'Lana you found lying around don't give you the warm and fuzzies. On top of all that, you could swear these tracks you saw in the mud were Wendigo tracks. If you could bag one of those, you'll earn enough grit to set yourself apart from all the other Curse Chasers in town. Sound like a good time? This is what it's like to play a game of The Few And Cursed, based on the comics of the same name, published by Rock Manor Games.
The Few And Cursed is a deck-building adventure game, where each player takes on the role of a Curse Chaser looking to raise their fame, or grit, higher than any other player's before the game ends. To do so, they'll take on jobs, hunt down valuable artifacts, and take on bounties, eventually tracking down legendary monsters like the aforementioned Wendigo, Tsilkali, and more.
The core mechanic of this game is its deck-building. Each player takes a specific character with their own unique set of stats and their own unique core set of cards. This set of cards acts as your starting deck, and you'll shuffle and flip 4 at the start of your turn. Then, you'll draw 2 from a communal pile of cards and choose 1 to add directly to your hand (which will then go into your deck going forward). Each of these cards has some sort of effect, and most give you resources like attack power, bullets, water (the game's currency), or movement points. You use those generated resources to purchase gear, take on jobs, move your character's figure around the board, and battle enemies.
One of my favorite parts of The Few And Cursed is the encounter phase of the game, where a card is flipped with some adventure text describing what trouble (or good fortune) your character is getting into based on where they are on the board. This allows for small narrative moments that I wasn't expecting in a game so focused on deck-building and map-movement.
What I'm really intrigued by in this game is the way it melds a traditional "move around the board" action game with a deck-builder. Whenever you need to shuffle your deck to draw new cards during one of your turns, you'll be forced to move back to the starting city on the map at the end of your turn. This rubber-banding snap back to start when you shuffle perfectly mimics what it's like to slowly grow more powerful as your adventure. When you add more cards to your deck, you'll be able to venture out further and further before you need to return to town. This simple rule naturally folds complexity into The Few And Cursed that could easily have been left on the table, and shows that this is one of those rare occasions where smashing two different types of games together enhances both aspects of the game.
The board is large and lushly illustrated, the cards are all evocative and well-designed, and the figures are really well-cast and look nice on the table. The rulebook can repeat itself sometimes, and sometimes hides important information in a one-off line that could be better codified, but overall gets the job done and will get you understanding the mechanics of the game once read all the way through. That being said, I do recommend checking out a video tutorial of how to play this game before diving in because there are several moving parts in this game that (at least for me, the visual learner) are better explained when you can see them in motion.
The Bottom Line
This is one of those rare games that comes along and completely takes me by surprise. From the fantastic artwork to the naturally flowing gameplay, this game provides a play experience that offers depth and a sense of adventure without being some bloated legacy game that demands you sacrifice the next 3 months of your life to seeing it through. It's fun, it gets right to the point while still feeling expansive, and because the world of the game is taken from the comic by Felipe Cagno and Fabiano Neves, it feels like it has more depth and lore than you'd expect. To put it plainly, The Few And Cursed absolutely delighted me from start to finish with its mixture of game mechanics and its willingness to tell a story through gameplay. If you're a fan of games that add flavor to deck-building (like the Legendary games from Upper Deck), this one's a must-try.
Get This Game If:
- You like deck-building with a little more meat (and flavor) on its bones
- You're into moving little characters around a map in search of fame and glory
- You've always wanted to trek across the wasteland of the Pacific Ocean desert
Avoid This Game If:
- You don't like adding randomness or luck to your deck-builders
- You can't bear the thought of parting with your precious water
The copy of The Few And Cursed used in this review was provided by the publisher.