Hand of Fate is one of the most surprising games I’ve played in a while; combining three different genres of design and play into one unique title. While it doesn’t reach the depth of each individual genre, it’s definitely a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The story is that you are in a life or death game with the mysterious dealer at the end of the world. To win, you must brave through adventures represented by the dealer’s tarot-like deck of cards to fight his 12 servants in order to win.
From the start, Hand of Fate introduces its unique mechanics to the player. An adventure is made up of randomly generated levels represented by face down cards. Each card represents some kind of an encounter that the player must deal with; with rewards like new gear and gold for completing them.
Before each adventure, you create two decks of cards: The equipment deck and the encounter deck. The equipment represents any and all possible gear that you can be awarded for completing encounters during the adventure. Encounter cards are all about situations and stories that you may run into during the play. Specific cards have quest tokens attached to them; completing the quest will award you with the token that will unlock new cards and even further cards in the quest chain.
On each adventure, you’ll need to keep track of your health, gold and food supply. Health is lost for failing events and taking hits in combat (more on that in a minute). Gold can be used at shop cards to buy gear and supplies. Food is lost for each step you take with your character on the card map, and you’ll lose health each turn when you run out.
The main goal of each quest is to reach the boss fight, categorized by the face cards of a deck. Beating the boss will complete the encounter, and win or lose; any tokens you earned will be given to you. As the game goes on, both decks will grow and force you to decide what to take.
This presents the interesting mechanic of the player having control over how easy or hard the quest will be and the continued reward of new cards is a great incentive to keep mixing things up.
Combat plays out like a basic hack and slash; every piece of gear you found during the quest will become part of your equipment for battle. As the game goes on, you’ll have to deal with negative effects that can befall you both during combat and moving around the board.
Hand of Fate is an interesting game, thanks to the design being a part of three different genres. You’re not going to find another game like Hand of Fate and the foundation leaves a lot of room open for expansions and new cards. With that said, Hand of Fate’s biggest draw also takes us to the main problem with the game.
Hand of Fate falls into the category of games built around multiple different genres. The advantage is that you get a design that you wouldn’t normally see, but the disadvantage is that the combination of genres is never as complex as the genres by themselves. If you’re looking for a challenging rogue-like, action heavy ARPG or a complicated CCG, Hand of Fate is not any of those three. None of the game’s three systems ever grow to reach a point of having depth anywhere near their respective genres.
Card interaction is simply there to drive events; there is no way to alter cards or any other mechanics seen in other CCG-styled games. The combat is very much one-note and becomes repetitive fast.
And lastly, the rogue-like mechanics are kept to simply having food as a “hunger” mechanic and the floor layouts.
The difficulty of the game grows unevenly as you get further in. Later quests introduce random curses or debuffs after specific actions, but the curses themselves are randomized.
Getting the wrong curse at the wrong time can spell doom for your quest and the only means to combat it are dependent on your gold reserves. I also found the final fight to be annoying, because it changes the mechanics in a way that the rest of the game makes no attempt to prepare you for or even hint that it was possible.
Hand of Fate may not be the best rogue-like, ARPG or CCG game on the market, but its design is entirely unique and shows a high level of creativity from the designers. The game seems to have done well enough to have mini booster expansions released and I hope the developers are going to work on a Hand of Fate 2 and really flesh out these mechanics. For more on Hand of Fate, you can watch several videos I made about trying to beat the game.