Hand of Fate: The real cards against humanity.

The Australian made indie Hands of Fate is a difficult game to pigeon-hole as it draws elements from so many genres. It’s part deck building card game, part loot based action RPG and part choose your own adventure narrative in which the player battles against the dealer and hopes that the next card they draw is the one they need. It’s about resource management and tactical movement, fast paced Batman style combat and gearing right to meet the challenges. It may be a strange mesh of ideas and styles, and one that take a little getting used to, but once you grasp the general mechanics, Hand of Fate shows itself to be an extremely clever and equally enjoyable game.

The game plays across two distinct styles movement and encounters. Cards from the AI dealer’s deck form the map. At the beginning of each map the cards are all placed face down so aside from knowing that either an exit, or the boss on the last in a series of maps is under one, the contents of the rest are unknown. The player can move one space at a time. Landing on a card flips it, revealing an event or a battle. Events include things like meeting a devil who offers a choice of combat challenges for a reward to starving peasants who need food, or stumbling across a trap filled maze with a treasure chest at its centre. Some of these events have special objectives within them, rewarding players with a token that can be exchanged for new cards once the sequence of maps is finished. Battles drop the player into a third person action mode in which they must defeat a certain number of monsters native to the map, or, in the final map of a sequence, a boss. The combat engine is simple, with an attack, a shield slam, a dodge roll and a Batman: Arkham Asylum style counter, but the variety of monsters and the layout of the arenas makes them a fun distraction. Killing monsters rewards the player with loot cards. These can be in the form of gold, food or equipment.

To aid them in battle, players can construct a deck of equipment cards they have been rewarded by finishing maps. This gear isn’t available from the outset, but good deck construction is crucial as new gear gathered during a map is pulled from the player’s deck. So far so good, but then add in fact that every move takes one food but heals at least 10 life. Food can be be bought from shops, but as they are random cards there’s no guarantee there will be a shop on any given map. Do you make extra moves to heal with no guarantee of finding a shop before you run out of food and begin to take starvation damage, or do you press on in the hope that you won’t encounter any truly dangerous foes? There’s a similar divide when it comes to deck building. As the character completes maps, more cards are rewarded and the number of cards that can be included in the deck grows. You can put all your good cards in the deck, but this adds more randomness to rewards. You can limit the number of cards but this also limits the number of possible rewards. What’s a card/action hero to do?

It’s a head scratcher. It’s also really fun.

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