Hand of Fate: Dodgy dealings

Board games are hip these days, like fancy moustaches and overpriced cereal and thinking any kind of drinkable liquid is lame unless you made it in your own bathtub.

The only difference with board games is that nerds were there first, and they’re so much better at it than you. Oh, what’s that, you rolled a D20? Check our 100-sided dice and call us again when you’ve finished crying. Hand Of Fate is an attempt to appeal to both the hardcore fans and the noobs it’s a mash-up of genres and games you recognise with a fancy veneer that makes it seem smart.

It looks like a Tarot card reading in a fortune teller’s tent, with dramatic lighting, an air of mystery, and a hooded figure sitting opposite you who deals out the cards in various patterns. Your token hops from one to the next like Jumanji, turning them over as you land on them in a tense moment of fear. Will it be a beneficial card, like The maiden, or something more detrimental? Is this sneaky-looking goblin good or bad? Should I pay the beggar my last few coins just to make sure he doesn’t curse me?It’s never quite black and white in Hand Of Fate just like any tabletop RPG, it wants to trip you up constantly.

The beneficial ones range from visiting a shop to having magical wishes bestowed upon you, but the detrimental ones are rather more exciting. Some are curses, which doom you to lose coins, hearts or hope; most are battles. Though the hot card action takes place on a table, the battles are 3D arena fights with various enemies. The combat’s distinctly poor, requiring little more than mad button-mashing, but when everything else on the periphery is so strong weapons, power-ups, mazes filled with traps it’s hard to mind too much.

There’s a Hearthstone-like deck-building element, too: once you’ve completed a round, you’ll win new cards to add to your deck, each one bringing something new to the next reshuffled round. It’s a clever way to keep the game rolling by keeping the cards you like and adding newer ones in. Of course, like any board game, it’s a bit too meaty to explain fully, but if Tarot + Dungeons & Dragons + Hearthstone + Jumanji doesn’t excite you, you’re a lost cause. It's compelling and in-depth enough to appeal to boardgame old-timers, and easy enough to learn that noobs won’t be noobs for long.

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